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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for May 18, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Förster: "This is my day"

Förster happy
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

At the start of Thursday's Giro d'Italia stage, Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster wasn't even sure there would be a sprint finish. But when Directeur Sportif Christian Henn during the race announced that the run-in to the finish line was downhill and not as steep as reported, then he thought "that maybe it would work out with a sprint."

Förster explained, "On the last hill I felt super. Next to me I saw some wobbling, but I had no problems. And then I instantly had the feeling, 'oh yeah, this is my day.'"

Writing on, he said that teammates Sven Krauss and Thomas Fothen brought him into position. "Then on the ascent it was harakiri. Just ride brutally, don't think about it. I don't know how often I tangled with Napolitano and we bumped into each other. In the press conference the Italians wanted to make something of that, but it was nothing unusual. Sprinting is a hard business."

Going into the final sprint, "300 metres before the finish there was a right-hand curve, in which Napolitano and I tangled again. That is the last thing I really remember. It goes so quickly, you function without really thinking.

"I won't really enjoy this victory until later, after the Giro maybe. But of course it is a wonderful feeling. And not just for me. The win was important to the team. A stage win was our goal and now we have it."

Stage 5: Petacchi versus Richeze

Petacchi explains
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"I got stuck on the outside through the turn. I pushed Maximiliano [Richeze] with my hand, otherwise I would have crashed," recalled Alessandro Petacchi of Milram after the sprint in Giro d'Italia stage five, won by Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner). The final kilometre into Frascati was a rough run for his sprint team - it faced multiple curves and aggressive adversaries.

Petacchi went shoulder-to-shoulder with Argentinean Maximiliano Richeze (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), who at first had the best of the Italian but then faded and finished seventh. "If I did not reach out to touch Richeze then I would have ended up on the street. Basta!" finished Petacchi, who has 20 giro stage victories to his name.

"There is no longer respect," commented Petacchi's last lead-out man, Alberto Ongarato, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "If you did something like this in the times of Cipollini or Museeuw, I would want to see how that would end up!"

Richeze in Giro del Trentino
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Off of Via Conti di Tuscolo, the riders faced a left, right and then a hard right-hander, at -250m, before the finale on Via Vittorio Veneto. Because of the number of turns it made it difficult for the judges to rule on which rider had the proper line and which rider was riding dangerously.

Petacchi nearly crashed himself into the left-side barriers and gave Richeze a nudge in the fight for space.

"I did not block anyone," responded Richeze in perfect Italian. "I was on the wheel of Hushovd, and when Ongarato went I made my sprint. It is not true that I closed in on Petacchi. In fact, he took my jersey after the finish and gave me a punch."

Mario Cipollini had to deal with many challengers in his days of sprint supremacy but always seemed to overcome any problems due to his speed. After the stage he commented on the sprint in a diary that he writes for the Italian paper.

"It is true that Richeze was wrong to impede Petacchi on two occasions," wrote retired Cipollini. "But Ongarato had a moment of hesitation and he was anticipating the Argentinean; instead, Alberto needed to start without fearing being so far from the finish. In fact, it was fundamental to launch Petacchi to the front in the last 'S' turn, at which point no one would be able to remount [a sprint]."

Ignatiev off again

Ignatiev goes
Photo ©: Sirotti
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After 173 kilometres of escape riding in stage three, Tinkoff's Mikhail Ignatiev was at it again in stage five. The Russian spent the first part of the day with Frenchman Mickaël Buffaz and the latter half, after attacking his partner at kilometre 113, on his own.

He explained his tactics to Tinkoff's Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov. "People have started to say that the Gilera prize motorbike is my main motivation, but that is not the case," started the Olympic Champion, who, yesterday, spent 141 kilometres off the front of the peloton. "I'm after a stage win, the primary goal of the team, and I think the more times I try, the more likely I am to take a victory."

"Why not to venture if you feel strong enough? I recuperate pretty well. Of course I get tired more than I would if I remained in the pack."

Although young, Ignatiev is not naive to winning. At the age of eighteen, Ignatiev took Olympic gold for Russia on the track in Athens. This year he has won a stage in the Tour Méditerranéen and the one-day Italian Classic, Trofeo Laigueglia. (Read more about him in Cyclingnews' March interview.)

"I don't have any chance in a mass sprint or in the mountains, so I can't let a stage like this go. It's a pity there were just two of us in the break, especially as the wind changed direction in the final kilometres and I was utterly stopped. For the sixth stage I don't have any far-reaching plans, the team has other cards to play there."

Directeur Sportif Dmitri Konychev is a little worried about the attacks by 'Misha' and Pavel Brutt.

"This breakaway was not planned by the team; it was totally Misha's initiative. Frankly speaking, I'm rather worried about Brutt and Ignatiev's string of attacks, I don't know what it will lead up to in a couple of days' time, I'm not sure they will have enough power left to go on. In the morning before the stage Milram warned others they were going to control the stage, and they did, together with Davitamon-Lotto, so only a group of eight or nine riders could have had an outside chance to outwit sprinters."

T-Mobile sponsorship in question?

By Susan Westemeyer

T-mobile at the Giro
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Is the T-Mobile Team going to lose its sponsor? In the middle of a strike by 15,000 workers, Telekom boss Rene Obermann said this week "We are checking all of our sponsoring activities and must become more efficient in this area." He particularly mentioned pro cycling which is in a "difficult situation."

