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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for August 16, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Ignatiev rockets back

Mihail Ignatiev (Tinkoff)
Photo ©: Freddy Guérin
(Click for larger image)

Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) rocketed back into the business of winning with Tuesday's stage of the Vuelta a Burgos. The 22 year-old Russian proved himself to be in top form after early season wins in the Tour Méditerranéen and 44th Trofeo Laigueglia with an attack from the field to win by 34 seconds over the likes of Valverde and Garzelli.

The victory by 'Misha' over the 150-kilometre parcours around Miranda de Ebro came after a day of driving from Italy to Spain.

"To tell the truth, it was perhaps the most unexpected of all my victories," he explained to Tinkoff's Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov after the stage. "It so happened that I had to go to Spain from Italy by car, I drove all the way from Marseille [France] ... went to bed well after two. It came just natural that the sports director Orlando Maini told me not to aim too high and listen to my body. But the body said 'OK' right after the start, so, I made up my mind to give it a try.

"The breakaway didn't form all of a sudden, it turned out a painstaking business; the pack almost sucked us in a couple of times. I had only one bottle in the cage, and the commissaries held back the team cars as the gap was less than one minute but it never grew big enough until finally the peloton let us go on the climb of the day – what a relief to have something to drink!

"Luckily enough, the weather was mild for this region and the time of year, there were some clouds above and some breeze to cool off. There were three of us Tinkoff riders in the leading pack, Steffen Weigold and Totò Commesso did quite a lot for my eventual success, they took powerful pulls while I stayed in the wheels for long spans. We mapped it out as follows: I try to break away, if I fail they contest mass sprint in what would be left of the front pack."

Mihail Ignatiev wins
Photo ©: Freddy Guérin
(Click for larger image)

The sprint for second was won by Daniel Moreno (Relax-GAM) over Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo). "I was fortunate to pick the right moment for the attack in the tail wind when the speed was high, and I really felt that I was able to ride alone quicker than with a couple of them, even if I had chance to relax for a couple of moments."

The young and powerful Russian, gold medallist in the 2004 Olympic points race, was presented with the leader's purple jersey. "They gave me three jerseys on the podium, so I was at a loss to tell which one was for the general classification: I also won the young rider's one and the one for combined classification.

He was forced to release in the following mountain stage won by Mauricio Soler (Barloworld). "Well, it could be a pleasure to dream of holding on to the overall leadership, but I'd rather be a realist and focus on yet another possible stage victory, the time trial holds a special importance for me."

Ignatiev's previous win came in the prologue of the Ster Elektrotoer, June 19. For more information on 'Misha' read The first of many more to come for Ignatiev.

Squadra Azzurra to Beijing

Ballerini (r)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

A select group of Italians departed for Beijing with National Directeur Sportif Franco Ballerini to preview the 2008 Olympic parcours. The Squadra Azzurra will compete in the Good Luck Beijing Road events this weekend, August 18 and 19, that will follow similar routes that will be used next year with a 174-kilometre road race on Saturday and a 23.8-kilometre time trial on Sunday.

Fabio Baldato (Lampre-Fondital), recent Giro de Lazio winner Gabriele Bosisio (Tenax-Salmilano), Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas), Raffaele Ferrara (Team LPR), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Fabio Sabatini (Milram) form the team that will race in national colours against countries Russia, Holland, Poland, United States, Spain, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Australia and China. Suffocating heat and humidly greeted the Tuscan former professional and his six charges when they arrived yesterday in Beijing. Ballerini guided Paolo Bettini to gold in the 2004 Olympic Road Race and he is working towards a repeat in 2008 with this weekend's reconnaissance.

Yesterday, the Squadra Azzurra was scheduled for a short ride to help shake the fatigue out of their well-travelled legs. The main goal was to preview the closing circuits of the road race. "The impression is that there is a difficult section, with a significant rise and difficult climb, but a more precise idea will be had only after I have seen the circuit with the boys," commented Ballerini.

