Tour de France news roundup, stage 16

Voigt, Bruyneel, Wiggins, Evans, Pellizotti

German veteran Jens Voigt of Saxo Bank crashed out of the 2009 Tour de France after suffering a horrible crash on Tuesday's 16th stage.

The 37-year-old temporarily lost consciousness after a heavy fall early on the descent from the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard, and was taken to hospital by ambulance after being revived at the scene.

"I only saw him after the crash and he looked very, very bad," said team boss Bjarne Riis, a former Tour de France winner. "It's not nice to lose a rider like this, but these are things which happen in a race and you have to accept them. It is too early to say how bad his injuries are, I didn't see the crash, I only saw the aftermath and it wasn't good.

"I am just concerned with Jens' health right now."

Official race doctor Gerard Porte said: "He lost consciousness for three to four minutes. He has injuries mainly to his face and when he gets to hospital in Grenoble he will be having a full scan."

Voigt -- a team-mate of Andy Schleck -- has had poor luck on the Tour recently after a flat tyre cost him the chance to stay with a breakaway group on last Saturday's 14th stage.

The 37-year-old suffered a back-wheel puncture at the 57km mark and despite receiving a new wheel from the neutral spares car, he lost his place in a 13-man escape which included eventual stage winner Sergei Ivanov of Katusha.

Voigt is the second rider Saxo Bank have lost inside a week. Their 34-year-old Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen, crashed out in the 10th stage trying to avoid a spectator.

Bruyneel leaving Astana 

Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel announced he is set to quit the Kazakhstan-backed outfit.

"It's time to turn a page in my career," Bruyneel told Flemish language channel VRT just before the 16th stage in Martigny, Switzerland.

With current yellow-jersey holder Alberto Contador and seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong in his team, Bruyneel is in charge of arguably the strongest outfit on the Tour, but he insisted the team has no future.

Internal trouble has been brewing since Monaco when banned rider Alexandre Vinokourov, who the Astana team was created around, gave a press conference saying either he or Bruyneel must quit the team after the Kazakh's doping suspension ends on July 24.

"We still had to talk about his possible return, but he gave a press conference in Monaco the day before the race started in our team hotel," said Bruyneel. "Then some whispers from the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation reached my ears and things have started to become very clear for me. Astana is finished!"

Rumours at the Tour de France suggest Bruyneel may launch a new team with Armstrong as his leader.

Yellow-jersey holder Contador, who finished Tuesday's stage with a 1:37 lead over second-placed Armstrong, said he will only consider his future once he reaches Paris.

The Spanish media reported last week Spain's two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso is planning to create a cycling team headed by his compatriot Contador, the 2007 Tour de France winner.

"I won't say anything at the moment," said Contador. "I can only concentrate on the race and there are still five days to go. Only when I arrive in Paris will I think of my future and that of the team."

Vinokourov and his Astana team were forced out of the 2007 Tour when he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion after winning the 13th stage. Bruyneel did not manage the team at that time. He and Contador won the 2007 Tour for Discovery Channel before the team folded.

Vinokourov retired last year, then said he planned to race again.

The Kazakhstan Cycling Federation banned Vinokourov for only one year, but cycling's governing body the UCI appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which lengthened his ban to two years, which runs out on Friday.

Wiggins floating in mountains

Bradley Wiggins' laid-back approach to challenging for the Tour de France yellow jersey paid off again Tuesday when he came through the tough 16th stage in the Alps unscathed.

Wiggins, who rides for the American team Garmin, has been impressing rivals and fans alike by remaining in contention for the race's yellow jersey despite only recently showing his potential as a serious racer on major Tours.

After the 16th stage, which included 48km of climbing from the total of 159km, Britain's triple Olympic pursuit champion remained in third place overall at 1:46 behind race leader Alberto Contador of Astana.

Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong is second at 1:37, however the American was among those left trailing, albeit temporarily, when an attack by Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank split the yellow jersey group.

Wiggins was able to follow the Luxemburger, and finished the stage with the main contenders 59 seconds behind Spanish stage winner Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel.

"It was one of the easier Alpine stages, tomorrow's another day really so I'm not getting too carried away," said Wiggins. "Astana controlled it pretty well for most of the day, then Andy attacked but apart from that there wasn't too much going on. If I'm in the same position tomorrow night, that will be fantastic. So we'll just see how it pans out," added Wiggins, who is keen to keep his position ahead of Thursday's individual time trial in Annecy.

First, however, there is the small matter of stage 17.

Its five climbs are shorter in length than the 24km monsters on stage 16, but are steeper. And Wiggins expects the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, to be protagonists as they attempt to close the deficit.

"They'll be lively," added Wiggins, who, unlike Frank Schleck on Tuesday, has so far shown no signs of cracking on the climbs. "When Andy puts it down (attacks) there's only three or four of us that are really there. Frank got dropped today. When it gets like that I just try not to get too panicky and too carried away."

Asked what his secret has been so far, Wiggins admits his head - and a positive attitude - is doing as much work as his legs.

"It's the same for everyone, we've all got to get up them (climbs)," he added. "I keep telling myself that. Even when Andy's attacking full throttle on the climb I try to keep reminding myself I'm not the only one who's hurting or it's hard for.

"When it's like that there's a lot of guys already gone, and it gives you confidence," he added. "I don't think tomorrow will be any different really. Physically I'm in good shape now so there's no reason to tink I won't get through tomorrow in the same position."

Asked if he, like some of his rivals, had raced stage 17 already Wiggins was his usual, laid-back self: "Other people like to do reconnaissances and all that, it doesn't work for me."

Evans concedes podium chances

Australia's two-time runner-up Cadel Evans said Tuesday he had no chance of finishing on the Tour de France podium.

Silence rider Evans had nothing to give when Luxemburger Andy Schleck's attack split the yellow jersey group on the 22.6km climb to the summit of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard on the race's 16th stage.

Evans eventually finished the stage 3:55 down on stage winner Mikel Astarloza of Spain, and nearly three minutes behind a group containing all the big contenders including race leader Alberto Contador.

Evans, the runner-up the past two years, is now 17th overall at 7:23 behind Astana rider Contador and risks his worst ever finish on the Tour, which he has never finished lower than eighth place overall.

The 32-year-old Australian said he would now struggle to finish on the podium but mystified reporters by refusing to explain the reasons to his recent collapse on the race.

"I'm out of it. I'm out of the race. For a place on the podium at least," said Evans. "Physically, everything (is) fine. But for professional reasons I can't comment on the problems I've been having."

Pellizotti tightens grip on polka dot jersey

Italian Franco Pellizotti took another step towards being crowned 'King of the Mountains' at the Tour de France by tightening his grip on the climbers' polka dot jersey on Tuesday.

On the second of three days in the Alps the Liquigas rider was one of the main protagonists in an early breakaway group, which he instigated to make sure of grabbing the points available at the summit of each climb.

Pellizotti failed to win the stage, but finished the 159km ride on a total of 159 points, with Spaniard Egoi Martinez, who gave up his bid, at least temporarily on Tuesday, in second on 101.

Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo is third overall at 97.

"I've got great form at the moment," said Pellizotti, who finished 11 seconds behind stage winner Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel. "I knew the stage would be difficult and that the breakaway would start early so I attacked right from the start. There were quite a few points on offer today. Unfortunately I didn't manage to win the stage. Astarloza attacked at the right time."

After 24.4km of climbing Pellizotti came over the top of the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard in first place to take 20 points, with fellow breakaway rider Vladimir Karpets, who is not in contention for the jersey, in second.

Fedrigo, of the Bbox-Bouygues team, came over in third to take 16 points and the Frenchman confirmed his interest in the prestigious climbers' jersey by trying to shake Pellizotti off on the day's second climb.

Pellizotti responded well, however, and reacted at exactly the right moment when Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck, of Silence, accelerated away from the group near the summit of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard.

The Italian did well to come over in first place because despite being rated a category one climb, in theory less difficult than the 'hors categorie' (unclassified) climbs, it gave him double points because it was the last climb of the day.

While Pellizotti took 30 points, Fedrigo came over the top in fifth to claim 16.

Only two stages in the high mountains remain on the race, the killer 17th stage from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand Bornand on Wednesday and Saturday's penultimate stage to the summit of Mont Ventoux.

Pellizotti added: "Wednesday is a real hard stage, we'll see how the legs recover tonight."

© 2009 AFP & BikeRadar

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