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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 16, 2011

Date published:
July 16, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Tour de France organizers downplay sprinters's spat

    Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) savours taking the green jersey
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 10:39 BST
    Cycling News

    Rojas claims Cavendish holding onto cars on climbs

    Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad has been accused of holding on to cars in the Pyrenees by some of his rivals for the green jersey, but Tour de France race organizers have dismissed the accusations.

    After Friday's intermediate sprint, Philippe Gilbert of Omega Lotto-Pharma was seen visiting the car of race director Jean-Francois Pescheux for a long chat. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), second in the green jersey competition, has claimed the conversation was about Cavendish, who is currently wearing the green jersey.

    "Phil and I complained about Cavendish,” Rojas said, according to and Gazzetta dello Sport. “Cavendish keeps hanging on to cars on the climbs.

    “We want a clean sport, not only in the fight against doping, but also about other things. We asked for a television camera to follow Cavendish in the race."

    Pescheux dismissed the accusations, saying to the Independent newspaper: “Rojas always looking for excuses to win. I have no problems with Cavendish." According to L'Equipe, the broom wagon driver also denied that Cavendish had cheated after being dropped by the gruppetto.

    Omega Pharma-Lotto manager Herman Frison said that "Philippe has not complained. He just had a little chat with Pescheux. The conversation was not about Cavendish. "

    All the sprinters will face a series of difficult climbs on Saturday, as the final stage in the Pyrenees features five climbs during the 168.5 km distance, before finishing up atop the Hors Categorie Plateau de Beille.  The...

  • Video: Danielson hangs tough in GC fight

    Thomas Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) moves into the top-ten overall with his 11th place finish.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 18:03 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Garmin-Cervélo rider in 9th overall

    Tom Danielson still holds a top ten spot at the Tour de France despite a cracking on the climb to Plateau de Beille on stage 14. The Garmin-Cervelo climber hit the final climb of the stage with all his GC rivals and looked strong on the initial slopes as teammate Christian Vande Velde rode tempo on the front.

    However Danielson was dropped when Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) attacked and despite dragging himself back to the leaders, the American lost contact soon after and was forced to race at his own pace. He finished 1:59 down on the stage winner but hung onto his top ten spot, and with the Pyrenees behind him, he lies in 9th overall.

    At the finish Danielson told reporters that he would be taking the Tour day-by-day and that although he’d lost over a minute to the first batch of GC riders he was pleased with his performance and the support of his teammates.

    Danielson came into the Tour as one of three potential GC threats within Garmin but after 14 stages of racing he’s Garmin’s only realistic option, with Vande Velde and Ryder Hesejdal both riding as his domestiques.

  • Voeckler celebrates staying in yellow at Plateau de Beille

    Race leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) finishes stage 13 in Lourdes.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 18:57 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Frenchman upbeat after staying with the big favourites

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) has survived through the Pyrenees in the yellow jersey, just as he did in 2004. And this time he finished with the big favourites of the race who carefully marked each other, allowing Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to win the stage.

    Voeckler punched the air as he crossed the line, just as he did in 2004 when he managed to hold off Lance Armstrong.

    “It’s difficult to compare with the equivalent stage seven years ago”, Voeckler commented after the finish. “I’ve managed to follow the favourites but I suffered a lot. I wasn’t interested in analysing the strength of each favourite. My goal was to save my yellow jersey but I thought it would be a question of a couple of seconds. I didn’t expect to finish with the favourites.”

    Voeckler was convinced that he wouldn’t be able to stay at the top of the GC after the three tough Pyrenean stages.

    “I’m really surprised. My hopes had grown in the last two days, I was less defeatist than before stage 12 to Luz Ardiden,” he said.

    “When I saw how windy it was in the valley prior to climbing to the Plateau de Beille, I thought my chance would be to hide from the wind as much as I could. I was hoping that attacks by the favourites wouldn’t last too long because if they were prolonged, I wouldn’t have been able to follow. The race ended up being very favourable for me. The leaders neutralized each other after every acceleration and I was always able to breathe and get back on the wheels.”

