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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for June 1, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Unibet for Tour of Ireland

By Shane Stokes

Unibet rolling towards Ireland
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

With just under 12 weeks remaining until the start of the race, the first top-level team to participate in the 2.1 UCI-ranked Tour of Ireland has been confirmed. Race organisers announced on Thursday that the ProTour squad has signed up for the five day event, which returns this August, some 15 years after the last Nissan Classic Tour of Ireland.

"We are delighted that a team of Unibet's stature is coming to the Tour of Ireland," said Project Director Darach McQuaid yesterday. "This squad includes Tour de France stage winner Jimmy Casper and Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke, and competes at the highest level in Europe and around the world."

All three are strong sprinters and, providing they line up, they can be expected to be in the thick of the battles for stage wins. They have each been successful this season. Casper won the Memorial Samyn (GP Fayt-le-Franc) and took stage one plus the overall classification in the Record Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. Cooke topped the podium on stage three of the Tour Down Under and also on stage two of the Etoile de Bessèges.

He is currently recovering from a broken collarbone sustained in the recent Volta a Catalunya but should be back to full strength this summer. As for former British champion Hunt, he won the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise earlier this season and this week placed second on stage one of the Tour of Belgium.

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McQuaid is expecting more big teams to confirm their participation soon. "Negotiations with other top level teams are ongoing," he said. "The reaction from team directors to the event has been very positive, and we expect to make some major team announcements in the coming days."

The Fáite Ireland-backed Tour of Ireland gets underway on Wednesday, August 22, with a 160 kilometre stage from Kilkenny Castle to Cork. There will be additional stage finishes in Killarney, Ennis, Galway and Dublin.

LongReach Communications to sponsor Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni

By Jean-François Quénet in Riese Pio X

Gianni Savio
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The big absence in the 2007 Giro d'Italia is Gianni Savio's Selle Italia-Diquigiovanni team, who has an interesting record in the Italian three-week race but was left behind by RCS Sport this year. In the past two editions they have collected three stage wins, nine in top-five stage placings, third overall and the Maglia Verde with José Rujano in 2005.

"We hope to be back at the Giro d'Italia next year," said an always optimistic Savio who had considered bidding for the Tour de France – as Barloworld successfully did – but decided not to because his team wasn't exactly built for that event.

The cycling promoter from Piedmont who is used to winning on all five continents almost every year – particularly in South America at the Vuelta Tachira and Tour of Colombia and at Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia – has reached an agreement with a new sponsor who will appear on their jersey for the next three years: LongReach Communications (LRC).

Founded in 2005 by David Falt, who was born near Rio de Janeiro but adopted by a Swedish family and then went on to graduate from Stockholm University, the company works on developing growing economies and emerging markets in Africa, Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe through its wireless network. "Our cooperation includes a charity foundation for promoting cycling to the attention of the kids in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela," announced Savio who is aiming for participation in the 2008 Giro d'Italia.

Simoni rides home as King of Monte Zoncolan

Simoni wins Zoncolan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Gilberto Simoni will be returning home as King of Monte Zoncolan when the Giro d'Italia's stage 19 arrives in Terme di Comano, just 20 kilometres west of his home in Palù di Giovo. The Saunier Duval rider is riding high after conquering the Monte Zoncolan and just might use this enthusiasm to attack race leader Di Luca on home roads.

The stage finale presents the 15.6-kilometre Passo Ballino at 13.8 kilometres to go; its maximum gradients of 10% do not come close to the 22% pitches of Zoncolan but they may provide a launch pad. "We will try something," noted 35 year-old Gibo to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday. "Even with the climbs that are there and even if Di Luca seems likely not to give up. There is still life and there is hope."

Simoni's persistence may be aided by fresh-faced Andy Schleck (Team CSC). The 21 year-old Luxemburger would love to move himself closer to Di Luca to have a real chance of catching him in the 43-kilometre time trial to Verona on Saturday. The duo may be inspired by the northern shores of Lago di Garda and put the Liquigas team on edge.

"I am tired," Simoni continued. The climb up the western slopes of Zoncolan may have zapped the warrior we saw with the knife blade in his teeth on the run to Bergamo, who was out for blood and the pink jersey of Di Luca. "Even for a climber the Zoncolan is a hard climb." Gibo seems to be content his former Saeco teammate now has the race lead. "I don't see how Di Luca can lose this Giro. Cheers to him for winning it."

Praise Gibo gave to Di Luca reinforces the two-time Giro winner's humanity. "It was a touching telephone call," revealed Directeur Sportif Pietro Algeri of Simoni's conversation with his mom after Wednesday's stage win. "Also in 2001, coming down the [Passo] Pordoi, he called her. Gibo is direct and strong but he is also profound."

