July 25, 2009

Stage 19: Cavendish takes five on day for breakaway

Tour de France 2009 Stage Nineteen

Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish got schooled on Thursday, with Thor Hushovd launching a long solo attack that netted 12 points in the green jersey competition. Hushovd looked to be reacting to comments from Cavendish that a Hushovd green jersey would be stained after Cavendish was relegated back in Stage 14.

Saturday, Cavendish responded, as his squad shepherded their sprint ace over the day's biggest climb, the 2nd Category Col de l'Escrinet, despite losing Michael Rogers and Mark Renshaw to the fast finishing pace. Cavendish launched his sprint from a long way out, but held off Hushovd and Gerald Ciolek all the way to the line, to take his 5th stage of the 2009 Tour. No sprinter has won 5 Tour stages since Freddy Maertens in 1981, and Cavendish still has a chance in Sunday's Stage 21 to the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Cavendish also becomes the all-time British leader in stage wins, surpassing Barry Hoban with his 9th career stage win in just two Tour starts.

The day started like a typical transitional stage, with a large group of strong riders away, including Yaroslav Popovych, David Millar, Cadel Evans, José Gutierrez, Leonardo Duque, and 15 others. Rabobank did most of the chasing, since they were one of the teams absent in the break, and first 5 riders, then just Leonardo Duque, would escape the break in an attempt to stay clear of the peloton, riding way ahead of the projected arrival times along the route.

On the day's final climb, the Col de l'Escrinet, Laurent Lefevre launched from very low on the climb, and was matched by world champion Alessandro Ballan, who would survive until the final 2 kilometers, before being reeled in by the surviving 3 Columbia-HTC riders, trying to set up Cavendish, who survived the climb, shadowed by Hushovd.

Hushovd's 2nd place finish limits the damage to his green jersey lead, where he leads Cavendish now 260-235, with 35 points to the winner in Paris on Sunday. Even if Cavendish wins there, Hushovd will be safe in green if he can finish in the first 10 or 15 riders at the finish.

Lance Armstrong was attentive at the finish, and picked up 4 seconds when a gap formed in the field, with Klöden, Wiggins, both Schlecks, and Contador on the wrong side. It's unlikely that 4 seconds will make a difference, but it points up how Armstrong rides this race, always aware of every chance to make or lose time.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2009 in 2009 Stage 19, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, David Millar, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2009

Astana finalizes Tour squad

Astana - Tour de Georgia 2008

Astana named the final three riders to its Tour squad this morning: Gregory Rast, Dmitriy Muravyev, and Sergio Paulinho.

It's the first Tour for Muravyev, a pro since 2002, and 3-time Kazakhstan TT champion. He's Astana's only Tour rookie.

Left off the Tour roster were Chris Horner, Jani Brajkovic, Thomas Vaitkus, and Benjamin Noval. Versus should do whatever it takes to get Horner in the booth as often as possible; he could be the next Bobke.

With Lance Armstrong apparently planning a new team for 2010, and Alberto Contador, one of five men to win all three Grand Tours, the stage is set for a potential Lemond-Hinault style intrateam rift.

The full Astana squad:

  • Lance Armstrong
  • Alberto Contador
  • Andreas Klöden
  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Dmitriy Muravyev
  • Sergio Paulinho
  • Yaroslav Popovych
  • Gregory Rast
  • Haimar Zubeldia

The team is presented in a very professional Flash presentation that would have made a great introduction for a Livestrong-Nike team, currently running in place of the team home page.

(Click through for a larger version of the photo above, which I shot at Stage 4 of last year's Tour de Georgia, at Road Atlanta).


VeloNews | Horner left off Astana Tour roster

Posted by Frank Steele on June 25, 2009 in Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009, Tour news, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2008

Stage 15 on the road

Welcome to the Alps! The Tour moves into France's highest mountains, and finishes up in Italy, atop Prato Nevoso for the first time.

The elements are in place for another exciting stage, as Valverde and Cunego sit far enough back that they may be given some slack on the final slope, while Fränk Schleck can move into yellow if he can pull more than a single second back on Cadel Evans.

It's a rainy day at the start, and the stage starts uphill almost immediately, up to 9,000 feet on the hors categorie Col Agnel, whose summit comes 58 kilometers from the start. We've got two intermediate sprints, and wind up with a 3rd category climb as a warmup to the 1st Category climb to Prato Nevoso.

In the U.S., Versus offers wire-to-wire live coverage, and Johan Bruyneel will be joining the commentary team.

Versus Stage 15 predictions:
Roll: Damiano Cunego
Hummer: Alejandro Valverde
Sherwen: Fränk Schleck
Liggett: Andy Schleck

Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish has called it a Tour, resting up for his Beijing Olympic races.

The day's first successful breakaway is Danny Pate, José-Luia Arrieta, and Egoi Martinez. They collected the day's first sprint points, then were joined by Simon Gerrans of Credit Agricole.

Sprint 1:
1. Egoi Martinez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 6 pts
2. José Luis Arrieta, AG2R, 4 pts
3. Danny Pate, Garmin-Chipotle, 2 pts

The four leading riders are about 3:30 ahead of the field with almost 25 kilometers ridden.

On the first climb, the gap continued to go out, to almost 14 minutes, before Lampre put some men on the front, and began to put a dent in the lead.

Two more riders abandoned on the climb -- Mark Renshaw of Credit Agricole, and QuickStep leader Stijn Devolder, whose performance is among the bigger (non-pharmaceutical) disappointments of this Tour.

1st Climb, the HC Col de Agnel:
1. Egoi Martinez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 20 pts
2. José Luis Arrieta, AG2R, 18 pts
3. Simon Gerrans, Credit Agricole, 16 pts
4. Danny Pate, Garmin-Chipotle, 14 pts
5. Thomas Voeckler, Bouygues Telecom, 12 pts, @ 11:50
6. Bernhard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, 10 pts
7. Remy di Gregorio, Française des Jeux, 8 pts
8. Yaroslav Popovych, Silence-Lotto, 7 pts
9. John Lee Augustyn, Barloworld, 6 pts
10. Fränk Schleck, CSC-Saxo Bank, 5 pts

On the descent into Italy, the gap continues to fall, now a little more than 11 minutes, then went out a bit as riders began taking nature breaks in advance of the feed zone. Voeckler continued to ride ahead of the field, on a quixotic solo attack that seemed unlikely to close down the 10+ minute gap.

On a hairpin with around 90 kilometers to ride, Oscar Pereiro went over a guardrail at the top of a hairpin, landing on the road below, and fractured his femur and collarbone. He was taken away in an ambulance. Pereiro was awarded the 2006 Tour win when Floyd Landis was disqualified for doping.

The gap went out to more than 16 minutes as the peloton's pace fell after the accident.

At the day's second sprint, the gap was more than 17 minutes.
Sprint 2:
1. Simon Gerrans, Credit Agricole, 6 pts
2. Danny Pate, Garmin-Chipotle, 4 pts
3. Jose Luis Arrieta, AG2R-La Mondiale, 2 pts

The breakaway appears likely to succeed. Pate hasn't established the climbing bona fides of the other three, and has been gapping slightly on the climbs so far.

Colle del Morte, 3rd Category climb:
1. José Luis Arrieta, AG2R, 4pts
2. Egoi Martinez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 3 pts
3. Simon Gerrans, Credit Agricole, 2 pts
4. Danny Pate, Garmin-Chipotle, 1 pt

CSC-Saxo Bank has moved to the front, and on the Colle del Morte, set a pace high enough to split the field. Will they be able to launch Schleck to yellow? Or will Carlos Sastre deliver their final punch?

You can follow my updates in near real-time on Twitter.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2008 in 2008 Stage 15, Egoi Martinez, Oscar Pereiro, Thomas Voeckler, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

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

July 23, 2007

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

July 19, 2007

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

July 18, 2007

Stage 10 on the road

Stage 10 is a transitional stage. The peloton covers 229.5 kms/142 miles down to the Mediterranean town of Marseilles. Two 4th Category climbs in the first half and two 3rd Category climbs in the second half, with 2 intermediate sprints.

Plenty of riders have marked themselves no danger to the overall standings, and can be allowed to get away in a breakaway today. Temperatures are in the high 90s.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Sherwen: Erik Zabel
Roll: Jens Voigt
Liggett: David Millar
Trautwig: George Hincapie

A couple of early testing breakaways have been recaptured, then Marcus Burghardt got free and led over the day's first climb, the 4th Category Cote de Chateauneuf:

Cote de Chateauneuf:
1) Marcus Burghardt, T-Mobile, +3 pts
2) Xavier Florencio, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts
3) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +1 pt

With 73 kilometers gone, a group of 10 strong riders bridged up, including former stage winners Jens Voigt of CSC, Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole, Juan Antonio Flecha of Rabobank, and Cedric Vasseur of Quick Step. Also there are Andriy Grivko of Milram, Michael Albasini and Aleksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas, Burghardt of T-Mobile, Paolo Bossoni of Lampre, Staf Scheirlinckx of Cofidis, and Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux.

1st Intermediate Sprint:
1) Cedric Vasseur, Quick Step, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Andriy Grivko, Milram, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Paolo Bossoni, Lampre, +2 pts/2 secs

The gap continues to climb for the breakaway, 7:50 with 101 kilometers to ride.

Code de Villedieu, a 4th Cat:
1) Patrice Halgand (CA) +3 pts
2) Staf Scheirlinckx (COF) +2 pts
3) Jens Voigt (CSC) +1 pt

At the feedzone, the 11 leaders have 10:10 on the field. The gap went out as high as 14:00, but has started to fall. It's now about 10:18 with 88 kilometers to ride. The 2nd intermediate sprint is a few kilometers up the road.

At the sprint, the 11-rider breakaway doesn't even hesitate in its rotation:

2nd (final) Intermediate Sprint:
1) Staf Scheirlinckx (COF) +6 pts/6 secs
2) Jens Voigt (CSC) +4 pts/4 secs
3) Paolo Bossoni (LAM) +2 pts/2 secs

The gap has hovered around 10:30 to 11:00; the peloton is content to have the day's winner come from these 11 breakaway riders. They've got two 3rd-Category climbs to shake up the group yet.

On the first, Jens Voigt is first to attack, but he's easily matched, and the 11 ride together. Then Patrice Halgand launches, matched by Michael Albasini of Liquigas and Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux. Voigt was in a 2nd group, chasing with Burghardt, Cedric Vasseur, and Scheirlinckx, while Flecha, Bossoni, Kuschynski, and Grivko are farther back.

Cote des Bastides, 3rd Category:
1) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, +4 pts
2) Michael Albasini, Liquigas, +3 pts
3) Sandy Casar, Française des Jeux, +2 pts
4) Jens Voigt, CSC, +1 pt

Coming down, Voigt and Vasseur have joined the three leaders, and the other 6 survivors of the earlier break are riding together almost 35 seconds behind.

On the day's last climb, Patrice Halgand launches a few tests, but nobody can get a gap to stick. Over the top, the 5 riders are all together, while behind, the chasers break into smaller pieces, with Burghardt chasing ahead of Scheirlinckx and Flecha.

Col de la Gineste, 3rd Category:
1) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, +4 pts
2) Jens Voigt, CSC, +3 pts
3) Michael Albasini, Liquigas, +2 pts
4) Cedric Vasseur, Quick Step, +1 pt

In the last 5 kilometers Voigt attacks and is matched, Vasseur attacks, matched by Albasini, then the others. With 2 kilometers to ride, they're all together. Voigt rides in 1st, with Albasini shadowing him, and Casar, then Halgand, then Vasseur offset to the side. It's a dead straight last kilometer, and they're through the flamme rouge.

Nobody has been able to get a gap, so it looks like we'll get a 5-up sprint. Here's 400 meters, Vasseur shoots up the right at 250 meters, Casar is coming up fast, with Albasini on the left, and Vasseur is first to the line!

