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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 28, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Bertolini dominates Coppi e Bartali opener

Bertolini takes it in the rain
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Bertolini of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia proved to be a man for the rain by claiming victory in stage 1a of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. The 36 year-old Italian used his wisdom to help keep himself and his escape companions free of the peloton during the 95.2 kilometre stage, held under heavy rain showers.

The three escapees stayed free and Bertolini picked up his 15th professional victory. "It is as though the more time passes there are fewer occasions for a win, and of those I always try to win," philosophically noted the rider from Veneto to La Gazzetta dello Sport. His appearance on the top step of the podium came in the Coppa Agostoni last August. "There are a couple of victories a year that I am able to take."

Bertolini dedicated his first win of 2007 to his daughter. "She is almost two years-old and has my same characteristics; she likes to go off on 'escapes.'"

Bertolini turned professional in 1994 and his teams include Carrera (1994-1995), Brescialat (1996), MG-Technogym (1997), Cofidis (1998), Mobilvetta (1999), Alessio (2000-2004), Domina Vacanze (2005) and Selle Italia (2006-2007).

Brutt rules rain-soaked Coppi e Bartali

Brutt in the leader's jersey
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Pavel Brutt has made himself known this year; first with a wins in Langkawi and the GP Chiasso, and then with his daring escape in last Saturday's Milano-Sanremo. The 25 year-old Russian lasted 176 kilometres in La Classicissima before being caught but yesterday, with only 81 kilometres off the front, he was successful.

In Coppi e Bartali stage 1a he formed part of the day's three-man escape. They survived heavy downpours and the closing peloton to arrive in Riccione first. The Tinkoff Credit Systems rider was unable to out-power Alessandro Bertolini for the stage win but he had some consolation. His team took seventh in the afternoon time trial, 20 seconds back on winner Predictor-Lotto, which enabled Brutt to step into the leader's blue jersey.

"Pavel is going strong and this prize is truly deserved," said Director Sportif Orlando Maini after the stage. "All of our team held tight around Brutt in the eleven kilometres of the time trial to give him a chance [at the overall].

"Now we will try to defend this jersey, with the hopes of taking it all the way to Sassuolo [the final day's finish town - ed]."

Petacchi thinking only of Gent-Wevelgem

Alessandro Petacchi was dropped in Coppi e Bartali's team time trial, the second of two stages for the day. The Milram sprinter suffered in the opening day's heavy rains and from last Saturday's Milano-Sanremo effort. According to the team, he wants to save himself for a chance at winning Belgian Semi-Classic Gent-Wevelgem, April 11.

"I'm not in love with the rain; this was a difficult day," confessed the 33 year-old to La Gazzetta dello Sport Tuesday evening. The organizers actually stretched the time limit (25% of the winning team's time) to keep 'Ale-Jet' in the race.

"I felt tired and empty," continued the rider from La Spezia. "Maybe up to now I have raced a lot, and that I am paying from the stress and delusion of Sanremo. If I continue to have this hard time then maybe I will not start [in the next stage]. I have not yet talked to my team manager, [Gianluigi] Stanga."

In 2006 Petacchi finished third in Gent-Wevelgem, which often viewed as a sprinters' classic.

Sprinter Ventoso rising

Ventoso shows his speed
Photo ©: Karpin-Glacia
(Click for larger image)

Young Francisco José Ventoso of Saunier Duval-Prodir is hardly mentioned when talking about 'top sprinters,' but he proved yesterday that he is one to watch. The 24 year-old topped the the bunch at the close of the 157 kilometre stage two from Zamora to Salamanca in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.

"It was a little crazy," remarked the Cantabrian to Marca after the stage finish. Ventoso is used to being in the sprinters' mix, he took his first win in 2004, at the age of 22, in the Wachovia Invitational/USPro championship in Philadelphia, and, more recently, won stage three of the 2006 Vuelta a España.

"There was no one clear team that was controlling the sprint, except for Benfica for Javier Benitez. Just before the final curve I had one of my teammates take me up front, afterwards I started my sprint, and the others were not able to stay with me.

Ventoso had figured on Caisse d'Epargne to hold together the race after its rider, Vladimir Karpets, won the time trial. "The time splits caused yesterday were small and it was known that Caisse d'Epargne would control, although Euskaltel also helped by placing its men at front for an eventual sprint."

The peloton picked up the day's escape and set up for Ventoso's fourth career win. "The escape was reeled in quickly and the group, which did not want to risk any riders going off front, continued a good rhythm, aided by a tailwind."

Karpets keeps Castilla y Leon control

Vladimir Karpets of Caisse d'Epargne remains the overall leader after Castilla y Leon stage two. The 26 year-old Russian won the stage one time trial on Monday and then his Spanish team controlled affairs on Tuesday to ensure his continued reign.

"The day has been a quiet one," said Karpets after he arrived in Salamanca, the end of stage two. "All my teammates worked very well to put an end to the breakaway so that we arrived together.

