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Third Edition Cycling News, Sunday, July 8, 2012

Date published:
July 8, 2012, 21:00
  • Lelangue unconcerned by Sky’s strength in numbers

    Cadel Evans (BMC) starts to fade after a late attack failed to net him the stage win
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 13:14
    Barry Ryan

    BMC manager pleased with Evans’ display on stage 7

    BMC team manager John Lelangue has declared himself pleased with the state of play following the first mountaintop finish of the Tour de France, which saw Cadel Evans (BMC) come home alongside new overall leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky). The pre-race favourites were part of an elite group of five riders that formed as a result of ferocious pace-making from Sky on the final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday.

    Although Evans attacked inside the wickedly steep final 200 metres, he was unable to rid himself of Wiggins, while Sky’s Chris Froome zipped past to claim the stage win. Evans came across the line in second place, and now lies second overall, still 10 seconds behind Wiggins.

    “It was a positive day,” Lelangue said as he waited to descend from the summit. “We were second on the stage and almost won it, we didn’t lose any time and we put time into quite a few other leaders.”

    While Wiggins was able to reply on the help of Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michael Rogers, Richie Porte and Chris Froome on the final climb, Evans was left somewhat more isolated. His climbing cadre of Tejay Van Garderen, Steve Cummings and Amael Moinard were quickly dispatched as the road went upwards, but Lelangue insisted there were mitigating circumstances.

    “It was a bit of a special finish, as it was so short. Our climbers are better suited to long mountains,” he said. “The passes we’ll face in the Alps and Pyrenees are better suited to Cummings, Van Garderen and Moinard. It’s not a worry.

    “The team is working well with 8 riders who had Cadel well positioned before the final climb. Tejay Van Garderen worked in the rolling 2km beforehand as we had planned this morning.”

    Van Garderen’s efforts saw him dislodged from the leading group as the climb began to bite and he lost the lead in the young rider classification to Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis). “The white jersey wasn’t an objective,” Lelangue said. “We just said beforehand that we’d see where we were in the third week. You have to make choices and the choice was to sacrifice Tejay on the flat beforehand.”

    Evans attempted to jump clear of Wiggins and Froome on the final kick up to the finish line, but his effort was reined in and he had to settle for second on the stage. As far as Lelangue is concerned, only one prize is important. “Stage wins aren’t really an objective as there are no time bonuses,” he said. “It brings you some small satisfaction and champagne in the evening, but it’s not our main concern.”

    The stage winner was Chris Froome, who still had the wherewithal to dislodge Evans and Wiggins after setting a hyperactive pace on the final two kilometres of the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. “We saw him at the Vuelta last year and we expected it,” Lelangue said. “But it was still a good day.”

    Although Evans provided an ample demonstration of his good condition on Saturday’s stage, his relative isolation in the finale will raise questions as to the relative strength of the BMC and Sky teams. Wiggins had a line of black jerseys to shepherd him towards the summit, while Evans was all alone once the Sky pace began to tell on the climb.

    Lelangue, however, insisted that it was not a source of concern. “No, we’re not thinking about the teams classification,” he grinned.

  • Pinot enjoys first test on familiar roads

    Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 14:17
    Barry Ryan

    French promise on his toughest ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles

    Born and raised in the shadow of La Planche des Belles Filles, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) has tackled the climb hundreds of times in training over the years, but never with the same kind of intensity as during stage 7 of the Tour de France.

    A natural climber who packs an explosive punch, Pinot is in theory ideally suited to a climb such as La Planche des Belles Filles, but such was the ferocity of Sky’s pace-making on the front end of the peloton that it proved impossible for anyone to attack.

    “It was very, very quick yesterday,” Pinot told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 8 in Belfort. “We arrived at the foot of the climb at an incredible pace, and then Sky were very impressive on the climb and nobody was able to attack. Their rhythm was very impressive.”

    As the men in black scarcely missed a beat out in front, overall contender after overall contender was jettisoned unceremoniously off the back of the dwindling leading group. While Pinot lost contact with that particular locomotive halfway up the climb, he recovered well as the summit approached, and picked his way through the carnage to finish in an encouraging 15th place.

