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Latest Edition Cycling News, Monday, June 22, 2009

Date published:
June 22, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Fränk Schleck will start the Tour

    Frank Schleck (Team Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    June 22, 2009, 10:20 BST
    Susan Wesetmeyer

    Knee problems can't keep Fränk from Monaco start

    Despite a knee injury Fränk Schleck will start the Tour de France, according to Team Saxo Bank. The Luxembourger did not ride the last stage of the Tour de Suisse due to knee pains, which go back to a crash in April in the Amstel Gold Race.

    "Fränk has some problems with his left knee, but nothing that should jeopardize his
    start at the Tour," Saxo Bank spokesman Brian Nygaard told cyclingnews.

    The 29-year-old had won the Tour of Luxembourg the previous week, but complained about problems with his left knee after the Tour de Suisse's opening prologue. He struggled in the opening stages, until he finished seventh in the fifth stage, before again falling back.

    Schleck was particularly active in Saturday's eighth stage from Le Denier to Crans-Montana, in support of captain and eventual overall winner Fabian Cancellara. He led the first group in the last kilometres, eliminating numerous escape attempts. He finished tenth on the stage.

    That was to be his final act in the race. “It hurt, even though it was a lot better than the day before," Schleck told the Luxembourger newspaper "I still can't say that it is 100 per cent, but I sure hope that I can ride without pain in the coming days."

    The decision to pull out was made after consulting the team management. "This was just a precautionary measure, I simply don't want to take any unnecessary risk."

    Schleck is next scheduled to ride the national time trial championship on Thursday and to defend his national road title on Sunday.


  • Sánchez fears Contador in Spanish time trial defence

    Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) was within eight seconds of his stage winning team-mate.
    Article published:
    June 22, 2009, 10:45 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Luis León Sánchez faces time trial against Tour champion

    Luis León Sánchez is concerned the presence of 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador at the Spanish Championships in Cantabria Friday could spoil his chance for victory in the time trial.

    "It will be more difficult for us to win, but his presence is really a good thing for Spanish Cycling," said Sánchez of team Caisse d'Epargne.

    Sanchez won the title last year in Talavera de la Reina, 16 seconds ahead of Rubén Plaza and 56 seconds on Iván Gutiérrez. He last faced Contador at the 2006 championships when they were Liberty Seguros teammates. Antonio Tauler won, Sánchez placed 13th at 1:43 back and Contador 14th at 1:47.

    Contador won the Paris-Nice and País Vasco time trials this year, Sánchez placed third and fifth respectively. After the Dauphiné Libéré Contador announced he would participate in the championships to prepare for the Tour de France time trials.

    Sánchez raced the Route du Sud stage race last week instead of the Dauphine Libéré. He finished the race 50th overall, 43 minutes behind winner Przemyslaw Niemec (Miche-Silver Cross).

    "I presented myself at the start in Pau feeling tired and without training enough the previous days because I went with my team to examine some stages of the Tour. Plus, I believe I ate something I did to digest very well. But at the end, my body was alright again and I finished the race being really satisfied.

    "It was the perfect training for me. This is exactly what I needed just two weeks before going to the Tour."

    The Tour de France starts July 4 in Monaco and ends July 26 in Paris.  He will be one of the teams leaders this year since Alejandro Valverde is not racing.  Sánchez finished 59th and won the Aurillac stage last year. (GB)

  • Horrillo set to leave hospital

    Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) airlifted out after his crash.
    Article published:
    June 22, 2009, 10:48 BST
    Susan Wesetmeyer

    Rabobank confirm Horrillo will head home after Giro crash horror

    Rabobank's Pedro Horrillo is expected to leave hospital this week, more than five weeks after his horrifying crash in the Giro d'Italia. "My recovery is going better and better," he told "The recovery is good. I'm slowly walking again, with support, but still, I'm walking."

    The 34-year-old fell eighty metres down a ravine in the Giro's eighth stage. His most serious injuries included two collapsed lungs, a complicated open fracture of his femur, and spinal injuries. He is still wearing a full back brace for the latter problem, and has had several operations on his leg.

