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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 10, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Pyrenees bring thrills and agony to Vuelta

Devolder cracks, Menchov takes gold while Piepoli gets the thrill of victory

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) smiles
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The ninth stage of the Vuelta a España brought the thrill of victory to the Saunier Duval and Rabobank camps, while the Discovery team was left with the agony of defeat on the long final climb to the ski station in Cerler. The morning's overall leader, Stijn Devolder, was in difficulty early on the final climb as Saunier Duval's Leonardo Piepoli poured on the pressure. Rabobank's Russian leader Denis Menchov held fast to the Italian's wheel as Devolder fell farther and farther behind, watching the overall lead slip rapidly from his grasp.

By the summit, only Menchov could stay with Piepoli, and the Russian allowed the 35 year-old to take the stage while other favourites struggled in behind. Carlos Sastre lost 17 seconds, Cadel Evans 1'03, but by far the worst off was Devolder, who finished a disappointing 4'58" back.

Piepoli was thrilled to have the stage win. "I'm so happy with this," he said after the stage. "A stage win is important for both me and the team, all the more so if it comes in a grand tour. I had pointed at three particular stages in this Vuelta: Lagos, Cerler and Andorra. In Lagos, I managed second and today I finished first, which means I can feel happy about my results so far."

Piepoli, who ran into some difficulties after testing 'non-negative' for the asthma medication Ventolin during the Giro d'Italia, was allowed to race after the Monaco cycling federation dropped the charges. The Italian admitted he had no aspirations to win the overall Vuelta. "Why not fight for the GC? I used to do it, once I ended 8th, but now I'd rather raise my arms in victory after a stage. At my age, my career is almost done so I prefer this to being 4th or 6th in the GC. I'd like to dedicate this victory to my first son, Yanis, who'll be born soon."

Rabobank assistant director Adri van Houwelingen was surprised that Menchov was able to take the gold jersey so soon in the race. "We knew Menchov was doing well," he said according to the team's website. "Honestly, we expected the gap with Devolder to be around one minute before the rest day, with Denis in the leading position. Now, the number two is already at two minutes."

The race is far from wrapped up, and Monday's tenth stage will hit the riders with another, more difficult, hors catégorie finishing climb. "A lot will depend on the strength of our team," acknowledged Van Houwelingen. "Are we strong enough to control the race? That is what we are going to see right now. The danger comes from the second line. We need to be on the alert for that."

Agony of defeat for Pereiro

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) comes down the stairs
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The agony of defeat was dealt to the Caisse d'Epargne squad when its leader, Oscar Pereiro had to abandon today. Pereiro fell ill the morning of Saturday's time trial and suffered through to a respectable finish, but there was no more left in the tank to tackle the mountains Pyrenean stage on Sunday. The Caisse d'Epargne struggled through the first two climbs but could not hold on to the group and finally abandoned at kilometre 99.

"I had no energy to continue," Pereiro said. "I tried to stay in the race as long as possible, but it was useless. This morning I felt much better, but it's evident that I did not recuperate. I had needed one or two quiet stages, but today we had a mountain stage, and furthermore it started very fast."

Pereiro had targeted the Vuelta all year, and was determined to stay with the race for as long as he could, but the parcours spelled disaster for the Spaniard. "I let go of the peloton as the circuit began to rise. It's a pity because the Vuelta was my objective and I prepared for it very well. The circuit favoured my characteristics. But I have to accept it and to think of the future."

The Spaniard is confident that his team-mate, Russian Vladimir Efimkin, will be able to do a great Vuelta. "I trust that my team will go on very well in this Vuelta and I believe that Vladimir Efimkin has many possibilities to continue doing great things, like he did it until today, despite the superiority of [Denis] Menchov," said Pereiro. Indeed, Efimkin did well to hold the wheels of a select group of climbers, and now sits in second overall, 2'01 behind Menchov.

Monika Prell and Antonio J. Salmerón contributed to this report.

Sánchez holding steady

By Monika Prell

Sánchez moving up
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

A select group of favourites came in 1'03 behind Vuelta stage nine winner Leonardo Piepoli, and along with former gold jersey Vladimir Efimkin, Cadel Evans and Luis Perez was Euskaltel-Euskadi's leader Sammy Sánchez. Sánchez suffered through the time trial and lost four minutes to Devolder, but thanks to his climbing today he moved from 11th overall to 7th - just 14 seconds behind Devolder.

