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Third Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Date published:
July 14, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Valverde to return to competition in Spain

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) won the Dauphiné Libéré for the second year in a row.
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 16:30 BST
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Spaniard to return in Madrid on Friday

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) will return to competition at the three-stage Vuelta a la Comunidad De Madrid from July 17 to19.

    Valverde has not raced since finishing fourth at the Spanish national road race on June 28.

    The winner of two stages at last year's Tour de France is not competing at this year's Tour due to a two-year ban handed down by the Italian Olympic Authority (CONI) that prohibits him from racing in Italy.

    The French Grand Tour will pass through Italy's alpine region on Stage 16.

    Valverde will be joined by teammates Andrey Amador, Vicente García Acosta, Vasil Kiriyenka, Alberto Losada, Ángel Madrazo, Fran Pérez and Joaquím Rodríguez when the Vuelta a la Comunidad De Madrid begins on Friday.

    Neil Stephens will be the team's director for the race.
     

  • Green jersey second to finishing race for Cavendish

    Erik Zabel, advisor to Mark Cavendish (R).
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 16:44 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Erik Zabel says Cavendish could match his points jersey tally

    Mark Cavendish's goal is to arrive for the first time at the Tour de France's final stage in Paris and not the green sprinters' jersey, according to Columbia-HTC technical advisor Erik Zabel.

    Cavendish won his third stage of this year's Tour de France on Tuesday in Issoudun. In doing so the Manxman moved up to second in the points classification behind Norweigian, Thor Hushovd. Hushoved finished second to Cavendish in the stage ten finish. 

    "It is not impossible for him to win, but the goal is to arrive in Paris. If he can finish in the top there in the points classification then the green jersey becomes the goal for 2010," Zabel told Cyclingnews, prior to stage ten.

    German Zabel won 12 stages and six times the green points jersey at the Tour de France. He joined Columbia-HTC as a technical advisor this year and mentored Cavendish prior to his Milano-San Remo win.

    Cavendish is racing his third Tour de France. He abandoned shortly after the start of the 2007 edition, but last year he won four stages prior to abandoning on stage fourteen.

    Zabel thinks he could someday equal his six green jerseys. "He is still 24, I won my first when I was 26. Why not?"

    Cavendish seems capable of winning more than four stages this year. He developed over the winter and now climbs with less effort.

    "I like that he is much more complete than two years ago. He is better now on the uphills and that gives him much more options to win. Over the winter, he focused especially on the Milano-Sanremo. He trained specifically at home, on the Isle of Man, on climbs that were similar to the Cipressa and Poggio."

    Cavendish was the youngest rider since Eddy Merckx when he won Italy's Milano-San Remo one-day race in March. Zabel won the race four times in his career.

    After Tuesday's finish in Issoudun there are four other stages suited to sprints remaining in this year's Tour de France, including the...

  • Saxo Bank's Arvesen out of the Tour de France

    Saxo Bank's Kurt-Asle Arvesen waits patiently for the stage in Stäfa.
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 17:22 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Suspected broken collarbone after stage ten crash

    Kurt-Asle Arvesen is out of the Tour de France with a suspected broken collarbone.

    The Saxo Bank rider crashed midway through stage ten from Limoges to Issoudun and despite successfully rejoining the peloton was clearly struggling throughout the remainder of the day. Arvesen received multiple treatments from the race doctor throughout the stage.

    Cyclingnews spoke to Brian Nygaard, the team’s spokesman at the finish, who confirmed the injury: “He was very courageous getting to the finish but it looks like his left collarbone is broken. It took him a whole minute to get off the bike because of the pain. He was in a world of pain getting onto the bus.”

    If Arvesen is ruled out of the race it will reduce Saxo Bank’s strength in numbers before the crucial third week of the Tour. Arvesen was part of Carlos Sastre’s Tour winning campaign in 2008 and won the Norwegian national championships in June.

    “Kurt is a very hard man to replace. He was our road captain. We’ll hope for the best but expect the worst,” Nygaard added.
     

