Latest Cycling News, February 11, 2008
Edited by Gregor Brown
Di Luca returns in the Giro di Reggio Calabria
Danilo Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, is returning to competition after a four month winter break. Not racing since the Giro dell'Emilia and serving a three-month suspension in relation to the Oil for Drugs investigation, the 32 year-old rider from Abruzzo has the desire to attach the dossard on his back.
"We covered 600 kilometres in the car and motor-home, from the camp in Terracina a Reggio, but it will be worth it," recalled Di Luca to La Gazzetta dello Sport. He will line up with his LPR Brakes team-mates for the 58th Giro di Reggio Calabria today – a three-stage race in southern Italy.
"This is a race with a long and rich tradition. I personally asked Team Manager Bordonali to open [the season] here and then go to Grosseto [Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, 15-17 - ed.], a valuable course to define your condition."
After Grosseto, Di Luca will race the Trofeo Laigueglia, Monte Paschi Eroica ("The gravel roads fascinate me."), Tirreno-Adriatico and then the Milano-Sanremo.
"At the camp Danilo worked hard and enjoyed himself, helping for a good group," said LPR Brakes' Bordonali. "He has a deep love for the bike."
Some of the riders taking part in Reggio Calabria include Gabriele Balducci, Luca Paolini (Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo), Daniele Nardello, Santo Anzà (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Baden Cooke, Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Emanuele Sella, Maximiliano Richeze, Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare), Serhiy Honchar (Preti Mangimi).
A surprise for the sprinters on Mallorca
By Susan Westemeyer
Philippe Gilbert of Française des Jeux took off from the field shortly before the red triangle of the Trofeo Mallorca – the first race in the Mallorca Challenge – on Sunday and was able to cross the finish line first, with the top sprinters nipping at his heels and frustrated by the near-miss.
Third place went to Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster. "We wanted to keep the race in our hands, that worked pretty good," said Gerolsteiner Directeur Sportif Christian Wegmann. "The communication in the sprint finale was surely not perfect, but also not bad. It was a good beginning with a good result."
Graeme Brown of Rabobank was second behind the escapee, and his team thought that he should have won. The Dutch team started working hard with about 2.5 kilometres to go with the other sprinters' teams, but as Rabobank pointed out, neither team's efforts nor "the attempts by unorganised individuals" were able to stop Gilbert's successful surprise attack. "And that's a pity, because Graeme was the best sprinter, even though there are many good sprinters here," said Directeur Sportif Adri van Houwelingen.
Rabobank will use three riders in all of the races, with other riders transferring in and out for the remainder of the races. Grischa Niermann, Laurens ten Dam and Koos Moerenhout will race each day, "but we do not focus entirely on the overall classification. I look at this week more as a series of five chances to win something," van Houwelingen said.
Team Astana made its European season debut in the race, and put its stamp on the race after Cofidis' Tristan Valentin got away for about 10 kilometres. It took over the chase with Française des Jeux, and successfully closed the gap. The team's best finisher was René Haselbacher, who finished 20th. Antonio Colom, who has won several races in the Challenge in the past, as well as the overall title in 2004, said "Let's see how we respond during the race. It is too early to know how we are, but since this race is in my home country it is always motivating."
Etruschi casualties okay
A crash in the penultimate closing circuit of the 13th GP Costa degli Etruschi – won by Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) – did not spoil the early season for some of cycling's big names. Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) and Colombian climbing sensation, Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), hit the pavement but without consequences.
"In that penultimate final circuit there were crashes and I ended up on the ground, practically at a standstill," Cunego recalled. "I quickly got back up, without any damage.
"Logically, my condition is not at its maximum, but I am content with my day out; I worked in the group and I tried to maintain a good rhythm. Restarting with races like these is instrumental in stepping up the form."
Soler suffered scrapes on both elbows.
Lampre concludes its training camp
Team Lampre is concluding its training camp in San Vincenzo (Toscana), Italy this week. Part of the Italian ProTour Team will leave to race the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto (February 15 to 17), while the others will close out the camp – based at the Hotel Riva degli Etruschi – on Sunday, February 17.
Alessandro Ballan, Matteo Bono, Paolo Bossoni, Paolo Fornaciari, Francesco Gavazzi, Danilo Napolitano, Daniele Righi and Mauro Santambrogio will leave for Massa Marittima and the Grosseto roads this Thursday; they will be guided by Fabrizio Bontempi.
