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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, August 4, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Giro Champion Contador hopes for Olympics medal

Giro Champion, Spaniard Alberto Contador, hopes for Olympics medal
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Contador, winner of this year's Giro d'Italia and the 2007 Tour de France, travelled to Beijing yesterday with the focus of helping his country take a medal in the road race on Saturday or the time trail the following week.

"I hope to arrive in good form, mainly for the time trial [August 13]. I would like to be able to be with the best and to play a good role in both events," Contador said. The closing stage of the Giro d'Italia was the last time he competed in a time trail. He finished the stage 11th, 39 seconds behind Italy's Marco Pinotti but won the race overall.

Saturday's Clásica San Sebastián was Contador's last road race in Europe before travelling to China. He finished a creditable but not spectacular 26th, while Alejandro Valverde, Spain's team captain for the road race, won the race.

Once in China, Contador and his team-mates will acclimates themselves in the five days leading to the road race. One of Contador's biggest concerns is how is body may respond to the humid climate. He will however support Valverde, along with the team's three other members – Carlos Sastre, Oscar Freire and Samuel Sánchez. He believes the team has a good chance of a podium spot.

"I believe that anyone of us is able to win a medal. What we should do is to speak in race and to bet on the one who is going best. The important thing is to win a medal for Spain – it does not matter who get it."

Australia going all out to win in Beijing

Michael Rogers, 28 years old, helped provide Australia with useful feedback leading to the Olympics
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Australia's Michael Rogers is using a high-tech approach to win a medal in Beijing. When Rogers rode the Good Luck Beijing race last year on the Olympic course, he "had a little pill in his stomach when he was riding the test event, and it was collecting core temperature data to a data logger," according to Australian Institute of Sports physiologist Dr. David Martin.

"This gave an insight to how hot he was actually getting," reported The Australian News. Martin took Rogers' weight to calculate how much he had sweated, and, Martin said, who used the collected data to help to create "cooling strategies" to counteract the expected heat and humidity.

The Australian team – also including Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Lloyd and Stuart O'Grady – has gathered for a training camp in Varese, Italy, and has been practicing on gradients like a "mini-Beijing course." Head women's "coach Warren MacDonald has gone so far as to even map out the final 800 metres of the road race and the time-trial, which is a really difficult, undulating steep uphill kick to finish the whole thing off," Martin said.

AIS has not forgotten the bikes, nor the athletes' health. The bikes will have "special coatings on the cogs to minimise friction," while the riders will be on a course of probiotics to help their immune systems and prevent intestinal problems. "We populate the gut with a lot of good bacteria in attempts to increase the robustness of the athlete," according to Martin.

The team will stay in Italy as long as possible before flying to China. "They are not there for the Olympic experience," Martin said. "They are there to win a medal." (SW)

Training problems in Beijing

Johan Vansummeren was forced to skip Team Belgium's training ride in Beijing
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

The German road team postponed a training ride at the last minute due to visit from doping officials. The five riders – Gerald Ciolek, Bert Grabsch, Stefan Schumacher, Jens Voigt and Fabian Wegmann – were getting ready to leave the Olympic village Monday morning when doping-control officials contacted Tour de France double-stage winner Schumacher and asked him to give a test.

It meant that team Germany postponed its training ride until the afternoon.

The Belgian team were able to train, but without Silence-Lotto's Johan Vansummeren, who stayed in bed with intestinal problems.

"The rest trained for four hours," Sports Technical Director Jos Smets of the Belgian federation told the Belga press agency. "The jetlag is not entirely over, because we just arrived here on Sunday, and everyone still feels it sometimes. But we can train normally."

The other four Belgian team members are Mario Aerts, Christophe Brandt, Maxime Monfort and Jurgen Van den Broeck. (SW)

FCI turns screws tight on dopers

The Italian cycling federation (FCI) responded to a month littered with doping news by tightening the disciplinarily actions against cyclists who test positive, including a lifetime ban from the squadra azzurra.

Italian cycling was shocked the most by the four doping cases of the Tour de France. One of its rising young stars, Riccardo Riccò, tested positive for EPO (Erythropoietin) after winning two stages during the race. To make matters worse, Italy had to deal with the cases of Marta Bastianelli, Paolo Bossoni and Giovanni Carini.

