Tour de France rest day briefs

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The riders of the Tour de France arrived in Brittany last night and today on their rest day they get to go for an easy ride and fill their days with press conferences. With little else going on today, here are some news shorts courtesy of AFP:

Teams gather in Brittany

Immediately after the finish of the ninth stage of this year’s Tour in the Pyrenees, the remaining members of the peloton headed straight for Tarbes airport to catch flights to Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. There they were due to spend the first rest day of this year’s race — a welcome one at that after a gruelling last nine days — before returning to the roads on Tuesday at Saint-Gildas-des-Bois. Meanwhile, other team officials and journalists had little choice but to travel the near 700 kilometres north by road.

Top of the class

France’s leading sports daily L’Equipe awarded the riders 20 out of 10 for their performance on what was described as a “crazy” stage nine on Sunday and for agreeing to donate all prize money earned on the day to the victims of the recent flooding in the nearby departments of Haute-Garonne and Hautes-Pyrenees. Each team also agreed to donate a shirt signed by all of their riders to be auctioned off in order to help the relief effort. That move brought praise from the French president Francois Hollande, who was in the Pyrenees to attend Sunday’s stage.

Absalon takes on Tour challenge

France’s two-time Olympic gold-medal winning mountain-biking star Julien Absalon came in second place on Sunday in the 21st edition of the Etape du Tour, an annual event which allows cycling lovers to challenge themselves along a stage of the Tour de France. In this case, 11,475 riders took on the 130 kilometres from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz, which will welcome the 20th stage of the Tour itself. Absalon came home behind Nicolas Roux, who also won last year’s edition of the race, while other sporting celebrities such as former Formula One driver Alain Prost and Nordic Combined ski star Jason Lamy-Chappuis also took part.

Schleck linked to Astana move

Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, the brother of former Tour winner Andy, has been linked with a move to Kazakh outfit Astana. The elder Schleck was dumped by his team RadioShack last week, just days before completing a suspension for using a banned diuretic, in a move that angered his brother. L’Equipe reported on Monday that Astana have offered Franck a deal for the remainder of this year with an option to team up with Andy in 2014. Astana have already lost three riders from this year’s Tour, with Janez Brajkovic, Fredrik Kessiakoff and Andrey Kashechkin all having pulled out.

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