Stage Top 5:
1) Vasseur
2) Casar
3) Albasini
4) Halgand
5) Voigt

My Tour Twitter feed is the best way to track updates in real-time. I typically will post a few dozen comments during each Tour stage, including more time gaps than I post here.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2007 in 2007 Stage 10, Cedric Vasseur, Erik Zabel, Jens Voigt, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

Stage 9 Discovery Channel update

Stage Notes: Soler latest in Colombian legacy; Call him Captain Rasmussen now

ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | Graham Watson: About Face!

It was something of a coming-out party for Discovery Channel today, as the team that frequently declares itself the best in the world looked that way for one spectacular stage.

Popovych took the red race numbers of most combative rider, after riding in front of the peloton for nearly the entire day. Gusev factored in the early breaks, then Contador launched an assault on the Col du Galibier. Meanwhile, Levi Leipheimer hovered right there with Rasmussen, Valverde, Mayo, and Evans.

The team had 3 riders in the day's top 13, and has Contador and Leipheimer sitting in the GC Top 10 tonight.

Bruyneel was singing Contador's praises after the stage:

“The third week will be difficult for Alberto, but he's a big hope for the future. We want to build the team around him for the future,” said Discovery Channel sport director Johan Bruyneel. “He's a future Tour de France winner.”

And yet, as always, the Disco boys all point to the Pyrenees as this year's proving ground.


ThePaceline.com | TdF St 9: Dynamic Duo

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2007 in 2007 Stage 9, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 9: Soler streaks to stage win

Tour first-timer Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld launched an audacious attack on the Col du Télégraphe and fighting all the way to Briançon to take the win for Barloworld.

Colombia's Soler, the rider with the highest Tour race number (219), was shadowed for a time by Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych, but no one could hold Soler's wheel today.

Back in the main field, Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde pushed the pace, and Alexandre Vinokourov couldn't hang. Today, it was Kashechkin who shepherded Vinokourov to the line while Andreas Klöden matched the GC riders.

Christophe Moreau dropped repeatedly off the back, but fought back again and again, while Rabobank's Denis Menchov couldn't stand the heat, and finished with Vinokourov. Levi Leipheimer, with 2 teammates up the road, was again content to let the race unfold and shadowed the yellow jersey of Michael Rasmussen.

Discovery's Alberto Contador, however, launched a withering assault on the Col du Galibier, and only Cadel Evans chased. When Contador met up with teammate Popovych at the summit, the two launched a chase of Soler, then 2 minutes up the road, and slowly closed the gap.

Meanwhile, the yellow jersey group split in two, with Valverde, Rasmussen, Kim Kirchen, David Arroyo and Mikel Astarloza ahead, and Moreau, Sastre, Evans, Klöden, Leipheimer, Cobo, and Mayo behind.

Rasmussen's group swept up Contador and Popovych, then were finally recaptured by the Leipheimer/Klöden/Sastre group, with all still closing on Soler.

The gap was down to 49 seconds in the last kilometer, and Alejandro Valverde attacked, splintering the yellow jersey group and taking 2nd on the stage, with Cadel Evans just behind.

1) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, Colombia in 4:14:24
2) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at :38
3) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, same time
4) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ :40
5) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ :42
6) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, same time
7) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, s.t.
8) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, @ :46
9) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, same time
10) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, s.t.
11) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, @ :54
12) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, same time
13) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, @1:33
14) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval, Spain, at 1:36
15) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 1:49
16) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at 3:24
17) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA, same time
18) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, s.t.
19) Patrice Halgand, Credit Agricole, France s.t.
20) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan

Overall Standings after Stage 9:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 43:52:48
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) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, at 3:18
7) Carlos Sastre, Team CSC, Spain, at 3:39
8) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, at 3:50
9) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, at 3:53
10) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, at 5:06

Schleck is 13th at 5:56, Vinokourov is 21st at 8:05. Gerdemann loses the white jersey to Contador. Soler is now 2nd in both the Mountains jersey and Young Riders jersey competitions.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2007 in 2007 Stage 9, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, Iban Mayo, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer, Linus Gerdemann, Mauricio Soler, Michael Rasmussen, Oscar Pereiro, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stage 9 on the road

A rude beginning to the stage today, as riders immediately start up the hors categorie Col de l'Iseran, followed by a long descent to St. Michel-de-Maurienne. Then, the double whammy of the Col du Télégraphe (a 1st Category) and the Col du Galibier, another hors categorie. Finally, a 37.5 kilometer/23 mile descent into Briançon.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Trautwig: Contador
Sherwen: Valverde
Roll: Sastre
Liggett: Mayo

Discovery's Yaroslav Popovych attacked up the Col de l'Iseran, and led the field by 30 seconds over the top:

Col de l'Iseran (HC):
1) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channe, +20 pts
2) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +18 pts, @ 30 secs
3) Juan Mauricio Soler, Barloworld, +16 pts, same time
4) Anthony Charteau, Credit Agricole, +14 pts, @ 35 secs
5) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +12 pts, @ 40 secs
6) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, +10 pts, same time
7) Francisco Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +8 pts, s.t.
8) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, +7 pts, s.t.
9) Stef Clement, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts, s.t.
10) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, +5 pts, s.t.

1st Intermediate Sprint:
1) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Stef Clement, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts/2 secs

Popovych has been joined on the descent by teammate Vladimir Gusev, Caisse d'Epargne's Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Bouygues Telecom's Stef Clement, Benoit Vaugrenard of Française des Jeux, and Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel-Euskadi. They've got 2:45 on the peloton with more than 55 kms/34 miles ridden.

T-Mobile's troubles continue, as Marcus Burghardt tacoed his front wheel hitting a dog wandering unleashed across the road. Both dog and rider appeared unhurt.

At the day's 2nd and last sprint, the 6 riders don't even break their rotation:

2nd Intermediate Sprint:
1) Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, +4 pts/4 secs
3) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +2 pts/2 secs

At the base of the Col du Télégraphe, Astarloza, Clement, Gusev, Gutierrez, Popovych, and Vaugrenard have 3:25 on the peloton, with Rabobank leading the field.

Early in the climb, Mikel Astarloza attacked, and Clement and Vaugrenard couldn't counter. Gusev was first to rejoin, then Gutierrez leading Popovych. Astarloza went again, and quickly built a lead of 10, then 20, seconds.

Meanwhile in the main field, David Millar was setting a fast pace alongside the Rabobanks, and Sandy Casar, Stefan Schumacher and the usual sprinters (including Zabel) are all dropped. The main field is down under 60 riders, about 2:55 behind Astarloza, with more gradually falling by the wayside.

When Millar popped, his place was taken by teammate Iker Camano. Over the top of the Col du Telegraphe, Mikel Astarloza still had a healthy 3 minutes:

1) Astaloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi +15 pts
2) Popovych, Discovery Channel, +13 pts, at :21
3) Clement, Bouygues Telecom, +11 pts
4) Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, +9 pts
5) Gusev, Discovery Channel, +8 pts
6) Soler, Barloworld, +7 pts, at :55
7) Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux, +6 pts, at 1:05
8) Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, +5 pts, at 2:45

The peloton was at 3:12.

At the beginning of the climb to the Col du Galibier, Astarloza was recaptured by Gusev, Popovych, and Gutierrez, with Clement suffering a few seconds behind.

Camano fell off, and Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd are the last Rabobank teammates left for yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen.

Juan Mauricio Soler attacked out of the peloton, and quickly worked his way through the leaders and led at the summit:

Col du Galibier
1) Soler, Barloworld, +40pts
2) Popovych, Discovery Channel, +36 pts, at 2:05
3) Contador, Discovery Channel +32 pts, same time
4) Evans, Predictor-Lotto, +28 pts, at 2:20
5) Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, +24 pts, at 3:00
6) Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, +20 pts, at 3:15
7) Rasmussen, Rabobank, +16 pts, same time
8) Moreau, AG2R, +14 pts, s.t.
9) Klöden, Astana, +12 pts, s.t.
10) Cobo, Saunier Duval, +10 pts, s.t.

Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov was at 4:55, 1:40 behind Rasmussen's group, which also included Carlos Sastre and Levi Leipheimer.

Contador caught Popovych just over the top of the Galibier, and the pair have made up about 40 seconds on Soler, and ride 1:25 back with 25 kilometers to the finish.

But the yellow jersey group was gaining, as well, catching Evans, then splitting in two when Evans let a gap form. Rasmussen, Valverde, Kim Kirchen, David Arroyo, and Astarloza made the front group, which captured Popovych and Contador, while Moreau, Mayo, Leipheimer, Klöden, Sastre, Evans and Cobo chased ineffectually behind.

Finally, Klöden pulled his group back into contact with Rasmussen's group, still closing on Soler with a 1.5-kilometer/1 mile climb to the finish.

The gap dropped to :58, then :49, but Soler made it stick, finishing it with :38 seconds on Alejandro Valverde, who attacked looking for a time gap and bonus points, but was matched by Evans, then Contador at :40, with Mayo, Rasmussen, and Leipheimer at :42.

Alexandre Vinokourov finished at 3:24.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christophe Moreau, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Iban Mayo, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

Stage 8 on the road

Day 2 of the Alps ratchets the difficulty up another notch, with 6 categorized climbs, the last three 1st Category. There are 3 riders who have shown an interest in the King of the Mountains competition: Michael Rasmussen, David de la Fuente, and Sylvain Chavanel.

Rasmussen has won his polka-dot jerseys through a strategy sometimes called the “Chicken Run,” a day-long Alpine breakaway where he takes major mountain points while riding alone. There's a chance of that, but he's still placed highly in the GC, and may not be allowed to get away.

Versus broacaster picks:
Liggett: Valverde
Trautwig: Contador
Sherwen: Rasmussen
Roll: Leipheimer

First climb, a 4th Cat:
1) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, +3 pts
2) Alexandre Efimkin, Barloworld, +2 pts
3) Marcel Sieberg, Milram, +1 pt

2nd climb, a 3rd Cat:
1) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, +4 pts
2) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step, +3 pts
3) Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel +2 pts
4) Stephane Goubert (AG2R)+1 pt

Schumacher was recaptured, and Thomas Voeckler made a break. He was quickly countered by 18 riders, including Michael Rogers, George Hincapie, David Millar, Stephan Schumacher, and Jens Voigt.

1st sprint
1) Thomas Voeckler, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Lilian Jegou, Française des Jeux, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Stephane Goubert (A2R) +2 pts/2 secs

3rd climb, 2nd Cat:
1) Thomas Voeckler, Bouygues Telecom, 10 pts
2) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, 9 pts
3) Stephane Goubert, AG2R, 8 pts
4) David Millar, Saunier Duval, 7 pts
5) Bernard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, 6 pts
6) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, 5 pts

Voeckler was captured and the group of 18 quickly built a 2:00 lead on the peloton, driven primarily by Rabobank.

2nd (and final) intermediate sprint:
1) Frederik Willems, Liquigas, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Antonio Colom, Astana, +2 pts/2 secs

Early on the day's biggest climb, David Millar falls off the lead group, and Michael Rasmussen rides off the peloton, joined by 7 other riders.

Bernard Kohl of Gerolsteiner has ridden away from the Rogers group and leads the race, with Antonio Colom and Christophe Le Mevel chasing.

Rasmussen has caught up to the splinters of the Rogers group, with David Arroyo, who bridged with him, and Goubert and Rogers join them to chase down Kohl, Le Mevel, and Colom. The 7 of them now lead the race.

Le Mevel is dropped late on the climb. Over the top, Rasmussen takes max points. He's been doing most of the work, but will be glad to have some other riders to pick the best line on the descent. The main field is more than 5 minutes behind with 2 more 1st Category climbs.

Cormet de Roselend, 1st Category:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, 15 pts
2) Bernard Kohl, Gerolsteiner, 13 pts
3) Stephane Goubert, AG2R, 11 pts
4) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, 9 pts
5) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, 8 pts
6) Antonio Colom, Astana, 7 pts
7) Christphe Le Mevel, 6 pts (@ :52)
8) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, 5 pts (@1:25)

On the descent, Michael Rogers crashes, and David Arroyo goes over a guardrail. Both are quickly back on the road, but have to chase to get back with Rasmussen/Kohl/Colom.

