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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 19, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Cancellara hangs on

By Shane Stokes in Nauders

Cancellara in the race lead
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

At 80 kilos, few would consider Fabian Cancellara to be a climber. However he finished ahead of many lightweight riders on yesterday's third stage of the Tour de Suisse, which hit the summit of the hors catégorie Flüelapass with 60 kilometres to go and then scaled the third category Norbertshöhe just before the two kilometre descent to the line.

"It's not that I am a climber, more that I am a fighter," he said after the stage. "After the Flüelapass I was already a bit tired because of my weight. I will certainly never be a climber.

"I will be proud to start tomorrow morning with the yellow jersey on my shoulders. Today I felt that the jersey once again added to the strength in my legs. That helped me arrive here with the [chasing] group and defend the lead."

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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World time trial champ Cancellara raced to victory in the prologue on Saturday. He's known for his ability against the clock, but on Monday he took on the top sprinters to place third on the stage and retain yellow. Yesterday, he dug deep to hold on over a testing course.

Cancellara holds
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

One year ago he was left off the CSC team for the Tour de France. This time round, his scorching form means that he is a certainty for the race. He played down any suggestion that missing out last year was spurring him on here. "No, it is not revenge," he told the media. "This is the Tour de Suisse, it is an important race in my home country and that is why I have fought so hard.

"After the last climb I was not up to date with the full situation. I thought that Martin Elminger was in the group ahead and I thought that he could perhaps get the jersey. I made a big effort to catch this group and at that moment, I had the thought to keep going and pass this group. However my legs were a bit wasted then so I was happy enough to stay with them."

The stage to Nauders was won by first year pro Alessandro Proni, who went clear with Daniel Navarro (Astana) and Luis Pasamontes (Unibet) after approximately 21 kilometres of racing. He then attacked them on the final climb and hung on by seven seconds, netting his first victory as a professional.

"Proni was a deserving winner of the stage after his breakaway today. It was a very good performance. To tell the truth, at the end I did not know Proni was ahead. I thought that Elminger's group was the front and that these could be sprinting for the win. The situation was therefore a bit confusing, we didn't know exactly what was happening ahead."

Cancellara got great support from the CSC team during the race, with all of the riders helping him. However he said that near the end, he told the team's GC leaders to look after their own interests from that point.

"At Susch [47.4 km to go] I talked to Schleck and Sastre and said to them that they have to defend their own chances as they are the riders for the GC. If riders like Marchante or Cunego attack, they have to go with them. I said that I would do what I could myself to defend.

"I didn't know that it would be possible to finish with the jersey on my shoulders and I am very happy about that. But it's been a long time since I suffered like I did today and I think that tomorrow could be a very different situation."

The Tour de Suisse continues today with a 167.2 kilometre stage to Triesenberg-Malbun in Liechtenstein. Apart from two intermediate sprints, the riders will hit the seconds category climbs of Arlberg Passhöhe [83.2 km after the start] and Steg/Malbun, which tops out just 1.6 kilometres from the line.

T-Mobile releases Honchar

Honchar dismissed
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T-Mobile Team has terminated its contract with Serhiy Honchar "for violations of the Team Code of Conduct," giving the 36 year-old rider his immediate release. The team announced in May that Honchar would be held out of racing due to irregularities in blood tests conducted during Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Romandie.

"This decision by the team management was based upon follow-up tests completed in early June and additional information gathered during his suspension," according to a press release.

Honchar is now "free to seek employment with another team or company."

General Manager Bob Stapleton did not give details. "We respect the rights to privacy of all parties involved and cannot release any further information at this time," said the American.

In 2006, his first year with T-Mobile, the Ukrainian wore the leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia for two days, and won both time trials (stage 7 and stage 19) in the Tour de France, where he wore the leader's jersey for three days.

RFEC President is optimistic

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) President Fulgencio Sánchez is waiting news from the UCI and ProTour teams meeting today in Geneva. Sánchez confirmed to Cyclingnews that he has exchanged some words with UCI President Pat McQuaid.

"He gave me the impression that I should be very prepared to calm the ignited spirits of those teams that can or cannot participate in the ProTour races."

Sánchez has postponed the meeting scheduled for this last weekend with McQuaid, "Until the end of June." He continued, "When he [McQuaid] has clarified many things which are a worry to all of us and the Tour de France ..." This will be after McQuaid has obtained the opinions of all the cycling bodies, International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) and Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), which have recently held meetings.

Sánchez affirmed that he "agreed with McQuaid in that there is no reason not to allow someone to participate in the Tour, and other ProTour races, if they are not clearly identified in any anti-doping investigations." This was in clear reference to Alejandro Valverde, who, in Sánchez's opinion, "is being a victim of a brutal act that seeks to promote a false image of doping within cycling. Something that is not true."

"Valverde is not implicated in any case of doping. This is why he has to be in the Tour de France, something that worries those who consider him a dangerous rival."

