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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, April 23, 2009

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rebellin catapults Diquigiovanni to top spot

By Gregor Brown in Huy, Belgium

Davide Rebellin takes number 19 for team Diquigiovanni
Photo ©: ISPA
(Click for larger image)

Davide Rebellin's win at Flèche Wallonne yesterday moved his Diquigiovanni team into top spot for season victories, with more than any other top-level team.

"We have taken 19 wins already this season, so you could say we're the best team of the world," said Rebellin.

Diquigiovanni is a Professional Continental, second division team, but battles with top-level ProTour teams on a regular basis. The Italian outfit led Columbia-Highroad (18), Quick Step (13) and Katusha (12) in the team rankings.

Rebellin wore the Diquigiovanni jersey in his third victory in Flèche Wallonne and equalled the record for the most number of wins in the race, to join an illustrious list that includes Marcel Kint, Eddy Merckx and Moreno Argentin. The win was further evidence that Rebellin's off-season switch from top-tier Gerolsteiner (after seven years due to the team's collapse) to Gianni Savio's Diquigiovanni team was a gamble that has paid off.

"The organisers see that we are a high quality team. For example, here at Flèche we've shown that from the sponsors to the riders, it is truly a good team. There are so many problems with sponsors in cycling, but with Diquigiovanni I found a good group of cyclists, who are truly strong in every respect. This is really like a ProTour team."

Diquigiovanni's 19 wins: Flèche Wallonne, Settimana Lombarda (one stage), Tirreno - Adriatico (stage and overall), Vuelta Mexico (two stages and overall), GP Insubria, Trofeo Laigueglia, Vuelta a Andalucía (two stages), Tour de Langkawi (five stages and overall), Tour de San Luis (two stages).

(Talk about Flèche in our forum.)

Valverde's eggs in Liège basket

Alejandro Valverde eyes Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Photo ©: ISPA
(Click for larger image)

Spanish Champion Alejandro Valverde will aim for victory in the final of three Ardennes Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Sunday. The two-time Liège winner finished a disappointing seventh in Flèche Wallonne yesterday, despite strong teamwork throughout the 195.5-kilometre race.

"I was positioned well and I had to make several big efforts to get back in the lead. In such a race, with riders who are at 100 per cent and prepared specifically for these races, you pay the consequences at the end," said Caisse D'Epargne's Valverde.

Caisse d'Epargne helped control the race once the two-man escape had gained over fifteen minutes. The team then put the hammer down in the final 50 kilometres of the race, with six of the eleven climbs remaining.

Joaquím Rodríguez marked attacks on the penultimate climb of Côte de Ahin and he gave Valverde a good position on the 1,300-metre long Mur de Huy.

Valverde finished seventh, unable to respond to the final surge from Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) and eventual race winner Davide Rebellin (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli).

Pfannberger sees future in Ardennes Classics

By Bjorn Haake in Huy, Belgium

Christian Pfannberger finds home in Ardennes Classics
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Christian Pfannberger made the Ardennes Classics his prime target this year, but sickness hampered his preparation. Still the team Katusha rider was one of the more active riders in the final of Flèche Wallonne Wednesday in Huy, Belgium.

"The finish is ideal for me, but you have to ride near the front and today just didn't work out," said Pfannberger.

Pfannberger was visible off the front in the final phase of the race and after the penultimate climb of Côte de Ahin, he featured in a move with Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre-NGC). The trio only had a handful of seconds over the chasing riders and faced the final climb of Mur de Huy, 1,300 metres with pitches up to 25 per cent.

"It was the right time to go, but my team played poker so I wasn't allowed to ride in the break anymore. They [Katusha's directeur sportifs] wanted to win it on the final climb, where everybody tries. It didn't work out today [a 66th place], but we won the Amstel Gold race, so it's OK."

Pfannberger was unhappy with his preparation period leading in to the three Ardennes Classics. He was sick for 12 days after the Vuelta a Andalucía and fell behind in his training.

The first two Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, give him confidence going towards Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège

"I wanted to make those my highlights, but they are my big goals for the future."

Gilbert critical of Evans in Flèche

Philippe Gilbert unimpressed with teammate Evans
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Cadel Evans began the final charge up the Mur de Huy in Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne and looked to be in a good position to win, but ended up taking fifth. It was another lost opportunity for Silence-Lotto, and co-captain Philippe Gilbert was unhappy with both the result and Evans' performance.

"Before the race he told us he was not doing well, but during the race he said he was fine," Gilbert said to sporza.be.

In the finale the team rode for Evans, "but we knew that he was not good enough to win. It is not easy for us to have a leader who does not know what he wants."

Explaining his attack on the Mur, Evans said that he attacked early "but still it was later than in 2008," when winner Kim Kirchen passed him with 175 metres to go. "I was also almost involved in a crash."

The Australian admitted that he felt better on Sunday, in the Amstel Gold Race, than he did today. "That surprised me. I told my teammates that they should ride for Gilbert."

