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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, May 18, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Ups and downs mark Giro stage

Riccardo Riccò was very thankful
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia was a mixed bag for the race favourites. The sun seemed to shine just for Saunier Duval's brash young star Riccardo Riccò, who took his second stage of this year's race. He graciously gave credit for the win to his team-mate Leonardo Piepoli, but took a dig at his competitors in the same breath.

"The team did a wonderful job and Piepoli helped me a lot also today," Riccò declared. "Piepoli is just great! I'm extremely happy. These two stage wins make me feel secure, and I'm looking forward to the mountains. That is where my Giro starts. And then again, unlike all my rivals, I have invaluable help: Piepoli's."

Clouds seemed to hover over other contenders, however. Danilo Di Luca nearly lost time in the sprint when he could not hold the wheel of his helper, Daniele Pietropolli. The LPR Brakes rider and 2007 Giro champion received the good graces of the race jury and was awarded the same time as Riccò, and led home a group which contained a somewhat bruised Alberto Contador.

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The Astana rider suffered a mid-race crash which resulted in bruised tendons and muscles in his right elbow, according to his team's web site. Contador also lost one of his helpers. Steve Morabito fell victim to a separate crash, injured the same shoulder he separated on stage two and had to abandon.

Steve Morabito (Astana)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The incidents added to the bad luck of the Astana team, which found out Friday that Levi Leipheimer would not be given the same time as the winners on stage six. According to, the American met with the head of the race jury for 20 minutes on Saturday, but was unable to convince him that the police motorcycle which blocked the paths of some riders on the final kilometre of Thursday's stage was responsible for the time gap at the finish. The race jury reportedly reviewed the videotape and determined that the crashed motorcycle was not the cause.

Leipheimer lost 23 seconds to the peloton with Di Luca, Riccó, and his team-mates Contador and Andreas Klöden, while a group with Slipstream's former pink jersey Christian Vande Velde and Colombian climber Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) lost 14 seconds.

Sprinters to emerge for stage nine

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

Riccardo Riccò might have taken the maglia ciclamino from the shoulders of Daniele Bennati on Saturday, but the Liquigas sprinter will be itching to get his hands back on that jersey when the Giro d'Italia hits the pan flat roads on stage nine. The team of former pink jersey Franco Pellizotti no longer has to worry about defending that lead, and will be sure to give full throttle on the run-in to San Vincenzo.

One sprinter who has been struggling to fulfil his team's goal of a stage win is Rabobank's Graeme Brown. The Australian crashed on stage three and has been suffering home in the gruppetto ever since. Team leader Erik Breukink was concerned about Brown. "He is having a tough time. Graeme is showing some character, but I cannot predict where this will end," Breukink commented on the team's web site "Obviously, he had to go through a lot this week. Multiple times, he was involved in a serious crash and that explains why the stages are extra difficult. He is one of the weakest uphill riders of the Giro. Because of his efforts to stay in the race, he didn't fare very well today either. He fell behind on every climb. Additionally, he crashed again."

Even though Saturday's stage is almost completely flat, Breukink isn't convinced Brown will be in contention for the win. "Indeed, the course is easier, even though it again covers almost 220 kilometres. However, I am not sure whether it is realistic to expect anything from Brown. He has really used up a lot of his energy supplies this week. According to me, Bennati, Cavendish and McEwen will be the favourites. But, Graeme is and will always be a sprinter and they are unpredictable."

Milram's Erik Zabel is another rider who could be raising his arms in victory in San Vincenzo, but he will attempt the sprint with a diminished lead-out train. Italian Sergio Ghisalberti had to abandon the race Saturday with a torn muscle in his right leg. This leaves the team down to six riders.

Swiss riders shine in Picardie

Elmiger put three seconds
Photo ©: Florian & Susanne Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

While AG2R-La Mondiale's Martin Elmiger had timing worthy of his Swiss heritage when he took the win on stage two of the Tour de Picardie, his compatriot Alexander Moos (BMC) was equally punctual at the top of the six mountain sprints. Moos swept the climbs to secure the polka dot jersey on the lumpy stage from Ribemont to Clermont-de-l'Oise.

Elmiger was part of the main breakaway of the day, and as the peloton closed in, he was one of just four men who held a slim lead coming into the finish. "At ten kilometres from the finish, I was in the breakaway with a dozen riders and after a fairly technical descent I found myself with just three," Elmiger said. "In the finale it was a bit nervous and the peloton was coming on very quickly. I managed to keep just enough of an advantage to win. I'm really happy with this victory. For the jersey we will see how the race goes "

The AG2R director Gilles Mas agreed that Elmiger's four second advantage would be difficult to maintain on Sunday's two half-stages. "The differences are very small in the overall standings. Tomorrow, the time bonuses are likely to come into play for the final victory.

