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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, May 8, 2009

Edited by Laura Weislo

Vaughters: Our season starts now

By Daniel Benson

Garmin-Slipstream wants to repeat last year's team victory
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

On the eve of the Giro d'Italia Jonathan Vaughters was putting the finishing touches to his Garmin-Slipstream team's preparations for Saturday's 20.5km team time trial, the team's first major goal of the season.

The team arrived in Italy on Wednesday after a week of time trial-specific training at its European base in Gerona, Spain, and according Vaughters, the riders are raring to go. "Our season starts on Saturday and it's our first major objective of the year. Okay, we've done the Classics and had good performances in those races and the Tour of California, but now it's the time really perform. We need to be at our best game," Vaughters told Cyclingnews from the team's hotel.

With the race presentation now out of the way, Vaughters will be fine tuning his riders' form and knowledge of the course before the big day. "We won't know how well the team are really going until Saturday but everyone is in good spirits. We're riding a fair amount and making sure that all the details are ironed out and the formation is finalised."

The team will rest tomorrow and are scheduled to ride the course early on Saturday, with plans already in place for who will lead the team off the start ramp. "That will be Tyler Farrar's job. To be honest it's a really straightforward course, so it's more important to make sure that everyone is focused and knows what's expected. We'll be reinforcing those key points right up until the start," Vaughters said.

Garmin won the opening team time trial at last year's Giro and have four of that squad lining up with Christian Vande Velde and David Millar down as two of the team's biggest engines. "We have Bradley Wiggins too and he's part of the plan as well, but it's really about every rider sacrificing everything for the team and not leaving anything in the tank."

Vaughters refused to confirm who would lead the Argyle-clad squad over the finish line. "The guys will know who is the strongest and whoever that is on the day should be first. Who it is doesn't really matter. We just need to make sure we do the last kilometre as fast as we possibly can."

Garmin will face stiff opposition: "Outside of us I think Liquigas and Columbia will ride well. Also Barloworld have good potential but there are a few teams who can rise to the occasion."

Armstrong on the Giro: I don't have the condition to win

By Jean-François Quénet in Venice, Italy

Lance Armstrong was the center of attention
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong does not consider himself a challenger for this year's Giro d'Italia, and will instead devote himself to helping his Astana team win the race. "I feel better than I expected but I don't have the condition to win against these guys," he warned.

At the pre-Giro press conference in Venice on Thursday, Armstrong played down his chances against the other seated Grand Tours winners Carlos Sastre, Ivan Basso, Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca, Damiano Cunego, Stefano Garzelli and Denis Menchov.

"It's been a while since I did a race of this magnitude. I know the Giro from its history and its former winners. In 15 years, I never had the opportunity, or I didn't take the opportunity to do the Giro. I'm excited. I'm fit enough. I'm ready to be here."

The broken collarbone he sustained in March is just a bad memory now. "I don't feel anything. It's not gonna move now. But I need to continue to recover the condition. It seems like we're building up. I have no side effect other than the time off the bike."

Asked by Italian reporters to give one name as the favourite for the Giro, he smiled and said, "Ivan Leipheimer". That means two favourites: Ivan Basso and Levi Leipheimer. He sees his role more as team player. "Personally I'd like to win a stage but I don't know if I can and if I'm fit enough. As a team we target the top three or the top five. Levi Leipheimer can do it – he time trials well, he climbs well."

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Talking about his team led to the subject of unpaid wages at Astana – Armstrong himself never made the name of Astana. "It's a slight disruption," he admitted. "I haven't seen any ill effect at dinner table. I was surprised to see how motivated the guys are. I'm optimistic that a solution will be found."

There's obviously a link between Astana's financial problems and the recent announcement that Armstrong wants to start his own team where he'd be the manager, the directeur sportif and a rider as well. "I wouldn't say we are planning it more now but earlier than expected," he said. "There's no secret that Johan [Bruyneel] and I have a long friendship and partnership.

"It's hard to find 15 million dollars. No deal is done until you find them. We think we can organise the best team in the world like we've done for ten years with US Postal and Discovery Channel. We would look at a ten-year commitment. It's all a dream until we get the funding."

Basso to give way to Pellizotti

By Jean-François Quénet in Venice, Italy

Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Although Garmin-Slipstream remains the hot favourite on the dead flat inaugural team time trial of the Giro on Saturday, the Liquigas squad will approach the event with the ambition of winning two years after their success in La Maddalena in Sardegna. That year, Enrico Gasparotto created a controversy when he crossed the line in first position and took the first pink jersey instead of his team captain Danilo Di Luca.

As Liquigas introduced their Giro team with two captains, Ivan Basso and Franco Pellizotti, it was uncertain which one of them would be designated to be the first man on the line. "It will be decided by the team directors but the most important would be to win it first," Pellizotti said. Team manager Roberto Amadio stated that "this time trial course is very different from the one in Sardegna two years ago. Our chances to win are less this time."

