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Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Date published:
July 20, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Jonker says shortened stage 18 would advantage Voeckler

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) remains in the lead of the Tour after stage 16.
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 8:08 BST
    Jane Aubrey

    Australian remembers his own experience from 1996 Tour de France

    While conditions are being monitored, and seem to be improving on the Galibier where stage 18 will reach its conclusion, Pat Jonker says that should Thursday's route need to be changed due to snow or black ice, it will be an advantage to Thomas Voeckler.

    Jonker speaks from experience, riding for the O.N.C.E team at the 1996 Tour de France when snow forced organisers to shorten the stage from 190kms to just 46kms leaving the riders to contest the Montgenèvre and the final ascent to Sestriere.

    "We were in the valley ready to start the stage because it was going to be a pretty important stage for overall classification and it was good weather there but we could see in the distance that the Galibier was under a cloud, you just couldn't see it or any of the mountains from the start," he recalled to Cyclingnews. "We thought the stage would go ahead but as the convoy neared the Galibier it was decided that it was going to be too dangerous because all the fencing and KOM signage and flags got blown off the side of the mountain. They decided to drive us over the climb and then started on the bottom of the other side to go to race to the finish in Sestriere."

    On that day Bjarne Riis (Telekom) took the stage by 24 seconds, 1:23 ahead of general classification leader at the beginning of the day Evgeni Berzin (Gewiss), 40 second gain. Riis would wear yellow all the way to Paris. With the climbs of the Iseran and Galibier avoided, Jonker explained that it changed the course of his entire race.

    "I was able to recover a bit more and eventually that's what propelled me into the top 15 [ed. Jonker finished 12th] in the overall classification," he said. "I'm a good climber on Cat. 1 and 2 climbs but not 3 and 4...

  • Kolobnev's B sample also positive for hydrochlorothiazide

    Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) became the first rider to test positive.
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 8:45 BST
    Cycling News

    Russian rider now expected to be sacked, fined by Katusha

    L'Equipe is reporting that the B sample taken from Katusha's Alexandre Kolobnev has also tested positive for the banned substance hydrochlorothiazide which was discovered in his urine sample taken after stage five of the Tour de France to Cap Fréhel.

    Hydrochlorothiazide is a diuretic which can be used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs.

    Once informed of the positive test, Kolobnev left the Tour on the first rest day after initial reports suggested he had been sacked by Katusha. In a statement on his website, Kolobnev said he had no idea how the substance could have been found in his system.

    With today's news that his B sample too has produced a positive test, the UCI will now refer the matter back to the Russian Cycling Federation. Katusha policy suggests that the Russian rider will now be sacked and ordered to pay a fine of five times his estimated £500,000 salary.

  • Determined effort from Sky keeps Uran in the hunt for white

    Colombia's Rigoberto Uran (Sky) remains atop the best young rider classification.
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 9:42 BST
    Cycling News

    British team rallies around Colombian

    Team Sky have signalled that they fully intend to defend Rigoberto Uran’s lead in the white jersey classification, after bringing back a break that included white jersey rival Arnold Jeanneson (FDJ) early in the race.

    The Jeannesson group escaped the peloton following a flurry of attacks in the opening 90 kilometres. Despite building an advantage of nearly a minute, however, the break was brought back thanks to a determined chase from Sky. Sporting Director Sean Yates explained after the stage that the team was always going to chase once they realised the Frenchman was in the move.

    "[When that move] went away - we had to close it down to defend the white jersey for Rigo [Uran]," commented Yates. "Everyone got stuck in and it was a great, great team effort [to bring the move back].

    "The team covered every move and it took a long, long time for that break to go so there was a lot of work involved."

    When the break of the day, which included Edvald Boasson Hagen, did eventually get away, the rest of the team nurtured Uran through to the finish. Geraint Thomas was one of a number of riders who turned themselves inside out to help Uran over the category two Col de Manse.

    "G [Thomas] did a fantastic amount of work. He's flying and to be there on that climb playing it cool with Rigoberto was great to see. I can't praise the boys highly enough today," continued Yates.

