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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, May 5, 2008

Edited by Sue George & Paul Verkuylen

Astana officially in the Giro

Astana will take part in the first Grand tour of the season
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

RCS Sports, organiser of the Giro d'Italia, announced yesterday that ProTour team Astana has officially been invited to participate in the 2008 edition of the race, which begins on May 10. After consultation with the team management of NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, which was one of the surprise names on the original list of invites on February 1, it was decided that its Grand Tour debut was to be delayed and Astana granted the final spot on the race.

The inclusion of the Kazakh squad comes after a successful early season, which has seen it rise to the lead in the team's classification of the ProTour. Most recently Andreas Klöden won the Tour of Romandie, moving him to fifth overall in the series while Alberto Contador is third.

"I would like to thank RCS for reconsidering our team in the selection process," team manager Johan Bruyneel said in a press release. "RCS has recognized that not inviting one of the best stage racing teams would have been a mistake and detrimental to the race and sport of cycling.

"I am most happy for our sponsors, team and fans," he added. "Throughout all the political battles, our sponsors have continued to support us and our new mission for the team. The riders and staff have handled themselves in a professional manner and remained focused on winning bike races. And our loyal fans have filled the race routes cheering for us. It's a big honour to let them know we will now race in Italy."

Although very pleased with the invitation, Bruyneel did acknowledge that the short notice will present the team with some challenges. "Preparation for a Grand Tour involves intensive planning, both for our staff and riders," he said. "Many people may not realize that riders schedule their season-long training programs around these three-week races. The one-week notice is certainly an extra challenge, but I'm confident that our team will show up motivated."

"I think that we proved in Romandie that we are the best team in the world for stage races," continued Bruyneel. "Increasingly, more people understand what this team stands for and that we are an important and indispensable team."

Leipheimer, Contador and Klöden to attend

For the favourites, such as defending champion Danilo Di Luca and Gilberto Simoni, the inclusion of Astana presents a new set of rivals, all of whom have proven their Grand Tour capabilities. Heading the Astana team will be Tour of Romandie overall winner Andreas Klöden. The German will have the support from 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and America's Levi Leipheimer.

"After my nice overall victory today at the Tour of Romandie and my time-trial victory on Friday, I finally feel my form is close to where it needs to be," said Klöden. "The first part of the season was tough due to my illnesses, but that's now behind me and I can focus on the Tour of Italy, my first Giro."

Like Klöden, Contador and Leipheimer are also making their Giro debut. Leipheimer is still in the United States of America, where he had a successful Tour de Georgia, finishing in third place overall. "It was a big surprise to get the call from Johan," he said. "I was planning on training in the US for a couple of weeks, but now I need to fly to Italy and prepare myself for a tough three-week race.

"I haven't had the opportunity to take an in-depth look at the course, but I know we'll tackle some big climbs," he added. "I've also read that there are four time trials, which leads to me believe there will be some great opportunities for a rider like me."

Tour de France winner Contador received the news while recovering from a dental operation, but is looking forward to the challenge that the race presents. "It was a big surprise to me when Johan called me, since I was on a holiday," said Contador. "It is a big challenge for me and our team."

The 22 confirmed teams for the 91st Giro: AG2R-La Mondiale, Barloworld, Caisse D'Epargne, Cofidis, CSF Group-Navigare, Diquigiovanni-Androni, Euskaltel Euskadi, Française Des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, High Road, Lampre, Liquigas, LPR Brakes, Quick Step, Rabobank , Saunier Duval-Scott, Silence-Lotto, Slipstream, Team CSC, Team Milram, Tinkoff Credit System and Astana

Klöden first German winner of Romandie

Andreas Klöden (Astana) takes the overall
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden (Astana) successfully defended his overall lead on the final stage of the Tour de Romandie and in doing so he became the first German to win the race. Klöden took the leader's yellow jersey after winning the time trial stage on Friday in Sion. The final stage sprint was won by Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), who made his comeback to racing in Romandie after an extended layoff due to injury.

"The victory was a real team victory," said team director Alain Gallopin. "Thomas Frei, Vladimir Gusev, Maxim Iglinskiy, Julien Mazet, Steve Morabito, Dmitriy Muravyev and Sergey Yakovlev, they all worked hard the whole week.

"In the last stage today 40 riders were in the breakaway on the Col des Mosses," he added. "All eight Astana's were in that breakaway. I think we were simply the best team on the Swiss roads."

Astana also took the teams classification, further strengthening its position atop the ProTour teams' rankings.

For Klöden, the overall victory was his second victory of the season, and the 15th for Astana. The 32 year-old rider will now be one of the team leaders in the Tour of Italy, starting next Saturday.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage for the Tour de Romandie.

High Road satisfied with Romandie

Mark Cavendish (High Road)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road was more than satisfied with its performance in the Tour de Romandie, racking up a stage win, a special jersey and the third place overall. Mark Cavendish started the race out with a win in the prologue. The 22 year-old Manxman proved to be the fastest on the 1.9 kilometre course, and wore the leader's jersey in the first stage.

