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Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, July 12, 2013

Date published:
July 12, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Veelers: Kittel is the fastest sprinter at the Tour de France

    Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) had mixed emotions after his win, because his teammate Tom Veelers crashed hard in the sprint
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 2:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Argos-Shimano looking for a fourth victory in Saint-Amand-Montrond

    Argos Shimano sprint lead-out man Tom Veelers has said teammate Marcel Kittel is the fastest pure sprinter in the peloton at the Tour de France– a title that has been the uncontested property of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) for the last five years.

    “I think at moment he’s the fastest,” Veelers said matter-of-factly outside the team bus after Kittel took his third stage win. “I think it’s clear and you saw it. It was a straight-up sprint and Marcel beat him.”

    Veelers’ sentiment was echoed by his teammate John Degenkolb, who rode with Cavendish at HTC-Highroad in 2011. Asked if Kittel is the best sprinter at the Tour, he said simply: “I think he’s the fastest."

    So far this year, Cavendish has one stage to his name. From 2008 to 2012 Cavendish won 23 stages, an average of 4.6 stages a year.

    Struggling after clashing with Cavendish

    Veelers is currently struggling with injuries from a crash three days ago in a typically fraught sprint into Saint-Malo. The crash happened after making contact with Mark Cavendish. Veelers said recovering from injuries while riding "a bloc" had been tough and he was yet to regain full power.

    “I hope my crash was enough for the whole team,” he said. “Physically I feel that body needs to recover and it’s working for that. When you’re riding on your limit it’s really hard to hang on and you feel that you
    don’t have the full power yet.”

    Friday's stage to Saint-Amand-Montrond will also likely end in a bunch sprint, with Kittel and Cavendish going head to head, with Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) also expected to be fighting for victory.

    The stage is an opportunity for Kittel to surpass his compatriot Erik Zabel’s Tour record. Zabel took three stages in the 1997 and 2001 editions of the race. Kittel could...

  • Has Cavendish lost his Tour de France sprint crown?

    Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) wins stage 12.
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 11:21 BST
    Cycling News

    Kelly, Moncassin and Guimard defend the Manxman after he loses to Kittel

    Marcel Kittel's third stage victory at the Tour de France and Mark Cavendish's defeat by the German rider has sparked a multitude of comment, debate, analysis and also suggestions that a change in the sprinting hierarchy in the peloton may be underway.

    Cavendish has dominated the sprints at the Tour de France and elsewhere for the last five years but now Kittel and his Argos-Shimano lead-out train have taken over and are stacking up the stage victories, while Cavendish remains with just one win in Marseille. 

    There seem to be a multitude of reasons why.

    The Manx Missile left Team Sky due to a lack of sprinting support but his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team has been hot and cold this year. They played a key role in Cavendish winning five stages and the points jersey at the Giro d'Italia but have struggled against the powerful well-drilled lead-out trains of Argos-Shimano and Lotto Belisol, that have both peaked for the Tour de France.

    It has been suggested that Cavendish has lost some of top end speed and maybe even be past his best at 28. It is only fair to include factors in the debate that can explain why Cavendish is not at his best in this year's Tour de France.

    Cavendish is the only big-name sprinter here to have finished the Giro d'Italia. He was also ill coming into the Tour but only took antibiotics after winning the British national championships. Cavendish perhaps knows he is not at his best and has so far sportingly accepted defeat, shaking hands with Kittel after Thursday's sprint in Tours and praising him on Twitter. However he is no doubt looking to win in Saint-Amand-Montrond and on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

    Kelly, Moncassin and Guimard give their...

  • Henderson extends contract with Lotto-Belisol

    Andre Greipel's lead-out man Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) celebrates his teammate's victory.
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 15:20 BST
    Cycling News

    Greipel's lead-out man looks forward to more time in the sprint train

    Greg Henderson extended his agreement with the Lotto Belisol team for two years. The 36-year-old New-Zealander plays an important role in the team as the final man in the lead-out train for sprinter André Greipel.

    "The sprint train is team work, and we want to keep that core train together," said Henderson. "I'm happy that I can stay part of it for the next couple of years. I'm really dedicated to that job as final lead-out man; I've put a lot of time, effort and thought into it."

