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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, March 11, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Big sprinters choose race of the two seas

By Gregor Brown

Riders roll out in the final day of the 2007 Tirreno-Adriatico
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

When RCS Sport announced the parcours of its springtime tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, at the beginning of February, it became evident that this would be the course chosen for the big sprint guns in their lead-up to the Milano-Sanremo which takes place four days after the race's conclusion in San Benedetto del Tronto. The 43rd edition of the Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of two seas') will see the likes of Tom Boonen, Alessandro Petacchi, Oscar Freire and Paolo Bettini battle in the sprints as the race covers seven stages, March 12 to 18.

The 2008 edition of the race will follow the traditional parcours in the west to east direction, from Mar Tirreno to Mare Adriatico, clocking 1122 kilometres along the way. Won in 2007 by Andreas Klöden, this year's parcours will offer an alternative to those not riding in the controversial and mountainous Paris-Nice, and a 'warm-up' for Milano-Sanremo on March 22. Overall, it is a race that respects the riders' early season form, with stages for sprinters and all-arounders.

The first day kicks off in Civitavecchia should be one for the sprinters who can survive over the dual ascents of the Bivio di Sassicari climb at 43 and 23 kilometres to go. With three flat, fast finishing circuits in the seaside town of Civitavecchia, the race should allow ample opportunity for the fast men to put their trains together to launch the bunch gallop.

Stage two is the main west to east traveller and will likely put the cat amongst the pigeons, splitting the classification battle for the yellow and red leader's jersey. The longest stage of the race – 203 kilometres, ending in Umbria's Gubbio – will see only the tough survive the six kilometre long Belvedere climb with just 17 kilometres to go and go on to battle the slow-rising final 4.75-kilometres.

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Stage three starts from Gubbio and travels 195 kilometres to bring the riders to the 1.78-kilometre wall of a finish in Montelupone. The organisers have thrown in a one-two punch by sending the riders twice up the torturous 20% maximum gradient on the climb that averages 12.1%: first with 25.9 kilometres to go, before the race heads out for a loop around the town, and a second time at the finish of a stage which will test the legs of the GC contenders.

The final four stages of the race are held along the Adriatico seaside. Stage four will be the one for escapees who can fare well on a parcours that rolls; no climb goes over 350 metres but the profile looks like a saw blade. After a GPM (Gran Premio Della Montagna) at 8.7 kilometres to go to Civitanova Marche, there are 4.75 kilometres of flat run-in to let the tactics of the winning move play out.

Read the entire preview of the race, which starts tomorrow.

Di Luca intends to ride Tirreno-Adriatico

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) is free to race for now
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca is intending to ride Tirreno-Adriatico after coming off a three month suspension this winter, despite the Italian National Olympic Committee's (CONI) attempts to get a two-year suspension for the rider. The hearing is set for April 1.

Last year's Giro d'Italia champion is technically free to ride in Tirreno-Adriatico as well as Milano-Sanremo. RCS Sport's director Angelo Zomegnan contacted CONI to evaluate the situation, and Di Luca got a green light to start.

The Italian told Gazzetta dello Sport,"I am content. These are clear facts. For me and for cycling. I met Zomegnan in Milano. I wanted him to hear my situation. I told him that I want to race, that there are no valid legal grounds to leave me out. Then I realized that the organisers are with me. The free road to Tirreno will also be a pass to other important races. It will be important for Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège..."

Di Luca finally got some good news after a tough winter, which he admitted he had spent badly. "I was very angry, and in Pescara it was raining the last three days, so I didn't train. These weren't easy days, also for my wife, Valentina ... and my mother Maria, who is suffering with me."

Di Luca said that the riders are "united like never before in the past." For Tirreno he will first see how it goes."I want to work hard at first. But at the tough finish on the Montelupone I will have to be [there]."

On the protest of his fans, which happens today at CONI, he commented by saying that the fact that he can ride in Tirreno "is also good news for my fans. At any rate, the protest should be peaceful."

Sprint duo Zabel-Petacchi at Tirreno

Zabel and Petacchi want celebrate a few victories together in the coming weeks
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

German team Milram is sending both of its top sprinters to Tirreno-Adriatico. German Erik Zabel and Italian Alessandro Petacchi will tackle the race between the two seas in order to get ready for Milano-Sanremo. The ambitions for stage victories are high, as Tirreno offers several opportunities for the sprinters. Milram has decided to tailor the whole team for bunch sprints and besides Zabel and Petacchi will race in Italy with Italians Alberto Ongarato, Fabio Sabatini and Marco Velo, Spaniard Igor Astarloa and the German allrounders Enrico Poitschke and Martin Müller.

At their first joint appearance this year, Zabel and Petacchi each took a stage win in the Volta a Valencia, the end of February. The two Milram stars are responsible for all six wins of the German ProTour team so far this season. A total of five of those victories goes to "Ale-Jet", as the 34 year-old is affectionately called by his fans.