Discovery Channel pulls out of AIGCP

Discovery Channel announced that it is removing itself from the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP), a decision based on the meeting amongst 19 of the group's ProTour members last week in France.

"The AIGCP was designed to represent the collective interests of the sports top teams, however, the group has struggled to unify and agree on their objectives," read a press release from the team.

Sport Director Johan Bruyneel added, "I no longer feel confident that this group can lead our sport and represent our Team in a positive manner. It became clear at our most recent meeting that the goals and objectives among the teams are very different and I do not want to continue to be a part of such contentious and unprofessional meeting.

"We need to become a unified group for our sport to reach a higher level but everyone is not willing to do that and AIGCP President Patrick Lefevere is not to blame. He has shown great leadership and insight while presiding over this group, however, the same cannot be said of all members."

Last winter the team came under fire from the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) for hiring Ivan Basso. The members voted to remove the team from its group. In December, it stated, "Discovery Channel didn't respect the rules," a participant of the meeting said. "The ethical code is clear: a ProTour team should not sign a rider involved in the Puerto affair." membership was threatened to be removed.

During last weeks AIGCP meeting, representatives voted unanimously that any of the teams who have not respected the Code of Ethics would not be allowed to race in the Tour de France.

Proni premieres

A happy Alessandro Proni
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Proni (Quickstep-Innergetic) started on his bid for pro win number one at 17 kilometres into yesterday's Tour de Suisse stage. The Roman, who makes his home in Tuscany, made the 211-kilometre push with Spaniard Daniel Navarro (Astana) and Luis Pasamontes (, dropping his companions on the final Norbertshöhe pass.

"Brama [DS Davide Bramati] urged me to attack with all I had," explained the 24 year-old after the stage win to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "When I felt like cracking I thought of Rebecca, Luana and Anna. They are the three most important women in my life: my daughter, wife and mom. I thought about all the sacrifices that I took to arrive to this point. I could not ease off."

Proni transferred north to Lari (Toscana) at the age of 16 to race with Monsummanese. "If I had remained in Portuense, my career might not have progressed, because in Roma it is impossible. I grew up respecting [Miguel] Indurain and then [Michele] Bartoli."

He turned professional this season with Quickstep after a summer trip with the World Champion. "Last June Quickstep called me to go and ride the climbs of the [Tour de] France with [Tom] Boonen. It was an honour. I almost did not believe it. I raced as a stagiaire at the GP Camaiore and then a proposal arrived."

When he returns to Italy, it will be time to go shopping. "With [Giovanni] Visconti there was a bet that the first to win [this season - ed.] would gift the other a Playstation 3. I will pay with no problem and buy one for myself. Also with this bet, we had to have a piercing. Where? We will see. Anyway, when I return home I will take my wife shopping, her hobby."

Voigt expects good showing from Schleck

By Shane Stokes in Nauders

CSC is at the Tour de Suisse with what is likely to be a large chunk of their Tour de France team. They have big guns such as Fränk Schleck, Carlos Sastre, race leader Fabian Cancellara and perennial attacker Jens Voigt. Cyclingnews asked the tall German if Schleck would be the team's GC rider for the Swiss race.

"That is top secret information. If I tell you, I need to shoot you!" he joked. "But obviously he looks pretty good, he looks smooth on the bike, he looks ready. So it wouldn't be surprising if he is in a good place in the general classification [at the end]."

He said that he is very happy with how things have gone so far, given that Cancellara won the prologue, finished third on stage two and carries the yellow jersey into day four of the race. Personally, he feels that he is a little way off his top fitness, but says he will use the Tour de Suisse to rectify that.

"I am still missing bits and pieces of form. I think I am ready to do some hard miles working on the front and suffering in the mountains here, in order to get ready for the Tour de France."

Some teams sent their best riders to the Dauphiné Libéré, while CSC and T-Mobile have their top riders in Switzerland. Cyclingnews asked Voigt if he felt one race was better than the other in order to hit Tour form.

"I don't think it makes a difference," he replied. "You had Lance Armstrong winning the Dauphiné and the Tour, then you also had Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France. It doesn't really make a difference. It is whatever you like best.

"The Dauphiné is a bit different - it is shorter, you have the advantage of doing some stages of the Tour de France as you are covering some of the same mountains.

"Here, I wouldn't say it is more relaxed, that's the wrong word, but it is certainly but laid back. You have better roads, better hotels, better food. It is a little longer, but I would say it is less stressful."

Sprinters honing form in Suisse

By Shane Stokes in Nauders

"It was not so bad," said Predictor-Lotto's Fred Rodriguez, speaking after the third stage. "The group rode tempo to the top of the hors category. It got fast as they were trying to chase down a breakaway, and then some wanted to go hard on the last climb. That was it."

He finished 9'24 back, using the stage to build form rather than hammering himself. "Right now, I am basically trying to get fit for the Tour as well as giving Robbie [McEwen] a hand. I will most likely be on the team, barring any sickness."