    "To me, the lead-out train is not just about getting to the race and seeing what we have to do. I am always thinking of other ways that we can improve the lead-out, it's part of my training. It's definitely a job that I enjoy. The priority in the next years is to keep the train on the rails and help André Greipel to the victory."

    Henderson, who is also appreciated on the team for his sense of humor, also has the goal of passing on some of his 12 years of professional experience to the team's younger riders.

    "We have a lot of young talented bike riders. I can teach them how to work as a team and to prepare a sprint so that they can develop further and set up their own train in the future."

  • Holczer pessimistic about creation of German WorldTour team

    Sprinter Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was cracking jokes and smiling before the stage – which features five categorised climbs
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 15:57 BST
    Daniel Benson

    German riders enjoying highly successful Tour de France

    With five stage wins in this year's Tour de France German cycling is on a roll with Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin leading the line. Just one more win for the Germans and they will have broken a record dating all the way back to the 1970s, but despite the results Hans-Michael Holczer cannot see a German WorldTour team forming in the near future.

    "It's an unbelievable Tour and to be honest, yesterday when I was with our sprinter Kristoff, I was still very satisfied and smiling for Marcel Kittel. That's now three in a row and we've never had this," Holczer told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 12.

    "It's just amazing that this is all taking place against a backdrop in Germany where not everyone understands what this success means. The only live television of the Tour in Germany is through Eurosport and in my eyes that's amazing because in Germany a lot of fans aren't satisfied with the level of coverage they have."

    Cycling in Germany has taken a battering in the last decade. After the euphoria of Jan Ullrich's win in 1997 the nation had to watch as doping case after doping case exposed the myth of clean cycling. Even when Milram and Holczer's own Gerolsteiner teams were competing on the biggest stage doping related cases dominated the headlines. Both teams departed with Holczer moving to Katusha.

    "The German written press are pretty distant from cycling at the moment," Holczer said when asked how Kittel and company were being received back home.

    "They are really appreciative of how someone like Marcel Kittel handles himself with the media, with his level of transparency, but in the end...

  • Cavendish heaps praise on team after dramatic Tour de France stage 13 win

    Stage 13 winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on the podium
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 18:15 BST
    Sam Dansie

    Omega Pharma Quick Step wins most combative award of the day

    Mark Cavendish said his Omega Pharma Quick Step team rode like animals to help him clinch the 25th Tour de France stage win of his career.

    An elated Cavendish heaped praise on his Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad, which split the peloton in crosswinds early on the 173km stage 13 from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond.

    And when Saxo-Tinkoff Bank sensed an opportunity to distance yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky) with a second critical selection with 30km to race, Cavendish rode across a growing gap to join them and remain in contention for the win against green jersey Peter Sagan (Cannondale).

    If feels incredible it really does," said the rider after collecting his stage win and the award for most combative rider, which he dedicated to his team. "I actually did more watts in the sprint over to the front group than I did in the finish. I just managed to get around last man and we were away. It was touch and go, but it was nice to do."

    The win comes a day after he was narrowly beaten by Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) in Tours at the end of stage 12. Cavendish said the team didn't have a grand plan to take today's stage in hand but sensed an opportunity to fatigue the peloton after about 60km of racing.

    "They rode like absolute animals. They rode with 100 percent commitment yesterday, and I let them down, so for them to come out today and ride even harder, even sooner, shows what a special group people this team is."

    "There wasn't really a master plan. We just felt the wind was in the right position so we just started to ride a bit harder, and we did it more to make the peloton tired and finally it broke."

    In the final kilometre, Mark...

  • Valverde's Tour de France challenge unravels on stage 13

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at the finish of stage 13, a day he lost nearly 10 minutes and likely any hope of a podium finish in Paris
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 19:00 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Spaniard loses ten minutes after breaking wheel

    The Tour de France waits for no man, as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) discovered on the exposed plains of the Indre and Cher on Friday afternoon. When the Spaniard broke a wheel with 85 kilometres to go, the speeding peloton took no pity in his plight and by the time he reached the finish in Saint-Armand-Montrod, he had lost almost ten minutes and all hope of a place on the final overall podium.

    The day's stage had been expected to a tranquil one – further calm before the anticipated storm atop Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day – but instead the Belkin squad of Bauke Mollema and Mark Cavendish's Omega Pharma-QuickStep outfit found common cause in the crosswinds that buffeted the peloton in the second hour of racing.

    Their combined efforts split the field into three distinct groups, and while Valverde initially sat snugly with his fellow podium contenders in the front echelon, his Tour began to unravel when he halted to change a wheel after a rider behind had brushed against it.

    "It was a day marked by bad luck," Valverde said as he sat disbelievingly on the steps of Movistar bus after the stage. "We rode in front all day, just like we should have done, but I had bad luck when one of my wheels broke. With my teammates, we tried to get back to the first group but there were a few teams who accelerated in front."

    Belkin were already driving on the front at the time of Valverde's mishap in a bid to help Mollema put his fellow podium contenders in difficulty. While Valverde had no issue with their efforts, he claimed that other teams with seemingly no reason to ride had helped to distance him.

    Although a cadre of Movistar riders, including Rui Costa, Ruben...

  • Froome pragmatic about losing time to Tour de France rivals

    Chris Froome (Sky) remains in the yellow jersey after a hard day of racing on stage 13
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 19:25 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Sky "definitely weaker" without Boasson Hagen, Kiryienka

    Chris Froome (Team Sky) saw his rivals shave over a minute off his race lead in the Tour de France on stage 13 from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond after a surprise attack from Saxo-Tinkoff.

    Sky was put on the back foot, when, with 30 kilometres to go, Saxo-Tinkoff split the lead group in the crosswinds that littered the 173-kilometre stage. Froome was left isolated at the front and could only radio through for support as Alberto Contador, Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam slipped clear in a 14-man move.

    Sky could only limit their losses as up ahead Saxo-Tinkoff drove the break and eventually clawed back 1:09 on the yellow jersey. There was at least some light for Froome who has eliminated Alejandro Valverde from the overall race after the Movistar man stopped for a wheel change and was unable to return to the peloton after Belkin ramped up the pace.

    "There were people who lost time today and some that gained time today. Personally I lost time to Contador, Mollema and Ten Dam in terms of general classification," Froome said at the finish.

    "I'm just happy that I still have an advantage of over two minutes keeping in mind that we've got a really difficult weekend coming up with the mountains.

    "Teams like Saxo Bank today saw their opportunity in the final 30 kilometres and hats off to them. They rode a really good race today, and for that they've been rewarded with a minute's advantage on GC."

    Froome's buffer in the race remains relatively healthy. Mollema is at 2:28 and Contador at 2:45 and with another time trial still to come Froome could regain the time lost...

  • Mollema and Belkin take advantage of familiar conditions at Tour de France

    Belkin's Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam are pleased after they infiltrated the select lead group and gained time on Chris Froome.
    Article published:
    July 12, 2013, 20:40 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Dutchman up to second after splitting race in crosswinds

    The morning carried no auguries of what was to come. Outside the Belkin team bus on Tours' Rue de Tanneurs before the start of stage 13 of the Tour de France, Bauke Mollema wore the relaxed air of a man anticipating a transitional day as the race slowly edges back towards the mountains.

    "I'm just hoping to do my best next week, where every stage is going to be hard," Mollema told Cyclingnews, almost as if the race for the podium places had been suspended until the Alps.

    Certainly, there was nothing to Mollema's words or demeanour that suggested what his Belkin squad would unleash on the peloton after it left the banks of the Loire, and no indication that he would finish the day in second place overall after regaining over a minute on yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky).

    The brush of a crosswind has the tendency to quicken Dutch pulses, however, a tradition that stretches back beyond the halcyon days of Peter Post's TI-Raleigh squad. When word filtered through that there was enough strength in the afternoon's westerly breeze to make things interesting, the dynamic of Belkin and Mollema's stage altered immediately.

    Shortly after swinging right at Nouans-les-Fontaines after 55 kilometres, Belkin surged to the front of the peloton and almost immediately, they found a very powerful ally of circumstance in Omega Pharma-QuickStep, who were working for Mark Cavendish to distance Marcel Kittel.

    "We knew the first 55 kilometres was in a forest but then after that, there was a crosswind and we knew that we had to go there," Belkin directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven said. "QuickStep had the same idea and so we worked together. At that moment it was lucky for us that...