- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 07:45
- Hedwig Kröner
German pulls in sprints, makes mountain breakaways
Lampre's Danilo Hondo seems to be a versatile helper for his Italian team, leading out Alessandro Petacchi in the bunch sprints and preparing the way for Damiano Cunego's escapes in the medium mountains at the Tour de France. In stage seven to Les Rousses, the German made the day's breakaway together with mountains classification leader Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), with the aim of helping Cunego in the final part of the stage.
"Our plan was to have someone in front if Damiano [Cunego] was able to get away," Hondo told Cyclingnews as he waited at the anti-doping control. "It sort of happened like that, but Damiano couldn't hold Chavanel's wheel. That was a pity, as he would have had good chances to get the stage win if he'd been with Chavanel, who could have ridden for the yellow jersey."
Hondo explained that his physical abilities enabled him to be fast in the finishes while also getting over the climbs. "I was never a pure sprinter. I'm able to pass the mountains quite well,” he said. “My form is good, and sometimes it's better to ride in a breakaway on this sort of stages than in the bunch. In front, you can ride your own pace, but back in the peloton sometimes they hit it hard and you get fried from the rhythm changes."
Even though the stage did not pan out the way Lampre intended, with Cunego finishing more than three minutes down, his German team-mate was happy about his move.
"You have to try to see where it takes you - otherwise you'll just never know what is possible," he said. "Chavanel is in great form, which he already showed in Belgium. For me, it was still a good day."
As good as the day was for Hondo for Chavanel, it was raced under terribly hot circumstances as the tarmac was melting on every road throughout the stage. French radio reported road surface temperatures of over 65 degrees Celsius.
"The combination of gravel and tar just makes the road surface so sticky," continued Hondo. "It felt like it was 40 degrees today. It's an additional burden, as you have to drink a lot and try not to overcook it. You also have to remember to eat, because when you drink this much, you can't eat so much or you forget to."
The Italian team will now focus on getting over the Alps in the best possible conditions to set double stage winner Petacchi up once again for a bunch sprint in the transitional stages.
"Our goal is to win another stage with Alessandro, and I think he is the strongest sprinter here with Mark Cavendish," said Hondo. "I hope that these mountain stages will weaken Cavendish a bit. Alessandro is the better mountains rider, so we hope that he gets over them well. I'm convinced that we can win another stage and even go for the green jersey - that classification will be interesting until Paris."
With Cervélo's Thor Hushovd leading the points classification and other sprinters also possibly within reach of the green jersey, Petacchi might have to choose between going for another fast finish victory or scoring regular points for the jersey.
"Alessandro definitely wants to win more than going for intermediate points. But certainly he would like the green jersey, too," confirmed Hondo.
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 09:34
- Daniel Benson
Canadian new GC hope for Garmin-Transitions
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin – Transitions) backed up a strong first week in the Tour de France with another solid performance on stage 7 to Station Des Rouses. The Canadian finished 7th on the stage and moved up to 3rd in GC.
“It was good today. It was hard with the heat and those climbs but I felt good. It would have been nice to have gone with Chavanel but I don’t know if the bunch would have let me go. I guess we’ll never know,” he told Cyclingnews at the finish.
Hesjedal came into the race on the back of a fine start to the season. He was consistently active in the Classics, finished second in Amstel, and won the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California in May. However his role for the Tour was to help Christian Vande Velde in the mountains.
After the American abandoned through injury, Hesjedal became their best bet as a GC contender, despite admitting to Cyclingnews that his only experience of competing for the overall in a three week Tour came in the 2006 Vuelta.
“I didn’t come to this race thinking I was in a GC fight but that’s the way things have worked out. It’s important for the team and we’re going to fight for it now,”
“It’s not like I’ve not ridden GC in a bike race before it’s just that this is the Tour de France and there were circumstances with Christian. We’ll see what happens and where it goes. We still have a big focus for the sprints and we’re looking for a stage there but the team are supporting me,” he told Cyclingnews.
Right now though the lanky Canadian is happy to sneak under the radar of guys like Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck, despite the growing media attention that appear to follow him after each stage finish.
“This early on, guys will look at the GC and think, oh this rider probably won't be there in the next stages but I’m just focussing on each stage and we’ll see where things are tomorrow. “
“Today was hard but there will be a lot more damage tomorrow. I did ride the GC in the vuelta in '06 and was fighting for every second on every mountain top and was 14th after two weeks but that’s the only experience I have at doing this over three weeks but I’m excited.”
