Tour de France Cycling News, July 20, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo & Ben Abrahams
Freire one step closer to green dream
By Brecht Decaluwé in Digne les Bains
Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Spanish sprinter Oscar Freire at last added his name to the list of
2008 Tour de France stage winners on stage
14, thanks in part to a category four climb before the finish that
put quadruple sprint winner Mark Cavendish out the back of the bunch.
The win padded his lead in the green jersey competition, which he has
earned through eight top ten stage finishes, a remarkable level of consistency
from the Spaniard.
Freire brought himself level on points with Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen
after stage eight,
with a fourth place finish behind Cavendish. He then lost the green jersey
to Kirchen on the mountainous finish at Bagnéres de Bigorre on
stage nine, where
Kirchen placed 12th. Thanks to Kirchen's lead in the overall classification,
Freire was wearing green the following
day which finished on the major climb to Hautacam. On that day, Freire
made a brilliant move to get into the early breakaway. The twelve points
he scooped up in the intermediate sprints more than made up for Kirchen's
climbing abilities. Even though the Luxembourger lost the yellow jersey,
he still finished 15th, earning a single point.
From the tenth stage on, Freire wore the green jersey and after Saturday's
stage win he seems to have paved the way for the overall victory in the
points classification in Paris. Although Cavendish has dominated the flat
stages, Freire is happy with his Tour so far. "Cavendish proved that he
is the fastest sprinter this year, but his absence today doesn't take
anything away from my performance in this Tour de France; I was there
in all the other sprints," Freire said.
Freire was not so confident of his green jersey changes after coming fifth
behind Cavendish on stage
13. "It's not in the pocket yet," he said after that stage, realizing
that there were probably two sprints left in the Tour de France: one on
the Champs Elysees in Paris and one in Digne-les-Bains.
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Freire, with a 28-point lead on the British rider after the sprint in
Nîmes, feared that if Cavendish took both stage wins – a likely
scenario since he was unbeatable in all but one other sprints –
he would take the green jersey in Paris. "This morning I asked Cavendish
if he was planning to go for the green jersey in Paris, and he said he
would. Maybe he has changed his mind now," Freire said following Saturday's
stage win that brought him into a comfortable lead of 47 points on Thor
to the full feature.
Barloworld riders confident in team's future
By Brecht Decaluwé in Digne-les-Bains, France
Chris Froome (Barloworld)
Photo ©: AFP
One of the four remaining Barloworld riders at the Tour de France has
said he is confident the team will continue in cycling until at least
2009, following the
news that title sponsor Barloworld, a multi-national brand management
company headquartered in South Africa, will withdraw its sponsorship after
the race. The company's decision follows Spaniard Moisés Dueñas'
failed doping test for EPO, and subsequent revelations that the rider
had banned substances in his hotel room.
"I'm convinced the team will find the best solution for us. It's
not going to be a problem. They will find a win-win solution for everybody,"
said Christopher Froome, a Kenyan-born rider who now races under British
nationality. "We're all just waiting to find out more. I think it's
going to end up being a team that continues in the same way as it did
before, but maybe under a different name. I'm not too sure, but I think
the sponsorship until 2009 is still confirmed.
"It's not a good way to end things, but I can understand the sponsor's
point of view, that they don't want to link themselves to doping in any
Team-mate Gianpaolo Cheula said that he too understood the decision of
sponsor Barloworld, and expressed disappointment in Dueñas. "Only
Dueñas knows the details, but the team is certainly clean; there
is no doping organized by Barloworld," Cheula said. "I'm angry
at Dueñas, because it's his fault the sponsor pulled out. I hope
that in the coming years the riders understand that doping in cycling
is no longer possible."
Froome was also angry with Dueñas for risking so much for personal
success. "It all actually goes back to one person in one event, who
was selfish enough to take away almost 45 people's jobs. It's a huge shame.
I don't know if he understood the consequences fully when he did it, but
it was a very selfish act on his part," Froome said.
