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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for May 18, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan & Jeff Jones

No extra wildcard given for the Tour

There will only be 21 teams at the start of the Tour de France in Fromentine on July 2, after race organisers ASO declined to invite a 22nd squad. That means the 20 ProTour teams plus Ag2r-Prevoyance will comprise the 189-rider Tour peloton, with five French teams in total. After a strong performance in Paris-Roubaix earlier this season, Agritubel was a candidate for an additional wild card spot, but ASO decided that the team hadn't done well enough in the more recent stage races and dropped it.

The teams for the 92nd Tour de France:

AG2R, Bouygues Telecom, Crédit Agricole, Cofidis, CSC, Discovery Channel, Davitamon-Lotto, Domina Vacanze, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Fassa Bortolo, Gerolsteiner, Illes Balears, La Française des Jeux, Lampre, Liquigas, Liberty-Seguros-Wurth, Phonak Hearing Systems, QuickStep-Innergetic, Rabobank, Saunier Duval, T-Mobile.

Scarponi growing confident

After a two-hour light training ride with his Liberty Seguros team-mates, Michele Scarponi, currently lying 13th overall in the Giro d'Italia, is growing increasingly confident.

"Yes, now I feel very sure of myself," said the 25 year-old Italian. "The first week was the most difficult for me because I have competed very little. I believe that from Thursday [the first mountain stage - ed.] I am going to improve a lot; I have a very strong team and that gives me even more confidence."

Asked how he felt he'd gone in the first phase of the race, Scarponi said "good enough, but not exceptional", adding that he lost a little more time than he wanted in Sunday's time trial, but is content to be a minute behind outright favourites Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego from Lampre-Cafitta.

"I have seen [Ivan] Basso very sure of himself and he demonstrated to be the strongest on time trial stage. If I see a favourite, it's him, but Cunego and Simoni can do the difference uphill and Savoldelli, who has also already won one Giro, is another big candidate," Scarponi said of his rivals.

"Apart from them, I am more in the shade and I'm waiting to see the tactics used by the others, especially how the Lampre will race. And, of course, I don't forget [Danilo] Di Luca and [Stefano] Garzelli, either. Liquigas has a very strong team, but Liberty Seguros-Würth is also a great team, and now the stages are to our favour," he said.

Like many riders, Scarponi commented that this year's race is a fascinating one and not like past Giri d'Italia, in that it's not easy to predict a winner because of the number of favourites.

"This second week will be very, very difficult, with long stages and very important climbs. There, we will see who can not win the Giro, but to know the one who will win in Milan, it will be necessary to wait to the third week, to the second time trial [Stage 18] and the stage to Sestrieres [Stage 19], with [Colle della] Finestre's unknown climb.

Added Scarponi: "The best Michele comes now and everything can change from here up to Milan."

Zabel likes (most) of what he sees

So far, evergreen 34 year-old Erik Zabel has enjoyed his Giro d'Italia debut, and believes the ProTour was the right step up for cycling, where he says a win now means more than before.

"The first impressions are really good," Zabel said in an interview on the team's website, "It is a really nice race, and very well organised. But having said that, some of the stages, particularly the run-ins, can be really dangerous.

"Whenever riders are really motivated, the racing starts to get nervy and then you get crashes. If we hit tricky sections of road, it can always get messy. But it is not any worse than in other similar races. The Giro's new ProTour status also means that the riders are more motivated and aggressive than in previous years.

Speaking about the ProTour, Zabel commented that it's beneficial to both the teams, riders and sponsors. He said the teams can now plan better, bringing the right riders to the right race; the races have deeper fields and hence better competition, including non-ProTour races; and it also serves as a sound basis for what the sponsors are trying to achieve.

However, the wise-man of cycling did say the ProTour's points system needs some work, a comment made by a large percentage of the peloton. "That is not yet fully sorted out," said Zabel.

"If your consider that there are only three points on offer for a stage win at the Giro or the Tour, compared to 50 for a classics win, then it doesn't really add up. After all, a Tour stage win is not so easy to pull off! I think that there's a clear effort to strengthen the one days, but they should reconsider how they are going about it. But overall, I believe that cycling is on the right track."

Zabel also added that he had a "good, hard talk" with T-Mobile's directeur-sportif Olaf Ludwig about his future with the team once he decides to stop cycling, and will be able to reveal more after the Giro finishes.

Aussie rest day ramblings

By John Trevorrow in Ravenna

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)

(When we caught up with Robbie, he was lying on his hotel bed, enjoying dinner)

CN: How did you spend the rest day?

