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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 18, 2009

Edited by Laura Weislo

Farrar fine tunes Giro sprint

By Gregor Brown in Milan, Italy

Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) donned the white jersey after stage three
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tyler Farrar is fine-tuning his team Garmin-Slipstream sprint train day-by-day in the Giro d'Italia. The American rider took third place behind Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) and Allan Davis (Quick Step) after an impressive lead-out effort in the final circuits in the Milan stage Sunday. It was his second top-three finish in the race.

The Garmin team took control of the pace on the final of of ten 15.4-kilometre city circuits, but they exhausted their men too soon and Cavendish's Columbia team was able to take the advantage in the final crucial kilometres leading to the finish line on Corso Venezia.

"The problem was that we put the whole team on the front, but I think we were too excited and went a little too early," Farrar told Cyclingnews. "I ended up fighting for the wheels and came from too far back."

The fight put him in third, but ahead of Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini), winner of stages two and three. It is another sign the 24-year-old American is progressing against the world's best sprinters.

"We really gave it 100 percent as a team, but unfortunately I did not deliver."

Farrar hopes to get a few more chances in the next week as the Giro d'Italia travels south. The team will re-focus on today's rest day in Cuneo. They then face the Alpine mountains Tuesday with a stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo.

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"There are one or two more opportunities and I hope to pull it together. I think the Genova stage will be hit or miss because of the Turchino climb, it is a technical descent. But there will definitely be a sprint in Firenze."

Farrar will decide with directeur sportif Matt White about his continuation in the Giro d'Italia after the Firenze stage on Friday. He may abandon the race and save his strength for other season goals since there is only one more possible sprint stage available (stage 18 to Benevento) in the Giro d'Italia.

Horrillo out of coma and improving

Pedro Horrillo has come out of his induced coma and is now in stable condition, team Rabobank has reported. Scans showed no brain or spinal damage, but he remains on a respirator in a Bergamo hospital.

The Spaniard, who crashed and fell 60m into a ravine during Saturday's stage eight, woke from his coma Sunday morning. Team spokesman Luuc Eisenga said that Horrillo was alert and able to move his arms and legs. According to team doctor Geert Leinders, his condition is "serious, but not life threatening, and stable."

Horrillo underwent a successful surgery on a complicated fracture on his left femur, but the repair was only temporary and will have to be repeated after he has recovered sufficiently to be transported back to Spain.

The 34-year-old suffered a collapsed lung, which is currently preventing him from being transported. He is expected to stay in the hospital in Bergamo, Italy, for at least a week. His wife Lorena arrived from Spain on Sunday afternoon. (GB/SW)

Giro director angry over protest

Lance Armstrong walks with Angelo Zomegnan, the Giro organiser.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Giro d'Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan expressed his anger at "older riders" for leading the rider protest which eventually neutralized the ninth stage in Milan. The Italian dismissed claims made by several riders that the course was too dangerous, and speculated that the true reason for the revolt was that certain older riders lacked the power to handle the course's many turns.

"This circuit required explosive bursts. It required riders to get their butts up off the seats of their bikes, and some riders who are not so young anymore apparently don't feel like doing that," Zomegnan told the Associated Press. "Instead, it seems like their legs have become shorter and their tongues longer."

When asked if he was referring to Lance Armstrong, Zomegnan refused to specifically name the rider who the race had invested so heavily in attracting as the culprit. "I never name people who have disappointed me, just like I don't name girlfriends that have snubbed me."

Several riders acknowledged that the American was behind the move and many agreed with his reasoning. But Katusha's Filippo Pozzato thought the decision to raise objections mid-stage led to chaos.

"After the first lap, Lance said this circuit shouldn't be raced on," said Filippo Pozzato of the Katusha team. "It turned into a big mess. Decisions like that shouldn't be made during the race but before. Often when you make decisions during the race you make mistakes."

Cédric Vasseur, president of the professional teams organisation (CPA) and a former teammate of Armstrong, gave his support to action.

"I fully agreed with the reaction and position of the riders during the Milano stage and I am totally satisfied with the decision they all took to neutralize the time in such a special stage," Vasseur told Cyclingnews.

There were some critics who said the riders failed to provide a show for the thousands of spectators who came to Milan to witness the stage, but Vasseur disagreed. "I really had the feeling that the riders offered a great spectacle to the people who were coming to see a bike race.

"I can understand that the race organizers are a little frustrated about how it went. I guess they could predict such a reaction as they are more than anybody else concerned about safety in race and security for the athletes. (GB)

Westra wins in Picardie

Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil)
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Dutchman Lieuwe Westra took the biggest win of his career in the Tour de Picardie this weekend. The Vacansoleil rider led from the first stage, where he escaped and held the peloton to a 28 second deficit on a cold, rainy day in Roisel. Westra maintained his lead through the remaining three stages, finishing ahead of stage two winner Romain Feillu (Agritubel) and Jimmy Casper (Besson Chaussures).

Yoann Offredo (Française des Jeux) took the final stage in Noyon ahead of Casper and Skil-Shimano's Robert Wagner on another wet and dreary day in Northern France.

"It was a very difficult day, a very difficult race. But my team worked really well for me and the yellow jersey," said Westra after succeeding on the final stage. "I made the difference during the first day with a lead enough to win the race."