"We will obviously defend this jersey and Martin will try to do the sprints with the assistance of the team. The riders were supportive, there is a good momentum and a good mood within the group... It's really positive. "

Spotted Moos

Alexander Moos (BMC)
Photo ©: Florian & Susanne Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

With spots on their mind, the BMC team helped drive the pace for the first 30 kilometres to keep any breakaways from succeeding, but the job was not easy. "There were a lot of attacks, and it was a very tough and fast day," said Moos. "But the team worked very hard for me and controlled the race really well. I am tired now, but the stage went beautifully for us."

Moos not only took out the first two climbs as the group remained intact, but he also jumped into the major break of the day and from there took the rest of the climbs. "Alex joined the main break of the day which had a lot of the strong contenders for the sprints," said team manager John Lelangue. "Casper was there, as was Chavanel and Hunter, so it was an interesting break and a good one for Alex to be in."

By virtue of joining the main break, Alex Moos was able to gain maximum KOM points on the climbs, and secured the jersey for the entire race. "I am very happy to have a tight hold on the jersey with only two mini stages to get through," Moos said. "It is very good for me and very good for the team to have accomplished this today."

As Moos' group was absorbed with barely a kilometre to race, BMC was hoping to continue the success in the bunch sprint, but fell victim to some misfortunes.. "We had some bad luck with several late punctures," Lelangue said. "Danilo punctured with about 15km to go, but Brent Bookwalter was there to give him a wheel, and the guys worked to get Danilo back in contention."

Then bad luck hit again when Tony Cruz, Danilo's designated lead out man for the day, flatted late in the race. "Brent had just gotten back to the group from helping Danilo when he had to give Tony a wheel after Tony flatted!" Lelangue said. "So our sprint train plans were really disorganized after all that." Wyss still managed to finish in the top ten.

She's Back! Cooke storms to Aude victory

Briton wins stage; Ljungskog takes yellow

By Ben Atkins in Rieux Minervois

Nicole Cooke (GBR) celebrates as Trixi Worrack
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) has taken her first victory of 2008 in magnificent style by winning the sprint from a group of five on the slightly downhill finish into Rieux Minervois. Just five kilometres from the line the British champion was in a group 30 seconds behind the leading four, consisting of the 2007 top three: Susanne Ljungskog (Menikini-Selle Italia), Trixi Worrack (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) and Judith Arndt (High Road), and Cooke's Great Britain team-mate Sharon Laws. An attack from that second group saw Cooke catch the leaders with less than two kilometres to go and Laws successfully led her captain out for the sprint.

"It was teamwork! Really good!" exclaimed an ecstatic Cooke to Cyclingnews. "You saw the style of how I did it: bridge from the bunch... I think it was thirty seconds or something and I bridged it. We told Sharon [Laws] to stop working and I think that disrupted the leaders a little bit, and Sharon still had the go to lead it out."

"All I had to do was think about the sprint," she added.

In answer to the question on whether or not this victory means that her form is beginning to arrive, Cooke was far more circumspect. "It's a win," she replied candidly. "You don't ever knock a win do you?" she added laughing.

As for her attack, in the closing stages, Cooke revealed that the intention had never been to go solo, merely to start to add her own efforts to the chase."I didn't mean to attack the little break, I thought: 'Okay I'll help you guys now'. I got to the front and I was like: 'I'm alone!'"

"I went to the front because we'd told Sharon to stop working, and I just left them. Then I bridged and Sharon led it out."

Second placed Trixie Worrack was happy with the way the stage had turned out: "It was pretty hard," she told Cyclingnews on her way to the podium. "I wanted the group to stay away because otherwise the work would be for nothing – then we can go up the mountain slow, and then stay in the group and not go fast!

"I was surprised that she came back," Worrack said of Cooke's bridging across. "She's fast, so it's okay that she won the sprint, but I was surprised that she came back and then won the sprint. But she's strong," she added.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour de l'Aude stage one.

Devolder recons Tour stages

Stijn Devolder, the Belgian champion
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Belgian Champion Stijn Devolder is already looking forward to his first Tour de France. He will leave home for Toulouse on Sunday to reconnoitre the major Pyrenean and Alpine stages that will feature in the race in July. The Ronde van Vlaanderen winner will be accompanied by his Spanish team-mate Carlos Barredo and team director Dirk Demol.

The riders will first take in the route of stage nine, which heads from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre next Sunday, followed on Monday by the Pau to Hautacam parcours. One Tuesday they will head to the Alps to ride the three Alpine stages over the following days. "This training period will serve to help Stijn get to know the roads of the Tour, but also to regain his confidence on the major climbs," said Demol. "Up until today he hasn't participated in a race with significant climbs. This training period will be important; to do a good Tour you should leave nothing to chance."

"This will be my first Tour and I'm curious to discover the roads," said Devolder. "For me it's an honour and a great chance to race in the Tour with a group like team Quick Step, where I feel perfectly at ease. These workouts will definitely be useful for me."

