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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for February 15, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Benna betters Tour Med field

Bennati takes 2007 first
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Benna, Daniele Bennati of Lampre-Fondital, notched off his first success of 2007 by taking stage 2 of the Tour Méditerranéen and he put paid to a winter of serious training. Yesterday, in Agde, France, the Tuscan sprinter topped Roberto Petito (Liquigas) and Igor Astarloa (Milram) in a dodgy finale.

"There was rain and side winds," explained 26 year-old Benna to La Gazzetta dello Sport after his win. "In front only remained 25 to 30 of us. At two and a half kilometres to go there was a left curve. [Alessandro] Ballan kept pulling, and he slid a little bit; I was afraid and crashed. I got back up and put my head down. At 800 metres to go I rejoined and then Ballan worked extremely hard to lead me out for the sprint."

Ballan's work for his friend and teammate was perfect and Benna took joy from his first win of the season (he scored nine in 2006 - ed.). The win capped off a winter of intense training, part of which was done in Spain's Canary Islands with teammates Daniele Righi, Giuliano Figueras, Claudio Corioni and Tenax-Salmilano rider Mauro Santambrogio.

"It is a paradise for training. The climate and the routes are perfect. We worked very, very hard on our base and this has been an advantage for me," he continued. "We did not waste a minute there."

Happy Lampre brothers
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

A sprinter does not always stay on the flat roads. Benna took on of the Spain's most feared assents, Pico de las Nieves, for training but also for the love of cycling. "An hour and a half to ride 23 kilometres. There are also sections of 23%. It is tremendous and very beautiful.

"Why do a do a climb like this? I am curious and I like the challenge; Because riding a bicycle is fun for me."

The good warm Spanish climates and early season win should bode well for Bennati's season goal, the Milano-Sanremo. In fact, Sunday, the last day of the Tour Méditerranéen, the peloton will cover the same parcours which will present itself in the finale of La Classicissima in March; with the Cipressa and Poggio.

"It will not be exactly the same, because the number of kilometres [raced beforehand] are different, but it will be important because is similar. It is better to do something like this in racing versus in training."

Bennati's racing schedule will continue to build for the March appointment in Sanremo. After the Méditerranéen, he will be at the Trofeo Laigueglia (February 20), the Vuelta a Valenciana (27 - March 3) and Paris-Nice (11 - 18). The racing will give him a chance to work with his lead-out men: Ballan, Corioni, Fabio Baldato and Massimiliano Mori.

Breakthrough season for Chavanel?

By Hedwig Kröner

Sylvain Chavanel
Photo ©: Andrea Hübner
(Click for larger image)

Long-time French cycling hopeful Sylvain Chavanel has made his 2007 season start at the Tour Méditerranéen in southern France on February 13. After his team Cofidis already scored the first victory this year at the Etoile de Bessèges stage race, Chavanel is eager to repeat the feat - if not at the Tour Med, then maybe at Paris-Nice or at the dream of every cyclist, the Tour de France later this year.

The 27 year-old is now at an age where he might fulfill the expectations of his team and the public have put in him for a few years. The good time -trialist is hoping to make his breakthrough this year and confirm his talent. "I hope to win races!" he replied to velo101 when asked what his objectives for 2007 were. "No, let's be modest; just wish me a good season. With some success, because I have to. I hope to finally have the success that I didn't get in the last few years."

At the moment, Chavanel is just "testing to see where I stand compared to last season", but he is "eager to measure up against my rivals" at the Tour Med, as well as at the upcoming races. "I don't know exactly how my form is - I'd like to be up front in one of the stages [at the Tour Med] and - why not? - be a factor in the general classification. But I don't have any pressure on this event.

"My first real objective is Paris-Nice. I'd like to race for general classification there, so it means I'll also go for a stage win. After that, I'll compete in the Ardennes Classics: Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

Chavanel knows that it is time for him to do just slightly better than his various good placings, and actually win a race in the ProTour. "At the 2006 Tour de France, I just missed out the victory twice in the stages Béziers-Montélimar [3rd] and Gap-L'Alpe d'Huez [7th]. I'm always well-placed in recent years. It will be my eighth Tour this year and I'm starting to get some experience - which is why in 2007 I hope to finally to bag a good one."

Astarloa's first day in Milram colours

Igor Astarloa's season with Milram has begun, the Basque raced twice on Wednesday, the opening day of the Tour Méditerranéen. Starting the day was a 26.2 kilometre team time trial, where the team finished 54 seconds down, and ending the day was a 107 kilometre stage, marked with rain and crashes, but one that garnered a third place for Astarloa.

"The ending was truly dangerous," said the 30 year-old to "There was rain on the asphalt making it slippery and the wind was blowing in from the side. My teammates and I always rode up front in the first positions and in the end arrived a good result.

Remarking on his early season form, he said, "I am not at the top, but there is still time to work on this and a solid start to the season is always a good omen."

Thursday, the teams of the 34th Tour Méditerranéen will face only one stage, stage 3, from St Cannat to Marseille, 158 kilometres.

T-Mobile for California

By Susan Westemeyer

Team T-Mobile is sending five newcomers to the Tour of California, including its two North Americans. The team will be looking to German youngster Gerald Ciolek to do well in the sprints in the race down the California coast.

Aaron Olson (USA) and Michael Barry (Canada) are the "local" candidates on T-Mobile's multinational team. Also making their T-Mobile debuts will be Adam Hansen (Australia), Jacob Piil (Denmark) and Ciolek (Germany). They will be joined by Michael Rogers (Australia), Greg Henderson (New Zealand) and Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg).

Brian Holm is Director Sportif for the race. "If you consider which phase of the season we're in at the moment then you can't really talk about a preparation race. Here you are up against it from the start," he said on the team's website.

