- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 06:20
- Peter Cossins
"I don't know why everybody is saying I can't beat Cavendish," says Lotto sprinter
After two wins in two days, Lotto-Belisol sprinter André Greipel will be going for a third successive victory on the final flat stage of the Tour's opening week to Metz. The powerful German admitted he had had some good fortune when he managed to avoid the crash that took out Tyler Farrar late on Thursday's stage to Saint-Quentin, and praised his teammates for the efforts they made to get him back into contention.
"I needed some good bike handling to stay on my bike when Farrar crashed. I did drop back quite a few places, but Adam Hansen was waiting for me and he brought me back up to our other teammates. So we had some luck there, but then the train worked perfectly again heading into quite a tough finish. It was perhaps 700m full gas," said Greipel.
Unlike the stage four sprint in Rouen that didn't feature Mark Cavendish after he had crashed out, Greipel beat his Sky rival with something to spare in Saint-Quentin. Asked if he had savoured this victory more for that reason, the German responded: "I don't know why everybody is saying that I can't beat Cavendish. I did it last year at the Tour and I've done it before.
"I've got the best team around me so why shouldn't I have the ability to beat him? If I stay on their wheels I'm always there when I need to be and that makes it easy."
Among the many delighted faces around the Lotto team bus following Greipel's second stage win was DS Herman Frison, who praised the work his riders had done throughout the stage and suggested the second win was more laudable. "The teamwork was very good from the beginning. Yesterday we had a great victory, but there were many questions because André won after Cav had crashed. But today he won when Cav was there. He had Cav on his wheel, but André pulled it off," said Frison.
He acknowledged that Lotto had benefited from the pace-making undertaken by some of the GC riders' teams, particularly Sky and BMC. "I think after all of the crashes we had yesterday and the day before that, all of the riders interested in the overall classification wanted to stay right out of trouble. You could see that Wiggins' team was on one side of the road and Evans' team was on the other."
Frison now sees no reason why Greipel shouldn't take a third consecutive success in Metz. "It's a flat stage, the final one before the mountains and we've shown we've got a strong team. I hope that RadioShack want to ride in defence of the yellow jersey and we can go for our third victory in three days."
He confirmed that Lotto aren't yet interested in competing wholeheartedly for the green jersey. Their focus remains purely on stage wins. "We're not thinking about the green jersey at the moment. Okay, if it comes our way that's good, but for the moment there's no discussion about that. We're going for victories not for the green jersey. We're not thinking about the intermediate sprints, but saving energy for the final," said Frison.
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 09:39
- Cycling News
Plus - Scaphoid watch; Cancellara on Voigt and what's Cantwell missing?
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) often relies on his considerable experience to sense and evade danger during the riotous finales of the Tour's opening week, but the veteran admitted that on Thursday, he was simply lucky to avoid going down in the crash that put an end to Tyler Farrar and Peter Sagan's chances.
"I think the fall might have been on my wheel, because I felt something hit my rear derailleur with about 3km to go," he said while still rasping for breath after wheeling to a halt in Saint-Quentin. "For a bit I thought I'd broken it and that I wouldn’t be able to contest the sprint. But I was just lucky I was able to get through and carry on to the sprint."
A fully-paid up member of the sprinters' union, Petacchi was reluctant to apportion the blame for this week's crashes to his fellow fastmen. "There’s always a lot of confusion because the teams of the riders who want to win the Tour are looking to stay at the front as well, just because they don’t want to lose seconds," he said.
Although he managed to stay upright, Petacchi found he had too much to do in the finishing straight, and came home in 8th place. "I braked too much and I couldn't get going again," he said dolefully. But there's still tomorrow, someone volunteered hopefully.
Cue a baleful look from Petacchi, and a deep outtake of breath before his face finally creased into a grim smile. "Yeah, let’s hope for tomorrow." (BR)
Martin and Sánchez compare notes
Often spotted right at the very back of the peloton, following their crashes on stage 1, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) have spent a fair bit of time together over the last few days.
Both riders are sporting bandaging on their injured wrists, with Martin worse off with a fractured left scaphoid.
"We are always together in the back of the peloton, where there is room for discussion," Martin said. "It is true, even if we suffer, we talk a little bit together. We talk about the race, the weather, the conditions of the road. It's funny because each day, we give each other our medical reports. I will explain to him my condition, and he will tell me his condition. We are always kind of updated about our injuries. It's funny in these kind of conditions, while you are suffering, you can sometimes find some good guys to share your thoughts with."
Speaking of scaphoids...
Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Katusha) broke his right one in the crash nearing the finish in Saint-Quentin. Like Martin, he will wear a protective bandage which "should decrease his pain," according to the team. The Belarusan rider also suffered abrasions in the accident.
