- Article published:
- July 18, 2012, 20:40
- Barry Ryan
Sicilian consolidates third place
It may well have been his best chance to break up the Sky duopoly at the head of the general classification of the Tour de France, however Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) was held at arm's length by Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome on the road to Bagnères-de-Luchon on stage 16.
Wednesday's queen stage marked only the sixth time in the history of the Tour that the fearsome quartet of the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde were tackled on the same day. The desolate roads of the "Circle of Death" – not to mention its treacherous descents – seemed the perfect stage for an offensive from Nibali, but as the shadows lengthened on a sweltering afternoon in the Pyrenees, he found that he was tilting at windmills.
Emerging from doping control afterwards, Nibali was unsure whether he was contented or frustrated by a day that saw him break even with the Sky pair but distance Cadel Evans (BMC). "We seem to be set for a place on the podium but there's a bit of disappointment because today I thought I would do something a little better," he admitted.
The Liquigas-Cannondale offensive began on the penultimate climb of the Aspin. After an anonymous Tour to date, Ivan Basso took on the role of gregario di lusso. His tempo, resolute rather than rasping, managed to shed Evans from the leading group but the primary aim was to strip Froome and Wiggins of their support ahead of the final ascent.
"Ivan's acceleration was a bit to skim off a few Sky riders, as the team is very strong," Nibali explained. "We saw that the strength was high in the group although Evans did suffer."
Evans gamely battled up to the yellow jersey group in the valley ahead of the Peyresourde, but he was definitively deposited out the back when Basso hit the front again midway up the climb, all but guaranteeing Nibali a spot on the podium in Paris.
As the gradient sharpened 4 kilometres from the summit of the Peyresourde, Nibali played his hand, attacking with purpose and opening an immediate gap over the yellow jersey group.
It was right about the point where Marco Pantani had shot away from Jan Ullrich when the Tour tackled the same route in 1998, but this, we are told, is a different era. While Nibali's surge was too much for the most of the yellow jersey group, Froome calmly led Wiggins across to the Sicilian's rear wheel.
"I made two, three or even four very strong accelerations to see if they'd crack, but it was very hard," said Nibali, who was unable to shake off the Sky pair. On the descent of the Peyresourde, his preferred battleground, the trio opted to lay down arms.
"The descent wasn't very favourable so we rode together to the finish. It was a very hard day, too, with the heat," Nibali said. "I'm happy with that because I always said the podium was my ambition but you always have ambitions of something better.
"This year I've worked specifically on changes of rhythm and I've improved, but it wasn't enough to break Sky today."
The Liquigas team hotel was just adjacent to the finish line, and Nibali opted to take the shortest route to his room, hopping a barrier while a soigneur carefully nursed his bike after him. Before taking his leave, Nibali didn't need to be reminded that he was running out of road.
"Tomorrow is another day," he said. "But it's getting harder and harder and more and more complicated."
- Article published:
- July 18, 2012, 21:41
- Hedwig Kröner
"Bad day" for Evans, but white jersey to defend
Stage 16 from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon may have put an irreversible end to any of Cadel Evans' dreams of defending his 2011 Tour de France crown or even get onto the podium in Paris, but the day also had its positive side for the American BMC team: Tejay van Garderen was able to consolidate his leading position in the young riders classification, gaining almost two minutes on his closest rival, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat).
Evans had to let go of the 'groupe maillot jaune' on the Col d'Aspin, the third ascent of the day, losing 30 seconds on his overall rivals at the summit of the climb. He eventually re-integrated the bunch, but got dropped again - this time hopelessly - on the last climb, the Col de Peyresourde. That was when Van Garderen was given the green light from team management to continue his own race and not wait for his leader.
"Cadel, I think was suffering from the heat," the 23-year-old American said. "He just had a bad day. When he dropped back the first time, directors asked us to bring him back and that it was perhaps just a bad moment, and that he would bounce back once he was in the peloton, but it was pretty evident that he was just having a bad day."
It was also on the Peyresourde that the second-placed on the young rider classification had difficulties following the group, but Van Garderen was able to press on, finally improving his GC standing from seventh to sixth - one placing in front of Evans. But the BMC rider did not confirm that this new position also made him the new team leader.
