- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 05:10
- Brecht Decaluwé
Climber gives Belgian fans something to cheer about
As the Tour de France rolls towards its tough final week in the Pyrenees Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) lies in fifth position in the general classification, currently trailing leader Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) by 3:51. His strong performance on the short, steep climb to the runway in Mende strengthened that position as the 26-year-old finished in fourth place, gaining time on rivals Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank).
To many, the Belgian might be considered as the most surprising rider in the general classification, although his presence comes after steadily making progressions since turning pro in 2004.
As a youngster, the man from Morkhoven, east of Antwerp, claimed the win in the time trial at the world championships of 2001. Since then the Flemish rider has grown quietly in the teams of Johan Bruyneel (US Postal and Discovery Channel) and since 2007 he's developed into a stage racer at the Belgian Lotto team (Predictor-Lotto, Silence-Lotto and now Omega Pharma-Lotto).
From 2008 the results started to come, finishing sixth in the Giro d'Italia and last year he finished 15th while debuting in la grande boucle. If he can avoid an off day it seems obvious that he'll be bettering that result this year.
Before the Tour de France, Van den Broeck declared his aspirations of a top 10 result but now the top five seems realistic. "I'm still going for the top 10. It would be stupid to think it's over already, there's still a week of racing left; anything can happen," he told Cyclingnews.
When asked what he thought during today's stage when he looked back on the final climb and noticed that he had dropped Andy Schleck, Van den Broeck replied, "Nothing, I only thought about reaching the top." Clearly the Belgian is modest even though he's not hiding away in the peloton.
During the Alpine mountain stages he was always riding in the front of the peloton, right behind the leading team but ahead of riders like Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.
Today his team led the peloton on the first stretches of the climb heading towards the runway that held the finishing straight. "The team has a lot of confidence in me and that's pleasant. First there was [Sebastian] Lang who did a perfect job and then [Daniel] Moreno; everybody was super. They perfectly set the pace. I think we showed balls by taking the initiative on the climb," Van den Broeck explained.
He only lost 10 seconds on Contador and gained time on direct rivals Levi Leipheimer and Robert Gesink, finishing together with Andy Schleck.
The time loss Schleck was to be expected according to Van den Broeck, who added that he would lose more time later in this Tour de France. "I'm not expecting him to bonk but I expect him to have one less good day. It can happen to me as well. Every day is important in the Tour, especially if you're in the mix for the general classification.
"I'm hoping that I already had my off-day, on the Col de la Madeleine. [losing almost three minutes on Schleck and Contador]. Of course I'm worried that I can have an off-day in one of the three mountain stages in the Pyrenees.
"To me there are only three mountain stages left. The stage to Pau [stage 16] is a very tough stage but for the general classification it shouldn't be taken into account. The Peyresourde will hurt at the beginning but the other stages are much more important."
The way he is riding right now, Van den Broeck's fifth place is well deserved. Taking in account his excellent skills against the clock for the 52km time trial on the penultimate day it seems that his own goal of claiming a top10 result in Paris seems a reachable one.
It's been a long time since the Belgian cycling fans had a true Grand Tour rider to cheer for but with Van den Broeck they've surely got one again.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 09:50
- Cycling News
Veterans to continue with Vacansoleil and Rabobank
Bjorn Leukemans and Graeme Brown have extended their contracts with their respective teams. Leukemans is now with Vacansoleil through 2012, and Brown with Rabobank through 2011.
Leukemans, 32, joined Vacansoleil in 2009 following a six-month suspension after a positive test for artificial testosterone. While he has no wins this season, he has a number of top ten finishes, including fourth in the Tour of Flanders and sixth in Paris-Roubaix.
“Bjorn is extremely important to us because of his experience and skills in many areas,” said team manager Daan Luijkx. “I am pleased that we have extended his contract and we will have a lot of fun with him over the next two and a half years.”
Brown, 31, has been with Rabobank since 2006. The Australian sprinter has brought in 14 wins over the years, plus three wins in the Australian criterium series the Jayco Bay Classic. After a number of top ten finishes this year he had his first victory of the season last weekend in the Tour of Austria.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 11:13
- Cycling News
Team Sky captain puts his ride into perspective
Despite not flying the Team Sky flag as high as he'd like at this point in the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins hasn't written off his race this year - rather he's focusing on his strengths to help deliver something in the final week.
