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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, May 6, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Astarloa racing towards Giro d'Italia

By Gregor Brown

Igor Astarloa (Milram)
Photo ©: Greg Johnson
(Click for larger image)

Spain's Igor Astarloa, winner of the 2003 World Championship, is looking towards the Giro d'Italia and a full recovery from toxoplasmosis he suffered from in 2007. The 32 year-old Milram rider from the Basque country competed last week in the Ardennes and is now looking towards Italy's Grand Tour, May 10 to June 1.

He is not only fighting for results – finishing 48th in Amstel Gold and 23rd in Flèche Wallonne this week – but also fighting to find the form lost from sitting out for half of the 2007 season.

Following his withdrawal from the Dauphiné Libéré on June 10, 2007, he was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis. The disease, which is normally caused by improperly cooked meat, put Astarloa out of action up until the Tour Down Under in Australia this January.

"Last year, I had a problem here at the Classics, in April and May," explained Astarloa. "I was not able to race up until January of this year – it was many months without racing. It was a bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and I was not able to recover. I was always tired."

Astarloa continued to explain that he is happy with his Ardennes Classics week. "I was not too bad at Amstel and Flèche, but it was not great," he admitted. "I still believe the form is not at the top. I hope to have a good race and to become better for the Giro d'Italia, where I will try for stage wins."

The former World Champion is eyeing the many Giro d'Italia stages that are suited to his finishing style. Such stages include the one in 1994 World Championships host city Agrigento, the second stage of this year's Grand Tour.

"I have already had a look at many of the Giro stages, also the second stage, after the time trial," Astarloa noted. "It is the same spot of the Worlds that was won by [Luc] Leblanc in Agrigento. This year, there are a small number of stages for the sprinters and many finishes on small ascents; stages for [Paolo] Bettini, [Danilo] Di Luca. I will continue to train and hope to arrive well for the Giro."

Since Liège Astarloa has travelled to his home town of Ermua to continue training. "I have raced a lot this year – staring in Australia, Andalucía, Valencia, Tirreno-Adriatico, País Vasco – so, I will take it easy in these 10 days before the Giro," he said. "It is not really much time, in fact, the seventh we have to be there for the controls. It will be a month away from home."

Riccò to lead Saunier Duval's Giro bid

Riccardo Riccò will have sole leadership
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Saunier Duval-Scott will be led by Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli at the 91st Giro d'Italia, starting this Saturday. The team will arrive in Palermo for Italian race tomorrow evening, where it will be looked after by team managers Pietro and Matteo Algeri.

The two directeur sportifs are confident that Riccò has recovered from illness that hampered his Spring Classic efforts. The Italian has spent the past week training in the Dolomites ahead of his home Grand Tour.

"Riccardo has recovered from the bronchial problems that affected him in the classics," confirmed Pietro. "We hope he'll be blessed with fine weather so that he can get even better. His goals? Stepping up to the podium."

Once the team arrives in Palermo on Wednesday it will spend the rest of the week training together ahead of the race. The only surprise in the outfit's roster for the event is the inclusion of neo-pro Ermanno Capelli. The rider will replace Manuele Mori, who hasn't yet recovered from a knee injury.

"Astana's late-minute invite will make things harder, as they're a very strong team," admitted Pietro. "But Riccardo will try hard and have a successful Giro d'Italia, I'm sure. Piepoli will focus on high-mountain stages, and our other riders make up a balanced team who can work for the leaders and also notch up stage wins."

Giro organiser RCS Sport announced on the weekend that Astana would contest the Grand Tour, having been overlooked in the original lineup. Astana had been left out of the Italian event, as well as all of Tour de France organiser ASO's races. Despite the original snub, RCS Sport changed its mind on the outfit, which has proven to be the team to beat in 2008.

Saunier Duval-Scott Giro d'Italia roster: Eros Capecchi, David Cañada, Iker Camaño, José Alberto Benítez, Raivis Belohvosciks, Luciano Pagliarini, Leonardo Piepoli, Riccardo Riccò and Ermanno Capelli.

