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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, May 12, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams

The Cobra strikes in Sicily

By Shane Stokes in Agrigento

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

Although just 24 years of age, Italian cyclist Riccardo Riccò has already finished sixth overall in his home tour. He cracked the top ten last year and also won the 15th mountain stage to Auronzo (Tre Cime di Lavaredo).

This year Riccò is back to have a real shot at taking the Maglia Rosa to Milan. He's shown that he is ahead of last year's schedule by winning the first road stage of the race, Sunday's tough 207 kilometre leg from Cefalù to Agrigento.

Riccò was one of six riders who edged ahead of the rest on the final climb, then he outsprinted Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) to the line.

As could be expected, he was delighted with the outcome. "This morning I wanted to win the stage," he stated. "Benitez helped me in the last kilometres and then Piepoli. I was felling well so my team-mates helped me. We made a great sprint and it was good to beat Di Luca because it shows I have great condition."

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He had a frustrating start to the year and is consequently happy to take his first victory of 2008. "I have been very unlucky since the start of the season," he explained. "First of all, I crashed with Valverde on the second stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. Then I crashed again on the stage to Montelupone, and again in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, 300 metres from the finish line. After that, I had a flu just before the Classics.

"I also crashed today when [David] Zabriskie went down. Luckily it was not too serious. In fact, maybe that helped, as it perhaps made me more hungry for the win."

Last time round Riccò had double Giro champion Gilberto Simoni to give him advice and also to deflect some of the pressure. Simoni has moved on from the Saunier Duval Scott team, racing now with the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli squad, but remains close with Riccò. He was asked if it was strange without his former captain.

"I miss him and I don't miss him, because now I have the chance go for myself, to be the leader of the team. Sometime I speak to him on the telephone. We are still friends, we still have a good relationship, but now I am the leader here.

"I have Piepoli who is riding very well...today he and all the team helped me. I have a very good squad behind me."

To read the full winner's feature, click here.

Zabriskie crashes out of Giro

David Zabriskie leaving the Giro
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Slipstream's David Zabriske was forced out of the Giro d'Italia on stage two after coming down in a multi-rider pileup and sustaining a fractured L1 vertebrae. The crash occurred on a railroad crossing with around 55 kilometres of the stage remaining. Astana's Alberto Contador was also involved but the Spaniard was uninjured and able to continue.

Zabriskie had been lying in second overall coming into the day's stage after Slipsteam's team time trial victory on Saturday. According to the team's website, slipstreamsports.com, the American suffered no neurological damage in the crash and will return home in the coming days to continue his recovery.

Zabriskie's team-mate Julian Dean also fell victim to a crash on stage two. The New Zealander sustained scrapes to his left leg but finished the stage, 7'55 down on the winner.

Landis case costing WADA $1.3 million

The appeal by Floyd Landis to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has so far cost the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) nearly $1.3 million dollars (840,000 euros). Chairman of the WADA Finance Committee, Sir Craig Readie, told AFP that WADA had asked the UCI for financial assistance but none was forthcoming. "WADA could not help but get involved with the Landis case by default," said Readie.

WADA's legal director Oliver Niggli explained that the sheer complexity of the Landis case was the reason for such exorbitant legal costs. "The Landis case involves 400 pages of testimony, 6000 documents and five days of hearing," he said.

Niggli said that of WADA's $25 million annual budget, $1.7 million had been spent in the past 18 months on cycling-related doping cases. In contrast, the average cost of litigation for each WADA case is around $10,000.

Suspended for two years in September 2007, Landis presented his appeal to CAS in late March at a hearing in New York. The CAS ruling is expected to be known in June. According to AFP, Landis is expected to have spent approximately two million dollars on his own defence.

The Operación Puerto case has also cost WADA a lot of money, but Niggli said there was little hope of bringing the case to a close in the near future. "In the Puerto case, the Spanish judge has refused to give us access to the blood bags," he said. "We have spent a lot of money without much progress."

At a meeting of its Executive Committee on Saturday, WADA decided to establish a reserve fund of $1.5 million to finance proceedings against athletes convicted of doping.

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

Vervecken denies transfer rumours

Belgian cyclo-crosser Erwin Vervecken has denied recent rumours floating around the Belgian press that he will leave his Fidea team at the start of the 2009 season. Newspaper Het Nieuwsblad had reported that the triple world champion would be riding for the Revor Cycling Team in the new year, but Vervecken told Sporza that nothing was yet decided.

"I have not yet signed for anyone," he said. "And I do not intend to decided quickly. I still have an appointment with someone else next week and have already had some good offers."

Vervecken's current contract expires December 31, 2008, but the 36 year-old, who is also a qualified accountant and web designer, insisted that he has not yet contemplated retirement and may remain with his current team. "It is still not certain that I will leave Fidea," said Vervecken, who has just returned from two weeks training in Portugal. "I started badly (last season) but am not finished yet. I can still win the important races."

McLeod returns to form at South African nationals

At the South African road cycling champions in East London on Sunday, Ian McLeod claimed his first major victory in four years by taking out the 181 kilometre elite men's road race. The 27 year-old from Vereeniging, who had a spell at ProTour team Française des Jeux in 2005, has struggled with injuries in recent years but returned to winning ways with strong support from his MTN Energade team.

"The team won the race today. I was just lucky to be in the right place when the winning move went," said the modest McLeod, who had prepared specifically over the past two months for the national championships. "The course suits me and I knew that if I had the support of the team, I could secure the title. A lot of my teammates rode themselves into a coma for me today so it feels good to have the title in the team as a reward. We all won today, not just me."

McLeod's team had 11 riders in Sunday's race, and ripped the bunch to shreds after 70 kilometres when the peloton hit a strong crosswind. The finish came down to a two-man sprint with McLeod edging out U23 rider Janse Van Rensburg. "Jacques is a classy rider and he rode really well. But he was up against numbers today and as elite's we certainly weren't going to let an under-23 rider beat us all to the finish," said McLeod.

Young Portugese cyclist dies in crash

Brunoi Neves in the Volta a Albufeira
Photo ©: Rui Quinta
(Click for larger image)

The Portugese cycling community is mourning the loss of one its promising young riders after a crash during the Classica de Amarante race on Sunday. Twenty-six year-old Bruno Neves, a member of the La-Mss Povoa Continental team, crashed at around 40 kilometres into the Portugese Cup race and suffered severe injuries. Medical teams attended to the rider immediately, but he died shortly before reaching hospital.

Neves was one of Portugal's best up-and-coming sprinters. He was fifth in the Vuelta a Rioja last month and also had a victory in the Tour of Portugal. The tragedy comes just a day after the anniversary of the death of famous Portugese cyclist Joaquim Agostinho, winner of a Tour de France stage to Alpe d'Huez, who died in an accident on May 10, 1984.

Cyclingnews extends its condolences to the family and friends of Bruno Neves.

(Courtesy Diogo Martin)

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Rui Quinta/CiclismoDigital.com

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