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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for May 29, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

The Mazzoleni and Savoldelli show

Eddy 'Mazzo' Mazzoleni moving up the GC
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Paolo Savoldelli proved what a great champion he is when he turned from captain to super-domestique for Astana teammate Eddy Mazzoleni. The two-time Giro d'Italia winner crashed on the rain-soaked finale of stage 11 to Pinerolo and suffered in the following days to Briançon and the Oropa TT, however, instead of making the entire team support him 'Savo' asked that 'Mazzo' be given a free-card to play. Subsequently the two lit the Bergamo and Tre Cime di Lavaredo stages on fire.

"18 years ago, in the beginners level, I was in Nembrese, Mazzo at Nuova Palazzago," explained Savoldelli to La Gazzetta dello Sport of the two's early beginning in Bergamo. "I was accompanied by my father, him by his father, in the end our dads became friends." Mazzo added, "Savo, with long hair, who did not know anything about cycling. I was always nuts [for cycling] and one who never won."

"We both were together in Saeco [years 1998 and 1998 - ed.] but with different programs. Savo for the Giro, me for the Classics or for Cipollini," continued Eddy Mazzoleni, who was named after cycling great Eddy Merckx.

The two went their separate ways; Savo rode with T-Mobile and Discovery while Mazzo went to Lampre to help Cunego. The two have been reunited in Alexander Vinokourov's Astana. "We are back together this year, at Astana. I got a call from Vinokourov to be the Giro captain and to help at the Tour; Mazzo got a call from Vinokourov to help me at the Giro and him at the Tour. ... Also outside of the races we see each other. Mazzo and [Ivan] Gotti were the only riders that were invited to my wedding."

Savo turns the screws tight on Di Luca
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Mazzo noted of their winter's preparations, "this year we trained together often." Savo added, "At first, no, because I am from Val Seriana, Mazzo is from the Valle Imagna and Val Brembana, where there is too much traffic for my taste."

The bond between the two Bergamaschi was put on display in two stunning stages. Savoldelli explained how Astana's Giro plan unfolded. "Mazzo was tasked to stay near me, for security, behind me. The only day that he did not stay behind me I crashed, in Pinerolo. The day after there was the Agnello and Izoard."

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But three days later they were back. "On the Bergamo stage we did well. On the San Marco I asked to Mazzo 'What do I do?' and he said 'Try.'" The two lit up the descent. One day later, on the mythical stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, they pulled back on the throttle again. Savo proved why he is called Il Falco Bergamasco when he led Mazzo down the Passo Giau and afterwards put Maglia Rosa Di Luca in dire straits.

"At the foot of Giau I asked to Mazzo 'Let's go?' But he said to wait." Savo was distanced near the top but Mazzo explained how they came back together. "Savo slipped off with two and a half kilometres to the top," continued the 33 year-old Mazzoleni. "I waited for him on the descent and we re-departed, and later I took off." He continued and was able to gain 1'24" on Di Luca; he currently sits second in the overall classification, 1'51" back.

"On the Zoncolan I will defend myself and in the crono I will fully commit myself. I am dreaming of the podium," concluded Mazzoleni.

Schleck moving up

Andy Schleck (Team CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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21 year-old Andy Schleck may be ready to move out of the shadow of older brother Fränk and father Johnny, himself a pro cyclist in the 1970s. The young Luxemburger is currently third in the Giro d'Italia, only 3'56" behind leader Danilo Di Luca.

The youngster signed his first contract with Team CSC in 2004, a year too early, according to legendary trainer Cyrille Guimard, who directed such riders as Hinault, Fignon and LeMond, and trained both Schleck brothers when they were with the amateur team VC Roubaix. Guimard told that he found it too bad that Schleck was facing his first Grand Tour with little team support.

"When you have such a talented rider, who can ride so far forward in his debut, then you build a team around him," Guimard said. Schleck has only four teammates left to support him in the difficult final week. He is defending not only his overall ranking, but also the white jersey of the best young rider. He now lies only 43 seconds ahead of Riccardo Riccò, who won the Tre Cime di Lavaredo stage on Sunday.

