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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 8, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Monte Paschi Eroica debuts

70 kilometres of le strade bianche
Photo ©: RCS Sport
(Click for larger image)

The first edition of the Monte Paschi Eroica is set to run tomorrow in the area of Siena, Italy. The 180-kilometre race, 60 on sterrati ('gravel roads'), will start in Gaiole and end in Siena's Piazza del Campo.

Participants scheduled to ride the event include World Champion Paolo Bettini, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan, Gilberto Simoni, Riccardo Riccò, Stefano Garzelli, Danilo Napolitano, Alessandro Petacchi, Alessandro Bertolini, Enrico Gasparotto, Alexandr Kolobnev and Luxembourg brothers Andy and Fränk Schleck. In fact, yesterday, Simoni took part in the 11th edition of cyclo-tourist event along with 2250 other riders that included Riccò, Andrea Tafi and Davide Cassani.

The race takes on similar strade bianche ('white roads') around Siena as the 'fun' ride. On gravel sections that hit 18% gradients riders will likely mount 39x25 gearing, which will allow them to spin up the climbs without overpowering and losing traction. Organizer RCS Sport has compared the demanding event to Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

"They have compared it to Roubaix and Flanders but I believe that it will be a course different from all others and very beautiful," said Pozzato to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Earlier this year he conquered the hellingens of the Omloop Het Volk, and he hopes to apply his form from the World Championships to the hills around Siena. "The sterrato is not pavé. In addition, here there are climbs with sections that have notable gradients. I hope that they are not very long.

The 180 km of the First Monte Paschi Eroica.
Photo ©: RCS Sport
(Click for larger image)

"My condition is the same as from the Worlds, so I am aiming to do well," 'Pippo' continued. He finished 51st after being a protagonist in the Worlds' final two circuits.

King of Flanders, Alessandro Ballan, is coming off an amazing season that includes three wins in three significant races: Three Days of De Panne overall, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Cyclassics Hamburg. He wants to add his name in the first slot that is set to become a long honour roll, but he is wary of his knee after crashing over the weekend.

"At [Memorial] Cimurri I crashed and I hit a spot on my left knee that I had injured in the Tour of Benelux [Eneco Tour - ed.]," noted Ballan. "However, it does not seem too serious. It is the first edition of the Eroica and I would like to open the honour roll in this race, which is able to become a Classic."

Petacchi, who had two stage wins in the Vuelta a España last month, will seek to save himself over the hellish roads to sprint like the horses do bi-annually in the Palio di Siena races. If it comes down to a gallop he will not have to worry about Daniele Bennati, who announced yesterday the end of his season due to a microfracture in his right wrist.

For more details on the race read First Monte Paschi Eroica presented.

León Sánchez's "atypical" season

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Sánchez takes early season stage win in Paris-Nice.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Luis León Sánchez of Caisse d'Epargne won stage six of Paris-Nice this spring, but the 23 year-old Spaniard considers 2007 to be like 2006 – "atypical." "Again [the season] turned out to have an atypical end, without results," said Sánchez to Cyclingnews.

In addition to training and racing, he organized a memorial mountain bike race in his brother's honour (León León died two year ago in a motorbike accident.) His work, however, has not produced the results that he feels he should have achieved. "I never obtained suitable results that agreed with the work I performed. It was made more difficult by health problems, like in 2006 when I had to leave the Vuelta a España and abandon hopes of riding the time trial world championships."

His 2007 season started well with the overall victory in the Challenge Mallorca and victory in Cannes at Paris-Nice, which was dominated by his ex-team-mate, Alberto Contador. However, his riding in the Vuelta a España and the Worlds time trial in Stuttgart was not up to his standards.

"I had a strong performance at the beginning of season," he continued. At the end of the 2006 season he left the side of Manolo Saiz as Team Liberty Seguros crumbled. "I think that [the spring] resulted from good work during the winter, as it was accustomed with Manolo Saiz. I wasn't doing too bad half-way into the season, obtaining the silver medal in the national time trial [championships] in Cuenca."

He was not selected for the Tour de France. "The fact is that I worked very hard to confront the Tour, but I did not go there. It is clear that I will have to re-think my planning for the sake of optimising results; the [2006] programme was one that I wanted [with the exception of racing the Vuelta instead of the Tour]."

Sánchez pushed himself up with the favourites for the end of season; he was placed highly in the Deutschland Tour. "I went there before the Vuelta. I raced without pressure, and the necessity to be at the top of the general classification. I had good sensations and I believed to be ready for the Vuelta, but 48 hours before [the start] I had serious health problems, as well as [Oscar] Pereiro and [Xabier] Zandio; not the things that one hopes for."

He has one more year left in his contract, and some have linked him with Astana and Contador for 2009. "I do not want to contemplate changes, although who knows," he concluded.

