First Edition Cycling News, May 13, 2009
Edited by Greg Johnson and Les Clarke
Explosive Di Luca not dwelling on stage win
By Jean-François Quénet in San Martino di Castrozza, Italy
Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini) cherished his Giro d'Italia stage win on stage four, but cautioned that the race will only get harder today. The Italian rider compared his Giro run to date with his efforts in 2007, when he won the overall title after claiming victory on the event's fourth stage.
"I won after four days in Montevergine and today as well," said Di Luca. "But it's a different Giro because tomorrow we have a stage that is much harder than today's. It's going to be a true stage with a super hard hill."
Di Luca believes another former Giro winner Gilberto Simoni will be difficult to beat on stage five. "[He's] one of the two or three favourites for that stage the, the other one is [Ivan] Basso and the third one could be a surprise," he said. "I'd control him…OK, I'll tell you, it's [Carlos] Sastre."
Celebrations following Di Luca's stage win were short lived as the rider turned his attention to his next goal of claiming the race's maglia rosa. Di Luca is only two seconds behind new race leader Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad).
Di Luca doesn't shy away from complimenting himself and made no exception when talking about his stage win in San Martino di Castrozza. "I've made a good sprint, but I've also won with intelligence when I started with 350 metres to go behind Mauricio Soler with Stefano Garzelli on my wheel."
Following his stage win Di Luca believes he's just "as explosive as two years ago". The rider added that the field in this year's Giro is of a much higher caliber then in 2007.
"The level is extremely high," he said. "All the best riders in the world are here, except Alberto Contador."
Armstrong back on top, 15 seconds late
By Gregor Brown in San Martino di Castrozza, Italy
Lance Armstrong (Astana) returned to cycling's heights with the San Martino di Castrozza climb at the Giro d'Italia, where he finished 15 seconds behind winner Danilo Di Luca. It was Armstrong's first mountaintop finish in nearly four years, since then teammate George Hincapie won on the Pla-d'Adet in the 2005 Tour de France.
"I am happy with my performance today," Armstrong said. "This was my first big climb since retiring. I had a good feeling and no collarbone pain at all."
A derailleur problem on the final 13.75-kilometre climb forced the 37-year-old out the back of the lead group. The mechanical issue saw Armstrong lose time to teammate Levi Leipheimer and eventual stage winner Di Luca (LPR Brakes).
"Of course, it was not a very difficult climb," said Armstrong. "For Di Luca it was a perfect finish with the gradual climb. Ivan Basso, Di Luca, Stefano Garzelli and Damiano Cunego all looked very good."
Armstrong retired from the sport following his seventh Tour de France win in 2005. He returned last year and announced he would race the Giro d'Italia three-week stage race shortly after, but a fractured collarbone in April's Castilla y León nearly derailed his plans.
Armstrong's collarbone failed to prevent him from staying with the favourites in the Giro d'Italia's fourth stage, in Northern Italy. He led with Yaroslav Popovych and Janez Brajkovic over the Croce d'Aune and onto the day's final climb of San Martino.
"Tomorrow will be a better indication," he added. "It will be a long and hard day. We'll see. I don't know what to expect."
Stage five's main challenge is the 24.9-kilometre Alpe di Siusi. It comes at the end of a 125-kilometre day and is the second of two Dolomiti stages in the opening week of the Giro d'Italia.
Lövkvist becomes Giro's accidental leader
Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad) leads the Giro d'Italia heading into today's stage five, but the Swede had actually intended on putting team-mate Michael Rogers in the maglia rosa. Lövkvist is hopeful he'll be able to keep the leader's jersey for at least another day.
"I was working for Mick [Michael Rogers] and trying to keep him in a good position on the final climb," Lövkvist said. "But when [other riders] crashed in front of Mick, I avoided it and just followed the wheels. It would have been either him or me in the lead.
"The important thing was that the team got the jersey," he added. "I don't know if I'll keep the lead, but everything's possible. I felt good on this climb and tomorrow's another mountain top finish. We'll see if I'm there at the finish."
Team-mate Mark Cavendish has lost the race leader's jersey a day earlier. The Manxman crashed in the final kilometres of stage three, putting a gap between him and the lead group.
Lövkvist has enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2009, having won the 3rd Montepaschi Strade Bianche - Eroica Toscana in March. The rider hopes to complete this year's entire Giro en route to his best professional season to date.
"I'm progressing every year, and hopefully this will be my best year ever," he said. "When I get to Rome, we'll see how far I have gotten. Of course I've won races before, but to be in the pink jersey is one of the best moments so far of my career."
Lövkvist is also leading the Best Young Riders competition, while Columbia-Highroad is in the number one spot in the teams prize.
Basso pleased with Liquigas' control
By Gregor Brown in San Martino di Castrozza, Italy
Ivan Basso is happy with how his Liquigas team took control of the final kilometres of the Giro d'Italia Dolomite stage to San Martino di Castrozza. His team-mates protected the 2006 champion from sudden accelerations, keeping him with the favourites to battle for the eventual general classification title.
"This is how the team was designed, to control these climbs," said Basso. "The climb was hard, but too short to make the selection."
Liquigas charged the front of the peloton after its Italian rival LPR Brakes ceased control of the race. Sylvester Szmyd and Franco Pellizotti, respectively, led the charge in the final five kilometres on the 13.75-kilometre climb of San Martino di Castrozza.
Colombia's Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) fired a late attack that almost succeeded. LPR Brakes' Danilo Di Luca, the 2007 race winner, closed the gap in the last 250 metres to take the stage ahead of a group of 16, including Basso.
"Danilo did well," said Basso. "We wanted to have Pellizotti anticipate, which is what Danilo ended up doing it. Soler ruined the game, but we're not bitter because we showed well and I had great sensations."
