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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, June 13, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Frenchman confirms in Dauphiné

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) can raise his arms again
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Cyril Dessel of AG2R La Mondiale has definitely proved he is back in business by taking his third victory this year in the Dauphiné Libéré. The Frenchman, whose brightest days were at the 2006 Tour de France when he was able to slip into the Yellow Jersey for one day, has finally put his toxoplasmosis infection behind him, which had doomed his complete last season to zero results.

Now, Dessel has shown his fitness is back on track by taking a stage in the Volta a Catalunya three weeks ago and winning again in the Dauphiné Libéré on Thursday. Both victories were stage-finale solo efforts and conquered in a similar fashion: by being in front on the final climb and giving it full gas on the descent until the finish.

"I took some risks, I jumped away with the escape and saw that the bunch was riding 3-4 minutes behind us," Dessel said in the stage finish in Annemasse. "I was feeling well and I knew there was a card to play with the ascension of the Salève. I didn't know this climb - I think I rode it once with my father when I was 14 years old, so I didn't have a lot of memories of it! At the foot of the mountain, Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland got away. At first, I thought I'd never see them again, but I fought well until the top and saw that Rolland was cracking... that's when I played my card.

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"I knew that if I distanced him at the top, as I'm quite a good descender, I had a chance. I'm also happy because in Catalunya, some people said that I attacked in the descent... So now I can say that I didn't look for the victory in the descent!"

Dessel is now looking forward to defending a top ten placing on the Dauphiné GC - he is currently ranked fourth - and preparing well for the Tour de France, the team's most important event in the season, where he finished sixth in 2006 as best French rider. "Rather than looking for a top ten placing in the Tour, I'll try to win a stage," he continued. "In 2006, they let me get seven minutes, but this year, I don't think I will be given that much time. Still, I'll try. You have to have an attacking approach - there are no regrets later and you have more fun riding in front than in the back!"

Sponsors want Boonen in Tour

Patrick Lefevere and Tom Boonen during the press conference announcing his cocaine positive
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere seems to think that Tom Boonen still might ride the Tour de France. "I don't have any illusions about it, but our sponsors insist that we try," he said on Belgian radio, according to Sporza. "The sponsors want to see Tom in the Tour de France." The organisers of the Tour announced this week that Boonen would not be allowed to start in the race after the former World Champion tested positive for cocaine.

The Quick Step manager said that he understood that the Tour had a "zero-tolerance" policy, but asked, "Why can Stefan Schumacher participate?" The Gerolsteiner rider was arrested last year after the World Championships for drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident and it was later disclosed that he had tested positive in a police doping control for amphetamines. Like in Boonen's case, the substance involved is not illegal out of competition under sporting regulations. Despite the arrest and test, "he can freely ride in the Tour. And the Spanish riders who are involved in the Puerto case are protected by Spanish law.

"It is a heavy price to pay for Boonen," Lefevere continued. "For the sponsors this is, of course, terrible, just like for the team. Tom takes a lot of pressure off the team during the Tour. Stijn Devolder can more easily concentrate on the GC if Tom takes the first 10 days in the wind. Tom is very important to us."

A meeting between the Quick Step boss and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme is possibly in the making. But the Tour director has already made his point clear: "Tom is a great champion, he has the duty to be an example. But he has not been irreproachable, and he admitted this himself - in a rather touching way. With the Tour being only three weeks away, I feel that the integrity of the Tour, but also of the other participating teams, is being harmed. This is not a definite condemnation of a champion, but it's also the duty of the Tour to protect the peloton," Prudhomme told L'Equipe on Friday.

Boonen to stay with Quick Step

A side-note, but one of importance, in the current controversy regarding Tom Boonen is that the Belgian sprinter and his Quick Step team have decided to extend his contract through 2011. According to La Dernière Heure, the team's sponsors all stand behind Boonen and team manager Patrick Lefevere and have not only assured their support of the squad for the next three years, but also granted that Boonen stays with the team during this period.

"Our sponsors want to announce that they are extending their engagement within cycling for three years. Tom is bound to the team for the next three years, too," Lefevere said in a press conference in Wielsbeke, Belgium, on Thursday.

"This decision was taken a few weeks ago - the current stir around Boonen doesn't change it," added Unilin manager Frans De Cock, whose company's brand Quick Step gives the cycling team its name. "We maintain our confidence in the team and in Tom, who remains a great champion. He gave us some fantastic moments these past sic years, and I don't want to forget that. This is not doping, it is private business. We are a small country and have few great champions. We have to forget this incident and look towards the future."

Boonen's contract was apparently signed already last Saturday, before the affair about his out-of-competition cocaine consumption broke.

Lefevere also confirmed the re-signing of some of the team's other riders. "On top of Boonen, Devolder, Rosseler, Visconti, Seeldrayers and Van Impe already signed on. I'm still negotiating with Steegmans and Barredo. As to Bettini, I have to think about it." The current World Champion has indicated that he wanted to put an end to his career after this season, but later came back on his words, saying he wished to continue with Quick Step.

Museeuw and Merckx support Boonen

Johan Museeuw supports Boonen
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Former Belgian cycling stars Johan Museeuw and Eddy Merckx are standing behind Tom Boonen. "Boonen was God. Within 24 hours he has become a target," Museeuw said in Het Laatste Nieuws. "Now he faces a trying time. I know it, I have been there myself."

