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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 15, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson and Hedwig Kröner

Pellizotti speaks about shortening of Giro stage

Italian can't understand Bettini

By Shane Stokes in Potenza, Italy

Race leader Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) appreciated the shortening of stage 6.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After much criticism from riders regarding the length of the transfers in this year's Giro, it was announced on Wednesday that the sixth stage will be shortened through the elimination of the finishing circuit. This will bring the race distance down from 265 kilometres to 231.6 kilometres, with the stage otherwise remaining the same and ending in Peschici.

According to maglia rosa Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) was the main driving force behind the approach to race director Angelo Zomegnan. "It's McEwen who wanted to speak with Zomegnan about it," said Pellizotti. "I think it is normal [that something is done]. Even at 232 kilometres, it will still be a long stage.

"Today a lot of riders were very angry and wanted to do something," he added. "McEwen took the initiative and he spoke with Danilo Di Luca and with me, and then asked for it from Zomegnan. He said okay."

The race leader was impressed with the patron-like attitude shown by the pint-sized Australian. "I think McEwen is a symbol for cycling," said the Italian. "He decided himself he was the boss of the bunch, but everybody was okay with it because he is very respected and he is a champion."

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However, there was one dissenting voice, that of dual world champion Paolo Bettini. Pellizotti said he doesn't understand the position taken by his compatriot. "The only one who was not in the same line was Bettini," he explained. "In the last few days he has been saying that things are normal and that things must be accepted. However Bettini was the only one thinking like that.

"It is strange, especially he is a powerful and important rider," he added. "But in the last year he took some strange decisions and we don't understand him much."

Team High Road rider Bradley Wiggins and Astana directeur sportif Sean Yates also commented on the matter on Wednesday [see separate stories]. They joined other competitors and staff that have spoken out about the conditions at this year's Giro, including Saunier Duval-Scott's team leader Riccardo Riccò.

Wiggins satisfied with Giro

By Shane Stokes in Potenza, Italy

Bradley Wiggins (High Road)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Bradley Wiggins (Team High Road) is content with how things have gone so far in the Giro d'Italia. He had no major personal ambitions, but is riding in a team role and also getting in a good fitness level before his targeting of the track events at the Olympic Games this summer.

"I'm here for a bit of everything, really," he said. "It's mainly to come through it. Mark [Cavendish] has obviously been a big goal for the sprints. My role is to get him to two kilometres to go, really, and then the other sprinter guys go from there."

Wiggins and the rest of the team had a morale boost on Tuesday when team-mate and compatriot Mark Cavendish sprinted to his first Grand Tour stage victory. "The mood was really good after Mark's win," said Wiggins. "However the attention turned straight to the next day, really…we had no time, by the time we had the transfer and got to the hotel, it was late."

The Briton has been one of many who have been frustrated by the length of the transfers after the stages. "So far it's been pretty tough," he said. "We have not been in bed before midnight yet."

He's a strong rider against the clock, but plays down thoughts that he might get on well here. This year's event has three individual time trials, with the first from Pesaro-Urbino on Tuesday to be followed by the San Vigilio di Marebbe-Plan de Corones test on May 26 and the Grand Tour's final stage from Cesano Maderno-Milano on June 1.

"The time trials will be pretty tough…it's not until we get to Milan [that a time trial suits me]," he said. "That first time trial is a bit hard for me, I don't expect to do much there, and the second one is even worse! So we will see."

Yates calm about team's chances

By Shane Stokes in Potenza, Italy

Astana came into the Giro d'Italia with a less than ideal preparation; very short notice that they would take part in the race meant that the riders were not in peak form. However, Andreas Klöden is 13th, Alberto Contador is 16th and Levi Leipheimer is 21st. The team's top trio are between 28 and 40 seconds behind the maglia rosa of Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas); in other words, still within striking distance.

"Things are okay, although it's been a bit of a nightmare so far," said Astana directeur sportif Sean Yates, referring to the numerous transfers. "But that's the Giro. Although up to this point it seems to be exaggerating things even more than usual, to put it mildly.

"As far as the riders are going, Morabito had that crash and dislocated his shoulder," he said. "But he seems to be surviving and hopes to get better day-by-day.

"Gusev had a couple of crashes, but he is a tough guy and should be okay. Andreas is feeling good, Levi is okay and Alberto is getting better and better. So we will see."

Yates knows that his team needs to start hitting form in time for the event's first individual time trial. The first ITT will be held after Monday's first rest day, where the riders will compete solo over the 39.4 kilometres from Pesaro to Urbino. "The first time trial will be important," he said. "I can't see them losing much time between now and then. They have got these two little summit finishes, then the first time trial which will be decisive for everyone in the whole race. We will have an indication then of who the real leaders are."

