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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for May 7, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Dekker back on track

By Susan Westemeyer

Winner of Romandie, Dekker (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Thomas Dekker hopes that he has put the injuries and illnesses of 2006 behind him, as he won the closing time trial Sunday in the Tour de Romandie, which shot him up into the overall lead. It was the 22 year-old's second ProTour victory.

Last season, he missed the Tour de France after coming down with a virus just days before the race started. When he returned to the peloton, he broke his hand in a crash in the Tour of Poland. Even this year started out with various illnesses, but by the time the Ardennes Classics rolled around, he was starting to get into shape. He did well in the Amstel Gold Race, Flčche Wallonne and LBL, but not well enough.

He came into his own last week though, in the Tour de Romandie. He was a close second in Saturday's Queen stage, and in fact filed a protest that winner Igor Anton had cut him off in the sprint finish. That protest was denied by the race jury. Disappointed to have lost, he still saw the stage positively, saying "I feel I have shown that I am the old Thomas again, the one the Netherlands lost last year right before the Tour de France. I had some left after the Classics and am thrilled I came to this course," according to rabobank.nl.

He made up for it with his dominating win in the time trial. Directeur Sportif Erik Dekker (no relation - ed.) said, "Thomas showed himself for the first time on previously unknown terrain. That gave a lot of confidence but you cannot know then if the time trial, his specialty, will earn him a first, second, or third place.

"I never worried about it, even when Savoldelli was faster in the first part of the time trial. He is strong in turns and in descending, but Thomas neatly won back time in the second part. That makes sense because yesterday [Saturday - ed.] he was stronger uphill than Savoldelli as well."

The elder Dekker added that the younger Dekker rode a nearly perfect race, "Like he had never done anything else. I saw he was really uptight before the race. I think Thomas is really glad that he now succeeded in matching a result to his good legs. Of course, he did not ask us two weeks ago if he could start here for no reason."

The youngster will now take a month's break. "After that I am going to Luxembourg, after that to Switzerland, and then I will be riding the Dutch Championships and the Tour de France."

Savoldelli in flying Giro form

Savoldelli (Astana)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Paolo Savoldelli fell short of taking the overall honours in Tour de Romandie but showed he is on-form for the Giro d'Italia. The Italian, who turns 34 years-old today, came into the finish five seconds slower than 22 year-old Thomas Dekker of Rabobank and finished 11 seconds down in the overall classification. The Swiss race, including his prologue win, proved a good test for the rider known as Il Falco Bergamasco ('The Bergamo falcon').

After the penultimate stage, stage 4, Savoldelli would have had to recuperate 15" on Chris Horner and six on Dekker to claim the final overall. Il Falco, who won the race overall in 2000, could not hold the young Dutchman on the 20.4 kilometre course around Lausanne.

"At the start of the race I never thought that I would arrive one step away from overall success," noted the Astana rider to La Gazzetta dello Sport after finishing second overall. "It is obvious that when you find yourself so close to a win you are left with regrets for what could have been. But in Romandie I did not really lose the final time trial, I rode very well behind an amazing Dekker."

Saturday’s rainy stage showed that Savoldelli is ready for the Giro's climbs. The race starts this weekend in Sardegna but the true mountains won't come until the final week, where there will also be a 42-kilometre individually timed test in Verona.

"The seconds I lost in the last kilometre of Saturday's stage cost me a lot. However, I had the responses that I was searching for. Physically I am great, and I am ready for the Giro."

Savoldelli first one the Giro in 2002 with Index Alexia and then, five years later, repeated the win with Discovery Channel. This year, he will lead a strong Astana squad that will face fierce competitors like Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca and Damiano Cunego.

McQuaid discusses anti-doping accord

'Difficult' to exclude new Puerto riders from the Tour de France

By Shane Stokes

McQuaid
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

"It is one thing having differences in the administration of the sport, but we also have differences in the fight against doping, then the sport will lose." So said Pat McQuaid on Sunday, talking about the recent meeting between himself, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme and Patrick Lefevere, chairman of the Federation of Professional teams (AIGCP).

