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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for April 22, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Giro accord reached - finally

The much-publicised disagreement between Giro organiser Angelo Zomegan and AIGCP (Associazione Internazionale Gruppi Sportivi Professionistici/International Association of Professional Cycling teams) president Patrick Lefevere has finally been resolved - just 16 days before the race's scheduled start in Reggio Calabria on May 7.

The agreement was judged favourable to both parties, and perhaps more importantly, for the entire cycling community. As a consequence, the AIGCP confirms the participation of all 20 ProTour teams in the 2005 Giro d'Italia. Although the initial agreement called for 60,000 Euros start money for each and every ProTour team, whether this figure was indeed the actual sum paid is not known, as the terms of the agreement were finalised in confidence.

Courtesy April Pedersen Santinon

2006 Giro to start in Belgium

In other Giro news, organisers of the Giro d'Italia, RCS Sport, has confirmed that Belgium shall host the start of next year's edition. On Saturday, May 6, 2006, the Giro shall commence with a prologue in Seraing, before heading to Charleroi and Namur over the following two stages. Stage 3 shall also begin in the Belgian town of Wanze, but the finish is likely to be in Germany, France or Luxembourg, before the race returns to Italy on May 10. In keeping with the tradition, Amsterdam is said to be on the list of candidates to host the start of the 2007 Giro, with the Netherlands having already featured in a past edition of the race, when Groningen hosted a stage start in 2002.

Opening stages

May 6 - Prologue: Seraing
May 7 - Stage 2: Mons - Charleroi
May 8 - Stage 3: Perwez - Namur
May 9 - Stage 4: Wanze - Germany/ France/ Luxembourg

Leipheimer back in town, meaning business

As one of four Americans heading ProTour teams at the Tour de Georgia, Levi Leipheimer is one of the major contenders for overall victory in the US' biggest stage race. With a new team, new motivation and new training techniques, victory in Georgia is a definite goal, as he tells Shane Stokes.

Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Andrea Hübner
Click for larger image

With the Tour de Georgia gets underway, most attention has been focused on Lance Armstrong, six-time Tour de France winner, who announced his impending resignation this week. Armstrong came here last year and dominated, taking the overall plus two stage victories along the way. But there are other US riders who could top the leaderboard this time round, not least Levi Leipheimer, who makes his Georgia debut with the Gerolsteiner team.

'I'm definitely going to do my best here,' a psyched Leipheimer told Cyclingnews on Monday. 'If I continue to feel like I was before I came from Spain, then I think I can be. I am not at my top condition yet, but I still think that I could be good enough to play a major part in the race.'

Leipheimer first showed the extent of his talent with a stomping end to the 2001 season. Riding in US Postal Service colours at the time, he became the first American to finish on the podium in the Tour of Spain, and then placed fourth in the world time trial championships. He transferred to the Rabobank squad and competed with them for the next three seasons, winning the 2002 Route du Sud and finishing eighth in the Tour de France that same season.

Last year he bounced back from the broken pelvis which took him out of the 2003 Tour when he came back and took his second career top-ten placing, finishing ninth in Paris. He also took a stage win in the Semana Catalana race. Despite those good performances, he felt it was time for a new direction and so transferred from the orange of Rabobank to the aqua blue of Gerolsteiner over the winter.

'I wanted to change, to start over, start afresh with a clean slate for new motivation, and that is exactly how it has been this year,' he explains. 'I have had more motivation than I have had in a long time. Every morning when I wake up to get on the bike, I feel that extra spark that I need.'

Leipheimer has made adjustments to his training, favouring more high intensity work than in the past. If all goes to plan, the 31 year old feels a top five finish in the Tour de France is possible. But before that, this week's race offers a real chance to measure his form against some of the other big guns he will come up against in July.

Click here to read the full interview.

Hamilton: "The fight will continue"

Seemingly undeterred by the decision handed down on Monday by the American Arbitration Association (AAA)/North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where Tyler Hamilton was found guilty of a doping infraction via homologous blood transfusion, the 34 year-old has vowed to clear his name at whatever cost.

"While I am obviously disappointed with the ruling, the fight will continue," wrote Hamilton on his website, "This is not just a battle to clear my name, but also a mission to improve the way athletes of all sports are tested and the manner in which they are treated should they find themselves charged with an offense."

The resident of Boulder, Colorado, holds much hope on the split 2-1 decision, in particular the opinion of one of the arbitrators, Christopher L. Campbell, who said WADA's [World Anti-Doping Agency] inability to calculate the rate of false positives in the blood test "failed to meet the prevailing standards of the scientific community. In this case, USADA should not be able to sustain its initial burden of proof and the case against Mr. Hamilton should be dismissed," Campbell wrote

Panelist Campbell also found the behaviour of high-ranking officials at WADA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as unsatisfactory: "Athletes should not have to worry that high-ranking officials are sending clear messages to the arbitrators to find the athlete guilty regardless of the facts of the case," he wrote. "The IOC and WADA should consider making rules prohibiting such conduct to comply with a very important fundamental principle of the Olympic movement, fairness."

