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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for September 2, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Petacchi and Benatti battle at Vuelta opener

By Gregor Brown and Hernan Alvarez

The sprint with winner Bennati
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Saturday's opening Vuelta a España stage ended in a sprint finish featuring a long anticipated re-match between Daniele Bennati and Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). The 26 year-old Bennati came out on top at the end of the 146.4km stage finishing in Vigo. With the win on opening day, Bennati also collected the maillot oro of the overall leader. Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) took second.

At the end of February, Bennati got a needed confidence boost when he outsprinted Petacchi in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. The win gave him motivation going into the season, but he was later sidelined by stomach pains during the late spring and didn't make his mark again until in the Tour de France where he proved that confidence was well founded with two stage wins.

Besides beating Petacchi, Bennati also topped fellow top sprinters Freire, Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step - Innergetic). "Benna" came from a few riders back and only arrived at the front in the final meters, just in time to take the win.

The big sprinters will likely do battle again in the two more sprinter friendly stages as the race heads toward the mountains of Lagos de Covadonga.

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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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Early Tour stages, with large packs and high-energy sprint finishes, are often perceived as dangerous, but Saturday's course drew compliments from Team CSC Director Kim Andersen. "It was a really good route and some good roads as well. Some times it can get a bit messy with a lot of tiny streets, which can cause problems in such a big race especially with a lap in a town at the end, but today's stage worked out really well and they definitely deserve credit for that," said Anderson according to the team's website,

For complete coverage of the Vuelta a España stage one, click here.

Italian women do well at Plouay world cup

By Jean-François Quénet in Plouay

Collecting a win and three other places in the top 10 of the GP Ouest France-Plouay, the Italian women helped shape the outcome of the penulitimate world cup event for 2007, setting the stage for a battle ultimately between Nicole Cooke (Raleigh Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team) and Marianne Vos (DSB Bank).

One of the major attacks of the day came from Marta Bastianelli (Italian National Team), who ultimately finished third for the day. The 20 year-old Italian from Rome went solo with 35km to go. But afterward, she had second thoughts. "Maybe I shouldn't have done that because I was lacking the necessary energy for racing for the win at the end?" she contemplated

Noemi Cantele (Bigla), Nicole Cooke (Raleigh), Oenone Wood (T-Mobile) and Bastianelli eventually formed a group of four off the front, and Italian Cantele would ultimately take the win.

She attacked on the last climb. "I tried three times," she said. "I knew I had to finish alone in order to win. Two years ago, there were two of us sprinting for the win when I won for the first time here, but I said to myself, 'I have to get rid of them in the climb.' I gave all my energy. When I heard that I was 25 seconds away, I understood the win was mine. It allowed me to enjoy the win much more than two years ago. Alone is definitely the best way to win a race."

In addition to first and third, Giorgia Bronzini (Italian National Team) and Monia Baccaille (Saccarelli EMU Marsciano) finished fifth and sixth.

Cooke's second place gave her 50 more points for the World Cup, giving her a fairly comfortable 80 point lead over Vos. The duo will go head to head at the final event in Nürnberg, Germany, on September 9, where double points will be awarded. "It's not over yet," Cooke said. "But I'm very happy with my result today. I'm in a good position before the final race."

No French champion for GP Plouay

By Jean-François Quénet in Plouay

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Christophe Moreau will not be starting the GP Plouay so Ag2r will only have seven riders. The French champion rode the criterium of Bordeaux on Friday night and left the wine capital on Saturday morning by car in direction to Plouay but he changed his route and went home to Switzerland because his baby girl was sick, he informed his staff of Ag2r.

Moreau is still determined to take part in the world championship in Stuttgart at the end of the month.

Raisin's start mattered more than finish

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Greenville, South Carolina

A scary reminder
Photo ©: Saul Raisin
(Click for larger image)

The mere fact that Saul Raisin was able to walk to the start ramp of the USA Cycling professional time trial championships north of Greenville is considered my many to be a miracle. That he was there to compete as a professional is a dream come true after suffering a near-death crash and brain injury 17 months ago.

"It brought back the old memories of me racing," he said, breaking down in tears after finishing. "I felt strong out there. I had a great day. I felt like I won the race before I even started, it was a personal victory for me!"