"It's a perfect race for the beginning of the season," Bontempi explained. "There are three stages characterised by mixed parcours with flat finales; I think there will be two sprints and one breakaway.
"Our cyclists will try to improve their fitness and fight for the victory when the chance presents itself."
The days at the Hotel Riva degli Etruschi were marked by the late night doping controls, ordered by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). The tests all returned normal results, but it ruffled the feathers of the Lampre riders and the Association of Italian professional riders (ACCPI). Team members were not in their exact location when the testing officials arrived; Ballan himself requested a meeting with head CONI anti-doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri, to clear his position.
CSC training camp news: good and bad
By Susan Westemeyer
CSC's Nicki Sørensen is in the hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, following a crash at the team's USA-based training camp in the Malibu Mountains. According to the team's website, team-csc.com, the 32 year-old suffered facial injuries and a deep cut on his forehead. He underwent surgery and is expected to be able to travel back to Europe later in the week.
It was the second in an unlucky series for the veteran Dane. Last August he had to stop his season early after breaking three bones in his foot in an accident at home.
Other than that, things are going well at the camp. "It looks like the entire team is in pretty fair shape. We've had a good camp so far with lots of training – tough training that is," said Jens Voigt, who became a father for the fifth time over the off-season.
"I think I've gotten through the winter break okay. I'm looking forward to doing Tour of California – this race means a lot to all of us it being this close to our American sponsor's head offices," he continued. "I hope to do my bit to land us another victory again this year. Last year, we won three stages in this race and it would be fantastic to make a repeat performance in 2008." The 36 year-old won the queen stage in the 2007 race.
By Susan Westemeyer
Sprinter Danilo Hondo has returned to the peloton for the first time since 2006, and while he has not yet made it back to the top, he is satisfied with his season start.
He started the Tour de Langkawi this weekend "after a long wait and a lot of stress." So far the sprinter has not been able to make his mark on the race, as the first two stages were won out by successful breakaway groups. He was content to stay in the peloton in the first stage, as two of his Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli team-mates were in the escape group. In Sunday's second stage he came in fifth in the group sprint, six seconds after the day's escape group came through for the win.
"I believe that there will still be interesting stages here, and that, in the end, I will be able to take a further step in the direction of my European highlights," he said optimistically on his website, danilo-hondo.de.
Hondo tested positive for Carphedon during the 2005 Vuelta a Murcia. He was given a two-year ban, and after numerous court cases, appeals, rulings, and a short return to racing, the now-34 year-old was only allowed to ride again as of January this year.
Amy Gillett Foundation announces scholarship details
The Amy Gillett Foundation in partnership with Cycling Australia announced details regarding the 2008 Amy Gillett Scholarship, which provides outstanding financial and in-kind support for its annual cycling recipient.
"Each year we look to support a well-rounded female athlete who is not only determined and capable of excelling in the sport of cycling, but who acknowledges the importance of continued further education and life off the bike," said foundation General Manager Melinda Jacobsen, when he officially called for applications from Australia's talented female cyclists.
The scholarship honours the memory of Gillett, who was killed whilst on a training ride in Germany, 2005, by supporting young cyclists who share her sporting and life goals.
Based on a joint partnership between the Foundation and Cycling Australia/AIS High Performance Program, the scholarship provides a mixture of financial and incentives to the successful recipient, such as financial assistance with travel, accommodation and expenses, Giant road bike, Oakley eyewear, oversight of training by national coaches and access to AIS clinical services.
"The Scholarship provides a unique opportunity for both elite cycling and career development for the successful young cyclist," noted Cycling Australia CEO, Graham Fredericks. "It also contributes to underpinning Australia's position at the pinnacle of international women's road cycling by providing another pathway to the AIS and national representation."
For more information read Mark Webber cautions motorists to watch for cyclists in Amy Gillett's name.
The 2007 recipient, Carla Ryan, has benefited enormously from the scholarship and encouraged her peers to apply for the unique opportunity. "The scholarship has been a huge support in helping me further my career in cycling. It has provided me access to various resources and financial support which has been of huge benefit to my development in the sport," said Ryan.
Selection criteria and application forms are now available at www.amygillett.org.au The closing date for all applications is on Friday, February 22.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)