Tour de France director on the first week, TV audiences, Sky domination
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was happy to be proven mistaken for his pre-race predictions as stage 9 put an end to the apparent domination of Team Sky.
"When I was questioned about the duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador before the Tour, I always answered: it'll be Sky versus the rest of the world, but I was wrong," Prudhomme told Cyclingnews in Bagnères-de-Bigorre. "It's Froome versus the rest of the world. Some people might have thought the race for GC was over after Froome's demonstration of force at Ax-3 Domaines. We've seen today that everything remains possible. It's not over."
"Frankly, I didn't imagine Froome to be left alone and Richie Porte to finish at 18 minutes, even though he probably gave up chasing at the end," the Frenchman continued. "Contrary to some comments, Team Sky is not something like US Postal. Like yesterday, Porte is their second rider on the finishing line, but in the teams' classification today, Sky is sixteenth at forty minutes! It says it all. I'm cautious about immediate analysis. I can see that the heat has extremely damaged the organism of many riders who had suffered cold, snow, rain and wind during the whole spring and get caught by opposite conditions since the beginning of the Tour de France."
From the organizer's point of view, he drew positive conclusions from the first third of the event. "In almost ten years at ASO, I never heard as many ‘thank you's' as in Corsica for bringing the Tour," Prudhomme summed up. "The race has been fantastically welcomed on the island and it has delivered the exceptional images that we expected. TV audiences are remarkable and beyond expectations worldwide. On France Televisions, it's more than 700 000 viewers more than last year daily during the first ten days. It's almost at the level of the end of the race last year and it usually goes up as we move towards the end of the event."
"I've enjoyed seeing the world's four best sprinters winning a stage each: Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Peter Sagan all deserved to score. It proves once again that the Tour de France is worth a classic every day and it's the case again with Dan Martin who is the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year. I have also enjoyed Nairo Quintana's attack in the col de Pailhères. Up to now, this climb had not impacted the race even though it's a very hard one, but yesterday, the favourites have used it to fight each other."
Prudhomme is looking forward to the next big things: Wednesday's scenic time trial from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel and the Mont Ventoux at the end of the second week. Questioned by a French reporter about Froome's look, he said: "The award for the most elegant rider doesn't exist at the Tour de France anymore but Froome probably wouldn't have been eligible. He's a kind of Paula Radcliffe [world record holder in the marathon] on a bike! The Brits love her, don't they? However, I find Froome very elegant in his way of speaking with a sweet voice and his eyes are very expressive."
The pair slipped clear during a momentary slowing in the yellow jersey group on the final climb. The duo shared work for the final 30km to Bagnères-de-Bigorre. In the final kilometre, Martin, this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner - took a commanding position on the Dane’s wheel and led into the final corner.
"I knew that he would be fast but still I felt that I was a little stronger," said Fuglsang at the finish line.
"In the last kilometre he didn’t come through anymore - I was hoping he would and that I could come from behind in the last corner.
"I thought I was strong and could do this I feel that my legs are good and if I start early enough I can still beat him."
It is the second time in a month Fuglsang’s has lost a two-up sprint. He was beaten by Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) at the summit finish of Superdevoluy in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
However the high placing will offset some of the bad luck that has befallen the injury-hit squad. After the loss of Janez Brajkovic, Fredrik Kessiakoff and Andrey Kashechkin, the team is down to six riders as the Tour de France enters its first rest day.
Fuglsang added: "We’ve been unlucky in the first week, but we will change that from now. For sure we don’t give up and we keep on riding and trying to get some good results until we’re in Paris."
Despite being given room to attack, Fuglsang said his primary objective was still a high placing on general classification. He is currently 12th just over three minutes behind Chris Froome (Sky).
"If the opportunity is there again I will go for it but it’s not the main goal yet to go for stages – staying high GC is my first priority for now."
Roche proud of cousin Martin, Omega Pharma - QuickStep in the money
Orica-GreenEdge celebrate with a rocking Australian tribute
Orica GreenEdge are at it again with a fitting new song that pays tribute to Australian rock band AC/DC. The latest cover follows on from last year's cover of "Call Me Maybe". This time round, the Australian squad fittingly joins an endless list of tribute bands with hilariously fake hair and wild air guitar moves in pursuit of a chart topper.
Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) may be at this year's race to support team leader Alberto Contador and his pursuit of a third Tour de France title but that doesn't mean he wasn't quietly cheering for his compatriot and cousin Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) as the wiry climber attacked the leading group on the final ascent of Stage 9. After Martin collected his first Tour win his cousin Roche was quick send his congratulates: "Amazing what @DanMartin86 did today... I'm a very proud cousin," he said on Twitter.
Tennis ball lump for Tankink
Bram Tankink can be thankful his high-speed crash did not end his Tour campaign given that he was travelling in excess of 60km/h on just the second descent of the day. Tankink later tweeted that he may have swallowed a tennis ball with a photo to show off the result of his fall. The Dutchman would end the stage into Bagnères-de-Bigorre 18:59 down on the day's winner but is expected to start following the Tour's first rest day.
"On the descent following the second climb, I was just about to rejoin the first group after I had flatted but then I took a spill. I got cut off by a motorcycle. Going sixty kilometres per hour, I had to deviate from my line and could not make the turn. My shoulder and hip are giving me trouble but I don’t have too much pain. I feel very good and I hope that this fall does not affect the good form I have been enjoying. With the rest day off tomorrow and a few easier stages thereafter, I think I should be fine," he later said on his team site.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step in the money
It's not just stage wins that contribute to a team's prize money haul but entering the first rest day the squad of Mark Cavendish and Omega Pharma - Quick-Step sit at the top of the prize money table. The Manxman's stage win, numerous placings, intermediate sprints, Michal Kwiatkowski's time in the white jersey and their TTT efforts have led them to accumulate €32,030.
Last year it was Team Sky who left Paris with the majority of the cash but at this point in the race they have to be satisfied with €23,860. Two stage wins and time in the yellow has yielded a solid haul by Orica GreenEdge of €29,610 - who currently fill the second spot. Third place is held by Cannondale with green jersey leader Peter Sagan swallowing up plenty of prizes in the opening week for a total of €29,100.
The biggest prizes are still to come with overall classification winners taking home a significant sum. With Sky's Chris Froome already looking comfortable in his yellow jersey, expect his GB squad's tally to inflate significantly as the race makes its way to the Champs-Élysées.
Having suffered early on, Kwiatkowski fought his way back to the ever-fluctuating group that contained Sky's Chris Froome, finally making contact on the Col de Val Louron-Azet, the day's penultimate climb.
"I just want to say thank you to my teammates because they pushed me to the limit," the Polish Road Champion tells Cyclingnews in this video. "I was in trouble from the beginning of the stage."
Kwiatkowski has posted results across all disciplines so far this year, with podiums at the Tour de San Luis, second overall at Volta ao Algarve, top-five placings at Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne before taking out his national championship.
Kwiatkowski held the lead in the young rider's classification for six stages of the first nine and the all-rounder has not given up hope of regaining the white jersey despite the gauntlet currently being thrown down by Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Watch more of Kwiatkowski's comments after what he called the "hardest stage in this Tour," in the video below.
Ag2r youngster impresses even though his main objective is to learn
While much of the pre-Tour talk in France centred on the GC prospects of Pierre Rolland and Thibaut Pinot, a good deal of that focus has since shifted towards a new French climbing prospect, Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet. The 22-year-old is making his Tour debut and is in the race primarily to learn. However, as he’s already shown on a number of occasions during his nascent pro career, Bardet is eager to get experience by testing himself out at the sharp end of races.
On stage nine to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Bardet moved up to the breakaway group on the second climb of the day, the Col de Menté, and was still there on the fifth and final ascent of the Hourquette d’Ancizan. Sensing the imminent arrival of the yellow jersey group, which was being driven along at a rapid clip by Movistar, the young Frenchman jumped away on his own, only to be caught 6km short of the summit.
In his blog on L’Équipe’s site, Bardet explained that his attack had two goals. “My main objective in the Tour is to win a stage and there aren’t very many ways I can do this: in fact, all I can do is anticipate what’s going to happen. The other aspect to it is that the team asked me to try to get into the break in order to be able to provide some support to Jean-Christophe Péraud,” he said.
Bardet said he had relished the opportunity to mix it with the big guns on the Hourquette, but had had to yield. He added, though, that he hopes the days when he finds himself in among the big names in the mountains aren’t too far away.
“What I hope for, what fills me with ambition, is the prospect of being involved at the end of stages with the contenders. But you have to realistic and aim for what you can with the level you have. For me, the next two or three years are all about learning. I’m still doing my homework [with regard to the Tour], and the best way of doing so is by being right up at the front,” he explained. “As far as my longer-term prospects are concerned, I should know a lot more at the end of the Tour. Everyone agrees that I am going to get more powerful, that I have a margin for progression.”