    Simon Gerrans, who missed the move of the day, was also full of praise for the Colombian and reaffirmed to Cyclingnews the team’s commitment to supporting him all the way to Paris.

    "The guy has a very real chance of winning the white jersey and holding a top-10 position in Paris. We’re going to do all we can to support him to get there."

  • Soler leaves intensive care unit

    Movistar's Mauricio Soler celebrates his stage victory on Crans-Montana
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 10:36 BST
    Cycling News

    Colombian set for lengthy stay in Pamplona hospital

    Mauricio Soler has left the intensive care unit at the Clínica Universitaria de Navarra in Pamplona as he continues his recovery from the serious injuries he suffered in a crash at the Tour de Suisse last month.

    The Colombian rider sustained head injuries and was placed in an induced coma after he collided with a spectator on stage 6 of the race. Soler spent three weeks in an ICU in St. Gallen, Switzerland, before he was transferred to Pamplona ten days ago.

    A statement from his Movistar team said that Soler has experienced “notable improvement” in his condition since his arrival in Spain, although it explained that he will spend “a long period of time” at the medical centre. On Tuesday evening, Soler was moved to a room on the regular medicine floor of the hospital.

    “His improvements are slow, but constant and positive,” Movistar doctor Alfredo Zúñiga said. “He already recognises the people from his environment and has started talking. You can keep short conversations with him. He's still really tired, and that's normal due to the magnitude of the blow he suffered, but his progress is good, especially during this last week.”

    Just days before his accident, Soler won stage two of the Tour de Suisse to Crans-Montana, dedicating his victory to his late teammate Xavier Tondo.

  • Prudhomme confirms Tour de France queen stage on Galibier

    The Col du Galibier was the first challenge of the day
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 18:22 BST
    Cycling News

    Improved weather no threat to stage 18 itinerary

    Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that the race's queen stage to the Galibier, scheduled for Thursday, will take place as planned. Last week-end, snowfall on top of the historic climb jeopardized the summit finish, and Tuesday's cold and rainy weather conditions further spurred rumours that organiser ASO might truncate the finale.

    "If the stage would have been scheduled for July 19, we might not have seen the finish. But tomorrow, the weather will be fine," Prudhomme was happy to announce in Pinerolo today. "The sun will be out, there might be a few clouds on top of the Galibier but it'll have nothing to do with what we have seen in recent days."

    Indeed, summery temperatures and blue skies returned on the Tour riders as they came out of the mountains into Pinerolo, where the thermometers indicated 27 degrees Celsius.

    Nevertheless, the crisp air of the mountains will not heat up a lot at altitude.

    "There will be big differences in temperature," Prudhomme added. "Here, in the Piemonte plain, it's 26 degrees, and on top of the passes, it will be 5 degrees. We will have to live with that tomorrow and the next days."

    The race director looked forward to what many see as the most decisive stage in this year's Tour. "It's going to be a phenomenal Alpine trilogy. The Col Agnel has never been raced in the Tour from this side, and it's 2,700 meters high. To me, it's the most difficult climb of the Tour. Then, the Izoard, a legendary climb that has seen many great champions such as Coppi, Bobet, Merckx, Thévenet...

    "To finish it off, the first summit finish at great altitude at 2,645m - I think there will be a great battle on tomorrow."

  • Voeckler to reconsider Tour de France approach

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) tried to light things up on the descent, but nearly came to grief on a left turn.
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 19:08 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Frenchman to have more GC ambitions in future

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) took all kinds of risks on the Pra Martino descent in stage 17 of the Tour de France and amazingly escaped injury despite overcooking a tight left hand corner and riding onto a car park. Voeckler conceded 27 seconds to his GC rivals and is just one day shy of equalling his epic ten-day stint in yellow at the 2004 Tour de France.

    Voeckler's current experience might lead him to change his approach to upcoming seasons. Next year, he's likely to prepare for the Tour de France as an overall contender.

    The Frenchman admitted that he almost didn't touch his bike during the week preceding the start in Vendée, as he became a dad for the second time three days before stage 1. He also realised during stage 17 that it's worth going to reconnoiter the crucial stages in advance. Before the Dauphiné, he told Cyclingnews that he wasn't a fan of training camps in the mountains but his new status as a GC contender has made him change his mind.

