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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 26, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Italians with home court advantage

By Bjorn Haake

The Kronplatz was cleared for the arrival of the Giro d'Italia mountain time trial
Photo ©: Press al plan
(Click for larger image)

Ex-professional Davide Cassani, who now commentates bicycle races for the Italian RAI television channel, previews each stage in the early spring. RAI shows a clip preceding each stage, with Cassani pointing out the key sections, scenic beauties and tourist attractions. Often, he will catch up with other riders, be it just a cyclotourist or maybe an Italian junior racer, to give each clip a unique theme.

But the special stage up to the Plan de Corones required a special invite and several of Italian's key riders followed Cassani's call to head up the climb in the early spring, when skiers were more likely to be found on the top than cyclists. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) and Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) were among the good dozen people who wanted to get an early glimpse on one of the toughest stages in this year's Giro d'Italia.

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The group started out together, but after almost eight kilometres, when they took the sharp left to hit the gravel part, the group had thinned. Cassani tackled the first switchbacks of the five-kilometre long unpaved section with some of the favourites. Despite the snow clearance, the gravel roads were hard to handle and in just one hairpin turn, Bruseghin – despite his front wheel slipping and sliding – had gapped Cassani by a good 15 metres.

This showed just how hard the race will be today, even if it may stay dry. It takes power and some cyclo-cross skills. With the dirt spraying up, most in fact did look like cyclo-race racers after just five kilometres on the dirt part. A concerned looking Di Luca, who had 'attacked' and left the others behind, mumbled "34-29" into the camera. If the Italian will indeed use that kind of gearing for the slope with a maximum gradient of 24 percent, remains to be seen this afternoon. Chances are that at race pace he may find it a bit easier heading to the top.

While at the time the riders were followed by the RAI crew in cars, no such luxury is on order today. Follow cars are not allowed. Only a motorbike with spare wheels will be able to stay behind the racers. The last batch of riders will go off at 15:00, at one-minute intervals. The last twenty riders will be spaced three minutes apart. From the above riders, Pellizotti is the first to leave, at 16:13, just ahead of Simoni. Bruseghin starts at 16:22, followed by Di Luca and Riccò. The last rider to go off is maglia rosa Alberto Contador, who will start his adventure at 16:31.

The prediction for today? If the pre-ride was anything to go by, then Di Luca will finish ahead of Simoni, Pellizotti and Bruseghin...

Giro mountain time trial underway

By Susan Westemeyer

With exactly 50 riders in, the Giro's mountain time trial is showing exactly how difficult it is. The best of the group so far was Saunier Duval's Raffaele Illiano, with a time of 44'27. Behind him are a variety of sprinters, with times ranging from Diquigiovanni's Danilo Hondo at 47'49, to 48'59 for High Road's Mark Cavendish. Markus Eichler of Milram, who is writing a Giro diary for Cyclingnews, was the last in GC going into the day, making him the first to leave, at 10:00. He won't be the last on this stage, though, with his 49'58.

There may be a number of riders dropped today because of the time limit, which is at 25 percent. With the current best time this would be 11 minutes and seven seconds. The last placed rider for the moment is Thomas Fothen of Gerolsteiner. The 25 year-old came in at 53'48, which is already nearly nine and a half minutes down. If one of the favourites put in a stellar performance, the Gerolsteiner team may be reduced to just two by the end of the day.

Follow the rest of the time trial on Cyclingnews' live coverage later this afternoon.

The current standings after the first batch of riders

1 Raffaele Illiano (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni      44.27
2 Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Française des Jeux               0.04
3 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank                              0.13
4 Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone     0.37
5 Adam Hansen (Aus) Team High Road                          0.48

Menchov climbs up the overall

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) climbed well so far
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Denis Menchov of Rabobank continues to improve in the Giro d'Italia, using a seventh place finish in Sunday's Queen stage to move up to fifth overall, only 1'20 behind overall leader Alberto Contador. The top six riders are now all within 1'26 of each other on the GC. "The leaders are extremely well matched, you saw that again today," Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink said Sunday.

The five favourites were all together on the final climb. "The final three kilometres were extremely tough," said Breukink on the team's website, "Everyone who had something left tried, but everyone reached his limit at some point in a tough stage like that."

As fifth overall, Menchov starts in today's mountain time trial at 16:19 "We will see the same guys as the last couple of days," Breukink predicted. "Riccò, Simoni, Menchov, Contador. It is hard to tell what their shape in comparison to the others is. That is what is fun about this Giro. It is an open and unpredictable tour."(SW)

Fröhlinger's "legs exploded"

Gerolsteiner's Johannes Fröhlinger didn't get a good start Sunday. He and room-mate Thomas Fothen "really froze in a much too cold hotel room. I promptly woke up with a sore throat." He was still able to tackle the arguably toughest stage on Sunday, though.

