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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, May 26, 2009

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Di Luca in two-man Giro race

By Gregor Brown in Chieti, Italy

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) wants his pink jersey back
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca faces a two-man battle for the Giro d'Italia title after yesterday's mountain stage to Monte Petrano. The Italian and his rival, race leader Denis Menchov, forced Levi Leipheimer out of contention on the final climb.

"Today shaped the race into a two-man fight," Di Luca told Cyclingnews.

After 226 kilometres, Di Luca and Menchov were part of a group of favourites that included Levi Leipheimer at the bottom of the 10.4-kilometre climb up Monte Petrano. Leipheimer was only 43 seconds away from the overall lead at the start of the day, but lost 2.51 after he fell off the pace with eight kilometres remaining.

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Di Luca began the day in second overall at 34 seconds behind Menchov. He tried twice to create an advantage - at eight and 5.5 kilometres remaining - but Menchov responded both times. "I tried to drop him with a sudden attack. He responded very well and at that point it was useless to continue trying. I preferred to go with a steady rhythm since Sastre was riding himself into the classification."

Sastre rode away solo with seven kilometres remaining and the Spaniard gained 25 seconds, and is now third overall at 2.19 back. Di Luca is 39 seconds behind Menchov.

There are two more days that favour Di Luca: Blockhaus (Wednesday) and Vesuvio (Friday). Both stages end with long mountain climbs, with the former near Di Luca's home of Pescara. "They’re my last two chances but with Menchov like this, it’s difficult to drop him. If he makes one slight error then there could be a possibility, though."

The Giro d'Italia ends with a 14.4-kilometre time trial on Sunday. Menchov, a two-time winner of the Vuelta a España, is a favourite over the flat course.

Sunderland picks Menchov over Sastre

By Daniel Benson and Hedwig Kröner

Cool Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is Sunderland's favourite for the centenary Giro victory
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Scott Sunderland, former CSC sports director and now with Team Sky, has given his assessment over Carlos Sastre's chances of winning the Giro. "Carlos put in an awesome effort yesterday [at the Monte Petrano stage 16 on Monday - ed.], but I don't think this puts him in a position in which he can win the Giro," Sunderland told Cyclingnews on Tuesday.

The Spanish Tour de France winner took the victory on the decisive mountain stage and made up precious time to his rivals. Still, he sits in third position on general classification, 2.19 minutes adrift of race leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and 1.40 minutes behind second-placed Danilo Di Luca (LPR).

Sunderland, who knows Sastre well through his years at CSC, thought that the Spaniard used up vital energy on the road to Monte Petrano on Monday. "Carlos [Sastre] dug deep yesterday," he said. "He can improve a little still in these last few days, with a rest day to his advantage. But I think he might come up a bit short to make up all that time [2.19 to Menchov at least - ed.]."

The Australian thought that Sastre may be a bit too far behind to be a real threat to maglia rosa wearer Menchov. "He'd have to have an exceptional day again, as he has to make up three minutes before the time-trial to have a realistic chance of winning this Giro," Sunderland said.

"As far as I can see, there are only three contenders for the final podium left in the race. Both Menchov and Di Luca are better against the clock, so in the last TT they won't lose time. Just doing the maths on the situation as it is right now, going into the last 14km-long ITT, anyone wanting to take the final overall should have a 20 to 30 seconds lead on Menchov."

The Rabobank rider looked serene on Monte Petrano even though his adversaries did not leave out a chance to attack him. "Seeing the ease with which Menchov rode yesterday, I think he's is the favourite for the overall win on Sunday," Sunderland said. "Menchov was in control; riding within himself and keeping his cool. The manner in which he sprinted away from Di Luca in the end says it all."

Leipheimer "not strong enough" in Petrano battle

By Gregor Brown in Monte Petrano, Italy

Levi Leipheimer, in tow of Lance Armstrong, may have lost the Giro on Monte Petrano
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Levi Leipheimer may have lost his chance of win the Giro d'Italia Monday by falling over two minutes back to the race favourites on the stage to Monte Petrano.

"Today [yesterday] was the day that separated everyone and you see who's strong and who's not," said Leipheimer.

The stage contained four categorised climbs through the Appennini mountains of Le Marche region. Leipheimer, third overall and 43 seconds back on the lead heading into the day, was with race leader Denis Menchov and second placed Danilo Di Luca for the start of the final climb up Monte Petrano.