  • Aldag: We're not here to have fun

    Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad) is congratulated by teammate Michael Rogers.
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 18:09 BST
    By:
    Richard Moore

    Columbia-HTC manager responds to Wiggins' critique

    Rolf Aldag, the Columbia-HTC manager, has responded to Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins's criticisms with some sharp comments of his own. The Englishman claimed this week that he found "the vibe in the team very artificial," and feared that Columbia was "becoming the Cav show."

     

    Wiggins rode for Columbia in 2008 before leaving for Garmin-Slipstream and emerging in this Tour de France as a possible overall contender. Speaking on Monday's rest day, however, he was less than complimentary about the regimented structure at Columbia, comparing it unfavourably with the more relaxed regime at Garmin.

    "Yeah, it is like that," said Columbia-HTC manager Aldag to the charge that there is a strong emphasis on discipline at Columbia, "but we're not here to have fun – we're here to have success and have fun. It's professional sport and I don't think you'd find big sponsorships if you just hang out with a bunch of friends.

    "I think we have had 55 wins this year, so I think it's crystal clear [our approach] works," continued Aldag. "We have expectations – for example, on ethics, our code of conduct in the [riders'] contract is two times longer than for others. We are strict, we are hard, but we learned our lessons from history."

    The history in question being that of the team, which evolved from the German T-Mobile team, of which Aldag was a long-serving member. It has since been claimed that a culture of doping existed within the team. Aldag himself admitting to having used EPO.

    "We have a structure, but I don't think you can make friends with the riders and agree on everything," added Aldag. "I do believe the best way to have fun on the team is to have success, rather than talking yourself into it, saying, ‘what a great team of losers we are!'"

    On Wiggins, though, Aldag insisted there are no hard feelings, and said that he is not surprised to see him challenging at the business end of the...

  • Hupond's Bastille Day escape

    Break riders Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux), Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano)
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 18:13 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Frenchmen form escape on country's independence day

    Frenchman Thierry Hupond led the way Tuesday in the tenth stage of the Tour de France and on his country's national holiday, Bastille Day. He attacked to form an escape group immediately after the race left Limoges.

    "From the start of the Tour I wanted to be in an escape. I am really happy to make it happen on the national day. It was really impressive out there with all the fans on the road," Hupond told Cyclingnews.

    Hupond (Skil-Shimano) was the first to start the escape group at kilometre two. Frenchmen Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne) and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), and Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) later joined Hupond.

    They gained nearly four minutes over the group of race leader Rinaldo Nocentini. The day, with a flat finish, suited the sprinters and their teams worked to control the lead of Hupond's group.

    "From the beginning we knew it would be difficult. I started to have hope near the end, but then it [the time advantage] came down so fast."

    The sprinters' teams caught the escape after three categorised climbs and 190 kilometres. Hupond was the last to remain. He faded into the chasing sprinters with 1500 metres remaining.

    Columbia-HTC put all of its nine men on the front in the finale to give its sprinter Mark Cavendish his third stage win so far.

    Hupond, 24 years old, is only in his second year as a professional and this is his first Tour de France. "I will try again," he said.

    His Dutch Skil-Shimano team was one of the three wild card teams that the Tour organiser allowed to race. The team's sprinter, Kenny Van Hummel, finished seventh in today's stage.

  • Jens Voigt's mixed reaction after stage ten radio ban

    Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) is always popular
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 18:30 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Experiment was fun, but can I have my radio back now, please?

    Jens Voigt, a veteran of twelve Tours de France and former stage winner in the race had mixed feelings on the race radio ban during today’s stage ten, from Limoges to Issoudun.

    The 37-year-old German has seen the transition of race radio into the sport during his long career and although he enjoyed today’s experiment, felt that it nullified racing during the stage.

    The stage had been dominated by a break of four riders, who were no threat on general classification, escaping the clutches of the bunch and building a slender lead of less than three minutes. However, with no race radios, teams and riders were unable to communicate through normal channels. The information slowdown saw the peloton averaging 37km/h in the first three hours of racing.

    "I wasn’t worried about the lack of communication with the team cars. We just took it a bit easier. Really, honestly, the racing is a lot harder with a director yelling in your ear. Without radios everyone seemed to be a lot mellower and we had a time to talk. It was one of the best Tour de France stages I’ve ever raced," Voigt said.

