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First Edition Cycling News, May 21, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Di Luca surprised by Contador

Defending champion looks to make difference in mountain stages

By Gregor Brown in Urbino, Italy

Danilo Di Luca (LPR)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Defending Giro d'Italia champion Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) was surprised by the strength of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) on yesterday's Giro d'Italia time trial. The Spaniard managed the second best time over the 39.4 kilometre time trial, just eight seconds behind stage winner Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre).

Contador has stated that his intentions are not to win the overall of the Giro. The Spanish rider raced yesterday's stage with a fractured elbow, which was revealed in x-rays on Monday's rest day.

"Contador surprised me more than [Gilberto] Simoni, however he went well too," Di Luca said. "Simoni went strong today and it is clear he did not pay from [Monday's] day off the bike."

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Di Luca plans to utilise his LPR Brakes team to make Contador's life difficult in the coming two weeks, before the race concludes in Milano, June 1. "We will have to attack Contador, definitely," he said. "I will need to take back the advantage from him."

Di Luca pointed towards this weekend's stages, Stage 14 to Alpe di Pampeago and Stage 15 to Marmolada, as a possible time to launch his attack. "There will be a lot of [time] gaps From Saturday forward," he said. "I think Sunday's stage to Marmolada will be the most important."

The 32 year-old from Pescara finished 19th in Tuesday's Stage 10 time trail. Di Luca lost precious time to key overall rivals on the stage, including 2'03" to Alberto Contador, 1'51" to Andreas Klöden and 1'09" to Gilberto Simoni.

"I was going well on the flats, but on the climbs I could have gone better," Di Luca said following the test from Pesaro to Umbria, in Italy's Le Marche.

"This time trial did not make a difference, we are all still there," he said. "This does not change anything."

Today's stage concludes with a very demanding test to Cesena. Though the stage is not a high mountain run, Di Luca will stay alert. "It could make some difference and will be interesting," he said. "The climbers were saved today, even if I could have done better, but - I repeat - 40 or 50 seconds here won't change much."

Bruseghin tops while Astana romps

By Gregor Brown in Urbino, with additional reporting from Susan Westemeyer

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) won eight seconds ahead
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Lampre's Marzio Bruseghin ruled the damp day in the Giro d'Italia's 10th stage, a difficult 39.4-kilometre individual timed test from Pesaro to Urbino. The 33 year-old Italian, whose last win came in the mountain time trial of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, clocked a time of 56 minutes and 41 seconds and then waited nervously while the favourites tried but fail to unseat him.

"We worked with attention to every detail," exclaimed the day's winner, Bruseghin. "We were all working towards this win, the mechanics, everyone. My characteristics were favoured here. I can't take the maglia rosa, but there are certain stages, like this one, where I can take advantage."

The Italian's three wins in 12 years as a professional came in time trials, in addition to Urbino and Oropa, he won the 2006 Italian championship.

While the day belonged to Bruseghin, the coup of the race came from Astana. The team of Johan Bruyneel took control of the general classification fight thanks to Tour de France champion Alberto Contador – second at eight seconds – and Andreas Klöden – third at 20 seconds.

Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) held onto the race leader's maglia rosa which he gained on the escape of stage six, clocking a time of 57'46", just over one minute back from the stage winner. He even passed his closest GC rival, German Matthias Russ, and now leads by over three minutes. "I tried to do something good and I think that I did it. So, I am satisfied with the day," noted the 25 year-old from Silica.

Alberto Contador is first of the race's main classification contenders at 6'59" back, Klöden 55" further back, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 1'04", Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) 1'09", Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) 1'33", Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) 1'34" and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 1'58".

Contador steadily gained time throughout the time trial as it gained 446 metres from start to finish. The 25-year-old was fourth fastest at the first time check (km 9.6), third at the second (km 23.4) of Monte di Colbordolo, top at the third time check (32.2) of Cà Angelone, but lost time on the wet finale, sliding to seventh best in the final section.

"I lost due to the wet roads," he stated after climbing through the narrow city centre roads in Urbino. "I was sliding around too much in the finale and it was cold."

To read the full report, click here.

Contador: I wanted to win

Alberto Contador (Astana) was the day's surprise
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Contador (Astana) said he was forced to approach yesterday's wet time trial with caution, but had really been aiming to win the important stage. The Spaniard laid down an impressive effort which claimed his second place on the stage, just eight seconds behind winner Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre).

"I tried to win the stage, that was my first objective," said Contador. "Believe me, without the rain, I would have been the winner. I didn't dare to take risks in the end. The last 500 meters on the cobblestones were very slippery as well. Anyway, afterwards I am happy with the time I gained today."

While Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) has admitted to being impressed with his general classification rival's performance, others foresaw the rider's strong ride. Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) said at a press conference on Monday's rest day that he had the Spaniard figured out.

Contador claimed his impressive second place with a fractured elbow, which was uncovered during x-rays on Monday's rest day. Following the discovery of Contador's injury, the team was casting doubt over his ability to even obtain the correct time trial, which threatened to affect his ability to remain in general classification contention.

