- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 06:06
- Hedwig Kröner
German sprinter may continue pro career in 2013 despite long-term project
As the season's peak, the Tour de France, is getting into its final days, the talk about a new German World Tour team being brought to life by shampoo producer Alpecin seems less and less believable. Time is running out to finalise the necessary paperwork to apply for a World Tour licence, and the hypothetical team's leaders, the Schleck brothers, are both busy with other difficulties at this point.
However, German national Danilo Hondo, currently with the Italian Lampre team, has been working on a concrete project for several years, and this could become a reality on the long term. For German cycling, a new top level team would be a salvation after years of drought following the disintegrations of T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner over doping affairs.
"The plan of creating a new team is real, and I'm actively working on it, together with those who are also interested in the project," Hondo confirmed to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 17 in Bagnères-de-Luchon. "Our group of people who have engaged in the project, and those who want to become our partners, is growing. But all of them realize that it is a long-term project, that needs a strong and stable foundation to be set up."
The 38-year-old did not hide the fact that he would certainly retire from racing within the next few years, and the new team is also meant to secure his own professional future on a management level. Hondo's contract with Lampre runs out at the end of the season, but at this point in time, the German did not say whether that meant he'd be able to fully commit to the new project as soon as next year. "I've had talks with Lampre and with other teams to continue my career as a rider next season, too. So we'll have to see what happens after the Tour," he said.
Unwilling to go into too much detail, Hondo did however reveal that he'd like the new outfit to start at top level, and that it would be a German-based team with an international outlook.
"Of course it would be nice to start in the World Tour right away, but there would also be advantages to starting on Professional level for perhaps the first year: everybody could learn the ropes calmly.
"One has to think globally nowadays, and all teams are structured internationally. Of course, all teams have a home base of sorts and also their national features. Being German, I do see Germany as a platform and I also think that Germany has the potential to come back into international pro cycling with a new team. So I would also like to use that platform."
Following the time limit elimination of his team leader Alessandro Petacchi in stage 11 of the Tour, Hondo is working for his team's young hopefuls, Marco Marzano and Michele Stortoni, the latter of which finished eighth of the first of the two Pyrenean mountain stages. For the remainder of the race, Lampre hopes for the penultimate stage to finally score a stage win.
"Tomorrow, we want to mobilise all of our remaining resources to try and persist in a breakaway. It will be the last great chance for a stage win, as the last stage into Paris will be a bunch sprint," commented Hondo, who has overcome his disappointment not to have been selected for the Olympics.
"There are a lot of interesting World Tour races left in the second half of the season for me, with the Eneco Tour, Hamburg, Plouay, the two Canadian races and the two stage races in China," he continued. "If you get out of the Tour in a good shape, then you're able to do something in these races, too. Especially Hamburg, which for me as a German is of course a special goal. I'm still very motivated."
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 07:05
- Barry Ryan
Italian has to settle for third overall
After two and half of weeks of carrying the fight to Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky at the Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali's stout resistance finally petered out on the final mountain stage to Peyragudes on Thursday as he lost a further 18 seconds to the yellow jersey.
Deep down, the Liquigas-Cannondale rider must have sensed that his was long a losing battle, but he gamely refused to lay down arms as the race entered the Pyrenees. Even after failing to make any inroads into Wiggins' lead in the "circle of death" the previous day, Nibali stepped into the breach once again as stage 17 got underway.
Shrouded in mist and low cloud, the descent of the day's first climb, the Col de Menté, was in theory a chance for Nibali to trouble Wiggins. In practice, with a long valley to follow and almost 120 kilometres still to race, Nibali's attack proved little more than a pleasant early distraction in a deadlocked stage.
Zipping clear of the yellow jersey group, Nibali made it across to the day's early escapees who were just 40 seconds up the road. Perhaps mindful of the history of the Col de Menté - Luis Ocaña's Tour challenge dramatically ended in a crash there in 1971 - Wiggins and Sky only tightened the leash on Nibali once the road began to flatten out.
The early escapees, meanwhile, were flustered by Nibali's compromising presence, with eventual stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) imploring him to relent.
"They were pulling behind and they brought the gap down from 40 seconds to 20, so I was disturbing the break a bit," Nibali said afterwards. "I stayed with them on the descent but then I sat up."
