March 18, 2007
Contador takes Stage 7, Paris-Nice, ProTour lead
Photo: Graham Watson/VeloNews
Davide Rebellin had taken every punch that Discovery Channel threw this week, but every day, he found himself with fewer supporting teammates, and on Saturday, survived by reeling in Contador with less than 2 kilometers to ride.
Sunday's Stage 7 was reminiscent of Discovery Channel's Lance Armstrong days: Everybody knew what they were going to do, and they went out and executed to perfection. With Rebellin down to 3 teammates in the race, Discovery put Sergio Paulinho and Stijn Devolder in a break with just 5 kilometers ridden.
Thomas Voeckler was also in that break, nailing down the overall climber's jersey, and leading the field over the day's first two climbs. Just behind him over the Col de la Porte, setting a torrid pace, were the Discos, with Danielson, Leipheimer and Popovych leading Contador, and Caisse d'Epargne's survivors and Rebellin just behind.
On the day's third climb, La Turbie, Discovery whittled the field to less than 50 riders, reeling in Voeckler, and setting up a Rebellin-Contador showdown on the day's final climb, the Col d'Eze. When Contador launched, no one could match him, and he quickly opened up 30 seconds on Rebellin.
But Rebellin wasn't giving in, taking help where he could find it, and driving the pace himself where he couldn't. With less than 10 kilometers to ride, Contador had 25 seconds in hand, and Rebellin, working with Frank Schleck of CSC, closed the gap to about 17 seconds. If Contador took the stage, bonus time would guarantee a win, so with about 2 kilometers to ride, Rebellin soloed out of his little group riding all-out for the victory.
But Contador wasn't going to be caught today, and in the end, he finished 19 seconds ahead of Caisse d'Epargne's David Lopez and Joaquim Rodriguez, who overtook an exhausted Rebellin before the line. Rebellin finished 8th on the day to take 2nd overall, but all eyes were on the 24-year-old Contador.
“The key for my victory was the team work,” he continued. “The other days I was struggling in the last kilometers. Today I was well. I won with a lot of rage. I finished the job that was unaccomplished yesterday. I knew I had only one occasion to break away. With 1.5km, I saw the victory more clearly than before. Only when I passed the red flag was I sure that no one would catch me anymore.”
Contador also won the race's young riders competition. Voeckler takes the climbers jersey, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas the points jersey, and Caisse d'Epargne the team competition.
Given the current state of ASO-UCI relations, it's no surprise there was no ceremony recognizing Contador as the first leader of this year's ProTour, but so he is.
March 17, 2007
Disco revival: Popovych takes Paris-Nice Stage 5
Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych took his first victory of 2007 with a signature attack out of a strong breakaway group to win Stage 5 at Paris-Nice.
Popovych got in a quality break, along with Dave Zabriskie, Predictor-Lotto's Johan Van Summeren, Rabobank's Koos Moerenhout, T-Mobile's Bert Grabsch, and 8 others, right after the start. The lead group, whittled down to 7, stretched its advantage to 4 minutes at the summit of the Côte des Agnels. Gerolsteiner set a furious pace to keep Popovych from threatening leader Davide Rebellin.
Indeed, Gerolsteiner set such a fast pace on the mountainous stage that they dropped their own Heinrich Haussler, who started the stage in the race's climber's jersey and had to solo in alone for 60 kilometers, finishing dead last on the day. Almost half the field finished more than 5 minutes back, with 60 riders more than 12 minutes back. Haussler somehow holds the polka-dot jersey for at least another day.
With about 20 miles to ride, Popovych decided to go it alone, and was the only member of the break who could outdistance the chase, finishing with 14 seconds in hand. Francisco Ventoso of Saunier Duval took the field sprint, ahead of AG2R's Samuel Dumoulin and Caisse d'Epargne's David Lopez.
It's been a very good year so far for the Discovery Channel team. Levi Leipheimer took the Tour of California, his first appearance for the team. Thursday, Alberto Contador, a late signing after being linked with Operación Puerto, took Stage 4 at Paris-Nice, and sits just 6 seconds back of Rebellin. Look for Discovery Channel and Gerolsteiner to slug it out Saturday and Sunday.
T-Mobile's Michael Barry didn't make the start, choosing to return to his European base, recover from a cold, and and return at the Vuelta al País Vasco in April.
There was one possible setback for Discovery Channel, as Ivan Basso took a fall with teammate Vladimir Gusev at Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday, and injured his wrist. X-rays were negative, but Basso may have to pull out of the race.
March 11, 2007
Millar takes Paris-Nice prologue
David Millar made it all the way back, with his biggest win since returning from an EPO suspension.
Saunier-Duval's Scottish time trial specialist scorched the 4.7 km course in 6:01. CSC's Bobby Julich won the prologue last year, but was slightly slower this year, finishing 11th on the day, at 6 seconds. Roman Kreuzinger of Czechoslovakia, riding for Liquigas, was just a tick back of Millar, and a tick ahead of FdJ's Sebastian Joly to fill out the podium.
Discovery Channel's Levi Leipheimer was 6th, 3 seconds behind Millar.
Dave Zabriskie was back in action after his accident at the Tour of California, finishing 40th, 14 seconds behind Millar. Discovery Channel's late signing, Alberto Contador, was 5th on the day.
1) David Millar, Great Britain, Saunier Duval, in 6:01
2) Roman Kreuzinger, Czechoslovakia, Liquigas, at :01
3) Sébastien Joly, France, Francaise des Jeux, at :02
4) Luis Sanchez, Spain, Caisse d'Epargne, at :02
5) Alberto Contador, Spain, Discovery Channel, at :02
6) Levi Leipheimer, USA, Discovery Channel, at :03
7) Francisco Ventoso, Spain, Saunier Duval, at :04
8) Reinbert Wielinga, Netherlands, Saunier Duval, at :04
9) Thomas Lövkvist, Sweden, Française des Jeux, at :04
10) Joost Posthuma, Netherlands, Rabobank, at :05
11) Bobby Julich, USA, Team CSC, at :06
12) Thomas Voeckler, France, Bouygues Telecom, at :06
14) Franco Pellizotti, Italy, Liquigas, at :06
17) Cadel Evans, Australia, Predictor-Lotto, at :08
21) Luke Roberts, Australia, Team CSC, at :09
38) Simon Gerrans, Australia, AG2R, at :11
40) David Zabriskie, USA, Team CSC, at :11
43) Tom Danielson, USA, Discovery Channel, at :11
44) Yaroslav Popovych, Ukraine, Discovery Channel, at :11
49) Brett Lancaster, Australia, Milram, at :12
54) Tyler Farrar, USA, Cofidis, at :14
56) Tom Boonen, Belgium, Quick Step, at :14
62) Greg Henderson, New Zealand, T-Mobile, at :15
70) Chris Horner, USA, Predictor-Lotto, at :16
74) Christian Vande Velde, USA, Team CSC, at :17
86) Aaron Kemps, Australia, Astana, at :18
95) Mathew Hayman, Australia, Rabobank, at :21
125) Axel Merckx, Belgium, T-Mobile, at :26
126) Matthew White, Australia, Discovery Channel, at :26
136) Michael Barry, Canada, T-Mobile, at :28
Posted by Frank Steele on March 11, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Bobby Julich, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Levi Leipheimer, Paris-Nice 2007, Thomas Voeckler, Tom Boonen, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 05, 2007
UCI, ASO, IPCT reach temporary agreement
The embarrassing showdown between the Grand Tour organizers and the International Cycling Union has been postponed until September.
In a face-to-face meeting today in Brussels, representatives of the UCI, ASO, and the International Professional Cycling Teams reached a stopgap agreement that lets teams start Paris-Nice on Sunday without fear of retribution.
The UCI agreed that the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a España (and the races run by their organizers) can invite only 18 of the 20 ProTour teams, and that their organizers do not have to present the ProTour jersey at their events. Apparently, the Big Three organizers will “examine in a positive spirit the granting of wild cards to the teams Astaña and Unibet.” There appears to be some wiggle room about the wild cards, so we'll see how things go.
All parties agreed to monthly meetings aimed at reaching a new and permanent agreement by September 21st, just before the world championships.
February 28, 2007
McQuaid: Paris-Nice teams "will be heavily penalized"
L'Equipe reports that UCI president Pat McQuaid is threatening punishments against any ProTour team that shows up for Paris-Nice March 11th.
McQuaid reportedly sent a letter to four French teams — AG2R, Bouyges Telecom, Cofidis, and Française des Jeux — saying, in part, "if you decide, against the rules, to take part in Paris-Nice, you will be heavily penalized."
Bouyges Telecom, Cofidis, and FdJeux were linked with Rabobank, T-Mobile, and Gerolsteiner Friday in a Reuters story that claimed those 6 teams would defy the UCI and start the race. Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile and Rabobank later denied the report, with Rabobank's Erik Breukink declaring the team “100 percent behind the UCI,” while T-Mobile was more conciliatory.
Paris-Nice, the biggest of the early-season tours, is organized by ASO, which also organizes the Tour de France. ASO and the other Grand Tour organizers are locked in a power struggle with the UCi.
The organization of teams is scheduled to meet March 2nd, and Paris-Nice will be a major topic of discussion.