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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 7, 2012

Date published:
July 07, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • "Lucky" Leipheimer still in Tour contention

    Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 9:26 BST
    Peter Cossins

    American says Planche des Belles Filles finish will be first key moment

    Levi Leipheimer was one of the few overall contenders who emerged from yesterday's crash-affected stage to Metz without a scratch and is now looking forward to the battle for the Tour de France's overall title getting fully under way at the La Planche des Belles Filles summit finish on Saturday.

    "It's definitely going to become clear who's strong and who the favourites are. It's simple math really. If someone gets dropped big-time then they are simply not going to be in it," said the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team leader.

    Leipheimer said he feels that his form is good, but pointed out that it is difficult to make predictions heading into the mountains for the first time. "I feel good but we haven't really been put to the test," he said.

    He acknowledged that fortune has gone his way so far in the Tour. "Knock on wood, I've been very lucky in this Tour. I've been close to five or six crashes but I've missed them, so I'm thankful for that. It was important that we had the whole team on the front at the right moment so we're still in it.

    "I stayed up front ahead of the crash and someone said there was only 40 or 50 guys left. I don't know what happened. One moment it got windy, it got fast. It's the Tour de France. If you're at the front you're OK. But everyone's so strong that the speed can snap the peloton and there's no coming back from it," he said.

  • Hesjedal pulls out of the Tour de France

    A battered Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) crosses the finish line in Metz more than 13 minutes off the pace.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 10:11 BST
    Cycling News

    Giro d'Italia winner not fit to continue after yesterday's crash

    Garmin-Sharp have revealed that this year's Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal has pulled out of the 2012 Tour de France ahead of today's seventh stage from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles.

    Hesjedal suffered injuries to his left hip and leg in yesterday's horror crash 25km from the finish. Numerous riders were involved in the incident and Hesjedal, who had started the day in the top ten in the general classification, lost over 13 minutes to drop out of contention. More of a problem is the pain he is in, however, and the Canadian and his team have decided that he is unable to continue.

    "Hesjedal is not going to start. Sad, but he'll be back," Garmin-Sharp team boss Jonathan Vaughters wrote on his Twitter account.

    Almost all of Hesjedal's Garmin-Sharp teammates were involved in the crash and the team has had a nightmare first week of the Tour de France. Crack sprinter Tyler Farrar has hit the floor four times already, while Tom Danielson abandoned yesterday after his second heavy fall of the race.

  • The pain continues: Tour de France stage 6 injury update

    The Tour de France is over for Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 10:43 BST
    Cycling News

    Many riders seriously injured in closing crash

    The list of riders injured in Friday's sixth stage of the Tour de France continues to grow, and it will be a noticeably smaller peloton at the start on Saturday.

    Hubert Dupont of AG2R was one of the seriously injured,suffering a fracture of the right distal radius and a fracture in the first lumbar vertebra, as well as a severely sprained left ankle. He will be off the bike for a minimum of 45 days, the team reported.

    Maarten Wynants, who was in an early crash, sufferied two broken ribs plus a puncture lung. The Rabobank rider finished the stage, but was taken to hospital where he had immediate surgery. He must stay there at least five days.

    Garmin-Sharp have lost two riders, with one questionable. Tom Danielson is out with multiple injuries including a separated left shoulder, sprained neck, chest contusions and multiple extensive deep abrasions.

    Both Johan Van Summeren and Ryder Hesjedal finished the stage. Van Summeren suffered a sprained right shoulder and upper back as well as multiple abrasions and is rated as questionable for today. Hesjedal has a massive hematoma on his left hip and leg and has pulled out of the race.

  • Frustration hurts more than injuries for Rabobank captains

    Robert Gesink (Rabobank) was involved in the crash and had to chase on his own, losing over three minutes
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 11:37 BST
    Peter Cossins

    Time losses call for reassessment of Tour goals

    Robert Gesink’s post-stage six tweet left no doubt about how badly the crash on the road into Metz had impacted on the Rabobank team. "8 riders, 15 crashes, 2 broken ribs, 1 punctured lung, 1 square metre of lost skin," the Dutch team’s leader revealed.

    Following the stage of the Tour de France, a very tender-looking Bauke Mollema stepped down from the team bus to describe how he had been impacted by the crash and give his thoughts with the first mountain stage next on the schedule.

    "I was with everyone in the middle of the group. We were going at very high speed and suddenly there was a crash. I ended up on the ground and tried to make myself as small as possible to reduce my chances of being hit. But a lot of riders still fell on top of me and all around me. I ended up with a lots of cuts and grazes, which all feel pretty sore now, but I don’t think I’ll need to go to the hospital," said Mollema.

    Together with Gesink and Steven Kruiswijk, Mollema forms a triple-headed threat in the mountains. However, all three lost significant time following the stage six crash and went into that stage carrying injuries.

    "I’ll just have to see what happens on the stage to La Planche des Belles Filles and see how I react then. I’ll probably be stiff. I ended up in a group with all kinds of GC contenders like Scarponi, Schleck, Hesjedal and Rolland, but of course I lost a lot of time to Evans and Wiggins. Every second is a hard loss for me before we get to the mountains, so losing more than two minutes today is the most disappointing aspect of the day," he said.

    Gesink was also grazed and cut but came out of the crash relatively...

  • Voeckler blames radio earpieces for Metz crash

    The crash that shattered the field with approximately 25km to go.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 12:27 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Europcar rider says teams urged all riders to move up to the front

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) has blamed radio earpieces for the mass pile-up on stage 6 of the Tour de France that saw four riders abandon the race and an estimated further 13 go to hospital for check-ups on Friday evening.