The 44th edition of the Tirreno-Adriatico, which has been run since 1966, runs over 1,122 km in seven days. The stages are relatively flat, without major climbs and are therefore destined for sprinters and allrounders. The traditional race serves many teams as the final preparation for the most important and most famous Italian one-day race, Milano-Sanremo.

Zabel and Petacchi have both won Milano-Sanremo in the past and the duo will hope once again to bring in the victory for Milram. They will also bank on the one kilometre added after the descent from the Poggio, to reel in any last-minute breakaways.

Tinkoff looks for win on home soil

Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) is known for his aggressive racing and wants a victory in Tirreno
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian team Tinkoff Credit Systems is looking for the first win in Italy for the season in the upcoming Tirreno-Adriatico. The eight riders of the team will target stage wins. They raced very aggressively last year in the Italian stage race preceding Milano-Sanremo, but did not manage to win a stage.

Directeur sportif Orlando Maini said that "It is important to manage the situation well and to benefit in the best possible way from the opportunities that arise during the race. Our presence should not be reduced to a simple cat walk," Maini indicated that this year, Tinkoff will not be just satisfied with gathering TV time in the earlier parts of the races. He continued that "with humility and pragmatism we want to interpret this Tirreno with a big commitment and devotion. Our objective is to obtain the first victory in Italy."

The eight riders trying to accomplish this feat will be Pavel Brutt, Evgeni Petrov, Alberto Loddo, Daniele Contrini, Luca Mazzanti, Alexander Serov, Mikhail Ignatiev and Vasil Kiryienka.

Petrov may be the squad's man for the overall classification and this race will also show his ambitions towards the Giro d'Italia. Maini concluded that "Petrov has already shown that in theory, from his potential, he can be among the best, but it is clear that a good result at Tirreno-Adriatico would please us all at Tinkoff."

Liquigas with Pozzato

Liquigas will head to Tirreno-Adriatico with Filippo Pozzato. The team's captain said he "is not yet at a 100%," but he will use the stage race to get in the best possible shape for Milano-Sanremo, to be held on the 22nd of this month. He has already won on the Via Roma in 2005, and is hoping to repeat the success. He has already shown good early season form in Grosseto, winning the first stage and taking the overall victory.

Despite not on top of his game completely yet, Pozzato said that "I am looking to get results on stages, if not just to allow me to kick off the classics season in the right spirit." Pozzato will be assisted by Francesco Chicchi and Manuel Quinziato, who has already two victories so far this season, both obtained in South Africa.

Lampre for Tirreno

Lampre has announced its line-up for Tirreno. Directed by Fabrizio Bontempi and Vicino, the riders will be Fabio Baldato, Alessandro Ballan, Marco Bandiera, Marzio Bruseghin, Paolo Fornaciari, Christian Murro, Danilo Napolitano and Francisco Vila.

"I think that we'll be a competitive team – Fabrizio Bontempi explained – Napolitano will compete in the sprints, Bruseghin and Vila will check their condition in the tougher stages. Ballan will improve his fitness in view of Milano-Sanremo".

Barloworld announces line-ups for upcoming races

Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) is back to racing after injury
Photo ©: Freddy Guérin
(Click for larger image)

Team Barloworld hopes to takes its momentum from the South African races Giro del Capo and the Cape Argus Pick 'n' Pay wins to the upcoming races in Europe. The Professional Continental team took the top two overall positions in the Giro del Capo as well as the points and climber's jerseys and the best team. Robert Hunter won the Cape Argus race on Sunday.

Hunter will lead the team in the Volta ao Santarem, which runs March 13 - 16. He won a stage and the overall classification there last year. The race will also see the return of climber Mauricio Soler, who has not raced since crashing out of the GP Etruschi on February 9. He injured his knee in that crash and returned to Colombia for rest and physiotherapy.

Baden Cooke will lead the team in Tirreno-Adriatico, March 12-18.

Barloworld for Volta ao Santarem: Robert Hunter, Mauricio Soler, John Lee Augustyn, Francesco Bellotti, Moisés Dueñas, Christopher Froome, Darly Impey and Hugo Sabido.

Barloworld for Tirreno-Adriatico: Baden Cooke, Enrico Gasparotto, Marco Corti, Patrick Calcagni, Félix Rafael Cárdenas, Giampaolo Cheula, Paolo Longo Borghini and Carlo Scognamiglio.

BMC happy with Belgian racing

After Danilo Wyss' fifth place in the opening stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Team BMC drew a positive conclusion on the three-day affair. Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said that "Today was very tough. It was raining all day. The rain began early in the morning and has not stopped yet."

From the 140 starters only about half saw the finishing banner on Sunday. BMC's Alexandre Moos was the only rider who finished the race for the American team. But even some of the ProTour French and Belgian teams would only finish with one or two guys – testimony on how tough the race was. "Alex did a great job," Lelangue reported. ""He was in a breakaway over the cobbled climbs. And though he was eventually caught, he managed to finish in the third group."

