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Tour de France Teams Review - Week One - Part 1
By Staff
Date: 7/16/2007
Tour de France Teams Review - Week One - Part 1

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
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 

Team CSC
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 attacks.

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 do that.

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
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 of Barloworld.

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!!

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