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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, March 17, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Rebellin asks the UCI to respect riders and races

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) wins the 2008
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Davide Rebellin finished Paris-Nice in a very enthusiastic mood for himself as an overall winner and for the sport of cycling in general. "We've been having difficult moments, but cycling will continue, cycling will not die," the Italian commented after the final stage of 'the race to the sun'.

The Italian wasn't worried about a possible suspension by the UCI following his participation in an event sanctioned by the French federation, and forbidden by the international governing body . "We came here to produce a good race, to give a good spectacle and to do our job as bike riders," he said. "It's fair that we were here. Paris-Nice is one of the best races in the world. Everybody has to respect this race that is a big part of the history of cycling."

The Italian didn't take the UCI's threat seriously. "I've always thought that the UCI will understand that it's not possible to suspend all the riders, otherwise, who would compete in the other races? We'll find something for cycling out of this confusion, I'm confident. We'll talk to the UCI. We'll tell them that we've been here to work and all the other things aren't important for us."

According to the Venetian, the new anti-doping programs for which the UCI has taken most of the responsibilities has changed the face of cycling. "We have given our total availability to make our sport the cleanest possible," he underlined. "We give our blood, our urine, our hair. We can't do more than that. We are normal people, not gangsters, so we just ask the controllers to respect our private life. What happened with Kevin van Impe shouldn't be done, we've naturally protested against that today."

Rebellin stood near Philippe Gilbert on the start line in Nice when the Belgian from Française des Jeux gave a few words to support his compatriot who was harassed by controllers while he made arrangements for the funeral of his infant son last week.

"With all the controls we're submitted to, cycling now has a bit more credibility," Rebellin continued in response to an observation that Paris-Nice looked more human than in the previous years. "It helps the quality riders to express themselves. There were a lot of battles this week. There was a lot of spectacle also and many fans came along."

The Italian is so optimistic that he hopes to ride "for at least one more year and maybe two," although last year in February he stated that 2008 would be the final of his career. "Most of the riders of my age have quit cycling already," he realized. "I still have the strength, the capacity and above all the will to continue. It's not hard for me to keep living the life of a bike rider. It remains fun and I yet have a few races to win that I don't have on my record book. I'm a specialist of the Classics and the nicest of them is the world championship. Milan-Sanremo is missing but that's mostly for the sprinters. I also haven't won the Tour of Lombardy yet."

So there is more to be seen from the evergreen veteran of the Gerolsteiner team.

Nocentini happy with second

By Hedwig Kröner in Nice

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) likes the weather better
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

The last stage of Paris-Nice did not go according to plans for the organisers or for Italian Rinaldo Nocentini. On Saturday evening, the organizer informed teams that the parcours around Nice on Sunday had to be modified because of a small landslide on the Col de la Turbie (Cat.1). With 33 kilometres to go before the finish, the climb was shortened slightly before leading the riders directly to the next difficulty of the day, the Col d'Eze.

This seemed like good news for Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), who sat in second place on general classification behind Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) by only three seconds. "The parcours of the last stage will be slightly different," he explained to Cyclingnews the night before the ultimate battle would play out. "They will cut off a bit of the Turbie climb because of a small landslide. For me, that's better, because shorter climbs suit me more."

After a hard penultimate stage, where he and fellow countryman Rebellin dropped the former race leader Robert Gesink (Rabobank) in a wild descent from the Col du Tanneron to the Meditteranean coast, Nocentini admitted he felt a bit tired. "You know, it wasn't that hard a stage on paper, but then…," he sighed, albeit smiling. "In the finale, when we started the descent, I saw that Gesink hit the brakes earlier and earlier. So I went flat out in two or three curves, and that created a gap. Then I just thought to myself: Go for it… And I went as fast as I could."

With the help of other riders, the 30 year-old took 1'23" from the Dutchman and moved up second on GC. With only three seconds between him and the yellow jersey, Nocentini was determined to do everything in his power to turn the situation around, but also knew that it would be difficult against Rebellin.

"Maybe I can try to win against him by taking the sprint points at the finish," Nocentini mused, but that scenario never played out. A breakaway went clear, mopping up any possible bonus seconds on the course, and when Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) stayed away to the end, it was clear that the two Italians would let the standings lie. Rebellin strode in safely in 16th place, while Nocentini finished further back in the bunch at 27th.

Still, the Italian was satisfied with his performance, as he and Rebellin have been in a close battle ever since the start of the season, and showed the same level of fitness. "On one occasion I win, and on the next it's him," he added. Rebellin won the Tour du Haut Var in front of Nocentini, while the AG2R rider took the honours in the GP Lugano.

Now, the standings after Paris Nice are 2-1 in favour of the Gerlosteiner leader. "I'm still happy to have gotten this second placing. Neither my team nor I had thought about this outcome when we came to Paris-Nice. It's a prestigious race," he said, adding that the season was far from over yet.