    Voeckler was himself caught up in the carnage that struck at Gorze, a shade over 25 kilometres from the finish in Metz. Although he was able to pick his way through unscathed, he lost over 6 minutes, while his Europcar teammate Pierre Rolland’s overall hopes suffered a dent when he came in 2:09 down on the stage.

    After wheeling to a halt after the finish line, Voeckler calmly spelt out his point of view to a group of journalists, while the battle-scarred and haunted remnants of the peloton ghosted home all around them.

    “It was a crazy speed at the point when everyone fell, so it was a big, big crash. But in any case, the main thing responsible is this…” Voeckler said, pointing to the radio earpiece dangling out of the collar of his jersey.

    “You’ve got the directeurs sportifs from 22 teams saying ‘you have to be up there, you have to be up there,’” Voeckler continued. “Well, if you have 198 riders like that on a road that’s only seven metres wide, then there’s not going to be room for anyone else. Voilà.”

    It was perhaps telling that Voeckler had crossed the line with his earpiece hanging loose, and he decried the instructions that had apparently been barked in unison by 22 directeurs sportifs in the finale.

    “With all the pressure that’s being put on via the earpieces, I think it’s the same on all teams. You then have one point where all the riders try to move up and mathematically that just doesn’t add...

  • Nibali: La Planche des Belles Filles is the first test

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) emerged unscathed from stage 6 and holds 7th on general classification as the Tour moves to the mountains on the next stage.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 13:34 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Siclian happy to come through first week unscathed

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) expects the Tour de France’s first mountaintop finish at La Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday to offer the first serious indications of the overall contenders’ form after an anxious opening week of racing.

    Like his rivals, Nibali has been on the defensive during the nip and tuck action of the Tour’s opening exchanges, where avoiding crashes is the only game in town. The Sicilian duly sits in 7th place, one second off Cadel Evans (BMC) and 11 behind Bradley Wiggins (Sky) as the race enters the Vosges, where the shadow boxing will begin to come to an end.

    “Tomorrow is the first summit finish and so it will be the first test,” Nibali said on Friday. “It’s not a very long climb but there could still be some little signals that will give us an indication of how the others are going.”

    Though just 6 kilometres in length, the final haul up to La Planche des Belles Filles has an average gradient of 8.5% and briefly pitches up to almost 20% in the final 500 metres, an ideal springboard for one of the yellow jersey contenders to strike his first telling blow.

    “There will certainly be a bit of nervousness there tomorrow,” he noted. “We’ll see, we’ll have to keep on eye on things from the start of the day. There’ll certainly be attacks.”

    Unlike the Tours of the Armstrong or Indurain eras, however, the first summit finish has not blown the race apart in recent years. Nibali anticipates that trend will continue on Saturday, and he was non-committal about his own possibilities of attacking Wiggins ahead of the strategic Besançon time trial.

  • Major setback for Rolland and Europcar

    Pierre Rolland (Europcar)
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 14:07 BST
    Peter Cossins

    Team boss Bernaudeau describes Metz stage as “an awful, awful day”

    Despite the ongoing injury problems that have hampered Thomas Voeckler, Europcar have had a relatively good week. Until today, that is, when team leader Pierre Rolland was involved in the crash 24km out from the stage six finish in Metz. Last year’s best young rider not only lost more than two minutes on the day, but was also taken to hospital for x-rays on his elbow and ribs.

    “It’s been an awful, awful day,” lamented Europcar team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau. “Although we’ve been hit heavily today, there’s been a lot of damage done elsewhere, so you have to put things into perspective.

    Bernaudeau revealed that his riders had told him that the bunch was particularly nervy today. Asked why that was, he replied: “Everyone wants to be very close to their leader and everyone wants to be in the same place and there isn’t room for everyone… That makes things very tense, which puts riders on their limits.”

    Rolland had managed to stay out of trouble up to Friday and had been looking forward to Saturday’s first medium mountain stage. “I’m not sure who was responsible but the bunch was going very quick and that made it bad. It was nervous all day and then, suddenly, the riders came together and ended up in a big pile.”

    Rolland said he was about to head off to hospital to see whether he needs stitches in an elbow wound. He is also likely to have x-rays on the elbow and his ribs. “The damage to my ribs is not pleasant. We will see tomorrow how things are, but there’s no doubt this is a big blow for me and for the team.”

  • Ullrich alludes to doping era in cycling

    The exclusion of Jan Ullrich from the 2006 Tour started a downward spiral of German cycling.
    Article published:
    July 07, 2012, 17:43 BST
    Cycling News

    German later says top performances were achievable without cheating

    There were times when it was not possible to be tops in cycling without doping, and “I was part” of these times, Jan Ullrich said Friday.  However, he issued a new statement Saturday morning backtracking from the implications of that sentiment, which he claims was inaccurately reported.

    The 1997 Tour de France winner did not directly address the question of whether he had doped, but when asked by the dpa news agency if there were times when doping was necessary to bring in top results, he answered, “Yes, of course, there were these times, I was part of them myself.”

    In a statement published Saturday morning, Ullrich said that his Friday statement was not misquoted. “I can only speak for and stand for my mistakes in a period in my career,” he said. “But it is not for me to say that major successes were reached earlier in cycling only through doping. From my own experience I can say that top performances were possible without illegal products, and still are today!”

    Ullrich, 38, is currently serving a two-year suspension for his involvement with  Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. The sentence was only announced this year, although the German retired from the sport in 2007.

    “I have made mistakes and earned the punishment,” he said. “But the process takes too long. Mine lasted six years. But for me that is all in the past. I must now look forward and have confidence that everything in cycling is now in order.”

    Ullrich, who is to become a father for the fourth time in November, has returned to public life in the last year.