    However Voigt believed that radios shouldn’t be banned on a permanent basis: "There was still an insecure feeling in the bunch. Today we had Arvesen crash [ed - the rider was later taken to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone] and it took us ten minutes to find out that he’d fallen.We were all at the front so had to rely on a rider from a rider on another team to tell us so we had to go back and help him. We had no idea he’d crashed, if he was okay or even where he was."

    The riders may face another radio blackout on Friday’s stage to Le Grand Bornard, however Voigt wants what he calls an ‘experiment’ to stop now. "I’m not sure about Friday, as it’s a much harder stage. It’s a nice experiment but let's leave it like that."

    Voigt did draw one more conclusion from...

  • World Champ Ballan nears top form

    World Champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 19:15 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Ballan ready for first Tour win after disappointing spring

    World Champion Alessandro Ballan is close to his top condition at the Tour de France after a virus ruined his spring season.

    "I think I am at 80 or 85 percent," Italy's Ballan told Cyclingnews. "In the finishes that are rolling I am okay, which I showed with the finish in Barcelona."

    Ballan finished seventh on the wet, uphill finish Thursday in Barcelona. He was at the front again on Sunday: the main group crossed the Tourmalet together and Ballan sprinted for ninth place.

    The improvement is impressive considering Ballan could not race much of the spring. He returned to racing in the Memorial Pantani June 6, and raced the Tour de Suisse and Italian Championships prior to the Tour de France.

    "I started the Tour de France with 10 days of racing. It is very little with respect to the others. I am still gaining condition and maybe in the third week I can have a good result."

    It is Ballan's fourth Tour de France. Three years ago to the day, on Bastille Day, he was in an escape with Oscar Freire and Yaroslav Popovych. Popo took the win, Ballan finished second.

    Ballan returned to try again: an escape on the final day to Paris in 2007 and third behind Kurt-Asle Arvesen after an escape on the stage to Foix in 2008.

    "At the start of the day when the attacks are going I have a little bit of fatigue. I hope to better myself and enter into an escape, maybe even tomorrow."

    Ballan won the World Championships last fall in Varese, Italy. He would love to win for the first time in his rainbow jersey of World Champion at the Tour de France.

    The only time an Italian has won a Tour stage with the rainbow jersey was exactly 50 years ago: Ercole Baldini's stage win in Aosta, Italy.

  • Tour stage paralyzed by radio-free day

    Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) has some flashy green glasses.
    Article published:
    July 14, 2009, 19:28 BST
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Riders busy doing nothing at all (almost)

    In many aspects, today's Tour stage wasn't about Mark Cavendish winning his third stage of the race, or his seventh career Tour stage, or his increasingly baffling victory salutes. Instead today's story revolved around the UCI's and ASO's directive to ban radios and the reaction of the teams to the experiment being conducted by the sport's biggest stakeholders.

    Would we see an exhilarating exhibition of racing as the Tour brought viewers back to a golden age of cycling before technology transformed riders into robots? Would the racers have to think for themselves? Would a pandemic of confusion sweep through the French countryside as rider after rider veered off into ditches, unable to function without the orders of 'straight, no straighter, that's it. Turn now, turn more. Good. Good turning,' from the team car?

    No, in all seriousness, what we saw in the end was a defiant 'no' from the teams. They did not go as far as to stop at the roadside in protest, but perhaps through fear or through apathy waged an impromptu 'go-slow' which was the polar opposite of the radio ban's intent.

    Importantly, according to one commentator, they seemed to forget that although the radios weren't switched on, plenty of viewers and spectators were still tuning into live coverage around the world.

    Cycling commentator Phill Liggett said: "It was like going back 20 years to when the peloton would ride piano all day. The riders we spoke to said that there wasn't a 'go slow' but they didn't seem to want to race. I think the sprinters were happy to go slow but it was a shame."

    Before the start, teams promised to race rather than stage a protest as had been rumoured during the rest day. "We're not striking. That would be childish," were the level-headed words from Bob Stapleton in Limoges. And to be fair he was correct. The ever-present Bernhard Eisel tapped out a strong tempo at the front of the bunch, almost single-handedly holding the break...