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2014 Tour de France Countdown 2014

Date range:
July 3- 4

July 04, Day 2 - Press conferences: Leeds

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Barry Ryan

Live coverage of the build-up to the Grand Départ.

 

  1. 11:12:18 BST

    If it’s cycling championships you’re after, then you can’t say fairer than the Tour de France.... Yorkshire came out in force to offer the peloton a hearty welcome at last night’s team presentation in Leeds and we’ll continue to follow the countdown to Saturday’s Grand Départ throughout the day on Cyclingnews.

  2. 11:14:11 BST

    If it’s cycling championships you’re after, then you can’t say fairer than the Tour de France.... Yorkshire came out in force to offer the peloton a hearty welcome at last night’s team presentation in Leeds and we’ll continue to follow the countdown to Saturday’s Grand Départ throughout the day on Cyclingnews.

  3. 11:17:59 BST

    The pre-race meeting of team managers and directeurs sportifs is due to get under way in the next 15 minutes or so, and our own Stephen Farrand will be stalking the corridors of power on the look-out for news, reaction, predictions, hopes, fears and expectations. Later on this afternoon, a number of teams are holding press conferences, including Tinkoff-Saxo, Belkin, Orica-GreenEdge, Cannondale and Astana.

  4. 11:25:56 BST

    Peter Cossins was on hand at the team presentation at Leeds' First Direct Arena last night. It was the greatest profession of Anglo-French affection in the city since Eric Cantona declared his love to Leeds United fans outside the nearby Town Hall in 1992. Mercifully, Cantona was rescued from his ordeal a few months later and entered an archangelic realm across the Pennines in Manchester. Pete's life has never been the same since, but he put that longstanding disappointment behind him to write this fine account of last night's festivities.

  5. 11:28:00 BST

    • Orica GreenEdge

    Sadhbh O'Shea caught up with Tour neophyte Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) at last night's presentation and her story will be live on the site shortly. In the meantime, here's a taster of what the 21-year-old Yates had to say about his late call-up. "I found out just after the nationals. It was a bit of a random phone call. If anything, I though it was going to be talking about going to the Tour of Poland, which is like a month away. It was a big surprise and I’m just looking forward to it."

  6. 11:39:18 BST

    • Lampre Merida

    Rui Costa raised eyebrows when he penned only a one-year deal with Lampre-Merida last summer (a decision that looked very smart indeed when he went on to win the world title a few weeks later.) For all his protestations that he was happy with the Italian squad, rumours persisted that he would be tempted to follow in LeBron James' footsteps explore his options elsewhere this summer. On Friday morning, however, it was confirmed that Rui Costa has decided to keep his talents at Lampre-Merida. The team announced that Rui Costa has signed a new, two-year deal, keeping him with Lampre until the end of 2016.

  7. 11:41:53 BST

    • Orica GreenEdge

    Michael Matthews's Tour de France debut was thrown into doubt when he crashed during a training ride on Tuesday. A heavily bandaged Matthews was on hand at the team presentation last night but Christian Meier has jetted in from Vancouver as a possible replacement. Stephen Farrand tells us that a final decision of Matthews' participation is due at noon.

  8. 11:42:18 BST

    Michael Matthews' Tour de France debut was thrown into doubt when he crashed during a training ride on Tuesday. A heavily bandaged Matthews was on hand at the team presentation last night but Christian Meier has jetted in from Vancouver as a possible replacement. Stephen Farrand tells us that a final decision of Matthews' participation is due at noon.

  9. 11:42:30 BST

    Michael Matthews' Tour de France debut was thrown into doubt when he crashed during a training ride on Tuesday. A heavily bandaged Matthews was on hand at the team presentation last night but Christian Meier has jetted in from Vancouver as a possible replacement. Stephen Farrand tells us that a final decision of Matthews' participation is due at noon.

