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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 23, 2011

Date published:
July 23, 2011, 19:00
  • Video: Merckx talks about a spectacular couple of days in the Alps

    Eddy Merckx was on hand to congratulate Andy Schleck.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 04:08
    By:
    Cycling News

    Belgian great praises the performances of Schleck, Contador and Evans

    Five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx was full of praise for the spectacle taking place at this year's Tour de France. The Belgian was particularly impressed with the efforts of Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Sungard), Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) and Cadel Evans (BMC).

    "What Contador did today was amazing," Merckx said to Cyclingnews. "Okay, he didn't win the stage, but to go out and attack from so far out was incredible."

    "Even Evans on the Galibier - after the bike change, it was very special."

    Merckx also explained that while Voeckler's ride in the Tour had been 'gutsy', the French could look to stage winner Pierre Rolland for future Grand Tour success.

    Watch the full interview below.

  • Grenoble showdown could see close Tour de France margin of victory

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Cadel Evans (BMC) among the favorites
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 08:01
    By:
    Laura Weislo

    Evans expected to bear down on Schleck, but by how much?

    The time gaps between the top three riders in the general classification of the Tour de France aren't the smallest they've ever been heading into the decisive time trial, but considering the pedigree of Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck and Cadel Evans in the race against the clock, Saturday's 42.5km test in Grenoble could result in one of history's closest Tours de France.

    Andy Schleck holds a 53 second lead over his brother, and 57 seconds on Evans, while former yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler is 2:10 in arrears.

    The younger of the brothers said following his yellow jersey winning performance on l'Alpe d'Huez that he was confident of holding onto the jersey tomorrow.

    "We have an extremely important day tomorrow. We know Cadel is a time trial specialist, and I’m not. I still think I stand a chance. A time trial at the end of a three week tour is different than a time trial on any other day," Schleck said.

    Whether or not he can fend off the challenge from the Australian will only be answered on the course on Saturday, but a look back at history can give some indication of how close the standings will be at day's end.

    So far this season, neither Schleck brother has showed great promise in the time trials: Andy Schleck was 2:11 adrift of his teammate Fabian Cancellara's 41:01 in the 32 km test at the Tour de Suisse, while Fränk Schleck was 3:06 behind.

    Evans, who chose to preview the Grenoble time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné was 1:20 behind Tony Martin's winning time of 55:27, while Voeckler put in his strongest time trial performance to date, 3:18 back. The Frenchman could still pull himself onto the podium, but it's an outside chance.

    That choice to race the Dauphiné may prove to be Evans's winning edge, as Schleck himself admitted he had not yet ridden the course. "Kim Andersen tells me the course suits me well. I didn’t do a reconnaissance, but I saw it on television when the peloton did it on the Dauphiné, so I have a clue what it’s like."

    Simply looking at past performances and time gaps between the riders is not enough to help guess exactly what might happen in the heat of the moment in Grenoble tomorrow: the accumulated fatigue could sap the strength of riders like Andy Schleck, whose 60km raid and lengthy stint in the breakaway on Friday added up to more time spent in the wind than Evans, although Evans himself did a large portion of the chasing both days.

    However you look at the numbers, the gaps are likely to be tantalisingly close tomorrow, and could be a repeat of the scenario seen in last year's Tour.

    While Evans was having the worst Tour of his career in 2010, Andy Schleck, battling Contador by a slim eight seconds on the general classification, put in his career's best time trial performance. While neither Schleck nor Contador would come within five minutes of Fabian Cancellara's winning time of 1:00:53 on the 52km course, Schleck conceded just 31 seconds to the Spaniard.

    Looking back to the scintillating final time trial of the 2008 Tour de France, which also took place on the Tour's penultimate stage with a 53km route from Cérilly to Saint Amand Montrond, one can get a glimpse of how Evans compares to the elder Schleck brother against the clock.

    That year, Fränk Schleck was 1:24 behind Spaniard Carlos Sastre in the general classification heading into the time trial, while Cadel Evans, also with an eye on the maillot jaune, was 1:34 behind. Andy Schleck had been dropped in the Pyrenees and was out of the picture at 10:04.

    Evans could only get 29 seconds on Sastre, who put in the time trial of his life in the maillot jaune. He put 1:57 into Andy Schleck, while Fränk Schleck finished a whopping 3:33 slower than the Australian, dropping off the podium entirely. The winning time was 1:04:11, about nine minutes longer than what we expect to see in Grenoble.

    One has to remember that Evans suffered a nasty crash in the Pyrenees in 2008, and that likely affected his performance in the test that year. This year, the Schlecks and Evans have been fortunate enough to escape the first 19 stages unscathed.

