News Shorts – July 24

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Here’s what’s making headlines in pro cycling and what’s coming up…

Wiggins makes British history

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) on Sunday became the first Brit to win the Tour de France in its 99 editions. He ruled from the first mountaintop finish in La Planche des Belles Filles to Paris, 14 days in the lead.

In the process, he climbed on level with Mark Cavendish – who has 23 wins – and surpassed those before like David Millar, Chris Boardman and Tom Simpson.

“It’s f$%^ing nice!” Wiggins said when he took the yellow jersey. “I always dreamt of it. I realise the position I’m in now and I have the utmost respect for it.”

Wiggins not only won the Tour, but did so with home his home team. Sky helped Wiggins get out of his contract with Garmin at the end of 2009 and join its team in its 2010 debut year. The team’s mission statement: win the Tour in five years and get more people riding their bikes.

“Thought I got egged on in the Sky thing, I sounded arrogant, I wasn’t comfortable with it [in 2010], but I was very comfortable with the fact that we could win the Tour in five years time with a British winner,” Team Principal David Brailsford told VeloNews. “It was based on evidence, thinking and facts. Whether [Wiggins] will or not, it was certainly possible.”

Rock out!

Wiggins has the French housewives’ respect with his chops. They recall 1960s, the type of mod-look he admires.

Q: What’s his favourite band?
A: “The Jam. Everyone is into music. It’s just a bit rare because I ride a bike as well. I grew up with Oasis as a teenager. It was big for a generation. I don’t know [the Gallagher Brothers].”
Q: Do you also play the guitar?
A: Yeah, I’ve got quite a collection.
Q: If you could go back in time and had the opportunity to exchange your Tour win for a guitarist slot with The Jam?
A: “That’s a very hypothetical question.”

Ching-ching

Besides the €450,000 in prize money, Wiggins will collect from the Tour, Wiggins should gain nearly €2 million in bonuses according to The Guardian newspaper.

Wiggins, it reported, has a bonus contract that awards €1.35m for winning one of the three Grand Tours. If it’s the Tour, he earns another €375,000. He also takes €50,000 extra for his Besançon stage win.

Another €1m bonus will transfer to his bank account at year-end if he wins the WorldTour overall. In addition to the Tour, he’s won the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné stage races this season.

No party?

Tour winners typically stay in Paris for a long dinner and raise a few glasses of champagne, but not Wiggins. Great Britain is focused on winning the road race with Mark Cavendish and the time trial with Wiggins.

Sky’s cyclists – Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish – flew out by private jet. David Millar stayed and had a drink with his team before leaving on Monday.

“We will have a couple of easy days Monday and Tuesday, but start thinking about the weekend and make sure we hit that weekend full on,” Brailsford said. “With the team that Mark Cavendish has for the road race… Froomy and Brad showed how strong they are, put Millar into the mix and Yogi [Ian Stannard], and you have a team that can pull anyone back on that course.”

Not even on drink?

“We will have a glass of champagne for sure,” Brailsford added, “but when you are in a phase of competition, you keep at it head on.”

Froome?

Chris Froome placed second overall in his last two Grand Tours, the Vuelta a España and the Tour de France. It was four years ago in 2008, though, we he came to our attention by being the first Kenyan to race the Tour.

Froome now races with a British licence and passport, but remains linked to Kenya. His grandparents moved there from England and his parents lived there all their lives.

He was born in Kenya with a British passport. When he was 18, he took a Kenyan passport to represent the country in the Commonwealth Games. In 2008, he switched to a British racing licence to have a chance at riding the Olympics since Kenya failed to qualify. It didn’t work in 2008 due to the rules on switching nationalities, but he is racing this year for Great Britain.

At 14 years old, Froome left Kenya and moved to Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived in Brescia and near Como in Italy while racing for Barloworld, but now the 27-year-old calls Monaco home.

Cav adds to the haul

World Champ Mark Cavendish added three to Sky’s haul of six stage wins and first and second in the overall. He won in Tournai, in Blagnac and in Paris.

“It’s been incredible. We won six stages, first and second on GC. It’s been an incredible thing to be a part of,” Cavendish added. “Today on the Champs Élysées was the cherry on the cake.”

André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) also won three stages this year.

From yellow to white

BMC Racing didn’t wave in the white flag, it simply diversified. In the Pyrenees last week, it allowed Tejay Van Garderen off the lease to realise his dream.

“Are we going to go home happy? We are going to go home satisfied that we were here and played a role in the race,” general manager, Jim Ochowicz told Cycling Weekly. “We didn’t accomplish what our ultimate objective was, which was to defend the jersey, but we came away with another jersey.”

Ochowicz stuck to the team’s goal of helping Cadel Evans to a second Tour win, but decided during the day Wednesday that 23-year-old American Van Garderen should look after himself. Evans lost pace on the Aspin and Peyresourde climbs and finished nearly 12 minutes back.

