Latest Cycling News for April 19, 2007
Edited by Gregor Brown
Basso on Monte Zoncolan
The riders of the 90th Giro d'Italia will face what many consider to be the toughest climb in Europe, Monte Zoncolan. The 10.1-kilometre climb, rising from Ovaro (530m) to Zoncolan (1730m), has an average gradient of 11.9%, and 14.9% average between kilometre 2.1 and 8. Yesterday, 2006 Giro Winner Ivan Basso tried the climb for the first time.
"It is terrible but I like it," said the 29 year-old to Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport. The climb will be used for the first time in the Giro, the other side, from Priola, was used once, in 2003, when Basso's arch rival Gilberto Simoni won.
"The gradient is tough, although constant. It was made with a constant rise as opposed to a whole bunch of stair-stepping gradients, and that is better for me. All in all it is harder than the Mortirolo. On the Zoncolan you pedal sitting down, with the proper cadence, at 10-12 kilometres per hour; you can not attack and relaunch. It will be a decisive day for those who are dropped."
Ivan Basso has a hard year; since winning the Giro d'Italia in 2006 he was dragged through the dirt when his name was linked to Operación Puerto and, since signing for Discovery Channel for 2007, he has had a couple of early season injuries. He explained that the injuries are healing and that his last race gave him confidence.
"It is fundamental to re-win the Giro. I am determined," he continued. "I have come off a long stop and the start of this season I suffered, with my right knee in California and the sprain of my left wrist in Tirreno-Adriatico. However, at Castilla y Leon I was up front with the favourites and in this last phase of training I am working intensely like in 2006."
Today and Friday, the rider from Varese will reconnoitre stage 15, to Tre Cime de Lavaredo. He will cover San Pellegrino, Giau, Tre Cime Falzarego and Pordoi. The training and racing (this year 18 days of racing, still to come Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège) will leave him ready to start the Giro on May 12, from Sardegna.
Basso reckons the fans will still support him, even if he's is linked Operación Puerto, along with riders like Jan Ullrich, who subsequently was affirmed via DNA testing. "The fans are with me. ... And it is not important to me if anyone has any doubts.
"All of what happened last year has also affected my personal life. To return is not easy; my mentality is strong, and now even more so."
Riccò returns for Amstel
The sensation of Tirreno-Adriatico and the Milano-Sanremo, Riccò Riccardo, will return to racing in the Amstel Gold Race, this Sunday, April 22. The 23 year-old rider from Modena will take part in the 252-kilometre race, which is usually finalized on the final ascent of the Cauberg.
"He is going well and the idea for the future is that he will come here and race," said Saunier Duval DS Pietro Algeri to Cyclingnews in Brugge before the start of Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Italian took a break during the first of the major Spring Classics. "Now he will focus on Ardennes Classics - Amstel, Flèche and Liège. Gilberto Simoni will join him to race Flèche and Liège."
Other Italians set to start this Sunday are Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Ronde Champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital), Enrico Franzoi (Lampre-Fondital), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r Prévoyance) and Mirko Celestino (Milram).
Gianni Meersman comes out winning
"It was really hard but my teammate Janez [Brajkovic] was really good today," said neo-pro Gianni Meersman (Discovery Channel) after winning his first race. The Belgian, who lives near Kortrijk, topped a group of eight riders in Tour of Georgia stage 3.
"Without his efforts it would have been impossible to win the race today. He kept everything together today and was chasing down all of the attacks that were going in the end."
Meersman formed part of the day's major break when it went free at only nine kilometres into the 190-kilometre stage.
The 21 year-old Belgium will complete the Tour of Georgia, his first time in the USA, and then return to Europe to compete in the 4 Jours de Dunkerque (May 8-13) and then the Tour of Belgium (30 - June 3).
Saunier Duval-Prodir stronger and stronger
By Monika Prell
Saunier Duval-Prodir is going very strong in these days; after conquering the Vuelta al País Vasco – team classification, overall classification with Juan José Cobo and two stage wins – it's again a rider of the Cantabrian team who hits the headlines. David Cañada pushed hard in Tour of Georgia stage three to finish second behind the Belgian Gianni Meersman (Discovery Channel) and take over the leadership.