Froome said he still couldn't understand how nobody in the team knew
about Dueñas' EPO use. "We've spoken to [Felix] Cardenas and
[Paolo Longo] Borghini who both shared a room with him. They swore that
they didn't see anything. I find it incredible that he has been hiding
it from everyone like that. What I find even more amazing is that he thought
that he could come to the Tour de France and get away with it. You know
that you're going to be tested in the Tour, so what's the deal."
Froome added that Dueñas was well-liked within the team, making
the news of his failed test even harder to swallow. "Moisés
got along with everybody in the team and I actually really liked him,"
said Froome. "I thought he was a really decent guy, so it was a real
shock. People put us all in the same boat now. They see someone in the
Barloworld kit and think that he might be doping. It's terrible that people
put you in the same boat. It makes me very angry, but what can you do
"The best thing for me to do is not to see [Dueñas] or I
may get assault charges against me," Froome said.
The team is still hoping for a stage win at the Tour, and puts its trust
in South African sprinter Robbie Hunter. "I try what I can to get
Robbie first over the line one day, but it's not easy in the race. It
feels like you're picking up bottles every 20 minutes when you're only
with four riders."
And despite the team's low morale, Froome said there were a few perks
to having just four riders left. "It's a small compact unit,"
he said. "There's a lot of space in the bus and you don't need to
wait in order to take a shower."
Cavendish may leave the Tour
Team Columbia's sprinting sensation Mark Cavendish is unlikely to start
stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday, according to his manager Bob
Stapleton. The British rider, who has won four stages already, struggled
home on the 14th stage to Dignes-les-Bains and has only one realistic
chance of adding to his tally - the final stage to Paris next Sunday.
Stapleton indicated that he would talk with Cavendish on Saturday evening
about the prospect of pulling out, in order to preserve the 23 year-old's
chances for the Olympic Madison race in Beijing.
"He is clearly very tired," Stapleton told Eurosport.
"I think we have to seriously consider him stepping out. That's something
we need to give full consideration to. It's important for us that he is
part of that decision so we'll talk with him when he feels better."
Recharged Cunego ready to face the Alps
By Gregor Brown in Digne-les-Bains
Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
A recharged Damiano Cunego is ready for the next mountain battles through
the Alps after a disappointing few days in the Pyrénées.
The 26 year-old Italian faced a blow last Monday when the group of overall
favourites, including race leader Cadel Evans, left him behind on the
road to Hautacam. His 3'34" loss that day put him in 14th overall,
5'37" back from maillot jaune Evans.
"I have definitely felt better in this last week," Cunego told
Cyclingnews outside the Arena of Nimes at the start of stage 14.
Cunego has a chance to made amends in the Alps, when the race heads into
Italy with a finish up to Prato Nevoso on Sunday. Following a rest day
in Cuneo on Monday, there are two more demanding stages to Jausiers and
"It seems as though I have become better, but I don't know if I
will try something on Prato Nevoso," Cunego added. "On the Alpe
d'Huez, which will be harder because it is the third day in the mountains,
I might have a chance to show myself better."
His wife and daughter will visit him at the finish of Prato Nevoso and
the rest day. "They will give me extra morale, definitely."
Cunego's day at the Tour regularly ends with a visit to the French anti-doping
agency's (AFLD) camper van, where he is required to provide a urine sample.
The organisation, replacing the International Cycling Union (UCI) at this
year's Tour de France, tests the stage winner of the day in addition to
other targeted riders. Cunego is often on the AFLD list posted at the
"For sure, it is not a problem to do the controls," he said.
"Day in and day out, it can become irritating. I want to rest, take
a shower and go change after the stage. You always have to rush to get
there. But what can I do?"
Asked for his opinion on the AFLD's testing protocols, and whether they
were better than those adopted by the UCI, Cunego replied simply: "I
don't know, let's hope so."
Flecha ready to be at Menchov's service
By Hedwig Kröner in Digne-les-Bains
When the Tour de France leaves the pre-Alpine thermal town of Digne-les-Bains,
things will get serious for the overall classification. The ranking is
far from being set in stone, and the most interesting stages are yet to
come. Looming near to the holder of the yellow jersey Cadel Evans are
a number of final podium contenders - one of which won the Vuelta a España
last year. Denis Menchov, although a discreet character, is one of them
and shouldn't be underestimated, according to Rabobank team-mate Juan-Antonio
Moreover, many of the other GC contenders have been citing Menchov as
a top favourite. "Of course - they see that Menchov rides really
relaxed," said Flecha at the start of stage 14 in Nîmes. "They
see that he is confident about himself."
