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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, June 19, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Fothen firing on all cylinders again

By Shane Stokes in Caslano

After his stage win in Switzerland, 26 year-old Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) looks ahead to the Tour de France
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Two years ago, Markus Fothen was in the limelight due to his holding of the best young rider's jersey in the Tour de France. The German Gerolsteiner rider eventually finished second in that competition to Damiano Cunego, placing 15th overall in the race, and showing that he was one of the top emerging talents in the sport.

2007 was somewhat quiet but the former World U23 time trial champion showed he was back to top form on Thursday this week, winning the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse in Caslano. On the day's final climb, Fothen set off in pursuit of Fränk Schleck, catching the CSC rider on the descent and then racing down towards the finish with him.

Schleck was aiming to take the race lead and so it is likely that Fothen would have been the stage winner had the two arrived at the line together; however, his breakaway companion crashed with approximately four kilometres to go, enabling the Gerolsteiner rider to solo to victory.

"It is wonderful, it is a great race here at the Tour de Suisse," the German said afterwards, delighted at his win while also being relieved to hear that Schleck had no serious injuries. "It is a good preparation for my season goal of the Tour. I am in a very good condition and am very lucky.

"The first goal today was to work for Oliver Zaugg as he is our rider for the general classification. I did that but when we saw that there were so many riders on the final climb, we spoke amongst ourselves and it was clear then that if I was strong, I could attack.

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"Once I attacked the aim was to gain as much time as possible until the top of the climb, then try to catch Fränk Schleck on the descent."

Fothen did precisely that, and the two worked together until the accident. He said afterwards that he was sure that the consequences would be worse. "The crash was unbelievable, it looked terrible. I didn't have much time to react to it – if I had, it would have perhaps made me brake hard and perhaps fall too.

"When I saw it happen, I had the impression that it was finished [for Fränk Schleck], that he would be very badly injured. I am reassured and am very happy that he can continue. He was lucky.

Click here to read the full feature.

O'Grady building back up

By Shane Stokes in Caslano

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) is hopeful this summer will still be a success for him
Photo ©: Sonja Csury
(Click for larger image)

Less than a year ago, Stuart O'Grady was facing a possible end to his cycling career when he had a very bad crash on the eighth stage of the Tour de France. The Australian fractured five ribs, his right shoulder blade, right collar bone, three vertebrae and punctured his right lung.

The Team CSC rider worked hard to regain full fitness and posted some encouraging results this spring, placing fifth in Paris-Roubaix and eighth in Gent-Wevelgem. More bad luck was in store, though, with the 34 year-old crashing out of the Giro d'Italia with a broken collarbone in May.

But O'Grady has shown his toughness once again, taking part in the Tour de Suisse and placing 11th on stage four. He told Cyclingnews at the end of Wednesday's fifth stage that he was satisfied with how things were progressing. "The race is going pretty well, although it is pretty hard. It was nice to see the sun today, that gives a bit of a boost. Everything has come along well."

When asked if he felt like things are on course prior to the Tour de France, he sounded positive. "Things are getting better every day. I am really starting to notice the form picking up in the last few days. There has been a lot of suffering but I am getting there," he responded.

Valverde "now mature enough" for Tour podium

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Hopes to raise his arms on July 27 on the Champs Élysées, too: Dauphiné winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

On Wednesday morning, the winner of the Dauphiné Libéré, Alejandro Valverde was officially received by the regional government of Murcia. The 28 year-old Caisse d'Epargne rider talked about the next Tour de France, in which he will be one of the main candidates for the podium in Paris on July 27. "I will race the Tour thinking of the podium, why not? But we also have to take into account some very important rivals, such as the Italian Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), the Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank), the Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Carlos Sastre, Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel), as well as Andy and Fränk Schleck (CSC)," he commented.

