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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for December 5, 2006

Edited by Gregor Brown

Gilberto Simoni reconnoitres Zoncolan

Italy's steepest monster debuts in 2007

Simoni wins on Zoncolan in 2003
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

After four years, the Monte Zoncolan is making a return to the Giro d'Italia. In 2003, the Corsa Rosa visited the climb for the first time, starting from Priola, where Gilberto Simoni won before going on to take the race overall 10 days later. In 2007 the Zoncolan will be approached on a different road; departing from Ovaro, it will be a longer climb with more undulating gradients.

From Ovaro, the 10.1 kilometre climb contains sections of 22, 20 and 18%, with an average gradient of 11.9%. The Zoncolan, at 11.9%, easily overpowers all the climbs in Italy; the Mortirolo at 10.5% (over 12.4km), the Colle dell Finestre at 9.1% (18.6km) and Passo Gavia at 7.9% (17.3km). The mid-section will bite the hardest; from kilometre 2.1 to 8 the riders will be struck with an average gradient of 14.9%.

"I tried it last Thursday [November 30] with my teammate [Ricardo] Riccò. It was a beautiful day. A brutish fatigue," noted two-time Giro champion Simoni to La Gazzetta dello Sport. When asked if he thought it could be one of the hardest climbs in Europe, the 35 year-old from Trento responded, "No. For me it is."

In comparison, Simoni thought that the approach from Priola, in 2003, was harder in the finale. "The last kilometer was the hardest I confronted in my life as a climber." He continued, "Overall, it is less difficult. This time [2007] it will be worse."

Simoni at 2007 Giro presentation
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"The Mortirolo is hard. Very hard," il Trentino continued, comparing climbs. "But it is a climb where, if you have a little strength, you are able to hold on to your opponent's wheel. On the Zoncolan it is very easy to drift away."

The 2007 Giro will reintroduce a mythical climb and one that Simoni has never raced, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It has been 18 years since the Corsa Rosa passed the climb, when it was topped by Colombian Luis Herrera.

"I had never seen it, and the hour finally arrived," noted Simoni of his recent reconnoitring mission. "The scenery is magnificent. I went there last Friday [December 1] with Riccò. At the top there was snow but I am stubborn and I continued the same, arriving at the top. With respect to the Zoncolan it is less demanding; the gradients you can climb 'in steps.'"

Will Simoni repeat 2003, winning Zoncolan and then the maglia rosa in Milano? "I don't know. Last Thursday I went really slowly, in a way to memorize the climb well."

Gerolsteiner planning for the future

By Susan Westemeyer

Schumacher wins big in Giro
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team Gerolsteiner is going into the new season with no designated captains for the grand tours. "We have a lot of crown princes," team manager Hans-Michael Holczer told the Reutlinger General Anzeiger. He mentioned Marcus Fothen as one of the favourites. "He showed what he can do with his 15th place in the Tour this year. Who know how far he can go in the future."

Holczer also looked to Stefan Schumacher as a favourite for the world championships in Stuttgart, and the rider's season planning is based on that race. "He won't train on the race course. But with Schumi, you never know." Schumacher sees the parcours as so difficult that it won't be decided in a sprint finish, believes in his chances.

Holczer also repeated his strong anti-doping stance, noting that his riders have signed contracts requiring DNA samples in case of suspicion of doping. "Twelve other teams also have this clause in their contracts," he continued.

In addition, the team will support, both financially and materially, a new team for young German riders. "We don't have an exact name [for the team] yet," Holczer noted. Former Gerolsteiner rider Michael Rich will be material and talent scout for the team.

Zabel: Vino will win 2007 Tour

German Erik Zabel is already laying down his predictions for the 2007 Tour de France. The talented sprinter, winner of four editions of the Milano-Sanremo, was recently interviewed buy German television ZDF.

"[Alexander] Vinokourov demonstrated at the Vuelta his real potential," noted Zabel of Milram. "I am convinced it will be him who imposes himself on the next Tour."

