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First Edition Cycling News, May 18, 2009

Edited by Peter Hymas

Cavendish puts shine on controversial day

By Gregor Brown in Milan, Italy

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish put the shine on a controversial day in Milan and won his first stage of the 2009 Giro d'Italia Sunday. The Team Columbia-Highroad Brit out-sprinted Allan Davis (Quick Step) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) at the end of 165 kilometres, in the city where the race started 100 years earlier.

"I think that there was a race on and there were a lot of spectators who came out to see the stage, a special day because it is the 'Milano Show,'" Cavendish said in a press conference following his ninth win of the season.

The 'Milano Show 100' was set to be a special day because it passed Piazzale Loreto where the Giro d'Italia departed in 1909. Things turned sour when the riders got a look at the 15.4-kilometre circuit littered with parked cars, traffic dividers and traffic in the opposite lanes.

"There were some who did not want to race and others who did, in the end it worked out okay. The spectators got a good show and I am happy I won," said Cavendish.

The win came thanks to a few eager sprinters teams who upped the tourist pace on the final of 10 circuits. Garmin-Slipstream and then Team Columbia-Highroad controlled the sprint, with Cavendish's team delivering the sprinter in perfect position to hold off Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini), winner of two stages in this Giro d'Italia.

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"I love to win; it is an addiction for me. I am usually set up in the best position to win and I can't hide that I had the perfect opportunity on the second stage and I did not deliver. The team brought me to the finish perfectly today and I launched a little early, there was no way I was going to lose."

Cavendish did not lose, he added a win to the race leader's maglia rosa he wore in stages two and three and took the team's fourth win of the Giro d'Italia.

"We have a lot of diverse riders, and riders who can handle different situations," Cavendish told Cyclingnews. "A big thanks to Edvald [Boasson Hagen], in the maglia ciclamino and doing the lead out for me on the Norwegian national holiday, not to mention on his birthday."

Boasson Hagen and the rest of the team will have a chance to celebrate their wins Monday, the first rest day of the Giro d'Italia. The team stays in Cunego tonight, the start of the Cunego to Pinerolo mountain stage on Tuesday.

The three-week Giro d'Italia ends Sunday, May 31, with a time trial in Rome.

Rogers: our safety needs to be guaranteed

By Jean-François Quénet in Milan, Italy

Dario David Cioni (ISD)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

According to Giro d'Italia organiser Angelo Zomegnan, the riders' strike during the 'Milano Show 100' stage was "premeditated". Zomegnan stated he had received some warnings by SMS for two days prior to the event scheduled in the city where the Giro d'Italia started one century ago - on May 13.

"It's a lack of respect for the Giro and for the city of Milan," Zomegnan said. "Whoever is at the origin of this demonstration will have to assume their responsibilities. I won't take any decision right now but I'll have some talks with the riders."

"When we started the race, some cars were parked on the road side," Michael Rogers told Cyclingnews. "We wanted to protect our health. It might have been boring for the spectators to watch for a while but at the end it was still a fantastic race. This was a group decision and a message to race organisers in general. They need to guarantee our safety. At the end of the day, no one wants to see us crashing."

The Australian admitted the dramatic accident that Pedro Horrillo was the victim of the day before was still in the mind of all the cyclists of the Giro d'Italia. It probably doubled their fear to see some other crashes during the 'Milano Show 100'. "There was one during the first lap," Ivan Basso said. It involved Markus Fothen (Milram), Francesco Reda (Quick Step) and Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo Galicia).

After two of the ten laps were completed, the race jury accepted the riders' request to neutralize the race on time. "After that announcement, we asked the judges whether or not the points would have counted for the overall points classification and they told us no," Team Columbia-Highroad's Directeur Sportif Allan Peiper said. "I don't understand why. The bonus on points with three laps to go and the points for stage classification could have still been awarded."

Zomegnan agreed with the idea of not taking into account the times for the day but he felt offended that the riders stopped on the finish line. "Yesterday in Bergamo, I decided not to have a festive celebration because of Horrillo's crash," Zomegnan said. "Now the riders find dangerous a circuit they have done many times before [in the previous years during the final stage of the Giro, ed.]. Shall we cancel a bike race when it's dangerous? Shall we cancel the Amstel Gold Race or Gent-Wevelgem then?"

The tifosi cheer on the riders
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Zomegnan sarcastically pointed out that "the same riders who rode the circuit at 30km/h earlier rode it at 50km/h at the end".

While the race organiser may have had strong words for the riders, the spectators lining the circuit still applauded the peloton.

