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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 18, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Luis León Sánchez back to winning

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) takes the final stage of Paris-Nice
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

It already appears normal to see Luis León Sánchez' parents in Nice, where they wanted to be moved by their son's celebrations, when he dedicates a triumph. Still, the rider born in Mula (Murcia) had words of deep gratitude to his team-mates at Caisse d'Epargne, "not only because of the incredible job they accomplished on the way to Nice, but also throughout the week; they never stopped to trust me."

He didn't have the legs on the climb up the Ventoux, but cautioned that he would continue the battle and in the end managed to put on a good show. "The rivals were very competitive in the stage and with a very open fight for the podium still, which complicated matters to get where I am now." But he made it in Nice, while Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) was frustrated not to be able to repeat his success from Cannes. Sánchez explained to Cyclingnews that in Cannes, "I attacked and Cunego went with me, but it was not more than a disturbance [Cunego didn't collaborate - ed.], and Chavanel knew how to take advantage of that lack of understanding."

Concerning the Tour de France, Sánchez had a balanced view. Less time trialing kilometres (82, versus the 117 in 2007), the lack of the traditional time bonuses, the return of the mythical Alpe d'Huez and the appearance of the colossus of La Bonette are some of the surprises that the organisers presented for the 3554-kilometre long route. There will be five high-mountain stages, four in the medium mountains and two time trials, with the traditional prologue being left out of the 2008 Tour. "To me, I can't say if it's good or bad, to have less time trialing kilometres. It is more important for Alejandro Valverde. I will be in the Tour to help him always be in front, and, if there is an opportunity, I will try to take advantage."

He rode his first Tour in 2005, when he was allowed to be in a break in one of the important mountain stages. The next year, he suffered the exclusion of the Astana-Würth team, headed by Alexander Vinokourov. Last year, he was knocked out of the team in the last minute, despite finishing second in the national time trialing championships. "For me, that was a real disappointment, because I was training very specifically [for the Tour]. Now it is different. I know I will be there, even though there is always the chance that the directors of the team decide otherwise. I want to show myself very competitive in the Vuelta al País Vasco, where I certainly do not have an advantage, due to the lack of mountain finishes. But before, I will ride the Critérium International, together with Valverde. Later, I will do the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, after the classics."

Cipollini wants out of Rock Racing

'The Lion King' Tinkoff bound?

By Gregor Brown in San Benedetto del Tronto

Mario Cipollini (l) would like to take on Tom Boonen in Milano-Sanremo
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Italian Mario Cipollini has requested to end his contract with Team Rock Racing and may be racing in Tinkoff colours for this Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, a race he won in 2002. 'The Lion King' and owner of the USA Continental team, Michael Ball, have had their differences since starting their relationship last fall, and now Cipollini is in a race to annul his contract.

The 2002 World Champion from Lucca has a renewed desire for racing the Milano-Sanremo since he returned from retirement in the Tour of California. He now faces a race against time if he is to participate in the 298-kilometre race known as La Classicissima as he needs his racing license resolved with Rock Racing, which he requested last week according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, before signing for a new team.

Cipollini, who will celebrate his 41st birthday this Saturday, faced a similar race against time before being allowed into the Tour of California. In the tour along USA's west coast he proved his legs can still pump out the high revolutions by finishing third in the stage to Sacramento (won by Tom Boonen). However, his chances of winning in Sanremo, his last race in 2005 before retirement, would be limited due to lack of racing kilometres.

His contact with the Italian Professional Continental team owned by Russian Oleg Tinkov has yet to be confirmed. The 40 year-old Russian confirmed he has not talked to Cipollini, but he noted that the team's general manager, Stefano Feltrin, may have. Feltrin commented that time is running out. "We would like to see him at the start line with us," stated the General Manager to Cyclingnews, who has kept in contact with the sprinter. "The reality is it is a long way off, he has to have a waiver from his current team and then we would have to sit at a table and work out the details."

"Ten minutes before the sign-on the director talked to us about this article in the newspaper. I don't know if it is official or not," said the team's star rider, Mikhail Ignatiev, to Cyclingnews before the final stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. "Cipollini is a great racer, but I have never had the chance to race with him. I have seen him about ten times in training, we have crossed paths along the seaside in Tuscany. I don't go training with him as I am usually training alone." The 22 year-old Russian will not be taking part in Sanremo as he is building for the Track World Championships.