The little known rider raced the past three seasons for the Continental squad Krolstone, where he took a couple wins, but nothing close to an overall victory in a 2.1 stage race. "This is obviously my biggest success but I've been a professional from the beginning of the year. This is encouraging for the future. But now my ambition is simply to be a professional cyclist. "

Two teams dominate first week

By Laura Weislo

The first 9 stages have been dominated by two teams:
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Nine stages have passed and so far the Giro d'Italia has been a tale of two teams: Columbia-Highroad, winner of the team time trial and three individual stages, and LPR Brakes with overall leader Danilo Di Luca and three stages to its name.

Both squads have dominated the post-stage podiums in nearly every classification, which begs the question: can anyone challenge them?

As befits the Giro d'Italia's centenary celebrations, the first week of this year's edition has piled on more kilometres and climbing than that of any Grand Tour in recent memory; only the strongest riders have come out of it with a hope of taking home the maglia rosa in two weeks' time.

The riders have not only had to deal with soaring peaks, but the inevitable and precipitous descents which have pushed the boundaries of safety.

Riders have complained mightily of descents which have seen them top 110km/h and arrivals through towns where the width of the road is little more than two metres and traffic islands provide additional danger. Add a horrific accident in which Rabobank's Pedro Horrillo plummeted 60m into a ravine, and it's no wonder the peloton refused to contest the technical and ill-prepared Milan-100 circuit.

Read the full rest day wrap.

Valverde to start Catalunya

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde is scheduled to start the Volta a Catalunya today, despite having been served a two-year suspension by the Italian Olympic Committee, CONI. The Caisse d'Epargne rider's ban applies only to races in Italy at the moment, while the International Cycling Union considers whether it will extend the ban worldwide.

Valverde has fought for nearly three years against alleged evidence tying him to the doping clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes, which was raided by the Spanish police in 2006 as part of Operación Puerto.

When the Spanish courts refused to pursue the matter, the CONI took up the case and claims to have DNA evidence linking Valverde to blood bags seized from the Madrid clinic. The Italians matched the bags marked "Valv.piti" and "18" to samples taken during the rest day of the 2008 Tour de France in Italy.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Special Giro jerseys for Rabobank

The Rabobank team celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday with special edition jerseys and helmets. The clothing featured the Italian tricolore trim on one sleeve in addition to the traditional orange, white and blue. They will also have special stickers on the team's Giant bikes. In addition, the jerseys sport the logo of Right to Play, a world-wide children's charity.

To further support the cause, the jerseys and helmets will be auctioned off, as will Denis Menchov's bike from the Giro. Right to Play, which is also supported by Team Columbia-Highroad, "is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world," according to the charity's web site,

Neben takes over lead after team time trial

Equipe Nürnberger - the winning team
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

World time trial champion Amber Neben took over the lead in the Tour de l'Aude after her Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung won the team time trial on Sunday. Her teammate Trixi Worrack is now second overall, with Cervélo TestTeam's Regina Bruins third. Cervélo finished second in the stage, 12 seconds down.

Neben, who won this race in 2005 and 2006, led her team across the finish line in 35:07 minutes.

"That was a perfect exhibition by our team," said Directeur Sportif Jochen Dornbusch. "The girls put our tactics into effect perfectly. Amber Neben held the tempo high on the climbs and led the team to the stage win. All of the riders reached the finish together. That underlines our tight team feeling."

Cervélo did not reach the finish with all six riders, having lost Lieselot Decroix and Patricia Schwager after only 500 metres. "Generally the girls did not have a super day," DS Manel Lacambra said. He noted that the lost seconds "will not decide the race. We have some days to go and we are still focused on the overall win."

Howard hits the lead in Tour of Japan

Leigh Howard (Team AIS) celebrates
Photo ©: Miwako Sasaki
(Click for larger image)

Australian Leigh Howard (Team AIS) took the win in the opening stage and the early lead in the seven stage Tour of Japan.

The 19-year-old from Geelong bridged up to a group of four riders early into the rainy and slick 102km stage. The group built up a maximum lead of 1:20, but as the lap board counted in the single digits, the peloton was just seconds behind. Howard refused to give up, and managed to stay four seconds clear of the charging peloton on the line.

Howard, a silver medalist at the Track Cycling World Championships in March, took the victory over Valentin Iglinskiy (Kazakhstan) with Korean Seon Ho Park in third place.

With a ten second time bonus for the win and two three-second intermediate sprint bonuses, Howard now leads the overall classification by 14 seconds on Iglinskiy.

The second stage is a 121km race on a 10km Todaiji Temple Daibutsuden - Nunome Dam circuit. The 2008 event was won by West Australian Cameron Meyer and the 2009 team is keen to repeat the win for Australia.

Tack attack brings Etape Caledonia to a halt

An cyclosportif in Scotland was disrupted Sunday by a bizarre sabotage where carpet tacks were scattered over a section of the course, causing dozens of riders to suffer flat tires. Several riders also crashed due to sudden double punctures, and police are investigating the incident.

More than 3,500 people took part in the 81-mile event from Pitlochry in Perthshire which is the last sportif in Great Britain which allows full road closure on the course.

"It is believed that local protestors scattered a large number of carpet tacks along significant sections of the course," the race organisation said. "The safety issue was highlighted by the lead group of cyclists experiencing punctures at a specific section at Innerhadden and Schiehallion, 43 miles into the route. Subsequently hundreds of additional cyclists also received punctures as they approached the area."

The race was halted while police cleaned up the roads the best they could. The event resumed and was won by Finland's Veli-Matti Raikkonen, who was one of the riders who suffered flats.

The event expects to raise upwards of £225,000 for the Macmillan Cancer Support .

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