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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, March 18, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Freire favourite for Sanremo

By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo, Italy

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is showing good form ahead of Milano-Sanremo
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) can take away confidence from the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico, having won two stages in Italy. The 32 year-old won Stage 1 and Stage 6 of the race and is now considered the number one favourite to win Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, a race he has won twice before.

"For sure those who are up here in Tirreno will be up there in Sanremo," said Freire after his stage win over Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) in Castelfidardo (Le Marche).

Freire will bide his time on the 298-kilometre day in hopes the race will evolve into a sprint finale. The Spaniard's biggest competitor in the sprint is Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram).

"I am not sure exactly how strong Petacchi is going even though he won the other day," Freire continued, referring to the Italian's victory in Tirreno-Adriatico.

The 32 year-old is more concerned with the host of riders who have the ability to attack and destroy the possibility of a Sanremo sprint, than he is of sprinting against Petacchi. "Cancellara has really impressed me," admitted Freire. "He is always taking a good position and has a good pedalling action. He really took this Tirreno, he won the crono and then the overall.

"I know there are a lot of other riders who are going well on the climbs, and they can make a difference in Milano-Sanremo," he added. "This year, we will have to give a lot of attention to the Cipressa and Poggio. And, the addition of the new climb [Le Mànie], could change the race."

The three-time World Champion underlined that he will stick out any attacks for the possibility of a sprint. "My objective won't be to go on the Poggio, but to stay there with the others for the sprint." Freire won the race last year and also in 2004. "It is as simple as staying there, and then trying when we get close to the finish.

"If you attack, to try to win, you never know if it is going to work," he explained. "That year that [Paolo] Bettini went [2003 - ed.], I thought it would come back together, but instead his move worked. Usually, in the last years, we have always arrived in a sprint."

Due to the Easter weekend and road construction, the race will not finish on its usual Via Roma percorso, but closer to the seaside. The finale of the Poggio will be some three kilometres longer, "but there are a couple of more curves that make a sprint harder to happen".

Zabriskie chipping away at Cancellara

By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo

David Zabriskie (Slipstream)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Slipstreams's David Zabriskie had a repeat performance of the Salzburg World Championships during Tirreno-Adriatico's stage five time trial. The 29 year-old rider from the United States held the top honours for most of the day until Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) stole the show by 22 seconds.

"It was disappointing, some day I will get him," said Zabriskie of the two-time Time Trial World Champion and former Team CSC team-mate. "I am chipping away. He is on really good form for the Classics, and I am in okay shape, so it is a good sign."

Zabriskie is one of Slipstream Chipotle's leaders and the USA-based team will take him to the Giro d'Italia this May. The American won the Firenze time trial stage there in 2005 and will have the upper hand this year on the parcours laden with time trialling kilometres.

"I am for sure on the Giro d'Italia team," he said. "I will take the stages as they come, day by day."

He is going back to his European base in Girona, Spain, after the final stage of Tirreno on Tuesday. Zabriskie plans on spending some time on his mountain bike in preparation for the Critérium International, March 29-30, and the Tour of Georgia, April 21-27

Zabriskie noted the strong performances of team-mate Steven Cozza in Belgium's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Italy's Monte Paschi Eroica. "He is strong and really aggressive, he has impressed me a lot," he said. "I saw in Belgium and in California he was well."

However, he thinks that the youngster may be following in his footsteps a little too closely, with Cozza recently sporting a Zabriskie-like moustache. "Cozza is trying to steal my thunder, he copied me," laughed Zabriskie. Cozza, however, told the situation differently, saying that it was the other way around and that Zabriskie was inspired by the 23 year-old.

Gasparotto dreaming of Sanremo victory

By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) finished second overall and is ready for La Classicissima
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) has made a good showing this month with a third in the GP Lugano and riding high all week in the Tirreno-Adriatico, including a day in the leader's jersey. The 25 year-old Italian now has La Classicissima, Milano-Sanremo, on his agenda.

"I am happy because second at Tirreno is very, very good for me and a sign for all the people that don't believe in me," Gasparotto said.

Gasparotto blasted away from the leaders on the Tirreno-Adriatico's stage to Castelfidardo with 1300 metres remaining but was brought back by Cancellara, who was defending his race lead. "I worked hard all winter to be here, and it is an important result," he said. "It is good for my morale in light of Sanremo, Belgium and the Giro."

The Italian held the race leader's maglia azzurra for one day after finishing second on Stage 2. "I am happy because I am on good form," smiled Gasparotto. "Now, for Sanremo, I can dream. On Thursday, I will go with some friends to see the final kilometres, and the new climb [of Le Mànie]."