Saunier Duval – Prodir's sprinter Francisco Ventoso is also getting ready. "I am in this race to build good condition for the Tour," he said. "I am on the team for that."

Ventoso felt that the third stage was very tough. Given the mountainous nature of the country plus the parcours for this year's Tour de Suisse, he said that he's not optimistic that there will be another bunch gallop.

"I don't think there will be another day for a sprint; it's very difficult to see it happening anywhere [before the end of the race]. But perhaps Thursday will be a good day for a break."

Rabo happy with Freire

Oscar Freire did well in Monday's Tour de Suisse stage, finishing approximately one minute behind surprise winner Alessandro Proni. Team manager Adri van Houwelingen was especially pleased with Freire, who was suffering from back and neck pains after a crash Sunday.

"But he has not spoken a word about it today," he said on the team's website, "Oscar was in very good shape today. It will be too tough for him on Tuesday, but you can definitely put him down again for Wednesday."

The Tour de Suisse is Freire's first race since Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Vandenbroucke rests - Wallonie possible

Belgian Franck Vandenbroucke, who tried to take his life two weeks ago in Vermezzo (Milano), has spent the last few days with family members in Brugge. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he is visiting the clinic of Doctor Sophie Mulaert and he will soon return to his parents, Jean-Jacques and Chantal, in Ploegsteert.

"We hear from each other on the telephone everyday," explained Palmiro Masciarelli, Team Manager of Acqua & Sapone. "Frank is also in contact with my sons, my nephew and his Italian friend, Mario."

Masciarelli reached out to Vandenbroucke last fall when he signed the 29 year-old and even had him come and live with his family in Abruzzo (Italy). His nephew was the first to find Vandenbroucke after he had tried to take his life, June 6.

"I have the feeling that there is a weight on his back. ... As soon as possible I will send him a fixed gear bike and some road equipment, and I will not rule out going there myself within the next fifteen days. There is the Tour de Wallonie [July 28 - August 1] and it is hypothetically a race in which he could return, but it is certain that he has not yet given up and wants to return. Also because he wants to silence all the people who thought he was finished as a racer."

Piil thinking of retirement

Jakob Piil's season with T-Mobile has not gone the way the Dane had planned. It has been so bad, in fact, that he is thinking of calling it quits after this year.

"If I am to continue, then I need some successes, instead of constantly having the feeling that I am riding into the wind," he told the Danish paper 24timer. "Things should change over the summer so that I will be in the position of looking forward to the races in the fall. If it doesn't work out, then I'm not interested anymore.

"When it gets to be August or September, I wall start to talk to the T-Mobile management about a contract for next year," he said. That will give me two months to think about whether to end my career or not."

Niermann still waiting

Grischa Niermann ended the Dauphiné Libéré in 51st place, but the important thing to him was that he stayed at the side of Rabobank captain Denis Menchov until the end. His job in the race was to support his captain in the mountains as long as possible.

"If I qualify for the Tour de France then I won't budge from Menchov's side for three weeks," the German rider wrote on his website, He still has to wait, though, to find out whether he is on the Tour squad or not, since the final nomination of nine riders won't be announced until after the Tour de Suisse. "I simply hope to be at the start of the race for the sixth time."

If he does not make the team, then "naturally I would be disappointed," but Niermann has been around long enough to know that "even without a Tour start, life goes on. Then I would look to the Deutschland Tour and the Vuelta."

Meanwhile, he is leaving nothing to chance and using every opportunity. "I went directly from the Dauphiné to altitude training in Livigno. I will train here in the mountains for 10 days and hope that it gives me an extra boost."

The Tour, a dream for Antón

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Igor Antón at the Dauphiné
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Igor Antón debuted in 2004 with Euskaltel-Euskadi and soon after reached his dream. "It was to gain a stage in a great race, on the Calar Alto climb, in the Vuelta 2006. I do not think that I will have that feeling ever again," he commented in

Why not in the next Tour de France? "For me, to be there, in London, will be a prize. I will take part in the best race of the world with the best riders of the world too. Uff! I think I'll enjoy it."

Antón just came off three weeks of racing in Italy. "The Giro d'Italia was an adventure." He used his good form in the Dauphiné Libéré. On the climb up Mont Ventoux he managed to finish third. "When you are climbing such as mythic mountain, you feel respect towards it. Previously, I only knew about these great climbs through television."

The Euskaltel promising rider was inspired to start riding a bike by a poster he saw of Marco Pantani and by mountains of the Tour on summer holidays.

German Ivonne Kraft positive

German Ivonne Kraft has tested positive for the asthma medication Fenoterol after a cyclo-cross race on May 6. The German federation (BDR) has opened proceedings against the 36 year-old, deciding not to wait for the B sample. She faces a six-month suspension.

In a statement, Kraft said that her mother, who suffers from asthma, attended the race, and when she tried to use her medicated spray the bottle exploded and the cyclist must have inhaled the substance at that time.

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