Tour de France news round-up: stage 10

No witch hunt for Lance; Hushovd and green; Evans hanging in; Frank Schleck criticises

Lance Armstrong won’t cooperate in ‘witch hunt’

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Lance Armstrong said Wednesday he was prepared to cooperate in a federal investigation into alleged doping fraud by his former team US Postal – as long as it does not become a “witch hunt”.

Cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong’s participation on the 2010 edition has been hampered by a series of damning doping allegations levelled by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis was stripped of his yellow jersey in 2006 after testing positive for testosterone and spent millions of dollars, and four years, trying to clear his name before confessing to doping two months ago.

Along with his confessions, however, were claims that Armstrong and several other riders in US Postal were involved in systematic doping practices – allegations which Armstrong has denied.

On Tuesday the New York Times reported that US authorities have issued grand jury subpoenas to potential witnesses in the probe.

According to the Times report, the subpoenas demonstrate how seriously authorities are taking allegations made by Landis.

When asked to react to the report, Armstrong said: “Like I said, as long as we have a legitimate and credible and fair investigation, we’ll be happy to cooperate, but I’m not going to participate in any kind of witch hunt.

“I’ve done too many good things for too many people.”

Accusations of doping have followed Armstrong throughout his career, although the American has never tested positive.

He has questioned the credibility of Landis, mainly because the American lied for four years before confessing to “clear his conscience”.

“Would the American people feel like this is a good use of their tax dollars?” said Armstrong. “That’s for them to decide. I don’t think the government will build a case on Floyd Landis. His credibility left a long time ago.”

Armstrong suggested it was up to the sporting authorities, like the International Cycling Union (UCI), United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to decide whether he is clean or not.

“If you think that you have an athlete that’s broken the rules – this is not baseball, this is not football… we have a governing body to deal with that,” he said.

“I have had 500 (doping) controls in my day. USADA deals with that, the UCI deals with that. WADA deals with that. We have an agency to deal with that. I have no problem playing by those rules.

“As long as I live I will deny that,” he said. “There is absolutely no way I forced people, encouraged people, told people, helped people, facilitated … Absolutely not. 100 percent.”

The federal investigation is being led by Jeff Novitzky, who led a successful probe into the BALCO doping affair resulting in a jail term for perjury for former queen of athletics Marion Jones.

Hushovd says green jersey battle is on

Thor hushovd has his sights firmly set on the green: thor hushovd has his sights firmly set on the green
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Norwegian Thor Hushovd said the battle for the Tour de France green jersey is now on after seeing Italian rival Alessandro Petacchi reduce his points competition deficit by three points on Wednesday.

“Now the big battle for the green jersey begins. Every point counts,” said Hushovd, who dominated the competition in 2005 and 2009.

Cervelo sprinter Hushovd went into the 10th stage with a total of 124 points and a 10-point lead on Lampre sprinter Petacchi, who has taken the majority of his points from his two stage wins.

Petacchi has not openly declared his interest in the green jersey but showed his aims when he raced ahead to win the stage’s first intermediate sprint at the 19.5km mark to add six points to his tally.

Hushovd finished second to claim four points with Australia’s former two-time winner Robbie McEwen in third to boost his account by two.

With an early breakaway going up the road and taking all the points offered on the stage’s second intermediate sprint, Hushovd and his rivals were left to battle it out for the remaining points on offer at the finish line.

British sprint king Mark Cavendish led all the sprinters over the finish

14:19 behind the day’s main breakaway, with Petacchi, Hushovd and McEwen finishing respectively just behind.

It meant Cavendish took 12 points, Petacchi 11, Hushovd 10 and McEwen nine and left the Norwegian, now on a total of 138, with just a seven-point lead to the Italian. McEwen is third on 116.

The green jersey could exchange hands at the end of Thursday’s 184.5km 11th stage from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence which takes the peloton back into sprinter-friendly territory.

Evans says more x-rays will decide Tour fate

Cadel evans hopes to finish the tour: cadel evans hopes to finish the tour
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Two-time runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia said his Tour de France fate could be decided by the results of x-rays on his fractured elbow in the coming days.

Evans’s hopes of winning this year’s race virtually collapsed on Tuesday when he lost around eight minutes to yellow jersey rivals Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck when he struggled on the climb of the Madeleine.

It was later revealed by Evans’s BMC team that he had been racing the ninth stage with a fractured elbow, suffered during a crash early on Sunday’s eighth stage when he took the yellow jersey.

After an emotional breakdown on Tuesday when he was left 7min 47sec adrift of new race leader Schleck, Evans got through Wednesday’s stage unscathed.

But he said that scans to check whether any bones have been displaced in his elbow could decide whether he continues the race.

“I think I have to have some x-rays in a couple of days to see if there’s any displacement. That’s a question for the radiologists,” said Evans, who nevertheless seemed upbeat about his chances of carrying on.

“I’m feeling better today, it’s a good sign. Obviously it’s not as difficult a stage (as Tuesday).

“I spoke to my manager Tony Rominger last night and he said the Madeleine’s the hardest climb in the world, so it made me feel a little bit better about everything.”

Evans was beaten to the yellow jersey in 2007 when Contador emerged from the final time trial with a 23-sec lead on the Australian.

In 2008 he was beaten by another Spaniard, Carlos Sastre – who produced the time trial of his life to beat the Australian into second place.

Evans had always finished among the race’s top ten until last year when, after a disastrous campaign with former team Silence-Lotto, he finished down in 30th overall.

He went on to make amends in style, following up a third place finish at the Tour of Spain by making history for Australia with the world road race champion’s rainbow jersey in Switzerland.

Earlier this season he placed fifth overall in the Tour of Italy.

Frank Schleck criticises Tour organisers over route

Frank schleck after his stage 3 crash: frank schleck after his stage 3 crash
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Frank Schleck after his stage 3 crash

Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, who crashed out of this year’s Tour de France, has criticised organisers of cycling’s showpiece event for “playing with the lives of riders”.

Schleck, who finished fifth in the last two Tours and whose younger brother Andy is in the race leader’s yellow jersey on the ongoing Tour, broke his collarbone in three places after crashing during the chaotic third stage.

The Saxo Bank rider hit the ground on the fourth, and one of the most difficult, of seven cobblestone sectors on the finale of the 213km race from Wanze in Brussels to Arenberg.

“Those who plan the route of the Tour have no right to play chance with the lives of riders just to create a spectacular race,” Schleck told Danish daily Ekstra Bladet.

According to Schleck, “falls are part of the sport of cycling, but it’s not entertainment. There are riders who never get back up and become disabled for life”.

“Nobody should draw up a course that almost invites falls and above all not on the Tour de France because no rider would really be happy to win the Tour if his victory was down only to Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck falling,” said the national champion of Luxembourg.

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