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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, June 23, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Halfway through: A review of the ProTour team's season to date

What was the first half of the 2008 season like for the 18 ProTour teams? Who can be satisfied with their performance and who needs improvement? Or, as the Cyclingnews staff asked, 'What went right and what went wrong?'

Here is part one of a team-by-team analysis of the first half of the year. The teams are listed in no particular order.

Team High Road

By Susan Westemeyer

Team High Road
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

What went right: Just about everything. The team has won races over the entire first half of the season, from the Tour Down Under, dominated by André Greipel, to Kim Kirchen's victory in the Flèche Wallonne, to four Giro d'Italia stage wins to George Hincapie's stage win in the Dauphiné Libéré. Kirchen also won a stage in the Tour de Suisse and wore the leader's jersey for two days. The team has won sprints, time trials and breakaways, with 10 different riders accounting for the wins. And a big plus for the team was the recent announcement of a new sponsor, Columbia, as of the Tour de France.

What went wrong: Injuries have struck three of the team's main riders. Marcus Burghardt was supposed to lead the team in the Spring Classics, but knee problems and subsequent surgery eliminated him. The two Tour de France captains will also be missing this year. Linus Gerdemann is still recovering from broken bones and torn knee ligaments suffered in a crash in Tirreno-Adriatico, and Michael Rogers is not yet back in form after a bout with Epstein-Barr virus.

Holding out for: It is hard to see what the team needs to work on, although it has deficiencies in the mountains. Young German sprinter Gerald Ciolek is not bringing in the wins as expected. Without Burghardt, the team showed weaknesses in the Spring Classics, saved only by Kirchen. The youngsters are doing well, but simply need more time and experience.

Overall: Team Manager Bob Stapleton can be happy with his team. The team is showing success across the board, and the youngsters, although sometimes inconsistent, are bringing in first places. 23 year-old Manxman Mark Cavendish has seven wins, including two Giro d'Italia stages. Of the 10 riders with victories so far, seven of them are 25 or younger, with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ciolek, both only 21, each having two wins.

Read the Cyclingnews analysis on other teams.

Third time trial title for Pinotti

Marco Pinotti won another Italian time trial title this weekend
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Marco Pinotti of Team High Road was not surprised to win his third Italian time trial championship on Sunday, covering the 33-kilometre course in Montichiari in 39'30 minutes, nearly a minute and half better than the second place finisher Luca Celli.

"To be honest, I can't say I was too surprised because I've never finished outside the top three of this particular event in the last five years," he said on the team's website, "After finishing the Giro d'Italia, I'd continued to stay focused, doing a couple of races in Germany and then going training in the Alps with [High Road team-mate Kanstantsin] Siutsou.

"The course was quite technical, with a small climb about a kilometre-long half-way through, and there were some long straights at the end, which helps to explain my high average speed," the 32 year-old said. He averaged 50.278 km/h. "I found the heat was a real factor in this race – 35 degrees celsius. It wasn't easy to concentrate."

Pinotti had previously won the title in 2005 and 2007, and said that "The first was definitely the most special." However, he added, "I think I can say that after taking the Giro time trial win [on the final stage] and then this one, I know I really can't get any better in my own race against the clock." (SW)

Devolder disappointed in mountain time trial

Stijn Devolder is trying to analyse his performane in Saturday's mountain time trial
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Stijn Devolder and his team Quick Step were shocked by his performance in the Tour de Suisse's mountain time trial on Saturday. The Belgian Champion finished 43rd, nearly six and a half minutes behind winner Roman Kreuziger of Team Liquigas.

"I had not reckoned with that," he said.

"I absolutely never found my tempo," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "When I heard my split times, I knew enough. I no longer tried to go for a good time. This is not pleasant but better it happens now than in the Tour."

His directeur sportif, Dirk Demol, told sporza, "I hope this was an off day," noting that the rider "was very disillusioned."