Though Nibali's hopes of a day-long war of attrition thwarted, he still set his Liquigas-Cannondale team to work on the penultimate climb, the hors categorie Port de Balès, with Ivan Basso prominent once again in thinning out the yellow jersey group.
By the time the final ascent began, Nibali's sights were trained more on stage victory than overhauling Wiggins or Froome, but unfortunately for the Sicilian, his efforts to date were beginning to take their toll. Liquigas continued to set the tempo until the final four kilometres, but when Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) accelerated, Nibali was dislodged from the back of the yellow jersey group.
"We worked because we were thinking about the stage, but unfortunately, I had a muscular problem and I couldn't pedal very well," Nibali explained afterwards. "My calf was hurting and I wasn't able to be as agile as I would have liked. This morning when I got on the bike I felt this small problem and I just hoped it wouldn't get any worse."
Nibali said that his ailment was simply a consequence of almost three weeks of accumulated fatigue. "We've done a lot of stages now, so a little problem like that is normal," he said. "I don't think it's anything worrying."
Nibali remains 3rd overall, 2:41 down on Wiggins, but is all but assured of a podium place, as he has more three minutes in hand over Jurgen Van Den Broeck.
After almost every stage on this Tour, Nibali has been asked to assess whether his glass was half full or half empty. With just three stages to go, he is drawing closer to a definitive conclusion.
"It's a bit of both," he said. "My lead over Van Den Broeck stayed more or less where it was and in spite of the little problem that I had, I was always up there with the best of them. I wanted to try for the stage, though, but it was very difficult."
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 10:37
- Barry Ryan
Sky rider waits for Wiggins at Peyragudes
In a Tour de France defined by the constricting strength of a single team, perhaps it was inevitable that its greatest drama would be provided by an internecine struggle, even if it was a battle that never truly began.
On the road to Peyragudes on Thursday, Chris Froome gave another stark demonstration of his superiority over the yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins in the mountains and another overt illustration of his role within the Team Sky hierarchy.
Three kilometres from the finish, as the road reared up for the final time towards the line, Froome surged to the front, pulling Wiggins clear of his remaining rivals, and it briefly looked as though the first and second-placed riders overall would simply cruise away from the rest of the field.
Gradually, however, a gap began to yawn open between Wiggins and Froome's rear wheel. Froome looked around and checked his pace accordingly, allowing Wiggins to latch back on. The scene would repeat itself three more times before the pair reached the summit, as Froome adjusted the tautness of the invisible elastic that was keeping Wiggins in touch.
Had Froome not been forced to soft-pedal to wait for his leader, he may well have taken his second stage win of the race, for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) held on to win by just 19 seconds over the Sky duo.
In the same mountain range where Greg Lemond was ordered to relent in favour of the maillot jaune of Bernard Hinault in 1985, however, Froome seemed a less reluctant domestique deluxe than the American had done, at least in his post-race comments.
"That was the plan today, to work for Bradley and to protect the yellow jersey," Froome said softly after reaching the summit.
While Froome has been the stronger on the climbs, his fellow countryman Wiggins will be the first to the top of the mountain to plant the flag as the first British winner of the Tour de France. If there is underlying discontent at playing Tenzing Norgay to Wiggins' Sir Edmund Hillary, the Sherpa looked to hide it at the finish.
"Everybody on the team is making a sacrifice," Froome said. "Cavendish is sacrificing every day. Everybody on the team is making a sacrifice every day for the yellow jersey. That's cycling, that's our job. We've all done our jobs."
Froome missed out on winning the 2011 Vuelta a España after Sky realised too late that he was a better option than Wiggins to do battle with Juan José Cobo. Set for another fourth Sunday on the second step of the podium, Froome was asked if he realised he might never have the chance to win the Tour again.
"Maybe, but would be a pity if it's true, but I'm 27 years old and I hope that there will be another chance in the future," he said politely, before adding: "One month before the Tour if you'd told me I'd be second with three days to go, I wouldn't have believed it, so I'm very happy with that."
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 12:27
- Cycling News
Belgian confirmed to start at Tour de Wallonie
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has resumed training after fracturing his sixth rib on his right side.
