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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 27, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Simoni: "Basso only loves the money"

Gilberto Simoni
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

"Up to that moment I had respect for Basso," recalled Gilberto Simoni of the 2006 Giro d'Italia stage to Aprica. The two-time Giro winner was interviewed by Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding the latest Ivan Basso news and the lead up to the Giro.

On that day, May 27, Simoni alleged that Basso asked for money to allow him to win the stage. "I discovered that it was not his first error in trust. Now, when I talk of Basso I am always a little bit of a bastard. ... I don't need [the friendship of] Basso to live. Last year a little bit of pity on the others because he was able to win the Giro by 20 minutes. This year it will not be the case that one person that can win every stage; we will have a little more fun."

Gilberto Simoni contrasted the work ethic of Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) to those of Basso. "For me Basso only loves the money that comes from this sport," Il Trentino continued. "In this case you don't search for victory but the security of a victory. Like a deposit in a bank.

"Rebellin has given his life, because he is strong. I know how he works in the winter. He does not have the need to travel to Spain," he continued, referring to Basso's alleged visits to Eufemiano Fuentes' offices in Madrid.

The 35 year-old rider from Trento is currently in Liège and preparing for Sunday's Classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He is working closely with protégé Riccardo Riccò, and the two are building form for the Giro d'Italia. "To win a third Giro is my motivation. ... We have a squad that makes the rivals scared."

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"We share a room," he said, referring to Riccò. "We have relationship like friends, similar to the one I had with Leonardo Bertagnolli. He does not speak of racing, but everything else. On the other hand, Cunego had his own agenda."

Simoni and Damiano Cunego were teammates in 2004 when the latter went on to win the Giro in the mist of an inter-team rivalry. "What happened on the stage to Bormio in 2000, I will never be able to stomach. From the team car they said 'Simoni wins' but, instead, Cunego shot off. Now he is trying to understand how to win the Giro again and he will be dependent on the depth of his teammates.

"Riccardo is different. He was not built, he was born on the road. Cunego is the product of [Giuseppe] Martinelli," Simoni continued, referring to Lampre-Fondital Directeur Sportif's guidance of Cunego. "Riccò is a natural and is not afraid of the others. He says what he wants, if he is able to handle the consequences."

Simoni and Riccò will face stiff competition in this Sunday's Liège. After the Ardennes Classic they will travel back to Italy to preview more of the Giro's stages; the race begins May 12 from Sardegna.

Wiggins happy with Basso suspension

"I want to get back to talking about clean riders again"

By Shane Stokes

Bradley Wiggins
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Olympic track pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins has welcomed the decision taken by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to reopen the investigation into Ivan Basso. Speaking to BBC Sport, he said that he and others on the Cofidis team agreed with the efforts to get to the bottom of the Operación Puerto affair.

"From a rider point of view, I'm delighted," he said. "The consensus in my team is that we don't want any of the guys implicated to line up at the Tour de France. And, from a cycling fan point of view, I'm pleased as well. Because the last year has been a mess. I just want to get back to talking about clean riders again."

The Briton said that he was uncertain that the full picture would ever emerge. "I don't think we will ever learn the full story about what happened last year with Operación Puerto and Floyd Landis. Every time something comes up they get a good lawyer and it gets dragged through the courts for years.

Wiggins has long been outspoken against doping in the sport. He described Discovery Channel's decision to suspend the Italian as "good news for cycling," but was strongly critical of the US squad for taking on a rider who had been implicated in Puerto.

"I think the biggest hypocrites here are Discovery. Perhaps their decision to sign Basso is about to bite them on the backside."

Discovery Channel were roundly criticised by several other team managers when they signed the 29 year-old rider late last year. It was felt that taking on a rider who had not been definitively cleared from wrongdoing broke the ethical code within the sport.

At the time Johan Bruyneel defended the decision, saying that he was satisfied that Basso was innocent. "It was not only this year, but last year that we were interested in Basso," he said at a team conference held on December 2, the same day as the presentation of the 2007 Giro d'Italia.

"This decision [to eject riders] that was made at the Tour was a rushed decision and maybe not made by qualified people," he stated. "I am an ex-rider, but when there are matters I don't understand I ask others. Before we signed Ivan, I talked to lawyers, and the FCI and CONI made their decisions. If they all said this [Basso is approved to race], then who am I, who are you, the press, to say otherwise?"

"I feel confident with my team. We made a decision to sign Ivan and it was not a one-day thing, we did our homework, we followed the rules, and I hope that everyone else does this in making their decisions."

Roche outlines Giro preparations

By Shane Stokes

Having been confirmed for Crédit Agricole's line-up for the Giro d'Italia, Irish rider Nicolas Roche has outlined his schedule in the run-up to the three-week Italian Tour.

