- Article published:
- July 11, 2012, 23:20
- Pat Malach
Garmin-Sharp neo pro recovering from boken collarbone
Garmin-Sharp first-year pro Alex Howes takes the team ethos to extreme lengths. The day after eight of his teammates hit the pavement in the Tour de France – with Tom Danielson, Ryder Hesjedal and Robbie Hunter eventually abandoning – the 24-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, broke his left collarbone in seven pieces while training back in the states.
"I guess I kind of fell down out of sympathy for them," Howes joked Tuesday while recovering at home. "We're a tight-knit team, so we win as a team and we fall as a team, I guess." Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters also shared the pain, reacting to the news on Twitter by writing, "when it rains, it pours."
Howes was in the middle of a motorpacing session outside of Boulder with teammate Peter Stetina, Spidertech's Lucas Euser, Champion System's Craig Lewis and BMC's Taylor Phinney, who is scheduled to represent the US at the London Olympics at the end of this month, when he went down hard after making contact with the pacer.
"I got tangled up with the scooter a little bit and ended up on the floor," Howes said. "Taylor was behind me, so we were lucky he didn't go down."
A friend with a car took Howes, who was the only rider injured in the crash, to a local hospital where doctors operated within hours, using 10 screws and "a big old metal plate" to fix the shoulder.
"It seems to have gone well," Howes said of the repair job. "It's not too long after surgery, just three days now, and a lot of the swelling has already gone down. I'm getting more movement in the arm, starting to straighten up a little bit and back off on the pain pills, so, all things considered, it's going pretty well."
The bad luck comes in the middle of a season in which Howes has been making the most of his first year in the European professional peloton. Aside from earning praise from the Garmin bosses and team leaders for his yeoman's work so far, he had his own breakout rides in the spring classics with a sixth-place finish in Brabantse Pijl before spending the majority of the Amstel Gold Race in the day's breakaway. Now the young rider will have to recover from his first-ever broken bone if he wants to finish out his rookie season on the high note he initially envisioned for himself at the upcoming stage races in Utah and his home state of Colorado.
"The surgeon who operated said it would be at least six weeks until I could race again," Howes said. "But speaking with another of the team doctors and people who are more qualified in the sports medicine department, with something like this I should be back to racing, hopefully, a little sooner than that. Definitely out on the open road before that."
The 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah starts in exactly four weeks, while the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado is just under six weeks away. Howes said Utah has been in the cross-hairs on his calendar since he was denied the chance to race there last year when the UCI enforced a rule barring the Chipotle Development Team he rode for from competing in races with its Garmin parent squad. Howes earned national recognition at the race in 2009 when he famously ate a hot dog handed up by a spectator before going on to win at the summit finish of stage 4 just weeks after earning a pair of U23 national championships titles.
Howes said his history with the race and an opportunity to compete in the event's team time trial with Garmin-Sharp have made Utah a big goal, but he quickly added that the race in Colorado has always been his top priority.
"Really, my heart is intent on getting back for the [USA Pro Cycling Challenge]," he said. "That's the big goal. That's the one I've got marked on the calendar, and that's where I'd like to be firing again. I don't want to just be there. I want to be competitive. I don't know how that's going to work out, but I'm going to do everything in my power to show up for that race in form that would put me up with the contenders."
The goals are still within reach, but for now Howes' will have to content himself with slowly making his way back onto the bike and then out onto the open roads. Although the setback is disappointing, he said, the timing "isn't really the worst," and his morale is still pretty high.
"The thing that breaks me up most is that I was a reserve for the Olympics," he said. "And that was something that I was really hoping to do. This essentially totally eliminates that possibility. It's kind of hard to take, but that's part of the deal, I guess. That's just the nature of the sport. You can't be on top all the time. There are going to be highs and lows."
- Article published:
- July 11, 2012, 23:50
- Barry Ryan
Sicilian dissents against Sky dominance
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) has been the most consistent dissenting voice in a Tour de France that has to date bended to the laws imposed by Team Sky's autocracy, and he continued in that vein on and off the bike on stage 10 to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.