"The stage began very fast and from the start, there was a lot of action," Sánchez said. "A breakaway group with important riders was able to escape." The breakaway went after the first climb, and included José Gomez Marchante and Sánchez' team-mate Igor Antón. "Antón was shrewd and was able to go with this group, so we had not to assume any responsibility in the race."

"Once the breakaway was neutralised, the climb to Cerler was very fast. CSC set a very fast rhythm with [Iñigo] Cuesta, with the objective to launch [Carlos] Sastre, but [Denis] Menchov demonstrated that he is superior to all of us," Sánchez explained. "Yesterday he was already the strongest and today again. He is a level higher than we are, then there is Sastre and behind those two are some riders, like [Ezequiel] Mosquera, [Cadel] Evans and myself."

Up to this point, Samuel Sánchez is satisfied about his performance in the Vuelta. "I expect to continue to rise in the general classification, because I notice that I am progressing. Every day I feel better and I hope that this tendency will continue. Yesterday I had a good time trial and today I was the only one who had the heart to attack before [Denis] Menchov and [Leonardo] Piepoli."

The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider affirms that to attack is in his nature. "I am aggressive and I like to do something for a victory. You have to try it. I am now seventh in the general classification and there aren't many stages [to make these attacks]. Last year, I was seventh when we reached Madrid and this year I am already on this position after half of the Vuelta.

"Reaching the overall win will be difficult with [Denis] Menchov having this kind of form, but we will try to climb on the podium. I see myself with energy and appetite to continue attacking."

He sees difficult the stage of tomorrow. "Tomorrow will be a very hard day. After two days of big efforts, we will add a third one with a distance of 214 kilometres; three cols and the mountain top finish in Ordino Arcalis, an ascent of Hors category."

The plan for tomorrow is the following: "The recovery will be very important, we must to go into tomorrow's stage with the batteries charged at the maximum. The fatigue begins to become noticeable in the legs", stated Sánchez.

Antón continues improving

By Monika Prell

Igor Antón, the young hope of Euskaltel Euskadi, was able to escape with some strong riders in stage nine of the Vuelta a España, and while the move was not successful, it was a strong effort for the 24 year-old, and bodes well for his Vuelta. "I am happy about the stage I rode. We began very fast, we climbed the Monrépos very fast. There were many attacks, and some dangerous riders like [José Ángel Gómez] Marchante or David López were in a breakaway group, so it was important to be represented in this group."

Antón was the team's representative in a dangerous group which wasn't given much rope by the peloton, and he knew it was futile but didn't regret his decision. "It was going to be difficult for this group to reach the finish line, but you are never sure, perhaps you don't join the group with any rider of your team and later you regret it, because you have to work in the peloton or you lose the race. I was there and the team was thankful", said the young rider.

Antón, who had to abandon the Tour de France due to fatigue, said he feels better in the Vuelta. "On the last climb I tried to lose the least amount of time possible. I am well situated in the general classification, and even if it is not my principal objective, I won't give away anything when I feel good."

The 24 year-old thinks his team leader Samuel Sánchez will continue to move up in the classification. "Samu is very good and every day he is better. He is already 7th in the general classification and there are many days to improve. To me something similar is happening, it seems that I am improving. There were some days when I was bad, but in the mountains I feel better."

He will need all the strength he can muster for the 214 kilometre long journey on stage ten. "Tomorrow will be a spectacular day, with the Cantó and Ordino. [Denis] Menchov and [Leonardo] Piepoli have demonstrated that they are strong, but we have to go on fighting," promised Antón.

Poland opener plagued by rain

Lampre blasting by.
Photo ©: AFP
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The Tour of Poland opened Sunday with an unusual three kilometre team time trial - three one kilometre circuits around Warsaw's Theatre Square, but the format proved not to be waterproof, and organisers had to neutralise the overall standings after heavy rains swept in for the later teams.

The Italian Lampre team took advantage of a break in heavy rains to deliver a winning time of 3'36, but the race's good luck didn't last long. The skies opened up on the later teams, drenching the streets with heavy rains and spelling disaster for the Gerolsteiner squad, who crashed in the final turn of its last circuit.

"We had the best time at the second lap and we most certainly would have made the podium. After the fall, however, we had no more chance, which was naturally unfortunate", said the Gerolsteiner director Christian Wegmann.

