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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 1, 2009

Edited by Gregor Brown

Vande Velde confident, rested approaching Giro

By Peter Hymas

Christian Vande Velde topped impressive Garmin teamwork in opening stage of the 2008 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Christian Vande Velde kicked off the 2008 Giro d'Italia in dramatic fashion for Slipstream-Chipotle's Grand Tour debut, donning the race's maglia rosa after crossing the finish line at the head of a winning team time trial effort. As Vande Velde and his Garmin-Slipstream teammates face the pressure of repeating the feat at the centenary Giro, the feeling of last year's performance still resonates.

"There was a lot of emotion flowing. We were the underdogs and that's the perfect situation going into the race," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews. "It was just a fun time. I remember stopping after the race knowing that we did the best we could and if anyone beat us hats off to them."

Being a part of the Giro's centenary edition provides an additional appeal for Vande Velde. "In 2003 it was the 100th anniversary of the Tour and I missed that so I'm really excited about being a part of the 100th anniversary of the Giro. It's just a little bit different, starting with the team time trial again and ending in Rome. It's going to be a spectacular race with the long time trial and the short mountain stage."

Vande Velde has opted to utilise technology to preview the 2009 Giro route.

"I haven't seen anything first-hand, but I've looked at it through Google Maps and Google Earth. That time trial in Cinque Terre looks unbelievable. I don't think anyone knows what's going to come of it. It's going to be a really cool race from the fan's perspective watching it on television."

Approaching the Giro d'Italia, 32-year-old Vande Velde won the first road race (non-TT or classification win) of his professional career at Paris-Nice and followed that performance up with a third place finish at Vuelta al País Vasco's stage four.

"I've been training really well. I've been focused on time trialling and on my climbing. I feel more confident and more rested than I did last year.

"I didn't race as much as I did last year. The Tour of Georgia didn't even exist this year so I wasn't able to do that and I opted not to do the Ardennes Classics. I stayed home and trained so I could be with my family because these next few months are going to be very long."

Garzelli tips Leipheimer for Giro

By Gregor Brown

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) aims for stage wins at 2009 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Stefano Garzelli warns that USA's Levi Leipheimer will be the favourite for the Giro d'Italia win this month based on recent wins in the Tour of California and Castilla y León and a strong team support that includes Lance Armstrong.

"A lot of people are not talking about the Astana front with Leipheimer. I think Leipheimer is maybe more of a favourite than Ivan Basso," Acqua & Sapone's Garzelli told Cyclingnews. "You see how he is going lately: on the climbs he is strong, in the time trial he is strong and he has a strong team. But I think it is going a great Giro with Basso, Danilo Di Luca, Damiano Cunego, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov... with everyone else."

Garzelli got a first hand look at the Astana team at the Tirreno-Adriatico and more recently in the Giro del Trentino. Riding in support of Klöden, the team showed the strength it has to help Leipheimer win the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31. Leipheimer finished 18th in the 2008 Giro d'Italia while helping teammate Alberto Contador win the overall.

Garzelli returns to the Giro d'Italia after missing last year's due to his team's non-invite by the race organisers. He won two stages in the 2007 Giro d'Italia – in Bergamo and Lienz – and finished 16th overall.

"A stage win would be a positive result, but I won't exclude anything. I will start to have a good Giro, no one expected I would arrive second in Tirreno, but I did and I nearly won.

"Considering my age [35], I am still competitive and with the strongest. With respect to 2007, I am a little bit more tranquillo knowing that I am on good condition."

Garzelli's first Giro d'Italia was in 1997. He helped teammate Marco Pantani win the 1998 Giro d'Italia before taking his own two years later.

"This will be my 11th Giro d'Italia. I feel good heading into this one, but certainly I am not a going into the Giro to win and obsess over the general classification."

The centenary Giro d'Italia starts next Saturday in Venice. Over three weeks, it takes in Italy's most famous cities, including a time trial on the final day Rome.

Leipheimer or Zirbel to win the Gila time trial?

By Kirsten Robbins in Silver City, New Mexico

Levi Leipheimer tips Tom Zirbel at Gila TT
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The Tour of the Gila's stage three time trial is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated on American soil. Bissell's time trial specialist Tom Zirbel is hoping to give a good performance. He arrived prepared with a 58-tooth big ring, special order from the UK, to help make up some valuable seconds needed to beat current race leader Levi Leipheimer and his teammate Lance Armstrong.

The trio will face other strong contenders including New Zealand time trial champion Jeremy Vennell and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) as well as Floyd Landis and Rory Sutherland (both OUCH p/b Maxxis), Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Darren Lill (Team Type 1) among others.

The 25-kilometre time trial contains brutally long rollers and strong cross winds. According to Zirbel, there are few time trials of that nature in the US and he looks forward to the opportunity to practice his speciality.

"I didn't feel so great the first day, but today [yesterday - ed.] I felt really good," said Zirbel after stage two. "I seemed to have recovered well. I absolutely had an easy ride in stage two and a free ride in stage one. So I feel fresh, no excuses – I should be up there."

