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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 10, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Bjarne Riis: Bearing the burden of truth

Riis has a checkered past with Le Tour
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

A lot has happened since Bjarne Riis' 1996 Tour de France victory. More than a decade after that now-tarnished win, the attention it has bestowed upon this private man is still a burden. Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins spoke with Riis about his struggle with the spotlight, its effects on his public portrait and his personal life, and those who doubt his credibility.

At his height of fame, Bjarne Riis was hailed as Denmark's sports figure of the century. At his lowest, he was reviled as a confessed doper who cheated to achieve his greatest victory. Now, he is regarded as one of the strongest team managers in the sport and he leads his riders with a fatherly mix of discipline and encouragement.

Riis credits his career successes to two influential men in his life: his father, Preben, who passed away less than a year ago, and his mentor, Laurent Fignon.

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Riis' father recognised his son's undeniable talent for cycling at an early age, and the two developed a close bond through the sport. "My father followed me everywhere I went," says Riis, who now resides in Lugano, Switzerland, with his partner Anne-Dorthe and five children - Jesper (19), Thomas (16), Christian (six), Mattias (five) and Andreas (three). None are cyclists... yet.

"My father was a big part of my life, especially when I was a kid. I don't know how he knew about training, but he did," explains Riis. "He pushed me, no doubt about it. But I liked to be pushed. There's a lot of talk about dads pushing their kids to be better, too early, because of their own ego. I don't care about that, I liked it."

Read the entire Bjarne Riis interview

Armstrong back to diligent reconnaissance

Lance Armstrong is back to his old habits when he diligently scouted out the Tour de France routes prior to beating his opposition. Armstrong is said to check out the final of Milano-Sanremo today and will ride over the Poggio, the final climb of La Primavera.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Armstrong will also have a look some Giro d'Italia stages, including the 61-kilometre time trial in Liguria. He may go on to visit Blockhaus, which is a very short 79-kilometre stage. The stage 17 Blockhaus stage starts at 56m of altitude and ends at 2,064m.

Armstrong may also go on to check stage 19 to Vesuvio. This stage has very undulating terrain and ends in 1,000m of altitude.

The Giro d'Italia was first run 100 years ago and is scheduled from May 9-31, 2009.

Martin and Lowe ill

By Shane Stokes

Daniel Martin (Garmin -Slipstream) is ill and did not start stage 3 of Paris-Nice
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

Following a third place overall in the recent Tour Méditerranéen plus a win last year in the Route du Sud, Irish rider Dan Martin headed to Paris-Nice aiming for another strong result on French soil. Things haven't worked out as the 22-year-old Garmin Slipstream rider was ill and did not start the third stage.

Trent Lowe was also ill and came home one place ahead of his teammate. Both riders lost nine minutes 57 seconds to the day's winner, Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo Test Team), and are almost eleven minutes behind race leader Alberto Contador (Astana).

Martin finished 72nd in the day one time trial, then 157th on Monday's second stage. "Dan's got a little fever as of right now," said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters, when asked about the Irishman's performance. "I'm not sure what's going to happen Tuesday." The answer is that Martin did not start stage three.

Martin's first cousin Nicolas Roche is faring better, having placed 13th in Monday's sprint finish. The race continues Tuesday with a lumpy 178-kilometre stage from Orval to Vichy.

De Weert hopeful to continue Paris-Nice

Kevin de Weert (Quick Step) crashed 50 kilometres before the finish of stage two in Paris-Nice, marked by heavy cross winds. He injured his left hand and wrist but will likely be able to start the third stage on Tuesday.

"An AG2R rider went down in front of me and it was impossible for me to avoid him," De Weert told the Gazet van Antwerpen. "My whole left hand is cut open and I think I probably strained some ligaments in my left wrist. I also injured both knees."

De Weert was able to get back to the peloton, which had slowed down after the crash. "I am certain I can start the third stage," he told Het Laatste Nieuws.

Lövkvist gunning for top result in Tirreno-Adriatico

Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad) won the 3rd Eroica Toscana in Siena's Piazza del Campo
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Montepasche Eroica victor Thomas Lövkvist will be looking to extend his winning streak in Tirreno-Adriatico, Italy's second biggest stage race, which starts this Wednesday in Volterra.

"Thomas got third overall in Tirreno 2008, less than a minute behind the winner. He's a year stronger and more mature as a rider now, so there's no reason why he can't do better this time around," said Team Columbia-Highroad sports director Valerio Piva. "In 2008 Thomas was working for [former Highroad rider] Linus Gerdemann who was leading overall but then was badly injured in the time trial. Even though he'd been working as a domestique, Thomas held on and got a great result.

"Whoever wants to win the race this year will have to work very hard for it," added Piva. "We're very optimistic about Lövkvist's chances, particularly after his recent victory at Eroica."

Tirreno-Adriatico is also Mark Cavendish's first European stage race of the season, but Piva said they will be looking more at the overall classification than for stage wins. "We don't want to put Mark under any pressure here whatsoever. He's more at Tirreno to get in the kilometres as part of his build-up for Milano-Sanremo."

Cavendish, Lövkvist, Bernhard Eisel, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Michael Albasini have used the time between Eroica and Tirreno to check out the last kilometres of Milano-Sanremo. "We rode over it twice, the last 110 kilometres on Sunday and the last 70 Monday," Piva said. For Mark, this will be his first Sanremo, and he'll be doing it to gain experience for the years to come. Doing a route reconnaissance is all part of the process."