On the 2nd 1st Category climb, Rogers is first to fall off the Rasmussen group, quickly followed by Goubert and Kohl. Colom and Arroyo match Rasmussen, letting the Dane do all the work.

Rogers can't hang with Goubert and Kohl, and it's quickly apparent that he's injured from the fall. He falls back to Hincapie's group, then back to the peloton, then off the back of the peloton to see the race doctor. Rogers refuses help from a domestique, then pulls to the side of the road. He collapses over his top tube, then dismounts and exits the Tour.

Less than 5 minutes later, his teammate Marcus Burghardt is reported to have abandoned, but it's yet another race radio screwup.

Over the summit, it's Rasmussen again, and Astana comes to the front of the field, 6:12 behind Rasmussen's trio. Most of the GC men are close by. Rasmussen is back in his familiar polka-dots, and could take the overall lead -- Arroyo is only 2 seconds behind Rasmussen in GC, and would take the race lead if he beats Rasmussen to the line for the stage win.

Montée d'Hauteville, 1st Category:
1) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, 15 pts
2) Antonio Colom, Astana, 13 pts
3) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne, 11 pts
4) Sergio Paulinho, Discovery Channel, 9 pts
5) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, 8 pts
6) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, 7 pts
7) Amets Txurruka, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 6 pts
8) Christophe le Mevel, Credit Agricole, 5 pts

Knowing Arroyo is a threat, Rasmussen rides the other two off his wheel on the day's last climb. Christophe Moreau is the first GC man to attack -- Mayo, Evans, Contador, Kashechkin, Valverde and Shleck (and briefly, Popovych) matched the French champion. Mayo, Moreau and Contador look like the strongest men in this group, which has built a lead of more than 1:30 on the peloton, which include Vino, Klöden, Leipheimer, Menchov, and others.

Contador has a mechanical that takes him back to the Vino group, but as soon as he's back on his bike, he goes back on the attack. Meanwhile, Moreau's group sweeps up Arroyo and Colom, and nearing the summit, Mayo jumps easily away. Only Moreau will work to reel him in, and Mayo builds a gap.

Rasmussen crosses the line with a textbook Rasmussen victory. Today, though, there's more than the polka-dots as a reward: Rasmussen takes over as the overall race leader.

Mayo is 2nd on the day, 2:47 back, then Valverde.

You can track the action in real time by subscribing to my Twitter feed.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 15, 2007 in 2007 Stage 8, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Christophe Moreau, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Iban Mayo, Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Michael Rogers, Sylvain Chavanel, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2007

Stage 5: Pozzato powers through, but where's Vino?

Filippo Pozzato was as good as his word Thursday. The Liquigas classics specialist, winner at Milan-San Remo in 2006, told CyclingNews that Stage 5 was right for him, and he followed through with a magnificent sprint through a select group of power riders that survived over a hilly course.

Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis built a healthy lead in the King of the Mountains competition by leading the race over 7 of the day's 8 climbs, in a break with FdJeux's Philippe Gilbert, Credit Agricole's William Bonnet, and break latecomer Gianpaolo Cheula of Barloworld.

Meanwhile, many of the race favorites spent time on the tarmac, most notably Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished 1:21 back on the day after spending almost 25 kilometers/16 miles chasing, first with 6 teammates (all but Klöden and Kashechkin) then behind the team car, and finally with the help of Tom Boonen and other dropped traffic he collected as he made up time. Astana's team competition lead (the yellow race numbers) was lost, as well, and Team CSC takes over the team lead.

As the field came to the finish, 74 riders were together, but most of the marquee sprinters were dropped, including Boonen, McEwen, and Thor Hushovd, so the classics specialists came to the fore, with Zabel and Freire initially looking strong, then Hincapie and Bennati closing them down, before Pozzato came on through the center for the win, less than a foot ahead of Rabobank's Oscar Freire.

Top 20 (all same time):
1) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy
2) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, Spain
3) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy
4) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg
5) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany
6) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA
7) Christian Moreni, Cofidis, Italy
8) Stefan Schumacher, Gerolsteiner, Germany
9) Bram Tankink, Quick Step, Netherlands
10) Jérôme Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, France
11) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia
12) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland
13) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain
14) Chris Horner, Predictor-Lotto, USA
15) Fränk Schleck, CSC, Luxembourg
16) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, Switzerland
17) Linus Gerdemann, T-Mobile, Germany
18) Inigo Landaluze, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain
19) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, Australia, T-Mobile, Australia
20) Laurent Lefevre, Bouygues Telecom, France

Once again, Fabian Cancellara did the yellow jersey proud, personally heading the peloton when Discovery's Yaroslav Popovych made a late break, and finishing 12th on a day when many expected him to lose the yellow jersey. As expected there was a heavy shuffle of the overall classification:

Overall standings after Stage 5
1) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, in 28:56
2) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ :33
3) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy, @ :35
4) David Millar, Saunier Duval, Great Britain, @ :41
5) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, USA, @ :43
6) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel, Russia, @ :45
7) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, Russia, @ :46
8) Mikel Atarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, @ :49
9) Thomas Dekker, Rabobank, Netherlands, @ :51
10) Benoît Vaugrenard, Française des Jeux, France, @ :52
11) José Ivan Gutierrez, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ :53
12) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ :55
13) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, Spain, @ :55
14) Andrey Kashechkin, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ :55
15) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ :55
22) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ 1:00
23) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, @ 1:00
25) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, @ 1:03
81) Alexandre Vinokourov, Astana, Kazakhstan, @ 2:10

Zabel, the 6-time winner, is in the green jersey for the first time since 2002. Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis takes the King of the Mountains jersey from teammate Stéphane Augé, and Gusev maintains the lead in the young riders' white jersey competition.

And let's have no more talk of Dave Zabriskie as the Lanterne Rouge, please, as Dave Z finished in a big group @ 11:15 back, and jumps to 178th, 18:24 behind teammate Cancellara. Geoffroy Lequatre, a Cofidis rider who appeared to injure his right arm in a heavy fall and wobbled in 44:04 back, is 45:38 behind Cancellara to lead the Lanterne Rouge standings.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2007 in 2007 Stage 5, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Erik Zabel, Filippo Pozzato, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Linus Gerdemann, Michael Rogers, Oscar Freire, Stefan Schumacher, Sylvain Chavanel, Thomas Dekker, Top Stories, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2007

Discos fill out Tour dance card

ThePaceLine.com (free reg. req.) - Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Announces 2007 Tour de France Team Roster

Leipheimer @ '07 TdG
Leipheimer @ '07 TdG,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
No major surprises from America's Team, as Discovery Channel brings a Tour squad that can support the podium hopes (dreams?) of Levi Leipheimer as well as chasing a few stage wins.

    Discovery Channel 2007 Tour de France roster:
  • Alberto Contador (Spain)
  • Vladimir Gusev (Russia)
  • George Hincapie (USA)
  • Levi Leipheimer (USA)
  • Egoi Martinez (Spain)
  • Benjamin Noval (Spain)
  • Sergio Paulinho (Portugal)
  • Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)
  • Tomas Vaitkus (Lithuania)

Director Johan Bruyneel said he has three goals for the Tour: Leipheimer on the podium, a stage win for the team, and Contador in the Best Young Rider jersey in Paris.

Hincapie won Stage 15 of the 2005 Tour, and led the race for a day last year. Popovych took Stage 12 of last year's Tour, and was himself the Best Young Rider in 2005. Leipheimer was 6th overall in the 2005 Tour, and is coming off a win at this year's Tour of California and two stage wins at the Tour de Georgia.

Stijn Devolder, who had been racing very well, will watch the Tour from home, as will veterans José Luis Rubiera and Pavel Padrnos.


ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | Fresh Brew: Team DC at the Tour

PodiumCafe.com | Discovery Tour Squad Goes Final

With some discussion of Devolder's non-selection.

VeloNews | Discovery unveils Tour squad

Bruyneel tips Vinokourov, with nods to Cadel Evans, Vladimir Karpets, Denis Menchov, and Carlos Sastre.

He also admitted the doping craziness is impacting the team's search for a new sponsor.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 27, 2007 in 2007 team rosters, Alberto Contador, Egoi Martinez, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories, Tour de France 2007, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

Disco revival: Popovych takes Paris-Nice Stage 5

VeloNews | Popo' doubles down for Disco'; Rebellin holds lead at Paris-Nice

AFP/Frank Fife

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.

cyclingnews.com | Popovych rides glorious day away | photo gallery

GrahamWatson.com | Paris-Nice Stage 5

rec.bicycles.racing | Bob Martin's Paris-Nice Stage 5 summary

Posted by Frank Steele on March 17, 2007 in Alberto Contador, Dave Zabriskie, Davide Rebellin, Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, Paris-Nice 2007, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2007

Millar takes Paris-Nice prologue

VeloNews | 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.

Prologue standings
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


cyclingnews.com | A new beginning for avowed anti-doper Millar | photo gallery

GrahamWatson.com | Paris-Nice prologue photo gallery

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

February 09, 2007

Discovery Channel's '07 season to be its last

Discovery celebrates TdG team win

Discovery wins '06 Tour de Georgia team prize
Originally uploaded by Frank Steele.

USAToday.com | Discovery Channel ending its sponsorship of pro cycling

The Discovery Channel team will spend at least some of its 2007 season seeking a new title sponsor, after a management shakeup at the network, according to Sal Ruibal at USA Today.

With Monday's departure of Discovery Network president Billy Campbell, a longtime supporter of the team, the network decided not to extend a 3-year contract that started in the 2005 season. That's when Lance Armstrong won his 7th consecutive Tour de France. The team was previously sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, which left the sport after negative publicity about the cost of its team sponsorship.

The AP quoted a Discovery Channel statement, which said the company “decided to aggressively shift our focus and resources to support our core business goals and objectives.”

With US national champion George Hincapie, defending Giro champion Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, and Tom Danielson, Tailwind Sports general manager Bill Stapleton should be well positioned to find a replacement sponsor.

On the other hand, the team has traditionally been sponsored by U.S. companies, which may be less likely to sponsor the team with Armstrong out of competition. The sport's continuous doping scandals may also discourage sponsors.


VeloNews | Paper reports Discovery to pull sponsorship plug

New York Times | Discovery to End Sponsorship of Team

Posted by Frank Steele on February 9, 2007 in George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2006

Basso the new boss at Discovery?

Eurosport | Riis denies Basso Discovery link

Eurosport quotes from La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian) that Ivan Basso might jump ship to Discovery Channel in the off-season.

CSC director Bjarne Riis says that's just one of those crazy Tour rumors, and that he is “still regularly in contact” with Basso.

The deal might make sense for Discovery Channel if the team has decided it needs to compete for the Tour victory every year to satisfy its sponsors; Yaroslav Popovych is a possible future Tour winner, but probably 2-3 years from being a race favorite, and Tom Danielson is unproven in longer stage races.

Basso is still training, and says he wants to ride in September's Vuelta.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2006 in Ivan Basso, Tom Danielson, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Tour Salad: Stage 13

The Tour is all about shifting on-the-road alliances, and Landis may have burned some bridges on that front on Saturday.

Bobby Julich's diary entry at ESPN.com discusses this: He thinks Phonak not making a limited effort to help Rabobank chase once the stage was won was “a bad P.R. move,” although he still picks Landis to win the overall.

Rabobank's Denis Mencov warming up Maybe Phonak's refusal to ride tempo with Rabobank results from a rumor making the rounds that Oscar Freire was more than just tired at the end of Stage 12. CyclingNews mentions it in a quick interview with Alessandro Ballan, who finished 2nd Friday when Oscar Freire sat on his wheel as Discovery's Yaroslav Popovych attacked several times and took the stage win. The rumor says Discovery and Rabobank, whose director Erik Breukink is a former teammate of Discovery director Johan Bruyneel, agreed that Freire wouldn't contest Friday's stage, and that Discovery would help Rabobank out in the Alps, where they'll be looking to put Denis Menchov in yellow and possibly Michael Rasmussen in the climber's jersey.

