Tour de France Teams Review - Week One - Part 1
The First week of the tour has finished, a look at the teams and their strengths
and accomplishments going into week two.
By Bart Hazen
Caisse D’Epargne opened the Tour well with a top 10 rank of Vladimir
Karpets in the prologue in London. Because they have no sprinter in the team
they set their sight to see that Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro were
escorted through the first week without a major loss of time to the other GC
contenders. The team succeed in that target very well despite they lost Xabier
Zandio after a crash.
Alejandre Valverde and Oscar Pereiro spent the rest day morning with two hours
of training climbing the Col de Iseran, where the battle will probably start
tomorrow. Photo c. Abarca Sports
In the stage to Tignes, Valverde rode strongly to finish 3rd in the stage
Michael Rasmussen took command of the race and general classification. In the
general ranking Valverde is now 4th at 2.51; Pereiro is 14th at 3.54 and Karpets
23th at 6.09 and the team is second in the teams classification highlighting
their depth of talent so far. Tabbed as one of the strongest teams to
arrive at the tour Valverde, Pereiro and Karpets are proven performers in stage
races. This team has every talent and strength to bring into play to make its
mark and influence the final outcome in the next two weeks of racing.
T-Mobile had a mixed week. Their sprinters, talented as they are,
finished a few times in the top 10 with Cavendish, Burghardt and Eisel in the
sprints; but came up empty with top 3 spot. The euphoria came in the stage to Le
Grand Bornand on Saturday's stage when young gun Linus Gerdemann rounded off a
long break and took the stage, the yellow jersey and the lead in the young guns
competition. Note that this is the second time the team has captured the leaders
jersey in a Grand Tour with Marco Pinotti doing so in the Giro d'Italia this
year; for some teams this would be enough of a success; but not enough for the
magenta clad crew.
Kim Kirchen, leads T-Mobile mate race leader Linus Gerdemann and Tadej Valjavek
in stage 8. Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti
But the euphoria changed quickly after a “black” Sunday losing Michael
Rogers, Mark Cavendish and Patrik Sinkewitz. Mark Cavendish's abandon may have
been planned but the other two riders was just bad luck. Rogers crashed in the
descent of the Cormet de Roselend and injured his shoulder very badly. Sinkewitz
completed the stage but on his way back to the hotel bumped into a spectator on
the descent and broke his nose and jawbone. The spectator was the worst off as
he is in coma. On the other hand Gerdemann fought like a lion to defend the race
lead and lost his yellow jersey to Michael Rasmussen. Gerdemann, impressively is
now 2nd at 43 sec. and remains in the lead of the young rider competition.
Spot Light on Linus Gerdemann.
Losing three riders including Rogers who was team leader and riding strongly
on the Roselend and virtual leader at the time was a hard blow, but harder when
you consider the loss of Sinkewitz on the same day. Young Linus Gerdemann, now
the team leader may be the revelation of the tour and has able support of Axel
Merckx, Burghardt, Bert Grabsch, Bernard Eisel and Kim Kirchen who is riding
strongly so far this tour currently in 19th at 5:02.
Fabian Cancellara won the opening prologue with Swiss precision on the teams new
Cervelo to start his week long defense of the Maillot Jaune.
Photo © Team CSC & Tim De Waele
CSC had a stellar first week in the Tour. World Time-Trial Champion Fabian
Cancellara kicked off the Tour with a victory in the prologue in London. He even
won the stage to Compiegné after an attack in the final kilometer. On top of
that he was the owner of the yellow jersey for seven days. In the first two alp
stages both Fränk Schleck and Carlos Sastre rode strongly as they finished 5th
and 10th in the stage to Tignes. In the GC Schleck is now 9th at 3.14 of
Rasmussen and Sastre is 11th at 3.35 of Rasmussen.
Fabian Cancellara getting his seventh yellow jersey and toy lion.
Photo © Team CSC & Tim De Waele
But as we said there are two weeks of racing left and CSC is a team with
enough talent to make things happen. The team wasn't without some bad luck
in the first week. The winner of Paris Roubaix, Stuart O’Grady crashed on the
descent of the Cormet de Roselend. Stuey was brought to the hospital by
helicopter where he was diagnosed with a few broken ribs, a broken shoulder
blade and a perforated lung. Stewart will be out for months, and will be a loss
to the number one ranked team; but they still have loads of talent to back up
Schleck and Sastre who are both serious contenders for the podium in Paris.
Predictor-Lotto had not a bad week with a stage win of Robbie McEwen and
the good ranking of Evans, 6th at 2.53 of Rasmussen. The bad news was that
McEwen crashed in the first stage to Canterbury injuring his wrist. In spite of
the crash Robbie won that stage, but with the injury he wasn't feeling well the
rest of the week. On top of that he finished outside the time-limit in the
mountain stage to Tignes. But all and all the team can’t complain about their
first week. The team did a great job for Robbie setting up the sprints and they
have rode well in support of Cadel Evans. Chris Horner the rider we've seen at
Cadel's side in the mountain stages is riding well and in 27th place at 6:29 off
the pace of race leader Rasmussen. Horner and Evans generally get stronger in a
stage race in the third week.
