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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, May 24, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Gerrans surprises himself with Giro win

By Gregor Brown in Bologna, Italy

Simon Gerrans (Cervelo)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Simon Gerrans had dedicated himself solely to the goal of helping Cervélo team leader Carlos Sastre win the overall Giro d'Italia when the race started in Venice on May 9, but chances for a stage win of his own came along for Gerrans following a long, hot stage 14 to Bologna on Saturday.

"I initially thought I was going to come here to try to win a stage," Gerrans said to Cyclingnews. "Leading up to the race, I knew it was big for Sastre, so I put my ambitions aside."

Gerrans joined an escape group of 14 men, including teammate Philip Deignan, only 12 kilometres into the 14th day of racing. They gained up to four and a half minutes as they travelled out of Tuscany and into the Emilia-Romagna region.

"Our tactics were to put men in the front and be ready in case Carlos needed us there. It was only in the last 20km that I knew that our break would go all the way to the finish. From there Phillip set me up perfectly for the final. Tactics were perfect."

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The finale, after four categorised climbs, was on a 2.1-kilometre steep ascent to San Luca, to the Santuario della Madonna. The Giro dell'Emilia one-day race uses the climb - containing sectors of 16-percent grades - annually, but Gerrans had never ridden it.

"My teammates, who raced Emilia, described it to me," he said to the gathered press. "They told me it was like the Mur de Huy in the Flèche Wallonne [one-day race]. I knew I would have to follow the moves and be ready.

"The two steep pitches really surprised me. I was ready for the first one, but the second one killed me. I was looking over my shoulder. I was exhausted and I thought someone would catch me, but it turns out everyone was exhausted."

The win was Gerrans' first since his win at the Tour de France in 2008, which ended in Italy, up the 11.4-kilometre Prato Nevoso. Gerrans noted that the day's breakaway was his first since his victory in France that day last summer.

On a day that was Gerran's turn in the spotlight, maglia rosa Denis Menchov (Rabobank) maintained his lead in the overall classification.

Froome pushes bravely to San Luca's sanctuary

By Gregor Brown in Bologna, Italy

Christopher Froome (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Barloworld's Chris Froome lit up the hot finale of Giro d'Italia's Bolognese stage 14 on Saturday. The British racer rode away from his break companions up the mythical San Luca climb along with eventual stage winner Australian Simon Gerrans, but lost ground to his rival with only 1,200 metres remaining.

"It was incredible, just a tunnel of sound," he said to Cyclingnews of the 2,100-metre long climb used annually in the Giro dell'Emilia one-day classic.

"People screaming your name, screaming at you... it is an amazing feeling. It pushes you, but today I could not be pushed any harder."

Froome joined the break including more than a dozen men only 12 kilometres into the 172-kilometre stage from Campi Bisenzio to Bologna. Behind the escapees, the Rabobank and LPR Brakes teams controlled the race for their leaders Denis Menchov and Danilo Di Luca.

"We talked in the bus this morning, and we knew there would be a big possibility that a break would stay clear. Our director sportif made it clear that it was a good day for me or John-Lee Augustyn, the guys who can climb well."

Giampaolo Cheula had joined his teammate in the break to strengthen the chances of the South Africa-sponsored Barloworld team. The two men had to contend with another strong pairing, that of Cervélo's Gerrans and Philip Deignan.

The break worked well together until Andriy Grivko ended the joint effort with an attack with just over three kilometres remaining.

"I felt great coming into the last few kilometres, and I really wanted to try to go for it. I think I underestimated that last climb a little bit," said Froome.

Froome and Gerrans closed in on Grivko at 1,500 metres to go to Santuario della Madonna, at the top of San Luca. The long day and San Luca's 16-percent grades spelt disaster for Froome 300 metres later.

"I had a lead, but then I just blew. I really thought I would be able to keep the gap up, but the last kick at 1,200 metres to go seized up my legs."

Leipheimer bets on Monte Petrano

By Gregor Brown in Bologna, Italy

Astana riders stuck together for much of the final climb
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Levi Leipheimer hopes that Monday's Giro d'Italia stage to Monte Petrano holds the key to winning his first Grand Tour. Sitting in third place overall after stage 14, the American rider from Santa Rosa, California, trails in the general classification by just 43 seconds with a little less than half of the three-week race left to complete.

"I think Monte Petrano is the biggest day we have from now until the finish," he said to Cyclingnews. "Obviously, there are two uphill finishes with Blockhaus and Vesuvio, but Petrano is a long day and it is probably going to be hot, some guys can just crack."

Monte Petrano, stage 16, promises to be one of the most testing days of the centennial Giro d'Italia. Four categorised climbs make up the 237 kilometres of the stage through Le Marche region. The fourth and last, Monte Petrano, is a 10.4-kilometre climb up to 1,101 metres.

Leipheimer, third overall in the 2007 Tour de France, has the experience to manage the testing stage as a possible platform to a Grand Tour win. However, two-time Vuelta a España winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is leading the race and will be tough to beat. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini), the 2007 Giro winner, is in second at 34 seconds.

"I keep saying it, but it is day-by-day and kilometre-by-kilometre. If I feel good I will attack, I promise you that," said Leipheimer.