Cantwell not discouraged despite nasty crash
After sprinting to a best-ever sixth place on stage 4, the Tour de France debut of Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) took a turn for the worse on Thursday when he got caught up in the crash three kilometres from the finish in Sant-Quentin. The former Australian criterium champion is relishing the opportunity in his first year with the ProTour team, explaining on his twitter feed that "Need [to be] more than missing half my ass to stop me :)"
Cantwell explained on his team website that he was a victim of the high stakes on show at the Tour.
"It shows that riders take risks they normally don't take and that create havoc in the field," said. "Luckily, JJ demonstrated his power in the sprint and a third place is very good result but if I could have been there with him who knows if we could have won."
Voigt an inspiration to Cancellara
Basking in the glow of yellow, Fabian Cancellara is enjoying his time in the overall lead at the Tour de France. The Swiss admits that his legs are "hurting a little" at the moment, but he only needs to look so far as his long-time teammate Jens Voigt for added motivation.
"Jens Voigt has so much motivation. He is unbelievable," said Cancellara. "His age might say 41 on his passport but he rides like he is 34, 32, I don’t know. He’s a super teammate and friend. I said to him ‘It’s impossible to think you’re close to retirement. I’d be so happy to turn back the clock a few years and continue riding with you and keep going.’ It’s a pleasure to ride with him and he’s always an inspiration to our team and to all of cycling."
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 10:07
- Cycling News
Frenchman accepts not getting selected for Olympic Games
The right knee of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) is arguably the most famous body joint in France right now: In Google News, the sole word "genou" (French for knee) makes articles about Voeckler come up heading the list of results. Every day, a whole nation hopes that the national hero - who finished fourth in last year's Tour de France - will be able to continue the race despite the inflammation which has made his life difficult in recent weeks.
"It's not getting any better, but not any worse, either," Voeckler told L'Equipe on Thursday evening after stage five. "I continue to take one day at a time."
Without dramatizing his condition, the Frenchman still asks himself how long he'll be able to hold on in the race, and at what price. "In the bunch, there are guys that are torn up everywhere, so I shouldn't be pitied. Sitting down, it's okay even though I can't push in the same way with my two legs. But I can't get out of the saddle. I don't want to abandon the race at the moment. But I have to be reasonable. Last year, Christophe Kern wanted to keep on during many long days and then he had to cross out several months of the 2011 season."
In these circumstances, not getting selected by Laurent Jalabert for the Olympic Games was not very surprising. "That's the way it is, you have to accept it. I can understand that he can't count on me in the light of the situation. Of course, I would have preferred to compete in the Olympics, because they are probably the last ones I could have done. In four years, I think and I hope that there will be young riders to take my place," the 33-year-old added.
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 11:47
- Cycling News
New Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank sponsor looking for stage wins
New Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank co-sponsor Oleg Tinkov is happy with Michael Mørkøv's stint in the mountain jersey at the 2012 Tour de France. But the Russian businessman and cyclist wants more.
“So far so good. There are 22 teams and there are few jerseys to be awarded,” he told sporten.dk. “We have one of them, and it is an important jersey. It is one of my favourites, I like it better than the green, though I myself was a sprinter.
“We get on the podium each day and get exposure in the media, it's not a bad start. But it is nothing more than what I expected. I am a businessman, I know what I do.”
Still, Tinkov hopes there will be more to come . “Of course I appreciate the mountain jersey, but I expect a stage win - or two. The squad is perhaps not the strongest team in the Tour de France this year, but it's not the worst. And when you are not riding for the GC, then you have a little easier to go after a stage win,” he said.
Impressed by Mørkøv's participation in escape groups in three consecutive stages, Tinkov tweeted that the Dane deserved a platinum credit card from the Tinkoff Bank. But now he has a better idea: “We will make a polka dot credit card to honour him!”
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 13:08
- Cycling News
Australian safe in the bunch through sprint stages
With Friday's stage six from Epernay to Metz another tailor-made route for the sprinters, those who are aiming at the general classification of the Tour de France are inevitably eager for the race to gain some altitude this week-end. Interviewed by Australian TV Channel 10 at the start in Epernay, defending champion Cadel Evans looked forward to Saturday's stage seven, the first real mountain test of this Tour as it finishes on the Cat. 1 climb of Planche des Belles Filles.
On top of finally being able to put on a smaller gear, the BMC leader enjoyed the prospect of finally discovering his rivals' state of fitness. "Normally the first mountains are a good indicator of who's climbing well and therefore, who will be there in the other mountains," the Australian said. "You go in not knowing who's the best climber in the race, or who's bad and so on. But everyone one gets in looking for that, to get an idea of how everyone's going.
