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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, May 19, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Razor-thin victory for 'Benna'

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) thought he had it won…
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

It wasn't unusual that sprinter Daniele Bennati would take a win on such a flat course as the Giro d'Italia's ninth stage, but it was a bit unexpected that he'd do so in a photo finish with World Champion Paolo Bettini.

The former, motivated to gain back the maglia ciclamino jersey of points leader which was taken by Riccardo Riccó on stage eight, took win number two in this year's event. He knew he'd need come across the line first if he wanted to wear that jersey in Milan in two weeks time, but he had to fend off Bettini, who hoped to win the stage which finished just 20 kilometres from his hometown.

In a somewhat chaotic final few kilometres, Bennati's Liquigas team conceded the lead to the High Road squad of Mark Cavendish until the line was in sight. "I had to do two sprints," Bennati explained to AFP, "the first to get on the right wheel a kilometre from the line, and the second at the finish. I was on the wheel of Zabel, but when he did not launch, I went."

The Italian stayed tight against the barriers on the right side to prevent Milram's Erik Zabel from getting a clean run at the line, but before he could think about celebrating victory, a rush of air on his left signaled danger. "Usually, I would lift my arms, but then I felt a projectile coming from the right, it was Bettini."

Only a well-timed bike throw gave the Liquigas rider the stage on a photo-finish. Bennati gave a small salute, but was immediately questioned by Bettini, who then embraced his rival in congratulations. "I am sorry for him," Bennati admitted feeling remorse for beating Bettini so close to his hometown, "but this is the only stage in Tuscany [where he also lives -ed.], and I wanted to win."

The points awarded for the win put Bennati back into the magenta jersey where he hopes to stay until Milan, but he is disappointed there aren't more sprint stages, in particular the final stage. "There aren't many chances for the sprinters in this Giro, and they're basically the last two flat stages of the race," he said. Those stages come on Thursday and Friday this week before the races hits the high mountains. The last stage, which is normally a bunch gallop into the fashion capital, is an individual time trial this year.

Bettini was gracious in defeat, giving high praise to Bennati. "Daniele was the best," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I am not a pure sprinter but I still finished fast. Still second. It's destiny that I do not win with this jersey on," the world champion joked. His finish was all the more impressive that it came after Bettini put in an attack, which was marked by Riccardo Riccó, on the final rise at San Carlo with 15 kilometres to go. But that move expired before it gained much ground.

"Riccò I came back and it was better this way because we stopped immediately. It would have been a suicide," Bettini continued. He was able to recover and contest the sprint, which he was convinced he'd won only to be disappointed. He could take solace in the fact that his team-mate Giovanni Visconti was able to hold his lead in the overall classification.

Zabel took third on the stage, and was disappointed to be denied a shot at the line, but did not complain about the way Bennati eased over toward the barriers effectively closing down his only route. "It was a very unlucky sprint. I was in good position and I had found the right wheel. Unfortunately, the road was so close that I was unable to pass between Daniele Bennati and barriers."

Giro injury report

The first part of a Grand Tour is always fraught with danger, and stage nine to San Vincenzo was no exception. Crashes in the final 15 kilometres took down Spaniard Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis), Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld) and Italian Eros Capecchi (Saunier Duval). While the latter two were able to continue, Fernandez left the race in an ambulance and was later diagnosed with a broken collarbone.

Earlier in the stage, Italian Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare) also crashed and abandoned the race, but while he was banged up he had no broken bones.

René Mandri (AG2R La Mondiale), who crashed out of the breakaway on stage six has been transported by air ambulance to Chambery in France, AFP reported Sunday. The Estonian suffered a pneumothorax, broken rib, broken vertebra and broken radius.

Pinotti aiming for good Giro showing

By Shane Stokes

Marco Pinotti and Morris Possoni (r)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

One year ago, on May 18th, Marco Pinotti's career reached its high point. The Italian escaped with Luis Felipe Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) on the stage to Spoleto and took over the maglia rosa of race leader. For an Italian rider competing in the Giro d'Italia, it was a dream moment; he went on to hold the jersey for four days.

Pinotti is no stranger to special jerseys, having twice been the Italian national time trial champion. The 32 year-old beat Marzio Bruseghin in 2005, finished second to Bruseghin one year later and then triumphed once again last season. Luca Ascani was actually fastest on the day but was then disqualified due to a positive test for EPO.