While the Briton looked good on the Col de la Ramaz during stage eight he suffered losses of 1:45 on the final climb of the day to Morzine-Avoriaz and finished the next day to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in 30th, 4:55 behind stage winner Sandy Casar.
It's added up to 16th place overall, 7:39 down on race leader Andy Schleck and far from the lofty heights of last year's Tour, which saw him finish fourth overall in Paris. Wiggins says the 2010 Tour is a different beast and consequently he's playing it differently.
"If I don't come fourth or better this year it can be seen as failure by some people, so I set myself up for this last year," Wiggins told British newspaper The Guardian. "You always want to back yourself, otherwise it would be like going to a boxing match and saying you don't give yourself a chance. You always have to give yourself a chance, but I wasn't going to say my goal was top 15 or top 10 or top five.
"Physically I'm good, mentally I'm OK," he continued. "I had one instant of disappointment when I realised I wasn't with the best of them [on stage eight], but you can either sulk or try to make the best of it."
A means of "making the most of it" is by putting in a strong performance in the final time trial, where he could make up that time lost to the mountain specialists earlier in the race and entrench himself in the top 10 as a result, as he explained.
"It was a case of recovering through the Alps; I'm two minutes off ninth place today and I can get two minutes on most of the guys in the last 50km time trial. I still believe I have a top 10 ride in me. Consistency will be the key in this Tour. It's a question of not having great days or bad days. If I can do that I can be within touching distance of a lot of guys in the final time trial."
And according to Wiggins, two significant factors in why this year's Tour has panned out so differently are the incredible form of the top two, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, and the format of la grande boucle in 2010.
"You can't account for how good Alberto Contador is, you don't know how controlled a race it's going to be," he said. "I didn't begin to realise what the best I could do in this Tour was until this stage in the race.
"The reality is that I'm not with Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck, but then behind those two there is a big gaggle of guys down to about 15th, and the order we are in could well be tipped on its head in the Pyrenees.
"At this point last year, we hadn't had anything like the stages we've had now," he said. "There was a long prologue, a team time trial that separated the GC [general classification] contenders quite a bit, a summit finish where I held on to a 15-rider lead group, and Contador, [Lance] Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden all in the same team and up there overall."
Despite admitting that some will be disappointed in his performance if he doesn't match his feats of 2009, Wiggins is maintaining perspective on his progress from Olympic medal-winning track specialist to Grand Tour general classification contender.
"This is the first year I've been doing this," said Wiggins. "Last year I didn't set out to come fourth, and this year my build-up programme was based around last year. We may change things in the future, perhaps we won't go to the Giro d'Italia. I was seventh overall with a week to go there, perhaps I went too deep.
"Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre and myself all rode hard in the Giro and aren't in the front echelon here. Last year, on the other hand, Leipheimer, Armstrong and myself did the Giro and we were up there in the Tour.
"It took me years to master the pursuit. I know the pursuit and the Tour are two different kinds of race, but it took a time to get the preparation for it nailed.
"I will always remember one thing that [Garmin manager] Jonathan Vaughters said to me last year: if I get a route based around my strengths I can finish on the podium. Last year I was 30 seconds off third place; this year I will take whatever I can get."
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 11:52
- Cycling News
Grand jury subpoena issued to triple Tour winner
Greg LeMond has been served with a grand jury subpoena as part of the US Federal Food and Drug Administration probe into the alleged doping practices of the US Postal Cycling Team, according to The NY Daily News.
The investigation centres around the revelations of Floyd Landis in recent months, which include allegations that Lance Armstrong and other members of the team doped whilst on the US Postal squad, all of which have been denied by the seven-time Tour de France champion thus far.
The subpoena, which was issued by a grand jury in the US District Court of the Central District of California, demands documents and testimony from LeMond concerning his knowledge of the alleged practices of the four teams for which Armstrong has ridden since his return from cancer in 1998: US Postal Service, Discovery Channel, Astana, and Radio Shack.
Food and Drug Administration criminal investigator Jeff Novitzky, who uncovered the BALCO doping ring in 2003, has already enjoyed the co-operation of several riders who agreed to speak with investigators as the probe gathers momentum, the aim of which is to discover whether Armstrong and members of his teams committed sporting fraud by allegedly using money from sponsors to undertake an elaborate doping program that may have helped the American win seven Tour de France titles.
