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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, June 29, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Italians ready for championship

Marco Pinotti won the Time Trial national championship of Italy earlier this week
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

On Sunday, 166 Italian professionals will make their way to the start line in Bergamo to compete for the title of national champion. Racers will compete over 13 laps totalling 254km.

Confirmed racers include favorite Olympic and World Champion Paolo Bettini, Italian champion Giovanni Visconti, Damiano Cunego and Riccardo Riccò. Noteworthy absentees include Danilo Di Luca, Paolo Savoldelli, Franco Pellizzotti and Emanuele Sella. Gilberto Simoni will also be otherwise engaged on his mountain bike.

Visconti will try to defend his tricolor jersey he won a year ago in Genova; however it won't be easy. Riccò will be in top form between the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France while Cunego should be going well just days before the start of the Tour de France.

One can't count out either Bettini or David Rebellin, and Enrico Gasparotto will want to return to wearing the national champion's jersey he last won in 2005. Stefano Garzelli knows well the climbs of the Città Alta in addition to the roads of Bergamo as he's won a stage of the Giro there. And last but not least, the Liquigas contingent of Filippo Pozzato and Vincenzo Nibali will want to make their mark, along with the three-time Italian national time trial champion Marco Pinotti, fresh off his most recent national time trial title earlier this week.

Longo wins 54th title

Jeannie Longo Ciprelli
Photo ©: Fabrice Lambert
(Click for larger image)

Long-time racer Jeannie Longo (Team Pro Feminin Les Carroz) won her second French national title this week in Semur-in-Auxois with a victory in the 110km road race on Saturday by 3'05" ahead of the 28 year-old Christel Ferrier Bruneau (Team Lot-et-garonne). On Thursday, the French woman captured the time trial national championship ahead of Maryline Salvetat by one minute eight seconds. Longo, who will celebrate her 50th birthday in October, collected what is her 54th career national title.

She looks to be in good form for the Beijing Olympic Games in August, where she will look add to her medal count. Although the French Olympic team has not officially been named, Longo is a likely member. She won gold in the Atlanta road race in 1996, Silver in 1992 and in the time trial took silver in 1996 and bronze in Sydney in 2000.

When asked about retirement by the AFP, Longo said she was not thinking of it now as she wouldn't want to have those thoughts in her head while preparing for the upcoming World Championships and various races in her region.

León Sánchez proves race ready in Spain

By Gregor Brown

Spain's Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) concentrated
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Team Caisse d'Epargne put two on the podium of the Spanish Time Trial Championships on Saturday in Talavera de la Reina with Luis León Sánchez first and Iván Gutiérrez third, while Rubén Plaza of Team Benfica snuck in for second. Sánchez, 24 years-old, completed the 27.7-kilometre Talavera de la Reina course in 32'59".

With the win he feels ready to help team-mate Alejandro Valverde vie for the Tour de France. "I prepared very well for the Tour," he remarked in a team press release. "I will to do my best in France to help Alejandro Valverde win the race. Today, I believe that I showed everybody that I am in great condition already." Tour de France favourite, Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), finished 1'46" back.

The Spanish men will contest their national road race championship Sunday.

Two good days in a row for Vaitkus

Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) gave up his number
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)
After winning silver in his national time trial on Friday, Tomas Vaitkus made it two good days in a row by winning the Lithuanian National Road Race title on Saturday. Both races were held in Ignalina.

"The road race was a big goal of mine, which all my competitors knew coming into the race and made me an easy target," said Vaitkus. "I was lucky there was a crosswind, making the race harder and allowing me and to get in a breakaway of six riders. Though I did not have any Team Astana riders here, I am very grateful for the support I received from the Kazakh Ulan Team riders.

Vaitkus defeated Andrius Buividas (CC Etupes) and Marius Kukta (Maporo Named Team Aurora) for the road championship win. He became Team Astana's fifth rider to win a 2008 national championship after Sérgio Paulinho (Portugal Time Trial), Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan Road Race), Vladimir Gusev (Russian Time Trial) and Andrey Mizurov (Kazakhstan Time Trial).

For the Lithuanian champion, it is his second title in the event (2004, 2008). Vaitkus' career highlights further include a gold medal on the U23 world championships time trial in 2002, a stage victory in the Giro d'Italia (2006) and two national time trial titles (2003, 2004).

Cofidis chooses four Tour de France newcomers

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) takes his first season win Tour Méditerranéen
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Sylvain Chavanel was picked by his French Cofidis team for a leadership role at the Tour de France starting July 5. In addition to the 28 year-old Chavanel, the team will draw strength from four racers new to the French Grand Tour. Seven of the nine selected team members are French - only Leonardo Duque (Colombia) and Maxime Monfort (Belgium) are not.