Valverde also referred to his successful experience in the Dauphiné Libéré. "It is like the Tour de France, but a bit shorter, only one week. But the most important thing is that I felt very good and this made me very optimistic for the Tour de France. I think that I have now gained the necessary maturity for confronting a three-week race. Leipheimer will not be [in the Tour de France], but Cunego, Menchov, Evans will be... and young promising riders who will be fighting very hard," the Spaniard added.

Now, Valverde will continue training for the Tour as he always did. "To get to the Tour de France in the best possible shape, there is no mystery: one shouldn't increase, neither decrease training sessions. We have to bear in mind that the hardest thing in the Tour de France is the third week, and not to make mistakes."

Valverde will return to the Sierra Nevada mountains for preparing the Tour de France. "I trained there before competing the Dauphiné, and it was good for me," he concluded. On June 29, Valverde will take part in the National Road Championships, and after that, on July 2 or 3, he will take his flight to France.

Bastianelli to ride Giro Donne

By Ben Atkins

Marta Bastianelli is happy to be lining up at the Giro Donne in two weeks
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

World champion Marta Bastianelli is to ride the women's Giro d'Italia next month after all, in the colours of Dilà Monticello Guerciotti. The 21 year-old signed a contract with the team until December 2008, specifically so she could ride the Giro Donne.

"I have tried everything in order to participate in this competition," said Bastianelli, "not only because it is the most important race on the calendar, but also because it is an honour to compete in Italy while wearing the rainbow jersey. I have embraced the colours of the Dilà Monticello Guerciotti team because I could not ride the Giro with my squad [Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan], because it is affiliated with another squad that participates in the contest [Titanedi-Freza-Acca 2 O]. So, after a number of unexpected changes, here I am".

Giuseppe Revolta, the director general of the women's Giro d'Italia declared himself honoured that his race would be graced by the presence of the World champion. "[It is] a fundamental presence," said Revolta, "that confirms the prestige of the Giro Donne, currently the most important competition in international women's bike racing."

The Giro begins on July 5, with the evening prologue in the city of Mantova. "I have seen the route and it pleases me," commented Bastianelli, "it is hard and I will do everything I can to do well."

Volksbank to Deutschland Tour

Team Volksbank has received the final wildcard invitation to the Deutschland Tour. Race Director Kai Rapp announced the invitation Wednesday, saying that the team's participation in the biological passport programme and membership in the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) were the main reasons for its inclusion.

"The wildcards for the Tour de Suisse and the Deutschland Tour show that we are a solid part of the ProTour in the German-speaking region," said a happy Thomas Kofler, team manager of the Austrian Professional Continental team.

The Deutschland Tour this year has its prologue and first stage in Austria, which Kofler noted. "In our 'home game' we want to shine, to be worthy representatives of the 'red-white-red' and show that our inclusion is athletically justified. As always, our goal is a stage win, which is really very possible."

The other wildcard was given in April to the Dutch Professional Continental Team Skil Shimano, which is also a member of the MPCC.

No doping controls in Ster Elektrotoer

There were no doping controls at the first two days of the Ster Elektrotoer, according to Belgian Sportwereld, much to the peloton's surprise. Even the UCI race jury was surprised. "I see the soigneurs all look at me funny when I tell them that there are not anti-doping controls," said Dutch UCI commissaire Jan van Gestel.

"The UCI has an A list and a B list of races. The Ster Elektrotoer is on the B list," he explained. "That means it is up to the national federation to ask for doping controls. Maybe their Belgian colleagues will be in action Thursday when the race arrives there in La Gileppe?"

According to the UCI's rules, "If the UCI decides not to conduct any Testing at an International Event, the National Anti-Doping Organisation for the country where the event takes place, may initiate and conduct such Testing in coordination with and with the approval of the UCI or, if the UCI withholds its approval, with the approval of WADA. In such cases, Doping Control shall be governed by the anti-doping rules of that National Anti-Doping Organisation."