"Immediately at the bottom of the climb, they started going faster and I did not feel strong enough to go with them," said Leipheimer.

Astana teammate Lance Armstrong proved his form was on the rise by bridging up to the favourites on the 10.4-kilometre climb when Leipheimer lost ground. A surge by eventual stage winner Carlos Sastre at eight kilometres remaining distanced Armstrong, who then paced Leipheimer.

"I would have lost much more time. He saved me minutes and minutes. I don't feel as strong as before, you see the difference between a seven-time Tour winner like Lance. He was stronger and had to wait for me today."

Leipheimer will recover his strength on the rest day in Chieti. He is sixth overall at 3:21 behind race leader Denis Menchov, but only 1:02 behind third-placed Sastre.

The American may be able to gain or conserve time over the next two mountain-top finishes of Blockhaus (Wednesday) and Vesuvio (Friday) to stay in contention for a podium place. The race finishes on Sunday in Rome with a stage that is suited to Leipheimer, a 14.4-kilometre time trial.

Popovych nearly goes the distance

By Gregor Brown in Chieti, Italy

Yaroslav Popovych (Astana) hands off water to Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Yaroslav Popovych took the hardest day at the Giro d'Italia head on with an attack only two kilometres into the 235-kilometre stage on Monday.

"I went clear for the team and then I just took the situation as it came to me," he told Cyclingnews.

Popovych broke away with 19 others, forming a well-balanced lead group. They battled over the race's climbs, but prior to the fourth and final climb of Monte Petrano the Ukrainian was on his own.

"There were a lot of guys just trying to save their legs in the escape. I am not stupid, I saw many riders who joined the escape and then pulled very little. When we took seven-plus minutes and we had a good rhythm, but they helped only a little bit."

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Gabriele Bosisio (LPR) were the last to stay with Popovych, who was trying for a stage win and staying up the road in case team captain Levi Leipheimer needed him in a crucial moment. Cunego was fighting for a stage win to salvage his Giro d'Italia and Bosisio was seemingly playing dead for classification favourite and teammate Danilo Di Luca.

"The strongest were Cunego and I but not Bosisio. Let's not kid ourselves! Bosisio stayed on our wheels all the day and did not pull one metre," said Popovych, who stayed on his own until 2.5 kilometres remaining of the 10.4-kilometre climb. Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) then passed him and went on to win the stage. The Astana rider eventually drifted further back, passed by teammates Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong, to finish 18th.

Popovych joined team Astana this year to ride at the side of Armstrong and under the guidance of Johan Bruyneel. He raced the 2008 season with Silence-Lotto.

Rest day wrap: Changing terrain, changing fortunes

By Susan Westemeyer

Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Giro d'Italia's second week delivered the mix of racing fans had hoped for. Two sprint stages, a punishing time trial, successful breaks and a host of tough mountains in searing heat resulted in a definitive, albeit slight, lead for a Russian stalwart.

Cavendish proved his sprinting superiority by easily winning two stages before dropping out of the race to rest up for the Tour de France. Meanwhile, behind the Brit opponents squabbled with one another, most likely out of frustration at not being able to get around the speedy Manxman.

Rabobank's Denis Menchov powered his way around the feared and lengthy Cinque Terre time trial to take the maglia rosa from Danilo Di Luca, although the Italian was able to hang on doggedly to second place. Astana's Levi Leipheimer moved up to third overall following a strong showing in the TT, although after stage 16 he would drop to sixth overall.

Popular opinion had Astana's Lance Armstrong a favourite for the time trial, with the American apparently planning to hunt the win; it soon became clear that it was not to be. He went through the first time check 43 seconds down and continued to lose time along the way.

The seven-time Tour de France champion finished in a time sandwiched between the defending Tour champion and an Australian Giro hopeful (Carlos Sastre and Michael Rogers) but time lost in the subsequent stages meant he lies in 12th place, 11 minutes down on Menchov, by the second rest day.

Read the full Giro second rest day wrap.

Kashechkin to CAS for come-back in August

By Jean-François Quénet in Monaco

Andrey Kashechkin (here at the 2006 Vuelta) wants to make his come-back into cycling
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alexandre Vinokourov isn't the only Kazakh rider who wants to return after the 2009 Tour de France. Andrey Kashechkin is also preparing for his return to competition. He told Cyclingnews that he awaits a statement from the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) to allow him to race again. The hearing is scheduled for June 24, in Lausanne.