Taking such a young team to hard semi-Classic races can be a bit of a gamble. But the BMC management seemed pleased with the youngsters' progress. "I was pretty happy with the three days of racing, plus the Samyn race earlier this week," Lelangue said. "We placed well with Danilo [Wyss] on Stage 1, and the rest of the guys have been getting their feet wet, learning for the future." Jonathan Garcia echoed this when he talked about his Belgian experience, "It was really a crash course for me, and I'm sure that I've already become a better racer in these last three days." Jonathan continued, "It was tough mostly because I didn't know the roads and the wind patterns and the echelons on such narrow roads, but my experience riding on Colorado dirt roads helped with the cobbles," explaining that the washboard effect one gets on the dirt was pretty similar to the cobble riding.

Despite the wind and the rain, the team remained upbeat about its accomplishments. "We were happy to have Alex finish today," Lelangue said. BMC did not escape bad luck altogether. "Ian McKissick was a bit sick this morning with food poisoning or something, and that weakened him," Lelangue said. "And Jonathan [Garcia] crashed and had a hard time chasing back on through the cars and with the wind against him." Garcia added that "On the whole, I am pleased with how I road the cobbles, though it may not be my strength. I do my best when the racing is really hard, and days like today are only going to make me stronger."

Spanish federation announces first Olympic long list

Oscar Freire does well in Worlds and now hopes for an Olympic title as well
Photo ©: AFP Photo
Click for larger image

The Spanish cycling federation, the Real Federación Española de Ciclismo (RFEC), has announced its first pre-selection for the upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing, but emphasized the tentative nature of the list. "In cycling you can never give a closed and definite list," said national selector Francisco Antequera, "because so many things can happen between now and August. But it is certain that participation in the Games requires many bureaucratic proceedings, and for that reason we don't have a lot of room to manoeuvre."

The twelve riders listed were those who passed the first Olympic doping controls after the Vuelta a Valencia and the Vuelta a Murcia. Most of the riders are climbers, whom Antequera favours because "it is the hardest course since I have been the selector." Spain will be able to send five riders to the road race and two to the time trial.

Antequera will whittle his list down over the next five months. "I still don't know the definite date to submit the five names, but I suppose it will be sometime during the Tour de France. In any case, I want to wait until the last minute, so that I can make the best possible selection.

The twelve riders so far selected are: Oscar Freire, Alberto Contador, Iván Gutiérrez, Oscar Pereiro, Joaquím Rodríguez, Alejandro Valverde, Carlos Sastre, Igor Antón, Samuel Sánchez, Carlos Barredo, Juan Manuel Gárate and Juan José Cobo.

Van Avermaet still waiting to return

Van Avermaet is still sidelined, but has his balance back
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The health problems that have grounded Silence-Lotto's Greg Van Avermaet this spring are slowing getting better – with slowly being the key word. The 22 year-old picked up a virus in the Ruta del Sol, which has damaged his equilibrium. He has already had to sit out the opening Belgian races and Paris-Nice He has now recovered sufficiently to be back on his bike again, but will not be able to ride Tirreno-Adriatico, as he had hoped.

"I thought that I was fine again, but the team doctor gave me the red card," he told "It's too bad, because I really needed Tirreno to prepare for the classics." He was depressed upon hearing that he would have to continue to wait to race, but "I will certainly resume racing in the Nokere Koerse (March 19) and my condition is surely not bad."

To keep that condition up, Van Avermaet is currently training in Tuscany with team-mates Francis De Greef and Pieter Jacobs.

Teutenberg wins Central Valley Classic Criterium

Ina-Yoko Teutenberg continues her winning ways, this time in Northern California
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

High Road's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg has won the Central Valley Classic Criterium in Fresno, ahead of Tibco's Brooke Miller and Taitt Sato (ValueAct). They were part of a six-rider breakaway that stayed away and sprinted for the win.

The Tower Criterium, formerly an NRC event, is part of the Central Valley's Highway 99 series. All of the top US women's teams were well represented at the race, with 7-8 riders represented from each of the High Road, Tibco and Colavita squads. Riders were using this race as a tune-up for next week's NRC's Sequoia Cycling Classic. Value Act, with Sato, Martina Patella and Hannah Banks, were happy to get someone on the podium, amidst all the high-level teams at the start. "We knew it was going to be an aggressive race; and we had to cover lots of things. We kept a close eye on Ina and Brooke," commented Patella.

High Road was aggressive from the gun and Teutenberg launched numerous attacks herself. Patella and Sato were always quick to cover her moves. But it was the final attack, halfway through the race that stuck. Joining Teutenberg in the break were Sato, Miller, Gomez and Colavita riders Iona Wynter-Parks and Mackenzie Woodring. The break had a sizeable gap on the field, with Teutenberg getting the win over Brooke Miller. And it was a tight race for third, with Sato nipping Winter-Parks at the line.

"We had a great race today! Despite not having the numbers, the three of us worked well together and all did our share covering attacks; and any one of us could have been in that break. We're really looking forward to having a full team next weekend!" commented Sato.

This weekend, the full ValueAct Capital squad will do battle at the Sequoia Cycling Classic in Visalia, CA

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