"I think it's more of a co-leadership because he's still only 11 seconds behind me on GC. He could easily bounce back on the next day, and I could possibly have a bad day - I hope not," continued Van Garderen, before admitting that he was very satisfied with his performances at this Tour.
"I'm doing better than I could have ever imagined. For Cadel, there is no way now to bring back that time [8:06 behind race leader Wiggins - ed.] to make it to the podium - it's just not possible. Now we'll have to look for other opportunities, maybe a stage win in a breakaway. We'll definitely defend the white jersey and our two top ten placings."
Team director John Lelangue confirmed this change of strategy for the final days of the Tour. "Tejay has proven that he has good legs. It's only normal that we continue to support him from now on," the Belgian said.
- Article published:
- July 18, 2012, 23:05
- Cycling News
Standings updated after Tour of Poland
It has been a week since the last update to the IG Pro Cycling Index. During that time six Tour de France stages and the Tour of Poland (Tier 2) have taken place. These once again have had a big impact on the rankings with Tour de France star Peter Sagan being the highest mover to number three overall.
At the top Tom Boonen had the chance at the Tour of Poland to overtake Joaquin Rodriguez in top spot. He was unable to take it due to crashing in stage 1 and then withdrawing before the race finished. Boonen has been diagnosed with a broken rib and is struggling to regain fitness for one of his big goals of the year; the Olympic Road Race (Tier 1).
The sprint stages at the Tour de France have been dominated by Peter Sagan and André Greipel. Both have climbed the rankings as a result. Sagan started the Tour de France is sixth place but is now third. Greipel was in 21st position but is now in 14th.
Mark Cavendish is the rider who has missed out. He has had to sacrifice his chances in order to work for his team leader Bradley Wiggins's pursuit of the yellow jersey. Cavendish has only won one stage so far which is far below his norm for the race, hence his drop in the Index to fifth place. He could slip further down by the end of the race as he will not defend his green jersey win from 2012. The pressure will be on for him to repeat his victory on the Champs-Élysées from the last two years.
The stage winners from the past week at the Tour have all seen a boost in their standing overall. Pierrick Fedrigo won his fourth Tour de France stage and is rewarded by reaching a career high in the Index of 68th place. David Millar’s stage win meant that all of the British road team for the Olympic Games at the Tour de France have won a stage. It was the Garmin-Sharp rider’s fourth Tour de France stage win and lifted him to 76th in the Index. Pierre Rolland won stage 11 and is 88th in the Index. Luis Leon Sanchez jumped twenty spots to 56th in the table after his fourth Tour stage win on stage 14. The Spanish rider is interestingly Rabobank’s sole representative in the top 100 in the Index.
This year the Tour of Poland had to be brought forward in the cycling calendar so as not to clash with the Olympic Games. As a result many of the riders attempting to win the Olympic road race headed over to Poland to fine tune their form. Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and Greg Van Avermaet were just some of the big names in attendance.
However, they all missed out of stage and the overall win. They were all topped by the young Italian Moreno Moser. Moser was a rider we drew attention earlier in the season after his high position compared to his days raced. Moser won two stages and the overall in Poland. This moved him up to 22nd overall in the Index. This is an even more remarkable achievement considering that he has only raced 36 days this year. The young Italian is clearly a rider who will continue to make a big impact in the coming year.
Ben Swift and Michal Kwiatkowski were two other riders to have a successful Tour of Poland. Swift as his name suggests is quick in the sprint and won two stages. These results saw him return to the top 200. Swift has had a quiet start to the season on the road, not picking up a result until June. But it is easy to forget for the start of the year he was focussed on trying to get a spot on the British Team Pursuit team for the Olympics. Although he missed out he did pick a world championship medal in the scratch race.
Kwiatkowski did not win a stage at the Tour of Poland but the rider rode aggressively and strongly in his home race. He came in the top ten on four stages and as a result came fourth overall. In the Index this propelled him up the rankings and he was the highest new entry into the top 200 this week in 96th place.
About the IG Markets Index
The IG Pro Cycling Index is a 12 month rolling ranking system designed answer the question “Who is the best cyclist in the world?” We teamed up with sports data experts Opta to create a comprehensive cycling ranking system that was based on an entirely new formula. We source results from the 120 top international road races throughout the season. Races are ranked by our expert panel, based on their prestige and their importance to cycling fans and put into four tiers in three different categories.
