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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, March 3, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Nocentini shows strong in Lugano

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale), 30, wins the GP Lugano on Sunday – his first win of the 2008 season
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Rinaldo Nocentini won the 61st GP Lugano on Sunday over Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld), making a strong opening to his second season with French ProTour Team Ag2r-La Mondiale. The 30 year-old Italian from Montevarchi (Arezzo) broke clear of a five-man move in the finale with a do or die attitude, the same that earned him a spot in the squadra azzurra.

Fourth overall in the Tour Méditerranéen and second on the sponsor's home turf in the Tour du Haut Var, Nocentini knew he was starting his season well, but yesterday confirmed it. The win in the 178.5-kilometre classic showed some of the same brilliant form that earned him a spot on the 2006 Italian national team; that year, riding for Acqua & Sapone, he pulled out wins in the Giro dell'Appennino, Giro del Veneto and Coppa Placci before going on to help leader Paolo Bettini win the gold medal in Salzburg, Austria.

Yesterday, Nocentini was presented with a do or die situation as he was in a move with faster competitors in the closing kilometres of the GP Lugano. For company there were fellow Italians Gasparotto and Rebellin. "We were in five, and at least two were faster than me," he recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "With 700 metres to go it was 'o la va o la spacca' ('do or die'), and I went." He kept his 20-metre advantage over Rebellin and Gasparotto, finishing second and third respectively.

"Other than this win there are the second place in Haut Var behind Rebellin, the fourth in Méditerranéen, the fifth on the [Tour Méditerranéen] stage to Mont Faron," he recalled. "This was one of my preferred types of finishes."

Nocentini will now race in Paris-Nice and then Milano-Sanremo. "I selected Paris-Nice for myself because the course is harder and therefore adaptable to my characteristics. I know that the UCI [International Cycling Union] wants to give a six-month suspension to those who participate, but first they have to be in agreement with the federations, teams and [race] organisers, otherwise it will be a disaster."

He will come across 'Tin-Tin' Rebellin once again when he is at Paris-Nice, who confirmed he is going strong. "I am going stronger than you imagine," stated Rebellin.

Young gun Rojas for Tirreno

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The young and promising sprinter, José Joaquín Rojas, will return to the Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of the two seas'), Tirreno-Adriatico, March 12 to 18. The 22 year-old Spaniard of Team Caisse d'Epargne won the race's mountain classification in 2006 while riding for team Liberty Seguros.

Yesterday, Rojas finished fifth in the Clasica de Almeria. "I could do better in the end, but the most important thing for me is that I have been pleasantly surprised to see myself disputing a race among the best ones again after having been injured in Mallorca."

He announced his upcoming schedule after the Spanish one-day race. "I will race the Tirreno-Adriatico because I still have some troubles. This means that I am still not one hundred per cent, and that it should wait a few days more, so the Vuelta a Murcia begins very early [Tuesday], and Paris-Nice is too hard for me given the circumstances that have changed my preparation and scheduling.," he confirmed to Cyclingnews.

In Tirreno "there are long stages and its rapid speeds will allow to catch the peak of form that I need to confront the great classic races in March and in April", explained Rojas on Monday.

The 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico, which is organised by RCS Sport, will consist of seven stages and 1123 kilometres. The Italian race is an alternative to simultaneously run Paris-Nice, which many are considering a harder races than recent years.

Mitsubishi-Jartazi wild card without Vandenbroucke

Belgian Frank Vandenbroucke (Mitsubishi-Jartazi), 33, is making attention as his team cannot field him in ProTour races.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The International Cycling Union (UCI) granted Team Mitsubishi-Jartazi 'wild card' status Friday but as long as the Estonia-licensed team does not select Frank Vandenbroucke, winner of the 1999 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The wild card status enables the team to be amongst the pool of Professional Continental teams that can be selected to ProTour races.

The 33 year-old Belgian has had a chequered past, including personal problems that led to attempted suicide last fall, but the issue for the UCI is his possession of banned substance – Erythropoietin (EPO) – in 2002 while riding for Domo-Farm Frites. He was suspended by the bicycle federation of Flanders in 2002 as a result.

"The team is naturally satisfied with the logical decision of the UCI, but really regrets the attitude towards Frank Vandenbroucke, who they granted a racing licence ultimately," read a team's press release. The team of Patrick Stallaert hopes to race the Ronde van Vlaanderen, but will have to do so without its star rider as the race is considered 'ProTour' status. Other key riders on the team include Dutchman Stefan Van Dijck and Belgian Geert Omloop.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne injuries update

By Susan Westemeyer

Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) on the pavement in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne; he crashed in the race finale.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

A mass crash near the beginning of Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne took out a number of riders. Quick Step's Paolo Bettini was taken to the hospital but had only superficial injuries, his team said. Mickael Larpe of Roubaix Lille Metropole and High Road's Adam Hansen suffered numerous cuts. Aivaras Baranauskas, also of Roubaix Lille Metropole, had a deep cut above his lip and lost some teeth.

Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) crashed near the end of the race, ripping open his left elbow and hand, but the Frenchman still managed to finish ninth on the day.

However, there were more serious injuries, too, even in addition to Bart Dockx's broken hip in a later crash. Marcus Ljungqvist, from CSC, lay on the ground unconscious for a few minutes with a serious concussion. A scan showed no additional problems, but he was held overnight in hospital.

Volksbank at Het Volk

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Volksbank started for the first time ever in the Belgian semi-classic Omloop Het Volk, and it wasn't easy for the young Austrian Professional Continental team. Daniel Musiol was the only one of the team to make it to the end.

Olaf Pollack and Gerrit Glomser were unable to participate, and André Korff, who was to be captain, had to drop out at the last minute with back problems. "Races like Omloop Het Volk are the hard Belgian school of cycling," said Directeur Sportif Gregor Gut, who was satisfied with his young charges. "That is something they had to experience. Races like that make riders strong, especially young riders."

The team has its next Belgian appearance the end of the week, the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.

Cavendish takes British Madison title

By Susan Westemeyer

Mark Cavendish arrived home from the Tour of California and spent a few days at home on the Isle of Man before going to the Manchester Velodrome for the British Madison Championship, only to get the bad news that partner and Team High Road team-mate Bradley Wiggins was sick and unable to ride. His new partner was Peter Kennaugh, who won a number of six-day races over the winter. Any questions as to how the newly-formed duo might perform or how Cavendish's road racing might affect his track ability were quickly answered as they dominated the race. They ended up winning two laps ahead of their closest rivals.

The two won the first sprint and kept things under control the rest of the race. "Teams would attack off the front and Cavendish would take his time, launch himself and destroy the move in a lap or two. He was quite simply awesome and if this is the type of form we can expect for the World Track Championships at Manchester in a few weeks then Cavendish and whoever his partner is for the event will surely set the track alight," raved "Mark Cavendish showed in the sprints that despite no track work since January, his class was enough to see him sprint well clear of the rest, winning by lengths at will and then with 114 laps to go after a steady opening, he and Kennaugh took a lap with ease."

Cavendish said, "it was good and the form was good but it wasn't just me out there, I had Peter there who was going really well. The first time we ever Madison changed together was in that race and it felt right." He admitted that he was using the race to test himself. "There was no need to go for the lap at the end but I wanted to see how we could go after it had been on for the last 100 laps. I thought that would be a good test to see how we can go at the end of a race like the Worlds."

The young Manxman may have been suffering from jet lag, but he didn't show it. "I came home Tuesday [from California] and paid extra out of my pocket to fly business class so I was in the best form to come here. I had trouble sleeping this week but had quite good form. I came here last night and will go back tomorrow."

Kennaugh noted, "the race went really well and to plan. It was steady at the start and then geared up towards the end. The first lap we took was alright and didn't really hurt that much but the last two lap takes I was relying on Cav a bit. We worked really well. In LA [Los Angeles World Cup - ed.] with Rob it was quite weird because of the height difference but me and Cav are similar heights and it was really good. Everyone else was going alright but they were unable to come with us when we properly turned it on but fair play to them for getting stuck in."

Team High Road sick list

By Susan Westemeyer

Team High Road has been able to celebrate a number of wins early in the 2008 season, but it has had a lot of its riders in the on the sick list. The USA-based team will rely on its strong team roster while some of the members are recovering.

The intestinal virus that made the rounds at the Tour of California took out half the team there. Bradley Wiggins is still ill and had to miss the British Madison Championships over the weekend. Neither Marcel Sieberg nor Bert Grabsch was able to finish the Omloop Het Volk on Saturday and both were unable to start Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday due to illness. Adam Hansen crashed out the latter race and taken to the hospital with facial injuries.

Things were only moderately better elsewhere. Marco Pinotti was trying to move up in the GP Lugano Sunday when he crashed on the final descent. "But with 1.5 kilometres to the finish on a switchback I broke strongly and the back wheel tubular became unstuck; I could not control it anymore and I crashed badly. First, I was worried but after two minutes I got up and finished the race with a spare bike," he said on his website. "After a good shower and some rest I feel still OK and I am sure it's nothing serious, only some pain in my butt. My plan for will stay the same for next week and I have still the confirmation that I have good form at the moment."

Things look more serious for Marcus Burghardt, who is beginning to worry as to whether he will be able to repeat his 2007 win in Gent-Wevelgem. He was forced to drop out of the Volta ao Algarve with continued pain his right knee. "I am naturally very disappointed," he said on his personal website. "I am especially a little troubled because Algarve, like Paris-Nice, was supposed to be an important part of my preparations for the Spring Classics. Now I will recover at home and try to get the problem under control."

Novacel joiners Team Lampre

Team Lampre, with star rider Damiano Cunego and Alessandro Ballan, have joined with Novacel for the 2008 season. The international firm, with presence in 60 countries, will have its name appear on the sleeves of the riders' jerseys.

Novacel is a brand of protective films and is recognised worldwide for its design, manufacturing and sales of self-adhesive surface protection solutions.

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