While everyone in the crowd was happy to see Raisin starting the race, it was unknown how he would actually do against the top American pros. In fact, he did rather well. Although he finished last, he was only nine seconds slower than the rider in front of him and only 4'33" behind the winner Dave Zabriskie. By comparison, twelve riders finished more behind Zabriskie in last year's time trial over the almost identical course -- with Zabriskie beating his time from last year by more than two minutes.

But Raisin was not the least bit concerned with things like time or placing, he was just enjoying the thrill of feeling like a bike racer again. "I didn't care, I was just enjoying it," he said. "It was probably the easiest ride of my life because I just sat there enjoying it. I had a great time and it felt good going fast. I had no stress... I was nervous because it was my first ride back. It was probably the best ride of my life, other than my first ride back with my father.

Raisin's parents were both right there to be with their son. "You did great son, we are so proud of you," his father Jim said, embracing his son. "17 months ago we didn't think it would ever happen. And last year we had no idea -- he had a long ways to go last year, and he still has a ways to go, but he is working at it and taking it one day at a time. But it's back in his blood so he's going to want it more and more now."

Saul with Bret Neylon
Photo ©: Saul Raisin
(Click for larger image)

The ride today was for more than just himself, according to Raisin. "It's more than just an accomplishment for me, it's for anyone with a brain injury. It shows you can overcome the impossible. They told me I wouldn't walk again and I told my doctor I would run! Right here today is proof, I am running. I am going to come back and come back stronger than before."

Raisin is not stopping with just racing the time trial today -- he is setting a goal to race again as a pro in the peloton. "The Tour de France... well, maybe the Tour of California first," he said. "I reacted fine [to racing.] These last two months I've had all these new sensations on the bike. For the longest time I couldn't sense fatigue, but today my legs hurt and I felt like a racer again. I go back for team testing in October and hopefully get released to race a full season next year. "

Raisin is not quite ready to race a mass start race yet, hence he will watch Sunday's road race from the sidelines. "I'll be everywhere, signing my book at the start and all day."

"I almost started crying coming down the ramp because the announcer had said some kind words about me and all of the emotions were going through my head. I can't explain how it felt. It's a dream come true, like I've said from the start."

For complete coverage of the USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championships, click here.

Landis decision expected this month

Floyd Landis at the Leadville100
Photo ©: Wesley & Garrett Geer
(Click for larger image)

A decision in the case of Floyd Landis is expected by the end of September according to a memorandum received by The memo, which originated from the chairperson of the arbitration committee, was sent to key parties involved in the case. It stated that the arbitrators intended to close the hearing after a final meeting with their own scientific expert, Dr. Fracesco Botre on September 12. Dr. Botre is a direct of a WADA-accredited lab in Rome who attended the hearing, held in May.

The panel has ten days to make a decision after the hearing is officially closed. The memo stated, "The panel remains acutely mindful of the timing issues in connection with this case; however, the Panel also needs to verify an important volume of technical information, which is at the very core of this arbitration," which seemed to indicate that the technical complexity of the case was causing the delay in a decision.

Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. The aribration panel's decision may influence whether Landis gets to keep his title, but the final outcome may not be ultimately known for some time. Both sides will have the option to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The May hearing produced a transcript of roughly 1,800 pages with a majority of testimony spent arguing over the fairness and accuracy of procedures related to the anti-doping case.

In the meantime, Landis continues to participate in endurance mountain bike events and to make public fund-raising appearances. He will race the Shenandoah Mountain 100, a 100 mile mountain bike race, Sunday. Then next Saturday, September 8, he will lead the Univest Cyclosportif 100km recreational ride in Souderton, Pennsylvania, to raise money for the Indian Creek Foundation.

Meersman to FdJ

Meersman in the break
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Gianni Meersman will move to the Francaise des Jeux next season after turning down offers from Saunier Duval - Prodir, T-Mobile, Quick.Step - Innergetic, and Rabobank according to The neo-pro showed great promise early this year at the Tour of Georgia and the Tour of Austria. He was also seventh at the Tour of Belgium. Meersman will be come the fourth Belgian on the FdJ team under Marc Madiot. He will join Philippe Gilbert, Jelle Vanendert and Tom Stubbe on the team.

Meersman now rides for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, which is disbanding at the end of the season.

Grooming the next Italian star

By Jean-François Quénet

Visconti celebrates
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

As Italian stars like Paolo Bettini are drawing nearer the end of their careers, other racers like Giovanni Visconti are ready to follow in Bettini's footsteps. Visconti is even lucky enough to be tutored by the master himself. Visconti is one of the riders looking forward to Sunday's GP Ouest France-Plouay.