Australian champion on a Tour de France mission

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Australian champion Matt Lloyd (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

There might be a new Australian face in the Tour de France this year: national champion Matthew Lloyd is short listed by Silence-Lotto as one of the 14 possible starters to ride alongside Cadel Evans for the Grande Boucle. The Victorian rode a very good Paris-Nice. "I wasn't feeling too good at the start when the weather was bad. Pretty much I hadn't raced since the Tour Down Under one and half month ago," he explained.

But he played an important role in Evans' win up the Mont Ventoux where he finished 24th himself. "We're very happy with what he did here in Paris-Nice," Silence-Lotto's directeur sportif Hendrik Redant said.

The Belgian squad looks more and more concerned about backing Evans in the hills. They are aware that this is the biggest opportunity to become the first Belgian team to win the Tour de France with the absence of Astana's Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer. The core of climbers around Evans is composed of Yaroslav Popovych, Dario Cioni, Mario Aerts, Johan Vansummeren and 25-year-old Lloyd, who is in his second year as a professional.

Lloyd rode the Tour of Italy last year, but he doesn't have a precise calendar yet for the 2008 season after the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and the Tour of the Basque country which he'll do together with Evans. The Giro once again is an option, and the Tour is another one. "I have to keep progressing, to be stronger and prove that I can become a consistent rider," he told Cyclingnews in Nice before the last stage of the 'race to the sun'.

"We don't put any pressure on him," Redant explained. "We don't want to make him a Tour de France rider at any cost this year. We want to see how he develops. He's close to Evans. He's also an Australian. There is a chance that he'll do it. It depends on how things go at the next races."

No pressure on U23 world champion

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Peter Velits (Milram)
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

The winner of the U23 world championship in Stuttgart last year has been seen in action during Paris-Nice, especially when he went in a breakaway during the shortened stage one. A former member of Pro Continental team Wiesenhof and continental South African team Konica-Minolta in the past two years, Peter Velits experienced the highest level of professional cycling for the first time with Team Milram.

"It gave me a pretty good indication on what I can do, I felt very good after the Mont Ventoux," Velits said. The Slovakian will see more of the ProTour standard of cycling as he'll take part in the Critérium International, the Tour of the Basque country and the Ardennes classics in the near future. "It's a big difference for me to move into a team like Milram, but they don't put any pressure on me. I set the goals for myself. It was my own decision to break clear on the first day of Paris-Nice. This year, I want at least one win as I did last year at the GP of Fourmies."

He'll return to Mallorca for training after Paris-Nice as the weather might not be the best in his Belgian town of Riemst Valmeer. A start at the Tour of Italy is up in the air for the U23 World Champion who can climb, sprint and time trial.

O'Grady good for Sanremo but better in North

By Gregor Brown in Recanati

Australian Stuart O'Grady, winner of the 2007 Paris-Roubaix, has made the long road to recovery since his devastating crash last July in the Tour de France, and is now racing in the Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian race is giving the 34 year-old of Team CSC a good indicator of his form, which he believes will be "fine-tuned" by April.

"It is going good already, I am cruising along. I am felling better day by day as the race goes on," he noted after finishing the 26-kilometre time trial stage to Recanati in Le Marche. Though, he could have done without the wall of a finish two days prior. "It was pretty ridiculous," he said of the greater than 20 percent gradients on Montelupone. "It was the first time in my life I had to click out and walk up. There were guys that were crashing back down the hill, so I had no choice."

O'Grady is looking ahead to Milano-Sanremo and then to April's big races with his form on target. "I had a lot of work. A big thanks to the chiropractors," stated O'Grady, who returned to competition in the Herald Sun Tour in Victoria in October. "I missed a big chunk of last season, but I have had a good intense first few months to this season. There has been a lot of hard work, and now it is just a matter of fine tuning the engine.

Sanremo will give him a chance to fine tune before Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. "Normally, I am never super at this race. I think I will be good at Sanremo, but I think I will be even better in a few weeks. Sanremo is always difficult to call based on Tirreno. It is good for preparation, and that is why we are here, but I am aiming for Flanders and Roubaix."

CSC is blessed with the super-talented Fabian Cancellara, who is also building for Ronde and Roubaix; however he has shown that he is on winning form now thanks to the Monte Paschi Eroica and Tirreno.

"He is flying at the moment," O'Grady agreed. "In Sanremo we have to get over the Poggio and weigh the situation." The team won't likely send Cancellara away on the Poggio, "that won't be our job. We will let the other guys do that. We will just try to stay at the front for best position. It is who ever has the legs after 300 kilometres."

Piepoli missed out on Montelupone chance

By Gregor Brown in Recanati

Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Scott) had a gear problem
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

One Italy's best climbers missed an opportunity to shine on the stiff gradients of Montelupone due to a chain skip with 800 metres remaining. Leonardo Piepoli, winner of the mountain's jersey in last year's Giro d'Italia, fought back the beset he could in Tirreno-Adriatico's stage three, but could only manage 17 seconds (fourth) behind winner Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne).