"That's the first thing, but then it's also an opportunity to make some time, hopefully... it's going to be an interesting race," he predicted.
Even if he conceded 10 seconds in the race prologue on probably his greatest rival, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Evans was satisfied with the outcome of this first week of racing. "I'd rather have ended a bit closer to the front guys in the prologue, it's not really important but you always want to be as close to the front as possible," he admitted. "But seven kilometres in a week of racing isn't much. More importantly the team's been incredible the whole week, to keep me safe without spending too much energy. That's crucial. So it's one more day of staying safe and then, of course, the first selection is going to be made."
BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue was also eager for the race to take to the mountains, after having had a good start. "We've done a good first week, which was quite a nervous week after all," he commented. "We're happy to arrive in a bit of a different landscape now. It will be a first test to have this transitional, medium mountain stage with a nice uphilll finish - it will be significant. It's true that it will not be the most challenging mountaintop finish at this Tour, but it will render some first information."
Lelangue also saw this Tour's first uphill finish as a real opportunity for his rider to make up some time. "It's a climb that could be to his advantage. There are some rhythm changes, it's not too regular. Everything will depend on the race situation, on how they get to this last climb, if there is a breakaway, etc. But there is always a possibility to make the difference, in every stage," he pointed out.
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 17:25
- Cycling News
Lotto Belisol may contest both yellow and green jerseys
Lotto Belisol has enjoyed a successful opening week in this year's Tour de France with two stage wins courtesy of Andre Greipel while Jurgen van den Broeck, their overall prospect for the race, remains in contention for the general classification.
After a week of almost completely flat terrain the Tour turns to the first mountain test on stage 7 from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles. The final climb may only be 6 kilometres in length but Van den Broeck is predicting two battles, the first simply to arrive at the bottom of the climb at the front of the bunch, followed by a round of attacks towards the finish.
The climb will signify the first genuine uphill battle between the GC contenders at this year's Tour and in the video Van den Broeck discusses how he and his fellow climbers will approach the stage.
Marc Sergeant, the team's manager, is tasked with prioritising the squad's energies and with Greipel looking strong in the sprints ,the team may well look to compete for the green jersey as well as yellow. For now though Lotto will concentrate on stages wins for Greipel, sacrificing the intermediate sprints until such a moment in the race when winning green becomes a more tangible aim.
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 18:00
- Daniel Benson
Hesjedal loses time, Danielson drops out
The Garmin-Sharp team were left licking their wounds after another disappointing day in the year’s Tour de France, with Ryder Hesjedal and almost all of his teammates affected by the mass pile-up on the stage to Metz. It proved too much for Tom Danielson, a crash victim from earlier in the week, with last year’s top ten rider abandoning the race. However it was the sight of Ryder Hesjedal on the ground that will have caused the team the most heartache. The Giro winner had been seen as a potential rival for Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggin in this year’s Tour but lost over 13 minutes. The Canadian was later treated on the team bus, which one Garmin spokesperson called a hospital after several race medical staff were called to on board to treat riders.
Two hours after the finish it was unclear whether Hesjedal would continue in the race but along with Danielson’s abandonment, Johan Vansummeren was taken to hospital with an injured shoulder, while David Millar and Christian Vande Velde were also treated for minor injuries.
With Hesjedal’s overall ambitions over and his race in the balance the team will now have to focus on stage wins, a task made even harder with Tyler Farrar already nursing cuts and bruises from several crashes in the last few days.
"It was a disaster day for us," said Allan Peiper. "It’s very disappointing for us all-round over the last few days. It’s definitely a week to forget and sometimes it just doesn’t work. We’ve got so many guys who are injured, we’ll have to take stock tonight and see who is capable and who is not. Vansummeren was looking dazed on the ground and it looks like he might have something wrong with his shoulder. We’ll see what the doctors say and see tonight."
Peiper, a seasoned ex-pro himself, is of course no stranger to crashes that can often affect racing but in both his time as a rider and subsequently as a directeur sportif he admitted he had never seen such an extensive list of walking wounded on one team and was clearly shaken at the finish when talking to the press.
"I’ve crashed three times in a week before as a rider but I’ve never been in a team or involved in a team that’s had so much bad luck in the first week of a race. I think it’s just bad luck has come our way. That’s it but we’ve lost most of our chances for everything in this Tour de France."
Garmin had hoped to turn a chapter on the stage to Metz. After a relatively successful prologue for Hesjedal, the team has endured a difficult Tour. Crashes aside the team was the centre of a speculative – later to be proven untrue – story surrounding USADA’s investigation into US Postal and Lance Armstrong. At the start of stage 5 Jonathan Vaughters, who did not attend today’s stage, was forced to read out a public statement. Peiper was asked by Cyclingnews if Thursday’s ordeal had affected the team’s morale and focus.
