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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for May 17, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Di Luca Deluxe in 2005

A look at Danilo Di Luca's year so far...

By Les Clarke

Plenty to celebrate at the Giro
Photo ©: Sirotti
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If Danilo Di Luca were to call an early end to his season after the spring classics, many would say he's had an incredible year - but to follow up his wins at Amstel Gold Race and La Fleche Wallonne, Di Luca currently leads the Giro d'Italia, easily the most consistent rider so far.

The Liquigas gun also leads the Pro Tour standings as a result of his great performances, donning the white outfit with plenty of pride. Over the last three weeks, the only time Di Luca hasn't been dressed in white on a bike is when he's been wearing the maglia rosa - something he's becoming very fond of.

Touted as a great hope for the Liquigas team at their launch earlier this year, Di Luca has been quick to praise their efforts - following his Fleche Wallonne win he said; "My team did a great job. It was only when we all arrived together at the foot of the last climb that I thought of winning. This morning, I was actually more focused on Liège-Bastogne-Liège!" It's been more of the same during the Giro, with his team setting up a strong push in the last 50km of most stages, and Di Luca hasn't disappointed, finding the strength to hold off most contenders but never doing anything to harm his chances overall.

Happy days after a disappointing 2004

It may seem like Di Luca's stellar 2005 performances come after a promising buildup in preceding years, but that's definitely not the case - quite the opposite, in fact. Riding for the Saeco Macchine per Caffe team, 2004 wasn't one of Di Luca's best years - "I was feeling good at the start of the year. I was fourth in Amstel, second in Flèche, but then I was sick before Liege-Bastogne-Liege so I couldn't start. After that, my team wasn't accepted for the Tour, I wasn't in the national team for the World's and the Olympic Games, so it was really bad for me." A large part of that 'bad' 2004 was being 'uninvited' to the Tour de France after finding himself part of an audio recording with Dr Carlo Santuccione about new performance-enhancing drugs. Italian police took possession of the recording and Di Luca was subsequently omitted from le Tour.

His non-selection for the Italian Worlds team had a little to do with this incident and a lot to do with the dilemma facing manager Franco Ballerini; with so much depth in Italian cycling, who would he select as team leader (in accordance with his selection philosophy)? He decided against Di Luca, even though he is a proven classics rider. With only a third placing to the Italians, some would say Di Luca's inclusion would have made the difference - for Di Luca it just added to the disappointment of the year. It was a similar situation in relation to Olympic team selection, although the result in Athens (Bettini winning gold) dampened any claims made in support of Di Luca's inclusion.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Giro rest day shorts

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Firenze

Rock and roll, dude: Dave Z enters the record books

Dave Zabriskie's right cheek
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
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When Cyclingnews asked David Zabriskie before Stage 9 in Firenze how it felt to enter the cycling stats as the third American in cycling history along with Andy Hampsten and Tyler Hamilton to win a Giro d'Italia time trial, he smiled and said: "rock and roll, dude" - yet another example of his unique sense of humor, provoking plenty of laughter from his CSC team-mate Christian Vandevelde.

Zabriskie told us that as Stage 8 unfolded, "I was waiting in our team car, watching the race on TV and I was really happy to realize that I had finally won." Already used to a Grand Tour podium appearance from his stage win at the Vuelta last season, Dave Z seemed to drink much more spumante than maglia rosa Di Luca. We asked the CSC rider if he had heard from the folks back home and he replied: "Yeah, I spoke to my girlfriend and my mom; they were happy I won." We then asked Zabriskie to rate Vandevelde's performance and after jokingly wondering if Vandevelde would even make it to Milano, Zabriskie praised his fellow American, saying, "he's doing really good. His back is sorted out and he seems happy and is smiling all the time."

For his part, Zabriskie has seen an improvement in his performance since joining CSC. "The team has excellent organization and I would also say that Bjarne has helped my training, too; getting the power back into my left leg and a lot of big gear training that has helped me this year." The power increase for the American is clearly there, as Zabriskie rode the flat final 16km of Saturday's Stage 8 TT at an average speed of 55km/hr!

We also asked CSC team boss Bjarne Riis about David Zabriskie and he smiled and replied: "Well, David is a funny guy... he has a very unique sense of humor. I think you have to get used to him. He has a special personality and I think you have to figure him out and work with him because he's a good guy. But for some people, they feel he's strange. But he has a good character and he's a very good bike rider. I saw him in the Vuelta [where he won Stage 13] and in the Worlds TT [Zabriskie finished fifth] and we brought him onto the team. You have to get to know him and I think it's nice to be able to work with David; he takes some time but that's how we do it on CSC. He has to learn to sit in the peloton and other things."