"My elbow? In the beginning it bothered me a bit, but the further we went in the stage, the better I felt," he said. "My second part of the time trial was indeed much better: the elbow, the legs and the performance.

"I do not want to make provisions for the future," he added. "I feel better and better but I have no idea what I can do in the big mountain stages. I have to repeat: we will see day after day."

While Contador is talking a cautious game, his Astana squad holds an impressive position in the general classification. Contdaor's German team-mate Andreas Klöden claimed third place on yesterday's time trial, putting him in a strong position on general classification which leaves the squad with two cards to play as the Grand Tour's big mountain stages near.

"[Today's] is a very hard, very hard," said Contador. "So my tactic is simple: wait for developments and see how I go in the first mountain stage compared to riders who are in better shape than I."

Contdaor sits 6.59 minutes behind race leader Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) in fourth position, while Klöden is just two positions and 55 seconds behind him. Both riders are ahead of Di Luca and Riccò, while American team-mate Levi Leipheimer isn't too far down the order in 14th spot, 9.10 minutes behind Visconti ahead of the mountain stages.

The team's strong presence on general classification comes despite having virtually no prepartion time for the Italian Grand Tour. 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.

Police raid LA MSS headquarters

Doping-related items taken into evidence

By Monika Prell

Judicial Police, the Portuguese criminal investigation department, has raided the headquarters of the cycling team LA MSS. The department confiscated doping substances, medications, equipment to conduct blood transfusions and instruments for clinical use, according to Marca.

The raid was undertaken with the help of the National Anti doping Council, according to a Police communiqué. Officials didn't announce the team which was under investigation, however sport journal A Bola announced that the JP inspected the plants of the team LA MSS in Póvoa de Varzim.

The newspaper claimed there's a connection between the raids and the team's victories in the Subida al Naranco, the Vuelta a Asturias and the Gran Premio Rota dos Móveis. The JP indicated that "the investigations will go on" and that the operation is not closed.

Portuguese Cycling federation (FPC) president Artur Lopes said he was "deeply" disappointed that doping material had been found in the raid. Lopes indicated that the affair "escapes the sport domain", because the FPC could take disciplinal measures if it has been "a positive doping control, but as this was not the case, it will be affair of the justice".

Póvoa de Varzim mayor Macedo Vieira announced the local city council could seek damages from the team. The council is a sponsor of the outfit and could seek a refund on its 200000 Euro investment.

LA MSS has made headlines in recent weeks following the death of one of its riders. 26 year-old Bruno Neves passed away after a crash in the Gran Premio de Amarante earlier this month.

Neves autopsy raises questions

On the same day LA MSS had its headquarters raided by Police, questions have surfaced over the death of rider Bruno Neves. The 26 year-old passed away while contesting the Grande Prémio de Amarante earlier this month.

Portuguese publication has reported that its source inside the Police department said the rider died of cardiac arrest. While a report is yet to be made official, the article alleges that Neves suffered from the heart problem while riding which caused the crash.

The rider crashed around 40 kilometres into the Portugese Cup race. Medical teams attended to the rider immediately, but he died on route to the hospital.

Neves was one of Portugal's best up-and-coming sprinters. He was fifth in the Vuelta a Rioja last month and also had a victory in the Tour of Portugal. The tragedy came just a day after the anniversary of the death of famous Portugese cyclist Joaquim Agostinho, winner of a Tour de France stage to Alpe d'Huez, who died in on May 10, 1984.

Riccò laments Giro slip

Riccardo Ricco' surprised
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Giro d'Italia contender Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) is kicking himself after taking a fall during Tuesday's key time trial. The Italian has been strong at his home Grand Tour to date and was already concerned about the amount of time he may loose to his general classification rivals prior to the time trial.

"I feel in good form and did not suffer a serious injury," he told AFP, referring to the fall. "But I have to ask myself: what if I lose the Giro by less than a minute?"

Riccò has already taken his team to glory at the race, winning two stages of the event during the first week. He said at a press conference on Monday's rest day he wasn't sure what to expect during the time trial and undoubtedly a fall was the last possibility on his mind.

"My glove got caught in the handlebar, which made it impossible to make a bend, so I wound up on the floor," said Riccò, who posted the 16th quickest time for the stage. "If not for this bad manoeuvre, I could have finished 40 seconds earlier, and that would've been a wonderful time-trial for a rider like me."

The Italian holds ninth place on general classification, 8.32 minutes behind race leader Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step). While he is still 11 seconds ahead of defending champion Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Riccò lost time to emerging contender Alberto Contador, who won the 2007 Tour de France, and his Astana team-mate Andreas Klöden.

Priamo upset with Klöden, satisfied with first week

German clarifies comments to Italian sport paper

By Gregor Brown in Urbino, Italy

Matteo Priamo (CSF Group Navigare) wasn't happy
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden (Astana) has caused a stir at the Giro d'Italia as a result of comments mate to Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday morning. The German rider spoke proudly of his team's anti-doping controls, but cast a shadow over others, including Italy's Matteo Priamo who won the Giro's sixth stage.

The CSF Group Navigare rider from Castelfranco Veneto spoke to Cyclingnews about Klöden's comments. "I can say that it is better to think for one's self," Priamo responded when asked about Klöden's comments.

Priamo, a third-year professional, has never met the multiple Tour de France podium finisher. Following the comments, he plans to have a conversation with Klöden over the coming days.

"I still have yet to meet and talk to Klöden," he said. "I thought he was a good guy, but his words have made me change my mind. I will have a chance to talk with Andreas Klöden in the next stages."

For his part, a press release by the Astana team said Klöden regrets that he was "misunderstood" in an interview with the Italian newspaper. The German said he never mentioned the name of a team where health controls would be less severe, CSF Group Navigare included.

"I said that - in contrast to many smaller teams - Astana, High Road, Slipstream and CSC have a very tight internal doping control system," said Klöden.

Despite the controversy over Klöden's comments, Priamo is proud of his first week and his win over Spain's Alan Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the stage to Peschici.

"The first week has gone well for me," he said. "I was already able to win a stage in my first participation of the Giro d'Italia. For an Italian, to win a stage in the Giro d'Italia is a great satisfaction. I can say that now I have really done 80 percent of what I intended to accomplish here."

Priamo has been recovering since his demanding effort five days ago. The Italian said he will look to enter more escapes this week, searching for a second win.

"Now I am recuperating a little in this week because there are some tough stages coming with lots of climbs, which will mean a lot of suffering for me," he said. "I will try to take part in the escapes again and see if I can be successful in winning another stage."

Petacchi: I remain a winner

Alessandro Petacchi
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Petacchi may be under suspension until later this year but he maintains that he has been treated unfairly. The Italian sprint sensation was handed a suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on May 6 and late last week his Milram squad announced it would part ways with the sprinter.

"My case is extremely weird," said Petacchi. "CAS concluded that I never tested positive.

"I have not cheated or undermined the rules," he added. "I just had problems breathing."

CAS concluded that Petacchi did not cheat or abuse his asthma medication Salbutamol, but that he was nevertheless in breach of UCI anti-doping regulations. It ordered him suspended for one year, with two months suspended. The ban runs from November 1, 2007, to August 31, 2008.

Despite being 34 years of age the Italian says he has no plans of quitting the sport. Petacchi has won multiple stages of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana during his career, which started with Scrigno in 1996.

"There has been a lot of wrong done by me, but I have not once thought about my retirement," Petacchi said. "This is the darkest period of my career. If a team pulls me out of this hole, I will remain grateful. I remain a winner."

The 34 year-old had an Abbreviated Therapeutic Use Exemption (ATUE) for Salbutamol, which allowed him to use three doses of 200mg per day. On May 23 of last year, after winning the Giro's stage to Pinerolo, he underwent a doping control which showed that he had Salbutamol in a concentration of 1352 ng/ml, above the allowed limit of 1000 ng/ml.

The disciplinary committee of the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) on July 24 ruled that this was not a violation of anti-doping rules and refused to sanction him. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) appealed that decision to the CAS.

The team's sponsor, Nordmilch AG, supported the team's action. "Our position is clear: We explicitly disapprove of any kind of doping. We want clean sports and performance on a natural basis," Martin Mischel, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer said in a statement released Friday evening. "We have discussed the present judgement against Alessandro Petacchi distinctly with the team management and approve of the resulting separation of Team Milram from Alessandro Petacchi. The consistent compliance of the mutually passed anti-doping course is an important pillar of our sponsorship agreement."

Petacchi attended the Giro d'Italia's 10th stage yesterday. The Italian was supposed to contest the race with Milram however the CAS findings and his resulting dismissal prevented him from taking part.

Capelli fights to keep numero nero

By Gregor Brown in Pesaro, Italy

Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) wears the maglia nera
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

The Giro d'Italia's short-lived maglia nera ('black jersey') made its return at this year's race and is currently being held by Italy's Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott). The honour - this time being awarded as a black-background back number instead of a racing jersey - is bestowed to the rider who holds last spot each day on general classification.

The maglia nera was awarded from 1946 to 1951, and many riders would fight for the honour of finishing last. The last winner was Giovanni Pinarello, who later founded the famous bicycle company based in Treviso.

Capelli agrees there's attention gained by the classification. "Seeing how it gives a little bit of publicity I will try to maintain it," noted the 23 year-old to Cyclingnews.

Capelli is last by six and a half minutes to Germany's Markus Eichler (Team Milram) following the time trial to Urbino. Prior to the time trial he indicated that he would try to maintain the lead, of sorts.

"I will do the time trial at an easy pace seeing how tomorrow is a hard stage," he said. "The team is aiming to do well overall and we hope to win tomorrow with [team leader Riccardo] Riccò.

"I think I can keep it because I am always working in the first part of the stage and then dropping off," he added.

Eichler confirmed that he is not going after Capelli's glory. "It is not an objective," he said. "I want to finish and help my team. If I have it then good, but it is not my objective."

Oscar Gatto finished last in the 2007 Giro d'Italia and half-jokingly noted after the race, "everyone remembers the first and the last, the second and penultimate are remembered by only the actual riders, even if they might want to forget about it, and no one remembers the riders from third to the third to the last. For this reason I fought to arrive last".

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