I'm not sure Popovych wouldn't have won that stage straight up: It reminded me of his powerful attack over Clocktower Hill in Rome at the Tour de Georgia this year.

Martin Dugard notes another team that was frustrated with Phonak's performance Saturday: Davitamon-Lotto, whose Cadel Evans suggested “I'm not sure he gave it away on purpose,” and whose Robbie McEwen was still whining over having to chase down Hushovd and Bennati when they got in a break on Friday. And Sherwen and Liggett suggested AG2R was unhappy that Phonak allowed another rider to leapfrog Christophe Moreau (and Cyril Dessel, I suppose). Not unhappy enough to come to the front and work, but, you know, unhappy.

Favorite headline on Stage 13 is probably at Daily Peloton, where Dave Shields calls Phonak's strategy “The Brilliantly Executed Fumble.”

Hincapie at PrologueAn article in the Sunday Herald suggests Lance Armstrong, visiting the Tour tomorrow, may use whatever influence he has left in the peloton against Landis, who author Jeremy Whittle says discussed and refused an offer to return to Discovery Channel next year.

Podium Cafe looks at why Hincapie is having a rough Tour: You can, apparently, be too thin. In a story from the Gannett News Service, George's brother Rich says Hincapie arrived for the Tour down around 155 pounds, against his usual 175 (Hincapie is 6'3“ tall), and is having trouble eating enough to keep up with the Tour's demands.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2006 in Cadel Evans, Christophe Moreau, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Oscar Freire, Robbie McEwen, Tour de France 2006, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 14, 2006

Popovych outsmarts the sprinters

When Johan Bruyneel threw in the towel for Discovery Channel's overall hopes yesterday, he said the team would concentrate on stage wins.

That's exactly what they did today, getting George Hincapie and then Yaroslav Popovych into breaks, and Popovych cracked two top-rank sprinters to take the stage.

Riding along with Lampre's Allesandro Ballan and Rabobank's Oscar Freire, Popovych attacked 4 times, dropping Credit Agricole's Christophe Le Mevel but not the two danger men. Ballan and Freire reeled him in every time, but more slowly after each attack, and when Popovych launched a 5th attack, the two sprinters watched him go.

Popovych moves back up into the top 10 overall.

Top 10:
1) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine
2) Alessandro Ballan, Lampre, Italy, at :27
3) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, Spain, at :29
4) Christophe Le Mevel, Credit Agricole, France, at :35
5) Tom Boonen, QuickStep, Belgium, at 4:25
6) Robbie McEwen, Davitamon-Lotto, Australia, at 4:25
7) Francisco Ventoso, Saunier Duval, at 4:25
8) Erik Zabel, Milram, Germany, at 4:25
9) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, Italy, at 4:25
10) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, at 4:25

1) Floyd Landis, Phonak, USA,
2) Cyril Dessel, AG2R, France, at :08
3) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, at 1:01
4) Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, Australia, at 1:17
5) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 1:52
6) Andreas Klöden, T-Mobile, Germany, at 2:29
7) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, Australia, at 3:22
8) Juan Miguel Mercado, Agritubel, Spain, at 3:33
9) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, at 3:44
10) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, Ukraine, at 4:15

Posted by Frank Steele on July 14, 2006 in Oscar Freire, Paolo Savoldelli, Stage results, Top Stories, Tour de France 2006, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 13, 2006

Stage 11 on the road

Today's a legbreaker; 5 major climbs, which are likely the reason the peloton was somewhat passive yesterday.

First up is the Col du Tourmalet, one of the Tour's legendary climbs.

CSC's Giovanni Lombardi withdrew low on the climb of the Tourmalet, and Iban Mayo sits almost 3 minutes behind the main field, gesturing angrily at the race motorcycle, hovering nearby in case he drops out.

AG2R and Phonak are leading the peloton, with Merckx, Perdiguero, and Robbie Hunter (!) leading Landis. Saunier Duval's David de la Fuente, Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann, Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha, and Euskaltel's Iker Camano are 5:11 ahead of the field. Wegmann apparently wasn't joking earlier in the Tour when he went out grabbing king of the mountains points, and he's doing most of the work in the leading quartet today.

Rubiera is off the back for Discovery, Thor Hushovd, Samuel Dumoulin. Gilberto Simoni is off the back. Boonen, Brard and Voeckler have reportedly also fallen off the pace. Chris Horner is reportedly dropped, and Paolo Savoldelli (!). Some of these guys will chase back on, but they've got 4 more 1st-Category climbs to go. Sandy Casar is off the back.

Zabriskie is maybe a minute back, and three Discovery riders are sitting together at the back of the leading group. Egoi Martinez finally falls off the back, and Ekimov and Noval work back up into the field. AG2R still has 6 riders in the front, doing their yellow jersey proud.

As the leading quartet approach the summit, they all are climbing out of the saddle, and De la Fuente marks Wegmann. Wegmann keeps the pace low, and finally, De la Fuente launches an attack. Wegmann sits on his wheel, looking for the summit points and cash prize, but De la Fuente has the inside line and gets the prize. As the main chase group approaches the summit, Rasmussen attacks, joined by Voeckler, and Voeckler outscraps the skinny Dane for 5th place points. Yellow Jersey Dessel takes 7th, good for 8 points.

There was a split in the front group, but they're back together now, approaching the base of the Col d'Aspin, our next climb. The peloton is growing on the descent, and Voeckler attacked over the Tourmalet and has more than a minute on the field, sitting about 4 minutes behind Camano, Wegmann, De la Fuente, and Flecha.

Col d'Aspin is not splitting the field like the Tourmalet. The peloton is still 70-80 strong. Casar is off the back, and Benjamin Noval, among a few others. Voeckler is 2:20 behind the leaders, and more than 3 minutes ahead of the field. Zabel and Garate have fallen out of the field; Rinero, David Millar, Philippe Gilbert, Chechu Rubiera are also dropped. Voeckler is closing fast on the leaders.

Wegmann launches with more than 300 meters to the summit, and De la Fuente wasn't ready to contest it, so Wegmann takes the 18 points over the top, ahead of De la Fuente, Flecha and Camano. Voeckler 5th at 1:30, and Michael Boogerd leads Rasmussen up to the line for 6th place points at 4:05.

Next, the Col de Peyresourde.

Voeckler continues to close, 35 seconds to the leaders, while the peloton is now 3:49 back as the leading quartet pass the "10 kilometers to the summit" sign.

Camano is falling off the lead group as Voeckler approaches from behind. They're about 15 seconds back. Flecha is laboring hard, and he's dropped. Voeckler goes by Camano.

Egoi Martinez and Stefano Garzelli have fallen off the field. Klöden is right up front, with Michael Rogers on his left shoulder. Pereiro is off the back for, and Popovych is "stretching the elastic" at the back of the pack.

Wegmann and De la Fuente are riding alone for the summit, gaining time on Voeckler and Flecha. Flecha's 1:00 back, Voeckler's at 1:39. The sweat is dripping out of his helmet.

Leaders are 1k to the top; let's see how the games go. De la Fuente is trying to get Wegmann to come around. They're side-by-side. De la Fuente hits the afterburners from pretty far out, and Wegmann couldn't match him. De la Fuente may be cramping, but he's the new leader of the King of the Mountains competition, for now at least. Camano is caught by the main field. Flecha is 3rd to the summit at 2:10, but Voeckler is caught, and Rasmussen gets 4th over the top at 3:00.

Popovych is 40 meters off the back, and looking for the team car.

I'm going to start a new post for the Portillon and the Pla de Beret.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2006 in Gilberto Simoni, Michael Rasmussen, Michael Rogers, Paolo Savoldelli, Thomas Voeckler, Thor Hushovd, Tour de France 2006, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2006

Stage 7 ITT underway

Early leader is once again Sebastian Lang, as in the prologue. He was the first man to go under 1:03, and leads Gustav Larsson and Joost Posthuma.

Some times from riders of interest who have already ridden: Viatcheslav Ekimov 1:04:23; Chris Horner 1:05:57; Jens Voigt has the slowest yet at 1:11:44, suggesting he may have plans to go stage-hunting in the next couple of days.

On the course now are Sandy Casar, Iban Mayo, Pietro Caucchioli, and Thomas Voeckler, among others.

Casar came in 1:05:11; Mayo 1:07:20 -- that's got to hurt. Thomas Voeckler 1:05:47. Caucchioli in 1:08:21.

Sastre, Leipheimer and Popovych are on the course. Julich is off.

Sastre is the first one to shake things up; at the first time check, he comes in at 20:22, 5 seconds ahead of Lovkvist's time.

Julich has crashed! He went down very hard at a left-right chicane, hitting the pavement and sliding into and over the curb. He's sitting by the side of the road, and may be the next casualty of the 2006 Tour. That's confirmed; Julich has been taken away in an ambulance. Liggett points out that the only other Tour Julich hasn't finished was because of an accident in the time trial, in 1999.

Menchov hits the 1st time check in 20:07, best so far, 15 seconds better than Sastre.

Zabriskie takes his start.

David Millar is out of the starthouse, slowly spinning up to speed.

Leipheimer reportedly hit the 1st time check at 1:32 behind Menchov! That's 61st-fastest at that point, with a lot of riders to come.

Cadel Evans is ready to roll, and he's off.

T-Mobile's Eddy Mazzoleni is 2nd fastest through the 16.5 kilometer 1st check, 8 seconds slower than Menchov.

Landis is in the start house on time, and he's off. His coach Robbie Ventura said they pre-raced the course at 75 percent this morning, and Landis likes his chances.

Klöden comes through Time Check 1 at 19:58!

Savoldelli is off; Hushovd is off; Hincapie awaits, looking solemn, and he's gone.

Zabriskie is 4th at TC 1, 15 seconds behind Klöden. Menchov sets the new fastest time at the 2nd check, a fraction of a second ahead of Larsson.

Michael Rogers is off, smelling yellow.

Moreau hits TC1 at 25 seconds.

Here goes McEwen, and Boonen is setting up in the start house, and he's off, last to leave as the yellow jersey.

It's a full-on, Michael Rasmussen-style disaster for Leipheimer. He's already been passed by Christian Vande Velde, his 2-minute man.

Landis reportedly had a bike swap. Sergei Honchar has come through TC1 at 19:37, setting a new benchmark. Landis hits TC1 in 19:54, 2nd best for now.

Menchov finishes his ride fading, at 1:03:27.

Zabriskie is 9th at the 2nd time check. There are reports the wind has picked up since the fast times this morning.

Hincapie is 15th at the first time check, 52 seconds down on Honchar. Rogers is only slightly better, 46 seconds down on Honchar at TC 1.

Vande Velde finishes in 1:04:57.

Leipheimer is coming in, tripping the sensors in 1:07:49. What a nightmare for Leipheimer.

Popovych finishes in 1:05:00.

Boonen is through the first time check (at 1:26), so Honchar's 19:37 is the fastest time there, followed by Landis at :17, Klöden at :22, Marcus Fothen at :29, and Denis Menchov at :30.

Zabriskie hits TC3 39 seconds slower than Lang; Sergei Honcar sets the new best time at the 2nd time check in 43:50, just flying!

Klöden is coming up to the line, and trips the clock in 1:03:26, 4th for now.

Landis at TC2 is 44:32, 42 seconds slower than Honchar, but faster than everyone else so far.

Zabriskie is finishing; he won't win the stage, and he finishes in 1:03:40.

Hincapie at TC2: 45:53, slower than Ekimov and Savoldelli.

David Millar hasn't factored in the intermediate checks at all, and finishes in 1:05:17. Christophe Moreau finishes close behind, in 1:03:47.

