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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 21, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer and Les Clarke

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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Stage 13 wrap-up: Piepoli daredevils to victory

Cautious Basso still puts time into his rivals

Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Giro d'Italia made its second foray into the mountains, and once again it was Ivan Basso (CSC) who showed himself as the best climber in the race. Basso took second in the stage behind Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval), after the latter dropped the maglia rosa on the wet and potentially treacherous 8 km descent into La Thuile. Basso lost 44 seconds to his compatriot, but he wasn't overly concerned. His main jobs were to stay on the bike and to put time into his rivals, which he did. The best of the rest was the consistent Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak), who led Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) home at 1'19, 35 seconds behind Basso.

After a fast first two hours of racing (50 km/h), a breakaway had formed with Benoît Poilvet (CA), Christian Knees (Milram), Olivier Bonnaire (Bouygues), Jose Cayetano Julia Cegarra (Caisse d'Epargne), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-Fondital), and Jose Serpa (Selle Italia). None of them were threatening on GC, and in any case, the break wasn't allowed more than six minutes. The real action began on the day's only climb, the 10.5 km at 9.8% ascent of the Colle San Carlo at 19 km to go. Once again, Basso dropped everyone and was left with Piepoli at the top. On the descent, Basso was super careful, allowing Piepoli to win the stage. But at the end of the day, Basso's nearest rivals on GC all lost time, with Gutierrez now at 3'27 and Savoldelli at 5'30.

See also: Stage 13 full results, report & photos and Live report.

Cunego concedes defeat

Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) has now admitted that he can't win this year's Giro d'Italia, after losing more time on today's 13th stage to La Thuile. Cunego is now 8th overall at 8'58, a big gap to close to the leader.

"Well, it didn't go that bad, but the weather ruined all my plans," said Cunego after the stage. "I just tried to defend my position. I realise that now I can't win Giro, but can still think of the podium. So let's see what happens in the next few stages."

Serrano out with a virus

Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros) did not take the start of today's 13th stage due to a viral infection. He became sick after dinner on Friday night, with high fever and episodes of vomiting. The team doctor, Sergio Quilez, decided to take him to Tortona hospital, where he stayed. Doctors diagnosed a viral infection and ordered him to remain in hospital over the weekend under observation. Serrano felt much better in the evening, and his fever has subsided. Neil Stephens will stay with him until he is well enough to leave.

No broken bones for Gonchar

By Anthony Tan in La Thuile

One of five riders involved in a crash early on in yesterday's 12th stage to Sestri Levante, Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile), turned out to be one of the worst off, along with Euskaltel-Euskadi's Roberto Laiseka, the latter forced to abandon shortly afterwards. Despite falling heavily on his right side, though, Gonchar pressed on, but the crash prevented him from keeping up with the peloton on the climb of the Passo del Bracco, and he eventually finished the stage 13'40 down on stage winner Joan Horrach.

Following the stage, the Ukraine was taken to the Hospital of Lavagna where he underwent x-rays to check for any broken bones. However, the tests revealed there were no internal fractures or wounds, and the 35 year-old was subsequently discharged.

Rogers out with infected tooth

T-Mobile's Michael Rogers was forced to quit the Giro before the start of stage 13, suffering from an infected tooth. "We found an infection. It would affect Mick's good form if he was to continue the race", said team doctor Stefan Prettin on

Team director Rudy Pevenage said, "It's a pity that Michael is forced to abandon the race. We will now adjust his racing schedule accordingly. He will fine-tune his form for the Tour in alternative stage-races." According to Pevenage, Rogers' preparation for July's Tour de France is not in jeopardy.

T-Mobile captain Jan Ullrich was disappointed for Rogers. "I'm sorry for Michael that he has to end the Giro in this way. That's a pity for the whole team. We did well so far and the team morale was very good. However, we are looking ahead now and try to keep on putting in convincing performances here in Italy."

Wüst sees Ullrich as Tour favourite

Former pro sprinter Marcel Wüst now sees Jan Ullrich as the Tour favourite, after his victory in the Giro d'Italia time trial. "If you figure his time advantage over Basso in this time trial to the time trial in the Tour de France in six weeks, then it could be two or three minutes that he wins over Basso. And this Tour is one for the time trialist," he told

He also joined the list of people asking if Ullrich had simply been bluffing this spring. "Who knows - maybe there weren't any serious knee problems. But Jan Ullrich is a good example that you don't necessarily have to ride a lot of races to get in shape. Hard training is sometimes more effective."

