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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, May 13, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson and Paul Verkuylen

Bennati claims maiden Giro win

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Just three weeks after he began his 2008 season, Liquigas' Daniele Bennati has taken his second win of the season. The Italian bested eternal-second place finisher Erik Zabel (Team Milram) on Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia, his first major victory on home soil.

The 27 year-old Bennati is well on his way to becoming the next big Italian sprinter. He came of age last year in the Tour de France, where he won two stages, including the coveted final stage on the Champs-Élysées.

"Finally, I have a stage win in the Giro," said Bennati. "I am very happy with this as it is my first win in this race.

"It was good to place myself between [Marco] Velo and Zabel in the Milram train," he continued. "But when Velo moved off the front, I had to really go for it. I didn't look back, I only thought about getting to the finish first because I was worried about Zabel getting by."

Bennati has already achieved his goal of a stage win in this year's race, but with just a few weeks of racing in his legs his form could go either way over the coming weeks. Bennati has already stated that his next major goal after the Giro will be the Tour.

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He was forced to have an extended lay-off from racing at the end of 2007 due to persistent knee problems, only beginning his season three weeks ago at the Giro d'Oro and Giro del Trentino. A week after his 2008 debut he missed out by less than a second in the opening prologue in the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland. Five days later he put that disappointment behind him, taking the final stage into Lausanne.

Bennati has made something of a tradition of winning the final stage of the Tours he has ridden recently. Along with the stage into Laussane at Romandie, he took the final stage of both the 2007 Tour and Vuelta a España.

He will have his work cut out for him this time around if he wished to continue the tradition. The final stage into Milan is a 28.5km time trial, which isn't exactly suited to the fast man from Arezzo.

Barloworld riding to protect Soler

By Shane Stokes in Milazzo, Italy

Enrico Gasparotto gives Mauricio Soler a push
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France King of the Mountains Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) came into the Giro d'Italia aiming for a prominent showing, but is instead trying to nurse himself through the early stages.

The Colombian crashed on Stage 2, injuring his hand. His Barloworld team confirmed on Monday that he didn't have a broken wrist – as had been initially feared. Instead Soler has damage to his ligaments which may be eased by using a protective bandage.

Team-mate Geraint Thomas said that the main priority was to take care of their captain. "We just looked after Mauricio all day," he said. "We were riding in the wind quite a lot which I think helped him, because he really struggles in the bunch, especially after yesterday. But obviously it was really hard for us."

They were helped somewhat by a steady pace early on. "It was a pretty easy start which was good, really, because I think everybody had quite sore legs after yesterday," he explained. "They then started racing over the top of the climb – it was quite dodgy in the wet."

The news that Soler doesn't have a fracture will boost morale, although it remains to be seen if the crash will affect his overall prospects in the race. Thomas said that he was in quite a deal of discomfort at times during the stage.

"When we are going over the big pave stones he couldn't hold the bars with that hand," said Tomas. "At the end we were trying to keep him near the front, but a big bunch sprint is not really his thing.

"We had our work cut out today, we are all pretty nailed," he added. "But we succeeded – he didn't lose any more time, so that is the main thing."

Team-mate Enrico Gasparotto was also happy, praising the Colombian's persistence. "Soler showed real courage by finishing the stage and we all admire him," he said. "We tried to help him as much as we could. It's the least we could do for such a brave rider."

Zabel to try again today

Erik Zabel was popular
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After narrowly missing out on the Giro d'Italia's Stage 3 victory yesterday, Milram's Erik Zabel has vowed to win today's Stage 4. The German rider finished second on the Italian Grand Tour's third stage, with the tactics of Italian Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) getting the better of him.

"Tomorrow will be a sprint stage too," noted Zabel. "There will be a little climb with 20 km to go, but I hope the GC riders won't contest it, and will let the sprinters do their thing. We'll work like we did today and we will try for a good sprint."

The Milram team captain said his tactics on the third stage cost him victory. Zabel was able to hold off Danilo Hondo (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), who claimed third place for Gianni Savio's squad.

"My team-mates from Milram did a great job in the finale," Zabel said. "In the sprint, I tried to get past Bennati too early. He had the ideal line and the better position."

With rider's back on the mainland now, today's test is the 183 kilometre journey from Pizzo Calabro to Catanzaro-Lungomare. The final kilometres are flat, but the 300-plus metre riser to the city's centre will break up affairs.

It is likely strong men like World Champion Paolo Bettini will be battling over the Viadotto Morandi that spans the Fiumarella valley at the chance of a stage win along the Ionian Sea.

CSC's Aussies out of Giro

Brad McGee (Team CSC) receives some medical attention
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC suffered a double blow on the Giro d'Italia's third stage, losing Bradley McGee and Stuart O'Grady to injury. The team's Australian duo were involved in a crash on the 221 kilometre stage to Milazzo.

Both Olympic champion McGee and 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner O'Grady suffered a broken collarbone as a result of the accident. While McGee immediately withdrew from the event, O'Grady continued on to finish the stage eight minutes behind but will not start tomorrow's fourth stage.

"Today was a real downer for us," admitted CSC sports director Kim Andersen. "First of all we had several riders involved in the crashes but mostly because of the two broken collar bones of course.

"It's a great loss to have to do without Bradley and Stuart because they've both been extremely valuable for us in our fight for a good overall position in this race," he added.

The outfit suffered another blow with Chris Anker Sørensen losing 35 seconds on the stage following a crash. While Sørensen wasn't physically injured in the incident it has hurt the rider's general classification hopes.

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) jumped back
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"Chris was in two crashes which meant he lost time which was a real shame," said Andersen. "This just goes to show how thin the line is between having great success to hitting rock bottom.

"But now we have to focus on gathering up the pieces and get on with it – especially for Chris' sake," added Andersen.

The top placed rider from the Danish team is Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), who holds sixth place 17 seconds behind general classification leader Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). Gustav Erik Larsson holds 12th place a further 11 seconds adrift while Sørensen is now 44 seconds behind Pellizotti in 26th spot.

Other riders caught up in Stage 3's mass crash included Saunier Duval-Scott's Riccardo Riccò and Eros Capecchi. Both riders have undergone X-rays and been cleared to ride, with Riccò dislocating a finger on his left hand while Capecchi's suspected broken collarbone turned out to be muscle injury.

Lloyd content thus far

By Shane Stokes in Milazzo, Italy

Australian champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) is currently 47th in the general classification, one minute and 19 seconds off the time of maglia rosa of Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). He showed his good climbing form when he placed 15th on Stage 2, crossing the line in a group 10 seconds behind the day's victor Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott).

"I felt good yesterday, no dramas," said Lloyd. "I have got to work into it, obviously. I was 10 seconds behind yesterday, so there is room for improvement. But it is not too far off the mark."

Lloyd rolled in 34th on Stage 3 and said that the day was relatively straightforward, even if he had a couple of scares. "It was not too bad," he said. "I watched a whole lot of people crash in front of me, and tried to avoid it! It is pretty crazy at times with the roads. Well, it's the road and the riders…the crashes are a combination of both."

With very few opportunities for sprinters this year, his team-mate Robbie McEwen was hoping to take the victory into Milazzo. However things didn't work out as planned, with McEwen being badly positioned just before the sprint opened up.

"At the finish Robbie obviously tried to sprint," said Lloyd. "I was just behind him and a group of guys came up on the left of the road and he got swamped. He was good up to that point. Obviously sprinting is sprinting, it is temperamental at times."

Hoy sends track bikes, kit to Bolivian cyclists

Chris Hoy and his helpers load up bikes
Photo ©: Getty Images
(Click for larger image)

Scottish track racer Chris Hoy had flown to La Paz, Bolivia to attempt to break world kilometre record, held by Arnaud Tournant of France, on 13 May 2007. Unfortunately conditions didn't play in the big Scot's favour and he missed out on the record by five thousands of a second. However, Hoy smashed the 500m world record by over a second.

The organising team had spent six days in Bolivia setting up the attempt and during this time was acutely aware of the differences between the opportunities available to young cyclists in Great Britain and those open to cyclists in one of the poorest countries in South America.

On his return from breaking the record, Hoy set about contacting some of the companies who helped support his record attempt to see if there was anything that could be done to help.

DHL, who shipped 1,000 kilograms of equipment to La Paz for the attempt agreed that they would make available a container – and if Hoy could fill it, they would ship it. This was all the incentive Hoy needed to set about kitting up the young cyclists he had met on his trip.

A few phone calls and favours later and Hoy had managed to secure 22 track bikes from Dolan Cycles, the company who builds his own track bikes. Helmets, tools, shoes and spares all came courtesy of Halfords, who in March announced their sponsorship of the Great Britain Cycling Team. Cane Creek supplied a set of carbon fibre race wheels and on May 12, a day before the anniversary of his record attempts, Hoy was packing up the kit to send courtesy of DHL to Bolivia. He was helped to pack the truck by young cyclists from the Manchester Velodrome, all of whom have attended the DHL Sprint School.

Hoy has successfully managed to secure bikes, kit, equipment and spares that will enable young people from all over La Paz to go along to the velodrome. The supplies mean that children can just turn up in nothing more than the clothes they are wearing and experience what it's like to ride the track. Hoy now hopes this opportunity will give the youngsters the experience he enjoyed growing up in Scotland.

"I remember my first time on Meadowbank track and how much fun it was," Hoy said. "I just felt that it was unfair that so many of these kids lived near this amazing track but would never get the chance to ride it on a proper bike or with proper safety equipment.

"It's something I take for granted that I had a bike as a kid and look what it's done for me," he added. "After my experience at the velodrome in La Paz I really wanted to give something back to this amazing place, and with the help of DHL, Dolan, Halfords and Cane Creek, that's exactly what I've been able to do."

Sydney driver charged over crash

Ben Kersten has suffered damage to his left elbow
Photo ©: Greg Johnson
(Click for larger image)

A man has been charged over last Thursday's mass cyclist crash in Sydney which involved a bunch of 50 cyclists, including some past and present Olympic Games riders. A 34 year-old Claymore man has been charged with failing to stop after the cyclist piled up on Southern Cross Drive last Thursday morning, according to Australian news site Live News.

The group of bike riders, which included Olympic hopeful Ben Kersten, claim the driver of the Ford Falcon sped past them before jamming on his brakes, resulting in them crashing into the back of the vehicle. No one was seriously injured; however the manoeuvre did cause a semi trailer travelling behind the pack to jack-knife, before skidding to a stop just metres from the cyclists.

Initially the police were unable to locate the man and it was reported that he had gone missing. However the man has since been found and summonsed to appear in Waverley court next month.

The driver allegedly failed to give particulars at the scene before fleeing. His car has already been examined in relation to the incident, investigations are continuing.

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