The Columbia-Highroad team for Tirreno-Adriatico: Michael Albasini, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, George Hincapie, Thomas Lövkvist and Konstantin Siutsou.

Ceramica Flaminia - Bossini Docce debuts at Tirreno-Adriatico

Filippo Simeoni shows increasing form ahead of Tirreno-Adriatico
Photo ©: Start Communcation
(Click for larger image)

Italian team Ceramica Flaminia - Bossini Docce will start Tirreno-Adriatico for the first time. The current Italian road champion, Filippo Simeoni, will be part of the team. Team Manager Roberto Marrone promised active racing by the Professional Continental outfit.

"We start with the objective of at least winning a stage," Marrone said. "we have four riders who can achieve that and altogether we ride with the goal of being protagonists."

Marrone had a clear strategy. "Giampaolo Caruso and Massimiliano Gentili are our men for the tough stages. Enrico Rossi, Maurizio Biondo and Mikhaylo Khalilov also go well in the uphills. Leonardo Giordani and Wladimir Duma can go for long breaks, while Filippo Simeoni is our 'outsider'. He has finished the Giro di Sardegna with increasing form and could produce a nice surprise in Tirreno-Adriatico."

Sports directors Pino Petito and Massimo Podenzana have nominated the following team: Maurizio Biondo, Giampaolo Caruso, Wladimir Duma, Mikhaylo Khalilov, Massimiliano Gentili, Leonardo Giordani, Enrico Rossi and Filippo Simeoni.

Check out our Tirreno preview.

Neben eager for new season

By Susan Westemeyer

Amber Neben broke her arm in the winter but is ready to tackle the season now
Photo ©: Olaf Grünewald
(Click for larger image)

Amber Neben is looking forward to the new season wearing the jersey of her new team, Equipe Nürnberger – except, of course, when she is wearing her World time trial championship jersey.

Winning the Worlds title last fall in Varese, Italy, was "a dream" that had been eight years in the making, she told Cyclingnews. "Having to overcome and persevere through all kinds of difficulties, experiencing a lot of highs and lows along the way, and just getting to the point where you win a world championship makes holding the title amazing and very humbling at the same time." She feels "very honoured" to be among those in the world championship ranks.

Those difficulties and low times include many injuries and illnesses, but she says her faith has helped her through the bad times. Deeply religious, Neben noted that "It was smaller challenges, where you grow and develop character and persevere and then the next one is a little bit bigger so you're kind of equipped as you go."

The most recent of those injuries was a broken arm last fall. Neben laughingly admitted that it was "embarrassing" to have crashed on her first training ride for the new season. The arm is still not 100 percent "but it's good enough."

After four years with the Dutch team Flexpoint, the 34-year-old switched to the German Equipe Nürnberger. "The timing was right," Neben said. "It was intriguing. It presented a new challenge and a new opportunity with new riders and the chance to work with another fantastic organisation, one of the best teams in the world."

The American's rider's goals for the 2009 season are simple: to aim for the big stage races and to defend her Worlds title this fall in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Former mountain biker Lloyd gets top ten in Eroica

Daniel Lloyd at the Cervélo Test Team training camp
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

British rider Daniel Lloyd put his years as a mountain biker racer to good use over the weekend, bagging a ninth spot in the tough early season Montepaschi Strade Bianche - Eroica Toscana.

The 28-year-old Cervélo TestTeam rider figured in the decisive break of the race won by Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad). Much of the route is run on the white gravel roads of Tuscany which hark back to the races of a pre-war era. Lloyd was at an advantage over the off-road sections and could have figured even stronger at the finish had he not been delayed 12km from the finish.

"Just as you come off the top of the last gravel climb of the day an LPR rider came up the inside of me and Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Slipstream) – we were forced to run completely off the road," said Lloyd. "I could feel a bit of panic stations starting then because the rest of the riders went immediately hard into the next tarmac climb and I had a really difficult time chasing, as I was stuck in the big ring. That took a bit of energy out of me for the finish, which could have been good for me as it's uphill!"

Lloyd joined the Cervélo squad from the An Post-M.Donnelly-Sean Kelly team and had a great opening to 2009. He took fourth overall in the Tour of Qatar and the top 10 placing in Eroica showed he is ready for the Classics.

"He has a great attitude to training and racing," says Cervélo Test Team Director Sportive Jean-Paul Van Poppel, "you tell him something and it's done and he strong!"

Lloyd will ride Tirreno-Adriatico in support of Thor Hushovd.

Mosquera and García lead Xacobeo Galicia in Castilla y León

Ezequiel Mosquera and David García will lead Spanish Professional Continental outfit Xacobeo Galicia in the Vuelta a Castilla y León (March 23-27). The six riders to support the captains are Gustavo Domínguez, Juan Mourón, Alejandro Paleo, Alberto Fernández, Eduard Vorganov and Vladimir Isaychev.

For Mosquera it is the next-to-last race ahead of the Giro d'Italia, his first major objective this year. His final race one week ahead of Italy's Grand Tour is Giro de Trentino. Mosquera is looking forward to the Vuelta a Castilla y León in his home country. "I really like the route of this year's race," Mosquera said.

García will also race the Giro, but has a major objective before that – to defend his title in the Presidential Cycling Tour in Turkey (April 12-19).

The five stages in the Vuelta a Castilla y León will reward complete riders. There is a 28-kilometre time trial and two mountain top finishes, San Isidro and Laguna de Peces.

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