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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for September 3, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Greg Johnson

Freire takes gold in Spain

By Susan Westemeyer and Hernan Alvarez

Freire takes the win
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank's Oscar Freire will wear his first leader's jersey in a Grand Tour on today's Stage 3 of the Vuelta a España, with the Spaniard taking the gold jersey with victory on Sunday's Stage 2. After finishing a close runner up to Lampre-Fondital's Daniele Bennati on the Spanish Grand Tour's opening stage, Freire went one better on Stage 2, out sprinting Italian world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Innergetic) in an uphill bunch sprint.

"I was close yesterday. I didn't feel well during the whole stage [Stage 1]," Freire told TVE. "Today it was different; besides, the finale suited me better considering my characteristics and I think I did well. Besides, I got the leader jersey which is the first time for me. So, I am doubly happy."

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).

WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/

Following the drama that surrounded the squad's Tour de France campaign, team leader Erick Breukink was happy to put the past behind the squad and bask in the glory. "A great day for us," he declared. "Of course, this was a stage made for Oscar. An uphill sprint after a rather tough local lap. But you still need to do it, because even though he is in a great condition, the competition here is very fierce."

While the 31 year-old's Stage 2 victory gave Freire his first Grand Tour leader's jersey it's by no means the rider's first Grand Tour success. Freire took his first two Grand Tour stage victories at the Vuelta in 2000 while riding for Mapei – Quick.Step, following a win on the Tour de France's Stage 2 two years later. After switching to Dutch squad Rabobank in 2003 Freire returned to the winners circle the following year with another Vuelta stage win, to which he added two Tour stage victories last year.

"It is fantastic to achieve this so early on in the Vuelta," said Freire.

Breukink agreed that it was the right time for Freire to return to his winning ways. "It was about time for him to win a stage again after all those second places," noted Breukink. "Twice in the Tour, Hamburg and the first Vuelta-ride. We had all the confidence in Oscar's abilities today and fortunately that turned out to be right. It is good for the rest in the team, which was also one of the main reasons for us to let him start here. And, he might of course win some more races."

Leipheimer tight-lipped on 2008 plans

By Mark Zalewski

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Jonathan Devich
(Click for larger image)

Following his emphatic victory in the USA Cycling Pro Championships on Sunday, Discovery Channel's Levi Leipheimer wasn't giving any clues as to whereabouts next season after the American squad disbands at the end of the year. The 33 year-old, who has enjoyed his most successful season ever after making the Tour de France podium, broke away solo on the ascent of Paris Mountain and put his time trialling skills on show to come home 1'11 ahead of team-mate and last year's winner George Hincapie.

"Regardless of which team I ride for next year, to be the US national road champion is... honestly I didn't even believe it today," said Leipheimer. "I was taking [the race] how it came, I was aggressive and if I was out front giving it everything I knew that George was behind chasing me. In the end it worked out and I was pretty tired, but thankfully there wasn't a lot of cooperation behind me."

Hincapie, who will ride for T-Mobile next year, did not seem very happy with his second place behind his teammate's win. "This year was a lot more negative racing," he said. "When Levi went up the road it was up to the other teams to chase and they just sat there and watched everyone else. If I tried to go they would come after me. I had to play my cards from the back, there wasn't much cooperation, but the team worked well today. Last year was a lot faster and more aggressive racing."

When asked what it was like racing for a team that would not exist next season he said, "The team is disbanding but we are all under contract until December 31, 2007 and we are professional riders, doing our jobs until the last day."

Di Luca extends ProTour lead at Plouay

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) leads the ProTour
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca moved one step closer to regaining the ProTour title he won back in 2005 with a third place finish at the GP Ouest France - Plouay behind an opportunistic Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and hard-sprinting Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole). The Italian, rumoured to be leaving Liquigas for Lampre-Fondital next season, leads Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) by 41 points with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) in third and fourth respectively.

"My goal here was to score as many UCI ProTour points as possible," said Di Luca. "I'm satisfied with third place. I thank my team for having done the hard work. During the final sprint, I followed Filippo Pozzato who was kind to slow down and let me come third instead of fourth. Now I'll go to the Tour of Poland with the ambition to score a few more points. I think the ProTour is almost won but I'll wait for the results of the Tour of Spain where Cadel Evans can also threaten my lead."