The IG Pro Cycling Index has a number of features that make it unique: Races are tiered depending on history, importance and calibre of field rather than UCI Class. So winning the Tour of Beijing will not give you the same points as winning Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné. Wins carry much greater weight and are rewarded more than placings. Bonus points are awarded for multiple victories in the top races, winning the most prestigious stages at the Grand Tours or winning multiple classics.
- Article published:
- July 19, 2012, 01:00
- Cycling News
Younger brother speaks out following diuretic found
Andy Schleck has reiterated his brother's innocence after Fränk returned an Adverse Analytical Finding to a urine test on July 14 at the Tour de France.
The elder Schleck yesterday asked for testing of his B-Sample after the WADA accredited laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry detected the presence of the diuretic Xipamide in his system which he claims is due to "poisoning." RadioShack-Nissan has withdrawn Fränk Schleck from the race.
Andy, currently recovering from a pelvic fracture has told Luxembourg media that he and his family are all behind his brother.
"This is a huge blow for us because Fränk has never taken anything illegal," Andy Schleck stated in an interview with Le Quotidien. "I swear on my mother's head! You know, we train together all the time, we are preparing together all the time, we race together all the time, even if it's a little less true this season. And I can tell you and you repeat that we have never taken anything. Now we have to wait but if the B sample is positive, the complaint is ready to be filed. Now, you just wait for further developments. But we are determined to defend ourselves."
Schleck explained that he has been left both angry and confused over the findings and said that his older brother is "in shock" following the events of the past 24 hours.
"Today I can tell you that I am disgusted with cycling," Schleck said. "I love this sport more than anything but now it's really hard for me and for the whole family."
- Article published:
- July 19, 2012, 02:30
- Mark Robinson
Astana rider "could do nothing" about losing KOM lead
Despite losing the polka dot jersey to stage winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) with just one more mountain stage left to go, Astana's Frederik Kessiakoff had no hesitation in recognising that everyone present had witnessed something very special at stage 16 of the 2012 Tour.
On a memorable afternoon in the Pyrenees, Voeckler conquered four climbs shrouded in Tour de France folklore, the rest of the peloton and stiflingly hot temperatures to storm to victory. Amazingly he also picked up all of the top climbing points on offer to take the lead of the mountains classification ahead of tomorrow's final high mountains stage from Bagneres-De-Luchon to Peyragudes.
"I'm really disappointed to have lost the jersey but if you look at the way Voeckler took it from me, I could do nothing," Kessiakoff told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"He had a superb race and it seemed like he must have taken every point that it was possible to take today. It didn't matter whether I was feeling good or not – the way he did it, it was just ‘chapeau'."
As this Tour has progressed the battles for yellow, green and white have looked increasingly like one horse races, with Bradley Wiggins (overall), Peter Sagan (points) and Tejay Van Garderen (best young rider) seemingly tightening their grip on each one over the last week of racing. With ink already dry on some coronation pieces for those classifications – prematurely, it must be said, given the history of this great race - it is the tussle for the polka dot jersey as king of the mountains that is still keeping everyone guessing.
Today was the fifth time in the last ten stages that the jersey has changed hands, and, despite his heroics, Voeckler still only leads his Swedish rival by the narrow margin of 107 points to 103. With a maximum of 52 points on offer tomorrow, the standings are still wide open. The third-placed rider in the standings, Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), isn't mathematically out of things either on 77 points.
The general consensus amongst the riders was that today was the toughest day they'd faced. Kessiakoff said he was going back to his hotel to try to recover and ready himself for one final uphill push in the mountains of the Pyrenees tomorrow. Whether it would be enough to overtake Voeckler and snatch back the jersey, he said, would depend on that recovery and also on how much the Frenchman's superhuman efforts today have taken out of him.
"My objective today was those first two HC climbs," Kessiakoff said. "I thought that maybe by the last two category ones that the peloton would catch us but in the end there was quite a big gap. Thomas could keep on riding and keep picking up those points and that's what helped him overleap me in the end.
"Hopefully he spent a lot of energy today and hopefully I can recover and feel even better tomorrow. You never know. Anything can happen but I think everybody spent a lot of energy out there. We all had to pass those mountains so we'll see. I hope that I can recover well and then maybe attack and do something tomorrow."