Wüst also doesn't see any problems for Ullrich in the upcoming Giro mountain stages. "Even if he gives up half an hour, that doesn't mean anything. You never know how intensively he is riding. But if he should manage to win a stage, he would definitely be sending a signal!"

Pérez's GC chances limited

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears' leader in the Giro, Francisco Perez, has admitted that his chances at finishing high on general classification are limited as the race approaches its final week. Perez finished next to Damiano Cunego in La Thuile at the end of stage 13 and said after the stage, "I haven't disappointed anyone because I cannot do any more."

Perez stuck to the wheel of Cunego in the closing stages of today's 218km journey, helping him regain some time on the overall standings, and the Murcian rider maintained that it was nevertheless a good day, despite the tough conditions. "I wasted too much time during the first part of the climb, and was the victim of one 'pájara' [bad moment], and, although I've begun to feel good again, I have to be sensible in my goals for the general with a week of high mountain that waits for to us - I'll continue trying my luck," he said.

MTB World Cup preview

Soggy slug fest in Spa

By Rob Jones in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Super soggy in Spa
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

One week after the heat of Madrid, the Mountain Bike World Cup moves north to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, with heavy rain and mud on the menu. With 24 hours to go, torrential rain, high winds, thunder and lightning are sweeping the area, followed by teasing glimpses of sunshine. This dumps extra moisture on an already water-logged region, and the course is turning into a muddy mess.

The 5.5 kilometre circuit is almost completely different from last year, with only the opening climb carried over. The riders head up a paved climb on the Formula One circuit then cut into the woods to drop quickly back down and before making an immediate steep ascent again on single track. After another short drop they head up the main climb of nearly a kilometre and a half to the top of the course.

The long climb is becoming unrideable, and at the top the riders begin a steady descent through the trees where they run into a mud bog. At the bottom of the descent they have one more short, sharp climb and descent before a paved uphill run to the start-finish line. What they can ride will be either slippery or a slog through mud. Currently, the expectation is that there will be 4.5 laps for the men and 3.5 laps for the women.

Sabine Spitz (Specialized) is not at all happy with the circuit. "Last year it was a problem with mud sections, and they did not do much to improve it before the race. This year is the same, and they have not done anything to avoid this problem with the mud. They (the organisers) know what the climate is like in this area, so it should not be a surprise. This is very disappointing."

Click here for the full preview

Cheula: "It's cool" to win the Peace Race

"It's cool to finally come back and taste the joy of winning," said Giampaolo Cheula, winner of the Peace Race on Saturday. It was only the fourth pro win for the Barloworld rider, with his previous three victories all coming in 2002. He took over the leader's jersey on the race's sixth stage, and is only the second Italian to win the race. "Big thanks to my Barloworld teammates," he said. "I wish to pay tribute for their excellent work. This success will be the best gift for my 27th birthday next week."

His directeur sportif, Valerio Tebaldi, said, "I'm quite sure Giampaolo is an excellent rider, a real fighter. Barloworld team's friendly atmosphere is giving him the possibility to express all his best."

Big battle in store for FBD Insurance Rás

By Shane Stokes

Let battle commence. What looks like one of the strongest-ever fields for the FBD Insurance Rás will begin eight days of aggressive racing this Sunday when the 2006 edition of the race starts in Tallaght.

The world ranked-event has attracted twelve strong overseas teams, including riders from as far afield as the American and Australian continents. Returning once again is defending champion Chris Newton, the Olympic medallist leading an impressive Great Britain squad. Another very strong challenge is likely to come from the USA-TIAA CREF squad, fronted by 2001 world under 23 time trial champion Danny Pate and former US Postal Service rider Mike Creed. They will be managed by Jonathan Vaughters, a Tour de France stage winner and former teammate to Lance Armstrong.

Also originating from across the Atlantic is the Canada-Team Symmetrics lineup, while Australia-FRF Couriers Caravello similarly have a long way to travel. Several strong squads are coming from mainland Europe, including the Belgium-Sean Kelly Racing Team, which comprises two good Irish riders and three Belgians, the Poland-Legia Bazylisek lineup and Germany-Team Stevens.

The Doncaster Stena Line squad is also likely to play a big part.