As for today’s stage to Morzine, Hesjedal is far more aware of how the final climb will determine his true capabilities as a GC contender. “If everyone starts throwing around their best stuff I have to be realistic and see who is around and maybe right my own race but maybe there is room to try something too.”
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 10:36
- Jean-François Quénet
First hills of Tour's stage 7 reassure the Breton rider
Christophe Le Mével attacked from the group of the favourites towards the top of the last climb to Les Rousses during stage 7 of the Tour de France. He was caught with 500 metres to go, but feels like he's back on track despite the heat and the injuries he sustained in stage 2.
"This was another hard stage because of the heat," Le Mével said as he dismounted his bike while standing on melting asphalt. "Since the climb was almost over, I decided to try something. I didn't succeed, I hope I'll make it next time."
"Earlier in the race, I didn't have good legs," the Breton rider from FDJ said. "The heat was difficult to handle. That was our number one enemy. This stage was harder than we thought. It was supposed to be a leg-loosener, but it was much more than that. I was afraid of what could happen in the last climb but I felt better and better, which is a good sign for the coming days."
"If it's hot again, it's going to be very hard tomorrow," Le Mével said. He's currently 22nd on the GC and the second Frenchman at 3:58 behind his compatriot and race leader Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step).
Considering that he only regained contact with the peloton 100 meters before the finish line in Spa on stage two, his placing is a bit of a miracle. His teammate and roommate Wesley Sulzberger had saved him from losing a lot of time in stage 2.
Le Mével was the only Française des Jeux rider in the front group on the way up to Les Rousses. As co-captain Sandy Casar was cruising two minutes behind. The French team appears to be focused on the GC this year rather than on sending riders in promotional breakaways with no effect on GC.
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 11:42
- Cycling News
Caisse d'Epargne captain says favourites will start eyeing one another
Today's stage to Morzine is one of the most important so far in this year's Tour, according to Luis Leon Sanchez. The Caisse d'Epargne captain says that these climbs will let the top riders gauge one another's condition.
”I think the stage to Morzine is really important because it is going to give an idea of how every rider is feeling,” he told Cyclingnews. “I will try to grasp any chance to win a stage if that is possible.”
The Spaniard is looking for a repeat winner of the Tour this year. “I think that the big favourite is Alberto Contador, I think he is stronger than Armstrong and I wish him the best. Until now both Contador and Armstrong are being carefully protected by their teams but we will see in the next days.”
Sanchez finished in the favourites' group 1:47 down on Saturday's first mountain stage, and is currently 13th overall, at 3:11.
The first week of the Tour was “quite nervous for all the riders, with the crashes. The wind in the Dutch stage and the cobbles caused stress in the bunch,” he said. “Now I hope the weather conditions will improve because this extreme heat makes everybody feel tired. Anyway, I am satisfied because I did not have any crashes nor lose much time to the favourites.”
The cobblestone stage to Arenberg was quite stressful to many of the riders, Sanchez noted. While they were not new to him, he was not happy with the inclusion in the Tour.
“In my first and second year as professional I took part in some of the classics, so it was not a new experience for me. I do not like them in a three-week race like the Tour de France, but I understand that the organisation wants to pay tribute to the history of cycling and attract the public.”
In the absence of Alejandro Valverde, currently serving a worldwide doping ban, Sanchez is the team's captain at the Tour. He praised his teammates for helping to relieve any pressure on him. “I am not feeling any pressure because you cannot do anything in cycling as a leader without your teammates; the nine riders have to carry on with a plan.”
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 17:03
- Daniel Benson
American involved in three crashes on the road to Morzine
Lance Armstong’s (Radioshack) Tour de France challenge is over after the American suffered a torrid day in the Alps on stage 8 to Morzine. The American lost over 11 minutes to his main rivals and slipped down to 39th place overall, 13.26 down on the yellow jersey of Cadel Evans (BMC).
“My Tour is finished but I’m going to hang in there and enjoy my last Tour de France. The Tour is over for me but I’ll stay in the race and try and win stages, help the team and appreciate my time here. No tears from me.”
“It’s a bad day,” he said at the finish. “A really bad day, I felt strong but it was tough to recover and it went from bad to worse. It’s not going to be my year.”
The seven-time Tour winner was involved in three crashes – coming off once - and was dropped on the first category climb Col de la Ramaz after using his energies to regain the main group.
The first incident came within the opening 15 kilometres when a crash near the front of the field saw Armstrong run wide onto the grass. Although he didn’t fall, he did lose ground and he was brought back to the bunch with the help of his teammates.
