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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Date published:
July 08, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Swiss precision makes the difference

    Saxo Bank is led by Fabian Cancellara across the line to keep yellow by fractions of a second.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2009, 14:30 BST
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Cancellara retains jersey by a split second

    At the Tour de France's much anticipated team time trial, overall leader Fabian Cancellara was able to keep his yellow jersey for another day, even if his Team Saxo Bank only rode to a third placing behind Garmin-Slipstream and the winning team, Astana. Saving the precious garment by a mere fraction of a second from American Lance Armstrong, the Swiss powerhouse was pleased with his team's achievement.

    "I was a bit nervous, I think Bjarne [Riis] and Kim [Andersen] were also nervous, we didn't know if we'd still be in yellow with this small amount of time," said Cancellara about the situation when officials rushed to calculate the time difference between the two, a mere 0.22 second. "My team and I can be proud of doing what we did today. Everybody did the maximum of what was possible. With Swiss time precision... time was born in Switzerland, so that was on my side!" he said.

    In the end, the team lost 40 seconds to Astana, but Cancellara explained that the conditions and the twisting course were part of the reason the squad could not make the most of its strengths. "We had different tasks for different riders," he continued. "It was hard because of the wind and because of the nature of the course - it wasn't a good course for a team time trial. It obliged us to remain calm and not go flat out right away.

    "We knew the last kilometres were more suited to a high rhythm. It was only 40 kilometres, not very long, but it was important to stay calm and concentrate, especially in the first part. Our preview of the course also helped a lot, and I think we deserve to retain this yellow jersey today. We can be very proud of what we have done."

    Cancellara - also known as 'Spartacus' - was often seen in front during the race, pulling for long turns and constantly looking back to make sure he wasn't actually dropping his teammates. When asked about this, he emphasized that "it was the whole team's performance that made up the result", but still...

  • Armstrong admits attaining yellow jersey, overall victory harder than expected

    Lance Armstrong of Team Astana came within a fraction of a second of taking the yellow jersey.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2009, 14:40 BST
    By:
    Richard Moore

    "The Tour is finished for some riders"

    "This Tour will be exciting," said Lance Armstrong, after narrowly losing out on his first yellow jersey since 2005. "You're not going to write your final story until we're all on the top of Mont Ventoux: that's a guarantee."

    For most of Tuesday's team time trial it seemed that the relationship between Armstrong and the Tour was about to take yet another extraordinary twist. With the time he clawed back in Monday's great escape, he appeared poised to take the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara, whose Saxo Bank team was no match for the Astana machine, even though the Danish squad seemed, for large parts, to be dragged along by the Swiss time trial star.

    At 37, Armstrong would have become the oldest man ever to wear the yellow jersey. His friend, the actor Ben Stiller, was even waiting on the podium to present it to him. But on the line he missed out - by 0.22 seconds.

    Yet it was a content Armstrong who faced the press, his satisfaction perhaps owing most to something he said towards the end of a long, expansive press conference.

    "I think today the Tour de France is finished for some riders," said the seven-time winner. "It's [going to be] difficult - with no disrespect - to make up that time."

    Armstrong revealed that he had spoken to Alberto Contador before the stage, telling him, "Let's ride perfect and make this race almost impossible to win for others." He added, "I think we can say we accomplished that."

    Though Armstrong wouldn't name names, it isn't difficult to imagine that Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), almost three minutes down, Denis Menchov (Rabobank), almost four back, perhaps even Carlos Sastre (Cervelo), now at 2:44, are the riders whose challenge he considers "finished."

    As for his near miss with yellow, he said, "That's the way it is. We did our best, at one point we thought we had it, but if I look back on our performance...it would be one thing if we had a crash, a flat tyre, or the team...

  • Schumacher's Olympic b-sample confirms CERA

    Teammates Stefan Schumacher and 'Tin-Tin' Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner).
    Article published:
    July 07, 2009, 19:19 BST
    By:
    Daniel Simms

    German insists he is innocent, takes case to CAS

    German Stefan Schumacher has been declared positive for EPO-CERA in the B-analysis from his 2008 Olympic Games sample. The second check has confirmed the presence of the blood boosting drug found in his A-sample in April of this year, AFP reported Tuesday.

    The rider of the former Gerolsteiner squad tested positive for the same substance in samples taken during the 2008 Tour de France, just weeks before the Beijing Games. Both positives were the result of re-testing of samples performed months after the respective events. 

    The urine test for the new variant of the drug EPO were first used during the July, 2008 Tour de France when Italian Riccardo Ricco' was the first to be declared positive for the substance. At that time, Schumacher's samples were considered suspicious, but were not confirmed as positive until October, when the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) analyzed blood samples from the Tour.