    “It’s true that at the start I suffered a bit with the speed, but it’s my mountain, so I knew that there were places where I could recover further up,” he said, pointing out that he had suffered more on the flat approach to the climb than he had on the mountain itself. “The approach to La Planche put a lot of people in the red before the climb began and that made things very hard.”

    Pinot crossed the line alongside Sky’s Michael Rogers and just ahead of Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in 15th place, 1:24 down on stage winner Chris Froome. Although he had aspirations of finishing a little closer to the leaders, the peculiar nature of the stage meant that he came away satisfied with his showing.

    “Yeah, I’m happy,” he said. “I would have liked to have done at least a top 10. That wasn’t the case, but a top 15 isn’t so bad.”

    At 22 years of age, Pinot is the youngest rider in this year’s Tour, and also arguably the stand-out promise among the new wave of French talents beginning to make an impact at the highest level. Currently fourth in the young rider rankings, Pinot admitted that it will prove difficult to overhaul Rein Taaramae: “It’s going to be hard, but you never know. I’m giving a bit of thought to it, but not too much.”

    Over the final 50 kilometres of the stage, the roadsides were dotted with banners of support for the régional de l’étape Pinot. His hometown of Mélisey – where his father is mayor – was naturally the centre of festivities on Saturday afternoon, where one large banner bore the legend: “Thibaut – à toi les Belles Filles.”

    Although Pinot didn’t quite come away with the kisses of the podium hostesses, he enjoyed his day racing on home roads. “Of course it was a great day for me yesterday,” he said. “There were a lot of people who had come out specifically to cheer me on and a lot of banners out there on the roadside. It was super.”

    Pinot began Sunday’s testing stage to Porrentruy in 28th place overall, but with aspirations of moving up the standings as the race enters his favoured terrain in earnest. “I’m still going day by day. Today is a quite a testing stage too, and it’s only after tomorrow evening [the Besançon time trial – ed.] that we’ll take stock of things properly,” he said.

  • Samuel Sanchez withdraws from the Tour de France

    Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 14:39
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Injured Spaniard unlikely to defend Olympic road race title

    Euskaltel-Euskadi have suffered another big setback in this year’s Tour de France as Samuel Sánchez was forced to quit on stage eight with a possible broken left collarbone, dislocated shoulder and possible fractures in his left hand. The injuries, if confirmed, could seriously affect the 2008 Olympic road-race champion’s chances of racing in London. He was lying twelfth overall.

    The crash took place in the 60th kilometre of racing on stage eight on a short uphill section, and initial reports say it was apparently caused by a elderly male spectator sitting at a table too far out in the road. Team-mate Jorge Azanza - who was mainly responsible for protecting Sánchez in the pack - tried to avoid the spectator, who was moving out of the way at speed, but instead ended up colliding with him, with Valverde slamming into Azanza and Sánchez crashing into the two Spaniards, and somersaulting into the tarmac. Valverde was able to continue, but Sánchez injuries were too serious for the 34-year-old to follow suit, and he abandoned in tears.

    Taken by the Tour’s medical services to the nearby Montbeliard hospital, Sánchez is the fourth of Euskaltel-Euskadi’s nine riders to quit, all because of crashes. Three - Gorka Verdugo, Mikel Astarloza and Amets Txurruka - were hurt in the mass pile up on stage six, with Verdugo also abandoning today.

    As team leader, the loss of Sanchez, though, will have the biggest impact - and as defending champion in the Olympic road-race, could well seriously affect the chances of his repeating that success this summer. The winner of the King of the Mountains prize last year in the Tour and sixth overall, as well as a top five finisher in 2010, Sanchez biggest victory this season came in a long-wished-for win overall in the Vuelta al País Vasco in April, his team’s biggest home race.

  • Menchov satisfied as Tour de France enters mountains

    Denis Menchov (Katusha Team)
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 16:57
    Daniel Benson

    Katusha man remains fifth overall after two solid days

    Denis Menchov proved that his podium chances in this year's Tour de France were still on track after the first day in the mountains yesterday and he has underlined it today with another top ten finish in Sunday's eighth stage.

