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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, February 22, 2009

Edited by Sue George & Les Clarke

Basso injured in Solvang

By Kirsten Robbins in Solvang, California

No TT for Basso...
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian Ivan Basso was forced to pull out of the Tour of California before the start of the stage six time trial held in Solvang. He had an unfortunate accident while pre-riding the course early Friday morning, resulting in an injured left knee.

"I'm not very bad but I'm not very good either," Basso told Cyclingnews. "The problem was very simple. I did the course for training and I hit my knee on the aero bars. I could pedal the rest of training but my knee was getting bigger and very warm and I could not feel it."

Basso damaged his the right side of his left knee. Chief medical doctor Ramin Modabber informed Basso that he had a severe hematoma and possible tendonitis. "I took some medicine for the pain but the doctors told me that continuing on my bike would be dangerous for my knee," said Basso who was told to take three days off the bike. "I have a lot of inflammation and it is very risky."

Basso felt that if he could have participated in the time trial he may have been able to finish with a good performance. "I feel very bad because I wanted to continue because it is a fantastic race. But I think to do this time trial with my leg in this condition, it may have gotten worse."

Liquigas' leader at the Tour of California was using the race as the second phase of a three-tiered training program designed to improve his fitness before the Giro d'Italia in May. He admitted that he would not have ridden faster than riders like Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie or Michael Rogers but the event would have given him a good indication of his conditioning.

"My expectation was to do fantasitc time trial," Basso said. "I feel good in the last days and I could do well, not the best, but good. My form is not really one hundred percent."

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Basso will stay in the United States for an undetermined amount and continue to see his team doctor for physical therapy. "I have a good orthopedic doctor here at the race so I will see him and then make a plan to go home."

Leipheimer basks in TT glory

By Kirsten Robbins in Solvang, California

Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) smashed the Tour of California's 24-kilometre time trial for the third consecutive year, besting his previous course record by eight seconds with a time of 30:41. He extended his overall lead to 36 seconds over David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream), and according to the Santa Rosa native there is more to a time trial win than just knowing the course.

"I think we all know the course, we know the facts, the lefts and rights, ups and downs... that's not really about knowing it," said Leipheimer, who gave tips on how to prepare for a time trial. "It's more about the sensations and dealing with high expectations. It's about having the confidence and the history of having won it twice before. It's about dealing with the pressure and using it to continue the streak – that was my the big advantage."

The time trial was once again held on the well-known out-and-back course through the Santa Ynez Valley. Though short by many standards, the steep climb up Ballard Canyon combined with a technical descent separated the times. The quaint Danish town Solvang hosts some of the ProTour teams annually for training camps, so riders vying for the overall had previewed the course multiple times.

His winning time of 30:41 was fast enough win the event by eight seconds ahead of the US national time trial champion, Zabriskie. Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank) finished 17 seconds behind Leipheimer with a time of 30:58 for third place.

"It gets more special every time," said Leipheimer. "This is more special because only eight seconds is not much. I consider Dave [Zabriskie] one of the best time trialists in the world and in the history of American cycling."

There was a flurry of emotion at the finish line when Zabriskie arrived with the fastest time of the day, with only one rider left on course – Levi. Zabriskie is the only American rider to have won a stage in all three Grand Tours, and has proved to be back on form after another potentially life-threatening accident in last year's Giro d'Italia. He recovered from a broken vertebrae in his neck to win the US national time trial title, followed by a bronze medal in the world time trial championships.

"Not to blow hot air against Dave, but I really respect him because he has been a three-time national champion and one of the best," he continued. "For him to show up here and be in great shape and be so tight to me makes this a special victory. Also Michael [Rogers] is a three-time world champion. It has been a big honour for me to win this with riders like that here. It really was a great race."

Contador asks to race with Armstrong before Tour

Alberto Contador (Astana) asks to race with Armstrong before Tour de France
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Contador is pushing to race along side Astana teammate Lance Armstrong prior to the Tour de France. The triple Grand Tour winner believes it will be possible for them to test the team's unity at next month's Vuelta a Castilla y León.

The call comes in light of the fact both riders see the Tour as their season's biggest event. "I think that it would be good to share the team at least one time during a race. Because at the Tour we have to be a united front," Contador told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The original team plan was for Armstrong to meet with Contador for the first time at the 2009 Tour de France, July 4 to 26. Both riders are experienced – Armstrong has seven Tour wins and Contador one – but the Spanish star would like to sure up any details prior to July.

"I believe that Armstrong and I can race together at the Castilla y León [March 23 to 27]. I spoke with Lance while we were in California [during an Astana training camp]: neither of us have any problems with the other."

The two met in California for a team training camp, February 1 to 10. Armstrong is currently competing in the Tour of California and Contador is at the Volta ao Algarve.

