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Latest Cycling News for April 8, 2009

Edited by Gregor Brown

Farrar aims for Giro d'Italia

By Gregor Brown

Tyler Farrar: "Cavendish has to be the favourite" for Gent-Wevelgem
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tyler Farrar is back on the road training after a crash in Milano-Sanremo two weeks ago. The American of Garmin-Slipstream separated his shoulder and had to miss the Northern Classics, but he is re-focused on the Giro d'Italia.

"I have a month or so to build up for it. It is pretty exciting to have a chance ride a Grand Tour," he said to Cyclingnews.

Farrar, 24, had the biggest win of his career this spring when he beat many top sprinters in Tirreno-Adriatico's stage two. He was prepared to support Julian Dean for Milano-Sanremo, Martijn Maaskant in Ronde van Vlaanderen and fight for his own victory in Gent-Wevelgem, but a crash at 100 kilometres into the Italian one-day race ruined his chances. He separated his right shoulder in the crash. It did not require surgery, but forced him to take time off the bike.

"It was not a particularly severe separation, it was just bad enough that I cannot be racing on cobblestones. I was on the rollers for a week, I saw the doctor yesterday [Monday - ed.] morning and he gave me the okay to go back out on the road."

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Farrar is pleased with Maaskant's fourth place in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. He saw his form rise as the two were racing at Tirreno-Adriatico together. He hopes his Dutch teammate has a good ride in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Last year, Maaskant finished fourth behind winner Tom Boonen.

"I had really hoped to race Gent-Wevelgem; it was my major target for the spring. It will be frustrating to sit at home and watch the race on the couch.

"Favourite? If it comes to a sprint it is hard to pick anyone other than Mark Cavendish."

Team Garmin is favoured for the Giro d'Italia's opening 20.5-kilometre team time trial in Venice on May 9. It won the team time trial last year when the race started in Palermo.

(Talk about this article at our forum.)

País Vasco: Contador eyes favourites

País Vasco defending champion Alberto Contador
Photo ©: Susanne Goetze
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Contador expects today's País Vasco stage three will shake up the general classification. The 2008 race winner believes the weather in Spain could make the battle harder for him and his rivals.

"If everything goes as normal, there are a series of riders capable of winning the stage and, among them, perhaps the number one favourite is Cunego. He is very strong and very fast," said Contador in a press release.

The Spaniard of team Astana finished with the favourites on stages one and two. He currently lies in 11th place behind the overall leader and winner of Paris-Nice, Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne).

Cunego and Contador fought for victory in the closing moments of the race on day one. They battled with Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne), but a chase group with Luis León Sánchez caught them.

"Antonio Colom, Joaquím Rodríguez, [Cadel] Evans and Samuel [Sánchez] are among the others that can make a difference. The Arrate [climb] will be crucial to distance those who can cause problems for you in the time trial and, in any case, you have to try to lose as little time as possible."

Today's stage is a homage to the defunct Euskal Bizikleta race. There are five mountain passes, with four coming in the final 50 kilometres. The first category Alto de Ixua tops out three kilometres from the finish line.

The six-day race ends with a 24-kilometre time trial on Saturday.

Cunego ready for País Vasco test

Damiano Cunego ready for País Vasco stage three test
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italy's Damiano Cunego is ready to fight for victory in País Vasco's stage three today in Eibar, Spain. The team Lampre-NGC rider believes it is a good test prior to the Ardennes Classics later this month.

"The stage will be demanding, almost like a test for a Classic," said Cunego to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Stage three, which takes in most of the defunct Euskal Bizikleta race, will shake up the overall classification led by Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne). There are four mountain passes coming in the final 50 kilometres: Alto de Karabieta (127km), Alto de Ixua (137.9km), Alto de San Miguel (152.2km) and Alto de Ixua (169.5). The final pass of Alto de Ixua leaves three kilometres to the finish.

"I will try to win. I am not the only one, but I am doing well and it is the best occasion for me to try to take home a success."

The race ends on Saturday with a 24-kilometre time trial in Zalla. Cunego won stage five last year and Alberto Contador won the overall. The Spaniard is a favourite to repeat.

Cunego won two stages and the overall of the Coppi e Bartali last month. His goals for 2009 include the Ardennes Classics – Amstel Gold (April 19), Flèche Wallonne (April 22) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 26) – and the Giro d'Italia.