Armstrong recently commented on the situation from France, where he is currently riding the Tour de France for Team RadioShack under the directorship of Johan Bruyneel, who, according to Landis' statements, was also involved in suspect practices. Both men vehemently deny the allegations and have moved to discredit Landis.
The NY Daily News reports that the subpoena "orders LeMond to appear at a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on July 30 to answer questions from the grand jury, which meets in strict secrecy. Witnesses testify under oath and may not be accompanied inside the room by an attorney".
LeMond's wife, Kathy, told the publication: "We are overjoyed. I hope the truth will come out."
It comes after years of bitter dispute between the first American winner of the Tour de France, LeMond, and arguably the best-known, Armstrong, which started in 2001 when LeMond spoke with British journalist and LA Confidentiel co-author David Walsh about Armstrong's relationship with disgraced Italian doctor Michele Ferrari. The feud eventually spilled over into the commercial sphere, with Trek Bicycle Corporation dropping the LeMond brand of bicycles which it had hitherto distributed.
The NY Daily News reported last week that the Trek Bicycle Corporation was also subpoenaed for documents as part of the investigation after Landis' allegations that its bicycles were sold during his tenure with US Postal when it sponsored the squad. And while Armstrong has denied those claims, LeMond has still been ordered to produce documentation relating to his dealing with Trek.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 12:05
- Cycling News
Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium race six of series
This Saturday marks the 24th running of the Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium and the 6th event out of nine on the USA CRITS series. Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable) goes into the weekend leading the men's standings after winning the Iron Hill Twilight Criterium last week. The race is not part of the women's series.
Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis) and Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis) will both be present and racing in the Maxxis Best Young Rider jersey presented by Cyclingnews and the Sportsbase Online Lap Leader jersey presented by VeloNews, respectively.
All three jersey leaders will be in attendance, as well as top USA CRITS Teams Jamis-Sutter Home presented by Colavita, Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's, Kenda Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder, and CRCA/Foundation.
"The Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium has always been the tipping point in the overall," says Gene Dixon, Managing Director of the USA CRITS Series. "Boise is a key event to not only attend, but to do well in for those teams aiming at winning the Series."
Barrows will have a tough time this weekend as he will be racing solo with no teammates; Clarke will be racing solo, as well. Howe has a strong Mountain Khakis team surrounding him and could look at re-taking the overall. However, the team to beat this weekend is Jamis-Sutter Home, which is sending a hit squad, including 2007 USA CRITS Champion Frank Travieso, current NRC leader Luis Amaran, the Borrajo brothers, Nick Frey, and Cuban strong-man, Ivan Dominguez.
The USA CRITS Women's Series will return to racing August 7 at the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational in Charlotte, NC.
Current USA CRITS Overall presented by Champion System
1. Clayton Barrows (AXA Equitable)
2. Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's)
3. Neil Bezdek (Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's)
Current Maxxis Best Young Rider presented by Cyclingnews.com
Isaac Howe (Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's)
Current Sportsbase Online Lap Leader presented by VeloNews
Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis)
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 13:16
- Cycling News
The peloton saddles up for the road to Revel
The bunch gathered for Rodez for the start this morning in overcast but warm conditions. On a day for the opportunists, the overall contenders and sprinters alike looked quite relaxed ahead of proceedings. Andy Schleck, resplendent in yellow, was all smiles for the cameras, while Alberto Contador seemed quietly content with his work yesterday on the Montee Laurent Jalabert.
Mark Cavendish may still be smarting over the ejection of his teammate Mark Renshaw, but the HTC-Columbia man nonetheless has a spring in his step these days after refinding his winning touch. The same cannot be said of Lance Armstrong (RadioShack). He arrived late to the startline today, his troubles seemingly mounting on and off the bike. The hapless Texan then proceeded to have yet another crash in the neutral zone, although he would emerge relatively unscathed.
View our start line photo gallery here.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 18:08
- Stephen Farrand
Hushovd admits to lacking sprinting speed
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) stood gasping for breath just after the finish line in Revel as he waited to hear if he had scored enough points to retake the green jersey from main rival Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam).
Neither his team nor race officials were able to give an answer and so he set off, without a smile and without speaking to the media, for the Lampre team bus. A few minutes later he came back, this time with a smile on his face, knowing he was about to pull on the green jersey again.
"Cavendish beat me in the sprint for second but I scored points on Thor and got the jersey back. That's the important thing," he said after pulling on the green jersey.