Boonen crashed with around three kilometres left to race on Stage 1 of the Tour of Poland and continued several more days before abandoning. After the confirmed diagnosis, the Belgian Olympic road race hope observed three days of rest before training again on Thursday where he rode 100 kilometres.
"The three days of rest did me a world of good," said Boonen in a media statement. "During the workout I didn't feel any particular pain to my rib, just a slight discomfort."
Boonen deliberately avoided racing both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, in the lead up to the Games, and recently admitted that it was also unlikely that he will ride the Vuelta a España prior to an attempt at a second world title to add to his 2005 crown. He will now participate in the first three stages of the Tour de Wallonie which starts on July 21 before zeroing in on London.
"Right now I'm more optimistic regarding the Olympics, but it will be important to see how I react in a racing situation, in which my body will undergo a different type of stress and more intense effort than in training."
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 15:51
- Cycling News
RadioShack-Nissan rider vows to find source
Fränk Schleck has announced that the counter-analysis of his anti-doping control B-sample has confirmed the presence of Xipamide, a diuretic banned under the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
The UCI has requested that the Luxembourg cycling federation open disciplinary proceedings.
The RadioShack-Nissan rider pulled out of the Tour de France after learning of the initial positive test, and stated today that he witnessed the B-sample test at the AFLD laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry.
"The result of the counter test was positive but for me nothing changes: I just know that I did nothing wrong," Schleck said in a press release. "I will therefore continue my search to find out how the substance could have entered my body."
Schleck contends that he the innocent victim of "poisoning".
"At the moment we are analyzing minute by minute what exactly I have been doing, eating, drinking on the days before the control and on the 14th of July itself, whom I met, what materials I came in contact with, what nutritional supplements I took...
"The medical world states that this product, when performing in extreme conditions such as in a cycling tour, is very dangerous; it can even cause death. Therefore I really need to find the cause that clarifies how this product ended up in my system: since I didn’t take anything, I assume it must have been given to me by someone, or it could have happened through an accidental contamination, or it could be caused by something that is not yet known to me since we are still undertaking a number of analyses.
"Since these extra analyses will take a few days, I will communicate again from the moment I have received the results of the extra tests."
- Tour de France
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 17:10
- Mark Robinson
AG2R-LaMondiale rider regrets major setback in the Alps
Nicolas Roche (AG2R-LaMondiale) lies just outside the top 10 in 11th position as the 2012 Tour de France heads towards its final weekend, but the Irishman, who celebrated his 28th birthday on stage 3, had revealed that regardless of how he performs over the final three stages he will leave with a lingering sense of "what might have been".
Roche lined up for the start of stage 11 in the Alps in ninth position in the general classification, just 5:29 behind the malliot jaune. By the time he had reached the end of the stage at La Toussuire, that deficit had more than doubled. It's been a case of a recovery mission ever since.
"I was obviously very happy for the first 10 days until La Toussuire where I took a major setback in my top 10 [aspirations], losing six minutes - which was more than I had lost in the entire first 10 days - and now I am slowly but surely making my way back up. But I gave myself a big disadvantage," Roche told Cyclingnews as the Tour headed north towards Toulouse for the start of today's 18th stage.
Roche attacked late in the day in Brive this afternoon, launching a dramatic bid for a stage victory that was ultimately thwarted by a trademark burst of decisive acceleration by world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky). Roche eventually crossed the line in fifth and was unable to take any time out of those ahead of him in the GC. He admitted that he will be looking over his shoulder in tomorrow's time trial at Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Nissan), who is only just over a minute behind him in 12th place overall.
"I gave it my all [today] without reflecting," he said. "I’d promised that I’d attack once. I wasn’t able to able to do it in the high mountains, which was a disappointment. Today it suited me a bit better. There was war all day long and I said why not give it everything today and try and get a stage win.
"I had to launch the sprint from a long, long way out. By going from so far out, there was a bit chance I’d lose to Luis Leon but then I had Cavendish come flying past down the right hand side of the road. Gaining four seconds isn’t going to move me up to 5th overall or something. That was all about trying to win the stage today.