Worse was to come, however, when Armstrong crashed with 51 kilometres to go. "I clipped a pedal [in the roundabout -ed.] and next thing I knew I was rolling on the ground at 65 kilometres per hour," Armstrong explained after the stage. "I didn't make it back on until la Ramaz and I was pegged.
"When you’re rolling on the ground at 60K an hour you start to know that you’re going to be feel the same and it came at a really bad time. I just couldn’t recover.”
His jersey torn, Armstrong was slow to remount but made contact before the critical climb of Col de la Ramaz. However Sky and Saxo Bank set a strong pace, and it proved too much as the American slipped back from the leaders. At first he was assisted by Chris Horner but later Janez Brajkovic took over, as Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden stayed with the leaders.
With the gap hovering around one minute between a group including Alberto Contador (Astana) and Cadel Evans (BMC), there was still a chance of regaining contact before the final climb, but all hope evaporated on the summit of the small climb to Les Gets.
Approaching the summit, Armstrong was caught up in another incident when Egoi Martinez (Euskatel) and Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) fell in front of him. The American quickly stood up, his hands on his hips, before untangling his bike.
But the writing was on the wall as group after group passed the American on the final climb, as riders inched past, almost unsure of where to look.
"I didn’t expect him to have such a bad day," said race director Christian Prudhomme. "We all remember the stage to Gap in 2003 when he even went across a field and didn’t fall. To fall twice in a stage today is a lot.
"We also know he struggles in heat, and that a lot of the riders are very tired tonight, after some very humid stages…. Maybe Armstrong will dig in and try to win a stage, but he’ll be on the margins of the battle for the classement general."
- Tour de France
- Lance Armstrong
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 17:48
Fignon, Kroon, World Cup, Frigo, Procycling polls, Landis
Fignon's fighting talk
Laurent Fignon may have almost lost his voice – a temporary symptom of his latest course of cancer treatment – but the French Tour legend remains as incisive as ever in his role as co-commentator for France 2."Come on, attack for crying out loud! He's only a domestique!" croaked Fignon two kilometres from the end of today's stage, when Astana workhorse Dani Navarro was still setting the pace and the GC riders seemed to content to watch and follow.
Kroon up for the Cup
While Koos Moerenhout of Rabobank led by example with his attack on the Col de la Ramaz, fellow Dutchman Karsten Kroon of Team BMC chose a less labour-intensive gesture of support for his footballing countrymen. If nothing else, Kroon's bright orange handlebar tape made him stand out from the Team BMC crowd. "But whether we win or lose against Spain, it's too ugly to keep on there for more than one day," Kroon grinned in Les Rousses this morning.
A copious sprinkling of orange T-shirts made the Dutch journalists in the press-room easy to identify on Sunday. Or so you'd think. Two tangerine-clad Spanish colleagues in fact explained that their surprising choice of attire had nothing to do with the World Cup; they were simply behind on their washing and had managed to blag a couple of free T-shirts from their amigos at Euskaltel.
Whatever happened to Dario Frigo?
The Tour's visit to the Giffre valley rekindled memories of stage 17 of the 2002 Grande Boucle, won by the since Italian disgraced Dario Frigo. Booted off the Tour when his wife was caught with a, er, bootful of EPO in 2005, Frigo has since vanished from the public eye, save for a couple of court appearances and damning testimonies against his old Fassa Bortolo team. Our sources suggest the 36-year-old now lives in France - but refuses to answer phone calls from journalists.
Procycling readers on the money
To date at the Tour, Procycling has conducted three polls on Twitter that, depending on your slant, uncovered a few surprises among our loyal followers. In case you've been remiss and haven't been following us, here are the questions and results:
1) Should the peloton have called raced or not on stage 2? 66 percent no, 34 percent yes;
2) After stage 4, how many stages would Mark Cavendish win? 0 wins - 57 percent, 1 - 8 percent, 2 - 14 percent, 3+ wins - 21 percent;
3) Who will wear green in Paris? Hushovd - 66 percent, Cavendish - 17 percent, Boasson Hagen - 17 percent. Our twitter address is: @Procycling_mag
Mixed memories of July 20, 2006
That on Sunday, Tour de France organisers ASO put the press in the same venue as the infamous 17th stage of the race four years ago brought back some mixed memories for the Procycling crew. The room was the Palais des Sports et des Congrès convention centre in Morzine, and the day we're referring to is Floyd Landis' unbelievable 130-kilometre solo breakaway which turned the Tour on its head in more ways than one.