Reassuringly, the Irish challenge looks to be a strong one. Irish road race champion David O'Loughlin leads an impressive Grant Thornton Team Ireland squad, and will be joined by Conor Murphy, Paídi O'Brien, Roger Aiken and Ryan Connor. Double winner Ciarán Power is guesting for the Tipperary Dan Morrissey team, while the in-form Paul Healion will lead the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group squad.

Contenders for the county team award include Dublin Usher IRC, Meath, Cork Team Murray Ford Developments and others.

The race gets under way this Sunday with a mainly flat 121 kilometre stage from Tallaght to Enniscorthy, taking in two category three climbs along the way. The longest stage of 180 kilometres follows on Monday, the riders crossing three categorised ascents between Enniscorthy to Cobh before the final steep uphill rise to the line.

Day three is from Cobh to An Daingean (Dingle) and once again features an uphill finish, plus four category three King of the Mountains primes. The last of these, An Bharog Bheag, is situated just 13 kilometres from the line, providing a possible springboard for a stage-winning attack.

What is probably the toughest stage of the race follows, with the tough roads of Kerry bringing a total of seven categorised climbs. This 150 kilometre leg from An Daingean to Listowel includes the gruelling category one climb of The Maum, plus a very undulating run-in to the finish which should see the peloton split into several distinct groups.

Following a ferry transfer from Kerry to Clare, a flatter stage follows next Thursday with just one climb on the 178 kilometre leg from Kilrush to An Cheathru Rua. The Gaeltacht town is also the setting for the following morning's innovative 24 kilometre team time trial, which is then followed by an 83 kilometre afternoon stage to Westport.

Saturday's flat leg takes the riders 168 fast kilometres to Clara, the race then reaching its climax one day later with a 155 kilometre stage to Skerries. This is a departure from the traditional easier final stage, the four categorised climbs en route meaning the outcome of the race may go right down to the wire.

The stages

Stage 1 - Sunday May 21: Dublin - Enniscorthy, 121 km
Stage 2 - Monday May 22: Enniscorthy - Cobh, 180 km
Stage 3 - Tuesday May 23: Cobh - An Daingean, km
Stage 4 - Wednesday May 24: An Daingean - Listowel, 150 km
Stage 5 - Thursday May 25: Kilrush - An Cheathrú Rua, 179 km
Stage 6 - Friday May 26: An Cheathrú Rua Team Time Trial, 24 km
Stage 7 - Friday May 26: An Cheathrú Rua - Westport, 83 km
Stage 8 - Saturday May 27: Westport - Clara, 168 km
Stage 9 - Sunday May 28: Clara - Skerries + 2 Laps of Circuit, 155 km

Otxoa crash driver sentenced

The man who caused the accident that killed Spanish cyclist Ricardo Otxoa and severely handicapped his twin brother Javier in February 2001 was finally sentenced. A Spanish court ordered him to pay a fine of €1800 and to give up his driver's license for a year. The prosecution had asked the court to award the highest possible penalty, including up to seven years in prison and a fine of over €200,000. However, the auto driver's attorney was able to prove that his client had the right of way and that the Otxoa brothers cut him off.

Javier, who won the Hautacam stage in the 2000 Tour de France ahead of Lance Armstrong, suffered a crushed left leg, five broken vertebrae and severe cranial trauma, and was in a coma for 64 days. He was unable to return to pro cycling but won a gold medal in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.

Webcor-Platinum for Montreal

Team Webcor-Platinum's Canadians, Erinne Willock and Felicia Gomez are looking strong for the upcoming Montreal World Cup on May 27 and Montreal Grand Prix on May 29-June 2. 25 year-old Erinne Willock recently won the overall title at the NRC Joe Martin Stage Race and placed third overall in the Teleperformance Tour of the Gila. Felicia Gomez is also coming off a recent overall victory at the La Vuelta de Bisbee stage race and is also on good form to do something special in Montreal.

Former Olympian and 2004 National Time Trial Champion, Christine Thorburn recently won the Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos, CA. Christine was the 2005 Queen of the Mountain in the women's Liberty Classic and looks to defend that title this year on June 11 on Manayunk Hill with strong support from Alisha Lion, Katheryn Curi and Betina Hold.

"As we come into the most important part of our season, the women really seem to be coming on form," said team director, Carmen D'Aluisio. "Our team's focus is largely on the major stage races across the US, several of which are part of the Women's Prestige Series, and we are looking forward to defending the titles the team won in 2005 of best individual rider (Christine Thorburn), best young rider (Erinne Willock) and best overall team.

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