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Third Edition Cycling News, Sunday, June 30, 2013

Date published:
June 30, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Eddy Merckx: “Winning the Tour de France without doping is possible”

    Belgian Eddy Merckx celebrates winning his fifth Tour de France
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 15:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Says Armstrong has many merits

    In an interview with French news paper Le Parisien the five-times Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx says it is possible to win the Tour de France without doping.

    Merckx, who tested positive three times during his career, thinks winning the Tour is still very difficult, just like it always was. For the former rider there are only a few candidates for the overall victory this year. “Froome, Contador, Evans, van Garderen and Rodríguez. Maybe Schleck in the end. In any case it’s less crowded at the top,” he said.

    After several doping-related stories came out in the media, Merckx said that he "hopes that the doping stories will quickly disappear,” he continued. “The Tour doesn’t deserve that. Some statements were unlucky. You can’t generalize everyone. It is possible to win the Tour de France without doping. Cheaters will not get away with it now we have the biological passport.”

    The record-holder for Tour de France stage victories (34) also reflected on former seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. “He had the misfortune to be riding in an era where medicine took over. I met Armstrong after he survived cancer, afer he looked death in the eye. Armstrong had a lot of merit."

    The Belgian rider was interviewed by the French paper in relation to a vote among its readers as  to who was the ‘champion of champions’ of all the Tours. Merckx won the vote by 34%. Bernard Hinault had 28% and Jacques Anquetil 12%. “The Tour de France was the biggest victory of my life. It had been 30 years since a Belgian rider won when I did in 1969. It was a childhood dream,” Merckx proclaimed.

  • Plans for 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ taking shape

    The 2014 Tour de France begins in Leeds.
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 17:19 BST
    Pete Cossins

    Gary Verity: "We are keen to establish Yorkshire as the cycling capital of Europe"

    With this year's Grand Départ well under way, Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Executive Gary Verity has been taking the opportunity to get an insight into what Yorkshire can expect next year when the 2014 Tour de France starts in the county. As well as getting the best seat in the race alongside race director Christian Prudhomme in the Tour's lead car, Verity has also been giving members of his own organising team an insight into the size and impact of the race, which will start in Leeds on July 5 next year.

    "I've been to the Tour many times before, but it's been useful to get even more insight into what we can expect next year," said Verity on the Mega Smeralda ferry that has been the race's HQ for the opening days of the race. He said spoken with Prudhomme about Yorkshire's progress towards the Tour's arrival. "Christian has told me, 'You are in very good shape. We like what you're doing," said Verity.

    "The thing that impresses more than anything is the scale of the whole thing, what Christian describes as the 'hugeness'. Going into the press centre and seeing hundreds of journalists working away is astonishing."

    Speaking about the specifics of Yorkshire's preparations, Verity revealed that most of the roads set to be used for the opening stage of the 2014 Tour have been "made good". Plans for an arts and cultural festival running for the 100 days leading into the Tour are also well under way.

    "We've done most of the logistical bits with ASO - the hotels, the route. I'd say probably two-thirds of the roads on stage 1 are good to go," said Verity. "With the cultural and arts festival, we will be into full-on Tour mode from March onwards."

    Verity admitted that he has been hugely surprised by the positive reaction of people in Yorkshire. "They are buying into the Tour in a way we'd never really anticipated this far away from the...

  • Millar disappointed to miss out on Tour de France yellow jersey

    Cavendish starts the party going by spraying David Millar with champagne
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 18:39 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Garmin-Sharp rider just one second from glory

    David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) warmed down on the rollers in the shadow of a bar well away from the noise of the finish area of the stage, taking time to ease the pain of the stage from his legs and the anger and disappointment of missing out on the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.

    Millar knew he had a great shot at taking the yellow jersey after finishing fourth on Saturday's first stage. With no time bonuses to change the overall classification and with most of his well-placed rivals dropped from the front group, Millar just needed to finish well up in the sprint to hit the jackpot.

    The yellow jersey was within his grasp but cycling can be a cruel sport. Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard) deservingly won the stage with a late attack and finished one second ahead of Millar and the other chasers. Millar finished 13th in the sprint. That was enough to give Bakelants the yellow jersey and leave Millar agonisingly close but in the shadow of success, one place from glory.

