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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 15, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

Smiles all around at Euskaltel-Euskadi

Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Euskaltel-Euskadi had a great day in the mountains. Three of its riders were in the main group most of the climb, and it was Igor Antón, who was the designated leader for the stage, who attacked out of this group with about three kilometres to go. He finished third, 1'21" down on Moreau.

Haimar Zubeldia hung on with the main contenders to get sixth, at 1'56", while Mikel Astarloza lost a little bit of time in the end and finished just ahead of Mountain's classification leader Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), 2'46" behind the day's winner, Frenchman Christophe Moreau.

This strong performance got Euskaltel the team prize for the day, 1'08" ahead of CSC, which also had multiple riders in the main group. Gorka Gerrikagoitia, who is guiding the team during this race, said that "the stage has been very positive for us, I am very satisfied with the team work and we were rewarded for our good work by winning the team prize."

Gerrikagoitia thought that this performance will give them confidence and reassurance that they are on the right track towards the Tour de France. He confessed that "winning in this sport is very difficult, but we have shown that we are riding on a high level and we can be optimistic."

The day didn't start too well for the team. "As expected, a small break went away and we didn't have anybody in it. We should have been more attentive there." Additionally Igor Antón also didn't feel too well going into the lower parts of the climb and at some point almost lost the wheels of the group, but he gave it his all to stay in there and once he found his rhythm he went well. "The plan was to attack with five kilometres to go, but we were lacking a bit of confidence," confided Gerrikagoitia. So instead, Antón went with three to go but there was not enough time to get back up to Moreau and Szmyd.

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Anton was split about his feelings. "On the one hand I am very happy about my performance and that I as able to stay with the likes of Menchov, Piepoli and Evans. On the other hand it's a pity that Moreau and Szmyd had such a big gap already as I was feeling better and better."

The Euskaltel management was also happy with the performance of Haimar Zubeldia, who was riding "steady and solid." It hopes this performance gives him enough confidence for the Tour. "It was good to have this test after the 40 kilometre time trial," said Gerrikagoitia. A similar one-two punch will be offered on stages 13 and 14 of the Tour. He went on to say that "Saturday, will be another big day in the high mountains."

Zubeldia declared that "the stage was very positive for me and I had good sensations during the climb. It's close to the Tour and things look good. Saturday will be another good mountain test and I hope to do well." He commented on his overall standing (3'12" behind Kashechkin) "I could be a little higher if I had given it more during the time trial. I was not too happy with it, I think I could have done better. We'll see if I can climb up in the GC some more on Saturday."

Caisse d'Epargne happy with Sánchez's performance

23 year-old Luis León Sánchez finished 16th on the tough stage up the Mt. Ventoux. He rode in together with his teammate Xabier Zandio 2'29" behind stage winner Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance).

Sánchez, who is from Murcia in southeastern Spain, declared, "I felt well during the whole stage. The Ventoux is a very hard climb, and it is necessary to approach it with humility. I believe that Xabier Zandio and I carried out what the team expected from us."

He went on to say that he and Zandio remained with the favourites' group practically until the end and only lost time in the last few hundred metres. Looking forward to the Tour, he hopes that their performance will give encouragement to their leader, Alejandro Valverde, who lost nearly half an hour on the stage due to severe stomach problems. "He knows that he can count on our work and our support in all circumstances," the young Spaniard added.

Great CSC effort on Mont Ventoux

David Zabriskie (Team CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC delivered a great effort in Thursday's fourth stage of Dauphiné Libéré. The race finished on the top of the infamous Mont Ventoux after a 197- kilometre route. CSC had David Zabriskie, Chris Anker Sørensen and Volodimir Gustov in the main group for a long time and the trio finished in the top 20. This gave them the lead in the overall team classification.

Zabriskie got 11th on the stage, two minutes behind Moreau. This good performance put him in fifth place overall, only 26 seconds behind Andrey Kashechkin. The American stayed with the main group most of the way and he even responded to an attack of Botcharov before settling with the others in the final part of the climb.

"We managed to create an ideal setup for ourselves, because Dave, Chris and Volodymir turned out to have great legs today. It was a tremendous effort by all three and it opens up some exciting possibilities. In tomorrow's stage we might see a break lasting all the way home, so we'll have to keep our guys together ahead of the two final stages," said Alain Gallopin via

Valverde sick, Pereiro doubtful for Tour

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde surprised many viewers by constantly hanging at the back of the peloton during Thursday's Dauphiné Libéré stage and then being slowly dropped as the peloton started up Mont Ventoux. Caisse d'Epargne teammate José Vicente Garcia stayed with his captain, and the two finished last on the stage, nearly 29 minutes after the winner.

"Valverde came down with intestinal problems the previous night and he even threw up," said team leader Eusebio Unzue on "We can only hope that he gets over it soon." Sportwereld reported that George Hincapie (Discovery) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) have also come down with similar problems.

Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro came in 27th, 3'55" down. "His form is not good," said Unzue. "After the Dauphiné and after the analysis of the other riders in the Tour de Suisse we will decide whether he will go to the Tour this year."

