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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, August 3, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams

Valverde passes final test before Beijing

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) takes the sprint
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde will fly to China as a firm favourite for the Olympic road race title after taking a hard-fought victory in the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday afternoon. Valverde, along with the rest of his Spanish Olympic team-mates, travelled to Madrid after the race and will fly to Paris on Sunday afternoon before travelling on to Beijing. They will then have less than five days to acclimatise before the Olympic road race on Saturday, August 9.

Besides Valverde, Spain's formidable line-up includes Tour de France green jersey Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Giro d'Italia champion Alberto Contador (Astana) and Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank), who was drafted in as a late replacement for Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro after his spectacular accident on stage 15 of the Tour de France.

After mixed fortunes at the Tour, where he won the first stage but failed once more to live up to his billing as an overall contender, Valverde appears to have emerged from the race in top condition. "I finished the Tour very motivated, I proved today that both physically and mentally I am feeling very good," he said after his victory on Saturday. "If we are lucky in Beijing I think we can do great things over there too.

"I believe that we are one of the most dangerous teams. Everybody knows what Alberto already won this year and what he is able to do in every kind of race. Carlos just won the Tour and Oscar and Samuel also achieved a great Tour. I believe that the five of us can challenge for a medal."

On a more personal level, Valverde counts German Stefan Schumacher and Italian Paolo Bettini as his most dangerous opponents. "I fear especially Stefan Schumacher if one considers the great condition he showed during the entire Tour. Paolo Bettini, the outgoing Olympic champion, must also be taken into account. And there surely will be many other riders who have prepared very well for this event."

The 248.5-kilometre course is expected to suit Valverde's characteristics, with seven hilly finishing circuits coming after a flat opening 80 kilometres. "I believe that after the Tour de France, I will have the necessary resistance for such a difficult race," said Valverde.

In addition to the difficult course, Valverde believes that Beijing's unique environmental factors could also play a part. "Dampness, pollution and the hot weather, which could cause dehydration, could strongly influence the course of the race. I believe that we will witness a very difficult Olympic Games."

Also see Cyclingnews' full coverage of the 28th Clásica San Sebastián.

UCI grants wildcard to Australia for Olympic time trial

Cadel Evans could still ride the TT in Beijing
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Cadel Evans may yet contest the Olympic time trial on August 13 after the UCI awarded Australia a second starting place at the event in Beijing. Cycling Australia was notified earlier this week of the offer and after discussions with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has officially accepted the position.

Evans was originally listed as Australia's lone rider for the men's time trial, but the Tour de France runner-up offered his position to three-time TT world champion Michael Rogers after suffering a knee injury during a post-Tour party.

"For the time trial there's no hiding and every day that I miss training is seconds and therefore places in the result," said Evans. "I wouldn't want to deprive Mick (Rogers) of an opportunity to do what is our best chance to get a result for the team."

But on Wednesday Evans received the call from Australian national performance director Shayne Bannan advising him the UCI was offering Australia a second starting spot for the time trial. "Shayne Bannan called me with the news and I was on the table getting treatment with my knee all bandaged up in ice and an electro-stimulator attached and he said we've got that second place," said Evans. "I looked at my swollen knee and thought 'oh good for you'.

"But let's see how it goes and first concentrate on getting my knee better and see if I'm worthy of going for the road race and seeing if I can be good enough for the road race," explained Evans. "Then beyond that - for me to go and start the time trial I'd have to have a pretty stellar ride in the road race.

"Every day I'm doing the physio and treatment on my knee and every day getting better but we'll decide on Monday morning whether I go or Adam Hansen goes in my place," said Evans who last represented Australia at an Olympic Games in 2000 when he was riding a mountain bike. "I don't want to go unless I can do a good result for myself and the team or contribute to a good result for the team so if I don't recover from my injury and am not close to my best I don't mind staying at home."

Bannan said a series of tests run on Evans indicate his knee is improving. "Treatment on Cadel's knee has been going well and we're hopeful that on Monday he'll get the all clear to fly to Beijing," said Bannan. "Considering the progress of his recovery we're optimistic that he can back up after the road race and give the time trial a decent go."

Cunego out of Olympics

Damiano Cunego is still suffering from a crash at the Tour
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian Damiano Cunego has elected to miss the Beijing Olympics having not fully recovered from the effects of a crash sustained on stage 18 of the Tour de France. Cunego raced the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday but couldn't follow the favourites on the category one climb of Alto de Jaizkibel, eventually finishing 36th, 9'34 down on the winner.

