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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, September 17, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Italians go for Bettini

By Bjorn Haake in Zamora

Italy's Paolo Bettini, 34, with eye on the World Championships
Photo ©: Unipublic
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The Italian National road team will go 'all for one' at the World Championships in Varese, September 28. Paolo Bettini will be the protected rider for the squadra azzurra. The decision to build the team around the double World Champion has left some strong riders out, like Filippo Pozzato, who finished second yesterday behind Belgium's Tom Boonen in the Vuelta a España stage 16.

Boonen himself was puzzled by the fact that a strong rider was left out and had said that the Belgian's simply select the strongest riders, whereas the Italians build a team around one man. This may actually benefit the Italians, who have been divided amongst themselves in the past. The clear strategy worked in 2002 when the team backed Mario Cipollini to win in Zolder, Belgium.

Bettini's key domestique, Marzio Bruseghin, agreed with the strategy. "Given the way Bettini is going, he will be one of the favourites. He won the last two, now we will try to get him to win the third," he said to Cyclingnews.

Paolo Tiralongo, Bruseghin's Lampre teammate, described that everything seems set. "Bettini is calm and I think he will have a great Worlds."

Bettini eyes adversaries

Paolo Bettini looking for third Worlds gold
Photo ©:
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Paolo Bettini is keeping watch on his adversaries for the World Championships, September 28, where the 34 year-old Italian has the possibility of making history. If he can battle the likes of Oscar Freire and Philippe Gilbert, Bettini could become the first rider to win the road title three times in a row.

Before Bettini can go on treble – what Georges Ronsse, Rik Van Steenbergen, Rik Van Looy and Gianni Bugno were unable to do after their doubles – he has to battle a strong cast of characters. Something he found difficult in Beijing, when his Spanish rivals overpowered Team Italia.

The course in Varese has 237 metres of climbing over the 17.35-kilometre course, with the men facing 3555 metres of climbing over their 15 laps.

Belgium's Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Tom "Boonen is going strong, but the course is too tough for him. Amongst the Belgians I have the most faith in [Greg] Van Avermaet," Bettini assessed of his rivals, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. Oscar "Freire is always dangerous: it is already two years now that I have been saying that he can win Varese. [Alejandro] Valverde will be third, but you can't let him out of your sights. ... [Philippe] Gilbert, [Nick] Nuyens and [Sylvain] Chavanel will be very strong. I don't have news about the Schlecks."

Bettini did not mention Germany's Stefan Schumacher, but he did point to Linus Gerdemann. "If he is going like he did in August, then that is the stuff needed to win the worlds. He will have to try to drop us, because in the sprint he does not have possibilities."

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'Il Grillo Livornese' is racing in the Vuelta a España, where he has already recorded two stage wins. The second stage win came in dramatic style after he announced he would not be racing for Team Quick Step in 2009. He expects to abandon the race in the coming days to prepare for the treble.

Tour de France to visit Barcelona

The 2009 Tour de France will visit Barcelona 44 years after José Perez-Frances claimed stage victory in the 52nd race edition. The capital of Catalunya is set to host a stage finish and a stage start, July 8 and 9, according to L'Equipe.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Tour de France, announced in December that its 96th edition would start in Monaco, July 4. The race will travel west and arrive in Barcelona in the first week, but it is unknown if the Pyrenees will be tackled before or after the run into the Iberian Peninsula.

Despite a statement by Barcelona's mayor, Jordi Hereu, ASO has not confirmed the news.

Casper exonerated of Tour doping charges

France's Jimmy Casper, 30, cleared of doping charges
Photo ©: AFP
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The French cycling federation's disciplinary commission exonerated Frenchman Jimmy Casper, who tested positive for glucocorticoids during the Tour de France, according to the AFP. Appearing with his lawyer Bertrand Wambeke, the 30 year-old of Team Agritubel pled the problem was to due to un-renewed paperwork.

Casper, an asthmatic, carried a therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for the last twelve years. His authorisation expired on May 29 and was not renewed before the Tour de France, July 5 to 27, and produced a 'positive' control after the stage to Super Besse, July 10.

He will resume with the French team, which temporarily suspended him at the beginning of August following the news of the positive control.

