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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, September 13, 2009

Date published:
September 13, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Durán and Cobo ready for win in Vuelta's final week

    Arkaitz Durán (Fuji-Servetto)
    Article published:
    September 12, 2009, 11:48 BST
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Fuji-Servetto riders reflect on day of contrast to Velefique

    Fuji-Servetto's Arkaitz Durán and Juan Jose Cobo were the Spanish ProTour squad's most active riders on the Vuelta a España's stage 12 from Almeria to Alto de Velefique. Durán formed part of the day's main breakaway, while Cobo finished as the team's best placed rider on the stage. As they reflected on the day's events, both indicated that they would continue to attack as the Vuelta enters its final week.

    Durán became the 12th and final member of the day-long breakaway after a 20 kilometre pursuit of the first eleven. The Spaniard said afterwards that his involvement in the move, a day after the race's second rest day, hadn't come under ideal circumstances.

    "It's been a bummer, because I got into the break on one of my worst days in the race. My heartrate went up ridiculously all the time, and that's impossible to afford in a stage of the Vuelta a España," he said on his team's website. "I don't know if the rest day has made it harder for me, but it's obvious it hasn't done well. The break was created in the flat before the climbs, and we didn't have any riders into it, so I was forced to attack."

    Durán started Friday's stage in 20th position overall, 5:48 behind race leader Alejandro Valverde. His position on general classification meant he was the best placed rider in the breakaway. He finished the stage 7:32 down on fellow escapee and stage winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) and slipped to 30th overall, but said a stage win remained his primary objective.

    "It was hard to bridge the gap, because they didn't wait for me and I had to take a big effort. I was confident my legs would roll better in the last climb. At least, I've tried it; being 20th or 30th in the general classification wasn't important. I'm satisfied with what I've done in the Vuelta so far, and I'll try again, with better legs I presume."

    Durán's day contrast significantly with that of teammate Cobo....

  • AG2R-La Mondiale to have Champion for two years

    Dimitri Champion in 2007, while riding for Bouygues Telecom
    Article published:
    September 12, 2009, 12:48 BST
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Lavenu hopes that French champion will provide race-winning boost

    Dimitri Champion's tricolour jersey will be emblazoned with the logo of AG2R-La Mondiale in 2010 after the team confirmed on Saturday that the reigning French road champion signed a two-year deal. The 26-year-old said he was keen to make an impression for the team at races including the Tour de France.

    "I wanted to stay in France and AG2R-La Mondiale offered me a racing programme and changes that I was pleased with," said Champion. "I am happy to display my champion's jersey as part of a French team. I want to be a part of beautiful races and look forward to challenges such as Paris-Nice or the Tour de France. "

    Champion, who raced for Bouygues Télécom for two years (2007-2008), will return to the ProTour after racing this season with Continental team Bretagne Armor Lux. His win at the French Championship was one of four victories in his most successful season to date.

    AG2R-La Mondiale have experienced one of their leanest years in terms of race victories, with just five wins this season. Team Principal Vincent Lavenu said he hopes the signing of Champion will improve the team's chances of victory next season.

    "Dimitri is a rider who is renowned for his reliability and professionalism. He is able to target specific objectives and demonstrated this ability at this year's French Championships," said Lavenu. "He is someone who can race at the highest level and win races. Dimitri has been selected to reinforce AG2R-La Mondiale."

    Before his move to AG2R, Champion will compete for France at this month's World Championships. He was selected as part of France's six-man team for the road race by national coach Laurent Jalabert last month. Champion and his teammates will race in support of Pierrick Fédrigo in the race on September 27.

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  • Fatigue ends Vinokourov's Vuelta

    Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) makes his way up the Alto de Xorret del Cati
    Article published:
    September 12, 2009, 14:33 BST
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Astana rider expected to return in Kazakh colours at Worlds

    Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) called short his return to Grand Tour competition after he abandoned the Vuelta a España on Friday. Astana said his decision to withdraw, due to fatigue, was not entirely unexpected after two years out of the sport. Vinokourov is expected to return to competition at the World Championships, later this month.

    "Vinokourov was the right man to go in the break today as Dani [Navarro] and Haimar [Zubeldia] are racing for the general classification,” said Astana's Sports Director Sean Yates on Astana's website.

    "Vinokourov was doing well in the break but was dropped on the second climb and this is logical for his first race back. The next few days are hard. [He's] is disappointed but he realizes this is all normal after two years away from competition," he added.

    Vinokourov had been active throughout the Vuelta's second week. His abandon came on the lower slopes of the Alto del Velefique, after spending most of Friday's 12th stage in the main breakaway of the day.