"The effects of the bad crash at the Tour didn't go away," said the Lampre rider. "During the race I had bad feelings when the road became tough. When the effort was intense I felt the symptoms I had already felt during long training rides, those of respiratory problems and headache."

After the race Cunego talked with Italian national selector France Ballerini, and a decision was taken to withdraw him from the Italian Olympic team. He will now meet with Lampre's team doctor for further medical checks and attempt to take something from the remainder of the season.

Verbrugghe's future in doubt after fractured collarbone

Belgium's Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Belgian Rik Verbrugghe suffered a potentially career-ending broken collarbone after crashing at the Clásica San Sebastian on Saturday. The 34 year-old Cofidis rider will be without contract at the end of 2008 and was hoping to impress prospective employers at the Vuelta a España.

"This is yet another mentally heavy blow," Verbrugghe told Sporza. "I will see the surgeon on Monday and will probably undergo surgery on Tuesday. I still dare not say whether my season will be finished. We'll see how it ends."

Verbrugghe revealed that he had already spoken with Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere about a possible contract for next season, but now fears that his professional career may be at an end. "I do not want to ride just for the sake of it, I want a good contract," he said.

"I have spoken to Patrick Lefevere, but he already has 24 riders and he wants to wait and see what happens with the riders from Gerolsteiner and Crédit Agricole."

Both Crédit Agricole and Gerolsteiner are unlikely to continue next season after attempts to find replacement sponsors have not been successful. Crédit Agricole manager Roger Legeay announced yesterday that he would allow his riders to seek offers from other teams, while Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer is expected reveal the fate of his team next week.

Casar extends with Française des Jeux

Frenchman Sandy Casar has extended his contract with Française des Jeux for a further two years, the 29 year-old rider announced Saturday. Casar was the highest placed Frenchman at this year's Tour de France, finishing in 14th place, 19'23 down on winner Carlos Sastre. He was second on stage 16 of the Tour from Cuneo to Jausiers, and also claimed a victory on stage 19 of last year's edition in Angoulême.

Hill returns to top podium step

By Sue George in Bromont, Quebec

Sam Hill (Monster Energy) won
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

On a slippery, technical downhill track at the UCI World Cup in Bromont, Quebec, Australian Sam Hill showed he was the man to beat with the best time in qualifying and finals. He backed that up in an exciting final, when as the last man down the hill, he ousted Greg Minnaar from the hot seat.

"It's been a bit of a dry spell since Maribor," said an elated Hill after his win. "Since winning there, I've been concentrating on trying to keep my points lead [in the UCI World Cup series] instead of trying to focus on winning. I feel like that's kind of why I haven't been riding as good."

Monster Energy racer Hill won the season's opening World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia, but hasn't been able to make it back to the top of the World Cup podium until Saturday evening. He came close with second place at the Andorra World Cup and finished fifth in Fort William this spring. Then at the World Championships in Italy in June, Hill was on his way to a win with a six-second margin, when he washed out and crashed spectacularly in the final turn, just before the finish. Despite hopping back on his bike to finish, the crash cost him some time and another year in the rainbow-striped jersey; he finished third.

"After last weekend [at Mont-Sainte-Anne], I came in with the mindset that I just gotta go there and win," he said.

Hill said the spectators at Bromont were inspirational, too. "The crowd here is just insane. It's huge from the first big drop all the way down. Someone lit off a big firework next to me and people were just going wild."

Hill is looking forward to the next round of the World Cup on home soil in Canberra, Australia, at the end of the month. See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the UCI World Cup in Bromont.

Doping raid hits Tour of Guadeloupe

Four riders due to compete in the Tour of Guadeloupe have been taken into police custody and placed under investigation for possession of banned substances, AFP reported Saturday. The four, Guadeloupéens Johann Rufine and Boris Carina and Colombians Ismael Sarmiento and Daniel Bernal, all belong to local cycling club Sports Union Lamentinoise (USL) and were removed from the 58th edition of the Tour of Guadeloupe which started Friday.

They had been taken into police custody on Thursday after a customs search on Wednesday revealed products, authorised for oral administration, were to be injected intravenously by the riders, according to deputy prosecutor of Pointe-a-Pitre, Patrick Desjardins. The search took place as the riders returned from a week's training in Colombia.

A raid Thursday on the headquarters of USL revealed many more suspicious products, some of which have yet to be subjected to analysis, plus injection equipment suitable for transfusions. A further raid on Friday at the home of a club associate also uncovered similar equipment buried at the bottom of a garden.

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