Indeed, Evans looks to be the only rider capable of threatening Di Luca's quest for a second ProTour title after Valverde decided against participating in his home Grand Tour and failed to score any ProTour points in Plouay on Sunday.

The other ProTour classifications remained largely unchanged with perennial leaders Team CSC maintaining a healthy advantage over Discovery Channel in the team standings, while Italy now has a whopping 68 point lead over Spain in the nations ranking.

For the full ProTour standings after the GP Ouest France - Plouay, click here

Third World Cup nears for Cooke

By Jean-François Quénet in Plouay

Nicole Cooke waits for the start in Plouay.
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Defending Women's World Cup champion Nicole Cooke has bolstered her hopes of a third crown, having taken second place at the penultimate round in France. Cooke finished the weekend's GP de Plouay in second place behind Italian Noemi Cantele (Bigla), but importantly five places ahead of World Cup rival Marianne Vos (Team DSB Bank).

While Cooke's 80 point lead would have secured the British sensation her third title in any other year, the double points on offer at the series closing Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt means Vos still has a chance to sntach the title in Germany.

"It's not over yet but I was very happy with my result," explained Cooke. "I'm in a good position for the final race."

The defending World Cup champion and reigning Women's Road Race World Champion will go head-to-head for the World Cup showdown in under two weeks time, with the final round to be held on September 16.

Millar takes another British title

David Millar (Saunier Duval - Prodir) added a second British title to his collection on Sunday by taking out the British Time Trial Championship over a 43km course around Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. The Scotsman held off Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk) and former winner Michael Hutchinson (In Gear Quickvit RT) with a winning time of 56 minutes, 57 seconds.

The win means that Millar, who is set to move from Saunier Duval - Prodir to American squad Slipstream in 2008, will wear the British Champion's stripes in both road races and time trials following his victory at the British Road Race Championships in August.

For full results from the British Time Trial Championships, click here.

Ullrich silences D'Hont, for now

By Brecht Decaluwé

Jan Ullrich made a recent appearance at Eurobike
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jan Ullrich has won a small court battle against former Team Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hont, forcing the Belgian to stop speaking publicly about the performance enhancing drugs he allegedly gave the 1997 Tour de France winner. According to German magazine Focus, D'Hont's lawyer Dimitri de Decker said his client would explore all legal avenues in fighting the decision.

D'Hont dropped a bomb on the peloton back in April by writing a book called 'Memoirs of a cycling soigneur'. In the book he described an organised doping programme within Team Telekom (now T-Mobile) during the 1990s, and following the book's publication many former Telekom riders admitted to using doping during their stay with the team.

Shortly after the confessions from Bjare Riis, Erik Zabel and various others, D'Hont claimed that Ullrich also used various illegal substances and said he was disappointed the German wasn't prepared to speak out about it.

In the book D'Hont - also the former soigneur for Freddy Maertens, Michel Pollentier, Etienne De Wilde, Evgueni Berzin, Erik Zabel and Bjarne Riis - unveiled many secrets of the peloton, crushing the long preserved cycling omerta. The detailed descriptions of how amphetamines, cortisone, testosterone and EPO were used, together with the techniques to avoid getting caught, forced many riders to confess back in April.

Ullrich said he would talk about the subject when Germany was ready for it, while Bjarne Riis wasn't spared in the book with quotes such as, "Jef, come have a look, I've got 64." Referring to a happy Riis who managed to elevate his hematocrit level to 64.

Meanwhile Ullrich was spared somewhat by D'Hont who acknowledged that he liked the German more than Riis. "Riis thought he was a general, he felt he could do what he wanted while ordering everybody else. If I'm honest I like Ullrich more than Riis," wrote D'Hont.

Andrea Moletta: Coming back one day at a time

Moletta is one of Davide Rebellin's most trusted domestiques.
Photo ©: Mani Wollner
(Click for larger image)

187 riders lined up on the start of the Vuelta a España yesterday afternoon, among them was a rider no one expected to see - no one, that is, except the man himself. Andrea Moletta made headlines in March for all the wrong reasons when he crashed out of Milano-Sanremo in a horrific accident while descending the Cipressa as part of the leading breakaway. Moletta's crash was so severe that Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer immediately thought the talented Italian's season was over, yet while he was being loaded into the ambulance Moletta leaned over and said to his manager, "Hans, I'll see you at the Vuelta!" Now six months later, Moletta is indeed lining up for the Spanish event, Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with the tough 28 year old to find out just how he came good on his word.

