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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, July 3, 2011

Date published:
July 03, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Gilbert the favourite to take the first Tour de France yellow jersey

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) looks pretty happy with the gold medal
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 13:45 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Belgian admits it will be difficult to drop the sprinters

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has predicted that the opening stage of the Tour de France atop the Mont des Alouettes climb will finish with an uphill sprint finish. The Belgian lines up as the favourite to take the first yellow jersey of the race but he acknowledged that it might be difficult to distance the pure sprinters on the haul to the finish.

    "I think they'll be up there and they'll be difficult to drop,” Gilbert said as he went to sign on in La Barre-de-Monts before the start of stage one on Saturday morning. "It's up to us to make the race as hard as possible. It will be very fast at the foot of the climb."

    Ensconced in the tricolour jersey as Belgian champion and sporting a bleached blonde hairstyle to match his yellow ambitions in this Tour, all eyes were on Gilbert before the start. While some directeurs sportif predicted that a rider of Gilbert's quality would be able to jump clear on the final climb, the man himself was more circumspect about his chances of taking a solo victory.

    "I did the reconnaissance yesterday, I checked out the difficulties in the finale but it will be different doing it flat out," Gilbert warned.

    Widely expected to replicate his Ardennes classics dominating form on at least one of the uphill finishes in the Tour's opening week, Gilbert pointed out that there were a number of other riders who would have a say on Saturday.

    "I'm not the only favourite for the stage. There are others like Thor Hushovd, Matt Goss and Boasson Hagen. There's also Voeckler. He's riding in front of the home crowd so he's very motivated and he knows how to anticipate the sprint. He's shown that he can do it in the past," he said.

    Intermediate sprints

    Nonetheless, Gilbert recognised that...

  • Video: Nygaard says Schleck is better than last year

    Brian Nygaard found it too warm to wear his scarf
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 14:32 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Leopard Trek boss confident of taking on Contador

    Team Leopard Trek boss Brian Nygaard arrived at the team's inaugural Tour de France full of confidence and with the belief that Andy Schleck is in better condition than last year, when he finished just 39 seconds behind Alberto Contador.

    The Luxembourg rider used the Amgen Tour of California and Tour de Suisse as his preparation races for the Tour but only showed flashes of his class in between losing time in some of the most demanding stages and time trials of both races. Despite those fluctuations in form, Nygaard told Cyclingnews at the start of stage one that his team leader was ready for the anticipated battle with  Alberto Contador for the yellow jersey.

    The Leopard Trek comes into the event with a strong squad and the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Jakob Fuglsang squarely placed to support Andy Schleck. However Nygaard admitted that while Andy is the team leader, older brother Fränk could also play a part in the final destination of the yellow jersey.

    Nygaard also commented on the booing Alberto Contador received at the teams' presentation on Saturday, stating that the Spaniard had every right to be the race.

  • Petacchi admits to lacking race rhythm for Tour de France

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre ISD)
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 15:05 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian happy to wait for first bunch sprint on Monday

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) was the winner of the opening stage of the Tour de France twelve months ago but believes that the uphill finish, and his lack of racing miles in recent weeks, will rule him out of the equation at Mont des Alouettes.

    The veteran Italian sprinter was able to tap into a startlingly rich vein of climbing form during the Giro d'Italia in May and came close to winning the sharp uphill finish at Fiuggi in the opening week, ultimately giving best to Francisco Ventoso (Movistar). He won two stages at the 2010 Tour de France and the green points jersey but on the eve of this year's Tour, Petacchi played down his chances of a repeat performance in the Vendée.

    "I don't know the finish very well but it's quite difficult and I'd reckon it's better suited to a rider with Gilbert’s characteristics, so we have to see," Petacchi told Cyclingnews.

    "If I have the legs I had in Fiuggi then maybe it would be doable, but I think I'll need a couple of stages to get into my rhythm. I had some problems that kept me off the bike and I lost a few days of training, so I need to get a little racing in first."

    Petacchi joined the mass exodus of sprinters from the Giro after the final flat stage to Ravenna at the end of week two and his only competitive outing since was the Tour of Slovenia, where he could only manage third behind Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) in the race's sole sprint finish.