  10. 11:46:42 BST

    A further update on the Matthews situation. We understand that the 23-year-old will see how he feels after riding this morning but the Orica-GreenEdge team are not optimistic that he will be able to start the Tour de France.

  11. 11:59:37 BST

    Vincenzo Nibali in his Italian national jersey

    Fashion news next. Gianni Bugno's worst fears have been realised. Vincenzo Nibali is not wearing a traditional Italian champion's tricolour jersey, but rather a compromise effort that incorporates the flag onto the light blue jersey of Astana. Italian federation president Renato Di Rocco immediately weighed in the latest polemica to bring Italian cycling to a standstill. “There wasn’t a lot of time after the national championships to prepare a different jersey,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “And it wasn’t practical or opportune to make the tricolour bigger on the jersey – it would have been bad taste to have Astana in the centre of our flag. You couldn’t accept the name of a foreign capital in the middle of the Italian flag.”

  12. 12:06:27 BST

    Di Rocco went on to harrumph that "Pozzato's one was worse - it looked like hieroglyphs." Filippo Pozzato's 2009 effort - which incorporated a silhouette of the Moscow skyline, as per Team Katusha's wishes - was at least inventive, although it, too, invited plenty of polemics, and was later modified to this stylish effort. What do you think? You can almost definitely shout about it somewhere on twitter, perhaps @cyclingnewsfeed.

  13. 12:12:20 BST

    Here's the lowdown on Rui Costa's contract extension with Lampre-Merida, and - as an added bonus - a very, very good inCycle video that takes you behind the scenes of his recent Tour de Suisse victory. Indeed, why not go all out and subscribe to our YouTube channel CyclingnewsTV and see more quality videos.

  14. 12:17:57 BST

    • Omega Pharma QuickStep

    All eyes will be on Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on the road to Harrogate tomorrow, as he seeks to wear the maillot jaune for the first time in his career by winning in his mother's hometown. After yesterday's press conference, the charming man took to Twitter to complain: "Was asked the same question, worded differently, 6 times. I answered the same question, worded the same, 6 times." Sadhbh O'Shea was on hand to make sense of it all.

  15. 12:31:48 BST

    • Team Sky

    Team Sky also held their press conference yesterday afternoon, where manager Dave Brailsford was asked to clarify the team's policy on therapeutic use exemptions. He opted to sidestep the question by saying: "We set out to try to win this race with a British rider and do it clean. We did that. We race clean and we operate by the rules. We'll continue to do that." Stephen Farrand has the full story here, including Chris Froome's thoughts. "All my rivals seemed to have upped their game," Froome said. "It's going to be really exciting right to the end."

     

  16. 12:37:13 BST

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) before a training session in Leeds

    Alberto Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo had the pleasure of Oleg Tinkov's company on their first training ride on arrival in Yorkshire yesterday, where they were sporting their new, Borussia Dortmund-esque Tour de France jerseys for the first time. For a gallery of teams getting to know their surroundings in Leeds, click here. You won't regret it.

  17. 12:44:29 BST

    Alberto Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo will meet the press this afternoon, but to stave off cabin fever in the team hotel in the meantime - you can only play Top Trumps for so long, after all - he spoke to Spansih newspaper AS.

     

    Asked why he hadn’t followed Alejandro Valverde’s example and included some cobbled races in his build-up as preparation for stage 5 to Arenberg, Contador said: “Admittedly I’m saying this never having ridden one, but I don’t think a cobbled classic corresponds to a stage of the Tour with cobblestones. If you look back at the stage in 2010, there were many riders who would do absolutely nothing at Paris-Roubaix who finished at the front of the race with a chance of winning the stage.

     

    "Andy Schleck himself was in the front group. Andy, under normal conditions, even in the best of times, would not be in a position to finish fifth in Paris-Roubaix, as a rule. So I didn't think it was necessary to change my calendar."