    "It's very disappointing. At the same time we were all on our hands and knees, and I couldn't get out of the saddle in the last two kilometres because I was cramping up all over. I did the sprint sitting down. We were just too tired," he told Cyclingnews and Cycling Weekly.

    "We did what we could with the means we had. Everyone had a very hard race. It was harder than everyone had expected, it was very hot. When you're on your hands and knees in the finale, it's hard to coordinate things. Bakelants was able to stay away because he had the legs and took the opportunity in the chaos."

    Millar and his Garmin-Sharp teammates knew that yellow was possible but with so few teams well represented in the chase group,...

  • Bakelants' luck is finally as good as his legs at Tour de France

    Jan Bakelants (RadioShack Leopard) puts on the yellow jersey
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 19:22 BST
    Pete Cossins

    New yellow jersey wearer enjoys "most beautiful day" of his life

    Jan Bakelants' first victory as a full-fledged pro has been a long time coming. Lauded as Belgium's next stage racing prospect when he won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2008, the 27-year-old has subsequently been dogged by ill fortune. However, after receiving last-minute confirmation he would be riding the Tour de France when he finished third in the Belgian national championship 10 days ago, Bakelants finally took his first pro win on just his second day in the race, and claimed the significant bonus of the yellow jersey as well.

    It was no wonder that the clearly overwhelmed Belgian described today as "definitely the most beautiful day in my life as a cyclist. After all of the problems I've had in past seasons and also this season, it's fantastic. It's so incredible to give something back to the team after all of the misery I've had this year and in previous seasons."

    Bakelants revealed that he had not planned to go clear in the final moments of the stage. He admitted that when he made the surge that took him clear of his five breakaway companions, his goal had been to increase the break's momentum as the bunch bore down on them.

    "The six of us were all strong riders, but I had the feeling not all of us were going 100 per cent. I think some of the others were holding something back for the final sprint. I knew if everyone went 100 per cent to the finish, it would be possible," said the Belgian.

    "I felt so easy in the break. Every time I went to the front, I felt like I was stronger than the others. I was saying to myself: 'Are we going to ride or are we going to let the bunch catch us and see another Sagan win?' I could see the bunch coming and I've been in there a lot and know it's not often you see a rider holding the bunch off on his own. I know how fast the bunch can go."

    Bakelants went to the...

  • Ted King: My legs are great, it’s the body that's taken its toll

    Cannondale's Ted King began his first Tour de France suffering to the linewith damage to his left shoulder
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 19:49 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Cannondale rider promises to fight on despite injuries

    Ted King climbed carefully into a Cannondale team car after the end of stage 2 of the Tour de France, covered in bandages and clearly in pain after his crash at the end of stage 1. Despite the pain and suffering of racing stage 2 through the Corsican mountains, he was relieved and even happy to have made it through the stage.

    His Tour de France looked like it was over on day one after crashing hard on his right shoulder. But he dug deep and fought the pain to reach the finish safely in the gruppetto. King finished 167th, 17:35 behind stage winner Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard), in the same time as yellow jersey wearer Marcel Kittel, sprinters Mark Cavendish and Nacer Bouhanni, and fellow crash victims Tony Martin and Geraint Thomas.

    "I'm pleased I've gotten through today. It was a relatively short stage. It was going to be a test for my shoulder but I got through it," King told Cyclingnews after easing into the front seat of the team car.

    "We went 'not easy' on the climb half way through the stage. Fortunately my legs are great, it’s the body that's taken its toll.  The road rash is one thing, I can handle that. But it's the shoulder that the problem."

    In the hope the pain eases and his injuries begin to heal, King's strategy for the next few days is simple and wise. "I've got to take things one day at a time," he said.

    After finishing stage 2, he has earned the right to fight on, during Monday's third stage to Calvi.



  • Kittel goes from yellow to green at Tour de France

    Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) lost his yellow jersey
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 21:31 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Argos-Shimano rider says he will not defend green jersey

    Wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France only lasted one day for Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano). The winner of the chaotic first stage of the Tour de France struggled during the hillier 156km long second stage from Bastia to Ajaccio.

    On the Col de la Serra, the second climb of the day, he dropped off the pace of the main peloton. The German sprinter never made it back up to the front of the bunch and eventually arrived in the so-called "bus" 17:35 after stage winner Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), who took over the maillot jaune from Kittel.