Riis continued, saying: "David has a lot of humor, sometimes maybe too much for some people, but he's also a guy who brings a lot of spirit to the team and makes the atmosphere good. He's a good guy and I think we have the possibility to work with David and see him progress in the coming years. You'll see him more in this Giro, especially on the climbs. You could see that in the TT on Saturday."

Whitey has not left the building

Whitey has not left the building.
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
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As the riders signed in before Stage 9 in Firenze, Cyclingnews heard a laff riot over the loudspeaker and went to investigate. At the center of a scrum of riders was Cofidis man Matt White, sporting the most flamboyant shades seen in the peloton since Greg LeMond showed up with his Oakley Eye Shields motocross eyewear 20 some years ago. Although sponsored by Oakley himself, Whitey had found a pair of strange retro shades in the hinterlands of Calabria and decided that he needed to make a Monday morning fashion statement to spice up the Giro.

With his mate Stuart O'Grady laughing in the background, Whitey modeled his new peeper-keepers exclusively for Cyclingnews. "It's the new 'Elvis Lives' model, mate...you know, I'm just trying to bring a bit of class back to cycling," joked the Sydneysider. "Things are going good so far at the Giro... but the real racing hasn't started yet," he added, referring to the upcoming mountain stages. No word whether Oakley will fine White for contract violations, or else get the 'Elvis Lives' shades off him for their 2006 product line.

Billy Boy: Discovering Bileka

Billy (Volodymyr Bileka)
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
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Fans of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team may have noticed the name of Volodymyr Bileka this season, as he's posted good placings at the Tour of the Algarve in February and three fourth place stage finishes at Setmana Catalana in March. Bileka enjoyed a solid amateur career on Italy's legendary Palazzago amateur squad, where he was runner up at Paris-Roubaix (U23) in 2001.

Nicknamed Billy, the likeable Ukranian came to Discovery with his long-time friend Yaroslav Popovych. Bileka has been good during the Giro d'Italia, his third time in the Italian tour, with a third place sprint in Stage 6 and then 15th in Sunday's Stage 8 TT, just ahead of defending Giro champ Cunego.

Billy is at the Giro to support Discovery Channel team leader Savoldelli and before the start in Firenze, we chatted with the 26 year-old, originally from Drogobych, but now resident in Poggio a Caiano, just west of Firenze. We caught up with Billy Bileka in the hospitality villagio in Firenze as he chatted with two of his tifosi, Domenico and Pinza.

CN: Billy, we noticed that not only are you a fast sprinter at this Giro, but you are also a good time trialist. What's your secret?

VB: Well, I trained well over the winter and started the season at my new team Discovery Channel team. So when I found myself in the sprints, I tried to give it my best. I'm a pretty good sprinter so why not try... but at the Giro, the finale of the stages has been hard and so you need some luck too.

CN: What about your time trial performance? There wasn't much luck there.

VB: Well, I'm not bad in time trials either... When I was a young rider, I had many good performances, so I can still do well. Sunday I was motivated; I started well and since I had good legs, I tried to do well. I live in Poggio a Caiano, where the Intergiro was and so the last climb and descent are roads I've done very often in training.

CN: What is your role on the Discovery Channel team at the Giro?

VB: My main job at the Giro is to work for the team and support Savoldelli. It's a hard race this year with a lot of good riders this year, but Savoldelli is good and getting better. The team has a lot of faith that Paolo can have a good Giro and finish on the podium.

Smiling Simoni sardonic: "On Thursday, the real Giro starts"

Gilberto Simoni's licking his lips
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Although the Italian cycling press was quick to write off Lampre-Cafitta's Gilberto Simoni after his mediocre time trial last Sunday, the 33 year-old Trentino mountain man from Palu di Giovo seems amused by it all.

Cyclingnews asked Simoni before the start of Stage 9 in Firenze for his take: "Up until now, we've only done 6km of climbing. I'm tranquillo, because if someone wants to win the Giro d'Italia, the real work (to win) hasn't started yet. From Thursday, when we start the Dolomiti, the real Giro starts."

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

Tafi's forever Tifo

Tim Maloney, European Editor in Lamporecchio

Andrea Tafi accepts one of his many awards
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
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On Saturday evening at an elegant Tuscan villa high in the hills above Lamporecchio, Andrea Tafi said good bye to his career as a pro cyclist. Hundreds of friends and fans gathered at Villa Rospigliosi for "TifoTafi Forever", a unique talk-show style format party conceived by Italian PR maestro Gabriele Sola and hosted by RAI Sport TV broadcaster Alessandra Di Stefano.

