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July 31, 2007

Sinkewitz admits testosterone use, fired by T-Mobile

BBC SPORT | Sinkewitz fired after confession

T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz admitted he used testosterone gel in training, and asked that his B-sample not be tested.

“It was a big mistake and irresponsible toward my team, colleagues, the sponsor and the whole of cycling,” he admitted.

Sinkewitz, 26, said he had used the gel on his upper arm “without thinking, or simply in great stupidity, on the evening before the doping test.”

Sinkewitz added: “I could have achieved my performance without (drugs),” and pledged to help bring about "a new cycling without doping" in future.

T-Mobile has fired Sinkewitz, who withdrew from the Tour after hitting a spectator and suffering major facial injuries.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 31, 2007 in Patrik Sinkewitz, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 30, 2007

Mayo positive for EPO during Tour

Yahoo! Eurosport | Mayo positive for EPO

The hits just keep coming at Radio Tour. Saunier Duval's Iban Mayo has been suspended pending a B-sample after his July 24th A-sample tested positive for EPO.

“In line with the fight against doping that the team fully support, the rider is immediately suspended until the B sample has been tested,” Saunier Duval said in a statement.

“If that is confirmed as positive as well, we will proceed to rescind his contract.”

Mayo finished 16th overall in the 2007 Tour.

Also:

Guardian Unlimited Sport | Saunier Duval suspend Mayo after positive test in Tour

Quotes an AFLD official who says all the Tour tests should be complete in the next five days or so.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 30, 2007 in Doping, Iban Mayo, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Astana fires Vinokourov

Times Online | Vinokourov fired after positive B-test

Alexandre Vinokourov, who created the Astana team after his Liberty Seguros squad was prevented from riding in last year's Tour, has been fired after Saturday's B-sample test indicated an illegal transfusion.

Tour of Germany organizers have said Astana is not welcome in their race, but organizers confirmed their participation in the Vuelta a España.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 30, 2007 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Vuelta a España | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rabobank to investigate Rasmussen ouster; rider feels robbed

IHT.com | Sponsor says it will investigate Rasmussen's ouster from Tour de France

cyclingnews.com | Dismayed Rasmussen speaks

Rabobank says it will investigate the ouster of Michael Rasmussen from its Tour squad, but also committed to continuing its team sponsorship.

Rasmussen, for his part, told Danish television that he feels he was “robbed of the Tour de France victory.”

Rasmussen refused to provide evidence to corroborate his claim that he was in Mexico when RAI TV commentator Davide Cassani says he saw the rider training in the Dolomites, in Italy:

“Well, what I am saying is that now we have to see what the [legal] case brings and we will take it from there.”

And why would a team, with the biggest victory in cycling in its grasp, desert an innocent rider that they had vigorously defended through two weeks of questioning?

Rasmussen suggested that the pressure from Tour organizers finally wore down team director Theo de Rooy:

“There is no doubt that he has been under enormous pressure and he has been accused of many things during the Tour,” said Rasmussen. “At some point his façade cracked and he made this decision.”

Rasmussen also said that if there were a chance for him to ride in next year's Tour, he would take it.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 30, 2007 in Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Vaughters confirms Millar, Zabriskie, Vande Velde to Slipstream

CyclingNews.com | Vaughters confirms Millar, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie

David Millar to Slipstream for '08Jonathan Vaughters, looking to win a 2008 Tour de France wildcard invitation for Team Slipstream, has confirmed three major signings for the 2008 season: Saunier Duval's David Millar and CSC's Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde.

Vande Velde confirmed the signing during Sunday's VS. broadcast, while Millar apparently planned to announce the change during the rest day Saunier Duval press conference where Vinokourov's positive became public.

The doping circus around this year's Tour would seem to only help Slipstream's chances. The team performs extensive longitudinal testing of each rider throughout the year, including blood profiling to discourage EPO use or blood transfusions.

Very nice Flickr photo of Millar warming up in London by graspnext.

Also:

quickrelease.tv | Millar switches tacos

VeloNews.com | Vande Velde's View: The dust settles

Posted by Frank Steele on July 30, 2007 in Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Top Stories, Tour de France 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2007

ESPN offers excellent Tour slideshow

ESPN.com | ZOOM Gallery - 94th Tour de France

ESPN.com has an awesome, full-screen slideshow of some of their best photos from the 2007 Tour. I don't think the captions were written by cycling fans, though - one of the featured photos shows Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans' “stage-ending duel.”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2007 in 2007 Tour de France photo galleries, Photo galleries | Permalink | Comments (1)

Stage 20 photo galleries

Merckx w/Armstrong, Bennati, final podium

GrahamWatson.com | Tour de France Stage 20 photo gallery

Soler, Evans, final jerseys

CyclingNews.com | Stage 20 photo gallery

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2007 in 2007 Stage 20, Photo galleries | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage 20: Bennati the sprint, Contador the Tour

Lampre's Daniele Bennati disrupted Tom Boonen's leadout train, taking a big pull from Sebastien Rosseler up to victory on the Champs-Elysees.

Boonen was surrounded by the other green jersey hopefuls, and the leadout men were scrambled. Bennati found himself behind Rosseler, pulling hard, with about 250 meters to ride, and when Rosseler pulled off to his left, Bennati had an unimpeded line to the finish, and just hammered. Robbie Hunter went hard up the right, with Hushovd and Zabel in between, but it was Bennati on the line, ahead of Hushovd, Zabel, Hunter, and finally Boonen. It's Bennati's 2nd stage win after Stage 17.

The slight loss of points won't take the green jersey of Boonen's shoulders, so he'll finish in the final points lead with 2 stage wins.

Cadel Evans chose not to go hunting for bonus seconds, and he and Contador finished safely in the peloton, giving 24-year-old Alberto Contador his first overall Tour de France title. It's by far the closest Tour podium in history, eclipsing Stephen Roche's 1987 victory, where the 3rd-place rider, Jean-François Bernard, was 2:13 behind Roche.

Stage results
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy, 3:51:03
2) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, same time
3) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, s.t.
4) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa, s.t.
5) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium, s.t.
6) Sebastian Chavanel, Française des Jeux, France, s.t.
7) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, s.t.
8) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, s.t.
9) Robert Förster, Gerolsteiner, Germany, s.t.
10) Manuel Quinziato, Liquigas, Italy, s.t.

Overall final standings:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, 91:00:26
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ :23
3) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ :31
4) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, @ 7:08
5) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 8:17
6) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 11:37
7) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ 12:18
8) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @ 12:25
9) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 14:14
10) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 14:25

Contador becomes the first rider since Jan Ullrich in 1997 to take the white and yellow jerseys. Discovery Channel wins the team competition. Barloworld's Juan Mauricio Soler wins the King of the Mountains, and Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka was named the most agressive rider of the entier Tour.

Tom Boonen takes his first career overall green jersey.

It's another indicator of the arrival of a new generation of riders, as Contador, Soler, and Txurruka are 24, while Boonen is 26.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2007 in 2007 Stage 20, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Daniele Bennati, David Millar, Erik Zabel, Fabian Cancellara, Juan Mauricio Soler, Robbie Hunter, Tom Boonen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stage 20 on the road

It's the closest Tour de France final stage in history, with only 31 seconds between 1st and 3rd.

Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador is the golden boy, dressed in yellow and riding a yellow bike. Riding through the neutral zone, French national champion Christophe Moreau and the 4 jersey wearers (Contador, Tom Boonen in green, Mauricio Soler in polka-dots, and Amets Txurruka in white, where Contador and Soler lead the competition) go off the front of the field for pictures. Txurruka has also been named the most combative rider of the entire Tour.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Liggett: Boonen
Trautwig: Hushovd
Sherwen: Hunter
Roll: Contador

Sherwen has wrapped up the VS. competition.

We'll see whether Cadel Evans wants to contest today's stage. Levi Leipheimer won't attack his own teammate, and it's hard to see any way for him to make time on Evans without threatening Contador. CyclingNews.com yesterday reported on the possibility of a “spectacular” rider demonstration during the stage.

Should the gaps hold, we'll have the closest podium in Tour history. The current closest was in 1987, when Stephen Roche beat Pedro Delgado by :40 and Jean-François Bernard by 2:13. Also close was Greg Lemond's final win in 1990, where he beat Claudio Chiappucci by 2:16 with Erik Breukink at 2:29. (In 1989, when Lemond beat Fignon by :08, Delgado was 3rd at 3:34.)

We've got two 4th Category climbs before the first intermediate sprints, where those all important bonus seconds are on offer.

1st climb, Cote de Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse, 4th Category:
1) Gert Steegmans, Quick Step, +3 pts
2) Thomas Lovkvist, Française des Jeux, +2 pts
3) Frederick Willems, Liquigas, +1 pt

Gert Steegmans has launched a campaign to win the King of the Mountains jersey. Unfortunately, it looks as if Tom Boonen's big leadout man may have waited a bit too long.

2nd climb, a 4th Category:
1) Gert Steegmans, Quick Step, +3 pts
2) Michael Albasini, Liquigas, +2 pts
3) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +1 pt

And that does it for the KoM competition for the year. Just two intermediate sprints and the finish on the Champs-Elysees are left.

So, will he or won't he? The big question as the race approaches the Châtenay-Malabry intermediate sprint is whether Cadel Evans will be hunting for bonus seconds on the course. Discovery Channel puts 3 men at the front of the field, and Evans moves up near the front, while Quick Step, protecting the green jersey of Tom Boonen, has 4 men up front.

With a kilometer to the line, Quick Step's Carlos Barredo and Steven de Jongh ride off the front of the field to take the points (and therefore the bonus seconds) off the board. Française des Jeux's Lilian Jegou tries to bridge up, and as the line nears, he comes around the Quick Steps, who don't contest the sprint. Evans stays in the field. Looks like he's content with 2nd.

1st intermediate sprint:
1) Lilian Jegou, Française des Jeux, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Carlos Barredo, Quick Step, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Steven de Jongh, Quick Step, +2 pts/2 secs

Coming onto the Champs-Elysees, Discovery Channel moves to the front, and it's George Hincapie, who may switch teams in the off-season, who leads the field onto the finishing laps, ahead of the 8 surviving Discovery Channel riders.

Agritubel's Freddy Bichot launches the first real attack of the stage, quickly matched by Chris Horner. They're pulled back.

A big group gets away with 40 kilometers to ride. It's Caisse d'Epargne's José Ivan Gutierrez and Nicolas Portal, Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha, Milram's Christian Knees, AG2R's Simon Gerrans, Lampre's Alessandro Ballan, Liquigas' Maurilo Fischer, Credit Agricole's Anthony Charteau, Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz, and Française des Jeux's Mickael Delage. Flecha's a former stage winner, and Fischer a sprint specialist. Their gap quickly grows to around 30 seconds, and they take the points at the 2nd intermediate sprint.

2nd intermediate sprint:
1) Gerrans, AG2R, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Ballan, Lampre, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Portal, Caisse d'Epargne +2 pts/2 secs

Barloworld, looking to set up Robbie Hunter for a 2nd sprint stage win, moves to the front to bring the 10 men back, but to little effect, and with 3 laps to ride, the gap was out to :45.

Finally, Credit Agricole joined in the chase, and the lead started to fall. With 15 kms to ride, the gap was 30 seconds. With 9 kms/5.5 miles to ride, it was 18 seconds. With 7.5 kilometers to ride, Gutierrez attacked from the leaders group, matched by Flecha, avoiding the recapture of the 8 surviving members of the escape group, but they were quickly overtaken, and the field rode as one with 5.5 kilometers to the finish.

Lampre moved to the front, trying to set up Daniele Bennati for the win, and all the sprinters' teams started to try to set up their lead-outs. As they came back up out of the tunnel and onto the finishing straight with 250 meters to go, Lampre had a man at the front, Quick Step had a lead-out behind him, Robbie Hunter was set up ahead of Tom Boonen, and here we go! Hunter swings way to his right, Bennati is the man behind the Quick Step leadout, and he's got an unimpeded line, going hard, there comes Zabel, Huter's going hard, here comes Hushovd, where's Boonen, and it's Bennati taking the stage!