Basso faces sentencing

UCI insists on two years

Ivan Basso continues to ride his bike. Yesterday he completed five hours in the Alps' foothills near Lago Maggiore according La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 29 year-old from Varese was not in the colours of Team CSC, which he had to distance himself from after being linked to Operación Puerto, or in the colours of Discovery Channel, which he was forced to quit just prior to admitting his involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Instead, he was dressed all in black. The colour could be appropriate given that today he faces the Italian cycling federation (FCI) disciplinary commission.

The cyclist will travel with his lawyer, Massimo Martelli, to Rome for a hearing with FCI judge Vincenzo Ioffredi, which is to be held at 12:30.

Thanks to the work of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors, Basso admitted that the five sacks of blood labelled "Birillo" were his, officially involving him in Operación Puerto and signalling his intentions to dope. He gave his confession to CONI's Ettore Torri on May 7 but, the following day, at a press conference in Milan, he tried to lessen his involvement the Puerto affair.

Torri took into account Basso's "moderate" contribution to CONI's investigation and he recommended a slight reduction in penalty, three months, for a total of 21 months. The FCI will have to decide whether it will take into account the six months of 'stop' during 2006, after Basso left Team CSC. Therefore, the rider could return to action in September 2008 or at the start of 2009.

Last night, the UCI sent a letter to the FCI President Renato Di Rocco. "There are not the elements to give Basso a reduction," it stated. It continued, according to AGR, that it is not possible "to reduce the sanction of two years" based upon "article 233 RAD, which obliges a suspension of two years." The letter went to state that if a discount was given by the FCI then the UCI would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Milram injury/sickness update

Team Milram doesn't seem able to keep its riders healthy this year, suffering a variety of illnesses and injuries.

Captain Igor Astarloa dropped out of the Dauphiné Libéré, suffering from toxoplasmosis. "That is not a serious illness, but Astarloa feels very weak and it will last a while until he has recovered," the team said on its website,

Fabio Sacchi is, like Astarloa, only watching the races at the moment. He broke his femur in the Giro d'Italia and he must wait another month before he can resume training.

Alberto Ongarato, who crashed out of the Giro d'Italia, will return to racing this weekend in the Tour de Suisse. Marco Velo, who broke his collarbone and knee on the Kemmelberg in Gent-Wevelgem, has started training again and hopes to start racing again the end of July. Dennis Haueisen, who underwent emergency stomach surgery in April, has also resumed training.

New Commercial Manager for Rabobank

Mark van de Camp is Rabobank's new manager of commercial and external affairs, starting July 1. "There is a need to strengthen our overall management," said General Director Theo de Rooij on the team's website, "Our goal is to be an international leading team. There are many ins and outs. Mark knows his way in the fields of cycling, sponsoring and media. Of course, it is an advantage that, like nobody else, he also knows his ways with our main sponsor Rabobank."

van de Camp, 39, has been responsible for the Rabobank Cycling Plan since 2002. Besides sponsoring the ProTour, Continental and cyclo-cross teams, the Cycling Plan supports the federations, cycling clubs, local cycling events and recreational cycling.

His new responsibilities for the ProTour team will include dealing with sponsors and focussing on "new possibilities in the fields of merchandising, charity and the new media."

Toyota-United heads to Austin

Team Toyota-United will participate this Saturday in the Austin Downtown Criterium, the fourth race of the USA CRITS Series.

Toyota-United's lineup for the 70-minute race consists of Serbian national champion Ivan Stevic, Australian Tour de France veteran Henk Vogels, former Mexican national champion Jose Manuel "Chepe" Garcia and former Australian Under 19 national champion Sean Sullivan.

Stevic scored one of the team's most impressive wins this year on Stage 2 of the Tour de Georgia when he soloed over the top of Clocktower Hill in Rome, Georgia., to notch the only victory by a domestic team at the race. He narrowly lost the sprint to Rashaan Bahati (Rock & Republic Cycling Team) in the USA CRIT Series at Arlington, Virginia. on June 2.

Toyota-United, only in its second season as a professional cycling team, has been ranked either first or second all season in the National Race Calendar team standings and has so far has gain 21 wins this season. Vogels just finished 13th in Philadelphia, even though he was delayed by a crash close to the finish line.

"It's frustrating when you ride six hours and everything comes unglued in the last kilometre," Sullivan said about the end to the 156-mile (251 km) race that was won by former Toyota-United rider Juan Jose Haedo.

Ullrich, his friend and the politician

Jan Ullrich has clarified that he has not asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet with him or help him. "I myself have not asked the Chancellor for a meeting, nor have I asked anyone else to do that for me," he said on his website,

It was reported earlier that Michael Stehle, head of the firm Terra-S, had requested the meeting, even inviting the Chancellor to Ullrich's house in Switzerland. The Chancellor's office said that no such meeting would take place.

Ullrich said that Stehle wrote to Merkel of his own accord. "He thought that he could help me that way. All of this occurred without my knowledge and approval. I myself never was interested in speaking to the Chancellor about my case or asking her for help."

He got in a dig at the politician, though. "I find the Chancellor's reaction to Herr Stehle's request weak, with all respect and the knowledge that the Chancellor has much more important things to do," he said.

In a press release which appeared on the Terra-S website, Thursday, Stehle attacked Merkel, saying that her "refusal to meet with Herr Jan Ullrich, as Germany's most successful cyclist, gives the public the impression of an adverse attitude towards him." According to Sport-Bild, the press release was removed from the website after only 20 minutes.

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