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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, March 28, 2009

Edited by Laura Weislo

Leipheimer takes second season win

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) took the overall lead
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

American Levi Leipheimer secured the overall victory in the Vuelta a Castilla y León on Friday, completing the race's final stage in the main field to maintain his 16 second lead over Astana teammate Alberto Contador. Fellow American David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) was third, also holding the same deficit to Leipheimer which he had after the stage two time trial.

Leipheimer, winner of the Tour of California in February, has now emerged as a third leader of the already powerful Astana squad. He earned the respect of triple Grand Tour champion Alberto Contador, who worked to ensure the American's overall victory, at times putting his second place in danger.

"I am very grateful to Alberto and my other teammates," Leipheimer said on the final podium. "On the first day of the race, Alberto told me that this race suited me better than him and that he would help me. He was right. The long time trial and the not so steep mountaintop finishes favored me.

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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Contador sacrificed his own ambitions on the penultimate stage when Zabriskie made a bid to overthrow the Astana duo with a strong attack. "The way Alberto pulled on the climb to Laguna de los Peces was impressive," Leipheimer said. "The other teammates had to work too all day long. Everybody raced against Team Astana."

After taking the lead early in the race, the Astana team never had an easy ride as Zabriskie as well as Rabobank riders Stef Clement and Denis Menchov were within striking distance of the overall lead. Team Director Sean Yates added that the Spanish teams had big ambitions on home soil.

"Rabobank, Garmin and Caisse d'Epargne made it very difficult for us," said Yates. "And then there were all the Spanish teams. It is a big race for all the Spanish teams. They don't have so many opportunities to race in the same races as Contador and to be on TV. They don't want to miss a move. They are all chasing each other. We like to see a harmless breakaway happen but it never happens with the time gaps being so small."

The squad lost a prime opportunity to test out its pairing of Contador with Lance Armstrong when the latter crashed and broke his collarbone on the first stage.

"We were all very disappointed when we lost Lance Armstrong on the first day of the race. We hope he can share a part of this victory and hope to see him back soon at the races", concluded Yates.

"For me it was an honor and a pleasure to work for Levi," said Contador. "Levi has worked so much for me in the past. I am also satisfied about my condition. I was afraid I would not be fully recuperated from Paris-Nice, but that was not the case. I am in good shape."

Contador's next race will be the Vuelta a País Vasco.

Nimke hands Germany gold #2, Phinney silver

By Gerry McManus in Pruszkow, Poland

Stefan Nimke (Germany)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Stefan Nimke put in a storming ride to win gold in the Men's Kilometre time trial on Friday evening. Nimke's time of 1:00.666 was nearly a second faster than American Taylor Phinney who took his second medal of the championships. Nimke's first lap was only twelfth fastest but he put in a blistering second lap and then held on to win a second sprint gold medal for Germany.

Yondi Smidt (Netherlands) had been the early leader on the board until Michael Seidenbecher (Germany) sliced one 1/1000th off his time. Next to top the table was Miao Zhang (China) who went 5/100ths better at 1:03.427. Then along came Nimke and he destroyed everything on the board. Nimke's time left a huge challenge for young Phinney who produced the second fastest time of 1:01.611.

Mohd Rizal Tisin put in a great time of 1:01.658 to win bronze for Malaysia.

"I was very surprised to win by such a big margin," said Nimke. "I did the same in the Olympics in 2004 and every one was congratulating me and then I was overtaken on the leader board so I was very nervous this time. My morale was very good when we won the bronze medal in the team sprint here. My plan was to put in a good first lap so that I would not be too far behind but I know that my strength is always in the final 250m."

25 teams for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, la Flèche Wallonne

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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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Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Ardennes Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, la Flèche Wallonne, announced the invitation of 25 teams to the April events on Friday. As anticipated, all of the ProTour squads except for Fuji-Servetto were on the list. The Fuji-Servetto team, formerly known as Saunier Duval, was forced to exit the Tour de France last year after the doping positive of Riccardo Riccò. In post-Tour analyses, Leónardo Piepoli was also declared positive for EPO CERA.

Fuji-Servetto was also left off the start list for Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, but it won a spot in the latter Italian races, organised by RCS Sport, after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Eight wild card teams were invited to round out the start list: The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Barloworld, Skil-Shimano, Vacansoleil, Cervélo, Agritubel and Diquigiovanni teams.

As previously reported, the LPR Brakes Farnese Vini team of former Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne winner Danilo Di Luca did not receive an invitation.