In 2006 Pinotti was third in the Pontedera time trial in the Giro d'Italia and, for many, will be considered the moral victor of the stage. Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso finished ahead of him but were subsequently implicated in Operación Puerto. Pinotti has long been outspoken against doping; in contrast, Ullrich and Basso were both proven to have worked with Eufemiano Fuentes.

He had a taste of Giro success last season and came to this year's race hoping for another big result. When asked by Cyclingnews prior to the race what he was aiming for, he said that it 'was a surprise'. He was a little less secretive at the start village on Friday's seventh stage, saying that a strong GC position or a stage win were on his list.

Pinotti felt that he was in very good shape. "I think my condition is better," he said. "If I look at how I planned the season, it is definitely better. In past years I started racing in early February and arrived at the Giro with good form, with a very good base. I was good and lucky.

"This year, things have been much more structured and I did the races differently. But the form is definitely better [than before] as I was third overall in Romandie, which is a very good result. Now, I have been feeling well in the first week of the Giro. I think that many riders feel well, though – you never really know until you have the real racing in the climbs."

Continue to the full feature.

Chavanel sprints to Picardie overall

Holding true to its promise, the Tour de Picardie proved to be a race for the sprinters, and the final stage went to the best of bunch: Sébastien Chavanel. The Française des Jeux rider was delivered to the stage victory by his team-mate and Het Volk winner Philippe Gilbert by the sea at Cayeux-sur-Mer, his bonus seconds providing just enough time to gain the overall victory as well. With the stage win and an intermediate bonus, Chavanel slipped ahead of the morning's leader Jean Eudes Demaret (Cofidis) to win by just one second.

"It's a team victory. I was perfectly led out by Gilbert," Chavanel gleemed. "We took off together in the final bend behind Hoste. I turned around and saw that the others were ten metres behind and I told Philippe 'now's the moment'. We eased up the pace and finished together. It's a real satisfaction and the proof that we can rely on sprinters to win races."

The morning's third stage was won by the young Frenchman Demaret. The 23-year-old was part of a breakaway which, for the second stage in a row, held a slim lead in the final metres. Demaret out-sprinted the Dutch pursuiter Jens Mouris (Mitsubishi Jartazi) and Slipstream's Kilian Patour as Ignas Konovalovas (Credit Agricole) followed in fourth.

Demaret led Mouris by just two seconds until the afternoon's final stage. "In the final part, we started looking at each other. Francis (van Londersele) told me I had a good chance of victory and asked me to remain focused. I really wanted to win but when I crossed the finish line, I wasn't sure I had won. It's a huge satisfaction for me and it shows I have my place in the pack".

The satisfaction did not last long, as Demaret was unable to get but one small second in the time bonuses, and lost the overall to Chavanel by a single second.

Uncertain futures for Milram and Petacchi

When Team Milram came into existence three years ago, it was a sprinter's team, boasting Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel. Now, with Petacchi having been released because of his doping conviction and the nearly-38 year old Zabel facing a probable retirement, it is time for the team to reinvent itself. "Many contracts are up at the end of the season, but how it will all end up, nobody knows," Directeur Sportif Antonio Bevilacqua told the Financial Times Deutschland.

It is also unknown what will become of Petacchi. He had previously mentioned that if the charges were upheld, he would retire, but that statement has not been repeated. Milram spokesman Andrea Agostini said, "Maybe he will continue and there is a team with which he could ride the Vuelta after his suspension."

Petacchi's problem is that, while he is eligible to start riding again September 1, the Vuelta starts on August 30. That is easy enough to take care of, though. It is already rumoured that he will ask the Court of Arbitration for Sports to end his suspension a few days early, allowing him to take to the start in Granada. (SW)

Gerdemann on the bike again

Linus Gerdemann of Team High Road is riding again, but not even starting to think about racing yet. The 25 year-old suffered two broken bones and torn knee ligaments when he crashed in the time trial of Tirenno-Adriatico.

The winner of a stage in the 2007 Tour de France wore yellow jersey for one day, but now feels that his chances of starting this year's Tour are small. "More realistic is certainly a start in the Olympic Games in Beijing," he told dpa.

Currently he is only just starting to train again. "I can now ride for about four hours a day, but pretty slowly, about 28 km/h. After training my knee still swells and hurts sometimes, so I really can't say when I might race again." (SW)

Leon Sanchez back for Catalunya, thinking of the Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Something more than a thousand kilometres, more than one hundred of which are passed among the nearly two dozen rated climbs and just four measly clicks of individual time trial: that is, in numbers, the Volta a Catalunya 2008, which begins Monday and runs through May 25. Together with the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Clásica de San Sebastian, it is one of just three Spanish races included by UCI in the ProTour circuit, and a major goal for Caisse d'Epargne rider Luis Leon Sanchez..