Cañada won the sprint of a seven riders, one second after Meersman crossed the finish line in Chattanooga (Tennessee). Teammate Rubens Bertogliati finished in eight and now is second in the overall classification.
"Tomorrow is 30 kilometres and I think I can have a good day," Cañada said to Cyclingnews, referring to today's time trial. "I am strong in the climbs too but I know Janez [Brajkovic] is stronger than I am there so perhaps we can use my other teammates who are strong like Simoni and Millar in our tactics over the next days."
Cañada also commented on the climbing in Georgia. "I can climb well in these kinds of climbs here," he continued. "If it were longer climbs like in Europe then it isn't possible for me to go with someone like him."
Saunier Duval-Prodir Directeur Sportif Mateo Algeri was pleased with his charges. "I predicted Cañada to be very strong here this week, even though we have other strong riders like Simoni and Millar," he explained.
He confirmed what Cañada had said regarding team strategy for the rest of the race. "Absolutely we are going to try to use Simoni and Millar to help us in tactics to win this race," the Italian from Bergamo continued. "It will be a good change for Simoni to help another rider. He is going to enjoy doing this job because he really likes helping the other riders. He will help Cañada here and then expect to be helped in the Giro later on.
"I think there are only two riders now that can win the GC, Cañada or [Brajkovic]. They are both strong riders but either way it is going to be a fight. We are ready for that!"
Vandevelde rises in Georgia classification
Christian Vandevelde took a huge leap forward in the Tour of Georgia GC, when he made what turned out to be the decisive break in stage three from Rome to Chattanooga, 190 kilometres.
"There's no doubt the winner is to be found among the riders in that break," said Directeur Sportif Dan Frost on Team CSC's website. Vandevelde took the fourth place in the stage and is now third overall.
"For us it was perfect to have Christian in it, because he'll be able to well in the time trial tomorrow [stage four], so Friday's mountain stage might turn out very exciting and may even decide the winner. All in all we're very satisfied with the overall standings after today."
Jacques-Maynes: The family guy
One of North America's recent time trailing highlights has been Ben Jacques-Maynes, who has taken his Priority Health team to the podium multiple times during the early season. Cyclingnews Kirsten Robbins spoke with the Californian in Palm Springs on his much-deserved vacation between the California stint the Tour of Georgia.
His third place in the Tour of California prologue was the beginning of his successful spring campaign, where he won the Central Valley Classic and the Sequoia time trial while placing second in the Redlands Classic prologue and third in overall. Jacques-Maynes forte in time trailing has led to his success on the general classification during the major stage races in the United States of America. He is now ranked number one in the NRC standings and is ready to take on tomorrow's time trial. Stricken with the flu just one week before the event's start, Jacques-Maynes is hopeful that he will be able to pull off another strong race.
A little rest and relaxation with his wife Goldie and son Chase was Jacques-Maynes idea of a recovery before he began to prepare for the Tour de Georgia. The annual trip to Palm Springs is something his family looks forward to every year, to get away from the racing scene that takes him away for the majority of the year.
"I always come to Palm Springs because we have a lot of family here and it is nice to get away from racing for a little while," noted Jacques-Maynews as his 18-month old and yells in the background after seeing the play ground.
Read the full interview with Jacques-Maynes: The family guy.
Flecha gains Roubaix experience
"Sore, but content," said Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) regarding his second place finish in last Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
"Still my forearms hurt but that is a normal thing after this race. Sunday, when I went to bed, everything hurt; the abdominal zone, the chest, the arms... The muscles that you normally do not use or you use little. When I finally fell asleep I rested very well," he continued to Marca.
He became only the second Spaniard to stand on the second step of the Roubaix podium, the first being Miguel Poblet in 1958.
"I attacked based on my own feelings. I had heard the Boonen was near, the directeur told me 'Boonen is 300 metres' behind, and then I did not receive any more messages. I thought that the directeur was upset with my attack so I went back to the team car for water but then I saw in his eyes that he was ecstatic."
Combined with his third in 2005, Flecha feels that the second place has given him experience for the coming years. "I am getting better. The experience is helpful. O'Grady has just won at the age of 33, not to mention Museeuw," continued the 29 year-old.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)