"We didn't feel any hostility from the crowd," said Blaise Sonnery of AG2R-La Mondiale. "It was actually a fantastic day. There were hundreds of thousands of people watching and they clapped all way even when we riding very slowly. Only once did I notice a small group of people who protested and asked for us to go faster but mostly the spectators were happy. Nothing went wrong."

Once again the comedia dell'arte was a little bit overdone by the observers of the Giro. Most of the stage became a 'Milano no show' but it's not such a scandal that 190 cyclists anticipated their rest day after contesting three hard stages on dangerous terrain.

Di Luca's rough ride through Milan

By Gregor Brown in Milan, Italy

Danilo Di Luca spoke for the peloton
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca had one of the roughest days of his five in the leader's maglia rosa so far in the 2009 Giro d'Italia. The Italian of team LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini had to stop and explain to thousands of Milan fans why the 190 riders were not racing through the city where the Giro d'Italia started 100 years earlier.

"Was the stage dangerous? According to me and my colleagues, yes," Di Luca said after the stage. "There were those yellow dividers that ran along the car lanes, cars parked on the course and a section with traffic coming in the opposite direction."

Di Luca stopped and spoke on behalf of the peloton after the riders raced the first four of 10 laps. He thanked the Milan spectators for coming out to watch the race, but explained the riders did not like the 15.4-kilometre circuit.

"[Lance] Armstrong did not personally talk to me, but I can tell you that maybe we were all affected by what happened yesterday [the crash of Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) on the Culmine di San Pietro - ed.]

"We talked amongst ourselves, and the decision was not based on the sponsors or the managers. Only amongst the riders."

The riders sent mixed signals because the pace started to become faster and faster as the laps passed, leading up to the sprint on the tenth lap. Di Luca said one rider went to the front of the group, pushing the pace high, and soon many more followed.

"In the end, we never have an agreement, there is no union and we all do our own things. I am from the south, when I say something I keep my word."

Brit Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-Highroad) won the race, the Milan fans got the show they turned up to see and no one crashed. The Giro will continue, though with a little more controversy in its legs, on Tuesday with a mountain stage to Pinerolo.

ProTour continues in mountainous Catalunya

By Laura Weislo

Gustavo Cesar Veloso won in 2008, but will not defend his title
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

The UCI's ProTour continues in the 89th running of the Volta a Catalunya on Monday. The race sees a bit of a change from the past years, offering up more selective stage finishes for the climbers while keeping a few days in reserve for the sprinters. With two stages featuring category one climbs within 20km of the finish and the queen stage featuring a massive mountain top finish, the time gaps should be more than the handful of seconds which Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Karpin Galicia) used to win last year.

It all kicks off with the brief but intense prologue in Lloret de Mar, which was won by Thor Hushovd last year. The Norwegian will be back to look for another chance to don the leader's white jersey.

Whomever should take the lead on the first stage will most likely give it up the following day, which this year features the Cat. 1 Alt de Sant Pere de Rodes with less than 20km to go followed by a breakneck descent to Roses. It's definitely the domain of daredevil descender and Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

The climbs inch closer to the finish line on stage three, with the double decker Alt de Jou and Collada Sobirana topping off about 7km from the line. A quick descent and then a short, uphill finish in La Pobla de Lillet will certainly favour the likes of Alejandro Valverde (should be be allowed to race) or perhaps Quick Step's Spanish mountain man, Carlos Barredo.

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Leipheimer's Giro hinges on time trial?

By Gregor Brown in Milan, Italy

Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Levi Leipheimer's chance to win the centennial Giro d'Italia could come down to the 60.6-kilometres time trial Tuesday in Liguria. Astana's American will have to put time into his rivals, which means winning the stage and possibly taking the race leader's maglia rosa midway into the three-week race.

"If it were a normal Tour de France-style time trial or any other time trial, I would say the gaps would be bigger. It is a really technical time trial and probably a slower time trial than normal. It means a guy like [current race leader Danilo] Di Luca won't lose as much," Leipheimer told Cyclingnews Sunday morning in Milan.

After the Milan stage, Leipheimer faces two more stages - Pinerolo and Arenzano - until the time trial through Liguria's Cinque Terre. The stage from Sestri Lavante to Riomaggiore features hardly 500 metres of straight road and it constantly turns right and left when it is not going up or down on the two climbs: Bracco and Termine.

Armstrong previewed the stage in March and said that it was "wicked hard". Leipheimer admitted that it is a disadvantage that he has not seen the stage yet, but plans to ride or drive part of the course Thursday morning.

Thursday's stage is not the sole chance to win the Giro d'Italia, according to Leipheimer.

