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The Mench speaks


Mar 17, 2009
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We asked 606 users for their questions for Denis Menchov and put them to the Russian during Monday's rest day in the Tour de France, with the help of the BBC's Russian service..

Menchov won the Giro d'Italia in May, despite a crash in the last mile of the closing time trial.

But he has struggled so far in the Tour and on Monday the Rabobank rider was 27th in the overall standings, five minutes and two seconds behind yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini.

BBC question: How do you feel your Tour is going after the first week and what happened in the unlucky first time trial in Monaco?

Denis Menchov: Of course the position is not as it could be expected. At the beginning I felt lack of the competitive rhythm.

No matter how active I was preparing after Giro I didn't come in a better shape. It is also important to note that the time trial was untypical.

Instead of a light plain stage it was a very difficult one. And than there was that fall in the team time trial. However the gap is rather huge.

BBC: What happened in the team time trial? Did you hit a patch of oil when you crashed or did you misjudge the corner?

DM: Our team started among the first and there was a slippery road. As usual in the city centres asphalt is worn-out and shiny.

During the training session you aren't as fast as on the distance. That's why we had no information about the quality of road and the danger in this corner in particular.

BBC: Do you still think you can challenge for the yellow jersey?

DM: Nothing is impossible for sure, especially as I feel much better now. There was some crisis after the fall, my body behaved disobediently.

But after some mountains stages my overall health improved. To be realistic it will be hard to fight for the first place, especially given Astana's performance.

BBC: And what are now the targets for you and your team?

DM: My team continues to do everything possible to help me save energy for the latest stages. The hardest work awaits us in the last week.

Neither I nor the team have set a definite target. There is a will to compete for something big if health allows.

But for now we need a stage win and then we'll be able to face other challenges. My leadership in the team is not "up-to-date". Defending 27th place is uninspiring.

BBC: It was rather unusual to see you in a role of water-carrier for your team mates at the end of stage nine. What was the reason?

DM: The situation dictated that I should do it. There were three Rabobank riders in the head of the main group including Oscar Freire, who had chances to win the sprint if the group caught the break-away duo. So I told them that I would help at the last kilometres.

From Groenhoven: Having won the Giro and having only a month to prepare for the Tour de France, how do you feel that impacted on your chances for Tour?

DM: Basically the pause for a rest was rather comfortable. Perhaps it was worth taking part in a one-day race but there was no proper race in calendar.

Also, it was too risky to take part in a bigger races in the lead-up to the Tour because I could not made a full recovery from the Giro.

From TheDrunkMonk: If you're finding it a bit too easy in the Tour, will you throw yourself off your bike again to keep the excitement levels as high as they were in the Giro?

DM: It depends on the situation - it's difficult to predict. Some mountain stages in the Pyrenees were absolutely meaningless. Nothing really was changing there because the mountains were far from the finish.

It will be much more interesting in the Alps. Furthermore I have nothing to lose. May be I can succeed in my efforts.
From northernneil: With Cadel Evans in a 'weak' team, Carlos Sastre in a brand new and inexperienced team, Alberto Contador in a team which contains Lance Armstrong and has had a somewhat difficult time recently, I think it would be safe to say at that this is your best ever chance to win the Tour - do you agree?

DM: That may have been possible before the beginning of Tour but now I have a massive gap even from Evans and Sastre - some two minutes or more.

Evans and Sastre could benefit if there is a lack of coordination between Astana leaders. But that will be there only chance.

Otherwise Astana will get to finish first with both Armstrong and Contador having equal chances to win. I can't give a 100% guarantee on one of them.

Several fans' questions: What do you think about Lance Armstrong's return to racing?

DM: Understandably it's not the same Armstrong who retired from racing four years ago but let's wait for the last two weeks when we'll get the real answer.

From Cavsupporter: You are tied with Contador for Grand Tour wins but he receives much more attention. Does this fact annoy you or do you find it helpful?

DM: I don't know, maybe it's better for me. The less attention you receive, the more you remain in somebody's shadow, that can be truly helpful in some moments.

From tom oo: Which do you prefer: pink or yellow?

DM: Actually none of these colours is my favourite but as to races, I had few of them in yellow and almost two weeks in pink at the Giro. Of course I liked it more.

Whichever colour you wear - at the Tour, at the Giro, at the Paris-Nice race or others - you will be in the spotlight for fans and your opponents.

From UrlaubInPolen: May I ask what was running through your mind in the time between the fall and crossing the line in Rome, and if at any point you felt that victory was in danger after a week of stunning defensive riding?

DM: I had no time for panic so I can't remember any thoughts of that moment. On top of that I knew that there was only 500m to finish and I had enough time to win despite the fall.

From george_costanza: Who was the team member who provided you with the new bike [in Rome], and did he get a bigger bonus than usual, after what must be the swiftest bike change ever?!

DM: In the first instance I tried to pick up the bike but suddenly I understood that it was broken.

And them Rabobank's mechanic, Vincent, came along. I talked to him the evening after the race finished but even then I had no idea how fast the bike change took place.

I've noticed it only after watching video clips on internet and TV. I think Vincent got the same bonus as others from the team.

From tgsgirl: Do you think your team mate Oscar Freire will win another green jersey this year, or is your money on someone else? What do you think of Mark Cavendish's chances?

DM: Mark has good chances to win the jersey although he has such a tough opponent as Thor Hushovd. He is an experienced rider who can collect points on the more difficult stages as well.

Freire most likely will not get involved in this fight. Judging by his words, he has no such attitude because of the big [points] gap.

From Cemonien: Which stage do you think will be the most decisive in this year's Tour? Obviously everyone is talking about Ventoux.

DM: Perhaps Ventoux stage will be decisive but I would suggest that the second and the last time trial in Annecy could be crucial.

From Paolo73: Denis, now that you have the Giro and Vuelta to your name will you be focusing more specifically on Le Tour in future years in order to have all three in your palmares?

DM: I don't plan to miss the Giro next year. The case is not only in preparations; sometimes you need a bit of luck if you remember my fall for example.

Also the Tour de France will not start with such tricky stages every year. There will be more opportunities to be fit enough for the second half of the Tour if there is a normal prologue at the beginning.


Mar 17, 2009
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From it's only a game: Given the current situation in the sport, where your fellow pros are being banned on suspicion of doping rather than proven offences and you have to report your whereabouts at all times, do you get the feeling that the fight against doping is going too far?

DM: You always think that it's going too far when there are new rules. We get used to everything and reporting our whereabouts doesn't seem problematic any more. The most important is to organise yourself.

From LeSangRouge: Why isn't here a call for lifetime bans for all riders caught doping? Surely that would cut the numbers of cheats from the peloton.

DM: I don't think that it will solve the problem. First of all the rider could be innocent and become a victim of a mistake. Why, for example, should a 21 or 22-years-old sportsman be denied doing what he likes? Everyone can take a false step and pay for it but the lifetime ban wouldn't be correct punishment.

From greeny3103: Do you ever cycle for pleasure rather than training?

DM: I can't remember cycling for pleasure. I prefer to spend time with my family on holidays, because there is almost no free time during the season.

From Palmindan: I was amazed at your ability to stick to the back of Di Luca every time he attacked on the long climbs at this year's Giro and even outsprint him at the end of one stage. What mental strategy do you use to keep up such a high pace on those long climbs?

DM: It all depends on your physical form, skill level and other important things. In that situation with Di Luca there was only one man to control and I kept him in the field of view

From snakeeater109: What is the difference in what you eat and consume out of competition compared to what you would have to eat in a Grand Tour like the Tour de France?

DM: The difference is significant for sure. I can afford everything I want when I'm on holiday, no matter how many calories it contains. During the I have to stay away from greasy and spice food. Even on the rest days.

From samcorny: When did you get into the sport and what were your first experiences of cycling? What would your tips be for young cyclists?

DM: If I'm not mistaken I was about 10 years old when I decided to become a cyclist. I don't even remember what the reason was, maybe because I was very active in childhood.

My first competitions were in my hometown Oryol between different regional sport schools. And I wish all young people could pay more attention to sport, not only cycling. Try to look after your health from the beginning. Sport will be useful forever