Australia and USA announce Worlds teams

Australian National Champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: Erik Van Breugel
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Cycling Australia and USA Cycling announced their teams for the upcoming World Championships in Varese, Italy. Australia will send nine men to the road race, while the USA can field only six. A number of notable names are missing from both squads, as Australian Cadel Evans will not participate, and George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and National Champion Tyler Hamilton all declined USA nominations.


Australia's nine starters in the elite men's road race will be Allan Davis, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Gross, Adam Hansen, National Champion Matt Lloyd, Trent Lowe, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady and Michael Rogers. Three-time World Champion Rogers and National Champion Hansen will ride the time trial.

The women's team features seven riders in the road race and three in the time trial. The road race will be contested by Natalie Bates, Nikki Egyed, Rochelle Gilmore, Emma Rickards, Carla Ryan, Vicki Whitelaw and National Champion Oenone Wood. For the time trial, National Champion Bridie O'Donnell, Alexis Rhodes and Whitelaw will ride.

The U-23 men's road team is Simon Clarke, Mitchell Docker, Cameron Meyer, Travis Meyer and Wesley Sulzberger. The two Meyers will ride the time trial.


USA will lead with Levi Leipheimer
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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The USA women will be led by Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, who will ride both races. In the road race, she will call on help from Katheryn Curi-Mattis, National Champion Brooke Miller, Amber Neben, Kori Seehafer and Christine Thorburn. Armstrong, Neben and Thorburn will ride the time trial.

Levi Leipheimer will lead the men in the road race. Steven Cozza, Lucas Euser, Tyler Farrar and Craig Lewis back Leipheimer. David Zabriskie and Leipheimer will ride the time trial.

For the U-23 men, Chris Barton, Chad Beyer, Kirk Carlsen, Peter Stetina and Tejay Van Garderen will ride the road race, while Stetina and Van Garderen will also do the time trial. (SW)

Winning day for Quick Step

Team Quick Step was the team of the day on September 16 – the Belgian ProTour team took the 16th stage of the Vuelta a España, the Desselgem GP and the leader's jersey in the Tour de Pologne.

"Tornado Tom" Boonen won his second stage in the Vuelta, giving the team four wins overall. The sprinter will only have one more chance for a stage win in this year's race, as he plans to leave the Vuelta after today's stage to prepare for the World Championships.

Mauro Facci, 26, took his first professional win in Belgium's Desselgem GP. He called it "an incredible feeling," adding "After six years of professional racing, raising my arms in victory at the top of the podium has really affected me."

Allan Davis only joined the team on September 1, but has brought immediate success. He started out with a third place in the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg. At the Tour of Poland, he won the second stage and finished third in Tuesday's third stage, which was enough to give him leader's jersey by four seconds. (SW)

Comings and goings

Rik Verbrugghe, 34, ends a 13-year run
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Alex Rasmussen will ride for Team Saxo Bank next season, as part of what team owner Bjarne Riis called, "a generation switch." The 24 year-old Dane won the national road title in 2007, but is better known for his accomplishments on the track. This year he won a silver medal in the team pursuit in the Beijing Olympics, he was 2005 World Champion in the scratch and this season won the World Cup title in Madison.

"Of course this switch will be extremely tough, but I'll do whatever's in my power to win during my first year with the team," Rasmussen said. Riis called him "a huge talent, who has great potential for a fantastic career as a pro." He added, "we're in the middle of a generation switch and Alex is certainly an important piece of the puzzle."

Geert Verheyen and Denis Flahaut will join the Professional Continental Team Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner. Verheyen, 35, started riding in 1994 with Vlaanderen 2002-Eddy Merckx and rode with Mitsubishi-Jartazi, his eighth team to date. He was Belgian national champion in 2004. Flahaut, 29, is a third-year professional, who this year rode for Saunier Duval/Scott-American Beef. He won a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía this season.

Rik Verbrugghe of Cofidis will ride his final race today, the Grand Prix de Wallonie. The 34-year old broke his collarbone during a crash at the Clasica San Sebastián earlier this summer, which he called "a mentally heavy blow." He hopes to stay involved in cycling.

The Belgian turned professional in 1996 with Lotto, and rode for Quick Step for a year in 2005 before joining Cofidis. His most successful year was in 2001, as he won the Flèche Wallonne and Criterium International, as well as the prologue of the Giro d'Italia and a stage in the Tour de France. He has also won two stages in the Giro d'Italia. (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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