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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 11, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Valverde still top of ProTour

The season isn't finished yet, but Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) is getting closer to the goal of finishing in the white ProTour jersey, following the conclusion of the Deutschland Tour. The Spanish rider, who hasn't raced since crashing out of the Tour de France and breaking his collarbone, has 195 points. That puts him well clear of the provisionally second placed Frank Schleck (CSC), who has 150 points (Floyd Landis has been taken off the list, pending the outcome of his doping case). Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) effectively sits in third spot on 145 points, while Deutschland Tour winner Jens Voigt (CSC) has moved up from 81st to 23rd place, and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) is up to eight place from 27th.

In the teams rankings, CSC still has the edge over Caisse d'Epargne by 15 points and T-Mobile by 18 points. Spain tops the nations rankings by just 7 points over Italy, with Germany a distant third.

Rankings as of August 9, 2006

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears 195 pts
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                     150
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                         145
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                        138
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                120
7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance                          118
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                               114
9 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Astana-Würth Team                             110
10 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                         110
*Floyd Landis has been removed pending a doping investigation
1 Team CSC                                                         265 pts
2 Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                                   250
3 T-Mobile Team                                                    247
4 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                               237
5 Rabobank                                                         231
6 Phonak Hearing Systems                                           229
7 Lampre-Fondital                                                  224
8 Gerolsteiner                                                     203
10 Astana Team                                                     200
1 Spain                                                            541 pts
2 Italy                                                            534
3 Germany                                                          402
4 United States Of America                                         397
5 Belgium                                                          252
6 Australia                                                        239
7 France                                                           226
8 Netherlands                                                      215
9 Switzerland                                                      166
10 Russian Federation                                              164
Click here for the full rankings: ProTour, Teams, and Nations.

Saunier Duval looking to repeat

In the past two editions of Clasica San Sebastian, the Saunier Duval-Prodir team scored well, with Constantino Zaballa and Joaquin Rodriguez placing first and second last year and Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero winning in 2004. All of those riders are with different teams now, but Joxean Matxin Fernández's boys hope to continue the winning run. In this year's race, David Millar, Manuele Mori, Ricardo Ricco, Juan Jose Cobo, Alberto Benítez, Ruben Lobato, Angel Gómez "Litu" and Aaron Olson will fly the flag.

T-Mobile for Clasica San Sebastian

Team T-Mobile has announced its roster for this Saturday's Clasica San Sebastian. Austrian champion Bernhard Kohl and the experienced Giuseppe Guerini spearhead the magenta outfit in the Basque country, where 225km of hilly terrain awaits the peloton. Kohl particularly impressed this year at the Dauphiné Libéré, where he climbed his way to third overall, while Guerini put in another solid team performance at this year's Tour.

The Clasica follows its traditional course through the Basque province of Guipuzkoa and snakes along scenic coastal roads at first, before heading inland where the riders will face a series of sharp testing climbs. Six categorised climbs, including the category one Alto de Jaizkibel are sure to shake things up in the peloton.

"The combination of the sweltering heat, the route, the parcours and the motivation of the Spanish riders always make this a very tough race," said Frans van Looy, who will be the team's director in San Sebastian.

The eight kilometre-long first category one Jaizkibel, which comes at km 193, has a gradient of up to 8.2 percent in sections and is sure to shake up the race. "With nearly 200 km already in the legs, the strongest are able to pull away on the Jaizkibel," added van Looy. "Anyone not at the front there is out of contention."

Eddy Mazzoleni could be a rider to watch at the Clasica. The 32-year old Italian showed good post-Tour form at the Deutschland-Tour, where he finished ninth overall. Last year, while riding for Lampre, he placed third in San Sebastian behind the Spaniards Constantino Zaballa and Joaquin Rodriguez (both Saunier Duval).

Rounding out the eight man roster are the two Italians Lorenzo Bernucci and Daniele Nardello, Australian Scott Davis, and Germans Linus Gerdemann and Matthias Kessler.

Kessler, a solid all-rounder who can climb well, twice won the Grand Prix Miguel Indurain in northern Spain, a region where he obviously feels at home. And in 2005 he spent most of the Clasica off the front in an eight rider break, that wasn't reeled in until the final haul up the Alto de Jaizkibel.

Cunego for Lampre in San Sebastian

The Tour de France's best young rider, Damiano Cunego, will lead the Lampre-Fondital squad in the Clasica San Sebastian. The Italian will try to capitalise on his good Tour form to get a result in the Basque race, and he will have Marzio Bruseghin (6th in Deutschland Tour), Salvatore Commesso, Giuliano Figueras (winner of Giro del Lazio), Evgueni Petrov (5th in Deutschland Tour), Paolo Tiralongo and Patxi Vila by his side, with Giuseppe Martinelli serving as sport director.

Contador crashes

Alberto Contador (Astana), who finished fifth in the tough fourth stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, was unlucky enough to crash after the stage, when he was riding back down to the team bus. Contador fell approximately 6 kilometres from the finish line in Lagos de Neila, and was quickly attended to by team director Marino Lejarreta and doctor Sergio Quilez.