As anticipated, Nibali used the treacherous descent of the Col du Grand Colombier to launch a constitutional challenge to Bradley Wiggins' yellow jersey, but in spite of gaining a lead of a minute at one point, his insurgency was quashed by Sky's storm troopers on the slopes of the final climb, the Col de Richemond.
Nibali would go on to finish alongside the yellow jersey and the other overall favourites, 3:16 down on stage winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), but complained afterwards that Wiggins had shown a distinct lack of respect by staring him down as they crossed the line.
"When we crossed the line, Bradley turned and looked at me," Nibali said. "If he wants to be a great champion, he needs to have a bit of respect for his adversaries. Sometimes turning around and looking into your face is an insult."
Nibali made headlines at the weekend when he told L'Équipe that Wiggins didn't impress him, and while he acknowledged the pre-eminence of Sky thus far, he warned that the lie of the land can change very quickly in cycling.
"You need to show a bit of respect for your adversaries. Right now, we know, they're going very well, but the wheel can turn for everybody," he said. "We've never had riders kicking and punching each other as happens in football. There's always been respect for rivals. For me, there's always been this great respect, so to turn around and look at a rival in the face like he did was not very nice."
Given his renown as a descender, Nibali's attack on the way down the Grand Colombier with over 40 kilometres to go carried all the surprise of an advertised peaceful protest, but his manifestation nonetheless gained plenty of traction and at least caused some mild discomfort for the Sky regime.
"The idea was to put Sky on edge a bit, as they're all going very well and we're looking to isolate Wiggins as much as possible," said Nibali, although he was unable to form a coalition to buttress his attack. "Cadel [Evans] and I spoke, but maybe he wasn't very convinced today, so in the end he stayed on the wheels."
Instead, Nibali found support from inside his own party – Peter Sagan had gone up the road in the day's early break in search of points to tighten his grip on the green jersey, and the Slovak proved to be a useful ally when he waited for Nibali.
"I was able to make a nice attack because Peter was up ahead and I was able to get across to him," Nibali said. "He took some great lines through the corners too, so we had a minute by the bottom of the climb."
With Sky leading the pursuit behind, however, Nibali opted to rein in his efforts when Sagan fell back on the slopes of the final climb, the Col de Richemond. "I wasn't feeling very well in the finale so when he was dropped I didn't have the same conviction that I could continue going ahead so I sat up," he explained. "I was mainly on his wheel before that, and when he was dropped, I realised it would be difficult so I eased up and looked to keep the gap as it was without trying to force it too much."
Nibali remains in 4th place overall, 2:23 down on Wiggins, but while his efforts on Wednesday ultimately had no effect on the status quo, the Sicilian will hope to carry the fight to Sky once again on the road to La Toussuire on stage 11.
"Tomorrow is a different stage with a summit finish but it's not a really very difficult stage," he said. "That said, it's not a long stage and sometimes shorter stages can cause bigger changes in the classification. We'll have to see what the various GC guys want to do because if someone wants to attack alone against four Sky riders, it's tough."
Nibali already expressed his desire to form alliances during his rest day press conference, and he will be all too aware that raging alone against the machine is rarely a long-term occupation. "I've shown courage so far, there are others who really need to show courage now," he said.
- Article published:
- July 12, 2012, 01:00
- Barry Ryan
Italian shows himself at the Tour
A low-key presence at the Tour de France to date, Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) finally showed himself on stage 10 to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, infiltrating the break of the day and then taking second place, falling just shy of catching winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) on the line.
Caught up in the tumult just past the finish area, Scarponi was left to ponder the whys and wherefores of a tactical finale, and he admitted that he may have erred in focusing on Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) rather than Voeckler in the closing kilometres. After closing the gap to a scant three seconds on the final drag to the line, Scarponi could be forgiven for feeling a degree of frustration at how things panned out.
"When you're in a situation like that and you don't manage to finish it off, you always end up biting your hands and asking yourself what else you could have done," Scarponi said. "In the end, maybe I watched Luis León Sánchez a bit too much. We're at the Tour and it's not easy, my breakaway companions were very strong. I waited a bit because I was the slowest sprinter in the break, and I was hoping that Luis León would bring me back up to Voeckler."
The trio were joined in the winning break by Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), after they had all been part of a strong 25-man group that had gone clear in the opening hour of racing.
