LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) – Ex-pro Erik Zabel is expecting Mark Cavendish to come out on top despite not having a full train at his disposal during this year’s Tour de France.
As a special coach and adviser at Team HighRoad, Zabel helped nurture Cavendish’s talent, but the British sprinter will see less support as Team Sky rallies around the yellow-jersey hopes of Bradley Wiggins.
Zabel said Cavendish is so good he doesn’t need a train.
“Mark has so much class,” Zabel told VeloNews. “Mark will still be winning sprints even without a full train. He can use the train of Lotto and still win. Maybe he’s not going to win five or six stages, but he will win. That is sure.”
Zabel was one of Cavendish’s closest advisers during four incredible seasons at HighRoad, helping the young, developing sprinter find his feet in such races as Milan-San Remo and in the bunch sprints at the Tour.
Zabel helped Cavendish find his feet in such races as Milan-San Remo as well as the bunch sprints at the Tour.
Since HighRoad folded last season, Zabel has landed at Katusha, where he is playing a similar role. With HighRoad, he used to drive the finale of each stage and call back details to sport directors, who would then pass them along to the riders.
At Katusha, Zabel will only be at the Tour for the first week. And the man who won the Tour’s green jersey a record six times says Cavendish is still the man to beat despite not having a full train this season.
“It’s going to be very interesting in the sprints. We will see how riders like Greipel, Sagan and Kittel can do against Cav,” Zabel said.
“I remember he would have trouble finding himself in the first few days of the Tour, but I think he has more experience now. (Sunday) is not a good day for Cav. Monday is his first real chance.”
At Katusha, Zabel says three-time world champion Freire will also be racing the sprints without much help. The team brings a strong GC squad to help Denis Menchov.
“Oscar will be the lonely soldier in the sprints,” Zabel said. “The harder finishes are better for Oscar. He can use all of his experience to try to win. Tomorrow might be his best chance.”
Cancellara calls victory one of his most special
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) called his yellow-jersey victory in Saturday’s prologue among the most meaningful of his career.
Cancellara came back from an injury suffered during the spring classics to repeat his victory in Liège from 2004.
Eight years later, Cancellara is an undisputed super-star, but he was emotional nonetheless after winning yellow in Belgium on Saturday.
“I was a young boy when I won here eight years ago. That was a very big day for me and to win again today means so much to me,” Cancellara said. “It definitely ranks near the top of all my victories.”
Cancellara said his struggles with injury relating to his heavy crash in the Tour of Flanders as well as turmoil within the RadioShack team ahead of this year’s Tour made Saturday’s win even more meaningful.
“On the first of April, when I was laying on the road and I didn’t think I could get back up,” he said. “Winning again here in Liège means so much to me. I wanted to win here so much. I am happy and very satisfied.”
The victory was Cancellara’s fifth opening-day Tour victory since 2004. He’s since won three other prologues and one other time trial win to open the Tour.
Farrar among sprinters missing time bonuses
Count Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) among the sprinters who are missing the presence of time bonuses in the Tour de France.
The Tour removed intermediate and finish-line time bonuses from the race beginning in 2009, meaning that sprinters such as Farrar cannot duke it out over the first week for a shot at the maillot jaune.
“I think it’s a pity. I think it would make the race a lot more exciting if there was a yellow jersey battle every day in the first week,” Farrar told VeloNews.
“Now, if someone wins the prologue, even with one second, so long as they finish on the same time, they keep the jersey. It’s their race, they can do what they want, but I think it would make it more exciting to bring them back.”
Racing the Tour won’t make you rich
Prize money for the 2012 Tour de France remains largely unchanged from the previous editions. The winner receives 450,000 euros, a quantity that is typically divvied up among teammates and staff.
Second and third places receive 200,000 and 100,000 euros, respectively, but the numbers drop dramatically from there.
Tenth place is worth 3,800 euros while 20th will earn 950. Riders finishing below 91st on GC receive a whopping 400 euros in prize money.
Of course, pros earn the majority of their money from their contracts with the team and performance bonuses with sponsors.
Prize money earned throughout the season is typically put into a large pool and divided up among riders and staff, based on the number of race days throughout the year.
The jerseys: Fabian’s 22nd day in yellow
Stage-winner: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) won the opening day of the Tour for the fifth time since 2004
Yellow jersey: The victory earned Cancellara his 22nd yellow jersey of his career
Green jersey: Cancellara also won the green jersey, which second-place rider Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) will wear instead
Climber’s jersey: No jersey was awarded due to the lack of any rated climbs. Five fourth-category hills are slated for Sunday.
White jersey: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) was fourth in the stage to claim the under-25 jersey, one second ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky)
Chris Froome (Team Sky) was fined 50CHF for “modifying his race bib” – Art. 12.1.040.4.2
Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) suffered cuts, scrapes to his hip; X-rays were taken at local hospital
Weather: Continued mild
More mild weather is in store for Sunday’s stage, with a high in the mid-60s Fahrenheit, west-southwest winds up to 20 mph with partly cloudy skies.
Sunday’s stage: classics course
The 99th Tour continues Sunday with the 198km first stage from Liège to Seraing. The hilly route over Belgium’s Ardennes country is sure to produce a dynamic day of racing. Four fourth-category climbs punctuate the profile heading toward the Cat. 4 uphill run to the finish line in Seraing.
The final climb of 2.4km with an average grade of 4.7 percent is ideal for the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).