Nico Mattan ends career with win

By Bjorn Haake

Nico Mattan
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Nico Mattan quit the Circuit Franco-Belge a day early, so he could participate in his own farewell activities in Sint Eloois Winkel, West Flanders. His wish to do something special was granted, and the two-man time trial was a complete success.

Current and former professional cyclists were paired with cyclo-tourists to complete one lap of a 1.5-kilometre circuit. 45 kopples took the start and raced under the watchful eyes of Mattan's family and friends, as well as the residents of the small town where he lives. They may not see him much more than before his retirement as he is looking into becoming directeur sportif with his current team, DFL-Cyclingnews.

Freddy Maertens was the first to set off, with his partner, also named Freddy. Maertens was eager to get started and ignored repeated demands from the referee to edge back from the start line, which caused lots of laughter. Maertens and partner then were counted down, and the former World Champion managed to sneak off a few seconds early. The duo to set the "the first best time" as the announcer put it. Sadly for Maertens, all the younger pairs were able to better it in the end.

Some current racers were in attendance as well, with Gianni Meersman from Discovery Channel taking the start. Peter van Petegem and Serge Baguet are still officially racers, but both will soon retire during a farewell race at the GP Briek Schotte.

Mattan fully concentrated
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Cadel Evans was introduced to the audience with his partner Davide Rebellin, but the Predictor-Lotto rider turned out to be Jo Planckaert, with his cyclo-tourist partner. Actual Predictor-Lotto rider, Wim Vansevenant, completed the circuit just before the main act, Nico Mattan, started.

The latter also set the best time with 1'49"11. However, the last team to take off included Frank Vandenbroucke, who has had decent results lately, and is hoping on coming back strongly next year. Mattan's attempts to block the finish line were disrupted by the referees, to the delight of the fans. In the end, 'VDB' and partner could not win; with 1'51"19 they finished in second place.

After some mingling between pros and fans, the criterium was started. 20 laps around the same 1.5 kilometre course. No crashes were reported and the evening ended with beer and music, provided by DJ Cotton Sound.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Bjorn Haake/

Burghardt had "best racing year of my life"

Burghardt happy with his season
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt is on vacation now, but can look back on a highly successful season. The 24 year-old noted that he had a lot of successes, calling it "the best racing year of my life. First [it was] the win in the Classic Gent-Wevelgem and then riding the Tour de France. [These are] successes, which I wish for every young rider."

Burghardt's determination made him prominent from March through September. "If you really want to achieve a goal, and work towards it with discipline, diligence and consequence, then you will usually achieve it," he wrote on his website,

The German third-year pro ended his regular season with two stage wins in the 3-Länder Tour, before heading to Stuttgart for the World Championships. He called Stefan Schumacher's bronze medal "a great success."

"Our German team did outstanding work and can leave the highlight of the season with a clear conscience. Along with Jens Voigt, I controlled the field for a long time, and had to fall back only in the last few kilometres."

Burghardt continued, "Even though Stefan usually rides as a rival with Team Gerolsteiner, I supported him to the end in the national team. Stefan gave his all and really didn't disappoint us. It was clear that he wouldn't be able to win the sprint finish but it was still a great performance.

"When we young riders continue to be so successful in the next few years, as we were this year, then one of us Germans will become World Champion. That's not something you can achieve alone, you need a team for it."

Pinotti and Algeri partake in Bausch & Lomb motivational conference

Marco Pinotti of Team T-Mobile, two-time Italian time trial champion and maglia rosa wearer in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, and Saunier Duval Directeur Sportif Matteo Algeri have been invited to speak about 'motivation' and 'winning mindset' to the first European Trainers' Conference of Bausch & Lomb.

Pinotti and Algeri will present to an international audience made up of industry-based training professionals drawn from eye care company's European production sites. They will compare their experiences in a debate covering self-motivation, motivation and preparation for goals.

Italians Pinotti and Algeri are long-time friends and Bergamo high school class-mates, and will seek to teach others what they have learnt and still are learning through cycling.

Astana racing, Biver healthy

The Astana riders may or may not be getting paid, but they are still racing. The team announced its line-up for the Coppa Sabatini on October 11, which runs 197.7 kilometres in the province of Pisa. The team will feature five Kazakh riders, two Swiss and one Belgian: Igor Abakoumov, Maxim Gourov, Maxim Iglinsky, Andrey Mizourov, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär, Yevgeny Sladkov and Serguei Yakovlev.

In addition, the team confirmed that Marc Biver had returned from a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, at which he "did not manage to find a satisfactory agreement with the Kazakh Cycling Federation for the modifications to be made to the current Astana Cycling Team." It also said that he returned in good health, and "was not the victim of a cardiac incident, as certain completely unfounded rumours said."

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)