Scarponi, who is due to meet with the Italian Olympic Committee after the Tour to discuss allegations that he was trained by the controversial Dr. Michele Ferrari, has insisted from the off that his overall ambitions were limited. The Italian began the day over 10 minutes off the yellow jersey and entered the original break almost by chance.
"It was my intention to do a nice stage but, to be honest, I was thinking more of tomorrow's stage to La Toussuire really," Scarponi explained. "But I got into a nice break early on. It was a long stage, but when you're in the break it passes quickly."
The day's major obstacle was the mighty Col du Grand Colombier, the hors categorie climb which made its first-ever appearance at the Tour. With the finish line 43 kilometres from the summit of the climb, Scarponi realised that it was not a race to the top, but as the four strongmen (later joined by Voigt) pulled clear on the way up, he hoped the testing slopes would tip the scales in his favour later on.
"I knew the finish wasn't at the summit of the Grand Colombier, and that it was really a finish made for Sánchez and Voeckler," he said. "Still, I was hoping that after a long break like that, endurance would play a part too."
Voeckler himself decried that he was a marked man in the closing kilometres of the stage, and Scarponi admitted that he hoped that the deck of tactical manoeuvres would ultimately fall in his favour.
"I was hoping that the rivalry between Voeckler and Sánchez would give me a chance in the sprint, but it didn't work out like that," he said. "But in any case, Voeckler was the cleverest and the strongest today."
Scarponi's efforts see him move him up to 15th place, 7:14 off the yellow jersey of Bradley Wiggins. Although impressed by the strength of his Sky team to date, he warned that there is still plenty of racing to come.
"It's not just Wiggins and Froome, it's an entire team that gives an impression of strength and cohesion. They're almost unattackable," he said. "But there's still a long way to go. Right now they might seem invincible but the Grand Tours teach you that stage after stage you can invent something."
- Article published:
- July 12, 2012, 02:20
- Cycling News
Cofidis rider still in custody, facing judge Thursday
Remy di Gregorio and one of two others who were arrested as part of an investigation into possible doping may be charged in Marseille this week. According to L'Equipe the Cofidis rider and a 75-year-old naturopath will appear before judge Annaïck Le Goff on Thursday morning. A third person was released today.
The case was reportedly part of an investigation dating back to 2011 when Di Gregorio was a member of the Astana team, but the case had stalled. He was competing in the Tour de France when, on Monday's first rest day, he was detained and his hotel searched after police reportedly intercepted telephone calls which they suspected of relating to doping.
A search of a vehicle in Bourg-en-Bresse turned up products which are currently being analyzed to determine if they are illegal.
Should the items be found to be doping products, all three could be charged with criminal charges under the French anti-doping laws.
Cofidis has given Di Gregorio a provisionally suspension until the investigation is concluded.
- Article published:
- July 12, 2012, 03:30
- Daniel Benson
British rider adds support and empathy to Wiggins
After 10 difficult and not to mention, painful days of racing at this year’s Tour de France, Garmin-Sharp looked to bounce back on the first stage after the rest day. At the start of stage 10 in Maçon the riders were clearly in good spirits, with Dave Zabriskie providing the waiting media with a dance outside the team bus and David Millar saying he would aim for the day’s break.
Charley Wegelius had been drafted in for DS duties and was putting together a plan for action, a strategy that paid off when Millar and Zabriskie joined together in the early 24-man break.
"I wanted to go in the break today just to get my head back into racing," Millar told Cyclingnews at the finish.
However with the Col du Grand Colombier both Garmin riders became unstuck, with a number of stronger climbers advancing towards the finish.
"Once the break secured itself, Zabriskie came up to me and asked ‘do you think you can beat Sagan in the sprint and I just looked at him and said 'do you think you can out climb Scarponi?' We knew it wasn’t going to happen."
Garmin came into the race with the clear ambitions of supporting Ryder Hesjedal attempt a rare Giro and Tour de France double, as well as offering Tyler Farrar a leadout in the sprints. However, with Hesjedal out through a crash and Farrar nursing injuries after several crashes the team have needed to refocus their efforts.
"I don’t think we’re on the back foot I just think we’ve had to change our objectives," added Millar.