The 22 year-old will do just one race between now and the May 12 start, riding the 1.1 UCI-ranked Tour de Vendée next Tuesday.

"I will have more or less a week at home, training there, then do the Tour du Vendée," he told Cyclingnews this week. "That is on the first of May and then we leave for the Giro on the ninth."

Roche took three top ten placings in recent French Cup events. This show of good form was enough to earn him a place on Crédit Agricole's team for the Giro, which his father Stephen won twenty years ago. He had targeted a ride in the race as one of his major goals for the season, knowing that it will help him greatly in his development as a rider.

For his first Grand Tour, he has set the target of performing strongly on one or more stages during the event.

Garzelli builds for Giro with Trentino win

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Stefano Garzelli struck back in Giro del Trentino to win stage 3. The 33 year-old rider from Varese won the stage to Toscolano Maderno ahead of Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ceramica Flaminia) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) after having cracked in the previous day's stage.

"I was very disappointed with Wednesday," said the Acqua & Sapone rider to La Gazzetta dello Sport. He is building for the Giro d'Italia, which he won in 2000, but found himself in difficulty on the day's first climb. "That same night I wanted to redo it and I notified the team that the next day I would attack. I want to win."

Yesterday, he took control. First he tried in an escape for about 90 kilometres that Cunego's Lampre-Fondital team let go. "But LPR and Tenax fought to take control. How some teams race I don't understand." Then Julio Pérez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) made a last minute bid for freedom, at four kilometres to go, gaining up to 55".

"I did not think I would be able to pull back Pérez," he continued. "Then when I took off at 200 metres and I saw that Khalilov and Cunego were near I had a moment of panic." However, Garzelli kept his cool to take the win.

"The win goes to my wife because we are always away from each other and in July she will make me a father for the second time. Luca will arrive." He thought back to Wednesday's stage. "At Predaia maybe it was a hunger-knock."

After the Giro del Trentino finishes he will travel to Tuscany for more racing and training in light of the Giro d'Italia.

Team supports Scarponi

Michele Scarponi has been summoned to appear before the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) next week to answer questions about his possible involvement in the Operación Puerto doping scandal, but his team, Acqua & Sapone, isn't worried.

Team manager Palmiro Masciarelli said he was aware of Scarponi's connection to the case when he signed him for this season. "A month ago, CONI said there was no problem. And as far as we're concerned there is still no problem," Masciarelli told the AP. "He told me again that he's clean and that he's willing to undergo any sort of DNA test to show it."

The team has not suspended Scarponi, but "If something new comes out on May 2, then we'll see," according to the team manager.

Scarponi, 27, won a stage and the overall in the Coppi e Bartoli race last month, and is currently second overall in the Giro del Trentino.

Tour of Britain route announced

By Susan Westemeyer

The Tour of Britain has finished in London in each of its first three years, but this year the race will head in the other direction. Or, as the race organizers put it, they are "turning the tour on its head!" The 2007 edition of the race starts with a prologue in London and ends up in Glasgow, Scotland. In addition, the race has gained an extra stage and moved up to seven days.

This year's race travels through Kent and the southeast, Somerset, the West Midlands, Yorkshire, the northwest, and Scotland, ending up in Glasgow, where it started last year. It will be held September 9 - 15.

While no details have been released regarding the distances or exact routes, the organizers have announced the stages. The race starts with a time trial prologue at Crystal Palace in London, before moving on to the first stage from Reading to Southampton. The second stage takes the tour to south-western England for the first time, travelling from Yeovil to Taunton.

The third stage takes the riders from Worcester to Wolverhampton, and will be one of the shortest stages of the race. Stage four crosses through Yorkshire, from Rotherham to Bradford. The fifth stage "is sure to be one of the most picturesque stages of the 2007 race, as well as a challenging one for the riders' tired legs," the organizers say, leaving Liverpool and heading north, "skirting the Lancashire fells and lakes" before finishing in Kendal in the Lake District. The final stage sends the riders through the Southern Uplands on their way from Dumfries to Glasgow.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège with Di Luca, Pellizotti and Nibali

Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Erik Van Breugel
(Click for larger image)

His efforts in the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne rewarded Danilo Di Luca with two third places and the certainty of good condition, "the ideal level for this period" said the satisfied Liquigas rider from Pescara. "I feel very good sensations but my condition is not yet at 100%.

"I can futher build my form in anticipation of the Giro d'Italia, and in the last Northern Classics I can be a real protagonist..." Now Di Luca aims at a great ride in next Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "Two prestigious podium finishes in four days represent a great result but it's natural to have a bit of bitterness when you come so close to success," said Di Luca, who finished third in Fleche. "I'll try to take some satisfaction in Liège."

