BREST, France, July 4, 2008 (AFP) – A selection of what they’re saying ahead of this year’s Tour de France, which begins here Saturday and ends on July 27:
“If they had to take the fight against doping any further, they’d have to come and live in my house! I’ve been tested by the AFLD (French anti-doping agency), by the UCI (International Cycling Union), by WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) and nada. I have to give the authorities three months notice of my whereabouts, even if I want to take my kids to the pool or go to the cinema with my wife. Does anyone have an idea of what we go through?” German Jens Voigt of CSC gets worked up over the amount of strain put on his life by the anti-doping authorities.
“Our team is strong, and we all have a chance to do something here. We’re treating each stage like 21 individual races. Kim (Kirchen) is going for the general classification. In an ideal world we will finish in Paris with a top five finish and two stage wins.” Team Columbia team manager Rolf Aldag gets excited about his new team.
“When I actually got there and saw the hill, I thought, ‘jeez what was I fighting for! It’s hard, in fact it’s bloody hard. At the top you’ve got a right hand hairpin – in any finish, on top of a two-kilometre climb – that’s going to sap you’re strength. Then about 400 meters to the finish.” Robbie McEwen says there’s virtually no chance of a sprint finish at the end of the race’s first stage, which ends just after Cadoudal climb.
“After the Pyrenees there are three tough days in the Alps. For me, it’s the key to this Tour. But it’s not just the Alps themselves that will be decisive, it will be the accumulation of efforts. By the time we get to the Alpe d’Huez (stage 17) we will all be super tired.” Caisse d’Epargne’s yellow jersey contender Alejandro Valverde outlines the difficulties that lie ahead.
“I am, thank you very much! I’ve lost a bit of weight. It all started when I rode the Tour last year – you can no longer see any amateur in yourself. You’re completely professional when you’re eating, and professional when you’re training as well. I put that down to the Tour last year. It’s worked wonders.” British sprinter Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia responds positively, then explains why he’s looking so svelte ahead of his second participation on the Tour.
“The way he sprints, he does remind me a lot of a younger me, although he’s got a lot rougher head than I have! I’m not saying I’m beautiful, I’m just saying he’s got a rougher head. Oh, he can take a joke.” Australian Robbie McEwen has a quick jibe at sprint rival Mark Cavendish before their anticipated tussle on the flatter stages of the first week.