First Edition Cycling News for October 21, 2007
Edited by Sue George
Cunego ends season with victory in Lombardia
By Gregor Brown
Damiano Cunego returned to capture the Classic that capped his magical 2004 season, the Giro di Lombardia. The 26 year-old Italian of Lampre-Fondital proved to his detractors that he has the legs and brain to contend at the top of cycling's biggest races with his win Saturday in Como.
"My legs were always there throughout the season, and this time it was a success," said Damiano Cunego at Villa Olmo as the fall sun set over Lake Como. "I did my part in the finale without being offensive; I felt I had a good race."
Cyclingnews last saw the punchy rider at the airport traveling home from the World Championships in Stuttgart. He had done his job to ensure that Paolo Bettini defended his title for Italy, and he was looking forward to Lombardia and future World Championships.
"I think that this is a fruit of my good work at Stuttgart. Franco [Ballerini, Italian Directeur Sportif] had a lot of trust in me after my crash in Vuelta [a España stage one]. I thought he was not going to take me to the Worlds, even though I told him I would be there for the 30th of September and it went well.
"Not only Franco, but my team and sponsors had a lot of faith in me. Today was really beautiful win, and one for them."
By playing his role in the World Championships as a super-domestique and having an astonishing Lombardia, where he held off the charge of Samuel Sánchez, Davide Rebellin and Cadel Evans, proved that Cunego's potential is there as a top rider and as a leader for future World Championships.
"The Worlds this year was suited for Bettini," he said. "He had the characteristics to win a race like that. Next year, the Worlds in Varese, will be very much harder. I think that this year served to help form a group for next year. I made great connections that will bode well over the next years."
He reckoned that his year was not all that bad even if he did not have the big wins. In fact, he was always there for his major objectives, finishing seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, fifth in the Giro d'Italia and fifth in the Tour de Suisse.
"I was always present in the important races this year, always in the placings but without wins," he stated. "I knew that I could get better and I always believed in myself. I had good planning, and I was focused for the season finale [Vuelta, Worlds and Lombardia - ed.]." He also acknowledged that a likely good fortune came into play for his second Lombardia win. "I was very lucky today; it was a long course with a lot of places for mistakes."
Riccò and Cunego held off their rivals on the final five kilometres from the top of San Fermo to the lake-side streets of Como. The younger Italian of Saunier Duval led out from the final kilometre, and when Cunego start the sprint at 75 metres out it was clear he would win.
"I started my sprint in a very agile gear," Cunego recalled. "After that many kilometres it is always hard to sprint. I shifted to a faster gear as we neared the line."
He was impressed with Riccò. "His attacks on the San Fermo were really strong. We held six to eight seconds on the descent, looking back you could always see the chase. I managed the situation the best I could I had to give it everything because he is very strong, also in the sprint."
Perhaps the awareness of the importance of Lombardia made the 2007 victory more special than 2004. "Maybe this one is better. I think that I have paid my sacrifices over the years. In 2004 I was young, now I know what it means to win a race like this."
To read the complete feature, click here.
Evans wins ProTour
Cadel Evans locked up victory in the UCI's season-long ProTour for 2007 after finishing sixth in Saturday's Giro di Lombardia, which was won by Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital).
Evans was one of the stronger riders in the race, riding with the likes of winner Cunego, Fränk Schleck (CSC), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) at the head of the remaining pack when other favorites like world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Innergetic) could not follow anymore.
Before the race, Evans told Cyclingnews, "It is the most suitable one-day of the race for year for me."
Evans held off Luca Mazzanti (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) to take sixth. The points he scored placed him as the ProTour leader. Prior to the race, the 30 year-old was at a 15-point deficit to Danilo Di Luca, who was not allowed to start the race due to his suspension by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
While Di Luca is appealing his disqualification from the competition by the UCI, Evans' sixth place ensured that even if the Italian is later reinstated into the ProTour rankings by CAS, he still finishes five points clear of Di Luca in the standings."
Following Evans in the final ProTour standings are Italian Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Spaniards Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank). Rebellin moved up from sixth in the standings with his fifth place Saturday. Contador and Valverde did not race the finale, but retained their previous places in the rankings. Valverde had to pull out of competition just prior to the race due to a fever.
A mixed day for the Schleck brothers
Just before the final climb, Team CSC's Fränk Schleck saw his hopes for the Giro di Lombardia win come crashing down when he hit the pavement. On the last bit of flat heading towards the shores of Lago di Como and the punch of San Fermo, Schleck hooked wheels with Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Chanel Pro Cycling Team) in a moment of inattention. He was sent sprawling over the pavement as the race rode away from him.
"It was my own fault and of course I'm really upset about what happened," said Schleck after the race according to team-csc.com. Sometimes you end up crashing - that's the name of the game. Everyone could see that we had the strongest team and I definitely had a realistic chance of winning. But it wasn't meant to happen, I guess. At least Andy was strong out there today and got a great result."
"It was too bad," said his brother Andy after the race. Fränk gave Andy a hug, while looking down at his right elbow, disappointed. "I was very close," said Fränk. "We were going well; I felt good, but oh well." Fortunately, Schleck's bad luck was offset somewhat by the performance of his brother Andy, who finished fourth for Team CSC.