    The Katusha leader was one of only a handful of riders able to keep pace with Sky on the final climb of stage 7 but eventually had to sit up inside the final 2 kilometres, losing 50 seconds. However, after a strong prologue and successful first week the double Vuelta winner started today's eighth stage less than a minute behind Bradley Wiggins.

    "It wasn't bad [yesterday]. The general feelings are okay but that was just the first contact with the mountains. Those days are always strange in some ways. The final climb was perhaps a little bit too explosive for me but everyday is important in the Tour, not just yesterday but days like today. We're not on the podium places yet but we've had a good Tour in the first week," he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 8 in Belfort.

    In 2011 Menchov failed to replicate the form that helped secure him a podium in the 2010 Tour and the two wins in the Vuelta and a Giro crown. However the veteran all-rounder pointed to the final week in the Tour, when he often performs at his best.

    "Normally yes, I get stronger as the race goes on but we've only had a week of racing so it's difficult to say. Sky did a really good job yesterday and showed that they're once again a really strong group."

    Katusha's, Torsten Schmidt confirmed that the team were pleased with Menchov's form.

    "We were really happy. The final climb yesterday wasn't perfect for Menchov and was steep. We saw yesterday that the guys like Froome, Wiggins, Nibali, Evans and Denis are there and they're all good in the time trials. We've all put our cards down but there's still two weeks to go and everything can have an impact and change things."

    Menchov continued his solid start this afternoon on stage 8, once again finishing in the top ten on a day that featured no less than seven categorised climbs. He matched the times of both Wiggins and Evans and so remains 54 seconds behind in the general classification, in fifth place.

  • Pinot takes stylish win in Porrentruy

    Thibaut Pinot soloed to a brilliant victory on stage 8
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 17:45
    Barry Ryan

    French talent marks debut Tour with victory

    It may have come a day later than he would have liked, but Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) wasn't complaining as he scored a sparkling victory on stage 8 of the Tour de France at Porrentruy.

    The French youngster had hoped to shine on Saturday on the stiff climb to La Planche des Belles Filles – a stone's throw from his hometown of Mélisey – but he found there was little scope for his brand of invention when faced with the brute force of Team Sky, and he came home in 15th place.

    On the rugged road over the border into Switzerland, however, Pinot more than made amends, delivering a performance that married his natural class to a tactical savvy rarely seen in such a precocious talent – at just 22 years of age, Pinot is the youngest rider in this year's Tour.

    Fittingly, the genesis of Pinot's win was to be found in an act of youthful defiance. Though instructed by his team to stick to the yellow jersey group, he opted to venture up the road as part of a sizable chase group that formed midway through the stage, mindful that his teammate Jérémy Roy at the head of the race and would later prove to be a most useful ally.

    "At the briefing, it wasn't foreseen that I would attack today but I decided to do it anyway," Pinot explained afterwards. "I was told to stay with the big leaders, but on the first two climbs I could see that there were riders everywhere, so I figured it was better to be in front than at the back.

    "We had Jérémy Roy up front, which made it easier for me because I didn't have to work in the group behind. Then when we caught up to him, he worked a lot for me."

    By the time Pinot's group made it to Roy, he had been dropped Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), and the Swede held a lead of two minutes on the penultimate climb of the Côte de la Caquerelle with 30 kilometres remaining. It was at this point that Pinot sensed his opportunity, stylishly hitting the front of the chase group and eventually pulling clear with Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) for company.

    On the final climb, the 1st category Col de la Croix, Pinot shed Gallopin, and all but ambled across to Kessiakoff, catching and passing the Swede within sight of the summit. "The gap was 1:25 and I had no choice, I had to attack from the bottom," he said. "I got goose bumps when I saw that Kessiakoff was 15 seconds behind me at the top."


    Though familiar with the first five climbs on the day's course, Pinot had never tackled the Col de la Croix before, and was mindful of potential pitfalls on the descent. Once he reached the flat run-in to the line, his focus switched from edging away from a flagging Kessiakoff to fending off an elite chasing group behind.

    "It was a very technical descent, so I didn't take any risks on the way down," he said. "Once I got to 7-8 km to go, I stopped worrying about Kessiakoff because he was losing time, but I was worried about the peloton, because there was a headwind and I was knackered."

