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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for September 19, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

ProTour: Di Luca closer to the prize

After finishing fifth in the Tour of Poland yesterday, Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) is closer to winning the inaugural ProTour classification at the end of this season. With four races left in the series and a maximum of 180 points to be earned, Di Luca's lead over his still competing rivals is sizeable. The Italian has 209 points, 69 more than Jan Ullrich and 70 more than Lance Armstrong, neither of whom will race any more this season. And a glance at the names in the top 10 reveals a similar story: Vinokourov, Leipheimer, Julich, Hincapie, Petacchi, Rebellin, Boonen will mostly not be racing the final three ProTour races after the World Championships.

One possible scenario is that either Petacchi or Boonen wins the World's, then goes onto win Paris-Tours, while Di Luca scores zero points in either the World's, Zurich, Paris-Tours, and Lombardia - an unlikely prognostic.

Di Luca's advantage over the rest of the ProTour peloton was garnered in the first half of the season, with wins in Flèche Wallonne, Amstel Gold Race, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, two stages and fourth overall in the Giro d'Italia. His late season results include a 12th in the GP Ouest France and fifth overall in the Tour of Poland, more than enough to cement his spot at the top of the rankings.

In the teams rankings, Team CSC has moved ahead of Rabobank with a clear 24 point advantage. Davitamon-Lotto is in third place, just ahead of Phonak. Italy is still on top of the nations rankings, but the USA is a strong second, courtesy of having four riders in the top seven of the individual ProTour rankings. Spain is back in third place, ahead of Germany and The Netherlands.

Rankings as of September 18

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                    209 pts
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                          140
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 139
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                 136
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                       131
6 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                              130
7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 129
8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                  128
9 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                       126
10 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                             121
1 Team CSC                                                 338 pts
2 Rabobank                                                 314
3 Davitamon-Lotto                                          303
4 Phonak Hearing Systems                                   301
5 Saunier Duval-Prodir                                     287
6 Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                               279
7 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                       255
8 Gerolsteiner                                             251
9 T-Mobile Team                                            237
10 Credit Agricole                                         234
1 Italy                                                    641 pts
2 United States of America                                 559
3 Spain                                                    441
4 Germany                                                  365
5 Netherlands                                              280
6 Australia                                                262
7 Belgium                                                  254
8 Russian Federation                                       153
9 Kazakhstan                                               144
10 France                                                  133
Full rankings: Individuals, Teams, Nations

Menchov gives Rabobank its best Grand Tour result

Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Unipublic
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Denis Menchov's second place in the Vuelta a España marked the first time that a Rabobank rider has finished on the podium in a Grand Tour. Michael Boogerd's fifth place in the 1998 Tour de France was the previous best by a Rabo rider. Menchov lost the Vuelta to a superior Roberto Heras, who wrested the lead from the Russian during the 15th stage to Valgrande Pajares and never even looked like surrendering it in the final week. But Menchov could still be satisfied with his podium spot, especially after bronchitis hindered him from riding a good Tour de France.

"Maybe after the weekend, it will sink into everyone that we have achieved a top performance here," said Rabobank's team director Adri van Houwelingen on the team's website. "With not all that strong of a team, without helpers with climber's qualities, and with a team that kept getting smaller. But certainly with an exceptional talent, because that's what Denis is."

Menchov defended his team from criticism that it was too weak, with the riders calling him 'Denis without team'. "The help was there, but not for the whole stage," said Menchov. Also, Rabobank wasn't particularly "visible" to the general public in the tougher stages, because the TV coverage only started at 4:00pm, and most of the riders had done their work and been dropped.

Van Houwelingen accepted the criticism, but pointed out, "We deliberately sent this team to Spain. Rabobank has to achieve top performances for the whole year. Many Spanish teams that were here, only aim at the Vuelta. You have to take that into account. It's unfortunate, but Denis Menchov also was completely in accord with the make up of the team. He really wanted to make up for his Tour here. It was his choice and it worked out great."

An interview with Victor Cordero

The Vuelta's numero uno

Victor Cordero speaks
Photo ©: Hernan Alvarez
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Victor Cordero is the Vuelta a España's version of Jean Marie Leblanc. As general director of the race, his responsibilities range from the race course to sponsors and accommodation for the entire circus. And more. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias caught up with Cordero after stage 15 of the Vuelta at Pajares's ski station. The Vuelta's numero uno talked about the race itself, the Pro Tour, World Championships and UCI presidential elections.

Cyclingnews: How is the Vuelta going so far?

Victor Cordero: My impression of this race couldn't be better after a stage like today's [stage 15 was won by Liberty's Roberto Heras in Pajares]. I think a stage like this hasn't been seen for a long time. The stage was planned strategically [by Liberty Seguros], tactically well developed, with weather conditions that attract cycling fans and a spectacular result. I guess it was one of those stages that entices the TV viewer. If I have to judge the Vuelta by today's performance, the judgment couldn't be better.

Stage 15 was the best stage of this year's race so far. There were a number of riders who were riding very well up until today, and it looked as if the Vuelta was over. We have seen it's not over. And I guess that after stage 15 the Vuelta is not over yet, either. It will be very difficult for others to catch Heras, [who is first on GC by 4'30] but it's not over. There will be final differences in time similar to the ones seen in the Tour [de France]. The Vuelta's differences aren't ever very big - there's still a race for the one who wants to attack.