Bennati leads Hushovd then Zabel, Hunter and Boonen to take his 2nd stage win of the 2007 Tour.

Back in the field, there are no time gaps, no miracle attacks by Cadel Evans, and Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador has nailed down the overall victory in the Tour de France at 24!

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2007 in 2007 Stage 20, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Daniele Bennati, George Hincapie, Tom Boonen | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2007

Vinokourov B-sample positive, launches defense

Yahoo! Eurosport | Vino questions lab competence

L'Equipe reported that tests on Alexandre Vinokourov's B sample from Stage 13 also tested positive.

Vinokourov released a statement through his lawyers:

“I have always raced clean. Never before this year's Tour de France have I ever been accused of violating any doping law,” the Kazakh added.

“These test results simply make no sense. Given all the attention paid to doping offences, you would have to be crazy to do what I have been accused of, and I am not crazy.”

There was no mention of Vinokourov's samples from after his Stage 15 victory.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 28, 2007 in 2007 Stage 13 ITT, Alexandre Vinokourov, Doping, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stage 19 ITT: Leipheimer dominant

Levi Leipheimer threatened not just to cement his place on the final Tour podium today, but to absolutely overturn it. Leipheimer rode the 4th-fastest time trial in Tour history to win his first career Tour stage.

Starting the day in 3rd, 2:49 behind teammate and race leader Alberto Contador, Leipheimer needed 59 seconds to catch Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans. On the road, Leipheimer was consistently faster than Evans or Contador, who had the advantage of Leipheimer's time checks. At the day's last time check, Leipheimer trailed Evans by just 8 seconds. Would Evans crack or come through?

Evans, who probably started the day focused on the wrong Disco, responded with a strong final segment, but still finished 51 seconds behind Leipheimer's impressive 1:02:45. Contador, for his part, finished a creditable 5th, which was enough to defend the yellow jersey.

It's the first stage win for the United States this year, and looks to have cemented a great Tour for Discovery Channel: 4 riders in today's Top 10; overall 1st, 3rd, and 8th; white jersey; yellow jersey; and team competition.

Top 10:
1) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, in 1:02:45
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at :50
3) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, at 1:56
4) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 2:01
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 2:18
6) José Ivan Gutiérrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 2:26
7) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA, in 2:32
8) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, in 2:35
9) Leif Hoste, Predictor-Lotto, Belgium in 2:48
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, in 2:49

The GC just gets closer: You can throw a 31-second blanket over the leading three riders.

Overall Standings after Stage 19:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto , Australia, at :23
3) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at :31
4) Carlos Sastre, CSC, at 7:08

Posted by Frank Steele on July 28, 2007 in Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Stage 19 ITT: This is it

So the whole Tour comes down to today's individual time trial. It's 55.5 kilometers, from Cognac to Angoulême. The intermediate time checks come at 17.5 kilometers, 35 kilometers, and 50.1 kilometers.

Riders leave at 2 minute intervals until the final 20, who will be separated by 3 minutes. Alberto Contador starts the day leading a better time trial rider, Cadel Evans, by 1:50. Levi Leipheimer sits 3rd at 2:49, with everyone else at least 6 minutes back.

VS. broadcaster predictions:
Roll: Evans (by 1:47!)
Liggett: Cancellara
Trautwig: Leipheimer
Sherwen: Popovych

David Millar had to swap bikes only a few hundred meters onto the course when a tire blew, and again later. He would finish in 1:10:37, more than 5 minutes down on the day.

Thomas Dekker has been 2nd at each time check, trailing Hoste by 12 seconds at the 3rd check, and he gave his all coming to the line, sprinting with his tongue hanging out, to bring the gap down to about 7 seconds, but still 2nd at that point.

George Hincapie was fastest at the first three time checks, but José Ivan Gutierrez has been faster at each when he came through a few minutes behind. Hincapie is the first to crack Leif Hoste's previous best time.

Vladimir Karpets dropped the best time at TC1 by 10 seconds, with a 20:15.

Chris Horner at TC1: 20:26, 3 seconds faster than Hincapie, and 3rd for now.

Now Gutierrez comes to the line, charging hard: 1:05:11, the new best.

Leipheimer sets off, followed 3 minutes later by Cadel Evans, followed 3 minutes later by Alberto Contador, in a yellow-and-white skinsuit.

At TC1, Leipheimer scorches all previous times, with a 19:36, 39 faster than Vladimir Karpets. Evans comes next, and he's a little slower, at 19:50, but he's focused on Contador. When Contador rolls through, he's the 3rd fastest of the day, in 20:12, 22 seconds down on Evans with less than one-third of the course complete.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Karpets storms to the line with the new best finishing time: it's 1:04:41 for the Caisse d'Epargne TT specialist.

At TC2, Leipheimer again comes through well ahead of Karpets, hitting the line in 39:44. Evans could possibly overtake Contador and get overtaken by Leipheimer -- he's working hard up to the time check, and scores a 40:20, 36 seconds off Leipheimer. Contador appears to be slipping away, he's 5th fastest, in 41:13. He's lost 1:29 to Leipheimer, :53 to Evans. It's going to be a nailbiter.

Coming to the line, Leipheimer is clearly the fastest man on the course. He finishes in a scalding 1:02:45. Cadel Evans has only 8 seconds left in his GC lead over Leipheimer as he starts the last section of the course. Coming to the line, Evans is still bringing it, and actually closes the gap by a second: 1:03:35. He'll lose 51 seconds to Leipheimer, but what about Contador?

Contador isn't as smooth as Leipheimer or Evans, but he's still hitting the intermediate time checks in the Top 5. He knows he'll need a 1:05:24 to hold the jersey. Coming toward the line, the clock ticks out to 1:05:03, and Contador has saved his yellow jersey!

The overall picture is only more muddied after the stage that was supposed to clear it up: Contador still leads, but by just :23 over Evans and :31 over Leipheimer!

For Leipheimer, it's his 1st career stage win, and the 1st win of this Tour for the United States.

Top Finishers:
1) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, 1:02:44
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at :51
3) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, at 1:56
4) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 2:01
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 2:18
6) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, 1:05:11
7) George Hincapie, in 1:05:17
8) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, 1:05:20
9) Leif Hoste, Predictor-Lotto, 1:05:33
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:50

I'll be updating a lot in my Tour Twitter feed, with intermediate times for key riders and other anecdotes, while I'll mostly be posting top finishing times here.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

Walsh: Contador "definitely cheating"

Macleans.ca | The Macleans.ca Interview: David Walsh

In a new interview with Macleans.ca, David Walsh, author of From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France and chief sportswriter for The Sunday Times, says he's been following the Tour, and isn't sad to see Vinokourov and Rasmussen shown the door.

DW: Why is it sad? They’re cheating. It’s sad that they cheat, but it’s good news when they get caught. What is sad is that the guy who’s wearing the yellow jersey now, Alberto Contador, is definitely cheating.

Walsh says he's sure that even the riders still in the race are cheating because they climbed the Col d'Aubisque “faster than Lance Armstrong ever went up it.”

Walsh, an outspoken critic of Armstrong, believes the teams that are trying to compete clean are “getting screwed, as they have been for the last 15 years.” He briefly discusses how riders get around positives by carefully scheduling drug use, transfusions, and hormones to minimize the chance of being caught.

Also:

VeloNews | On the list, off the list - Alberto Contador and Operación Puerto

Details how Contador was initially lumped into the Operación Puerto names, but eventually cleared because his name appeared only in non-doping contexts.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Doping, Top Stories, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Landis legal team working with Vinokourov, Astana

ESPN.com | Suh, Jacobs in Paris to research Vinokourov's case

Alexandre Vinokourov, booted from the Tour after a positive test for blood boosting, has turned to a legal team that has spent the past year studying the sport's dope-testing mechanisms.

Maurice Suh and Howard Jacobs are also representing 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis, awaiting a decision from an appeal of his suspension resulting from a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone measurement after Stage 17 of the '06 Tour.

Vinokourov's B sample is being examined at the Chatenay-Malabry lab, formerly the LNDD.

Jacobs also represented Tyler Hamilton, who was accused in 2004 of the same thing as Vinokourov: Receiving a blood transfusion to improve athletic performance.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Floyd Landis, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lance in France: Armstrong headed to Saturday TT

The Statesman | Armstrong to cheer on team Saturday

Lance Armstrong will be attending Saturday's individual time trial and Sunday's race into Paris.

Discovery Channel currently has riders in 1st, 3rd, and 8th, and leads the team competition and the white jersey competition.

A dose of publicity from the team's co-owner, the 7-time Tour champion, could also help land a new sponsor. Discovery Channel's sponsorship runs only through the end of the season.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Rumor of rider positive after Stage 14

Politiken.dk | Ny dopingafsløring af markant rytter på vej

A Danish newspaper is reporting that a jersey holder tested positive after Stage 14, when Contador edged Rasmussen, and that Christian Prudhomme will announce the result in a press conference at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Your jerseys at that point were Rasmussen, Contador (white), Soler (polka-dot), and Boonen (green).

If it turns out to be Rasmussen, we may have more information on why he was withdrawn. If it's one of the others, they should just give it up.

Update: HLN.be reports that Barloworld's Mauricio Soler is the likely rider to be named, and that the team hotel has already been raided by police.

Update to the update: This appears to have been an unfounded rumor. Soler checked in this morning, finished 42nd in the TT, and Christian Prudhomme addressed the rumor during his press conference: “We spoke with the commissionaire of the UCI and they said there was no case.”

(Via cycling fans anonymous.)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Doping | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Stage 18: Casar outsmarts the veterans

Française des Jeux's Sandy Casar showed some brilliant tactics in winning the Tour's 18th stage, into Angoulême. With 3 kms to ride, Casar split from his 3 breakaway companions, going left around some traffic furniture when they went right, and just hammering until he was reeled in with a little more than 1 kilometers to ride.

Rabobank's Michael Boogerd was ideally situated, riding behind Casar, monitoring T-Mobile's Axel Merckx and Bouygues Telecom's Laurent Lefevre, but while Boogerd watched his back, Casar launched off the front, as Merckx gave his all to the right, and Boogerd couldn't respond.

It's Casar's first stage win, after 3 career 2nd places, including a very narrow loss to Cedric Vasseur back on Stage 10.

For Boogerd and Merckx, it was likely their final chance at a Tour stage win, with an ITT tomorrow, and the final stage Sunday likely to be controlled by the sprinters' teams. Both are retiring, with Merckx possibly doing so Sunday.

Tom Boonen extended his points jersey lead by leading in the field for 5th on the day, just ahead of Robbie Hunter.

A gap in the field cost yellow jersey Alberto Contador 3 seconds, seconds he can ill afford before tomorrow's time trial showdown with Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans.

Top 10:
1) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, France
2) Axel Merckx, T-Mobile, Belgium, at :01
3) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France, same time
4) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, Netherlands, s.t.
5) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium, at 8:34
6) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa, same time
7) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, s.t.
8) Sebastien Chavanel, Française des Jeux, s.t.
9) Bernhard Eisel, T-Mobile, Austria, s.t.
10) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, s.t.

Overall Standings after Stage 18:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, in 86:04:16
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 1:50
3) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 2:49
4) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 6:02
5) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel, Spain, at 6:29
6) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 10:18
7) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 11:36
8) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukrain, at 12:47
9) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 13:31
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel, Spain, at 13:42

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in 2007 Stage 18, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Daily Show on Rasmussen

Comedy Central | The Daily Show: The Audacity of Dope

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Michael Rasmussen, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stage 18 on the road

Today's a longish, flattish stage suited to a long breakaway or a sprint finish. The well-placed teams will probably want to take it easy in preparation for the big individual time trial tomorrow. The green jersey is still being contested, so Tom Boonen may prefer either for a big break to go up the road and take all the sprint points, or to have a chance to score a few more points himself, depending on the legs.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Sherwen: Tom Boonen
Roll: Oscar Pereiro
Liggett: Robbie Hunter
Trautwig: Juan Antonio Flecha

1st climb, 4th Category:
1) Frederick Willems, Liquigas, +3 pts
2) Jerome Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts
3.) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +1 pt

Willems and Casar were involved in a crash with a dog that ran onto the road. Soon after, a pair of riders got away -- Laurent Lefevre of Bouygues Telecom and Michael Boogerd of Rabobank -- and were quickly joined by T-Mobile's Axel Merckx and Française des Jeux's Sandy Casar. They've collected every bonus since, through three 4th-Category climbs and the first intermediate sprint, as their gap went out and out and out, to more than 16 minutes.

