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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, March 20, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Easter weekend Sanremo slugfest

Modified percorso and in-form attackers likely to change finale

By Gregor Brown in Milano

Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) – pictured here winning the 2007 Sanremo – will be one of the top favourites for the 2008 Milano-Sanremo, this Saturday
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The 99th Milano-Sanremo is set to be an Easter weekend slugfest along the Ligurian coast thanks to the number of attacking-type riders who are on form. The single-day race – 298 kilometres from Milano to Sanremo on March 22 – is the traditional first of five Monuments of the year, known as La Classicissima.

Italian cyclists will fight tooth and nail to win the biggest single-day outing of the year, and for every sprinter it is the race to have in one's palmarès. Win this race and you are cheered like a champion up and down the Via Roma and remembered forever in the books of cycling lore.

Strangely enough, this year the race will not finish on the famous Via Roma in Sanremo, but closer to the seaside due to construction and the Easter weekend. As normal, the race will descend the Poggio after 291.8 kilometres, head west on Corso Cavallotti, Via Fiume and pass under the red triangle on Corso Orazio Raimondo. However, it will then avoid Via Roma for the finishing stretch on Lungomare Italo Calvino – closer to the Mar Ligure – by taking a left at the fountain. The left will be followed by a quick right for 250 metres on Via Nino Bixio, a left on Giardini Vittorio Veneto and the final turn – a right – on to Lungomare Italo Calvino for the final 250 metres.

The race, organised by RCS Sport, will start near Milano's Piazza Duomo, in Castello Sforzesco. The castle, home for many of Milano's refugee cats and collections of artwork, will be the official partenza at 9:20 on Saturday. Leaving the fashion capital's glitz and glamour, the riders will roll out onto the race's parcours.

Two-hundred participants will head south across the Lombardia plain and Po River on their way to Campo Ligure. There they will encounter the race's first major obstacle, the Passo del Turchino (532m). The mountain pass, 24 kilometres long, is a little too early (155.7 kilometres remaining) and steady to decide the race. Most riders will roll the climb in their big rings and by the summit we should see an already-established escape group with minutes in hand.

To read the full Milano-Sanremo preview, click here.

Nocentini "inspired" by Sanremo

By Hedwig Kröner

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale) is looking forward to Sanremo
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

Italian Rinaldo Nocentini, last week-end's runner-up at Paris-Nice behind fellow countryman Davide Rebellin, could also be a contender for Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, Italy's biggest one-day Classic. The AG2R La Mondiale rider and his Gerolsteiner colleague are both in great form, and the parcours of the Classicissima suits them well.

"Sanremo will be interesting," Nocentini told Cyclingnews on Sunday in Nice. "They put another climb on the parcours, five kilometres long [Le Mánie – ed.]. I already talked to Rebellin, that we have to race flat out to get rid of the sprinters at the Poggio, or before that. I love this race..."

The 30 year-old is having a great early season this year, having won the Grand Prix Lugano and placing second at the Tour du Haut Var and Paris-Nice behind Rebellin. Asked what he changed in his off-season preparation, Nocentini had a surprising answer. "It's the first time that I stopped drinking wine... I never had much alcohol, but in the beginning of the year, I decided I should quit drinking wine altogether. So that's what I did."

He admitted that this helped him being sharper earlier in the year. "If I would have had to race the Mont Ventoux last year, it wouldn't have been the same," he said. "I'm a bit lighter this season because of this. Less body fat. I also did more kilometres before the beginning of the season. With the team we had three training camps, but I also trained more on my own, so that helped."

After the Primavera, the AG2R leader will be the team's captain throughout the Belgian Ardennes Classics, again measuring himself with the best, including Rebellin. "I will be doing Amstel, Flèche and Liège," he confirmed. But before then, he will take part in "País Vasco, but I won't do it at a 100 percent. I think it's better to do it more for training, as I've already raced for victory a lot this year. I did the Tour du Haut Var, Lugano and Paris-Nice, and if I want to stay competitive for the Ardennes Classics, then I need some time to pause. But País Vasco will still be important to race, for preparation."