"It is a young team with four riders who will be discovering the Tour de France for the first time," said team manager Eric Boyer according to AFP. "Some will say this is too much but I think they are ready and that they will handle the fact that the Tour has another dimension than other courses. They will not be perturbed by that."

The team has no GC aspirations, but instead it will target stage wins.

Cofidis for the Tour de France: Sylvain Chavanel, Stephane Auge, Florent Brard, Herve Duclos-Lassalle, Samuel Dumoulin, Leonardo Duque, David Moncoutie, Amael Moinard, Maxime Monfort.

Future AG2R racer finishes second

Chambéry Cycling Organization's Guillaume Bonnafond finished second in the 165km amateur French National Championships in Semur-in-Auxois after mountain biker Jean-Christophe Péraud. Despite hot conditions and a challenging course, the 21 year-old proved his worth to his new team following a recent signing with AG2R La Mondiale.

The youngster had inked a contract with his new team for two years beginning in 2009.

"That shows I'll be in good condition in a few weeks," said Bonnaford. "I am preparing for the Europe Championship and my work has already born fruit. I'm satisfied overall with my race. I felt good at the end." A little disappointed to not win, Bonnafond will race at the upcoming European Championship.

"This is my first national jersey on the road, but my preference remains the mountain bike," said Peraud to AFP. His contract expires at the end of the year. "If I do not find another contract, I will think about stopping racing." Despite the uncertainty of his long term plans, Peraud will represent France in the mountain bike race at the Olympic Games.

Britain looks to Tour success in 2010 and beyond

The Tower Bridge
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

British Cycling Performance Director David Brailsford will be turning his attention from his successful track program to the road. He spent last month selling the idea of a British team in the Tour de France, beginning in 2010.

"Cycling is the new golf," he said to the Daily Mail. "It's gone far better than I expected. It looks as if it is going to happen."

Until now, his focus has been on the track since it offered the potential of more Olympic medals than the road. Brailsford said a British Tour de France team would be made up of British racers such as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas - all of whom will race in Beijing on the track in August.

While the track cycling program has been largely funded by the national lottery, Brailsford is seeking corporate funding to financially back what a road team which would require a much larger budget, likely six million pounds.

"I always felt there would come a time when it was right to be cracking the other part of cycling, and now the planets are all lining up nicely. It feels like the right time," he said.

Brailsford estimated it would take about five years before the team could win the Tour de France. Such an accomplishment would be historic since no British rider has ever won the Tour. Last year's edition started in Britain and officials are negotiating a possible return in 2012 prior to the Olympic Games in London.

Gujan and Saner triumph in Champéry

Swiss rider Marielle Saner
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

On a weekend when many top mountain bikers were taking a break just after the World Championships last weekend in Val di Sole, Italy, Martin Gujan and Marielle Saner won round five of the Swisspower Cup in Champéry, Switzerland. The race too place under fantastic, summery conditions on a technical course that saw many changes in positions, crashes and mechanicals.

Gujan (Athleticum MTB Team) and Marco Aurelio Fontana (Hard Rock FRW) dictated the pace at the front. At the beginning, Gujan's team-mate Mathias Flückiger also played a role, but he later withdrew and did not finish the race. Gion Manetsch (Athleticum MTB Team) was in third place after the split was made on the second last lap. That's when Gujan got away with Fontana and went on to a solo win in 1'46"46. Fontana ended up second at 50 seconds while Manetsch finished third in 1"45. With his victory, Gujan also took over the overall lead.

Fourth and fifth places went to Daniel Suter (Giant-Swiss-Team) annd Marcel Wildhaber (Tower Sports - VC Eschenbach).

In the women's race, Marielle Saner Guinchard ( / BMC), who excels at cross country and downhill racing, took an unquestionable home victory with a time of 1'30"48. She was in the front after lap one and never looked back. Behind her was second-placed Maroussia Rusca (Scott Allianz Suisse), who would finish 59 seconds back, and third placed Katrin Leumann (goldwurst-power / Sputnik) at two minutes.

Thanks in part to the absence of three-round winner Vivienne Meyer, Michelle Hediger (Fischer-BMC) went on to a victory in the junior women's race. In the junior men's race, Arnaud Grand (Thömus Racing Team) from Montreux, captured his first win.

The next round of the Swisspower Cup takes place in two weeks in Savognin on July 12-13.

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