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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 5, 2009

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Cunego: "I'm one of the favourites"

By Gregor Brown

Damiano Cunego
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Damiano Cunego will attempt to rediscover his Grand Tour pedigree at the Giro d'Italia this month. The Italian has performed well in the one-day Classics in recent years, but wants to be on the top of the Giro d'Italia podium when the race ends in Rome, May 31.

"Can I win? I don't know, I will start off as one of the favourites and then we will have to see what I am capable of," the 2004 race winner told Cyclingnews.

A win is within reach based on Cunego's season so far: two stages and the overall classification at Coppi e Bartali after spending the better part of March at altitude on the Spanish island of Tenerife. However despite failing to collect a Classic win in the Ardennes, he showed his form is on target before the three-week Italian stage race.

Cunego's rival, Ivan Basso (Liquigas), is also showing signs of improvement as the Giro d'Italia approaches. He won the Giro del Trentino, before racing against Cunego at the third of three Ardennes Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"In 2006 he was very strong. He can [win]. We have to see how Lance Armstrong is going and whether he has recovered well or if he is still suffering [from the fractured collarbone]. I followed [the Tour of the Gila] a little bit and saw that if Armstrong doesn't go well then there's Levi Leipheimer."

Despite coming in fourth in 2006 and fifth in 2007, Cunego took a break from the Giro last year in order to focus on the Tour de France.

"I rode the Giro every year from 2003 until 2007, and this year will be my sixth. I feel good and relaxed ahead of this Giro, but then every year is different," added Cunego.

In the days prior to race Cunego fine-tuned his fitness. On Friday he trained for 5 hours and 45 minutes, 220 kilometres (80km motor pacing and four climbs). Cunego went out for a short ride on Sunday, two hours, and he planned on five hours on Monday (three climbs).

"I am putting in some good training now with some long distances and long climbs. It is only a week away from the Giro and we'll see how I am going."

The Giro d'Italia starts with a 20.5-kilometre team time trial in Venice. The riders face the Dolomites immediately with stages four (San Martino di Castrozza) and five (Alpe di Siusi). Big time differences will come in stage 12's 60.6-kilometre time trial and the final week's mountain stages in Italy's south. The race ends in Rome on May 31.

Join our Giro d'Italia thread on the forum.

Zomegnan blasts Simeoni, team exclusion linked to Armstrong?

Race director Angelo Zomegnan
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Giro d'Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan blasted Filippo Simeoni for resigning from his Italian national jersey. The Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce rider handed over the prized top to the Italian cycling federation (FCI) yesterday in Rome after his team's non-invite to the race.

"It is a media stunt," Zomegnan told Rai Sport. "Chances were given to Simeoni: he was invited to Tirreno-Adriatico, where he was up to 30 minutes behind and did not finish the race, while at Milano-Sanremo he had seven hours to meet Armstrong and clarify the 2004 incident. This is not the way to live together in a civilised manner."

Giro organiser RCS Sport overlooked Ceramica Flaminia when it issued its final team selection last month. Ethical criteria could not have been the reason for the decision, as Ceramica Flaminia is a Pro Continental team with wild card status, and adheres to the International Cycling Union's (UCI) biological passport system.

In French newspaper L'Equipe, Simeoni complained that his team was not invited when Spanish Professional Continental teams ISD and Xacobeo Galicia were. "He [Angelo Zomegnan - ed.] will have to explain why the national values are not respected, why the selection criteria remains unclear and privilege the commercial rule over the sporting aspects, especially in a time when the Tour and the Vuelta do not cease to preserve the interests of their national sponsors," the Italian rider fumed.

Moreover, Simeoni suspected that the decision could be linked to Lance Armstrong's participation in the race, something Zomegnan indirectly confirmed by his response. "In Italy, some newspapers consider him [Armstrong] to be a sort of messiah; he has a lot of power. So, had he wanted to deliver a message of equity and reconciliation, he could have acted to have us on the race. One word from him [to the organiser - ed.] would have been enough," Simeoni added.

Simeoni has been out-spoken in cycling since he claimed Doctor Michele Ferrari prescribed Lance Armstrong Erythropoietin (EPO) in the late nineties. Following a legal battle, Armstrong hindered Simeoni from entering an escape group in the 2004 Tour de France.

Simeoni was back in the headlines again last summer when he took a surprise win in the Italian national championships in Bergamo. The tricolore jersey gave him a new of lease life and added motivation to race the centennial Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31.

Ten months later, he returned the jersey to the federation's general secretary Maria Cristina Gabriotti (president Renato Di Rocco was out of the office). The resignation is the first such occurrence in the 100-year history of the national jersey. (GB/HK)

Discuss this topic in our forum.

