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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, October 17, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Basso ends suspension and is back with Liquigas

Gregor Brown in Baveno, Italy

Ivan Basso's suspension is almost over and he will start racing as soon as possible, in Japan
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso officially announced his return to racing and contract with Team Liquigas today on the shores of Lago Maggiore, Italy. The Italian cycling federation banned the cyclist, 30, for 16 months for his involvement in Operación Puerto.

"I worked a lot to arrive at this point and in condition," said Basso. "It is important to start over, the first race that is available on the calendar."

Basso will immediately return to racing with the Japan Cup, October 26, two days after his suspension ends. He travels there immediately with four teammates and directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta. His last race was the Vuelta a Castilla y León, which ended on March 30, 2007.

He will start his 2009 season with the Tour de San Luis, Argentina, and the Tour of California. He will then focus on Italian races and the Giro d'Italia, a race he won in 2006. "Certainly, all of the dreams I had in 2006 are still there and certainly I want to take the maglia rosa again."

Basso left on the eve of the 2006 Tour de France when Spanish papers linked him to Spanish Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, centre of 2006's Operación Puerto doping investigation. He briefly returned to racing in 2007 before a formal investigation. He was banned from racing on June 15, 2007, for his links with Fuentes. During the hearings, he admitted to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) prosecutor that he gave blood to Fuentes.

"I paid for something, and this gives me serenity," said Basso of his suspension. "I served my two years and I am not concerned about the others."

Liquigas announced in April it signed Basso for two years. Despite his competition ban, Basso is training vigorously for his return.

"He wants to start in the Japan Cup to take the most of his training over this time," said Team Manager Roberto Amadio. "He will start 2009 in Argentina; it is a tranquil place that will help him find himself in the gruppo."

Basso's past teams include Discovery Channel, Team CSC, Fassa Bortolo, Amica Chips and Riso Scotti.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Lloyd only getting better for Lombardia

By Gregor Brown in Lagnasco, Italy

Matthew Lloyd is getting ready for the last big race team
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Matthew Lloyd, fourth in Giro dell'Emilia, is ending the season just as consistently as he started it. The Silence-Lotto rider, 25, intends to finish the year in the Giro di Lombardia with something a little more.

"Things aren’t going too badly; at this time of the year it’s just a question of form and of course motivation. Emilia is the course, before Lombardia, that suits me the most and I wanted to have a good result," said Lloyd to Cyclingnews the morning of Giro del Piemonte.

Lloyd marked his spring with strong rides in the Ardennes Classics - he finished 25th in Amstel Gold, 25th in Flèche Wallonne and 16th Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He showed last Saturday at the Giro dell'Emilia that his fall season is going just as well.

Lloyd, working with teammate Cadel Evans, made the final cut of seven riders in the Italian race near Bologna. He could not hold the pace of Danilo Di Luca on San Luca, who went on to win the race. Lombardia is another chance for the young rider to support of Evans and perhaps make a winning move.

"Both Cadel and I live in the area and it is a good place to enjoy the last race of the year. Given the circumstances of the race, Cadel will definitely be there at the end. I am not sure whether I will be there to help him or have a chance to go for my own result."

The famed climb up to Madonna del Ghisallo marks the race, one of cycling's five Monuments. The 8.6-kilometre climb hits percentages of 14 percent near Mulini del Perlo and another sharp kick before reaching the Sanctuary dedicated to cyclists.

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"Normally the Ghisallo is the point where everyone seeks to make the selection. After that, it is hard because the groups are split so it depends on who wants to work in those groups and who wants to make the race happen. It is circumstantial and if we are in the right position to be the ones making it happen then I hope it all comes together."

Lloyd heads back home to Australia immediately after taking part in Sunday's two-man time trial at Borgomanero with Cadel Evans. "I am eager to get back home and be with my family. My Italian girlfriend? It is one of the difficulties that Australians face, with family and friends at home and a relationship overseas."

Quick Step, Columbia and Acqua & Sapone to Lombardia

Belgian cycling team Quick Step has announced its rider selection for the upcoming Giro di Lombardia on Saturday, October 18. Riding for the squad will be: Mauro Facci, Kevin Hulsmans, Alessandro Proni, Leonardo Scarselli, Andrea Tonti, Matteo Tosatto, Davide Viganò and Giovanni Visconti. The team will be directed by Davide Bramati.

Team Columbia also revealed its line-up for the 'classic of the falling leaves', with the squad's Italian riders, Marco Pinotti and Morris Possoni, expected to make a good showing.

"The Coppa Sabatini, Giro D'Emilia and GP Beghelli were useful for keeping the team from losing focus after the World Championships, and Marco and Morris are both very motivated," said team sports director Valerio Piva. "But we'll be keeping all our options open. We'll have to be sure to get somebody in the early break, as it might well stay away to the finish. If it doesn't, then the Madonna del Ghisallo climb [around 45 kilometres from the finish] will be where Lombardy really takes shape."

Piva added that Lombardia was going to be a complicated race. "We will have to stay very focused because Lombardy is going to be a fast-moving, wide-open race this year," he said. "In the three one-day Classics earlier this month you could tell a lot of the big names are quite tired, whilst other Classics specialists like Davide Rebellin will be missing Lombardy completely. That means I don't think any team will be able to keep control of Lombardy."

Columbia chose the following riders to compete in the Autumn classic: Michael Barry, Scott Davis, Gert Dockx, Craig Lewis, Marco Pinotti, Morris Possoni, Michael Rogers and Kanstantin Sivtsov.

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) was third in the Coppa Sabatini
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Pro Continental team Acqua & Sapone Caffè Mokambo has three aces up its sleeve for the season's closing classic: Luca Paolini, who was runner-up in the Giro del Piemonte this week, Stefano Garzelli, who skipped this race on purpose to fully concentrate on the Giro di Lombardia and Francesco Masciarelli, winner of the Giro del Lazio earlier this month.

Directeur sportif Franco Gini wished success to Garzelli, who sits in second position in the Europe Tour and the Italian Cup respectively and who has earned many podium placings this year. "Garzelli would deserve to finish this season with a victory - he has been very strong and is racing with great motivation."

The rider himself did not deny this. "It is important to me to end this season well, even if I know that it won't be simple, as many of my rivals are still in enviable shape," he said. "However, I am confident I can be a player in a race that is worth a whole season, and I will give it all the energy that I have left."

Garzelli, Paolini and Masciarelli will be joined by Massimo Codol, Francesco Failli, Andrea and Simone Masciarelli as well as Giuseppe Palumbo.

La Madonna del Ghisallo - the Patron Saint of Cycling

The Madonna del Ghisallo chapel
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

There are many places in the world that boast to be the spiritual home of cycling: the twenty-one hairpins of Alpe d'Huez, the pavé of the Arenberg Forest, and the Muur van Geraardsbergen among them. Nothing though, really can claim the spiritual tag like the small chapel that sits at the top of Madonna del Ghisallo. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins stopped by to take a look at the climb that plays a prominent place in this weekend's Giro di Lombardia.

Legend has it that in mediaeval times, a local count was being attacked by bandits when he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, and running towards this vision saved him. Thus, the Madonna del Ghisallo became the patroness of travellers. Then, in 1949 a local priest managed to persuade Pope Pius XII to admit her as the patroness of cyclists. Since then, the small chapel has become a shrine to cycling legends, both living and deceased, and provides a memorial to those who have fallen in our sport.

Being an almost permanent fixture on the percorso of the Giro di Lombardia - as well as featuring regularly in the course of the Giro d'Italia - has kept the chapel in the forefront of the cycling world over the years and a collection of cycling memorabilia that would be the envy of any museum has accumulated inside. The walls of the tiny chapel are almost covered in pennants of cycling clubs from all over the world, jerseys from champions of the recent and distant past, and most prominently, a selection of bikes that have made history.

Read the full feature.

World champion Neben back to Europe for Chrono des Nations

By Jean-François Quénet

Worlds gold medallist Amber Neben will show off her jersey in France
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
(Click for larger image)

Amber Neben usually doesn't ride her bike in October but her new status of a world champion for time trial made her change her plans as she received an invitation for taking part in the Chrono des Nations on October 19. Neben will travel from Los Angeles to Les Herbiers in the West of France to honour her rainbow jersey on Sunday.

"I heard about the prestige of this race and I'm delighted to discover it," she said. The surprise winner of the world title in Varese, Italy, last month might not have an easy time competing on the 20.870km course that saw the win of Suzanne Ljunskog last year. The Swedish rider, who is Neben's team-mate at Flexpoint, will be back in Vendée to defend her crown.

The Chrono des Nations will also be Jeannie Longo's last race prior to celebrating her 50th birthday on October 31. Alongside the world champion, the defending champion and the French champion, the international field of participants will consist of Germany's Charlotte Becker (Equipe Nürnberger) who finished 9th in Varese, Denmark's Trine Schmidt (also from Flexpoint), Belgium's Kelly Druyts (Topsport-Vlaanderen) and Ludivine Henrion (AA Drink) who is the recent winner of the GP de France, and the reigning Australian champion Bridie O'Donnell who finished runner-up in Les Herbiers last year.

In the junior category, French champion for time trial Mélodie Lesueur will be opposed to the road race world champion Jolien D'Hoore from Belgium.

Gilbert grateful and focused

Gilbert's first great Classics win left him hungry for more
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Belgium's Philippe Gilbert is happy he was able to close his 2009 season with a victory, and moreover a prestigious one. The win in Paris-Tours confirmed the 26 year-old as a top Classics contender, and Gilbert is eager to prove more of his worth next year in the ranks of his new team Silence-Lotto.

But first, he has to say his goodbyes to his French team Française des Jeux that developed his talent these past six years. "It's a page that turns, but as I mean to race until I'm 35, we might see each other again," Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. "I have plenty of good memories, and I was able to learn a lot of things. Helping Brad McGee defend his pink jersey in the Giro, assist Baden Cooke in the Classics, ride alongside Fred Guesdon..."

Gilbert made an important point about the freedom he was given at the team, and how it ultimately made him achieve his success. "At 20 years of age, thanks to Marc [Madiot, FdJ team manager - ed.], I was already competing in the great races," he continued. "This would not have been possible in a Belgian team where there is more rivalry - especially for the Classics - and where it is more difficult for a young rider to find his spot. These last six years, I started in all the Classics that I wanted and I gained a lot of experience."

Managing his efforts, and attacking at the right time were the keys to his previous successes and also his victory in Paris-Tours last week-end. "I'm able to race without spending too much energy," he continued. "Then, I take advantage of that in the finale. I position myself well and spare a lot of energy. Afterwards, in those kind of races, you don't have the right to make any mistakes. You have to dig in at the right moment and make the others suffer. I'm an explosive kind of rider - on these kind of climbs, only Valverde is possibly stronger than me. [Last] Sunday, I did not fear anyone."

With the victory in France, the two-times winner of Het Volk emerged from being a 'dark horse' to a top Classics favourite. "Paris-Tours and Milano-Sanremo suit me and I finished first and third in them this season," Gilbert added. "That proves that I have made progress, that I start to reveal myself. First, i finished in the top 15, then top 10 and so on..."

Now, Gilbert has to stand up to his hard-earned position within a Belgian team, Silence-Lotto, which will expose him to more pressure. But the 26 year-old is not afraid of the challenge. "I've always had pressure," he said. "But I take it as positive pressure. Stress doesn't block me - to the contrary, it motivates me."

Legeay launches cycling 24 hours of Le Mans

By Jean-François Quénet in Le Mans

After the fall out of his Crédit Agricole team, Roger Legeay will remain in the world of cycling. He will notably be involved in a new kind of bicycle race organisation: the cycling 24 hours of Le Mans that will take place on August 22 and 23, 2009, on the famous Bugatti circuit.

"The cyclists who have made a trial recently said the surface is fabulous for riding a bike," noted race promoter Claude Gasnal, who is a former international basket-ball player as well as a true fan of cycling.

"During my trips all over the world for cycling purposes, I've realised the notoriety of Le Mans is enormous due to the 24 hours," Legeay explained at the launch on Thursday. "It was logical to have a cycling 24 hours as well one day." Le Mans is known for the 24 hours for car racing, motorbikes, trucks and roller-skating.

The cycling 24 hours will be open to all public with the possibility for some professionals to participate. Teams of 8, 6, 4, 2 or even 1 rider will line up with the goal of covering as many laps of 4185 meters each as possible. Race entries will begin on the website on November 1.

"Considering the huge success of fun rides all over the world, I'm convinced the 24 hours will attract a large number of cyclists as well as some very good ones," said Legeay.

Ullrich plans farewell ride

Former German cycling star Jan Ullrich, who put an end to his active career in February 2007, plans to organise a farewell ride for his fans next year. "It was planned a while ago, but the circumstances after my exclusion from the 2006 Tour de France did not allow for the cycling festival I had in mind," Ullrich told German Eurosport. Ullrich was heavily linked to the Operación Puerto case in Spain and suffered great loss of popularity in his native Germany.

One day after the announcement that the Deutschland Tour would cease to exist because of ongoing doping scandals shattering the country, the 1997 Tour de France winner said he imagined an unusual event to say his proper Goodbyes to cycling. "It won't be a normal 'man against man' race. I will think of something special," he said, adding that he would like to invite his greatest rival, Lance Armstrong, as well as five-times winner Miguel Indurain to the ride.

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