    While many of the sprinters on the Passage du Gois on Saturday morning were disappointed by the difficult nature of the Tour's opening weekend, Petacchi admitted that he would be glad to get a couple of stages under his belt before tackling the race's first pure bunch finish, expected on day three on Monday.

    "From my point of view, doing the hard first stage and the team...

  • Video: Sergeant savours Gilbert's success

    Philippe Gilbert on the podium
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 19:04 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Omega Pharma-Lotto boss celebrates a great day for the Belgian team

    Back in October 2010 when this year's Tour de France route was unveiled, Omega Pharma-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant pinpointed today's first stage as a target for Philippe Gilbert and on the day, the Belgian has delivered in imperious style claming the stage and yellow jersey.

    Gilbert stamped his authority on the race on the final rise, bridging across to Fabian Cancellara and then accelerating away on the final ramps of the Mont des Alouettes climb.

    Sergeant may well lose Gilbert at the end of the season but was in an understandably joyous mood at the finish, praising not just Gilbert but also his teammates for the amount of work they put in the build up.

    Gilbert now leads Cadel Evans by three seconds with a host of other favourites a further three seconds back. Lotto have precious time to celebrate today's success though and must turn their attention to tomorrow's team time trial around Cholet with more than Gilbert's lead a matter of concern. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who performed so well last year, is just six seconds back but with three Lotto riders crashing during today's stage the Belgian outfit will have to ride out of the skins to keep Gilbert in yellow and hold Van Den Broeck's current position of 5th.

  • Contador despondent after losing time

    Alberto Contador was not happy to have lost tmie
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 20:24 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Spaniard hopes for a better day in team time trial

    Defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) has begun the Tour de France with a hefty handicap after losing a crucial 1:20 to his main rivals on the first stage of the race.

    The three time Tour winner was cruising close the front of the bunch inside the final 10 kilometers when Maxim Iglinskiy (Team Astana) clipped a fan at the side of the road and fell, causing a mass pile up in the peloton. Only 30 riders avoided it but these included several of Contador's overall rivals.

    Despite a frantic chase lead by Saxo Bank-SunGard and Euskaltel-Euskadi - who had Samuel Sanchez caught up in the melee too - Contador lost 1:20 to Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), Cadel Evans (BMC), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and others at the finish.

    Contador quickly understood the significance of the lost time but tried to stay as upbeat as possible.

    "It was a difficult day," Contador conceded. "There was a lot of tension and we kept going forward. But at the time of the crash I was misplaced, the road wasn't very wide and there were a lot of riders. "

    "I was very close to the head of the race but other riders fell in front of me and although I managed to stop in time, I had to go over their bikes as best I could. When we got going again the group had a good gap. I only initially had the help of one teammate and then another but we lost a fair bit of time.

    "That's cycling. The race goes on and I jut have to look to the rest of the race. Today it was my turn for bad luck, tomorrow it could be someone else's. I'm going to stay optimistic and motivated, that's the most important thing. Unfortunately in today's cycling, races are lost and won by 1:15 and the time I've lost to my rivals will be hard to recover. "

    Contador hopes...

  • Gilbert enjoys extending his unbeaten streak of success

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) pulls the yellow jersey over his Belgian champion's jersey
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 20:44 BST
    Daniel Friebe

    First maillot jaune promises more fireworks on Mûr de Bretagne

    Three years ago, on a similar first stage finish to today’s on the Mont des Alouettes, Spain's Alejandro Valverde took the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France and in doing so reminded everyone why he was nicknamed “El Imbatido” or the “Unbeaten One”.

    In Valverde’s case it was just a nickname that was eventually defeated by the Italian anti-doping investigators. For Philippe Gilbert the same sobriquet is fast becoming a statement of fact. As the Belgian pointed out in his winner’s press conference in Les Herbiers on Saturday evening: “I’ve won every race I’ve done since Fleche Brabançonne in April. I suppose it’s a kind of record.”

    Gilbert’s boast contained the only mistake he made all day: of the eight races he has started since April 13, he has won 'only' seven. A second-place in the Belgian national time trial championship in June is the sole blemish of his record season.

