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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for June 18, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Boonen to the Worlds

Tom Boonen in the Dauphiné
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen wants to ride the World Championships in Stuttgart this year and he will use the Vuelta a España as preparation.

"I want to prepare myself one hundred percent for the Worlds," he said, according to "I have seen photos and graphics of the course ... The finish is difficult. If you come to the finish with Bettini or Di Luca, you have less chance to win, but who all will be there? That is another question."

The Belgian sprinter did not finish the final stage of the Dauphiné Libéré. "I am very content with this past week, even if I didn't win." Despite everything, he called it "a relaxing environment," and added, "I'm glad I did not choose to go to Switzerland."

Boonen returned to Belgium Sunday evening to undergo conditioning tests and then returned to his home in Monaco on Wednesday. He noted that he will be in southern France "for a week of recuperation. Then I will go the Belgian championships in Ronse."

Benna does it again: Second

Bennati battles
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Italian Daniele Bennati is showing amazing form leading to the Tour de France, unfortunately, it the result of two seconds places over this past weekend in the 71st Tour de Suisse. Saturday, in the opening time trial the 26 year-old of Lampre-Fondital finished just eight seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and then, Sunday, he was nipped on the line by veteran Erik Zabel (Milram).

'Benna' lost to Cancellara and Zabel but there were 163 behind him, including sprint rivals Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) and Murilo Fischer (Liquigas).

Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Alessandro Ballan did a huge lead-out for his teammate and friend in Sunday's finale but Benna was left lacking in the arms. "It was a problem with an arm, not the legs," explained Benna to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I don't want it to seem like an excuse, but the left shoulder, after a crash Thursday in training, left me with a bad feeling and this prohibited me from pulling with the arms like I usually do. It is too bad because I am now better than Zabel but every sprint has its story and he won."

After two second places in Suisse (including three in 2006), Benna remains in good spirits and must have that feeling that his first Tour de France stage is just right around the corner. In the meantime, he is planning something different for 2008. "Next year I will not come here seeing how I have a collection of five second places. I will go to the Dauphiné to see if I have less bad luck," he joked. Which jersey will he be wearing? "I have various offers," he remarked; his contract ends with Lampre-Fondital this off-season. "But I want to stay in Italy and Lampre is the priority.

"The thing I want the most of in the future is trust, because I have demonstrated to be a rider from January to October. Next year I want to go to the Giro [d'Italia] as a captain for the sprints. In the spring I bettered Petacchi three times [in Valenciana], then he went on to win five stages of the Giro. I want to battle him there."

For more on Daniele Bennati, read our April interview with him, Sprinting with confidence.

Two Gerolsteiners down but bouncing back

By Susan Westemeyer

A traffic island proved to be the downfall of Gerolsteiner riders David Kopp and Marcus Zberg only a few hundred metres before the finish of the second stage of the Tour de Suisse. The two were preparing for the bunch sprint finish when they went down. Both eventually crossed the finish line on their bikes.

"The results of this stage were of secondary importance to us," said Directeur Sportif Reimund Dietzen. "The important thing is that David and Markus are OK."

"It doesn't look as if anything was broken," he said. Monday morning, team spokesman Mathias Wieland told Cyclingnews "the two are doing relatively good with 'just' bruises, scraps and so on. They will both start today. Of course we have to wait and see how they cope with their injuries under race conditions."

Teammate Johannes Frohlinger witnessed the crash. "Especially Markus, who had a bad crash three weeks ago in Catalunya, didn't look good. I stayed by him and shoved him a little the last few metres."

Freire down but not out

A crash in Switzerland caused shock waves in France. Rabobank team manager Erik Breukink was watching the Tour de Suisse on the TV in the team bus at the Dauphiné Libéré and was horrified to see his star sprinter Oscar Freire crash heavily only 600 metres before the finish line. The preliminary injury report was positive. "Oscar at least did not tear or break anything, and also did not sustain any bruises," Directeur Sportif Adri van Houwelingen said on the team's website,

However, he noted further that the Spaniard was complaining about shoulder and neck pain. "But that also seems to be fine. With these kinds of complaints, you always need to wait and see. Sometimes they worsen overnight, but Oscar is in good hands here. I think he will be all right."

Actually, according to van Houwelingen, Freire was lucky. He crashed when two riders behind him went down, with one of them clipping his rear wheel. He went down, narrowly avoiding a traffic sign. "That's what makes these crashes so scary," van Houwelingen noted. "You cannot see it coming. Otherwise, you can prepare yourself for it. ... All in all, I think Oscar and the team got away with it very well."

Rabo proud of its "mini-team"

Rabobank finished the Dauphiné Libéré with only four riders, but was satisfied with the performance of its "mini" team. "We have played a role until the end," said team manager Erik Breukink on the team's website, "And that with only four men. Additionally, the guys have come out of this tour with a much stronger condition than when they started. Denis Menchov was doing very well during the weekend. That is very promising with a view to the Tour."

He elaborated on Menchov, saying, "Denis had energy left today. He placed an attack at the right moment, but there were still too many Astanas left in that group. Otherwise, it might have worked. But, the general mood, with regard to Denis and the team, is very positive. We have shown more with four riders than other teams with six or seven."

During the race, the team lost four riders, with Graeme Brown suffering a slight knee injury and three young riders coming down with intestinal problems. All four are recovered and three of them have already raced again. Brown and Marc De Maar rode the Delta Profronde on Saturday and Theo Eltink is riding the Tour de Suisse.

Only Robert Gesink is not riding, but only because he had no other race scheduled. Breukink said it was a shame that Gesink could not finish the Dauphiné. "Robert had very much looked out for this race, but he never got the opportunity to show himself. When that opportunity appeared, he became ill. Perhaps he could have continued, but in hindsight I think it was a very wise decision to send him home. It would have benefited no one if he had to use up every bit of his energy here."

UCI and Basso react to sentence

Basso leaves
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"We are satisfied with the sentencing of Basso," noted UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani. The Italian commented to that the Italian cycling federation (FCI) Disciplinary Commission acted appropriately in Friday's decision to suspend Italian Ivan Basso for two years (with a reduction of 236 days) for his involvement with Eufemiano Fuentes.

"We are in agreement with the federation's disciplinary commission. ... The two-year disqualification was for us the only possibility."

Basso was interviewed by La Gazzetta dello Sport and noted that he is waiting to return in 2009. "I am expecting with eagerness the end of this long period," noted Basso, sitting outside of a cafe. "It will be necessary to maintain my standard of life. It will be important to train and stay with the family. I will try to something extra otherwise, certainly, it will become difficult."

The paper then asked if Birillo, Basso's dog, is there at his side. "Yes, always," he said with a smile. 'Birillo' was the code name used by Fuentes for the handling of blood bags and other doping activities. Basso denied that this was the name of his dog for nearly one year.

CPA reacts to De Cruz's comments

The Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) met last Friday, June 15, and, subsequently, it released a newsletter of its meeting. In the letter, it responded to Frenchman Carlos Da Cruz's critical comments regarding the CPA's function and its president, Francesco Moser.

Moser "has never been elected by us. He has been appointed by the UCI and he made comments for legalizing doping! It's a shame. Now we have representatives but I spoke with some of them and they told me that nothing happens at the CPA," noted the Française Des Jeux rider to Cyclingnews in late February.

The arguments came to a head this spring as the Paris-Nice approached, a race held by Tour de France organizers ASO. A fall-out amongst the UCI and the Grand Tour organizers (specifically the ASO) led to the UCI attempting to prohibit ProTour teams from competing in the Paris-Nice.

"CPA firmly rejects his insinuations about the fact that we depend on the UCI, and want to reiterate that President Francesco Moser was democratically elected by the riders [in 1999]," stated the CPA. Jens Voigt (Team CSC) and José Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel) lead the 15-member (UCIPT) rider's council within the CPA.

"The CPA wishes that in the future Carlos Da Cruz express his own and legitimate opinions ... by taking part in the meetings organized during the season or by forwarding us his thoughts in writing." The French representative is Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep-Innergetic).

No surprises expected from UCI meeting

There won't be any big surprises coming out of the UCI's meeting tomorrow with the ProTour team managers and team doctors, UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani has said. "There will be very important decisions made, dealing with the future of cycling, but they won't have anything specifically to do with the Tour de France." He indicated to the dpa press agency that there wasn't time to deal with the 6000 pages of the Operación Puerto documents (read Additional Operación Puerto dossier reveals extensive new evidence) before the start of the Tour de France, thus damping the possibility that riders, teams or management personnel might be excluded from the race.

However, another meeting on the same day might prove more interesting. The International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) will debate which members uphold its Code of Ethics, and which members risk expulsion because they do not uphold it. While the IPCT cannot enforce its decision, it could influence the Tour de France organizers who have indicated that they might make exclusions to the race's start list.

"It is time for names to be named," said Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer to "It is an unbearable situation that some 200 blood bags from alleged Fuentes clients are stored in Spain, and with a with a DNA comparison we could find out which rider they belong to. But which we can't do right now under the law."

Henderson's eye opening experience

Flying kiwi Greg Henderson
Photo ©: Roger Miller
(Click for larger image)

Kiwi sprinter Greg Henderson, a world champion on the track, paid his dues for years in the American racing scene, winning multiple races for the Health Net-Maxxis squad. An impressive set of wins in 2006, particularly at Philly week made some European teams take notice. One of them was the re-invented T-Mobile team, who signed Henderson to his first ProTour contract. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski sat down with 'Hendo' as he returned back across the Atlantic for the second of his two trips here - this time to race as defending champion in Philadelphia.

Greg Henderson is one of the most personable riders in the peloton, any peloton. For the past few years he was the fastest part of the Health Net-Maxxis team that routinely rode at the top of the American peloton, with Henderson's wins including both the Reading Classic and Philadelphia International Championship during last year's Philly week. But this year, Henderson got the call-up to the 'big show' to race for the ProTour team T-Mobile, and it been quite an eye-opener for the Kiwi. "It's just another level," he said bluntly. "I've heard people say it before but it really is another level higher."

No longer was Henderson the fastest guy in the bunch, no longer was he the one others were watching or was he able to jump on another team's leadout and freelance to the line. Field sprints now had numerous teams lining up lead-outs for the fastest guys in the world. And even the non-sprinters were fast.

Read the full Henderson interview.

Day yellow in North America

Ben Day (Navigators Insurance)
Photo ©: Jerome Lessard
(Click for larger image)

Riders from Down Under have proven hard to beat up top in Canada's Tour de Beauce, with Navigators Insurance riders Glen Chadwick and Ben Day taking three of the seven stage wins. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski caught up with Day after he claimed overall victory in Saint-Georges, Québec.

There is a long list of Australian cyclists who have found success racing in 'the States,' and now one more name can be added to that long list: Navigators Insurance's Ben Day, after winning the 22nd edition of the Tour de Beauce. In fact, the Queenslander and former national time trial champion is the fourth Aussie to win the Canadian stage race, putting him in line with Henk Vogels, Michael Rogers and Nathan O'Neill.

And like many Aussie cyclists, Day has European peloton experience under his belt - only he did that first before coming to America. "This is my first year in America so everything is new to me here," he said. But already his move across the pond has paid dividends. "This is my first tour win, so I felt the pressure a bit having this jersey, but having such a great team ride for me I had to live up to the sacrifices they made for me."

Prior to racing for Navigators Day raced in Europe, first starting with the Portuguese Carvalhelhos-Boavista in 2003, then heading up north to Belgium with Tech, before returning for the last two years with the Boavista team. For Day the switch to racing in America from Europe was not always considered a possibility.

Read the full Ben Day feature.

David Tanner continues strong

With his third placing in the Ronde de l'Oise last Sunday, Australian David Tanner confirmed he's one of the best amateurs in France this season. "I like this kind of races because you've to be aggressive and very focused. Then if you have a good result, professional teams have an eye on you. My motivation his very high. It's the first year I'm totally OK in my head."

Tanner, born in Melbourne, started to race in France for 2003. He has competed for teams UC Châteauroux, UV Troyes, VC Roubaix, Super Sport 35 and, now, VC La Pomme Marseille. "Each year, I did a professional job, I improved, I have had good results, but I wasn't able to manage bad periods with doubt and injuries. I had lots of health problems... this year, I feel really good in the team, I'm more in confident", Tanner commented.

He leaves now close to Marseille, sharing a flat with Ignas Konovalovas, 2006 Ronde de l'Isard winner and Lithuanian champion TT. Tanner said next year he will live in this area even if he becomes a professional rider. This year he has finished 2nd Roue Tourangelle and 4th des Boucles de l'Artois (both 1.2) and won the GP Guilloteau, amongst other results.

Gerolsteiner to Netherlands

Team Gerolsteiner is sending its sprinters to the Ster Elektrotoer, which starts Tuesday in the Netherlands. It will be led by Giro stage winner Robert Förster, who won the final stage of the race last year.

Gerolsteiner for Ster Elektrotoer will be Robert Förster, Thomas Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Sven Krauss, Tom Stamsnijder and Carlo Westphal.

Cycling community mourns loss of rider

Arlington Sports reported a tragic loss of a local rider from Alexandria, Virginia in its Crystal City Classic race. The rider, a 51 year-old un-named male, was participating in the 35+ Men's Amateur event Saturday morning, June 16, when he suffered "medical distress."

Paramedics treated him at the scene from the Arlington County Fire Department who was staffing the race and then transported to George Washington University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Race promoter, Arlington Sports and race sponsors, Crystal City Business Improvement District and The United States Air Force send their deepest condolences to the rider's family and friends.

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