Museeuw noted that "the story that I used doping at the end of my career will always follow me. Tom must now also live with that. Fortunately, Tom gets a second chance, but this is just the beginning of the storm."

The 1996 World Champion said he had ben surprised to hear that Boonen had used cocaine. "I thought that Boonen had a strong character, but today he proves that he is also just a man. I do not understand how an athlete who has the character to win Paris-Roubaix can't withstand that temptation."

Meanwhile, Eddy Merckx noted that, "Everybody has the right to a second chance," according to the Gazet van Antwerpen "If he gets in trouble a second time, then a punishment would be correct. But who of us does not make a mistake?"

Team line-ups for Tour de Suisse


Cunego, after his 2008 Amstel Gold Race win, looks forward to the Tour de France
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

Italian team Lampre is looking forward to the Tour de Suisse, taking place from June 14-22, as ultimate test for Tour de France hopeful Damiano Cunego. The Italian climber will be the team's captain in the Swiss event as well as in France in a few weeks, accompanied by Lampre's other big names such as Alessandro Ballan and Danilo Napolitano.

"The Tour de Suisse is the ultimate race to test one's condition for the Tour de France," team director Maurizio Piovani said. "Cunego will be there with exactly that objective. With him, there will be most of the riders that will accompany him in the Tour. It will be interesting to see the form of Ballan, who already worked hard in the Volta a Catalunya, as well as the fitness of Napolitano for the bunch sprints."

The full Lampre roster for the Tour de Suisse will be: Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Ballan, Matteo Bono, David Loosli, Marco Marzano, Massimiliano Mori, Danilo Napolitano and Paolo Tiralongo.


In the upcoming Tour de Suisse, Team Astana will be led by Andreas Klöden, who has recovered from the illness which forced him out of the Giro d'Italia's penultimate stage.

"Andreas feels okay again," Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews. "In theory he will be the leader of the team, but he has no idea about his condition. Normally it will not be that bad. We will know more after the first stages."

The German will be supported by an international team of a Russian, two Swiss riders and four Kazakhstanis. The full line-up lists as follows: Maxim Iglinskiy, Sergey Ivanov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Mizurov, Steve Morabito, Dmitriy Muravyev, Gregory Rast and Sergey Yakovlev.


Team Milram will look to Christian Knees and Erik Zabel to lead the team in the Tour de Suisse. Knees, who recently won the overall title in the Bayern Rundfahrt will be the team's GC candidate, while Zabel will look to the sprint finishes.

Like the other teams, Milram is using the race to not only polish off its form for the upcoming Tour de France, but also to help make the final line-up selections. "The Tour de Suisse is our last test before the biggest season highlight," said team manager Gerry van Gerwen. "We have the basics for our Tour de France team, now we are just filling the last free space. The Dauphiné Libéré and of course the Tour de Suisse are just the right places for our riders to recommend themselves."

Milram for the Tour de Suisse: Christian Knees, Erik Zabel, Martin Müller, Niki Terpstra, Enrico Poitschke, Marco Velo, Matej Jurco and Ralf Grabsch.

Scarponi signs with Serramenti Diquigiovanni

Italian Pro Continental team Serramenti Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli has announced the signing of Michele Scarponi for two years. The Italian will be racing again as soon as the Giro dell’Appennino on August 3.

Scarponi had admitted his implication in the Operación Puerto case before the Italian Olympic committee CONI in May 2007, and was handed a 18-month suspension in July, from May 15, 2007, to November 15, 2008. But a ruling made by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in March 2008 moved the lifting of the ban to August 1, 2008.

Cipollini to ride in Hannover

Mario Cipollini came back at the Tour of California after a three-year absence
Photo ©: Luca Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mario Cipollini continues to race. After appearing in the Tour of California in February, where he finished third in the second stage, the 41 year-old will also ride the Nacht von Hannover on August 1. The race organisers announced on Thursday that Cipollini, local rider Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Steffen Wesemann (Cycle Collstrop), Andre Greipel (High Road) and Erik Zabel (Milram) will all appear in the race.

Cipollini came out of retirement to ride for American team Rock Racing in California. Shortly after the event, their collaboration came to an end. Now, the 'Lion King' will come out of retirement again to ride in Hannover for the fourth time. He won the race in 1999.

Colorado Stage International Cycle Classic takes shape

The peloton is beginning to take shape for the inaugural Colorado Stage International Cycle Classic as eight teams have currently accepted invitations to compete in the three-stage road bike race from August 22-24. The full Colorado Stage field will include a total of 15 teams.

Heading the list of teams to date is Team High Road, with another two ProTour teams expected to enter. "We are truly excited with Team High Road's decision to participate in the inaugural Colorado Stage International Cycle Classic," said Michael Imhof, Vice President of Operations and Sales for the Vail Valley Foundation. "They represent our first ProTour team to commit and their riders are some of the best in the world."

The remainder of the field will be comprised of Pro Continental and Continental teams. In addition to High Road, other teams that have accepted Colorado Stage invitations include Pro Continental Teams BMC and Slipstream Chipotle, as well as Continental Teams Bissell Pro Cycling, Colavita/Sutter Home, Jittery Joe's, Tecos and Toyota-United Pro.

Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.

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