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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 29, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Countdown to Beijing: First stop Majorca

By Shane Stokes in Majorca

The brand new Palma Arena
Photo ©: Palma Arena
(Click for larger image)

With just over a year to go to the Beijing Olympics, the world's best track riders will clash this week in the Palma Arena on the Spanish island of Majorca. The Games are still a long way off but important psychological boosts can be gained by a good showing here, as well as the considerable honour of world championship medals.

Housed in a brand new velodrome in the north of Palma, the 2007 World Track Cycling Championships will get underway at 10am on Thursday morning with the 200 metre time trial for the newly-reintroduced omnium series. Last held almost 40 years ago, it will see the competing riders fight it out in a range of events during the day, specifically a 200m flying start time trial, a 5km scratch race, a 3km individual pursuit (seeding riders on their results in the scratch race), a 15km points race and a kilometre time trial.

The winner will be determined by points, with the lowest cumulative number getting gold. Winners in each event get one point, with two points going for second and so on. Ben Kersten (Australia), Charles Bradley Huff (USA) and Dimitri De Fauw (Belgium) will be among the 18 riders who will scrap it out.

Qualifying and finals for the men's and women's team sprint also feature on day one, as does the individual pursuit. Last year's champions Grégory Bauge, Mickaël Bourgain and Arnaud Tournant are here once again and likely to ride for France, and should once again be up against 2006 silver and bronze medallists Great Britain and Australia. Germany took second in the last round of the World Cup in Manchester and will also be in the chase.

Read the full World Championships preview.

Scarponi weathers the storm

Michele Scarponi drives towards win
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"After Operación Puerto I had thought to stop," quipped 26 year-old Michele Scarponi to La Gazzetta dello Sport after winning stage two of Coppi e Bartali. The Italian from Jesi (Le Marche) was one of the riders allegedly linked to the Spanish investigation stemming from the raids of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes' offices and he has now been given a second lease on his racing career.

Early this year, he was signed to form a key-part of the Pro-Continental team Acqua & Sapone. Team Manager Palmiro Masciarelli said at the time, "I believe that Scarponi will be able to make important contributions at the Giro d'Italia, with him we will be even more competitive. ... His position is the [Operación Puerto] investigation is shelved. I have the documents from the Spanish investigators."

"I signed for Acqua & Sapone on February 20, and after Vuelta Murcia [fifth - ed.] and Tirreno-Adriatico [ninth] I am now here," he continued after yesterday's stage. He was part of an escape with Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) and Riccardo Riccň (Saunier Duval-Prodir), dropping them with 1600 metres to go and arriving solo for his first win of 2007.

"It was a difficult time," he continued to reflect on Operación Puerto. "I had thought to stop. The only good moment was when I was married with Anna, the most beautiful girl of the world. Then the storm passed and a period of calm returned; now there is sun."

Pierfelici takes over Coppi e Bartali

Pierfelici, the new overall leader
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Luca Pierfelici is a name that is not known by many but that is now changing. The 23 year-old Italian from Bottega di Colbordolo (Le Marche) stepped onto the top step of the Coppi e Bartali podium yesterday to claim the leader's jersey thanks to a solid first day and then finishing 19th, at 38", in stage two.

"It is really my first season as a pro because last year I fractured my scaphoid in Dunkerque, it is like I never raced," said the Aurum Hotels rider to La Gazzetta dello Sport after stage two. He turned professional with Naturino-Sapore di Mare, riding as a stagiaire in 2005.

He is keeping calm and taking the race day by day, knowing it will be very hard to maintain the lead with the likes of Riccardo Riccň and Michele Scarponi breathing down his neck. "I am living for the day. ... I have always reasoned with my heart. And from when I was six years-old, my heart led me to the bicycle." He philosophically added, "I am discovering a new world, in which there is also myself."

Pierfelici only lives one kilometre away from Tavullia, home of the famous MotoGP pilot. "Valentino Rossi? Every once in a while we cross paths. ... I know who he is but I don't think he knows about me."

Petacchi abandons due to Sanremo stress

Yesterday, while the favourites were positioning themselves for a stage two showdown in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, Alessandro Petacchi stepped out the back door. The 33 year-old sprinter abandoned at kilometre 73 like he had indicated was possible the day before.

"I have paid for the psychophysical stress of Sanremo," noted the Milram rider to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Maybe I have raced too much in the desire to recuperate. Now I am stopping.

"I will return for Rund um Köln [April 9] and Gent-Wevelgem [11], thinking of the Giro [May 12 - June 3]."

Petacchi had a hard 2006 seasons; he crashed out of the Giro d'Italia in stage three, fracturing his knee-cap, and then, after a long recovery period, he was side-lined in the Vuelta a Espańa when injured his hand as a consequence of punching the team bus in stress. His goal for 2007 is to ride all three Grand Tours, something that will require quality preparation.

Ventoso doubles in Castilla y Leon

Following on his win in Salamanca, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon stage two, Francisco José Ventoso was back at it for stage three. This time the 24 year-old Saunier Duval-Prodir rider reigned in Valladolid.

"I showed the confidence that I had Tuesday," said the Cantabrian to Marca after the stage finish and his second victory in 2007. "The finish was complicated and full of nervousness. The confidence I had helped me. When you start so far away, like I did in stage two, and no one is able to catch you it signifies you are strong."