Since turning pro at the start of last season, Bardet has impressed hugely in hilly Classics. Last year he was on the attack for 220km at Amstel Gold before being caught inside the final 10k, and at the end of the season he was away for a similar distance at the Tour of Lombardy, where he led over the Muro di Sormano. This season, he shone in the Ardennes Classics, finishing 13th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
He says his performance at Liège was particularly pleasing “because I got involved in the battle with the very best riders in the final stages,” and because it showed that he is much more than the breakaway specialist he has been labelled by some. “My reputation as a breakaway rider has come by default,” he explained. “It’s not what I aspire to for the rest of my career, it is simply the only way at the moment that I can get a good result.”
He also revealed that Ag2r’s absence from the Critérium du Dauphiné had, to an extent, helped his preparations for the Tour, as it enabled him to spend several days training on the big passes that feature in the final week of the Tour. “That was important because it was thanks to this huge amount of base work that I started to find my climbing legs. They helped me on Sunday, but I need to do more work on them for the future,” said Bardet.
He admitted, though, that he can see the difference between his preparation on the short passes in the Auvergne that require an effort of 20-25 minutes and Sky’s camps on Tenerife, where the climbs are more than twice as long. “They are more used to be those long anaerobic efforts. On the Tour the climbs are done with a steamroller method, by holding a rhythm that doesn’t change. I need to be able to adjust to that.”
Pat McQuaid has started his campaign to be re-elected as president of the International Cycling Union, issuing his campaign manifesto “A Bright Future for a Changed Sport.” His major points include maintaining a clean sport, the further development of women's cycling and increasing the globalization of the sport.
“I am delighted to launch my re-election campaign and to present my vision for cycling’s future to the cycling family whose support over the past eight years has enabled me to transform our sport,” said McQuaid in a press release issued Monday morning.
“Cycling has changed since I was first elected as UCI President in 2005. It is now a global sport. It is now possible to race and win clean. We have travelled a great distance together and we must never turn back from cycling’s bright future.”
His four priorities are:
· “To preserve the new culture and era of clean cycling
· To ensure equality in cycling through the development of women’s cycling
· To modernise the way that cycling is presented as a global sport
· To foster the global development of cycling”
He took credit for cleaning up cycling, saying he “introduced the most sophisticated and effective anti-doping infrastructure in world sport to cycling. Our sport is leading the way and I am proud that other sports are following in its footsteps.”
Under his plan, the UCI's anti-doping foundation would become more independent, the WorldTour team's financial contributions would be increased and there would be “an independent audit of the UCI’s actions during the years when Lance Armstrong was winning the Tour de France.”
Women's cycling has also come in for attention. “I will bring a new focus to the development of women’s cycling. It is not acceptable that women in cycling do not receive the same pay, prize money and conditions as men. It is past time for this inequality to be brought to an end,” he said.
He would separate women's cycling from the UCI Road Commission and establish “an independent UCI Women’s Commission with responsibility for developing all disciplines of women’s cycling.”
McQuaid emphasized that he would oppose any rival cycling organisations. “The greatest cycling races on the global stage have been fought out in Europe for generations. Their place on the cycling calendar should never be sidelined or replaced by a so called ‘Champions League of Cycling’ which does nothing to promote the global development of our sport.”
Further, he said that would work to modernize the sport by re-organising the race calendar, reforming the points system and by “introducing cameras on bikes and helmets, introducing GPS rider tracking and communicating real time data for race fans.”
UCI Presidential Candidate Brian Cookson responded to McQuaid's re-election manifesto by issuing an official statement: "Pat has been President of the UCI for two terms. While his Manifesto outlines what he believes still needs to be done for the UCI, I think that many people will judge him on his record, and ask why those things haven't been done in the last eight years. Unfortunately under his Presidency far too much energy and resource have been devoted to destructive feuding and conflict rather than grabbing hold of the issues, listening to the right people and delivering solutions."
"In his Manifesto he talks about the UCI Stakeholders Consultation but I think he fails to address the number one critical recommendation - that the UCI 'must take the steps necessary to restore cycling’s and its own credibility, in particular in relation to the public perception of cycling’s anti-doping measures and current UCI leadership'. It is my belief and that of many others that we need a complete change of leadership in order to successfully achieve this."
