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Third Edition Cycling News, Monday, July 21, 2014

Date published:
July 21, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Book extract: When Bassons met Armstrong

    "A Clean Break", by Christophe Bassons
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 15:33 BST
    Peter Cossins

    Ex-pros discuss doping and choices at 2013 meeting

    In December 2013, Christophe Bassons met Lance Armstrong in Paris. As well as touching on their brief conversation on the road to Sestrières during the 1999 Tour, the pair discussed what it was that set them on very different paths, as Bassons reveals in this extract from his autobiography, A Clean Break:

    Sometimes people ask me if I’m happy with what has happened to Lance Armstrong. This question really annoys me. Why should I be happy? What has changed that would satisfy me? Lance Armstrong has good reason to see the irony in the status of scapegoat that has been conferred on him. Over the winter of 2012–13, it seems I hardly stopped speaking about this man with whom I had only talked after all for just a minute of my life, even if that minute did seem particularly long… …

    Via intermediaries, I learned that the American wanted to meet me. My first impulse was to say no. I was afraid of being manipulated, trapped. Was he intending to get me involved in his complicated judicial affairs, to use our tête à tête as a way of appeasing the American courts? I am fully aware of the importance of redemption in American culture.

    And then I said yes. I realised that even though his request might have been self-serving, I also needed to have this meeting. I had questions, lots of questions, to ask him. I had personal issues that I wanted to settle before moving on to other things. The conversation we had started on the descent from Sestrières had only lasted a few seconds. It needed to be completed.

    In addition, I could see a good reason for having such a meeting with regard to the prevention of doping. What could be better than showing that choices made in the short term do not always turn out to be the best in the long term? It was to be me, the little outcast within the pro peloton in the years between 1998 and 2001 against Lance Armstrong. As they say in tennis, we...

  • USA Pro Challenge teams announced

    Tejay van Garderen shows grit and determination on stage 10
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 16:35 BST
    Cycling News

    Five ProTeams to start in Aspen

    Race organizers of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge have announced the 16 teams that will compete in the seven-day race held from August 18 to 24 from Aspen to Denver, throughout the Colorado Rockies. Five ProTeams headline the start list along with four Professional Continental teams and seven Continental squads.

    “We consistently get such an overwhelmingly positive response from the teams that participate in the Pro Challenge each year,” said Rick Schaden, owner of the USA Pro Challenge. “The race continues to build momentum year-after-year and we’ll look to build on that in 2014 by welcoming back some veteran teams and introducing some new ones to the challenging terrain and beautiful scenery of Colorado.”

    BMC Racing’s had much success during last year’s edition winning the overall team competition, Tejay van Garderen won the overall title and his then-teammate Mathias Frank, who now races for IAM Cycling, was second. Although it is not confirmed whether or not van Garderen will be returning to defend his title, his BMC team will be on the start line.

    Cannondale Pro Cycling, which won four stages and the sprint jersey with Peter Sagan, will also be returning to the race with a similar goal of securing stage wins. "We're really looking forward to racing in the USA Pro Challenge again this year,” said Cannondale director Alberto Volpi. “With tough, competitive racing and amazing crowds, this is the kind of race we love. Last year, the team rode really well and Peter Sagan took the sprint jersey. This year, we’re coming back to take stages and be again among the main contenders. We’ll certainly bring a...

  • Nibali: I can’t say I’ve won the Tour until it’s over

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 16:48 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian calm ahead of Pyrenean stages

    Vincenzo Nibali's rest day press conference at the Tour de France was a more sparsely-attended affair than those of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in recent years. The 100-kilometre distance from the press centre in Carcassonne to Astana's hotel in Lignan-sur-Orb won’t have helped, nor, perhaps, the 4:37 lead Nibali holds over Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, a distant second in the general classification.

    As was the case at last year's Giro d'Italia, when Nibali was already very safely ensconced in the pink jersey entering the final week, the Sicilian spent much of the press conference downplaying the idea that the Tour was already won. His rest day briefing focused on two well-worn mantras – the importance of staying tranquillo and the need to take each day as it comes.

    "I think it's in my character to be calm, I've always been like that, and I have also drawn confidence from my condition. I think it was the same last year at the Giro d'Italia," said Nibali, who was reluctant to tempt fate by comparing the meaning of his probable Tour victory to his past wins at the Giro and Vuelta a España: "I'm living it day-by-day and I can't say it's won until it's over."

