Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) celebrated his 34th birthday Sunday, June 30, at the 2013 Tour de France, and Specialized had run him up an eye-catching Tarmac SL4 as a present.
The bike – which has been kept under wraps until Sunday's 156km stage from Bastia to Ajaccio – takes its flouro orange hue from the French former national road race champion’s American muscle car, a Chevrolet Camaro. On the top tube and inside the seatstays, a bike parts motif has been incorporated into the design.
The special edition bike is part of a Specialized programme celebrating some of the top pro riders who have a strong association with the American company, including Chavanel’s teammate Mark Cavendish’s custom Venge and a new bike for Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff Bank).
A limited run of just 50 the Chavanel special will be released later this month but only in France. Prices are to be announced.
It’s not the first time Chavanel has ridden bike with a striking paint job at the Tour. Early in the 2010 race he rode a yellow-and-green Eddy Merckx to celebrate a short but simultaneous tenure in the two jersey colours.
Irishman thought about possibility of being in yellow in adopted home
Nicolas Roche may be a very proud Irishman, but his and his family's links with the Côte d'Azur are many and long-standing. A Monaco resident whose parents both have homes in nearby Antibes, Roche went into Tuesday's Tour de Franceteam time trial knowing he would take the yellow jersey on what is effectively home ground if his Saxo-Tinkoff team won the test.
In doing so, he and Stephen Roche would have become the first father and son to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. As it turned out, it wasn't to be, at least not for now, but Roche admitted he was still pleased with his and his team's performance in the test as he recovered from the effort on the Promenade des Anglais.
"I don't think we've got any real regrets. I think everyone gave more than 100 per cent, if that's possible. We went all out for the win today, but it doesn't really make much of a difference if we end up third or fourth. All that matters is that we don't lose too much time and that we're still in contention for the big days in the Pyrenees and the Alps," he said.
He denied the prospect of the yellow jersey increased the pressure on him. "Cycling is all about dreams. Last night when I looked at the GC, I did go, 'Oh! Wow!' because I knew we had a strong team for the team time trial," he said.
"In the right circumstances, I could have got my first Tour de France win in my adopted hometown and then started the next day there with the yellow jersey. That's the beauty of cycling. I don't suppose Jan Bakelants was dreaming about the yellow jersey three days ago. He just went and got it."
As for his objectives in the days ahead, he said, "We've got to concentrate on Alberto [Contador], which has always been the plan."
As expected Jan Bakelants (Radioshack Leopard) lost the yellow leader's jersey in the Tour de France on Tuesday afternoon during the team time trial. The one second bonus for the Radioshack Leopard team was not quite enough to hold off the top teams in the TTT-discipline. The American team lost nearly half a minute on stage winner Orica Greenedge after 25km of racing in Nice. Yesterday's stage winner Simon Gerrans was part of the winning team and the Australian took over the yellow jersey from Bakelants. After his loss, the Belgian realized he enjoyed the dream of many riders and promised to try and shine once more in this Tour de France.
Before the stage Bakelants promised not to go down without a fight. He showed up on the start podium in a completely yellow kit and gave all he had during the half-hour effort. "Completely in yellow. I actually think that looks nice. It'll be a nice photo to put on the wall at home," Bakelants said.
After crossing the finish line on the famous Promenade des Anglais the Belgian rider rolled on for a few more hectometres. When he finally came to a stop it was time to say goodbye to the maillot jaune. When asked by Cyclingnews about his feelings post-yellow a sweaty Bakelants was in two minds.
"Of course I'm a bit disappointed but I knew it was hard to keep it. The margin was slight and we did the maximum we could to keep the jersey. I have to thank my teammates for the two days. They protected me. It's over but the Tour ain't over. We're going to see. There's still some nice stages that are also adapted to my characteristics. I've got something in the back [of my mind] and I think you will see me in the next days in the Tour too. In Albi? Yes, I hope so," Bakelants told Cyclingnews.
"A second is not more than a second and that's not a lot. I took into account that it would be the last day in yellow. We rode as hard as we could and that wasn't hard enough. In fact it's the first time I really suffered during a team time trial. Everybody was riding on a high level and the heat didn't help. It wasn't the most demanding course but as a result everybody's just riding faster. I have to thank the boys because everybody gave all they had so there's regrets afterwards," Bakelants said.
When finding out Gerrans was the new leader he wasn't surprised. "I tipped Orica Greenedge for the win. Both Gerrans and Kwiatkowski would've been nice successors. Everybody here would deserve it. I'm glad that I could get the taste of it for two days. It'll be hard to do it again in the future because I'm not a top climber, nor a top sprinter and I can't win a prologue. I have to be grateful."