"We had expected more of him," Demol continued. "I quickly saw that he didn't have his rhythm, which he usually does. And when he was caught from behind, he lost courage and no longer pushed it."

Devolder will now have a quiet time before traveling to the Tour de France. He will ride the Belgian championship this coming weekend.(SW)

Rabobank's mixed Tour de Suisse

Oscar Freire won a stage but couldn't defend his points jersey in the final stage.
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Team Rabobank finished the Tour de Suisse with a stage win and a tenth place overall on the plus side, but on the negative side, with only four riders and some worries for the near future. Oscar Freire won the mass sprint in the first stage, and Laurens ten Dam finished in the top ten, showing his good form for the upcoming Tour de France.

"A fine classification but the best thing is that Laurens becomes better on a daily basis," said Directeur Sportif Frans Maassen on the team's website, "He will be able to keep up with the pace in the mountains during the Tour and these are the kind of tough riders we need."

On the negative side, the team lost four riders along the way, three of them Tour candidates. Three-time World Champion Oscar Freire did not start the final stage due to calf problems. "Nothing to be worried about," Maassen said. "Perhaps we are missing out on an opportunity to win a stage, but it is more important what Oscar is going to do in the Tour later on, because right now I do not think we should fear that he is not going to start. Oscar was riding well here, but thought it would be better not to force anything. I think that is wise."

Sébastien Langeveld dropped out with knee problems, but has since recovered and is able to train pain-free. Russian Dmitriy Kozontchuk abandoned after the third stage (Monday) with an intestinal infection.

Perhaps the most worrying problem was Thomas Dekker – the team lists his reason for dropping out bluntly as "out of shape." The 23 year-old did not start the eighth stage, the mountain time trial, saying he was fatigued after a long spring season in which he had also had to deal with hip problems. He came down with the flu shortly before the Tour de Suisse as well. It was also unclear as to whether he would ride the Tour de France. That decision would be made together with the team management. He told that "we will sit down with each other and discuss what is best to do. I want to ride in the Tour, but not at any cost. On the other hand, I don't want to give up too soon, because I know that I will get better after the first week."(SW)

Euskaltel Euskadi announces Tour team

Euskaltel Euskadi has already decided on the nine riders that will start the 95th Tour de France on July 5 in Brest. The team of Miguel Madariaga will consist of Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Astarloza, Rubén Pérez, Gorka Verdugo, Iñaki Isasi, Egoi Martínez, Amets Txurruka and Juanjo Oroz.

Euskaltel Euskadi is optimistic ahead of its eighth participation in the Tour. The last results in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de Suisse have reinforced the morale of the orange team. Madariaga declared that the objective is to be "better than in 2007. Last year, we did a very good Tour, our team was compact and competitive. This needs to be the signal for this team, too. This edition, we start with dreams, we have a very strong squad. The Tour de France is a very complicated race, but we are well prepared. I don't want to give a concrete objective, but our aspiration has to be to be better than last year.

Igor Antón, who finished the Tour de Suisse in third place, is not part of the nine riders selected.

Litu Gómez: A dream come true

Ángel 'Litu' Gómez will definitely be a part of the nine riders that Saunier Duval-Scott will send to the Tour de France, which starts in two weeks. The news came from his directeur sportif Joxean Matxin yesterday, after the conclusion of the Tour de Suisse. "I am like a little kid with new shoes! Matxin told me that I will be in the line-up and is counting on me for the Tour de France," the Spaniard commented without hiding his joy.

'Litu' appeared in very good shape in the Tour de Suisse, after being sidelined for two months following a horrible crash in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Team-wise, he finished third, behind Jesús Del Nero and Rubens Bertogliati, in 38th place. "I trained intensively and I had a big desire to race. Considering the pain in my arm, I found myself going better day after day in Switzerland, except for the mountain time trial, where I did not manage to get into my rhythm."