    In 2009, the main time trial of the Tour de France was of a similar length to the Grenoble course, but the 41km test in Annecy came before the final mountain push up the Mont Ventoux. Coming into the stage, Contador already led the Tour by 2:26 and 3:25 over Andy and Fränk Schleck, respectively, while Evans's bad stage on the previous day put him 37 minutes behind on GC.

    On the day, Evans was 30 seconds quicker than Andy Schleck, while Fränk Schleck was 1:20 slower than the Australian on a rolling course, but none of the three had much hope of overtaking Contador to win the Tour.

    In short, Evans is nearly always faster than Andy Schleck when he comes into a time trial on good form, but the big question is how much quicker he can be.
     

  • Video: Thomas and Boasson Hagen recap the last week of the Tour de France

    Geraint Thomas (Sky) earned the combativity prize for his efforts.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 09:33
    By:
    Cycling News

    A video blog from the two Team Sky roommates

    Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) have enjoyed a successful Tour de France. Thomas wore the white jersey early in the race before being one of the main protagonists in a break in the Pyrenees, which won him the most aggressive rider prize for the stage. Boasson Hagen has been everywhere, following the breaks, taking part in the bunch sprints and most recently winning solo on the road to Pinerolo.

    The two are also roommates and have been recording a video blog on geraintthomas.com. In their latest entry they reflect on the last week of the Tour and knowing the end is in sight.

    "It must be nice to have to pick which of your two wins is better," Thomas jokes to Boasson Hagen.

    Check out the full video below.

    Credit: geraintthomas.com

  • CAS schedules cycling hearings for August and September

    Alberto Contador gained only the most aggressive rider's prize for his efforts.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 10:21
    By:
    Cycling News

    Contador, Ullrich and Astarloza cases to be heard

    Two Tour de France champions will have hearings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in August.  Alberto Contador's hearing will be at the beginning of August, with Jan Ullrich having his day later in the month.  In addition, Mikel Astarloza's case will be heard by the court in mid-September.

    The International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency are appealing the decision by the Spanish cycling federation RFEC over Contador's positive doping control for Clenbuterol from the Tour de France 2010.  The REFC cleared him from the charges, saying he had “inadvertantly ingested a banned product” through no fault of his own.  The hearings are scheduled for August 1, 2 and 3.

    Ullrich's case stems from appeals filed in March 2010, with no explanation given as to why it had taken so long to schedule the hearings.  The UCI is appealing the Swiss cycling federation decision to drop its doping investigation of the 1997 Tour winner, saying it had no jurisdiction over him since he had retired. His hearing is scheduled for August 22.

    Astarloza tested positive for EPO in June 2009.  He was suspended for two years, with the ban recently ending.  He is said to expect to return to racing this season. Astarloza's hearings are for September 15 and 16.

  • Cunego under no pressure ahead of Grenoble time trial

    Damiano Cunego is satisfied with his performance in this year's Tour de France.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 11:09
    By:
    Cycling News

    Italian set for best Tour de France finish

    Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) begins the Tour de France’s decisive time trial defending fifth place with just a 27-second buffer over Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard), but regardless of the outcome, the Italian insisted that he will be pleased with his race.

    “I knew I’d do a good Tour, but I would have settled beforehand to be in the top 10,” Cunego told Gazzetta dello Sport, after a strong showing on l’Alpe d’Huez saw him retain his position in general classification.

    In spite of a first week that seemed ideally suited to a rider of Cunego’s punchy characteristics, the man from Cerro Veronese decided to stake everything on securing a high overall placing in Paris.

    “Here you have to decide – you either ride for the general classification or for stage wins,” Cunego explained. “You can’t get everything.”

    A precocious Giro d’Italia winner in 2004, Cunego has never scaled such heights in the Grand Tours since. Top five finishes at the Giro in 2006 and 2007 and the white jersey in the 2006 Tour de France was the best he could manage, and Cunego’s focus turned increasingly towards the Classics in recent years. After skipping this year’s Giro, however, he arrived at the Tour fresh and motivated.

    “I know that you don’t consider me capable of these things anymore and I understand that. But in my heart, I’ve always been convinced that I am a rider for the Classics and the Grand Tours,” Cunego said.

    Cunego’s steady march to a high overall placing has been built largely around riding within his limits. When he struggled to follow the attacks on Plateau de Beille, he opted to sit up and follow his own rhythm to the summit. Nearing the summit of l’Alpe d’Huez, however, Cunego finally opted to put in an acceleration of his own.

    “Yes, but it was the last climb of the Tour and we were close to the line, so I tried to gain something,” Cunego said.

    With a scant 27 seconds in hand over Contador, and a final day time trial defeat at the Tour de Suisse still fresh in his mind, Cunego was philosophical about saving his fifth place in Grenoble on Saturday afternoon. “I can only guarantee that I’ll give my best, then we’ll see,” he said.

