- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 10:35
- Susan Westemeyer
German Continental team applies for Professional Continental status for 2011
Little German team NetApp is dreaming big. The Continental team is hoping to become a Professional Continental team in 2011, with ProTour status and a ride in the Tour de France the goal after that.
The team, which is only in its first year of existence, hopes to be in the Tour de France by 2012. “We will set forth our continuing structure and provide a solid financial backing, so that we can ride in every class,” said Andreas König, the European director for the US-based NetApp.
The team has said it would apply for a 2011 Professional Continental licence this summer. The team, led by former pro rider Jens Heppner and Enrico Poitschke, would have to increase from 14 to 18 riders, but the team doesn't want to aim too high. “A rider like Andre Greipel would not be in our calibre,” according to team manager Ralph Denk.
If Gerry van Gerwen is unable to find a new sponsor to take over from Milram, NetApp could become the top German team in 2011. “We could be the number one in Germany but I would be happy if Milram continues – that would be good for cycling here,” Denk said.
The NetApp team takes a strong stance against doping. “We have very hard contracts regarding that,” Denk said. “Our riders must provide DNA samples and their doctors will be released from the confidentiality requirements. Plus our riders will have the UCI's biological passport in the coming year.”
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 13:53
- Les Clarke
First sprint stage crucial to HTC-Columbia
HTC-Columbia advisor and Mark Cavendish confidant Erik Zabel believes that the Manxman's Tour de France starts in earnest today and that the dramas of the previous six months won't matter if he's able to win in Brussels.
The six-time Tour de France points classification winner told Cyclingnews during a recent interview that today's 223.5km romp to the Belgian capital will be vital to the confidence of Cavendish and the HTC-Columbia team.
"I think Cav's Tour starts on Sunday morning on the first stage from Rotterdam to Brussels - it's a perfect stage for him," said Zabel. "If everything goes well and he can be in the first group to sprint into Brussels then everything will be good.
"This first stage is so important for sprinters to have confidence in their teammates and become confident themselves. Winning the first stage would be great for us."
Zabel, who has been instrumental in Cavendish's recent rise to sprinting superstardom, explained that the drama surrounding his charge - the dental abcess and the headlines about his behaviour on and off the bike - will count for little, especially if the 'Manxman Missile' is successful early in the race.
"It doesn't matter what has happened to Cav in the last few months - now we are at the Tour and he is so motivated to ride well and do a good Tour," Zabel said.
"We have Bernie Eisel, Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw and Cav [for the sprints] and maybe Adam Hansen. These guys have to build a train over the last kilometres and I expect that a lot of teams and sprinters will have a good look at these HTC-Columbia guys and will follow them."
Many observers have been talking about Cavendish's chances in the points classification, which he failed to win during the past two editions of the Tour, despite winning four stages in 2008 and an incredible six last year. While his leadup to this edition hasn't been ideal, the goal is to remain consistent in 2010 and do what he hasn't been able to until this point in time.
"Two years ago I know that the main goal for Cavendish in the Columbia team was to win some stages and at the end he won four; then he abandoned the Tour. Last year the main goal for Cavendish was to finish in Paris and on the way try to win as many stages as possible," said Zabel.
"For 2010 the official goal at the beginning of the season for Mark and all riders involved was to win the green jersey.
"I think this is our official goal and now it's time to start the Tour and let's see if we can reach our goal. I think the team is ready, I hope Cav is ready," he continued.
"Everybody knows this first half of the season wasn't really perfect so maybe the good thing is that he's fresh in his mind and fresh in his legs... The confidence is there and they [his teammates] are motivated to help Cav.
"The question is: are we strong enough to do the same in this Tour as in last year's Tour and two years ago? That's our personal challenge - to be as good as last year, and I hope we can do it."
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 13:55
- Daniel Benson
Is HTC-Columbia team owner ready to let Greipel leave?
Bob Stapleton has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he talked to Bjarne Riis earlier in the season about the possibility of merging their two squads: HTC-Columbia and Saxo Bank. However he downplayed the significance of the conversation saying that no formal negotiations ever took place.
Stapleton also talked about the prospect of Andre Greipel leaving HTC-Columbia. The German’s long-term future at the team is uncertain after he again missed out on selection for the Tour de France. Media speculation has linked the Greipel with a move to Omega Pharma-Lotto. In April, Omega Pharma-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant confirmed to Cyclingnews that he was on the look out for a new sprinter and that Greipel was high on his shopping list.