    "I never thought I'd be able to ride for GC and be at this level in the third week of the Tour de France," Voeckler said. "I'll have to think about that in the future. Honestly, had I done a stage reco', I probably wouldn't have been so close to losing everything. I had watched the downhill of Pra Martino on video but it's not the same.

    "I know that I cannot gain time on the race favourites uphill, so I absolutely wanted to ride downhill at the front," Voeckler continued. "But today, I wanted to go too fast. I went off road three times! On a downhill, if you make a mistake, it's difficult to find the right trajectory afterwards and I still tried but I should have just followed Cadel Evans, not [Alberto] Contador and [Samuel] Sanchez.

    "Technically, I went above my capacities. I didn't take time to think of what I was...

  • Descent recon pays dividends for Boasson Hagen

    Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) gets stage win number two in the Tour de France.
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 19:45 BST
    Sam Dansie

    Norwegian takes second stage of Tour de France

    While others crashed and overcooked corners on today's technical final descent into Pinerolo, Edvald Boasson Hagen kept his cool to take his second stage win of the Tour de France – and put regrets about yesterday's mis-timed sprint to bed.

    The Team Sky rider, who finished alone after countering an attack from French champion Sylvain Chavanel on the Cote de Pramartino climb, said he was eager to get stuck into the descent alone because he had ridden the climb twice in training and watched it several times on video.

    "I was looking forward to the descent," he said. "I wanted to go up the climb alone and not have any more attacks, so I bridged up to Chavanel and then went on my own to do the descent at my own rhythm."

    On the previous day's stage to Gap, although he was outnumbered by two Garmin-Cervélo riders, he admitted he should have opened up the sprint against the eventual winner, Thor Hushovd, earlier.

    "It was a great feeling to come to the finish line on my own today, because I really wanted to win this stage. Yesterday I came close but with two against one, it was hard to do anything different.

    "Today, I again felt good and capable of attacking, so my victory felt like a great revenge for the frustration that I had yesterday, and now I don't think about it anymore."

    The Pramartino descent was lit up by a number of riders overcooking corners. Even yellow jersey-wearing Thomas Voeckler, who is usually unflappable on descents, misread two corners which had also caught out his compatriot, Jonathan Hivert.

    "I didn't find it that dangerous," said Boasson Hagen. "It's quite technical for sure, but I was alone and I knew it. Perhaps if I hadn't known it and I was riding in a group I would say something...

  • Evans moves closer to yellow in Pinerolo

    Lots of teeth gritting amongst the GC favourites today.
    Article published:
    July 20, 2011, 20:19 BST
    Cycling News

    Australian catches Contador in final kilometre

    For the second successive day, the combination of a sharp climb and testing descent just before the finish wreaked havoc on the group of overall favourites, but Cadel Evans (BMC) again emerged unscathed to move closer to Thomas Voeckler’s (Europcar) overall lead on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

    While Evans was unable to gain time on all his rivals as he had done at Gap on Tuesday, he held his nerve in a white-knuckle finale to close a gap to Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and peg back another 27 seconds of his deficit to Voeckler.

    “It was a bit different today, more corners, and it was dryer and all shadowy,” Evans said afterwards, labelling the technical downhill section as “sketchy.”

    Contador had attacked twice on the ascent of the second category Pramartino, but was unable to break free of the yellow jersey group. He tried again shortly after cresting the summit and soon opened up a lead in the company of his compatriot Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

    “They went right over the top,” Evans said. “Andy [Schleck] led over the KoM and then I think Voeckler put in the first attack, and Contador went.”

    Evans pointed out that he was unable to close the gap immediately as he was on Andy Schleck’s wheel.

    “They sort of just had a gap and I got caught behind Andy and I just couldn’t get around him,” he said.

    On a treacherous descent that saw breakaway rider Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun) and the yellow jersey Voeckler each overshoot the same bend, Evans was loathe to take any risks. Instead, he opted to...