"That stage, Montelupone, was good for me," he said Sunday after his time trial run. "It is too bad what happened. I dropped the chain, but that is life.

"That was the first time we were able to do [the climb] in a race: it was like the Mur de Huy in Flèche Wallonne," he said with a grin. He would like to see the 1.78-kilometre climb appear again as long as the organisers thin out the field a little beforehand. "I think if they were to put it in the Giro d'Italia it would be good, but there needs to be a climb before it to thin out the field so it is less dangerous."

Many riders were left to finish the climb on foot when the speeds dipped to the point where balance was impossible. Not helping maters was a television motorbike that also tumbled in the finale. "It is normal on a climb that steep."

Piepoli is looking after team-mate Riccardo Riccò in Tirreno as the two build for the Giro, May 10 to June 1. "I hope that tomorrow [stage six - ed.] he has recovered from the crash [on stage three] and he can come out to win. However, we are both progressing well towards the Giro d'Italia."

Asthmatic Cooke running well

By Gregor Brown in Recanati

Baden Cooke looks like he just raced
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Australian Baden Cooke has entered this spring successfully thanks to his left leg turning as it should be and no longer going numb in critical moments. The 29 year-old of the Barloworld team spent the winter working on a new bike setup that has worked out successfully.

"My form is good, and I have been trying to help [team-mate Enrico] Gasparotto as much as I could," he said after Sunday's stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Cooke has been working to help his Italian team-mate battle for the race overall, but was also pleased with his time trial run.

"It was the first real test, I went hard and the leg went well... there was no blowup," Cooke stated of his left leg. (For more read Finding the power.) "Usually by this time in the year it would have happened four or five times." He thanked John Kennedy in Melbourne, who had helped him with his new position.

"Yesterday [stage to Civitanova Marche - ed.], I had a chance but I had a puncture on the final hill. I will have a crack in the final stage, and then it is on to Milano-Sanremo. My form is really good heading to Sanremo."

Cooke then revealed that another previously unknown physical problem has recently been solved. "I just found out last week that I have asthma. I had never done the test for it, and I just now find out. I did a simple blow test with the team, and the team then wanted me to see a doctor to have it checked out. It was clear as daylight that I had asthma. I got Ventolin and it now feels like I have a third lung."

He will test his new lung and leg in Sanremo with team-mates Gasparotto and Robert Hunter. "There will be three of us at Sanremo. Gasparotto and Hunter are both going well. Gasparotto will be good to go on the Poggio, and Robbie and I will wait for the sprint."

Cooke will travel to Sanremo's finale after Tirreno to inspect the parcours before the race on Saturday, March 22.

Tour of Turkey boosted by five ProTour teams

By Jean-François Quénet

While cycling in the sport's traditional European countries has been complicated this year by political battles, there are big ambitions for the sport in new areas of development. The Presidential Tour of Turkey is one race which has gained more attention with an upgrade to the 2.1 category, luring five ProTour teams for its 44th edition from April 13 to 20. The event was won last year by Bulgarian Ivailo Gabrovski when it was still a 2.2 race.

The Tour of Turkey will feature 25 teams, among them five ProTour teams: Milram, Lampre, Saunier Duval, Silence-Lotto and Astana. The Kazakh team is expected to line up Andreas Klöden, Vladimir Gusev and Tomas Vaitkus. The biggest name on the start list should be Alessandro Petacchi who used to take part – and win most of the stages – in the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt but the historical German race is cancelled this year due to a lack of funds.

The Presidential Tour of Turkey will start on the same day as Paris-Roubaix with a 79km criterium in Istanbul. The riders will then fly to Izmir and ride along the Mediterranean coastal side to Alanya. An extremely scenic route will welcome to the stars of cycling.

The participants:
ProTour Teams: Milram (Ger), Lampre (Ita), Saunier Duval (Spa), Silence-Lotto (Bel), Astana (Lux)
Professional Continental teams: Benfica (Por), Karpin-Galicia (Spa), Mitsubishi-Jartazi (Est), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni (Ven), CSF Group-Navigare (Ita), NGC Medical (Swi), PSK Whirlpool (Cze)
Continental teams: Bourgas (Bul), Team Ista (Ger), Cosmote Kastro (Gre), Atlas-Römers (Swi), Liberty Seguros (Por), Tyrol-Team Radland (Aut), Sparta Praha (Cze), Partizan (Ser), Stegcomputer-CKT (Swi); 4 national teams: Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey, Brisa

The route.
April 13: Criterium Istanbul, 79.2km.
April 14: Izmir-Kusadasi, 132.7km
April 15: Kusadasi-Bodrum, 165.9km
April 16: Bodrum-Marmaris, 166.8km
April 17: Marmaris-Oludeniz, 177.7km
April 18: Kalkan-Finike, 100.1km
April 19: Finike-Antalya, 115.8km
April 20: Antalya-Alanya, 136.6km

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