To honor Tafi, one of the most popular Italian riders in recent memory were a host of "i big" of cycling, including: UCI prexy Hein Verbruggen; Tafi's Tuscan neighbor, former Mapei team-mate and current technical director for the Italian pro federation Franco Ballerini; newly elected Italian federation president Di Rocco; two-time world champion Gianni Bugno; RAI Sport TV's Davide Cassani; and former pros like Roberto Conti, Saunier Duval-Prodir manager Mauro Gianetti, Tafi's last boss.

Legendary Tuscan sprinter of the 1950s, Lorenzo Petrucci, was also present and Tafi's longtime DS Fabrizio "Mayday" Fabbri was there as well as former Giro boss Avv. Carmine Castellano. "I'm really honored by this evening... it's a great way to leave cycling as a rider, but I'm not going far," joked the ever-ebullient Tafi, who will open an agriturismo hotel dedicated to cyclists in Lamporecchio this summer.

All eyes on the giant screen
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
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Born May 7, 1966 in Fucecchio, Italy, Tafi was a classic model of the rider the Italians call a "passista". In his prime, Andrea was a steamroller of a rider, a powerhouse pro, who could go incredibly hard on flat and rolling terrain and ride well on short climbs of 5-10km. He turned pro in 1989 and earned 30 wins in his pro career, but his last two seasons in 2003-4 at CSC and then Alessio were beset with injury and disappointment after his brilliant solo win at the Tour of Flanders in 2002 for Mapei.

Although Tafi didn't win often, he often won big, with monuments like Paris-Roubaix, Flanders, Paris-Tours, Giro di Lombardia and major races like Italian Pro Championship (1998), Giro del Lazio, Giro del Piemonte and Rochester World Cup (1997) among his palmares. Tafi was a rider of the "circolo popolo", a man for the common man, an incredibly generous rider who might have won more if he had been more selfish. But on his day, Andrea Tafi could ride any rider in the world off his wheel to win, or make one of his devastating counter-attacks like the one that propelled him to his last major win in Flanders three years ago.

Beautiful downtown Lamporecchio
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
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For his final half-season, a healthy Tafi had a respectable spring campaign for Saunier Duval-Prodir and rode his last race in Georgia last month. Tafi always enjoyed racing in America, where he made his pro debut in the 1989 Tour de Trump and won two stages of the long-defunct Tour of Americas in 1990. Tafi told Cyclingnews that he has especially fond memories of the 1998 USPRO Championships in Philadelphia, where a warm reception from his American tifosi provoked him to ride an especially aggressive race that June Sunday. "Please tell all my American tifosi thanks for everything," Tafi made a point of telling Cyclingnews at his TifoTafi Forever farewell.

Arrivederci Tafi! Grazie per tutto! Sei un grande!

Hoste pulls out of Catalunya

After fracturing his sternum resulting from a crash in Paris-Roubaix back on April 10, Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) was set to make his return to competition at yesterday's Volta a Catalunya. However, eight kilometres in the team time trial opener on a false-flat piece of road, the 28 year-old Belgian pulled out of the formation, stopped and began to hyperventilate.

"All was going well for him and he was very much ready to come back to competition," said assistant directeur-sportif, Dirk Demol, in a team statement.

Hoste sat down at the side down at the side of the road, breathing heavily, before team physician Dr. Dag van Elslande, who was in the car with Demol, checked him over. "We were all really scared," added Demol. "When I passed him, I saw nothing was wrong with his bike but on his face he looked like he was really breathing heavy."

"Maybe the crash in Paris-Roubaix has got something to do with this hyperventilation," Demol told Het Nieuwsblad. "On top of that, such a team time trial demands extreme efforts of a rider, while Leif has only just come back to racing."

Fortunately, Hoste recovered from his breathing difficulties and returns back to his home in Belgium today, where he will undergo a full medical check-up.

However, it wasn't just Hoste who found the pace of competition too much. After 19.2 kilometres, only five of Discovery's eight riders - the minimum required for finishing a team time trial - crossed the line together in Salou, so given the circumstances, the team rode exceptionally well end up second to Phonak.

"What I saw today was a strong Popo [Yaroslav Popovych] and the four others," Demol said. "Popo was good, Jurgen [Van Den Broeck] was strong and so was Roger [Hammond], Benjamin [Noval] and Stijn [Devolder]. They all had to take longer pulls, so to only lose by seven seconds with just five guys, it was frustrating."