"That’s not easy when we had such a clearly defined goal but I think we can do it. We’ve got the riders. It’s an opportunity that we don’t normally have within our team because normally we’re fixed on team goals so it does take a bit of a mentality shift but it shows that we’re doing that. We’re in the breaks and we’ll keep doing that."
Wiggins is clean
Millar also added that he sympathises with Bradley Wiggins (Sky) after the Tour leader was asked to defend himself during this year’s Tour after suspicions over his achievements on the road. The speculation shot to life on Twitter and Wiggins reacted angrily at his press conference in Porrentruy. He later gave a more measured response after stage 10.
"I can empathise with him. We’re in different positions I think, me being an ex-doper it’s a bit easier for me to take the thought and the analytical response out but for Brad it’s a very emotional thing. He’s a clean athlete and when people accuse him of being doped obviously he’s going to react very emotionally. I can understand it."
- Tour de France
- Article published:
- July 12, 2012, 04:30
- Cycling News
Ten Dam steps up, Valverde doing it for the fans
Quick thinking Chef saves BMC's Tour
There was drama in the BMC camp when the team’s equipment truck caught fire, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
BMC chef, Peter Cambre had to extinguish a fire which was believed to have started due to an electrical fault behind the driver’s cabin. Cambre used to work for Bruce Springsteen who ironically had a hit song titled "I'm on fire". The truck contained around 50 bikes and other assorted essentials, crucial to keeping the team on the road.
Team president Jim Ochowicz praised the quick thinking of Cambre.
"It would have been a disaster [otherwise]," he said.
Poels moves closer to home
Vacansoleil-DCM rider Wout Poels has been given the okay to be transferred back to Holland.
Poels is now in a stable condition and was driven from Nancy in a specially equipped ambulance to Venlo on the Dutch-German border.
Team manager Daan Luijkx explained that Poels would feel more comfortable in familiar territory.
"Wout really wanted to leave France because of the language barrier," he said. "Closer to home, experts from different hospitals will work together to give him the medical care he needs."
Poels suffered a host of internal injuries: a ruptured spleen and kidney, a bruised lung and three broken ribs following a crash on Stage 6 of the Tour.
Ten Dam steps up in the face of Rabobank’s injuries
Robert Gesink had hoped the first Tour de France rest day would help him recover from his injuries but the Dutchman was clearly still having difficulty, coming in over 15 minutes down. Gesink now lies in 56th place, more than 40 minutes behind the current leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
"It was a day of struggle, always trying to keep up. In particular, the back is still very heavy after the fall of Friday. It's just not as it should [be]," he said.
"A hard day in the Tour, I hoped to be better, but gave it all I had! Tomorrow will be a hard day, hopefully better legs!" Gesink said on Twitter.
Rabobank came into the Tour with a number of general classification contenders including Gesink, Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam but have been struck down with through a number of the large crashes during the opening week. Luis León Sánchez showed he is on the mend by infiltrating the day-long break during stage 10 but had to settle for fourth place behind the day’s winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
Ten Dam is currently the top placed Rabobank rider in 34th and 24:48 behind Wiggins and was happy with his ride during the stage to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.
"I had good legs. I'm sitting in the first 20, 25 riders on the climbs, he said.
Ten Dam has been given freedom to pursue his own classification attempt as his leaders Gesink and Mollema continue to struggle with injuries.
"I will give it a try. I want to confirm to the team that I sit at the level necessary to have assisted my team leaders."
Riding for the "fans"
Alejandro Valverde hasn’t enjoyed his best Tour this year, falling numerous times and having dealt with a puncture in the run-up to La Planche des Belles Filles. However, he’s missed a number year’s whilst serving his doping suspension so it’s perhaps taking a while to readjust to the wildness of the Tour.
Valverde did enjoy a better day on stage 10 following the rest day, finishing with the sixteen-man general classification group of Wiggins, Evans and Froome.
"Finally what I can call a normal day. Let's hope it will go on like that and I am able to achieve something nice," Valverde said on Twitter.
With another tough day coming up in stage 11, the 2009 Vuelta a España overall winner looked to try his luck, although he was mindful that his rivals may not give him much freedom.