Milram, Quick Step, Silence-Lotto, Saxo Bank, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel, Garmin, Columbia, AG2R-La Mondiale, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Française des Jeux, Lampre-NGC, Liquigas, Astana, Rabobank and Katusha make up the ProTour teams list.

Barloworld manager Claudio Corti was excited to receive the invitations. "We're very proud to have been invited to take part in Fleche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the news boosts our motivation and team spirit for the spring. We're pleased that ASO have put faith in us and we'll ride aggressively in both races," Corti said.

Jens Voigt: "Not someone who chases records"

Jens Voigt took his fourth trophy in 2008
Photo ©: AFP
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On the eve of the defence of his Critérium International title, German Jens Voigt talked to Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake about how he's won the race four times and why he is not concerned with breaking records.

After a relatively quiet night at home with his wife and five children, Saxo Bank veteran Jens Voigt arrived in France on Friday to attempt a fifth career victory in the Critérium International, which begins Saturday in Monthois.

The race features a relatively flat and long stage on Saturday, the 190km trip to Charleville-Mézières, followed by a dual stage on Sunday. A "medium mountain" stage of 98.5km into the Ardennes followed by a 8.3km time trial on Sunday afternoon.

If he is successful in winning the race for a fifth time, Voigt will match the great Raymond Poulidor in his number of titles in the event. We caught up with the affable 37-year-old to find out what it is about the race which allowed him to win so many times.

Continue to the full interview.

Also read the preview for Criterium International.

Haussler, the favourite

By Gregor Brown

Haussler nearly got it right at Milano-Sanremo.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Heinrich Haussler is now a favourite for the Classics thanks to his early season and near-miss in Milano-Sanremo. The 25-year-old of Cervélo TestTeam showed his form is still on target in Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen and is a favourite for the E3 Prijs in Harelbeke, Belgium on Saturday.

"The main thing is the confidence. All the e-mails and phone calls I get make me feel good," he said to Cyclingnews from the team's headquarters in Gent, Belgium. "Marked man? Maybe, but I will wait for the right moment."

Haussler put his name in lights this season with the rapid-fire attack to win the sprint in stage two of Paris-Nice. He nearly did the same thing one week later in Milano-Sanremo. He shot out at 350 metres to go, but this time one of the best sprinters in the world, Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad), tagged him back.

Today he will face the 208-kilometre E3 Prijs. The race contains 12 climbs, some cobbled, and is the perfect lead up for Ronde van Vlaanderen next Sunday and a nice win in its own right.

"My form is still the same. I should be up there. I will hide myself a bit more and ride a bit smarter. Hopefully, there will be more teammates in the end so we can have more options. Thor [Hushovd] or Andreas [Klier] can win. We need more numbers, more than Quick Step, Lotto or Rabobank."

Wednesday in Dwars door Vlaanderen, Quick Step played the numbers. Despite the strength of Haussler, he could not contend with the Belgian stronghold, which allowed Kevin Van Impe to grab the win.

Haussler is training in a relatively low-key way between races. When we talked with him before Milano-Sanremo he indicated his outings mostly consisted of coffee shop runs (obviously something a little more on the harder side.) He pointed out that he saves the real energy bursts for the race days.

"I want to keep my form through Paris-Roubaix. It should hold on if I don't get sick. I am not doing any really hard training and I am recovering well between races."

Haussler started his season in Qatar, where he placed several times in the sprints and finished second overall to Tom Boonen (Quick Step). He went on to win two stages in Portugal's Volta ao Algarve. After the Belgian semi-classic weekend – Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne – he lined up for Paris-Nice.

Nardello to retire

Italian Daniele Nardello announced Friday that he will retire after the Spring Classics. The 36-year-old cited continuous physical problems as the reason for ending his 16-year career. He will compete in this weekend's E3 Prijs Harelbeke and Brabantse Pijl, and then the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem before hanging up the bike. Following his retirement, he will join the technical staff of the Fuji-Servetto team.

Nardello explained in a press release that retirement has been on his mind since he struggled to recover from a crash in the Tour Down Under. "Despite the big sacrifices I made in training, my recovery was slow, especially when it came to getting fit for the Tirreno-Adriatico, where I didn't find myself as good as I wanted to be."

He then was struck by an intestinal virus which forced him out of the Milan-Sanremo. "At that point, the decision became definitive. My last race will be the Tour of Flanders, the most beloved course for me, even though it's likely I'll close my pro career at the Gent-Wevelgem to fulfil the team's needs over there."

