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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, November 17, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Bruyneel: Armstrong can win any race

Johan Bruyneel thinks Lance Armstrong can win any stage race
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Astana Team Manager Johan Bruyneel believes seven-time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong will be up for the fight when he returns to racing. The duo will confront their first Grand Tour together in nearly four years at the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31.

"A great rider can win any stage race. From what I know, the route of the next Giro seems good. There are steep climbs, but also enough time trial kilometres," the Belgian explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Race organiser RCS Sport will announce the 2009 Giro d'Italia parcours on December 13. Details leaked already include a start in Venice and the finale is expected to be in Rome. Armstrong announced in October he will race the event for the first time next.

The 37-year-old American will face a host of strong rivals at the Giro, but Bruyneel has guaranteed his support after securing two previous Giro victories – Paolo Savoldelli in 2005 and Alberto Contador in 2008.

"Ivan Basso, who is returning from a suspension, will be the hardest rival to beat. Damiano Cunego? The Italians will all be ready, but Basso was the only one capable to battle Armstrong in two Tours."

Armstrong will start his season at the Tour Down Under and build towards the Giro d'Italia with the Tour of California, the Critérium International and Ronde van Vlaanderen. Bruyneel refuted Armstrong's earlier statement that he would ride all the Spring Classics.

"No Amstel [Gold], Flèche [Wallonne] and Liège [-Bastogne-Liège]. We will do some mountain stages, to study the key stage of the Giro d'Italia. Leading [to the Giro] we will go to [Tour de] Romandie and the Giro del Trentino."

Bruyneel confirmed that the Tour de France is still up for consideration. The two asked for a meeting with the race's organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), to discuss the idea.

Savoldelli: Armstrong is one-up on his rivals

Paolo Savoldelli, r, leads Lance Armstrong in yellow at the 2005 Tour de France
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Recently retired Paolo Savoldelli believes his former-teammate Lance Armstrong is a notch above the competition. The Bergamo native expects 2009 to hold more successes for the American who announced his comeback earlier this year.

"They tried to cut him down in every way, but it was not possible. I can guarantee to you that there is no magic potion, I raced with him, believe me, he has something more than the others," said Savoldelli to Tuttosport.

Savoldelli turned professional in 1996 and went on to win two editions of the Giro d'Italia. He was a teammate of Armstrong in 2005 and helped him achieve one of his seven Tour de France wins.

"He loves to stay at the centre of attention, in the limelight. ... He carried out tests before announcing his return and he understands that he can still win. He is starting early on, debuting in January, because he needs a base. He will be at the Giro but his objective is to win the Tour."

Armstrong announced his return to the sport this September. It will be three and a half since he last raced at the sport's highest level when he lines up for the Tour Down Under, January 18 to 25.

Savoldelli competed against many of cycling's biggest names in his years as a professional. He believes Armstrong made the biggest impact on him – more than Marco Pantani, Gilberto Simoni, Ivan Basso and Damiano Cunego. "Armstrong was above all. I raced in the same team and he is an extraordinary character, truly unique."

Savoldelli co-captained Team LPR at this year's Giro d'Italia. He announced his retirement in July.

Visconti welcomes Cipollini

Giovanni Visconti in pink at the Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Giovanni Visconti will welcome the presence of sprint great Mario Cipollini to Team ISD. The Italian, 25, will lead the newly formed Italian-Ukrainian team, which announced the addition of the former World Champion as a technical consultant last week.

"We had dinner together and I saw what he could offer to this new project. Mario has ideas to better many aspects of the team," said Giovanni to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Visconti ends a two-year contract with Team Quick Step to join ISD. Luca Scinto and Angelo Citracca will direct him and the rest of the team, which will have a unique centre based in Toscana.

"If the new team of Scinto was not born then maybe I would not have changed. I could not say no to them. I am happy with the idea of returning to the motivations and the life that I had as an amateur with teammates in San Baronto. Also, Cipollini will train with us."

Visconti held the leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia this year for eight days and won a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía and the GP de Fourmies. Next season, though, will be the first one that he will ride as a true captain.

"I need to have a certain responsibility. I know that I will be closely attended to at ISD."

Vinokourov: Don't call me stupid

Alexander Vinokourov continues to deny blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France. The Kazakh rider, 35, is planning to come back to Team Astana after his one-year suspension, he said in an interview while attending a trade show in the Netherlands last week.

