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First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Date published:
July 20, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Menchov focused on Contador, didn't know about Schleck

    Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has been riding solidly.
    Article published:
    July 19, 2010, 20:47 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Russian in the hunt for Tour podium finish

    On Monday afternoon three men took profit from the mechanical of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) on the Port de Balès: Alberto Contador (Astana), who took over the yellow jersey, was the primary beneficiary but the third and fourth-placed riders on general classification, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) respectively, also reduced their time gap to Schleck.

    Menchov responded to the attack from Contador and said that he was focusing on following the Spaniard, rather than checking out what was going on with Schleck. "I can't explain [what happened with Schleck] because I didn't see what happened. We know that Alberto and Andy play with each other. We have to follow one of them. I saw the reaction of Contador and I thought it was decisive, so I tried to follow him," Menchov said.

    When asked if he felt that what Contador did was fair play or not Menchov passed on the question to the Spaniard. "I don't know. You'll have to ask him. The question [what to do with Schleck] didn't come up in me [during the race]," Menchov said.

    Menchov told Cyclingnews yesterday that he considered both Sanchez and Schleck as his main rivals for the podium. By gaining 39 seconds on Schleck the 32-year-old Russian rider now lies at two minutes and five seconds behind the unfortunate Luxembourger. With only two mountain stages left Menchov is more and more convinced that he can reduce the gap enough to go past Schleck in the 52km time trial on the penultimate stage. If he also takes thirteen seconds on Sanchez then he would finish second, which would be his best result ever in the Tour de France.

    Theoretically Menchov still has a chance to win the Tour de France but the Russian played down those expectations. "It's difficult and too early to say. Today nothing changed, concerning positions. I'm quite far from Contador and he's a very strong climber. Perhaps there's a chance but I'll take it day-by-day," Menchov...

  • Brailsford admits Team Sky has learnt some harsh lessons on Tour debut

    Bradley Wiggins (Sky) ascends the Montée Laurent Jalabert.
    Article published:
    July 19, 2010, 21:23 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Wiggins set to target stage win in the Pyrenees

    Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford was happy to see former Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer at the start of stage 15 in Pamiers but admitted to Holczer that he'd been right when he had warned him that creating a successful professional team is extremely hard work.

    With team leader Bradley Wiggins struggling in the mountains and now totally out of overall contention, Brailsford has seen how months of hard work count for virtually nothing. While other teams are fighting for the yellow jersey, a place on the podium or a minor jersey, Team Sky can only hope for a stage victory.

    Brailsford admits that the biggest thing the team will take home from the Tour de France will be a lot of harsh lessons learnt about the hardest and biggest race in cycling.

    "You can plans as much as you like but there is nothing like doing this race and then going back and reflecting on what you didn't know and learning from it. Even after two weeks, I'm not afraid to say there's a lot we didn't know," he said.

    "I'm a novice at this race but I've got a smart group of people around me who learn really quick. Would we change the way we approach things? How we get the best out of people? Certainly not. It's like the Olympics Games, the first one blows you away but by the time you've done three or four, you just take it on. I guess it's the same here. You have to do the hours and we're doing them.

    "Last year Brad got fourth and so it was right to go for that again. We're going to evaluate for next year on the basis of this year. However I do think the long term goal of this team is to develop young British riders and see if we can win this race. It's a dream. It might happen, it might not. But it gives us the mission.

    "This year Geraint Thomas stepped up and performed at the Tour. I'm confident he did that because he's in the right team environment. If we can do that with Ben Swift, Ian Stannard, Pete Kennaugh and others, and not let...

  • Van den Broeck strengthens fifth place position

    Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma - Lotto) climbs the Montée Laurent Jalabert.
    Article published:
    July 19, 2010, 21:53 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian distances Gesink and Leipheimer on stage 15

    Another mountain stage went by and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) once again managed to gain time on the riders that are eyeing his current fifth place on the Tour de France general classification. On the other hand, the 27-year-old Belgian lost time on all the riders ahead of him overall during today's 15th stage, which makes the podium spot the Belgian home front is hoping for almost impossible. Van den Broeck doesn't care about what others are hoping for and keeps going for the top-10 he aimed at when the Tour de France started in Rotterdam.

    During the dramatic stage over the Port de Balès the race exploded within four kilometres of the summit. Van den Broeck didn't join the Contador group but managed to keep up with Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) when he tried to get back to the front. It resulted in a bonus of 26 seconds over Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), who're ranked sixth and seventh in the GC.

    After freshening up in the team bus Van den Broeck talked with the press and the Belgian explained that he was pleased with today's outcome. "I gained time on the riders right behind me so I succeeded in reaching the goals I set myself [for today]. With two mountain stages to go things are looking good. Hopefully it stays like that. I'm always careful, though. You never know what they're going to do tomorrow. In the Tour de France anything can happen. The Tour is three weeks at the limit and as long as we're not at the finish line on the Champs Elysées you can't be sure," Van den Broeck said.