Rumours that Riis and Stapleton had met to discuss a possible merger had been circulating for a number of weeks, but according to the American it was a third party, and not Riis or himself, who initiated the conversation between the two team bosses.
“I’m very open minded about talking to a lot of the teams about a lot of different things. Where I come from, mergers and acquisitions are typical, our company was built on hundreds of them,” Stapleton told Cyclingnews, referring to his past in the mobile communications industry.
“We had a discussion but decided to do our own thing. It was a third party that encouraged us to talk and it was a friendly chat or checking in. There were no negotiations. There are discussions going on like that with lots of parties. It’s a legitimate strategy.”
Stapleton, like Riis, began his career as a team boss by picking up the pieces of struggling squads. Stapleton rescued T-Mobile while Riis took over at CSC before a number a rebuilds took place. Stapleton admitted that Riis' success is something he has tried to imitate, developing some of the Dane’s more successful moves.
“I want to know where other teams are at and I’m always interested in possible ideas on collaboration. I have a lot of mutual respect for what he’s achieved over the years and a lot of the good ideas we’ve taken into this team are based around things like technology are things we say at Saxo Bank.”
Riis could be on the cusp of losing his biggest stars, as his search for a new team sponsor runs out of time. “It’s a challenging environment and it's hard to hold these teams together,” Stapleton said. “I’m sympathetic to his situation. They have a worldwide fan base regardless of what you think about any personality in the sport. These are flagships teams that are well know and have brought in good riders. That is a loss. It hurts if a marquee team disappears. It’s been one of the most progressive teams in the sport. Fact.”
Asked if he was tempted to pick off any of Riis' riders for 2011, Stapleton said: “They have tonnes of talent and it sounds like it could be the nucleus of a new team. Everybody is interested in a number of riders and there are clearly interesting riders on their team.”
However one rider who could be on his way out of HTC is sprinter Andre Greipel. The German has had a mixed season, winning more races than any one else but fluffing his lines at the Giro d'Italia, where the only reward for three weeks of hard work by HTC-Columbia was one stage win.
Asked if he knew if Greipel had signed a contract with Omega Pharma-Lotto, Stapleton said. “I don’t know. I think he’s grown into a big star in his own right and he wants to have unqualified support and he has earned that. Our view on all our current and former athletes is that I want them to have great careers. We’ve talked about Edvald in the passed and we were sad to let him go but if he won the prologue I would have been clapping, so if it turns out that way with Andre, it's okay too. I feel like we’ve got tonnes of talent and more coming. In the short term it’s a loss for us but in the long term I’m fine with that.”
Despite Cavendish struggling this season, Stapleton has seen enough to know that the ten-stages he has won in two years at the Tour de France justify any fall out and eventual loss of Greipel. At times this year the war of words between Cavendish and Greipel has caused tension in the team to rise and spilt over into the media.
“I think we still have the world's number one sprinter in Mark and I wouldn’t forget some of the young guys like Matt Goss or Leigh Howard. I think we can keep a stable of fast guys in the team forever,” Stapleton told Cyclingnews.
The final straw of the chance of Greipel staying at HTC-Columbia may have broken when he missed out on selection for this year's Tour de France.
Asked if winning four stages of the Giro would have been enough to secure a Tour spot for the German, Stapleton explained: “It’s hypothetical. Our challenge is to support the green jersey and take advantages on other opportunities in the race and have the guys in between Mark and Rogers who can do as much as possible on either terrain. Who can do more work on the front, who can do more work in the mountains, that’s what really drove the decisions and the criteria for the rest of the team.”
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 15:17
- Daniel Benson
Photos from stage 1 of the Tour de France
After yesterday’s downpour, bright skies and sunshine greeted the peloton on the startline in Rotterdam on Sunday. The peloton were already missing two riders – Mathias Frank (BMC) and Manuel Cardoso (Footon-Servetto) were unable to start due to injuries they’d suffered in yesterday’s prologue – but for the rest of the field 223.5km of racing from Rotterdam to Brussels lay ahead.
Geraint Thomas sported his British road national jersey for the first time and told Cyclingnews that a retro approach involving black shorts was the way forward. Sky will be looking to set up Edvald Boasson Hagen in the expected sprint finish.
However Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and Mark Cavendish will lined up as the favourites for the win. Farrar finished a superb seventh in yesterday’s prologue, while Cavendish won six stages last year and is eager to prove he still has the speed in his legs.
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 15:50
- Richard Moore
Team Sky rider impresses with fifth in prologue
Sunday's first stage of the Tour de France saw the return to the peloton of a national champion's jersey that hasn't been spotted in the world's top race for eighteen years.
