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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for April 29, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer

Romandie stage three wrap-up: Liberty for Contador!

Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

It was a well-calculated move that made Liberty Seguros' Alberto Contador grab the stage victory and the yellow jersey in the mountains of Switzerland yesterday - and the 24 year-old didn't lack the power in the final kilometres of the Cat. 1 ascent to Leysin. Attacking from a chase group which had just swallowed his even younger teammate José Antonio Redondo with only a few kilometres to go, Contador executed team director Manolo Saiz' strategy to the letter. The Spaniard now leads the race with 16 seconds over Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who naturally won the sprint for second placing against Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto).

"From the beginning of the day, I had good sensations and was waiting for the last climb," said Contador. "Since we had a majority of riders, the key was our strategy and it has worked out perfectly for us. I saw my opportunity at four kilometres to go, attacked and it paid off. This victory is very important for me: Romandie was the last opportunity to win before starting my preparations for the Tour, and now I will be able to do it with better sensations and hope for good things for the rest of the season."

The young Spaniard knows that he might even be able to hang on to the leader's jersey until the very end of the race. "Of course I am interested in the general classification and holding onto the leader's jersey," he said. "I believe that here we have the strongest team with three riders - Jaksche, Kashechkin and myself - with options for victory and we have to try to take advantage of this opportunity."

Saturday's penultimate stage looks to be the Queen's stage of this year's Tour de Romandie, one day before the final time trial. Three Category 1 climbs in just under 130 kilometres for a total 2,360 metres elevation can only be described as a sufferfest - even the gruppetto will need to be moving just to make the time limit!

Also see: Full results, report & photos

Romandie Stage 4 weather report

By Anthony Tan in Sion

Finally, some good weather: Stage 4, the first weekend stage of the 2006 Tour de Romandie, is predicted to be held under baby blue skies and plenty of sunshine. However, with three Category 1 ascents all past 1,150 metres above sea level, the mercury will vary throughout the day, expected to be in the range of 7-14°C. According to Météo Suisse, a 10-25km/h wind will be blowing from the west; riders will therefore need to adjust their position/rotation in the peloton or break over the course of the three loops to be completed today.

Ludwig optimistic for Ullrich

Jan Ullrich at the start of the Tour de Romandie prologue
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

"Basso is the favourite" to win the Tour de France this year, T-Mobile's team Manager Olaf Ludwig said on Friday. "Basso was second behind Armstrong last year, and Armstrong isn't there any more." But naturally Ludwig added that he was hopeful that it would be Ullrich, not Basso, who will take the 2006 Tour de France title. In stating this, Ludwig relied on "Jan's enormous potential. When he is in top form, he is the best time triallist and one who rarely loses time in the mountains, even against the climbers. He is mentally very strong and he knows the race. And contrary to public opinion, he knows how to suffer."

In an interview with German Netzeitung, Ludwig said that he did not have any doubts about Ullrich being in form for the Tour even though the German has to get back to form after a knee infection had caused him to delay his season's start. "I've been involved with cycling a long time, and I know Jan. I simply take the situation as it is. And so far I don't find it bad," the former professional cyclist said, adding that he was not worried that Ullrich might "crack" if he doesn't do well in the Giro. "Jan knows what awaits him in the race. He will be dropped, he will have to fight and he will suffer a lot. So we don't expect any miracles from him."

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Ludwig refused to look into the future. When asked if Ullrich would ride the race again next year if he should once again fail to win it this year, he answered, "Nobody knows that. Even if you asked Jan Ullrich that, he wouldn't know either, I'm sure of that he will listen to what his heart tells him - but only after the Tour."

Meanwhile, as the Tour de Romandie unfolds, Ullrich is still riding inside the gruppetto in the mountainous stages, finishing more than 11 minutes behind the winner in Leysin, which came after a 15 km-climb up the 1318 metre-high mountain in stage three. "For me it was already a success to make it to the finish today," Ullrich said. "There's still a long road ahead of me, but my strength is slowly coming back."

German teams injury update

It was a hard day for T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner. Sven Montgomery of the blue-clad outfit and Eddy Mazzoleni (T-Mobile) crashed on stage three of the Tour de Romandie with 90 kilometres to go to the finish. While the Italian could continue the race, Montgomery was taken to hospital, where a fracture of the collarbone was diagnosed.

The Swiss rider will therefore not only miss out on the end of Romandie, but also on the Giro d'Italia, for which he had been nominated by his team management. Still, Montgomery was optimistic. "Fortunately, it's a clean break," he said. "I think I will be able to ride again in the Tour de Suisse in June."

T-Mobile's Thomas Ziegler was luckier. He was involved in a crash about 500 meters before the finish line in Friday's stage of the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt. Ziegler managed to cross the finish line under his own power, but was promptly taken to hospital, where x-rays showed that nothing had been broken. He had severe bruises on his left shoulder and hip and many scrape wounds.