    For now, then, Nibali's focus is on the three days directly in front of him, which bring the Tour into the Pyrenees. Already a winner in the Vosges and the Alps, Nibali has the opportunity to complete a rare hat-trick of victories in three different mountain ranges in the same Tour, but he said that his focus was simply on defending the maillot jaune.

    "The stages coming up will be hard. We'll keep an eye on the breaks but it will be hard to leave a mark here. The objective will be to control the race and maintain the advantage I have," he said. "I have a significant gap...

  • Valverde aims to defend his podium place at the Tour de France

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lost time in Risoul to a mechanical issue
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 16:50 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Runner-up refuses to reveal his plan to gain time in the overall

    Spain's Alejandro Valverde is currently Vincenzo Nibali's closest pursuer in the Tour de France. The Movistar veteran says he could not be more satisfied with his second place - his best position ever at this point in the Tour - but he is still prepared to fight to try and improve on that placing.

    "I'm more or less where I expected to be, this is quite a different Tour because of Contador and Froome's abandons, Nibali is very strong, but I'm pleased to be where I am," said Valverde - who began the Tour with the stated aim of making the podium - on Monday's rest day.

    Asked about whether he felt he needed to gain further time on the rest of the field, given his margin on third placed Romain Bardet, just 13 seconds behind, Valverde said "It's clear that the more time I get, the better, there are three very hard Tour stages ahead and who knows what could happen. But we shouldn't give up, we should always try to do better.

    "There are three hard stages ahead and the more time you have, the better, so the idea is to do three good stages. If anybody's got to gain time, it's not me, it's the riders who are right behind me."

    Asked if he was more worried about Thibaut Pinot ( or about Bardet, the two riders who are closest behind him overall, with Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) in fifth, 89 seconds behind the Spaniard, Valverde replied "Bardet and Pinot form part of a new generation, and it's good for France to have two riders fighting for the Best Young Rider's classification and the podium.

    "We are going to try and get more time on one these three stages, we have a strategy for that - but which one, I'm not saying."

    At the same time, he hasn't forgotten Nibali and trying to oust him from the top place overall. "He's the...

  • Mark Cavendish back on the road to recovery

    He may not be racing but Mark Cavendish still attracts a decent crowd
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 17:19 BST
    Ellis Bacon

    Briton joins OmegaPharma-QuickStep on Tour's rest day

    Mark Cavendish is back training on the road after crashing out of the 2014 Tour de France at the finish of the opening stage in Harrogate more than two weeks ago.

    The 29-year-old sprinter from the Isle of Man went down while disputing the sprint finish in an attempt to win both the first stage and the race's first yellow jersey in his mother's home town, but was forced to leave the race, bitterly disappointed, after tearing the ligament between his collar bone and shoulder blade.

    Cavendish returned to the Tour on Monday to join his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team at their press conference in Lastours, just north of Carcassonne, on the race's second rest day, where it was also announced that the squad would be known as Etixx-Quick Step from 2015, employing the name of the Omega Pharma company's sports nutrition products.

    "I did my first ride on the road yesterday [Sunday]," Cavendish told the press. "I wasn't pain-free, but it was okay. I'm just a little bit weak in my right arm.

    "It was a grade-four rupture of the AC joints, which means that the shoulder has separated, and has gone backwards, and sort of gone into my shoulder muscles and damaged them a bit," explained Cavendish when asked for more details about his injury. "They couldn't just do keyhole [surgery] on a 'grade four'; they have to do open-tissue [surgery], and they pinned the blade and the collar bone together to hopefully help it repair faster."

    Since undergoing surgery 11 days ago, Cavendish said that he'd been getting more and more movement back in his arm every day.

    "I've been doing quite a bit of work on the stationary bike this week, and that didn't hurt, so by the end of...

  • Pinot downplays prospect of duel with Bardet

    Thibault Pinot leads Romain Bardet
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 18:02 BST
    Barry Ryan man concerned by Valverde, van Garderen and Peraud

    The Tour de France has globalised immensely since Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor divided loyalties in the 1960s but at its heart, La Grande Boucle has remained a resolutely French affair.

    It's little wonder, then, that the presence of not one but two young French climbers in the battle for the final podium has provoked such excitement among the home media, and it’s no surprise either, that many are hoping that their duel this July might develop into a longer-term rivalry.