The only regret Bakelants had was that he didn't get to wear the yellow jersey during a stage for the sprinters. "If that's the case then it's possible to enjoy the jersey the most as you can sit on the wheels and spin the legs a bit. The two days I had the jersey it wasn't at all a spin ride. Admittedly it's been two hard days. Wearing the yellow jersey has a lot of consequences. There's a lot of responsibilities to it, also at the finish. That costs a lot of energy too."
Simon Gerrans has taken the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, 32 years after his first mentor Phil Anderson became the first Australian to do so. His South African teammate of Orica GreenEdgeDaryl Impey is on the verge of succeeding to him and become the first-ever African cyclist to lead the world's biggest race the year that Kenyan-born Chris Froome was highly expected to be the one.
Since 2008, there's no more time bonus awarded to the top three of intermediate sprints and stage finishes. Therefore, Gerrans, Impey and their Swiss team-mate Michael Albasini are classified with the same time after they won the team time trial in Nice. Gerrans currently leads the race because of the addition of the places with a total of 32 as he finished 15th, 16th and first in the first three stages in Corsica. Impey is not much further back with a total of 41 after coming 11th, 8th and 22nd successively. Gerrans knows this rule very well as he won the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under over Alejandro Valverde this way despite having clocked the same time.
Logically, Impey should be the lead out man for Matt Goss at the end of stage 5 expected to be a bunch sprint finish in Marseille. Should he be positioned ten places ahead of Gerrans on the results sheet, he'll become the new leader of the Tour de France.
It would be an interesting symbolism for the event on the occasion of the centenary edition, as Marseille is France's city with the biggest African influence. Created by the Greeks and therefore nicknamed 'the Phocaea city', it faces Algiers on the other side of the Mediterranean. North African countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia used to be French colonies. When cycling living legend Raymond Poulidor, now 77, fought for France during his military service in 1958, he embarked to Algeria from Marseille's harbor. Due to the French influence on their soil, there have been African participants to the Tour de France even before Australians did it – but not many. Tunisia's Ali Neffati took part in 1913 while the first two men from Down Under, Iddo 'Snowy' Munro and Don Kirkham, lined up in 1914.
It would be symbolic also for Impey to take the yellow jersey in Marseille. Rated as the golden son of South African cycling after Robert Hunter, he tried the hard way to make it as he joined VC La Pomme-Marseille, yet an amateur club in 2005.
Based in Aubagne in the outskirts of the city, he took the opportunity to visit the Tour de France at the start of stage 13 on July 15 in the nearby town of Miramas that year – when Gerrans was making his debut at the Grande Boucle with AG2R and finished third five days later in Revel. Impey was accompanied by his teammate and roommate Dan Martin.
While Martin directly joined the pro ranks at Slipstream from French amateur cycling, Impey was not very successful in France under Frédéric Rostaing who has now made La Pomme-Marseille a valuable continental team – with a South African partnership with Bonitas. He lost his motivation and went back to South Africa prior to finding his way back to the top through Team Barloworld. But he hasn't forgotten Marseille.
Missing out on yellow means we don't have to defend it, says Froome
For new fans of pro cycling, some of the sport's quirks can be hard to fathom. Take winning the Tour de France's yellow jersey, for example. Team Sky hope Chris Froome will wear it into Paris, but were happy their British team leader missed out on taking it in Tuesday's team time trial. "Can you explain the thinking behind that?" Froome was asked in the melee around the Team Sky bus. When he did so, his answer underlined why a narrow defeat left him and his team happy rather than despondent.
"I don't think there's any disappointment at not taking yellow. If we had taken yellow it would have been by just a few seconds and it would have meant we would have needed to be on the front for the next few days, possibly expending quite a lot of energy to defend a lead of only a few seconds. So I think in a way it's a good thing we didn't end up in the yellow jersey," said Froome.
He also pointed out that the team time trial was just one small, but significant, step towards the longer-term goal of the overall title. "If we had been thinking about winning today we would definitely have included more flat engines, but knowing the guys we have, I think we're very satisfied," said Froome
Asked about his own performance, he said, "I felt very good. I was able to do slightly longer pulls on the front. I feel like I'm coming into some good form now ahead of the mountains. Not taking the yellow jersey enables us to sit back in the peloton and wait for the mountains, where I think we will really excel."
Froome, whose form was described by Sky manager Dave Brailsford as "fruity", also said he was pleased to gain time on his main rivals for the yellow jersey, even if those gains only amounted to a few seconds. "We have taken note of where Saxo Bank finished, as they have a very strong team, too. We'll take finishing six seconds up on them. We're really happy with the way the day turned out all round," he said.