Basso, 11th overall at 53 seconds behind Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad), will have another chance to cease control of the race today. The three-week race enters its fifth day with a 125-kilometre stage, ending with a 24.9-kilometre climb up Alpe di Siusi.
Bellotti folds in San Martino poker
By Gregor Brown in San Martino di Castrozza, Italy
Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld) took his chances in an escape group on Giro d'Italia's stage from Padova to San Martino di Castrozza, but found the pressure from the chase group behind and Jens Voigt's poker game too much.
"Voigt seemed to be in difficulty, but like always he just continues on," Bellotti told Cyclingnews. "On the last climb the attacks kept coming, I kept going after him, but after a little bit I could not hold."
Bellotti was motivated to join the escape group since the race started near his home in Verona. He joined the six-man move, whose gap dropped back to two from seven minutes before the final 13.75-kilometre San Martino di Castrozza climb, north of Padova.
Saxo Bank's Voigt and Bellotti dropped their last companion, Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), and started their poker showdown. The duo upped the ante with small digs until a 10-percent section with eight kilometres remaining forced Bellotti to fold his hand.
"He played his game, I thought I had a chance and I also had the maglia verde on my mind," said Bellotti. "I held on my own, but at five kilometres to go it came undone."
Bellotti was satisfied to hear team-mate Mauricio Soler, winner of the Tour de France's mountains classification, attacked in the last two kilometres. He said the team has no problem keeping Soler at the front, but keeping him on his bike is more of a problem. Soler crashed in yesterday's stage to Valdobbiadene.
Bellotti is fourth in the mountains' classification, 10 points behind leader and stage winner Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini).
Rock reject Creed finds supportive home at Team Type 1
By Kirsten Robbins
Michael Creed is looking forward to a fresh start with new squad Team Type 1, after being unexpectedly let go from Rock Racing last month. The American is focused on enjoying his career as a professional cyclist and delivering successful performances to his new squad during the second half of the 2009 season.
Creed's negotiations with Team Type 1 began one week after he received a notice of termination from Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball last month. "I haven't enjoyed racing my bike for the past six months," Creed said. "It's time to again. In one week the deal was done and I have to thank Team Type 1. I'm excited to repay them for their faith in me."
Creed's letter of termination cited a lack of performance as the reason. After repeated attempts to contact the team, Creed received word that he could continue to compete under the Rock Racing banner but without pay and through finding his own way to the races. He said his final goodbyes to his former team-mates Chris Baldwin and Cesar Grajales at last weekend's Joe Martin Stage Race.
"I was fired without notice and with no follow up," said Creed, who in the mean time had taken on a part-time job with SRM. "I was told to return my helmet, shoes and bike. Even though they never got around to giving me a bike. I can't comment for Cesar and Chris, but this what was offered to me. And of course I didn't entertain the idea."
Last month Ball stated that Creed was not fired due to a lack of performance but instead that he was 'let go due to a lack of funding' and the issue was 'not personal'. Creed is still unsure on the specific details as to why he was fired.
"The one thing that really got me is how Ball said it was nothing personal," he said. "I really don't feel it's for him to judge that. He never called or wrote, I have a mortgage, I have bills.
"It's not personal for him because he doesn't see me as human or someone worth caring about," he added. "But it's very personal for me. To be let go without notice and have to tell your wife, that's a stressful thing."
Creed turned professional in 1999 and has since raced for US Postal Service in 2004, Discovery Channel in 2005 and Slipstream in 2007. He contrasted Ball's lack of professionalism in the matter to that of Johan Bruyneel when he was let go from the Discovery Channel team in 2005.
"To not have the humanity to call and explain the situation, well, I took it very personally," Creed said. "Maybe it sounds like spilt milk, but even Johan called when I was let go from Disco. And he was at the Vuelta! He may be one of the busiest people in cycling. So if he found he time…"
Creed is looking forward to getting back to bike racing with Team Type 1 and hopes to gain form targeted events like the Cascade Classic, Tour of Utah, the US National Championships and Tour of Missouri.
"I'm excited," he said. "I haven't raced much this year. I told the team I want to do each and every race I can, criteriums, one-day races, stage races, whatever. Sign me up. I just want to race. And race well."
No Tour for Boonen
Tom Boonen will miss the Tour de France for a second year after his recent positive test for cocaine. Tour organisers confirmed his non-participation on Tuesday.
"It's obviously impossible for Tom Boonen to start the Tour," race director Christian Prudhomme told AFP.
The 28-year-old three-time Paris-Roubaix champion tested positive for cocaine in April, less than 12 months after he tested positive for the drug for the first time in May 2008. Although he avoided a sanction after last year's positive test, he was forced to miss the 2008 Tour de France as a result of the result.
Prudhomme's sentiment reflected that of the Quick Step team, which has stated it wants to help the Belgian star with his apparent problem with the drug.
"The most important thing for him, as it was said, particularly by his team, is to look after himself and to think about his future as a person, rather than thinking about sport," added Prudhomme.
The 2005 world champion will not be punished by the sport's anti-doping authorities because cocaine does not feature on the list of cycling's banned substances for out-of-competition periods. Boonen could however face criminal charges and be punished for bringing the sport into disrepute.
He has been suspended indefinitely by his Quick Step team.
What's hot on the forum
It's been another busy week on the forums, with some small event, with an incredible field, taking place in Italy. Giro d'Italia, heard of it?
The year's first Grand Tour hasn't been the only thing on reader's minds though. The, erm, indiscretions of Tom Boonen and Alejandro Valverde's battle with the Italian National Olympic Committee's crusaders has also been a point of much discussion.
Have bike makers gone mad?
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2009)