"I really love cycling," said Kashechkin as he described his feelings after almost two years after he received the visit of the UCI anti-doping controllers in Turkey on August 1, 2007, as he was on vacation with his family. "My first son, David, was born during the Tour de France," the Kazakh said. "A normal father would have been with his wife for the birth but I didn't want to pull out of the race."

He was forced to do so in 2007 after the exclusion of the whole Astana team following the positive doping test of their captain Vinokourov who eventually got a one-year suspension from the Kazakh cycling federation (CFRK), but the UCI made clear that he wouldn't be allowed to race before serving an effective ban of two years.

Kashechkin, on the other hand, was never suspended. On April 8, 2008, the CFRK issued a letter communicating that they didn't have "the elements necessary to start a doping proceeding against Mr. Andrey Kashechkin. Therefore Mr. Andrey Kashechkin has no case to answer and is free to exercise any cycling competitive activity." The Kazakh authorities argued that they didn't receive the documents they had requested concerning the B-sample analysis from the UCI.

"But in everybody's mind, I'm positive", said Kashechkin who was found positive for blood transfusion like Vinokourov. "I've always said that I'm not against the doping controls. I'm transparent and available 24 hours a day, anytime, anywhere. I fill up the documents for my whereabouts all the time. But I haven't been tested so far since August 1, 2007."

Although he has no current contact with Vinokourov, Kashechkin still remains a resident in Monaco where he takes care of his son, but also keeps on training. "All the tests at the cardio centre of Monaco are good", he said. "I'm prepared to intensify my training once I can race again. I’m just wait for the CAS to state that, for instance, on August 1st, after two years of inactivity, I'm totally free to race."

But Kashechkin will still have to find a team. "I haven't contacted anybody yet", he said. He had a contract with Astana running until the end of 2009 but that was signed with the Zeus company of Marc Biver, not Johan Bruyneel's Olympus. "If anybody opens his door to me, I’ll go in", Kashechkin said. "If I can put a number on my back at the start of any race, I'd be a happy man. The course of the inaugural time trial of the Tour de France in Monaco (on July 4) suits me perfectly, I know every corner and every meter of the race, but I'd need something magical to happen for me to take part in it. I've always had the vision that I'll race again, I just don't know when."

Kohl: blood-doping at the Tour

Ex-Mountains jersey winner Bernhard Kohl will now dedicate himself to the anti-doping fight
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Bernhard Kohl not only used CERA during the 2008 Tour de France, but also blood doping. The Austrian underwent three transfusions of his own blood during the race, he said on German television Monday night, after announcing his retirement from the sport. In another interview, he admitted that he first started doping at age 19 when he joined the military.

Appearing on the Beckmann talk show, Kohl said that he received the EPO derivative CERA from a "sports colleague", whose name he did not publicly mention. Kohl was suspended for two years after testing positive for CERA at the Tour.

The Austrian's manager Stefan Matschiner brought two litres of blood and centrifuge to the Tour, Kohl said. He went to Matschiner's hotel room three times to receive transfusions of half a litre. "In a few quiet minutes between massage, interviews, eating. It went pretty fast, it was all over in 20 minutes."

Meanwhile, Kohl denied that there was any systematic doping at his former Team Gerolsteiner. "I can definitely say that there as no team-organised doping." But he wouldn't comment as to whether any team doctors were involved, saying only, "If a doctor can add one and one together, then he knows that this performance didn't happen honestly."

His first exposure to doping came at age 19, when he joined the Austrian military as an athlete-soldier. "At 19, I had got maybe three or four shots," he said in an interview widely printed in the Austrian media. Doping starts in the U23 days, he said, and not just in cycling.

His continued the use of performance-enhancing substances was not hindered by doping controls. "Out of 200 controls, 198 showed nothing. And I tell you, 100 of them should have been positive. "I would give myself a shot in the morning, the controllers came an hour later - so what."

Blood passport ineffective?

Kohl moreover said that the UCI's blood passport had been a big help to his career, implying that the system does not detect doping as expected. "I had the blood passport for a year and a half, and my blood values were A-1. That's why I got my super contract with Silence-Lotto."

The Belgian team signed him after Gerolsteiner folded, but annulled the contract after Kohl's positive test.