Rogers makes his return in Catalunya

Michael Rogers
Photo ©: Team High Road
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road's Michael Rogers will make his returns to racing in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on Monday. The former World Time Trial Champion was stricken with the Epstein-Barr virus earlier this year. "It's going to be very difficult for Mick in Catalonia, but he has to start somewhere if he wants to be at a good level for the summer," said team director Allan Peiper.

"Really there aren't any other options apart from Catalunya and it would be even worse if we started him off in the Dauphiné Libéré. Having said that, he's been training well, doing four to five hours a day and is feeling good. He's positive and upbeat about his chances."

Apart from Rogers, George Hincapie and Thomas Lovkvist are both contenders for High Road in the opening individual time trial of 3.7 kilometres in Lloret de Mar. As for what the riders can expect in the seven-day race, Peiper points out "Catalunya this year has a very strange race route. On paper it's much tougher at the start of the course than at the finish." "There are a lot of hard mountain stages early on and then it'll be a question of controlling the race in the hillier second half."

High Road for Catalunya: Michael Barry, John Devine, Bernhard Eisel, George Hincapie, Craig Lewis, Thomas Lovkvist , Michael Rogers, Vicente Reynes.

Leukemans back in UCI's "whereabouts" system

Björn Leukemans can start thinking of racing again. Last week the Belgian Council of State overturned his suspension on doping charges and indicated that he was able to ride again pending a new hearing. The UCI requested that the Belgian now report his whereabouts for anti-doping controls, and the team has taken this as a positive sign that the sport's governing body has agreed with the ruling.

His manager, Jef van den Bosch, told the belga,"The UCI has given a very important indicator." He added that now that Leukemans is again in the whereabouts system, "There can be no more doubt: Bjorn can and will ride again. He has intensively prepared for this moment for the last six months, and could compete again tomorrow if he wanted to."

The UCI was unavailable for comment.

The former Predictor-Lotto rider tested positive for testosterone last September and was subsequently released by the team. He appealed his suspension, claiming that he was not responsible for the high testosterone values which violated the anti-doping regulations, because they resulted from a medication prescribed to him by a team doctor. The State Council upheld this view, ruling, "There is no ban, because the punishment is in no relation to the faults committed by the accused person."

There has already been interest expressed in signing the 30-year-old. "We will talk with everyone, but it can be clear that Bjorn wants to sign with another ProTour team", van den Bosch said. "Have any of the larger teams shown any interest? Yes, but it concerned only preliminary discussions, nothing concrete. I hope that everyone is now convinced of the fact that Bjorn can race again." (SW)

Teams revise Catalunya rosters

Team Caisse d'Epargne has updated its team listing for the Volta a Catalunya. Xabier Zandio, listed on the orignial roster, has been replaced by Mathieu Drujon.

Caisse d'Epargne for Catalunya: Mathieu Drujon, Imanol Erviti, Iván Gutiérrez, Alberto Losada, Dani Moreno, Nicolas Portal, Luis León Sánchez and Rigoberto Uran.

Lampre has also made an adjustment to its roster. Marco Bandiera crashed during training on Friday, and suffered a head injury. He had to undergo surgery for a haematoma and is in stable condition. The team will not replace Bandiera.

Lampre for Catalunya: Alessandro Ballan, Emanuele Bindi, Matteo Bono, Paolo Fornaciari, Massimiliano Mori, Christian Murro and Daniele Righi.

Austrian teams dedicate race to Matzenbacher

The two Austrian Professional Continental teams Volksbank and Elk Haus are preparing for the GP Judendorf Strassengel Sunday, with a heavy heart. This year's race is dedicated to the memory of Volksbank's Andreas Matzenbacher, who won the race in 2004. He died in an auto crash on Christmas Eve 2007 at the age of 25.

"We will ride this race while thinking of 'Matzi',' said Volksbank team manager Thomas Kofler. "We miss him. Not just here, but everywhere we ride."

Elk Haus will send last year's second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers to the race. Christian Pfannberger, who now rides for Team Barloworld and is racing the Giro d'Italia, won the race for Elk Haus last year but will not be present. Markus Eibegger was second and Thomas Rohregger third. Fourth place went to Gerhard Trampusch, who rode the race for Volksbank,. They will be joined by, among others, Stefan Denifl, who won the national U-23 title in Judendorff.

Volksbank for GP Judendorf: Josef Benetseder (Aut), Alexander Egger (Aut), Peter Presslauer (Aut), Christoph Sokoll (Aut), René Weissinger (Ger), and Cameron Wurf (Aus).

Elk Haus for GP Judendorf: Markus Eibegger, Stefan Denifl, Thomas Rohregger, Gerhard Trampusch, Peter Pichler and Stefan Rucker. (SW)

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