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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for August 7, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Merckx calls it quits

Axel Merckx
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Axel Merckx is celebrating his 35th birthday Wednesday by retiring from professional cycling. He won his last race, a criterium in Lommel, Belgium, on Monday. He out-sprinted Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto) for the win, while Tom Boonen won the sprint of the following group.

Boonen had beaten Merckx earlier in the Meise-Wolvertem Criterium, and Merckx saw his win on Monday as a fair revenge. "Boonen won in my home town, so I wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine," the T-Mobile rider joked with

Merckx had previously announced that he would retire following the Tour de France. According to team spokesman Stefan Wagner, the Belgian was to ride four criteriums and then retire, moving to Canada the end of the month as he indicated in July.

He turned pro in 1993 with Team Telekom. In between spells with the German team, he rode for Motorola, Polti, Mapei-Quick.Step, Domo-Farm Frites, Lotto-Domo, Davitamon-Lotto and Phonak. He has started 15 Grand Tours, including nine editions of the Tours de France. He was Belgian National Champion in 2000 and he can look back on stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, Bayern Rundfahrt and Dauphiné Libéré, as well as wins in the Trittico Premondiale, GP de Wallonie and the Tour de l'Ain.

Di Luca's case shelved but CONI persists

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca's legal woes have been quieted but the silence could only be temporary. Yesterday morning, the prosecutor of Pescara (Abruzzo, Italy) that had been investigating the winner of this year's Giro d'Italia for 2004's Oil for Drugs affair asked for the case against Di Luca to be shelved. However, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri persists with the investigation that links the 31 year-old Italian cyclist to Doctor Carlo Santuccione of Cepagatti.

Pescara investigating judge Maria Michela De Fine had already pursued the shelving on July 12, accepting the request from prosecutor Andrea Papalia. In the coming days the second shelving is likely to occur and, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, it is likely to happen soon as the Italian judicial system breaks for its August vacations.

CONI had indicated last week that it would send-back the likely double-shelving of the case against Di Luca based on Italy's wide-scope anti-doping law 376/2000. Torri will wait to hear Papalia's reasoning but it is speculated he will defer Di Luca to the Italian cycling federation's (FCI) disciplinary commission with a recommended suspension of three to six months for links to Doctor Santuccione, who in the past had been sanctioned for doping.

Di Luca's case had been heightened when documents supplied by Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) were published in the Italian press. For more details on the Oil for Drugs, read NAS blitz nets nada and NAS raid Giro again from 2004.

Rasmussen appears in maillot jaune

Michael Rasmussen of Denmark
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Michael Rasmussen appeared in a maillot jaune ('yellow jersey') during the Tour de Charlottenlund Monday, his first race after being forced out of the Tour de France by his former team, Rabobank. The 33 year-old Dane left the Tour in disgrace after winning stage 16 up the Col d'Aubisque while wearing the famed maillot jaune of race leader.

The nameless kit (with black shorts and team-issued Colnago) was chosen because the rider is without a team after being dismissed from the Holland-based Rabobank team due to inconsistencies in reporting whereabouts for out of competition testing. The issue became known during the Tour de France after he moved into the race lead following the stage to Tignes.

Tour Director held Christian Prudhomme and ASO President Patrice Clerc held a conference the following Saturday in Cognac and they stated their distrust for some UCI officials. "The UCI knew about the missed controls, and by the team, and yet the UCI told us he was okay," commented Clerc. Nevertheless, Rasmussen was greeted with applause in his home country during the return race. The 80-kilometre event held in a Copenhagen suburb was won by Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC) while Rasmussen finished in the peloton.

(More photos of Rasmussen in Denmark.)

Liquigas leads with Pozzato for Camaiore

Team Liquigas will line up for the GP Città di Camaiore this Thursday with a season of successes under its belt. In the 193.7-kilometre Italian One-day Classic the team will be led by Filippo Pozzato, who has won a stage of the Tour de France and the Het Volk this year, and it will have the backing of last year's winner Luca Paolini riding in dossard number 1.

Team Manager Roberto Amadio can be pleased with is victory haul so far this year. Danilo Di Luca, who will also race in Camaiore, won the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro d'Italia while, last Saturday, Leonardo Bertagnolli blasted to victory in the Clasica San Sebastián.

Francesco Chicchi has had success of his own thanks to last week's two stage wins in the Post Danmark Rundt. The 26 year-old will give the acid green team a wildcard to play while having the chance to race on home roads.