- Tour de France
- Article published:
- July 19, 2012, 03:33
- Cycling News
Voeckler takes solo victory
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) rode to his second 2012 Tour de France stage victory on Wednesday, prevailing on Stage 16 to Bagnères-de-Luchon after 197km.
Voeckler also took the lead in the king of the mountains classification, getting the better of Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) with the Frenchman holding a narrow four-point lead at day's end.
General classification hopeful Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) did his best to put a dint in the overall lead of Bradley Wiggins (Sky) but his attack was unsuccessful. Wiggins, teammate and second-placed overall teammate Chris Froome along with the Italian finished the stage together meaning the virtual podium remains unchanged for another day.
- Article published:
- July 19, 2012, 05:05
- Barry Ryan
Sky duo combine on Peyresourde
As Cadel Evans' guttering challenge was snuffed out and Vincenzo Nibali's attacks failed to discommode Bradley Wiggins, all eyes turned to Chris Froome (Sky) on the Col du Peyresourde on stage 16 of the Tour de France.
Second overall and 2:05 off his teammate's yellow jersey as business resumed on Wednesday morning, Froome and Sky had spent the rest day in Pau insisting that the their two strongmen would continue to operate in harmony as the race entered its endgame in the Pyrenees.
Even so, the temptation to dig out the comparisons to Hinault and LeMond or to Roche and Visentini remained as the yellow jersey group traversed the daunting "Circle of Death" on a muggy day that saw the Tour finally bask in the white heat of a French July.
Whatever his chances of taking yellow himself, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) had the unwitting role of potential kingmaker as the favourites hit the final climb of the Peyresourde. An attack from the Sicilian was a nailed on certainty, but if he could drop Wiggins, then Froome – apparently the stronger climber – would be left with the dilemma of deciding whether to pace his teammate or follow the move.
Four kilometres from the top, Nibali duly delivered his lines, punching his way clear of the yellow jersey group. He immediately opened a gap, but his staccato pedalling was soon reined in by the metronomic tempo of Froome, who dutifully brought Wiggins across the gap. Even as recently twelve months ago, it would have been hard to believe that the Sky pair could be so dominant in the mountains of the Tour de France.
"He can attack but he may not," shrieked one commentator, almost willing Froome to dispense with the team hierarchy.
The reality was somewhat different, however. Froome's accelerations remained steady even as he tracked Nibali's sharper bursts, while Wiggins himself closed down Nibali's final attack near the summit.
The trio reached Bagnères-de-Luchon together, 7:09 down on stage winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). Another day in a Tour high on calculation but low on suspense. Wiggins headed for the podium to collect another maillot jaune and a kiss from the podium girls. Froome headed for the Sky team bus to do another warm-down and a softly-spoken television interview.
"I actually felt pretty good," Froome said. "That was a big day. It was hot out there. A lot of people really suffering and obviously you can see that with the time gaps there so it's another one we can tick off and it's another day closer to Paris for us. It's a good day for us."
With his polite smile and shy demeanour, Froome seems perhaps an unlikely man to defy the ground rules laid down by Sky before the race. He looked almost relieved when the framing of the questions allowed him to discuss the collective might of a team regularly compared to US Postal rather than his and Wiggins' relative strength.
"I think we've just proved that we're a really solid unit," he said. "It's not just about one guy on the team being really strong. All the way through each and every rider on the team has done an amazing job and it's hard to see on television but it really is hard out there when those guys are riding.
"They peel off and then the next one does exactly the same thing. It just sets us up in such a perfect position that it's hard for someone to take time out of us."
During the rest day, Nibali had suggested that Sky was a rather colder and less homely team than his own Liquigas outfit. Asked if he was having fun on the cols, Froome said it was too simply too stressful. The fun, if that is the word, has been had mainly by those speculating on the leadership of his team.
"You've really got to pay attention and there's not much time to have fun as such," Froome said. "There'll definitely be a bit of fun after this."
- Article published:
- July 19, 2012, 07:04
- Cycling News
A tumultuous day in the Pyrenees
More laughs at Liquigas
Before clashing swords in the Pyrenees, Vincenzo Nibali and Bradley Wiggins crossed paths on Mount Teide earlier in the season, as both their Liquigas-Cannondale and Sky teams have a penchant for lengthy collective training camps on the volcano in Tenerife.