Incredible though it may seem, given the recent resurgence in British cycling, the white jersey with its horizontal red and blue bands did not feature in the Tour de France peloton between 1992, when Sean Yates wore it, and Sunday, when Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) pulled it on for the first time since winning the British title last Sunday.
Yates, who is now Thomas's directeur sportif at Team Sky, was oblivious to the fact that he was the last rider to wear the jersey at the Tour, until Thomas told him.
On Saturday Thomas came close to wearing another predominantly white jersey, that of best young rider, thanks to his fifth place in the prologue. But another young rider, Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia), finished ahead of him, in second place, to claim the coveted white jersey.
Had Martin won, Thomas would have worn white by default. "But I'm glad that's not the case," Thomas said. "I don't want to wear a jersey unless I've earned it. I'm more than happy to wear this one. It's about time it was back in the Tour and I really want to do it proud."
"It feels very special," added Thomas. "I only got the jersey on Friday, and a new helmet, too, with the Union Jack on it. But I'm not getting white shorts, no way. You've got to have black shorts, with a little flag - keep it subtle."
Sartorial matters aside, it was Thomas's performance on Saturday that stood out. He blasted around the 8.9km course in the fifth fastest time, just a second behind Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) and four ahead of the defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana).
"I'd have loved to have beaten Armstrong," said Thomas, who completed his ride before the rain stopped. "It was pouring down," said Thomas, who - according to the team's coach, Rod Ellingworth - took risks on the corners. Thomas refuted that: "I'll show them ‘risk' another time," he joked. "It was quite slippy, and at the finish I thought I could have given it another 10-15% if the conditions had been better."
For other British riders, Thomas's fifth-place came as confirmation of his ability. "I think we've been waiting for a while for Geraint to pull out these performances," said David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) of Thomas, an Olympic gold medalist in the team pursuit at the Beijing Games.
"He's a wonderful bike rider and a great guy, but I think he's been under-performing on the road for a few years. I think we'll see him come of age at this Tour."
Millar, who finished third in the prologue, could have worn the national champion's jersey at the Tour himself, having won the title in 2007. He was denied the opportunity by the floods that hit Britain in June 2007. They caused the championship to be postponed until August, and moved to Wales - a two-month delay that meant Millar only enjoyed a ten-month stint in the jersey.
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 16:04
- Hedwig Kröner
Quick Step sprinter tips Farrar to win
Tom Boonen is still very disappointed not to be part of this year's Tour de France. The Belgian had to skip the event due to tendonitis in his knee, but was at the start of stage one in Rotterdam to greet his teammates before the stage to Brussels in Belgium.
"It's a bit strange to be here with the other guys, who are getting ready for the stage," he told Cyclingnews.
"I didn't think it was going to be a problem being here, but it actually is. When you're at home, it is not so difficult because you're busy doing other things. But once you come here, and you see all your teammates prepare for the start... I didn't think it would be that difficult."
After the start of the stage, Boonen headed to Meise, ten kilometres away from the finish in Brussels, to watch the race at the Eddy Merckx factory. The stage route passes the five-time Tour de France winner's home to celebrate Merckx's 65th birthday.
"The first stage of the Tour is always difficult," Boonen said of the stage. "Luckily, today, the weather is great, and there is not going to be a lot of wind after all. But it'll be nervous, even if the roads that they take are going to wider than those that were used at the Giro."
Long finishing straight suits Farrar
Boonen's favourite for the day's victory is Garmin-Transitions' Tyler Farrar. He thinks the American may be best suited to the Tour's longest finishing straight, which is also slightly uphill.
"I never did a good sprint on that finish, never! I finished second once, but it is a very hard sprint because you see the line with 900 metres to go. You have to wait a long time before starting the sprint. But as I could see yesterday at the prologue, Farrar is doing really well. He has increased his form in the last 2-3 months and the Tour is his great objective, so I think he's the big favourite today."
Boonen is still off the bike, and is only allowed to do some swimming to keep in shape. "I still have some pain in my knee, and I can't do any training. I swim a lot, as this is a sport I'm actually allowed to do. But I can't run and I can't ride a bike."
Boonen is disappointed to miss the Tour de France and especially stage three that includes seven sections of cobbles sections and ends at the entrance of the Arenberg Forest on Tuesday. The three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix would have loved to race on the famous pave sectors during the Tour. However he believes the racing on the cobbles at the Tour de France will be different to racing on them at Paris-Roubaix.
