Tour de France 2009: The Feed Zone

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Mark Cavendish played down his chances of winning the green jersey in this year’s Tour de France, but the way he sprinted to get among the points in Barcelona suggests otherwise.

He didn’t look wildly happy on the podium yesterday either, perhaps because he knew his previously handsome lead had just been cut to one point by Thor Hushovd.

But that’s the nature of the points competition. A bad day can be disastrous. Cavendish has acquired 106 points thanks to two stage wins, a third place and 16th. Hushovd has just one point less from one stage win, a second, a fourth and a tenth.

Meanwhile, missing out on victory in Barcelona has dented Cavendish’s wins to losses ratio in the sprints this season.

Cavendish has contested 19 bunch sprints in which first place has been on the line (hence the stage to Perpignan won by Thomas Voeckler is not counted).

Of those 19, Cavendish has won 15. That’s an astonishing success rate of 78.9 per cent.

CAV’S WINS IN 2009 = 15
Tour of Qatar stage four
Tour of Qatar stage six
Tour of California stage four
Tour of California stage five
Tirreno-Adriatico stage seven
Milan-San Remo
Three Days of De Panne stage two
Three Days of De Panne stage 3a
Giro d’Italia stage nine
Giro d’Italia stage 11
Giro d’Italia stage 13
Tour of Switzerland stage three
Tour of Switzerland stage six
Tour de France stage two
Tour de France stage three

Fifth place, Tour of California stage three (won by Thor Hushovd)
Second place, Tirreno-Adriatico stage three (won by Tyler Farrar)
Second place, Giro d’Italia stage two (won by Alessandro Petacchi)
16th place, Tour de France stage six (won by Thor Hushovd)

Did you know, Barcelona is the most southerly point the Tour de France has ever visited. The Tour has been there before, in 1965, when Jose Perez-Frances won the stage.

The Italian cycling federation has ruled that Filippo Pozzato’s Katusha-styled national champion’s jersey does not conform with their regulations.

Katusha’s national champions have all worn jerseys in the image of their own, with the towers of the Kremlin in Moscow incorporated into the design. The Italians feel it is stretching the traditional tricolore design too far.

Pozzato won the Italian title last month but was given only one standard red, white and green jersey in an XXL size. He needs a small. While he’s waiting for the Italian federation to deliver some standard jerseys he’s persisting with the Katusha one.

Columbia’s Michael Rogers rode to the start this morning looking like he’d been mugged and beaten up in Barcelona last night. The Australian moved tentatively as he had bandages on his right hip and elbow. A pad on his hip, under his shorts, still wasn’t enough to stop the wound seeping in to his white shorts.

Rogers crashed with 40 km to go on yesterday’s stage to Barcelona. Bernard Eisel and George Hincapie also crashed, but didn’t look as badly injured as Rogers.

Marzio Bruseghin started the stage to Andorra chasing the peloton after a last-minute change of footwear. As the riders were rolling out on the Catalan capital Bruseghin was seen riding back up through the stationary team cars shouting at Lampre staff. A quick panic ensued as the former Italian TT champ whipped off his shoes and put some different inner soles in.

Tyler Farrar was one of many riders sporting bandages following the rain-soaked stage to Barcelona. Garmin soigneur Toby Watson said: “Tyler was stiff to start with but responded well to the work we did last night and should be fine today.”

Lance fever is as big in Spain as anywhere else. The Texan’s short ride to the start in Barcelona was accompanied by a wide assortment of hangers-on, running down the road in frantic pursuit. How our editor came to be mixed up in the melee is a mystery to us. He claims Armstrong’s over-zealous security guards swept him up and took him along for the ride. We suspect he may be a fan on the quiet.  

So far we’ve seen Fernando Alonso, the Spanish Formula 1 driver, and Hollywood actor Ben Stiller at the Tour, but non-cycling celebrities have been thin on the ground. Stiller left Montpellier after the team time trial by helicopter. As for cycling celebs, dozens of them are working for the media. Former Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff, an adopted son of Barcelona having played for the club with distinction, was at the start finish in Catalonia. We’ve seen Laurent Fignon, Laurent Jalabert and Charly Mottet. Yesterday, the legendary Spanish climber Federico Bahamontes was on the Tour as a guest.

One theory explaining the crashes on the run-in to Barcelona was that the riders had too much air in their tyres. Rock-hard tyres combined with wet city streets, made slick by the diesel deposits and a day of rain, meant the roads were like an ice rink.

Those who read the previous edition of the Feed Zone which listed the riders who were called to dope control after stage two to Brignoles will recall that eight riders were tested.

The stage winner (Cavendish) and race leader (Cancellara) plus six others at random were called to give a sample that day.

Under the guidance of the AFLD the system is clearly being mixed up a bit because after Wednesday’s fifth stage to Perpignan, all of the first six on the stage, plus overall leader Cancellara were required to give a sample, rather than riders chosen at random.

And on Thursday in Barcelona, riders expected to do well in Friday’s stage to Andorra were targeted, including Alberto Contador, Carlos Sastre and Oscar Pereiro.

What a difference six weeks makes. So strong, so assured during the Giro d’Italia, Denis Menchov is a shadow of his former self in this Tour. Barely a day has gone by without him losing time.

If the Monaco time trial was bad for him, he was one of those caught out behind the split on stage three, then his Rabobank team had a distinctly average team time trial. Menchov also fell on a corner. To make matters worse he lost a minute on the run-in to the finish at Barcelona and is already 4-54 down overall before the mountains have even arrived.

We wouldn’t bet on him making it to Paris at this rate.

The Tour de France took centre stage on the front page of L’Equipe on Saturday in Monaco, but was then relegated to the top strip by other stories for a couple of days. On Sunday, the death of Olympique Marseille football club’s owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus dominated the front page, and the next day was a tribute to tennis player Roger Federer’s 15th grand slam title.

But on Tuesday, cycling dominated, with the headline Armstrong piège Contador (Armstrong traps Contador), referring to the Columbia-led split that the American made but the Spaniard missed.

The next day the time trial was main story, with another Armstrong headline, loosely translated as Armstrong – what drama.

Friday’s edition of the sports newspaper looks ahead to the first Pyrenean stage with pictures of the main Tour favourites with details of where they stand overall and how far behind Cancellara they are. Pictured in the middle is Armstrong, with Evans, Andy Schleck, Contador and Sastre around him. It looks rather odd that Schleck is shown on a time trial bike – hardly the right equipment for climbing.

Tour de France 2009 – the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.

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Stage six: Millar’s brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs

Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage

Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second

Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage

Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador

Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint

Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial


Tour de France 2009 News Index>>

Millar happy with Tour performance despite no stage win

Analysis: Fight for green jersey is between Cavendish and Hushovd

Wiggins looking ahead to Friday’s mountain stage

Analysis: Why Contador’s chances rose when Armstrong missed yellow

Delgado criticises Astana for Armstrong manoeuvre

Armstrong: Gaining time on Contador was not the objective

Stage three analysis: Why the bunch split and who gained the most


David Zabriskie’s time trial bike

Mark Cavendish on the Tour’s team time trial

David Brailsford interview

Mark Cavendish on the Tour

Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins’ chances


Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Team presentation by Andy Jones

Team presentation by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2009 – the hub
Tour de France 2009: Who’s riding
Tour de France 2009: Team guide
About the Tour de France

Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules
Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France
Tour de France anti-doping measures explained
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Cycling Weekly’s rider profiles


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