Other teams decided not to take any chances with the course in those conditions. "It was kind of wet at the beginning, but then halfway through it dried up so I started to think we might win, because we were one of the last teams to start," explained Team CSC's sports director Alain Gallopin "But towards the end it started to pour so we had to be very careful and not take any unnecessary chances. I think we finished last actually."

"It was all the sports directors and the organisers, who before the stage agreed that the route was a bit too dangerous in the rain for the results to count. So it ended up being just a show for the sake of the spectators and also to determine who was going to wear the leader's jersey in the second stage," Gallopin continued.

Lampre's veteran Fabio Baldato will wear the leader's jersey on the first road stage on Monday.

Valverde to fight UCI

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde will fight the UCI in an attempt to be allowed to ride the World Championships and to throw off suspicion of his involvement in the doping scandal Operación Puerto, his manager told Cyclingnews on Sunday. Francisco Sánchez Sabater, the Caisse d'Epargne rider's representative, said that Valverde will send a letter to the UCI demanding that they retract the "false accusations" which have befallen the rider after cycling's governing body placed him under formal investigation at the end of August.

The UCI claims to have additional information culled from the 6,000 page dossier from the Spanish Guardia Civil on Operación Puerto which warranted his formal investigation. However, the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) declined to open an investigation when asked by the UCI, stating that there is no new evidence.

Sabater promised that Valverde will inform the UCI of legal action claiming that the organisation is wrongly preventing him from his right to work as a professional cyclist by denying him participation at the World Championships. Valverde has already threatened to sue the UCI after it sent him an e-mail warning him of a whereabouts violation.

Van Petegem's farewell on Tuesday

Van Petegem in the 2007 Tour of Flanders
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
The Quick.Step – Innergetic team will bid adieu to two of their most respected athletes, Peter Van Petegem and Serge Baguet this week. As previously announced, the race on Tuesday in Desselgem will be the last of their careers for both of the athletes. "It will be an emotional moment," said team manager Patrick Lefevere. "Peter and Serge have been two important athletes not just for our team but for both the Belgian and International cycling movement in general.

"We thought the best way to say our farewells to them is by organising a party and inviting their friends. Not all of the team will be able to attend due to racing commitments, but at the end of the season we'll all get together to wish them all the very best for the future."

Quick.Step for Desselgem: Serge Baguet, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Sébastien Rosseler, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Gert Steegmans, Bram Tankink, Peter Van Petegem, Maarten Wynants, Detlef Moerman D.S.: Rik Van Slycke

Season over for Niermann

Grischa Niermann
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank's Grischa Niermann will have to end his season early after he was hit by a car during training and suffered a broken fibula. The injury will mean the German, who was still a candidate for a spot in the German national team for the World Championship in Stuttgart, will have to wait until next season to race, but he was relieved not to have suffered more serious injury. "I took a left turn, but I just missed one car," Neirmann wrote according to the Rabobank team website.

"I then rolled over the hood, I went through the windscreen and ended up inside the car. In fact, I think I am rather lucky with just a broken fibula, but of course I am done for the season now. I am not sure how long this will take, but it obviously going to take too long for me to compete in the final part of the season."

Niermann started the season off with a broken ankle after he was hit by a motorbike in the Tirreno-Adriatico.

MacLean signs for Plowman Craven / Evans Cycles

Top British track sprinter Craig MacLean is the latest signing for the Hertfordshire based Plowman Craven / Evans Cycles team. The world, Olympic and Commonwealth games track medallist joins the team with less than twelve months to go before the Beijing Olympics and will be working hard to ensure qualification and selection for the British team.

"It's nice to feel part of a team," said MacLean. "I have not been part of a racing team since I was with the City of Edinburgh and that's going back a few years. The coming year is going to be quite intense. I imagine that the majority of my duties with be with the GB team and concerning selection issues for Beijing but there will be plenty of opportunities to pull on the Plowman Craven top in events like the national championships and the Revolution track series in the UK."

Britain is currently blessed with multiple world class sprinters and MacLean will have to work hard to secure his Olympic team place. "The qualification process will start from the World Cups in November and run all the way to the World Championships in Manchester in March," continued the 36-year-old Scot, "All of your results will count towards your individual ranking and qualification. Then there are the issues with team selection where basically we have seven sprinters going for three places. It is going to be a tough year."

Plowman Craven / Evans Cycles has recently launched its 'Race Clean' initiative which systematically tests the athlete's blood to provide them with 'Blood Passports' which highlight the normal levels of Haemoglobin and Hematocrit in their system.

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