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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, May 4, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Astana may receive last minute Giro invitation

Fresh off the Tour de Georgia, Levi Leipheimer (Astana) may be called to race the Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Astana did not receive an invitation to the 2008 Giro d'Italia with the rest of the selected teams in early February, but reports Saturday suggest that Giro d'Italia organizers RCS Sport may be about to invite the team to the this year's 91st edition of the Italian Grand Tour after all. The Giro d'Italia will start May 10 in Palermo and runs through June 1 with a finish in Milano.

"Astana remains a candidate to participate in the Giro," said Director Angelo Zomegnan to La Gazetta dello Sport. Organizers have said changes in the list of invited teams may be made up until just before the race, but they did not confirm or deny the inclusion of Team Astana.

"An official announcement will be made on Sunday evening. At this point it's a 50-50 affair," said Zomegnan to Reuters. "Talks are underway with Astana regarding their possible participation in the Giro. Astana sent their request to us a month ago with a different approach regarding the quality of riders to take part in the race. If Astana were accepted it would of course affect the lineup of invited teams we announced on February 1."

Astana officials confirmed that they are in process of getting GC contender and American Levi Leipheimer to Italy in time for the start. "It is a good moment for us," said Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens to the Associated Press. Reportedly, Leipheimer's team-mate and 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will also be at the start in Sicily.

Overall leader German of Astana
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"We are hurrying now to arrange everything. We must have a truck and a bus down to Sicily - it is not the perfect preparation," Maertens said to the AP. "Levi was still in California and Alberto was on holiday in Spain because he had a dental operation two weeks ago. Everybody is happy."

From the Tour de Romandie, Astana's Andreas Klöden, who retained his yellow jersey with a margin of 35 seconds over Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) going into Sunday's final stage, was pleased with the news. "It's brilliant news and of course I'd volunteer to take part if it is confirmed," said Tour de France podium placer Kloeden to Reuters. "It's a big tour and I'm a big tour rider."

Following positive doping tests and a withdrawal from last year's Tour de France and despite structural management and rider changes to the team in between seasons, the squad was not invited to this year's Tour de France, or any ASO organized events for that matter. It is planning to race the Vuelta a España after the team was officially invited earlier this week when Unipublic announced the roster of squads for the September Grand Tour.

Petacchi out of Giro

Alessandro Petacchi hopes to shine in both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France
Photo ©: Jacob Sabine
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram suffered a major blow Saturday, as it announced that star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi would not be able to ride the upcoming Giro d'Italia. His place will be taken by another star sprinter, Erik Zabel.

The Italian has been ill since Milano-Sanremo, and came down with bronchitis during the Tour of Turkey, where he won two stages. Last week the team said that he was suffering from severe tracheobronchitis with bronchial spasms. The 34 year-old has been on strong antibiotics and unable to train for 12 days. "I feel better now, but there is not enough time for a good training," he said. "So I agreed with out team manager Gerry van Gerwen that I would instead prepare myself for the Tour de France."

"Ale Jet" has a total of 24 stage wins in the Giro, including nine in 2004 alone. Last year he won five stages and the points jersey.

It will be only the second Giro appearance for Zabel in his 16-year career. He rode the Giro in 2005 in his last season with Team T-Mobile, finishing second – behind Petacchi – in two stages.

"Erik Zabel will start out of respect for the Giro d'Italia. He is a great athlete and immediately agreed," said team manager Gerry van Gerwen. "We are having a lot of medical problems at the moment. Luckily we have two top sprinters in our ranks, who can go after stage wins in the Grand Tours."

Milram also announced its provisional line-up for the Giro. In addition to Zabel, it is tentatively planning to send Alberto Ongarato, Marco Velo, Markus Eichler, Enrico Poitschke, Fabio Sabatini, Sergio Ghisalberti, Igor Astarloa and Matej Jurco.

Stacked High Road squad ambitious with Giro plans

Marco Pinotti spent time in pink during the 2007 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Team High Road
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road is sending a strong team to the Giro d'Italia including Marco Pinotti, who wore the maglia rosa at the 2007 edition of the race, promising young Italian climber Morris Possoni and recent Tour de Georgia winner, former U23 World Champion Kanstantin Sivtsov, Australian time trial champion Adam Hansen, top sprinter Mark Cavendish and world pursuit and Madison champion Bradley Wiggins. The latter will be a favorite for the prologue.

