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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for May 30, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

American TT Champ Zabriskie seeking more Giro glory

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

David Zabriskie (Team CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Recently, Cyclingnews caught up with the sometimes enigmatic Dave Zabriskie at the Giro d'Italia. Currently sitting just outside the top fifty in the general classification, CSC's Zabriskie has had a quiet Giro with some exceptions and has earned the praise of RAI-TV's Davide Cassani. The Italian commentator has remarked on the noticeable improvement the Z-man has made in his climbing at the Giro and his picture perfect time trial position, calling it "the best in the peloton."

The 28 year-old from Salt Lake City had a superb year in 2006, with a podium (third) in the Tour of California, the prologue and time trial stage win at the Dauphine Libéré and another US TT Championship. Zabriskie, in the last year of his contract with CSC, has always ridden well in Italy.

His first big international win came with a TT victory at the Giro delle Regione as an espoir rider. In 2004, Zabriskie was fifth in the World TT Champs in Verona and the following year, came back to Italy for the Giro, where he rocked to a stage 8 TT win and then was third in the Giro's final TT in Torino. Zabriskie finished 104th on GC in that Giro and looks set to be much further up the overall classification ranking when this Giro wraps Sunday in Milano.

When asked how his Giro was going Zabriskie didn't give the usual boring bike rider answer. "You know, I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence. I'm just a big hairy American winnin' machine," said Zabriskie to Cyclingnews. Inspired by his hero Ricky Bobby of film Talladega Nights, Zabriskie was brimming with confidence as the final week of the Giro d'Italia unfolded.

We told the CSC man about the RAI-TV comments and he explained "I've lost a little weight, moved my seat up and back a little", which has helped overall. But on the "tappone" to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Zabriskie had worked so much for his teammate Andy Schleck he ended up in 92nd, over 36'00" down on stage winner Riccò. Previously, on stage 13's uphill TT, Zabriskie was fourth, beating many top climbers like Pellizotti, Cunego and his teammate Schleck in the 12.6-kilometre climbing test to the Santuario di Oropa.

Z-Man told Cyclingnews that his role at the Giro is "To help out Andy Schleck, to stay with him as long as possible on the mountain stages." Zabriskie must be doing a good job, as Schleck, a 21 year-old phenomena is currently sitting third on GC and has the Maglia Bianca of best young rider at the Giro. As for his personal ambitions at this years Giro, US TT champ Zabriskie would love to win the upcoming stage 20 TT next Saturday, a 43-kilometre race over many of the same roads of the 2004 World Championship.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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"Yeah, I would like to do well there," Zabriskie said in his usual understated manner, but his small smile belied his number one objective for this year's Giro d'Italia; another Grand Tour TT stage win in his palmarès.

Zabriskie's best friend in the peloton is Floyd Landis, even if the 2006 Tour de France winner hasn't raced since last year's Tour. We asked Zabriskie if he has been following Floyd's case and he explained "you know how it is when you're racing; you're in the race bubble so I haven't really had a chance to follow it. I hope it all turns out well for him."

Part of the legend of Z-Man is his website, www.davezabriskie.com and his wacky fun interviews in the "Z's Point" section. We asked Zabriskie if he was doing interviews at the Giro and he explained. "I no longer travel with my computer. I find now that when racing I just want to concentrate on that and not waste time trying to find connections to the internet. But I have some ideas about how we can get some new content on there."

Giro's winter wonderland

The peloton
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Winter returned to the peloton on Tuesday in the Giro d'Italia, with the temperature hitting the freezing point on the peak of the Passo di Campolongo. Once down in the valley again, the frozen riders stopped en masse and turned a tunnel into a dressing room. "We stopped there to warm up and to get warmer clothes from the team cars," said Milram's Christian Knees on rad-net.de.

Some riders didn't need the stop because they had planned ahead. "The Rabo ProTeam did not need this period of inactivity because team leader Frans Maassen had already driven ahead and given 'his' boys thermal vests right before they began their descent," the team noted smugly on its website, rabobank.nl. "The team respected the way things happened, of course."

There had even been discussions before the start of the stage, with World Champion Paolo Bettini leading an effort to change the day's plan because of the weather. Knees said the suggestion was to start the race in the village as planned, but then to let the riders go over the climb in the team bus or team car. "But there are always opponents and proponents and that makes it hard to agree on something," Maassen said on the Rabobank site. "Looking back at it, the organization was right in sticking with the original route. It was terribly cold but there is nothing wrong with a tough course. Besides, it was not dangerous and that is probably the most important criterion."

Both Maassen and Knees had mixed feelings about Wednesday's finish on the Zoncolan. "It will be a very difficult stage," said the Milram rider.

"The average percentage is 12 percent, the maximum is 22 percent. I hear you can't even ride up it if it is wet. We'll see."