Rabobank ended the week in glory winning the 8th stage to Tignes with
Michael Rasmussen. Rasmussen shook the general classification taking the yellow
jersey and polka dot jersey. The last one is no surprise as 'Ras' already won
that jersey twice in Paris. For the team it’s the second time in history that
Rabobank has worn the yellow jersey. A couple of years ago it was Marc Wauters
who led the race for one day. Denis Menchov, the team captain, did a great job
too as he is 10th overall now at 3.19 off his team mate.
During the first week they lost their sprinter and multiple World Champion
Oscar Freire. Freire, who finished twice as second and once as 3rd in a stage,
had to abandon due to a bout with boils on his posterior. The team is number one
in the team classification and very balanced and ready to defend the leader’s
jersey of Rasmussen and to support Menchov as well.
Ag2r earned the least money of all the teams in this Tour de France. None
of the riders were involved in breaks in the flat stages; but the most important
thing for them was that team captain Christophe Moreau didn’t lose any
additional time than he lost to Cancellara in the prologue. The team started
with three riders for a good ranking. Next to Moreau they counted on the 7th of
the Tour 2006, Cyril Dessel and the French climber John Gadret. Dessel even had
the yellow jersey last year. After the first mountain stages it became clear
that Moreau is the only rider who still plays a role in the GC as Dessel and
Gadret disappointed. Moreau is now 7th at 3.06 from Rasmussen but was one
of the best riders in the group with favorites in the stage to Tignes leading
Euskaltel was one of the teams active in animating the first week. Mikel
Astarloza opened the Tour for Euskaltel with a top 20 rank in the prologue.
Further they were almost daily active in a breakaways with Ruben Perez and Gorka
Verdugo in the flat stages and Inigo Landaluze, Amets Txurruka, Ruben Perez and
Jorge Azanza in the mountains. Landaluze put in an excellent performance
finishing second in stage 7 to Le-Grand-Bornand at about 40 sec. behind
T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann. Landaluze was also second in the G.C. ranking after
that stage. But the two best ranked riders after the stage to Tignes are Haimar
Zubeldia (15th at 4.00) and Mikel Astarloza (21st at 5.14).
We expect a strong performances from the orange warriors of Euskaltel
in the remaining stages of the Tour as the peloton heads to the Pyrenees and
ride on Spanish soil. The Basque people will line the roads with well deserved
cheers after the first weeks effort in the Alps, and support their hero’s -that
will certainly give the riders an extra boost.
Lampre came to the Tour with two sprinters (Bennati and Napolitano) and
one GC rider (Valjavec). During the sprint stages the best result of Bennati and
Napolitano was both 3rd. Napolitano in the stage to Compiegné after Cancellara
and Zabel and Bennati in the stage to Autun after Pozzato and Freire. After the
first two mountain stages their GC rider Valjavec is 20th overall at 5.03, a
solid ride for the Slovene road champion. On the other hand they lost one
sprinters when Danilo Napolitano finished outside the time limit in the stage to
Tignes. Further the team shared the effort to in the chase on stage 8 to limit
the gap on Rasmussen break because it seemed the other teams where not going to
Gerolsteiner didn't have its best first week in the Tour. They came to
the Tour with two captains (Bernhard Kohl and Markus Fothen) and one sprinter
(Robert Förster). Also they counted on Amstel Gold Race winner Stefan Schumacher
for some results in the first week. Förster finished a few times in the top 10,
Schumacher finished in the top 10 to Autun and was in a long break in the stage
to Le Grand-Bornand and Kohl was one of the riders in the long breakaway in the
stage to Tignes. But the verdict after one week of racing is that the former
maillot blanc wearer Markus Fothen is their best placed man. He is 32nd at 9.52
back, while Kohl is 51st at 24.23 behind the Dane.
Credit Agricole won a stage with Thor Hushovd in the first week. The Norwegian
won the sprint in Joigny and had a perfect lead-out with Kiwi Julian Dean. In
the other sprints Hushovd came up short but it’s still a long way to Paris and
there are still some possibilities to win more stages. To regain the green
jersey of points leader will be very difficult as he is 46 points behind on Tom
Boonen and in 4th place behind 'evergreen' Erik Zabel in second and Rober Hunter
Victory in stage 4 for Thor Husvod.
Photo © Team CSC & Tim De Waele
Young gun William Bonnet did a great job in his great prologue (18th) and
flying the teams flag in the llong break together with Chavanel, Gilbert and
company in the stage to Autun.
In the mountain stages the team has a quartet of strongmen who have already
weighed in in the attacks and breaks in the first week of the tour: Botcharov,
Fofonov and Le Mevel. Fofonov (stage 7) and Le Mevel (stage 8) were in a long
break and Botcharov is their best placed rider in the overall in 29th at 8.33.
We have to also mention a rider like Anthony Charteau as well. Charteau has had
his nose in the wind at the front of the peloton for more than a few kilometers
to chase down breakaways in the flat stages and with excellent success as Thor
Hushovd has capitalized on his efforts at least once with the stage win for the
lads in green.
Check out part two tomorrow!!