Gasparotto reckons that the 99th Milano-Sanremo - on March 22, the day of his 26th birthday - will be played out differently and might not end in a sprint. "This year, it will be a different Sanremo," he said. "I think that of the sprinters there is only [Alessandro] Petacchi, who is on really good form, the other guys are like me, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan and Riccardo Riccò. This will open a different possibility for Sanremo."

Gasparotto has a fast sprint, but not fast enough for a race like the 298-kilometre Sanremo. Instead Gasparotto will have to take his chances with an attack on the race's closing climbs of Cipressa, with 22.1 kilometres to go, and Poggio, just 6.2km out from the finish. "I have only to try to stay with 'Pippo' [Pozzato] and Ballan, they will attack for sure," he noted of the two riders who have shown superb form in Tirreno. "There is also [Phillip] Gilbert, [Rinaldo] Nocentini and [Davide] Rebellin. You need to watch out for those guys earlier on too, like on the Cipressa."

Milano-Sanremo ranks in importance for the Italians as the Ronde van Vlaanderen does for the Belgians and Gasparotto is no different. "Sanremo is one of those most important races in the season for an Italian rider," he noted. "It is a dream for any Italian rider, especially for me this year, because it is on my birthday. On paper it is an easy race, there are not many climbs, but the distance makes it difficult.

"The emotions of Sanremo are incredible, and because of that it will be hard," he said. "At the end there can only be one champion."

Gasparotto will base himself out of his new bachelor's pad in Carnago, Varese for the next week and then travel to Belgium. The rider relocated from his parents' home in Friuli-Venezia Giulia this month to be closer to other riders for training. "I no longer have time to stay on the internet all day because I have to clean and buy food," he laughed. "It is another sort of life, but it is good."

In Belgium he will race the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl, Three days of De Panne and Ronde van Vlaanderen. "I will leave after Flanders [Ronde - ed.] to prepare for the Giro d'Italia," he explained.

Rodríguez sees Montelupone as sign for Ardennes week

By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo

Joaquím Rodríguez's dominance on Tirreno-Adriatico's Montelupone came as a good omen for the upcoming Ardennes week of Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where the 28 year-old will work as co-captain with Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish Champion likened the climb, which touched gradients of 20 percent, to the finale of Flèche Wallonne.

"It was a very hard climb, like Mur de Huy," said Rodríguez. The Belgian climb of the Flèche Wallonne has gradients of 19 percent, where last year he finished 76th after helping Valverde to second. "The Montelupone was a lot like a one-day classic, above all, the Flèche Wallonne."

Rodríguez watched the race coverage on television after his win and noted the riders who were forced to walk up the climb. "The riders had to put their feet on the ground mostly because of the motorcyclist that went down," he said.

After Tirreno, Rodríguez will head back to Spain before the Ardennes week. "I will go to País Vasco, I need to see which stages I will take my chances on," he said. "My form is good, I think that my moment will arrive this April."

Following Liège-Bastogne-Liège he will return to Italy for the Giro d'Italia.

Riccò doubts Sanremo participation

By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) hasn't had the best performance at Tirreno-Adriatico and is now doubting his participation in Milano-Sanremo on Saturday. In last year's Classicissima, the volatile rider from Formigine, Modena in Italy put in a potentially lethal attack with Belgium's Philippe Gilbert, however this year he may skip the race because of a sore back resulting from a crash on Tirreno-Adriatico's stage 3.

"I have good memories from last year, but this year...for me it has been unlucky," Riccò said of his week in southern Italy.

Prior to the rider's crash on Stage 3, a clearly frustrated Riccò tossed his race machine through the air after stage 2. It was a moment of "anger" according to Riccò, but from the pundits it was a sign of his overall performance at the Corsa dei Due Mari.

Stage 3's tumble saw him laying on the ground for some time before he was able to get up and eventually finish the stage, some 15 minutes behind. "I was going well, but the crash has compromised my race, and I don't know if I will do Sanremo," he said. "I still have a bad back from that crash."

Riccò lurked in the shadows of stage 6 to Castelfidardo, where he finished in a group 36 seconds back on stage winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank). He will likely announce his participation in La Classicissima following Tirreno's final stage in San Benedetto del Tronto today.

"I have not previewed the finale of Sanremo this spring, but it is always the same," he said. "Maybe I will look this week, but I will have to see how I feel after Tuesday [Tirreno's conclusion - ed.]. For me to win I have to attack on the Poggio, that is my only way."