FCI's General Secretary Maria Cristina Gabriotti, on the behalf of President Renato Di Rocco, released a statement July 31 following a meeting on the previous day. It stated the FCI's concerns over the recent cases and issued new anti-doping actions penalties. The new rules that are set to take hold before the end of the year could see a positive rider paying fines, stripped of his racing licence and banned from the national team for life. The FCI will also apply the rules to managers and directeurs.

The new rules will not be retroactive and therefore would not affect Riccò or the other recent riders testing positive.

Scarponi makes successful return following Puerto suspension

Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni) makes his return to racing
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italy's Michele Scarponi became the first Operación Puerto suspended rider to make a return to racing after participating in Sunday's Giro dell'Appennino. He finished last in 36th place. The race was won by team-mate Alessandro Bertolini.

"I did not just sit in the gruppo; I rode up front and was prominent on the climbs," said Scarponi to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Scarponi, 28, was discovered as Zapatero and Il Presidente on when Spanish Guardia Civil raided Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes' offices in May 2006. He confirmed his code names and involvement last May in the affair known as Operación Puerto. The Italian cycling federation (FCI) suspended him for 18 months, through November 15, but a the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) agreed to reduced sentence for time already spent out of the sport.

Ivan Basso and Jörg Jaksche are the only other riders served a suspension due to ties with Fuentes.

"It gave me goose bumps to put a racing number on. I refound the old sensations while racing – that of fatigue. Thanks to the team for allowing me to work as a gregario for its captain, which worked out with a win for Bertolini."

Knaven slip sliding away

It looked like Servais Knaven, 37, of Team Columbia would win the Sparkassen Giro in Bochum, Germany. There were three Columbia riders in the leading group of 12 going into the final climb, and with two kilometres to go, the Dutch rider attacked. But the rain and wet pavement did him in.

"There was a final curve 250 metres before the finish line," he said on his website, "The road was slick with rain. I looked back to see how far forward I was. That worked out, but the moment I looked, I went down. I slid a metre or 20 and got back on my bike, but the chasers were already there."

The day continued poorly for Knaven. "I then rode quietly to the line. But the second group had reached me by then, and midway in the group, a rider didn't see me. He ran full into me and as I was falling, I crossed the finish line." Instead of winning, Knaven finished 30th.

"Falling twice within 250 metres, I don't think that has ever happened," continued Knaven, the winner of the 2001 Paris-Roubaix. (SW)

More Criteriums over the weekend

Gert Steegmans of Team Quick Step, winner final stage of the Tour de France, beat his team-mates Tom Boonen and Leif Hoste in the Wolvertem, Belgium, criterium.

Milram's Niki Terpstra, who will ride both the road and track events in Beijing, won the criterium in Steenwijk, Netherlands. He beat Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Pieter Weening (Rabobank).

Björn Leukemans, whose testosterone-doping case is winding its way through the Belgian courts, won a criterium race in Buggenhout, Belgium, ahead of former Silence-Lotto team-mate Greg Van Avermaet and Geert Omloop of Mitsubishi-Jartazi.

Quadruple-Tour stage winner Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia continued his winning ways in Heerlen, Netherlands, beating Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) and Bram Tankink (Rabobank).

Over in Austria, Tour de France third-place finisher Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) won in Gmund ahead of Thomas Rohregger (Elk Haus) and René Haselbacher (Astana). On Friday, Kohl finished second in the Wiener Rathaus Kriterium, in Vienna, with Filippo Pozzato of Liquigas taking first and Haselbacher in third.

Erik Zabel (Milram) out-sprinted former-World Champion Mario Cipollini and Columbia's André Greipel in the Nacht von Hannover (Germany). Ronny Scholz of Gerolsteiner came in ahead of Milram's Ralf Grabsch and Columbia's Marcus Burghardt in Rhede. (SW)

Review the Tour de France with Cyclingnews' videos

The biggest bike race in the world may now be done and dusted, but that does not stop you from re-living the magical three-week Tour de France. Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you post-race video highlights.

Video highlights - 1 is the first of three post-race videos that will be presented by Cyclingnews. If you still need more you can review past videos and the podcasts page in our Tour de France section.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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