"Paris-Roubaix and a Tour de France stage on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are two different things," he commented. "The greatest obstacle that day will be the possibility of crashing, not the pave themselves. The finale will be very different with 120 riders coming in together rather than just 50. It will be difficult."
"Cancellara is on great form. It's the perfect stage for him, but I'm sure that the great sprinters like Farrar and Cavendish will go for a bunch finish there, too."
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 18:47
- Daniel Benson
Garmin-Transitions sprinter in the hunt for stage win
Tyler Farrar was taken out of a stage winning position on stage 1 of the Tour de France in Brussels on Sunday. The Garmin-Transitions sprinter tangled wheels with Lloyd Mondory (AG2R) inside the final 300 meters and was unable to sprint for the line as he dragged the Frenchman’s bike along the tarmac. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) won the stage.
“He did a classic Lloyd Mondory move,” Farrar told Cyclingnews as he dragged his own damaged bike to the team bus. “He decided to try and commit suicide into my back wheel with 300 meters to go when I was with Petacchi and Renshaw.”
The stage was marred by a number of crashes in the final few kilometres. Stage favourite Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) went down along with Oscar Freire (Rabobank) inside the final two kilometres before another crash in the final kilometre ruled out several other sprinters.
Leading into the final 500 metres the battle was set to be decided by Farrar, Mark Renshaw, Petacchi and Thor Hushovd, but just when Petacchi swung to the left Mondory and Farrar tangled. “He ran into my back wheel and my derailleur stuck in his front wheel. I dragged his bike 100 meters down the road. I didn’t come off.”
Despite the late crash and subsequent lack of points for the green jersey, Farrar praised his team for the work they had done during the stage and especially the final few kilometres. “I felt good but the guys were perfect today. They did exactly what they needed to do. You can’t help something like this.”
The first week of a Grand Tour - especially the Tour de France - is typically sprinkled with crashes and injuries as nervous riders battle for an early win. When asked if the crashes that littered today’s stage were a result of overall contenders being near the front or too little respect for sprinters, Farrar said. “It’s just everyone is nervous it’s the first field sprint of the Tour and everyone wants to start off on a good note. Things like this happen in bike racing.”
Farrar will have a chance to set things right in tomorrow second stage from Brussels to Spa. “I’ll be fine for tomorrow. I just couldn’t pedal anymore today. It’s a shame to lose points like that. That’s bike racing I guess.”
- Article published:
- July 4, 2010, 19:37
- Jean-François Quénet
Italian convinced that he could have beaten Cavendish
Alessandro Petacchi hadn’t won a stage in the Tour de France since 2003 and surprisingly the most successful sprinter of the last decade has only raced fourteen days (in 2003 and 2004) at the world’s biggest race.
He won four stages in 2003 but quit the 2004 after stage six and had not returned the Tour since then.
“It’s been partly my choice that I haven’t come back at the Tour de France for the past six years, partly because of a crash and also for other reasons." Petacchi said.
The Italian fractured his kneecap on stage 3 of the 2006 Giro d’Italia and that accident almost ended his career. A positive dope test for Salbutamol at the 2007 Giro d’Italia was another blow. He was eventually banned and lost some of his victories. Since then the anti-doping regulations have changed and a high level of Salbutamol no longer sparks a positive test if the athlete suffers from allergies and has a Therapeutic Use Exemption certificate. Petacchi had the Tour de France on his program in 2008 but he lost his CAS appeal and subsequently lost his job at Milram and was banned in July.
“This morning at the start of the stage, I felt the tension of the Tour de France again”, Petacchi said with a hint of satisfaction.
“During the stage, the memories of the last two Tour de France I did, came back to mind. It’s wonderful to win again at the Tour. It was a risky sprint. But to win at my age (36) gives me hopes for the future. I’m contracted with Lampre again for next year. This is also a reward for the Galbusera family, who own the Lampre company and for Team Manager Giuseppe Saronni who have believed in my comeback.”
Petacchi refuted the idea that his win was unexpected and the result of Mark Cavendish’s crash.
“There’s always a lot of confusion in the first sprint of the Tour”, the Italian said. “I don’t know what happened to Cavendish and Freire but there were still a lot of other sprinters to beat! There was a strong headwind too. I started from a long way out. I took a risk but I also knew it would have been difficult to go back up to people. I’ve done a great sprint. Had Cavendish still been there, it’s not sure I would have lost to him.”
Last year Petacchi was faster than Cavendish at the end of stage one in the Giro d’Italia. His spectacular come back at the Tour de France might have been a fortunate win but showed he is back to his best after six years away from the Tour.