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To the Tour James

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Kirchen will hope to keep the jersey

Kirchen will hope to keep the jersey (Image credit: AFP)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) was emotional

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) was emotional (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) in 2007

Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) in 2007 (Image credit:
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Chris Horner (Astana) gets some support from the fans

Chris Horner (Astana) gets some support from the fans (Image credit: Amy Lo)

The week that was, July 15, 2008

While the entire cycling world was focusing on the Schleck brothers at the Tour de France, the other Luxembourger, Kim Kirchen, had stolen Frank and Andy's thunder. For a country with just four inhabitants, to have three of them riding the Tour is pretty special.

Kirchen has been knocking on the door for a win since the Tour started, and although he hasn't actually won anything yet, he rode himself into yellow for a few days. Or did he just ride Schumacher out of it? Ah, what does it matter - six of one half dozen of the other. The important thing is that his Team Columbia got to use its special yellow bike.

Actually Schumacher's win in the time trial was impressive. But what was more impressive was the irony in the way he lost his yellow jersey. Cast your mind back to the 2006 Eneco Tour, and in particular the final 200 meters of the final stage. Schumacher was trailing then race leader George Hincapie by a few seconds. Rounding the final bend Schumacher and Hincapie came together, resulting in Hincapie hitting the deck only to watch the overall lead disappear in front of him.

Sound familiar? I wonder what big Hincapie - Kirchen's team-mate - is thinking now?

Speaking of Team Columbia, Mark Cavendish has really showed that he is the next big thing in sprinting. Taking two Tour stages so far, the 'Manx Express' is an outside chance to take his first green jersey. Choo, choo!

Hats must go off to Mr Cadel Evans, who took the yellow jersey out of Kirchen's hands after threatening to wear it for a bit over a year. Countering 12 months of claims he never attacks, Evans rode up Hautacam attacking his group rivals as much as they were to him…albeit to their combined detriment. The Silence-Lotto rider also showed something he rarely shows, emotion. While everybody knows us Aussie blokes don't cry, Evans came as close as you'll ever see a man from Down Under to opening up the waterworks.

French cycling has also received a big boost, thanks to the ASO, err, I mean the performance of its riders in this year's Tour. Aritubel's Romain Feillu rode into the yellow jersey, despite riding for the world's smallest team that only qualifies for the Tour because it's French. Feillu's feat caused a big stir in the French media. A Frenchman in yellow, at the Le Tour? They hadn't experienced this kind of euphoria since they won the football world cup.

Tinkoff gets most talked about award

Despite not actually riding the Tour de France this year, Tinkoff has made sure that no one forgets who it is. Leaked rumours of signings, and possible signing, have been rife and the team is getting more publicity than most on the Tour.

Apparently it has signed Gert Steegmans (Quick-Step), are looking to sign Filippo Pozatto (Liquigas), Robbie McEwen and his Silence-Lotto sport director Hendrik Redant. Apart from Steegmans, none of the other rumours have been substantiated, but that doesn't stop the press from rolling it out.

Anyone would think Oleg Tinkov was about to announce the squad has secured a ProTour licence for 2009…

Who's the dope?

Seriously, how many times do we need to cover this? Doing drugs is bad, mmmkay! Just as we thought that the taboo subject was over once and for all Manual Beltran's non-negative has reminded us of the happenings at last year's Tour.

Where is Astana anyway?

After being left at home from the Tour, the current number one team in the world - Astana - has conquered its top objective for the month - the Cascade Cycling Classic. I know, I know, we don't know much about it either, but big Lance Armstrong has won it, so in America at least it has more credibility than the Tour at the moment.

Of course, we're still a bit miffed as to why Chris Horner resorted to offering other riders a lift to the line, literally. Perhaps, in the team's pursuit of being accepted by ASO in 2009, the riders have been instructed to be good role models? Astana will renew its name one courteous gesture at a time and Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan along the way.

There's other races?

Yup, contrary to what the French believe, there are other races happening around the world. Current world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) showed the rest of the world that he really can win something other than the World Championship, taking a stage victory at the Tour of Austria. Good thing too, because without Tom Boonen at the Tour, Quick Step are looking at a pretty bleak month.

Else where in the world, a Dane is dominating the world's highest race, the Tour of Qinghai Lake.

See, there is more to cycling than the Tour...

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the week that was...

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