"At the beginning of the stage, my legs were stiff as a consequence of yesterday's time trial but the problem was resolved after a few kilometres. Tomorrow's stage, with less than 150 kilometres, will probably be a very fast one and I think that the wind could be the main protagonist."

The five-stage race continues today with a 147 kilometre run from Salamanca to Valladolid.

Basso fined for not autographing

Ivan Basso of Discovery Channel was fined for not signing his name at the start of stage two of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. The rider from Varese, Italy, missed the official sign-in and was forced to pay 100 Swiss Francs out of his own pocket. He was not alone; another five Discovery Channel riders also missed the sign-in.

"We arrived late," he quipped to La Gazzetta dello Sport of the incident. "In front of the podium there was confusion and the race was already starting, so we had to start immediately."

Klier out after collision with tractor

By Susan Westemeyer

A collision with a tractor Tuesday evening has put an end to Andreas Klier's hopes of a successful Spring Classics season. The crash left the T-Mobile rider with a broken right cheekbone and a concussion.

Klier won Gent-Wevelgem in 2004 and finished second in the Ronde van Vlaanderen the following year.

"Yes, unfortunately it is true," T-Mobile spokesman Stefan Wagner told Cyclingnews, and added that team doctor Stefan Vogt and a specialist will check Klier to determine if he needs surgery. "It is still open as to when he can train again and whether he can start at the Ronde van Vlaanderen."

"The Classics? If I am honest, I am not thinking at all about cycling right now," Klier told sportwereld. "I just want to sleep for two weeks straight."

Director Sportif Tristan Hoffman looked at the situation more optimistically. He told Sporza that "this is a serious blow, but it is too early to say whether he will be out all spring or not."

T-Mobile doesn't want Fuentes riders in Deutschland Tour

By Susan Westemeyer

"If it really happens that one of the riders whose name appears on the [Eufemiano] Fuentes list rides in the Deutschland Tour, then we will react accordingly," said Christian Frommert, spokesman of T-Mobile, sponsor of the Germany-based team. He did not say how the sponsor of its home tour would react, but that it would "be noticeable."

Deutschland Tour director Kai Rapp said last November that he would not allow those riders to start in his race, specifically naming Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. He told the dpa press agency at that time that he was willing to face any legal problems connected with banning the riders, "no matter how much it hurts." Ullrich has since announced his retirement, but Basso continues to ride in the peloton as part of a ProTour team.

However, Rapp changed his tune at the Tour presentation this week, according to the Kolner Stadt Anzeige (KSTA). "It would be up to the federation to prevent Basso from starting," he said. "It is important to us that if he at some point does start, that he is not doped." Rapp said that he did not wish to participate in a "witch hunt", and added that "no organizer in the world has the right or the duty to work out the whole Fuentes scandal."

Frommert did not specify how T-Mobile might react if Basso or another Fuentes-listed rider were at the start of the race. The KSTA speculated that the T-Mobile team might boycott the race, or that the company T-Mobile might withdraw as one of the major sponsors of the race, which would probably cause the race to be cancelled.

More Belgian doping claim denials

By Susan Westemeyer

The Freiburg, Germany, University Clinic has rejected claims from former Team Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hondt that the clinic provided EPO to team riders in the early to mid 1990s. "The University Clinic decidedly rejects the claims made in Belgium by a former soigneur," Dr. Eva Marie Wagner of the Clinic told Cyclingnews. "The accusations do not have any basis."

Similarly, Team Milram responded to a request for a statement by Erik Zabel concerning the charges with the statement, "As the incident does not concern Team Milram there is currently no indication to take a stand." D'Hondt alleged that Zabel tried EPO once but then refused its use.

CSC Team Manager Bjarne Riis, who was also named in the charges, has also said that D'Hondt "has no validation for the allegations he is making."

Museeuw trial delayed

Johan Museeuw will have to wait a few months for his next day in court. He, Mario De Clercq, Jo Planckaert and Chris Peers were scheduled to start their trial in Kortrijk, Belgium, this coming Monday, April 2. but the trail has now been delayed until June 19.

In a case dating back to 2003, the cyclists were charged with possessing EPO and Aranesp. Former World Champion Museeuw is accused of possessing drugs acquired through a veterinarian. Although he never failed a doping test, he was banned by the Belgian Federation for two years for his alleged offence, and has recently admitted to doping.

Milram for weekend Belgian races

The spring Belgian season is now in full swing, and the coming weekend features the E3-Prijs Vlaanderen and the Brabantse Pijl, both of them 200 kilometre races, with short climbs and many cobblestones. Team Milram will be send its two Belgian specialists, Erik Zabel and Marcel Sieberg, to lead the team in those two races.

Team Milram for the weekend's races will be Niki Terpstra, Ralf Grabsch, Brett Lancaster, Martin Müller, Enrico Poitschke, Fabio Sabatini, Marcel Sieberg and Erik Zabel.

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