    The stage 12 breakaway was his second major move after he finished fourth behind Simon Gerrans (Cervélo TestTeam) on stage 10. He started stage 12 in 36th position overall, 15:27 behind race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

    Astana's Press Officer Philippe Maertens echoed Yates' comments about Vinokourov's withdrawal from the race and told Cyclingnews on Saturday that he is still expected to represent Kazakhstan at the World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

    "As I understand it, he is doing the road race and the time trial," said Maertens. "That was his main objective for this year. Perhaps after the Vuelta he may see it as more difficult, but [the Worlds] was his plan."

    The Vuelta a España was Vinokourov's first race for Astana since returning to competition with the Kazakhstan national team last month. He had served a two-year ban for blood doping during the 2006 Tour...

  • Moncoutié shows his style in the mountains

    David Moncoutié (Cofidis) wins.
    Article published:
    September 12, 2009, 20:41 BST
    By:
    Shane Stokes

    French mountains leader comes good after early frustration at Vuelta

    Six days ago David Moncoutié suffered a heart-wrenching disappointment on stage eight of the Vuelta; caught and passed by Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) less than a kilometre from the line at Alto de Aitana. Today, the Cofidis rider made up for that, as he soloed to a superb victory in Sierra Nevada and scooped maximum mountain classification points in the process.

    The popular Frenchman has a number of important victories in his career, including two stages in the Tour de France. At last year's Vuelta he won a stage and took the mountains jersey, setting a template which he hopes to follow once again on Spanish roads.

    "The strategy was clear," a clearly elated Moncoutié said at the finish. "First, it was looking for some points for the mountains jersey. But when we saw that Joaquim Rogriguez was in the group, it was not so easy. So we decided to attack again. Rein Taaramae did a fantastic job for me, I then made the effort for the final two climbs and kept going until the finish."

    Moncoutié's success came after he forged ahead as part of a large group of riders, immediately after the start in Berja. As the group pulled steadily clear he collected top points at each of the primes, nabbing a total of 74 and ending the day with 160 to David De La Fuente's 83. Barring accident, he looks almost certain to win that classification in Madrid on Sunday.

    Yet it was the stage win that brought the most satisfaction this evening, particularly after his agonising defeat to Cunego.

    "I thought about that a few times during the stage," he said. "Cunego caught me very, very close to the finish there. But today I made a big effort to have a better advantage and I was well ahead at the end. I was able to relax in the final two kilometres and enjoy the victory."

    Moncoutié's pro career began with Cofidis in 1997 and he has stayed with the team ever since. In that time he's taken a number of important results,...

  • Illness turns Danielson's Vuelta on its head

    Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) was one of a number of favorites to lose time to Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) today
    Article published:
    September 12, 2009, 20:54 BST
    By:
    Shane Stokes

    Garmin hopeful stomach virus will clear in time for La Pandera

    Twenty four hours ago Tom Danielson looked like a possible winner of this Vuelta a España, impressing with his attacks on the final climb of stage 12. However, a stomach problem has changed everything for the American, as he lost time on stage 13 and dropped from fourth to ninth overall.

    The Garmin-Slipstream rider cracked on the penultimate climb of the day, the Alto de Monachil, and eventually reached the finish line 6:59 behind the stage winner David Moncoutie (Cofidis) in 25th place.

    Danielson didn't comment at the finish but later gave a brief message to Cyclingnews. "I'm upset," he said. "I hate to deal with sickness. I got through [today] and [now] onwards."

    Directeur Sportif Johnny Weltz gave more details, saying that illness had affected some of those working with the team. "This morning we could see he had a problem," he said. "He was really sick, throwing up and his stomach was going crazy. Our bus driver is really ill with it, and David [Millar] also had it.

    "Because of that, we had to take it a bit more conservatively from the beginning. We hoped he would come around during the stage. But at a level like this, in a hard race such as this one, it is very hard to do much about it when you have that sort of problem."

    Danielson finished 5:43 behind race leader Alejandro Valverde. He previously trailed the Spaniard by 51 seconds, but is now ninth overall, 6:52 back.

    It's uncertain as to how he will feel tomorrow, but Weltz is hoping that he can regain at least some of his strength before the summit finish at La Pandera.

    "What I have seen so far with this is that it can pass quite quickly. Some of our guys in Poland also had it," he said. "One day they were really sick and then the next day they were feeling a lot better. I hope that is what happens tomorrow; that he feels much better and comes around again. The same for David [Millar] - he is a strong man and I hope he will get through it...

  • Valverde bolsters lead, Evans drops to fourth

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) rides in gold
    Article published:
    September 13, 2009, 0:15 BST
    By:
    Shane Stokes

    Day of mixed fortunes for GC contenders

    Alejandro Valverde moved one stage closer to overall victory in the Vuelta a España on Saturday, simultaneously extending his overall lead and exorcising the ghost of his maillot oro loss in nearby Granada three years ago.