     


     

  • Leukemans sorry to end Tour early

    Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) finished third overall.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 11:46
    By:
    Cycling News

    Vacansoleil rider was “empty” on Alpine stages

    Bjorn Leukemans has finished his first and most likely last Tour de France.  The Vacansoleil-DCM rider missed the time limit on Friday's stage which finished atop the Alpe d'Huez, crossing the line over half an hour behind winner Pierre Rolland of Europcar.

    The gruppetto containing green jersey Mark Cavendish, amongst others, finished outside the time limit on the past two stages, but the race jury allowed them to stay in the race. 

    However, on Friday, the jury was not as merciful to Leukemans, who finished nearly eight minutes over the limit, while the gruppetto was only 20 seconds down.

    "Sorry, but unfortunately it ends here," said Leukemans, according to Sportwereld. be. "Today I had my worst day of this race. Right from the first climb I was alone. I saw a group of twenty riders ahead of me, but I couldn't catch up. 

    “With Contador going so fast and my very bad legs, it was basically the start of an impossible thing. Once I was alone, I knew enough. The vessel was empty. "

    Leukemans had previously said that he did not want to ride the Tour again, as it did not suit his abilities.

  • Belgian teams scrambling for 2012 sponsors and riders

    Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) holding onto the green jersey.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 12:27
    By:
    Cycling News

    Quick Step talking to Cavendish, Omega Pharma to Vacansoleil

    Two top Belgian teams are still scrambling to find sponsors and new riders for the coming season.  Omega Pharma is to hold talks next week with Vacansoleil-DCM about merging, while Quick Step is talking to top sprinter Mark Cavendish.

    Cavendish, who has won four Tour de France stages, currently rides for HTC-Highroad, which is losing HTC as a sponsor at the end of this year.  Team owner Bob Stapleton had said he would announce the team's future next month, but according to Sportwereld, the sprinter wants to make his decision this coming week.

    His name has been most often associated with Sky, but this week Cavendish has been talking with other teams, including Patrick Lefevere of Quick Step, Sportwereld said.

    Lefevere is also holding talks with Alejandro Valverde, who  is currently serving a two-year doping suspension.  However, due to the suspension, the Spaniard would not bring the necessary WorldTour points to a new team, which the Belgian website said makes him “less interesting” to Quick Step, which currently ranks 17 out of 18 on points.

    Omega Pharma and Lotto are splitting at the end of this season, with both saying they want to continue sponsorship separately in the future. Omega Pharma's Marc Coucke is looking for another team to merge with for 2012.  After negotiations with Quick Step failed, he has now turned to Vacansoleil, Sportwereld said.

    The Dutch team has also announced that it is looking for additional sponsors for the coming season.

  • Tony Martin saves his Tour de France

    Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) winner of the stage 20 time trial in Grenoble.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2011, 18:16
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    HTC rider repeats Grenoble time trial win

    After losing out on his initial objective of contending for the general classification, Tony Martin made a spectacular come-back at the Tour de France on its penultimate stage in Grenoble. Winning the stage seven seconds ahead of overall winner Cadel Evans (BMC), the German repeated his feat of the Dauphiné time trial on the very same course, thereby netting the fifth stage win so far for his team and the very first for himself.

    "This is the realisation of a dream that I have had for a long time," Martin admitted after the race. "It's true, you could say that this is way of saving my Tour. When I saw that wasn't going to be able to fight for the GC because I couldn't follow the best in the mountains, my only goal was to win this time trial. So I got the victory and it's a very nice end to this Tour de France for me."

    The HTC rider lost around nine minutes on the very first mountain climb of the Tour, the Tourmalet in the Pyrenees, and conceded even more time on the way to Plateau de Beille. In the Alps, he even had to join the gruppetto - but perhaps this was what made the German stay fresh enough to perform almost as well as he had more than one month ago. Today, he was only seven seconds slower than at the Dauphiné on June 8.

    "Definitely my legs were more tired than four weeks ago, but I had learned a lot from the time trial in the Dauphiné," Martin explained. "So my rhythm was a bit different than back then, I knew where the important parts were on the course. Therefore I was stronger, but my legs definitely felt weaker at the end of this Tour de France."

    The detailed knowledge of the parcours was what made the difference in the winner's view. "I started out feeling really well and with all the self-confidence that I had from my victory in the Dauphiné. I knew the course and rode my own rhythm, I was able to make up quite a lot of time on the long descent.

    "I think I had an advantage on that descent with regard to other riders because of my size and power, it was a very hard descent where you had to continue pushing the pedals quite a lot."

    Another master of the discipline, Fabian Cancellara from Leopard Trek, finished 1:42 behind Martin. "That's a lot, perhaps his conditions on the road were not the same as mine. But I think in future I will battle a lot against him," the German added, admitting that he may set back his GC goals in the future to favour the competitions in which he succeeds: time trials and shorter stage races.
     

    Tags:
    Tour de France