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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for April 20, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Prudhomme doesn't want Fuentes' riders in Tour de France

Christian Prudhomme
Photo ©: AFP
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Christian Prudhomme does not want any of the riders named in Operación Puerto to take part in the Tour de France. "I have asked the teams not to use those named riders," the Tour's Director said in an interview with L'Equipe.

"This will not be a unilateral decision," he said. "During the Ardennes week I will talk to all the teams." He added, "Everyone who is committed to this course must do everything to stop the doping. There must be solidarity."

The fact that Jan Ullrich's blood has been identified "has changed the matter," he said. "The named riders are now all the more suspected. We can't simply look on and do nothing at all."

Prudhomme confirmed that he has spoken with Discovery Channel, which signed Ivan Basso. "Yes, I have made clear to Johan Bruyneel how I see the matter, how I want to insure the future of the sport."

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He also added that he has not asked Bruyneel not to nominate Basso for the Ardennes Classics. "There was too little time. And again, we must cooperate."

Cunego studies Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Damiano Cunego
Photo ©: Sirotti
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The Tre Cime di Lavaredo will make its return to the Giro d'Italia on May 27, 18 years after it last appeared. Damiano Cunego, winner of the 2004 Giro, hopes to add his name to the role of Lavaredo honour that includes Eddy Merckx, Luis Herrera and Juan Manuel Fuente.

Yesterday, Il Piccolo Principe ('The little prince') tested his legs on the stage 15 parcours, which includes the climbs of Passo di San Pellegrino, Passo di Giau and Passo Tre Croci before arriving at the 21.9-kilometre ascent of Tre Cime di Lavaredo. However, the Lampre-Fondital rider was not able to reach the top of the finishing climb due to snow.

"It would have been better to arrive at the top, but there were two metres of snow and you would not even have been able to climb it by foot," he explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I have got a good idea by covering the first switchbacks; they told me that the final is as hard as the start. In some sections the gradient was like that of the Mortirolo."

The penultimate mountain stage has the ability to create a Giro legend but Cunego warns it will also be able to wreck any pretenders.

"Whoever goes into crisis here will lose the Giro, however, it can be an ideal trampoline for whoever is going well. All of the stage is hard; The Giau never seems to finish; you lose count of the switchbacks. There will certainly be an escape... It wil be a stage of elimination."

Today, Cunego will cover the 2007 Giro's final mountain stage, stage 17 to Monte Zoncolan. He had already covered part of the climb in the pre-season but, like Tre Cime di Lavaredo, was stopped short due to snow. Cunego believes Zoncolan is hands down the toughest climb for this year's race.

"It is absolutely the hardest climb in the Giro. And, after the Tre Cime, it is also the most beautiful," he stated.

He will return to test himself on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo after racing the Giro del Trentino and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "I am convinced that I am taking the right route [towards a Giro win.] The man to beat will again be Basso, together with Simoni." Yesterday, Ivan Basso also trained on the same roads. "It is too bad I did not cross paths with him, it would have been good to exchanges thoughts on the climbs."

Bruyneel offers thoughts on Georgia

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Dalton, Georgia

Janez Brajkovic took over GC
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel boss Johan Bruyneel was quite happy with the results in Tour of Georgia stage four, with Levi Leipheimer dominating the stage and Janez Brajkovic riding into the overall lead. However, this was a bit of a surreal situation for him, having one of his team's captains winning the thirty kilometre stage by a hefty forty-one seconds. Leipheimer banged his handlebars after crossing the line, either in celebration of the win or a sign of frustration with yesterday's stage -- perhaps even both.

The reason for the odd situation is the huge gap between the leading riders and the rest of the peloton. The result is a rare time when a time trial win would not have any effect on the overall leaders. In fact, the top two leaders on the general classification finished in eleventh and twelfth, receptively.

"I was surprised," said Bruyneel regarding the stage three riding tactics. "We were in a position where we had two guys in the breakaway and Janez is one of our protected guys. I still think that some teams should have reacted a little differently. Of course I had two guys in the breakaway so I am not going to tell them to go chase it down. It's a pity for the race because now it is just a race between six guys instead of against the whole field."

In terms of the time trial, Bruyneel was not surprised by either Leipheimer or Brajkovic's performance. "I knew Janez would have a good time trial today but I expected a little more from Cañada. Today we were definitely hoping to take the leader's jersey or at least stay in contention for the win. I think tomorrow is better suited for Janez than today but I am very happy that we took the lead after today."

Asking who he thinks is the biggest threat for the Brasstown Bald stage, Bruyneel replied that the rider twelve seconds behind Brajkovic in second place. "Vande Velde is the biggest threat. They [CSC] still have Zabriskie and other strong guys so we will have to really pay attention."