Flecha looks forward to supporting his team captain in the upcoming decisive
stages in the Alps, and didn't hesitate to put himself to Menchov's service,
even though today's stage to Digne-les-Bains would have suited the Spaniard's
racing characteristics. "Menchov deserves our protection. Tomorrow's
stage is an important day for him, for the classification. Today is a
nice stage, but I will continue riding like I've done these past few days:
Saving energy in case Denis needs it."
Although Flecha usually has a rather aggressive riding style, he currently
holds his horses to help Menchov to a possible Tour de France victory.
"I'm feeling quite okay; I think I've been performing well,"
he said on his overall state going into the third week of the event. "I
haven't shown myself much until now but that doesn't mean anything. I
think I'm climbing quite well. I have a lot of hopes for the next few
days, for myself as well as Menchov. I think he's one of the few riders
who really has a chance of winning the Tour. He's less than one minute
behind Cadel, and an excellent time triallist."
Kirchen plans defensive Prato Nevoso ride
By Gregor Brown in Digne-les-Bains
Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, the former race leader and currently seventh
overall, says he will ride defensively on the Tour de France's first day
in the Alps. Stage 15 covers 183 kilometres and two high-mountains. The
2744-metre Col Agnel is the gateway into Italy and the 1440-metre final
climb to Prato Nevoso offers the race's second summit finish.
"Tomorrow will be a hard day, I will try to stay with the favourites,"
Kirchen told Cyclingnews on the eve of the stage into Italy.
Kirchen, 30, lost the maillot jaune on the last summit finish
to Hautacam. He is currently lying seventh overall, 1'56" behind
race leader Cadel Evans, after a successful start to the Tour where he
wore the yellow jersey for four stages.
Ahead of Kirchen are Evans, Fränk Schleck, Christian Vande Velde,
Bernhard Kohl, Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre. He will watch these men
closely and seek to defend his place in the classification.
"I prefer to wait for the last climb than go for an escape group
or attack," he said. "I will aim to just follow."
Schumacher relying on element of surprise
By Brecht Decaluwé in Digne-les-Bains, France
German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: AFP
Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher tried to grab another stage win on the
fourteenth stage of the Tour de France, jumping away with Frenchman Romain
Feillu (Agriubel) less than 500 metres from the finish in Dignes-les-Bains.
The move ultimately came to nothing after the pair were swept up by the
sprinters, but Schumacher said he has to use the element of surprise against
pure sprinters like stage winner Oscar Freire.
"There were not so many teams to control the race, and after that
climb I had a good position," Schumacher said. "I came a bit
from the back and ended up on the wheel of Feillu. If he could've gone
a bit longer then I would've had a chance. I had to pass him early and
with 150 metres to go the sprinters came and it was over for me; it was
"I have to take a long shot because when it comes down to a man-to-man
sprint with guys like Freire, then I'm lost," added Schumacher. "I
can keep my speed a little longer, but I don't have their acceleration
in the last 50 metres. I have to surprise the sprinters."
The German has been trying to win stages right from the start of the
Tour in Brest. During the first stage he had a gap on the uphill finish
in Plumelec, but just like today it ended up being an effort that began
too early. Schumacher took the stage four time trial around Cholet and
held the yellow jersey for two days, before an untimely crash on the stage
to Super Besse ended his run.
Two weeks into the race, the rider who turns 27 on Monday is still able
to battle for stage wins, but acknowledged that the efforts are finally
catching up with him.
"I'm really tired and I was surprised that I was in the front,"
he said of Saturday's finale. "The Tour is really long and actually
it feels like it has been longer than two weeks now. The hard stages are
still to come. We'll do our job for Bernhard [Kohl] for the general classification,
but for me the general classification is not so important.
"Then I'm getting ready for the Olympic Games. I am really motivated
Kohl aiming for top-10 in Paris
By Gregor Brown in Nîmes
Bernhard Kohl wants a top-10 finish
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
Austria's Bernhard Kohl is targeting a top-10 finish in Paris ahead of
the Tour's crucial Alpine stages starting Sunday. The 26 year-old Gerolsteiner
rider currently lies fourth overall, 46 seconds behind race leader Cadel
Evans (Silence-Lotto) after shooting up from 13th to fourth following
a powerful ride to Hautacam on stage 10.
"I will try to stay in the top-10, for me that is important. If I arrive
in the top ten it would be a big victory," Kohl told Cyclingnews on the morning of stage 13 to Nîmes.
"The first part of the race was really hard and it has not let up now
with the wind. There is a lot of stress, but now my legs are feeling good.
But it is the same for everyone riding for the GC, so that is normal."
Kohl is also three points behind team-mate Sebastian Lang in the mountains
competition. He will not put his main focus on gaining the polka-dot jersey,
but admits a strong performance in the Alps could see it shift from one
Kerosene rider to another.
"If I am riding for the general classification then it is also possible
to gain the points jersey," he said. "When I am on the mountains I can
take the points and in that case I may take the mountains jersey."
Andy Schleck dreams of Alpe d'Huez
By Gregor Brown in Nîmes
Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Luxemburger Andy Schleck dreams of conquering the same mythical Alpe
d'Huez climb that his brother Fränk won two years ago when the Tour
de France arrives on Wednesday.
"Try on Alpe d'Huez? Yes. Why not? It would more than a dream for me," said Schleck to Cyclingnews Friday morning in Nîmes.
Schleck arrived at the Tour de France thinking about winning the race's overall. A bad day in Monday's stage leading to Hautacam put him out of contention. He lost nearly seven minutes to Team Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans. Team CSC will focus on Fränk Schleck, who is one second off the race lead of Evans, and Carlos Sastre for the overall classification,
"I hope I can be back in the Alps as I showed I was in the race the first days. I had a really bad day. The sunshine is coming and I hope the sun will be great for me."
Schleck weighed his first ride in La Grande Boucle as positive despite some bad news. One of the low-points was the news of Riccardo Riccò's drug-related dismissal.
"The race has been nice so far. I had one really bad day - a hunger
flat. Bad things happen - Riccò's positive. It is not good for
all of sport, but it is good for us. It shows the system is working and
that the anti-doping agency is doing a hell of a good job," said Schleck.
He summarised that Riccò was not so popular amongst his colleagues.
"He did not have too many friends in the peloton. I am happy I don't have
to ride against him now, at least for the next two years. It was shit
and it is good that he is gone now."
AG2R out for team classification
By Hedwig Kröner in Digne-les-Bains
Going into the Alps, French team AG2R La Mondiale has a clear vision
of its objectives: getting into the breakaways to achieve a possible stage
win, and ride well enough to maintain its position in the Tour de France
team classification. "Except Tadel Valjavec and Vladimir Efimkin,
who are well-placed on GC and will try to stick to the favourites, our
goal is to get into escape groups," said Cyril Dessel one day before
the race was destined to move into Italy.
"It's important to be in front, as we value the teams classification
very much. At the moment, we are placed second, and in order to keep a
spot within the top five in Paris we'll have to be represented up front
in the coming mountain stages."
Dessel, whose excellent form during the month of June was rewarded with
stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and the Dauphiné Libéré,
has not been able to keep his peak shape at the Tour.
"I feel better now, but I was very tired prior to the first rest
day. After a week of racing, I just felt fatigue settling in. I had some
health problems and couldn't train as I wanted to between the Dauphiné
and the Tour, so I lost a bit of form then."
Nevertheless, Dessel hoped to be able to redeem himself in the Alps.
"It would be great to win a stage at the Tour - I finished second,
or third already, that's not too bad, is it?" he laughed, referring
to stage 9 in the Pyrenees, won by Riccardo Riccò who later failed
a drugs test for EPO.
"One stage that always makes you dream is of course the Alpe d'Huez,
because it's mythical," he added, on a more serious note. "But
I know that the Col Agnel tomorrow is definitely going to be very hard,
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