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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 21, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake, Peter Hymas and Les Clarke

Freire to miss Milano-Sanremo

A shocked Freire collects himself
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After his crash and subsequent abandonment at the Tour of California, Oscar Freire will now miss Milano-Sanremo. Two broken ribs suffered in the fall during stage four have ruled the Spaniard out of la Primavera, which is a perennial target for Rabobank's experienced sprinter.

Reuters has also reported that he may miss Tirreno-Adriatico as a result of his injuries, a massive blow for Freire given that the Italian stage race is vital preparation leading into the first Grand Tour of 2009, the Giro d'Italia. "The chances that he rides Tirreno-Adriatico are almost zero," said Rabobank directeur Erik Breukink. "And he also has to miss Milano-Sanremo, his first goal of the season."


Ardennes Classics unlikely for Kirchen

Having broken his collarbone and chipped the bone in his shoulder as a result of his stage four crash in the Tour of California, it looks unlikely that Kim Kirchen will be able to defend his Flèche Wallonne crown this spring.

Kirchen won the event in 2008 but a fall in the California stage to Clovis, caused by a rain jacket becoming lodged in his wheel, has almost certainly ended his chances of taking a second Flèche title.

The Luxembourger was Columbia-Highroad's weapon of choice for the Ardennes Classics, given the strength he showed last year. It's another unfortunate accident for the American team, which lost André Greipel to injury during stage three of January's Tour Down Under.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Armstrong passes first test

By Laura Weislo in Solvang, California

Armstrong rides the prologue in Sacramento.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong passed his first time trial test of his revived career on Friday's Tour of California Solvang time trial, finishing in 14th place, 1'16 behind his teammate and stage winner Levi Leipheimer.

"I haven't done anything like that in a long time, so it was a different sensation," Armstrong said after the race. "I went as hard as I could, and I was hoping to be top ten, top 15, so I have to be pleased with that."

After strong performances from Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Armstrong fell to sixth overall while Leipheimer extended his lead in the general classification. But Armstrong is focused less on his own performance and more on helping Leipheimer capture his third straight Tour of California victory. "There was no pressure, because the race is really about Levi. When I was doing my own race I was waiting to hear the splits of Levi and Zabriskie."

The rolling 24-kilometre course challenged Armstrong, who is focused more on May's Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in July. "It was hard. I felt better on the hills than I did on the flats. These flat parts are deceiving - on the way out it's a false flat, and I suffered more on that. Also we had a new position, so I'm still getting used to that."

"Today, it was 24 kilometres, in the Giro it is 62km, almost three times that. These things help, but truth be told I haven't done one interval since this whole thing started, so I shouldn't expect to set the world on fire like guys such as Zabriskie."

The stage was Armstrong's first professional time trial since his retirement in 2005, and while he used to be well familiar with the intensity of the event, stepping back into even a relatively short effort took some getting used to.

"There is a lot of routine involved [in preparing for a time trial]. The morning ride, the warm-up, the way to start a time trial - the way it feels. It's very hard to train for it - you have to do it in order to prepare for it. You can go out and do 30km intervals all day long, but it's not the same as getting on the start ramp," Armstrong explained.

"When I was warming up, I was asking myself, 'Am I nervous?' In the last time trial of the 2003 Tour when it was raining, I was nervous then. But I had nothing to worry about today. It was a good test and I can't complain."

Armstrong rode his special 'Livestrong' Trek Equinox time trial bike which had returned after a bit of misadvanture following the Sacramento prologue last weekend. The bike was stolen, but returned on Wednesday. "It was kind of cool the thing actually came back - we still don't know how it came back, but it came back," he said.

Posthuma's form a plus

Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) won
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

There was a pleasing symmetry to Joost Posthuma's win in the Vuelta a Andalucia on Thursday. He became the first Dutchman since his current boss, Erik Dekker, to win the early-season Spanish stage race.

Dekker won it in 2001, and Posthuma took this year's edition with a strong performance early in the event before holding on during the last day with the help of Denis Menchov and Juan Antonio Flecha. With the absence of Nick Nuyens, Maarten Tjallingii and Bram Tankink through illness, it was going to be a hard task.

The quality of his two helpers - one of them a Grand Tour winner - shone through, however. "When you see how those guys worked today... it's just great," Posthuma said after the finish. "This is a victory for the whole team."

The timing of Posthuma's form is a boost for the Rabobank team, which confirmed that Spanish sprinter Osar Freire will miss Milan-Sanremo and probably Tirreno-Adriatico (see above). It's also a good sign that Flecha is finding his legs early in the year, given that he'll again be targeting the northern Classics.

Tour director: Charting the course for Tour of California

Chuck Hodge is the technical director for Tour of California
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Often labelled 'travelling circuses', stage races are hard work. Just ask Medalist Sports' Chuck Hodge, he's the man in charge of the Tour of California, America's biggest travelling circus when it comes to cycling. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski discovers what the 'man behind the curtain' does to make everything tick.

A lot goes into putting on a successful stage race - from funding to publicity to ensuring everyone has a place to sleep. Everything is done with one goal mind: making the race happen each day. And when the starting gun sounds, the responsibility for success rests largely on one person's shoulders, the race technical director. For the biggest races in North America - Tour of California, Tour of Missouri, Tour de Georgia - that person is Chuck Hodge.

An entourage of vehicles follow racers from one city to another in parade fashion, escorted by police and officials in an 'ad hoc ballet' to ensure both safety and a viable competitive arena. Without a technical director there's a distinct possibility that it isn't going to happen.

