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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, June 24, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Contador prefers Vuelta title to Olympic Gold

Alberto Contador recently added the maglia rosa of the Giro d'Italia to the maillot jaune won at the Tour de France last July
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour de France and 2008 Giro d'Italia, stated that he would prefer to sacrifice his Olympic performance to arrive on form for the Vuelta a España, August 30 to September 21. The 25 year-old of Team Astana was not allowed to race the Tour de France this year, but is determined to aim for a historic triple.

"It would be something more historic than winning an Olympic medal," Contador noted of the Vuelta a España, according to "I want to do have a good Vuelta and even if I don't arrive 100 percent at the [Olympic] Games, to be able to prepare myself better for the Vuelta a España. I have already taken the Tour and the Giro, and to take a triple would be something more historic than winning an Olympic medal," affirmed Contador.

He would become the first Spaniard in history to win all three events, adding his name to a list of four that includes Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi and Bernard Hinault.

Team Astana, thanks to issues related to the previous incarnation of the team, was not invited to race the 2008 Tour de France. The non-invite left Contador, who followed Team Manager Johan Bruyneel from Discovery Channel to Astana over the winter, unable defend his maillot jaune.

He has no specific plans to watch the Tour de France. "If I will see it will be from home or from the beach. ... I am not going to have any envy, because the year is going on track, and with the Games and the Vuelta it could be a historic year."

Cunego modest Tour goal: podium and stage

Italy's Damiano Cunego, 26, ready for the Tour de France
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Italian Damiano Cunego, winner of the 2006 Tour de France young rider competition, has given himself modest goals leading into the 2008 edition. The 26 year-old of Team Lampre will start La Grande Boucle, July 5, with the idea of a stage win and a podium spot by the time the race arrives in Paris, July 27.

However, 'Il Piccolo Principe' has proven he is on track in 2008 by winning a stage in País Vasco, Klasika Primavera and, above all, Classic Amstel Gold Race, all the while skipping his home Grand Tour to focus solely on the French race. Following the Ardennes Classics and a rest, he has come back to finish fourth overall in the Tour de Suisse – a good sign for the French tour.

"I had not raced since Liège [-Bastogne-Liège] before coming here," explained Cunego to La Gazzetta dello Sport of the first mountain stage in Switzerland. "I had only one day of racing in my legs, the Memorial Pantani. It was normal that I was a little more brilliant at the start and that the lack of competition cost me in the stages further in." On the stage to Caslano, stage five, he lost time to the favourites. "If someone like me is pointing for the Tour, you can not already be in form to fight every day at an elevated rhythm. I knew that I would have a slight problem."

He will race once more before travelling to Brest and the Tour's Grand Départ. "My condition has become better here in Switzerland and there is not much more to do. I will train at home and Sunday I will participate in the Italian Championships; this will be good because it would certainly be a pity not to contest another race leading up to the Tour."

Cunego agrees with the bookies, that Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto will be the man to beat in the Tour de France. "Then there is [Alejandro] Valverde. Without Astana, however, there will not be a leading team." Regarding Team CSC's captain being Carlos Sastre and not Fränk or Andy Schleck, he added, "They say it this way, but it is not always all true. We'll see."

Riccò for nationals and possibly Tour

Riccardo Riccò, 24, considers Tour de France participation
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Saunier Duval's Riccardo Riccò could possibly line up for the Tour de France, July 5 to 27, if all goes well this Sunday at the Italian National Championships. The 24 year-old Italian, winner of two stages in the Giro d'Italia, will test his legs on the Bergamo course before deciding if he will form part of the Spain-based team at the World's largest cycling race.

"I will be at the Italian Championships Sunday, and, if it goes well, I will also do the Tour," confirmed Riccò to La Gazzetta dello Sport. He last rode the Tour de France in 2006 with then team-mate, Gilberto Simoni.

Riccò faced his home Grand Tour hoping to win the overall, but when the Giro d'Italia concluded on June 1 he was one place behind overall winner Alberto Contador. Instead of taking a vacation he competed in post-Giro d'Italia criteriums. "I did not go to Sardegna for vacation like I had planned," he continued. "I remained at home in Modena and at different points along the Adriatico. I rode because for me to go on bike rides is like a vacation. I did 'a Contador,'" he joked, regarding the Spaniard's pre-Giro d'Italia training.

"Then I did about ten days of serious training and the sensations were good. I am not bad physically. Moreover, I have not fattened up one gram because when it is hot I don't have hunger, I have only ice cream and cold drinks."

He is not yet secure of his Tour de France participation. "I will see. If I am competitive at nationals then I will go to France. I want to do the Tour. ... The Giro was good training in itself and I have intensified my training and lengthened the rides. I went and rode San Pellegrino in Alpe on Saturday, but it was not the first long ride, I have already done three in these days..."

Halfway through: A review of the ProTour teams' season to date (Part 2)

Philippe Gilbert produced a sensational solo ride to win the classics opener Het Volk
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

What was the first half of the 2008 season like for the 18 ProTour teams? Who can be satisfied with their performance and who needs improvement? Or, as the Cyclingnews staff asked, 'What went right and what went wrong?'

Here is part one of a team-by-team analysis of the first half of the year. The teams are listed in no particular order.

Française des Jeux

By Hedwig Kröner

What went right: The team's star rider, Philippe Gilbert, did not miss out on a successful early season, winning races as soon as in February at the Challenge of Mallorca. He travelled back to his beloved Northern Europe in March to win the Belgian season opener, Omloop Het Volk, as well as the less famous GP Le Samyn in an almost untouchable manner. In May, Sébastien Chavanel - not to be confused with his brother, Sylvain, at Cofidis - secured a stage and the overall win of the Tour de Picardie, which, in addition to the rest of the team's performances, put the squad to the top of the teams classification of the French Cup and the eighth spot on the ProTour team ranking.