"It would have been nice to put a bit of time into Klöden too, but what could I do? He was marking me, he knew that he needed to follow me. I also have to make up a whole minute on Thibaut Pinot, which won’t be easy either. While in theory I have a small advantage over him when it comes to time trialling, he showed yesterday that he’s in very good form. But the biggest worry comes from Andreas Klöden for tomorrow as he’s only a minute behind."
The Irishman also revealed that so far the Tour hadn't gone completely according to plan for his team either, and that the game of fine margins, of which AG2R have collectively thus far found itself on the losing side, is beginning to take its toll on his teammates.
"The team in general are not quite as happy as it expected to be," Roche said. "The plan hasn't gone as well as we wanted. We were hoping that I'd make top 10 and [Jean Christophe] Peraud would make top 15, or the opposite, and Peraud is way down [currently in 45th position - ed.].
"When he tried to go for his stage win, he was second to [Garmin-Sharp's David] Millar, who outsprinted him. On the other days the guys were often the first ones dropped from the breakaway. So it's been very hard mentally for the team as it has been just a step under from being able to hang in there."
Like it or not this Tour will be remembered for the tactical dominance and teamwork of Sky. The British team has upset the status quo of professional cycling over the last couple of seasons and, with Bradley Wiggins in yellow with three stages to go, Sky looks almost certain to make good on what seemed a fanciful stated ambition at its founding in 2009 - that it would win the Tour de France yellow jersey within five years. While it is safe to say that its success hasn't been welcomed by all here, Roche was full of praise.
"They had a plan and they have stuck to it. They didn't get care if there was 10, five or 45 riders up the road. As long as the [rival] riders they had on their list weren't moving they've been happy to be do what they're doing," Roche said.
"They have kind of controlled and saved their energy on the days that they have needed to. The other day [on stage 13] they rode really smartly where they waited for the grupetto so that they had Mark Cavendish and [Bernhard] Eisel to ride again instead of making [Christian] Knees do all the work. These things add up and I think that everything is taught so well that it all adds up and makes a big difference in comparison to other teams."
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 18:05
- Hedwig Kröner
Sky team gives world champion "gift" of lead-out
Mark Cavendish returned to the forefront of the Tour de France by unleashing a surge of power in the finish to win stage 18 in Bive-la-Gaillarde, taking the better of his fellow sprinters in superior fashion. The World Champion, who up until today put his Tour ambitions on the back burner in favour of working for overall leader Bradley Wiggins, took his 22nd career victory at the race by out-sprinting the remainder of the breakaway, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Nicolas Roche (AG2R) in the very last meters, as well as fellow bunch sprinters Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and green jersey leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas).
Cavendish proved to be not only the fastest but also the smartest of the sprinters. As the remaining attackers Sanchez and Roche persisted in the final 200 metres before the finish line, the Manxman sensed just the right moment bridge up to them and overtake them with an incredible finishing speed.
"I'm very very happy with this victory," the Sky rider said. "We didn't know if it was going to be a sprint today, it was a hard stage. It would have been easy for my guys just to cruise to Paris after the mountains, but on the bus this morning, I was like 'can I have a sprint, please, just let me have a sprint' and Brad supported me."
Sky sheltered Cavendish through the transitional and hilly stage, and it was the wearer of the yellow jersey himself who led the bunch out to catch the remaining attackers up the road once the race entered the town of Brive.
"We decided to put the train back on the rails, as the finale was very dangerous," Wiggins explained on French TV. "It was better to protect our overall positions and it was useful to Mark. This way, we were able to help him a bit, and he won - it's my gift to him."
Cavendish certainly appreciated the support. "It was so nice to be lead out by first and second on GC, then Edvald who'd been in the break all day, and was still be able to commit," he praised his teammates. "They all did it so smoothly. we didn't want to catch the break too early, because Lotto had Hansen in the front and if we caught them with one kilometer to go, then they'd have him in their train. So we went to catch them as close to the line as possible.
"I saw Sanchez from far out and I knew I had to put all my chips onto the table. With 600m to go, I said to myself, 'I go now, if someone passes me, they pass me.' But nobody did. I used the slipstream of the guys to come past at 600m, caught the other ones at 400, come past them, caught Sanchez with 200 and went in."