Miche-Silver Cross is 25th Sanremo invitee

By Gregor Brown

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RCS Sport has announced the 25th team invited to its race, Milano-Sanremo, this Saturday. Continental Team Miche-Silver Cross will line up with the 24 teams already invited by the organiser on February 20.

The organiser made the decision based on similar criteria used in the Giro d'Italia selections. "Ethics, quality, international character [and] the historical relationship with RCS Sport," read a press release.

Miche-Silver Cross, registered in San Marino, will field Przemyslaw Niemec along with seven other riders. See the provisional Milano-Sanremo start list for more details.

The 25 teams: Ag2r La Mondiale, Barloworld, Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d'Epargne, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, CSF Group Navigare, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, High Road, Lampre, Liquigas, LPR Brakes, Miche-Silver Cross, NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saunier Duval-Scott, Silence-Lotto, Slipstream Chipotle - H30, Team CSC, Team Milram and Tinkoff Credit Systems.

Milram for the weekend races

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Milram will be busy this weekend, with three different races in three different countries. The German ProTour team starts with Milano-Sanremo on Saturday, moves to Ronde van het Groene Hart on Sunday, and finishes with Rund um Köln on Easter Monday.

Milano-Sanremo features, as expected, the double-pronged leadership of Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi. Zabel has won the race four times already, in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001, and Petacchi won it in 2005, finishing second in 2006.

The two will travel to Cologne, Germany, for Rund um Köln on Monday. Five of their team-mates there will be local riders, including Christian Knees, who took the victory in 2006.

In between, the team will send a squad to the Netherlands to the second edition of the Ronde van het Groene Hart. The squad will look to be in escape groups and count on Elia Rigotto if it comes to a mass sprint.

Milram for Milano-Sanremo: Alberto Ongarato, Alessandro Petacchi, Christian Knees, Erik Zabel, Fabio Sabatini, Marco Velo, Martin Müller and Niki Terpstra.

Milram for Ronde van het Groene Hart: Christian Kux, Elia Rigotto, Markus Eichler, Matej Jurco, Dennis Haueisen, Martin Velits, Björn Schröder and Sebastian Schwager.

Milram for Rund un Köln: Erik Zabel, Alessandro Petacchi, Christian Knees, Ralf Grabsch, Dominik Roels, Artur Gajek, Markus Eichler and Marco Velo.

Track Worlds: teams finalised

Entries have now closed revealing the team nominations for the forthcoming UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester from March 26-30, 2008. A total of 300 riders comprising 207 men and 93 women from 37 nations are on the list for 18 events during the five-day championships.

France's team sprint – unbeatable?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

One of the biggest battles for medals will be in the men's team sprint. Teams from France, Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany and Australia will all fancy their chances in the three-man race. Great Britain has revealed the early nominations as Jamie Staff, Ross Edgar and Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton, but the final team won't be revealed until next Tuesday. The Dutch team is fixed with Theo Bos, Tim Veldt and Teun Mulder, but the Australians are likely to choose three out of their nominated Ryan Bayley, Mark French, Ben Kersten and Daniel Ellis. The French team has already been announced with Arnaud Tournant recruited as a reserve, but the legendary sprinter will ride the Keirin event pitched against Britain's Chris Hoy. Hoy had a winning streak of 22 consecutive wins in the Keirin over the past year. Bos and Mulder are also listed to ride in the sprint competition.

The Men's World team pursuit champions of Great Britain have ridden close to the four-minute mark this season for the 4,000 metre event, with Bradley Wiggins nominated alongside Ed Clancy, Steve Cummings, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Paul Manning for the four-man race. Current World record holders Australia have named a strong six-man squad for the team pursuit: Brad McGee, Luke Roberts, Graeme Brown, Brett Lancaster, Jack Bobridge and Mark Jamieson.

Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade are listed to defend their World title in the women's team sprint with talented youngster Anna Blyth as third nominee. Pendleton is also included on the women's sprint and Keirin lists, but looks likely to give the 500 time trial a miss with Reade and Blyth nominated for the two-lap race.