"On Thursday we know it's a good time to try to enter the breakaway, but it's something many others will be trying to achieve," he told Europa Press. I’m feeling better and eager to give joy to the fans that I know are waiting to see me go."
It’s time for the Dutch to win again
Koen De Kort (Argos-Shimano) is completely aware of his limits in this Tour and with the loss of the team's climber Johannes Fröhlinger he could quietly go about stage 10 without too much strees. And, when faced with another tough mountain stage, he’ll be doing his best again to “save my strengths,” he said.
“The next two days you don't have to expect me at the front. It is going to be very though stages. The favourites will lead the dance. I’ll focus on not wasting too much energy. I just want to finish in time. After that when ‘my stages’ come up, I’ll go for it all,” he said on his team site.
De Kort has pinpointed stage 14, a 191 kilometre journey from Limoux to Foix as one which suits his abilities. He’s also hoping to have some like-minded countrymen who are ready to attack and go in the breakaway with him.
“If there are some other Dutch riders in a leading group with me, maybe we can try something together. We all know each other very well. We will certainly not race against each other, although I won’t give anything away either.”
Today's Tour de France news
- Millar and Garmin aim for breaks in Tour of opportunities
- Di Gregorio and 'naturopath' could face doping charges
- Scarponi falls short in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine
- Nibali: Wiggins needs to respect his rivals
- Video: Voeckler's win a response rather than revenge
- Tech: Tony Martin's Tour de France time trial flats
- Article published:
- July 12, 2012, 05:40
- Cycling News
Oscar Freire removed from line-up following Tour crash
Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) won the Spanish national road race title a little over one week before the Tour de France kicked off in Liège. His win signified his form was on track but he was nonetheless not part of his team’s ambitions for the 2012 race and was left off the nine-man roster.
Ventoso was left off the Tour roster and was also informed that he would not be riding the Olympic road race for his country. Somewhat lucky for Ventoso, the hardship of another's injuries means he gets the chance to represent Spain as part of the five-man team. Oscar Freire’s participation was put immediately in doubt falling his crash and abandonment and the Spanish Cycling Federation has put Ventoso’s name forward as the replacement.
"Freire is irreplaceable because he has been the favourite choice and was our reference for London. Ventoso is a rider who we had in mind from the beginning, but I had to leave out initially due to the five-rider limitation," said Jose Luis Santos.
Ventoso has enjoyed three wins already this season, including the crash-marred stage nine of the Giro d’Italia. He is currently racing the demanding Tour of Poland where he is yet to have the opportunity for a sprint.
"Ventoso is a great professional, a rider with experience in this type of racing with good top-end speed. He’s also shown his form is ready, as demonstrated by winning the Championship of Spain," said Santos.
- Article published:
- July 12, 2012, 07:00
- Cycling News
No need to panic after crash in Poland
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) didn’t feature at the top of the results at the end of the first stage at the Tour of Poland but it wasn’t for lack of condition. A crash in the final three kilometers meant he could not contest the sprint but says there is no reason for concern.
"It will be okay for London," said the recently crowned Belgian champion on nieuwsblad.
Boonen demonstrated no ill effects from the previous day’s crash by finishing third in the 239.4 kilometre second stage. He finished behind Ben Swift (Sky) Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) but put his performance down to positioning, not condition.
"I came roughly from tenth position in the sprint. I had to wait a little bit to launch my sprint because I was boxed in. It was uphill, so I came very fast, but a little bit too late. I had to close the gap," he said on his team site.
It was a promising sign for Boonen who has skipped the Tour de France this year to ensure his preparation is tuned exactly to his requirements. He had already stated his reasons for staying away from the Tour and if stage two was anything to go by, it was the right choice.
"Today, osteopath Steven Vrancken came along to thoroughly check everything again. "On this basis, I can continue working at my big goal. Tuesday splashed my Olympic dream almost apart. But today I am reassured: It is ok for London."
Team director Rik Van Slycke was pleased that Boonen was not overly hindered by the day's previous fall.
"For Tom it was important to try immediately a sprint after yesterday's crash, to leave behind a bad moment. He did it and with a bit of luck he could also have won. On the last turn, he came out of nowhere in the sprint to take third," said Van Slycke.