Gerdemann with "two small fractures" and ligament damage

By Susan Westemeyer

Linus Gerdemann (High Road) crashed out of Tirreno's GC fight
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Linus Gerdemann has been diagnosed with two small fractures to his left leg, damage to the cruciate ligaments of the left knee and various wounds and contusion, Team High Road has reported. A "minor surgical treatment will be performed in the next few days, and a break from training of one to two months is expected."

"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," the 25 year-old said. However, he told that he is at the moment "very depressed. I had cut back on my training intensity this winter, as compared to last year. That was the right thing to have done, because I was on the verge of winning my first stage race. Now I am laying here in bed. But I am a fighter."

A moment of silence in Visalia

By Kirsten Robbins in Visalia, California

The two cyclists struck and killed by a Clara County sheriff last Sunday in Cupertino, California, were deeply missed on the start line of last weekend's Visalia Classic.

Kristy Gough, 31, and Matt Peterson, 30, had last competed in the Merco Credit Union Classic held in early March, winning their respective events in the road race and criterium. The two category 3/4 cyclists were registered to compete in this weekend's Exeter time trial and Visalia criterium, where a tribute was made on each of their behalf in a moment of silence on the start line.

The original time trial placing was held for Gough based on the registered start list where each rider started in thirty-second intervals. On Saturday, a moment of silence was held for Gough during her thirty-second start time interval before continuing on to the next competitor. On Sunday, a second moment of silence and a speech tribute from North American race announcer Dave Towle were held on the start line before the women's criterium commenced.

Van Avermaet likely for Milano-Sanremo

By Susan Westemeyer

Greg Van Avermaet makes his return in Nokere Koerse tomorrow
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Greg Van Avermaet seems finally to have recovered from the equilibrium problems he suffered as a result of a virus he picked up in the Ruta del Sol last month and which have kept him out of competition since then. The Silence-Lotto rider will return to the peloton tomorrow in Nokere Koerse, "and if he does well, he will start in Milano-Sanremo," team manager Marc Sergeant told "The 300 kilometres will be good for him and give him confidence for the spring."

His team-mate Mario Aerts, who dropped out of Paris-Nice on Thursday, will not be able to ride in the Primavera on Saturday, but Johan Vansummeren, who left Paris-Nice because of tendonitis, is expected to race.

Burghardt to miss spring season

By Susan Westemeyer

Marcus Burghardt won Gent-Wevelgem last year
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Marcus Burghardt was the sensational discovery at the Spring Classics in 2007, winning Gent-Wevelgem for his first professional victory. The youngster was expected to lead Team High Road in the Classics again this year, but instead, has had to renounce all the spring races due to knee problems.

The 24 year-old had surgery on his left knee in 2006 after missing much of that season. He re-injured that left knee in December while training, but was able to ride in the Tour Down Under in January. During the team's subsequent training camp in California it looked like things were going well again, but in his very next race, the Volta ao Algarve, "Burgi" had to drop out of the first stage with pain in his right knee. The diagnosis was tendonitis and he was forced to take a break from riding.

He hoped to take his first training ride on Tuesday, and if all goes well, then he will fly to Mallorca on Sunday for further training, he told the German newspaper Die Freie Presse.

Burghardt will totally miss the spring season this year, but he won't let that get him down and was looking forward to other goals. "When my form is good, then I will want to be at the start again of the biggest stage race in the world, the Tour de France. And I also want to secure myself a starting place in the Olympic games in Beijing."

Verdugo winning confidence

By Monika Prell

Gorka Verdugo is having his best season since he turned pro in 2004. The Euskaltel Euskadi rider just finished seventh in the general classification of Paris-Nice. On the team's website,, he affirmed to be "very satisfied. Before the start of the race, I was conscious of my good form." Verdugo clarified that "In the Vuelta a Valencia I was in front and during the training before Paris Nice I felt very well. I knew that I would reach great form at this race, but being amongst the ten best riders in a race from the category of Paris Nice is something that makes you proud."

He reflected about the best moments of the race. "The first day we had a lot of wind and the peloton was split into many parts. They had to shorten the stage, but it was still very hard. I felt good; I always was in the first group. And during the last day I also felt very strong. The crash I suffered in the second stage no longer impeded me so much, the temperature was agreeable and I was able to give my best and to obtain the seventh rank in the general classification."

The 29 year-old explained that after having crashed during the second stage, he believed that he "had to go home. I suffered a lot to finish the stage; I felt a big pain in the right calf that was very swollen. During the third stage, I also suffered, but I was conscious that I had to sustain it like it was."