Gerdemann waiting for surgery

Gerdemann left the TT in an ambulance
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road's Linus Gerdemann was supposed to have surgery on Monday, in Innsbruck, Austria, following his crash in the Tirreno time trial. Instead, he is now in a hospital in Hamburg, Germany. The German crashed heavily on Sunday's Tirreno-Adriatico time trial after passing Danilo Di Luca and clipping a barrier which put the rider into a somersault.

Gerdemann expects to undergo an operation later this week to help his recovery process. "I have a lower leg fracture and a femur fracture above the left knee, plus deep scrape wounds," he told dpa. "Those must heal first before they can do an operation, otherwise there is too much danger of infection. I figure they will operate in three days. My leg is now in a plaster cast."

"My Tour de France participation is surely problematic now," he added. Gerdemann added that he wouldn't rush the healing process, which is expected to take between six and eight weeks.

"I will do my very best to be back on the bike as soon as possible and I will fight to become part of the 2008 Tour de France," said Gerdemann.

High Road Sport Director Rolf Aldag was to visit his young star on Monday. "Linus is undergoing the whole program of examinations now," Aldag told sid. "This is naturally a great loss for Rund um Köln and the Giro d'Italia. But right now we don't want to see everything so negatively and write off his Tour start already."

It was the second blow within a week to the American team's hopes for the Tour de France. Gerdemann and Australian Michael Rogers were expected to be the team's captains in the Tour, but the participation of both riders is now under question. Rogers was diagnosed last week with Epstein-Barr virus, knocking him out of competition for eight weeks.

Andreu to lead regional team


Nine-time Tour de France rider Frankie Andreu has joined ZteaM as directeur sportif during the cycling organization’s quest to win a place on the podium during the 2008 American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania, presented by Highmark Healthy High 5. ZteaM is an American national cycling club supporting the growth of masters, elite, and youth cycling through club riding and racing. The group is funded by national and regional sponsors, and its own members. ZteaM regional chapters operate independently with a focus on supporting youth cycling programmes in their areas.

Andreu, recently a director with Rock Racing, will lend his expertise and support to the bicycling organization, which was chosen as one of only 20 groups to compete in the Pennsylvania event.

Andreu will work along side ZteaM’s elite team leader, Christian Kearney, to prepare racers for the American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania, the very first Tour de France-style “espoir” race in the United States. Espoir, which means hope in French, denotes the race is for up-and-coming riders under the age of 25. Over 60 teams vied to get into the Tour of Pennsylvania, but ZteaM was one of only 20 teams chosen to participate. The event will be televised around the world and is being dubbed as “the Tour de France for young riders.”

“ZteaM is all about building the cycling community through its support for youth and developmental cycling and has also built a strong sense of camaraderie for the members and the public,” Andreu said. “They have the right vision and model to build a successful program where young riders can benefit greatly.”

Andreu retired from racing at the end of 2000 after a 12-year professional career. During his racing career, he also represented the United States in two Olympic games and once was captain of US Postal. Andreu is now a commentator for Versus TV and can be seen alongside Phil Liggett and Bob Roll during the Tour de France each summer.

“Frankie is doing this more or less pro bono because he is very supportive of our entire developmental effort and he is interested in our quest for a full continental pro team in 2009 or 2010,” said Hunter Ziesing, ZteaM’s founder. “We are honored and very appreciative that we have one of the most experienced riders in the world to lead us.”

Dairyland re-signs

National Racing Calendar elite team America's Dairyland has announced the re-signing of its title sponsor, Wisconsin Milk Marketing board, for its sixth year. The team's involvement with the milk board has also prompted Udderly Smooth to resign as presenting sponsor for 2008.

"We've got some new riders in '08 but have the same philosophy, that being giving new pro riders a solid start in the pro field through a combination of mentoring and an emphasis on learning and teamwork," said team founder and manager Rebecca Anderson.

Returning to the team is veteran Heather Albert, who earned a silver medal at the 2007 Elite National Track event and is in her third season with the team. Kate Ross, Betsy Shogren and Cari Higgins are returning for their second seasons. Higgins earned an individual gold medal at the 2007 US Elite Track event.

Joining them from Australia is neo-pro Clare Vlahoupolos and the United Kingdom's Leda Cox, both riding their first season with America's Dairyland.

A new aspect of the team is two junior riders and a U-23 rider, who will contest events in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Marcie Weiss, Sabrina Blosky and Anna Young, the 2007 junior Cyclo-cross Champion, have been named to the development squad.

America's Dairyland/Udderly Smooth roster:
Heather Albert, Leda Cox, Carri Higgins, Kate Ross, Besty Shogren, and Clare Vlahoupolos.
Development team:
Sabrina Blosky, Marcie Weiss, and Anna Young.

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