On the Passo di Gaiu, "I tried to ride in the front. But I could keep up with the high speed for only one kilometre. Then my legs exploded," Fröhlinger noted on He ended up in a large group, ahead of the gruppetto, which cooperated well. "The last kilometre today to the finish on Fedaia seemed, like yesterday, never to end," the 22 year-old said. "All in all, I survived the Queen stage without major problems." Team Gerolsteiner is now down to only three riders, "but we will do all we can, that we all make it to Milano."(SW)

Meyer claims Tour of Japan

By Gennie Sheer

Cameron Meyer took the overall win in Japan
Photo ©: Miwako Sasaki
(Click for larger image)

West Australian Cameron Meyer has taken out the Tour of Japan, heading the outfit that also claimed victory in the teams classification. After team-mate Wesley Sulzberger took an early lead, Meyer jumped into first place in stage 6, one day after he propelled himself up into second on the tough time trial up the Mt. Fuji.

Meyer held a slim one-second margin over compatriot Jai Crawford from the Trek - Marco Polo Cycling Team, but was able to double that by the end of the race.

"It feels really good to win because I haven't won a Tour overall for a while, so it's good to show some form and get the result," said Meyer, whose last overall stage race win was in 2007 in the Tour of Tasmania.

"Today was a bit nerve wracking mainly because it was pouring rain and we only had one second up our sleeves, so we had to be alert the whole day," said Meyer. "But we were still confident because we've been riding really well as a team and we backed me as being faster than Jai in the sprint."

The team had hoped a break would go away early to neutralise the intermediate sprints but aggressive racing early on saw the main bunch contest the first intermediate sprint at around the 50-kilometre mark of the stage.

"We had to line up for the first sprint with Marco Polo working for Jai and my guys led me out," said Meyer, who edged Crawford out for third place and a one-second bonus.

Read the full race report.

Domínguez: From weekend warrior to professional racer

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Sergio Domínguez is a promising rider
Photo ©: Antonio J. Salmerón
(Click for larger image)

The story of Sergio Domínguez is one of the more unlikely ones in the world of cycling. Encouraged by a weekend cycling friend, the 22 year-old rider took part in a local under 23 race. " I caught the attention of the now defunct Sotec team." That happened three years ago. Now, Sergio Domínguez is racing for the Continental Professional team Contentpolis-Murcia.

Dominguez has gained the confidence of his directeur sportif, Ginés García. "He is very courageous and I am very surprised to see his great performance in the races, despite his very short career as a professional cyclist. That is why he must still refine his racing ways, but he learns very quickly and well," García told Cyclingnews.

Dominguez is one of the Contentpolis-Murcia's riders who is doing the most races, and among his more veteran team-mates he ranks as having a great future ahead.

Dominguez summed up that "The season has been very good; for Contentpolis-Murcia, as well as for me. I am very happy because I am helping my team-mates as much as I can. I am having good sensations, and I think I'm adjusting to the professional category better than expected, although I am confident that the best of me is yet to come. I hope to have some success in the future."

In his second year as U-23 rider, Dominguez reached the silver medal in the national time trial race.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Antonio J. Salmerón

Ullrich to testify on whether he doped?

Jan Ullrich may have to testify in court as to whether he was using illegal doping products or methods while he was with Team Coast in 2003. A court in Düsseldorf, Germany, is hearing a case between Ullrich and Günther Dahms, the former team owner. "I can confirm that the senate plans to ask Mr. Ullrich to testify as to whether he doped or not," court spokesman Ulrich Thole told the dpa press agency.

Ullrich rode for Team Coast for four months, before the team ran out of money and was taken over by Bianchi. Ullrich is suing Dahms to recover unpaid salary from those four months, which totals about half a million euro, including interest. Dahms has refused to pay, saying that he assumed that Ullrich had doped during that time period, which would have been a contract violation.

It would be the first time that Ullrich has addressed the question of doping under oath.(SW)

Zaballa distressed about LA-MSS drug raid

'Tino' Zaballa is not happy about the drug raid
Photo ©: João Dias
(Click for larger image)

Spanish rider Constantino Zaballa, who rides for the Portuguese LA-MSS squad, is distressed about the recent drug raid at the team's headquarters, about one week ago. So far, there was no word from the officials about the outcome and Zaballa is concerned about "the damage done to the team in general and to me in particular." Zaballa decided to publish a statement because "even though the PJ [Judicial Police - ed.]has still not released identities; there are baseless accusations against me and other team-mates."

Zaballa wanted to make clear that "according to my directeur sportif, Manuel Zeferino, neither medication nor banned substances were found in the search of the headquarters. What could have been found in the houses of some riders, I have no information. All I know is that there was a leak in the media." He continued to say that there is no "formal complaint against me from the judicial or federal parties against me."

Zaballa emphasised that "being part of the LA-MSS Póvoa team, I can assure that I never participated in any kind of doping practice." He also refuted any kind of involvement in Operación Puerto. "It has been two years since, and based on being neither accused nor sanctioned, I feel I have been abandoned by the federation and lynched by the press. I have suffered tremendous damage, both in my sports and economical career. Above all, and even though many doors have closed for me, I have worked intensively and with illusion to return to be a cyclist," Zaballa indicated he was not happy with the latest news.

He closed the statement by reiterating that "I have nothing to do with any kind of doping practice." He attributed his recent successes in the last couple of weeks solely to the work he is putting in in training and concluded that "I reserve the right to take legal actions against those media and persons that made accusations, which could threaten my dignity and my honour.

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