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Latest Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Date published:
July 14, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Sastre realistic about title hopes

    Carlos Sastre and Federico Bahamontes
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 4:15 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Beating Astana an 'intimidating' task

    Defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre believes taking another title in this year's race is possibly out of his grasp given the ominous form of the Astana team and in particular its dual general classification spearhead of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

    Spanish news agency EFE reports that Sastre spoke 'realistically' about his chances on the first rest day, saying he's not aiming specifically for a second victory in the race. "I think winning the Tour will be complicated for many reasons. One team has absolute control and that takes the show out of the race," said Sastre.

    The Cervélo TestTeam rider sits in 16th place overall, 2:52 behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini. After Sunday's stage to Tarbes the Spaniard admitted that the third week of the Tour would be his time to attempt any moves on the general classification, although with Astana's showing during the first week he knows it may be unlikely that he's successful.

    "If you see four riders from the same team amongst the top 10, it's intimidating and kills the competition. It is not a criticism, it's reality. And if I reach the podium, it wouldn't be of much value to me; I'm indifferent and I'm not putting my hopes on that," he explained.

    He was quick to point out that, "I'm not resigned either. I have already won the Tour. For many people, it was sheer chance. I focus on my own and my team's race. It's difficult to fight for the yellow and green jersey, but the team will fight for it. We are doing well: we've won a stage and are giving across a good image. I'm not resigned but I'm being realistic," he explained.

    A relaxed Sastre continued by speaking candidly about the perceived prestige of his win last year. It was a popular victory that according to the Spaniard seems to have gone unremembered by the race organiser, ASO, which he feels has left his recent legacy behind in the hype of this year's edition.

    Sastre's image wasn't included...

  • Bordry questions UCI's testing procedures

    Pierre Bordry
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 9:55 BST
    Richard Tyler

    McQuaid denies that the UCI testing is weak

    President of the French anti-doping agency AFLD Pierre Bordry expressed on Monday his concern over the strictness of UCI testing procedures at the Tour de France.

    "The doping inspectors of the UCI are not strict enough," said Bordry, according to the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "I have the feeling that the one rider can count more than the other and that the [same] rules not apply to everyone."

    The newspaper reported that in response to the issues raised by Bordry, the President of the UCI, Pat McQuaid, said he would address the Frenchman's concerns, but he refuted suggestion of lax testing procedures.

    "I assure that you that the inspectors treat all racers in the same manner. There is no talk of 'cronyism'," said McQuaid. "I have received a letter from Bordry concerning this matter and I will answer that. Talk of weak inspections, however, I deny firmly."

    The AFLD was responsible for testing at the 2008 Tour de France, a race that saw four riders return positive results for the third generation EPO variant, CERA. On June 10 this year, the AFLD and UCI announced that they would be co-ordinating efforts to help ensure a clean Tour.

    After the first ten days of the 2009 Tour de France there have been no abnormal results announced from tests carried out by either the AFLD or UCI.

  • Radio ban in place for stage ten at the Tour de France

    Lance Armstrong (Astana) getting his radio situated on the side of the road.
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 12:05 BST
    Richard Tyler

    No compromise reached between teams and UCI on Tuesday's stage

    Despite objections from a number of teams, the Tour de France's stage ten from Limoges to Issoudun will take place with riders unable to communicate via radio with their team vehicles.

    Fourteen teams had signed a petition opposing the radio ban and meetings were held between teams on Monday's rest day in an attempt to reach a compromise with the UCI.

    Skil-Shimano Team Manager, Ewan Spekenbrink, told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that despite the teams approaching the UCI with a proposed adaptation to the rule, no agreement had been reached and the experimental ban would still apply on Tuesday.

    "Yesterday, there was a proposal from the teams that two riders from each team would race with earphones. That was later rejected [by the UCI]," he said.

    A conciliatory Spekenbrink stressed that the debate over race radios should not overshadow the events of the race itself. "We should not blow up this issue to much," he said. "It's a big event, all stakeholders should involved should promote cycling in the Tour de France."

    The radio ban has been met with divided opinions in the peloton. Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom) believes that the use of radios has reduced the independence of riders within the bunch.

    "With the earpiece, the briefing in the morning doesn't have a real purpose anymore because you always adapt to race situation afterwards anyway," said Voeckler to Cyclingnews. "Riders hardly look at the race course details anymore because you will get information by earpiece anyway. The designation 'race captain', which used to be a really important role, doesn't need to exist anymore... The earpiece just takes so many things from a bike race. It changes its nature."

    Team directors such as Saxo Bank's Bjarne Riis had opposed the ban, citing safety concerns. "If thirty riders go down in the finale of a stage, there can be a big panic, a lot of sports directors want to get to the front because...