Rogers comes to TC2 in 45:06, more than 30 seconds behind Landis.

Honchar is fastest again at Time Check 3: 55:09 against Lang's previous-best 56:20.

Honchar is roaring up to the finish; there he comes in 1:01:43!

Landis is 57 seconds down at the 3rd time check on Honchar. He'll be finishing soon. Here he comes; he can't catch Honchar, but he's going to have a strong time, it's 1:02:44 for Landis. Honchar is almost guaranteed the stage win and the yellow jersey tonight.

Savoldelli is coming into the last kilometer and brings home a 1:03:55.

Hincapie is 23rd at the last time check, 2:32 off Honchar.

Rogers comes through the last time check in 56:31, so he's coming in strong.

Hincapie to the line in 1:04:25.

Rogers catches Hushovd, his 6-minute man, just outside the 1-kilometer mark. He won't match Landis: 1:03:07 for the world TT champion.

Boonen's taking his yellow jersey seriously; he caught McEwen on the road, and Boonen finishes his reign in 1:05:35, 41st on the day. McEwen closes out the day, in 1:08:10.

Sergei Honchar has a stage win and a yellow jersey for T-Mobile!

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2006 in Andreas Klöden, Bobby Julich, Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Christophe Moreau, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Iban Mayo, Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rogers, Paolo Savoldelli, Patrik Sinkewitz, Robbie McEwen, Sergei Honchar, Tom Boonen, Tour de France 2006, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2006

Kessler gets his stage, Boonen gets his yellow jersey

Matthias Kessler attacked over the Cauberg and kept his lead to the line, avenging his last second loss yesterday, earning T-Mobile probably its first bright spot of the 2006 Tour.

Just 5 seconds behind, world time trial champion Michael Rogers led in a group of strongman sprinters and GC candidates. In 3rd on the day was Lampre's Daniele Bennati, ahead of world champion Tom Boonen, who had made no secret of his intent to take today's stage.

He can take solace in the yellow jersey, the first ever for the 25-year-old world road champion, as Thor Hushovd came in 62nd, at 17 seconds back. He'll wear it in Belgium tomorrow, where he's a huge celebrity. Boonen also takes the lead in the green jersey competition as Robbie McEwen came in 34 seconds back in 89th. Lampre's Daniele Bennati, 4th on the day moves into 2nd in the points competition: Boonen 67, Bennati 66, McEwen 65, Hushovd 62, Zabel 59.

This was a “declare your intentions” day for the GC; if you're not riding for the overall, why break your legs on the Cauberg? Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde, Carlos Sastre, Paolo Savoldelli, Yarolav Popovych, Jose Azevedeo, Denis Menchov, Andreas Klöden, David Millar, Sergei Honchar, Cadel Evans, and even Gilberto Simoni all made the break to come in 5 seconds behind Kessler.

Bookie favorite Alejandro Valverde crashed and broke his collarbone with about 20 kilometers to ride in an overlap of wheels -- a wide-open Tour de France is even more so this evening. Also out are Freddie Rodriguez and Erik Dekker, who went down together and were taken to a local hospital.

Chris Horner came in 159th on the day, at 8:05. Stuart O'Grady rode in alone after an accident, 11:35 back, and Magnus Backstedt and Filippo Pozzato, 18:36 back, were the day's final finishers.

Top 10:
1) Matthias Kessler, T-Mobile, in 4:57:54
2) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, at :05
3) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, same time
4) Tom Boonen, QuickStep, s.t.
5) Erik Zabel, Milram, s.t.
6) Luca Paolini, Liquigas, s.t.
7) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, s.t.
8) Eddy Mazzoleni, T-Mobile, s.t.
9) Georg Totschnig, Gerolsteiner, s.t.
10) Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner, s.t.

General Classification:
1) Tom Boonen, QuickStep
2) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, at :01
3) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, at :05
4) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, at :07
5) Paolo Savoldelli, Discovery Channel, at :15
6) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, at :15
7) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at :16
8) Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne, at :15
9) Sergei Honchar, T-Mobile, at :17
10) Matthias Kessler, T-Mobile, at :17

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2006 in Alejandro Valverde, Chris Horner, David Millar, Denis Menchov, Filippo Pozzato, Georg Totschnig, Magnus Backstedt, Michael Rogers, Oscar Freire, Paolo Savoldelli, Robbie McEwen, Sergei Honchar, Stage results, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen, Top Stories, Tour de France 2006, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

Azevedo is Numero Uno

Yahoo! Sport | Portugal's Azevedo to wear number one

This just in: Discovery Channel has chosen José Azevedo to wear the coveted race number “1” in the Tour.

The number usually goes to the returning race champion, but with Lance Armstrong out of the picture, the team chose to assign it to Azevedo. Yaroslav Popovych was the most highly placed Discovery Channel rider other than Armstrong last year, in 12th. Azevedo finished 5th in the 2004 Tour.

In case another rider complains, they can fall back on the kindergarten defense: Azevedo is the first Discovery Channel rider alphabetically.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 28, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Tour de France 2006, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TdFblog GC preview

It's going to be an amazing Tour.

I am obligated, as a writer for a Tour-centric web site, to make some predictions. This year, it is incredibly hard. A lot of riders either have badly screwed up their preparation or haven't shown us what they can do this season (and another, Alexandre Vinokourov, hasn't and may not get the chance to), and we won't find out which it is for a week or 10 days.

Sitting here, three days from Strasbourg, I believe in the two favorites, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich. I believe in Francisco Mancebo. Alejandro Valverde may be the future of the sport (depending on what's in those damn bags), and he's at the point in his career to break out some surprises. These guys have all shown they're ready to rock and roll.

For some reason, I don't really believe in Levi Leipheimer. Gorgeous wife, great results, but I have to agree with his DS: Top 10 probably, Top 5 maybe. Floyd Landis and Alexandre Vinokourov both flummoxed me with sub-par Dauphiné results, but I want to believe.

Total wildcards: Denis Menchov, Iban Mayo, Cadel Evans. I think Evans will finish higest of these three, but Mayo could take a spotlight stage, like l'Alpe d'Huez.

I can't read Johan Bruyneel's mind any better than anyone else, but I suspect Popovych and Azevedo will be the two most highly-placed Discovery Channel riders. Savoldelli and Hincapie will be well-placed up to the mountains, then lose time to the better climbers.

Enough procrastination; here's my Top 5:
1) Ivan Basso, CSC
2) Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile
3) Floyd Landis, Phonak
4) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel
5) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne

I don't see Ullrich gaining 4 minutes on Basso in the TTs, and here's why: The Stage 7 TT profile. It's long enough, at 52 kilometers, but it's a fairly technical course. Even if it's dry, I could easily see Ullrich overcooking a couple of corners, getting out of his rhythm, and not going as fast as he's capable. If it rains, even worse.

I could also see Basso gaining some time on stages with downhill finishes, like Stage 17, where Basso could go over the top of the Col de Joux-Plane with time in hand and conserve all or most of that lead for the 12 kilometers into Morzine. Ullrich's bike-handling has always scared me.

I'm also discounting the Floyd Landis nay-sayers, who say he's got no team. I think with a race as open as this year's, the team strength matters less. Landis needs to identify the real team leaders fast, then cover moves only by the real GC threats. Remember Armstrong watching Vinokourov go up the road, and waiting for Ullrich and Klöden (T-Mobile's “official” GC threats) to bring him back? Same idea. There are plenty of other strong riders who will be chasing down the pretenders.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 28, 2006 in Alejandro Valverde, Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Christophe Moreau, Denis Menchov, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Levi Leipheimer, Paolo Savoldelli, Top Stories, Tour 2006 previews, Tour de France 2006, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 16, 2006

Discovery Channel names Tour team

Discovery Channel named its Tour squad today. With Lance Armstrong out of the picture, Discovery has 4 different riders who could finish highly: George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli, and Jose Azevedo.

Their metamorphosis is going to be one of the big storylines of the 2006 Tour.

    Discovery Channel 2006 Tour squad:
  • George Hincapie
  • Yaroslav Popovych
  • Paolo Savoldelli
  • Jose Azevedo
  • Viatcheslav Ekimov
  • Egoi Martinez
  • José-Luis Rubiera
  • Benjamin Noval
  • Pavel Padrnos
  • Vladimir Gusev
  • Michael Barry

There's a special announcement webisode available on the Team Discovery Channel webpage; I can't link it directly since the site is all-Flash. ThePaceline.com (free registration required) has the full press release.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 16, 2006 in George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 07, 2006

Dauphiné Stage 3 now underway

Italy's time trial champion Marco Pinotti was the early leader of today's time trial, finishing the 43 kilometer (26 mile) course in 54:42. Levi Leipheimer comes through superfast: He clocks a 54:05.1! Looks like his disappointing prologue really was because of the loose handlebars. Landis is on the course, and was 3rd fastest at the 8-kilometer mark. Moreau, Vinokourov, Valverde, and Kashechkin are on course, as well. Popovych comes in with a very respectable 54:51; that's got him in 3rd, but likely to slide. Rabobank's Denis Menchov comes in a little slower than Popovych. At the 2nd check, at 28.5 km, Landis is 4 seconds faster than Leipheimer. Zabriskie betters Landis's time at the first checkpoint. Landis comes in at  53:41! That will take the lead, at least for now. Moreau 56:15. Kashechkin 57:27. Hincapie looks extremely smooth; he's likely to overtake Mancebo. He's third at the 2nd check point. Valverde comes in at 7th so far, essentially tied with Popovych at 54:51. Zabriskie is 45 seconds up on Floyd Landis at the 28.5-k checkpoint! He's so quiet on the bike -- I couldn't believe his 3rd place at the Tour de Georgia time trial, because he doesn't labor on the bike like a lot of riders, just goes fast, fast, fast. Hincapie puts Americans on all three steps of the podium, coming in at 54:23, 18 seconds behind Leipheimer. Zabriskie is certain to slot in there, probably right up top. Mancebo 55:38. Zabriskie in 52:48! That's 53 seconds faster than Landis, who was 24 seconds faster than Leipheimer. That's very likely to vault him up into 2nd on the GC tonight. Nobody coming will better that; the question is how close Zabriskie can get to Philippe Gilbert on the overall. He's 5:22 or so back before the stage -- that's too much to take the jersey back. Gilbert gives back about 2 and a half minutes. He'll hold the leader's jersey for another day. Landis's teammate Bert Grabsch did an awesome TT, in 54:26, that stood up for 5th on the day. The United States takes all 4 top spots: Zabriskie, Landis, Leipheimer, and Hincapie. Current GC: 1) Philippe Gilbert, Francaise des Jeux 2) Zabriskie, CSC, at 2:47 3) Landis, Phonak, at 3:48 4) Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at 4:20 5) Hincapie. Discovery Channel, at 4:24 6) Grabsch, Phonak, at 4:34 7) Vladimir Gusev, Discovery Channel

Posted by Frank Steele on June 7, 2006 in Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Christophe Moreau, Dauphiné Libéré, Dauphiné Libéré 2006, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Thomas Voeckler, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2006

Dauphiné Libéré prologue underway

Today's stage at the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré is a short, flat, 4-kilometer prologue.

Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang took the early lead in around 4:42. One big surprise is Bradley Wiggins, the Cofidis rider who has already predicted he'll win the 2006 Tour prologue.

Wiggins was able to do only a 4:46, 4 seconds slower than Lang, with a lot of strong riders to come.

Stuart O'Grady comes through in 4:41.9, and takes the stage lead! It won't stand up, but this is a guy who broke 5 ribs and his collarbone March 9th at Tirreno-Adriatico. Cyclingnews has a good interview with O'Grady from mid-May.

Thomas Dekker doesn't even go top 10, and again, there are a lot of riders to come.

Popovych 4:48.

Zabriskie is quickest at the turnaround. Coming to the line with a big cushion to O'Grady; 4:35.83 for Zabriskie! That one might stand up.