Astana had just one week to prepare a squad for the Italian race and arrive at the event's start in Palermo. The squad had been left out of the event as Giro organiser RCS Sport stood with Tour de France organiser ASO in boycotting the team following a tumultuous 2007.

RCS Sport changed its stance against the team following a string of early season successes that has seen the squad take the ProTour teams ranking lead. Astana took the place of NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, which had originally been named to compete in the event.

Leukemans ban overruled

Belgian Björn Leukemans hopes to return to racing one day
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

The Belgian Council of State has overturned the two-year ban imposed on Björn Leukemans (formerly Predictor-Lotto) by the disciplinary commission of the Flemish Community. Leukemans tested positive for artificial testosterone last September, and was subsequently suspended from racing on April 22 this year.

But the Belgian appealed the ban and now, the Belgian Council of State ruled that the disciplinary commission's procedure was flawed, and ordered a new procedure to take place, with different judges.

On Tuesday, the Council of State ruled that Leukemans' ban was no longer in place. "There is no ban, because the punishment is in no relation to the faults committed by the accused person," said magistrate Luc Hellin according to Belgian media.

The Leukemans doping case will thus start from scratch, with the rider theoretically free to race, if he had a team and a license. "The court's intention is that the matter should be fully treated within one year," added Hellin.

Leukemans said the ruling gave him hope for a come-back. "I'm glad that there is someone who follows my position," he said to Sporza. "I know that there was something in my urine, but the way in which it got there also plays a role. It was certainly not intentional. hopefully, this is the light at the end of the tunnel. Currently I'm training, because I really want to return inside the peloton."

Gilbert tempted by Olympics

Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) is contemplating a possible participation in the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, this August. The Classics specialist, who has a special focus on the World Championships in Varese, was worried that too many competitions throughout the summer would make it unwise to attend the Olympic road race, too. But Belgian coach Carlo Bomans convinced him that a combination of Tour de France, Olympics, Vuelta a España and World Championships was possible.

"However, in order to do that, I would have to quit the Vuelta before the end," Gilbert said to La Dernière Heure des Sports. "I would have to participate some two weeks and then recuperate for the Worlds. But that wouldn't change a lot for me anyway. The final days of the Vuelta, there is always a mountain stage that I do in the gruppetto, a time trial that doesn't interest me and the final stage like the one to the Champs-Élysées, a long criterium."

Positive vibes over TDU's ProTour debut

The TDU was the first ProTour race this year, and the first outside of Europe
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur has said feedback on the Australian race's ProTour debut has been positive from abroad, after doing a tour of Europe. The former Olympian attended the World Track Cycling Championships in Manchester before heading to the Union Cycliste Internationale headquarters (UCI) in Aigle, Switzerland, where he met with the body's president Pat McQuaid and ProTour manager Alain Rumpf.

"South Australia has provided the perfect platform for the sport of cycling to expand across the planet," said a proud Turtur. "It has always been the intention of the UCI that the UCI ProTour would be used as a vehicle to promote the sport of cycling worldwide by bringing the best teams in the world to the best events on the five continents."

While Turtur cannot comment on the current situation between the UCI and Tour de France organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), he said in a statement that he does not agree with the ASO’s current position.

"The UCI has embraced the concept of the globalisation of our sport and the Tour Down Under will strongly continue to support them 100 percent as they are the peak international body for the sport," he said.

Turtur also held meetings with the Tour Down Under’s European coordinator during his trip, with the pair focusing on UCI ProTour team updates for 2009. The 2009 Tour Down Under will be held January 18-25, 2009. The full race route details will be announced in July 2008 with team and rider announcements being confirmed in September/November 2008.

Bissell to defend Leelanau title

Bissell Pro Cycling will defend its Tour de Leelanau title later this month, with the American team announcing '07 champion Garrett Peltonen will lead its efforts. Peltonen will be joined by Bissell strong man Ban Jacques-Maynes on the team's seven-man roster.

Jacques-Maynes, who claimed the second spot at the recent Tour of Gila Time Trial, will be joined by fellow professional men riders Richard England, winner of the Tour of Georgia’s Stage 5; and Teddy King, another big winner in Georgia, taking the King of the Mountains jersey. Jeremy Vennell, Graham Howard, and Aaron Olson round out the roster with strong talent to tackle to the 109.5 mile, point-to-point course with more than 7,000 feet of climbing.

Representing the women’s squad is Amy Stauffer, Sarah Maguire, Leslie Gaines, Jamie Dinkins and Beth Skau.

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