Ángel Gómez will debut in the Grande Boucle, at an age of 27 and in his fifth year as a professional. "It was always difficult for me, because the last three years I did the Giro-Vuelta double. This year, the Tour wasn't in my calendar, either, but the crash in Flanders has changed all that and favoured my debut in the Tour, which was one of my dreams since I turned professional," 'Litu' concluded.

Terpstra's e-mail Tour invitation

There are all kinds of ways to find out that you have been nominated to ride the Tour de France, and Niki Terpstra of Milram found out in a rather indirect way. He checked his e-mail on Friday and found there an e-ticket for a flight from Amsterdam to Brest, where the Tour starts.

The 24 year-old had a strong spring season and most recently won the young rider jersey in the Bayern Rundfahrt, where he finished third overall behind winning team-mate Christian Knees.(SW)

Team Type 1's Aldape Gets Nod For Olympics

Mexican Moises Aldape qualified for the Olympics
Photo ©: Marco Quezada
(Click for larger image)

Moises Aldape of Team Type 1 will represent Mexico in the road race at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The 26 year-old said the achievement caps an important goal. He will be his country's sole representative in road cycling.

"The Olympics happen only once every four years, so it is extra special," he stated. "I am also very happy to have this opportunity to reward my new Team Type 1 squad. I think it is a great accomplishment for a first-year team to place a rider in the Olympics."

Aldape recently finished third overall at the Tour de Beauce stage race in Canada while winning the sprint competition. He was seventh at the International Cycling Classic in Philadelphia on June 8 and his eighth place in April at the Tour de Georgia helped Team Type 1 finish third in the team competition.

Team Type 1 Sport Director Ed Beamon said Aldape's selection presents a tremendous opportunity to help the squad spread its message to a large audience. Team Type 1 was created in 2004 by two riders with Type 1 diabetes – Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge – to inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach to managing their health and overcoming the obstacles often associated with the condition.

"We have been trying to give Moises a race schedule that would help him get the points and exposure necessary to make the team and we will continue to help him get prepared for the big event," Beamon said.

Aldape will be one of approximately 85 athletes from Mexico at the Olympic Games, which begin August 8. At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the Latin American country earned two silver and two bronze medals.

Mainfranken to Ukraine again

Mykhaylo Kononenko won the Mainfranken Tour, giving Ukraine the second win in a row
Photo ©: Mainfranken Tour
(Click for larger image)

For the second year running a rider from the Ukrainian National Team won the Mainfranken Tour, a 2.2 race on the UCI calendar. Mykhaylo Kononenko was six seconds ahead over the winner of the last stage, Philipp Ries. Kononenko managed to win the overall without taking a stage, but was in the crucial break in stage one with German Roger Kluge, where the two cleared the line some 20 seconds ahead of the peloton.

Kluge then missed the decisive 30-rider break in stage two and lost over a minute and a half. Kononenko was safely tucked away in the peloton to finish the final stage with the rewards of the overall victory.

The overall winner acknowledged that "This was a very difficult stage race, especially today's third stage was very tough. Our team was very good, but with the Thüringer Energie Team, we had a very strong competitor."

Kononenko is the successor of his team-mate Anatoliy Kashtan, who took the honours in 2007. Kashtan was crucial in the defence of the title, helping to control the peloton in the final stage. Even though they couldn't prevent the 18 year-old Ries from taking the day's victory, the time bonus was not enough to force a change in the overall. Kononenko had a 20-second lead and saved six of those in the end.

Ries, who was consoled with the win in the young rider classification, added a ten-second time bonus to his small two-second gap over the peloton. "I couldn't imagine such a result," the stage winner was overcome with joy. "I wasn't the strongest today, but maybe the cleverest. The slightly uphill finishing straight was to my advantage. On a flat or downhill section I would have had no chance against riders like Marcel Barth or Roger Kluge."

Barth won the sprinters' jersey. He had taken out the win on Saturday. Ries's team-mate Felix Andris took the polka-dot jersey of best climber.

(Editorial assistance and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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