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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 16, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Giro leader boosted by maglia rosa

By Shane Stokes and Hedwig Kröner

Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), 25, takes over the race leadership
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Giovanni Visconti, the new leader of General Classification in the Giro d'Italia, has hopes to keep his jersey until the time trial from Pesaro to Urbino next Tuesday, and even beyond. The Quickstep rider, who shares his overall time with Gerolsteiner's Matthias Russ, has over nine minutes advantage to the race favourites.

"I want to keep this jersey as long as possible, for me and for my girlfriend and for my parents," said the man from Sicily at the finish of stage six, prepared to fight off the German's probable attacks. "And also for all the sacrifices I have made in my career. I want to keep the jersey until the time trial. But I know I can also do well in the time trial because last year in the final time trial of the Giro I was 12th or 13th. I am good at that."

Visconti, 25 years of age, currently enjoys the most successful time of his career so far, and naturally wants to make the most of it. "I would like to win a stage with the pink jersey, but also holding onto it as long as possible is important for me," he continued. "It gives you visibility and also helps for the morale."

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After virtually collapsing behind the finish line on Thursday, having conquered the race lead, the Italian had to thank a special person on his team for supporting him all the years. "It was very important to embrace Bettini after the finish, because he helped me to believe in myself," Visconti admitted. "To succeed in cycling you have to make a lot of sacrifices, but that is okay because I love my sport. So I am happy to do that. It is important to fight and to improve every time."

The new maglia rosa also expected his rivals to improve throughout the race, and pointed at American Levi Leipheimer as his favourite for the final victory in Milan. Asked which of the three Astana leaders (Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden or Alberto Contador) would turn out strongest in his opinion, he said, "I think Astana will ride for Leipheimer. I think he will do a big time trial and then we will see him winning."

But the race finish is still far away, and Visconti only wanted to think of his new-found fame amongst the Italian public. Although he is a Sicily native, the 25 year-old recently moved to Tuscany, taking with him his parents and sister as family ties are still very much valued in Italy. "For a Sicilian rider, it is not easy [to get into cycling] because I used to travel 500 kilometres to go to races each Sunday with my little fiat Uno," he added. "I had to sleep in my car and it was difficult. It was also difficult to leave my mother and father at home because I like them. My sister is a lawyer, and my parents are proud of her and also proud of myself. We are doing very different things but we are doing it well."

Priamo: A gregario who can win

By Shane Stokes in Vasto

Matteo Priamo (CSF Group Navigare)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Matteo Priamo has already stood on the top of some podiums; his wins include stage two of the 2007 Circuit de Lorraine as well as stages two and five of the Tour of Turkey this year. However, his victory on stage six of the Giro d'Italia comfortably eclipsed those.

"It is difficult to realise now what has just happened," he said after the stage finish on Thursday. "It is my first Giro d'Italia and I didn't think of winning a stage. I crashed two days ago and I wasn't sure if I would be able to start. We suffered a lot. After the crash I couldn't move my leg, but on Wednesday it was very important to finish the stage. Today [Thursday] there were twelve of us. I knew if we worked together, it would be difficult to catch us."

Priamo started cycling at seven years of age and is now in his third year as a professional. The 26 year-old is gradually gaining in strength and confidence.

"My job is to help in the train for the sprints," he said, speaking of his role in the CSF Group Navigare team. "We have one of the best trains in the peloton, I think. I am a team-mate but when I have the occasion, I can win also.

"Last year I won a stage in France and this year I won two stages in Turkey. Today is the best result of my career. I want to dedicate this to my team, to my family. Also to [Maximiliano] Richeze," he added, speaking of his team-mate who recently tested positive. "He is a friend. I know him well, I used to train with him, and I know that now he is waiting for the counter-analysis.

"He took a protein supplement he bought in the United States, and on the box it doesn't list the exact ingredients. Now he is also trying to get that tested. I hope that everything will be okay because I like him as a friend."

He spoke out for the need for a cleaner sport. "I am happy because our team is in the ADAMS project," he said, meaning the whereabouts system used for the biological passport. "So now we are controlled like all the other teams. You can't say any more that we are not tested as much as the other teams. If we can go to a new cycling, a cleaner one, I am happy about that."

Leipheimer expects time change

By Shane Stokes in Vasto

USA Champion Levi Leipheimer (Astana), 34, rides along in the Giro d'Italia's stage three
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was one of many riders who was held up on stage six after a police motorbike crashed. It happed in the closing stages of the race and as a result, he hit the line 23 seconds behind the other race favourites. He nevertheless expected that deficit to be annulled.

"They said they were going to change that today," he told Cyclingnews before the start of stage seven on Friday morning. "I know a couple of teams brought it up, then they said they had to look at the tape.

"I was feeling fine yesterday. I think the motorbike crashed perhaps 20 guys back, a couple of riders fell and I was behind that. I stayed upright but I had to come to a stop. There was no chance of keeping your speed up, especially with that kind of finish."

