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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, April 30, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Cavendish heads speedy youngsters in Romandie

By Susan Westemeyer

Mark Cavendish, 22, takes the first leader's jersey of the 2008 Tour de Romandie
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road youngster Mark Cavendish added to his list of wins this season by being the fastest around the 1.9 kilometre prologue course in the Tour de Romandie Tuesday evening.

"It was the perfect distance for me; if it had been longer it would have been more Bradley's type of time trial," Cavendish said on the team's website, highroadsports.com. His team-mate Bradley Wiggins finished fifth.

"I went all out from the start, when it's that short there wasn't much point in doing anything else, with it being hardly two kilometres it's just like a sprint. I was just hoping I could maintain that speed all the way through right to the end. The wind was very strong on the return part. Like a wall."

The 22 year-old Manxman saw the win as proof that he was ready for the upcoming Giro d'Italia. "I'm very pleased with this result. I know I've got good form and it's a good sign for the races I've got coming up like the Tour of Italy."

High Road Directeur Sportif Tristan Hoffman noted, "We didn't bother using references to other riders' times during the prologue because it was such a short distance. It was just a question of going as fast as possible and seeing what happened. The course was perfect for Mark – urban, flat and not too technical, just a few minor corners so he could use all his power. The weather was ideal for the top guys as well – warm and dry."

Defending Tour de Romandie champion, 23 year-old Thomas Dekker, finished ninth, two seconds down and was thereby the best of the overall favourites. On rabobank.nl, team director Erik Dekker said, "This was really for the specialists. The true time-trial riders that usually win the longer time trials are not made for this type of work. The fact that Cavendish is the quickest one here, says everything. But, it is still a time trial. Thomas has given every bit of his energy. He has done a good job. All final candidates are within five seconds of one another. Hence, little has been decided yet, but it still better to be ahead than to be behind. I am also under the impression that he is in a good position."

Another favourite, 32 year-old Andreas Klöden of Team Astana, finished 21st, only three seconds down. Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews that Directeur Sportif Alain Gallopin watched Klöden in the Tour of Turkey, "and told me there already that Andreas was very good in Turkey. Just preparing, not in the frontline, but he should be ready for Romandie. Of course he will be our leader there. The race with TT and mountains is perfect for him."

Daniele Bennati makes a strong comeback

Italy's Daniele Bennati, 27, missed out by 0.27 seconds in the Tour de Romandie prologue
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After not racing for seven months, Italy's Daniele Bennati – winner of two stages in the 2007 Tour de France – made a strong comeback in the Tour de Romandie prologue by going just 0.027 of a second slower than winner Mark Cavendish. The 27 year-old of Team Liquigas, who was sidelined with knee pains, is building his form for the Giro d'Italia.

"I am left wondering, maybe it would have been better to lose by one second and not this small amount of time," said Bennati to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I am comforted when I think that this is the first sign of life after suffering for six months of nothing."

The last time Bennati saw competition was in the Vuelta a España's final stage to Madrid, which he won, even though he had fractured his right wrist in a crash during the race's second stage. He also won the stages to Vigo and Talavera de la Reina of the same race. Knee problems delayed his season start until this month with the Giro d'Oro and Giro del Trentino. Now, one week later, he is vying for wins in Switzerland.

He vowed to be ready for the Giro d'Italia and he also wants to race the Tour de France, where he will come across Team High Road's Cavendish again.

"Surely, he will be an adversary to keep a close eye on," 'Benna' continued. "Last year, he did the Tour, but we were never side by side in the sprint. I think he tires a little bit, but he is a good rider, a winner."

The race continues today with a 182.4 kilometre run from Morges to Saignelégier. The stage, with a mountain near the end, will not suit Bennati, who will have better chances with stages two and five.

Gerolsteiner proud of its Ardennes Classics men

By Susan Westemeyer

Davide Rebellin, 36, put Team Gerolsteiner in the winning move for the Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Gerolsteiner didn't win any of the Ardennes Classics this year, but the team management is satisfied with its team's performance. Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer noted he was 'impressed' by his men's performances in the Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"We showed in all three races what the team can do," Holczer told Cyclingnews. "You can't always win, that's just the way the sport is. But I was especially impressed by our aggressive riding in Flèche and L-B-L."

Davide Rebellin, who won all three races in 2004 and Flèche Wallonne last year, proved to have the best record overall in the three races. He finished fourth in the Amstel Gold Race, sixth in Flèche Wallonne and second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège – and was never more than two seconds behind the winner.

Also impressive was Fabian Wegmann. The German Champion was 11th in Amstel, 45 seconds down, and 22d in Liège, 1'03" back. However, his most impressive moment came in Flèche Wallonne, where he broke for the lead with two other riders with 10 kilometres to go. He ended up suffering alone up the dreaded Mur de Huy in the pouring rain and was overtaken with only 500 metres to go. He ended 30th, 53 seconds down.

Stefan Schumacher, who last year won Amstel Gold, was unable to repeat his good performance this year. He finished 15th this year, and a crash in Flèche Wallonne took him out of contention for that race, in which, he said, "I did not feel so good in the finale." He joined a break in Liège with 30 kilometres to go, but was unable to hold on to it, and ended up finishing 6'42" down, in 60th place.

Sport Director Christian Henn told Cyclingnews, "Tactically our team did everything in the three races that we had discussed. That makes a directeur sportif a little proud, to be able to work with such a good team. The week in Holland and Belgium was, as always, worthwhile for our team."

Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli finalises Giro picks

Gilberto Simoni (l) with Team Manager Giovanni Savio
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli selected its men for the 2008 Giro d'Italia, which will take place from May 10 to June 1. Gilberto Simoni, who won Corsa Rosa in 2001 and 2003, will captain the squad with the goal of winning the race for the third time in his career. If the 36 year-old climber succeeds, he would become the oldest winner ever of the Italian three-week race.

'Gibo' will be joined by a strong team, composed of experts – Alessandro Bertolini, Niklas Axelsson, Danilo Hondo, Gabriele Missaglia and Daniele Nardello – and younger riders – Raffaele Illiano, Carlos José Ochoa and José Serpa. Leonardo Moser, who broke his left collarbone in the Folgaria's stage at Giro del Trentino, is forced to miss the Giro d'Italia.

"This wasn't an easy choice for me and Marco Bellini," said Gianni Savio, team manager of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli. "We were forced to leave at home riders who would have deserved to be at the Giro. But this is a hard race, that will start with a team time trial. And we have to do everything we can to protect our leader, so we think this is the best squad for us."

Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli for the Giro d'Italia: Gilberto Simoni, Alessandro Bertolini, Niklas Axelsson, Danilo Hondo, Gabriele Missaglia, Daniele Nardello, Raffaele Illiano, Carlos José Ochoa and José Serpa. (RG)

Menchov to lead Rabobank in Giro d'Italia

Vuelta a España winner Denis Menchov will lead Team Rabobank in the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1. The Dutch team will also send sprinter Graeme Brown, who will go for stage wins.

The Russian rider "has always been able to stay in good shape for quite a long time after the moments during which he wanted to reach a peak in performance," the team said on its website, rabobank.nl. "That is why he will compete in another major tour before instead of after the Tour de France."

Menchov's main helper will be Mauricio Ardila, as he was last year in the Vuelta. Australian Mathew Hayman will prepare sprints for Brown. The other riders on the team are Theo Eltink, Paul Martens, Bram De Groot, Dmitry Kozontchouk and Gerben Löwik. Löwik is recovering from a broken wrist suffered in the E3 Prijs, and if he is unable to ride, he will be replaced by Michiel Elijzen. (SW)

Switzerland names first Olympic picks

The Swiss cycling federation has picked its first three track riders for the Beijing Olympics. Swiss Cycling announced that Karin Thürig will ride the individual pursuit.

For the men, Franco Marvulli and Bruno Risi will ride the Madison. "Whether one or both of these athletes will also be at the start in the points race, will be decided at the time in consultation with Swiss Olympic," the federation said. (SW)

CSF Group Navigare pleased with April

CSF Group Navigare is pleased with its run of victories and placings in the month of April. The Ireland-registered team, which made its presence felt in the Tour of Turkey, came away with five wins for the month.

Maximiliano Richeze won in La Sarthe and he came back again in the Tour of Turkey, where Matteo Priamo took two stage wins and Filippo Savini one. Plus, CSF Group Navigare took five second places and five third places, with the point classification for Richeze in La Sarthe and the mountain classification for Emanuele Sella in Giro del Trentino.

The team now points for the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1, in a good spirits.

(Additional reporting and research provided by Rudy Gaddo and Susan Westemeyer)

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