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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 4, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Cipollini continues with Rock Racing towards Sanremo

Mario Cipollini, 40, adjusts to racing after nearly three years of retirement; he has in sight Milano-Sanremo.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mario Cipollini is continuing his push towards a repeat Milano-Sanremo win with the USA-based team Rock Racing. 'The Lion King', who came out of retirement to help manage and race for the Continental team, already showed his intentions to be serious when he competed in the recent Tour of California.

The 40 year-old Italian from Lucca recently stated his differences with the team of Michael Ball, but a meeting held after the conclusion of the eight-day tour in USA's Golden State has seemingly smoothed the rocky road, and now Milano-Sanremo is in Cipollini's sights.

"The project is going forward, notwithstanding the 15,000 kilometres and nine hours time difference that divides us from California [Ball's headquarters - ed.]," said the 2002 World Champion to La Gazzetta dello Sport of racing Milano-Sanremo, March 22, the day he will turn 41 years old. "In this moment we are concentrating on racing Sanremo. We are hoping of the possibility to be there. The significance would be personal satisfaction and a great sponsor's first step into Europe, which cycling needs."

Rock Racing owner Ball (l) with Cipollini – the two hope to participate in the 99th Milano-Sanremo
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Part of the controversy surrounding Team Rock Racing was the signing of riders who had been linked to the Operación Puerto doping investigation; Michael Ball contracted Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero over the winter to reinforce the relatively young team. To respond to the criticism the team has adopted a anti-doping programme, organised by Scott Analytics.

"The construction was already going," continued Cipollini of the programme. "Ball talked to me about it during the week of the race." The programme is run by Paul Scott, who in the past worked for the Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE) and served as an expert witness for Floyd Landis.

Anti-doping programme in place, the team will still have difficulties entering into events such as the Milano-Sanremo due to its status as a Continental team; such teams are not allowed to race in ProTour events under International Cycling Union (UCI) rules, but since the status of the biggest Italian one-day race has recently changed there might be a chance.

"The invitation is in the hands of the organiser [RCS Sport]," said Cipollini. He is not worried about UCI President Pat McQuaid weighing in on the matter, "He certainly has more important things to occupy himself with."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Hansen's team-mate thought he was dead

By Susan Westemeyer

Adam Hansen, 26, had a nasty crash during the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Adam Hansen saw it coming but couldn't do anything about it. Sunday in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the 26 year-old Australian of Team High Road saw a crash happening, which spread across the entire peloton. He tried to get away from it, but couldn't.

"I saw the parked car and as the bunch was coming I put my whole body weight on the riders coming towards me, I couldn't out-power them. I felt like a skinny bike rider playing rugby with a bunch of cattle and I was slammed into a car, over the bonnet, windscreen and last memory was the roof of it."

That wasn't the end of it, though, as team-mate Vicente Reynes later told him. "It seems I landed back on the road and riders smashing into me, he got some bikes off me and a rider, and thought I was dead because of my white eyes, something from Mortal Kombat. He had to keep racing so he turned and on the way back saw the car with my blood over it and really thought I was dead," Hansen noted on his personal website.

Riders rolling out in the Beglian 1.1-ranked race
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

He contacted Cyclingnews while still in the hospital on Monday and gave this report. "The two main problems are my shoulder where I have three torn ligaments and some head injuries. The MRI shows things are okay but the EEG didn't give the best results (but hey who are they comparing too? I never said I was normal nor half-normal) so they want me to spend another night here and have another EEG scan tomorrow, to double check."

Having gone face-first into the car, he added that his face looks like it has "been smashed a few times with a baseball bat, black eye and all," and proving that he hadn't lost his sense of humour, added that, "yes, my modelling career is over and I must look for another retirement plan."

He further told Cyclingnews that he didn't know how long he would be out, but that he hoped it wouldn't be long. "For sure I can't do my next two races, which I was looking forward to as I did well last year in them, Le Samyn and Three Days West Flanders. Hopefully my programme won't change and I can just miss those races and go back to my original plan." Meanwhile, he hoped to be released from the hospital Tuesday and to return to his home in the Czech Republic.

Bouygues Telecom to Paris-Nice without Voeckler

French Team Bouygues Telecom will not field Thomas Voeckler in its team for the Paris-Nice, starting this Sunday in Amilly, according to L'Equipe. The 28 year-old Frenchman, winner of the 2007 GP Plouay, is suffering from bronchitis relating from his participation in the Tour of California last month.