    The AFLD case resulted in Schumacher receiving a two-year suspension in March of this year, just weeks before the re-analysis of the Olympic Games samples were announced.

    In April, Schumacher and with fellow cyclist Davide Rebellin were among five athletes to be declared positive for CERA after the additional testing. Weight-lifter Yudelquis Contreras of the Dominican Republic was later cleared after his B-sample came back negative.

    According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schumacher will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland on Wednesday. His lawyer, Michael Lehner, has been working with the attorneys of the other athletes to pursue a consistent defense argument.

    Lehner said that the Chatenay Malabry laboratory made procedural mistakes in testing the samples, and argued that the IOC had the B-samples tested without permission and without allowing Schumacher to have a witness present at the testing.

  • Menchov unsatisfied after team time trial

    Denis Menchov leads home his Rabobank team.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2009, 20:03 BST
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Rabobank rider sinks in the GC after crashing

    The team time trial in Montpellier was not an easy day at the office for any of the riders involved, but was even worse than usual for some outfits. The technical course was made even harder by some serious gusts of wind, resulting in more than the normal number of crashes. One of the biggest names to go down was Giro d'Italia winner Denis Menchov.

    The Rabobank leader slid on the tarmac in the very first corner of the circuit, inside the opening kilometre, and lost another 2:20 to Astana's overall contenders.  The team are now clear favourites for the victory in Paris: the only question which could remain is which of them will take home the maillot jaune?

    Going into the time trial, Rabobank's sports director Erik Breukink was sure that Menchov had overcome his initial difficulties - he already lost some time to the favourites on the first stage in Monaco. After Tuesday's stage, the Russian sits way back in the classification in 72nd position, 3.52 minutes behind Lance Armstrong, who himself is just 22/100ths of a second from the overall lead.

    "He had some difficult moments and lost some time, but now he is motivated and we expect him to get better this week," a confident Breukink told Cyclingnews before the stage. As it turned out, the Russian's woes were only about to begin.

    Menchov crashed on his left hand side and suffered some scrapes and bruises on his knee and elbow. "Fortunately, he is not really injured," the team's press officer Luuc Eisenga assured on Tuesday evening.

    Going into the collective race against the clock, the team's goal according to Breukink had been "close to the top five. If we achieve this, then we did a very good time trial, losing maybe 30 seconds to one minute to the other GC contenders."

    But Menchov's crash disrupted the squad's cohesion. "The rhythm was gone, and the riders had to wait for him. We had 50 seconds on Caisse d'Epargne at the first time check, and...

  • Armstrong discusses doping, doubt in first Tour press conference since 2005

    Lance Armstrong (Astana)
    Article published:
    July 07, 2009, 21:32 BST
    By:
    Richard Moore

    Seven-time champion responds to tough questions from the press

    Lance Armstrong's first appearance at a Tour de France press conference since 2005, when he faced the media wearing the final yellow jersey of his seven-year winning run, was different in some respects and familiar in others.

    As well as questions about the race, he fielded a couple that, even if they didn't explicitly mention doping, were concerned with the dreaded D-word. He also responded to a recently published interview with Patrice Clerc, who was ousted as president of Tour organisers ASO at the end of last October. In the story, Clerc said that Armstrong's return coincided with the "return of doubt" to the Tour de France.

    When asked if his return to the Tour, and its first four stages, had put cycling back centre stage in the press for the right reasons, ie. rather than for doping, Armstrong replied succinctly, "I don't know. It's difficult to know if you're not paying that much attention, which I haven't been, other than the few sites or outlets I visit.

    "It's the Tour, It's cycling. There were some issues at the beginning, which I think got exploited a little bit; that's just the nature of the times we're living in within this sport," he continued before taking a dig at the press.

    "I do think it's important [to] not to forget to talk about the race. Sometimes I get the impression that too many journalists come to the race for one reason, and that's to write the doping story.

    "Granted, if someone crosses the line and breaks the rules you've got to write the story, but you've also got to sit back and analyse the great stuff that happens: the great performance of a team like Astana today [in winning the team time trial], or the closeness of Saxo [Bank]; all the things that make up the dynamic and the beauty of a sport like cycling.

    "Let's hope we're getting there," he added, "but I don't have any predictions."

    Was the Tour perfect under Clerc?

    In response to Clerc's comment...

  • Riders unhappy with Tour’s TTT course

    Piet Rooijakkers came off second best on the challenging Team Time Trial course.
    Article published:
    July 08, 2009, 0:50 BST
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Risky route caused multiple crashes

    Tuesday's team time trial provided for some controversy at the Tour de France, as the route chosen by the organiser around Montpellier was quite a special one. For the first collective race against the clock in four years at the event, Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) designed a short, but very technical circuit course that could hardly please everybody.