Menchov to lead Rabobank in Giro

By Susan Westemeyer

Denis Menchov will make a bid for the Giro podium this year
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank's Denis Menchov will ride for the overall title in the Giro d'Italia, which starts this Saturday. The team is leaving its sprinters at home and concentrating on the maglia rosa.

"We are absolutely looking forward to this centenary Giro," directeur sportif Adri van Houwelingen told Cyclingnews. "Under the guidance of Angelo Zomegnan, the Giro has grown over the last years and this year it is a special race, with a tough course and a lot of emozione."

Van Houwelingen said that although the team had never won the overall, they would work for Menchov's aspirations as well as look for stage wins. Menchov finished fifth overall in the 2008 edition of the race.

The Dutch team will send a squad of five Dutch riders, two Russians, a Spaniard and a Colombian. Laurens ten Dam will help Menchov in the mountains, while Mauricio Ardila, Jos van Emden, Bram de Groot, Pedro Horillo, Dimitry Kozontchuk, Tom Stamsnijder and Maarten Tjallingii will also lend their help. Pieter Weening, who was initially scheduled to race the Giro, was announced to skip the event due to a saddle abscess.

Van Houwelingen and Jan Boven will accompany the team as sports directors for the first nine days, after which Erik Breukink will take over.

Lampre announces Giro roster

Italian ProTour team Lampre has announced its rider roster for the upcoming Giro d'Italia, starting this Saturday. Without surprises, "il piccolo principe" Damiano Cunego heads the line-up. The 2004 Giro winner will be supported by: Matteo Bono, Marzio Bruseghin, Pietro Caucchioli, Mauro Da Dalto, Enrico Gasparotto, Marco Marzano, Manuele Mori and Paolo Tiralongo.

Two reserve riders have been selected, namely Francesco Gavazzi and Massimiliano Mori.

Kreuziger "not on the level" of Schleck

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) hopes for more kisses in the future
Photo ©: Edward A Madden
(Click for larger image)

This year's Tour de Romandie winner, Roman Kreuziger of Team Liquigas, may be one of the next big Grand Tour contenders together with Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank). The 22 year-old (Kreuziger's 23rd birthday is tomorrow, May 6), made an impressive appearance in the Swiss stage race, securing the overall victory after soaring to success in the race's hardest mountaintop stage finish on Saturday.

The Czech rider, who has also the 2008 Tour de Suisse on his palmarès, nevertheless plays down his abilities against other riders of his generation such as Schleck and Gesink. "Andy has already done two Giros and just won Liège-Bastogne-Liège," the Liquigas rider told L'Equipe. "I'm not on that level yet."

Still, Kreuziger finished 13th on the 2008 Tour de France, and hopes to lead his team in this year's edition of the Grand Tour after attempting to defend his title in the Tour de Suisse. Together with the other young star of his team – Vincenzo Nibali, tipped as a podium finisher in the upcoming Giro – Kreuziger hopes to build on a steady improvement.

"What counts to me is step-by-step progress," he continued. "I know, for example, that I still need more endurance in the mountains to keep the pace on longer climbs. With Vincenzo, we are working towards this." Indeed, Kreuziger lost seven minutes on the 2008 Tour stage 10 to Hautacam.

His next big goal will be to repeat his 2008 overall victory in the Tour de Suisse. "I will now defend my title in the Tour of Switzerland and then lead the Liquigas team in the Tour de France with Vincenzo Nibali," he said. "Given my qualities, my ambition is obviously to make it on the Tour de France podium one day. But it's a little early to say whether I have the caliber of riders like Miguel Indurain or Lance Armstrong," he added.

WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde

A few days after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced its participation in Alejandro Valverde's hearing in front of the Italian Olympic Commission (CONI) on May 11, the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA as well as the Spanish federation (RFEC) have also made public their intentions to be part of the meeting.

Valverde, whose alleged implication in the Operación Puerto case will be examined in Rome this coming Monday, will thus have to face the questions of three civil parties in his hearing. CONI has requested two years of suspension against the rider on Italian territory, who is contesting the prosecutor's evidence against him. If the accusations are upheld, Valverde could face a worldwide ban.

Kopp to have B-sample tested

Former Cycle Collstrop rider David Kopp, who tested positive for cocaine, has asked to have his B-sample tested, the German Cycling Federation announced Monday.

Kopp, 30, tested positive last September after a national race in Belgium. He denied having used the drug, saying someone must have spiked his drink in a club a few days earlier.

The German retired at the end of the season, before being notified of the positive sample by Flemish authorities in October 2008. The Belgian federation did not notify the German federation until March 2009. At that time Kopp said he would not have the B-sample tested because of financial reasons.

Now the B-sample is scheduled to be opened on May 7 at a laboratory in Gent, Belgium, in Kopp's presence. The results are expected to be announced approximately two weeks afterwards. (SW)

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