Tinkov on-hand for GP Camaiore

Oleg Tinkov
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Tinkoff Credit System riders will have an extra bit of motivation in Thursday's Italian One-Day Classic GP Città di Camaiore as Team Owner Oleg Tinkov will be on-hand.

The team will field Anton Mindlin, Nikolai Trusov, Alexander Serov, Sergey Klimov, Mikhail Ignatiev, Salvatore Commesso, Evgeni Petrov, Vasil Kiryienka, Ivan Rovny and Pavel Brutt in the race on the Tuscan roads.

"A lot of these men have just made a good run-up on the roads of the Brixia Tour," explained Directeur Sportif Orlando Maini. "Following the race will be our number one sponsor Oleg Tinkov and the motivation of the boys will be even stronger yet."

The riders already had their chance of racing past Tinkov's Italian villa earlier this year during stage nine of the Giro d'Italia. The stage to Lido di Camaiore, won by Danilo Napolitano (Lampre-Fondital), saw Rovny and Ignatiev attack from 15 kilometres out and then Commesso fire in the final metres but it all came to no avail.

Gerolsteiner line-ups for upcoming races

Team Gerolsteiner will send an international line-up to its homeland Deutschland Tour, which starts Friday. Eight riders from five nations - Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria - will take on the 1301.9-kilometre race over nine stages. The race itself runs through Germany and parts of Austria.

The team will lead with two candidates for the overall win, Davide Rebellin and Bernhard Kohl. Kohl is especially expected to look forward to the fifth stage that ends with a mountaintop finish in his native Austria. In addition, sprinter Robert Förster will be looking for stage wins.

A second Gerolsteiner squad will be on the road in France this week for the two-day race Paris-Corrèze. The first stage on Wednesday runs 182.6 kilometres from St. Amand Montrond to St. Leonard de Noblat. Thursday's second stage is 159.4 kilometres from Vigeois to Chaumeil.

The Gerolsteiner riders for Deutschland Tour will be Robert Förster, Bernhard Kohl, Sebastian Lang, Davide Rebellin, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Tom Stamsnijder and Marcus Zberg. For the French Paris-Corrèze Thomas Fothen, Johannes Fröhlinger, Oscar Gatto, Torsten Hiekmann, Tim Klinger, Volker Ordowski, Marcel Strauss and Carlo Westphal will take part.

Italy to host four World Championships

Italy will be in the international cycling spotlight four times in 2008 as it hosts varying World Championships. The first Worlds to be held will be cyclo-cross, January 26 - 27 in Spresiano (Treviso), while the cycling-rich country will also host the Mountain Bike Worlds June 15 to 22 in Commezzadura (Trento), Mountain Bike Marathon Worlds July 5 to 6 in Villabassa (Bolzano) and the Road Worlds September 23 to 28 in Varese.

The presentation for the Mountain Bike Worlds in Commezzadura was yesterday at Francesco Moser's headquarters, Villa Warth, in Trento. Commezzadura is expected to host 1000 athletes from 50 nations who will vie for the 18 titles on offer. The main events will include four-cross, cross country, downhill and trials.

Pereiro has offer from Quick.Step

Pereiro at the Tour
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Oscar Pereiro, second in the 2006 Tour de France and possible eventual winner, has received a contract offer from team Quick.Step Innergetic according to the Spanish website The 30 year-old's contract with Caisse d'Epargne runs through the 2008 season, but the new offer is said to be "very tempting," according to the Spanish site.

One reason for him to leave would be that the Spanish team is apparently rethinking its strategy of two leaders at the Tour (it went this year with Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde) and plans to take just one captain to the race next year.

Quick.Step had a very successful Tour, with four stage wins and the green jersey, and has current and former World Champions Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen under contract but it doesn't have a candidate for the classification in the big races. Cyclingnews has contacted the team and a comment is pending.

Gardeyn can pick and choose

Gorik Gardeyn is in the lucky position of being able to choose among a variety of contract offers for the coming season. His current team wants to sure things up with him by the end of the month however the 27 year-old is also considering offers from three ProTour teams - Predictor-Lotto, Quick.Step-Innergetic and an unnamed non-Belgian team according to

"The money is not as important as the sporting possibilities," said Gardeyn. "Actually I should have ridden the Tour this year to further develop myself."

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