'The Killer' will be supported by Franco Pellizotti and Vincenzo Nibali in La Doyenne. This same trio of riders will lead the squad during the Giro d'Italia. The Liquigas team will be directed by Mario Chiesa and will include Michael Albasini, Kjell Carlström, Francesco Failli, Andrea Noè and Alessandro Spezialetti.

Ballan, Di Luca and Riccò consider 2008 options

The three prominent Italians will be looking to renew their current contracts or find a new team for the 2008 season. King of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Alessandro Ballan, is reportedly being courted by Milram according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Also, Gerolsteiner has reportedly shown interest in the 27 year-old, currently with Lampe-Fondital.

Danilo Di Luca, currently with Liquigas, is allegedly entering into negotiations with CSC. The 31 year-old rider form Abruzzo finished fourth in the 2005 Giro d'Italia as well as winning the ProTour in the same year.

Finally, young Saunier Duval sensation Riccardo Riccò is reportedly receiving offers to break his contract (at a cost estimated at €200,000). The 23 year-old rider showed his power in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico and then set the finale of the Milan-Sanremo on fire.

Dream debut on track

Shanaze Reade (left) celebrates gold on debut
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

One of the biggest surprises at this year's track worlds was the performance of the prodigious Great Britain youngster Shanaze Reade. Cyclingnews Shane Stokes talked to the 18 year-old talent about her success as she prepares for a BMX gold medal attempt at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The recent world track championships were a major success for the Great Britain team, with the riders securing a total of seven gold medals. Together with the two silver and two bronze medals they also gained, the GB squad were by far the top team in Majorca.

Aside from that haul, though, there was another reason to celebrate. Several promising young riders were amongst the medallists, proving that the long term future for British Cycling should also be a good one. And no-one was more of a revelation than Shanaze Reade.

The 18 year-old is a proven winner, being a three time world champion, eight time European champion and five time national champion in BMX. However despite that history of two-wheeled success, she is a real newcomer to the track, making a her team sprint debut with Victoria Pendleton and then riding the 500 metre time trial for the first time ever there in Majorca.

For the first of those, Reade took the place of Anna Blythe in the Palma Arena velodrome, pairing up with Pendleton. They proved the perfect combination. Reade is known for her lighting speed over a lap and so led out her more experienced team-mate, who then hit the gas for the second 250 metres of the event. It worked to devastating effect and in the final they went 0.34" quicker than rivals Yvonne Hijgenaar and Willy Kanis and scooping gold.

Read the full Shanaze Reade interview.

Otxoa looking forward to Paralympics

Javier Otxoa is looking forward to continuing his winning streak at the Beijing Paralympics, a winning run consisting of gold medals at the 2006 Worlds, the Athens Paralympics and a victory in the most important battle of all -- that for his life.

Otxoa won a stage of the 2000 Tour de France. Not just any stage, but the Hautacam stage, just seconds in front of Lance Armstrong. Seven months later, while out training with his twin brother Ricardo, the two were hit by a car. Ricardo died at the scene, and Javier spent two months in a coma. He lost part of a lung and suffered damage to his vocal chords, as well as a severed sciatic nerve and brain damage. Almost miraculously, he was back on his bike 21 months later.

In an interview with Reuters, he said that he only has blurred memories of his life before the accident. "I don't remember anything of the accident. I don't remember much about the Tour either, but I do remember that it was a really impressive event especially with fans at the roadside."

The accident, recovery and subsequent legal battle have been very difficult not only for him but also for his parents. "My father and mother saw that two of their sons were trying to follow a career riding a bike professionally and then a man driving into us destroyed everything for them. They were never given any explanation as to why he ran into us so it has always been very difficult for them. Matters weren't resolved until last year. It took so long to get a verdict."

He returned to the bike against the expectations of his doctors. "At the start, the doctors saw the outlook as being so bad that they said I would never ride a bike again, that I would be bed-ridden or in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Fortunately, and thanks to God, I have been able to ride again and although I still have some pain I think I am improving."

His return hasn't been easy, though. A fear of training on the road and chronic pain in his legs and back are not the only problems he has to overcome. "There are certain things that will always be difficult for me because of the accident, such as keeping my balance and the lack of strength in my left leg. It is also difficult for me to get out of the saddle when I'm riding and to look behind me because I get disorientated, so I always have to look ahead. Little by little and with hard work I feel more comfortable on the bike."

He has acquired a new fan in cycling great Miguel Indurain, who said, "He's kept going with a passion of his, a desire that he had from before the accident. It has taken great courage and effort. Many people would have given up or lost motivation after an accident like his but to carry on, overcome all the difficulties and improve over the course of the years is an incredible achievement."

Meanwhile, the Spaniard is happily anticipating next year's Paralympics. "I hope I can take part and win something there."

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