The British women's team pursuiters will debut at the championships with Rebecca Romero, Jo Rowsell, Wendy Houvenaghel and Liz Armitstead also on the list with final selection next Tuesday. The British team face fierce challenges from the German, Russian and Ukrainian teams. The Dutch squad debuted in second place in Copenhagen last month behind the improving German winners, and both teams are expected to raise their game in the challenge for medals in Manchester. Romero will be out to improve on the silver medal she won in Palma last year in the individual pursuit, when the former world rowing champion was beaten by American Sarah Hammer in the final.

The field for the men's Kilo looks very strong despite its omission from the Olympic Games this year. The event is always a crowd favourite and they won't be disappointed with names like François Pervis, Didier Henriette (France), Ben Kersten, Scott Sunderland (Australia), Theo Bos, Teun Mulder.

A full list of riders can be viewed on the official website at

Marco Polo to Tour de Georgia

The Marco Polo Cycling Team will be making its first appearance on the American racing circuit at the Tour de Georgia, taking place from April 21-27. Founded in 2005, Marco Polo Cycling is China's first professional cycling team. It will be sponsored to take part in the race by a founding sponsor of the event, Atlanta-Based GE Energy, as well as bike manufacturer Trek.

The GE Marco Polo Cycling Team presented by Trek, as it will be called for the Tour de Georgia, features Fuyu Li, who previously rode for the Discovery Channel team in 2007 and is now on the short list of cyclists hoping to be selected as China's sole competitor in road cycling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics this August.

In addition, the squad has an impressive international roster that features world-class Dutch cyclist Leon van Bon, a former Olympic, World and road racing medalist, Russian sprinter Sergey Kudentsov, currently ranked fifth on the UCI Asia Tour; Jai Crawford of Australia, winner of the Tour of Siam in Thailand; and Australian Rhys Pollock, who raced for the DFL-Cyclingnews squad last year, participating in many of Europe's top races.

"Our goal is to help Chinese cycling gain additional professional experience and exposure at the international level, develop new cycling heroes like Fuyu Li, and cultivate closer ties with other countries, a mission that can begin this spring in Georgia," team director Gudo Kramer said.

Xing Yan Dong and Liu Yilin round out the list of Chinese riders who will race in Georgia. "Xing YanDong and Liu Yilin are two of China's most promising young riders. Although new to the international professional racing scene, we can expect to see great things from them in the future," Kramer added.

Completing the roster for the GE Marco Polo Cycling Team presented by Trek is Loh Keong, another young hopeful from Malaysia.

Page to Planet Bike

American cyclo-crosser Jonathan Page will be riding for Planet Bike of Madison, Wisconsin, next season. On his personal website, the rider announced the new-found deal with the cyclo-cross team, which will continue to race in the US, in addition to Page who will remain based in Belgium.

Page also announced the creation of the "Madcross presents Jonathan Page's Planet Bike Cup", which will be a premier UCI cyclo-cross race in Madison, Wisconsin on September 27 and 28. The rider "also plans a series of cyclo-cross clinics in conjunction with his extended US race calendar next season, which will include Tailwind Sports Michigan race weekend, Cross Vegas, Madcross, and hopefully an east coast stop," according to his homepage.

The official team launch will be held at Planet Bike in Wisconsin in April.

Two more T-Mobile doctors accused

The investigation commission of the Freiburg University Clinic has released first conclusions of its inquiry into the doping practices of its doctors regarding the T-Mobile team. In addition to the former team doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich, the commission concluded that also Andreas Blum and Stefan Vogt had been involved in the doping treatments of T-Mobile riders during the 2006 season.

Blum and Vogt reportedly received payments in relation to illegal doping practices. The commission was created to "reveal the methods used by the cycling team to additionally remunerate team doctors, without the knowledge of the University Clinic." It also concluded that blood doping took place in the immediate surroundings of the Clinic, and that further performance-enhancing methods had been applied to pro cyclists between 2001 and 2005, even if former T-Mobile pro Patrik Sinkewitz did not give any names for this assumption.

Sinkewitz testified in October last year on the doping practices of his former T-Mobile team. In late November, the German telecommunications giant announced it was stopping its sponsorship of the squad, which had started in 1991.

The hospital has filed a suit against the two doctors.

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