"I’d like to think not but you never know how things affect people," he said.
"I think in the last few days Danielson, Farrar and Hunter have been pretty bashed up. Vande Velde crashed as well and we had the back luck before. I thought we might be able to salvage something but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
"I can’t really see what a successful Tour would be from now. Everybody was down. Everybody was down."
Daniel Martin, who has come through the first week relatively unscathed, could be the team’s main hope. Although down on the overall, the young climber is their most talented and healthy option for the mountains.
- Tour de France
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 19:07
- Barry Ryan
RadioShack-Nissan rider isolated after crash
With over 100 kilometres of time trialling on the course, Fränk Schleck's Tour de France challenge was already hamstrung from the moment the route was unveiled last October, but the RadioShack-Nissan rider's task was complicated still further when he lost time in a crash on the run-in to Metz at the end of stage 6.
Schleck was one of a number of riders to hit the deck in a pile-up 26 kilometres from the finish, and such was the chaos when he picked himself up off the tarmac that he faced a lengthy and increasingly exasperated wait for a replacement bike. To compound matters, once he gingerly got going again, he found that only one teammate – Yaroslav Popovych – had remained with him.
The pair then gave chase as part of a 25-man group that included other stricken GC hopefuls such as Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar), and they succeeded in limiting their losses to 2:09 at the finish.
On crossing the line, a frustrated Schleck was first summoned to a random doping control, but by the time he wheeled to halt outside the RadioShack-Nissan team bus 20 minutes later, his annoyance had not yet dissipated. A loose string of reporters tightened around him as he dismounted, and the first question was the blindingly obvious one – what happened?
"There was a big bunch of riders going at 80kph," Schleck said flatly. "There was a big road but there was one crash and I couldn't avoid it. If you go at 80kpk you can't really avoid it."
Schleck's countenance darkened still further when a voice volunteered that he had seemed unhappy as he stood at the roadside.
"No, I'm fantastic. I just crashed and I'm really hurting, so why should I be unhappy," Schleck snapped. "Of course when you crash you're not happy. What do you want me to answer?"
As the dictaphones pressed closer, Schleck was asked to detail his injuries and the atmosphere relaxed slightly. While standing on the roadside, the Luxembourger had been spotted gripping the same right shoulder that sparked so many conspiracy theories when it forced him out of the Giro d'Italia in May.
"I don't think I have anything broken. I have pain in my shoulder from the Giro, I have pain in my hip, and my knee, but we'll check to see what the damage is," said Schleck, before adding: "It's not my nature to stop if there's nothing broken."
Now 2:43 off the overall lead with the Besançon time trial to come on Monday, Schleck's podium challenge appears to be in tatters, but he was determined to accentuate the positive as he edged his way towards the steps of the team bus.
"The Tour wasn't favourable to us this year anyway," he pointed out. "I was confident for tomorrow and the days to come, so now we'll take a look at the gaps and maybe change something tactically."
Given that a fractured collarbone on the cobbles near Arenberg forced him out of the opening week of the 2010 Tour, Schleck even summoned up his inner Candide before he signed off. "That's the Tour. You've got highs and lows. We had a great opening week with Fabian but now we've got this crash," he said. "I don't think it's anything serious, so I can consider myself fortunate."
As he waited for Schleck to return to the sanctuary of the team bus, RadioShack-Nissan directeur sportif Alain Gallopin had looked to put a brave face on his team's day. Pressed as to why Schleck was left so isolated after his crash, Gallopin insisted that the proximity to the finish and the speed of the peloton meant that there was precious little that could be done to salvage the situation.
"It was going too fast in front as the sprinters' teams still needed to pull back the breakaway," Gallopin said. "It was impossible to bring him back up and I couldn't send the whole team back there to lose two minutes."
RadioShack-Nissan had no fewer than six riders in the lead group at the finish, including yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara and the veteran Andreas Klöden. "We couldn't make the whole team come back when we had the yellow jersey up there and Andreas too, who is our leader here with Fränk," Gallopin said.
"On top of that, he said before the race that his ambition was to win stages and then see where that left him. As far as I'm concerned he only lost two minutes. He could have lost 7 or 8 minutes today."
Asked if Schleck's Tour challenge was somehow forever destined to be undone by crashes, Gallopin allowed himself a wry smile. "Last year he didn't fall and he didn't win the Tour either," he said. "We'll see how he is afterwards, but compared to how it could have been, it's not so bad."