Paolo Bettini did not travel as he is currently racing in the Deutschland Tour.

Igor Antón: Next chance Vuelta a España

By Monika Prell

Igor Antón in the 2006 Vuelta
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Igor Antón, the young hope of Euskaltel-Euskadi, tried this year for the first time to cope with the Tour de France. It was not his first big Tour, as he won last year a stage of the Vuelta a España, but he could not finalize his first Tour de France and was forced to abandon in stage 11 after crashing the previous day. Now, he has recovered from the physical fatigue he accumulated during the Tour, proving so by riding a good Vuelta a Burgos, the first race after his break, and is slated to ride the Vuelta, September 1 to 23.

Antón's good form is welcome news for the Basque team as it lamented yesterday the loss of one of its riders; young Iván Velasco has to abandon all hope for a participation in the Vuelta, as he crashed and abandoned in the Vuelta a Burgos.

"I think that for him, this will be important," said the team's technical director, Igor González de Galdeano, to Deia. "He did not ride many days this year and I consider that he needs more races at his age of 24 years. Furthermore, it's good for him and his future that he learns to overcome a complicated situation like the one he has passed."

Besides Igor Antón, Euskaltel-Euskadi will participate in the Vuelta a España with Samuel Sánchez who will be the leader, with the sprinters Koldo Fernández and Iñaki Flores, and veterans Iñigo Landaluze and Haimar Zubeldia. The three other riders will be chosen next week.

Terryn takes aim at McQuaid

Koen Terryn
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image) General Manager Koen Terryn has called on UCI President Pat McQuaid to resign. "Cycling needs stronger leaders. McQuaid is not the man to lead the sport in the future and it will continue to suffer unless there is a change," he said in an interview with the Reuters news agency., an online gambling company, announced earlier this week that it will end its sponsorship at the end of this season, two years early.

"The irony is that Discovery can't get a sponsor and we had one which wanted to continue but were forced out. This shows how badly run the sport is," Terryn continued.

Terryn blasted the cycling establishment, saying his team "was used by a pawn for power" by the UCI, Tour de France organizer ASO and Patrick Lefevere, president of the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT). "The sport should not allow the ASO to have so much power. They are acting like a cartel in a bid to break the UCI, so that is why we need stronger men to stand up to them," he said.

The ASO would not let ride in any races that it controlled, citing anti-gambling laws. McQuaid threatened to break with the ASO, but reached an agreement with them in March. was still not allowed to ride either the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France.

"McQuaid lost the battle in March. He wasn't strong enough and gave in, allowing ASO to do what they wanted," Terryn said. "Lefevere is the head of his own team Quick.Step, so how ethical is it that he is involved in these decisions? He has his own agenda."

Terryn said he understood his sponsor's decision. "I don't blame Unibet. If I was CEO of a company, I could not justify investing eight million euro every year in a team that is unsure whether it will even race in the big tours."

Crashes and injuries in Spain

The Iberian roads are proving dangerous for professional cyclists with crashes resulting in serious injuries for two riders this week.

John-Lee Augustyn Barloworld crashed during the closing time-trial in the Volta a Portugal, breaking his femur. He was immediately taken to a hospital in Visue, where he underwent emergency surgery.

Matt White of Discovery Channel had a run-in with one of those dogs who seem to be plaguing the peloton this year. While out training with Julian Dean, White collided with a dog who ran into the road. The dog walked away, but White didn't, suffering a double skull fracture. It was not known whether he was wearing a helmet.

White will remain in the hospital for four or five days, according to His wife, Jane, reports that he is "banged up and tired," but otherwise fine.

Cycling Grand Prix underway

By Paul Verkuylen

Reigning Australian Road Cycling champion Darren Lapthorne will return to the scene of his greatest triumph this Sunday when the Australian Cycling Grand Prix visits the Buninyong circuit outside of Ballarat for the final stage of the event.