    Van den Broeck had a privileged view on the things that happened with Schleck and Contador on the final climb but the Belgian said he wasn't focused on the two protagonists. "I don't have to look at those guys. I have to watch the guys that are behind me. I'm not looking at second or third place," Van den Broeck said.

    In trying to do so Van den Broeck cooperated with Schleck, as the duo both had...

  • Procycling's daily Tour de France dispatch - stage 15

    Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) looks back to check out the situation as Andy Schleck has a mechanical
    Article published:
    July 19, 2010, 22:24 BST

    Schleck, Contador, Voeckler, Pamiers, Balès

    Top Ten Gift Ideas For Andy Schleck's 26th Birthday*

    *by Alberto Contador

    1. A signed yellow jersey
    2. A new groupset
    3. A dream holiday to somewhere other than Curaçao
    4. An apology
    5. DVD highlights of stage 15 of the 2003 Tour de France, Bagnères de Bigorre - Luz-Ardiden
    6. DVD highlights of stage 2 of the 2010 Tour de France, Brussels-Spa
    7. The Lion King soundtrack, particularly track two - "I Just Can't Wait To Be King"
    8. A bicycle repair manual
    9. A new Spanish pen-pal
    10. A dog-eared copy of "How To Lose Friends And Alienate People" by Toby Young

    Quote of the day

    Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli in Bagnères de Luchon: "The most important thing for me is to have a clear conscience and I have that tonight. I didn't tell him to wait, that's for sure..."

    Good news, Alberto - you don't even have to tell us your radio wasn't working this time...

    Voeckler's happy hunting ground

    Next time a professional bike race visits the Port de Balès, stake the family château on a good performance from Thomas Voeckler. The climb has made only one previous appearance on the Tour de France parcours, but already held a special place in Voeckler's memory prior to Monday, the Frenchman having defended his race lead and set up overall victory here in the 2006 Route du Sud.

    Another little Venice

    It seems every country has its own 'little Venice' and France is no different. Sixty kilometres south of Toulouse, Pamiers, the start town of Stage 15, with winding canals that surround the old district and its three tall bell towers, goes by the epithet of 'little Venice' and is the largest town in the Ariège region. But we didn't spot any gondolas; for enchanting Pamiers, that would be just plain tacky.

    Pale-faced on the Port de...

  • McEwen worried about Peyresourde

    Robbie McEwen has been suffering since he was knocked down by a TV cameraman.
    Article published:
    July 19, 2010, 23:54 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Katusha sprinter hangs tough in mountains

    While the mountain specialists take centre stage during the Pyrenees, spare a thought for the sprinters suffering at the back of the caravan that crawls through the mountains. Still among them is veteran Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen (Katusha).

    McEwen has not been able to win a stage at this year's Tour de France so far, mainly because of a crash after the fourth stage in Gueugnon. The 38-year-old collided with a photographer, and hurt his back and elbow.

    In the days following the crash McEwen's name often crackled through the race radio among the first dropped riders. The Australian showed courage and didn't give in, even though many observers expected him to pull out sooner or later. Almost two weeks later McEwen is still there, and he's not planning to give up.

    “I'm still not going well. My lower back is still bruised, my elbow is hurting too. I'm not sitting straight up my bike and because of that my knee starts hurting. I've caught bronchitis too. It feels like I'm hopping from one sore to the other,” McEwen told Cyclingnews.

    “I'm not thinking about the possible sprint stages ahead. I look at things day-by-day, so right now I'm only thinking about making it through this stage,” McEwen said before the start of stage fifteen.

    More than five hours later a hurt but proud McEwen lead the grupetto over the finish line. “I've done this before you know. I've got experience and I know how you handle these things. If you get dropped you've got to ride at your own tempo uphill, in the descents it's all about gaining time on the grupetto,” McEwen told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “Everybody's hurting in these stages and the body isn't co-operating but during these stages the mind takes over. After my big leg injury I had only one goal, and that was this Tour de France. I'm not going to give it up just like that.”

    McEwen wasn't looking forward to...

  • Contador makes YouTube apology to Schleck

    Alberto Contador (Astana) heard some boos from the podium as he received the yellow jersey for the first time in this Tour de France
    Article published:
    July 20, 2010, 2:19 BST
    Cycling News

    Fair play important to new Tour leader

    Alberto Contador has posted a YouTube apology to former Tour de France leader Andy Schleck for the timing of an attack that sees the Spaniard now lead the race. The Astana rider admitted he wasn’t happy with how he’s taken the Tour’s yellow jersey, and hopes it doesn’t impact his relationship with the Luxembourg rider.

