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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for May 31, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Cunego's last test

Damiano Cunego (Saeco)
Photo ©: Sirotti

The 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia was the last real test for maglia rosa Damiano Cunego (Saeco), who had to make sure that none of his rivals gained enough time during the stage to overtake him on GC. Curiously, but perhaps not surprisingly after his comments yesterday, Cunego's teammate Gilberto Simoni proved to be the greatest threat to the maglia rosa after attacking together with Stefano Garzelli on the Mortirolo, the day's first climb. With 85 km of racing to go, Cunego was forced to sit back with gregario Eddy Mazzoleni and watch as Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec built up a lead that approached 2'00 at one stage - or two thirds of the advantage that Cunego had over Simoni on GC.

But at the end of the stage, Simoni finished second behind Garzelli and was only 52 seconds clear of Cunego, who had to play a role similar to the Simoni played on Stage 16, and couldn't do any real chasing all day. As it turned out, Simoni needed another 3 seconds to overtake Serguei Gonchar for second place on GC, so in hindsight his effort - which almost isolated Cunego - was practically in vain.

"That's the way it goes and there's no use getting upset about it," said Simoni. "I've realised I wasn't in the same form as in the past. The fact remain that the Giro has been a huge success for my Saeco team."

After the stage finished, Cunego realised that the maglia rosa would be his in Milan and was of course highly appreciative of the efforts of the Saeco team. "During the Giro the team has always believed in me, including Gilberto," he said. "I've been lucky to grow up and develop in a team that has always supported me."

Gilberto Simoni (Saeco)
Photo ©: Olympia

Despite Simoni's comments yesterday, Cunego also said that there was no real bad blood between him and Simoni after the stage to Bormio. "Gilberto was disappointed not to win and I can understand that," said Damiano. "It won't change our relationship, we're still friends and I still have a lot of respect for him because he was one of the people who have helped me develop and improve as a rider in the last two years."

Cunego said that it was normal that Simoni attacked. "Of course. He wanted to take second place from Gonchar. I would have been happy to see him win."

Cunego also thanked the public that has come out in force for the last few days of the Giro, even though in Stage 19 the crowds were preventing the later riders from getting through. "The tifosi are what keeps the sport of cycling alive," he said. "Their cheering motivates me and was a decisive factor in helping me win".

After the Giro finishes, Cunego said that he will rest up from his efforts. "It will take over my life," he said. "The Tour de France is in any case not on my program. I'm thinking mainly of the World Championships in Verona." Cunego won the World's in Verona in 1999 as a junior.

Lance, meet the Mortirolo

Amid the thousands of cycling enthusiasts testing their legs on the steep slopes of the Passo di Mortirolo on Saturday was a lean, bronzed rider who probably ascended the 12.8 km climb faster than most. With one month to go before five time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong defends his title and goes for a record sixth victory, the American was training in the mountains of the Italian Alps.

With the Giro d'Italia gruppo racing a valley away, Lance was ascending the Mortirolo in mufti, as the USPS-Berry Floor leader seldom wears his team kit unless he's racing and after his training session, Armstrong spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Pier Bergonzi.

"It's a terrible's perfect for a mountain bike. On the hardest parts, I was riding a 39x27 and I was hurting, really hurting. (Mortirolo) is the hardest climb I've ever ridden. My time up the climb? It's not important; I rode the Mortirolo to have some fun and ride with the 'cicloamatori'...there were a few raindrops, but it was a great day.

PB: So did you want to try the Mortirolo looking forward to riding the next Giro d'Italia?
LA: You never know...

PB: Have you been following the Giro d'Italia?
LA: I haven't missed anything. It's been a great race so far.

PB: And yesterday's stage with the Gavia and the finish at Bormio 2000?
LA: I saw that Cunego was great and Cioni also impressed me. Dario is finishing the Giro in great form. I have to congratulate him. It was also a stage full of emotion and I liked the way Garzelli and Simoni rode.

PB: Are you surprised by Cunego's Giro performance?
LA: I've met him and people have also told me good things about him, but what (Cunego) is doing in this Giro is something special. In the last few stages, I've noticed his presence of mind. He's got good legs and a good head. At this point, it's hard to imagine that anyone can beat Cunego in the Giro.

Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia coverage

Stage 19 Full results & report
Stage 19 Live report
Trent Wilson's Giro diary
Dr Ferrari's view
Route preview
Stage by stage
Stage profiles
Final Start List
The contenders

A 'perfect' World's according to the UCI

By Gerard Knapp

Hein Verbruggen
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
Click for larger image

As the final medal ceremony concluded and the sell-out audience's applause subsided, the UCI press officer, Enrico Carpani, told Cyclingnews the 2004 Track Cycling World Championships had been "perfect".

"If every world championships could be like this, it would be very good," he said. The president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, who was also attending the worlds, was also impressed with the way the event was held, the standard of competition and the attendance.

"Yes, it's the same from Mr Verbruggen," Carpani said. "Perfect."

Carpani said the venue, Melbourne's relatively new, high-end multi-purpose Vodafone Arena, provided the both the competitors and the audience with an excellent environment for a world championships. It has set a standard for future world championships, he said.