Russian Iouri Trofimov, recent winner of Etoile de Bessèges, and Frenchmen Jérôme Pineau and Pierrick Fédrigo will lead the team in Paris-Nice, joined by Anthony Geslin, Matthieu Sprick, Stef Clement, Xavier Florencio and Johann Tschopp. Voeckler will make his return in the Volta ao Distrito de Santarém, starting March 13.

Landslide makes Sanremo even more challenging

A landslide had the potential of making the 99th Milano Sanremo, scheduled for March 22, to be even more challenging. Due to road blockage and construction, the parcours of the race known as La Classicissima will have to make an additional climb.

The small climb, coming around 100 kilometres before the arrival on Lungomare Italo Calvino, is just before the tre capi of Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta, and is rumoured to have a technical descent.

"I have heard of another change just recently," World Champion and 2003 Sanremo winner, Paolo Bettini, confirmed to Cyclingnews. "Before Imperia, there is an extra climb – it is not yet official. It will be like the Cipressa more or less, with a technical descent."

A sore Paolo Bettini rests

World Champion Paolo Bettini, 33, gives himself another day of rest due to a crash in the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

World Champion Paolo Bettini is resting his body for an additional day before returning to training. The 33 year-old Italian from La California was involved in two crashes over the last weekend of racing in Belgium; the first, in Omloop Het Volk, was without consequence, but the second one, in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was more serious. 'Il Grillo Livornese' pulled out of the race at kilometre nine and complained of soreness.

"My back and shoulder are still giving me soreness," the Quick Step rider confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport after a training ride yesterday that was quickly aborted. "I prefer to wait until tomorrow [today - ed.]. I hope that it is only a question of hours, enough time to reabsorb the knock."

Bettini will make his racing return with a series of races in Italy: Monte Paschi Eroica (March 8), Tirreno-Adriatico (12 to 18) and Milano-Sanremo (22). The white gravel roads around Siena that form the parcours of Eroica have 'Il Grillo' worried, "Eroica, with its gravel, will certainly not be the best way to relax," he confirmed. "However, this is a race that I like a lot. A year ago, I was there as a spectator, this time I asked to my team to participate, but I will hold back on some hazards because I don't want to jeopardise other appointments."

Van Avermaet out, Silence-Lotto medical update

By Susan Westemeyer

The equilibrium problems that kept Silence-Lotto's Greg Van Avermaet out of the weekend's races continue to keep him sidelined. He will not start Wednesday in Le Samyn, nor will he be able to ride Paris-Nice, which starts on Sunday.

The 22 year-old is suffering from a middle-ear infection which affects his sense of balance. He has started training again, but does not feel totally fit. "It improves a little every day," he told "But it is going slowly and the team doesn't want to take any chances with me." He later told that "riding on the road doesn't work yet," but hopes to be able to ride in Tirreno-Adriatico.

In other news from the Silence-Lotto sick bay, Bart Dockx is home from the hospital after surgery on his broken hip, but team doctor Daniel De Neve expects him to be out for 10 weeks. Wim Vansevenant is recovering from muscle problems, and is also expected to start in Tirreno-Adriatico, as is Robbie McEwen who has recovered from a viral infection. The news is not so good for Bert Roesems, who is still coping with a broken hip suffered in the Vuelta a España. And Glenn D'Hollander is out of action following a sinus operation.

German federation calls for an end to conflict

By Susan Westemeyer

The German cycling federation, the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR), has called upon the International Cycling Union (UCI) to settle the conflict over the participation of teams in ProTour races. At the same time, the BDR asked the French Cycling Federation (FFC) and the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) to conduct their races under international regulations and to register the races with the international calendar, "as the federations in Belgium, Italy and Spain have already done."

"All parties are asked to immediately end their differences, which threaten the existence of professional road cycling," the BDR concluded.

Rabobank sends seven to Murcia

By Susan Westemeyer

Rabobank will start the Vuelta a Murcia with only seven riders, it announced yesterday. Bram De Groot injured his hand in a crash in the Classica Almeria on Sunday and had to return to the Netherlands for additional examinations. "It is not possible to call up a reserve rider now," said team leader Frans Maassen on the team's website, "We will have to ride it with seven men, but that will go well."

De Groot injured the same hand that he hurt in a crash in the Tour Down Under earlier this year. The hand remained swollen on Monday, and he returned home.

The Dutch ProTour team will now send Thomas Dekker, Jan Boven, Denis Menchov, Dmitriy Kozontchouk, Tom Leezer, Bauke Mollema and Graeme Brown to Murcia.

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