Hodge oversees the daily race operations but the planning - arguably the most important aspect - occurs upwards of a year in advance for races such as the Tour of California. And a lot more goes into it than just picking two points on a map. "Everyone thinks that we just pick the start and finish and then go where we want," begins Hodge. "But there are a huge number of considerations - everything from the hotel situation to the transfers to the economics of the bid package. Combining all those factors we hope that everything comes out in the end," he explains.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full feature on the Tour of California's technical director.

Sastre tired

The longest stage of the Tour of California took its toll on the peloton, including reigning Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre. The stage was flat and the sun was out, but it is still early in the season.

"The peloton, and I include myself here, is getting tired. But I will continue optimistically." Sastre praised his new Cervélo team, which "continues to work towards a stage victory." He said that the race is also important in building the team spirit necessary for the most important races of the season.

Sastre knows he still has work ahead of him and gets encouragement along the way. "As people tell me, don't worry, the only thing you can do from here is get better..."

Reduced TdF prizemoney for former Gerolsteiner riders

Last summer Team Gerolsteiner riders could look forward to 192,000 euro in prize money from the Tour de France, based on Stefan Schumacher's two stage wins and Bernhard Kohl's third-place overall finish and the King of the Mountains jersey. But now both riders have been suspended for doping during the Tour, thus losing the awards, and leaving the remaining riders only 24,000 euro to divide.

„I only heard it two days ago. That is money which belongs to the riders," said former Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer to the dpa press agency.

Both Kohl and Schumacher tested positive for CERA, a new generation of EPO. Kohl confessed to having used the product and was suspended for two years by the Austrian cycling federation. Schumacher, who has consistently declared his innocence, was also suspended for two years by the French national anti-doping agency, a verdict which he said he would appeal.(SW)

BMC invited to Critérium International

For the second year running, the BMC Racing Team has earned an invitation to the prestigious Critérium International (March 28-29) in northern France. ASO informed the team during the Tour of California of the repeat invite.

"This is a perfect race for the team and we are really happy to be going again this year," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said. "It is a complete stage race in just three stages and always draws the top racers for every edition."

BMC has kicked off the 2009 season touting a new ambitious multi-year plan, which they hope will ultimately find them being competitive at the Tour de France. "We want to get into all the highest category races since they are all very important to our development," Lelangue explained. "Invitations like this one are a good sign that the race organisers also believe in our ability to be competitive and add another dimension to their races."

In the 2008 edition of the Critérium International BMC raced well. "Last year we had Ian McKissick in a long breakaway on the first stage, and then Danilo Wyss and Alex Moos were able to finish off the stages with strong placings in the sprints," Lelangue remembered. "This year we will be coming into the Critérium International after doing a race in the Netherlands and one in Belgium the week before with the same eight riders, so we should be well prepared for the three hard stages in France."

Michela Fanini Record Rox training camp

Michela Fanini will always be remembered
Photo ©: Michela Fanini Record Rox
(Click for larger image)

Italian women's team Michela Fanini Record Rox has held its first training camp for the season in Lido di Camaiore (Tuscany). Eleven riders, among them five non-Italians, rode together for ten days.

Directeur Sportif Alfonso Mottola liked what he saw. "I'm happy for their condition after the winter," said Mottola. "All the girls kept in a good form, but for a technical analysis, we have to wait a few weeks and for the first races."

Brunello Fanini's new team will meet again in Versilia for medical and performance tests and for more group training.

The 2009 roster is composed of Brazilians Rosane Kirch and Flavia Oliveira, Lithuanian Erika Vilunaite, Australian Carly Hibberd, American Carmen McNellis and Italians Eleonora Soldo, Giulia Lazzerini, Alessia Quarta, Sara Grifi, Samantha Galassi and Serena Mensa.

Kirch finished second overall and was the best climber at the Route de France.

"In these day's I noted a great group, in harmony," said Brunello Fanini. "This is the best way to begin the season. We'll try to be protagonists in every race we'll ride".

After this first camp, the team will continue with individual training and the girls will meet together at the end of February, a few days before first race of the season, the GP Brissago, in Switzerland, on March 7.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Michela Fanini Record Rox

Acqua & Sapone ready for Laigueglia

Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo is focusing its attention on the 46th Trofeo Laigueglia on February 21 with the goal of having defending champion Luca Paolini achieve his second consecutive win in the Ligurian event. Paolini has been building his form at the GP Costa degli Etruschi and the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, collecting some high placings.

"I have a good condition," said Paolini. "I am very confident in my ability to do well. Fortunately, the weather has changed. There is sun, although the temperature is still very low. Since I'm starting with the number one on my shoulders there is little doubt that I will have extra motivation and I hope to take full advantage."

Besides Paolini, Stefano Garzelli is another option for the Acqua & Sapone, having nearly won the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto's final stage. "We're riding for Paolini," said Garzelli. "The team will work to protect him until the finish, but if things turn out otherwise I believe I have the condition to do a good race, too."

Bruno Cenghialta, the Acqua & Sapone directeur sportif, is very confident in his team. "We're definitely riding for Paolini, but we are fortunate to have Garzelli, who although is not yet in top condition, is riding really well. We'll see how the race unfolds and then decide along the way."

Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo for Trofeo Laigueglia: Dario Andriotto, Massimo Codol, Alessandro Donati, Francesco Failli, Stefano Garzelli, Franceco Masciarelli, Didac Ortega Orts and Luca Paolini

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