The three-day Grand Prix series starts tomorrow with an individual time trial for both men and women in Learmonth, followed by a criterium in Ballarat on Saturday before Sunday's gruelling 153-kilometre road classic. The Buninyong route is well known in cycling circles and has been used in previous major events.

With current leader in the Timbercorp Cup, Zak Dempster in Europe preparing for the under 23 World Championships, Queenslander Grant Irwin will be looking to capitalize on his absence to take over the series lead. But he will face some tough competition from Chris Jory, who has been riding strongly over the past few months and with the strong FRF-NSWIS team around him, including Peter McDonald ands John Ebeling, Jory will likely try to put pressure on Irwin, hoping to leapfrog him into first place.

Having recently returned from some top level European racing in Italy and Austria, Drapac Porsche should have a number of riders in good form, which should see the racing being tough right from the gun. Favourites for the time trial would have to be David Pell and Mitch Docker, both of whom have finished strongly in this event before, with Docker being the defending champion of the Grand Prix.

In the women's event, former Olympian Kathy Watt will be closely watched, but with a strong field including Jessica Berry and Grace Sulzberger lining up, she will find the racing tough.

More than 320 entries have been received for the ACGP events, for more information see the official website.

Milram to Hamburg

Erik Zabel will head north directly after the end of the Deutschland Tour on Saturday in order to lead Team Milram in the Vattenfall Cyclassics ProTour race in Hamburg on Sunday. He will be joined by Deutschland Tour teammates Ralf Grabsch, Martin Müller, Björn Schröder, Sebastian Siedler and Fabio Sacchi. Christian Knees and Marcel Sieberg will join the six for the ProTour race in Hamburg.

Young Speirs lines up for Tour of Ireland

By Gerard Cromwell

18 year-old Isaac Speirs is set to become Ireland's youngest ever professional cyclist when he lines out for the Murphy & Gunn-Newlyn-Donnelly-Sean Kelly team at the Tour of Ireland next Wednesday.

From Dunderry, the same village as former Meath football hero Tommy Dowd, Speirs may be only six months into his senior career, but impressive performances in the early part of the domestic season saw him invited to Belgium and the Sean Kelly Academy in July for a trial period. They saw enough to offer him a full time place on the team. Speirs is the first rider from the domestic development squad to make the step up to the pro ranks and his first major outing for the Kelly team will be next week's professional Tour of Ireland.

"It will be a big step up for me," admitted Speirs to Cyclingnews, "but it will be a great learning experience to race against the top pros. I'm going to the Tour of Ireland to learn as much as I can and try and help the other lads on the team."

As a first year senior, Speirs was entitled to ride second category domestic races at the start of the year, until he had acquired enough experience and points to move up to first category status. Instead, he jumped straight into the top races and was consistently in the top three every week. A strong debut at the FBD Insurance Rás in May, where he won two best county rider awards and took seventh on the stage into Derry against vastly more experienced foreign opposition, marked him out as a rider for the future.

"I was happy enough with my first Rás, especially the stage into Derry, but there were a lot of days that I had very good legs but missed the moves because I don't have the tactical awareness yet. I spent last winter with the Murphy & Gunn / Newlyn Group development team coach, Padraig Marrey, at his home in Balinrobe. I got a part time job in the butcher's in Supervalu there and I worked a few nights and in the day time I just put my head down and did the training. My progression was a bit better than I thought it would be. I rode the first cat races at the start of the year, because it was something I needed to do. Where I want to go... it's a lot higher than 'B' races."

A bout of laryngitis saw the highly motivated Meath teenager off the bike for a month after the Rás, missing the national road race championships. "Joining this team has really opened doors for me. They've held me back a bit until I recovered from the Laryngitis, but now I can ride the bigger races like the Tour of Ireland and the pro races in Belgium and wherever. I'm still rebuilding my form after the lay off, but I can see some good progression in the last three weeks or so and hopefully I will be going well. We have a good team going and the guys are going really well and I'll be there to support them. I will probably be able to have a go on one or two stages if I have the legs, but it's all about learning really."

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