Landis, of course, won the '06 Tour before being disqualified for an elevated testosterone-epitestosterone ratio, which subsequently left the title in Spaniard Oscar Pereiro's hands. Scribe Anthony Tan wanted to sit in the same seat as he did that day, but New York Times journalist Juliet Macur told him "no way!". She reckoned doing so would jinx the entire press corps.
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 18:14
- Daniel Benson
Team Sky leader struggles on the road to Morzine-Avoriaz
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins lost time to his yellow jersey rivals on stage 8 of the Tour de France to Morzine-Avoriaz but was confident he could bounce back in the coming days. The Sky captain came home in 19th place, 1:45 down on stage winner Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and now sits 14th on GC, 2:45 behind yellow jersey Cadel Evans (BMC)
Wiggins’s Sky team set the pace on the Col de la Ramaz, shredding the majority of the field and ending the hopes of Lance Armstrong’s challenge. In fact the Briton looked comfortable at the summit but on the slopes of the final climb up to the Avoriaz ski station he slowly began to unravel in the heat, dropping from the lead group with less than four kilometres remaining.
"I felt pretty good most of the day, especially on the second climb. It was just on the last one that I was overcooked and there came a point when I had to back off so I wouldn't completely blow. It was a damage limitation exercise,” he said at the finish.
"It's a long old race and I have to admit I was not good enough today. I struggled with the weather in the last few days and I knew I had to limit my losses. We'll see what happens in the next few days."
Asked why his team had worked on the climb to Ramaz, Wiggins replied: "We rode because we knew that if we didn’t do it, someone else would and so we wanted to be at the front end of it."
“I felt good until the last climb but just couldn’t hold on at the end there. I’m happy to admit I wasn’t quite good enough today but there’s still a lot of the race left so we’ll see what happens.”
- Article published:
- July 11, 2010, 19:48
- Daniel Benson
Saxo Bank rider says pressure motivates him
Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) sent a warning to his rivals on stage of the Tour de France, with a superb win atop Morzine-Avoriaz. Last year’s Tour runner-up attacked within the final kilometre and out-sprinted Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) to the line. More importantly, he gained time on Alberto Contador (Astana) and sits just 20 seconds down on race leader Cadel Evans before tomorrow’s rest day.
“I really felt good. My legs were turning well, and the team was great. On the last climb I had no problem. I thought about attacking earlier but I have a plan for this Tour and I’m going to stick to it. Pressure motivates me. I’m here for a goal, to win in Paris, but if I can win a stage, I’ll take it,” he said at the finish.
"As well as my first stage win at the Tour de France, it's also my first real victory of the season. I wanted to attack on the climb. I was just waiting to see what the other riders' tactics were but I took a lot of confidence from my tactics today."
Schleck came into the Tour as Contador’s number one rival, despite a less than stellar start to his season. A less than impressive prologue in Rotterdam was followed by a strong ride on the cobbles in Arenberg but his performance today showed that he is close to, if not at, his top form.
“I don’t regret not attacking earlier,” he said. “We have a plan, and I’m going to follow it. I’m not going to experiment. I could maybe have taken yellow, but I want to take it in Paris. We need to go step-by-step. There will be stages for me to do more. For now, happy with stage win.”
Today stage saw Lance Armstrong eliminated from the yellow jersey race after the American lost over 11 minutes. Schleck immediately paid tribute to him in the press conference, telling reporters that the American could still win a stage in this year’s race.
“Lance had a really bad crash and he was just in front of me. After he came back he was pretty beaten up. And then on the second to last climb, he lost contact. I thought he could be with us up front but still, big respect for what he’s done this year. To be honest, I feel a bit sad for him, because I think his morale is pretty low tonight…although I still think he’ll get his stage win.”
With several tough days in the Pyrenees to come, Schleck is well aware that he’ll need to be ahead of both Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador before the all-important 52 kilometre time trial between Bordeaux and Pauillac.
“I can’t know how much time I need going into last time trial. If I want to win this Tour, I have to be in yellow on the start ramp. I know that under pressure I can go really fast. If I go in second position, I won’t beat Contador and Cadel. But maybe I don’t need as much time as you think. I won’t do another time trial like the prologue. I’ll do better than that.”
Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis was at the finish to congratulate Schleck on his win and the tactician knows that his young talent must take every opportunity before the time trial if he is to win his first Tour.
“I think Andy’s very good at the moment. Yesterday he wasn’t super. The heat made it difficult. Today was different. I saw straight away that Contador wasn’t good, that’s why I said he had to go. The bottom of the last climb was hard and it was still hard enough for Andy to win.”