Alejandro Valverde is on course, all in white as the ProTour leader.

Chris Horner comes in at 4:50.45.

Valverde does a 4:43, dropping him into 6th for now. As soon as Valverde came in, George Hincapie left the start house. We'll see how his recovery is coming.

Landis is on course, sporting the Praying Landis, Vinokourov is on course, Leipheimer is on course, and Cycling.TV has gone black. D'Oh!

There comes Mayo, the last guy on the course, and he's not going to go anywhere near Dave Z.

Zabriskie takes the stage win!

Hincapie, who took last year's Dauphiné prologue, is 2nd in 4:37.62. O'Grady 3rd, Lang 4th. Posthuma 5th, Stijn Devolder was 6th. Valverde 7th. Landis 9th in 4:43.84.

The Cycling.TV guys say Zabriskie hasn't raced since March, but I've got pictures that say otherwise.

Coverage is still in and out, so I don't have Leipheimer or Vinokourov's results.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 4, 2006 in Alejandro Valverde, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Horner, Dauphiné Libéré, Dauphiné Libéré 2006, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Stuart O'Grady, Thomas Dekker, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Next up: The Dauphiné Libéré

Cycling4all | Dauphiné Libéré provisional start list

We're just a few days from the race that's become the most important Tour warm-up, the Dauphiné Libéré. Cycling4All has a running start list, and there are few surprises. Lots of Americans have team leader numbers, including Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie at CSC, and Chris Horner at Davitamon-Lotto.

It's a South American riding in Phonak's lowest number, Santiago Botero, although of course Floyd Landis is using the race to test his fitness before the Tour. Yaroslav Popovych wears 31 for Discovery, which also brings George Hincapie and Jose Azevedo.

Vinokourov and Kaschechkin both will start for the team formerly known as Liberty Seguros, while Alejandro Valverde leads Caisse d'Espargne.

Missing riders? Quick Step's Tom Boonen, Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen, and T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich, as well as Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso.

Some of these guys have 4 weeks of racing in their legs since April 20: A lot of the Saunier Duval (Pinotti, Olson) and Davitamon-Lotto riders (Henk Vogels, Jan Kuyckx, Nick Gates, Van Hecke) started both the Tour de Georgia and the Giro d'Italia.

Action kicks off Sunday with a 4-km prologue in Annecy.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 30, 2006 in Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Chris Horner, Dauphiné Libéré, Dauphiné Libéré 2006, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Santiago Botero, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

Lindsey: Race to Replace has "excellent disaster potential"

Mountain Bike | There’ll Never Be Another Lance

Joe Lindsey is afraid that the gimmick casting/reality show that is Discovery Channel's Race to Replace is a bad, bad, idea.

In case you've been under a rock, here's the basic idea: Team Discovery needs to find the next Lance Armstrong to lead the team. Contestants will sign up online, and on August 12th, some group of contestants will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The contest winner will line up with the team at the US Pro Championships in Greenville, SC, in September.

Says Lindsey:

Details at this time are, as they say, sketchy. Is it mass-start or a time trial? Will there be categories? Is it part of any official USA Cycling program? Will pro racers like Danielson, or even USAC-licensed elite amateurs, be allowed to compete?

We don’t know. Here’s what we do know: This has excellent disaster potential.

What if the winner's a Fred, and wipes out half the field? What if he's dropped 500 yards into the race? Lindsey thinks the whole thing belittles the long monastic struggle most riders face before they can line up with the elite pros.

I'm a little more sanguine about the whole thing. The whole idea still isn't fleshed out, but I'll bet there's no intention for somebody with zero pack racing experience to actually race the full pro championships in September. I'm betting the winner will either a) be part of the U23 team Discovery sponsors (or another national-level amateur), or b) some member of Joe Public. If it's “A”, this is a great chance for the Discovery networks to showcase the talented young racers out there. If it's “B”, I imagine he'll get to ride with the pack through the neutral start, then, with loud cheers and plenty of media attention, be escorted off the course.

And it may yet wind up that the contest is only for “team leadership”: The team has promised a series of “webisodes” looking at candidates to replace Armstrong as the leader of Team Discovery starting today. They're pretty much who you would expect: Danielson, Popovych, Hincapie, Ekimov, Rubiera, Savoldelli, and Azevedo. How this “contest” links to the other contest is anybody's guess.

In any case, the ads (featuring personalities from Discovery shows) are cute and memorable, any interest in the contest is a plus for US cycling awareness, and the whole project should help maintain Discovery's image as the leading American cycling team.

For now, there's this teaser, a free iTunes version of the RtR's TV ad (All the other ads are available free, as well), and “raw footage” from the making of the webisodes here.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 15, 2006 in George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Links, Paolo Savoldelli, Television, Tom Danielson, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

Landis takes 2006 Tour de Georgia; Haedo gets his stage win

Floyd Landis took another big win on Sunday, finishing safely in the pack to win the 2006 Tour de Georgia.

Juan José Haedo, the Toyota-United sprinter who had made two podiums without a win, edged double defending TdG Stage 6 winner Gord Fraser and Phonak's Aurelien Clerc for the stage win.

Discovery Channel dominated the race, taking the team classification, the king of the mountains (Jason McCartney), the best young rider (Janez Brajkovic), a yellow jersey (Yaroslav Popovych), two stage wins (Popovych in Rome, Danielson on Brasstown Bald), and the 2nd and 3rd rung of the podium.

But the day belonged to Floyd Landis, who dug deep to hang with Danielson and Popovych on Brasstown Bald, protecting his 4-second race lead. He also survived a minor scare on Sunday, when he flatted late during the finishing circuits in Alpharetta, but was able to rejoin the field quickly.

An early 15-man breakaway was slowly reeled in, a few riders at a time, until only HealthNet-Maxxis' Jeff Louder and TIAA-CREF's Will Frischkorn stood between the sprinters and a podium, and Haedo's Toyota-United team and Fast Freddie Rodriguez' Davitamon-Lotto squad did the lion's share of the chasing.

I've posted a Flickr photoset of Stage 6.

More at my Tour de Georgia weblog.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 24, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Tour de Georgia, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 23, 2006

Danielson takes Brasstown Bald, but Landis holds race lead

Unbelievable. I'll never doubt Floyd Landis again. Before the stage, I thought there was no way he would be able to last mano a mano with Discovery's Tom Danielson.

But that's just what Landis did on the biggest climb in the Tour de Georgia, the 3 mile+ ascent of Brasstown Bald. Discovery's Danielson and Yaroslav Popovych took turns attacking Landis, who marked Danielson and eventually let Popo go. Discovery, realizing that Popovych wasn't going to get enough time to take the race lead, eventually let Danielson attack Popovych to try to finish Landis directly. Landis wasn't cracking.

Landis has got to top the short list of American Tour de France contenders, as he looks likely to add the 2006 Tour de Georgia title to the Tour of California and Paris-Nice titles he's already won this season.

Check out my Stage 5 Flickr photoset.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 23, 2006 in Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Tour de Georgia, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

Popovych steals Stage 2 at Tour de Georgia

VeloNews.com | Popovych steals Stage 2 at Tour de Georgia

Popovych finished alone
Popovych alone with the win
Frank Steele/tdgblog.com
Yaroslav Popvych of Discovery Channel showed why he's considered a rising stage-race star. The 26-year-old Ukrainian launched a violent attack on the day's last climb of Rome's Clocktower Hill, gapped the field while the sprinters tried to figure out who was chasing, and stayed away for a 6-second victory.

In the field sprint behind Popovych, Juan José Haedo of Toyota-United outkicked Freddie Rodriguez of Davitamon-Lotto. Rodriguez took 2nd on Tuesday, and now has only one more shot, in Sunday's finale, to take a stage win, his stated goal for this year's Tour de Georgia.

Targetraining is a new Continental team, and the sponsors got their money's worth on Wednesday, as Argentina's Alejandro Acton led the stage by more than 10 minutes at one point, and rode solo for nearly 100 miles. Acton was finally swept up just shy of the day's only King of the Mountains “climb,”the first ascent of Clocktower Hill. For his trouble, he'll wear the “most aggressive rider” jerseythrough tomorrow's TT and Friday's first mountain stage. Kirk O'Bee of HealthNet-Maxxis took the prime to be the first person in this year's King of the Mountains jersey.

Rodriguez took the sprint jersey, and sits 2nd, just behind Popovych, in the overall. The sprinters are likely to fall away tomorrow, as the riders face a long and hilly individual time trial from Chickamauga, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Lance Armstrong was reportedly in attendance, riding in the Discovery Channel team car. He took a sprint finish here in 2004.


cyclingnews.com | Lightning strikes again for Popovych and Discovery in Rome

cyclingnews.com | Tour de Georgia Stage 2 Photo Gallery

ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | Tour de Georgia Stage 2 report

Crossposted from TdGblog.com, where I'll be blogging live from the TT course on Thursday.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 20, 2006 in Fred Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong, Tour de Georgia, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How I spent my Wednesday

Popovych works the crowd
Popovych works the crowd
Frank Steele/tdgblog.com
Flickr.com | Tour de Georgia 2006 Stage 2

My father and I spent the day chasing the racing, and caught up with the peloton 3 (almost 4) times. We missed the race finish, but caught Popovych at the bottom of the Rome finishing straight, and made our way up to the finish line to see the race interviews and presentations.

Alejandro Acton deservedly took the “most aggressive rider” jersey, and came right by us, when I got this shot. Look how totally wiped he was after that breakaway; he put everything into his nearly 100-mile escape effort.

I got three portraits I was especially happy with: Ekimov with “certified badass” shades, Landis goofing with the crowd, and Juan José Haedo at the post-race ceremonies.

Cross-posted from TdGblog.com, where I find out “will the Specialized Angel be in Georgia?” and link to other Tour de Georgia content from around the web.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 20, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Fred Rodriguez, Photo galleries, Tour de Georgia, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2005


Vino takes Champs victory
Vino takes Champs victory
T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov put on an awesome show of force on Sunday, outriding half the field to take the Tour's final stage in Paris.

Breaking away on the last lap of the day, Vinokourov managed to gap and hold a gap to the teams trying to set up their sprinters: Cofidis, Davitamon-Lotto, Liberty Seguros, and FdJeux.

Joined by Fabian Cancellara, then by Française des Jeux's Bradley McGee, Vinokourov put his head down, and countered an attack by McGee to take the stage.

Lance Armstrong, of course, nails down his 7th overall victory in the Tour, and took the podium flanked by his 3 children. He also spoke to the crowd (and TV audience) from the podium, an unprecedented act for the Tour winner.

After some debate, judges awarded bonus time to Vinokourov for the stage victory, which lifted him into 5th overall on the Tour and dropped Levi Leipheimer down to 6th.

Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd of Norway nailed down the green jersey competition.

Oscar Pereiro was named the most combative rider of the Tour.

T-Mobile took the team competition, along with 3 stage wins.

Stage Top 10:
1) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, in 3:40:57
2) Brad McGee, Française des Jeux, same time
3) Fabian Cancellara, Fassa Bortolo, s.t.
4) Robbie McEwen, Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.
5) Stuart O’Grady, Cofidis, s.t.
6) Allan Davis, Liberty Seguros, s.t.
7) Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole, s.t.
8) Baden Cooke, Française des Jeux, s.t.
9) Bernhard Eisel, Française des Jeux, s.t.
10) Robert Forster, Gerolsteiner, s.t.

Aussies in 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th on the day.

Overall Top 10 ("GC"):
1) Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel, in 86:15:02
2) Ivan Basso, CSC, at 4:40
3) Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile, at 6:21
4) Francisco Mancebo, Illes Balears, at 9:59
5) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, at 11:01
6) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at 11:21
7) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, at 11:33
8) Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, at 11:55
9) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at 12:44
10) Oscar Pereiro, Phonak, at 16:14

Compared to last year's final GC, Pereiro is 10th again, Leipheimer climbs from 9th to 6th, Mancebo improves from 6th to 4th, Ullrich goes from 4th to 3rd, and Basso improves from 3rd to 2nd. New names in the Top 10 this year are Vinokourov, who will certainly keep things interesting wherever he winds up next year; Rasmussen, who owned the big mountains; Evans, who had an excellent 1st Tour at 8th; and Landis, who I felt rode a very defensive Tour, and was never really able to take the attack to the leaders.