Maassen said it would be "a heroic day" and wondered how his climber Michael Rasmussen would do. "Teams are not even allowed to take the car up the Monte Zoncolan. It is a small and steep climb with a lot of spectators who are expecting a fabulous stage. The organization's choices will also depend on the situation in the course. If cars are not allowed to go up, we will send a mechanic on a moped to help if needed. It will be difficult for Rasmussen once again because it is a very important stage for the classification leaders. But you never know," concluded Maassen.

Brutt recalls cold Austrian Giro stage

Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The broiling heat of the first two weeks of the Giro d'Italia now seems so far away as nasty weather has caught up with the Corsa Rosa, and the first stage after the rest day, stage 16, was struck by it the hardest way possible.

"We set out under the drizzling rain which quickly turned into snowstorm as we progressed up the Campolongo pass," noted 25 year-old Tinkoff rider Pavel Brutt to the team's Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov. "The rest day had done me a lot of good, and I planned to attack, but at this moment I was absolutely paralyzed by cold, barely capable of holding the handlebars.

"A Lampre rider rode up and asked why I didn't eat, I said, 'I can't tear my fingers from the handlebar.' Then he took a sandwich out of my back pocket and fed me. It was evident to everyone that we should change into winter clothes, so we had a kind of a pit stop of around 10 minutes."

The weather warmed slightly as the stage started moving at a faster pace.

"Four of us Tinkoff riders – Totò Commesso, Mikhail Ignatiev, Ricky Serrano and I – took part in a series of attacks; with Ricardo we managed to catch at the first chasing group, Salvatore joined the second one. Then that Austrian roller-coaster began, and it turned out that the gradient on those short climbs was much more serious than it was depicted in the road book. I have some back problems which don't let me 'walk' on the pedals when the revs are less then 80, so I got dropped just like it happened on all the walls previously, and had to fall back to the main pack."

Ricardo Serrano was in the first chase of five on the heels of Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo).

"Ricky was disappointed not to win, but he realized Garzelli was unbeatable that day, and there was lack of harmony in the chase group."

Brutt is considering his gearing for the toughest Giro stage, the run to Monte Zoncolan. "In the stage to Zoncolan we won't make the mistake we committed before, where the lightest gear some of us had was 39:25. Now we choose between a 27 and 29 sprocket and 34 will be mounted at the front. I've never raced on such a course before, but the stage is just 140 kilometres long, and I hope all Tinkoff guys will make the time cut."

Euskaltel-Euskadi reacts to Peña case

By Monika Prell

Peña (r) in 2006 Vuelta
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

The direction of the Team Euskaltel-Euskadi showed its surprise about the positive A sample of Aketza Peña that was revealed yesterday. Miguel Madariaga, the General Manager of the team, said to Deia "You can imagine how I feel. It's always bad that something similar happens, but this comes in the worst moment possible. We were not involved in any problem and I really thought that it was rare that they left us in peace," affirmed Madariaga, who passed some days at the Giro and is now in Bilbao. He assured, "I can't explain it, I don't know what could have happened."

He talked to Aketza Peña, who was urged to abandon the Giro d'Italia in order to take a flight to Bilbao and to explain the affair. "He affirmed that he did nothing bad, I don't know, we have to be prudent and to wait."

Madariaga will support the 26 year-old. "I am sure that he does not know what he did, he committed the error ignorantly. If he is honest, I am up to help him. I won't let him down."

According to Diario Vasco, Igor González de Galdeano, the technical secretary of Euskaltel-Euskadi, affirmed that they will first talk with Peña before taking any decision. "We will talk with him, ask him for explanations and later on we will decide. The first thing will be to listen to him and we also have to know the quantity of nandrolone they revealed. Actually, we don't know anything."

El Correo Digital mentions a possible explanation saying that Peña, who did not ride a good Giro di Trentino either, has been in a "diet plan in order to compete the Giro d'Italia."

Now, Peña will have five days to request the counter–analyse to clarify the result of the A sample.

Milram and Zabel statements

Erik Zabel
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram and sponsor Nordmilch AG have decided to allow Erik Zabel to continue riding for the team, at least through this season, following his confession last week to having used EPO in 1996. "This offence was singular in his whole career," the team noted.

In fact, Zabel will start Wednesday for the team in the Bayern Rundfahrt.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Zabel said, "I have confessed the only mistake of my past. The team management and the sponsor Milram decided positively about my future. I am very thankful for that. Further decisions by important boards (for example, the German federation) will follow. I will also accept these."

Team and sponsor representatives met with Zabel over the weekend for "an extensive and clarifying conversation," according to the team's press release. "As a result of this conversation, it was decided that Erik Zabel is allowed to fulfil his contract, subject to a definite legal examination, at least for the current year. Whether Zabel will fulfil his three years' contract with Team Milram completely until the end of 2008, will be decided at the end of the year."

The team noted that it based its decision "on a detailed examination of the individual cases and the respect for the extraordinary successful athletic career, but also on the reaction of official organizations, race organizers and especially of the public."