  18. 12:46:21 BST

    After his travails in 2013, Contador's reanimation has been one of the stories of the season so far. Few have followed his career from the very beginning as closely as our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham, and he has written this very considered feature on Contador's chance for the Tour and beyond.

  19. 12:55:09 BST

    FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot has a reputation as something of a patriot, playing La Marseillaise on the team bus to inspire his riders and insisting that the French champion's jersey is never besmirched by a sponsor's logo when worn by an FDJ rider. That amour de patrie does not extend to the French football team, it seems. Les bleus play Germany at 5pm this evening in the World Cup quarter final but Madiot's team briefing is scheduled to clash with the game, as Daniel Friebe reports on Twitter, noting that "Apparently only Thibaut Pinot & Arthur Vichot were a bit miffed." Chin up lads, the briefing might at least finish in time for the Brazil-Colombia game later on.

  20. 13:00:52 BST

    • Lampre Merida

    Somehow, Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) is going to start the Tour de France, having begun the year without a team and then suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs in a training crash in April. The 42-year-old was a shock winner of the Vuelta a España last September and he talked Sadhbh O’Shea through his chances this July.

     

    "It was a hard crash to come back from, but everything has healed up and the lungs healed again, the ribs are together and the shoulder is no longer working. We’ll see, the form is alright, it’s not bad. I don’t know if it is winning form like the Vuelta but it’s something. I’ll take it and we’ll see what happens," Horner says.

     

    “First, it’s just about trying to get through the first week, that’s what I’m looking at. It’s just trying to get through the first week, don’t lose time and hopefully don’t get caught up in the crashes. It would be difficult to get involved in another crash so early in my recovery. Once we get to the mountains we’ll see what happens.”

  21. 13:03:31 BST

    Just 21 years old, Simon Yates is, in fact, half Chris Horner's age, and you can read the Orica-GreenEdge neo-pro's full thoughts on his Tour de France debut

    here

    .

  22. 13:14:00 BST

    Jens Voigt (also twice Simon Yates' age) is lining up for what is his "most probably" his final Tour de France. You watch Laura Fletcher's video interview here, or you can defiantly say "Shut up mouth" and simply read Pete Cossins' article here. Or you can even watch/read both. The choice is entirely yours.

  23. 13:20:08 BST

    This morning's edition of L’Équipe was generous in its praise of the welcome England has extended to the Tour, but it couldn’t help having a playful dig at les rosbifs’ expense all the same: “Yesterday on British television, they were announcing that three million people were expected on the roads of the Tour de France this week – they need to occupy themselves since their national team has been knocked out of the World Cup.”

  24. 13:24:13 BST

    There has been some concern expressed locally that there are only four British riders in the field of this year’s Tour – Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Simon Yates and Mark Cavendish – but it’s worth noting that this is not a huge reduction on the quota over the past three years. The high point was in 2010, Team Sky’s first year in the peloton, when there were eight British riders at the Tour, but that number dropped to five in 2011 and 2012, while there six in the bunch last year.

  25. 13:36:59 BST

    • Giant-Shimano

    Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) wore the first yellow jersey at last year's Tour after landing victory on the opening stage and he's looking to repeat the feat in Harrogate tomorrow. We caught up with him yesterday. You can watch the video interview here and check out all of the other videos on our YouTube channel here.

  26. 13:50:35 BST

    Mark Cavendish has ridden a 52cm Venge in the past, but he's on a 49cm S-Works model for the Tour

    Bikeradar's Ben Delaney has been busy in the greater Leeds area over the past couple of days, sizing up the latest tech developments ahead of the Tour. You can read his account of Mark Cavendish's S-Works Venge here.

  27. 13:59:58 BST

    These aren't new, but if you want to get to know Katusha's Tour de France team a little better, then it's worth checking out the Q&A section in the rider profiles on the team website, where the riders are asked some straightforward questions about their careers and then asked to ponder more abstract matters, such as "Winter or summer?"