Kohl said that Silence-Lotto "saw my blood values and said, 'wow, he does that well!' Because they know that you don't finish third in the Tour simply from bread and water, that the medical aspect has to be there, too. They said, 'he's no risk, we can spend a lot of money on him.'" (SW)

Join our forum thread on Bernhard Kohl.

Valverde takes legal action

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) has taken legal action against members of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). After receiving a two-year ban by the Italian anti-doping tribunal on May 11, Valverde's lawyers argue that the suspension was delivered in disobedience of Spanish law.

In a press release, Valverde informed that "separate legal and penal proceedings were taken before the Spanish courts against the members of the National Anti Doping National Court (TNA) of the CONI (...) and aganist the World Anti-Doping Agency for possible offences of disobedience to the Spanish judicial authorities." The two-year ban on Italian soil could prevent Valverde from racing the Tour de France, which passes through the country this year.

"These institutions continue to behave with total contempt towards the Spanish judicial authorities, refusing to obey the decisions of the Court of Instruction Nr. 31 of Madrid, which prevent from using the evidence of the penal procedure against sportsmen," the press release continued.

Valverde also made known that he is suing the Italian Olympic Committee's head prosecutor, Ettore Torri, as well as Jesper Worre, President of the Danish Cycling Federation, for damages. Worre had said that the Spaniard was not welcome at the Tour of Denmark.

Colavita-Sutter Home sweeps Tour of Somerville

By Kirsten Robbins in Somerville, New Jersey

Colavita/Sutter Home’s Sebastian Haedo showed the determination of a winner.
Photo ©: Marco Quezada
(Click for larger image)

Colavita-Sutter Home sprinters Sebastian Haedo and Tina Pic won their second consecutive Tour of Somerville criteriums held on Memorial Day Monday May 25 in Somerville, New Jersey. The pair aim to win their respective events at the upcoming TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships and the Liberty Classic held on June 7.

Haedo teammates slung shot him from a perfectly timed lead out, into the hard-fought bunch sprint. Team Type 1 put forth a commanding finale lead out for their sprinter Aldo Ino Iiesic. It was overtaken on the final straight by Haedo and Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) for second place and IIesic was forced to settle for third place.

"My teammates lined up behind the other lead out trains," said Haedo, who went up against powerful opposition from Kelly Benefits Strategies and Team Type 1. "It was a long last lap and with the two long straights on either side of the course, I wanted my teammates to take it easy. I had my train jump right before the last corner. We expected the fight from the other teams, we prepared for it and I had no reason to be afraid of it."

The Tour of Somerville held an added importance for both Colavita-Sutter Home and Team Type 1 where both team's title sponsors are located in neighboring New Jersey cities. "This race is always one of the most important races of the year for us," said Haedo who received a congratulatory cheer from John A. Profaci, vice president of Colavita USA and their fan base. "It is not just to say thank you for our professional teams but for the whole family. The U23 and junior teams, the women's teams, the amateur teams and all the clubs around the nation - it's for everyone."

Haedo's teammate Tina Pic, a five-time US national criterium champion, showed she has not lost an ounce of speed winning another the event known for being one of the fastest criteriums in the country. Pic wound up her lengthy sprint out of the last corner and flew through the finish line ahead of fierce sprint rivals Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci-Breakaway) and Laura van Gilder (C3-Sollay).

"We call this race the Colavita world championships," laughed Pic regarding the large Colavita-Sutter Home area between the first and second corner. "It's important for us because the whole company comes out to support us so it's an event we always want to do well in."

Both sprinters are aiming for victories in the highly anticipated TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships/Liberty Classic. "I've been feeling really good this season and I've been healthy," Haedo said. "I hope to win the race in Philadelphia this year."

Celebrate with Cyclingnews' Giro Sweepstakes

The centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia has started off with exciting finishes, beautiful terrain and great performances by the superstars of cycling. We're celebrating the Giro in the best way we know how – working the race to bring you daily race reports, photos, features and live coverage.

Thanks to our friends at BMC, you can share in the celebration – simply enter our BMC-Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia Sweepstakes for a chance to win.

One lucky Grand Prize winner will receive a BMC SLC01 Pro Machine road bike frame – the same frame ridden by the riders on the US-based BMC Racing Team – as well as an Assos-made BMC team jersey, cap and socks.

Enter the contest at All you have to do is answer two questions and complete the entry form – you don't have to buy anything! Please only enter once and good luck!

Entries close May 31, 2009, at 11:59PM Pacific time.

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