"I have looked at the route, and it is good for me, but there are less kilometres in time trial. So I will be alright, because I am just coming off a break after riding the Ardennes Classics finishing in Liège".

Sanchez will lead the Caisse d'Epargne team in the Catalan race, "but I will be not contesting for the overall because I have started training only one week ago, although I have felt better sensations than expected. Now I have to suffer to reach the Tour as well as possible," the Spaniard told Cyclingnews. After the Volta a Catalunya, Sanchez will take in the Basque Bizikleta and the national time trial championship before arriving at the Tour. "I do not have a program so loaded as could be expected because I made a good first half season, and I do not need so much competition to reach the peak of form", he concluded.

Volta a Catalunya in brief:

After disputing the 3.7 kilometre individual time trial in Lloret de Mar, the Volta a Catalunya will be directed to Riudellots de la Selva, where it will end with the second stage in Banyoles after 167.8 kilometres.

The riders will head over three categorized climbs before arriving on the final circuit of 10 kilometres in Banyoles, for three laps. The third stage is one of the toughest for this edition, with 191.9 kms and two category one climbs as well as the Pedraforca climb (hors categorie) and Josa's Kadi, which crests 52 kilometres from the finish line, located in La Seu d'Urgell.

The longest stage of the Volta will be contested between La Seu d'Urgell and Ascó, over 217.2 kilometres, with the Coll de Paumeres climb (category two) only 20 kilometers from the finish. This climb is 8.6 kilometres long and reaches a maximum of 9% grade.

In the fifth stage, the undulates continuously, with ascents to Falset and La Bataille, both third category. The next day, between El Vendrell and Pallejà (163.9 kilometres), has three third category climbs, the Alt dels Cassots, L'Ordal and Castellbisbal, the latter of which will be ascended four times as it is part of the final circuit.

Finally, a stage of 122 kilometres between Pallejà and Barcelona will begin with a new ascent to L'Castellbisbal and Ordal, in addition to the Alt de la Maladona.

Arndt takes lead in Tour de l'Aude

Judith Arndt (High Road)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

A strong team time trial for High Road on Sunday propelled Judith Arndt in the overall lead of the prestigious Tour de L'Aude stage race. In the 27 kilometre stage starting and finishing in Port La Nouvelle, France, High Road's squad crossed the line in second place, a mere six seconds down on the Netherlands team.

Arndt, twice a former winner overall of L'Aude, now leads Germany's Trixi Worrack by 12 seconds. "It was so close a call and the differences were so minimal we can't regret not winning too much," High Road director Ronny Lauke said afterwards. "We did everything we could, it was just a case of the Netherlands team being that little bit stronger on the day. Plus we got the lead, which is hugely important and a great consolation prize."

"The first three kilometres of the course were crucial, because there were a lot of roundabouts and other road furniture to get past. Once we'd done that technical part, the course wasn't so difficult and the riders could really give it everything." As is always the case in team time trials, the whole squad had to contribute to ensure High Road stayed in the picture. "Everybody played their part. Judith and Linda Villumsen kept the pace high on the one key climb mid-way through, and then the other riders covered the flatter sections before and afterwards. In the last part there was a strong tailwind which meant we really flew all the way back to the finish."

High Road is determined to defend Arndt's overall lead, and Lauke points to stage four as "the one which will be the biggest factor in the outcome of the whole event – it's got two Hors category climbs and a first category climb as well. No other stage is so difficult."

Tour de Nez adds women's race

The Northstar-at-Tahoe Tour de Nez recently announced the addition of a two mile pro women's circuit race to their exciting roster of races at this years six day event. The popular event takes place June 17 - 22 in the Nevada towns of Reno, Truckee and Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, and features a full roster of professional cycling races. The women's race takes place on June 21st along with an on-mountain circuit race.

"Women's Racing is hot right now and the Tour de Nez wants to be part of that energy and excitement," said Race Director Tim Healion.

Well known teams such as High Road, Team Tibco, Kenda Tires, Vanderkitten, Velo Bella, Proman-Paradigm and ValueAct Capital have committed to the event including veteran rider Kim Anderson of High Road and Team Tibco rider Amber Rais, who is fresh from her victory at the Tour of Gila stage race in New Mexico. The hour long race will start in the Village at Northstar and features a two mile circuit with steep climbs, sharp turns, fast descents and some cobbles.

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