Gerry van Gerwen, the team's commercial manager, noted that they had contacted the UCI, IPCT and ASO. "All three supported us in the decision that Erik Zabel be allowed to continue riding for Team Milram. Zabel's openness is to be a role model for the peloton. Everybody who loves professional cycling wants clean performances."

Sponsor Nordmilch first gave the German sprinter a good scolding. "We talked to Erik Zabel very insistently and made it clear to him that we disapprove of his doping offence and the long time of his silence," said Martin Mischel, Director of Sales and Marketing.

He added that Zabel should still expect to face the consequences for his actions. "The incident will lead to sanctions for Erik Zabel, which we will communicate to him within the next weeks."

Zabel himself said, "I am thankful that the persons responsible appreciate my openness and that they have decided that I am allowed to continue riding for Team Milram. Since last year we established a huge passion for clean cycling with our young riders at Team Milram. I'm looking forward to being allowed to be a part of this team in the future."

Aldag enjoys employers' trust

Rolf Aldag is a tall, slender man, who has managed to become even slimmer. He has lost 4 kilos over the last few weeks because of worries about the 1990s Telekom doping scandal, in which he has confessed his participation. He still receives criticism from within the sport, but he is sure of the confidence placed on him by his employer and sponsor, T-Mobile, as is Gerolsteiner's Christian Henn, who has also told of his EPO past.

German Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and former German cycling federation president Sylvia Schenk have both called for Aldag and Henn to be removed from their posts as Sport Directeus for T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner, respectively. They have also called for the resignation of Bjarne Riis, who confessed at a press conference Friday that he had taken EPO while riding for Telekom in the 1990s. "Bjarne is his own boss. He can't fire himself," Aldag noted, according to the dpa press agency.

"Everyone has to decide for himself, whether he wants to continue or not," Aldag said. "I offered my resignation to my employer and let myself be judged on my current work, which is analysed daily. The sponsor and team manager Bob Stapleton decided that they trust me. Hans Holczer of Gerolsteiner has decided the same for Christian."

RFEC requests meeting with McQuaid

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Recently Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia published a letter in which the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) stated its desire for an amnesty on Operación Puerto related riders. RFEC President Fulgencio Sanchez clarified in an official press release it has in fact expressed to UCI President Pat McQuaid that "for a year RFEC has worked with the political and judicial estate powers to have closure for Operación Puerto."

RFEC continued, "As you know, with the judicial situation of Operación Puerto it makes it difficult for us to advance with the swiftness that we desire. In the last weeks, with part of the Spanish Professional Cyclists Association, I have held meetings with the purpose of being able to find a solution for the present situation ..."

The RFEC wanted to clarify that, "in any case, an amnesty has been asked for" and that, "we respect the law." Sanchez has requested a meeting with McQuaid.

Züri Metzgete in Lugano?

Switzerland may well have its ProTour one-day race this year. The Velo-Club Lugano has offered to hold a ProTour race on October 7, as a replacement for the Züri Metzgete.

The Zürich race organizers announced the end of April that they would probably not be able to stage the race due to financial problems. The RV Zürich still has until June 16 to give its final decision as to whether it can stage the race or not.

According to the Swiss Sportinformation news agency, the VC Lugano is willing to stage the race in cooperation with the city. The club, whose vice-president is Elio Calcagni, father of Liquigas pro Patrick Calcagni, told the UCI that it was prepared to take the date on the race calendar.

No Bayern for Kohl

The Bayern Rundfahrt and Bernhard Kohl are apparently not good friends. Last year the Austrian rider crashed in the second stage, injuring his knee enough to force him out of the race. This year, the Gerolsteiner rider won't even be at the start, as was planned.

He has picked up the intestinal virus which is making the rounds and is staying in bed at home. "I had very much been looking forward to this race. I was ready for the everyday racing routine, to break up the lonely everyday training routine," he wrote on his website, bernhardkohl.at.

"On the other hand, I'm happy that his misery didn't strike me just days before the Tour. Until then there is still time and I think that the uneasiness in my digestive tract won't seriously affect my preparations," he concluded optimistically.

Boonen's €500,000 Bike

Tom Boonen will start the Tour of Belgium today with a new bike, labelled "Tom 01". American bicycle manufacturer, Specialized, has come good on its promise to build a special, one off, Tarmac mould for the 2005 World Champion, who began suffering from back pain when his Quick-Step team switched bikes this year. The custom made bike is 13mm longer in the top tube than their standard model, especially to fit Boonen.

The mould for the custom tarmac frame is rumoured to have cost around €500,000. "It is the idea that I will get five or six of these things," explained Boonen, who is happy with his new toy.

Boonen has been riding a custom built Aluminium steed since the Dwars door Vlaanderen, a race he won for the first time in his career this year.

For more on Boonen's bikes read A few millimetres goes a long way and Specialized answers the call

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