The Sky leader then highlighted the performance of teammate Geraint Thomas, whose fractured pelvis has been the team's biggest setback since the Tour got under way. In normal circumstances, Thomas would have been Sky's lead-off man in the team time trial, getting them up to cruising speed during the opening kilometre. Due to his injury, all he was expected to do was sit at the back of the Sky line and finish as best he could.
"I think the big story we can talk about today is Geraint Thomas getting through in such a great way," said Froome. "Not only did he hold on to the rest of the team, but he came through and did some massive turns. He's been in a great deal of pain the last few days and seeing him do that lifted all of us, as does knowing that he will be there going forwards into the Tour. I don't think there's a question of whether he can hang on or not given what he did today. He's going to be around for the next few days for sure."
When he rolled to a halt just beyond the finish, Thomas was upbeat too. "I just wanted to get stuck in for the boys. I was dreading it to be honest," he confessed. "I was scared of the start because the last two days I haven't been able to get out of the saddle. I haven't been able to put out any big watts - 400 or 450 watts. So today I was hoping to feel a bit better.
"Fortunately, thanks to adrenaline and being really up for it, I managed to stay with the boys. Once we were up to speed and the line had formed, it was OK. I gave them a couple of turns and then at the end I gave everything I had."
Although he admitted his mother still wants to "wrap me in cotton-wool", Thomas said he is more confident about his chances of surviving for some days yet. "I'm really chuffed that I'm able to put out a bit more power now. The pain is definitely easing. It's on the bit of bone around the back [of my pelvis], so there's no real pressure when I'm sitting.
"The next few days should help. As long as there's no wind, I should be able to take it relatively easy. Hopefully, by the weekend it should be 10 times better. I can definitely feel myself getting better, so I'm not going to stop just yet."
Coming into stage 4 of the Tour de France, a team time trial of 25km in Nice, Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) was in a positive state of mind. The Belgian GC-rider claimed that his team would not only try to limit the losses but also try to gain time on some rivals. The outcome was probably better than expected. Only a few favourites finished slightly ahead of Van den Broeck. All other GC-riders like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Cadel Evans (BMC), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and the three Radioshack Leopard leaders all lost time on the Belgian. After finishing twice in fourth place in the Tour de France, it's clear Van den Broeck is back on track for a good result.
"Finishing in the top-5 would be good but the podium would be better," Van den Broeck said shortly after stage 4 on the famous Promenade des Anglais which featured as finish area.
Right after crossing the line a relaxed Van den Broeck was analysing his team's performance and the circumstances. "It was really hot. At the first split we only lost four seconds on Garmin so that's great," Van den Broeck said.
Little later the Garmin Sharp team rolled across the finish line in the same time of the Lotto Belisol team. In the past the Lotto didn't perform too well against the clock but clearly things have turned around.
"Back in 2009 I was left behind so that's not a reference," Van den Broeck laughed.
The sprint train which is designed for the team's sprinter André Greipel came in handy for this team time trial too.
"Of course, with such a flat course. That was ideal. I knew before the Tour that the team was really good, also for this work, so we knew it was possible," Van den Broeck said.
Van den Broeck now stands 14th overall at 17 seconds from new race leader Simon Gerrans who won the team time trial with the Orica Greenedge team.
Fear of no new contract or not riding the Tour de France were contributing factors
There were unavoidable pressures to dope in the late 1990s, and pressure “on the entire peloton”, says Udo Bölts, a former Team Telekom rider. Pressure from the sponsor, the fear of not getting a new contract, and lying to one's family and friends – these are the things that Bölts said he had to deal with.
Bölts turned professional with Team Stuttgart in 1989, with the team subsequently becoming Team Telekom in 1991. He stayed with the team until 2003, when he rode his final pro year for Gerolsteiner, subsequently becoming directeur sportif for that team.
“In sport there is pressure from the sponsor, that you want to live up to. The sponsor wants success, he wants his brand name mentioned, he wants TV time,” Bölts told ARD Radio.
“At that time, you had to manipulate to do well in the Tour de France. That couldn't be avoided.”
The main reason for doping was “the angst of not getting a new contract the next year, of being torn out of the sports life and standing there without a contract,” he said.
“It started for me in '96,” said Bölts. "You always had a bit of a guilty conscience, but you were always told, that it was a part of it all.”
That guilty conscience mainly came into play with family and friends. “They don't know, they say, yeah, you are on the Tour de France team again, and you think, yeah, ok, but if you know what I have to do to be part of the Tour de France team -- you just don't say anything about that."
“That is the problem with the whole thing... always having to pretend to your family, friends and acquaintances and always lying to them.”