Nibali famously came close to signing for Sky in the winter of 2009, but he told Gazzetta dello Sport that he didn't regret his decision to stay put, reckoning that Liquigas riders simply have more fun.
"From the outside it seems to me like a bit of a "cold" team where maybe they communicate via email instead of by phone," said Nibali of Sky. "Even when we came across them on Mount Teide, their tables were a lot more silent than ours." (BR)
Hot, hot heat!
Stage 16 was tough-going but for a measure of just how tough, look no further than Sky's Mark Cavendish.
"Today's stage can be put into perspective by the fact that by the end I didn't care that I was just puking over myself. Hills+Heat=Suffering," he said following the stage on Twitter.
In response, David Millar reported from the Garmin-Sharp bus:
"@MarkCavendish We could've been puking on each other and we wouldn't have cared. DZ puked all the way home in the bus. It's just wrong." (JA)
Out, then in again
Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) crossed the finish line on Stage 16 in Bagnères-de-Luchon four seconds outside the time cut and he believed his Tour de France was over.
The Belgian, riding the Tour for the very first time at age 24, had suffered like much of the peloton in the heat.
"In the descent of the Col de Peyresourde I lost at least 20 seconds, because a motorcyclist of the French police did a wrong move and I therefore rode into the wrong street," Ghyselinck explained to nieuwsblad.be.
An official however, told him it was ok and he would be able to resume on Thursday.
"I did not have a good day today," he admitted. "It was too hot for me. I had to go very deep and do not know if I will be sufficiently recovered for tomorrow." (JA)
Barbed wire strikes again
Katusha's Vladimir Gusev suffered a painful end to his Tour de France, with the Russian fracturing his collarbone.
Gusev and Romain Zingle (Cofidis) crashed just over 60 kilometres into the 16th Stage, the pair tangled in a barbed wire fence.
It was the second time Gusev had taken a hit to his right shoulder and spent Wednesday night in hospital in Toulouse.
Earlier in this year's Tour, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) somersaulted into a barbed wire fence when he was run off the road in a mass crash. In 2011, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) was infamously thrown into a barbed wire fence suffering extensive cuts when a media vehicle ran into him. (JA)
Scary moment for Horner
The sight of a lone bike lying on a steep slope with its rider somewhere behind the bushes resulted in a few fearful moments for RadioShack-Nissan's Chris Horner. He eventually was helped back up to the road by a medical officer but looked slightly unsteady on his feet - bringing back memories of his 2011 crash which left him concussed and ultimately brought an end to his Tour.
"I had switched out my bike and made it back to the group on the first climb," the American explained following Wednesday's stage. "The guy in front of me sat up on the uphill and his bike started drifting back to me. He went right and I went left. That’s when I hit the edge of one of those concrete curbs and went down 12 feet and had to crawl back up. There was a lot of debris there to land on before I came to a tree that stopped me. Better the tree than continuing on down the slope. So I was able to crawl out on my hands and knees with some help. Dusted myself off, got a new bike and ready to go again."
Thank God it was on the uphill, not the downhill," he continued.
"I didn’t have the legs to go with Nibali today. I was just in survival mode. It was the hardest day so far; a day of pain."
Horner remains in 13th overall. (JA)
Tour honours Mandela in Pau
Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday was marked in the French town of Pau yesterday at the start of stage 16 of the Tour de France. Local schoolchildren paid tribute to the former South African President and anti-apartheid icon by unfurling a banner reading 'Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela' near the startline of the 197km mountain stage to Bagnères-de-Luchon. (MR)
Tour de France bad for the health, say Australian doctors
Australian cycling fans are following their heroes Cadel Evans and Matthew Goss in large numbers back home, but their dedication to Evans' fading bid to retain the title and Goss' equally stiff-looking task of winning green is having an adverse effect on their health, according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA). Around half a million Australians are tuning in every night - from 10pm to 1:30am on the country's populous east coast - leaving them bleary eyed at work the next day. Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the AMA, said that "the majority of us should not [survive on five or six hours sleep per night]...your concentration levels are really, really important." (MR)