    At this point, Pinot's garrulous manager Marc Madiot made his own cameo, repeatedly popping his head out of the window of the team car to bellow instructions at his rider. How intently Pinot listened is a moot point, but the presence of the team car was nonetheless instructive, and he held on to win the stage by 26 seconds from Cadel Evans (BMC). "I knew that if the car was still behind me, it meant that I still had a gap of at least 30 seconds," Pinot smiled, adding: "He was encouraging me, it was a boost."

    Snapped up from the CC Étupes stable ahead of the 2010 season, Pinot has shown regular and steady improvement at FDJ-BigMat, including some fine showings at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011 and at the recent Tour de Suisse. Indeed, it was on the back of his showing in Switzerland that Pinot secured his ticket to La Grande Boucle, in spite of Madiot's initial misgivings.

    "He didn't want to bring me because he wanted to protect me," Pinot said. "I was supposed to go to the Vuelta, but I kept asking to go to the Tour de France."

    Pinot's win moves him up to 13th place overall, and he is also within striking distance of the white jersey of Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis). With the dearth of French success thus far at the Tour, Pinot's star is only likely to rise in his home country over the coming two weeks.

    27 years into the longest Tour drought in the home nation's history, French successes at the race have been provided by perspiration as much as by inspiration in the intervening period, but Pinot's stylish victory was – perhaps – an augury of brighter days to come.

    Yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins (Sky) spoke for many when he delivered his assessment of the day's winner. "The first time I saw him was last year at the Dauphiné and I noticed that he had something special about him from the way he pedalled and carried himself on the bike," he said admiringly.

    Tour de France
  • Wiggins delivers caustic assessment of his critics

    Bradley Wiggins suits up in the maillot jaune
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 18:15
    Peter Cossins

    "They can’t ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives"

    Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins delivered a withering assessment of his critics, saying their comments "justify their own bone-idleness" and ultimately branding them as "c***s".

    Appearing in front of the press having maintained his grip on the yellow jersey with another strong performance into Porrentruy, Wiggins was asked by an Associated Press reporter about comments that have been made on Twitter comparing Sky’s Tour performances with US Postal’s in past Tours. "What do you say to the cynics who think that you have to be doped up to win the Tour de France?" Wiggins was asked.

    After a pause, Wiggins replied: "They are just f***ing w*****s. I cannot be doing with people like that. It justifies their own bone-idleness because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives. It’s easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter rather than get off their arses in their own life and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something, and that’s ultimately it. C***s!"

    Up to that point Wiggins had looked relaxed as he responded to questions. Asked initially about the possibility that teammate Chris Froome might beat him as he did in last year’s mid-race time trial at the Vuelta, Wiggins acknowledged that this is possible.

    "It’s the race of truth and you’ve got to have the legs. The time trial in the Vuelta last year was at a 1000m altitude and it was 37 degrees and I just went off way too fast. Anything is possible tomorrow. I try not to think too negatively and concentrate on the way I’m riding now," he said.

    He once again played down the importance of the Tour’s time trials, emphasising that every stage is important. "There’s been so much fuss made about the time trials, but the time trials are irrelevant unless you’ve got through the last seven or eight days," he said.

    "Ultimately, the Tour de France is about being good every day and not just being good in the time trials. You don’t win the Tour by solely being good in the time trials. It’s another stage, but they are all important."

    Sky boss Dave Brailsford was once again full of praise for his riders, picking out Christian Knees for particular mention. He said he was pleased to get through the Porrentruy stage without any major concerns, describing it as one of the most dangerous on the race because of the heavy and undulating roads.

    Asked about the danger presented by RadioShack, who finished with four riders in the front group, Brailsford commented: "If you’ve been working all day on those roads into a headwind with everybody attacking and you’ve got four guys sitting on all day I don’t think that’s… Well, they did it to try to get the team GC obviously and I didn’t see it as too much of a threat really."

    Brailsford added that Monday’s time trial will confirm who the strongest riders are and was confident that his leaders will be among them.