Roubaix: Ticket to torture in northern France

By Les Clarke

Tom Boonen is Roubaix favourite number one
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Torture has a number – 52.9km. That's the total distance riders will travel over bone-jarring cobbles in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. The third of cycling's five monuments starts in Compiègne and ends in the Roubaix velodrome after 259 kilometres.

The Bersée sector is back on the menu after a two year absence and increases the Auchy-lez-Orchies - Bersée section to 2600 metres after 205 kilometres of racing. The overall distance of cobbled sectors remains almost identical to the 2008 edition.

And like last year, the weather forecast is for dry and sunny conditions, ensuring there's plenty of dust to line the throats of riders gasping for air as the hammer goes down.

Who will be dropping that hammer?

Tom Boonen is undoubtedly the man to watch on Sunday. The defending champion and double winner has remained injury-free and comes into this year's Roubaix with impeccable form after last weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The Belgian star indicated that another Roubaix crown is a major season objective, and given his record in the race – he has virtually owned a place on the podium during the past five seasons – the short odds lay with Quick Step's charismatic leader.

Read the full preview.

Ballan in France for Paris-Roubaix

Ballan in France for Paris-Roubaix support
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

World Champion Alessandro Ballan will travel to France this week to be with his Lampre-NGC teammates as they prepare for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Ballan, third in the 2008 edition, had to sit out the Northern Classics due to a cytomegalovirus.

"I dreamt of winning Paris-Roubaix in the rainbow jersey, but unfortunately I had to give up his ambition," said Ballan.

The team will base itself near the race start in Compiègne (north of Paris). Ballan will arrive Friday evening and will join the team in the race's presentation on Saturday.

"It will be nice to be in the same race atmosphere with the team and be near my teammates. They were prepared to support me and now I want to give to them my experiences."

Ballan will join Italy's Rai television as a guest commentator on Sunday. He expects to be back racing in time for the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31.

Tour of Turkey offers lead up to Grand Tours

2008 Tour of Turkey winner David Garcia Dapena
Photo ©: Tour of Turkey
(Click for larger image)

The Presidential Tour of Turkey, April 12 to 19, offers a lead up to the Grand Tours for riders opting out of the Ardennes Classics in Northern Europe. The stage race will see defending champion David Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia) take on cycling's top teams, including five ProTour level formations.

The race starts Sunday in Istanbul. It will travel along the Mediterranean Sea as it makes its way to the final stage in Alanya. It is the 45th year of the race, used to encourage tourism in the country.

ProTour teams Quick Step, Silence-Lotto, Milram, Lampre-NGC and Fuji-Servetto will join 20 other Professional Continental and Continental teams. It will be an opportunity for many of the sprinters to test their legs ahead of the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31, and the Tour de France, July 4 to 26.

Stages two, three, five and six are suitable days for the sprinters. The other stages will give opportunities for riders willing to go out on the attack to create time gaps in the overall classification.

There will be 160 riders from 23 different nations at the stage race. Eurosport will broadcast the stages live each day.

Lorenzetto to leave hospital

Mirco Lorenzetto to leave Belgian hospital
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mirco Lorenzetto will leave the hospital in Zottegem, Belgium, tomorrow. He entered the hospital due to a craniofacial trauma in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The Italian of team Lampre-NGC did not remember the crash. Teammates said that he was removing a jersey near the first feed zone and the clothing tangled in his front wheel.

Neurologists at Sint Elisabeth hospital ruled out complications due to the crash. Lampre's Doctor Andreazzoli agrees with the assessment and the discharge of Lorenzetto from the hospital.

Lorenzetto had an impressive spring with three wins. He took victory in two stages of the Giro di Sardegna and the Giro del Friuli one-day race.

Win on the Cyclingnews forum

Here's your chance to win the latest film about the world's favourite Classic, Paris-Roubaix.

Cyclingnews has four copies of Road to Roubaix to give away to readers who love their Classics. Cyclingnews reviewed it ahead of Christmas last year and liked it so much we had the guys at Masterlink Films send us some more to share.

It's easy. Just log on to the Cyclingnews forum and tell us: Why do the Spring Classics get you going?

You can tell us about your experiences at the races (if you've been fortunate enough to be there) or whilst watching them on TV. As long as you keep it brief (no more than 200-300 words) and exciting, you'll be in the running to win a copy of the film that delivers an intimate look at Paris-Roubaix. The contest closes the day after Paris-Roubaix, on April 13.

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