"There are a ton of hard stages, someone could have a bad day and then they are done. You have to play the game of elimination, the race is hard in itself and so you don't always have to force it."

Astana Directeur Sportif Viatcheslav Ekimov believes that Leipheimer will need to force it and get time on his rivals: LPR's Di Luca is up by 13 seconds, Michael Rogers (Team Columbia-Highroad) by seven, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) back by seven and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) back by 23 seconds.

"To be sure he better take time gaps in the time trial, but that means taking the leader's jersey. I am counting on Rogers, Denis Menchov, Ivan Basso a little off the back," Ekimov told Cyclingnews.

"I think Levi is in great shape and holds a perfect position. For us, the Giro starts on the day of the TT. We have been in the race but have not pulled a metre yet."

To prepare for the day Ekimov may drive to Cinque Terre on tomorrow's rest day to film the time trial course. He explained that he would show the dangerous corners to Leipheimer and his teammates.

The time trial is the longest in recent Giro d'Italia history. The last time one this long featured in the race was when Russian Eugeni Berzin won the 62-kilometre stage over Spaniard Abraham Olano in 1996.

Danielson delighted with American rivals' successes

By Jean-François Quénet in Milan, Italy

Tom Danielson (Garmin - Slipstream).
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

It's something special to see Lance Armstrong and Tom Danielson riding in the same peloton again at the Giro d'Italia although none of the two really occupies the top spots of the classification. Four years ago, Danielson and Armstrong were Discovery Channel teammates during the famous stage five of the Tour of Georgia to Brasstown Bald Mountain. A few days after Armstrong announced his coming retirement, he encouraged Danielson to drop their rival Floyd Landis who had left them for Phonak. Clearly, Armstrong showed with his finger that his designated successor was Danielson, not Landis. Danielson went on to win that year's Tour of Georgia.

Danielson, however, wasn't at the start of the 2006 Tour de France with Discovery Channel. Instead, Danielson won stage 17 and finished 6th overall at the Vuelta a España. Now 29, the winner of the 2002 Tour of Qhingai Lakes and the 2003 Le Tour de Langkawi is yet to make his debut at the Tour de France.

"For now I have to take the Giro day by day," Danielson told Cyclingnews on Piazza del Duomo at the start of stage nine. "My goal is to finish it after giving everything for the team time trial [where his team Garmin-Slipstream finished in second place behind Team Columbia-Highroad, ed.]. Now we race for Tyler Farrar to win a stage. My other goal is to go back to my race weight, I'm not at 100% yet."

Although a little bit overweight, the man from Colorado looked happy to be back in good spirits without the troubles endured in the past few years. This is primarily thanks to Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin-Slipstream's team manager.. "We are pretty similar, he helps me out with advice in a lot of areas", said Danielson of Vaughters who has also become his personal coach this year.

Danielson feels no jealousy towards the successes of his compatriots. About Armstrong's come back, he said, "It's great! It's amazing when you see him attracting all these crowds at the Tour of California and the Giro d'Italia. He makes the races bigger and better. Luckily they have him in the Astana team right now, he's the man to attract sponsorship to resolve their financial problems. I hope it will save the team."

He also appreciated what Team Columbia-Highroad, Garmin-Slipstream's rival American team, achieved so far at the Giro d'Italia. "It's great to see a team with such a good message doing so well. It's an inspiration for all of us."

Davis won head-to-head fight for Cavendish's wheel

By Jean-François Quénet in Milan, Italy

Davis is tucked in behind Cavendish in the closing metres.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

It was a good result for Allan Davis to come 2nd to Mark Cavendish in the sprint which concluded stage nine in Milan, but he needed to use his head in the fight for positioning behind the fast Brit. It was an all English-speaking top four with American Tyler Farrar and Australia's Matt Goss behind Cavendish and Davis. The first Italian, Alessandro Petacchi, had to accept he was only fifth.

"Columbia and Garmin were quite organised," Davis told Cyclingnews. "I had to be at the front and I got to the last kilometre up there with Fabian Cancellara. I managed to get on Cavendish's wheel but I wasted energy to pass." The TV images from the helicopter were quite spectacular as Davis and Goss fought for positioning using their arms and heads. "It's part of sprinting," Davis said. "In the sprint in Trieste, I got head punches from a couple of riders as well. I'm good friend with Gossy, there won't be any problem."

Davis was happy to see that his condition was good one week into the Giro d'Italia. "I think with a bit of luck, I can get a stage win before the end of the race," the Queenslander said. Although it wasn't planned initially, he might also convince the management of Quick Step to take him to the Tour de France as their sprinter since Tom Boonen isn't exactly welcome there once again.

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