Final Jerseys:

Lance Armstrong

Thor Hushovd

Michael Rasmussen

Yaroslav Popovych


letour.fr | Stage 21 standings | Overall standings

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Bradley McGee, Fabian Cancellara, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Stage results, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 21, 2005

Stage 18 underway

Alexandre Vinokourov attacked ahead of the day's first sprint, and took 2nd for 4 pts, and a 4-second time bonus. After a number of early breakaways, all pulled back, a group of 10 has gotten away and built a lead, now at 12:45. In it are Davitamon-Lotto's Axel Merckx, CSC's Luke Roberts, Cofidis' Cedric Vasseur, Bouyges Telecom's Thomas Voeckler, T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler, Illes Balears' Xabier Zandio, Carlos da Cruz of Française des Jeux, Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas, and Marcos Serrano of Liberty Seguros. Kessler's presence in this breakaway, and the absence of Discovery Channel, would likely give T-Mobile the team lead, since they trail Discovery by 37 seconds. In the break, Kessler is wearing his race number upside down: He's highly superstitious and riding in number 13. With the gap at 15 minutes, Discovery has put all its riders at the head of the peloton. Armstrong apparently predicted Axel Merckx for today's stage, being run on Belgium's National Day. On the second-to-last climb, Carlos Da Cruz has attacked. He's gotten out to 25 seconds on the 9 other breakaway riders. Now Merckx counters, and goes right over the top of Da Cruz. Serrano is trying to come back up. And there goes Voeckler trying to bridge up. Zandio, Serrano, and Vasseur are just a few seconds behind Mercx and Voeckler, and chasing on the descent. Zandio, Serran, Vasseur, Merckx, and Voeckler are joined by Pellizotti on the descent, and they're starting up the very steep, short final climb. Inside of 4 km, and Merckx has picked up the pace. Zandio and Pellizotti are dropped. Serrano pushes it, and Voeckler is dropped. It's Serrano, Vasseur, and Merckx. Merckx is gapped, but not yet really dropped. As the climb steepens, Serrano pulls away, and Merckx tries to counter, but Serrano has a gap. They're 1 k to the top, 2.5 to the finish. At the top, Serrano has 14 seconds on Merckx and Vasseur. The peloton is now at 12 minutes plus, with Andrey Kashechkin holding a 20 second advantage: he's looking to get back into the white jersey. Marcos Serrano has taken the first stage for Liberty Seguros! As they roll in, Vasseur comes off Merckx's wheel for 2nd. Zandio is 4th, then Pellizotti. Back with the peloton, there's been another big selection on the 2nd-to-last climb of the day, with Sastre, Popovych, Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Evans, Landis, Leipheimer. Now they've dropped Rasmussen, Vinokourov and Leipheimer. Basso, Armstrong, Ullrich, and Evans are riding together. Vino, Rasmussen, and Leipheimer are the first chase group. Don't know about Landis. Ullrich is at the back of the leaders, falling back. Now he's clawed his way back onto the other three! Armstrong leads over the top. They've got 1.5 kilometers to go. He leads the group up to the line, and there comes Cadel Evans, who pips him at the line for 11th, with Basso and Ullrich behind. Mancebo has rejoined Leiphemer, Rasmussen, and Vino for the finish. A Saunier Duval is in between, then Landis comes in with Eddy Mazzoleni.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Thomas Voeckler, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

Stage 17 underway

There's an enormous break up the road: 17 guys, including representatives from 14 teams. Discovery has placed Savoldelli and Rubiera, T-Mobile has Oscar Sevilla, CSC has Kurt-Asle Arvesen. Bouyges Telecom's French national champion Pierrick Fedrigo is there as well, leading by 20 minutes plus. With 2 riders up front, it's possible that Discovery will take back the team competition lead from T-Mobile, where they trail by just under 20 minutes. The leading 17 has split in two: Paolo Savoldelli, Oscar Sevilla, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Bram Tankink, Sebastien Hinault, Daniele Righi and Andrey Grivko, and Simon Gerrans have made the front group, while Erik Dekker, Rubiera, Allan Davis, Dario Cioni, Stephane Auge, Pierrick Fedrigo, Carlos Da Cruz, Samuel Dumoulin, and Thomas Lovkvist are about a minute back. The peloton is 22 minutes plus behind the Sevilla group. Finally, with 20 or so kilometers to ride, T-Mobile has come to the front to defend their team lead. The gap between the two lead groups is up to around 2:30. At 10 km, the 8 leaders have 2:49 on the chase group and more than 24 minutes on the peloton. On the day's last climb, Savoldelli and Hinault get a 10-second gap on the lead group. Gerrens and Arvesen try to bridge, and chase for about 4 kilometers. As they close, Savoldelli attacks Hinault, but it's short-lived and the four ride together with less than 2km to ride. Now Arvesen attacks! He's gone with 1 k to go. Hinault and Savoldelli are chasing, winding up the sprint with under 500 meters to ride, they're to Arvesen, and Savoldelli comes around and takes the stage! On the final 3rd-Category climb, Vinokourov launches an attack! He's split the peloton in half, and yesterday's big winner, Cadel Evans is in a group off the back, with Christophe Moreau and Floyd Landis. They're almost 15 seconds back. Evans is working at the front of the dropped group, but it looks like the gap will hold. Armstrong's group of just 10 men comes in at 22:28, with Popovych, Leipheimer, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Basso, and Mancebo. Then, 20 seconds back, comes a group containing Evans, Christophe Moreau, and Floyd Landis. Vinokourov climbs up to 7th overall, as Landis slides to 9th.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Cadel Evans, Christophe Moreau, Floyd Landis, Francisco Mancebo, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Paolo Savoldelli, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

What next for Discovery Channel?

Independent Online Edition | Cycling: Bruyneel looking beyond glories of Armstrong era

What can Discovery Channel do to compete for another Tour title after Lance Armstrong leaves?

Johan Bruyneel is the man who convinced Armstrong he could be a Tour winner. He's tipped Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich as the most likely caandidates for the 2006 Tour. Discovery is believed to have recruited Basso, who signed an extension with CSC yesterday.

Bruyneel has previously identified Yaroslav Popovych, currently wearing the young rider's jersey, as the team's next great Tour hope. Now 25, Popovych won this year's Vuelta a Catalunya (the Tour of Catalonia), and was 5th in last year's Giro d'Italia; we'll likely see how long it takes him to develop into a grand tour winner.

George Hincapie's stage win on Sunday had a few people suggesting that he could be a Tour leader for Discovery, but, well, he's 32, and I think it was intended more as a nice compliment for a rider who deserves tremendous respect than a serious indication of the team's direction.

There have also been rumors of Alexandre Vinokourov joining the Discos. Certainly the Kazakh's powerful, aggressive style would make him a fan favorite, but could he master his emotions and ride a tactical race for three long weeks? Could be -- that's just the sort of description you would have gotten for Lance Armstrong pre-cancer. If anyone could convert him to a Tour winner, it would be Bruyneel, who's converted a similar rider to a 6- (maybe 7-)timer.

Who will take Discovery Channel's next podium finish, if anyone?

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (20)

July 14, 2005

Rumor: Valverde to abandon?

ElPais.com | Alejandro Valverde abandonará mañana el Tour de Francia | (rough Google translation) Spanish media are reporting that white jersey Alejandro Valverde, sitting 5th overall in the Tour, will withdraw tomorrow, the result of a knee problem apparently dating back to the Stage 4 Team Time Trial. Valverde is 3:16 off Lance Armstrong's lead and 3:09 up on Yaroslav Popovych in the young rider's competition. If he does drop out, Popovych would take over the white jersey, where he leads Andrey Kashechkin (bless you) of Cofidis by 7 seconds.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 14, 2005 in Alejandro Valverde, Andrey Kashechkin, Tour news, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

Stage 10 underway

First rider to drop out on the day was Lampre's Gerrit Glomser; he's the 16th rider out, leaving 173 in the race.

An opportunistic break was allowed to get 13:30 out in front; the biggest name and highest placed rider to make that break is Laurent Brochard, the former world champion, sitting 49th, 7:58 back this morning. Brochard, of course, has the peloton's worst mullet.

So much for "making CSC control the pace": Discovery is still doing most of the work on Cormet de Roselend. Discovery looks to be performing to expectations: Their pace is sending more than just pack fodder off the back: Iban Mayo has fallen off, and yellow jersey Jens Voigt is at the back of the lead group. Beltran is doing the pacemaking, and even Padrnos is still in the lead group, shadowing Voigt.

Brochard's group is 4:45 up the road from Armstrong, Ullirch, Leipheimer, Landis, Pereiro, Julich, Moreau, Vinokourov, and others. Voigt has yo-yoed off the back of the lead group and rejoined.

Over the top of the Col de Roselend, Pereiro attacks, and is joined by Jorg Jaksche of Liberty Seguros. The Brochard-to-big guns gap is 3:43 at the summit.

Popovych crashed on the descent, apparently with a team car, but got a new bike, and is chasing back onto Armstrong's group. Looks like he hit CSC's team car, and may have tangled and lost with the front fender of one of Discovery's Subarus.

The peloton has grown as riders dropped on the first climb chase back on. Discovery is still doing all the pacemaking.

Jaksche and Pereiro have caught the break, which is now composed of Brochard (Bouyges), Jaksche (Liberty), Pereiro (Phonak), Luis Sanchez (Liberty), Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre), Mauro Facci (Fassa Bortolo), Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel), and Joost Posthuma (Rabobank). Pereiro started 5:12 behind Voigt this morning.

Discovery has brought back everyone from the early break except Jaksche, Pereiro and Brochard, and it won't be long on those three.

Roberto Heras and Denis Menchov are toasted and off the back. Mayo reportedly likewise, Beloki is off the back. CSC finally is making a move, sending Sastre off the front. Discovery lets him dangle off the front, but he doesn't have the legs to go.

Guerini off the back, Moreau off the back, Vladimir Karpets off the back. Horner off the back. Julich off the back. Botero off the back. Five Discovery riders up front. Only about 20 riders in total still in contention. Sastre falling off this group, paying for his attempted break.

Leipheimer, Vino, Landis, Ullrich, Basso all are still in Armstrong's group. Valverde is also there. Discovery has started to pay for the pace; Popovych is the only Discovery left. Vinokourov is back at the back of the group of 16 riders; Mancebo is there. Vinokourov is dropped! T-Mobile has Klöden and Ullrich up front.

Popovych is popped, and IT'S ON! Armstrong blows the group of 14 into a group of 5 or so: Armstrong, Basso, Valverde, Rasmussen, and Mancebo! Goodbye, Klöden, Ullrich, Leipheimer, Julich, and Landis. They've still got 10 kilometers to ride!

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2005 in Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Christophe Moreau, Denis Menchov, Francisco Mancebo, Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Jens Voigt, Jorg Jaksche, Joseba Beloki, Lance Armstrong, Laurent Brochard, Michael Rasmussen, Roberto Heras, Santiago Botero, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 09, 2005

Weening nips Klöden for stage win; Armstrong isolated

Rabobank's Pieter Weening took a terrific win as the Tour de France finally hits some real climbs.

Weening was the last survivor of a long breakaway. His lead dropped to as little as 10 seconds on the chasing group of Tour contenders, but he was reinvigorated when Andreas Klöden of T-Mobile came across the gap and took most of the pulls into Gérardme.

As the line approached, Klöden and Weening wound it up, and it took race judges to determine the winner: from the photo finish, it looked like a dead heat. Liggett says it was estimated he won by 2 millimeters!