Petacchi added 26 to his tally of now 187 points, while Hushovd was only eighth, scoring only 18 points and is now two points behind Petacchi. Mark Cavendish moved past Robbie McEwen still lags 25 points behind the lead and will have a difficult time making up that deficit.
"I think there will still be two sprints, in Bordeaux and Paris. I just have to control Thor in the intermediate sprints. He was clever
yesterday and got away. It's important he's doesn't get away in the Pyrenees."
Petacchi revealed he knew that Alexander Vinokourov was going to win the stage and that he was sprinting for second place. He decided to hit the front early to secure as many points as possible.
"It was a good finish for the sprinters but we hit the climb hard and our legs were tired. I knew Vino was away and knew he would win. That kind of attack is what Vino does best. I kept on Hushovd's wheel on the climb and we went up it fast and down the descent just as fast. I went early in the sprint to make sure I was at the front to make sure I got some points."
"Cavendish was strong. He didn't get over the climb at the front but he got back on with two kilometres to go and did well to win the bunch
sprint. He's still fast but it'll be difficult for him to get back in the battle for green. I think that is a head to head battle between me and Thor and might only be decided on the Champs Elysees."
Hushovd blames collarbone fracture for speed problems
Thor Hushovd was not smiling when he arrived at the Cervelo TestTeam bus. He was not happy with eighth place in the sprint. He revealed that he is lacking finishing speed after rushing his comeback following his collarbone fracture in early May.
“I am just a little bit disappointed and confused that I am not sprinting as well. Two months ago I broke my collarbone and haven’t
done any sprint training, and I am paying for this now,” he said.
Hushovd admitted that it will also be difficult for him to score points in intermediate sprints because of the position of the sprints
during the stages in the Pyrenees.
“I think it will be difficult to score more points because the intermediate sprints come on the flat early in the stage or after the
big climbs. I am climbing well, but I think it will be difficult,” he said.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2010, 18:42
- Peter Cossins
Kazakh says he will now focus on Contador’s yellow jersey challenge
Twenty-four hours after what had seemed like a stage-winning attack at Mende had been snuffed out by his own team leader, Astana’s road captain Alexander Vinokourov celebrated what he described as “a victory that ranks among my very best” in Revel.
Like his success in April at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it also assisted in his rehabilitation – although perhaps not in the eyes of all bike fans – after two years out of the sport following his ban for blood doping during the 2007 Tour.
The 36-year-old Kazakh had been extremely disappointed to miss out at Mende, but felt he still had a chance of success in Revel despite his exertions the day before. “I knew I had good legs even after the attack yesterday, but we talked about it beforehand and decided it was best to stay in the bunch because it was a hard stage with lots of wind,” explained the Astana veteran.
“I was very tired but not in my head. But I knew the final climb really well and I also knew that as soon as the bunch caught the break there would be lots of attacks. That was just how it turned out. I chased after and caught Luis León Sánchez initially and then Alessandro Ballan, then I counterattacked and decided to give all I had to the end of the stage.
"I knew it would be difficult but my team protected me. I think it was important after the disappointment of yesterday. This win will give the team huge motivation for the next few stages in the Pyrenees.”
Looking rather more subdued than his words suggested he felt, Vinokourov added that as an amateur rider he had been told that winning any stage of the Tour de France was like winning the world championship, and he felt his Revel stage ably demonstrated that. “This win isn’t only for me. It’s for my family and for my country because I think that the people in Kazakhstan were disappointed yesterday because both myself and Alberto missed out on the stage win.”
Vinokourov acknowledged that Revel was probably his last chance of winning a stage, although he quipped: “There’s always the Champs Elysées, though…” in reference to his cannily taken stage victory in Paris in 2005. But he said his focus will now be on doing all he can to help Contador win the Tour.
“We have to concentrate on the yellow jersey now and I think that with Alberto we are very confident that we can get it and the whole team are feeling very motivated for that goal,” he said.
With the capture of the yellow jersey in mind, the Kazakh described the Astana team as “stronger than Saxo because they have already ridden on the front a lot in this race. The loss of Frank [Schleck] makes their team a lot weaker of course when it comes to providing support for Andy and that may well have an impact in the mountains.”
Vinokourov concluded by saying he will almost certainly keep racing through to the end of 2011 and is likely to target November’s Asian Games Guangzhou, China.