Austrian time trial championships postponed

The European Football (Soccer) Championships currently being held in Switzerland and Austria are having an effect on cycling. The Austrian national time trial championships, scheduled for Saturday, June 28, have been cancelled and will be rescheduled for sometime in September.

"Unfortunately the officials couldn't agree to our full road closure. Because of the Euro 2008, there are not enough security personnel," said federation general secretary Rudolf Massak.

The road races will be carried out on Sunday, June 29, as planned.

Thousands in the heat of the Welsh Dragon

By Ben Atkins

Just under 2000 riders were treated to hot, sunny weather and dry roads as they took the challenge of either 120km or 180km in last weekend's Dragon Ride Wales, one of Britain's largest cyclosportive events. Despite a heavy rain shower falling on the start/finish area at Pencoed College in the middle of the day, riders on the course were spared and enjoyed perfect conditions for the entire day.

The course featured plenty of climbing in the hills and valleys of Glamorgan South Wales, to the north of Bridgend, including two ascents of the fearsome Bwlch whose early ramps have gradients of up to 14 percent. In all, the 180km "Gran Fondo" route climbed a total of approximately 3000 metres.

"It's been a great day, I'm very pleased with the new venue," said event organiser Lou Lusardi. "It's got masses of potential and I'm already planning all those little tweaks that will make the 2009 event the best yet. We've had a great deal of feedback about the route itself and it seems that most people think it's just about spot on."

The fastest rider on the day finished the "Gran Fondo" course in a provisional time of 5 hours 11 minutes reflecting the quality of the field entered, many of whom were riding the event as a warm-up for this weekend's upcoming London-Paris race.

After the success of this year's event, Lusardi confirmed that the provisional date for 2009 has already been set on Sunday, June 14.

Rock and roll - Rapha comp winner rides his way, with a new bike

By Gerard Knapp

Ride this way: Craig Stowell, winner of the Cyclingnews-Rapha competition, will soon have a new bike
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

After over 6000 entries in the Cyclingnews-Rapha competition, we have a winner, and it is a 45 year-old father of four, Craig Stowell, from the city of Romansville in Pennsylvania, USA.

Thanks to our friends at Rapha, the leading UK-based cycling clothing company, Craig has won a full outfit of team kit plus the official team bike of the British Rapha-Condor-Recycling racing team, valued at over US$5600.

The bike is the 'Team Leggero', a bespoke carbon frame featuring hand-cut tubes, rear-ends and carbon lugs, hand-made to Condor's unique specifications and is built up with tubing from the highly respected Italian company Dedacciai. It also features a full Dura-Ace groupset (including Dura-Ace wheels) and components from Deda Elementi, Fizik and Continental.

Craig has also secured a full set of Rapha's high-end cycling clothing, including a pair of bib-knicks, a short-sleeve jersey, a jacket and cap, which we're sure he'll put to good use over the summer.

As for Craig, he told us he, "loves to run and bike. I do not cycle with a club, I prefer to ride alone". Craig has competed in both short and long distance duathalons and his love of cycling began in 1987.

"For no good reason, I bought a mountain bike, began riding, then realised I was not around many mountain paths. I soon after purchased my good road bike. That was it, I was hooked," he said. "I would consider myself a 'soul rider'. I compete – well, I try – but I love to ride, think, push, smell, see sights, and just speed through the open roads. You won't find me in the top 10 percent of races, or on the cover of any magazines, but you may find me cruising the roads of Chester County with a smile on my face, and talking myself through l'Alpe d'Huez... "

That's when he's not singing Aerosmith tunes because the question needs to be asked, where did he get that jersey? Rock and roll!

"I love the sport, I love the equipment, I love the clothes, I follow all the races, and believe in one thing – keep riding," Craig added.

Once again, thanks to everyone who entered and our friends at Rapha for providing such awesome prizes. If you missed out on this competition, fear not, because Cyclingnews will be offering another great new competition next month, just in time for Le Tour.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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