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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, May 23, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Another photo finish goes to Bennati

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) revels in his podium time.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Giro d'Italia's twelfth stage was expected to be a bunch sprint, and despite a day-long breakaway from Dionisio Galparsoro (Euskaltel - Euskadi), the fast men had their day in Carpi. Anything but straightforward, the final few kilometres were a twisting, turning, technical approach that could have spelled disaster had the intermittent rains fallen at the finish, but on dry roads, Italian Daniele Bennati was able to take his third stage by a whisker ahead of High Road's Mark Cavendish.

"I thought I'd lost it but the judges told me I won it by just three centimetres," Bennati said, according to Reuters. "I've lost sprints like that in the past but this time I won it." The Liquigas rider won by a similar margin on stage nine in San Vincenzo over world champion Paolo Bettini.

"I knew I had to be first into the last corner if I wanted to win. It meant I had to do a long sprint but it was the best tactic," he continued.

Bennati stayed well hidden, allowing Cavendish's Team High Road have control until the final kilometre. "The finish was very dangerous with all the corners and it would have been treacherous if it had rained," the points leader observed. "I stayed out of trouble because I'm not an aggressive sprinter."

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Bennati took the front coming into the turn, and even notably skilled bike handler Robbie McEwen seemed to back off out of concern and then have try to make up ground on the Italian. Cavendish, who was third into the turn, had enough power to get past McEwen and dive at the line forcing a photo finish. "Cavendish is a sprinter in the last 100 to 50 metres," Bennati noted. "He made a great sprint, even if I started before the last curve. According to me, he is very young and demonstrating to be the strongest sprinter in the world."

Cavendish, who won his first Giro stage on last Tuesday's sprint in Cantazaro was just millimetres from his second career stage. "The team worked really well, but Bennati had 10 metres on me out of the corner," Cavendish lamented. "A few metres after the line, I had it but that is no use."

McEwen wants Giro stage 13

By Gregor Brown in Carpi

Robbie McEwen wants Giro stage 13
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Australian Robbie McEwen is hoping to add another Giro d'Italia stage to his dozen career wins in the race, but has just one chance before his planned departure on Saturday. The Silence-Lotto rider continues despite the after-effects of his crash in stage 11 to Cesena. He crashed early on into that rain-soaked stage, but still wants to try to take his first sprint win in the 91st edition on Friday.

McEwen finished third in the sprint to Carpi on Thurdsay's 12th stage, which won by Italy's Daniele Bennati (Liquigas). He proved that his instincts for getting into position were still there, even though he was not able to hold the wheel of his rival out of the final bend with 200 metres to go in the 172-kilometre stage.

"I have a sore [right] knee, sore leg," he revealed to Cyclingnews the morning of Thursday's stage through Italy's Emilia Romagna. "I've got bruises all over me; I have a sore back. Today and tomorrow are the reasons I have come to the race, so I've got to try to make the best of it even though I am not feeling 100 percent."

He described his crash during the day that saw many riders hit the pavement. "I crashed into a ditch and then across a concrete driveway," he remarked. "I landed on my [left] shoulder; my whole left side, but also hit my right leg on the edge of the concrete driveway. It is giving me a fair bit of problems, but I will see if I can do something at the end of today."

While he was disappointed to come in third behind Bennati and High Road's Mark Cavendish, the 35-year-old will seek number 13 on Friday before returning to his wife and child in Belgium, near Brugge, on Saturday.

Di Luca: "The real Giro begins on Saturday"

By Gregor Brown in Carpi

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

Defending Giro d'Italia champion Danilo Di Luca is waiting for this weekend's stages where he hopes to put the bad weather behind and blow the doors off his classification rivals. The 32 year-old Italian from Pescara already took a dig in last Friday's stage to Pescocostanzo, where he gained a few seconds, and again on stage 11, where he tried to break things up on the big climb to Monte Csarpegna, but revealed honestly, "the real Giro begins on Saturday."

Many are questioning his LPR Brakes team's tactics; yesterday it sent Gabriele Bosisio up the road while its men also fought to distance Di Luca's key rivals on what are considered 'small' climbs by Giro standards. The reason is likely that it is worried about the presence of three Team Astana riders in the top 15 – Leipheimer, Klöden and Contador – and that it hoped it could crack Visconti and give stage seven winner Bosisio the race leader's maglia rosa.

"Astana is going very well, but yesterday there was not much to do," Di Luca stated at the start of Thursday's stage to Carpi. "It was a useless stage for the classification, one to tire the legs. The real Giro begins on Saturday."