Leipheimer showed strong form this season, winning the Tour of California, but the team's late invite to the Giro meant that the riders travelled to Italy a little off top form. He was hoping to ride into his best shape as the race continues. "It has been a hard race, definitely. I can't say I am there floating around, but I think when it matters it should be good. It's hard to tell if today will be significant. If the roads are small and twisting, it could really be hard. I can't imagine there will be big time gaps," he commented about today's stage seven.

The American national champion said that Andreas Klöden's win in the Tour of Romandie showed he was the most likely to be in form at this point. "I hope to feel better as the race goes on," he said. "But if he or someone else [from the Astana team] takes the pink jersey, of course we are all going to work for them."

Morabito soldiers on

By Shane Stokes in Vasto

Leipheimer's Astana team-mate Steve Morabito was injured in a crash on stage two, but has managed to say in the race. "My shoulder was dislocated," he said. "They put it back in place during the stage. It doesn't feel good now, but I will try to do my best for the team and we will see. I will keep talking to the doctor. At the moment they can do some taping of it and that is not too bad."

Second Catalunya for Sastre

Carlos Sastre heads into peak season
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Spanish pro Carlos Sastre will use the upcoming Volta a Catalunya (May 19-25) as part of his build-up to the Tour de France in July. The CSC rider has only participated once before in the race, in 2005, but still reckons the event will help him find the desired peak of form for the French Grand Tour.

"I have good memories of the race [in 2005 - ed.], because Iñigo Cuesta won the mountain time trial in Arcalís, and I felt better with every day that passed," Sastre said. "I was a little short at the start, but little by little I progressed."

The stage race specialist took three weeks off racing after having competed in Castilla y León, País Vasco and the Ardennes Classics. Nevertheless, his training sessions were intense enough to prepare him for Catalunya with a certain amount of ambition.

"From now on, everything changes for me," he continued. "After a tranquil beginning [of the season], without race responsibilities, I have to start competing with the intention of suffering and fighting to reach that peak of form that I want, and that I need to go to the Tour."

During the last few years, the CSC captain has seldom repeated the same race programme ahead of the big event in July. Alternating between the Tour de Romandie, the Dauphiné Libéré, the Tour de Suisse or even the Giro d'Italia, Sastre did not think his top form was affected by the changes from year to year.

"All paths lead to the same destination, the only difference is how you travel them," he pondered. "This year, I chose Catalunya and the Dauphiné because in the first part of the season, I already accomplished some personal goals that gave me enough confidence to take a small rest. That way, I prepare the Tour with the races that I like and that, for different reasons, I wasn't able to do previously. This time, I approach them in a different way and with a good basis."

Sastre never speaks about possible favourites or rivals prior to a race, but he did comment on the parcours. "It is demanding, like every year," he said. "It is difficult enough to cause important damage. In every stage, there are places where things can happen, so it is very attractive for the public. Moreover, introducing circuits where we will pass several times will make the spectators cheer us on ever more."

Lampre, Caisse d'Epargne for Catalunya

ProTour teams Lampre and Caisse d'Epargne have announced their line-ups for the upcoming Volta a Catalunya (May 19-25).

The Italian squad will send Alessandro Ballan, Marco Bandiera, Emanuele Bindi, Matteo Bono, Paolo Fornaciari, Manuele Mori, Christian Murro and Daniele Righi. "For many of those riders, Catalunya will be the first race since the Northern Classics," said sports director Guido Bontempi. "The objective, therefore, is to improve the riders' form, but we will also look to be attentive and get into breakaways."

Spanish team Caisse d'Epargne has chosen Imanol Erviti, Iván Gutiérrez, Alberto Losada, Dani Moreno, Nicolas Portal, Luis León Sánchez, Rigoberto Uran and Xabier Zandio for the home soil stage race.

One week to go for Estonian Cycling Weekend

More than 100 competitors from 13 countries will line up for the biggest professional cycling race in Baltic, the Estonian Cycling Weekend on May 23 and 24.

The event begins on Saturday with the Tallinn to Tartu Grand Prix, taking the riders from the country's capital to the second biggest city in Estonia. Approximately 20 teams will start, amongst them Mitsubishi Jartazi and Team Designa Kokken.

Race director Indrek Kelk hoped that the event will bring top level cycling closer to the Estonian people. "The riders will race through the country within four to five hours, and everyone interested can see the race close to their homes," said Kelk. While a cycling peloton is a common sight in many European countries, it is still exceptional in Estonia.

The next race will be held on the following day, on Sunday in the city of Tartu. The 2008 SEB Tartu Grand Prix takes place on a 12,5km circuit and ends after 15 laps. The parcours on city streets offers long straights, tight corners and power draining hills.

Both competitions - Tallinn-Tartu GP and SEB Tartu GP - are UCI Europe Tour class 1.1 races.

On the third day, cycling amateurs can join the professionals for the 27th SEB Tartu Rattaralli, either on a longer 133km route or on a shorter 69km distance. Last year, the Tartu Rattaralli had 4231 finishers, which made it by far the most popular cycling event in Estonia.

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