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Latest Cycling News for June 22, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

Banking on Russians

Oleg Tinkov at the Giro
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tinkoff Credit Systems was the most attacking team of this year's Giro d'Italia and fans were thrilled to seeing its yellow-kitted riders lighting up the race. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown caught up with team owner Oleg Tinkov after the dust had settled from the three-week race to reflect on the events and talk about the future.

One team of young, inexperienced riders enlivened the first week of the Giro d'Italia with relentless attacks. They were clad in yellow and black, and were present in every significant breakaway until stage ten. The Tinkoff Credit Systems team was so aggressive that many fans wondered if any of the riders would make it to the finish of the tour in Milan. With the majority of the team riding their first Grand Tour, even team owner Oleg Tinkov questioned the logic of expending so much energy so early.

"I was not behind the riders attacking every day," declared the 39 year-old Oleg Tinkov from his office in Moscow, Russia. He had just ended a phone call with someone from Forbes magazine and was more than happy to talk about cycling - putting his business matters, like starting a new banking company, aside. "I never said for those riders to go up the road like that. Along with [directeur sportif] Dimitri Konyshev, I told those guys to stop. 'Mikhail, please don't do it!

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"We talked to Brutt too," added Tinkov. "We knew it was a three-week race and we were afraid that either Brutt or Ignatiev would not make it to Milan. Honestly, they attacked too much. I know they want to do it for me - they want to try to pay back the team and me, for my money invested."

Read the full interview with Oleg Tinkov.

Valverde talks Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) reacted to the new UCI anti-doping agreement that riders are supposed to sign by saying that "it seems atrocious to require any rider involved in a doping case to have to pay one year's salary." The Spaniard acknowledged that there was a lot of distraction but he has been able to recuperate well from his virus that forced him out of the Dauphiné.

He told Spanish paper La Verdad de Murcia that it is clear that his preparation has suffered because of the incident but indicated that "the mountain stages are still a month away and I will be ready in time."

The Caisse d'Epargne rider commented on to whether the Tour wanted to exclude him. "I have the impression that the Tour is afraid I'd be riding because of all the things that have been said about me or the involvement they like to charge me with."

Valverde indicated he is doing his own thing, which is riding his bike. "They can say what they want. It is nothing new that they wanted to link me to I don't know what; they did that just before the Worlds in Salzburg and they repeated the same false accusations when I renewed [my contract] with Caisse d'Epargne." Spanish daily ABC reported a link between Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and Valverde after a card with the Spanish rider's name had been found at the doctor's house.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here

By Susan Westemeyer

Johannes Fröhlinger of Gerolsteiner may be a young neo-pro but he is experienced enough to know what was coming in Thursday's Tour de Suisse stage. "Everything was black at the start. You could tell a bad storm was coming, but the race was started anyway. The race jury underestimated the situation," he wrote on

Still, he took advantage of the situation and after a few kilometres joined an attack, which had just managed to get away when it rode right into the storm. "I've never experienced anything like that, we were bombarded with fist-sized hailstones. Over the radio came, "The race is being stopped, please find shelter." That was no problem for the peloton, they were in a village and could go into garages and sheds. But those of us in the escape group had more of a problem. I crawled into a hedge, and felt rather like an animal in the forest. Marcus Burghardt found shelter in a [presumably empty] dog house. Looking back, we can laugh about it, but it wasn't funny at the time."

"My arms and shoulders are covered with red bumps and bruises. I feel as if I were beaten up. Some of the teams' cars suffered, too, with some having broken windshields. Two of our bikes had their frames broken."

Thomas Kofler, team manager of Team Volksbank, echoed the theme of the day, saying, "I've never experienced anything like that -- hailstones as big as tennis balls. The riders were sheltered under trees," he said. "Even I ran into the forest because I was afraid to stay in the car."

Volksbank's Gerrit Glomser came close to winning the stage, but first he had to survive the storm, too. "At first I thought it was stones, because it was so loud. Within seconds everything was covered with hailstones, the street was turned into an ice-skating rink. A number of riders lost their orientation, they only saw white because we were going 50 km/h downhill," he said. "Many of the riders took refuge in the car wash. " His teammate Florian Stalder also found an empty doghouse, while Josef Benetseder benefited from a motorcycle policeman, who protected him.

"All of a sudden, ice blocks were falling from the sky," said Wim Van Huffel of Predictor-Lotto. "I've never seen hail that big before." The peloton "went in search of cover," he said on "Some went into a sort of bunker, others dove under a tractor, or under a trailer. And me? I threw myself under a small tree. It didn't help a lot but it was better than nothing!"

Discovery Channel's Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol joined the chorus, saying "I never saw a blizzard like that, from one moment to the next there was a hail storm after five kilometres of racing with hail the size of golf balls! Riders looked for shelter in garages. The cars had to stop and in the cars it was really scary. Several windshields were broken. Jurgen [Van Goolen] didn't find shelter immediately and he has some blue spots on his back and arms. Everybody else is OK."

Gerolsteiner's Directeur Sportif Reimund Dietzen was one of the first to report on the storm yesterday, so he must have been the first to say, "I've never experienced anything like that before. All of a sudden these huge hailstones were falling from the sky. Our team cars have several dents and some of the bike frames have been broken from the hail. Beat Zberg, Johannes Fröhlinger, Markus Zberg and especially David Kopp, none of whom could get under cover quickly enough, have lumps on their arms and backs. Some of the other teams' cars had their windshields broken. I saw one rider changing clothes and his back was covered with really big bumps."

Thomas Dekker of Rabobank eventually won the shortened stage but he got hit by the hail and sustained injuries. He was able to continue after treatment. Italian Rinaldo Nocentini was not so lucky and was forced to abandon.

Hors(e) catégorie?

By Susan Westemeyer

David López García of Caisse d'Epargne and Gerrit Glomser of Team Volksbank broke away with seven kilometres to go in Thursday's Tour de Suisse stage and were joined by an unexpected fellow racer -- a horse that escaped from its stable and ran onto the road. Fortunately, it decided to ride in the wind and lead the duo, rather than follow it. The two cyclists kept a respectful distance from the unpredictable four-legger, who tired of the excitement after 300 metres and obediently followed a policeman's frantic waves to leave the course.

The whole episode brought back memories of another horse on a race course -- the 2000 Gent-Wevelgem. Telekom's Erik Zabel was in a following group some 25 km before the finish line, only 40 seconds behind an escape group of eight riders when suddenly he found himself in a ditch. A black pony had run out of its field and onto the road, seemingly with the specific goal of tackling Zabel. The horse rammed him from the side, sending him flying out of the saddle. Teammate Steffen Wesemann was able to brake at the last second and avoid a further collision.

"Erik was angry and cursing like a sailor, that's how I knew he wasn't seriously injured," said team manager Walter Godefroot at the time. Zabel climbed out of the ditch with a bruised thigh and a scraped elbow, but being the old pro he is, climbed back on his bike and finished the race.

"My first thought was to jump on the horse's back," he joked later. "But then he turned his back and rammed his behind into my bike."

That horse's name, by the way, was "Tin-Tin", which is, of course, also the nickname of Davide Rebellin. However, the Italian apparently did not ride Gent-Wevelgem that year, and so could be cleared of any suspicion.

Simoni and Cunego battle while Dekker prevails

Simoni (right), Cunego (left)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"Dekker benefited from Saunier and Lampre," commented Gilberto Simoni of Saunier Duval after Tour de Suisse stage six. Simoni and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) were vying for the stage victory on Crans-Montana with the aid of teammates José Angel Gomez Marchante and Marco Marzano but it was Thomas Dekker who escaped to win.

"The neutralization of the race was justified," continued Simoni to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "But in the end the stage was easier. Another advantage of the Dutchman was that he was not seen up front. ... I don't have ambitions for the classification and I am working for Gomez."

Today's stage, 125 kilometres to Grimselpass, will be more be demanding. "It will be more difficult and I will be there."

"The more days that pass the better I become," said Cunego at his former captain’s side. "I was frightened by Tiralongo [he crashed at 63km remaining - ed.]. I was right near him when it happed. Luckily, he is doing well. We put [Marco] Marzano in the front... I wanted to win. Maybe if the road hadn't leveled off.

"Now it is the tappone [Queen stage]. We will re-try. A stage win is possible, the overall victory as well.

Petacchi for Maillot Vert

Petacchi (left)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Milram Team Manager Gianluigi Stanga is confident in the results of Alessandro Petacchi and will have the Italian sprinter point towards the Maillot Vert of best sprinter in the Tour de France, July 7 - 29. The jersey was the domain of Petacchi's teammate Erik Zabel for many years (he won it six times) but Stanga believes Ale-Jet will have the best odds of wearing green in Paris.

"The green jersey with the help of Zabel," said Stanga to Rai. 33 year-old Petacchi won the Giro d'Italia's equivalent, the Maglia Ciclamino, last month.

"To be the best sprinter for six editions warrants Zabel the right to stay near to Alessandro [in the sprints]. If Erik pulls faster at the line then there will be no problems."

The team could be trying to downplay Zabel's role in the Tour given his recent admission to doping in the nineties. Stanga disagreed. "The confession to EPO use in 1996? Everyone can make a mistake. Erik did it only one time. It is enough that he did not do it again."

Cordero did not trust in Relax

By Antonio J. Salmerón

"The decision of not inviting Professional Continental Relax-GAM was taken because it did not give us total guarantees on its acceptance of the Code of Ethics. Relax sent us a preliminary list in which there was no cyclist supposedly involved in Operación Puerto but we had to remind them that we also needed a commitment in writing to the Code of Ethics," Vuelta a España's Director Victor Cordero to AS.

Cordero denied that the wildcard given to Karpin-Galicia is linked to the fact of that the Vuelta will start in Vigo (Galicia). "The Xunta (regional government) knew very well that we could not give them guarantees for the Karpin."

According to AS, Cordero admitted to have been influenced by the threat of a boycott from the foreign squads. "Unipublic guaranteed to the teams association [International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP)] that the Vuelta will not allow anybody related to the Operación Puerto to race.

"Karpin-Galicia was in Geneva last Tuesday [June 13 - ed.] and signed its adhesion to the Code of Ethics, and President Patrick Lefevere said to us that there would not be problems if we invited to them."

Tiralongo goes down

By Susan Westemeyer

Paolo Tiralongo of Team Lampre survived the Tour de Suisse's hailstorm but crashed in the good weather and sunshine, 63 kilometres before the finish line, along with several others. While the others were able to continue, the Italian remained flat on the ground before being fitted with a neck brace and driven off in an ambulance.

Apparently it wasn't as bad as it could have been, though. reported that he came away with only a broken finger, while his team's website,, said he was treated for multiple hand contusions and a neck injury.

German Time Trial Championships less competitive

By Susan Westemeyer

The German national time trial championships are facing two major challenges: the final stage of the Tour de Suisse and the Eindhoven Team Time Trial. These two races are responsible for keeping many of the big names in German men's cycling away from the national championships.

Such riders as Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Jens Voigt (CSC) will be in Switzerland. Defending champion Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) won't be racing anywhere, since he is still recovering from a broken bone in his heel. The favourite now will be Robert Bartko, who won two gold medals in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

For the women, defending champion Charlotte Becker (Equipe Nürnberger) will look to defend her title against T-Mobile's Judith Arndt and Hanka Kupfernagel (Focus-Worldsportsstar).

This year's races will be held in Rostock, Germany. Start and finish will be in the Ostseebad Warnemünde section of the city, and then onto a circuit on a highway. "It is a very attractive course. It is relatively flat, without big curves and with little wind," said race organizer Roman Klawun. The pro men will ride 40 km, while the women and U-23 men will face 30 km.

Scarponi next for FCI

Michele Scarponi will face the Italian cycling federation (FCI) Disciplinary Commission Friday, July 13. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors requested an 18-month suspension for the 27 year-old cyclist from Le Marche.

Scarponi's date with the FCI follows ex-Discovery Channel rider Ivan Basso, who was implicated with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and issued a 24-month ban from racing. Scarponi was also linked with Fuentes, where he supposedly used the code name 'Zapatero' and 'Il Presidente.'

"Yes, I am Zapatero and Il Presidente," said Italian Scarponi after a two-hour hearing with CONI's Ettore Torri in early May. The rider had been linked with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and confirmed his code name. "They are nicknames that they gave to me," he confirmed at the time.

Martinello explores options

After being suspended from activities on Wednesday, Silvio Martinello is looking at other options. The former Italian National Track DS has agreed to the dismissal by the Italian cycling federation (FCI).

"To be a federal advisor in the best possible manner and to take the opportunity to explore future employment," commented Martinello [on his plans].

Martinello, after a lack-luster performance by the Squadra Azzurra Track World Championships, was given the post of federal advisor while FCI President Renato Di Rocco searches for a replacement. 43 year-old Claudio Santi, ex-professional and track DS, is a likely replacement as the Italian builds for the 2008 Olympics.

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