In addition to Astana, many of the overall race favourites are keeping an eye on two-time Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni. The Diquigiovanni rider had an impressive time trial and looks prepared for the weekend of mountain stages.

Di Luca confirmed, "Simoni is getting better, like I thought he would. The last week he has been there and so he is a man to keep an eye on." He added, "I am going well, I am getting better and better. I have the same condition as last year. From Saturday forward it will start to get serious."

'The Killer' currently is ninth in classification at 1'34" behind the best placed contender for the overall, Alberto Contador. He will use the final sprint stages on Thursday and Friday to relax before the mountain battles begin in the Dolomites.

"Today and tomorrow are relaxed stages; I will look to spend as little energy as possible to be ready for Saturday, Sunday and Monday," he declared.

Like everyone who is racing in the Corsa Rosa, he hopes for better weather. "When there is bad weather it is bad for everyone, so you need to manage the day as best as you can. I hope that the good weather arrives because there have been many days where it was almost there, but then the rain arrives. Let's hope for the good weather."

Contador impressed with rivals' attacks

By Gregor Brown in Carpi

Alberto Contador (Astana)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was impressed by the moves of rivals Riccardo Riccò and Danilo Di Luca in Giro d'Italia stage 11 to Cesena. The 25 year-old Spaniard responded well to the attacks of his rivals, who seemed to be joining forces, and ended the day in control.

"They were going strong and fast, they were trying to make a difference," Contador noted to Cyclingnews Thursday morning, before the start of stage 12. The Spaniard whose Astana team was invited at the last minute, leaving little room for preparation for a Grand Tour, has ridden well despite having a cracked elbow. He took second on Monday's time trial, putting important time between himself and his rivals, and was able to follow their attacks on the hills on Wednesday. He is now third in the overall standings and ranked highest of all the classification favourites.

The stage to Cesena was made even more difficult by heavy intermittent rain showers. Contador was impressed with the stage that on the map – he observed – did not seem that difficult.

He, like his rivals, is resting in the following two sprint stage – Carpi and Cittadella – to be ready for the three mountain stages that follow, but has been suffering from a toothache, although he says it's nothing serious.

"In the last week I have been there," he noted with added confidence, thanks to his storming time trial stage in Urbino. "I hope my legs don't give me any problems."

A new Frenchman in charge of Catalunya

Frenchman Rémi Pauriol has taken over the lead in the Volta a Catalunya after yesterday's stage winner and yellow jersey Cyril Dessel was dropped from the peloton with 20 kilometres to go on the Alt de Paumeras. The 8.6-kilometre 9% climb took its toll on the AG2R rider, while Pauriol finished safely in the main peloton to seize the race's overall lead.

"I never expected Dessel to suffer so badly on the final climb, but it's given me the chance to take over as leader," Pauriol told Reuters. "Now I want to win this race. We've got a strong enough team to keep my rivals under control, and my morale is on a real high."

The stage win went to another French rider, this one Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom), who claimed his second victory of the season by out-foxing four breakaway companions on the race's longest stage. Fédrigo had a little help from Spanish team-mate Xavier Florencio, whose knowledge of the closing kilometres helped the winner hold off Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) and Gustavo Cesar (Karpin Galicia) in the sprint.

"Xavier comes from this region, and he knows the last few kilometres like the back of his hand," Fédrigo said. "He'd told me before the stage about the ins and outs of the finish, and that made it much easier for me to calculate my strength and stay in contention. It was as if I'd already ridden the race route in my head, before I'd done it in reality."

Today's stage took the remaining 163 riders on a predominantly downhill journey for the initial 180 kilometres, finishing with the sharp category two ascent of Alto de Paumeres. A five man breakaway stayed away most of the day. Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Andry Grivko (Team Milram), Michael Barry (High Road) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) gained four minutes at the mid-point of the stage, but was not gaining as much time as they'd hoped.

Flecha, placed highest on GC at 2'05 behind Dessel, was the main danger, and his breakaway companions tried to convince him to leave the group so they could have a chance at a stage win. The next highest placed rider was Pérez, 17'54" back.

As related on the Rabobank team web site,, the argument grew heated. "He [Flecha] said to the others: 'You went after me, right? You should have stayed behind'. And so Juan attacked," said team director Adri van Houwelingen. The argument continued. "The whole fight, which got worse and worse, lasted one hundred kilometers. At that moment the gap was less than two minutes, and then Flecha slowed down. A waste of energy? Maybe, but he wanted to show himself here, and that happened. I am okay with that," the van Houwelingen said.

