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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, February 6, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Garzelli hopes Acqua & Sapone races Giro

Stefano Cavallari (Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) to miss out on 12th Giro d'Italia participation?
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Missing from the 21 teams listed to race the 2008 Giro d'Italia on Friday was Acqua & Sapone, the team of 2000 Giro champion Stefano Garzelli. The 34 year-old Italian not only won the Giro eight years ago but he took out two magnificent stage wins last year in Bergamo and Lienz, so it was a shock for him to hear the news of his non-invite.

"The other day I had returned from an intense training session of five and a half hours. I returned to the hotel, my brother and my agent both had called me, and they told me that my team was not invited to the Giro. I sat down, I said basta, I am stopping. It is not worth all the sacrifices. It is not right," explained Garzelli to Tuttosport.

"Then I came to my senses and thought it cannot end this way; there has to be an explanation, an understanding to this decision that to me seems absurd."

He is expecting word from Acqua & Sapone Team Manager Palmiro Masciarelli in the coming days. "I know that there is a meeting scheduled between February 2 and 11," he continued from his training base in Spain.

"I have always given my maximum in my 11 Giro participations, through last year, with the two stage wins in Bergamo and Lienz, which I think were appreciated by everyone."

In 2002, Stefano Garzelli was kicked out of the Giro d'Italia while in the race leader's maglia rosa. The then Mapei rider was found positive for a masking agent, Probenecid; however a lot of time has passed since even what was then considered an unusual test result.

Acqua & Sapone's non-invite to the Giro could mean it will not be invited to Tirreno-Adriatico or Milano-Sanremo, but Garzelli continues to train in what could be his final season as a professional. "I am already preparing with great determination for mid-March's Tirreno-Adriatico. It is an important season for me, a decisive season in regards to my future."

Bettini in form for season

Two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini has passed a relaxing winter to ready himself for the 2008 season, on the roads in his rainbow jersey. The 33 year-old Italian put on some extra weight this off-season, but now the Quick Step rider is ready to battle, starting with his season debut in the GP Etruschi on Saturday.

"This winter I exaggerated a little bit and found myself nine kilograms over my inform weight," noted Bettini to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was almost double body fat [59 to 68kg, 7 to 13% body fat - ed.]. However, when it is a party, it is a party."

Ever professional, Bettini was already back down to 63kg during the Quick Step training camp, thanks to five hour rides without as much as an energy bar. Often he will not eat or drink in training to simulate emergency racing conditions.

During racing and training Bettini prefers fruit over bread-based snacks, and at the table he is particular. "I don't even want to see chestnut marmalade on the table. Fish, away from home, is avoided. If it is not how you are used to it is not good. ... I prefer a light pasta dish."

Italians get rolling with GP Etruschi

The famous tree-lined road in the GP Etruschi
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Italian season will get rolling this Saturday with the 13th GP Costa degli Etruschi – a typical sprinters' fest that takes in the wine country roads in southern Tuscany. The race starts at 10:30 from San Vincenzo and finishes 193 kilometres later in Donoratico following an 8.5-kilometre circuit that is repeated five times.

The biggest guns that will be firing will undoubtedly be Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), stage winner in Qatar, and winner of the past three editions, Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram). Other participants lining up include home rider Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre).

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) will be forced to skip the race due to ongoing knee pains.

Except for Cunego, the Giro d'Italia contenders will start their season later; Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) starts wit the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria (February 11 to 13), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) in the Trofeo Laigueglia (February 23) and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) in the Ruta del Sol (February 17 to 21).

Trofeo Laigueglia announces its teams

The 45th Trofeo Laigueglia has announced the 25 teams that will take part in its race – this year scheduled for February 23. Amongst the participants will be 2007 Giro d'Italia winner, Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), the organiser has announced today.

The 25 teams will be Tinkoff Credit Systems, Liquigas, Lampre, Rabobank, Team CSC, Cofidis, Silence-Lotto, Team Milram, Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo, CSF Group Navigare, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, Slipstream Chipotle - H30, Barloworld, LPR Brakes, NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte, Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce, Amore & Vita-McDonald's, Topsport Vlaanderen, Mitsubishi-Jartazi, Preti Mangimi, Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner, High Road, Française des Jeux, Miche-Silver Cross, Nippo-Endeka

At the side of Di Luca will be 1999 Laigueglia winner, team-mate Paolo Savoldelli. Liquigas will bring two-time winner Filippo Pozzato and his team-mates Vincenzo Nibali, Murilo Fischer, Leonardo Bertagnolli and Andrea Noè. Acqua & Sapone has confirmed Stefano Garzelli and Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) is expected to return to defend his title.