"Just resting today - I needed it. I've been feeling a bit ordinary the last few days. I came into the Giro without a really good base because I've been crook for a while. I rushed my preparation to make the Giro start in any sort of condition. Over the last two or three days it's really been starting to catch up with me, so I only had about an hour and a quarter on the bike today. The rest of the day I had a massage, some physio... mate, I'm dead - I'm making a real resting of it."

CN: Tomorrow's the last day on the flats - how are you going to go?

"Tomorrow's [Stage 10] totally flat and it should be a sprint, but it's supposed to be raining tomorrow so it'll be a little more dangerous and a little more hectic. I think Petacchi will be desperate for another win, even though the pressure is off him a little."

Nick Gates (Davitamon-Lotto)

('Gatesy' was next to McEwen, also enjoying the rest)

"I spent today the same as Robbie - an hour and a bit on the bike, a massage and a rest. I got out of bed at 10:40 this morning after ten hours sleep, had some breakfast, went for the ride and then had lunch - and I've been in bed ever since. I'll get out of bed tomorrow and be on my way again - I'm feeling good, and we're halfway through the Giro tomorrow; I'm recovering well each day."

Russell Van Hout (Selle Italia-Colombia)

Part of the Giro's Aussie mob
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
Click for larger image

"Today was a fantastic day - a quiet day, the best day of the Giro. Went for a 25km ride - a hit-out with Willo, Stuey and Whitey; it started to rain so we headed to a cafe. Lo and behold if we don't see another bunch of Aussies - Baden, Matt and Mark - so we had a brew with them and headed back for lunch and a lie down. Then it was time for a rub, more of a lie down and dinner. Now I'm catching up with more Aussie friends!"

Trent Wilson (Selle Italia-Colombia)

(With 'Russ' at the hotel bar)

"You can't improve on that - gold! It's all about kicking back. To be honest I don't even feel like I'm on tour. I feel like the Giro finished yesterday - I'm having a beer with some mates, and it feels like I'm back in Oz! Seriously though, I feel refreshed physically, and even more so mentally; I'm ready to go again for a couple more weeks."

Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)

(Relaxing in the hotel lounge with wife Ann Marie and son Seth)

"It's great to lie back and take it easy. I had to ride myself into this race, but I'm feeling pretty good and relaxed."

CN: Will he be riding for another couple of days before pulling out?

"You can't just say you're pulling out of a grand tour - but I'll go for a couple of days in the mountains to prepare for July. Whitey was scratching around at some ungodly hour this morning, so there was no sleep in for me."

Matt White (Cofidis)

Whitey has not left the building.
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
Click for larger image

CN: So you woke Stuey up this morning?

"I wake up at the same time - 7.30 - every morning, no matter what time I get to bed. I try to be quiet, but you know... it's been a pretty quiet rest day today, a cruisy day. It's pretty lousy weather outside, so we only rode for an hour. Tomorrow's a 200km stage on the flat, so it's not like we need to warm up.

"I'm really happy with my form - I did a lot of work before the Giro and I feeling pretty strong. Yesterday, I was right near the front helping Stuey, and it was about as close to the front as I'll get in this race so far, because I don't want to die! The sprints are getting pretty dangerous! There'll be a stage when most of the sprinters have gone, and Petacchi's gone too, and I might be able to get up the road and win one."

Giro 2006 in Belgium

The 2006 Giro d'Italia will travel through the Wallonian part of Belgium, according to a report in Gazet van Antwerpen. After a prologue in Seraing on May 6, the race will spend the next three days in Belgium, visiting the provinces of Liege, Namur, Hainaut, Brabant-Wallon and Luxembourg. Stage 1 on May 7 will be from Bergen to Charleroi and include a visit to Marcinelle, where there was a mining tragedy 50 years ago that killed 262 people, over half of which were Italian. Stage 2 on May 8 will run from Perwez to Namur, while the final Belgian stage on May 9 will start in Wanze, near Huy, and finish in Leverkusen in Germany, passing via the motor racing circuit in Spa-Francorchamps.

So far, so good for Ullrich

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

After yesterday's opening road stage of the Volta a Catalunya, T-Mobile leader Jan Ullrich says he has good sensations in his legs, with he and his team leading the chase along with Phonak to bring back the early breakaway. "My legs were very strong today. I am using this race to get my legs into gear - and so far so good," said Ullrich on the team's website,

Directeur sportif was also happy with his team's performance: "The team did a good job today. We had eight riders at the front of the pack on the final climb, and we closed the gap to the break," he said. "It was a good showing."

31 year-old Ullrich finished the stage the same time as winner Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas-Bianchi), and is currently lying 14th overall on the general classification, 14 seconds behind Miguel A.M. Perdiguero (Phonak).

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