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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, March 16, 2009

Edited by Gregor Brown

Klöden eyes Scarponi ahead of Tirreno's final testing day

Andreas Klöden keeps watch Tirreno-Adriatico's final testing day
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tirreno-Adriatico race leader Andreas Klöden will keep an eye on Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni-Androni) in the race's final testing day. The German of Team Astana has a 21-second overall lead on Italy's Scarponi ahead of a demanding 235-kilometre stage today.

"I think Scarponi is my most dangerous rival," said Klöden to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He had a great time trial and the parcours of this grand stage is suited to him."

Klöden took over the race lead when he won the 30-kilometre time trial Sunday. He finished 20 seconds up on Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), 21 seconds on Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad) and Scarponi.

"The stage was to my liking; always up and down. The first eight kilometres were very difficult."

Today's stage in Le Marche, from Civitanova Marche to Camerino, features only two categorised climbs, but the day contains many unclassified ascents that will test Klöden's overall advantage – six seconds over Lövkvist and 21 seconds on Scarponi. The day ends with a 4.5-kilometre (unclassified) climb to Camerino.

"I have to pay attention to my young rivals as well: Lövkvist and [Vincenzo] Nibali. Scarponi is the danger man, but I will watch out for Di Luca, who I expect will make an attempt to win."

Klöden has the support of six Astana teammates to win Tirreno-Adriatico, which he won in 2007. He also has the encouragement from teammate Lance Armstrong, who is training in southern France. "Good luck today Klodi!" he wrote on his blog website.

Broken bones for Thomas

Geraint Thomas recovering from Tirreno-Adriatico crash
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Geraint Thomas of Barloworld went over the edge during Sunday's Tirreno-Adriatico time trial in Macerata. Despite a horrific-looking crash, he was able to leave the hospital and return to the team hotel that evening.

The Briton had the second best time at the first time check, but shortly thereafter, "he misjudged the trajectory of a right turn on downhill, hit the guard rail and dropped for several metres," said Directeur Sportif Valerio Tebaldi. "It appeared really bad at the time."

X-rays at the hospital in Macerata showed the injuries only to be bruises, a broken nose and broken pelvis ischium (in the pelvis-hip joint).

"It could have been a much worse diagnosis," said team doctor Massimiliano Mantovani. "He will need 20 days of complete rest, but tonight he will spend the night at the hotel with the team."

Thomas, 22, won the gold medal in the team pursuit at the Beijing Olympics last summer. He has been with Barloworld since 2007. (SW)

Scarponi backed Diquigiovanni for Tirreno's Camerino stage

Diquigiovanni's Michele Scarponi out for overall in Tirreno-Adriatico
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Michele Scarponi has a strong Diquigiovanni-Androni team-backing heading into Tirreno-Adriatico's toughest day. Two-time Giro d'Italia champion Gilberto Simoni and Classics champion Davide Rebellin will be support him on his home roads in Le Marche.

"With Rebellin at my side anything is possible," said Scarponi to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We are a strong team and this hard stage is suited to us. We will come up with something to upset [Andrea] Klöden's lead."

The riders face the race's most demanding stage today in Le Marche, 235 kilometres. Two categorised climbs – Cingoli and Sasso Tetto – and many unmarked smaller climbs will explode the overall classification by this evening. The final rankings will likely be the same when the race ends after tomorrow's sprinters' stage in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Klöden maintains the leader classification's blue jersey by six seconds on Lövkvist and 21 seconds on Scarponi. However, there are six riders within 1:07 of the overall lead.

Scarponi moved from 10th to third overall after Sunday's 30-kilometre time trial. It was a surprise performance by the rider from Jesi.

"I have never finished so well in a time trial. Certainly, racing on home roads was important, but it was not enough. This result is the proof of the hard work over the winter.

"I raced the prologue of the Ruta del Sol this year, but I can't recall my last true crono. Even if I don't have the body of a true time trial rider, I am capable of pulling off a good run."

The time of 41:53 almost didn't happen. The team's manager, Gianni Savio, woke up Scarponi from a nap only two minutes before his start time.

"I lost track of time. Luckily Savio came and woke me up; he saved my time trial."

Scarponi's last race win was in 2007 – a stage and overall of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. He served a suspension in late 2007 and early 2008 for his involvement in Operación Puerto.