Ventoso also feels he is coming into form. He finished the long Milano-Sanremo feeling confident, but before that he was figuring in the Paris-Nice sprints. "I have gained a sense of tranquillity but, above all, I am finding my rhythm."

The escape was caught in the last kilometre and then Ventoso set about counting down the metres until it was time to launch. "I was comfortable in the sprint, I found it very easy. At 200 metres to go I saw [Vladimir] Karpets move forward, and [Javier] Benitez, and I knew it was clearly my moment. I knew in that amount of space I could survive."

Castilla y Leon continues today with a 154 kilometres stage four, which include the mountain-top arrival of Alto De Navacerrada.

Dwars door Vlaanderen injury report

Robbie McEwen is still suffering the after-effects of a crash in Milano-Sanremo, and dropped out of Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen about halfway through. He is scheduled to start Saturday in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, but that start is now in question. "If I still feel then like I do now, then it won't be possible to ride in Harelbeke," he told sportwereld.

Two other casualties from Wednesday's race were Discovery Channel's Steven Cummings and's Jeremy Hunt, according to HLN. Discovery Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol said that "Cummings had a lot of problems with his back and we found it worthwhile for him to drop out at the feeding zone." According to Hilaire Van Der Schueren of Unibet, "Hunt had a painful knee after a crash. He will go to the hospital to have it checked out. Hopefully there will just be superficial wounds."

Gerolsteiner for the weekend races

Team Gerolsteiner is sending one team to Belgium and one team to France this weekend to take on the next few races.

David Kopp will try to continue his comeback from a crash in Milano-Sanremo and improve on his fifth place finish Wednesday in Dwars door Vlaanderen when he leads the team in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday and De Brabantse Pijl on Sunday. A mixed group of youngsters and veterans will take on the three-stage Critérium International in France over the weekend.

Gerolsteiner for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and De Brabantse Pijl: Thomas Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, David Kopp, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Tom Stamsnijder, and Fabian Wegmann.

Gerolsteiner for Criterium International: Johannes Frohlinger, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Peter Wrolich, Oliver Zaugg, and Marcus Zberg.

Skil-Shimano to D-land Tour

The Dutch Professional Continental team Skil-Shimano has received a wild-card invitation to the Deutschland Tour, reported "We are very happy to have been invited to the Deutschland Tour," team manager Iwan Spekenbrink said.

A second wild-card had already been issued to the German Wiesenhof-Felt team, and two are still to be awarded.

Team Elk Haus aiming high

More races outside of Austria, the victory in the home Tour, and a wildcard invitation to the Tour of Deutschland -- those are the goals of Team Elk Haus Simplon in 2007. The team presented itself to the public in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday.

The Professional Continental team (see Cyclingnews' teams database), under manager Bernhard Rassinger, now boasts a budget of more than €700,000 and 18 riders.

The team's captain is Christian Pfannberger, who last year finished third in the Österreich Rundfahrt and won the prestigious Kitzbüheler Horn mountain stage, wants to do more this year. "I am planning my whole season around the Österreich Rundfahrt, which I want to win." He hopes to bring in some victories before then, too, "so that there won't be so much pressure." He particularly hopes to improve in time trialing, which was the discipline which lost him the lead in the Ö-Tour last year.

The 27 year-old will open his season with the Settimana Ciclistica Lombardia starting April 4.

The team also hopes for one of four wild card invitations to the Deutschland Tour, which runs through Austria.

The 18-man team consists of Christian Pfannberger (Aut, 09/12/1979), Clemens Frankhauser (Aut, 20/09/1985), Hannes Gründlinger (Aut, 24/07/1977), Harald Starzengruber (Aut, 1/04/1981), Harald Totschnig (Aut, 06/09/1974), Jan Valach (Svk, 19/08/1973), Jochen Summer (Aut, 28/05/1977), Marc Weisshaupt (Ger, 07/07/1970), Markus Eibegger (Aut, 16/10/1984), Martin Comploi (Aut, 08/10/1975), Michael Pichler (Aut, 28/07/1982), Peter Pichler (Aut, 12/01/1969), Robert Lauscha (Aut, 5/06/1983), Stefan Denifl (Aut, 20/09/1987), Stefan Rucker (Aut, 20/01/1980), Thomas Rohregger (Aut, 23/12/1982), Tomas Konecny (Cze, 11/10/1973) and Wolfgang Murer (Aut, 22/12/1979).

Like father, like son

Three young members of the Radsportverein Unna, a local German cycling club, have the very best recommendations for success: their dads. The most famous of those dads is Erik Zabel of Team Milram, whose son Rick rides in the U-15 races. The young Zabel won the Bramscher Berg race on Saturday, and on Sunday finished second in the junior race at Köln-Schuld-Frechen.

The oldest of the three is Lucas Liss, who was Germany's most successful junior rider last year, with 38 wins. He rides in the U-17 races. His father, Lucian Liss, was a top amateur road rider in the 1970s. He won the World Championship in the four man team race in 1971, and won Olympic silver in that event with the Polish team in Munich in 1972.

Dennis Lehnert rides in the U-13 races and is the son of Rajmund Lehnert, a longtime member of the German national team. He was runner up in the German nationals and placed third and fifth in the World Championships.

The Unna club is known for its work with young riders, and has twice won the ranking as Germany's most successful cycling club.

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