"Racing well in the Giro d'Italia is a primary goal for Team High Road," said Bob Stapleton. "We're sending a very strong line up to a race with great tradition and a bright future. It’s also a personal favourite for our riders and management alike."

"The chance to wear the pink jersey again is hugely important for me," said Marco Pinotti. "My race condition is much better than this time last year. I'm going well and the team is in great shape. It will be harder for me to get the pink jersey due to the fact that I'll be watched more, but my self-confidence is a lot higher, too. And that goes for the whole team."

The team's ambitious objectives include repeating Marco Pinotti's spell in the leader's jersey, stage wins by Mark Cavendish, a win in the opening team time trial and an attempt on the general classification with Tour of Georgia winner Kanstantin Sivtzov.

"Marco's Giro lead was a really important personal achievement last year," said lead Team Director for the Giro Valerio Piva. "Last year he proved he could stay with the strongest riders in the mountains and rode consistently well throughout. He'll want to do the same again in 2008. High Road also puts a huge emphasis on working with our young, up-and-coming riders and Kanstantin is one of them."

"At Georgia he surprised a lot of people, but not us on the team. We knew how hard he'd been training this spring; we could see how lean he was - and how good his form was. At Georgia it all finally came together. Who knows what could happen at the Giro?"

High Road for the Giro d'Italia: Marco Pinotti, Morris Possoni, Kanstantin Sivtsov, Frantisek Rabon, Adam Hansen, Tony Martin, Andre Greipel, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish who is looking forward to proving himself in a Grand Tour.

Strength wins it for "unknown" De Bonis

By Susan Westemeyer

Italian Francesco De Bonis of Gerolsteiner celebrates
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Francesco De Bonis of Gerolsteiner and Astana's Andreas Klöden put on amazing shows of strength Saturday afternoon in 126.5km stage four of the Tour de Romandie from Sion to Zinal. The 26 year-old Italian joined an early escape group and was able to hold on to sprint to the stage win - his first professional win. Klöden held on to his overall lead by nearly single-handedly controlling the chasing group on the final climbs. John Gadret of AG2R finished second in the dramatic finale and Manuel Beltran of Liquigas was third.

"The escape left very early and there was a lot of uncertainty in the middle," De Bonis said. "When I found myself alone, I felt very tired and following Beltran used up a lot of strength. At 100 meters to go I only saw Gadret and I was still very afraid. I didn't believe it until 50 meters before the finish!" His Directeur Sportif, Reimund Dietzen, called it "a dream ride".

The 25 year-old neo-pro took his first pro win in dramatic fashion. He joined an escape group which formed early, and went after the King of the Mountain points. On the final climb, only 20 km or so before the finish, he took off from the remains of the group to take the points that would assure him the coveted jersey, and just kept on going. Beltran caught up with him and the two went under the Flamme Rouge together. Gadret came up from behind and shot past them, looking like he would take the stage. But young De Bonis was not to be denied. He surprised the French rider with a surprise attack and passed him with 100 meters to go, crossing the finish line with a three second advantage and a joyous demonstration.

Only the day before, the Italian had made his mark. He finished 20th in Friday's time trial, as the best of his team, 1'03" behind winner Klöden. It was an impressive performance by the rider who is better known for the climbing abilities he demonstrated Saturday.

Klöden was equally impressive in defending his yellow leader's jersey. Near the end of the race he had only Maxim Iglinsky at his side, and in the end the slender German was on his own. But he showed that he was rightfully team captain and race leader, often leading the pack up the long climbs, fast enough to drop the slower riders off the back and to pick up time on those ahead of him. He goes into the final stage with a lead of 35 seconds over Roman Kreuzgier of Liquigas and 43 seconds over Marco Pinotti of High Road.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour de Romandie's stage four.

Toyota will not renew team's sponsorship

United Pro Cycling Team seeking replacement title sponsor

Toyota United during the Tour de Georgia
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, has decided not to renew its title sponsorship of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team after the end of the 2008 season. The decision coincides with the expiration of the three-year sponsorship agreement signed December 1, 2005. Team Owner Sean Tucker informed his riders, staff and management of the news and said he is looking for a new partner for the 2009 seasons.