The stage that ended at the Mont Ventoux, he had a clear briefing from the technical director, Igor González de Galdeano, who told him "to stand the first efforts until reaching my limit, then to keep my rhythm and to try to minimise the time loss. When I began to suffer, Igor Antón appeared at my side and helped me a lot during the last kilometres of the ascent, so I lost the least time possible."

Verdugo admitted that the great beginning of the season changed his mentality. "Every year, I was a bit better than before. To finish seventh in a race like Paris-Nice, you have to be very strong. I mainly won confidence; I think that I can continue improving. I am 29 years old and I even think that I still have potential." The plans for now are to "relax and then to go about the second part of my season," anticipated the Basque rider.

Vandenbroucke out of Nokere Koerse

Frank Vandenbroucke will not ride in Nokere Koerse on Wednesday, according to The Mitsubishi-Jartazi rider, who is at the centre of the controversy of the UCI giving the team wild-card status, skipped the Belgian races opening the spring season and instead flew to visit his daughter in Milan, where he still is.

"When VDB will ride another race – if he ever will – has not yet been announced," the website noted. He is said to have suggested he will return on April 6, which is the date of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Nine ProTour teams to Tour of Austria

By Susan Westemeyer

Nine ProTour teams will take part in the Österreich Rundfahrt this year, the race has proudly announced. "The ProTour teams have said yes to Austria," said race director Ursula Riha. She added that under UCI rules, the race was only able to accommodate nine ProTour teams. "We were easily able to meet this quota, and we even had to turn some teams down."

The participating ProTour teams are Quick Step, Silence-Lotto, Gerolsteiner, Milram, CSC, Lampre, Astana, Rabobank and High Road.

There will also be four Austrian teams in the race: the two Professional Continental teams, Elk Haus Simplon and Team Volksbank, will be joined by two Continental teams yet to be chosen. The remaining five start places will be given to Professional Continental teams, with Team Barloworld considered a shoo-in.

Barloworld for Milano-Sanremo

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) is in good form
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Barloworld will go into Milano-Sanremo with a three-pronged attack, led by captains Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke and Enrico Gasparotto, who promised Cyclingnews an attack on the penultimate stage of Tirreno and lived up to it. The Italian will have extra motivation on Saturday, saying "It is my birthday and I'm obviously very motivated. I've worked hard in recent weeks and I'm ready for the big day."

The race will also feature Mauricio Soler, who injured a knee in the GP Costa degli Etruscha last month. "I can feel that my form is getting better and better," said the Colombian climber, who made his return to the peloton in the Volta ao Santarem last week.

Barloworld for Milano-Sanremo: Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke, Enrico Gasparotto, Mauricio Soler, Paolo Longo Borghini, Gianpaolo Cheula, Patrick Calcagni and Carlo Scognamiglio.

Quick Step for next races

The Belgian Quick Step team has announced the lineup for the all-important Milano-Sanremo race. Besides the obvious choices of Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini, there will be recent Paris-Nice stage winners Carlos Barredo, and Gert Steegmans, who actually won twice in a row. The team is complemented by Wilfried Cretskens, Andrea Tonti, Matteo Tosatto and Giovanni Visconti, with Wilfried Peeters acting as directeur sportif.

Tomorrow, Ad Engels, Dmytro Grabovskyy, Kevin Hulsmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Leonardo Scarselli, Hubert Schwab, Kevin Van Impe and Wouter Weylandt will head to Nokere Koerse, on home soil.

The directeur sportif is Rik Van Slycke, who will also head the team a day after Milano-Sanremo, at the Campina Ronde Van Groen Hart in Utrecht, Netherlands. The riders are Steven De Jongh, Ad Engels, Kevin Hulsmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Hubert Schwab, Kevin Van Impe, Davide Viganò and Wouter Weylandt.

Encino velodrome opens with improved track surface

The Encino Velodrome begins its 2008 race season with an improved track surface, courtesy of a grant provided by the Channel Islands Bicycle Club. For forty-five years, the concrete racing track in the heart of Southern California's Sepulveda basin has played host to exciting bicycle racing action, including the 1965 US National Championships, the 1968 US National Championships & US Olympic Trials, and the 1972 & 1973 Grand Prix of the United States. Through the work of US Concrete Design, several expansion joints were repaired and a high spot that had developed over the years was removed.

Encino Velodrome's 2008 racing season begins with the Bob Hansing Memorial Cup Series Omniums on the first Saturday night of the month from April through July. Other races include the Encino Velodrome Championships August 16th & 17th through which racers can qualify for the U.S. National Championships, the $2,000 Far West Championships August 30th & 31st, and the Southern California / Nevada Cycling Association Elite Track Cycling Championships September 13th & 14th.

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