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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, October 1, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Leblanc questions Armstrong's return

Former Tour race director, Frenchman Jean-Marie Leblanc, questions Armstrong's return
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Jean-Marie Leblanc, former director of the Tour de France, is worried about the side-effects of Lance Armstrong's return on professional cycling. "We former riders generally have respect for winners, but that's not always the case with the public and above all the media who have heavy suspicions about you," he said in an editorial in Velo Star.

"The hounds will be let loose, column inches will be written, images repeated and debate sparked about the one word which has petrified our passion over the past ten years: doping."

He also questioned the American's motives in returning to racing. He asked, "It seems that you want to collect funds for your foundation into cancer research. That's a laudable intention of course, but was it necessary to get out your jersey and racing shorts given the revenue your conferences make in the United States?"

"They're also saying you haven't been overly impressed with the victories of your former rivals - [Oscar] Pereiro, [Alberto] Contador and [Carlos] Sastre - and that at 37 the challenge doesn't seem insurmountable; and that is something we can understand."

Armstrong, 37, announced his return to cycling on September 9. His comeback will follow on three and a half years of minimal racing. (SW)

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback

January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
January 8, 2009 - Armstrong impresses Carmichael prior to Tour Down Under
January 7, 2009 - Armstrong believes Team Astana can dominate Tour
December 10, 2008 - Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro
December 8, 2008 - Armstrong climbs Teide
December 6, 2008 - Rast on life with Armstrong
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong: Contador is the best
December 4, 2008 - Horner unites with Armstrong despite past differences
December 3, 2008 - Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong surfs with Astana
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong plans to race Tour
December 1, 2008 - Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending
November 23, 2008 - Media out of love with Armstrong?
November 22, 2008 - Andreu caught up in Armstrong fight again
November 19, 2008 - Armstrong concerned about Tour safety
November 17, 2008 - Armstrong to meet with ASO
November 9, 2008 - Armstrong racing in Texas again
November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
November 7, 2008 - Lance Armstrong speaks at Web 2.0 conference
November 6, 2008 - Carmichael dials in Armstrong's comeback training
November 5, 2008 - Armstrong looking for balance
November 5, 2008 - Photos from Armstrong's wind tunnel test
November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback

Ballan debuts as World Champion in Lazio

Lampre's Damiano Cunego and Alessandro Ballan after 1-2 in World Championships
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italy's Alessandro Ballan will make his first race appearance as World Champion this Sunday at the Giro del Lazio. Ballan, 28, will line up as leader for Team Lampre.

"We are content that we can line up two of the Worlds' protagonists in Ballan and Damiano Cunego. It would be wonderful to give our supporters another win," said Lampre's directeur sportif, Fabrizio Bontempi.

Emanuele Bindi, Marco Marzano, Daniele Righi, Mauro Santambrogio, Sylvester Szmyd, Paolo Tiralongo and Krzysztof Dabrowski will support the duo.

Paolini puts in early effort

By Gregor Brown in Varese

Italy's Luca Paolini, 31, satisfied with early effort in World Championships
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Ballan may have taken all the headlines - as well as the rainbow jersey – at this year's World Championships but it could have been so different if he'd not had the help of such a strong team.

Luca Paolini's work paved the way for a Team Italia win with Ballan profiting from the early efforts of his Milanese teammate to win the race solo ahead of Italy's Damiano Cunego and Denmark's Matti Breschel.

"I think I performed my work in the best possible way and I gave it everything I had." said Paolini, as he stood outside the team bus and the Italian festivities rang out around him. "With respect to the previous Worlds, I went into action right away this time and I tried to create escapes to wear out our rivals. I am satisfied, we won and we showed we deserved it.

Paolini's day ended on the penultimate circuit of the 15-lap, 260.2 kilometres course. His highest place came when he took the bronze medal at the 2004 Worlds in Verona. His goal this time was not to make the podium but to weaken the team's rivals midway through the race.

"My team role was to always be alert from the beginning," explained Paolini. "Specifically, I had to watch for escapes with the Spaniards or Belgians. If one of those escapes did not develop I had to attack and help form an escape."

Paolini joined the group of Andrea Tonti and Matteo Tosatto after initial work from Marzio Bruseghin and Gabriele Bosisio in the early stages of the race. An attack on the climb of Ronchi in lap 11 showed Paolini's aggression and brute strength. The main group caught the day's three-man escape soon after, which cleared the way for the move with Ballan.

"I was able to watch the last lap from TV after I pulled out in the penultimate lap but in my opinion Spain raced for an Italian loss, but not for the win," he said.

He saw the round of attacks on the final climb of Ronchi and noted the round of attacks from Ballan, Cunego and Rebellin. There seemed to be a pause in action after the other nine members nullified the attacks. "The power left is limited. Ballan was wise; he stuck behind and rested to attack in the right moment."

Paolini is racing with Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo and he notched up wins at Trofeo Laigueglia and Coppa Placci this season. He explained that he is undecided which team he will race for next year.

Grivko satisfied with Worlds

By Gregor Brown in Varese

Ukraine's Andriy Grivko was satisfied with the escape and subsequent fifth place in the World Championships road race. Grivko, 25, formed part of the winning 12-man escape in the penultimate lap and gambled it all on a sprint finish.

"I am happy with the Worlds but I am upset that I was not able to make the podium, but I am content all the same," said Grivko to Cyclingnews after the race.

Grivko joined the move after the Ronchi climb in the penultimate circuit. He joined Italy's Ballan, Davide Rebellin and Damiano Cunego, Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet, Denmark's Matti Breschel, Spain's Joaquím Rodriguez, Germany's Fabian Wegmann, Netherlands' Robert Gesink and Austria's Christian Pfannberger.

Italy dominated the move in the final lap of the 260.2-kilometre race. Rodríguez played possum for his teammates behind and the tactics forced Grivko to look towards Wegmann, Gesink, Van Avermaet, Breschel and Pfannberger for allies. However with such a strong group he decided to save himself for a possible sprint finish.

"I set my mind on trying for the sprint because I wasn't feeling too great. I knew that one of them [the Italians] would attack and it would leave it up to the others to close. I thought that even they used a lot of strength beforehand, however, they pulled off a great surprise in the finale."

Grivko left it to Breschel and his teammate Chris Anker Sørensen to close the gap after Ballan's attack at three kilometres out. No one caught Ballan, and Cunego led the sprint home over Breschel, Rebellin and Grivko.

Grivko expects to leave Team Milram at the end of this year. He indicated that there is a ninety percent chance he will sign with new Italian-Ukrainian Team ISD-Danieli.

Zabel faces last road race in Germany

Erik Zabel lines up in Germany for last time
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Erik Zabel of Team Milram will say goodbye to German road racing this week when he ride the Sparkasse Münsterland Giro on Friday, October 3. Zabel, 38, announced that he will retire at the end of this season.

"I am looking forward to my last road race in Germany, especially since it is also my debut in the Münsterland Giro," Zabel said. "I have heard that it is a very nice race, with lots of fans along the way who create a great mood. The flat closing circuit in Münster makes a sprint finish possible. Of course it would be great to say goodbye to the German road racing fans with a victory."

The race runs 204 kilometres from Bochum to Münster.

Milram for Münsterland: Christian Knees, Christian Kux, Dennis Haueisen, Erik Zabel, Ralf Grabsch, Sebastian Schwager, and stagiaires Arne Hassink and Mitja Schlüters (SW)

Van Dijk to Columbia Women

Ellen van Dijk has signed a one-year contract with Team Columbia Women, according to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. The 21 year-old is European time trial champion, European points and scratch champion on the track, and World Champion in scratch.

She plans to continue riding on both the track and the road, a condition to which her new team had no objection. "I am really looking forward to riding with this team, because I see it is the best team in the world," the Dutch woman said. "All of the Columbia riders have a very high level and I want to join them in that. Finally, I find it nice to ride with Chantal Beltman again."

Beltman and van Dijk rode together at Vrienden van het Platteland. She recently extended her contract with Columbia for two years. (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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