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First Edition Cycling News, May 27, 2009

Edited by Greg Johnson

The run to Rome: Giro contenders ready for Rabobank showdown

Two contenders, two approaches, two chances remaining

By Les Clarke with assistance from Gregor Brown

Today's climb to Blockhaus is expected to be decisive,
Photo ©: Quick Step
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini) and Carlos Sastre (Saxo Bank) know their chances to win this year's Giro d'Italia are limited to two stages. Placed second and third overall respectively, the Italo-Spanish pair spent the rest day recovering from two weeks of incredibly intense racing and planning their possible rise to the maglia rosa, held by Rabobank's Denis Menchov heading into the final week of racing which commences today.

After a mammoth stage win and a late night transfer, a day without racing was welcome relief for Sastre. The Cervélo TestTeam captain earned his respite with victory in stage 16, which moved him into third on general classification.

"I'm trying to rest as much as possible from this dramatic Giro, which is witnessing what are really summer temperatures," said Sastre yesterday. "And I'm also trying to charge my batteries to take on this next week - these last five racing days of this year's Giro d'Italia - with the best chance of being able to go for the top spot."

Those who thought Sastre was in Italy purely as preparation for the Tour de France may be revising their opinions, with the Spaniard indicating that he has set his sights high, as he displayed in the stage to Monte Petrano. "Above all, I want to meet the expectations that I set myself when I signed up to this race and to go home feeling satisfied that I've done everything that I had to do and that I've given 100 percent every day," he said.

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team) celebrates his win
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

As for the week ahead, there's no doubt Sastre is expecting the racing to become even more intense, given the limited opportunities available to overall contenders. "There aren't many options left but we do have two mountain stages with climbing finishes," he said. "One of them is a relatively short stage at 80km long with a finish in Blockhaus and then on Friday, we have the other mountain stage finishes in Vesuvius. That will be a slightly longer stage with a more demanding pass than tomorrow's.

"So, there are two options, two opportunities that keep my motivation and enthusiasm alive to keep trying up until the very last day in Rome," he added.

One of the men expected to chance his arm on the road from Chieti to Blockhaus will be Di Luca. Sitting in second overall, just 39 seconds behind Menchov, the Italian knows he has little other choice than to try and attack in the last two mountains stages. He does have a slight edge, however, as Cyclingnews discovered.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"He [Di Luca] is the only rider Menchov fears," said LPR-Brakes - Farnese manager Fabio Bordonali. "Those two are a step ahead of the others. You saw, when Di Luca could not distance Menchov he then started to work with him to create as big as gap as possible to the others, like Leipheimer. Certainly, Di Luca will try on Blockhaus or Vesuvio, like he did on Monday."

The obvious problem for Di Luca will be shedding the Russian if the pair attacks. Di Luca realises this but is remaining optimistic. "Menchov showed again he's very strong, but I tried," said the LPR Brakes captain. "There's still Blockhaus and Vesuvius. We'll see... it would require that Menchov has a very bad day.

"I still believe and I will until the end, but it depends on how Menchov reacts in the last two key stages," he added.

As for the possibility of Sastre making another move like that which helped him to the win on Monday, Di Luca knows that he and his Russian general classification high flier will be wiser during the next two mountain stages. "Sastre attacked because he was capable of attacking," he said of Sastre's attack up Monte Petrano. "He won't be able to attack anymore because now Menchov and I will be more attentive of him."

See the remaining Giro d'Italia stages in detail with Cyclingnews' break down of this year's route.

Ten Dam: Rabobank can win Giro

By Gregor Brown in Chieti, Italy

Denis Menchov sits in a strong position according to his team-mate.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Laurens Ten Dam believes Rabobank has a team capable of defending Denis Menchov's Giro d'Italia lead all the way to Rome. Menchov holds a 39 second lead over Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini) following the second rest day, with the final week of racing commencing today.

"I think we showed [on Monday] we have a team," Ten Dam told Cyclingnews.

Rabobank responded well over the 235-kilometre stage from Pergola to Monte Petrano on Monday. The Dutch team had to protect Menchov's lead over Di Luca on a stage many claimed to be the hardest Grand Tour stage in recent history.

