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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, September 15, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Vande Velde caps off best season ever

By Kirsten Robbins in St. Louis, Missouri

Christian Vandevelde (Garmin-Chipotle) enjoyed his victory of the 2008 Tour of Missouri
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Christian Vande Velde's victory at the Tour of Missouri puts an end to a paramount season for the 32-year old. It also marked the biggest stage race win for Garmin-Chipotle in 2008. The team withstood the efforts of runner up Team Columbia, a squad that took the lead away from them at the Tour de Georgia, to maintain yellow in the final four stages. According to Vande Velde, "the fight made this a victory that means so much more."

A decade of professional racing has seen Vande Velde's name highlighted on rosters like US Postal, Liberty Seguros and CSC. However, the all-rounder admitted that he did not expect to take the lead in the stage three time trial held in Branson. "It was a beautiful course down through the Ozarks, I liked it a lot," he said regarding the predominantly up hill jaunt. "I was surprised to win there.

"From there on it was game on, war with everyone trying to throw everything at us to take away the 18 seconds lead I had. It was a great race and I'm happy they gave us such a great fight."

The wrestle for the yellow jersey came primarily from Team Columbia with their former world champion Michael Rogers sitting in second place. "The day after the time trial we didn't really have the experience or the know-how on what we were supposed to do," he said, noting his team's first real experience defending an overall lead.

He led the way in the pink jersey in this year's Giro d'Italia followed by a fifth place overall in the Tour de France. However, before winning the Tour of Missouri, the team had yet to win a major stage race. "The team has grown ten fold through out this week," said Vande Velde, who admitted that wearing the pink jersey was where he realized he could be a leader in a Grand Tour.

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"We've gained a lot of experience because some of these guys have never ridden in defense of a leader's jersey before. It's been a great growing experience for Garmin-Chipotle to say the least. We've been able to hold a lot of great professionals at bay this week with Michael Rogers and George Hincapie."

Vande Velde will end his successful season at a criterium in Washington next weekend. He will not compete in the World Championships held in Varese, Italy later this month. "It's been a really long season and I'm looking forward to fully relaxing soon," said Vande Velde, who will visit his home town in Lemont, Illinois following the race. "This was a perfect way to end my season, close to home. I've spent so many of my years away. I never imagined I'd get to end my season at a nice big stage race and then drive home."

Squadra azzurra revealed for Varese

Ballerini wants third title for Bettini

Will Paolo Bettini achieve a third Worlds title?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Italian Worlds team has been announced on Monday morning at the Varese horse track, the start/finish area of all the World Championship races coming up next week in Italy. The squadra azzurra, which held two surprises with the non-selection of Filippo Pozzato and Danilo Di Luca, will aim at taking the road race title home for the third time in a row. If Paolo Bettini, the designated leader, wins again, it will be a historical feat.

The selected Italian riders for the road race are: Paolo Bettini, Davide Rebellin, Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Luca Paolini, Gabriele Bosisio, Maurizio Bruseghin, Andrea Tonti and Matteo Tosatto. Reserve riders will be Leonardo Bertagnolli and Francesco Ginanni.

Italian team coach Franco Ballerini admitted to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown that he had some trouble making his choices for the 2008 Worlds, moreover held on home turf. "We've organised a team that hopefully will be able to compete for the third Worlds title in a row with Paolo Bettini," he said. "This year was difficult, not only to pick the leaders but to pick the domestiques. The Vuelta showed me that Bettini is ready and has the cards to play. The doubts that were there are gone now."

The two-times World champ proved a point about his form recently when he won stage 12 to Suances, silencing his critics. The leadership of Bettini was without question to Ballerini, who chose not to pick Filippo Pozzato, nor Danilo Di Luca.

"It was a difficult decision [not to select Di Luca] but Paolo re-assured me of his leadership abilities," Ballerini said. "Di Luca has a lot more years ahead of him." Regarding the non-selection of Pozzato, Ballerini added, "Maybe he missed out on some results that he should have had along the way."

Like Bettini, another rider who impressed in the Spanish Grand Tour was Alessandro Ballan, when he won stage 7, the first high-mountain stage of the race. His inclusion in the squad was without doubt. "How good is he? He won on a terrain that is not really his!," commented Ballerini, who also put all his faith in Damiano Cunego, even though the 2004 Giro d'Italia winner did not claim a victory lately.

"Cunego did the Vuelta not for the classification, but for results in stages," said Ballerini. "And if you go that route, you risk having errors." Still, the team coach trusted Cunego's form was at the top.

The time trial selection is Marco Pinotti and Manuel Quinziato.

Landis confirms racing plans

Landis is happy to return to racing
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Floyd Landis has confirmed his plans to return to the peloton in 2009, saying "I'm going to be racing again next year."

Landis, who is currently sitting out a two-year suspension, was in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, for the 2008 Pepper Place Criterium. In an interview with the Birmingham News, he wouldn't confirm reports that he would ride for a team to be run by Momentum Sports Group. "It's not solidified yet but it was announced before I had a chance to get everything organised," he said. "I'm not sure which races I'll do but I'll start most likely with the Tour of California in February."

When asked why he wanted to return, he said, "I race because I enjoy doing it. It's been my life for the last 15 years so what other people think really is of no importance to me." Landis said that he would enjoy racing as much as ever when he returns, "maybe even more because I've missed it for two years."

Landis is not the only American cyclist planning a comeback, and he believes that Lance Armstrong has a chance to win the Tour de France again "If he races, he's going to be racing to win. That's his personality. He'll be 38 years old, and no one's ever won the Tour at 38. But no one ever won it seven times either, so we won't put it past him."