Two thumbs up for TT change

By Kirsten Robbins in Rock City, Georgia

Leipheimer rides to win
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Riders were happy with the new parcours for the stage four time trial at the Tour de Georgia. The course was shortened by nine kilometres to remove the risky descent over Lookout Mountain down Ochs Highway into Chattanooga. Ciaran Power of the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team fell victim to the fast and technical descent in stage three, crashing over a guardrail with ten kilometres to go.

The risk of descending Ochs Highway is increased for the time trial because aero equipment gains much more speed with much less handling due to positioning. Today's time trial winner Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) was not in attendance at last year's Tour de Georgia but approved of the changes made to the time trial. Leipheimer seemed surprised that the 2006 time trial included what was stage three's descent, saying that, "After doing that descent yesterday, I said to the other guys, 'Did you really do this descent on your time trial bike last year?' It is fast and I can imagine that some guys were scared last year!"

Omitting the descent provided a good opportunity to add a rolling, technical three kilometres to the finish of the time trial. Leipheimer noted that this final section is possibly where he was able to use his time trialing experience to know where to push hard and where to conserve energy. The new addition encompassed elements of challenge and fun at the end of a grinding effort. "Descents are a part of bike racing, but I thought the stage today was a beautiful course and in the last five kilometres it was very technical and fun. I think the area here is beautiful and there is no reason to change the course from this year."

Nathan O'Neill
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Nathan O'Neill of the Health Net-Maxxis team gave the new course two thumbs up and agreed with Leipheimer's thoughts on the course and its new final three kilometres. The Aussie has had a late start to his racing season due to a car accident while training on the time trial course in March. His injuries have healed quickly and he proved to be back in the game after placing third in the time trial.

The eight-time national time trial champion only had positive remarks on the course where he was able to test his progress. "Based on what Levi said I think there is no reason to change the course," O'Neill said. "He wouldn't change it either because he won the bloody thing. But seriously, I raced this thing last year and if you looked at the intermediate time split at the top of the climb it didn't change anything in the results. Fortunately, last year nobody crashed on the descent but odds are if you push things long enough and keep sending riders down a descent like that on their time trial bikes something bad is probably going to happen sooner or later."

O'Neill added, "The way it is right now, it is a beautiful new course and I would be in favour of keeping it the way it is. I think the last section is really good and technical; certainly, it is the most critical part in the course today. It was great, without a doubt."

Züri Metzgete cancelled

The Züri Metzgete (or Championship of Zurich) will not be held this year, it was announced Friday morning. The ProTour race, scheduled to be held October 7, was cancelled due to financial problems.

The race had been having problems all year. In January, Marco Canonica stepped down as director of the Züri Metzgete GmbH, the race organizer. The firm and the Radfahrer Verein Zürich hoped to organize the race, but were unable to find a main sponsor for the race. One possible sponsor cancelled plans after Phonak rider Floyd Landis' positive doping test was announced after the Tour de France last year, according to the Swiss press agency, SI.

Boonen takes a break

Tom Boonen is taking a ten-day break, according to Sporza, after which he will start his preparations for the Tour de France. At the end of May he expects to ride the Vuelta a Catalunya, followed by the Tour of Belgium.

Vandenbroucke back racing

Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Frank Vandenbroucke on Thursday rode his first race in six months, and called it "nice, really very nice." The Acqua & Sapone rider finished in the pack in the first stage of the Giro d'Abruzzo.

VDB underwent surgery on his left knee in February.

"Of course my competition rhythm is not yet there," he told Sportwereld. "So it wasn't that easy. What do you want after half a year without racing? Plus, I discovered that my left leg is still weak. I didn't notice it in training, but in the peloton I could feel that there was something missing. Now the best training is racing."

"I found out how much I still like to race," he concluded.

MIO a possible sponsor for Discovery Channel

By Kirsten Robbins in Rock City, Georgia

News that Discovery Channel brought Mio Technology Europe on board as a co-sponsor broke in a press release found on GPS Business News last Wednesday. Mio announced that they were going to be sponsoring the cycling team beginning with the Tour de France and continuing through the remainder of the 2007 season.

According to Paul Notteboom, Mio President for Europe, MIO is not as well known as its other GPS competitors Garmin, TomTom or Navman. Sponsoring the world ranked cycling team would provide their product exposure and brand awareness. Notteboom noted that sponsoring the team should also promote channel communications, public relations and targeted advertising.

Discovery Channel's director sportif Johan Bruyneel could not comment on the new sponsorship but he mentioned there would be a formal press release regarding MIO's co-sponsorship in the near future. Bruyneel noted, "It is more likely going to be a co-sponsorship somewhere between 24-Hour Fitness and AMD."

The big question that remains is who will be the new title sponsor if the Discovery Channel team beginning in the 2008 season? There have been rumours of several companies coveting the prized sponsorship slot but there has been no word of a concrete signing. Bruyneel was very optimistic when asked about the state of the team's title sponsorship before the time trial at the Tour de Georgia.