    Kittel did get a consolation prize: the green jersey of the sprint classification in which he holds a lead of four points over Peter Sagan (Cannondale).

    After crossing the line, Kittel talked about his day in yellow. When a journalist asked him if he slept in the yellow jersey like some did in the past, Kittel smiled and said, "No, that's a bit too far."

    "The yellow jersey boosted me a lot. Uphill I was flying because of the cheers that I received from the crowd. I wasn't flying fast enough though," Kittel said, laughing. "Luckily, I ended up in a good group that made it safely to the finish."

    In that group he was accompanied by his wounded compatriot Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep). The time trial world champion had crashed hard in the finale of stage 1 and lost consciousness twice in the team bus right after the stage. Martin received a lot of praise from Kittel.

    "Yesterday, I immediately texted him to wish him good luck. He answered that it wasn't as bad as expected. He rode in the same group like I did to the finish. He indicated that he was satisfied with how he was doing. I have a lot of respect for him. He probably didn't get any sleep, and then you have to get...

  • Rolland not focusing on Tour de France KoM title yet

    Pierre Rolland (Europcar)
    Article published:
    June 30, 2013, 22:25 BST
    Pete Cossins

    Europcar leader says taking the polka-dot jersey was team's goal in stage 2

    Pierre Rolland said he will be a very proud man when he lines up at the start of stage 3 wearing the red polka-dot jersey as the best climber of the Tour de France. However, the Europcar climber said the jersey was not yet a long-term goal, and he still intends to focus on the general classification while he remains in contention for it.

    "We knew before the stage that points were up for grabs in the King of the Mountains competition. We had David Veilleux going for them in the first escape. When we were one kilometre from the top of the final climb, they told me on the radio that if I could get over the climb first, I would have a good chance of taking the polka-dot jersey, so I didn't hesitate and I went hard to get the points," said the Frenchman.

    Asked if he was focusing on challenging for the yellow or the polka-dot jersey, Rolland said, "I'm going to try to get through the final stage in Corsica without any difficulty and then we'll see how things look after that. But even if my hold on this jersey is temporary, the Tour's King of the Mountains jersey is really something special. I'll be very proud wearing it tomorrow."

    He acknowledged that Europcar are determined to be on the front foot as much as possible. "The team is trying to be aggressive, trying to make things happen. We've had two riders on the Tour podium already and that's a good base to work from in the Tour," he said.

    Rolland also confessed he had struggled a bit in the heat on stage 2 in what was a very intense day of racing. "It was a hard day. These short stages are very tough, much more so than some of the longer ones, because the pace is so high throughout," said the Frenchman.


  • Mixed fortunes for Team Sky on the road to Ajaccio

    Christopher Froome (Sky)
    Article published:
    July 01, 2013, 10:40 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Froome attacks on final climb but Thomas and Stannard suffer

    Team Sky had plenty to smile about after stage 2 of the Tour de France to Ajaccio with Edvald Boasson Hagen finishing fifth and Chris Froome going on the attack in the finale. However there was also concern about Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard, who finished in the gruppetto and in pain following their crash on stage 1.

    Froome jumped away on the Cote du Salario, just 12km from the finish. He went in pursuit of Cyril Gautier and then eased up on the descent to avoid any risks.

    "With that little climb about 10km from the finish - I knew the descent was tricky and dangerous," said Froome.

    “I was on the front with Richie, and I thought it might be a good time, just to push on a little bit, get ahead and take the descent at my own pace and stay out of trouble," Froome said after warming down and recovering on the rollers overlooking the Mediterranean.

    "It's always good to keep people on their toes," he said with a smile.

    "The main objective for us was to stay out of trouble today, stay at the front, and not lose any time to the main contenders," he said.  "Eddie (Boasson Hagen) was there at the end and was given the freedom to have a go at the sprint, and he ended up with fifth. All-in-all it was a good stage for us, having kept our places on the GC and allowing Eddie to give it a go."

    A painful day for Thomas and Stannard

    Froome is 18th in the general classification, one second down on new race leader and stage winner Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard). He is well placed for Monday's tough stage to Calvi and Tuesday's team time trial in Nice.

    The ride from Bastia to Ajaccio was not so pleasant for several of Froome's teammates. Thomas, Stannard, David Lopez and Kanstantsin Siutsou all finished in the gruppetto with the sprinters, 17:35...