Cancellara strikes

The Tour de France returned to Liège eight years after its last Grand Départ in 2004 to find things had stayed the same, Fabian Cancellara is still numero uno in time trialling.

Despite the emergence in recent years of Germany’s Tony Martin (OmegaPharma-Quick Step), who punctured on Saturday, Cancellara still knows how to pull it all together for a major time trial win.

Fabian Cancellera heading for rider sign on during stage 3 of Tour de France in Orchies

“I have memories of winning eight years ago and that was very special,” said Cancellara. “When you are 23 and win, then eight years later do it again, it’s a very special thing for me, my family and especially for the team.”

Cancellara won the world title four times and the Olympic title in Beijing in 2008. At the Tour, he has won the opening time trial five times.

Sagan amazing

In Peter Sagan’s first Tour de France, he delivered twice. He handled an attack by Cancellara and kept cool to the finish on Sunday in Seraing and won again in Boulogne-sur-Mer on Tuesday. He’s now won stages in most tours around the world. He also has collected a few points jerseys and made a plan to do so here at the Tour.

Liquigas-Cannondale’s trainer, Paolo Slongo thinks that more is possible for the 22-year-old.

He told Cycling Weekly, “My personal bet is that – with the proper maturation, weight loss – is that he’ll become a Grand Tour rider. Like Armstrong, who began his career as a bigger rider, a little brash, who no one gave much faith. He has no limits in the one-day races and I’m betting on the Grand Tours as well.”

An interesting exchange between Cancellara, Cav and journalist

The press conference on Tuesday was almost as interesting as the sprint finish to Tournai. Cancellara came into the pressroom to respond to questions and then Cavendish joined in. The last question to Cancellara perked ears.

Journalist: “Is your team or the others envious of Sky?”

Fabian Cancellara: “What’s so special? Their cars? The nice helmets? I don’t know, you have to tell me, I don’t know.”
J: “The level of detail. For example, how we see them warming down. You don’t see other teams doing that.”
FC: “Warming down?”
J: “Yes, cycling outside the bus.”
FC: “Ah, rollers (he pronounced it ‘Rulers’ – ed)!”
J: “Yeah, cooling down.”
FC: “No, I’m not jealous now. First, that’s most important, you have to do in what you believe and in what you think is best for you. They just do what’s best for them and I do what’s best for me. What I’m going to do now? I don’t know, maybe go swim, go on my rollers or I’ll go jumping around, I don’t know. Everyone has his best way. What matters in the Tour is recovery, recovery, recovery. We have a nice cook who does a great job. Every night we get high-level food. We have our soigneurs. I saw 10 teams in the Tour de Suisse doing rollers after the race, but you have to keep doing what you believe in. That’s important.”

Cavendish comes into the room.

MC: “Can I ask, who asked that last question?”
J: “Me”
MC: “You’re banned from asking questions to me. That’s mental! You’re banned from asking questions.”

Needed win for RadioShack

Cancellara delivered RadioShack-Nissan a much needed win and coloured its days a wonderful yellow. The team has been struggling in recent months with paying salaries, injuries and doping.

“Internally for us, the situation is pretty different,” Sports Director Luca Guercilena told Cycling Weekly. “The big problem is lacking results. We were focusing on this and getting a result. In the end, it paid.”

1. Salaries: The international cycling federation, the UCI confirmed that the team hasn’t paid three riders’ salaries since May. One of those is rumoured to be Jakob Fuglsang, who said he’ll leave the team at the end of the year.

2. Injuries: Star Andy Schleck fractured part of his pelvis in the Critérium du Dauphiné and sat out the Tour. His brother Fränk placed third last year, but this year says he’s too tired from racing. Unwillingly, he raced the Giro d’Italia in May.

3: Doping: On Friday, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged the team’s general manager, Johan Bruyneel as part of its investigation of Lance Armstrong. They said Bruyneel possessed, trafficked and administered drugs, and that he helped cover up his riders’ drug use in his years running US Postal, Discovery Channel, Astana and RadioShack, through 2010.

Jakob Fuglsang (Radioshack-Nissan) pictured during Danish national time trial Time Trial championships (2012) in Hammel, Denmark

US anti-doping charges Armstrong of cheating

The USADA on Friday pushed ahead with its investigation’s findings and charged Armstrong of doping for most of his professional career. An arbitration panel could hear the case by November, when it could strip the seven-time Tour winner of his wins and issue him a lifetime ban.

As part of the USADA’s pursuit of truth and clean sport, it charged Bruyneel, trainer Michele Ferrari and two team doctors.