March 24, 2007, Milano-Sanremo, "La Classicissima di Primavera": With just over 25 km to go in the biggest one day race of the year for any Italian, Moletta slipped into a leading escape group with Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti and Yaroslav Popovych of Discovery Channel, two very capable riders to have alongside you when the peloton is breathing down your neck just 20 seconds back. For an Italian, this is the equlivant to riding away on the Muur van Geradsbergen in the Tour of Flanders for a Belgian, in other words, it's huge.

But for Andrea Moletta, the move quickly turned from being one of his brightest moments in his career to being one of the darkest. While descending the Cipressa, a tight decent on the streets of the Italian coastal town of S.Lorenzo a Mare, Moletta suddenly veered left on a right hand bend for no apparent reason, losing control and slamming at high speed into a lamp post before tumbling into one of the low stone walls common in this part of Italy.

To read the full interview with Andrea Moletta, click here.

More Fantasy Vuelta Prizes

There's still time to join the Fantasy La Vuelta Game - create your teams now and win some amazing prizes! You can enter new teams until Stage 4 begins (Tuesday 4th September 10:00 Madrid time; USA 00:00 Pacific Daylight Time; USA - 04:00 Eastern Daylight Time; Australia - 18:00 Eastern Standard Time).

New prizes confirmed!

Tacx Satori cycle trainer
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

The latest addition to the prize roster is a Tacx Satori cycletrainer. From one Grand Prize and one first runner-up to three each second, third and fourth runner-up prize packages, there are 11 chances for you to win based on your overall performance in the 2007 Vuelta a Espana Fantasy Game.

There are also 21 daily prizes for each stage's top performer. The Satori is the warm-up trainer for ProTour teams. A super power trainer with a number of impressive innovations. This trainer delivers extremely high power outputs at low pedalling frequencies. Thus you can generate 400 watts of power at a low speed of 27 km/h for instance. These kinds of power levels will be required just before the start of a race.

Also on offer in this year's Fantasy Vuelta are some great prizes from SRAM, Speedplay's Zero Stainless pedals, Maxxis Courchevel road tyres, Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream, and Giro's Ionos helmets. To find out more have a look at the full prize list.

Choosing your mountains and sprints riders

SRAM Rival
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

In what's set to be an interesting race following the events of this summer, picking your team of 15 riders couldn't be more challenging. If you are relatively new to the Grand Tours it can be a daunting prospect choosing your 15 riders from Saturday's start list of over 200 riders. You need to choose your riders carefully for all four elements of the game. The new ranking system can tell you some of the answers you need to know based on last year's results. Here's some direct links to real life riders that scored well in the 2006 Vuelta Fantasy Game:

- Top 2006 Mountains Riders
- Top 2006 Sprinters
- Top 2006 Finishers
- Top 2006 Game Stage Points Riders

Fantasy upgraded

BBB eyewear
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

We've added some great improvements to the game this year:

1. New ranking and results service, offering new depths of rider statistics on races over the last four years.
2. See your friends exact selections in the this year's game as it happens.
3. Look up the winning managers team selections for last year to imporve your selection this year.
4. Follow the progress of the key fantasy managers whilst also tracking your friends' progress in the new "Watch Teams" tool.
5. Build your own Mini-Leagues.
6. Try out the Forum/Chat area, which provides new ways to communicate with your fellow players from around the world in real time as the races unfold.
7. New stage selection system to make sure you never miss a stage pick again.

What is Fantasy Vuelta all about?

Speedplay
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

The online game allows you to assume the role of a professional team manager for the 2007 Vuelta and create your own dream team from any of the real life riders in this year's Vuelta. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with other virtual managers from around the world.

Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win some great prizes. Remember you can still enter teams until Stage 4 begins. You can also re-edit and re-enter teams for Stages 1-3 of the Vuelta 2007 competition up until Stage 4 begins.

Unlike most Fantasy games, this gives you the chance to try out the game for FREE and experiment with different strategies without having to pay for mistakes. If you join the Vuelta after the start date you can still take part with just as good a chance of winning as a manager who joined before Stage 1. Try out a team today!

Play for free

Remember you can play for free for the first 4 Stages! Try your teams out and see which rider combinations work out best. We hope you enjoy this year's game and look forward to seeing your winning team online soon.

Good luck!

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)