When Quick.Step-Innergetic's Giovanni Visconti returns to Plouay, it's like a pilgrimage. He arrived Friday directly from the Tour of Poitou-Charentes where he skipped the two final stages on the last day in order to save himself for other goals. "I've raced in Plouay twice already in my first two years as a professional with Domina Vacanze and Milram," he said. Visconti finished 55th, riding for Team Milram, in 2006, and 75th, riding for Domina Vacanze, in 2005.

"It's exactly the kind of course that suits me because it's similar to ones where I've been successful as a professional," said an enthusiastic Visconti. "It's got two or three short climbs that make legs hurt as the kilometers pass. Plouay is one of the ProTour races the most adapted to my characteristics. It's a nice place and a spectacular race. When I came here the first time, I'd forgotten that it was the circuit where I had seen Romans Vainsteins become the world champion on TV [in 2000]."

Visconti recalled his experience at another ProTour event earlier this year. "I've been fascinated by Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he said. "I wasn't in good shape, and this race hurt me because I was coming off a glandular fever just two months before. I wasn't able to take part in this race as a contender for the win, but I enjoyed doing everything with Paolo Bettini: going and seeing the course and its crucial points before [the event] and feeling the heat of such a [major] event."

The name of team-mate "Bettini" is a magic word in the mouth of Visconti, who hails from the Tuscan cycling school of Luca Scinto, the road captain of Michele Bartoli and Bettini in their golden years. "They have taken me onto this team to follow the path of Bettini," said the Sicilian who joined Quick.Step-Innergetic this year upon the request of the world champion. "Bettini is a model rider, particularly for the one-day races."

"As a young rider, I've always been compared to Bartoli, but I have the feeling that my career is similar Bettini's who spent the beginning of his career working for Bartoli and learning his job by doing so," said Visconti. "Even if they had differences later on, Bettini learned everything from Bartoli. I also want to learn everything possible, and I have the best maestro for that. Everybody with the intention of coming to the same achievements as Bettini dreams of having him as a teacher."

To read the complete feature, click here.

Andreu's future is bright

By Mark Zalewski

New to the American racing peloton this year is the Rock & Republic team, sponsored by a designer jeans company out of Los Angeles. While the team and sponsor have recently arrived to the sport, the person they landed to come in mid-season and direct the team is certainly not. Frankie Andreu is one of American cycling's most well-rounded individuals – former racer turned director and TV personality. Andreu will be directing a bigger Rock & Republic team in 2008.

Frankie Andreu
Photo ©: Toyota United Pro
(Click for larger image)

This time last year, the future was anything but certain for Frankie Andreu – a Midwest boy that had served the US Postal machine faithfully for twelve years, racking-up nine Tour de France finishes, before retiring and heading to the other side of the sport. For 2006 he had what looked to be a promising career as a team director going with Toyota-United.

But that came to a screeching halt when he was unexpectedly sacked by team owner Sean Tucker for uncertain reasons. While Tucker refused to give a reason for the firing, many thought it was strange timing combined with the leaked testimony by Andreu and his wife regarding Lance Armstrong.

This left Andreu without a secure job and little prospects for the immediate future with the season ending in two months time. But like a cat, Andreu managed to land on his feet, and he seems to be in as good a place as ever. During the season the new Rock & Republic team brought him on as directeur sportif, his commentator contract with the American broadcaster of the Tour, Versus, continued and his new team has posted some major wins, resulting in an expansion for next year.

"The end of last year I was out for a little bit, and the beginning of this year," he said. "I liked to watch and pay attention to what's going on and I missed being at the races and missed not having a group of guys to bond with and share the experiences with... so in that aspect I was happy to get a call to come on board. I'm looking forward to next year because we are growing and looking to be more competitive in all different types of races."

Rahsaan Bahati wins the Manhattan Beach GP
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Andreu was referring to new signings for next year, which he kept close to the vest, at least in terms of names to respect their current contracts. "Almost all of the guys we have this year are staying, unless they leave. So it only leaves three or four spots open for climbers and TT guys, because we already have a great crit team. We have the sprinters but we need guys who can do some damage on the road. Ideally we will find guys that will secure us invitations for California and Georgia, which is difficult to obtain."

