First Edition Cycling News for May 29, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Cunego: "A fantastic experience"
One more difficult day of climbing remains in the Giro d'Italia, but Damiano Cunego came one very important step closer to overall victory in Milan with his stage win Friday, his fourth in this year's tour. After Saeco played a perfect team game over the first two climbs, avoiding panic when Stefano Garzelli broke clear on the Gavia, maglia rosa Cunego and defending Giro champion Gilberto Simoni were in prime position to do more damage on the finishing climb to Bormio 2000.
Simoni was indeed the first to attack, but he lacked the spark to leave the other favourites behind and a determined chase by the likes of Serguei Gonchar and Dario David Cioni, not to mention former stage winner Emanuele Sella, put Simoni back in the fold. From that point on, a stage win by Cunego looked almost inevitable and the young Italian was ready to pounce as the leaders reached the finish, taking another 20" time bonus and another step closer to his first grand tour victory.
"It was agreed that I would try to win if we arrived in a small group," Cunego explained after his win. "Gilberto attacked on the climb to move up in the general classification. I didn't chase him; I did my job by following wheels.
"Garzelli did a nice attack, but perhaps he went from too far out," he added. "We stayed calm and the team tactics worked perfectly. Tomorrow is going to be very hard because the climbs are steeper than today. The Gavia made a selection but the final climb was easier. For me, this has been a fantastic experience."
Saeco manager Claudio Corti also acknowledged what has become more and more evident throughout this Giro, that this could be the year of Damiano Cunego. While the team has played politics and reserved the ultimate leadership role for Simoni, Cunego has clearly been the stronger of the two.
"Gilberto had his chance to attack but it didn't work," Corti said after the stage. "Now it's time to look at the facts. Damiano has the cards in had to win the Giro."
Cioni moving up
Dario David Cioni, Fassa Bortolo's man for the general classification, didn't disappoint when the Giro hit the high mountains. Cioni rode conservatively with the lead groups over the Passo del Tonale and the Passo di Gavia, biding his time before a more aggressive finish to Bormio 2000. With a second place on the stage behind maglia rosa Damiano Cunego, Cioni was able to move up to fifth place overall in the general classification, jumping ahead of Brad McGee, Wladimir Belli and former Giro winner Stefano Garzelli.
"At one point I panicked a bit when Garzelli attacked, but I was shrewd and knew that with Saeco there he wouldn't get much of an advantage," Cioni explained Friday evening. "From the beginning of the final climb I was able to ride below my maximum, while I thought some of my rivals were not at their best. In the sprint I knew Cunego would be faster than me, so I'm still happy to have placed second on the stage."
Given what Fassa Bortolo has already achieved with its sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, Cioni's ride is all the more impressive. Petacchi's eight stage wins have been due in large part to the tireless efforts of his entire team to control the field on every stage where a bunch sprint appeared possible.
"All of us in Fassa Bortolo have ridden the Giro in support of Alessandro Petacchi, and we've been very satisfied," Cioni said. "After my performance today I have more belief in my chances in the future. Clearly I won't be able to attack on the Mortirolo, but I will try to stay with the leaders and if I feel like I did today I could try something in the finale."
McGee passes test
Although he dropped from 5th to 7th overall in the general classification, Australian Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) had every reason to be content after his ride in stage 18. Coming to the end of his best ever grand tour performance, McGee knew the high mountains would be the final test for him, having already excelled in the prologue and early climbing stages in this year's race.
"I felt very good on the Gavia," McGee said after the short but climbing-intensive stage. "I was never in the red. Unfortunately I couldn't follow the climbers' attacks on the final climb.
"I'm very happy all the same after this stage," he added. "It's the first time I've gone so well in a major mountain stage."
McGee, who praised the collective Saeco team effort, now sits in 7th place, 5'24 behind race leader Damiano Cunego. Dario David Cioni (Fassa Bortolo) and Wladimir Belli (Lampre) overtook him on Friday's stage, but McGee can still be content with a place ahead of former Giro winner Stefano Garzelli, whose big attack on the Gavia ultimately took its toll on the final climb to Bormio 2000.
Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia coverage
Tales from the track
News and gossip from day 3 of the Melbourne World Track Championships
By Karen Forman in Melbourne
Melbourne's big chance for 2009 World Championships
Melbourne looks to be in with a top chance to host the World Road Cycling Championships in 2009 or 2010.
UCI president Hein Verbruggen told a press conference at Vodafone Arena tonight that he had been taken to see some possible courses during his visit for the World Track Championships and "Victoria has an excellent pro-sport climate".
"Melbourne is a very important candidate. We would really enjoy to come here and have the road world championship."
Melbourne applied to host the world road championship earlier this year, after the UCI announced last year that it would go outside of Europe with the world road event every seven or eight years.