Click here for the full interview

Vicente Belda criticises the ProTour

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid

Comunidad Valenciana
Photo ©: Unipublic
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Comunidad Valenciana team director Vicente Belda wanted to talk at the end of the Vuelta a España. His team won the team classification by 54 minutes and 2 seconds over second placed Illes Balears. His team did a great job with Eladio Jimenez, Ruben Plaza, brothers Garcia Quesada and Javier Pascual Rodriguez winning stages and fighting for almost all the stages. But he wasn't happy about the ProTour. Comunidad Valenciana is a continental team inside the UCI's new system, and doesn't have place in the top 20 ProTour teams. Thus, its access to the grand tours is far more limited than it was in the past.

The Spanish riders, teams and cycling organizations have shown their dislike for the UCI's new reform, which was introduced at the beginning of this year. Belda went straight to the point in the press room: "The ProTour is badly set up and they didn't look for solutions. We had the greatest gap in winning the team classification in the history of the Vuelta. Today, fifty riders were racing the Tour of Poland. a UCI ProTour competition. Is it good the ProTour, I ask?"

Belda congratulated T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner, which finished with the most riders, but he stated that they didn't improve and that they finished slowly. He also made a petition "gentlemen in charge of the ProTour, fix it."

Eleventh-hour changes in store for Australian World's team

By Anthony Tan

One of three favourites to take the men's world road championship crown in Madrid this Sunday along with Italy and Belgium, the Australians are now eyeing their list of reserves just that little bit more closely after it was revealed one of their previously named members tested positive for an illegal substance during the Tour of Germany.

Last Saturday, July 16, the Rabobank Cycling Team released an official statement indicating that 23 year-old neo-pro, Rory Sutherland, tested positive for an illegal substance 'neither blood doping nor EPO-related' while racing at the Deutschland Tour from August 15-23 last month. Consequently, the team has suspended the Canberra-born rider, with Sutherland requesting that his B sample undergo analysis.

Exactly how long the UCI's anti-doping lab will take to test and forward the results of the B sample to his team and Cycling Australia is unknown. Cyclingnews contacted the UCI's press officer Enrico Carpani as to the nature of the infraction and timing of the test results, but chose not to comment on either matter. Regardless, a further effect of Sutherland's current suspension is his temporary removal from the nine-member Australian team named for the men's road race, where he was to play a key role in safeguarding Robbie McEwen before what will most likely be a bunch-sprint finish.

"We were notified, but apart from being notified that he had basically gone positive for something without any detail, that is the extent of the information we have officially from the UCI," said Cycling Australia's High Performance Manager, Kevin Tabotta.

"When a professional rider goes positive, the actual role that a national federation has is normally down the track and reactionary to what [decision] has already been made. All I know is that it's not EPO or blood doping related, so I guess that takes out the more serious aspects of [the offence]," he said.

Added Tabotta: "Until the B sample is tested, we won't know much more - and from what I understand, his team, Rabobank, will be taking firm control of the situation and how information [relating to the offence] is delivered to the media and general public, and have given him fairly strict instructions on what to say and what not to say."

With Sutherland at least temporarily out of the picture for the World's, the five reserves - Nick Gates, Simon Gerrans, Aaron Kemps, Brett Lancaster, Matthew Wilson - would now be aware they are now in contention to fill the void. Out of the five, Brett Lancaster and Simon Gerrans appear on paper the most suitable alternatives in light of recent performances.

"It's not unusual at a world championship to have riders dropping out through injury or health reasons up to two days beforehand - that's why we have five reserves," Tabotta said. "Rory's situation, while very disappointing for him and also for the national team - he was riding very, very well - we do have back-up [for], and those riders are now in contention now for the ninth spot, should Rory be declared unavailable."

According to the UCI rules for a world road championship, national teams can nominate their final squad up to two days before the start of the said race - which, in theory, leaves enough time for Sutherland's B sample to be tested and, if declared positive, a suitable replacement.

The unofficial T-Mobile Tour team, according to Pevenage

T-Mobile's Tour de France 2006 team has already been selected, according to the German tabloid BILD, quoting Rudy Pevenage, who is not yet even officially with the team. Giuseppe Guerini, Andreas Klöden, Stefan Schreck and Oscar Sevilla, as well as newcomers Sergei Gonchar, Michael Rogers, Eddy Mazzoleni and Patrik Sinkewitz, are those who have been selected to give their all to help Jan Ullrich win his second Tour.

What will be different for Ullrich this coming year, Bild asks, and it answers itself: "The distribution of power! Jan has the absolute power in the team - like Lance the years of his Tour victories."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Lehmann loses a big race

German track specialist Jens Lehmann, 37, rode his farewell race Saturday in Leipzig and left cycling to devote himself to his new career in politics. A career that came to a crashing halt before it had even started - he garnered only 29 percent of the vote and had to congratulate his opponent.

Lehman had run for a seat in the German parliament under the Christian Democratic Union party. "I was irritated by my results," he said. "As an athlete, I don't like to come in second." Having completed two careers over the weekend, he doesn't know what he'll do next.

Lehmann is one of the most successful German track cyclists of the last decade, and won multiple world and Olympic titles.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

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