"For most of the day we managed to control the race the way we'd planned, so it's a big shame that Fränk crashed like that at the end," said Team Director Bjarne Riis on team-csc.com. "Our plan was to make the race as tough as possible and at the same time have several potentials for the victory in the end. We succeeded, but without Fränk it was difficult to finish the job. You can't plan against that sort of thing." Riis added that praise for the team for a good showing in the classic Italian race.
Contador not yet signed with Astana
By Antonio J. Salmerón
After the final race of the UCI's ProTour, Alberto Contador's fate for 2008 remains to be determined. Contador did not contest the Giro di Lombardia but he held onto his third place spot in the final classification.
Contador has been reported to be ready to sign with the reformed Astana team for next year, but recent comments by his manager, Tony Rominger, cast some doubt. Rominger had implied that signing with the Kazakh team could damage Contador's image. Several Astana riders tested positive for doping in 2007; perhaps most notably, star rider Alexander Vinokourov, who tested positive for blood doping during the Tour de France.
Contador felt a need to reply to Rominger's statements and clarify his personal thoughts. "I do not agree with Rominger's opinion. I think it is clear that the new Astana will not be anything like the old one", the Spaniard said to MARCA.
The relationship between Astana and Rominger may be strained since it was Rominger who brought many of the riders to Astana for the 2007 season. Tensions between Marc Biver and management about Biver's role on the team going forward may also be hindering a final signing of Contador by Astana.
Erring on the side of caution lest an Astana deal fall through, Contador reported that he has other options, but that he would prefer to sign with Astana.
Lissavetzky satisfied with Spanish anti-doping fight
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Jaime Lissavetzky, the Secretary for Sport in Spain said he was "satisfied by the brilliant work done by the Spanish Civil Guard" when asked in Avila about Operación Puerto, but he added, "We will have to wait," to see how the affair is ultimately solved in court.
Operación Puerto, was part of a crucial position of "zero tolerance against doping" according to Lissavetzky who pointed to legislation about protecting the health of riders being applied to anti-doping in sport. He said the new legislation has two objectives which reflect less tolerance for doping: to protect the professional athletes as well as to the beginning athletes and to fight against doping.
"In Spain we are leading the fight against doping," said Lissavetzky. The position is reinforced by the fact that Spain is hosting the Third World Conference Against Doping in less than one month. The conference is held every four years and will convene in Madrid with "some 2,500 or 3,000" attendees.
Lissavetzky concluded that Operación Puerto was "an operation authorized by a judge who serves as the Judicial Police Civil Guard" and called it a success resulting from serious, rigorous work to fight doping. "The Supreme Council of Sports has not had anything to do with it."
Commenting on the judicial process, Lissavetzky explained that the judge who authorized the Operación Puerto had discontinued the affair based on the uncertainty of whether or not there was a crime against public health; the current law was not yet developed and the criminal code did not include a doping offense. Appeals have been made by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency to re-open the affair.
Ardila signs for another year with Rabobank
Mauricio Ardila signed a new contract with the Rabobank Cycling Team that will keep him on the squad until the end of the 2008 season. Ardila joined Rabobank in 2006, the same year he won a stage in the Colombian Clasica de Uraba.
In the most recent edition of the Tour of Spain, which was won by Rabobank's Denis Menchov, the 28 year-old Columbian showed himself to be a dedicated and hard-working helper.
Team leader Erik Breukink spoke with praise of Ardila, "At the crucial moments in the race, Mauricio has proven to be important to his captain. In the Vuelta, he has been of great value to the whole team."
Lill to BMC
Following a successful season with US team Navigators Insurance, South African Darren Lill will join the BMC Racing Team in 2008.
The 25 year-old suffered a rough start to the season, his first and only season with Navigators, due to a suspected thyroid problem, but he finished it on a high note with top placings in both in the US and Europe, including wins at the Nevada City Classic and stage 5 in the Mt Hood stage race. Most recently, he represented South Africa at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, where he did not finish.
In September, his current Navigators Insurance team announced it would be disbanding at the end of the year after 14 seasons.
Jelly Belly partners with Waste Management Cycling feeder team
For the 2008 season, Team Waste Management Cycling will serve as the official amateur feeder team with its U23 program. To support the relationship, the Phoenix-Arizona based program added to the team's staff and management with USA Cycling Elite Coach Barney King and his son, recently retired professional cyclist Austin King. Former Olympian Gord Fraser, who has won more than 200 races during his pro career, will serve in a mentoring role.
"I'm thrilled to have the continued support of Waste Management and our newly formed relationship with the Jelly Belly Professional Cycling Team. It not only allows these riders to chase their dreams but to continue to grow and develop as young adults through the shaping hands of competitive cycling", commented Team Manager Steve Cullinan
Barney King's role will be to direct the team for select National Racing Calendar (NRC) events. Austin will play a lesser role as he jump starts a career in real estate, but he is planning frequent contact with the riders.
The team has three additional roster positions open for U23 riders. Interested riders with a category one racing license should send their resumes to Steve Cullinana at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)