  • Vande Velde confirmed to race in 2013

    Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Barracuda)
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 19:15
    Daniel Benson

    Likely to stay with Garmin

    The 2012 Tour de France has been one to forget for Garmin-Sharp but there was some good news when Christian Vande Velde confirmed that he would race in 2013. The 36-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season and although he may not be the Tour rider of 2008, when he finished fourth, he still adds experience and strength to the team. He was instrumental in Ryder Hesjedal's win in the Giro d'Italia this May and finished second in last year's Tour of Colorado.

    At this stage Vande Velde is considering his options but made it clear that he wished to see out his career with the team he signed for in 2008.

    "I'm definitely going to ride again next year," he told Cyclingnews

    "We'll see what happens. The team and I are still talking .We'll see. I would love to stay with Garmin, there's no doubt about it. it just depends about the racing and what I can and can't do in my last year of racing," he added.

    Vande Velde came into the Tour as a super domestique for Hesjedal but the team found themselves on the back foot after a number of crashes and disappointing stages. With Hesjedal out of the race injured and no GC prospect the team has gone on the hunt for stages wins. Vande Velde and David Millar both attempted to infiltrate the break on stage 8 to Porrentruy but came up short. Vande Velde did manage to finish in the third group on the road though and added that is motivation is still high, despite the team's current Tour performance.

    "I tried but I was in a bunch of wrong moves. Sometimes when you're too aggressive you're not thinking straight, sometimes when you even have good legs you just have to be patient.

    "Our race couldn't have gone much worse. We'll keep on trying and I tried all day today and even pushed a bit in the final for no other reason than to show that I've still got it. It's good for morale and it's better than just riding in twenty minutes later. We'll obviously try for stages and try something. I'm still healing up, I'm still beaten up and swollen but I sacrificed a lot for this race and I'm not going to just ride in the grupetto after the Tour."

    Tour de France
  • RadioShack-Nissan give Zubeldia and Monfort more freedom at Tour de France

    Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan)
    Article published:
    July 8, 2012, 19:51
    Pete Cossins

    Team will get behind form riders after leaders fail to impress

    RadioShack-Nissan will be studying the outcome of Monday’s time trial particularly closely as it could well result in a shift in the focus of the team’s strategy going into the Alpine stages at the 2012 Tour de France. After co-leaders Fränk Schleck and Andreas Klöden both lost time on the steep climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, Haimar Zubeldia and Maxime Monfort emerged as the team’s two form riders. Zubeldia continued his strong performances on stage 8, coming in with the maillot jaune group and is now fifth, 59 seconds behind Bradley Wiggins.

    Team director Dirk Demol says that both he and Monfort will be given more freedom in the coming few stages.

    “I think we’ll a have look at how things go on the stage to Porrentruy today and try to do a very good time trial," he told Cyclingnews before stage 8. "We’ve got two riders in the top 10, Haimar and Maxime, who are sixth [he moved up to fifth - ed] and seventh and aren’t bad at all in time trials. They can do their own race. We’ll take another look at how the race is going for us after the time trial, then we’ll decide what to do after the rest day."

    Demol pointed out that both riders have been in good form coming into the Tour and acknowledged that the team has to be honest with its situation and allow their form riders an opportunity. “Haimar was out for a long time at the start of the season. He only started racing again a month or so ago at the Bayern Rundfahrt, and then he did the Dauphiné and finished 10th, which showed he was in good condition. He’s already finished fifth in the Tour on two occasions so we know he has the experience to finish well up. Even last year, when he was not in good shape, he finished 17th.

    “As for Maxime, he has also shown he’s in good condition. The time trial never lies and he was third just last month in the long TT in Switzerland so it’s normal for us to support him until after the time trial, then we will take stock again.”

    With seven riders in the top 26 overall, RadioShack do have a lot of tactical options and Demol acknowledged that they will aim to take advantage of them. “We’ll be looking closely at the stages ahead to see how best to make use of them. The level of the team is very high and if we had a strong leader we could really go a long way. Although we perhaps don’t have the strong leader we needed, our goal is to have an impact further into this Tour,” said the Belgian DS.

    Asked about Sky’s performance on the stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, he said: “Yesterday we saw that Sky are impressively strong. If they continue at that level they are going to be almost unbeatable, but there’s still a long way to go…”

    Tour de France