US National Team rider vows to return to Italian race to defend title
The final day of racing was always going to be much more than a formality for Mara Abbott as she rolled down the start ramp for her final individual test against the clock at the Giro Rosa. However, with nearly two and a half minutes in hand the money was always going to be on the 2010 Giro Donne winner. In fact the wearer of the maglia rosa could begin her celebrations early, crossing the line with a smile from ear to ear.
"I can finally say I managed to do it! Thanks goes to my team, the public and all those who believed in me," Abbott said after stepping down from the race podium as winner of the pink jersey and climber’s classification.
The US National Team rider took over race leadership after a commanding solo stage win on Day 5 and strengthened her grip with a repeat the next day into San Domenico. Her US National Team proved more than capable of controlling the race for the now two-time winner who has five stage victories in the Italian race formerly known as the Giro Ciclistico Internazionale Femminile or Giro Donne.
"Today was a wonderful way to finish off a great team event with taking home a pink jersey," said US Team director Jack Seehafer at the finish of the time trial. "All the ladies rose to the occasion and executed their jobs in a professional manner. For myself this is very exciting to see, and builds great momentum for the rest of the season."
Abbott knew she would need time up her sleeve when it came to Sunday’s 16km ITT and that a third stage win would be unlikely but the she did more than enough to secure the title despite losing 2:14 to the day’s winner Eleonora Van Dijk (Specialized Lululemon). The multiple US national road champion eventually finished 1:33 ahead of Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) while Claudia Häusler (Tibco To The Top) stepped onto the third step 2:18 behind the American in the battle for the overall classification.
With the women’s equivalent to the Giro d’Italia wrapped up Abbott was looking forward to heading home where she will rejoin her Exergy Twenty16 trade team but vowed to return to defend her title.
"Now, I’ll have an ice-cream, pack my stuff and fly back home where I’ll celebrate with my family and friends. I’ll be back to the Giro to try to be the best once again and to feel the warmth of the Italian fans.”
Frenchman confesses he doesn't know if he will be able to overcome fear on descents
The Pyrenees should have been the making of Thibaut Pinot, France's great climbing hope, who finished 10th on his Tour de France debut last year. Instead, two days of torment have left have left the FDJ.fr leader more than half an hour down on yellow jersey Chris Froome and questioning whether he even has a place at the race.
Pinot's problems stem from his tentativeness on descents. "Some people are afraid of spiders or snakes. I'm afraid of speed. It's a phobia," he confessed. It first became apparent on the descent of the Pailhères during Saturday's first stage in the Pyrenees, when Pinot lost contact with the yellow jersey group and ended up losing six minutes. On Sunday, he lost another 25 minutes when he came in with the gruppetto and was in tears soon after the finish.
Speaking candidly to L'Equipe afterwards, he said: "When I saw that I was not able to stay on the wheel of a rider like Mark Cavendish on the descent off a mountain pass, I asked myself: ‘What am I doing on the Tour?' I received the clear response that I have nothing to do here."
Pinot added: "This is a very sad situation for me, I'm the person who is most disappointed about it… I don't know if I will be able to get over this trauma. During yesterday's stage my only objective was to survive. I don't know if I will recover, but that's life and that's cycling."
Pinot's difficulties go back to a crash he suffered when he was younger, which has resulted in him being extremely tentative on descents. Earlier this year, his FDJ teammate Laurent Mangel said on French TV: "He doesn't know how to take corners and that makes him go slower and take more risks."
FDJ team boss Marc Madiot says there is nothing physically wrong, while his brother and personal coach Julien has said that Pinot was in the form of his life going into the Tour. Yet, on those Pyrenean stages Pinot's nerves went so badly that the team went into the rest day concerned that he might abandon the race. That worry has passed, and Pinot will now look to the Alps and hope that he can recoup something from the Tour there.
Meanwhile, his teammates are rallying around him. Arnold Jeannesson and Arthur Vichot have said that the rest of the team have to step up and relieve some of the tremendous pressure that Pinot has been under since his outstanding Tour debut last year.
Jérémy Roy commented to L'Alsace.fr: "We are all sad for him, we have to reassure him. The incredible heat, fatigue and nervousness of the first week have affected everyone. Disappointment is part of sport, that's how it is. You have to learn how to deal with it. He didn't want to disappoint everyone, but he has to digest what has happened. A lot is expected of Thibaut, who will be determined to show his value in the third week. We're expecting a big surprise."