Ignatiev on stage 18's escape

Mikhail Ignatiev
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

22 year-old Olympic points race champion Mikhail Ignatiev was back to business in the Giro d'Italia by taking part in yesterday's escape. 'Misha' grabbed the Trofeo Fuga Gilera and the Intermediate Garibaldi sprint in stage 18.

"I don't think it was a suicidal move, we had a very good selection of riders in our small group, and there was a measure of hesitation in the peloton for a while," noted Misha to Tinkoff's Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov. "Unfortunately, there was lack of determination at the front as well. I tried to cheer them up, made a couple of strong pulls and they seemingly woke up and started working hard enough but then... I had a bout of stomach pain.

The seven man move disintegrated on the final two circuits; Misha, with pains, was with group of three that was gapped by Maxim Gourov's accelerations. "It was the worst moment possible for a thing like that ... and between then and the finish I thought only about hanging on to the main pack.

"I'm pretty positive about the points I collected for the two classifications. My track experience helps me at the intermediate finishes, although there's a clear difference between sprinting for points on the track and on the road."

Misha is looking ahead to stage 20's time trial. "Stage 19 is not cut out for me, I'll have yet another survival day, so I'll try to save whatever is left in me for the time trial."

CONI doping controls carried out on Giro's stars

Last night the anti-doping branch of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) carried out surprise controls, upon request of NAS (Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group), on Riccardo Riccò, Gilberto Simoni, Maglia Rosa Danilo Di Luca and Eddy Mazzoleni. The four cyclists were required to provide blood and urine samples.

"I don't feel monitored, I am calm," said Di Luca to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Has Prosecutor [Ettore] Torri ask to interrogate me? I have nothing to be afraid of." Di Luca was recorded in several phone conversations with Mazzoleni in which he allegedly talked about doping products, the investigation was dubbed 'oil for drugs' and led to Di Luca's non-participation in the 2004 Tour de France.

The CONI control was considered 'out of competition' like the one a rider would have when visited at home by his federation. However, According to UCI rules and WADA codes, these out of competition controls may only happen up to three days before the race start or after midnight on the last day, all other controls are considered 'in race' and fall under the authority of the UCI.

"The team doctor told me that the control was not allowed, because it was during the race and only UCI or WADA are able to carry it out. But since I have nothing to hide I did it."

Graeme Brown walks in Belgium

Graeme Brown had hoped to win the sprint in the second stage of the Tour of Belgium, but instead he ended up walking across the line. When things got down to business in the sprint, he was cut off by another rider, resulting in a broken wheel.

The Australian had been in a good position, but ended up walking across the finish line as his colleagues rode past. "This was a very fierce stage," said Directeur Sportif Erik Dekker on the team's website, "The bunch sprint was absolutely disorganized, unfortunately."

Boonen racing but not winning

Tom Boonen is back racing only two weeks after breaking his toe in a training crash, but he is still handicapped by the injury.

The Belgian sprinter finished 32nd in the first stage of the Tour of Belgium and 20th in the second stage, both of which were mass sprint finishes. "Tom especially noticed his toe on the cobblestones," said Quickstep Directeur Sportif Wilfried Peters. "Apparently the problems from the training crash need more time to heal."

Media treating Ullrich unfairly

The media is treating Jan Ullrich unfairly, according to his website, Many media outlets publicized claims by Jef d'Hont that he had injected Ullrich with EPO, but "the charges were 100% denied the next day, which naturally was hardly reported on by the media."

After making his statement in the German Bild tabloid, d'Hont said in a radio interview the next day that he had never given Ullrich an EPO injection, but that he would have more to say about Ullrich in three weeks.

"For me, the man has disqualified himself, but everyone should make up their own minds," said Ullrich's manager Wolfgang Strohband.

Eindhoven issues wildcard invitations

Teams Skil-Shimano, Tinkoff Credit Systems and Wiesenhof-Felt have received wildcard invitations to the team time trial in Eindhoven. The three Professional Continental teams will participate in the ProTour race on June 24.

Team Barloworld was supposed to ride the race, but withdrew this week. Its wildcard invitation to the Tour de France has caused it to rearrange plans and schedules.

Rabobank irritated to lose Maaskant

Martijn Maaskant of Rabobank's Continental team, who is currently leading the Europe Tour rankings, will be leaving Rabobank at the end of the season; it was announced this week, to the irritation of team management. He chose not to stay with the Dutch team but accepted a "financially much more attractive offer" from a team which he has not yet named.

Theo de Rooij, team manager, said that he was "not amused" by the youngster's decision. "I find it shows little respect from the rider and manager to the team which has brought him to where he now is," according to the team's website, He said that he made the 23 year-old a "royal offer," but that "there is obviously another team which is willing to lay more money on the table for a neo-pro."

He added that he was irritated that another team would snap up a young rider after having nothing to do with his training. "We get to know our riders slowly. We invest a lot of money and time in training. That is worth a lot in the current state of cycling. When other teams take our young riders, they should at least compensate us for the training."

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