The team hopes that Ziegler will be able to ride again Saturday and defend his third place in GC. T-Mobile has already lost one rider in the race: Bram Schmitz's cold was bad enough to force him not only out of the Rundfahrt but also out of Monday's Rund um den Henninger Turm, where he will be replaced by Jörg Ludewig.

Discovery to Giro d'Italia

Lining up for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at the upcoming Giro d'Italia will be: Benoît Joachim, Matt White, Manuel "Triki" Beltrán, Tom Danielson, Paolo Savoldelli, Jason McCartney, Viatcheslav "Eki" Ekimov, Pavel Padrnos and Chechu Rubiera. Sean Yeats and Lorenzo Lapage will be directing the squad in the first of the three Grand Tours this year, the team has announced.

Defending champion and 2-time winner Paolo Savoldelli will undoubtedly be the team leader for Discovery Channel, but with the amount of climbing in this year's Giro, "one has to wonder how Tom Danielson will factor into the DC equation," according to

Pantani memorial at Mortirolo

The inauguration of a new Marco Pantani memorial on the ascent of the Mortirolo mountain, which will this year be the final climb of the 20th stage of the Giro d'Italia, will take place on Tuesday, May 2. The association of Italian cyclists ACCPI, together with manufacturer Bianchi, brought about the memorial in honour of the 'Pirate', who died on February 14, 2004, in Rimini. The monument is located in Piaz de l’Acqua, some eight kilometres off the mountaintop.

Gerolsteiner looking to win Henninger again

Team Gerolsteiner is bringing two former winners to the Rund um den Henninger Turm one-day race in Frankfurt, Germany, on Monday, May 1, and hopes to bring one of them - or a teammate - on the podium again this year. Davide Rebellin, who won in 2003, and Markus Zberg, who won in 2001, will be leading the squad. Zberg, who was third last year, is stepping in for David Kopp, who has come down with bronchitis.

"We're bringing a good team to the start and have an alternative for every possibility," said team manager Hans-Michael Holczer. He sees podium chances not only for the two former winners, but also for youngsters Fabian Wegmann, Stefan Schumacher, and Heinrich Haussler, all of whom have wins this year.

Holczer said he expected "an interesting story", and that the changed route "could make it exciting." The race this year will take the riders more quickly back into Frankfurt after finishing the nine hill climbs, for a few rounds on a city circuit before the finish. "Maybe a small escape group will come through," he said. "We're prepared for everything."

Gerolsteiner sends the following riders to Henninger Turm: Heinrich Haussler, Andrea Moletta, Volker Ordowski, Davide Rebellin, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann and Markus Zberg.

Vitoria back to racing

At the end of March, Phonak's David Vitoria had to withdraw from the Driedaagse van De Panne stage race in Belgium because of a virus. His team has announced that he will be back to racing now. "The symptoms were identical to those for mononucleosis. I needed a two-week break," explained the young rider from Southern Switzerland.

In mid-April, Vitoria was able to start training again slowly. Last week, he resumed training with the team. "I feel good now, but I'm not 100 percent fit yet." Vitoria will be part of the line-up for "Rund um den Henninger Turm", taking place next Monday in Frankfurt. "But I still need to consult with my doctor. I want to race again, but I don't want to run the risk of a relapse," Vitoria said.

Naturino motivated for Tuscan week-end

Continental pro team Naturino-Sapore di Mare will be participating in the 30th GP Industria & Artigiano di Larciano on Saturday, April 29, and in the 79th edition of the Giro di Toscana the very next day, with both races taking place in beautiful Tuscany. Directeur sportif Antonio Salutini has scheduled the following riders to race at the events: Valerio Agnoli, Massimo Giunti, Massimiliano Gentili, Cristian Gasperoni, Eddy Ratti, Leonardo Giordani, Massimiliano Mori and Luigi Sestili. At the Giro di Toscana, Brazilian rider Murilo Fischer will replace Valerio Agnoli.

"The team is having a good time at the moment," Salutini said. "In the last few races we have always left our mark. Riders like Eddy Ratti are ready for victories now - so are Cristian Gasperoni and Leonardo Giordani. The latter is on his home training grounds in Tuscany so he's very motivated. I'm sure that we will be up there this weekend."

Fantasy Giro 2006 rider list ready!

Breaking News! This year's Fantasy Giro d'Italia game is underway. It marks the fourth year of Fantasy Games here at Cyclingnews. The provisional rider list for this year's game has been uploaded to the game site.

We will shortly be announcing some fantastic prizes for this year's game, it's a great way to follow the Giro. You can begin creating your team/s now. You can play the first 5 stages for FREE! We will be adding additions to the start list on a daily basis. The Tour games are easy to play, all you need to do to manage your own team is select 15 riders from the live start list then select 9 of these riders to race each day throughout the Giro. You score points according to how well each of the riders place each day in the Giro. So try your team today and see if it's for you.

Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win prizes. For more details on how to play go to the rules section of the site for more info. To register your teams for the game go to

Good luck!

The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team

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