    “Today I managed to get on the podium, which makes me happy. The problem with that was the circumstances,” said Contador in the video, filmed in his hotel room. “Right when I attacked Andy had a mechanical on the last climb. The race was in full gear and, well, maybe I made a mistake, I'm sorry.

    “At a time like that all you think about is riding as fast as you can,” he continued. “I'm not happy, in the sense that, to me, fair play is very important. Just like I did in the Spa stage, when both Andy and Fränk were behind the pack, I didn't hesitate to stop the bunch so that they could catch up.

    “Many people criticized me for doing that, especially after the stage on the cobbles, when the crash happened and the whole bunch split as a result, and it allowed Andy to take time on me, but I always settle it by saying I'd do it again,” said Contador. “The kind of thing that happened today is not something I like, it's not my style and I hope my relationship with Andy will remain as good as before.”

    Saxo Bank team owner Bjarne Riis wasn’t judging Contador after the stage. “I would have hoped he would have waited, and I think I would have waited... I think he did wait at the beginning but then it was a while before Andy was on the bike again.

    “I don’t know. Was it possible for Contador to wait in that situation, with [Samuel] Sanchez [Euskaltel] and [Denis] Menchov [Rabobank] attacking? He has to follow those guys, for sure. He might not need to pull [with them] or attack, but he has to follow those...

  • Reactions from the Tour's 15th stage

    Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) leads Alberto Contador (Astana) up the climb
    Article published:
    July 20, 2010, 3:31 BST
    Cycling News

    Drama as overall standings are shaken and stirred

    Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) - eighth on stage, third overall @ 2:00: Again it was a very hard day; it seemed that the Balès would never end. I suffered a lot, but we finished the day with a bang.

    Keeping the podium spot will be very complicated - Menchov is very strong and he is a great rider.

    There is a lot of talk about an incident in the race [Schleck's mechanical]; I believe that we shouldn't focus on something that is natural in cycling - tomorrow it could happen to me or anyone else...

    In the race, I didn't know if Andy had a problem or not. He started very strong, Contador went after him, then Menchov moved... From the TV it sure looks great, but in the race, at 200 beats a minute, with thousands of screaming fans on the road... The instinct is telling you to go with the big move and mark the man.

    Lloyd Mondory (AG2R-La Mondiale) - fourth on stage, 104th overall @ 2:12:08: It has been a while since I wanted to show I could do anything other than sprints. I battled for 80km to be in the break and eventually I was smiling.

    When there was the first big acceleration, I tried to manage and set a good pace as it was impossible to follow the climbers. Eventually, I didn't lose much time. I'm hooked, I rode a good descent and I gave everything.

    When the group behind caught us I said: 'No, I'm not going to sit up and I should pick up fourth place for me and the team. It is a day which is good for the morale after the difficult beginning of the Tour de France. The Tour started well but I spent a lot of time after Brussels recovering from my fall.

    In this type of stage, my role in the team is getting bottles and protecting Nicolas Roche in the valley to be in the best possible shape at the foot of climbs. Today, I was able to escape... I really wanted to be ahead, especially since I am going to see my children and wife tonight.

    Now, I'll do the...

  • Andy Schleck more dangerous than ever

    Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) stops to deal with a dropped chain
    Article published:
    July 20, 2010, 9:50 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Older brother training again after collarbone surgery

    According to older brother Fränk, Andy Schleck is even more of a danger to Alberto Contador now that the Saxo Bank rider lost his yellow jersey on stage 15 of the Tour de France.

    Andy Schleck was on the attack when he suffered an ill-timed mechanical with his chain on the final slopes of the Port de Balès. He was forced to stop and fix the problem as Contador, Samuel Sanchez and Denis Menchov distanced themselves from the Saxo Bank leader. Contador now leads Schleck by eight seconds in the overall, having turned around a 31 second deficit.

    “Andy felt very strong and everyone could see that when he attacked. I don’t want to judge, Contador is a good guy but Armstrong won seven Tours and I remember him waiting for Ullrich and vice versa,” Fränk Schleck told Cyclingnews.

    Unsurprisingly, older sibling Frank added that he would have waited for a rival if he had been in Contador’s shoes. “Of course it’s a race and I respect his decision and it was Alberto’s to make. Maybe he didn’t see it but I think they have radios. I would have waited.”

    Both brothers spoke at the end of the stage on phone, Fränk revealing that one of the first thing Andy does is call his brother once he’s on the team bus. “He’s furious with the mistake, from the mechanical but he wont give up and he’s going to carry on fighting. There’s no way he’ll give up. In many ways he’s more dangerous now.”

    Fränk, who crashed out of the race on stage three with a broken collarbone enjoyed his first day back on the bike on Monday, after a successful surgery last week. The Tour de Suisse winner was a potential threat to Contador coming into this year’s Tour but has now set his sights firmly on the Vuelta in September, a race he started but failed to finish last year.

    “I’m improving. Today was the first time I’ve...