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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, October 21, 2008

Edited by Les Clarke

Italian cycling celebrated in Conegliano

Cycling's 'class of '08'
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The 24th annual Grand Gala Ciclistico Internazionale di Conegliano was held last night after a strong Italian showing throughout 2008. The achievements of Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego in particular were celebrated, while the evergreen Davide Rebellin was recognised for his consistent year with the 'Best Italian male rider' award. Spanish riders Samuel Sanchez and Alberto Contador were also in attendance; Sanchez as winner of the Olympic title in Beijing and Contador as reigning Giro and Vuelta champion.

Rebellin's season started with a win in Paris-Nice and included fourth at the world titles and silver at the Olympics, deserving of his status at the top of the tree in Italy. He finished with 1475 points, while Cunego amassed 1195 points to run second.

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Italian national coach Franco Ballerini was present after yet another successful world championships campaign while another two members of the squadra azzurra, Marzio Bruseghin and Matteo Tosatto received awards for their contribution to the one-two result in Varese.

After winning an historic third Giro di Lombardia last Saturday and the silver medal in Varese, Cunego is certainly the toast of Italian cycling in what has been a vintage year for the nation's riders.

Beijing bronze medalist Tatiana Guderzo was recognised as the country's best female rider while Specialized took out the 'constructors' title. National Cycling Federation President Renato Di Rocco, Giro d'Italia director Angelo Zomegnan and the chairmen of organising committees for Varese and Treviso [Amedeo Colombo and Remo Mosole respectively] were all recognised for their achievements throughout the year.

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Top ten results
'Best Italian Male Rider'
1 Rebellin Davide (Gerolsteiner)                         1475 pts
2 Cunego Damiano (Lampre)                                1195
3 Ballan Alessandro (Lampre)                              920
4 Bennati Daniele (Liquigas)                              795
5 Pozzato Filippo (Liquigas)                              725
6 Di Luca Danilo (Lpr-Ballan)                             700
7 Bettini Paolo (Quickstep)                               535
8 Pellizotti Franco (Liquigas)                            515
9 Ginanni Francesco (Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)    450
10 Garzelli Stefano (Acqua e Sapone-Caffè Mokambo)        445
'Best Italian Female Rider'
1 Luperini Fabiana (Menikini-Selle Italia)                900 pts
2 Guderzo Tatiana (Gauss Rdz Ormu)                        640
3 Corazza Martina (Gauss Rdz Ormu)                        150
4 Baccaille Monia (Fenixs)                                 70
5 Bronzini Giorgia (Titanedi-Frezza Acca Due O)            70
6 Cantele Noemi (Bigla Cycling Team)                       40
7 Zugno Anna (Menikini-Selle Italia)                       30
8 Valsecchi Silvia (Menikini-Selle Italia                  20
1 Specialized                                            5990 pts
2 Cervélo                                                5145
3 Colnago                                                4975
4 Trek                                                   4495
5 Giant                                                  4355
6 Pinarello                                              4225
7 Wilier Triestina                                       2915
8 Cannondale                                             2670
9 Ridley                                                 2520
10 Time                                                  2145

Cunego: "I'm not the new Bettini"

You haven't lost that winning feeling...
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
(Click for larger image)

Following his third Giro di Lombardia title last weekend, Damiano Cunego has rejected suggestions that he is the man to take over Paolo Bettini's mantle within Italian cycling.

After the retirement of Bettini following this year's world championships, Cunego told La Gazzetta dello Sport that, "I am not going to be called the new Bettini. Paulo has his place in history and he won a lot. This year I won Amstel and Lombardia, and collected a third place at the Flèche-Wallonne plus a second in the World Championships. In the future I would like to prove that I can feature in Grand Tours; it will be one of my goals for 2009, perhaps starting with the centenary Giro d'Italia."

Joy of another Lombardia win

Cunego also explained that his third Lombardia win felt, "a little bit like the 2004 Giro, when I last tasted these types of emotions. You can enjoy the last stretch with the screams of the fans and the feeling of being number one.

"Even though I struggled in the end, I pedaled strong to ensure I didn't lose the advantage I gained on the descent of the Civiglio," he continued. "I studied that point of the course, which I closely analysed last Wednesday, but I still had many doubts because I knew that the team would have spent so much controlling the race." Cunego paid tribute to the work of his Lampre squad, saying, "If I won it is due to them – my mates – from Ballan to Szmyd and everyone to Santambrogio, Tiralongo and the others. I gave everyone a watch, as I did last year."

Ballan declines, Quick Step denies

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) poses for the fans
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Recent rumours in Italy have indicated that Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere tried to lure Alessandro Ballan to his squad but the world champion declined the offer.

Ballan told La Gazzetta dello Sport that, "If this offer had come before [the world championships], I would have gone there, but now I see that it's not right for the world champion to play servant to Tom Boonen."

The Italian is keen to perform well in next year's Spring Classics and added that, "I want a team in my service for the Flemish classics." After winning the 2007 Tour of Flanders he's become a local favourite and explained that, "There is a fan club in the pipeline for me and a website – they really like me in Belgium."

Meanwhile, Belgium news agency Belga has reported that contrary to Italian media coverage, Quick Step never actually offered Ballan a contract. In a press release issued by the team, Quick Step said that "No proposal has been made to Ballan; not before and not after his impressive victory in Varese."

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere added that, "Ballan is a rider of exceptional value, but in our team we have many riders with similar qualities."

Keisse confident ahead of Amsterdam

Iljo Keisse (Belgium)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After winning the Madison title at the European Championships on Sunday, Iljo Keisse is confident ahead of the six-day season opener in Amsterdam. "Victory at the European Championships is a very good way to start the winter," Keisse told Sporza.

"I took fourth at the World Cup and the Olympics, which was very frustrating, so I was extremely motivated to make things right. For three years I have ridden with Kenny De Ketele; it was high time for us to prove ourselves and win a major competition," he added.

Keisse is paired with experienced German Robert Bartko in Amsterdam, not De Ketele, although he said that, "Kenny can now gain some experience."

About his team-mate in Amsterdam, Keisse said, "Bartko is a very strong Olympic and world champion. He is the ideal mate to win six-days every week and ride at the same level. In Amsterdam we'll defend our title and we want to show that our condition is good. We want to win as much as possible, including six this."

Last season Keisse and Bartko won the Amsterdam, Gent and Bremen six-days but were bettered by the formidable Swiss duo of Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli, who took seven wins; Risi is the most successful current six-day rider ever, with 54 titles in his career.

"I want to close the gap to Risi this season," added Keiss. "Sometimes I did it tough last year, although now I would like to get a bit closer."

Villa to retire

As the six-day circuit prepares to kick back into gear, the disappointing news has emerged that Marco Villa must retire due to a heart condition. The 39-year-old Italian has been advised by his doctor that prolonging his career may be detrimental to his health.

After nearly 150 six-day events, Villa has recorded 24 victories. He partnered countryman Silvio Martinello to two world championships and a bronze at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Jamieson racing on home turf again

As the six-day season opens in Europe, the Australian track season is getting underway. The annual Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals will again welcome home local rider Mark Jamieson, who will compete on the boards after narrowly missing a bronze medal while riding the team pursuit in Beijing.

Organising committee SCAT said its pleased to announce the return of 'Jammo', who is just one of a number of talented Tasmanian riders produced on the Apple Isle in recent years.

Battle for Warrnambool on again

Nomadic Englishman Kristian House has stated he wants to win the Shotz Sports Nutrition Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic on Saturday, after several unsuccessful attempts to win the world's longest UCI-sanctioned one-day race in the past.

"The Melbourne to Warrnambool is the race I want to win," said House. "The classic is well-known all around the world – I often get asked about it in England. It has a great reputation."

With 204 riders to start in the Wyndham City municipality on Saturday, the 'Warnie' is also the world's second-oldest bike race. House, who will be riding for the Budget Forklifts team, has said that he wants to, "try to establish at least a 30-second break on the tiring leading bunch about four kilometres from the finish, and hang on.

While admitting that, he's "Not relishing the final climb up Raglan Parade," he explained that, "I've got to be on my own as the finish line approaches – I doubt that I could win in a bunch sprint."

Defending champion Tim Decker returns, as does reigning Victorian open road champion David Pell, with his Savings and Loans team in tow.

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