"The Giro is too early for him. Without a doubt it would have been better if he had ridden the Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse and tried to win. Then he would have been ready [next year] to go to the Giro or the Tour de France with a team built around him," Guimard continued.

The Frenchman had nothing but praise for the young rider. "He is one for the Grand Tours. He rolls, he climbs, he is healthy, has the right mentality and the right temperament." He compares him favourably to such riders as Hinault, Fignon and LeMond, saying, "For me, Andy Schleck is on their level. But he must not be pushed too hard too early."

The youngster isn't quite perfect, though. "He can't really sprint, and he is missing some strength, but those things will come in the future as he gets older."

Arroyo sees Di Luca as the number one

By Monika Prell

David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne).
Photo ©: Sirotti
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David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) has a clear favourite for this year's Giro d'Italia. "[Danilo] Di Luca is the number one favourite. He is the strongest one and has a good team. Furthermore, he is riding very coolly. Mazzoleni will go for a podium place and Simoni will also be in front, he is a veteran and knows the race well," noted the Spanish rider to EFE Radio.

The 27 year-old is content about his performance in the Giro. He has been given liberty by his directeur sportif so that he can fight for a good overall classification and go for stage wins.

"I am very happy about being seventh in the general classification and how things are going at the moment. I don't have problems. The stage of the Tre Cime de Lavaredo was very positive, even if at the end I had bonked and I was feeling very bad. I lost three minutes in the last two kilometres. It was a long and very hard stage, and in the end we had to pay," noted the cyclist from Talavera de la Reina.

He is looking forward to the stage of the Zoncolan, one of the hardest mountains of Europe, which has gradients that touch 22 percent. "We will see what will happen on Wednesday with the Zoncolan. The others say it is very hard, even harder than the Angliru. I will try not to lose too much time and to save my seventh place." (Read Gilberto Simoni reconnoitres Zoncolan for more on the Zoncolan.)

About Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval) who is ahead of him in the general classification, Arroyo emphasizes the abilities of the young Italian. "Riccò is only 23 years-old, who rides very well and who is doing a great Giro. He could be one of the important riders of the future."

Arroyo enjoyed his rest day. "I disconnected a bit from competition, read, played some video games and took a walk."

Menchov's ups and downs

Photo ©: AFP
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Going into the next-to-last stage of the Volta a Catalunya, Saturday, Rabobank's Denis Menchov was feeling confident about being able to make up the 16 seconds separating him from leader Vladimir Karpets and taking over the lead. He had just won the mountain time trial the previous day and was sure of his climbing abilities. But a crash and a broken bike brought all his plans to nothing.

About five kilometres before the end, the Russian was involved in a crash. He did not go down himself, but his bike suffered. Teammate Grischa Niermann immediately turned his bike over to his captain, but by then there was no chance for Menchov to catch back up with the fast moving peloton. He finished 28 seconds down, moving him to third overall behind T-Mobile's Michael Rogers.

"Second place is now the best feasible result," said Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink, and it almost happened. Menchov bounced bank in Sunday's short mountain stage, coming in second and picking up a four-second time bonus, which put him equal with Rogers. But Rogers had a one-one hundredths of a second advantage, and that was enough to give the Australian second and Menchov third.

Breukink was not disappointed. "Everything went well. We took home two great results: a victory in the mountain time trial, and a third place for Menchov in the general classification. Denis has shown that he is in good condition. And the guys that had just started racing again also did a very good job. They were able to find their rhythm; that is very important."

Zabel to continue with Milram

By Susan Westemeyer

Zabel looks for a Milram future
Photo ©: AFP
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Erik Zabel will be allowed to continue to ride for Team Milram -- at least for this season. In a press release issued this afternoon, the team said that representatives from the team and sponsor had met with Zabel, following his EPO confession last week.

"As a result of his conversation it was decided that Erik Zabel is allowed to fulfil his contract, subject to the definite legal examination ... Whether Zabel will fulfil his three-year contract with Team Milram completely, until the end of 2008, will be decided at the end of the year."