     

    “Can you dance or sing?” Aleksandr Porsev is asked. “Neither,” he replies. Asked for his favourite food, Gatis Smukulis responds: “I like meat, steaks, but I don’t like ostrich!” And if Egor Silin wasn’t a professional cyclist, what would he be? “Just a good man,” he says. You can read more here.

  28. 14:03:44 BST

    • Team Sky

    Away from the Tour, Davide Martinelli – son of Astana manager Giuseppe – has revealed that he will ride for Team Sky as a stagiaire at the end of this season. Martinelli previously spent time with Sky at the tail end of 2012, though as a raw 19-year-old, he admitted that he was not quite ready for the step up in level.

     

    “It was my first year in the under-23 category, and it was a bit hard to ride with the pros because they had a completely different rhythm,” Martinelli said, according to Biciciclismo. “Now I think I'm more prepared to ride with them. Now I have gained experience and have the confidence to take this step.”
     

  29. 14:13:52 BST

    • Pink Jersey

    A day before the Grand Départ, the biggest stage race on the women's calendar, the Giro Rosa, gets underway in Caserta, with defending champion Mara Abbott, Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley and Elisa Longo Borghini among the star names on show. The race begins with a short prologue before winding its way northwards towards the finale atop the Madonna del Ghisallo on July 13. Susan Westemeyer previews the action

    here

    .

     

  30. 14:32:22 BST

    Maarten Wynants (Belkin)

    Maarten Wynants"I think I have less grey hair than Van Persie."

     

    Belgium’s continued presence in the World Cup means that there’s been something of a football slant creeping into Flemish coverage of the Tour de France this time around, with Sporza pointing out the similarities between Belkin’s Maarten Wynants and the Dutch and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie. Wynants’ fellow Belgian Sep Vanmarcke – from the heart of Tour of Flanders country – appears rather immune to World Cup fever, however.

     

    “I had to explain who Van Persie is to Vanmarcke. I had to give him a crash course so he can talk about it,” Wynants said. “I don’t follow football so much,” Vanmarcke admitted. “I’ve seen a lot of the World Cup in the last few days but from now on, it will be limited to the Red Devils.”
     

  31. 14:38:16 BST

    • Orica GreenEdge

    Michael Matthews update: Orica-GreenEdge are set to announce whether or not he will start the Tour at their press conference, which gets underway at 3.30pm local time.

  32. 14:49:55 BST

    Stephen Farrand has emerged from the Tinkoff-Saxo press conference. "Contador seemed nervous but tried to put a brave face in his press conference. He said Froome is the big favorite," writes Steve on a noted social networking website. His full story will follow on Cyclingnews in due course.

  33. 14:55:59 BST

    Speaking of social media, the best Twitter account of the lot, the inimitable "Not Mauro Vegni," has delivered its withering assessment of Vincenzo Nibali's Italian champion's jersey: "Congratulations to @vincenzonibali, judging from the jersey, the freshly-crowned champion of Hungary."

    Vincenzo Nibali in his Italian national jersey

  34. 15:02:11 BST

    • Lampre Merida

    Chris Horner at the Lampre-Merida team bus

    Chris Horner's thoughts on his Tour de France are now online here, and the veteran insists that world champion Rui Costa is the only sheriff in town at Lampre-Merida. "At the moment I don’t want leadership, I just want to make it through the first week and if you’ve got a problem then you’ve got a teammate to help you out. I don’t expect a team to be around me, I expect them to be around Rui and I will stay near Rui,” Horner says.

     

  35. 15:14:09 BST

    As we wait to hear on whether Michael Matthews will be able to make his Tour de France debut, this article by Rupert Guinness of the Sydney Morning Herald on the very first Australians to ride the race is well worth a read. 100 years ago, dairy farmer Don Kirkham and tinsmith Iddo "Snowy" Munro made the trek to Europe to ride - and complete - the 1914 Tour de France. With Europe on the brink of war, their journey to and from the Tour seemed to have been as arduous as the race itself.

     

  36. 15:15:49 BST

    As we wait to hear whether Michael Matthews will be able to make his Tour de France debut, this article by Rupert Guinness of the Sydney Morning Herald on the very first Australians to ride the race is well worth a read. 100 years ago, dairy farmer Don Kirkham and tinsmith Iddo "Snowy" Munro made the trek to Europe to ride - and complete - the 1914 Tour de France. With Europe on the brink of war, their journey to and from the Tour seems to have been as arduous as the race itself.

  37. 15:24:43 BST

    • Orica GreenEdge

    Orica-GreenEdge have confirmed that Michael Matthews will not take part in the Tour de France. His place will go to Christian Meier, who flew in from Vancouver yesterday. "It not the way you want to start a Tour just because a guy is injured, but I have to say, as my first Tour I am extremely excited to start," Meier said.

  38. 15:26:50 BST

    Matthews, of course, was a faller in training on Tuesday and although he participated in the team presentation on Thursday night in Leeds, the heavy bandages he wore told their own tale. It's a shame for the young Australian, who was so impressive in the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia, where he also landed a fine stage win at Montecassino.

     

    “Bling [Matthews] is an incredibly talented bike rider as he has shown,” his replacement Meier said generously. “He is one of those guys who is going to have a long and prosperous career ahead of him so emotionally it is pretty difficult not to start your first Tour but during his career he will have plenty more opportunities to do more Tours and win stages.”

  39. 15:30:56 BST

    • Tinkoff-Saxo

    Stephen Farrand's take on Alberto Contador's press conference is now online. "His strategy appeared to be simple: Put the pressure on Froome by declaring him as the big favourite but make everyone aware he is himself in far better shape than last year when he struggled to be competitive and finished only fourth overall," Stephen writes.

  40. 15:33:44 BST

    As a final question in his press conference, Contador was asked if he had seen the Lance Armstrong documentary. He brushed that off with a perfect non-answer and quickly left the room. "I can’t have an opinion on the LA documentary because I haven’t seen it," Contador said.

    Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador in Oleg Tinkoff's private jet

  41. 15:35:28 BST

    As a final question in his press conference, Contador was asked if he had seen the Lance Armstrong documentary. He brushed that off with a perfect non-answer and quickly left the room. "I can’t have an opinion on the Lance Armstrong documentary because I haven’t seen it," Contador said.

    Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador in Oleg Tinkoff's private jet

  42. 15:39:58 BST

    More titbits from Stephen Farrand and the Tinkoff-Saxo press conference:

     

    Manager Bjarne Riis was again asked if he would have selected Bradley Wiggins for his team, rather than leave him out, as Team Sky has done. He at first hesitated about replying but then couldn't stop himself.

     

    "He’s not on my team… But, if he was, then probably yes,” Riis said, concluding with rare smile.

     

    Riis tried to cover up his own selection dilemma after Rafa Majka initially said he was against riding the Tour as Roman Kreuziger's replacement. Kreuziger was pulled from the team as the UCI investigates anomalies in his biological passport from 2011 and 2012.

     

    "Majka is not a substitute for Kreuziger, he was in the team even before the Kreuziger issue came up," Riis claimed.
     

  43. 15:48:26 BST

    Our news item on Michael Matthews' absence from the Tour is online

    here

    , and a little later our team in Leeds will have all the reaction from the Orica-GreenEdge press conference, which is currently ongoing.

     

  44. 16:32:25 BST

    • FDJ

    After a mild technical glitch, we're back in action. Arnaud Démare got the nod for FDJ's Tour team ahead of Nacer Bouhanni, and he has vowed not to be overawed by his debut in the biggest race of all. A fast finisher, the French champion will hope to be in the mix with Cavendish, Kittel et al in the bunch sprints, and considering his fine displays at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix this spring, he might quietly fancy his chances on stage 5 across the cobbles to Arenberg.