"For sure the guys showed they are ready," said sports director Brian Holm, referring to the upcoming Giro. "They did a lot of work here and are ready for the big work in the Giro. Marco [Pinotti] and Morris [Possoni] have peaked perfectly and they are really motivated to try to get the stage win or a few days in pink."

Possoni made his mark in the first stage, taking over the sprinter's jersey by winning the intermediate sprints while in an escape group which stayed away until nearly the end. He managed to hold on to the green jersey for the entire race.

The team's other Italian, Pinotti, used an eighth-place finish in the queen stage to move up to third overall. He is now looking forward to the Giro, where he hopes to once again pull on the coveted pink leader's jersey, as he did in 2007.

"The race was a good race for me and for the team," he said on the team's website "The level of competition in Romandie was pretty high and I improved race after race. At a personal level I think I've never performed so well and I have to thanks the team staff and management that helped me to reach such a level of self confidence.

"Being part of team High road sharing a successful and winning mindset it's something special and I am proud of my team-mates," he added. "This level right before the Giro makes me committed to do well in the Italian race."

Arndt assumes World Cup lead at Berne

Judith Arndt (Team High Road) soared into the World Cup lead on Sunday after clinching second place in the Tour de Berne round of the series. The race was won by Sweden's Susanne Ljungskog (Menikini-Selle Italia) after attacking from a group of 18 riders in the finale. Arndt led in the remainder of the leading break for second.

"It's a surprise, but a nice surprise," Arndt said. "To be honest, I didn't even know that I could get the leader's jersey today. My goal is more to win individual races this season than the series overall, but now I've got it, though, I will work hard to try to keep it.

"I was expecting Susanne to make a move, but it wasn't possible to get in every break, and she made the right one," she added.

Arndt had nothing but praise for her High Road team-mates, who sacrificed themselves early on to keep her in the frame. "Our team did a lot of work today because I wasn't well placed early on," she said. "I missed the first break and that meant they had to get on the front of the bunch to bring it back and put me back in contention.

"They were tired in the finale and I was the only High Road rider in the winning move," added Arndt. "But that was my fault because they had to do so much earlier in the race. I'm happy though, to have the jersey. Second is a good result."

Before her second place in Berne, Arndt won the Tour of Flanders round of the World Cup and was third in the Flčche Wallonne.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour de Berne.

German TV claims '07 payments to Freiburg doctors

Doctors at the Freiburg University Clinic had individual contracts with the T-Mobile Team calling for payment of 330,000 Euro in addition to their medical-services contracts with the team, for the years 2006 and 2007, the German television sender ARD reported on Sunday. The team, now Team High Road, cancelled its connection with the doctors and the Clinic after last year's disclosures of doping services provided to team riders.

The ARD Sportschau claimed to have copies of a contract between Dr. Stefan Vogt and Neuer Strassen Sport GmbH (NSSG), the German operating firm for the team, asking for 72,000 euro. NSSG issued a statement which stated that they assumed that the doctors did not "continue their systematic doping of the T-Mobile riders in the year 2007". The firm further noted that owner and team manager Bob Stapleton "has rigorously acted against doping" and would continue to do so. However, there was no explanation of what the extra contract and payment were for.

The ARD further reported that there may have been similar contracts in 2006 between the Olaf Ludwig GmbH [the previous management firm for the team] and doctors at the Clinic. A preliminary budget plan for the firm for 2006 allegedly showed in addition to 120,000 euro to the clinic for its official medical services, extra payments of 138,000 euro. That was to be divided up as 60,000 euro to Dr. Lothar Heinrich, 25,000 euro to Dr. Andreas Schmid, 23,000 euro to Dr. Andreas Blum and 30,000 euro to Vogt.

The Clinic and the public investigators assume that these payments were for unauthorized activities, according to the Sportschau. The doctors and the Olaf Ludwig GmbH did not comment on either the contents of the contracts or the payments.

Teams for Four Days of Dunkirk

Martin Müller will lead ProTour team Milram at the Four Days of Dunkirk from May 6-11 in France. He will share his experience with the young German riders, including Dominik Roels. Young Dutch rider Niki Terpstra, who showed his potential in the Spring Classics, will also return to racing after a brief break from competition.

The 54th running of the traditional stage race takes place over six days, contrary to its name. The start is this coming Tuesday in Dunkirk. After six stages and a total of 1,065 kilometres, the race ends on Sunday after returning to Dunkirk. The only German to have won the race was Olaf Ludwig in 1992.

Milram for Four Days of Dunkirk: Artur Gajek, Dennis Haueisen, Elia Rigotto, Niki Terpstra, Brett Lancaster, Dominik Roels, Martin Müller and Volodymyr Diudia under DS Jochen Hahn

Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner for Four Days of Dunkirk: David Boucher, Paul Manning, Ed Clancy, Andy Cappelle, Kevin Neirynck, Bert Scheirlinckx, Tom Steels and Frédéric Amorison under DS Claude Vancoillie

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