Loddo targets Tinkoff Giro stage wins

Italian Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Loddo has been charged with the responsibility of taking Giro d'Italia stage wins for his Tinkoff Credit Systems team. The Italian sprinter opened the 2008 season in style, out sprinting Tom Boonen (Quick Step) to win stage four of the Tour of Qatar.

"One of our main objectives is naturally stage victories," team sports director Orlando Maini said. "We expect Loddo to be fully active in the sprint finishes, and [Mikhail] Ignatiev, [Vasil] Kiryienka, [Luca] Mazzanti, and [Evgeni] Petrov with their abilities to animate.

"Our other objective is to devote the team in support of Petrov and to improve his position from last year's seventh overall," he added.

Petrov and Pavel Brutt have trained on several of the event's important climbs, such as the Passo Manghen, Alpe di Pampeago and Pordoi. The difficult ascension of Marmolada, the Passo San Pellegrino and the summit climb to Giau have also been tested by Petrov, in addition to the Plan de Corones climb.

"Such a stage will be very demanding and difficult," Petrov explained. "The kilometres up the Plan de Corones will be a final curtain call for many of the riders weary with fatigue."

Maini, who will be directing the squad at the Giro, believes that previewing the event's climbs is important in mapping out the team's tactical plan.

"It was important to perform reconnaissance on the climbs for this years Giro in order to visualize important tactical areas," he said. "I believe that the Plan de Corones will be one of the decisive factors in the general classification of the race."

The Italian Grand Tour gets underway this weekend, with the first stage a Team Time Trial in Palermo on Saturday. The 21 stage event runs through to June 1.

Tinkoff Credit Systems for Giro d'Italia: Alberto Loddo, Alexander Serov, Nikolai Trusov, Sergey Klimov, Luca Mazzanti, Evgeni Petrov, Vasil Kiryienka, Pavel Brutt and Mikhail Ignatiev.

More injuries hit Milram

Injury woes have again hit the Milram ProTour team, with the outfit announcing both Artur Gajek and Martin Velits will be sidelined. The duo join team captain Erik Zabel and Ralf Grabsch on the injured list.

A painful bruise on Gajek's buttocks is keeping him from riding, forcing him to take a 10 day training break. Slovakian Velits, the twin brother of U23 World Champion Peter, has been diagnosed with a break in his right wrist, which requires surgery.

"Martin will be operated on in Slovakia as soon as possible," said team manager Gerry van Gerwen. "We won't be able to count on him again until the end of August.

"It's not that bad for Gajek," he added. "He ought to be able to race again the end of May."

Gajek hit the hard pavement in Istanbul during the Tour of Turkey's opening prologue. Velits crashed onto his right hand during the Ronde van Vlaanderen and after riding a number of races with pain, x-rays provided the final diagnosis for the 23 year-old.

"It is like we are hexed," said the 55 year-old van Gerwen. "Our string of injuries just keeps getting longer and is causing us difficulties. Despite our personnel problems we will try to get the maximum for everyone – for the riders, the race organizers and our sponsors."

The team's sprinter Alessandro Petacchi had to cancel his start in the Giro d'Italia at the weekend, as he's yet to recover fully from a severe case of bronchitis. Zabel had to skip the two Classics Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Rund um den Henninger Turm following a crash, and is preparing to ride his second Giro starting Saturday.

All-rounder Grabsch also had to take a break because of knee problems and will start Monday in the Neuseen Classics.

Toyota-United dominate weekend racing

Hilton Clarke winning
Photo ©: Trish Albert
(Click for larger image)

Just a day after hearing that Toyota-United would not be renewing its sponsorship beyond this year, the American team won both events on offer in the USA. Henk Vogels took the fourth stage of the Tour of Gila, while team-mate Hilton Clarke took his third win from three events, taking the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston. The following day Caleb Manion won NRC event, the Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium, taking the teams tally to 25 wins so far this season.

Team Captain Vogels set the tone for the weekend's action by storming to victory in Saturday nights 43 mile Gila Criterium. The team dominated the NRC event, first sending Heath Blackgrove up the road in a six man break before setting up Vogels for the sprint.