Ten Dam was crucial in Rabobank's defence, even though it had placed two men - Maarten Tjallingii and Mauricio Ardila Cano - in the early escape of 20. Ten Dam kept a high tempo over three categorised climbs, leaving Menchov in a good position for the fourth and final climb, 10.4 kilometres up Monte Petrano.

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"It was unbelievable; I have more than 7.5 hours of riding in what was a hard and hot stage," he said. "There was a big group in the front so we had to work really hard."

After his hard work Ten Dam rode conservatively up the fan-lined climb to finish 18 minutes back. Menchov conserved his lead despite a threatening attack by Carlos Sastre and multiple attacks by Danilo Di Luca.

Ten Dam will have to stay on high alert on today's stage to Blockhaus and Friday's stage to Vesuvio. Both are mountaintop finishes that Di Luca might try to use to take the overall leader's maglia rosa.

"Those will be different to Petrano though because they are only one-climb days," he said. "I think Petrano was the hardest day for the team."

The Giro d'Italia ends with a Rabobank-favoured 14.4-kilometre time trial. If Menchov has the lead prior to the time trial, he should be able to win the Giro d'Italia, adding to two wins in the Vuelta a España.

Seeldraeyers: Belgium's budding stage racer

By Gregor Brown in Monte Petrano, Italy

Kevin Seeldrayers
Photo ©: Florian & Susanne Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

Quick Step's Kevin Seeldraeyers is learning the secrets of three-week stage races at this year's Giro d'Italia with the aim of becoming Belgium's long awaited Grand Tour contender. The 22-year-old has taken control of the young riders' classification.

"I want to try race for the classification in the Grand Tours," Seeldraeyers told Cyclingnews. "I have not done so bad here at the Giro d'Italia. I will try to keep improving."

Seeldraeyers' progress is impressive. He finished the Giro d'Italia in 73rd overall last year working for Quick Step team-mates Paolo Bettini and Giovanni Visconti. This year he won the Paris-Nice's young riders' classification and placed seventh overall. After 16 days of racing at the Giro d'Italia, he is 15th overall and leads young riders' classification with 4:13 on Italy's Francesco Masciarelli.

"I was also going good in Paris-Nice, so I had the idea to come here and race for the classification," he said. "It is going good for me, better than expected."

Seeldraeyers took over the young rider's classification for riders 25 and under from Columbia-Highroad's Thomas Lövkvist in Monday's mountains stage to Monte Petrano. His Swedish rival lost ground on the final of four climbs, the 10.4-kilometre mountaintop finish.

"Lövkvist was dropped early on, but Masciarelli is now only around four minutes behind me," said Seeldraeyers. "I knew Masciarelli was going good so I tried not to lose too much time to him on the final climb.

"There are some hard days to come," he added. "If I had one bad day my then I will lose my place in the classification, I just hope the others have a bad days."

There are two particular hard days to come: today's stage to Blockhaus and Friday's stage to Vesuvio. "If I don't lose any more time on Blockhaus or Vesuvio then it is good," he said. "I'd say I have a 50 percent chance of keeping the jersey."

Belgium's last Grand Tour winner was Johan De Muynck, who won the 1978 Giro d'Italia. The most famous is Eddy Merckx, who won five editions of the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, and one Vuelta a España.

Proposed 2016 Olympics course included in Dairyland

A race on the proposed course for the 2016 Olympic Games road race will open the inaugural Tour of America's Dairyland, the race organiser has announced. The Blue Mounds Race of the Future will be held on June 18 in Wisconsin, a neighboring state of 2016 summer Olympic Games candidate Chicago.

"To race on the course proposed for the 2016 Olympics is an incredible opportunity for any cyclist," said Tom Schuler, founding member of Midwest Cycling Series and rider on the 1980 United States of America Olympic cycling team.

Chicago is one of four cities being assessed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) members to host the 2016 Games. Chicago is joined by Japan's Tokyo, Spain's Madrid and Brazil's Rio de Janeiro on the short list for the 2016 event.

The Olympic Games were last staged in the United States of America in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Tour of America's Dairyland cycling series features seven criteriums and three road races across nine Wisconsin cities. The event, which runs between June 18-28, is supported by Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Trek Bicycles.

