Cycling: Cancellara pounces and O'Grady bounces

9th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, July 8, 2007 - There were few teams more emotional - and rightly so - after the Tour de France prologue here on Saturday than CSC.

LONDON, July 8, 2007 - There were few teams more emotional - and rightly so - after the Tour de France prologue here on Saturday than CSC.

Indirectly forced to leave their emblematic manager Bjarne Riis at home because of his recent admission to doping in the 1990s, the determined Danish outfit were given a quick scare when top rider Stuart O'Grady came crashing down during his promising prologue performance.

O'Grady got back, and after some medical care was given the all clear to keep on racing albeit with a scraped back, and a sore thigh muscle which he should feel for the next few days.

"He landed pretty hard, and probably won't sleep well tonight," said CSC team manager Scott Sunderland.

Without his crash on one of the final, and only tight, corners at a speed nearing 60 km/h O'Grady would have done much better than his 179th place, at 1min 23sec behind his victorious Swiss teammate Fabian Cancellara.

At the 4.5km time split O'Grady, who earlier this season succeeded Cancellara as the champion of the tough Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, had been leading.

"It was probably one of the fastest and tightest corners, and I was just on the limit for nine minutes. You try to be in the zone - I was going for the win and pushing it too hard," said O'Grady.

"I think I was doing just under 60. I wasn't really slowing down. I thought I had a good apex but obviously it wasn't good enough.

"I knew it was tight. I'd warned the guys in the morning, but as I said I thought I would be okay.

"But you win some, you lose some."

Barely two hours later, O'Grady's pains - on his leg, and his back - were sidelined as Cancellara swept the pretenders aside to claim victory after 7.9km of racing around the landmarks which make London famous, but which home favourite Bradley Wiggins may be glad to see the back of.

Wiggins, a pre-race favourite like Cancellara, finished in fourth place having believed he had done the race of his life.

"I gave it everything. I thought I'd really had the perfect race. I didn't brake at all throughout. But I couldn't have gone any faster," said Wiggins.

At the end of the day, Cancellara just couldn't be beat.

It was the 26-year-old who succeeded Australian Michael Rogers as world time trial champion last year, only months after he had used his solo speed strengths to win Paris-Roubaix with a daring solo attack.

Russian Vladimir Karpets, who finished in a promising sixth place for his Caisse d'Epargne team, admitted Cancellara - and Kloden - were simply a notch above the rest.

"My performance wasn't too bad, but Kloden and Cancellara were amazing," said Karpets, who is programmed to help the yellow jersey bid of Alejandro Valverde while aiming for a top finish himself.

Despite Riis's past catching up with him, CSC have spent the past year reiterating their commitment to a clean sport, and last month even published the results of their riders' blood tests.

It was perhaps fitting that Cancellara, who 24 hours earlier had warned the press that he would be the man to beat, had a word of support for Riis - the man under whom he has developed into a world class rider.

"This yellow jersey represents a new chance for cycling," said the 26-year-old, who alluded to the doping affairs which have left cycling battling for its credibility.

"Everyone is aware of the (doping) problems in cycling. But I'm doing this sport to show that I can be an example for the future."

It remains to be seen how long Cancellara can keep hold of the fabled tunic, but O'Grady will be hoping there's not too much demand on his services in the coming days.

"I took a pretty big blow to the thigh, that's probably the sorest part. It'll take a few days just to run the legs in. I'll be taking it as easy as possible."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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