"All credit to the boys today, especially Blackgrove, Wherry and Clarke," Vogels said. "My role is normally to lead out Dominguez or one of the other sprinters, but today I wanted to show the boys by example that we are the best team and despite the news we received yesterday, we need to keep winning and go get a new sponsor for 2009."

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, Clarke began his hat trick with back to back wins in South Carolina at Tuesday's Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic, followed by Wednesday's Downtown Walterboro Criterium. Clarke then hooked up with team-mates Caleb Manion, Ivan Dominguez and Dominique Rollin to take his third consecutive win at the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston.

"I could barely hold the wheels of my team-mates, when they hit the afterburners on the last lap, so I knew there was no way I could lose the race with that lead out," said Clarke. "Ivan and Dom told me after the race jokingly that my seven wins this year count for one of their big wins [referring to Rollin's Stage 4 win at the Amgen Tour of California and Dominguez's Stage 1 win at the recent Tour de Georgia] so now we are all even."

The very next day, Manion made good use of the form he showed in South Carolina, taking the Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium in what was the team's second NRC win in as many days. With three other riders, Manion lapped the field before going on to win the final sprint.

The win is Manion's first as a Toyota-United rider as he usually is one of the final men in the lead out train for the team's pure sprinters.

"I enjoy leading the boys out for wins each week, but when my time came up, Hilton Clarke, Dominguez and Rollin were happy to repay the favour and help me win the race." He said.

By finishing first and third in the Nalley/Sunny King Criteriums, Manion was also the overall omnium winner for the weekend. Close behind and second overall was Clarke who won the field sprint for fifth in Roswell.

NZ team for Junior worlds

Auckland cyclist Tom David will lead the BikeNZ road team at the UCI World Junior Championships in South Africa in July. The seven-strong team will compete in road and time trial events on a 13.6km circuit that runs through the centre of Capetown on 18-20 July.

David was the best of the New Zealanders in last year's world championships in Mexico, where he placed fifth in the time trial and 21st in the road race. New Zealand has qualified six riders in the junior men's team with Te Awamutu's Emma Pettersen who is the sole female in the team.

BikeNZ has also named a team to compete in the Tour de L'Abitibi in Montreal from 25-29 July and the round of the UCI Under 19 Nations Cup from 31 July-3 August.

New Zealand UCI Junior World Junior Championships team: Patrick Bevin (Taupo), Tom David (Auckland), Tom Findlay (Palmerston North), Wade Mangham (Rotorua), Mathew Marshall (Invercargill), Alex McGregor (Alexandra), Emma Pettersen (Te Awamutu).

New Zealand Tour de l'Abitibi team: Latham Croft (Auckland), Taylor Gunman (Auckland), Oliver Harding-Sheath (Auckland), Simon Honour (Rotorua), Sam Lindsay (Auckland), Hamish Presbury (Invercargill).

USA has successful Fleche du Sud

The USA Cycling National Development Team completed a successful Fleche du Sud on Sunday, collecting several victories throughout the five-stage race. Tejay Van Garderen was responsible for most of the team's individual honours, as the 19 year-old won the opening stage, placed second overall, won the Best Young Rider and Points classifications.

In Thursday's 163-kilometre stage from Schifflange to Rumelamge, Van Garderen escaped from the 133-rider peloton and finished two seconds up on Velentin Iglinskiy to record one of the biggest wins of his career. The result moved him into fourth place overall entering stage two. On Friday, Van Garderen followed up his stage win with a second-place effort in the 142-kilometre stage two from Ettelbruck to Wiltz – a performance that moved him into second place in the general classification.

In Sunday's fourth and final stage – a 165-kilometre race from Karyl to Alzette, Van Garderen finished fifth to maintain his second-place finish overall. He finished just nine seconds off the pace of overall winner Marcel Wyss of Switzerland.

Peter Stetina gave the USA Cycling National Development Team two riders in the top ten overall with a sixth-place finish, 31 seconds off the pace of Wyss.

The squad's overall performance gave the USA Cycling National Development Team the overall team's victory with a cumulative time of 47:11.59. The squad finished first by 55 seconds over the Differdange - Apiflo Vacances amateur squad.

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