"The course for this event is truly world-class," said Trek's Dean Gore. "It's extremely challenging and incredibly beautiful."

Prisoners get own Tour de France

Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do contest the Tour de France.

The first penal version of the Tour de France will be held in June, with some 196 prisoners to complete 2,300 kilometres of racing. Some 124 prison officers will guard the would be athletes as they start racing from Lille on June 4, but no break away groups will be allowed, meaning only sprints will be contested by the riders.

"It's a kind of escape for us, a chance to break away from the daily reality of prison," said a 48-year-old prisoner at the event's launch in Nantes. "If we behave well, we might be able to get released earlier, on probation."

While each of the 17 host cities have prisons, the riders will be staying in hotels. The prison authorities believe the program will have a beneficial impact on the rehabilitation of its prisoners.

"This project aims to help these men reintegrate into society by fostering values like effort, teamwork and self-esteem," said prison representative Sylvie Marion. "We want to show them that with some training, you can achieve your goals and start a new life."

Like the professional version of the Tour de France, the prisoners will finish in Paris. There will be no general classification for the event.

Milram sidelines Schmidt following Kohl comments

Industry reacts to German's doping remarks

Team Milram has pulled doctor Marc Schmidt from its delegation heading to Bayern Rundfahrt in the fallout from comments made by former Gerolsteiner rider Bernhard Kohl. The Austrian has sent shockwaves through the Germany cycling world with comments made since announcing his retirement earlier this week, causing top riders Jens Voigt and Linus Gerdemann to reject his claims.

Kohl said that there was no team-organised doping at Gerolsteiner, but indicated that a team doctor may, at the minimum, have turned a blind eye to his CERA use and blood doping at the Tour 2008. "If a doctor can add one and one together, then he knows that this performance didn't happen honestly," he said.

Asked whether Doctor Marc Schmidt participated in the doping or was aware of it, Kohl hesitated a few seconds before saying "No comment."

Schmidt, along with eight riders, directeur sportif Christian Henn and various soigneurs and mechanics, transferred to Team Milram this season after Gerolsteiner ceased operation. Schmidt was scheduled to accompany Team Milram to the Bayern Rundfahrt, which starts today, but team manager Gerry van Gerwen said that the team has pulled him from the race.

"We are discussing this with Marc Schmidt and looking at everything carefully," van Gerwen told news agency SID.

Former Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer is just one person ready to go to court over Kohl's comments. "I would like more details and background from Kohl, because the insinuations against our then team doctor are very serious," he told SID.

Team Milram's Gerdemann has rejected Kohl's claims that you must dope to win at Grand Tour level. Gerdemann won a stage in the 2007 Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey for one day. "You can certainly ride with the best without doping," he told news agency dpa. "It is not correct for him to use his own misconduct to blame the rest of us. If that is how he sees cycling, then retiring at 27 is the right step."

Team Saxo Bank's Voigt hit out at Kohl for damaging innocent people's reputations while excusing his shortcomings.

"It's always the same. They sit there and pout and blame it all on the 'bad system'," Voigt said. "Why doesn't Kohl just say 'I was egotistical and wanted to take the short cut to fame, big money, fast cars and big houses'. With his generalizations he has also hit a lot of innocent people." (SW)

Australian champion ready for European campaign

Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche )
Photo ©: Greg Chang
(Click for larger image)

Australian Open Road Champion Peter McDonald will complete a block of racing in Europe with his Drapac-Porsche squad, starting on Friday. McDonald has won the Tour of Wellington and finished runner-up at Tour de Taiwan since claiming the Australian title in January, but is uncertain of how he will fair against the Europeans at the Tour de Gironde.

"It is only early days, and you are never sure how the first race will play out," McDonald said. "Everything has been going great back at home in Sydney in the lead up to the European trip. I will be definitely looking to take advantage of any opportunities, whether it is for myself or for one of my team mates".

McDonald will lead a six man squad at the Bordeaux event. Drapac-Porsche director sportif Agostino Giramondo believes the team is well prepared for the four day race.

"It is always a tough ask to perform straight away after such a long trip from Australia, but in saying that we have a great team here and I am confident that we can come away with a good result," said Giramondo.

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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