Zirbel made the top of Leipheimer's list of rivals the win. "I think Tom Zirbel could definitely beat me tomorrow," Leipheimer said. "That would not be that big of a surprise. Maybe Lance could do a good time trial too even though he did a lot of work today."

Zirbel appreciated the vote of confidence, but felt that Leipheimer was on a different level. "If I limit my losses to 30 seconds to him than I would be pleased with that," Zirbel said. "I'll lose time on the uphills but I will be good on the downhills."

The Boulder native turned heads when he placed second in the 2008 national time trial championships, just a slim margin behind Dave Zabriskie (Garmin).

Astana's Leipheimer and Armstrong race under the Mellow Johnny's team name for this event due to USA cycling rules.

International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Spain's Alejandro Valverde faces CONI and UCI May 11
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde will confront the International Cycling Union (UCI) as well as the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) at Italy's anti-doping tribunal in connection to the 2006's Operación Puerto blood doping investigation. The Olympic Committee announced yesterday that Doctor Mario Zorzoli from the cycling union will attend the hearing on May 11 in Rome (10:15).

The Italian Olympic Committee requested a suspension of two years on April 1. Head anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri reportedly used DNA evidence to connect the 28-year-old Caisse d'Epargne rider to the Spanish Operación Puerto investigation. He linked DNA samples taken during last year's Tour de France – from the rest day in Italy on July 21 – to blood seized in the 2006 Puerto investigation.

In May 2006, Spanish Guardia Civil raided the offices of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and seized coded blood bags.

Torri and Valverde, with Italian lawyer Frederico Cecconi, first met February 19 based on the evidence.

Bernucci hospitalised after training crash

Lorenzo Bernucci is hospitalised after he crashed into a car yesterday morning while training. The Italian of LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini hit the back of a car that suddenly stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk in Santonuovo (Pistoia), Italy.

Bernucci went through the car's back window with the upper part of his body. An ambulance immediately took him to the hospital in Pistoia, where examines indicate a fractured skull and nose bone and deep facial wounds. Doctors later transferred him to Santa Chiara Hospital in Pisa for further examines.

LPR Brakes foresees a stop of three months, which mean's missing the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31. Bernucci is one of sprinter Alessandro Petacchi's key lead-out men.

Giro d'Italia stage-by-stage: 1-12

The Centennial Giro d'Italia offers up a unique parcours which is deceptive in its difficulty. Procycling and Diquigiovanni's gregarious manager Gianni Savio break down the route for the 92nd edition of the race.

"It is an abnormal Giro, where you find the Dolomites right from the beginning and not at end like all the other years," said Savio. "This will change how the riders prepare for the Giro; the riders have to show up at 90 percent or higher, and not at 80 percent."

Stage 1 - Saturday, May 09: Lido di Venezia (TTT), 20.5km

Stage 1 map
Photo ©: RCS Sport
(Click for larger image)

Route: A simple out-and-back course on the huge sandbar that stands guard in front of Venice. It's sure to be very high speed and, with St Mark's very prominent in the background, will be hugely spectacular.

Local hero: It's fitting that the location of the prestigious Venice Film Festival should also be home ground for cycling's Glenn Close look-a-like, Franco Pellizotti. He's actually from Latisana, 50km north-east. Expect mayhem if the Liquigas train can put him in the maglia rosa here.

Procycling's top tip: Garmin-Slipstream steamrollered this stage last year and it's sure to be in contention again. Mark Cavendish reckons Columbia-Highroad will more than match them, though, and Astana will surely go better than last year's seventh. Garmin by a short head.

Savio speaks: The Venezia team time trial that will pull in the public thanks to its location. Venice is a city known all around the world, but if you have never been there it is difficult to understand. You are always between small side streets or water. It is a beautiful city.

Read the full feature.

Tour of Missouri announces Saxo Bank's participation

The Danish Saxo Bank team of Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara will race USA's Tour of Missouri, September 7 to 13, organisers announced yesterday.

"With the addition of Saxo Bank, this will be one of the best fields assembled on American soil," said Jim Birrell, the event’s race director.

The team joins a growing roaster that includes Quick Step, Garmin-Slipstream, Columbia-Highroad, Cervélo TestTeam, Astana, Liquigas, Jelly Belly and BMC Racing. A total of 15 teams will participate.

American Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) won the 2008 race.

Tour de New York cancelled

The Tour de New York, slated for August 8 to 13, is cancelled due to a lack of funding. Race organisers expect the debut of the stage race to occur next year.

"The event is being postponed until 2010 so that proper support can be secured. Mayor Duffy and the City of Rochester [New York] are already assisting in the process," said race director Scott Page. "The city realizes the financial potential and the community benefits of a free event for the public."

The stage race grew out of Rochester Twilight Criterium. Organisers expanded it to a three-day omnium in 2008 to act as a platform for the Tour de New York.

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