Colom set on País Vasco after Paris-Nice win

Antonio Colom, l, sprints for win on the final day of Paris-Nice
Photo ©: AFP
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Antonio Colom rocketed ahead of Alberto Contador (Astana) and Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) to win the final stage of Paris-Nice Sunday on France's Riviera. The Spaniard of Katusha hopes the result bodes well for the Vuelta a País Vasco next month.

"I am very happy I won the stage, although the general classification leaves a bitter taste in my mouth," he said.

The 30-year-old lost time early on in the French stage race, known as the Race to the sun. He finished 1:47 down from overall winner Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) after eight days of racing.

"Unfortunately, I lost a minute and a half on the flat stages, which were marked by high winds. And I had some problem of bronchitis."

Colom's saving grace was the 119-kilometre final stage in Nice. He worked with Schleck to reel in Contador in the final 14 kilometres. Colom maintained position under constant attacks from Contador.

"I waited for the final climb to attack and bring back Contador, who was in the lead with a thirty-second advantage. We arrived as a group and I was able to pull off a great sprint."

Colom, winner of two other races this year, said that his goal is now the Vuelta a País Vasco, April 6 to 11, in Northern Spain. He finished 11th overall in 2007.

Ballan focusing on Roubaix

Alessandro Ballan with wife Daniela
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After his dazzling World Championship victory in Varese last year, Alessandro Ballan has his work cut out coming up with something equally impressive for 2009. The Italian finds time in his busy schedule to tell Procycling what he has up his multi-coloured sleeves...

Alessandro Ballan carries a heavy weight throughout the 2009 season – the title of UCI World Road Champion. While many have found the rainbow coloured jersey a curse in the year after their worlds win, Ballan is hoping to leverage its credibility and his form to boost his profile throughout the year.

The Italian's initial focus for the season is next month's Paris-Roubaix. While Ballan's Grand Tour plans are yet to be formalized, Ballan plans on arriving in Roubaix velodrome alone this year, having finished third in last year's three man sprint.

Procycling: Last year was a big year for you, culminating in that win at the road race championships in Varese, Italy in September. How do you plan to follow that up in 2009?

Alessandro Ballan: My objectives for this season will be more difficult to achieve, I think. Because I'm now wearing the rainbow jersey, I'll be more heavily marked by the other teams, especially towards the end of each race. But winning the rainbow jersey has had a lot of positive effects, too. For starters, it has given me a greater awareness of my full strength and capabilities.

The first main objective on my race calendar is Paris-Roubaix. I'm hoping that, with the mental strength the win in Varese has given me, I stand a chance of winning at Roubaix.

Read the full interview.

Ceramica Flaminia's riders affected by intestinal virus

Italian Champion Filippo Simeoni (Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Ceramica Flaminia's sprinter Enrico Rossi and Leonardo Giordani left Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race prior to Sunday's time trial due to an intestinal virus.

"It was a difficult day for us today at Tirreno-Adriatico," read a press release. "Both Leonardo Giordani and Enrico Rossi were forced to return home to recover from the intestinal virus that knocked them out."

Rossi, brother of Riccardo Riccò's fiancee, has had a great early season with second in the GP Insubria and third in Trofeo Laigueglia. He continued his performances with a third place behind USA's Tyler Farrar in Friday's Tirreno-Adriatico stage three.

The Italian team, registered in Ireland, continues on in the seven-day race with two more stages remaining: 235 kilometres to Camerino and the final 169-kilometre stage to San Benedetto del Tronto.

"Giampaolo Caruso and Filippo Simeoni both have a fever and Mikhaylo Khalilov began to complain of various pains. We hope they are recovered for the Camerino stage."

The team's remaining six riders face today's two categorised climbs – Cingoli and Sasso Tetto – and many unclassified ascents.

Broken collarbone for Amador

Andrey Amador
Photo ©: Emmanuel Isnard
(Click for larger image)

Andrey Amador was unable to attend the Paris-Nice victory celebrations for Caisse d'Epargne teammate Luis León Sánchez because he was in hospital with a broken collarbone.

The 22-year-old from Costa Rica went down on the descent of Col de la Porte. The first-year professional won the prologue in the 2008 Tour de l'Avenir. (SW)

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