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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 23, 2011

Date published:
July 23, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • 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, 4:08 BST
    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, 8:01 BST
    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...

  • 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, 9:33 BST
    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 BST
    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...

  • 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 BST
    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....

  • Leukemans sorry to end Tour early

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