"The next time will be in 2009 or 2010 and Melbourne is a very important candidate," he said. "We have also had interest from Western Australia in hosting mountain bike world championships and with the high level of track cycling in this country, we think we have to come here at least once a year, either with a World Cup round, world championships or junior world championships."
Meanwhile, the new year-round track calendar announced previously by the UCI would not adversely affect the Six-Days in Europe, UCI vice president Ray Godkin said.
"We have always appreciated the Six-Days are extremely popular in Germany," he said. "But frankly you see 24-30 riders that can continue to compete without any doubt. It's impossible to make a calendar function for 24-30 riders but we will do our utmost to safeguard them."
Speaking generally about the UCI's plans to reinvigorate the sport of track cycling after several years of investigation and trials, Verbruggen said it would not be the moving of the World Championships to March that was the most important change, nor the introduction of the Track World Cup series that was the most important.
"The most important is that we will have an international calendar all year around," he said.
"We really want a year round sport. We realised that winter in Europe is summer in Australia. The fact we now have the World Championships in March does not mean it has become a winter sport. We are now going to have a rich calendar for 12 months and we are encouraging people to register new races on the calendar."
Verbruggen said the new year-around calendar should culminate in the World Cup four months before March when the World Championships would be held. The first of the 2005 World Cup events will be held in November 2004 (venue still to be announced), followed by Los Angeles in December, Manchester in January and Sydney in February.
"We are extremely confident that this will work," he said. "We have seen confirmation that track cycling is getting strong again. Holland is coming back, Belgium, also others like Poland and the Ukraine. Also Japan is becoming very important, especially with broadcasting."
Figures presented to the conference revealed the increase in interest in track cycling as a sport. In 2002 28 nations were competing. That rose to 39 in 2003 and 43 this year. Competitor numbers rose from 146 in 2002 to 221 this year.
Broadcasting hours also increased, Verbruggen said.
More Day 3 news from the Melbourne World Track Championships
By Karen Forman in Melbourne
Dogged Reed battles to gain two Athens spots for USA
USA team rider and sprint specialist Jennie Reed landed her country a pair of highly sought-after Athens Olympic berths at the world track championships in Melbourne, Australia yesterday; and she couldn't have made it harder for herself if she'd tried.
Reed, the first American to medal at a track world championships since 1998, qualified earlier in the day for the 1/8 finals in the women's sprint where she was matched against overall 2004 world cup champion, Natalia Tsylinskaya (Bieleorussia). The pairing turned out to be the fastest of the day as Tsylinskaya clocked an 11.996, the only sub-12 second effort of the evening, beating Reed and relegating her to the 1/8 final repechage.
Earlier in the day, Reed had a frightening crash in the 1/16 finals after Cuihua Jiang (China) veered off her line and took out Reed resulting in a disqualification and automatically advancing the American to the 1/8 finals. Then, in the 1/8 final repechage, the same thing almost happened again. With Reed, Daniela Larreal (Venezuela) and Tamilia Abassova (Russia) all riding for a single shot at advancing to the quarter finals, the Russian led out the sprint into the final turn. As Reed made her move and began to accelerate past Abassova on the outside, Abassova made a sharp move to her right and impeded Reed's sprint, causing her to ease up to avoid her second crash of the day.
The move took Reed out of contention for the final sprint as Abassova crossed the line first, followed by Larreal. Officials immediately relegated Abassova to last place for "irregular movement to prevent her opponent from passing" and declared Larreal the winner. With only the winner advancing to the quarter finals, Reed appeared to be out of luck until officials ordered that the event be rerun with only Reed and Larreal.
In the ensuing contest between the two, Reed beat Larreal by a matter of inches to advance to the quarter finals.
The advancement guaranteed Reed at least a top eight finish, which ensures the U.S. a start position in both the women's sprint and the 500m time trial at this summer's Olympic games.
Reed was eliminated in the quarter finals by Australia's Anna Meares who recorded the fastest finish of the round, with an 11.917 in the pair's first race. Reed will race on Saturday in the race for 5th-8th place.
Vasseur's suspension lifted
Cofidis professional Cédric Vasseur will return to competition on June 2 at the Euskal Bizikleta stage race (June 2-6) in Spain's Basque region. Vasseur has been suspended from competition by his team since April 8, when his name was added to the list of those under investigation by judge Richard Pallain in France. Pallain has been leading the doping investigation which has focused on Cofidis and a number of its riders (past and present).
Team policy dictated that Vasseur could not race so long as he was under formal investigation, however a team statement issued Friday stressed that Vasseur has not been found guilty of any doping offenses and Cofidis would acknowledge that he is innocent until proven guilty. There was no mention, however, of whether or not he has been removed from Pallain's list.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)