Today’s transfer rumour is… ‘Peter Velits to Quick Step’
As the August 1 transfer announcement date approaches and teams with backing in place continue to build for 2012, the rumours about riders changing team are coming as quickly as the attacks by French riders trying to get in the early break.
On Sunday it was reported that Tejay ‘Tigger’ Van Garderen has signed a three-year deal to join BMC. Today L’Equipe is reporting that Slovakia’s Peter Velits may be heading to Quick Step if HTC-Highroad fails to secure a sponsorship for 2012.
Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere seems ready to splash the cash after Czech billionaire Zdenek Bakala bought a majority stake in the team. Lefevere had apparently tried to secure Alejandro Valverde as his stage racer but L’Equipe is convinced Velits could fill that role, while Tom Boonen, and possibly Philippe Gilbert, lead the team in the classics.
Flying high after the strip club
Everyone on the Tour de France had to fight the traffic to descend from Plateau de Beille but a select few were lucky enough to get a helicopter ride from the Pyrenean mountain finish.
Race organiser ASO provides places in official helicopters for riders who have to go through the lengthy post-stage podium and media protocol, and for riders delayed by anti-doping tests. And so on Sunday Thomas Voeckler (yellow jersey), Jelle Vanendert (stage winner), Andy Schleck (selected for anti-doping) all got a golden ticket for the ASO chopper.
However in a move that could upset other riders and teams, L’Equipe claims Fabian Cancellara has called on his sponsors to provide a helicopter so that he could avoid the traffic.
Cancellara worked his legs off to work for the Schlecks during in the stage and was reportedly not in a good mood when he reached the Leopard Trek team car to get changed. L’Equipe reports that when faced with a media scrum trying to speak to the Schleck brothers, Spartacus shouted: “Is it a strip club?” to disperse the gaggle of hacks.
Riblon predicts a French victory isn't far away
With the continued success of Thomas Voeckler in the Tour's yellow jersey, the fortunes of the French are being talked up.
One man very happy to see Voeckler continue to stand on the top of the podum each day, is compatriot Christophe Riblon who spent much of stage 14 in the breakaway.
"I'm happy for Thomas (Voeckler) he's a friend," he said atop Plateau de Beille. "It's good for the sport of cycling in France but if the yellow jersey was in AG2R La Mondiale team it would be even better!
While stage victory so far eludes the French, Riblon will go all out to set it right before Paris, saying he "will do everything possible to get a stage win in the Alps."
Evans maintains the status quo
BMC's Cadel Evans remains in third position on GC, despite having conceded two seconds to Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) and 27 seconds to Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi). The Australian hope said that his main concern was not to let one of his rivals get too far away on the Stage 14 climb to Plateau de Beille.
"I tried to keep things under control," Evans said. "It was a long, but not a steep climb. It's at this point in the race that the GC contenders are pretty evenly matched. So it's really hard to make a big difference.
It's been a comparatively relaxed Evans at the Tour this year, having avoided the bad luck his campaigns have suffered in previous years but he couldn't refrain from a thinly-veiled swipe at the media which has suggested that the Australian and his teammates did too much work at the head of the peloton in the Tour's opening week.
"Like so many cycling experts have said, we wasted a lot of energy as a team to put ourselves into a good position coming into the mountains," he quipped. "It's a little bit of conservative racing, but these stages are hard."
With seven stages remaining, Evans is 2:06 behind race leader Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) and sandwiched between brothers Frank Schleck (17 seconds ahead of him) and Andy Schleck (nine seconds behind him) in the overall standings. Asked what it will take to improve on two runner-up finishes at the Tour, Evans said: "It's consistency and being there every day. That's how I approach it."
Belgian sprinter Gert Steegmans has undergone surgery to repair the fractured scaphoid in his left hand. Steegmans suffered the injury on stage 5, but only withdrew from the race before the start of Stage 13.
The 30-year-old should be back riding his bike next week, however his next race is yet to be determined, dependent "on the clinical evolution of the injury," according to a release sent out by his Quickstep team.