  45. 16:39:47 BST

    Tomorrow’s finale in Harrogate has been billed as a battle between Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish, but André Greipel boasts a lead-out train to match those of Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma-QuickStep – and, of course, the German packs a powerful sprint finish of his own. Winner of five stages in his three Tours to date, Greipel will expect to add to that tally in 2014.

     

    “We have a really classy field of sprinters here. All the lead-out trains are really close to each other, it’s like track sprinting. At the end, the team makes the difference, not the sprinter,” Greipel has told Cyclingnews.

     

    “Of course we’re going to try and be in the mix for the bunch sprints. I have the support of the team. It’s me who has the victories but the whole team is part of it. We are not counting my victories, we are counting the victories of the team.”
     

  46. 16:48:01 BST

    • Cannondale

    Peter Sagan is currently fielding questions at the press centre in Leeds. As we await the Cannondale man's declarations on the eve of the Tour, why not enjoy this video of Sagan showing off his mountain bike skills in the company of Marco Fontana.

  47. 16:59:52 BST

    Peter Sagan has a custom paint job for the Tour de France, as his bike features a

    familiar set of eyes

    emblazoned on the top tube.

  48. 17:16:11 BST

    AFP has reported

    that the test for AICAR developed by the WADA-accredited laboratory in Cologne has been validated, and samples will be tested for the substance during this Tour de France. The majority of samples taken during anti-doping controls (an average of eight per day) will be sent to the lab at Châtenay-Malabry near Paris, with suspect samples then forwarded to Germany for further analysis.

     

  49. 17:28:12 BST

    • Lampre Merida

    Sacha Modolo mightn't be the first name that springs to mind as a potentinal first maillot jaune of the Tour, but the Italian has enjoyed a solid debut season at Lampre-Merida and confirmed his form with stage victory at the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago. Modolo ventured as far as Harrogate to check out the finale earlier today, and he told Gazzetta dello Sport that it was harder than anticipated.

     

    "Essentially, the last kilometre and a half climbs constantly at 6 or 7%, except with 500 metres to go where it flattens out for a bit," Modolo explained. "It will be a power sprint. I normally struggle to get going from the start, but I’ll have to be ready straightaway here."

     

    Modolo announced himself on the world stage with 4th place in the 2010 Milan-San Remo as a raw neo-professional, but he only made the step up to WorldTour level this season, and this is his debut Tour de France. "I came to Lampre to have the chance to play my own hand on the most important stages," he said. "I picked up a nice win in Switzerland but now it’s up to me to confirm that."

  50. 17:38:44 BST

    Not content with putting together the biggest race in the world in July, Tour organisers ASO have announced some more details on their Arctic Tour of Norway, which takes place from August 14-17. It has been confirmed that Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) will take part, while the event should also be Thor Hushovd's final race on home roads. The Norwegian has announced that he will retire after the world championships in September.

  51. 17:53:24 BST

    • Team Katusha

    Narrow roads await the peloton in Yorkshire and, of course, on the pavé next week. One man who says he won’t be taking any risks is Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), whose Giro d’Italia challenge was cut short by the mass crash at Montecassino on stage 6. At the team presentation last night, the Catalan was sticking to his story that he is targeting stage wins later in the race and building for the Vuelta a España at the end of the summer.

    “There are a lot of stages that I like, especially from the second week once the parcours gets harder,” Rodriguez said. “But one thing is sure, I want take too many risks in the first week, especially on the cobbles. I’ve had enough of those already.”
     

  52. 17:57:42 BST

    • FDJ

    In the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, France are striding onto the hallowed turf to face Germany in the World Cup quarter-final. In the Chevin Country Park Hotel in Otley, meanwhile, the FDJ.fr team are filing into a conference room for their pre-Tour briefing with Marc Madiot. The Tour starts here...