Contador showed impressive early season form in Friday's stage three with a second place finish on of the race's toughest stages. He won the time trial on Saturday and looks likely to claim the overall title when the race ends tomorrow. (GB)

Vandborg back in the big league with Liquigas

By Kirsten Robbins in Solvang, California

Vandborg's back, and working hard in California.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Brian Vandborg has had his share of ups and downs during his five years as a professional, but the Danish rider is back in the ProTour after a year spent with a continental squad in his home country. He is now looking forward to a season of working with Ivan Basso, his former teammate at CSC.

In 2006, Vandborg had a breakthrough performance at the world championships time trial, placing fourth after holding the fastest time for much of the day. He signed a two-year contract with the Discovery Channel team, but when that squad folded at the end of 2007, his career came to a virtual standstill.

"I supposedly had a two-year contract with Discovery, and I didn't have my best year  but I thought I did OK. Then the team stopped and so did my contract," Vandborg told Cyclingnews

The team ended after failing to find a replacement sponsor in August of 2007, rather late in the year for starting new contract negotiations. "That was a tough time to find a new team for last year. So I was riding on a Danish continental team, and it was kind of hard for me to stay motivated."

Vandborg rode with Basso at CSC from 2004-2006, and then again for the brief period in 2007 when the Italian was also on the Discovery Channel team. He was able to use the connection with Basso to get a contract on the Italian's Liquigas squad. "I've been on teams with Ivan for three-and-a-half years, and he knows what I stand for. He knows that I'm loyal and that if I have a job to do I will do it."

His work for Basso ended on Friday however, when the Italian dropped out of the Tour of California after injuring his knee in the warm-up for the time trial (see above).

Vandborg, a time trial specialist, said he wanted to do something special in Solvang, but was not feeling up to it. "I wanted to go as hard as I can – it's a Danish city and I'm from Denmark, but I just cruised it.  I'm having some asthma troubles – the rain made all that happen.

"It was better to just try and recover and hopefully do something over the following two days."

He finished in 49th place, 2:35 behind stage winner and overall leader Levi Leipheimer, and was his team's second top finisher behind Vincenzo Nibali, who placed 28th.

Hamilton holds back in Solvang

Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) enjoys
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Rock Racing's Tyler Hamilton had to hold the reins on his time trial efforts in the Tour of California on Friday, saving himself to work for his team leaders Oscar Sevilla and Francisco Mancebo rather than going for the stage win.

The time trial has historically been one of Hamilton's strongest events, and his palmares include an Olympic gold medal, albeit a controversial one, in the discipline. "I hate having to ride easy in a time trial because it's always been my event. Sometimes you have to weigh your options and do what's best for the team. It's better for me to be up the road in a breakaway tomorrow or Sunday."

Hamilton will focus his efforts on helping to maintain Mancebo's lead in the Mountains classification and his position on the overall classification. "For me to go hard today would be selfish. What's best for the team is what's best for me."

Had he wanted to do well on Friday, Hamilton would have been frustrated from the get-go as his time trial came to an abrupt halt in the first few kilometres.

"I was shifting down into the 11 and I hit a bump and the chain jammed," Hamilton explained. He was forced to stop and correct the problem, but luckily it didn't interfere with his plans for the day.

"I was planning on going easy today anyhow. I was just going to rest. My form's not really so good right now. Rather than busting my ass trying to be in the top 15, it's better to rest up for tomorrow."

It was surprising to hear that his form wasn't good, as he featured in the day's breakaway on stage four and has been busy setting tempo for Mancebo after the Spaniard took the leader's jersey on stage one. "I've been suffering to be honest. I rode my butt off [on stage four], but I paid for it yesterday – I was really tired."

Hamilton finished the day in 93rd place.

Big support for Tour of the Gila

After last week announcing that the Tour of the Gila 2009 may not happen, event organiser Jack Brennan announced that the race will continue this season. It's welcome news for the local community, and despite financial difficulties, the 23d edition of this race will be held from April 29 to May 3, 2009. The prize list will be reduced by 15 per cent for all categories, and the search for a title sponsor continues.

Brennan said in a statement that, "Since the announcement that the race was facing financial difficulties, which might force cancellation of this year’s event, we have been gratified by the outpouring of support from the local community, and the racing community at large. Many people have stepped forward to help make up the financial shortfall.

"We have been inundated with calls from racers who want to know how they can help the race continue. If you want to help and can’t afford to contribute then the next best thing you can do is come to the race, and bring as many friends as possible. The money raised from entry fees will be vital to meeting this year’s budget."

All those interested in contributing to the race at any level should contact Jack Brennan via email.

Tech videos fresh from California

The Cyclingnews' tech video section is updated with two new inside looks at the bikes of the Tour of California: Robert Gesink's Giant TCR Advanced SL and Ivan Basso's Cannondale Slice Hi-Mod.

Our own James Huang walks you through the ins and outs of what makes their bikes some of the best in the professional peloton. Both are bikes directly from the European peloton, but built by American manufacturers.

For more on the Tour of California and related tech items see the race's main page.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2009)