On what to expect the rest of the week, Demol added: "We have many guys here who are just coming back to competition and coming back from injury, so we really don't know what to expect. We will go into the next two days and try not to lose time, and see where we are after that. I am hoping for a stage win this week. The GC will be hard for us."

Team CSC: "It's hard not to be optimistic"

After two brilliant performances in Sunday's Stage 8 time trial at the Giro d'Italia, where Dave Zabriskie won the stage and Ivan Basso finished second, Team CSC got a relatively easy ride before today's rest day in Ravenna, as the second - and ultimately decisive - phase of the race awaits.

"We let the other teams do most of the work today. Instead, we concentrated on looking after Ivan [Basso] in the peloton, and we only took the lead for a short while in order to prevent any of our riders getting involved in a crash. The team really got a confidence boost after the time trial, and everyone is ready to take their turn, when necessary," said sports director Alain Gallopin on the team's website, www.team-csc.com, shortly after the conclusion of Stage 9.

"After the rest day, we enter the second phase of the Giro, which includes several difficult stages, but after yesterday's success [Stage 8], it's hard not to be optimistic," he said.

Over in Spain, the team finished 20th out of 23 teams in the opening team trial stage of the Volta a Catalunya, but nevertheless were happy with the return to form of Dane Jakob Pill after an injury-plagued spring.

"Jakob was very strong today, probably our strongest rider, so he's definitely on track for the Tour de France," said sports director Scott Sunderland after the 20 kilometre stage.

Sunderland added that while a ProTour race, the team's priority is clearly on the Giro d'Italia, and with a mixed bag of riders, a number of younger riders will get their chance to play their own cards.

"We can't be good everywhere all year 'round, and some of our riders also need the occasional rest. So it's kind of a mixed line-up we have down here," he said. "Piil and [Carlos] Sastre are returning from injuries, while guys like Lars Michaelsen, Thomas Bruun and Allan Johansen have done all the spring classics. We'll try to win a stage, and I've given Manuel Calvente a free role so he can ride his chance."

Zabel getting better, but Petacchi too fast

Sitting pretty in fourth wheel behind Alessandro Petacchi and his last two lead-out men with a kilometre to go, T-Mobile's Erik Zabel appeared to be in the best slipstream of all on Stage 9 of the Giro from Firenze to Ravenna. But in the end, the finishing speed of Petacchi resulted in a victory won by over two bike lengths from his nearest competitor, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), while Zabel ended up fifth.

Said his sporting manager Valerio Piva on the team's website, www.t-mobile-team.com: "Erik was well-positioned in the finale, and the team did a good job at leading him out. But when Petacchi got going, there was nothing you could do. Petacchi is just too fast at the moment!"

A brief guide to Giro classifications for the bewildered

Ok, now that one I know!
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Many correspondents have expressed a certain degree of confusion about the Giro's rather more than usually extensive list of prize lists - and the consequent length of our results pages... Roger Hughes attempts to demystify some of these mysteries of the 2005 Giro d'Italia.

Many of these classifications, or classifiche, are a result of the race having rather a lot of small sponsors. Each classification is of course a chance for another company to get its name mentioned somewhere, or for another notable to take his place on the podium for the prize ceremonies. Here is a quick rundown of the categories used for the 2005 race. Most are calculated both overall for the race as a whole and individually for each stage.

General classification (classifica generale - maglia rosa)

The big prize, the race for the pink jersey, is, of course, the normal general classification on total elapsed time, less time bonuses (20, 12 and 8 seconds for the first three at the finish and 6, 4 and 2 seconds for the first three in the Intergiro sprint in each non-time trial stage). Total prize list: €360,000 for the overall competition plus €328,000 for daily stage placings.

Points classification (classifica ai punti - maglia ciclamina)

Pink is also for points, but dark pink
Photo ©: Sirotti
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The equivalent of the Tour's green jersey competition, awarded on the basis of points for placings at the stage finish (the first 15) and the Intergiro sprint (the first 6). Unlike the Tour (where the competition is deliberately biased towards sprinters), the same points are awarded for all stages (except the prologue), so this often goes to a rider who has a good final week in the mountains (especially given the recent trend for the top sprinters to go home and watch that week on TV). Total prize list: €102,000

Mountains classification (Gran Premio della Montagna - maglia verde)

Again, a fairly standard arrangement for the climbers' green jersey: points for the first rider over the main climbs, split into three numbered categories. There's also a special rate for summit finishes and individual scales for the two highest climbs: the "Cima Coppi", traditionally adjudged at the highest point on the route, this year the Stelvio, and the Colle della Finestre. Total prize list: €81,000

Click here to read about the rest of the classifications - there's six more!

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