"We know we made sound arguments in our case and someone heard us," wrote Hamilton.

The full transcript of the decision can be found at:

T-Mobile a dark horse at Liège

After strong performances in recent weeks in Roubaix and Flanders, but still missing a big win in spring, T-Mobile's last chance to secure a Classic will be this Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

With two top 10 places to his name in past editions of "La Doyenne", 25 year-old Matthias Kessler is one rider the team believes can do well, but T-Mobile press officer Luuc Eisenga said in a team statement virtually the entire team has 'carte blanche' [free reign] to try their own luck: "The Liège-Bastogne-Liège parcours suits Matthias down to the ground, but so far this week, he hasn't been able to fully show what he is capable of," said Eisenga. "Let's see how the race unfolds, before we know who is riding for who."

One rider that could make the most of the team's 'dark horse' status is Stefen Wesemann, who took things slightly easier in Wednesday's La Flèche Wallonne. "I am an underdog in this race and I want to make the most out that. My main priority is to ride a good race and do my best for the team," said Wesemann.

While Alexandre Vinokourov is also riding well, Eisenga said the 30 year-old rider from Kazakhstan has now switched his focus to the Tour de France: "Vino has one eye on the Tour now, so we are not expecting him to go all out here. We have a lot of good riders in the roster, but we don't count [him] among the pre-race favourites."

The T-Mobile spokesperson also believes Liège to be the toughest of all the five monuments, with the change in the finishing parcours a few years back making it even tougher. "A few years ago, the finish was moved from Liège to Ans, and the final climb there has toughened up the race even more. You can't win this race by fluke," he said.

Team roster: Giuseppe Guerini, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klöden, Bram Schmitz, Oscar Sevilla, Alexander Vinokourov, Christian Werner, Steffen Wesemann
Directeur-sportif: Mario Kummer

Quick.Step, Rabobank for Liège

Olympic champion Paolo Bettini will attempt to emulate his feat from La Doyenne five years ago on Sunday, with the Quick.Step team as follows:

Team roster: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Ad Engels, Marc Lotz, Filippo Pozzato, Patrik Sinkewitz, Bram Tankink, Rik Verbgrugghe
Directeur-sportif: Serge Parsani

Dutch ProTour team Rabobank is sending the following eight riders to contest Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with Michael Boogerd, Erik Dekker and Oscar Freire spearheading the attack:

Team roster: Maarten den Bakker, Michael Boogerd, Erik Dekker, Oscar Freire, Karsten Kroon, Gerben Löwik, Joost Posthuma, Pieter Weening. Reserves: Theo Eltink, Michael Rasmussen
Directeur-sportif: Erik Breukink

Di Luca thinks pink

Coupled with his desire to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday and hold onto the white UCI ProTour leader's jersey, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne winner Danilo Di Luca is also thinking pink, saying after his win on Wednesday that he would like to take the maglia rosa at the upcoming Giro d'Italia. "I believe these victories prove my ability in one-day races. But considering my results in the last Vuelta al Paìs Vasco, I would also like to test myself in a great stage-race," said Di Luca.

Following his first significant stage race victory at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco earlier this month, the idea isn't too far-fetched for the 29 year-old. However, with the team having already assigned two leaders for Italy's national tour, Di Luca realises this year won't be his year in terms of riding for the general classification. "Not this year, as Liquigas-Bianchi will count on [Stefano] Garzelli and [Dario] Cioni," he said.

"I will try to do my best in the first 10 days, then I will help the two captains. Next year though, I could also aim at overall victory."

Guidi's troubles continue, Peña returns home

Following his crash at Gent-Wevelgem roughly two weeks ago, Phonak rider Fabrizio Guidi will be out for longer than first envisaged, and believes he will need "at least four weeks to return to full fitness".

After his initial operation to fix his broken arm sustained in the Belgian mid-week classic, Guidi began having problems with feelings in his fingers, and had to undergo a second operation last week. "At home, I will have to train ostensibly on the exercise bike, as I'm not allowed to put strain on the arm," said the 33 year-old Italian, who now lives in Switzerland.

For Guidi, this will obviously mean exclusion from the team for the Tour de Romandie, which begins next Tuesday, April 26, with team manager John Lelangue not expecting a return until much later. "Fabrizio Guidi will be available for the Phonak team's appearance in the Austria tour in July," said Lelangue in a team statement.

Meanwhile, no race appearances have been planned for Victor Hugo Peña, who suffered a fracture of the thoracic vertebrae after crashing in neutralised section of Paris-Roubaix. Peña has returned to his home and family in Colombia, where he will recuperate and train in preparation for the second half of the season.

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