The UCI is hoping to maintain the momentum behind track cycling. Next year, the world's heads to the soon-to-be-opened velodrome in Los Angeles at the Home Depot sports center. By holding the world championships in successive English-speaking countries, the UCI is looking to build the sport's profile around the world.

With Australia's ranking in track cycling, plus the sport's history in Victoria, many expected the World Championships would match the hype that was being generated and if sell out crowds was any indication, it would appear to have succeeded.

The next step for the UCI is to rebuild the sport's profile in the USA, the country that invented the Madison. While the USA team only secured a bronze medal at the 2004 worlds and its only indoor velodrome is about to open, the UCI is hoping it will also be a success.

The Melbourne world's were largely underwritten by the Victorian State government and the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Justin Madden, told Cyclingnews it "had been a resounding commercial success. It was a particularly sound investment for the State".

The Minister, who attended several sessions with his family, said, "it's been a spectacular success. Ticket sales have exceeded expectations and this has really shown what a spectacular sport track cycling is".

It was the first time the Vodafone Arena had been used for a world championships - the multi-purpose venue can also be used for other sports like basketball - "and it really helped showcase the sport to Melbourne and the world," he said.

Melbourne has put in a serious bid to host the 2010 world road cycling championships and the UCI president was taken to see potential locations around the city. "If we do host the worlds, I can predict there will be hundreds of thousands of people come out to support it," said Verbruggen.

The Minister was also aware of cycling's increasing popularity in the city. "In Victoria we not only love our sport, we also love our cycling," he said.

The sport's national profile was also boosted by the host broadcaster, SBS-TV, providing 16 hours of live coverage of the five evening sessions that were broadcast nationally, even into the host city.

It's understood that the broadcaster's live coverage of the track cycling helped it win higher ratings than previous nights when it went up against the Rugby League State of Origin match, which is normally the country's highest-rating television broadcast.

Despite the live broadcasts into the host city, the crowds turned out and almost 30,000 tickets were sold over the five days of competition, with three sessions complete sell-outs.

The Melbourne crowds showed great understanding of the sport and support for all competitors, particularly the young Dutch sprinter Theo Bos. Many experienced cycling observers said it was one the best Track Cycling World's they'd attended, in terms of the atmosphere and the standard of competition as almost all medals were highly disputed.

When the Australian pursuit squad crossed the line to take the gold medal, most had not heard such applause for track cycling in Australia since Scott McGrory crossed the finish line at the 2000 Olympics, when he and Brett Aitken won the 60km Madison.

The host country started slowly but ended up second on the medals table behind France with two gold, two silver and one bronze, but the revelations really came on the Sunday, when Cuba and Argentina both secured their first-ever gold medals at a senior Track Cycling World's.

With more nations taking part in the Track Cycling World's, plus the UCI's push for a year-round track cycling calendar, it would seem the boards will see more action in coming years.

See: Day 5 coverage including:
Tales from the track

Men sprint semis, 9-12, 5-8
Women 500m TT results
Women scratch results
Men Madison results
Men sprint finals

Deutschland Tour starts in Karlsruhe

This year's Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany) will kick off with a 23 km time trial in Karlsruhe in southwestern Germany on Monday, May 31. The week-long race will then make an anti-clockwise tour of Germany (including a short foray into Austria) before finishing in Leipzig on Sunday, June 6. Apart from the TT, key stages will be stage 3 from Wangen im Allgäu to St. Anton am Arlberg (Austria), which includes the Cat. 1 climbs of Damüls Faschinajoch (1486m) and the Arlbergpass (1793m), which comes just 7 km from the finish. The penultimate stage from Kulmbach to Oberwiesenthal on June 5 features the only real uphill finish, ending at 1214m, while the rest of the stages should be suited to the sprinters.

The Deutschland Tour will be an important test for Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), who now has just one month to get in the right shape to win the Tour de France. On Saturday in his first race in over a month, Ullrich finished 5th in the TEAG Rund um die Hainleite, giving both he and his team confidence for July.

"I wanted to test myself, and it went well today," the 1997 Tour de France winner commented after the race. Ullrich was also happy with his recent training in the French Alps. "It went well," he said. "I'm barely overweight. I think I have enough time before the Tour."

In the Tour of Germany, Ullrich doesn't expect to win overall, but said that he wants to "...use one or two stages to find out how strong I am...The only thing for certain is that I won't finish last."

Besides Ullrich's teammate Erik Zabel, who should be up for a couple of stage wins in his own national tour, and Alexandre Vinokourov, who is a victory candidate, the field also features rising Belgian star Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and his teammate Paolo Bettini. Rabobank's Oscar Freire will be there to contend for the sprints, along with riders such as Stefan van Dijk (Lotto-Domo), Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner), Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole). For the GC, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty) and home boy Jens Voigt (CSC) should be among the top riders.

The stages

Stage 1 - May 31: Karlsruhe - Karlsruhe ITT, 23 km
Stage 2 - June 1: Bad Urach - Wangen im Allgäu, 180 km
Stage 3 - June 2: Wangen im Allgäu - St. Anton am Arlberg, 170 km
Stage 4 - June 3: Bad Tölz - Landshut, 190 km
Stage 5 - June 4: Kelheim - Kulmbach, 192 km
Stage 6 - June 5: Kulmbach - Oberwiesenthal, 180 km
Stage 7 - June 6: Chemnitz - Leipzig, 170 km

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)