Basso was prompt to take his turn to talk about it. "This is the last of our problems," he said firmly. "From my side, if we have an advantage, it would be fair that Pellizotti would be the first on the line because he demonstrated last year that he deserves to wear the pink jersey. I'm the last one who joined the team and I'll be a very loyal teammate. If at some point he is in a situation to win the Giro, I will be be at his disposal."

Basso ruled out any eventual rivalry inside the Liquigas team. "Since the day I signed with the team, there has been talk about which one of us would be the captain," he recalled. "This controversy has actually been very beneficial for us, it has strengthened our relationship. We are very good friends now and we'll form one of the most dangerous pairs of this Tour of Italy. It's more important than what will happen during the first team time trial."

Gilbert eyes the Giro as a Classics rider

By Jean-François Quénet in Venice, Italy

Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Belgian Philippe Gilbert lines up Saturday for the Tour of Italy after coming third at the Tour of Flanders and fourth at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he is still looking for his first victory under the colours of Silence-Lotto, the team he joined this year from Française des Jeux.

"I've done the Giro before and I particularly like the atmosphere of this event," he said. Gilbert has only finished the Giro d'Italia once. In 2004 he placed 32nd overall while helping teammate Bradley McGee finish in the top 10. In 2006, he was took fifth place on two different stages before dropping out on stage 12. This time, he wants more.

"I would have loved to see more of Venice than just a few minutes coming close to the San Marco square for the team presentation," he said after the show organised for the RAI television. "At least I'll be able to say that I was there. It's special to take part in the centennial of the Giro."

The Belgian has targeted stage 3 and stage 4 during the first week. "My goals are in between those of Mark Cavendish and those of the pure climbers, but it looks like there is a lot of space for riders like me this year." He'll ride these stages the same way he does at the Classics.

He has no intention to pull out before the end since he doesn't know yet about his chances to take part in the Tour de France. "Cadel Evans wants me in," he said.

Gilbert criticised the Australian after the Flèche Wallonne, saying that it was difficult to work for a captain who doesn't know what he wants. Evans initially told his teammates that he didn't feel good but he was better towards the end and came fifth. "We get on really well, Cadel is a very nice guy and he likes when things are said in a straightforward way."

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Images by Sirotti/

Images by Jean-François Quénet

Phinney: We could see another Gavia stage

By Daniel Benson

Connie and Davis in 2004
Photo ©: Davis Phinney
Click for larger image

Davis Phinney, a three-time participant in the Giro d'Italia, is currently travelling through Italy with his wife Connie Carpenter-Phinney, before the couple watch the Venice start and follow the race for the opening few days. Phinney, a former US national champion, talked with Cyclingnews and gave his opinions the centenary course and who he sees as the main protagonists.

"Connie and I are here for a bit of a holiday. A bike racing holiday," said Phinney, who last year underwent an operation to implant an electrical stimulation device in his brain to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease. "We used to live here so it's a case of seeing old friends and living a bit of the dolce vita. I'm also here to see how I handle the travel and time zone effects since my operation."

Phinney has been watching the favourites prepare for the race over the last weeks from his home in the US and believes that the first week and the excursion into the Dolomites will drastically alter the pattern set by previous editions of the race. "It's a very difficult start with the riders going straight into the mountains. When I rode the race you had time to settle into the pattern of racing, but the riders can't do that this year."

"We're staying near the Dolomites now and some of peaks have snow on. That's not a problem if the weather stays clear but if it takes a turn for the worse we could have something retro like the 1988 stage on the Gavia. Potentially the conditions in the first week could rip the race apart."

As for the possible protagonists, Phinney said that the home grown contingent could play a major role. "I'm sure the Italians will try to make is at as hard as possible, and as early as possible. The course suits the Italian riders who can afford to be aggressive and take chances," Phinney said.

Ten American riders will line up at the start in Venice, but Phinney believes that Levi Leipheimer will be the one to watch after the Astana rider won the Tour of California and Tour of the Gila on US soil. "The only problem is that neither Leipheimer nor Armstrong has ridden the route like they would normal do so before the Tour de France. This will definitely make it harder for both of them to win the race, but not impossible. Contador showed that last year that best rider wins the day if he makes good decisions and has a good team around him. Levi can be that rider," said Phinney.

UCI confirms Pfannberger positive, suspension

Katusha's Christian Pfannberger
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has provisionally suspended Christian Pfannberger, saying that an out-of-competition doping control in March found evidence of the drug Erythropoietin (EPO) in his urine. The Austrian rider was also suspended by Team Katusha on Wednesday.