"Do you really think I was so stupid?" he asked in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "Everyone knows that you can easily be caught for a blood transfusion. What did I have left to win in the Tour to take such a risk? After my crash I had already lost my high GC ranking."

Vinokourov dropped from 12th to 81st after a crash in the 2007 Tour's fifth stage. He came back to win the stage 13 time trial. He crashed again the next day and lost nearly 29 minutes, but came back on the 15th stage to win the 'Queen Stage' in Le Louron.

Officials announced the next day that he tested positive for blood doping after the time trial.

Team Astana suspended Vinokourov and withdrew from the Tour. His national federation later gave him a one-year suspension. He recently announced his intentions to return with Team Astana this spring.

He has consistently denied doping and said that his early crash in the 2007 Tour, which caused deep cuts in his right knee, may have been responsible for the positive control. "I have no proof, but it is clear that my blood values were not in order after that fall," he said.

Vinokourov believes that his case was not thoroughly examined. The International Cycling Union (UCI) hardened its positions in light of Operación Puerto, he said, and he had to pay the price. "I was tested positive and I had to hang. ... I continue to say that the laboratory got it wrong."

"Some will always doubt my honesty. ... If I say that never used doping, some will never believe me. I have never used prohibited substances.

"I still want to prove myself on the bicycle. I want to show the world that I ride without doping and that I can still win the big races." (SW)

USGP leader Johnson forced to watch from the sidelines

By Kirsten Robbins in West Windsor, New Jersey

Tim Johnson of Team
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

USA's Tim Johnson of Team was forced to give up his USGP lead and watch Sunday's Mercer Cup, series round four, after a torn bursa on his kneecap prevented him from pedalling. The US national cyclo-cross champion took the USGP leader's jersey after winning Saturday's Mercer Cup, series round three.

"This was the toughest race to have to watch today," Johnson told Cyclingnews while watching the race. "It's not a bad accident. It's just something that happens in 'cross." Johnson crashed into a wooden stake while on his way to victory during the previous day's event.

"It hurt when I was riding and I saw a hole on my knee and some blood but I didn't realise how bad it was until later. I went to see the doctor and he gave me told me that I broke the bursa on the top of my knee cap and gave me some medicine."

According to Johnson, his doctors expected his knee to heal with several days of rest. However, the points lost in the USGP standings are quite possibly irreparable. "There are still two races in Portland but I lost so much today."

Todd Wells took over the USGP leader's jersey after winning the round four event. The newly crowned leader acknowledged Johnson's setback after his podium presentation.

"I'm sure it would have been a different race today because he's riding so strong this year and these were great conditions for him," said Wells. "It's a bummer that he's injured."

Albert to leave ICU

Cyclo-cross rider Niels Albert can leave the intensive care unit of the university clinic in Gent, Belgium, this afternoon. The Belgian suffered a torn spleen when he crashed Sunday while warming up for the Superprestige race in Gavere.

"Then we will transfer him as soon as possible to a hospital nearer to his home," said his manager Christoph Roodhooft to Monday morning.

Albert, 22, is expected to stay in hospital another four to five days. (SW)

Sinkewitz confirmed for Czech team

German Patrik Sinkewitz confirmed he will ride for Team PSK Whirlpool for the coming season. He signed a one-year contract last week with the Czech Professional Continental team.

The 28-year-old served a one-year ban, which ended this summer, for testosterone doping. Authorities gave him a reduced suspension for cooperation.

Sinkewitz, who rode for T-Mobile at the time, said that he had never given up hope of finding a new team in an interview with that appeared on his website,

"I have always believed in myself and my comeback I made mistakes. I know that and I have to admit it. I have to live with this and cope with it. But don't I also have the right to leave the past behind me and start new again?" (SW)

Stay tuned for a Q&A with Sinkewitz later today.

Meyer wins with injury

Australian Cameron Meyer, 20, won the points race in the Oceania Track Championships Friday night even though he crashed during the race and injured his shoulder. The incident forced him to pull out of the event later on in the evening.

Meyer, who will ride for Team Garmin in the coming season, fell on the same left shoulder he dislocated in 2005. "I've hurt my left shoulder again, but it's not dislocated this time and it should settle in the next few days," he told the AAP press agency.

Meyer had lapped the field in the points race, when he went down with 50 laps to go in the 120 lap race. He was able to rejoin the field, and escaped again. He won ahead of fellow Australian James Langedyk.

He planned to ride the team pursuit in the championships, but decided not to ride that race in order to allow his injuries to heal in time for the upcoming World Cup in Melbourne. (SW)

Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer

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