"The decision wasn't easy for us. Team Milram takes the ProTour teams' ethics code very seriously. But Zabel's offence dates back 11 years and according to the UCI's anti-doping rules, is too old. Simultaneously, we received positive signals from the UCI, IPCT and ASO," said Milram Team Manager Gianluigi Stanga. He further noted, however, that "had this incident happened during his time at Team Milram, no conversation would have taken place."

Zabel, who will be returning to competition immediately in the Bayern Rundfahrt Wednesday, said "It was important for me to reveal my past. After I apologized to the public on Thursday, I explicitly want to apologize to the management and my colleagues at Team Milram as well as our main sponsor."

Indurain: Riis does cycling no favours

By Monika Prell

Riis confesses but Indurain doubts
Photo ©: AFP Photo
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After Bjarne Riis' confession that he used EPO during the Tour de France 1996, Miguel Indurain stated that he did not like the declarations of Riis, who was the one to conclude the Spaniards five-year reign. "I don't understand why he made these confessions eleven years after. But he is old enough and he will know better than anybody else why he did it," he said to Marca.

He believes that the confessions of Riis "did not do any favours for cycling. Actually, there are many people who hope that this sport comes out of this bottomless pit, and things like this take from everyone's courage."

Indurain does not want to take away from Riis' 1996 win. "I don't want to detract from what Riis did, but my impression is that he did not overwhelm me, that it was me who lost the Tour. I did all I could to be in front and at the end I did not reach this goal. Riis and many others were stronger, and if there was anything irregular or not then it is not my affair."

Indurain does not want to call Riis "Mister 60 percent" like many others do. "I am not the one who should judge his declarations because only he knows what he did and only he is responsible of what he did."

Gerolsteiner for Bayern

Team Gerolsteiner's stage racers have had their spring breaks and are ready to return to racing action, with their sights fixed on the Tour de France. The team will be using the Bayern Rundfahrt to start the next step of their preparations. Stefan Schumacher will lead the team in the five-stage race, in which he is one of the favourites. He will be supported by fellow Tour de France teammates Fabian Wegmann and Bernhard Kohl.

Gerolsteiner for Bayern Rundfahrt will consist of Heinrich Haussler, Bernhard Kohl, David Kopp, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, Carlo Westphal, and Peter Wrolich.

Aerts - Giro's top Belgian

Mario Aerts of Predictor-Lotto is currently the best-place Belgian in the Giro d'Italia. He finished 24th on Sunday's mountain stage, moving him up to 20th overall, 27'58" down. "I didn't have any ambitions for the general classification," he told Sportwereld.

"But now I stand where I stand, and I want to continue to stand there. I still want to improve, I'll see if I can't get into an escape group. I will have to try."

10th anniversary of the CSC Invitational

The 10th Anniversary of the CSC Invitational is shaping up to be one of best ever with the world's top teams forming the race roster for the event to take place on Saturday, June 2. The seventeen teams have been confirmed in the area's premier professional cycling race as it celebrates its decade anniversary in Clarendon, Virginia.

"We're excited to have the top teams here again this year," said Race Director Rob Laybourn. "It is shaping up to be another extremely competitive event with what will no doubt be an exciting finish for race fans. As we have seen before on this challenging course, anyone of these teams could be on the podium at the conclusion of this 100-lap race."

Men's Professional Teams: AEG-Tobisha-JetNetwork BMC Calyon-Litespeed Colavita/Sutter Home - Cooking Light Team Team CSC Health Net - Maxxis Jelly Belly Jittery Joe's Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast Kodakgallery - Sierra Nevada Brewing Navigators Insurance Nerac Priority Health presented by Bissell Rite Aid Team Rock Racing Team Slipstream Powered by Chipotle Toyota-United

This year's event will again include an amateur race, the women's pro event and the fan favourite kid's races. New to the event will be an amateur handcycling competition for veterans and citizens and the U.S. Handcycling Criterium Championship race to include some of the world's best disabled athletes.

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