    “It’s true that it's hard to take in what I’m doing,” Gilbert said of his 'annus mirabilis', which featured a clean sweep of the Ardennes Classics in April. “It’s definitely been better than I could ever have hoped for. Not only have I won a lot of races and a lot of great races, but I’ve also won them back-to-back. It’s been very special.”

    Gilbert, like everyone else, is running out of superlatives. Famously modest, even he admitted that there may only be one man in the world who can currently compete with him on an uphill finish like the one to Mont des Alouettes: 21-year-old Peter Sagan -still judged too young to tackle the Tour by his Liquigas team.

    “I think he can beat me on a finish like this,” Gilbert conceded. “I think he’s the only one who can compete with me...

  • Tour de France news shorts

    Andy Rihs (center) with John Lelangue and Floyd Landis after the 2006 Tour de France.
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 21:33 BST
    Cycling News

    The Rihs question, CAS delay defence, Madiot on Contador, Basso's App

    Our often irreverent look at the Tour de France news you may have missed

    BMC boss shuns the big question

    Since part-time BMC soigneur Sven Schoutteten was arrested last week after customs officers intercepted a package containing doping products, the US team have closed ranks and refused to go comment. As was the case with Alessandro Ballan’s involvement in a police investigation in Italy, the team have opened their own enquiry.

    Yet at the team’s pre-race press conference, team owner Andy Rihs refused to be drawn on the matter, instead deciding to attack the media for daring to ask why one of his staff was in jail. Here is Cyclingnews editor Daniel Benson’s exchange with the wealthy Swiss businessman.

    Rihs: Forget that one. I don’t discuss it. It’s just ridiculous.

    CN: Why?

    Rihs: You bring up things that are totally ridiculous. It’s a media flop. I’m not involved in it. I don’t know anything. I will not comment on it. I talk about cycling but not that thing. I talk about cycling and I think cycling should talk about cycling. I look at the degrading work of you… the scandal and I think the advice to Cyclingnews is stop the bull and go back to cycling.

    CN: But you’re having an investigation into it, so it must be something?

    Rihs: Like I told you this is not my job. Talk with some people. I’m so far away from it. Cyclingnews should really talk on a serious level, not making assumptions all the time it’s ridiculous. I will not give you any interview.

    CN: Okay. I understand that I’m not making an assumption. I’m asking you a question.

    Madiot defends the French public’s criticism of Contador

    FDJ team manager Marc Madiot has defended the French public’s right to boo and whistle Alberto Contador, suggesting it should be a wake up call for the...

  • Evans pleased with early Tour de France gains

    Cadel Evans (BMC)
    Article published:
    July 02, 2011, 23:00 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Australian content with second place on day one

    Cadel Evans (BMC) may have lost the battle atop the Mont des Alouettes at the end of the stage one of the Tour de France, but he declared himself pleased with his opening salvos in the war for the yellow jersey in Paris.

    Hemmed in at the right-hand side of the road when Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) launched his winning move with 700 metres to go, Evans was unable to respond to the Belgian's move immediately. Once Evans managed to free himself, he ripped clear of the peloton but was still three seconds down on the rampant Gilbert at the line.

    "First would have been better, but second was not too bad. It was a good start, a pleasant surprise," he said after stage 1.

    In front of the BMC bus beyond the finish line, an upbeat Evans talked a cluster of reporters through the stage's frantic finale. There was great uncertainty ahead of the stage as to the true difficulty of the final climb to the finish, and Evans revealed that the wind had led him to play his cards conservatively in the final kilometre.

    "I was well positioned and I had a chance to go early but I thought it might have been too early as there was a bit of wind today and I got a bit closed in," Evans said.

    The blue touch paper was lit with 900 metres to go, but Evans was unable to find the space to respond immediately. For his part, Gilbert was present and correct, and countered when Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) got a gap on the climb.

    "Gilbert went across to him and then hit him again and by the time it opened up and I went, Gilbert had already got a good gap," Evans said. "I was closing in at the finish but by then he had it pretty much run and won, so there wasn't much I could do there. But...