The 183.3-kilometre parcours includes two passes of the Passo del Ginestro (670m) and the Passo del Balestrino (690m). The Balestrino leaves 32 kilometres to the finish line on Via Aurelia.

Milram in South Africa

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Milram is starting its season with the "exotic" races of the early season before opening the European season. After the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Qatar, it is currently riding the Super Challenge Series in South Africa. And that is exotic enough that the young riders have to make some adjustments.

It's not just the hot temperatures that make life difficult for the Europeans, but also the traffic on the "wrong" side of the road. "You have to be extremely careful to always ride on the correct side of the road," Milram's Björn Schröder told Radsport-Aktiv.

"Especially right after a little pause, we tend to ride on the wrong side. They drive here on the left! Even changing a tire takes place on the left side of the road, not on the right side like in Europe."

But there are positive aspects, too. "The people wave and call us from the street and the full taxi-buses. I think they don't often see cyclists ride by so fast. The Imperial Hotel is one of the best here in the city, and directly across from the police station! We even have free internet here, they wash our laundry and cook anything we want."

The team's second-place finishes in each of the first three races has raised its profile among the hotel employees, he noted. "With our three podium places and a photo on the front page of the local newspaper, everyone here in the hotel has become extra proud of us."

Redondo and Ventoso to lead Andalucía-Cajasur

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Andalucía-Cajasur in the 2007 Vuelta a España
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Andalucía-Cajasur was presented yesterday in Jaen (Andalucía), Spain. The Spanish Professional Continental team will be led by the climber José Antonio Redondo (from Astana) and the sprinter Francisco José Ventoso (Saunier Duval), and directed by Antonio Cabello (also its team manager), Francisco Cabello (ex-professional rider) and Martínez Oliver.

The directeurs expressed their desire to repeat the successful 2007 season, when Luis Pérez won in Ávila during the Vuelta a España. The veteran rider from Madrid has opted for retirement, and his place will be covered by Redondo, who will be responsible to lead the team in the Spanish Grand Tour.

Cabello has also incorporated other young promising riders in Andalucía-Cajasur, such as Javier Moreno (Extremadura), who was crowned National U23 championship in 2005, and Antonio Piedra, who made his debut last year as a professional in the ranks of Fuerteventura-Canarias. In addition, the team has signed four U23 riders; all of them from its feeder team: Luis Angel Maté, Cecilio Gutierrez, Juan Javier Estrada and José Antonio Carrasco.

Andalucía-Cajasur will be composed of 16 riders, mostly from Andalucía, such as José Ruiz, José Luis Carrasco, Juan Olmo, Manuel Ortega, José Antonio López, Jesús Rosendo and Francisco José Martínez, with Claudio Casas from Murcia. All of them will debut next Sunday at the Challenge de Mallorca (February 10 to 14). Following the debut, they will race in the Vuelta a Andalucía (17 to 21), Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (26 to March 1) and Clasica de Almeria (2).

See Cyclingnews' team database for a full team roster.

Leukemans appeal to be heard

By Susan Westemeyer

Björn Leukemans' appeal of his two-year suspension will be heard by the Vlaamse Gemeenschap (Flemish Community in Belgium) on February 26. He was banned after a positive out-of-competition test for testosterone last fall.

The 30 year-old Belgian expects good news and is preparing for his return to riding. "I am innocent and assume that other people will realize that, too," he told the Gazet van Antwerpen. "I want to be ready for the moment that I return to competition. Already one team is ready to offer me a contract and a nice racing programme."

Until then, however, he is still coping with the fact that he was found to have doped. "My eyes have been opened. I lost my naivety and a lot more," he said. He has no contact with his former team, Silence-Lotto, or his former colleagues. "The team management ignores me. I asked [sport director] Marc Sergeant if I could return if I am cleared. He never answered me."

He continued, "I don't hear any more from the riders, not from Nick Nuyens or anyone else. I have no friends left in the group, only colleagues."

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