The US market for riders seems to be healthy, at least according to Andreu. "There are so many domestic teams that it's a battle. We have a couple signed and a couple irons in the fire. But it's not easy, all the teams are looking and buying, and this year it seems there are a lot of rumours and transfers earlier than ever! I wouldn't be surprised if guys this year are already talking for 2009. It's like the NHL [Professional Hockey - ed.] draft where you can buy the rights to somebody early on for later. You have to be quick and ready to commit yourself to whoever you want."

As a well-respected former pro, Andreu uses his background as an edge when talking to possible riders. but the market is wide open for any of those riders. "To be honest, I was already talking to three or four of those guys in June, not even knowing what was going to happen with Discovery."

To read the complete feature, click here.

There's still time - join the Vuelta 2007 today!

There's still time to join the Fantasy La Vuelta Game - create your teams now and win some amazing prizes! You can enter new teams until Stage 4 begins (10:00 UTC/GMT+2 Tuesday, September 4).

New prizes confirmed!

SRAM Rival
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

From one Grand Prize and one First Runner-up to three each Second, Third and Fourth Runner-up prize packages, there are eleven chances for you to win based on your overall performance in the 2007 Vuelta a Espana Fantasy Game. There are also 21 daily prizes for each stage's top performer.

SRAM's Rival groupset is the latest to join this year's prize roster. Built for serious and competitive riders who hammer their gear day in and day out, the SRAM Rival grouppo delivers the same features and functionality of SRAM Red and Force but with different materials and finishes.

Crowned with controls featuring SRAM's Double Tap Controls which offer a performance advantage that other competition-level shifters can't touch. From the hoods, the drops, or even when you're sprinting, the single-lever design puts unmatched control in your hands while saving weight and limiting shifting motion to an optimized 15-degree sweep. The 10-speed Rival groupset includes shifters, front and rear derailleur, OCT crankset, bottom bracket, brakes, cassette and chain.

Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Also on offer in this year's Fantasy Vuelta the roster includes some great prizes from Speedplay's Zero Stainless pedals, Maxxis Courchevel road tyres, Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream, and Giro's Ionos helmets. To find out more have a look at the prize list.

Play for free

Remember you can play for free for the first four stages. Try your teams out and see which rider combinations work out best. We hope you enjoy this year's game and look forward to seeing your winning team online soon.

Choosing your Mountains and Sprints Riders

In what's set to be an interesting race following the events of this summer picking your team of 15 riders couldn't be more challenging. If you are relatively new to the Grande Tours it can be a daunting prospect choosing your 15 riders from Saturday's start list of over 200 riders. You need to choose your riders carefully for all 4 elements of the game. The new ranking system can tell you some of the answers you need to know based on last year's results. Here's some direct links to real life riders that scored well in the 2006 Vuelta Fantasy Game:

Top 2006 Mountains Riders
Top 2006 Sprinters
Top 2006 Finishers
Top 2006 Game Stage Points Riders

Fantasy Upgraded

BBB eyewear
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

We've added some great improvements to the game this year:
1. New ranking and results service, offering new depths of rider statistics on races over the last four years.
2. See your friends exact selections in the this year's game as it happens.
3. Look up the winning managers team selections for last year to improve your selection this year.
4. Follow the progress of the key fantasy managers whilst also tracking your friends' progress in the new "Watch Teams" tool.
5. Build your own Mini-Leagues.
6. Try out the Forum/Chat area, which provides new ways to communicate with your fellow players from around the world in real time as the races unfold.
7. New stage selection system to make sure you never miss a stage pick again.

What is Fantasy Vuelta all about?

The online game allows you to assume the role of a professional team manager for the 2007 Vuelta and create your own dream team from any of the real life riders in this year's Vuelta. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with other virtual managers from around the world. Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win some great prizes.

Remember you can still enter teams until stage 4 begins. You can re-edit and re-enter teams for stages 1-3 of the Vuelta 2007 competition up until stage 4 begins. Unlike most Fantasy games, this gives you the chance to try out the game for FREE and experiment with different strategies without having to pay for mistakes. If you join the Vuelta after the start date you can still take part with just as good a chance of winning as a manager who joined before stage 1. Try out a team today!

Play for free Remember you can play for free for the first 4 stages! Try your teams out and see which rider combinations work out best. We hope you enjoy this year's game and look forward to seeing your winning team online soon.

Good luck!

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