Representing the governing body, the Grand Tours and the professional teams, the three have a lot of influence and as a result of their agreement the anti-doping drive has moved a step forward. He told Cyclingnews that this unity is crucial. "If we want to win, we have to at least to stick together on the fight against doping. And that we are."

Differences of opinion relating to the ProTour were put on hold when McQuaid, Prudhomme and Lefevere met in Moudon, Switzerland, on Friday, May 4. It was a productive meeting. "Over the past three or four weeks there have been a lot of different messages coming out from stakeholders within the cycling family," said McQuaid, who explained the motive for the talks. "You have ASO saying one thing, you have the teams saying and doing another thing, then you have a different team directors making other statements about what should and shouldn't happen. It is not the correct way to go.

"The reason why I asked Patrick Lefevere and Christian Prudhomme to meet and to discuss the situation was because I felt there should be one message coming from the cycling family as regards the way forward in the fight against doping. We dealt with two areas - one is Operación Puerto and the other is the continuous and current fight against doping."

Read the entire news feature.

Schleck ready for Giro

Andy Schleck did well enough in the Tour de Romandie's closing time trial to move up to eighth place overall, much to the delight of his Team CSC Directeur Sportif Scott Sunderland.

"Andy did really well in the time trial and reaffirmed that he is well and truly ready for the Giro d'Italia," Sunderland said on the team's website, team-csc.com. "He gave us a great finish to what has been a great race for us. We've made our mark here with a nice result in the team competition and several brilliant attempts, where especially Chris Anker Sřrensen did well."

Sunderland looked optimistically forward to the Giro, which starts this coming weekend in Sardegna. "I think it looks very promising for those riders, who are going on to do Giro d'Italia now, so all in all I'm very satisfied."

Schleck, 21 years-old, finished 22nd in the time trial, 1'29" behind winner Thomas Dekker, but it was enough to propel him from tenth overall to eighth. That brought him the first ProTour points of his career, and increased CSC's lead in the team ranking.

Nibali doubles

Ballerini picks youngster for Giro

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Vincenzo Nibali, winner of the 2006 GP Plouay, has concluded a successful weekend. The 22 year-old from Sicily won the 80th Giro di Toscana 24 hours after winning the GP Larciano.

The wet day in Tuscany was decided when Nibali attacked on the climb of Scopetone, nearly 15 kilometres to go. He was joined by José Serpa (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia) while behind teammates Andrea Noč and Franco Pellizotti stood guard. On the decent into Arezzo Nibali dropped his companion and soloed home for the final 10 kilometres. Rolling in 15 seconds later were Matteo Priamo (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Daniele Pietropolli (Tenax-Menikini) and Pellizotti, who finished second to teammate Nibali the day before.

It was a strong sign of form the third-year pro, who will make his debut in the Giro d'Italia next week. Italian National DS Franco Ballerini witnessed the performance and liked what he saw.

"Nibali did a champion's number," commented Ballerini to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The DS has seen Nibali make his rise in Tuscany, where the young rider has made his base.

"He knows how to ride a time trial, to go on the flats and he goes strong in the climbs, plus he is endowed with good recuperation. There is still a lot to uncover but I see him as being a protagonist in stage races."

Nibali will make his debut in the Corsa Rosa when it starts this Saturday, from Sardegna. "This will be his first Giro d'Italia and it is appropriate that he goes to help Danilo Di Luca. Experience teaches us that the road has a true hierarchy.

"This Giro, with out [Ivan] Basso, will be determined by less predictable strategies." Ballerini then gave a history lesson. "I remember the 1965 Tour de France when an unknown Felice Gimondi took part. In Paris he was in the Maillot Jaune. Why dismiss the hypothesis that Nibali is able to be one of the revelations of this Giro?"

