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Tour de France Team Review - Week One Part 2
By Staff
Date: 7/17/2007
Tour de France Team Review - Week One Part 2

Tour de France Team Review - Week One Part 2
The First week of the tour has finished, a look at the teams and their strengths and accomplishments from London to Tignes and what to expect going into week two.

By Bart Hazen

Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel started the Tour with Contador and Leipheimer as the team captains. With super domestique riders like Hincapie, Martinez, Gusev and Popovych the team has its usual depth of talent. Disco rolled off to a  good start in London at the prologue with George Hincapie and Gusev in the top 10. The young Russian talent also took the first Maillot Blanc of the 2007 tour.

During the first week the team lost Thomas Vaitkus after a crash in the stage to Gent where he broke his wrist. In the first days the team escorted their captains through the flat stages without a loss of time, keeping them in position for the coming mountain stages.  Hincapie and Popovych where in several breaks in the first mountain stages; leaving Leipheimer and Contador to sit in on the peloton and not waste energy chasing and maintain their position in relation to the other favorites. Going into the mountains Contador participated in attacks and he showed stronger than Leipheimer, no surprise as Levi has planned his form and effort for the second half of the race. In the rankings Contador is now 8th at 3.10 from Rasmussen and Leipheimer is 13th at 3.53. But with more mountain stages and time trials to come is in a strong position without having burned much in their reserves to support Levi or Contador in the race for the podium.

Bouygues Telecom
Bouygues Telecom started with the French hero Thomas Voeckler who wore the yellow jersey for 10 days in the Tour a few years ago garnering the young rider a lot of attention and fame. In the first week Laurent Lefevre and Mathieu Sprick were both active in breakaways and Lefevre battling for the first KOM points. In the stages to Le-Grand-Bornand and Tignes Lefevre, Pineau and Voeckler were very active flying the flag of their sponsor but came up short on the real deal of a stage win. We expected more from riders like former French champion Pierrick Fedrigo, the winner of San Sebastian Xavier Florencio and the Swiss young gun Johann Tschopp, but who knows what they will do in the next two weeks? What we expect to see are more attacks and raids with the hopes of a stage win.

Agritubel is one of the wild card teams along with  Astana and Barloworld. It doesn’t surprise the team got an wild card because it’s a French team. In the first stages the team was involved in several breakaways with Freddy Bichot, Nicolas Vogondy and Cedric Hervé. In the sprints they reached some top 5 results with their promising young sprinter Romain Feillu.

In the second stage to Canterbury the team lost Eduardo Gonzalo after a crash. In the mountain stages they hoped on some performances from Juan Miguel Mercado but despite some attacks his performance lacked the punch to produce a definitive result. They also lost Romain Feillu and Cedric Hervé in this weekends stages. Mercado is the best ranked rider of Agritubel overall in 59th place at 29.31. Losing three riders in the first week can't help the teams morale, springing back in the next two weeks the team will be animating the breaks and looking for a stage win to validate their selection as a wild card.

The team in all red jersey was certainly one of the most active teams in the first week with Stephane Auge, Bradley Wiggins, Cristian Moreni and Sylvain Chavanel. Both Auge and Chavanel traded off the polka dot jersey for a few days and Bradley Wiggins was 4th in the prologue and rode in a day long break this week. In the first mountain stages Auge, Chavanel and Moreni rode in the breaks again but without any remarkable results. The team rode a very active first week but I’m sure the team will be active in hunting for a stage win as well in the next two weeks. Chavanel is the best ranked rider of Cofidis. He is 33rd at 10.50.

Liquigas came to the Tour with former US Postal Manuel 'Triki' Beltran as rider their captain for the GC and with Filippo Pozzato as a stage hunter. They succeeded in winning a stage with Pipo Pozzato having the fastest legs at the finish in Autun. Further we saw a good prologue of Quinziato and some active attacks from Aleksander Kuschynski and Frederik Willems. Willems was one of the best riders to Compiegne and it looked like he could win the stage until the final 400 meters when the break was reeled in by the Cancellara led peloton. The mountains are where Beltran will have to work his magic; but after the stage finish in Tignes he is 16th overall at 4.19, not a bad start and with the Pyrenees still to come Beltran may have a few tricks up his sleeve to improve his placing and possibly a stage win on his home turf. The Liquigas lads have shown a talent all year to surprise from the spring classics to the Giro... I expect them to continue the hunt for another stage win in the next two weeks.

La Francaise des Jeux
La Francaise des Jeux showed themselves well with a good prologue by Benoit Vaugrenard, the new French TT champion. Sebastien Chavanel has sprinted several times in the top 10 and even top 5 and Philippe Gilbert and Mathieu Ladagnous went in a long breakaway. Ladagnous was in a break with Vogondy in the longest and slowest stage (finish after 18.30) of the Tour. In the mountains the team counted on Casar and Lövkvist but both so far have disappointed. Casar, the 6th of the Giro 2006, was dropped too early in the mountain stages. He is now 84th overall after the Tignes stage at 40.49 of Rasmussen. Lövkvist is 69th overall at 35.39

The best performance so far from the FDJ guys comes from Benoit Vaugrenard. As we said he rode a good prologue and has been aggressive in breaks and willing to attack in the mountain stages. He has demonstrated he has lots of potential as he still is a young rider. In the next two weeks the team will have to hunt for stage wins as they can forget any G.C. hopes they had. 