What went wrong: After a great start, Gilbert failed to deliver on his home turf in the Ardennes Classics. Since the month of March, the team directed by Marc Madiot is fuelled by good placings, but no major victories. Frédéric Guesdon and Christophe Mengin, the team's veterans, were unable to shine in the Spring Classics, even though Guesdon finished 11th in Paris-Roubaix and won the Tro Bro Leon later in April. One of the team's young promises, Jelle Vanendert, will be out of action for a long time after a heavy crash in the Dauphiné injured his hip.

Read full review.

Barloworld backs Gasparotto for Italian Nationals

Italy's Enrico Gasparotto ready for the championships
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Claudio Corti's Barloworld team is ready to face the Italian National Championships with winner of the recent Ster Elektrotoer, Enrico Gasparotto. The race, this Sunday, will be held on a Bergamo city circuit that consists of 13 laps for a total of 254.8 kilometres.

"I came to the Ster Elektrotoer to have good training for the Italian Championships and I did not think to go so well ... However, now I can dream again of my national jersey," confirmed Gasparotto last week to Cyclingnews.

The 26 year-old won 2005's Italian Road Championship as a first year professional, out-sprinting Filippo Pozzato. Now Gasparotto, with a stage and overall Ster Elektrotoer victory added to his palmarès, presents himself as a strong protagonist for nationals. Corti will support him with Diego Caccia, Giampaolo Cheula, Marco Corti, Paolo Longo Borghini and Carlo Scognamiglio.

Team Barloworld will also be represented in other national championships; Moisés Dueñas in Spain, Hugo Sabido in Portugal and Christian Pfannberger is going for a repeat win in Austria.

Big names to Austria

There may be a big race in France in July, but it isn't the only race that month; the Österreich Rundfahrt, July 6 to 13, will offer an all-star line-up. This week the Rundfahrt announced that two-time Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli will lead Team LPR in the race next month. He will be the first Giro winner ever to start the Tour of Austria.

Savoldelli is not the only prominent Italian rider to be in the race. It was previously announced that Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) will appear in the race. In addition, Team Astana has stated that it will send Janez Brajkovic and Vladimir Gusev to Austria.

"It is great to have the reigning Olympic Champion and two-time World Champion, and now a Giro winner at the start!" said Tour organiser Ursula Riha. "And it is possible that Danilo Di Luca might also come to this year's Österreich Rundfahrt. Team Manager Fabio Bordonali said the decision would be up to him." (SW)

Gerolsteiner's Wrolich and Haussler disappointed with non-selection

Both Peter Wrolich and Heinrich Haussler expected, or hoped, to be named to the Gerolsteiner Tour de France squad, and neither was. The German team will head to France with Markus Fothen, Bernhard Kohl, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann and Oliver Zaugg.

"Paco" Wrolich told that he was told the team would concentrate in the sprints on Robert Förster. "He just doesn't trust me 100 percent and harmonises better with Sven Krauss, so that Förster asked to have Krauss with him." The 34 year-old Austrian also noted that both Förster and Krauss are German.

Aside from the Förster-Krauss friendship, Wrolich said that another factor might be that "From the beginning of the season, I have ridden for the team, did all I could for it and ignored my own interests. Now I am not being rewarded for that. I will take a lesson from that and in the future see that I also ride for myself sometimes."

Wrolich is not bitter about not being nominated, nor is he really totally sorry to stay home in July, as there is another event upcoming which is even more important to him than the Tour. "My wife and I expect our second son in July. So, in a way I am relieved. If there had been complications or other problems, I would of course have flown home. I wouldn't have had my head free." Depending on when the boy is born, Wrolich said he might still ride the Österreich Rundfahrt.

Haussler, 24, was bitterly disappointed, he told "I was totally surprised, not to be included. I will need a few days to absorb this." He claimed not to understand why he was not nominated. "Last year I made the mistake of being in top form at the Dauphiné and then didn't have anything left for the Tour. But I learned my lesson and changed my preparations this year. I am sure that I would have been in top form at the Tour."

The young Australian-German said that for the rest of the season, "I want to bring in as many wins as I can." So far this year he has one victory to his credit, the final stage of the Bayern Rundfahrt. "I will be top motivated for the next races. I want to show them that it was a mistake not to take me with them." He doesn't know what those next races will be, though. "I was totally planned for the Tour. Now, I will have to see what races even take place in this time." (SW)

Spitz preparing for the Olympics

Germany's Sabine Spitz is ready to add to this year's medal collection. After winning gold in the European Mountain Biking Championships and silver in the Worlds, she will be looking for another medal in Beijing, hoping to improve on her bronze from the Athens Olympics.

"The planning is going right," she said. "We did all the right things before the Worlds. This result is proof and gives us something to build on. Naturally, I was a bit disappointed" to finish second in the Worlds again, for a second year in a row, the 36 year-old admitted. "I really felt very good and had a real chance at the title."

She will now take a short break before getting back into training. "After a break of about a week, there is the altitude training in Engandin. Then I will start the Thüringen Rundfahrt [July 22 to 27] on the road, before I start the specific mountain biking training at home in the Black Forest. To get used to things, we will fly to Japan early before going to Beijing."

Spitz was surprised at the performance of the Chinese riders in the Worlds. "We had expected the Chinese to be stronger. A lot of people are wondering now what has happened to them. But I won't make the mistake of writing them off. We'll see." (SW)

(Editorial assistance and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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