Contador briefly lost consciousness, and was taken to the General Yagüe hospital in Burgos, where a CAT scan was performed on him to determine the exact reason of his crash. Contador suffered a similar accident in 2004 when he fell during the first stage of the Vuelta a Asturias, and should have abandoned. At that time, nobody realised that Contador had a blood clot in his brain, but when he collapsed at home a few days later, he needed surgery to recover. He was able to successfully come back to win a stage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in Australia in 2005.

Jörg Ludewig's nightmare

Jörg Ludewig came to the T-Mobile Team this year filled with high hopes and dreams of doing well, but the dream has turned into a nightmare. July saw the publication of a letter he wrote at the beginning of his career asking about buying doping products. Now, eight years later, the letter has come back not only to haunt him but to prematurely end his T-Mobile career. The team has announced that it will honour his contract through the end of the year, but will not use him in any races.

Frustrated, he writes at his website,, "I have something to make good and would rather have let my athletic deeds speak for me instead of my words. But that won't go now. I hope that this somehow helps the general situation and serves the fight against doping - I don't want to be slaughtered in the media for nothing."

He notes that many media outlets have known of the letter for years, and wonders why it came to light "at a time when the Tour de France and many hours of live coverage offered a perfect stage.

"My team has treated me fairly, checking the story out first and not sending me directly to stand in the corner, like so many others. Despite the fact that I won't be racing, they are continuing to pay me and have neither suspended nor fired me. But it still hurts."

He is losing the starting money he would have earned in races, but also, "I can't give good performances to recommend myself to other teams, which is very limiting, and I don't have any idea right now how it will go in the future. My stage was and is high-performance sport. The only good thing in this bad situation is that I will go on.

"Of course it was I alone who brought this situation on, who made the mistake. That is not to be questioned," he concludes. "Unfortunately, there is a lot to do to save our sport. I would like to help with that."

Pokrandt as stagiaire to Volksbank

Austrian Team Volksbank has signed the German Jan Pokrandt as a stagiaire for the remainder of the season. The 25-year-old will make his team debut this coming weekend at the "Rund um Hainlaite".

Pokrandt rode for the German Continental team RSH. "He is a man with great potential, especially for the classics," said Volksbank team manager Thomas Kofler. "We noticed him as early as the Hessen Rundfahrt last year, because of his good results and his aggressive riding style. He has been recommended by many in Germany. We'll give him a try and see what happens."

Tour of Pendle completes British race series

By Gerry McManus

The cancellation of the Tour of the Peaks on August 20 means that this Sunday’s Tour of the Pendle and Ribble Valley is the last counting event in the British Cycling Premier Calendar series for 2006.

82 riders will line up for the tough 136 km race based in Barnoldswick in Lancashire with Kristian House ( holding an unassailable lead in the series and team mate Rob Sharman in second spot. Recycling has dominated the seven race British series by winning five out of six so far with Mariusz Wiesiak (Team Nippo) being the fly in the ointment when he won the Archer GP back in April. However there are a number of other teams capable of taking victory here with key riders coming into form.

The riders leave the market square in Barnoldswick at 9.30 am heading out to the 44km circuit over the rolling Lancashire moorland on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Surprisingly enough the circuit features only one main climb but the long drag over Blacko is around 4 km in length and has to be ascended three times. The main race action is likely to start here when the peloton arrives after 42 km.

The leaders will have a 19 km run into the finish back at Barnoldswick when they reach the Blacko summit for the final time. There’s enough time to close down any small gaps created on the climb in the tough final kilometres towards the finish, and a small canal bridge near the finish could provide the non-sprinters with an opportunity to slip away.

Two non starters from the original entry sheet are Recycling’s Rob Partridge and Ben Greenwood. Partridge is on international duty in Italy as a replacement for Geraint Thomas who is currently on trial with pro team Saunier Duval. Greenwood would have been amongst the favourites for the UK event but stays racing in Italy where he has spent much of this year.

House has yet to recapture the form that won him the FBD Rás and Lincoln GP races earlier in the year but Rob Sharmen and Evan Oliphant have enjoyed more recent Premier wins in the Rutland-Melton GP and Ryedale GP races respectively. Mark Wordsworth (JE James RT) has already beaten Recycling to the finish line this year after he won the Mike Binks Memorial road race in the middle of July and he rides with four team members in support.

Mark Lovatt (Planet X) is back to form winning the recent AA Brown road race and taking fourth in the Ellis Briggs event won by Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport). The course could suit Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport RT) who is lying fourth in the series overall with results including podium spots in the Lincoln and Ryedale GPs.

The Plowman Craven team have lesser ambitions at this stage of the season and have opted to ride the Python RT road race in the South. Alex Higham looks currently to be the strongest of the Agisko/Dart/ team in the absence of Clayton Barrows, after Higham finished fifth overall in the recent Tour of the South.

The outside bet for this race lies in local rider Ian Stott (Blackburn and Dist CTC) whose pedigree includes being a former winner of the British national hill climb championship. There are 100 points awarded for first down to 2 points for 20th place.

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