The team hopes to repeat its two sprint stage wins from last year. "With Greg Henderson and Gerald Ciolek we have to sprinting talents in the team who'll be able to show their ability on a course like this," he continued. For a possible GC candidate, he pointed to trio Olson, Piil and Kirchen, all of whom are "raring to go."

T-Mobile for the Tour of California: Michael Barry, Gerald Ciolek, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Kim Kirchen, Aaron Olson, Jacob Piil and Michael Rogers.

Gerolsteiner heads west

By Susan Westemeyer

Gerolsteiner is heading to the US West Coast and hoping for its usual luck in California. The team's captain won the prologue last year, but Levi Leipheimer is no longer with the team. Fabien Wegmann is still in the Gerolsteiner colours, though. He won the GP San Francisco in 2005, and will be looking to repeat his luck in the Golden State.

The race will mark the debut of two new riders in Gerolsteiner blue, Bernhard Kohl and Oliver Zaugg.

Half of the team is already on site: Torsten Hiekmann, Kohl, Wegmann, and Peter Wrolich have been training in California since February 8. The rest of the team is scheduled to fly today, Thursday.

The Gerolsteiner team for Tour of California: Robert Förster, Torsten Hiekmann, Bernhard Kohl, Sven Krauss, Volker Ordowski, Fabian Wegmann, Peter Wrolich and Oliver Zaugg.

Juan Miguel Mercado: operation of the meniscus

By Monika Prell

Next Monday, Spanish cyclist Juan Miguel Mercado will have an operation on his meniscus in his right knee. He received a strong blow in the first stage of the Volta a Mallorca.

At first, the injury was believed not to be so bad, but after the medical checks doctors advised him that it would be best would to have an operation. According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, the cyclist who is riding for the French team Agritubel, will have the operation in Granada's hospital "La Salud".

T-Mobile for Ruta del Sol

By Susan Westemeyer

Linus Gerdemann will be leading T-Mobile in the Ruta del Sol, as the team intensifies its preparations for the upcoming Spring Classics. Director Sportif Valerio Piva is looking to the youngster to do well in the mid-range hills, but is not counting out Bert Grabsch or Marcus Burghardt, who is currently doing well in the Volta a Mallorca.

The race is hilly but not really mountainous, as the two previous Telekom/T-Mobile overall winners prove: sprinters Rolf Gölz (198, 1987) and Erik Zabel (1997).

Although the season has just started, the Ruta del Sol is the third of the year for Burghardt, Grabsch and Eric Baumann. Frantisek Rabon, sprinter Roger Hammond and time trial specialist Marco Pinotti round out the team.

T-Mobile for Ruta del Sol: Eric Baumann, Marcus Burghardt, Linus Gerdemann, Bert Grabsch, Roger Hammond, Marco Pinotti and Frantisek Rabon.

Priority Health races in Tour of California

The Priority Health team, Michigan's only professional cycling team, is competing in the Tour of California, February 18-25, the nation's biggest and most prestigious cycling race. The team will be riding head-to-head with some of the world's biggest names in cycling including the Discovery Channel, Team CSC, T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner and Predictor-Lotto.

The Priority Health team is one of only four national teams to be invited to participate in the Tour. Managed and based in Michigan, the team features some of Michigan's top talent — Brian Sheedy of Rockford and Graham Howard of Grand Rapids.

"It is an honour to be invited to compete in this race," said Mark Olson, Priority Health team manager. "We feel privileged to compete against these high calibre athletes and we are going to work really hard to make a mark in this race."

2007 Cheerwine cycling team presentation

The squad
Photo ©: Coke Whitworth
(Click for larger image)

The 2007 Cheerwine professional women's cycling team gathered in North Carolina for its team presentation. The group arrived on Thursday in Pineville, North Carolina and, Friday, started individual bike setups for road bikes and, the next day, time trial bikes. Between fits, the athletes' team director Thad Fischer and team owner Anne Bolyea went for team training rides, as well undergoing fitness testing.

Team photographer Coke Whitworth was on hand for individual portraits, team shots and photos of the riders on training rides. Witworth captured the women while using their new Orbea Opal bicycles. The girls tested the bikes while team mechanics Mike Boone and Bob Nixon were making the necessary adjustments for the riders.

Saturday evening, the riders gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn for a meeting with Orbea representatives. The team was able to have any of its questions answered. They also discussed its marketing strategies for Orbea. The night continued, after the meeting with Orbea, the girls changed into their new kits for the presentation.

MC Chad Andrews
Photo ©: Coke Whitworth
(Click for larger image)

Master of ceremonies Chad Andrews introduced riders and staff to a room full press, family and the president of Cheerwine, Mark Ritchie. The president explained, "This program is very exciting and we look forward to the most successful racing season we have had in five years. Anne has done a wonderful job in picking riders and staff [new director Thad Fischer] and Cheerwine is extremely proud of this team."

After the intensive presentation weekend, the riders took off to South Carolina, where they spent a week of training in the mountains. "It was a very remote destination without the distractions of television or internet," noted Anne Bolyea. "The girls had a wonderful time bonding and riding upwards of six hours a day. In conjunction with the rides, the athletes' worked on 'unique' team building skills in the cabin with each rider going home with their own black and red friendship bracelets. I am going to plead the fifth about the cherry tattoos."

The team will start its season in Australia with the Geelong Tour and World Cup, and then head to New Zealand for the Trust House Tour, where Cheerwine rider Catherine Cheatly won in 2005. The team will also send a squad to the first races in California, starting with the Santa Clarita race and then start the NRC calendar.

For a full roster please visit the Cyclingnews teams database.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Coke Whitworth

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