Quick Step/Innergetic
Quick Step had a really good first week as winning two stages with Gert Steegmans and Tom Boonen. After one week of racing Boonen also has a comfortable lead in the green jersey ranking. He leads with 13 points on Zabel and 44 points on Hunter. The team accomplished its task of chasing breaks back, controlling the final kilometer and delivering Boonen to the finish. In the tougher stages we saw some attacks from Tankink, Barredo and Garate as well. Tankink was 9th in Autun and was one of the animators in the stage to Le-Grand-Bornand. In the stage to Tignes Garate and Barredo tried there luck and showed that the team is in great shape. Garate is the best ranked rider of the team. He is 17th overall at 4.19 of Rasmussen. But be sure that we will see this team more than once in the next two weeks. They have riders for all kinds of roads but no real GC contender; the goal is stage wins and the Maillot Vert in Paris and they are well target after the first week.

Milram started the Tour without their team captain Alessandro Petacchi due to a positive test on Salbutamol in the Giro D’Italia. Petacchi was replaced by Andriy Grivko. Due to the absence of Petacchi the team had to rethink their goals and tactics. They can go for a sprint with Zabel? But Ete is strong as he is, is not the dominating sprinter he was years ago despite this he continues to deliver.  Zabel sprinted several times in the top 10 and in the top three and had the green jersey for one day as well. In the first week we saw lots of attacks from riders like Marcel Sieberg, Christian Knees and Andriy Grivko.  The best ranked rider after the stage to Tignes is Christian Knees. The German is 41st at 17.42 of Rasmussen and rode very actively in the mountain stage to Le-Grand-Bornand. In the next two weeks we will see for sure Milram riders on the attack animating the race and hunting for stage wins. Erik Zabel is still in the run for the Green jersey, but it will take a good run of luck and form to displace Tom in Paris.

Astana was the team to watch before the Tour started. With riders like Klöden, Kaschechkin and Vinokourov they looked unbeatable. The team started well in the prologue with a second place for Klöden and some good ranks of Vino and Kaschechkin as well. In the stage to Autun everything changed as both Klöden and Vinokourov crashed very hard. Vinokourov lost 1.20 in that stage while Klöden finished in the main bunch.  The next stages the Astana team suffered and in the first mountain stage to Le-Grand-Bornand the team was happy that the captains could follow the pace. They even sent Paolo Savoldelli up the road in a break as the two captains bided their time in the peloton to recover.

In the stage to Tignes it was Antonio Colom's turn to be in a break. Colom was able to follow Rasmussen a few km up to Tignes. On that climb Kaschechkin, Klöden and Vinokourov could only attempt to limit their time losses. In the end Kaschechkin was the best man for Astana with Vinokourov dropped and Klöden escorting Vino. I don’t think that was a smart move by Astana to let Klöden wait?, because the German has a good time-trial and was strong enough to follow the group of favorites behind Rasmussen. In the overall ranking Kaschechkin is 5th at 2.52 of Rasmussen, Klöden 12th at 3.46 and Vinokourov 22nd at 5.23. The team is still in the game with Klodi and Kaschechkin. With Alexandre Vinokourov its hard to say if his G.C. hopes are dashed... but few of the leaders will let him escape to gain the the time he needs to to be in contention again. Astana has their work cut out for them in the next two weeks; but they still have a the talent to be easily dismissed to make a comeback.

Saunier Duval/Prodir
Saunier Duval has had a very good first week. After a disappointing prologue from Millar, he took some revanche in the first stage on long break and collected the points to lead the KOM and wear the jersey for a few days. Ventoso did his best in the bunch sprints but without success.

In the mountain stages the Red Birds  really showed great efforts with a 3rd place of De la Fuente in Le-Grand-Bornand and a 2nd place of Mayo in Tignes. Also Cobo Acebo was among the best riders in the mountains and riders like Millar and Camano did a great job supporting the team. Iban Mayo is their best man for the GC as he is 3rd at 2.39 of Rasmussen. Cobo Acebo is 30th at 8.33, he was in the top 20 until he lost 4.00 in the stage to Autun won by Pozzato. In the next two weeks we will see the red bird team for sure in the Pyrenees with Mayo and Cobo and we expect that Millar will want to contribute to the team in a show of strength in the coming time trials. .

Team Barloworld
Last but certainly not least we will discuss Barloworld. Barloworld is one of the wild cards teams with Astana and Agritube. The team with the South African sponsor showed in the first week that theier wild card is deserved. Robert Hunter finished a few times in the top 10 in the sprints; he was even second behind Hushovd in the stage to Joigny. In the stage to Autun we saw a great effort by Giampaolo Cheula and in the mountain stages it was up to Mauricio Soler, Kanstantsin Sioutsou and Felix Cardenas.

Cardenas tried a few times in the beginning of the mountain stages but didn’t get escape. In the stage to Le-Grand-Bornand it was Soler who finished as 4th at 2.14 behind Gerdemann and showed the world what  potential he has. Even Sioutsou, former U23 world champion, rode very well. In the stage to Tignes the three riders of Barloworld tried again but without success. But we are sure it’s certainly not the last things we will see from this team in the remaining two weeks. Sioutsou is the best ranked rider. He is 25th at 6.18 of Rasmussen while Soler is 27th at 7.31 of Rasmussen. But there are more mountain stages to come and so these guys will be very motivated to show themselves.

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