Nardello began his professional career in 1994 with the Mapei team, where he stayed for nine seasons during which he took two stages of the Vuelta a España, one stage of the Tour de France and finished top ten in the Tour three years in a row (1999-2001). He finished fifth in the Tour of Flanders twice before switching to the Telekom/T-Mobile team in 2003.

The Italian said that while he will stop racing, he will not be far from the bike and is looking forward to taking part in his Gran Fondo on June 14th. "It's going to be tough to leave professional cycling, but I will do it with the sense of having always given 100% of my capabilities every time, to earn the big results during all these years as pro. Now I'll have more time to spend at the ice-cream shops I'm opening in the Ticino, at Stabio and Lugano, and, the most important, to enjoy time with my family after so many years of riding."

Rojas with mixed feelings

Juan José Rojas had two stages of the Vuelta a Castilla y León marked for himself, the first and the last, but both times he was shut out, finishing third in stage one and second in the final stage on Friday. "But the good thing is that after my inactivity following the crash in Mallorca, I returned to be able to be competitive and I have no more knee problems. The bad thing is that I couldn't win at least one of the two stages that I sought out."

The first stage was his own fault, he acknowledged. "The team was working perfectly, but I made a mistake to launch the sprint and I was on the wrong side of the road before the final turn, where I had to hit my brakes. That way I lost a few precious seconds so that [Joaquin] Sobrino and [David] Vitoria were able to pass me."

In the last stage his Caisse d'Epargne team had some bad luck, with designated lead-out man Luis Pasamontes flatting before the sprint. That left Rojas alone with teammate Alejandro Valverde. Valverde tried to let Rojas pass, but it was getting too close, with Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) coming up quickly. Valverde took the stage, his second of the event.

Rojas hopes to take the good form to the GP Llodio on Sunday. Last year he won the bunch sprint, unfortunately it was only for second place, one minute behind winner Hector Guerra (Liberty Seguros). "I hope to be luckier this year. In principle this race suits me really well. The only thing that bothers me is that the weather forecast is bad. It is supposed to be raining and very cold."

Sastre tuning up for Giro

Carlos Sastre at the start of stage seven
Photo ©: Wil Matthews
(Click for larger image)

2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre is still honing his form after getting a slow start to the year due to a bout with the influenza virus in February. He finished the Castilla y León in 40th place overall, 6:24 behind Levi Leipheimer. The Cervélo TestTeam rider was happy to finish the race, which he was using as preparation for his first major goal of the season, the Giro d'Italia.

"The stage today was, like the rest of the stages, very fast paced with not one minute of truce in the peloton," Sastre said after the final stage to Valladolid on Friday. "Even though it was windy, the stage was quite fast on sometimes hard, narrow roads, producing a fairly large crash 70 km from the finish line which I had the good fortune to not be involved in."

"I've been improving slowly, which is what I expected from this race. Now I expect a tough week of training before tackling the GP Miguel Indurain using it as another step to reach top condition."

Castilla y León claims another collarbone

A huge pile-up in the Vuelta a Castilla y León on Friday sent Beñat Intxausti (Fuji-Servetto) to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken collarbone. The Basque rider and teammates Javier Megias and Alberto Benitez were all caught up in the crash, with Intxausti the worst injured. X-rays confirmed a broken right collarbone, which, according to his team, seems to be a clean break and might not need any operation.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) crashed on the first stage and underwent surgery to repair a broken right collarbone which was fractured into four pieces on Thursday.

Megias was examined post-race for pain in his left wrist, but no broken bones were detected.

Track World Cup returns to Manchester

British Cycling announced this week that it will once again host the UCI Track Cycling World Cup at the Manchester Velodrome. The event will kick off the 2009/2010 World Cup calendar on October 30 to 1 November.

British Cycling CEO Ian Drake said, "It is great news that British Cycling has been awarded this high profile event in 2009 and demonstrates our ability and intention to host an increasing number of major international events in the UK in the run up to London 2012. It will be a great opportunity for the growing number of cycling fans in the UK to see the British Cycling Team in action on home soil and I am confident this will help to inspire more people to participate in our sport.”

Eamonn O'Rourke, Head of Leisure, Manchester City Council said. "Manchester is delighted to be chosen as hosts for the UCI World Cup Classic this Autumn. The 2008 World Track Championships in Manchester was a tremendous success, undoubtedly contributing to Great Britain's Olympic success in Beijing and the hosting of this event represents a significant milestone in the preparations for London 2012, not only the athletes but all those associated with British Cycling.

"This is also great news for our city's residents, many of whom will be able to take part in the extensive legacy activities. We are also looking forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world to sample Manchester's renowned hospitality."

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