After his team was not allowed to start in the 2006 Tour de France, the Kazakh, and compatriot Andrey Kashechkin, dominated the Vuelta a España. Vinokourov went on to win the late-summer race, finishing in front of Alejandro Valverde by 1'12".

Pascal Richard sentenced for fraud

By Susan Westemeyer

Pascal Richard has been sentenced to four months probation on fraud charges. The Swiss Olympic gold medallist was found guilty of fraud and misdirection of justice in a Swiss court.

The Tribune de Geneve reported that Richard was himself the victim of a swindler about four years ago. He had met a man who promised to increase Richard's money, and invited the man to his house. The mystery man subsequently disappeared with 200,000 Swiss Francs.

Richard called the police, but instead of explaining how he had fallen victim to a swindler, he said simply that money had been stolen. He also claimed that four clocks or watches with a value of 20,000 Swiss Francs had been stolen, although he had sold two of them. "I had lost everything and was ashamed to tell the truth," Pascal said.

Pascal's defence claimed that at the time of the occurrence, the former pro cyclist was suffering from emotional problems stemming from his divorce.

40th Premio Sport awarded to Basso

The 40th Premio Sport, founded by the Toscana town of Camaiore, has been awarded to Ivan Basso. Giampaolo Bertola, town's mayor, announced the winner on Sunday, December 3.

The rider from Varese won this year's Giro d'Italia before but then had his latter-half of 2006 dominated by allegations of involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The Spanish doctor was at the centre of the Operación Puerto investigation, which, along with Basso, has involved other top cyclists.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

7th Brixia Tour announces ProTour teams

2006 winner Rebellin
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
Click for larger image

Brixia Tour organizers have confirmed both Lampre-Fondital and Discovery Channel in their 2007 race. Race director Giuseppe Bresciani will meet with members of Italy-based Lampre-Fondital tomorrow to discuss their planned participation, while the American team, and new home of Ivan Basso, has also confirmed its presence in the Brescia-based race, held July 25 to 29.

"The feeling has been established over the last years, with the principle Italian teams making the Brixia Tour part of the international cycling landscape," noted Bresciani. "For the future of our race we are happy to that the attention from the big teams continues to rise. In the next addition we will continue with participation by ProTour teams, including Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Milram, Discovery Channel, Davitamon-Lotto and Gerolsteiner."

The 2006 edition was won by Davide Rebellin.

Saunier Duval-Prodir holds ProTour licence through 2010

Today, Saunier Duval-Prodir's general manager Mauro Gianetti happily announced that the UCI ProTour's licence committee has granted the team four more years in cycling's top level. The Spanish-Swiss team, formed in 2004, had its licence renewed by the UCI, starting with the 2007 season and running through 2010.

The team is now gathered in Cantabria, Spain to prepare for the 2007 season.

New York-based Sakonnet reloads for 2007

The New York City based CRCA/Sakonnet Technology U25 cycling team has announced its roster for 2007. After an impressive year in 2006, where three Sakonnet riders graduated to the professional ranks, the team has reloaded and signed some of the country's top young talent. The eight–man squad will feature returning riders Chris Kuhl, Guy East and Johnny Hayes along with new signings to the program including GC threat Gavriel Epstein (ex-GS Mengoni), a trio of sprinters, David Guttenplan (ex-SUBARU), Andy Cornelison (ex-Hot Tubes), Devin Flaherty (ex-Champion Systems), and time trialist Phil Gaimon (ex-VMG).

The three year-old Sakonnet U25 program focuses on a national racing schedule featuring top events across North America and welcomes back title sponsor Sakonnet Technology and co-sponsors One Equity Partners, Bicycling Magazine and the Century Road Club Association.

U25 Roster: Andy Cornelison (USA), Chris Kuhl (USA), David Guttenplan (USA), Devin Flaherty (USA), Gavriel Epstein (CAN), Guy East (USA), Johnny Hayes (USA) and Phil Gaimon (USA).

Team Management: Basil Moutsopoulos (general manager), Stephen Badger (East Coast road manager), Robert Bruce Weyman (West Coast road manager) and Joao Correia (marketing manager).

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