2nd climb, a 4th Category:
1) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +3 pts
2) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +2 pts
3) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +1 pt

3rd climb, a 4th Category:
1) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +3 pts
2) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +2 pts
3) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +1 pt

Both Boogerd and Merckx are expected to retire at the end of the season, so both are looking for a victory in the last stage that might suit them.

1st intermediate sprint, 66 kms ridden:
1) Axel Merckx, T-Mobile, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +2 pts/2 secs

4th (final) climb, a 4th Category:
1. Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +3 pts
2. Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +2 pts
3. Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +1 pt

Boogerd, the best-placed rider in the break, started today 27:50 behind Alberto Contador, so this break, hovering around 16:30, could theoretically move him up around 6th overall, if it's allowed to survive.

The gap got out to about 17:30 and finally attracted Euskaltel's attention, as Boogerd became a threat to both Haimar Zubeldia's place in the top 5 and Mikel Astarloza's place in the top 10 of the Tour.

At the day's final sprint, with 18 kms/11 miles to ride, Casar was first over the line.

2nd (final) intermediate sprint (Dignac):
1) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +3 pts
2) Axel Merckx, T-Mobile, +2 pts
3) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +1 pt

The peloton is 12:05 back. The day's winner will be one of the four leaders.

The four leaders continued to work together until just 6 kilometers were left, and Laurent Lefevre was the first to attack. Casar was slow to react, and Lefevre kept his gap for a kilometer, but the four regrouped with 4 kms to ride, watching each other.

A small rise was a launch pad for Boogerd, but Lefevre was waiting for it, and easily grabs his wheel, Merckx behind, then Casar. Now Merckx attacks, and Lefevre gets close, but Merckx attacks again. This time, Lefevre goes hard all the way to his wheel, and all four ride together.

With 3 kms to ride, there's some traffic furniture, and Casar, in 4th position goes left where the others went right and hits full gas. He gets 20 meters by the time the road comes back together, and pushes it out to 4 or 5 seconds, with Boogerd chasing hard, then Lefevre and Merckx.

At 1 km to ride, both gaps are shrinking as Boogerd closes on Casar and Lefevre on Boogerd, with Merckx in 4th wheel. Boogerd is in the catbird's seat. Casar's been working super-hard, was in the accident earlier, so Boogerd's looking for the attack from Lefevre and Merckx.

But it's Casar who finds the power to go hard for the line, an instant before Merckx swings to the right and kicks for the line, and by the time Boogerd can react, it's too late, and Sandy Casar takes his first Tour stage win! He was centimeters short of the win when Cedric Vasseur won, but here, he finishes the deal. Merckx 2nd, Lefevre 3rd, and Boogerd 4th.

In the peloton, Quick Step took over the lead duties, attempting to increase Tom Boonen's green jersey lead. Coming up to the line, Chavanel and Förster launched to the left, while Boonen stayed tight to the right, with Robbie Hunter coming right alongside, but it's Boonen! Boonen takes 5th and Hunter 6th.

In the field, there was a split, and yellow jersey Alberto Contador and teammate Levi Leipheimer were on the wrong side, while Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans was right up front, so he gains 3 seconds in advance of tomorrow's big individual time trial.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in 2007 Stage 18 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Armstrong may exit RAGBRAI for Tour

Lance Armstrong was riding with presidential candidate John Edwards at RAGBRAI on Wedensday, where he also appeared on Hardball (look for “Lance Armstrong plays Hardball”) (and had a RAGBRAI rider propose marriage). Armstrong and Hardball host Chris Matthews will co-host the Presidential Candidates Cancer Forum in Cedar Rapids August 27th (Democrats) and 28th (Republicans).

And what does Armstrong make of the ongoing Tour de Farce? Armstrong told Matthews it shows that cycling “has done more than any other sport ... It shows the controls work.” Note that his appearance was before the Rasmussen withdrawal.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation RAGBRAI busBike Hugger's got a post by Hed Cycling's Andy Tetmyer on building Armstrong's LiveStrong RAGBRAI bus. The Postal Bus it's not: It's a modified 1979 schoolbus, with storage for 12 bikes and seating and gear space for 12 riders, and a Texas-sized barbecue grill out on the back deck (All bus photos).

Current news reports suggest Armstrong will leave Iowa tonight, and head to France, where Discovery Channel could have riders finish as high as 1st and 2nd. That would be a perfect time for the team to announce a new sponsor, as well -- if they've been able to nail one down.

He'll also keynote an event for Kids on Bikes in Colorado Springs August 9th.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Lance Armstrong 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

Laughing past the graveyard

I seem to remember a time when the Tour was fun. And after the last couple of days, I thought we could all use a little bit of the Tour's lighter, dare I say more whimsical, side.

Snark first: Elden at FatCyclist offers 5 Questions About the Tour de France Thus Far, including: Question 2. How come people keep sending Iban Mayo to the Tour?

The video above (which I saw first at QuickRelease.TV) has French accordion music and a setup worth of Punch & Judy or Itchy and Scratchy. It also reminded me of a site that tracks the Tour's publicity caravan and scale models of the caravan vehicles (and speaking of Itchy and Scratchy, here's the elaborate rolling Les Simpson, Le Film diorama in this year's caravan), mostly in French (also here).

And nobody uses model cyclists and race vehicles better than Anthony Pope, with his Plastic Peloton People, where he's put up a “print-out-and-keep momento” of the London Grand Depart. Here's an interview with Pope in PezCyclingNews in June.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2007 in About the Tour, Iban Mayo, London | Permalink | Comments (1)

France reacts to Tour's three strikes: Vino, Moreni, Rasmussen

IHT.com | France reels from Tour de France scandals, and newspaper urges calling off race

The Independent | Tour de France: French demand drastic action as outrage turns into disgust

Hugh Schofield, writing in The Independent, provides some reaction from French newspapers: from Aujourd'hui en France: “Cheats, Get Out!” (in French, “Tricheurs dehors!”); in La Nouvelle Republique, “It's the Tour of Shame.”

The Associated Press notes France Soir's front page obituary (at right), which said the Tour died today, “at age 104, after a long illness.” Any names pointedly missing?

Liberation editorialized:

"The Tour must be stopped.”

“This procession of cyclists has been transformed into a caravan of ridicule,” Liberation wrote. “If the organizers really want to save cycling, they should stop the competition and declare a pause of a few years, enough time to treat these athletes-turned-druggies.”

Also:

Liberation.fr | La mort du Tour (in French)

Forbes.com | U.S. Sponsors of Tour de France Hang On

WSJ.com | Tour de France Sponsors May Pull Out

Fox Sports | No mourning but 'Tour is dead'

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2007 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Doping, Michael Rasmussen | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Rasmussen: "I was not in Italy"

When Michael Rasmussen's withdrawal was announced by Rabobank, their press officer said it was because Rasmussen had admitted to director Theo de Rooij that he was in Italy when Davide Cassani claimed to see him on June 13 or 14th:

"When Rasmussen was confronted with this information he confirmed to [team manager] Theo de Rooij he was at that moment in Italy," said Rabobank press officer Jacob Bergsma. "That was the reason De Rooij decided to get him out of the Tour and the team."

Today, Rasmussen denied this to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (AD.nl story and video, in Dutch):

“I am shattered. I am on the verge of tears. I was not in Italy. Not at all. That's the story of one man who believes he recognised me. There is no hint of evidence.”

“My career is ruined. I have no idea what I should do or where I will go. This is an enormous blow for me, and also for all the guys from the Rabo team. They're devastated.”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2007 in Michael Rasmussen | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Stage 17 on the road

Yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen and the surviving Cofidis riders all did not start this morning.

No rider will ride in the yellow jersey. This has happened before, most notably when Eddy Merckx refused to take the yellow jersey in 1971 on the day after Luis Ocaña crashed out of the race while leading. Most recently, Lance Armstrong tried not to accept the jersey the morning after Dave Zabriskie crashed out in 2005, but race officials insisted.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Trautwig: Cadel Evans
Sherwen: Tom Boonen
Roll: Robbie Hunter
Liggett: Erik Zabel

A group of 8 riders quickly launched an escape, and have spent most of the day away. Included are Jens Voigt (CSC), David Millar (Saunier Duval), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Daniele Righi and Daniele Bennati (Lampre), Martin Elmiger (AG2R), and Manuel Quniziato (Liquigas). They've never been able to get more than 2:30 gap.

1st climb, the 3rd Category Cote de Balieix:
1) Matteo Tosatto, Quick Step, +4 pts
2) Jens Voigt, CSC +3 pts
3) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +2 pts
4) Daniel Righi, Lampre, +1 pt

1st Intermediate Sprint (44.5 km):
1) Manuel Quinziato, Liquigas, +6 pts/6 secs
2. David Millar, Saunier Duval, +4 pts/4 secs
3. Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +2 pts/2 secs

Discovery Channel, Predictor-Lotto, and Bouygues Telecom have all spent time leading the peloton.

2nd Climb, a 4th Category:
1) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +3 pts
2) Matteo Tosatto, Quick Step, +2 pts
3) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +1 pt

3rd Climb, a 4th Category:
1) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +3 pts
2) Matteo Tosatto, Quick Step, +2 pts
3) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +1 pt

4th Climb, 4th Category Cote de Ste-Dode-aux-Croix (63.5 km):
1) David Millar, Saunier Duval, +3 pts
2) Daniele Righi, Lampre, +2 pts
3) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +1 pts

Credit Agricole and Caisse d'Epargne lead the field.

5th climb, the 4th Category Cote de Theux (72.5 km)
1) David Millar, Saunier Duval, +3 pts
2) Daniele Righi, Lampre, +2 pts
3) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +1 pt

Caisse d'Epargne is holding the gap below 2 minutes. At the feedzone, Rabobank's pre-Tour leader, Denis Menchov, climbs off his bike and out of the Tour.

Caisse d'Epargne has finally come off the front, and the gap is going out beyond 3:30. Discovery Channel, Predictor-Lotto, and some CSC riders lead the peloton.

Discovery Channel is happy to have this group stay away, and the gap just keeps growing. Approaching the day's second and last sprint, the gap is almost 8:00.

2nd (last) intermediate sprint:
1) Daniele Bennati, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Jens Voigt, CSC, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +2 pts/2 secs

Jens Voigt flatted with just over 25 kilometers to race, and had to close a 25-second gap to rejoin the breakaway. On the day's final climb, a little 4th-Category, Elmiger, Millar, and Voigt kicked it into high gear, stretching, then popping, the group. Righi and Quinziato were the first to go. Fothen attacked, caught by Bennati. Voigt led the group over the climb.

6th climb, the 4th Category Cote de la Montagnere:
1) Jens Voigt, CSC, +3 pts
2) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +2 pts
3) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +1 pt

Bennati and Tosatto are probably the best sprinters here. Look for more attacks to shake them.

Now, Millar and Tosatto are in trouble, falling off the group. The gap goes out to 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 40 seconds.

With 4 kms to ride, Voigt launches. Bennati matches him, then Elmiger and Fothen. As soon as they were together, Voigt went again. Bennati came over the top, and the two got maybe 50 meters on Fothen and Elmiger.

Three kms to ride, and everyone's together. At 1200 meters, Fothen goes hard, and again, it's Bennati that chases him down.

The four ride together, with the pace increasing and increasing, and with a couple hundred meters to go, Bennati surges around Fothen and stays away! It's Bennati's first Tour stage win.