Much has been said and written about Sky's double objective at this Tour de France, the yellow jersey as well as stage victories and the green jersey for Cavendish. In the end, the overall victory seems secured with two days to go for the British squad, but one has to admit that the feasibility of pursuing two distinct goals such as these in one team has shown to be limited.
Still, Cavendish was adamant that he "was always going to excited and proud to be part of the opportunity to win the yellow jersey. We have first and second on GC, this is out fourth stage victory this year in the Tour. But obviously, it hasn't been the easiest thing as it left me hungry for a sprint, especially as I'm used to winning five stages here every year.
"So it's been great to be part of this team and what we're doing, but it's also put me in a bit of a crooked situation. I'm part of a team but I'm not doing what I can do as an individual rider. It's like Wayne Rooney playing defence - you can still win the match, but you can't do your part in that to the best you deserve. But today it's been settled, we scored the goal."
Cavendish even mused that his support role for Wiggins in this Tour may have helped him win in Brive. "I haven't sprinted that often this year, so I knew I could go from far out today," he admitted. "I planned to go at 400 or 350 metres anyway today, but finally I went from just a bit further out. That increased my margin and it may have looked a bit more impressive - maybe it was."
In view of the Olympic road race, which is just over one week away, this victory was of course an important one. "Also in the way that I did it," he added. "It wasn't an easy stage. It was lumpy, and we did over 2000 meters of altitude all in all. There was a head wind all day but we still averaged over 45 km/h, strung out in one line. There was times I was suffering but I was able to recover quickly and sprint with the acceleration I have. It gave me confidence and showed me that I've come out of this Tour de France in good enough condition."
- Article published:
- July 20, 2012, 19:02
- Barry Ryan
Sky rider looks forward to Paris
After reining in his efforts in the mountains in order to shepherd yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome (Sky) will have the freedom to chase stage victory in the final time trial of the Tour de France from Bonneval to Chartres on Saturday.
The Sky pair isset to occupy the top two steps of the podium, and on the past three occasions that riders from the same team have done so, the final time trial has been won by the man who would finish second overall.
In 1996, Jan Ullrich soundly defeated his Telekom stable mate Bjarne Riis at Saint-Émilion, while in 1986, Bernard Hinault beat Greg Lemond in Saint-Etienne, which was the reverse of the previous year’s concluding time trial in Lac de Vassivière.
Regardless of the historical precedent, Froome insisted that his aim over the 53.5km course was simply to defend his overall position rather than to inflict a time trial defeat on Wiggins.
“I’m not looking it as me against Bradley,” Froome said in Brive-La-Gaillarde on Friday. “I’m just looking to finish it off and get to Paris. It would be great if we could keep our standings on general classification, let’s just touch wood that nothing goes wrong. Everyone’s tired after three weeks of racing and I think everyone’s just looking forward to getting there.”
Froome and Wiggins dominated proceedings in the race’s first long time trial in Besançon on the eve of the opening rest day, finishing first and second ahead of no less a figure than Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan). With both Cancellara and world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) already out of the Tour, the two British riders will expect to contest stage victory once again.
“I don’t think there are too many fast time triallists left in the race,” Froome said. “Obviously there’s Bradley, who should be the favourite for tomorrow. It would be great if one of us could be the winner.”
Froome finished 35 seconds down on Wiggins in Besançon, but has appeared the stronger in the mountains that have followed. He insisted, however, that he was not looking to prove that he has finished the race in better shape than Wiggins on Saturday.
“That’s not my goal,” he said. “If he’s in front or I’m in my front, I’m sure we’ll both be happy.”
Froome lies 2:05 down on Wiggins ahead of the final weekend, a gap that derived from a combination of the Besançon time trial and the time he lost in a crash during the opening week. Once again, Froome stressed that he was aware of the role he would play in the mountains before the race began.
“I’m happy with this Tour because when I came here I knew that was the job I would have to do,” he said. “Finishing second overall is an extra and that’s already something big for me.”
Already a stage winner at La Planche des Belles Filles, Froome said that he did not harbour any regrets about waiting with Wiggins at Peyragudes on Thursday instead chasing another victory in the Pyrenees. “I think I’ve already got a lot out of this Tour and as a team we’ve achieved a lot more, so I’m very happy with how it’s gone,” he said.