Chavanel: Tiny brackets and a cough

Sylvain Chavanel was happy to have spend two days in yellow
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Sylvain Chavanel, who wore the golden jersey of overall lead at the Vuelta a España one week ago, has posted a new entry to his Cyclingnews diary. In the meantime, the peloton had to master the most difficult mountains in this year's loop around Spain. Here's what Chavanel had to say.

Hi again Cyclingnews readers,

sorry I didn't have time to update my diary lately; it's a busy race! All is well at the Vuelta; except that I caught a cold on Saturday when we climbed the Angliru. Everybody told me what a monster this climb was, and it's true that it's quite impressive, especially on the last five kilometres. The gradients are really very steep, even more so in the curves. It was the first time in my career that I had to put a 34x29 bracket on!

Even though I got this cough, I still felt really well yesterday on the stage to the Fuentes del Invierno ski station. I was in the break and took the mountains points for my team-mate Moncoutié. We still got caught because they put on a hard rhythm behind us, too. We never had more of a four-minute lead, and with the hairpins, it was 'mission impossible'. Still, it served a good purpose.

Somebody asked me why, on Thursday, when Valverde lost all of this time on GC, there weren't any more Caisse d'Epargne riders with us when we tried chase back (Valverde, Philippe Gilbert and myself). The answer is: we were all flat out, there was nothing better we or they could have done! Valverde accelerated on a small climb, Gilbert and I joined him. Maybe he thought he could bridge up by himself. We came back on the first group by 25 seconds, but that was it. They put on such a speed that in the end, he lost more than three minutes.

Click here to read the full diary entry.

Third Belgian wins Tour de l'Avenir

Jan Bakelants from the Belgian National team has won the 2008 Tour de l'Avenir as the third Belgian in history. Before him, Eddy Schepers put the prestigious Espoir race on his palmarès in 1977 and Johan Bruyneel in 1990.

Bakelants took the lead in an impressive solo ride on last Wednesday's stage from Saint-Flour to Carmaux. He crashed on Friday, but managed to hold on to his lead in the difficult Pyrenean stage on Saturday over the Port de Lers, the Col d'Agnes, the Col de Latrape and Guzet. American youngster Tejay Vangaderen won the last stage on Sunday but did not put Bakelants' lead in jeopardy, himself finishing a respectable eighth overall.

"I am as much relieved as I am happy," said Bakelants, a future professional at Topsport Vlaanderen. "This is a brilliant victory in the greatest Espoir race. All the top guys of our category were here. I didn't start as one of the favourites, but I succeeded in breaking up the hierarchy. I had to give everything to hold my position."

Bakelants will represent his country in the World Championship in Varese, Italy, next week.

Tough weekend for Belgian teams

It was a rough-and-tumble weekend for the two Belgian ProTour teams. Almost the entire Silence-Lotto team went down in the team time trial of the Tour du Pologne, while in the Vuelta a España, Wouter Weylandt of Quick Step tumbled down a ravine.

In Poland, the race opened with a four-kilometre team time trial. Seven out of eight Silence-Lotto riders went down at once during the race, with Jurgen Van Den Broeck suffering the worst damage. He broke a collarbone and was scheduled to fly home Monday morning for surgery. Dario Cioni also crashed, and suffered cuts and scraps over his entire body.

Down in Spain, Weylandt was happy to come away with only scrapes, sore knees and a good scare. On Saturday's stage to the Angliru, the 23 year-old missed a turn on the descent of the Alto de Colladona and went 15 metres down the ravine. His fall was broken by a tree and he was able to scramble back up to the road.

"I don't know how far I fell but it wasn't easy to climb back up," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "I hurt both my knees but I am just happy to be here now to tell you this." After the crash, he got back on the bike and finished the stage as 126th, 20.52 minutes down.

German women's team announced for Worlds

Hanka Kupfernagel will wear the German colours again
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

World Cup winner Judith Arndt will lead the German women's team in the upcoming World Championships in Varese, while World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel will defend her title in the individual time trial.

Arndt, who won Sunday's final World Cup race, Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt, will be joined by Trixi Worrack, Luise Keller, Angela Hennig, Claudia Häusler and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. The Germans can send three riders to the time trial, and will be represented there by Kupfernagel, Arndt and Charlotte Becker.

Kupfernagel, 34, had criticized German national trainer Jochen Dornbusch after the Olympics, in which she rode both the road race and the time trial. Kupfernagel said that she was expected "to do all the work" but that younger riders were given preferential treatment.

More signings and rumours

The flurry of singings continues, as does the flurry of rumours. First, the confirmed transfers: Frank Hoj has signed for one year with Team CSC-Saxo Bank. It is a return for him to the Danish team, for which he rode in 2004, before leaving for two years each at Gerolsteiner and Cofidis. The 35 year-old Dane noted that "the last couple of seasons haven't been easy for me, but there's light at the end of the tunnel now and my form is back where it should be." Bjarne Riis said that he expected Hoj to especially help in the Classics, "and it's no secret either that Frank has a lot to offer in terms of his personality."

Björn Leukemans, who is coming off a six-month suspension for testosterone, will ride for the newly-formed Continental team Vacansoleil in the coming season. He will be the team's captain in the Spring Classics, to which it hopes to be invited. Dutch riders Bobbie Traksel, Aart Vierhouten and Arnoud van Groen have also signed with the team, with further recruits expected to be announced this week.

Now, for the rumours: The grapevine has Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez signing a two-year contract with the new Cervélo TestTeam, where he would join Carlos Sastre and, reportedly, Thor Hushovd, Serge Pauwels and Iñigo Cuesta. In addition, Andreas Klier and Roger Hammond - both of whom are confirmed to be leaving Columbia - are said to go to Cervélo, too.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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