  • French riders expected to launch their Bastille offensives

    Thomas Voeckler celebrates after taking his first Tour stage.
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 12:46 BST
    Richard Tyler

    Voeckler says he isn't finished yet

    Tuesday's stage ten from Limoges to Issoudun will be expected to see the traditional attacks from French riders keen to claim glory on the French national holiday, Bastille Day.

    French rider's have had a strong Tour de France so far this year with Brice Feillu (Agritubel), Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Pierrick Fédrigo (BBox Bouygues Telecom) each claiming stage wins in the first ten days of the race.

    Speaking on the BBox Bouygues Telecom squad's website on Monday, Voeckler indicated that his team's success in breakaways had been assisted by the fact that none of the favourites for overall had moved into the yellow jersey."I think that it is because the favourites are marked. They do not want to take their responsibility [and] have the weight of the race thereafter."

    The Frenchman, who took his Tour de France stage win last Wednesday in Perpignan, could be one of the riders to attack on Bastille day. He said he would be looking to attack in the stages leading up to the Alps.

    "[I will aim] to be an actor on the next stages. Gaining a third [stage win] would be brilliant," said Voeckler. "We will maintain the same objectives because we are not riders competing for the general classification."

    At the start of stage ten a French team also holds the overall race lead. Riding for AG2R La Mondiale,  Italian Rinaldo Nocentini has led the race since claiming the yellow jersey on stage seven to Andorra Arcalis.

    Aiding potential escapees could be the fact that team radios will be banned throughout the stage. The absence of immediate communication between teams and riders could allow riders the ability to sneak away from the peloton.

    "I'm more against earpieces than for them. There are many situations where the communication with the DS puts breakaways to a disadvantage. I'm more a rider that takes opportunities." said Voeckler to Cyclingnews.

  • Hushovd focused on green, sees sprint chance for stage 10

    Stage winner Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team)
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 14:09 BST
    Greg Johnson

    Cervelo hints at Columbia weakness after opening week

    Tour de France points leader Thor Hushovd believes today’s Stage 10 will allow him the chance to extend his lead over Columbia-HTC’s Mark Cavendish in the race for the green jersey. The big Norwegian managed to snatch the jersey from Cavendish by accumulating sprint points through the mountains stages.

    “Columbia is maybe not so strong anymore than in the beginning of the Tour. They were working really hard in the first week,” Hushovd said. “So it could be easier for us or the other teams to win. I hope as well that I can defend my green jersey.”

    Hushovd’s Cervelo TestTeam has indicated the green jersey is increasingly becoming a priority as its general classification bid stalls. Team leader and defending champion Carlos Sastre sits 2:52 minutes behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) heading into the Grand Tour’s second week.

    Hushovd will focus on acquiring points wherever possible, according to Cervelo sport director Alex Sans Vega. “We will work for Thor to keep the green jersey,” said Sans Vega. “The intermediate sprints will be important, so we will be vigilant and have Thor in position to contest them.”

    Indicating the team’s commitment to Hushovd’s effort, Sans Vega said: “Another question is to see the strength of the sprinters after the first mountain stages. If Mark Cavendish is feeling good, we will see Columbia try to control the stages to set up sprints. If that’s the case, we will ride to support Thor all the way to the line.”

    Today’s stage is largely expected to finish in a sprint, despite the potential for a successful breakaway over the up-and-down course. The French riders could push for another successful breakaway, with the added motivation of a third French stage victory in this year’s race falling on Bastille Day.

    Garmin-Slipstream’s Jonathan Vaughters believes...

  • Nibali rested for Alpine fight

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 15:08 BST
    Gregor Brown

    Italians aims higher than 10th

    Italian Vincenzo Nibali is rested and ready to face his next test in the Tour de France: the Alps. He passed the Tour's first rest day, on Monday, in tenth place overall after nine days of racing.

    "There will be opportunities to attack and take time in the last week," Nibali, 24, told Cyclingnews. "It is hard to say which stage [in the Alps] will be the day. You just have to stay attentive and take your moment because in the mountains the team tactics go out the window."

    Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) leads the race, but behind him are four Astana riders: Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden. Liquigas' Nibali is 1:54 back from Nocentini and 1:48 behind Contador.

    "The only mistake I've made in these days is on the day to La Grande Motte. I was unable to follow the Armstrong group in the crosswinds.

    "Realistically, I am racing for a high placing, not the win. I am tenth in classification, but I want to try to achieve a higher spot by Paris."

    Nibali believes that Astana is racing well, but there will be a chance for him to advance past one or two of the Kazakh team's riders. He has mutual support from teammate's Franco Pellizotti, third at the Giro d'Italia, and Roman Kreuziger, currently 14th overall.

    "My spot in the classification has given me and the team a good morale. In the next week, I am capable of doing some good things."

    Nibali finished 18th overall in his debut Tour de France last year. He comes to this year's race with the confidence of a seventh place finish overall in June's Dauphiné Libéré stage race.