Ultimately, the effort took its toll, and Grivko gave up and went back to the peloton, and then Flecha also came to his senses. The other three soldiered on but were caught on the final climb.

Tired Gasparotto keeps morale high

By Gregor Brown in Carpi

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Barloworld's Enrico Gasparotto is keeping his morale high despite feeling tired due to his crash on the first road stage of the 91st Giro d'Italia. The 26 year-old Italian who resides in Varese promises to keep racing until the race's end in Milano, June 1.

"I am tired after a day like yesterday. My legs are not so good, but I must arrive in Milano and then I think I will start to think of the Italian championships in Bergamo," he noted with a grin in Forlì's Piazza Saffi, at the start of stage 12. "I will not do the Tour de France. I will concentrate on the championships and then take a holiday." He would not reveal where he plans to take his well-earned rest.

His season finale will be highlighted by a possible participation in Italy's national team for the World Championships, September 28 in Varese.

"I will start training again for the final part of the season," continued the blonde-haired rider. "I will try to make the Italian team for the World Championships." He noted the day prior that he likes the looks of next Thursday's Giro d'Italia stage 18 to Varese, which consists of two circuits on the parcours that will be used at the Worlds five months later.

For Barloworld this year's Corsa Rosa has been difficult, the team has lost Patrick Calcagni, Francesco Bellotti and Mauricio Soler so far this race, and are down to a skeleton squad for the remaining nine stages.

"For team Barloworld the Giro has not been so good up until now," he confirmed. "We must continue to believe in ourselves, and try for a good result. With a victory our morale would change immediately."

The team is pointing towards its two Englishmen – Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas – before in the stages leading to Saturday's day in the mountains. "We must try every day. The good thing about cycling is that nothing is written in stone."

Riders using Viagra for altitude?

By Laura Weislo

The story of Gerolsteiner rider Andrea Moletta's father being detained by the Italian anti-doping police in a car with a large amount of Viagra might have simply been the source of many dirty jokes had it not led to his son's withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia.

Natalino Moletta was stopped by the Italian Guardia Finanza as one of three passengers in a vehicle travelling from Padua to the Giro d'Italia which reportedly contained 82 packages of Viagra, along with a disposable syringe hidden in a tube of toothpaste and a refrigerator with other unidentified products. The search was reportedly part of a wider investigation into doping at gyms in Padua, but reports also indicated the car, and thus the products on board, were headed to the Giro d'Italia. However, there is no indication that the police action was aimed at the Gerolsteiner team.

"It was a targeted police action," Gerolsteiner director Christian Henn told dpa. He said Andrea Moletta could not explain why his father was caught up in the incident, and agreed to leave the Giro. "If they were looking at Moletta, why wasn't there immediately a raid in our hotel? So far everything has been quiet," Henn said.

Doping is rife in fitness clubs worldwide, and Viagra is a widely used as a recreational drug, so it is possible that the products in question have nothing to do with cycling. Still, the Gerolsteiner team deemed it serious enough to remove the rider from the race. Do we have yet another Willy Voet on our hands? Was the car bringing drugs to riders in the Giro? And if so, why Viagra?

Viagra, or sildenafil, is normally used to treat erectile dysfunction, but a 2006 study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology (JoAP) and reported in Science Daily claimed that the drug can significantly enhance performance at altitude in some cyclists. At the moment, the 'little blue pill' is not on World Anti-doping Agency's prohibited substances list.

WADA's spokesman Frédéric Donzé confirmed that Viagra is not banned in competition, but said that the agency is looking into the matter. "WADA is aware of the high altitude study presented in Science Daily. WADA monitors this substance, as it does with many other substances, and is currently funding a research project on the performance-enhancing potential of Sildenafil at various altitudes."

But is Viagra a performance enhancing drug outside of the bedroom? The JoAP study tested ten trained cyclists at sea level and in an altitude chamber simulating 12,700 feet (3870 m) above sea level (or about 1,200 metres above the Giro d'Italia's Cima Coppi). The results were remarkable: while no benefit was gained at sea level, the Viagra group improved its performance over a six kilometre time trial at altitude by 15% over the group given a placebo.

However, the average numbers were deceiving, because the Viagra group was split into "responders" and "non-responders". Four of the subjects had shown a more marked decrease in performance at altitude than the others with placebo, and when they took Viagra, the difference went away.

Another study from a group in Belgium from 2007 tested the drug on "healthy subjects" before and after acclimatization to altitude (5,000m) and saw the performance benefit of Viagra vanish once the subjects were adapted to the low oxygen environment.

The impact of altitude on exercise capacity varies widely from person to person, depending on physiology and acclimatization. Some adapt quickly at high altitude, while others can have severe reactions such as mountain sickness or pulmonary edema - which typically show up above 2,400m.

Whether or not the drug can give a benefit to riders at altitudes below this level remains to be seen. With Monday's mountain time trial from San Vigilio di Marebbe to Plan de Corones heading from 1,200 up to 2,273 metres above sea level, will we see riders popping Viagra to get up for the race? If they do - and if the drug is not banned by WADA, and only the riders who have the unfortunate physiology to have their blood vessels seize up in hypoxic conditions can get a benefit - is it doping?

USAC president: The era of the collegian

The new board president of USA Cycling, Mark Abramson
Photo ©: USA Cycling
(Click for larger image)

In March the USA Cycling board of directors elected its vice president, Mark Abramson, to succeed the term-limited Jim Ochowicz as president of the board. The new president comes from the ranks of collegiate cycling (NCCA), one of the five discipline associations, and is the first NCCA member to hold this position. Abramson spoke with Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski about where he plans on taking the board in his term.

If one had to title the new USA Cycling board president Mark Abramson's upcoming term in office, it would be 'the era of the collegian'. This is because Abramson sits on the board of directors as the sole representative of the National Collegiate Cycling Association (NCCA). Collegiate cycling is where he was first exposed to bicycle racing and it is the vehicle that brought him up the ranks of USA Cycling.

"I became involved with racing in 1995," said Abramson. "I started mountain bike racing at Tufts University. Eastern Massachusetts is not exactly mountainous but we have surprisingly good singletrack." Abramson, 33 (but in true USAC fashion said, "Racing age, 34!") is a Boston native and currently resides in Cambridge running a software development company. "I grew up in Wayland in the suburbs of Boston. Boston has a great cycling community, but certainly a tight-knit racing community as well."

Abramson continued his involvement with cycling in the collegiate ranks, both in racing itself and then promoting after graduation. "I was involved in collegiate cycling as a rider and then within the team when we hosted an eastern championships in 1996 - I was the promoter of that event. Then I became more involved with the eastern conference, and after I graduated I took over as assistant conference director and then conference director."

At this point collegiate cycling was not a full association within the governing body. Abramson continued increasing his involvement within the sub-discipline by expanding his work beyond New England and pushing for inclusion at the top level. "I became involved with collegiate cycling at the national level with the NCCA committee. We then worked to add ourselves as a full USA Cycling association, and became part of the board of trustees and got a seat on the board of directors. I served on the NCCA committee and became a trustee and then director.

"I've always considered myself a cyclist, but collegiate cycling was my introduction to the competitive side of the sport. I started off mountain bike racing but then I got bit by the road bug. That became my primary focus, though I did run the Boston Cyclocross Association for a number of years. We promoted a number of races in New England, so that was another outlet."

Continue to the full feature.

Tour of Colorado continues at Iron Horse

The 37th Iron Horse Bicycle Classic will run this Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26th in Durango, Colorado. The second of seven Tour of Colorado races, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic features the Durango Coca-Cola Road Race from Durango to Silverton. This famous race has 5700 feet of climbing in just 47 miles.

The second race of the three-stage event will be the Morehart Subaru Criterium on Sunday in Historic downtown Durango, held on an eight-turn course. It is followed by the event's conclusion, the Alpine Banks East Animas Time Trial on Memorial Day.

Tour of Colorado points will be awarded to those riders who finish with Omnium points.

Phil Zajicek of Health Net leads the Tour of Colorado in Pro 1, 2 Men's category while Mara Abbott is the leader in the Women's category.

'Voice of Cycling' to benefit Chicagoland

Race commentator Phil Liggett, known as the "Voice of Cycling", will appear at a benefit event for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation on Friday, May 23. Hosted by Turn Bicycle in Evanston, Illinois, the event will feature an audience question and answer period, a live auction by Liggett, a silent auction and other features.

Liggett, who has called the Tour de France 34 times and is famous for his spontaneous, witty phrases dubbed "Liggettisms" will bring his charm, storytelling and humour to the stage for one special night. Tickets are $25 for the event only, $15 for student event only (with valid ID) and include hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine. Only 400 tickets are available.

$100 'Prologue' tickets include a one hour pre-event gathering with Liggett for 30 people at 4:30PM catered by Va Pensiero, professional photos with Liggett by Christian Soto, autographs, open bar and access to VIP area at event.

Tickets can be purchased online at

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