The UCI suspension will remain in effect until the Austrian Anti-Doping Agency determines whether or not he committed a doping violation. Should it be determined that he has, Pfannberger could face a lifetime suspension since he has already served one sentence for using EPO from 2004-2006.

The 30-year-old "has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample," the UCI noted in its statement, released Thursday afternoon. It also added that he is presumed innocent "until a final decision has been made."

"I want to prove my innocence," Pfannberger told the sid news agency.

Otto Flum, president of the Österreischer Radsort Verband (Austrian Cycling Federation), said that his agency was ready to take action. "For a long time we have supported criminal charges against dopers. If someone knows any other solution for doping, then they should tell us!" (SW)

Cabreira succeeds with appeal on protease charges

Former LA-MSS rider and Portuguese road champion João Cabreira was cleared on charges he attempted to cheat a doping control by the Portuguese Justice Council, the Portuguese Cycling Federation announced Thursday.

The Federation confirmed that the rider's appeal was accepted and his suspension revoked.

Cabreira, 26, was controlled on May 19, 2008 as part of an investigation of the LA-MSS team by the Judicial Police and the National Anti-Doping Agency (CNAD) which resulted in the seizure of doping substances at the team's headquarters and led the Portuguese Federation to suspend nine members of the team.

Cabreira was suspended for two years in February for "tampering with a doping control sample". He was accused of using an enzyme called protease to defeat a doping control. The enzyme is able to break down traces of EPO in the urine.

According to Lusa, Cabreira appealed the penalty on the grounds that the control had been conducted according to "methods not approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency" and that the offending substance "was not part of the list of banned products."

It is the second time Cabreira has defeated a doping case on appeal. In August, 2008 he was suspended for ten months for failing a doping control, but the suspension was overturned on appeal.

"I'm glad that the truth has been restored after any injustice which I suffered," said Cabreira the agency Lusa. "I will be able to ride again under the national champion's jersey."

Disgruntled Team Type 1 rider leaves

Type 1 diabetic Willem Van Den Eynde has left the US Continental Professional Team Type 1 after a dispute with the squad over his treatment. The 19-year-old neo-pro described his alleged mistreatment to the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, detailing woes of overextended media schedules, lack of food, and tensions with other team members.

The rider's exit came back in March, but according to the report, he was prevented from talking to the media by the team. His case was resolved by the UCI and the Belgian federation, and Van Den Eynde said he wishes to put the whole episode behind him.

The Team Type 1 founder Phil Southerland made a statement to Cyclingnews on the topic. "Willem Van Den Eynde was a valued member of Team Type 1, someone we felt had great potential as a cyclist and an advocate for diabetes awareness. And although we are disappointed to see him leave, we wish him the best of luck going forward, both as an athlete and as a person living with diabetes."

Cyclingnews weekly podcast: Episode 10

The Giro d'Italia is nigh!

If you're not in Venice for the start of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, then the Cyclingnews weekly podcast episode 10 should force you to reconsider.

Anyone who is anyone will be there so we've got the lowdown on favourites, dark horses and even non-starters. Is there a feud between Roman Kreuziger and Ivan Basso? And if there isn't, could we make one up? That's the sort of stuff that didn't make it into our podcast, which should give you an idea of what did.

We also delve into the roller coaster ride that Astana is having at the moment. From Tour of the Gila domination to possible collapse. Where did it all go wrong?

You can subscribe to the podcasts via iTunes (or just go to iTunes and search for 'cyclingnews') or via this XML feed:

You can also download the podcasts directly by clicking on these links:

  • May 7: Giro d'Italia and more Giro d'Italia, Astana's woes, Gila domination, Romandie and back to the Giro
  • May 1: Davide Rebellin's positive, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Trentino, Gila, Romandie, Lance Armstrong's Twitter growth and swine flu
  • April 24: Amstel Gold and the Ardennes classics, Tyler Hamilton, Theo Bos, no mention of Heinrich Haussler at all
  • April 15: Paris-Roubaix - full analysis including Heinrich Haussler, Lance Armstrong vs the French anti-doping agency and crazy theories
  • April 9: Tour of Flanders, Heinrich Haussler's return to form, Gent-Wevelgem, Bob Stapleton air time and Paris-Roubaix
  • April 1: E3 Prijs, Heinrich Haussler's form slump, track worlds and Lance's metal implants
  • March 26: Jens Voigt, Milan-Sanremo, Mark Cavendish, Heinrich Haussler, David Millar, Lance Armstrong and the track worlds
  • March 19: Tour de France teams, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-Sanremo preview and Heinrich Haussler
  • March 12: Paris-Nice mid-race, Tirreno-Adriatico preview and Heinrich Haussler
  • March 5: Valverde summonsed, Belgian opening weekend and Heinrich Haussler

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