Carlos Sastre and his Cervélo TestTeam are looking towards the Tour de France's final week to make their move in the general classification after having survived the first three mountain stages of the race through the Pyrenees.
"For me, it was one day more of this Tour de France which I passed it without any difficulty," said Sastre, after stage nine to Tarbes. "It was a costly stage, with a lot of heat, and a high rhythm right from the gun that never slowed down. That's why there weren't a lot of attacks from any of the main GC riders."
Cervélo TestTeam went into this year's Tour de France targeting both the general and points classifications through co-captains, Sastre and Thor Hushovd, respectively.
Hushovd currently leads the green jersey competition. While the Norwegian will be able to count on the support of his team through the second week of the race, riders like Australian Brett Lancaster are preparing to shift their support to Sastre, as the Spaniard looks to claw back time on his rivals in the Alps.
"It's all going to be decided in the third week. Carlos is a pretty reserved guy. He says he's ready," said Brett Lancaster. "Everyone is working really well. We have a couple of guys for the flats, a couple of guys for the mountains and Carlos for the GC, so we'll see how it goes. It should be exciting."
"I am feeling really good. My body is a sort of a diesel engine, so I get stronger in the second week and even better in the third week," Lancaster said. "I cannot do too much in the mountains, but there are a lot of valleys between those mountains and I can protect him there and keep him out of the wind."
Heading into Monday's rest day Sastre sits in 16th place overall, 2:52 behind current yellow jersey wearer Rinaldo Nocentini.
"Tomorrow is the first rest day, in which we can recover our strength and face the rest of the race with the same hope and with the same motivation that I have...
Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) defended his lead in the Tour de France's points classification on Sunday, in stage nine from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes.
The Norwegian sprinter benefited from an early escape of four riders getting away from the peloton and absorbing the points on offer at the stage's three sprint points.
"The most important thing today was to protect Thor's green jersey. There was an escape early, with four riders up front, so that took the pressure off us before the intermediate sprint," said Cervélo TestTeam sport director Alex Sans Vega.
Hushovd sprinted to a stage victory in stage six to Barcelona before claiming the green jersey from Mark Cavendish shoulders after winning two intermediate sprints on stage eight.
Hushovd heads into Monday's rest day with an eleven point lead over Cavendish in the points competition.
After three days in the Pyrenees, the Tour's sprinters will have another opportunity to hunt for stage wins on stage ten to Issoudun.
Euskaltel – Euskadi's Egoi Martínez has overtaken the leadership in the mountain classification after the nineth stage of the Tour de France from Saint Gaudens to Tarbes. The 31 years-old declared after the stage: "I am very happy and emotional. We needed three days to reach the leadership of the mountain classification. We made a big effort, and so reaching the objective is very satisfying."
The Basque from Etxarri – Aranatz thanked his teammates for their work. "Yesterday evening we talked about that we had to do everything possible to obtain this jersey and we had to work very hard. My team mates have been great; Amets Txurruka has done an incredible effort. It's an important fact to reach to the rest day of the Tour with one of the leader's jerseys."
The team had no luck in the Tour de France until today: crashes, no stage wins, even if the riders were present in almost every breakaway group. On top of that, Koldo Fernández de Larrea, the team's sprinter, missed the time limit on stage eight and was eliminated.
Martínez said, "When I finished fifth in the stage of Andorra – Arcalis I already said that we are a team that has difficulties getting victories. Yesterday Mikel Astarloza showed his strength, but he was not able to win the stage. Besides Samuel Sánchez and Igor Antón, when he is in a good form, the rest of us have a hard time winning. It's our philosophy, but with our effort we show that we are a team of the highest level, we are competing in the Tour de France and we participate in every battle."
Martínez was pleased by the atmosphere in the Pyrenees. "This stage in the Pyrenees has been very nice for the quantity of fans who were there cheering us. We have to thank them that they travel so many kilometers to applaud our effort. My family was there and this always helps you to give even more. In tomorrow's rest day we will have to recharge our energies,...
BBox Bouygues Telecom's strong performance at the Tour de France has been underlined as race organisers announced that the French team has claimed the most prize money in the first nine stages.
The team went into the first rest day of the Tour having taken two stage wins through Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrigo on stages five and nine, respectively. Their attacking style has seen the team net themselves 31,650 euros in prize money.