    Instead of the usual long, wide and straight boulevards on which the nine-rider teams can practice a rotational turn-taking to perfection, ASO picked rather narrow, twisty and bumpy roads for the exercise. The nature of the course - together with some heavy gusts of wind - made many riders hit the deck and triggered discussion: even if a route such as this one needed even more team cohesion to be mastered successfully, did the novelty really outweigh the risk?

    Former cyclist and Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon, now a consultant with France Television, did not think so. "I don't understand why this type of course is chosen for a team time trial,” he said. “That's not its philosophy. Whose interest is it to make the riders take so many risks?"

    Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) also had some harsh comments. "It was a very atypical time trial circuit," he told Cyclingnews. "I saw Quick Step crashing already before the way to the start on some slippery stone panels. Then, I saw Denis Menchov crashing in the first corner, somebody from Lampre crashing in the second corner and then on those really narrow country roads, four from Bouygues Telecom literally went out into the field - that's just not what we need. I mean, we got all these rules, we have to wear helmets, more security - so why do they send us on a course that has ‘broken bones’ written all over it? I just don't get it. I'm sure there's a million better roads down here.

    "We have bikes worth 10,000 Euro, and in the end we can't use them properly because we're just busy trying to hold balance instead of...

  • Testing conditions for team test against the clock

    Alberto Contador takes a turn at the front of the Team Astana train.
    Article published:
    July 08, 2009, 2:44 BST
    By:
    Daniel Simms

    Reaction from stage four

    Alberto Contador (Astana) - first on stage, third overall @ 0:19

    "I think that today we have to be very, very happy. I still don't accurately know the differences that we could have created, but we have distanced enough riders like Sastre, Evans, Menchov and even the Schleck brothers.

    "I have been good enough. It's a pity that there were neither more climbs nor mountains, which is where I was feeling more comfortable".

    "For the moment things are very good overall, but, well, it is necessary to maintain concentration, because we have done only four days, though it seems that a lot of the Tour has passed.

    "In this Tour there are no more places to attack [than any other Tour] and with the differences that have been opened now, people have to risk a lot from far away."

    "You always like to have the yellow jersey and particularly Lance, as it means so much to him. But it's also true that this allows us to go ahead more relaxed, though at the end it was a pity not to take it by such a small margin."

    Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) - eighth on stage, 29th overall @ 2:44

    "The fourth stage of the Tour de France has been a very technical and really hard team time trial. It was really windy today and the stage was technical because it was a very narrow road which was a bit of a squeeze for all our team's riders.

    I think it's a very positive result, as it was a time trial that needed the riders to be very experienced and we partly compensated for that with the strength of our team. I'm happy with the result of the work that each one of my team mates have carried out and I'm also happy as there haven't been any mishaps or incidents that could have made us lose our options.

    Losing 1:37 against Astana with all the potential they have, or the time we lost against teams like Saxo Bank, Garmin and Liquigas, which are teams with bags of experience in this discipline, is...

  • Evans: I have my work cut out

    Belgian cycling team Silence-Lotto leader Cadel Evans pushes the pace.
    Article published:
    July 08, 2009, 2:45 BST
    By:
    Greg Johnson

    Aussie hopeful laments TTT outcome

    Tour de France contender Cadel Evans isn’t underestimating the challenge that lays ahead if he’s to ride back into contention at this year’s event. Evans’ Silence-Lotto squad dropped 2:36 minutes to general classification favourites Astana on yesterday’s team time trial, with the Australian saying bad luck and pressure took a toll on his young team.

    “As expected, Astana put in a great ride, which puts me at 2:59 - not a position I wanted to be in,” Evans wrote on CadelEvans.com.au. “Still close to guys like Andy Schleck and Carlos [Sastre], but a long way behind the favourites of Astana. I certainly have my work cut out for me now.”

    The team’s first blow came when it waited for Jurgen Van den Broeck following a crash, only for the rider to be dropped when he stopped a second time. The remaining seven riders were then forced to chose whether or not to wait for Johan Vansummeren, who punctured.

    "I knew Matthew Lloyd and Charles Wegelius were not at ease in this type of effort and we are a team with lots of young riders who were a little bit stressed," he told AFP. "They're young riders and they haven't had many chances to ride a team time trial. I'm a time triallist and they're worried to disappoint me so it's a lot of pressure for the guys."

    Evans said the incidents with van den Broeck and Vansummeren cost the team at least a minute. More crucial seconds were lost over the closing kilometre, with Evans proving too quick for most of his team-mates as the group separated. The team’s time is taken from the fifth rider across the line.

    Evans now sits in 35th place on general classification, with overall contenders Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong both more than 2:30 minutes ahead. In fact all but two Astana riders lay ahead of Evans in the general classification. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) also has more than 90 seconds on the...