  53. 18:15:20 BST

    ASO has released the definitive start list for the Tour de France, including some of the facts and figures on this year's peloton. France is the best-represented country, with 44 riders, ahead of Spain (20), Italy and the Netherlands (17) and Germany, Australia and Belgium (10).

  54. 18:19:26 BST

    The oldest rider is Jens Voigt (43 in September), who just edges out Chris Horner, while Danny van Poppel is the youngest. The Dutchman will only turn 21 on July 26, the final weekend of this Tour.

  55. 18:33:04 BST

    Christophe Bassons is in Leeds to talk about his recently translated autobiography, A Clean Break. Speaking to Press Association, Bassons called on Team Sky to be more open in the way it relays its message to the world, which is hardly always satisfactory.

     

    “They have a collective force like US Postal had, they communicate with people like US Postal did and they seem to produce riders who don't have any muscles and are very powerful,” Bassons said.

     

    "Twenty years ago, almost, it was Festina, 10 years later it was Armstrong. I don't want to say that in the next few years Froome is going to be the next big scandal, but what they ought to do if they've got nothing to hide is communicate differently and stop communicating in that way like US Postal used to do."
     

  56. 18:55:13 BST

    • IAM Cycling

    Sylvain Chavanel is lining up for his first Tour in the colours of IAM Cycling, and while he is adamant that Mathias Frank is the team leader, the Frenchman will look to sniff out some opportunities of his own to chase stage wins. "My objective is to win a stage. I’ve won three of them already at the Tour de France, I’ve already enjoyed that and wearing leader’s jerseys at the Tour, but it’s something I’d like to experience again and share with my team, which is here for the first time," he told Cyclingnews.

  57. 18:58:30 BST

    Stephen Farrand tells us that it is currently pouring rain in Leeds, with further rainfall forecast for tomorrow morning, although he reckons it will ease off in time for the grand finale in Harrogate.

  58. 19:11:07 BST

    • Astana

    Astana have completed their press conference, and we'll have Vincenzo Nibali's thoughts on the eve of the Tour de France online shortly. The Sicilian is the last of the Tour favourites to meet the press before the off.

  59. 19:28:44 BST

    Simon Gerrans enjoyed a fine start to last year’s Tour, with a stage win in Corsica and a stint in the maillot jaune. Stage 2 to Sheffield is, we are told, like a miniature Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the Doyenne winner will doubtless be looking to sniff out an opportunity on Sunday.

     

    “It’s a huge honour to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Last year, I probably didn’t enjoy it and soak it up enough. The plan was to keep the yellow jersey myself and keep it within the team. I think it’s only when you finish the Tour de France and you take a step back and realise how special it really is,” Gerrans said in his press conference earlier in the afternoon.

     

    “I think if I was able to get the yellow jersey again I would obviously be focussing on keeping it, but I think the second time you would be able to enjoy it a little bit more.”

     

    Twelve months ago, of course, Gerrans passed the overall lead on to his teammate Daryl Impey, who misses this Tour after returning a positive test for probenecid at the South African championships.


     

  60. 19:43:02 BST

    Andre Greipel makes it clear who his sponsors are

    André Greipel has been expanding on his pre-Tour de France thoughts. Sadhbh O'Shea has more here.

  61. 20:07:33 BST

    The full story from Vincenzo Nibali's press conference is online here. A study in tranquillità - as ever - the Sicilian is unperturbed by the furore over his tricolour jersey and the pressures of taking on Froome and Contador over the next three weeks.

  62. 20:12:47 BST

    Thanks for following our rolling coverage of the Tour de France build-up on Cyclingnews today. The live pages closes now, but the news continues. Oleg Tinkov's latest missive is winging its way to us as I type and we will also have an interview with UCI president Brian Cookson on the eve of the British Grand Depart, as well as more on Christophe Bassons' thoughts on Team Sky. Tomorrow, of course, is the big day, and Dan Benson will be here with live coverage throughout the day of stage 1 of the Tour de France, from Leeds to Harrogate.