Columbia-HTC sit second on the prize list with 28,460 euros amassed so far, due primarily to Mark Cavendish's two stage wins and five stages in the green jersey.
At the other end of the spectrum is Silence-Lotto who have claimed just 3,110 euros in the first nine days of the Tour de France.
While each squad has its own policy, prize money earned will generally be divided between all members of the team, including support staff, at the conclusion of the Tour.
Here is a list of prize money earned by each team in the Tour de France after the first nine stages:
Cédric Vasseur has questioned the motive of team managers' opposition to a race radios ban in two stages of the Tour de France. The French Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) chief backs the race organiser's decision to run Tuesday- and Friday's stages without radio communication between cyclists and team directors.
"What amazes me is that most of the managers say their opposition is for the safety of the riders," Vasseur told Cyclingnews yesterday. “None of those managers ever spoke up for the safety of the riders when they raced on dangerous courses at the Giro or some races in Belgium.”
Last month the International Cycling Union (UCI) backed a decision by Tour organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) to run two stages of its race without radios. But managers of the 20 tour teams have expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision since the race commenced on July 4. Astana's Johan Bruyneel is heading a petition against the ban that has 14 team managers' signatures, according to reports.
Tour organisers followed the lead of the French Championships and GP Plouay with the trial radio ban. They want to restore riders' instinct and cut off direct communication from managers, who receive constant time checks from race officials and in-car televisions.
"[ASO] want to allow for a more exciting scenario, which we end up with TV viewers and more money coming into cycling,” said the company. “In football, players will play at 9PM, but they don't complain because they get money. They have to learn to make concessions to make a better show; this will bring people and grow cycling."
Race radios come into use in the late 1990s. Today almost all riders use the two-way radios.
"In the past we have had these big escapes that make the fans dream,” said Vasseur. “It is fabulous to see someone to take 20 minutes, keep about two minutes on the finish line - he becomes a...
UCI doping controllers arrived at Bram Tankink's home in Lanaken, Belgium, last week to carry out a random test, only to find the Rabobank rider absent. Tankink was, at the time, riding in the Tour of Austria, a fact which had been acknowledged on his whereabouts form.
Filling in the whereabouts form "creates a lot of stress," said the Dutchman on his personal website. “I try to be as correct as possible, since errors can have serious consequences.”
The UCI acknowledged its mistake, and admitted that Tankink had notified them of his presence in Austria. The UCI also acknowledged that there would be no consequence for Tankink as a result of the incident.
"Three serious errors means I would be suspended," Tankink said. "But this is now the third mistake they have made with my whereabouts."
"Why do I fill it in? I am furious and that is putting it mildly. I recommend two years suspension for them!"
Teams to meet on Monday to discuss action on radio ban
Teams at the Tour de France have downplayed suggestions of a rider's strike as they meet on Monday to discuss objections to the team radio ban due to be enforced on stages 10 and 13 of this year's Tour.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Monday that a riders strike may take place in Limoges, at the start of Tuesday's stage 10. However, representatives from both Astana and Quick Step told Cyclingnews on Monday that there were no plans for their riders to stage a protest.
"Johan told us yesterday that there would be discussions and there should be no need for grown-ups to strike," said Astana's press officer, Phillipe Maertens.
Quick Step Team Director Patrick Lefevere seemed surprised at suggestions of a riders strike and admitted that he had not been heavily involved with the opposition to the radio ban, although he had two meetings scheduled for Monday.
"I don't know anything about riders striking," he said. "I had other worries at the beginning of the Tour. I have a meeting at three o'clock with some of my colleagues at my hotel. I think I then have another meeting at six o'clock with the AIGCP [International Association of Professional Cycling Teams]."
Fourteen teams signed a petition last week opposing the International Cycling Union's (UCI) ban on radio communication between teams and riders on the basis that the ban will threaten the safety of the athletes. Garmin-Slipstream and the five French teams in the race did not sign the petition.
Astana Team Director, Johan Bruyneel, has led calls to overturn the ban. However, Maertens said that forcing a change on the UCI's decision will be difficult.
"I think the team's association surely will talk with the UCI today. The UCI approved this, that's the problem. It's not an ASO rule," said Maertens. "[The UCI] have to change it but I don't think it will be easy to do it in one day."