Nibali, fresh off of two wins in two days, appreciated the encouragement of the Tuscan but indicated his alliances with Di Luca. "There are still a lot of things I have to learn from the champions. At the Giro I will give myself to the team," said Nibali. He added, "My form is amazing right now."

Klöden picking up intensity

"I am very satisfied with the spring and my two stage race wins, Tirreno-Adriatico and Sarthe," says Astana's Andreas Klöden modestly.

After this successful start to the season, he took a short break and rested, with just a little light training. But the quiet time is over, as he now moves into a higher gear, he writes on his website, andreas-kloeden.com

"The beginning of next week I will intensify my training again and continue my preparations for the Tour de France" he said. "I will get back into racing the end of May, with the Bayern Rundfahrt. That race fits well in my preparations because of its profile."

The 31 year-old will line up for the 94th Tour de France when it departs on July 7, in London.

Sergeant calculates Predictor's Giro chances

"The chances are limited, but Robbie will be able to strike," said Predictor-Lotto Directeur Sportif Marc Sergeant to Sporza of team's sprinter for the upcoming Giro d'Italia.

He reckoned that the Giro will be a little bit difficult and it will not allow for many sprint finishes. "I find the Giro quite severe," he continued. "Mario Aerts will give the team experience, and, moreover, he can ride uphill.

"Wim Van Huffel rode a brilliant Giro two years ago ... Matthew Lloyd will possibly be a pleasant surprise, as will Jurgen Van den Broeck."

The Predictor-Lotto team for the Giro will be Mario Aerts, Dario Cioni, Josep Jufré, Matthew Lloyd, Nick Gates, Robbie McEwen, Wim Van Huffel, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Stefano Zanini.

Kohl not satisfied with Romandie

Bernhard Kohl went into the Tour de Romandie with a good feeling and looking forward to the climbs. He came out of it asking why he had no power in his legs and vowing to have the problem solved before the Tour de France, which he is scheduled to ride for the first time this year.

Writing on his website, bernhardkohl.at, the Gerolsteiner rider started the race off saying he felt he could afford to lose a few seconds in the prologue, as he thought he could easily make them up in the mountains. But when the Queen stage rolled around on Saturday, it was a different story.

Going into the first climb, he was in 25-man escape group. "As it got really steep, though, I had absolutely no more strength in my legs and had to fall back immediately. I was swept up by the main group and couldn't even stay with them. By the time I got to the top, I was in a group behind the main field," he recalled. He was in a group together with teammate Markus Fothen, who had won the first stage.

Sprinter Robert Förster brought them back to the peloton on the descent and subsequent flat section. "If he hadn't closed that hole, 'Pfötchen' and I would surely never have caught up."

The rest of the stage "was simply torture. I was frustrated and the wet cold weather didn't help my mood." The Austrian was able to stay with the main group until the last climb. He ended the stage 3'23" behind winner Igor Anton. "For such a bad day, the damage held itself in limit," he noted.

"But I have no idea what caused it. I had promised myself a lot more; the bad weather surely played a role, and the crash two days earlier didn't exactly help. But that's sport. You have to learn to accept bad results, too," he said philosophically.

He was not totally dissatisfied with the concluding time trial Sunday, where he finished 52nd, 2'11" minutes down from winner Thomas Dekker. He noted, however, that he did well on the light descent and the flat section, "but when it went uphill, I had the same feeling as yesterday.

"Actually that should be my strength, but today I simply didn't have any power in my legs. I don't know why. I will be examined and with my trainer, look for the cause."

Milram for "4 Jours"

Erik Zabel will lead Team Milram in the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, starting Tuesday in northeastern France. The race -- which despite its name runs for six days -- will cover 900 kilometres over a hilly parcours.

Milram for Dunkerque will be Volodymyr Dyudya, Carlo Scognamiglio, Ralf Grabsch, Sebastian Siedler, Enrico Poitschke, Erik Zabel and Niki Terpstra.

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