Evans ended fifth, seven seconds behind winner Davide Rebellin. Gilbert finished 35th, 48 seconds down. The highest-finishing Belgian was Ben Hermans of Topsport-Vlaanderen in 14th place at 21 seconds. (SW)

Klöden's Trentino win sends signals to Tour rivals

Andreas Klöden tests Tour de France legs
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden struck gold in his first participation at the Giro del Trentino, winning the opening 16.3-kilometre time trial in Arco, Italy, and in doing so sent a warning to his Tour de France rivals.

"Starting a stage race with a time trial is hard, but this race is a good test for the Tour de France," he said after his win.

Klöden, twice second at the Tour de France, made a last-minute change in his schedule in order to race the Giro del Trentino, April 22 to 25. This was due to the Tour de Romandie lacking an individual time trial and to fill in for teammate Lance Armstrong while he recovers from a broken collarbone.

Trentino is a testing bed for many of the Giro d'Italia contenders, but Klöden will skip the Italian Grand Tour next month to concentrate on supporting Armstrong and Alberto Contador at the Tour de France, July 4 to 26.

"I want to go the Tour with the best condition. The Giro is not to my style, but the Tour climbs are good for me, not so steep but very consistent in rhythm and length."

Klöden will try to defend his leader's jersey in today's stage, which finishes on the Alpe di Pampeago, formerly a stomping ground for Marco Pantani and now Gilberto Simoni. It will be his first ride up the climb.

After Trentino, Klöden will take a break and re-build for the Tour de France with the Tour de Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse.

Basso and Di Luca behind on first Trentino stage

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso and Danilo Di Luca ended the first Giro del Trentino stage yesterday slightly behind their rivals. The Italian stage race is one of the final tests for the riders prior to the Giro d'Italia.

Klöden won the 16.3-kilometre time trial with a time of 18:21. Di Luca finished 1:23 back and Basso (Liquigas) finished 49 seconds back, in 19th. Both riders are former winners of the Giro d'Italia.

"I thought I was there [start house] in time, but I arrived after my scheduled start time," said Di Luca (LPR Brakes). He started eight seconds after scheduled start slot.

"After training at altitude in Tenerife I was not in brilliant condition, but this is fine because I didn't work on this type of speed there. Compared to the other Giro d'Italia rivals it went well," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ivan Basso spent two weeks training on the Spanish Island of Tenerife. He detailed the experience in his diary earlier this week.

The other Giro favourites had a chance to test their legs in this final tune-up race. Giovanni Visconti (ISD) finished 22 seconds off Klöden, Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) 26 seconds back, Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC) 57 seconds, Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) 1:17 and Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) at 1:35.

Spain to block overnight testing

New Spanish legislation may block the overnight testing of riders in an attempt to defend their private lives. The move would prevent controllers, local and international, from visiting between the hours of 23:00 and 8:00.

"The same results will be obtained if a control is at four o'clock in the afternoon or at four in the morning," said a medical specialist consulted by Spanish paper AS. "What this measure does is try to respect the athlete."

The measure, expected to be introduced in the near future, would block International Cycling Union (UCI) controllers testing for the Anti-Doping Administrative Management System (ADAMS) where-abouts programme. The controllers typically test in the early morning hours, but now would have to wait until 8:00.

Yesterday morning at Flèche Wallonne in Belgium, there were a total of 31 doping controls, all were taken between the hours of 6:45 and 8:15.

France has a similar law to the one proposed by Spain. Controls cannot visit French athletes between the hours of 21:00 and 06:00.

Armstrong honoured with memorial in Spain

Armstrong honoured in Spain
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong was honoured with a memorial erected by inhabitants of Antigüedad, Spain, at the roadside spot where he fractured his collarbone during first stage of the Vuelta Ciclista a Castilla y León. The small village - population 385 - found an old, blue racing bike and cast its rear wheel into concrete with a plaque that reads "La clavicula de Armstrong" - Armstrong's collarbone.

"It was clear that we weren't going to put a new bike there and had to get one that wasn't used anymore," said David Cancho, one of the youngsters that put the memorial into place.

Cancho is part of a non-profit association commemorating a historical event, the transfer of Philip I of Castile's body from Burgos to Granada in 1507. During the trip leading through Antigüedad, a soldier fractured his wrist in the hamlet. A memorial cross was erected to honour the soldier, and this sparked the idea to create yet another monument.

"It was during one of our association meetings," Cancho told AS. "We talked about doing something to on Armstrong's accident, and someone remembered this other story. That's how the idea took shape, always with humour and no bad intentions." (HK)

More medical tests for de Maar

Rabobank's Marc de Maar, 25, faces more medical tests to diagnose why he has been feeling weak and tired for a long time.

Team doctor Dion Van Bommel said the preliminary tests have ruled out mononucleosis.

"Marc feels constantly weak, lifeless and tired. We will do further blood research and hope this way to come a step further," Van Bommel said.

De Maar's last race was the Driedaagse De Panne, which he did not finish. (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance by Hedwig Kröner and Susan Westemeyer.)

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