Armstrong insists he won and raced clean. He issued a response to the USADA after its original claims and via his lawyer, recommended that the USADA “not pursue the charges that were submitted because there is no evidence to support them.”

He showed disrespected for the agency push to rid sport of cheating. On Saturday, he wrote in Twitter, “I refuse to be distracted by @usantidoping’s antics. It’s 2012, I’m gonna continue to lead @LIVESTRONG, raise my 5 kids, and stay fit!”

Hincapie makes history

George Hincapie (BMC Racing) rode into the history books Saturday in Liège, becoming the only cyclist ever to start 17 editions of the Tour.

“It’s been a tough decision and a lot of people were shocked, but at the same time it’s been 19 years,” Hincapie said. “There’s probably a hand full of guys who’ve done 19 years in any sport, that’s a long time to do anything.”

George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) pictured during stage 5 of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California

Hincapie won a stage in 2005, help Lance Armstrong win, Mark Cavendish sprint and last year, Cadel Evans to his first Tour victory. In addition to the Tour record, according to VeloNews, he finished a record number, 17, of Tour of Flanders and tied at 14 the Milan-San Remo participation record.

He’s also tied to Armstrong via the US doping probes, first rumoured to have testified to his and others’ doping in the federal-level case and in the recent one led by the USADA.

Troubles in Italy

Italy has investigated and banned several of its riders in recent years due to doping. Several riders are making headlines in recent days.

Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini): The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recommended him a one-year ban for dealing with Ferrari from 2005 up until 2010. He was caught lying in the hearing, not telling the exact years that he worked with Ferrari.

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar): CONI heard him on Wednesday for his Ferrari links.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD): His hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but postponed until a later date sometime after the Tour. He faces a lifetime ban for dealing with Ferrari, as it could be his second anti-doping infringement after Operación Puerto.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre-ISD): Investigates tied him to Ferrari and the UCI asked the Italian federation to investigate him after suspicious biological passport readings. He retired on Wednesday after the UCI’s request.

Riccardo Riccò: It’s like a very bad soap opera. The Snake won’t go away. Italy banned him for 12 years in April, but on two weeks ago, he appealed the decision to the sport’s high court, CAS, in Switzerland. It appears he wants to return to race.

New Hangzhou Tour in China

The Tour of Hangzhou received a four-year WorldTour licence and the right to host all 18 first division teams. The tour will debut from October 17 to 21 and follow on the heels of the Tour of Beijing, October 10 to 14.

Cycling federation’s president, Pat McQuaid said in a press release, “One year after the success of the first Tour of Beijing, we are delighted to offer the world of cycling – riders, teams, partners, media, spectators – this new opening in Asia which widens the horizons of our sport and lends it new weight.”

Lotto for the fans

Names of 999 Belgian cycling fans on the back of Lotto Belisol team bus.

Belgian team, Lotto-Belisol are reaching out to the fans for charity. They’ve gathered the names of 999 Belgian cycling fans, put them all on the back of the team’s bus and 111 each on the back of each rider’s jersey.

Those fans will be able to buy the jersey with their name on it. The jerseys actually worn by the riders in the Tour will be auctioned for charity.

Sky extends with Pinarello

Team Sky extended its contract with classic Italian bike company, Pinarello on Friday. The agreement, first put in place for its debut season in 2010, now continues through 2013.

“Working with Team Sky has been hugely rewarding for Pinarello in the last three years and we are delighted that the team will again use our bikes during the 2013 season,” said Pinarello president and son of the founder, Fausto Pinarello.

“We’re already working hard to ensure Team Sky will again have the best bikes in the peloton in 2013.”

Sky will use the Dogma 2 and Graal time trial frame at this year’s Tour de France. Wiggins raced Pinarello to victory in three stage races this season and last year, took a silver medal at the worlds TT on the Graal. With World Champion Mark Cavendish joining this season, Pinarello has even an even greater chance for publicity and product developments.

Tour of Beijing goes mountainous

Tour of Beijing organiser announced its 2012 parcours, October 9 to 13, will lack a time trial and feature a summit finish.

“We found roads with climbs used by the local cyclists. The end result is that the Tour of Beijing is harder,” Alan Rushton, the race’s managing director according to Cycling Weekly.

Tony Martin won the opening time trial by 17 seconds last year and maintained that lead ahead of David Millar until the end. The organiser wants something different this year. It brought in the climb to the Badaling Great Wall, near where Spain’s Sam Sánchez won the 2008 Olympic road race.

The final day also features a difficult climb. Though not at the end, it comes close to the stage finish and leaves only about 10 kilometres of flat road to the finish.

The same organiser will announce China’s Tour of Hangzhou route, October 17 to 21, soon.