"Things are looking very good for a new title sponsor next year," Bruyneel said. "Nothing has been solidified yet but we are heading in a very positive direction for a new title sponsor next year. I am very positive and hopeful about a new sponsor and I better be because I want to keep my job."

Tour de Romandie announces route

The 61st Tour de Romandie will run over 667.1 kilometres from May 1 to 6, and travel from Freiburg to Lausanne. It features a prologue, a time trial and two mountain stages.

The course was presented Thursday at a press conference by the new organizers, Jean-Pierre Strebel and Richard Chassot. They took over the race organization last fall.

The participating teams were also announced; all twenty ProTour teams plus the Swiss Professional Continental Team LPR. Riders who are expected to participate include last year's winner Cadel Evans, Oscar Pereiro, Alejandro Valverde, Robbie McEwen, Paolo Savoldelli and Michael Rogers. 15 Swiss riders are also expected.

Prologue, Tuesday, May 1, Freiburg, 3.5 km
Stage one, Wednesday, May 2, Granges-Paccot (Frieburg) - La Chaux-de-Fonds, 157.8 km
Stage two, Thursday, May 3, La Chaux-de-Fonds - Lucens, 166.9 km
Stage three, Friday, May 4, Moudon - Charmey, 162.6 km
Stage four, Saturday, May 5, Charmey - Morgins, 155.9 km
Stage five, Sunday, May 6, Lausanne ITT, 20.4 km

Posthuma Update

Rabobank's Joost Posthuma is still in the hospital in Enschede, Netherlands, following his training collision with a car on Wednesday. According to his website,, "he is doing well under the circumstances."

He has plaster casts on his right ankle and left knee, although nothing is broken. However, "there is still come uncertainty” about his knee, and a further examination today should show whether surgery is needed or not.

Bertagnolli returns

"Now I am doing well," noted 29 year-old Leonardo Bertagnolli to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Italian from Veneto had stopped for a month after doctors noticed a cardiac arrhythmia but he will return to the saddle on Monday.

"I am confident, also because I no longer have the arrhythmia problems. May 7, I will return to doctor Paolo Zeppilli in Roma so that he can give me a re-evaluation."

Bertagnolli has eight wins in his career, his last coming in March 2006, when he won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Caisse d'Epargne for the Ardennes

By Monika Prell

The team Caisse d'Epargne has announced his teams for the three next classics in the Netherlands.

Alejandro Valverde will be the leader of the team in the Ardennes Classics, directed by the Sport Director Eusebio Unzue. The Murcian affirms that "these classics are the first big objective of my season."

He is content with his preparation. "I chose to prepare by taking part in the País Vasco and I think it was the right choice. The race was very hard, with mountains every day, and long stages many riders wanted to win. The rhythm was also very high every day. I think it has been the ideal preparation in view of the three difficult classics; Amstel, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

After the Vuelta all País Vasco, he "took advantage of this week to rest and recover. It will be very difficult to do as well as I did last year, but I will have a strong team at my side and I hope to be able to win one of the three."

The line-ups:
Amstel Gold Race (22/04): José Vicente Garcia, David López García, Francisco Pérez, Joaquím Rodríguez, Luis León Sánchez, José Joaquín Rojas, Alejandro Valverde and Constantino Zaballa.

Flèche Wallonne (25/04): José Vicente Garcia, David López García, Francisco Pérez, Joaquím Rodríguez, Luis León Sánchez, José Joaquín Rojas, Alejandro Valverde and Constantino Zaballa.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège (29/04): José Vicente Garcia, Vladimir Karpets, David López García, Francisco Pérez, Joaquím Rodríguez, Luis León Sánchez, José Joaquín Rojas and Alejandro Valverde.

Landis returns to racing

Floyd Landis isn't letting his upcoming doping hearing or last year's hip surgery stop him from riding his bike. He will compete in the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, in June.

Landis will compete as a member of Team Athletes for a Cure in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, a two-day competition consisting of four separate races -- road biking, kayaking, trail running and mountain biking. He will ride the road and mountain biking stages, and his team partners will be world-class kayaker Tao Berman and accomplished trail runner Simon Gutierrez, according to his website,

The event's sponsors aren't letting themselves be scared off by Landis' legal problems and are looking forward to the press attention that they hope he will bring with him. "From the event's perspective, he's a big-name athlete that we are excited will be able to generate quite a bit of coverage for the event and hopefully raise quite a bit of money for a great cause," event spokesman Ian Anderson told the AP.

"I am honoured to be invited to take part in the Teva Mountain Games for such an important cause," remarked Landis, who tested positive for Testosterone in the Tour de France. "I am excited to put my new hip to the test racing in the Rockies and this is a wonderful opportunity to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation at the same time."

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