Obermann said that this year it must reduce the budget drastically according to Welt magazine. The sport sponsoring must reflect positively on the firm, he noted, and indicated that this could affect the cycling team.

Christian Frommert, Vice President for Sponsoring Communications, told Cyclingnews that the two T-Mobile sponsored teams don't have to worry. "As we said last year; we will stay in cycling. We have a contract until the end of 2010. Together with Bob Stapleton and his team, we want to go a new way and, together, we are committed to a fair and proper sport.

"I think we had and have remarkable success in the time since we announced our new program last September. The company has sponsored cycling for 16 years now. We have a responsibility to pro cycling, as well as to hobby cyclists." He added a caveat, though. "But -- we watch the changes in cycling attentively."

In addition to the two cycling teams, Telekom sponsors many other sports teams, leagues and events, throughout its various divisions of T-Mobile, T-Home, and so on. According to Frommert, these include FC Bayern München ("the most successful football team in Germany and former champions-league winner"); the German national football team; the German bundesliga (the German football league); Shosholoza (the South African America's Cup boat); and the Telekom Baskets (a German league basketball team).

"There are also some sponsorships handled in other [T-Mobile-]countries, for example the Czech national football team, some football activities in the UK and Hungary, and some sailing and skiing activities in Croatia.

"We have to make our sponsorships more efficient by using a network and a combined platform. This will help us and the sports we are committed to," Frommert concluded.

Tinkov's team - Raisska time

Oleg Tinkov
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Tinkoff Credit Systems is making a name for itself in the 90th Giro d'Italia; in the last four stages it has had one of its riders in the major escape, notably Pavel Brutt and Mikhail Ignatiev. The boys are riding for wins but also impressing the team owner who has been following the Giro.

Oleg Tinkov founded the team this year from its previous incarnation of Tinkoff Restaurants, a Spanish Continental Team. In fact, he raced a few races for the 2006 team and this year continues to ride. The 39 year-old has been spotted riding the first half of every Giro stage but does not plan on doing so today; "because I am a little tired," he said.

Tinkov is excited for his boys but is worried about their abilities to follow his orders. "They are not able to touch the brakes," he joked in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We will not have anyone in the third week. But they are champions and they reason like champions - they attack. They are blockheads but I like that way."

"I would like" to have the strongest team in the world, he continued. "But I have to find a strong sponsor, because my involvement cannot go over four million euro.

"Cycling is easier than football, if you invest 15 million for three or four years then you can have the best squad. But cycling is different than football in that it does not generate income; no direct TV, little merchandising and no market. I am not able to sell Ignatiev for four million and finance the entire season.

"It is needed to have one sponsor who is passionate like me. From a business point of view this is one of the stupidest investments of my life," he joked.

Tinkov recalled one of his earlier investments, before he became so rich through the beer and restaurant industry. "In 1988 [Mikhail] Gorbachev came for a visit in Italy with his wife Raissa. She had on this watch, with the hands in the shape of arrows, a refined military version that you could buy in shops in Saint Petersburg for two dollars.

"The Italian tourists became mad for these watches; 'Raisska, Raisska,' they would call them. It would frighten you to know who many of those Raisska watches I bought for two dollars and resold, only a few minutes later, for 100 dollars."

If the trend continues, Tinkov will ride another eighty kilometres this morning and we will see another attack by Pavel Brutt. Or maybe his Raisska will indicate a time for a change, and we could see Daniele Contrini or Salvatore Commesso go out for a long attack as the roads head north from Rome to Spoleto.

Boonen's Tour not in danger despite break

Tom Boonen's Tour de France preparations are still on track, according to Quickstep Directeur Sportif Wilfried Peeters. The Belgian sprint star broke his toe in a training accident this week, and is expected to sit out training for one seven days.

"As soon as we know when he is competitive again, we will find an alternative program," Peeters told sportwereld. "The Tour is in no way in danger."

Boonen had the toe examined again yesterday at the hospital in Herentals. Team doctor Yvan Van Mol said "he has a fracture in the last joint of the big toe. He also has a bruise on his calf and a small problem with the meniscus of the right knee. The toe is not in a cast. We expect that he can resume training the middle of next week."

Peeters said that Boonen commented it was "a terribly stupid accident." He had been training with Johan Van Summeren of Team Predictor-Lotto, but wanted to continue after Van Summeren went home.

"It happened on the way from Mol to Geel, where many cycling accidents occur," Peeters said "Tom was riding through an intersection at about 25 km/h when someone called out to him, causing him to look to his right. A car came up while he was looking."

"To avoid hitting it, he tried to jump with his bike up on to the sidewalk, but in doing that he hit it with his rear wheel, and smashed his right foot, shinbone and knee full into a fence. An old woman who saw the accident brought him to the hospital in Mol."

Italian women check out Worlds course

The Italian women have seen the course for the World Championships Stuttgart, Germany, and according to their coach, "I don't have a rider with the potential to win in Stuttgart."

Edoardo Salvoldi and riders Noemi Cantele, Giorgia Bronzini and Vera Carrera visited the course this week. The women rode two laps of the road race and one lap of the time trial course.

Salvoldi said that he doubted any of his riders could pull off a surprise here. Fabiana Luperini "prepares very well for the World Championships every year, and has problems every time," he said. "We've got a very young [19 years-old] highly talented rider in Marta Bastianelli. But, no, she won't be causing any surprises."

The coach concluded, "It's a course for the men. Bettini, Cunego, Rebellin are my favourites."

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