"The Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team has performed at a level that truly symbolizes the Toyota way. We have the utmost respect for Sean Tucker, his management, the marketing and PR team, and the athlete riders all of whom have represented us valiantly," said Keith Dahl, National Manager of Engagement Marketing for Toyota. "We accomplished our goals in this three-year term and have since shifted strategies."

"Certainly we have enjoyed our partnership with Toyota these past two and a half years which has been incredibly successful for both organizations with 118 wins in just over two seasons. We will always be grateful for the support Toyota, its dealer network and employees have shown our team and me personally," said Tucker.

"We are looking forward to securing a new partner for the 2009 season in the next 100 days who can benefit from and build their brand by being associated with our world class organization. We are confident another sponsor will capitalize on the value United Pro Cycling Team generates with our 25,000 registered fans, eight-figure annual measurable media exposure, 3.3 million annual onsite spectators and the charitable work our team does in the communities we race in."

Toyota-United is regularly on the start line of America's top stage races, including the Tour of California, Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri. It counts 89 stage wins over a little more than the past two seasons.

Current Toyota-United members hail seven different countries including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Cuba, Serbia and Mexico. The team includes current UCI B World Road Race Champion and 2008 Olympian Ivan Stevic, from Serbia 2008 Tour of California stage four winner and overall sprint jersey winner Dominique Rollin and Mexican National Time Trial Champion Jose Manuel (Chepe) Garcia.

Eibegger Austrian climbing champ

Markus Eibegger of Team Elk Haus successfully defended his title as national mountain champion. Michael Pichler and Hans-Peter Obwaller of RC ARBÖ Wels Gourmetfein finished second and third on the 53.2 kilometre course in Bludenz.

"It was a perfectly organized race: from the barriers, to the audience, to the perfect course," said national trainer Franz Hartl. "And with Markus Eibegger, a strong rider won."

A group of 25 riders headed up the final climb, and the decisive move came seven kilometers before hthe finish. Pichler attacked and Eibegger was the only one who could follow. He subsequently overtook Pichler and fought off further attacks. He won with a ten second advantage over Pichler, who finished ten seconds ahead of Obwaller.

KBS/Medifast collects first win of the season

The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team clocked up its first big win of the 2008 season when the squad took the front for the final eight laps of race three of the USA Crits Speed Week, setting up Alex Candelario for a sprint to the line. The win in the Uptown Greenwood Pro Cycling Challenge came after several top five finishes and a podium placement at the Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic, spelling a return to form for the second-year squad led by Jonas Carney.

"This is how we like to race," said Ken Mills, assistant performance director, Kelly Benefit Strategies. "Our athletes have been coming out and riding super aggressively all week. Last night we had all of our guys riding with strong legs and using their heads to race as a team to shut out competition and take control of the race."

After some early breaks, covered by Ben King, David Veilleux, Martin Gilbert and Brian Bucholz, the full squad took the front from eight laps out and rode the train to set up Candelario, pinching the corners and denying attempts by other racers to come over the train.

"This was smart, aggressive racing," adds Mills, who added that there is more to come.

From Speed Week, the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast team is moving on to the US Air Force Classic in Arlington, Virginia, where they will be racing on "home turf" in front of Maryland-based sponsors Kelly Benefit Strategies and Medifast. After that, the team will be fine-tuning performance and race strategy ahead of Philly Week.

"We've been working hard at making this happen," said Jonas Carney, performance director. "This year we added new riders to the line up and have been trying out some new things in the past few races. It's great to see it all coming together and we'll be going into our next few races and Philly Week with a lot of momentum and confidence."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for live and post-race coverage of the US Air Force Classic on Sunday.

Fast Freddie Foundation camp raises money to support youth health through cycling

The non-profit Fast Freddie Foundation is hosting a training camp in Girona, Spain from September 28 to October 5 to raise money for several non-profit programs supporting youth health through cycling. Participants will enjoy many of the same roads that serve as a training ground for locally-based pro cyclists.

Hosted by three-time US Professional Champion and Giro d'Italia stage winner Freddie Rodriguez in his adopted second hometown, the camp will benefit programs like Team Swift, Tieni Duro Cycling, Northern California Cycling Foundation and The Learning Center of Boulder, Colorado.

For more information, visit

(Additional research and reporting provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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