    Voeckler's performance bettered his result of 2004 when he finished 13th on stage 13 at Plateau de Beille. This time he finished seventh. Seven years ago, he crossed the line 4:42 behind Lance Armstrong, who out sprinted

  • Basso critical of Schleck tactics on Plateau de Beille

    Ivan Basso looked at ease following the wheel of teammate Sylvester Szmyd.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 19:30 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian wanted smaller lead group on final climb

    The status quo was maintained among the favourites for Tour de France victory at Plateau de Beille on Saturday but in the immediate aftermath of the stage, Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) was critical of Fränk and Andy Schleck's reluctance to seize the initiative from further out on the final climb.

    "I think that to make a difference, you shouldn't attack when there are still twenty riders in the group. You need to thin the group down to four or five," Basso said at the summit. "I think that if Andy and Fränk want to try and drop Cadel Evans and the others, they need to start their forcing earlier on the climbs, otherwise it will be difficult."

    Although the Schlecks' Leopard Trek squad was prominent in leading the peloton over the Port de Lers and on the run-in to Plateau de Beille, their pace-setting relented on the early slopes of the final climb.

    The Luxembourg duo launched a number of tentative attacks nearer the summit, while Basso himself also made a number of protracted efforts to try and snap the elastic. After changing in the back seat of his team car, a wrapped-up Basso emerged to explain to reporters that it had been nigh on impossible to escape from such a large yellow jersey group.

    "I believe that the attacks that really hurt are the ones that come from a small group of riders. When you're in a group of 20 riders, the attacks don't make any difference," Basso lamented. "It's clear that to make the difference on these climbs you needed to make it hard from the bottom."

    "For me to express myself to the best of my potential, I need to attack when there aren't many of us left. Today we didn't succeed in doing exactly what we wanted to."

  • Schleck brothers lament a lack of aggression from GC contenders

    Frank Schleck not looking so happy with stage 14's outcome
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 20:20 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Leopard Trek leaders fail to distance Contador

    The Tour de France stage to Plateau de Beille may have failed to provide the  fireworks Cadel Evans (BMC) expected amongst the big-name contenders, but the stage still offered a tense battle with a number of key rivals marking each other closely.

    Both Andy and Frank Schleck (Leopard) made several attacks but neither brother was able - or more possibly willing - to blow the race apart. Their manager Brian Nygaard suggested that most of the contenders for yellow were on a similar level but on reflection, the Leopard Trek camp may see the last stage in the Pyrenees as a missed opportunity.

    "We tried several times but the only other one that was a little bit interested was Ivan Basso," complained Frank Schleck at the finish.

    "All the others just looked at each other. Ivan, my brother and myself, we tried to actually race. Towards the end in the last two kilometres I was suffering but I was happy with my race."

    Historically, Plateau de Beille has served up a key indicator as to who would go on to win the Tour de France but today's ramifications can only truly be assessed in Paris in just over a week. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) again rode defensively, but could go on to find his feet later in the race.

    "Well, it doesn't seem like he has the upper hand like in the years before, so he is beatable," Frank Schleck said once he'd reached the Leopard Trek team bus.

    "Andy was very strong and it was perfect. I told him to go and when to wait and we had really good communication, but it's just a pity we couldn't take time out of anybody, but that's how it is. There's still a lot of days to come."

    Just a few metres away Saxo Bank's Bjarne Riis seemed slightly more upbeat – a complete contrast to the Riis that locked himself away in a team car with Contador after the stage finish to...

  • Vanendert enjoys first Tour de France stage win

    Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) took his first pro win in the Tour de France stage 14
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 20:49 BST
    Sam Dansie

    Belgian capitalises on GC stalemate

    First time Tour de France stage winner Jelle Vanendert put his scintillating form down to perfect race preparation, but insisted his performance on stage 14 was not extraordinary and benefited from the stalemate between the overall race contenders.

    After soloing away to his first professional victory on the 15.8km climb to Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees, the 26-year-old Omega Pharma-Lotto rider was ushered away to the stage podium and then the post-race press conference. There he was asked about his preparation for the Tour in which he has protected Philippe Gilbert during the first week and has ridden to two top finishes in the high mountains.

    "After the Classics I had an opportunity to take some rest and then I had training sessions in Italy and I came back at the Dauphine," he said. "In fact I'm in perfect condition for the Tour and I thank the team for giving me the opportunity.

    "The favourites had attacked several times before, especially Andy Schleck, and I thought that the favourites could do nothing more and they wanted to stay in control because they were aiming at the GC, which was not my case. Of course it was also better to be in the lead rather than have to chase every time somebody attacked."

    A journalist asked: "Your team owner Marc Coucke has said when he sees an extraordinary performance in cycling I don't think there is a new champion, I think wow, a new pill. Can you tell us why this is the wrong way to look at cycling?

    After a pause, Vanendert replied: "Difficult question. I don't consider what I did today a really great performance. What we saw today has been repeated in the past. For example in the Classics riders went 10km or more in the lead. And also today it was easier because the favourites were really...

  • Lelangue pleased with Pyrenean stalemate

    BMC's Cadel Evans pushes the pace.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 21:47 BST
    Barry Ryan

    BMC manager enjoys "quiet stage"

    It was another day of stalemate among the overall contenders at the Tour de France, but BMC manager John Lelangue could scarcely hide his delight with the way stage 14 turned out for his leader Cadel Evans

    The summit finish at Plateau de Beille saw a number of tentative attacks in the yellow jersey group, but only Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) succeeded in getting any purchase on his acceleration. In a tense finale, Evans was well able to cope with the pressing of Andy and Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), and remains in third place, 2:01 off the overall lead.

    "In our situation, we don't have problems," a smiling Lelangue told Cyclingnews after the finish. "We're in a situation where we can play defensively. We had to react to different attacks and reacted each time, whether it was to Fränk or to Andy or to Basso."

    Although Sanchez succeeded in chipping another 25 seconds off his deficit to the other contenders with a clever attack near the top of the climb, Lelangue said that Evans's two-minute buffer over the Spaniard meant that he opted not to follow him.

    "As for Samuel, we knew that we had a time gap of two minutes over him," Lelangue explained. "So for us, it was a quiet stage."

    After the stage, Ivan Basso criticised the Schleck brothers for not trying to thin out the leading group by beginning their forcing from the foot of Plateau de Beille. Lelangue was reluctant to weigh in on any tactical polemic, however, pointing out that his sole focus was BMC.

    "Every team manager is making the tactics that he wants," Lelangue said. "I'm not criticizing other teams. I make my strategy with my group to make the best Tour possible and...

  • Voeckler a Tour de France contender, says Armstrong

    Thomas Voeckler can't believe he is getting another maillot jaune.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 22:44 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Frenchman unshakable on final Pyrenean stage

    The Tour de France has exited the Pyrenees, and in a surprising turn of events, the general classification favourites have been unable to wrest the yellow jersey from the shoulders of the courageous Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.

    Even seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong took note of the performance, today indicating via Twitter that he thought Voeckler could win the Tour de France if he made it to the top of the Plateau de Beille with the leaders, which he did.

    Armstrong himself had to go up against Voeckler's steely resolve in the 2004 Tour de France, and while he was able to finally unseat the Frenchman on the first day in the Alps.

    "He wasn't 'swinging off the back' today," Armstrong said. "He was one of the strongest. The others weren't assertive and/or aggressive enough to make a selection," Armstrong said.

    "He has 2:06 on Evans. Final TT is 42km. He's French. It's the Tour de France. He won't lose 2:06 in the final time trial assuming he keeps them close on Alpe d'Huez. His teammate Pierre Rolland has been a rock star and has to continue to be. Lastly, the dude knows how to suffer. Will be fun to watch."

    We could see Voeckler in the race lead through stage 17, but a look at what the riders' future holds casts a reasonable shadow of doubt over Armstrong's predictions.

    The Europcar captain holds a 1:49 lead on Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek), while perennial Tour contender Cadel Evans (BMC) is third at 2:06. Last year's runner-up Andy Schleck is at 2:15, while defending champion Alberto Contador is a full four minutes behind Voeckler.

    There are still three stages where the contenders can reasonable pull back those minutes on Voeckler and easily distance each other with a particularly good...