    Thibaut Pinot ( lies fourth overall as the Tour enters its final week, just 16 seconds behind another Frenchman born in 1990, Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), but when he met the press at Château de Pennautier, outside Carcassonne, on Monday morning, he was keen to downplay their tête-à-tête.

    "We're the same age, we know each other well. On the bike Romain is a rival but off it he's still a friend," Pinot said, although Bardet's name was conspicuous by its absence when he listed his most difficult rivals for a place on the podium in Paris.

    "For me, [Alejandro] Valverde, [Tejay] van Garderen and [Jean-Christophe] Peraud are the most dangerous," Pinot said.

    And Bardet? "He has a 16-second advantage on me now but there's a 54km time trial to come and I hope I will be better than him there," Pinot said. "The others I've named are stronger in the time trial than me."

    Although the French pair broke even at Risoul on Saturday, Pinot holds the upper hand on the Tour's mountaintop finishes to date, out-climbing Bardet at La Planche des Belles Filles and again at Chamrousse. On the descent of the...

  • Van Garderen enters the most important week of his career

    Tejay van Garderen (BMC) chased hard, but could not catch Jean-Christophe Peraud
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 18:45 BST
    Daniel Benson

    "The meat of the Tour is coming up," says BMC leader

    The Tour de France is set to enter its final week where a cluster of stages in the Pyrenees and a shade over 907 kilometres of racing will decide the outcome of what Tejay van Garderen has agreed is the most important week of his career to date.

    The American all-rounder and leader of the BMC Racing team currently sits fifth overall, and although he is 5:49 minutes down on race leader Vincenzo Nibali, he is still within striking distance of a podium place.

    Throughout this year's Tour, van Garderen has ridden with the assuredness and confidence that all but deserted him in 2013, with the 25- year-old climbing with a concoction of maturity and finesse. Equalling his Tour best of fifth overall from 2012 looks to be a strong possibility but with a long individual time trial still to come van Garderen has everything to play for.

    "I'm definitely happy with where I'm at," van Garderen told the press at the start his rest-day press conference in Carcassone. "There were plenty of moment when it looked like we might have lost everything but we bounced back really well and we're in a good spot."

    Last year's Tour disappointment, in which van Garderen wilted, has made the American a more accomplished rider. This year, and this race, he has displayed a greater mental fortitude, bouncing back from losing time on the cobbles and a crash. Part of that comes with experience but also the fact that BMC have entrusted him with sole leadership in the race.

    The next three days in the Pyrenees may well decide whether that trust was well-placed but it may also give van Garderen the chance to show how far he has come in the last twelve months.

    "The meat of the Tour is coming up," he said. "Last year was the hardest Tour I've ever done. To come in and...

  • Vinokourov: 2007 is in the past and I don’t want to return to that topic

    Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)
    Article published:
    July 21, 2014, 19:19 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Astana general manager declines to talk about blood doping positive

    On the second rest day of the 2007 Tour de France, Alexandre Vinokourov was expelled from the race after returning a positive test for blood doping. Seven years on, the Kazakh is general manager of the yellow jersey’s team, Astana. It’s a funny old game, cycling.

    Vinkourov was seated alongside Vincenzo Nibali during his rest-day press conference in Lignan-sur-Orb on Monday, at the 2014 Tour de France. After listening to the Italian’s responses, Vinokourov was asked if he had learnt anything from his own expulsion from the 2007 Tour, and whether he had versed his riders in the importance of winning clean.

    “2007 is in the past and I don’t want to return to that topic,” Vinokourov said flatly, before pointing to Astana’s membership of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) as a sign of its good faith.

    “As for the other question, since 2009 we’ve been in the MPCC [Astana, in fact, only joined the MPCC at the beginning of last season – ed.] and like the other teams in there we have worked a lot for the cleanliness of the team, we do the maximum with our doctors to follow the riders. I think we’ve done the maximum. Cycling has changed in the last five years and you can see that on the road. There are young riders coming and that’s great.”

    After the formal conference ended, Vinokourov spoke with a smaller group of reporters, and was asked how he felt when his insalubrious past was brought up. Vinokourov served a two-year ban but returned to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the London 2012 Olympics road race, before becoming general manager of the Astana team.