Evans placed seventh overall. In the time trial on Saturday, Van Garderen zoomed by his leader.

“Cadel’s been dealing sickness in this Tour, but I think he still has another Tour win in him. I want to return to help him,” Van Garderen said.

Besides the white jersey, Van Garderen placed fifth overall at 11 minutes behind Wiggins.

“If you were to tell me before the Tour that this was possible, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Van Garderen added. “I think it’s the start a lot of good things.”

“He’s got the skills, he can TT and he can climb,” Ochowicz added. “He has all the characteristics of a Grand Tour rider.”

Sagan unstoppable

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) became the youngest winner of the green jersey since Willy Planckaert. Both won when they were 22 years old, Planckaert in 1966 was a few months younger.

The fact that Sagan succeeded with a stage win in the Tour wasn’t surprising. However, three stage wins and the green jersey in his debut was more than most expected.

“I was convinced he was going to win the green jersey. Not three stages though,” General Manager, Roberto Amadio told VeloNews. “I thought one stage and the green jersey. … It’s a big thing, three stage wins.”

Sagan won in the first road stage to Seraing, the stage to Boulogne-sur-Mer and in Metz. The first two ended up sharp ramps, the last was a sprint against André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) after a mass crash behind.

He has 16 wins this year, more than Cavendish and at the top with Greipel. He nabbed an impressive win in Tirreno-Adriatico’s stage to Chieti, took the majority of the stages and points jerseys in the Tour of California and Suisse, and now the Tour.

What impressed us the most over the three weeks was his fight. He took risk to get points at intermediate sprints and to infiltrate the winning moves. When Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) won in Foix, Sagan put his life on the line flying down the Mur de Péguère. He bridged and collected important points for his second place.

Polka-dot Panache

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) showed panache in the Pyrenees last week. He won the mountain stage in Bagnères-de-Luchon and took over the mountain polka-dot jersey.

He laid the foundation last Monday, by escaping and gaining points in the stage to Pau. On Wednesday, he topped the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde first and won the stage. The next day, he was back at work and securing the jersey.

We give him 10/10 for panache and 1/10 for his polka-dot helmet in the time trial.

Fränk Schleck really positive

The International cycling federation, the UCI, confirmed on Friday that Fränk Schleck really did test positive for banned drug diuretic. It said that his urine B sample showed the same as his A Sample, levels of Xipamide from an anti-doping test on July 14 following the stage to Cap d’Agde.

“In accordance with the Anti-doping rules,” it said in a release, “the UCI will request the Luxembourg Federation to open a disciplinary procedure against the rider.”

Poisoning?

Schleck, who finished third last year behind his brother Andy and Cadel Evans, said that “a formal complaint will be lodged for poisoning” if the B sample confirmed the A sample.

His team has struggled all year. The brothers are reportedly not happy with new general manager Johan Bruyneel. They, along with Fabian Cancellara, complained to the UCI about not being paid.

Bruyneel skipped the Tour de France to deal with a doping investigation. He’s charged with trafficking, possessing and administering drugs in the years he directed Lance Armstrong.

He indicated he wasn’t happy with how the Schlecks raced in the months leading to the Tour. Both crashed and abandoned pre-Tour races.

Serious stuff

Diuretics can help athletes lose weight, which is important for racing faster up mountains. They can also be used to conceal a banned drug by helping the body flush it through via increased urination.

Schleck may face a six-month ban only, but could also face two years if Luxembourg’s anti-doping agency takes into consideration his past connection with Eufemiano Fuentes and the 2006 Operación Puerto doping scandal.

He admitted in 20008 to transferring nearly €7000 to a Swiss bank that Fuentes held. He said that the payment was only for training plans and that he ended contact before receiving any instructions. Luxembourg’s anti-doping agency cleared him, failing to find any other evidence of him working with Fuentes.

More Positives

The UCI also announced last week that two cyclists, Ivailo Gabrovski and Rasa Leleivyte, tested positive for EPO use.

Lithuanian Leleivyte twice won the junior women’s World Championship road race. Bulgarian Gabrovski took a surprise win in the Tour of Turkey in April while racing for a third division team. The 34-year-old’s failed test came from the race, on April 24.

What’s next?

The Olympics are on the horizon. Riders and staff are already arriving in London for the road race, 250 kilometres, on Friday. The time trial follows on August 1. Stay tuned….

Post Tour Crits start as early as Monday (today) and many of the riders who aren’t going to the Olympics will be making their way to these lucrative events. The start money is simply too good to pass up. The riders make sure these races are a spectacle for the fans, but they’re not much different than WWF wrestling.

A closing word from Wiggins…

“Thanks everyone! Cheers! Have a safe journey home and don’t get too drunk!”

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