Armstrong was isolated -- Hincapie, Savoldelli, Popovych: All these guys fell off the group that mattered on a 2nd Category climb. That's a big surprise.

Armstrong: "For whatever reason, I was left alone -- we didn't have a great day as a team."

Vladimir Karpets takes the white jersey from Yaroslav Popovych; Michael Rasmussen took the polka-dots from Fabian Wegmann.

T-Mobile has got to smell blood in the water with Ullrich, Klöden and Vinokourov all surviving to the end against a lone Armstrong.

Top 10:
1) Pieter Weening, Rabobank
2) Andreas Klöden, T-Mobile, same time
3) Alejandro Valverde, Illes Balears, at :27
4) Kim Kirchen, Fassa Bortolo, same time
5) Jens Voigt, CSC, same time
6) Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile, same time
7) Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.
8) Christophe Moreaus, Credit Agricole, s.t.
9) Chris Horner, Saunier Duval-Prodier, s.t.
10) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, s.t.
17) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, s.t.
19) Michael Rogers, Quick Step, s.t.
20) Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel, same time

Azevedo and Hincapie were back at 1:25, while Savoldelli, Padrnos, Rubiera and Beltran were at 2:57.

This shakes up the GC, as well:

1) Armstrong
2) Voigt, at 1:00
3) Vinokourov, at 1:02
4) Julich, at 1:07
5) Basso, at 1:26
6) Ullrich, at 1:36 (his first appearance in the top 10 this year)
7) Carlos Sastre, CSC, at 1:36
8) Hincapie, at 1:47
9) Klöden, at 1:50
10) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at 1:50

Dave Zabriskie came in 179th on the day, at 1:01:13, but survived elimination for another day.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 9, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Bobby Julich, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christophe Moreau, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Michael Rogers, Paolo Savoldelli, Stage results, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 07, 2005

Lands of the Tour hard men

espnstar.com | Eastern promise eye Tour de France success Agence France Presse's Justin Davis profiles the current crop of eastern European stars, and looks at who might take eastern Europe's first yellow jersey. At the moment, of course, the favorite has to be Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile. There's also Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych, currently wearing the white jersey for Discovery; last year's white jersey, Russia's Vladimir Karpets of Illes Balears, and Kazakhstan's Andrey Kashechkin of Credit Agricole. Missing, is one representative of the earlier round of eastern European riders: Discovery's Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who's been riding in the European peloton since 1990. In Lance Armstrong's War, Daniel Coyle talks about "the Eastern Bloc goombahs", a group that includes Ekimov and Vinokourov, but also Jens Voigt and Jan Ullrich, Discovery's Pavel Padrnos, and the late Andrei Kivilev. Coyle offers a terrific capsule introduction of Ekimov:

The third parable ... was the Story of Eki. Thirty-seven-year-old Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov was the only rider on Postal -- indeed, perhaps the only person in Armstrong's world -- whose work ethic was beyond question. This status was underlined frequently, most of all by Armstrong's assertion that Eki was “nails.” Which raised the question: what does it take to be “nails”? This is what it took. When Eki was fourteen and living at a sports club in St. Petersburg, he rode 38,000 kilometers in one year, an average of 450 miles a week. In 1996, as a professional, he nearly doubled it ("That's not possible for a human," Landis said incredulously). But it was true -- Eki had twenty-five notebooks full of training logs to prove it. Eki had ridden thirteen tours and finished every one. Eki never missed a training day. Eki was never late or unprepared. Eki coached himself. Eki was Eki.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2005

CyclingNews TTT photo gallery

cyclingnews.com | Tour de France Stage 4 Team Time Trial

Disco butt check Heras was strong Popo's 1st jersey; probably not last
Disco butt-check, Heras resurgent and Popo's first jersey: cyclingnews.com


Velogal.smugmug.com | Velogal's Tour de France 2005 Stage 4

Sammarye “Velogal” Lewis has started posting some galleries at smugmug.com: You can order (very reasonably priced) prints of any of her shots, mostly off-the-bike shots. Today, she caught Robbie McEwen, apparently still arguing over his relegation yesterday in Stage 3.

Lewis is a co-author of Tour de France for Dummies.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2005 in 2005 Tour photo galleries, Roberto Heras, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Zabriskie's injuries unknown; Popovych in white jersey

VeloNews | Armstrong in yellow as Discovery takes ITT

Zabriskie's injuries
Z fell hard on his left side
BBC Sport
Agence France Presse quotes Bobby Julich on Dave Zabriskie's late-stage fall:
"To lose like that is like a punch in the guts," said Julich. "It's just fate-the yellow jersey can put pressure on you. I don't know exactly what happened, but it was just one of those things.

"David's incredibly disappointed. He feels responsible for losing the jersey, but I've told him not to worry and that everything he's done up until now has been brilliant."

CSC manager Bjarne Riis said Zabriskie is "in a lot of pain, but I don't know how bad he's hurt. We'll see that later."

Lance Armstrong echoed Tom Boonen's claim that Boonen might be able to win a bucketful of stages this year, and that Quick Step might therefore help Discovery control the race pace until the peloton hits the mountains:

"We know Tom Boonen - and I think he can win six or seven stages in the race - that would be good for us. He could give us a help there."


procycling.com | Discovery camp elated after TTT

Discovery dedicated the win to Viatcheslav Ekimov, one of the team's strongest time trialers, who was scratched from the team's plan after a bad training crash in April.

Armstrong said the team rode in the same order as last year, with Popovych taking Ekimov's place, and Paolo Savoldelli replacing Floyd Landis. For his efforts, Popovych bumps Fabian Cancellara out of the white jersey for best rider under 25.

Armstrong was more forthcoming, suggesting that, with Discovery Channel now occupying four of the top six places on GC courtesy of Hincapie, José Luis Rubiera and Popovych, the yellow jersey might leave his shoulders but not his team’s custody over the coming days.

That means the team may let Hincapie take a flyer one day, so he would have a shot at spending the day in yellow after all these years shepherding the yellow jersey.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2005 in Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Tom Boonen, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

Discovery announces final TdF team

Yahoo! Sport | Armstrong Confident Despite Ekimov Blow

Armstrong @ TdG ITT
Armstrong at Tour de Georgia.
Photo by Frank Steele.
Discovery Channel's final Tour squad:

Lance Armstrong
George Hincapie
Jose Azevedo
Yaroslav Popovych
Paolo Savoldelli
José Luis Rubiera
Manuel Beltran
Benjamin Noval
Pavel Padrnos

"I think we have fielded our strongest team ever with this formation," said Armstrong.

"It has many consistent elements from years past, like the Spanish armada for the climbs, strong guys like George, Pavel and Benjamin, the Giro winner in Savoldelli plus a guy like Popo (Popovych) with a very bright future."

Armstrong regrets the absence of ageless wonder Viatcheslav Ekimov, injured training near Austin in April, but says he "plan[s] on riding the race with all the toughness he (Eki) has shown over the years."


VeloNews.com | No surprises - or controversy - in Discovery's Tour line-up

team.discovery.com | 2005 Tour de France Team Announced

Posted by Frank Steele on June 22, 2005 in George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Paolo Savoldelli, Top Stories, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 12, 2005

Hink the alpha and omega at Dauphiné; Landaluze holds on GC

VeloNews.com | Hincapie wins final stage at Dauphiné; Landaluze takes overall Discovery Channel waved the flag high on Sunday, finishing 1-2-3 at Stage 7 of the Dauphiné Libéré, and giving George Hincapie an unusual double, taking the race's prologue and the last stage. Euskaltel's Inigo Landaluze was thoroughly tested, but hung on to take his biggest professional win. Hincapie and teammate Yaroslav Popovych broke away less than an hour into the stage, which included seven laps of a finishing circuit including a 2.5 km climb, where Bernard Hinault won the 1980 world championship. The two class-A all-rounders worked smoothly together and finished with 22 seconds in hand. Finally, on the last circuit, 2nd-placed Santiago Botero launched an attack, covered by Armstrong, Vinokourov, and Leipheimer, but gained only 38 seconds on Landaluze, leaving Landaluze an 11-second margin of victory. Armstrong, presumably helped by not having to pull with two teammates up the road, took the sprint, giving Discovery the top 3 spots on the day. Armstrong wound up with the Dauphiné overall points jersey, with Discovery Channel taking the team prize. Top 10: 1) George Hincapie, Discovery Channel, 3:07:10 2) Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, same time 3) Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel, at :22 4) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, same time 5) Santiago Botero, Phonak, same time 6) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, same time, 7) David Moncoutie, Cofidis, at :24 8) Wim Van Huffel, Davitamon-Lotto, same time 9) Jose Gomez Marchante, Saunier Duval-Prodir, at :45 10) Francisco Mancebo, Illes Balears, at :59 General classification: 1) Inigo Landaluze, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 28:24:46 2) Santiago Botero, Phonak, at :11 3) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :38 4) Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel, at :59 5) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, at 1:02 6) David Moncoutie, Cofidis, at 1:56 7) Jose Gomez Marchante, Saunier Duval-Prodir, at 3:54 8) Marzio Bruseghin, Fassa Bortolo, at 3:58 9) Andrey Kashechkin, Credit Agricole, at 5:04 10) Francisco Mancebo, Illes Balears, at 6:20 Also: cyclingnews.com | Stage and overall results | Stage 7 recap

Posted by Frank Steele on June 12, 2005 in Andrey Kashechkin, Dauphiné Libéré, Dauphiné Libéré 2005, David Moncoutié, Francisco Mancebo, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Santiago Botero, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Discovery to sign Vinokourov?

Eurosport | Discovery court Vinokourov - report

Eurosport quotes an article in le Parisien (premium content) that Discovery Channel is looking to sign T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov, winner of Thursday's stage to the top of Mont Ventoux at the Dauphiné Libéré.

Vinokourov is at the end of his contract. No one involved would deny the report. Discovery had previously touted Yaroslav Popovych as Armstrong's likely Tour de France successor, but Armstrong had also said there were other riders the team was interested in, “some on other teams.”

"There exists a list of riders, but we can't tell you if Vino is on it or not," Armstrong's agent Bill Stapleton told the paper.

"Ask Johan," quipped a coy Armstrong sending the newspaper's reporter to see team manager Johan Bruyneel who in Sphinx-like fashion replied "every great rider at the end of his contract interests us."

Vino himself says he won't make a decision until after the Tour.


No mention of the Vinokourov speculation.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 12, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2005

Vinokourov shooting for Tour win, but when?

VeloNews.com | Vino' focused on denying Armstrong a seventh Tour

T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov told Agence France Presse that the rest of his career will be focused on winning a Tour de France:

"I've maybe still got two or three years left in the peloton but in that time I'll be basing everything on winning the Tour," said Vinokourov, also a two-time winner of Paris-Nice. "I've won other races, but now the Tour's the only thing I'm really interested in."

The knock on T-Mobile has always been that, like the New York Yankees, they have too many prima donnas to work together as a team, and you've got to think this may not be the unquestioning declaration of team loyalty Jan Ullrich is looking for with the 2005 Tour de France less than a month away.

Ullrich was 2nd at Sunday's GP Aargau, and is headed for the Tour de Suisse, starting Saturday.

The Kazakh says he's ready to ride for Ullrich -- if Ullrich shows up ready to win.

If not, he hopes the virtual favor will be returned. There is also the factor of their other teammate Andreas Klöden, who finished second on the Tour last year, but is said to be chasing his form after a mediocre start to the season.

"The race will decide what happens," added Vinokourov. "But the most important thing for us is that one of us wins. To come second, third or fourth will not be considered a good result for T-Mobile. It's Armstrong's final season (race), and we'll do everything we can to beat him. If he turns out to be unbeatable again, hats off to him. But we'll see whose wearing the jersey into Paris."

At the Dauphiné Libéré today, Vinokourov spent about 20 minutes in an all-star breakaway with Yaroslav Popovych and Jose Azevedo of Discovery: three guys who could contend in the Tour after Lance Armstrong retires.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 7, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack