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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Edition Cycling News, October 31, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Giro d'Italia to start in Venice

The 100th Giro d'Italia will make its start in Venice with a team time trial, the city's mayor announced Thursday. The stage in the popular tourist destination in Northeast Italy will suit seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who announced he will race the three-week tour from May 9-31.

The stage will be a 21-kilometre team time trial on Venice lido (the beach that separates mainland Venice from the Adriatic Sea). The stage will be fast with only five turns along the parcours that shots straight down Lungomare D'Annunzio and Marconi before a U-turn and the parallel run on Via Alberoni, Malamocco and Sandro Gallo back towards the starting point.

"The presence of the Corsa Rosa is of huge importance to Venice, which has a great opportunity to offer Italy and the world something unusual, vital and lively, fundamentally different than the city's normal image," said Massimo Cacciari to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The race's organiser, RCS Sport, will announce the full Giro d'Italia parcours in December. It is planning many surprises, which could include a city other than Milan for the final stage. Mountain stages always highlight the race and Austria could host the first days in altitude following the opening day in Venice.

Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, confirmed this week that he would not defend his title. He will focus on winning the Tour de France a second time after his 2007 victory. (GB)

Luxembourg hopes to close Schleck case this year

The Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency (ALAD) hopes to wrap up its investigation of Fränk Schleck by the end of the year, according to the agency's director, Dr. Anik Sax. In September, Schleck was linked to Operación Puerto doctor Eufemiano Fuentes by a payment into a Swiss bank account in 2006.

"It involves a complicated case," she told, with it being particularly difficult to gather evidence against the rider. Still, she hoped to conclude the case within the next two months.

The CSC Saxo Bank rider admitted making the payment but said that it was for training plans and denied any involvement in doping.

Gerdemann transfer "a very long process"

By Susan Westemeyer in Dortmund, Germany

General Manager Gerry van Gerwen and Linus Gerdemann
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Milram team manager Gerry van Gerwen described the difficult process he went through in order to facilitate Linus Gerdemann's transfer from Team Columbia to Milram at a press conference on Thursday. "When a Dutchman and an American negotiate, then it lasts a long time!", he said.

The process was long, but van Gerwen said there was "good harmony" between Milram and Gerdemann from the beginning. After the Tour de France, he started talks with Columbia's Bob Stapleton, with the possible transfer apparently a surprise to the American.

In the end, there were four contracts: a non-interference contract between van Gerwen and Stapleton; a termination agreement between Gerdemann and Stapleton; a three-part contract between van Gerwen, Stapleton, and Gerdemann; and finally the contract bringing Gerdemann to Milram.

Van Gerwen thought it wouldn't work out. "But as a stubborn Dutchman I had to get my way. I am unbelievably happy."

Gerdemann to take over Grand Tour leadership

Bayern Rundfahrt winner Christian Knees will remain important to the team
Photo ©: Florian & Susanne Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

Gerdemann and fellow German and Columbia teammate Gerald Ciolek come to Milram as its new captains. After Alessandro Petacchi's firing last spring, the captain's role was taken over by Christian Knees, who won the Bayern Rundfahrt and finished 28th in the Tour de France.

There won't be a problem with him turning over the role of GC candidate, though. "[Knees] is still very important," van Gerwen told Cyclingnews. "He can do two things – he is good in the mountains, so he can help Linus Gerdemann, and he is strong on the flat, so can help Gerald Ciolek."

The 27-year-old will also continue to fulfil an important function. "He will continue to be our road captain, to coordinate and delegate," van Gerwen added.

Gerdemann also does not see any conflict. "Christian and I get along well and rode together in an amateur team," he told Cyclingnews. "I don't think there will be any problem with Christian, he will have his races where he can ride for himself and where I will support him."

Katusha to be "one of the most successful teams"

General manager Stefano Feltrin, Andre Tchmil and Oleg Tinkov (l-r) at the Katusha launch
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The newly-formed Katusha team, built on the Tinkoff squad owned by Oleg Tinkov who recently told Cyclingnews that he would step down from his office as of next year, has great ambitions. According to its directeur sportif, Serge Parsani, the squad wants to become "one of the most beautiful and successful teams in the world."

Parsani counts on the team's younger riders as well as the experienced ones, such as Australian Robbie McEwen, Belgian Gert Steegmans, Italian Filippo Pozzato, Russians Vladimir Karpets and Alexandre Botcharov. "Our youngsters have one more year of experience behind them and we want to be present in every kind of race," Parsani told Belgian La Dernière Heure. "I think that with Pozzato, Ivanov, Gusev, Ignatiev, Steegmans and McEwen, we are equipped to shine in the classics and one-day races."

The team, which has applied for a ProTour licence as of next year, however lacks a true stage race specialist. "We have 28 riders at the moment," Parsani continued. "We could leave it like that – but we might continue to recruit. We are candidates to go to the Tour de France, even if we don't have real leaders. But Botcharov and Karpets could play a role in the general classification, while the others would go for stage wins."

Parsani is very pleased with the present line-up, which includes three sprinters (McEwen, Steegmans and Kenny De Haes). "It's very good them in a team, as it's always important to win a lot," he said. "That's what Pozzato still has to learn, by the way. Winning small races is good for morale. He has to risk more, he races too defensively. I want him to become ambitious and aggressive."

To achieve the aspired success, the team has an impressive budget to finance its racing season. The Russian Global Cycling Project has been allocated a total of €30 million by its main sponsors Gazprom, Itera and Rostechnologii, and will promote Russian cycling over the next five years. "There are four parts [of the project]," said Andre Tchmil, general director and coordinator of the foundation.

"The professional cycling team, but also the creation of a ProTour stage race [the Tour of Sochi due to be held next May - ed.], as well as a development project of the Russian cycling federation and a social project destined to initiate children to cycling. Half of the budget will go to the team. The rest will be split up between the other three parts."

A complete feature on the Katusha team can be found here.

Antwerp in 2010 Tour stage bid

The Belgian city of Antwerp is still hopeful to host the start or the finish of a 2010 Tour de France stage. Officials of the race organiser visited the harbour town on Thursday, and although route decider Jean-François Pescheux was excited about the possibility, Antwerp may still only be seeing the riders pass through town without stopping.

"Pescheux was enthusiastic about our candidacy," said Camille Paulus, honorary governor of Antwerp to Het Laatste Nieuws. "But he thinks that the distance between the probable Tour start Rotterdam and Antwerp is too small for a whole stage. A passage is more realistic."

Rotterdam, together with Utrecht, is one of the two possible cities for the 2010 Grand Départ. Initially, the German city of Düsseldorf was also a candidate but it withdrew its bid in September.

"If there is no stage hosting in 2010, the city and the province remain an important possibility for a start or finish in the future," said Antwerp governor Cathy Berx. Indeed, Pescheux reportedly advised the city officials to think about hosting a Tour de France start in the future.

The Tour de France organiser ASO will announce the first stages of the 2010 event on December 15.

Greipel "never lost the focus"

By Susan Westemeyer

André Greipel celebrated a stage win at the Giro d'Italia this year
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

André Greipel of Team Columbia won races over the whole season, from the Tour Down Under in January to the Münsterland Giro in October. "I stayed healthy and could carry out my training as planned," he told Cyclingnews. "The race planning was well thought out and I never lost my focus."

The German sprinter had not expected the season to work out so well, concluding it with a total of 15 victories. "I wanted to start the season well in Down Under and I did that." Of course, his teammates helped him achieve his success. "Sure, I had a lot of wins, but the team had a very large part in that. I am thankful to each one of them."

The season started out with a bit of uncertainty, as the team had no sponsor. T-Mobile had withdrawn in November, and owner Bob Stapleton continued the squad under the name of his management company, High Road Sports.

The team had faith in its manager. "Bob Stapleton never had a doubt that he would find a sponsor," Greipel noted. "He always kept us informed about the situation and that allowed us to concentrate on riding."

As good as his season was, there was another Columbia sprinter who was even better, Mark Cavendish. But there was no conflict between the two, not even in the Giro d'Italia, where Cavendish won two stages and Greipel one. Both had gone into the race looking for stage wins.

"The team management gave everyone their assignments before each stage and there was no discussion about it. I tried to do my job 100 percent."

Another highlight of the year was watching teammate and friend Bert Grabsch win the World time trial championship title. Greipel lives in the same apartment building in the Cologne, Germany, area with Bert's older brother Ralf, of Team Milram, and Columbia teammate Marcel Sieberg. "My girlfriend, Ralf and his wife, Marcel and his girlfriend – we all watched the time trial together and we were very proud of him."

Proud, but not surprised. "Before the race we had always told him that he would be world champion, and he proved us right."

Jeannie Longo turns 50

Jeannie Longo is celebrating her 50th anniversary today, October 31. The most successful female cyclist ever still races on a competitive level. The French cyclist achieved her first victories in the late 70s, notably taking the first of her 55 French Championship titles in 1979. More than 1,000 victories followed, including 38 world records and a total of 106 medals at the Olympic Games, the Worlds and the French Championships.

Longo finished an impressive fourth in the Olympic time trial in Beijing this August. Happy birthday, Jeannie Longo!

Celebrate with Cyclingnews' End of Season Sweepstakes

(Click for larger image)

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(Additional editorial assistance by Gregor Brown and Susan Westemeyer.)

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