    The Caisse d'Epargne rider ended the day 27 seconds ahead of Robert Gesink (Rabobank), and 1:02 ahead of Ivan Basso. Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), who had started the day seven seconds back, lost time due to a puncture and slipped to fifth, just over one and a half minutes down.

    "The gaps were bigger today than they were yesterday," a content - and increasingly confident - Valverde said after the stage. "I earned a few seconds because I sprinted for the third place, and I keep on gaining a few seconds every day compared to my rivals. Gesink, Basso and Mosquera are still very close but Samuel Sánchez lost something more, even if he recovered very well in the final part."

    Three years ago the Spaniard saw his maillot oro pass to Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) when the latter attacked on the descent to the finish. He had no such worries this time; Vino left the race yesterday, a shadow of his former self, and Valverde showed plenty of strength on the final climb. Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) was the only rival to gain time on him, the Spaniard jumping away towards the summit and hitting the line 24 seconds ahead.

    Valverde briefly went after the Xacobeo Galicia rider, catching him once but then easing back when the aggressive climber went again. However the race leader's acceleration put both Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) under pressure, giving Valverde another confidence boost as the race heads towards its final week.

    Evan's time loss was the biggest plus for him, although he said after the stage that he didn't seek to profit from his rival's misfortune. "He was the victim of a puncture, but to tell the truth I did not know," he stated. "When I looked...

  • Gesink will attack if the form is there

    Robert Gesink (Rabobank) on a mission to pull back time
    Article published:
    September 13, 2009, 0:31 BST
    By:
    Shane Stokes

    Dutch climber now closest challenger to Valverde

    Second overall in the Vuelta a España after the 13th stage of the race, Rabobank's Robert Gesink is now shaping up to be Alejandro Valverde's main rival in the race. The 23-year-old Dutch climber moved up a place on Saturday when Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) lost time due to a puncture and slow change.

    "I was happy with the way it went," Gesink told reporters after the penultimate summit finish. "I was completely cooked in the final kilometres and was on my max. I saw the guys jumping but I decided to ride tempo, or at least make less jumps. I was happy with that.

    "It is a pity about Cadel. It is a strange way to gain time, but that is the way it is."

    Directeur sportif Erik Breukink agreed with that sentiment. "It is not nice to lose your place like that," he said to Cyclingnews. "He punctured and then the neutral service change took a lot of time. But I also think that he was not that strong in coming back. Anyway, for sure it was bad luck.

    "For us, the stage went okay. Robert stayed in front, although he was at his limit. We had guys in the front group that could help him, so everything went okay. He is now second in the general classification, so it was a good day."

    Gesink was stronger than Caisse d'Epargne's Valverde on Friday's stage to the Alto de Velefique when he surged clear close to the end and took back some time. However the Spaniard had the upper hand on Saturday and dropped him briefly when he went after Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia). Valverde later clipped away at the end to easily nab the bonus seconds for third.

    Everything boils down to La Pandera. If Gesink has the form he showed two days ago, he has a chance. Breukink said that his tactics will depend on how he is feeling.

    "We will see how he has recovered," said Breukink. "Robert has to deal with his legs on the climbs - when he is feeling good, he will try. When he is not, he has to survive. That is the way it...

  • Basso's level rising

    Italy's Ivan Basso (Liquigas) at the Vuelta a España
    Article published:
    September 13, 2009, 0:39 BST
    By:
    Shane Stokes

    Italian now third overall

    Liquigas captain Ivan Basso showed flashes of his old form on stage thirteen to Sierra Nevada, placing fifth on the stage and showing that he is maintaining his strength as the race progresses. While other general classification contenders such as Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) are showing the strain of a fortnight of hard racing, the Italian is still in the hunt for overall victory. That said, he needs to make up one minute and two seconds to move into the maillot oro.

    "Today I found the right terrain and race situation to attack and change the situation in the ranking," he said after the 2,380-metre summit finish. "The team did a great job helping me during all the stage. In particular I appreciate (Roman) Kreuziger because his role in the race strategy was really valuable."

    Basso's goal on Sunday will be to eliminate his deficit to Valverde and, if at all possible, put in a decent buffer before next Saturday's 27.8-kilometre time trial. The duo recorded precisely the same time on stage one, placing eighth and ninth, with Valverde prevailing in the longer Valencia time trial.

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    He placed 13th in the flat 30-kilometre test there, losing 1:05 to Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank). Basso was 1:43 back in 36th place, and knows that a strong ride on Sunday is essential if he is to be in the running for the final victory.

    "Tomorrow we've another difficult stage and, after this three days of moutains, all the riders have to pay attention," he said. "We spent a lot of energy on this climbs. For my part, I want to perform as I did today all the way untill Madrid. Only there we'll know the final outcome."