The peloton will fight it out for 9th place, since the green jersey competition is still up in the air. They're more than 9 minutes back.

Quick Step is setting up Boonen, Robbie Hunter is there, there goes Sebastien Chavanel, Boonen launches, comes past Chavanel, and it's Tom Boonen nipping Chavanel for 9th place on the day.

So, Contador will put on the yellow jersey, Discovery takes over the team competition, and Voigt will have to be satisfied with the most agressive rider recognition.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

Rasmussen withdrawn, fired by Rabobank

cyclingnews.com | Cycling News Flash for July 26, 2007: Rasmussen pulled out of Tour

CyclingNews reports that Rabobank has withdrawn Michael Rasmussen from the Tour, and that he will not take the start tomorrow.

CyclingNews suggests it could relate to a report by Italian TV commentator Davide Cassani, who claims to have seen Rasmussen training in the Dolomites on June 13th or 14th, while Rasmussen claims he was in Mexico for training.

DeRooy will not withdraw the entire team, but will allow the riders to choose to start the stage tomorrow.

Also:

VeloNews.com | News Flash: Rasmussen pulled out of Tour, fired by Rabobank

Adds that Rasmussen is also fired from the team.

iol Sport | Rasmussen kicked out of Tour de France

However the team has learnt that Rasmussen lied to them over where and what he was up to during the month of June when he was in fact in Italy and not in Mexico as he had told them.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in Doping, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (115)

Petacchi cleared of Salbutamol charge, but...

VeloNews |Petacchi cleared of Salbutamol charge

Milram's supersprinter Alessandro Petacchi was cleared yesterday by the Italian Cycling Federation after testing well above the threshold value for the asthma medication salbutamol at the Giro d'Italia.

Petacchi is one of many cyclists who carry “therapeutic use exemptions,” documents provided by doctors that allow them to use substances that are generally off-limits to treat specific ailments.

The Italian Olympic Committee recommended a 12-month suspension, but the disciplinary committee of the national federation said Petacchi could return to racing immediately.

Cyclingnews reports Petacchi might not want to book any race travel just yet, as the UCI may begin an appeal “within days.”

"The UCI will ask for the file and we will then study it once we receive it," said UCI chief Pat McQuaid."We don't know all the details of the Italian federation's decision, but we will be making a request for the file in the next 24 hours."

"It is a possibilty that we appeal," he added.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in Alessandro Petacchi, Doping | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 16: Rasmussen unstoppable

Rasmussen  wins on AubisqueAlternate title: Chicken Run 4: The Dane, in Spain, derails Discovery's train

Michael Rasmussen took full ownership of this Tour de France today, outriding the entire field and pushing his overall lead out to more than 3 minutes on Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador.

It looked like Discovery Channel had played their cards to perfection. On the day's last climb, Yaroslav Popovych absolutely slayed an elite group that had been riding with Rasmussen, leaving three Discos in a 5-man group: Popovych, Leipheimer and Contador vs. Rasmussen and Cadel Evans. His job done, Popovych fell away, and Contador and Leipheimer looked to make the race.

Each would attack Rasmussen, who repeatedly led the other Disco and Evans back onto the attacker's wheel. Late in the climb, Leipheimer looked cracked, and the field was whittled down to three, then two as Evans couldn't stay with probably the two strongest climbers in this year's Tour.

I say probably, because Barolworld's Juan Mauricio Soler, who had taken the lead in the King of the Mountains competition while riding in an early breakaway, was gaining time on Contador and Rasmussen and passing men who had earlier dropped him.

Back on the front, Leipheimer somehow scratched his way past Evans and back up to the leaders, and even launched an attack when he got there, but none of the trio wanted to attack as the stage wound down into its last kilometers. Then, with just over 1 kilometer to the summit, Rasmussen put on a yellow-jersey worthy display, dropping the Discos, and riding solo to the summit of the Col d'Aubisque for his second stage win of this Tour and 4th ever.

Leipheimer shepherded Contador briefly, then made haste to try to gain some time on Cadel Evans, currently sitting on the bottom step of the podium, where Leipheimer wants to be in Paris. He finished 26 seconds back, and picks up some bonus time, so he now sits 4th overall, :56 behind Evans.

Carlos Sastre, who went in a long early breakaway with Soler, takes the most aggressive rider recognition, while Soler takes over the King of the Mountains competition lead.

Stage 16 Top 10:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 6:23:21
2) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at :25
3) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at :35
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Astralia, at :43
5) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 1:25
6) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 1:52
7) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval-Prodir, Spain, at 1:54
8) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 2:12
9) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 2:27
10) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, same time

Overall Standings after Stage 16:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark
2) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 3:10
3) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 5:03
4) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 5:59
5) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 9:12
6) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, in 9:39
7) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 13:28
8) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 14:46
9) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 16:00
10) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, at 16:41

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in 2007 Stage 16, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

L'Equipe: Moreni of Cofidis positive

L'Equipe.fr | Moreni contrôlé positif

cyclingnews.com | Moreni positive for testosterone

Cristian Moreni of the Cofidis squad has tested positive for exogenous testosterone, according to l'Equipe.

Moreni apparently tested positive in a random test after Stage 11, where he finished 102nd. Adding a cruel twist to the story, Moreni and his Cofidis teammates were among those who delayed the start of the stage to call attention to their “Movement for a Credible Cycling.”

Cofidis will exit the Tour - here's the story in l'Equipe.

Also:

Yahoo! Eurosport | Cofidis withdraw after Moreni positive

He has been arrested by French police, while the hotel of the Cofidis team in Lescar has been searched.

VeloNews.com | Moreni and Cofidis leave Tour

Notes that Cofidis chose not to ask for a B-sample test (I thought that was the rider's call), and claims Cofidis was “invited to withdraw” as was Astana yesterday.

cyclingnews.com | Stage 16: Moreni finishes stage 16 to face news of his positive doping control for testosterone

James Raia | Who Are the Teams in the Tour de France?

Notes that Cofidis has the 2nd largest budget in the Tour, at about $13.6 million annually (behind T-Mobile, more than $20 million).

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in Doping, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3)

L'Equipe reports another positive

L'EQUIPE.FR Cyclisme - Un nouveau cas positif

We'll have another positive test result announced a little bit later. L'Equipe reports that one of the samples collected after Stage 11 tested positive for high levels of testosterone, and that it has already been run through an IRMS test to check for exogenous testosterone. Reportedly, the IRMS suggests a man-made source.

Two riders who would have automatically been tested after Stage 11 were stage winner Robbie Hunter and yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen, but a number of other riders were randomly selected for testing, as well.

The rider's name is to be announced at 1500 CET, which I make to be 10 a.m. Eastern. Update: CyclingNews has updated their story to note that no announcement was made. Could it be another Astana? Or do they not want the spectacle of pulling a rider off the course, even though they risk tarnishing another stage?

Also:

cyclingnews.com | Cycling News Flash for July 25,2007 | New positive test leaked

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in Doping | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Stage 16 on the road

It's here. The ultimate Mountain Showdown of the 2007 Tour. Michael Rasmussen is looking to survive without losing time on a stage that looks made for him. Alberto Contador seems likely to attack on the day's last climb, using that explosive jump to break Rasmussen and move up at least within striking distance.

Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer, who haven't looked quite as strong, need to find some time, but that's going to be hard with the support Rasmussen has been getting from Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd, and Thomas Dekker, and perhaps complicated for Leipheimer by Contador's position in 2nd overall.

It's a 218.5-km stage, with two hors categorie climbs, a 3rd-Category, and two 1st Category. The race will visit Spain, so look for the roads to be swathed in orange-clad fans.

Racing kicked off early, with 4 riders getting almost 9 minutes: Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Vincente Garcia-Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Christophe Rinero (Saunier Duval).

At the day's first sprint:
1) Christophe Rinero, Saunier Duval, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +2 pts/2 secs

On the day's first climb, the HC Port de Larrau, Cardenas and Soler of Barloworld went right to the front and decimated the field. Yaroslav Popovych, Manuel Beltran, and most notably Carlos Sastre hooked on and rode away from the yellow jersey group. Iban Mayo saw the move and bridged to Soler and Sastre. Sergio Paulinho of Discovery also tried a move, but he and Popovych fell back to the yellow jersey group. Michael Rasmussen climbed with Dekker, Boogerd, and Menchov.

1st Climb, Port de Larrau (HC)
1) Vicente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne +20 pts
2) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +18 pts
3) Rinero, Saunier Duval, +16 pts, at :55
4) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +14 pts, at 1:05
5) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +12 pts, at 3:05
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, +10 pts
7) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, +8 pts
8) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, +7 pts, at 4:35
9) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, +6 pts
10) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, +5 pts

Next up, the little 3rd Category Alto Laza climb, where again Garcia-Acosta leads Verdugo to the line. Riders continue to catch onto the back of the yellow jersey group.

2nd Climb, 3rd Category Alto Laza
1) Vicente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne +4 pts
2) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +3 pts
3) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +2 pts, at 2:00
4) Rinero, Saunier Duval, +1 pt, at 2:10

Next up the Col de la Pierre St. Martin, a 1st Category. The leaders mostly coalesced into a group including Soler, Sastre, Verdugo, Garcia-Acosta, and Mayo, with Auge and Rinero suffering between those 5 and Rasmussen's group. At the summit, Jens Voigt (of all people) sprints out of the yellow jersey group to deny Rasmussen mountain points.

3rd Climb, the 1st Category Col de la Pierre St. Martin
1) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +15 pts
2) Carlos Sastre, CSC, +13 pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +11 pts
4) Vincente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne, +9 pts
5) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, +8 pts
6) Stephane Auge, Cofidis, +7 pts, at 3:55
7) Christophe Rinero, Saunier Duval, +6 pts, at 4:10
8) Jens Voigt, CSC, +5 pts, at 4:50

Rasmussen's group arrived at 4:55. At this point, Soler would take over the lead in the King of the Mountains competition, but the 1st Category Col de Marie Blanque and the HC Col d'Aubisque (with points doubled) remain.

Again on the Marie-Blanque, Rabobank kept the pace high enough to discourage attacks, and brought back more than 2 minutes of the Sastre group's lead.

4th climb, the 1st Category Col de Marie Blanque
1) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +15 pts
2) Carlos Sastre, CSC +13 pts
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, +11 pts
4) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +9 pts
5) Vicente Garcia-Acosta, Caisse d'Epargne, +8 pts, at 1:25
6) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, +7 pts, at 2:25
7) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, +6 pts
8) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +5 pts

Rasmussen's group amounted to only 12 at the climb; a few will likely chase back on the descent before the Col d'Aubisque.

Rabobank continued to reel in Sastre, whose group survived through the day's last intermediate sprint at around 200kms ridden.

2nd (final) intermediate sprint:
1) Sastre, CSC, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Soler, Barloworld, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Mayo, Saunier Duval, +2 pts/2 secs

It looks like that will be all Sastre takes away from today's breakaway - the gap is down to 40 seconds. Menchov and Boogerd still shepherd Rasmussen as the riders hit the day's final climb, the Col d'Aubisque, with about 16 kilometers/10 miles to ride.

Sastre refuses to be captured, and attacks out of his group. Soler and Mayo match him, then Soler can't hang, and Mayo crosses the gap to rejoin Sastre. Sastre and Mayo got their gap almost out to a minute, but as Menchov and Horner fell out of the yellow jersey group, Yaroslav Popovych brought the pain at the front of the group.

Through his efforts, the group was whittled down to only Popo, Contador and Leipheimer from Discovery Channel, Cadel Evans, and Michael Rasmussen. Popovych faded with 9.5 kilometers/6.1 miles to ride.

Leipheimer then moved to the front, and he and Contador took turns attacking Rasmussen. Each would get 10-20 meters, then Rasmussen would tow his teammate and Evans back up to his wheel. At one point, Leipheimer fell away, leaving Contador, Rasmussen and Evans, who was struggling to match the climbers. Finally, Evans fell away.

Leipheimer caught and passed Evans, then started to claw back the advantage of Contador and Rasmussen. Back in the field, Soler was making great time, and eventually would pass Sastre, to move into 5th on the course.

Rasmussen grew more and more distracted by the race motorcycles, which he apparently thought were providing the Discos a draft, but over the last 4 kilometers or so, the Discovery Channel duo looked content to ride with Rasmussen, refraining from attacks. Are they saving one of Contador's vicious strikes for the final stretch of the day?

Just outside the last kilometer, Rasmussen went hard, and Leipheimer and Contador had to watch him ride away. Leipheimer briefly squired Contador toward the line, then rode away in search of time that might move him nearer the Tour podium, as Evans chased solo :45 behind the leaders.

Rasmussen comes to the line, looks back to make sure, zips the jersey, and takes his 2nd stage win of this Tour, and more importantly closes the books on the Tour's high mountain stages with a healthy gap on 2nd place Alberto Contador.

Leipheimer came in 2nd, 26 seconds back, with Contador 3rd at :35.


Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2007 in 2007 Stage 16, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

T-Mobile to review sponsorship after Tour

Bloomberg.com | T-Mobile May Terminate Cycling Sponsorship Early

T-Mobile is considering ending its sponsorship of the T-Mobile team, the biggest sponsorship in the sport at about $18 million.

The contract runs through 2010, but Patrik Sinkewitz's positive for testosterone may cause the telecom giant to withdraw from the sport.

Sinkewitz's B-sample is scheduled to be tested on July 31, with the results to be released as soon as that day.

Also:

rad-net.de | Sinkewitz: Öffnung der B-Probe am 31.07.2007 (in German)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2007 in Patrik Sinkewitz | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tour will continue after Vino bombshell

VeloNews.com | Tour will continue despite doping cloud

Tour director Christian Prudhomme and ASO president Patrice Clerc addressed Alexandre Vinokourov's positive doping test in a press conference in Pau.

Asked whether the Tour should just be canceled, Clerc seemed to think it inconceivable:

“We have started a war on doping, and unfortunately in war there are losses, but it is out of the question to quit,” Clerc said. “There was never a question the Tour would stop. Then the cheaters would win.”

Clerc also said that neither Astana nor race leader Michael Rasmussen should have been invited to the 2007 Tour. Clerc said of Rasmussen, leading the race by 2:23:

“In a period of crisis such as we are living in at the moment, a champion must be a good example,” said Clerc. “His attitude, his lack of respect shown to the administrative rules, which is unacceptable, should be made known to us and we would have refused his participation, because he is not a good role model for the others in the peloton.”

No news yet on the reassignment of Vinokourov's stage wins.

Also:

Yahoo! Eurosport | Tour de France - Tour "winning war on drugs"

Prudhomme blamed the UCI:

“The system is a complete failure. It does not protect the greatest cycling race. We have to blow this system,” he said.

He added that organisers had been informed of Vinokourov's positive test by Astana, not the UCI.

leTour.fr | Le Tour de France Obtains the Withdrawal of the Astana Team

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2007 in About the Tour, Alexandre Vinokourov, Doping, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

'Jesus Christ, I'm speechless': Vinokourov positive, Astana out

Vinokourov's bodyguard packs to leave TourRTE Sport | Vinokourov fails dope test

Astana leader Alexandre Vinokourov apparently tested positive for homologous blood doping (receiving a transfusion of someone else's blood) after Saturday's time trial victory, and the entire Astana team has withdrawn from the Tour immediately.

David Millar was in the midst of a press conference when the news spread. Asked about the story, he said, “Jesus Christ, I'm speechless. It makes me sad. I have the impression the riders will never understand.”

From an AP story in the International Herald Tribune:

A senior French anti-doping official confirmed to The Associated Press that there was a positive test for a blood transfusion taken from a rider at the Tour on Saturday, but said he didn't know the name of the cyclist involved. He said the test found two different types of blood, one from the rider, one from a donor.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

The B-sample will be tested, but Astana policy is that riders are suspended immediately on notification of a positive A-sample. Astana management notified Tour officials, who “invited the team to withdraw.”

Vinokourov would be the first rider positive for homologous doping since Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez in 2004.

Also:

L'Equipe | Vinokourov positif

Once again, L'Equipe breaks a doping story from Châtenay-Malabry's lab.

cyclingnews.com | Vinokourov positive for transfusion, Astana quits Tour

VeloNews | News Flash: Vinokourov tests positive; Astana withdraws from Tour

spare cycles | Welcome to the post-Astana order

Ken Conley looks at who stands to gain from Vino's ejection and Astana's withdrawal from the Tour. Notably, Cadel Evans would take the stage win from Saturday's ITT, and Kim Kirchen for yesterday. I bet Zubeldia would have sprinted it out if he had known the stage win was up for grabs yesterday. Tour officials haven't yet announced any action resulting from Vinokourov's positive.

cyclingnews.com | Millar speaks out on Vinokourov

Times Online | Change of gear for sport of lost souls (July 8, 2007)

Paul Kimmage reports on his questioning (back in London) of Vinokourov on his relationship with Michele Ferrari.

VeloNews.com | Police search Astana vehicles and hotel

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2007 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Doping, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (33)

July 23, 2007

Tour TV ratings up in Europe, steady in US

Bloomberg.com | Tour de France TV Audiences Rise in Europe Even After Scandals

MediaPost | Despite Scandals, Versus' Tour de France Ratings Steady

It's no surprise that Danish ratings are up with Michael Rasmussen looking more and more like a Tour winner. I was surprised that the Tour pulled an 80 share (80 percent of the viewing audience), when Rasmussen took the yellow jersey.

In Spain, audiences are up 11 percent year over year, and French audiences are up 6 percent. Italy's RAI wouldn't provide data, and German ratings were even with last year's before ARD and ZDF pulled their coverage. Since then, they've been way down, to as low as 500,000.

US ratings are complicated by the VS. coverage, with afternoon, prime time, and late night reruns, but live program viewer impressions are up 5 percent. Live household ratings have fallen 8 percent, so apparently, more of us are watching the reruns this year. A blurb in the New York Times notes that VS. web video views are up 25 percent.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2007 in Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stage 15 on the road

VS. broadcaster picks:
Roll: Schleck
Liggett: Klöden
Trautwig: Contador
Sherwen: Valverde

The early story is the big 25-man breakaway including a couple of former GC candidates. Denis Menchov of Rabobank is there, as is Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana). George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Christian Vande Velde and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) are here, as are Caisse d'Epargne's David Arroyo, Euskaltel's Haimar Zubeldia, Inigo Landaluze and Ruben Perez; T-Mobile's Kim Kirchen; FdJeux's Benoit Vaugrenard; Quick Step's Juan Manuel Garate; Saunier Duval's Juan José Cobo; Bouygues Telecom's Laurent Lefevre and Johann Tschopp; AG2R's Ludovic Turpin; Liquigas' Michael Albasini; Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole, Daniele Bennati and Patxi Vila of Lampre; Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner; Christian Knees of Milram; Vino's Astana teammates Serguei Ivanov and Daniel Navarro.

2nd Category Col de Port:
1) Juan Mañuel Garate, Quick Step, +10 pts
2) Johan Tschopp, Bouygues Telecom, +9pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +8 pts
4) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, +7 pts
5) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, +6 pts
6) Stephane Goubert, AG2R, +5 pts

1st Intermediate Sprint:
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Serguei Ivanov, Astana, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, +2 pts/2 secs

2nd Category Col de Portet d'Aspet:
1) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +10 pts
2) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, +9 pts
3) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +8 pts
4) Serguei Ivanov, Astana, +7 pts
5) Ruben Perez, Euskaltel, +6 pts

The 25 have led the way over the day's first two climbs, but today's sting is in the tail, as we finish with a 1st Category, then the hors categorie Port de Bales, then the Col de Peyresourde. It's not a mountaintop finish -- there's a descent of almost 12 kilometers after the top of Col de Peyresourde.

The gap is just under 8 minutes, with 108 kilometers/67 miles ridden and 88 kilometers/55 miles to go.

On the way up the Col de Mente, Rabobank continues to lead the peloton, and the gap is up around 8:29. Near the summit, Juan Manuel Garate outsprinted Laurent Lefevre for max points.

1st Category Col de Mente
1) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +15 pts
2) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +13pts
3) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, +11 pts
4) Daniel Bennati, Lampre, +9 pts
5) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, +8 pts
6) Juan Jose Cobo, Saunier Duval, +7 pts
7) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel, +6 pts
8) Christian Knees, Milram, +5 pts

2nd (final) Intermediate Sprint, Marignac
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Kurt-Asle Arvesen, CSC, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Benoit Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux +2 pts/2 secs

Just before the start of the HC climb, 5 riders rode away from the 25-man breakaway: Inigo Landaluze of Euskaltel, David Arroyo of Caisse e'Epargne, Johan Tschopp of Bouyges Telecom, Serguei Ivanov of Astana, and Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner quickly built a lead of more than a minute to the 20 other break survivors, and 8:20 to the peloton.

On the climb, everything splintered. Kirchen bridged to the leaders, then Vinokourov attacked, again splitting the lead breakaway, and briefly catching the inital split. Riding with Vinokourov were Menchov, Turpin, Zubeldia, Cobo, and Garate. This group caught the initial attack, then fractured. Tschopp, Kirchen and Arroyo went off the front, while Vinokourov's group shed riders.

Back in the peloton, the pace and the climb cooked Pereiro, Moreau, and others. Rasmussen's group looked much like it did yesterday: Evans, Leipheimer, Contador, Soler, Boogerd, Mayo, Sastre, Chris Horner, Frank Schleck, Michael Boogerd, and a few others. Klöden and Kashechkin ride just behind.

Freddie Rodriguez abandoned today on the road.

Port de Bales (HC)
1) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, +20 pts
2) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, +18 pts
3) Johan Tschopp, Bouygues Telecom, +16 pts
4) Juan Mañuel Garate, Quick Step,+14 pts, at :45
5) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +12 pts
6) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, +10 pts
7) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, +8 pts
8) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +7 pts
9) Ludovic Turpin, AG2R, +6 pts
10) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, +5 pts, @1:35

On the descent, with Rasmussen: Boogerd, Contador, Popovych, Leipheimer, Evans, Horner, Mayo, Soler, Klöden, Kashechkin, Sastre, Schleck, Astarloza, Valverde. Others are joining, and Denis Menchov has slipped back to help Rasmussen on the final climb.

Vinokourov attacked at the base of the Peyresourde, matched by Zubeldia, Garate, and Cobo, and they're only 20 seconds behind Arroyo and Kirchen. Garate's dropped. Vinokourov kept attacking, and only Cobo could match, and the pair have caught Kirchen and Arroyo, as the 4 riders lead the race, while the yellow jersey rides 7:15 back.

Zubeldia rides back up to Vinokourov, and in the yellow jersey group, Yaroslav Popovych has attacked off the front. Moreau has caught back on to the yellow jersey group.

Vino goes again, and Kirchen can't match the new pace. Vino sits up, and Kirchen rejoins Cobo, Zubeldia, Arroyo, and Vino.

As they near the steepest part of the Peyresourde, Zubeldia attacks from Vino's group, Cobo drags Vino back to him, and Vino goes hard again! He quickly gets a gap, Kirchen is dropped. Vinokourov rides alone, with Cobo and Zubeldia chasing less than 20 seconds behind. Vinokourov would die before he would be caught on this descent. He's flying.

Back in the field, Contador attacks, Rasmussen slowly matches, but he's working hard. Contador gets a gap, but Rasmussen slowly pulls it back. Evans, Klöden, Sastre, Leipheimer, Astarloza can't handle this pace on the climb, and fall back.

Contador and Rasmussen ride alone toward the summit. Contador launches a couple of tests, but Rasmussen matches every one. As Contador and Rasmussen reach the summit, there's George Hincapie, waiting to escort Contador to the finish, and maybe gap Rasmussen.

Hincapie nails the descent. There's still a small rise at about 2k to go -- Will Contador try to get time on the finish? He does! He attacks again, and Hincapie falls away, but Rasmussen again is able to match his move.

Vinokourov comes to the line with a healthy victory margin, after an epic stage win.

More than 5 minutes later, Contador and Rasmussen came to the line, with Contador leading. They tripped the lights at 5:25, with Leipheimer, Klöden, Sastre, Valverde, and Evans more than a minute behind at 6:27.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2007 in 2007 Stage 15, Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Christophe Moreau, Denis Menchov, Filippo Pozzato, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2007

Stage 14: Contador opens Tour account

Travel day yesterday, so I'm catching up tonight.

Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador took an aggressive stage win as the Tour moves into the Pyrenees, and elevated himself from 1 of 10 candidates to win this year's Tour to one of the two favorites.

Contador, just 24 and riding in the white jersey of the race's best-placed young rider, waited as teammate Yaroslav Popovych reduced the group riding with race leader Michael Rasmussen, then launched a blistering attack, initially answered by Rasmussen and Evans, that only Rasmussen could ultimately match. By doing so, Rasmussen moved one stage nearer a possible win in Paris, and Contador took his 1st career Tour stage win.

Many of the pre-race favorites lost buckets of time today: Alexandre Vinokourov, who won on Saturday, lost 28:50 to Contador today. Christophe Moreau lost 34:52. Iban Mayo lost 9:31. A few riders managed to limit their losses to Rasmussen and Contador, who dominated the field today: Juan Mauricio Soler, riding in his 1st Tour, lost only 37 seconds; Levi Leipheimer and Carlos Sastre were close behind.

Evans finished with Andreas Klöden at 1:52. Caisse d'Epargne's two leaders, Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde, finished together at 3:45.

A lot of discussion has resulted from a brief discussion between Contador and Rasmussen in the climb's last kilometers. Rasmussen came up to Contador, and Contador pointed to himself twice. The riders differ on the discussion: Contador said Rasmussen promised the stage win for Contador's cooperation to the finish, while Rasmussen echoed Lance Armstrong: “This is the Tour de France -- you don't give any presents here.”

Possibly the dumbest move of the day came from Saunier Duval, which sent David Millar to set a fast pace few riders could match, only to find team leader Iban Mayo was among the riders who couldn't.

Stage 14 Top 20:
1) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, in 5:25:48
2) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, same time
3) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at :37
4) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at :40
5) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at :53
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 1:52
7) Cadel Evans, Predictor - Lotto, Australia, same time
8) Antonio Colom, Astana, Spain, at 2:23
9) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, same time
10) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 3:06
11) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, Netherlands, same time 
12) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel - Euskadi, Spain, s.t.
13) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:45
14) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, same time
15) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, s.t.
16) Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, Austria, s.t.
17) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:47
18) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 4:04
19) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, same time
20) John Gadret, AG2R, France, at 4:48

Major changes in the GC; Rasmussen gets a cushion on everyone but Contador.

Overall Standings after Stage 14:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 64:12:15
2) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 2:23
3) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 3:04
4) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 4:29
5) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 4:38
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 5:50
7) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 6:58
8) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 8:25
9) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, at 9:45
10) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 10:55
11) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 11:01
12) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, at 11:31
13) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 12:15
14) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 13:16
15) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, at 14:58
16) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 15:31
17) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA, at 17:23
18) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, at 18:57
19) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 19:19
20) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 19:33

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2007 in 2007 Stage 14, Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 14 on the road

The race enters a new phase, as yesterday's TT reorganized the standings, creating some interesting tactical possibilities.

Race leader Michael Rasmussen has to be glad to have escaped with the yellow jersey, but looks like he has to find more time in the Pyrenees before the Tour's 2nd individual time trial. Valverde, Mayo, and Sastre must also look for time after disappointing TTs, while Vinokourov must look for more time despite an awesome TT.

Astana and Discovery Channel both have 3 riders within 8 minutes of the overall lead, one of them -- Yaroslav Popovych -- apparently chasing the King of the Mountains title. Discovery Channel looks more likely to switch off leaders than Astana (would Astana really let Klöden win while Vinokourov is still in the race?), which may give them more options in the mountains.

VS. broadcast picks
Sherwen: Contador
Liggett: Rasmussen
Roll: Vinokourov
Trautwig: Klöden

1st climb, the 2nd Category Cote de St. Saraille:
1) David De La Fuente, Saunier Duval, +10 pts
2) Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +9 pts
3) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +8 pts
4) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +7 pts
5) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel, +6 pts
6) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +5 pts

Soler moves into a tie atop the King of the Mountains standings, for now.

A 6-man breakaway formed about 30 kilometers into the stage, just as Predictor-Lotto reeled in a 26-rider escape that included race leader Michael Rasmussen. In the breakaway are Ruben Perez and Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Antonio Colom of Astanta, Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas, José Ivan Gutierrez of Caisse d'Epargne, and Carlos Barredo of Quick Step. Their gap went out as high as 11:20.

1st intermediate sprint:
1) Aleksandr Kuschynski, Liquigas, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Ruben Perez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts/2 secs

2nd intermediate sprint:
1) Carlos Barredo, Quick Step, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Aleksandr Kuschynski, Liquigas, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts/2 secs

With the Port de Pailheres looming, the peloton has brought the leaders back to 9:45. The gap continued to fall, and on the climb, David Millar set a tempo that quickly shed riders from the yellow jersey group. Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd were predictable early exits, but Christophe Moreau fell back just after Boonen.

Late in the climb, yesterday's hero, Alexandre Vinokourov was dropped. He briefly visited the race doctor and rode with teammate Daniel Navarro. Near the top, Saunier Duval's leader, Iban Mayo was dropped, but may chase back onto the field on the descent.

The breakaway survived over the top of the Port de Pailheres, and Juan Mauricio Soler, racing in a borrowed King of the Mountains jersey that rightfully belongs to Michael Rasmussen, sprinted ahead of the select group to take 10 points at the summit. Rasmussen moved to the lead of his group to be next across, taking 8 points.

HC Port de Pailheres
1) Ruben Perez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +20 pts
2) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +18 pts
3) Antonio Colom, Astana, +16 pts
4) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +14 pts
5) Carlos Barredo, Quick Step, +12 pts, @1:05
6) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +10 pts, @ 2:45
7) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, +8 pts - @ 2:55
8) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, +7 pts
9) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, +6 pts
10) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +5 pts

Vinokourov crossed the summit 8:16 behind Perez.

On the descent, Mayo, Hincapie and Popovych caught back onto the leading group.

As the group started up Plateau de Beille, Ruben Perez quickly fell off the lead group, then Carlos Barredo, who battled on and off the leaders.

Meanwhile, George Hincapie spent miles leading the 40-strong yellow jersey group. On the Plateau de Beille, Rabobank briefly led, and then Yaroslav Popovych just redlined the front of the group, and riders started to fall.

Valverde, Pereiro, and Mayo were among the first dropped. Then Denis Menchov and Michael Boogerd, leaving Rasmussen without teammates. Only 9 riders remained: Popovych, Rasmussen, Soler, Sastre, Contador, Leipheimer, Evans, Kashechkin, and Klöden, and Klöden looked to be suffering at the back. Klöden was finally gapped.

After reeling in José Ivan Gutierrez from the early break, Popovych was done, and Levi Leipheimer attacked, quickly matched, and Contador hit the turbos, and Sastre matched the attack, but Kashechkin was dropped.

As Txurruka was caught, Rasmussen attacked, matched by Contador and Evans, and the survivors were split into 2 trios: Rasmussen/Contador/Evans and Sastre/Soler/Leipheimer. Sastre pulled the group back together, then Soler went hard. Rasmussen sprinted up to him, then Contador and Evans, and finally Sastre and Leipheimer.

Soler attacked again, and Contador attacked past the Colombian, Sastre passed Soler, Rasmussen and Evans came by. Leipheimer struggled back onto the tail, and Contador hit the turbos, quickly gaining 30-40 meters. Rasmussen and Evans tried to cross to Contador, but Sastre and Soler were gapped, and Leipheimer yet another gap behind.

Evans couldn't stay with Rasmussen, and Rasmussen captured Contador, only about 30 seconds behind Antonio Colom, last survivor of the early breakaway. Evans, Leipheimer, Sastre, and Soler worked briefly together. Then Sastre attacked, and Evans was parboiled. Leipheimer and Soler matched CSC's leader. Leipheimer refused to work with Sastre with a teammate up the road.

With Colom captured, it appeared the stage win would go to Contador or Rasmussen, but then Soler attacked into the :25 gap. Rasmussen wanted the stage win, but Contador sat in the draft, wisely letting Ras do the work for a larger GC gap, and conserving his energy for the finish.

With about a kilometer to ride, Leipheimer dropped Sastre, chasing Soler. As the leaders came to the line, Contador sprinted around Rasmussen to take the stage win.

Soler was 3rd, just a little ahead of Leipheimer, while Sastre was 5th at about :52. Klöden and Evans finished around 1:52.

A sign of the day's high pace: Only about 20 riders finished within 20 minutes of Contador. Vinokourov appears not to have been among them.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2007

Stage 13 ITT: Vino, Astana awesome in Albi

Vinokourov not out of the Tour yetAstana's Alexandre Vinokourov smoked the first long time trial of the 2007 Tour, and his Astana team nearly took all three podium places.

Vinokourov, with only his right knee bandaged, led at every time check by healthy margins to clock a 1:06:34.

Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans slotted in 2nd, 1:14 back, ahead of Vinokourov's teammates Andreas Klöden, at 1:39, and Andrey Kashechkin, at 1:44.

Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis set the early standard and finished 5th, at 2:14.

Michael Rasmussen of Rabobank rode a creditable TT, passing his 3-minute man, Alejandro Valverde, and finishing 11th on the day to retain the yellow jersey.

For Valverde and Mayo, starting the day in 2nd and 3rd, it was a disastrous day: Mayo was 6:04 slower than Vino, Valverde 6:08 down on the stage winner.

Top 20:
1) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, in 1:06:34
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ 1:14
3) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ 1:39
4) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 1:44
5) Bradley Wiggins, Cofidis, Great Britain, @ 2:14
6) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @ 2:16
7) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ 2:18
8) Sylvain Chavanel, Cofidis, France, @ 2:38
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ 2:39
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 2:42
11) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, @ 2:55
12) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, @ 2:56
13) Leif Hoste, Predictor-Lotto, Belgium, @ 2:56
14) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, @ 3:09
15) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, Spain, @ 3:12
16) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ 3:13
17) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, @ 3:17
18) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ 3:18
19) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 3:23
20) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, @ 3:27

Major shakeups in the GC:

Overall standings after Stage 13:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 58:46:39
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 1:00
3) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 2:31
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 2:34
5) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 3:37
6) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 4:23
7) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 4:45
8) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 5:07
9) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, at 5:10
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 5:29
11) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, at 5:48
12) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 4:48
13) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, at 6:59
14) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 7:04
15) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 7:37

There was a 4th-Category climb on the stage, and max points (3) go to Alberto Contador of Discovery Channel, with Cadel Evans taking 2 points and Michael Boogerd of Rabobank a single point as the 3 fastest riders on the climb.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2007 in 2007 Stage 13 ITT, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, David Millar, Iban Mayo, Levi Leipheimer, Linus Gerdemann, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Sylvain Chavanel, Thomas Dekker, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stage 13 ITT on the road

VS. Broadcaster Picks:
Trautwig: Klöden (per Hinault)
Sherwen: Cancellara
Roll: Evans
Liggett: Leipheimer

Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis is the early leader in the first long individual time trial of the 2007 Tour.

Over the up-and-down 54 km course in Albi, Wiggins finished in 1:08:48.
David Millar has come through the time checks as high as 3rd, and finishes in 3rd at 1:10:01.

World TT champion Fabian Cancellara was 2nd-fastest at the 1st time check, then faded, finishing in 1:15:19. Cancellara had bike handling problems on the wet roads, and crashed in a 90-degree left-hander.

Yaroslav Popovych is followed onto the course by Alexandre Vinokourov. Vino has a bandage only on his right knee today.

Vinokourov is scorching the course. He's fastest at the first two time checks, by 52 seconds at the 2nd. He's closing on Popovych, even though Popovych is racing the 4th best TT so far.

At TC 3 (38.5 km), Vinokourov came through at 50:06, 1:19 faster than Wiggins. Popovych finished almost even with Wiggins, but Vinokourov still finished close behind, with Vino setting the standard at 1:06:34.

Discovery's Levi Leipheimer was 19th at the first time check, and Carlos Sastre passed TC1 1:41 slower than Vinokourov.

Popovych appeared to have fallen on the course, and Klöden slid out on what seemed a tame right-hander.

Kashechkin also had an early accident, but kept improving at each time check, finishing 2nd only to Vinokourov in 1:08:19.

Christophe Moreau's early time checks put him many minutes behind Vinokourov. He finished in 1:16:01, 9:26 down to Vino.

Cadel Evans was 2nd best at the 3rd time check, just 1:01 behind Vinokourov.

Klöden hit the line in 1:08:13, putting Astana in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place on the day, but Cadel Evans broke up the set, coming in at 1:07:48, 2nd at that point.

Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador, Discovery's supposed two leaders, finished 21 seconds apart, in 1:09:13 and 1:08:52, respectively. Teammate Yaroslav Popovych was better still, in 1:08:50.

The time checks were cruel to Alejandro Valverde, sitting in 2nd overall -- he was 46th at the 4th check, 4:34 down on Vinokourov. In fact, race leader Michael Rasmussen passed Alejandro Valverde late in his ride, rocking more like a duck than a Chicken.

Iban Mayo struggled to the line in 1:12:38, a disappointment for the rider who started in 3rd today.

Rasmussen fights all the way to the line, finishing in 1:09:29. That will save the yellow jersey for Rasmussen, and the race returns to the high mountains tomorrow.

Current Top riders:
1) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, 1:06:34
2) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, 1:07:49
3) Andreas Klöden, Astana, 1:08:13
4) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, 1:08:19
5) Bradley Wiggins, Cofidis, in 1:08:48
6) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, in 1:08:50
7) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, in 1:08:52
8) Sylvain Chavanel, Cofidis, in 1:09:12
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, in 1:09:13
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1:09:16
11) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, 1:09:29
12) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, 1:09:30
13) Leif Hoste, Predictor-Lotto, in 1:09:30
14) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, in 1:09:43
15) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, in 1:09:47
16) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, 1:09:47
17) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, 1:09:51
18) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile 1:09:52
19) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, 1:09:57
20) David Millar, Saunier Duval, in 1:10:01
21) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, 1:10:04
22) Sébastien Rosseler, Quick Step, in 1:10:09
23) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, in 1:10:14
24) Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, in 1:10:16
25) George Hincapie, DSC, in 1:10:19
26) Carlos Sastre, CSC, in 1:10:35
27) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, in 1:10:39
28) Andrey Grivko, Milram, in 1:10:51
29) Kanstantsin Siutsou, Barloworld, in 1:10:54
30) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, in 1:10:56

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2007 in 2007 Stage 13 ITT, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Iban Mayo, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Rodriguez blames Stage 11 crash on poor Tour planning

Active.com | Tour de France: Fast Freddie Rodriguez: Stage 11...Where Do I Start?

Freddie RodriguezThree-time US champion Freddie Rodriguez has been vocal about his concerns that Tour organizers should give more weight to rider safety when choosing the finish line of Tour stages.

Rodriguez says the crash that took him out of Stage 11, along with Tom Boonen, Francisco Ventoso (still hurting), Julian Dean, and Fränk Schleck, was clearly the planners' fault:

Once again, they’ve proven to have little respect for the rider’s health in this race. As a pro for over 10 years, I just don't get their ignorance in thinking that the peloton, coming in at 65 km/hr, was going to make it in one piece through an S-turn like that. I would have bet money that a crash would have happened in that corner.

What the organizers keep forgetting is that we have no idea how dangerous the road is ahead at many points. We again put our lives in their hands, and again they have let us down. I guess the saddest part is that I have been trying to be vocal about their mistakes, but they seem to just choose to ignore.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2007 in About the Tour, Frank Schleck, Fred Rodriguez, Julian Dean, Tom Boonen | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

VeloNews: Rasmussen had blood substitute in 2002

Tour de France 2007: VeloNews Exclusive: Ex-cyclist levels doping charges at Rasmussen

VeloNews is reporting that yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen asked an American mountain bike racer to carry blood substitute to Italy for him in 2002.

The racer, Whitney Richards, says Rasmussen asked him to bring a pair of cycling shoes he had left in the United States to Italy when he moved there to live with his girlfriend in March 2002.

A mutual friend delivered the box to Richards, who opened the box while packing, thinking he could save space by packing the shoes and leaving the box. Richards says the box was full of silver envelopes labeled “Biopure.”

Richards said he called a friend, Taro Smith, who holds a Ph.D. in physiology, and Smith recognized the contents as Hemopure, a hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier derived from cow's blood.

Richards and Smith said they poured the contents down the sink, rather than risking Richards being detained at customs.

Richards claims that Rasmussen was angry when Richards arrived without the package, asking if Richards had “any idea how much that shit cost?”

“The nerve of the guy," Richards added. "Not only is he a drug cheat, but he didn't give a damn about anybody else. He was willing to put me out there to carry that crap through customs... into Italy at a time when they were investigating Dr. [Michele] Ferrari and people were lobbing accusations at Lance Armstrong. Think about what it would have been like for Italian customs to catch an American with a bunch of bike gear and cows blood at the border.“

Richards talked to VeloNews later in 2002, but only off the record, and asking that Rasmussen not be identified. He later was a source for David Walsh's current book, From Lance to Landis but again asked that neither he nor Rasmussen be identified.

Why did he come forward now?

“[Rasmussen has] won Tour stages before,” Richards said. “It's not that. It was the press conference on Monday that got to me. Someone asked him about Bjarne Riis' involvement with drugs and he went on about how he's clean and then added, ‘You can trust me.' That's what set me off.”

Asked about the allegations on Friday, Rasmussen said he knew Richards' name but “I cannot confirm any of that.”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2007 in Doping, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Stage 12: Boonen finds a bonus

Most commentators saw today's stage as a long breakaway or a sprint from a select group, with a 2nd-Category climb about 45 kilometers/28 miles from the finish.

But things didn't follow the script. A long breakaway by Euskaltel-Euskadi's Amets Txurruka and Bouygues Telecom's Pierrick Fedrigo looked like it might stay away, but after the day's big climb, Lampre and Française des Jeux, both still seeking stage wins, powered the chase along a plateau and down into Castres.

By the time Txurruka and Fedrigo were caught, just outside of 1 kilometer to ride, Quick Step was setting up the blue train for Boonen, peeling its riders off one by one, and keeping the pace high enough that no one could counter.

Boonen came off of Gert Steegmans' wheel with around 200 meters to ride, and Erik Zabel and Robbie Hunter, trailing Belgium's former world champion, launched to either side of Boonen. Neither could match Boonen's finishing speed, and he took his 2nd stage win of the 2007 Tour.

Boonen also pads his lead in the green jersey competition, where his 195 points lead Robbie Hunter's 175 and Zabel's 174, with Thor Hushovd a distant 4th with 132.

Stage 12 Top 10:
1) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, Belgium
2) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, same time
3) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, S. Africa, s.t.
4) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
5) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, Norway, s.t.
6) Bernhard Eisel, T-Mobile, Austria, s.t.
7) Sebastien Chavanel, Française des Jeux, France, s.t.
8) Nicolas Jalabert, Agritubel, France, s.t.
9) Robert Förster, Gerolsteiner, Germany, s.t.
10) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, s.t.

No significant changes to the overall standings.

Overall Standings after Stage 12:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 57:37:10
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 2:35
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 2:39
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, at 2:41
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, at 3:08
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 3:39
7) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 3:50
8) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 3:53
9) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 5:06
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 5:20

Stef Clement of Bouygues Telecom finished outside the time limit, after a crash at 35 kilometers.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2007 in 2007 Stage 12, Erik Zabel, Robbie Hunter, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rasmussen off Danish national team, will boycott Tour of Denmark

VeloNews | Tour de France 2007: Rasmussen booted from Danish national team

Current Tour de France race leader Michael Rasmussen has been dropped from Denmark's national team, which will keep him from competing at the World Championships in Stuttgart.

It will likely also stop him from competing in the Danish national mountain bike championships in August, and keeping him out of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where Rasmussen had discussed racing a mountain bike.

Rasmussen apparently didn't report his whereabouts before two random drug tests that were to be conducted May 8 and June 28. The UCI then warned Rasmussen that a third no-show “would be considered as a positive test.”

Rasmussen talked to Danish reporters: “I have tried to give my explanations to the DCU but they haven't accepted them,” he said. “But this isn't something that will interfere with my participation in the Tour de France.”

Tour race director Christian Prudhomme sided with Rasmussen:

“Some questions seem legitimate to me. Why now since the warning dates back to June 29? Why did Mr Worre wait until July 19 with Rasmussen in the yellow jersey to give elements he had at his disposal since June 28,” he said.

“Why has he not talked before the start of the Tour de France, why issue a statement late yesterday? Why speak yesterday about competitions that will take place in September and next year?”

Prudhomme also mentioned that Rasmussen was cleared to race at the Danish national championships June 30th, and was tested both there, and several times during the Tour.

Rasmussen said he won't participate in August's Tour of Denmark:

“I cannot take part in a race arranged by an organization which looks to thwart me in this way,” he said.

Also:

Yahoo! Eurosport UK | Tour de France - Rasmussen cleared to continue

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2007 in Doping, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 12 on the road

Today is what the Tour calls a “medium mountain stage,” with three 4th-Category climbs in the early going, then the two intermediate sprints and the feedzone, before the day's biggest climb, the 2nd-Category Montee de la Jeante. It may be hard to make an attack over the Jeante stick, since there's a ~20-kilometer-long plateau before the descent into Castres.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Liggett: Filippo Pozzato
Trautwig: George Hincapie
Sherwen: Erik Zabel
Roll: Christian Vande Velde

With only 7 kms/4.5 miles ridden today, Milram's Alberto Ongarato crashed. He spent some time with the race doctor, then decided to abandon the Tour, leaving 167 riders of 189 starters still racing.

A couple of breaks have gotten small gaps to the field, but each has been quickly reeled back in.

1st climb, a 4th Category:
1) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, +3 pts
2) David Millar, Saunier Duval, +2 pts
3) Staf Scheirlinckx, Cofidis, +1 pt

Just before the 2nd little climb of the day, Amets Txurruka of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Pierrick Fedrigo of Bouygues Telecom broke from the field, and took a :40 lead over the climb.

2nd climb, a 4th Category:
1) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +3 pts
2) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts
3) Juan Mañuel Garate, Quick Step, +1 pt

Txurruka and Fedrigo are pushing their advantage, now out to 5:15. Marcus Burghardt of T-Mobile is between the 2 and the peloton.

At the 3rd climb, a 4th Category:
1) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +3 pts
2) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts
3) Marcus Burghardt, T-Mobile, +1 pt, @ 6:25

The peloton reached the climb 8:35 after Txurruka.

1st Intermediate Sprint:
1) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Marcus Burghardt, T-Mobile, +2 pts/2 secs

The gap to the peloton got as high as 11:35, but at that point Liquigas put riders on the front and started chasing.

2nd Intermediate Sprint:
1) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Marcus Burghardt, T-Mobile, +2 pts/2 secs, @ 5:45

The gap is 9:15, with Liquigas still chasing and the gap steadily shrinking. Burghardt is trending back toward the peloton.

The 2nd Category Montee de la Jeante is just ahead.

With 65 kms to ride, Fedrigo and Txurruka lead Burghardt by 6:21 and the field by 7:42.

Liquigas pulled Burghardt back into the peloton before the day's last climb. At the base of the climb, the peloton pulled within 5 minutes of the two leaders.

As they climbed, so did the gap, out to as high as 5:20, with all the team leaders riding at the front of the peloton. Near the top, Juan Mauricio Soler launched an attack, matched by Yaroslav Popovych and Michael Rasmussen's teammate Thomas Dekker. With this being the day's last climb, points are doubled, so there's a chance this will shake up the King of the Mountains competition a little.

2nd Category Montee de la Jeante:
1) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 20 pts
2) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, 18 pts
3) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, 16 pts, @5:00
4) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, 14 pts, s.t.
5) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, 12 pts, s.t.
5) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, 10 pts, s.t.

Soler trails Rasmussen by 11 points, with Popovych 3 points behind Soler.

Lampre is driving the peloton on the plateau, and the gap has fallen to 4:41 with 25 miles/40 kms to the finish.

With 21 km/13 miles to ride, the gap is down under 2 minutes.

Lampre and Française des Jeux drove the chase and gradually reeled in Txurruka and Fedrigo. They were finally captured just outside the flamme rouge at 1 km to ride.

Quick Step set up Boonen along the right barricades, and Boonen launched off Steegmans with around 200 meters to race. Sebastien Chavenel was sprinting up the left side, Robbie Hunter came off Boonen to his left, while Zabel sprinted off Boonen's wheel to the right, but neither could outkick the big Belgian, and Boonen took his 2nd win of the Tour.

The best way to follow the action in real time is to subscribe to my Tour de France Twitter feed. I send a few dozen updates per stage there, as well as notifications of new posts and links to Tour stories from elesewhere on the web.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2007 in 2007 Stage 12 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

Can't a guy get a little privacy?

Apparently, during Stage 10, race video caught one of the Saunier Duvals in the middle of a nature break.

With widespread DVR use, somebody was bound to capture the mistake, and credit to Matt Haughey with the quick Tivo finger. At least it didn't air on German TV -- they might not be able to handle this.

Look for this one on the Rollastrator tonight, with circles and arrows and a paragraph explaining what each photo is.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 10, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Vaughters on Slipstream's next goal: the Tour

CyclingNews | Slipstreaming with Le Tour in sight

Jonathan Vaughters manages the US Continental Slipstream-Chipotle team, which spent almost half its season racing in Europe this year, and hopes to become a ProTour (or ProTour level, if the UCI designation doesn't survive) team in 2009. To that end, they're aiming at a Tour wildcard next season. In this interview with CyclingNews (conducted after the Sinkewitz positive was made public Wednesday), Vaughters talks about the team's next steps:

“2008 is going to be a very transitionary year, we are going to have some very high-profile riders and we are going to gun specifically for the Tour de France,” said Vaughters. “We have been very careful in who we hired to make that happen and we are going to have to perform very well in a very French calendar in the early part of the season to actuate that as well.”

The CyclingNews.com article mentions speculation on the team's possible 2008 roster, but Vaughters refused to jump the gun, announcing rider signings before September 1. “I have signed a lot of high-level riders,” CN.com's Mark Zalewski quotes Vaughters.

Bart Hazen at Daily Peloton offered rumors of possible Team Slipstream signees in a Tour preview on Saunier Duval in early July, including David Millar (openly attached to Slipstream in the British press), David Zabriskie, Christophe Laurent, Thomas Voeckler, David Cañada, Marcus Burghardt, Martijn Maaskant, and Jerome Pineau.

Vaughters will continue the team's anti-doping program, one of the most extensive longitudinal programs in the sport.

The team will be in action in August at the Tour of Ireland.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Thomas Voeckler, Tour de France 2008, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zabriskie eliminated, outside Stage 11 time limit

CSC's Dave Zabriskie, the US time trial champion, wasn't just sandbagging to try to take the Lanterne Rouge. Zabriskie finished more than 30 minutes behind Stage 11 winner Robbie Hunter, and was eliminated.

The Team CSC website mentions only “persistent knee pain” as the reason for Zabriskie's exit. He must have gotten caught behind even the Moreau peloton, chasing two desperate groups while riding solo.
By the way, this reminds me of one of my primary irritations with the Versus coverage -- they don't seem to address anything that happens after they leave the finish line. I suspect the logistics and time change issues would make this difficult, but there have been several times I've wished they would do an injury update as they finished their “Extended Primetime Coverage,” even if it was from a studio back in the US.

Also:

VeloNews | Stage Notes: Zabriskie heads home; German cycling on the ropes

NYTimes.com | In a Notably Speedy 11th Stage, Hunter Sprints to Victory

Edward Wyatt at The New York Times suggests Zabriskie has hurt his marketability:

Zabriskie’s contract with the CSC team ends this year, meaning that he is looking for a new contract – an effort that is not likely to be helped by his Tour performance this year.

Given Zabriskie's much improved climbing, in evidence at the Giro and Dauphiné Libéré, and his TT cred, I don't think he'll have any trouble finding a new team.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 11, Dave Zabriskie, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sat.1 buys German TV rights

IHT.co | Sat.1 jumps in to cover Tour de France after it was dropped by two German stations

German TV station Sat.1 has acquired rights to the remainder of this year's Tour, starting today, after two German public broadcasters dropped the coverage in response to Patrik Sinkewitz's positive “A” sample for testosterone in June.

“I'm very happy that we can show one of the world's biggest sports events on such short notice — everyone connected to cycling deserves good coverage,” Sat.1 boss Matthias Alberti said.

ARD and ZDF are the two stations that dropped the coverage, and on Thursday, ZDF said it may seek compensation for lost income that resulted when ZDF stopped broadcasting the Tour.

“We bought the rights to a clean sports event,” ZDF managing editor Nikolas Bender told the Berliner Zeitung. “We will seek out talks with the Tour organizer Amaury Sports Organization.”

I hope they're not broadcasting golf.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in Television | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stage 11: At last, Robbie Hunter

Barloworld's Robbie Hunter took advantage of a late-stage crash to win his first Tour stage in his 6th career Tour appearance. It's the first Tour stage by a South African, or any African.

Hunter had been following Tom Boonen in the last kilometers, but went to the front in time to miss a crash that took out Boonen, Credit Agricole's Julian Dean, Predictor-Lotto's Fred Rodriguez, and others. Hunter then outcornered two Liquigas riders on the right-hander with 500 meters to ride. From there, he kicked all the way to the line, and Murilo Fischer and Filippo Pozzato of Liquigas and Fabian Cancellara of CSC couldn't close him down.

The biggest action of the day was an all-out assault by Astana, who set a blistering pace in a stiff wind that split the field, with AG2R's Christophe Moreau, Erik Zabel, and Thor Hushovd among the riders caught behind the gap. Astana did most of the work to grow the gap, and Moreau crossed the line 3:20 behind Hunter. Astana's attack helped push the average speed for the stage to 48.061 kms/h (29.86 mph), the fastest of this year's Tour.

Hunter now trails Boonen by 11 points in the green jersey competition, 5 points ahead of Erik Zabel.

Two riders pulled out during the stage: Sylvain Calzati of AG2R and Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi.

Stage Top 10:
1) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa
2) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, same time
3) Murilo Fischer, Liquigas, Brazil, s.t.
4) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy, s.t.
5) Alessandro Ballan, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
6) Paolo Bossoni, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
7) Claudio Corioni, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
8) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, Belgium, s.t.
9) William Bonney, Credit Agricole, France, s.t.
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, s.t.

GC Top 20:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 53:11:38
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 2:35
3) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ 2:39
4) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ 2:41
5) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ 3:08
6) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, @ 3:39
7) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ 3:50
8) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ 3:53
9) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ 5:06
10) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 5:20
11) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 5:34
12) Frank Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg, @ 5:56
13) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 6:36
14) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, @ 6:38
15) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ 6:42
16) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany, @ 6:45
17) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia, @ 6:49
18) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 7:10
19) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 8:05
20) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @ 8:16

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 11, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, Fabian Cancellara, Filippo Pozzato, Frank Schleck, Fred Rodriguez, Iban Mayo, Julian Dean, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Robbie Hunter, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 11 on the road

One minor climb today, with a pancake-flat finishing 100 kilometers. It's the flattest stage of the 2007 Tour.

VS. Broadcaster picks:
Roll: Zabel
Liggett: Boonen
Trautwig: Hushovd
Sherwen: Rodriguez

An early break featured CSC's Jens Voigt, Sylvain Chavanel and Nick Nuyens of Cofidis, Benoit Vaugrenard of Française des Jeux, Kanstantsin Siutsoue of Barloworld, and Daniele Bennati of Lampre.

1st Intermediate Sprint/31.5 km ridden:
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Nick Nuyens, Cofidis, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts/2 secs

AG2R's Christophe Moreau was involved in a crash with Simon Gerrans.

1st (and only) Climb, a 4th Category:
1) Kanstantsin Siutsou, Barloworld, +3 pts
2) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +2vpts
3) Nick Nuyens, Cofidis, +1 pt

Moreau's teammate Sylvain Calzati has abandoned, leading 170 riders in the race.

With 81 kms ridden, Chavanel, the last of the breakaway riders, was captured, and Alexandre Vinokourov and another Astana rider have some to the front to try to get the peloton to lower the very fast pace they've been racing.

Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner's German champion, Philippe Gilbert of FdJeux, Dmitriy Fofonov of Credit Agricole, and Xavier Florencio of Bouygues Telecom attacked and got a quick 20 second gap. Saunier Duval's David Millar spent a few kilometers bridging, while the peloton soft-pedaled behind, and the gap to now 5 leaders grew to more than 4:20.

Just before Millar caught up, the leaders rolled through the intermediate sprint:

2nd Intermediate Sprint (Arles, at 96.5 km ridden)
1) Xavier Florencio, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts/6 seconds
2) Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, +2 pts/2 secs

With 80 kilometers/50 miles to ride, the peloton rides 5:44 seconds behind the 5 leaders.

In a stiff sidewind, Astana worked a few riders to the front, and absolutely hammered the tempo. They quickly forced a split in the peloton, with Christophe Moreau the biggest name caught behind. Tom Boonen made the first group, while Thor Hushovd and Erik Zabel were shed immediately, which may help Boonen's green jersey campaign.

Moreau has 3 experienced teammates working with him, but can't make up ground on the Astana-powered select group. Rasmussen is in the lead group, most of Discovery Channel, at least 4 Caisse d'Epargnes including Valverde and Pereiro, Cadel Evans and Chris Horner for Predictor-Lotto -- 70 or more riders in all.

The Astana-powered group quickly build a gap with Moreau's group, and started closing in on the 5 leaders. With 45 kilometers/28 miles to ride, the yellow jersey group was less than a minute behind the leaders, with Moreau in a group of 14 more than a minute behind that group.

The 5 leaders were captured with 38 kilometers/24 miles to ride, and Moreau's group was 2:00 back.

Astana pulled its riders off the front until the gap fell below 1:30, then went back to the front to push the advantage.

With 10 kilometers to ride, Moreau's gap was 2:30, but his group had grown with the addition of Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd, and others.

With less than 5 k to ride, attacks started to come from the peloton. Christophe Rinero of Saunier Duval made a go, but Quick Step instantly pulled him back. Then Vinokourov launched! He quickly got 30 meters, but was reeled back in by the sprinters' teams with less than 3 kms to ride.

In the last kilometer, a number of sprinters slid off the course into the left barriers, including Freddy Rodriguez, Tom Boonen, Francisco Ventoso, Julian Dean, and Fränk Schleck. Only about 12-15 riders were intact at the head of the field after that.

Liquigas drove toward the line, and Robbie Hunter of Barloworld outcornered them on the righthander with 500 meters to the line, got a gap, Fabian Cancellara (!) tried to close on him, and two Liquigas riders, but Hunter stayed away to the line, to take his first-ever Tour stage win in his 6th Tour. It's also the first Tour stage win ever by a South African, or any African.

Moreau finally crossed the line 3:19 back, and probably lost any chance he had at an overall victory here.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 11 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack