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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 25, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Petacchi surpasses post-war record

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)
Photo ©: Sirotti

When he crossed the line to win his eighth stage of the 2004 Giro d'Italia, La Spezia sprinter Alessandro Petacchi surpassed the stars of his youth, Giuseppe Saronni, Roger de Vlaeminck and Freddy Maertens, who had all won seven stages in a single Giro. No other cyclist has achieved what Petacchi has since World War II. But going back further into the Giro's history, Petacchi has a little more work to do if he is to catch the legendary Alfredo Binda, who in 1927 won an amazing 12 stages out of 15 as well as taking the overall classification. The shortest stage that year was a mere 153 km, but the longest was a leg breaking 321 km.

"Now I can claim to be really one of the strongest sprinters," said Petacchi after his feat. "From the post-war period to today, no-one has ever managed to win eight stages. After 24 years, I beat this record of seven victories that belonged to some of the greats of the cycling world. I hope to hold this supremacy for as long."

Petacchi described his sprint, where he topped 68 km/h despite the fact that his leadout train was heavily challenged by other teams. "In the preparation for the sprint there were a few riders who got in front of our train. Shortly after, however, I took the wheel of Nauduzs and when I hit 200 metres to go I jumped. This time it was from behind and not from in front as I usually do."

The Fassa Bortolo sprinter had different ideas about winning before the stage. "Today I didn't want my teammates pulling to recapture the break again, but they decided to do it anyway and I could repay them with another splendid victory. Clearly I was feeling good and it wasn't possible not to dispute the sprint. I should thank them one more time."

With four mountain stages to coming, Petacchi and Fassa Bortolo will have to wait until Sunday's finale in Milan to try and win a ninth stage.

McEwen heads home

The 15th stage of the Giro was the last one for Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), who boarded a plane to Brussels in order to return home to Everbeek in Belgium. McEwen, who never intended to finish the Giro, will not go away empty handed either. He won a stage and finished second to Petacchi three times, including today.

"I had great legs today and the team worked well," McEwen told Cyclingnews after Stage 15. "I thought I could get through at the end, but just missed the gap." He also promised to renew the battle with the Fassa Bortolo super sprinter at the Tour de France. "Petacchi is beatable and I'm looking forward to the Tour," added McEwen.

Passo di Gavia: The way is shut

The Passo di Gavia, the highest point of this year's Giro d'Italia at 2,618 metres, will be closed to traffic until the race comes through on Friday, the Giro's organisers said today. "At the moment, the Passo di Gavia does not have snow on it," said the organisers in a statement. "It is passable, but as a precaution, the climb will be closed on each side and will not be opened until the race passes through."

Friday's 18th stage will take place between Cles and Bormio, also crossing the Passo del Tonale and finishing with the 10 km climb up to Bormio 2000. The organisers will also apply the same precaution to the Passo del Vivione, which will feature in Saturday's 19th stage.

The Passo di Gavia was used in a very memorable Giro stage in 1988, where the riders had to battle a snowstorm on the climb. The stage was won by Dutchman Erik Breukink, while Andy Hampsten took over the Maglia Rosa and kept it until the finish.

Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia coverage

Stage 15 Full results & report
Stage 15 Live report
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Trent Wilson's Giro diary
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Track World's gear up in Melbourne

The stage is set for the 2004 Track Cycling World Championships at Vodafone Arena in Melbourne, Australia, with over 200 cyclists from 43 nations due to take part in the meeting between May 26-30. Over the five days of racing there are 15 World Championships to be decided: six individual disciplines for men and women and three men's team events. The winner(s) of each event will earn the right to wear the rainbow jersey on the track for the next 12 months. The Championships are also the last chance for countries to qualify places for the Athens Olympic Games and for the riders to earn a place on their respective Olympic teams.

The racing kicks off on Wednesday night with the men's 40km points race where Austrian Franz Stocher will be defending his title. The second medal of the night will be awarded in the men's teams sprint, where Australia, Great Britain, France and defending champions Germany are the favourites. A top ten finish in this event will not only secure a start for the nations at the Olympics but will also earn one starting position for each of the sprint, kilometre time trial and keirin events in Athens.

Thursday, May 27, will see the kilometre time trial, tipped to be one of the most hotly contested events of the week. The gold medal can be decided by a mere thousandth of a second, and the starting list includes at least half a dozen possible winners. Local hero Shane Kelly is a three-time kilometre World Champion and is vying for a place at a fourth consecutive Olympic Games, as is compatriot Ben Kersten. Germany's defending champion Stefan Nimke is keen to keep the jersey but his teammate Soren Lausberg has claimed four silver medals in the event since 1996 and has gold in mind. British pair Chris Hoy, the 2002 World Champion, and Craig McLean have been in sizzling form in recent weeks and, despite a recent bout of illness, Frenchman Arnaud Tournant is fired up to win back the title he held for four years between 1998 and 2001.

The women's keirin and men's individual pursuit are also being decided on Thursday. For the past two years Australian Luke Roberts has earned a silver medal in the event. In 2002 it was behind teammate Brad McGee and last year Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins earned the crown, but neither is here this week and that makes Roberts the hot favourite to move one step higher on the presentation podium. However Germany, Russia and Spain are sure to have other ideas.

The Queen of pursuit racing, Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel heads the Dutch medal charge on Friday, but she faces serious opposition from rising star, Australia's Katie Mactier who will be racing in front of her hometown crowd. Zijlaard-van Moorsel is the reigning World and Olympic record holder for the 3km individual pursuit and has four World Titles to her credit (1990, 2001, 2002 and 2003).

Mactier is a relative newcomer to track racing but successfully defended her Australian Title in Sydney last month and took the silver medal behind Zijlaard-van Moorsel on debut at last year's World Championships in Stuttgart. Also in hot form is New Zealand star Sarah Ulmer, who last weekend in Sydney rode a time within 0.30 seconds of the world record to win gold and secure overall honours for the World Cup series.

Also on Friday night, the men's keirin will be raced with Frenchman Laurent Gane and Australian Jobie Dajka the riders to watch. Dajka was the 2002 champion but Gane pushed the Australian into second place last year in Manchester.

The men's scratch race will also be decided on Friday night.

Full schedule and information at: www.trackcyclingworlds.com.au

RAGT Semences meet

Sylvain Calzati (RAGT)
Photo ©: AFP

The RAGT Semences-MG Rover team, fresh out of the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon, is holding a training camp in the Monts du Beaujolais near Villefranche sur Saône between May 24-27. The team will use the occasion to do some intense work with a view to the forthcoming Dauphiné Libéré and Classique des Alpes. Each day they will be riding in the mountains, finishing with the Monts du Bugey and the Le Grand Colombier.

The team's neo-pro Sylvain Calzati rode well in the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon, being part of a breakaway that almost made it to the finish in Stage 3. Calzati commented about one of his better known competitors in that race that, "I admit that I'm impressed to be riding alongside Armstrong whom I admire particularly. I like the way he prepares his races to the nearest millimetre, leaving nothing to chance. The way I see it, I prefer not to race at all if it's just to play a walk-on part. I'm much more in favour of a tightly-packed training programme and prefer to avoid taking part in races arbitrarily. Not much chance of success with that sort of arrangement in my view. To succeed on the pro circuit, I'm persuaded that you have to plan everything ahead."

Calzati's aim is to win a race "any race", and more specifically he wants to do well in the Dauphiné Libéré "which runs practically right past my front door. But there is also the Classique des Alpes and the Route du Sud. Stage races with steep climbs on which I tend to do well. Then there are the French Championships in Pont des Fossés. As an amateur, I raced four as a Junior, and won as an Espoir. I know the course by heart, and imagine that I could do well."

Lehigh Valley Velodrome opening night

The Lehigh Valley Velodrome in Trexlertown, PA, USA, will open its racing program on Friday, June 4 with the Nicole Reinhart Women's Cycling Classic and Tandemonium. Opening night promotions include free admission for a number of groups, fun new games, a band and new food and beverage items. Special groups to receive free admission include East Penn School District students and faculty, police, fire, EMS, Girl Scouts, and their families. Special promotions include The Crayola Factory Hands-On Discovery Center, moonbounce, NEW speed pitch, life-size track cycling simulator, and a live band with The Eric Steckel Band playing from 9:30-10:30pm. On hand will also be the First State Greyhound Rescue, an organization dedicated to providing homes for former race dogs.

Gates open at 6pm with racing beginning at 7pm. For more information, visit the Velodrome website at www.lvvelo.org.

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