    "If everything goes to plan he'll come out of hospital this week," team spokesman Luuc Eisenga told Cyclingnews. "Though he will have to go through rehabilitation to recover from his injuries, we are very thankful and happy."

    Horrillo said that he had no memories of the accident, and at first did not even remember the race at all. After awakening five days after an induced coma, "I did not know where I was. I had no idea that I rode in the Giro or that I had an accident." He could not believe his wife when she explained what had happened.

    After the coma some memories returned. Five days after waking up again, "things came back. I remember finishing the team time trial and the weather up until the day of the crash. The dinner with the team, and sitting in the bus and riding to the start."

  • Steegmans won't sign Katusha's anti-doping agreement

    Gert Steegmans (Katusha)
    Article published:
    June 22, 2009, 13:31 BST
    Shane Stokes

    Belgian still hopes to ride Tour

    Belgian rider Gert Steegmans will persist in not signing the anti-doping agreement required by his Katusha team, he told Cyclingnews on Monday. He consequently risks missing the Tour de France.

    The Russian squad issued an ultimatum to the 28-year-old, demanding that he sign by Monday. The agreement requires any riders testing positive to pay a penalty of up to five times their annual salary, an unprecedented demand in cycling.

    In 2007 the UCI implemented a fine of one year's salary, but Cyclingnews is not aware of any instance when this was successfully imposed on a rider.

    "It's a really complex story, so I can't make a lot of comments on it," said Steegmans. "Anyway the decision is made by me not to sign the document."

    Other riders on the team had misgivings about the newly-introduced clause to their contracts, including Robbie McEwen, but they eventually signed.

     Steegmans won stages in both the 2007 and 2008 Tours de France and, with McEwen missing the race due to injury, he would fancy his chances in sprints. However it now looks unlikely that he will be granted a place on the Tour team.

    He got things off to a good start with the team this year when he won the Trofeo Mallorca and a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia, but then started having injury problems.

    General manager Andrei Tchmil criticised him in May, telling Het Laatste Nieuws that he felt the rider didn't live up to his responsibilities and didn't have the right mentality. He was similarly dismissive in recent days.

    "Where would he have earned the Tour place?" he asked, when speaking to Sporza. "He showed nothing this year, there was always something [wrong].

    "We have only received promises from him. It's sad, because you can surely expect more from a well-paid rider."

    Despite the tension, Steegmans says that he wants to stay with Katusha and that his form is improving. He was...

  • Ballan's form improves ahead of Tour

    World Champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)
    Article published:
    June 22, 2009, 13:46 BST
    Gregor Brown

    World Champion fights back from virus

    Alessandro Ballan has recovered from the virus that ruined his spring campaign and is finding the form that won him the road World Championships last year. The Italian finished 12th, two minutes and 24 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara in the Tour de Suisse time trial yesterday in Bern.

    "It is the first time he did such distances back to back, he is at a good point now, I would say 60 to 70 percent of his best form," Lampre's director sportif, Brent Copeland, told Cyclingnews.

    Ballan failed to match the time of Cancellara, who is a two-time time trial world champion, but the stage showed that he will be able to battle for a Tour de France stage win. It is a big goal for team Lampre's Ballan since he had to stop racing and training in March.

    Doctors diagnosed Ballan with cytomegalovirus, which brings on tiredness and fever. Tirreno-Adriatico stage four, March 14, was his last race and he had to skip the Spring Classics.

    He returned to racing in the Memorial Pantani June 6 and the nine-day Tour de Suisse helped him continue to find his racing rhythm. The Italian Championships this Sunday in Imola will be the last race for him prior to the Tour de France, July 4 to 26.

    "He will go to the Tour with decent shape," said Copeland. "He will ride through the first week and be in better shape for a stage win in the second and third week."

    Ballan finished third in the Foix stage last year and second in the 2006 stage to Carcassonne.