The attacks may not come, according to Di Luca, who distanced Leipheimer by three seconds Saturday in Bologna. Di Luca, who wore pink earlier in this Giro, said he has never seen Leipheimer go on the offensive in the Giro d'Italia.

"Well, if he is only six seconds ahead of me in Rome, then I won't have to attack," Leipheimer said.

If Leipheimer misses the opportunity to take control on the Monte Petrano stage, then he can look forward to the race's final day. The Giro d'Italia finishes with a 14.4-kilometre time trial in Rome, May 31.

King conserves for captain Sastre

By Gregor Brown in Bologna, Italy

Ted King (Cervelo)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)
Ted King is conserving himself for a good reason: his Cervélo team captain, Carlos Sastre, is out to win the Giro d'Italia. The 2008 Tour de France winner is fifth overall with over one week left to race. That means King is on high alert.

"The order of the day from Carlos is just to conserve, conserve, conserve," the rider from New Hampshire said to Cyclingnews. "Even if sometimes I found myself able to ride up to the next group, it was best just to let the classification men duke it out."

King listens well because he is in his first three-week stage race and in his first full year racing in Europe. He has done a few big races in Europe this year, but said that these moments in Italy at the side of Sastre are like nothing else.

"His rapport with the team is awesome and he is a super down-to-earth guy. He does not have an air of superiority. It is awesome to be hanging out with him. At dinner, he is an integral member of the team, he is not act above the team.

"Here, more so than any other race, we are seeing a serious side of Carlos because this race is incredibly important for him." Thanks to the help of his dedicated teammates, Sastre successfully maintained his GC position during Saturday's stage 14.

There are there more serious mountain stages and then a time trial on the final day in Rome on May 31.

King is 110th overall, at more than an hour and 30 minutes behind overall leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank), but his only concern is to put Sastre on the top step of the podium in Rome.

"I am racing as hard as I can, but at the same time I am savouring the moment."

Kiryienka to try again

Vasil Kiryenka (Caisse d'Espagne)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Caisse d'Epargne's Vasil Kiryienka had a good day on Saturday during stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia with his seventh place finish. Kiryienka was part of the breakaway that got away at kilometer 12 and he promised he'd be back to try again for a stage win in the Italian Grand Tour.

"This is the second time I've tried to go for a stage win, but it wasn't to be," said Kiryienka.

"Despite the large number of riders in the peloton, we collaborated very well until the bottom of the final climb - a short but really tough one. [Stage winner] Simon Gerrans was strong and when he attacked, I was not able to stay on his wheel."

Kiryienka wasn't discouraged. "I'm happy because I'm feeling good and I'm getting better every day in this race. It's not finished yet, and some of the next stages will give opportunities for me to try again."

"I have two goals in the Giro. One is to help David Arroyo finish in the top ten overall, and the other is to win a stage the same way I did last year." He won stage 19 in 2008, after successfully attacking his break companions at the bottom of a climb.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia.

Ivan Basso diary: A change in wind?

Ivan Basso takes a moment to enjoy the view
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
We are already over halfway into the Giro d'Italia as I write this in my hotel room in Florence. It is hot here, but I have the window open to let the Tuscan breeze carry me through my recollection of the last days and calm me ahead of what will be a high-intensity second half.

I can say that I am more or less satisfied with my first Grand Tour after three years. Clearly, I wanted to be higher up in the classification at this point, but it is not so bad considering those who are ahead of me. There are riders who have ruled the past Grand Tours: Denis Menchov won the Vuelta, Carlos Sastre won the Tour, Levi Leipheimer was on the podium at the Tour and Danilo Di Luca won the Giro.

Then, even within my own team, there is Franco Pellizotti. He finished just off the podium of last year's Giro d'Italia, when Alberto Contador won and I was only re-starting. You have to consider that I am right behind all of these high-level riders.

I am not intimidated or scared of them, mind you. The ambition is clear: to do better and better over the next stages. There are still three mountaintop arrivals where I can stake my claim. The long climbs of the Monte Petrano stage, Blockhaus and Vesuvio will be my stomping grounds and I have to have faith, through and through. I can guarantee you that the last week will be full of surprises.

Read the complete diary entry.

Valverde maintains Catalunya lead

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde maintained his overall lead after the penultimate stage of the Volta a Catalunya on Saturday, during which he finished 25th. Cervelo's Thor Hushovd made got the sprint just right and took the stage win into Barcelona

"Tomorrow is the last day of the Volta, and I hope I will be able to win for this public, which keeps applauding me every day at the start and cheering me along the roads and after the finish line," said Valverde.

"Today was everything except easy," he said. "We had to fight almost the entire day. In the first 60km, there were attacks all the time. Then, six riders got away and at first, we went easy because we thought it was Sandi Cesar, but then we heard it was Jussi Veikannen, who was on 2:46 down overall, so my teammates worked hard to bridge up until Veikannen decided to quit his effort."

On the eve of the final stage which will take place on the circuit of Montmeló, Valverde is 15 seconds ahead of Daniel Martin and 22 seconds ahead of Haimar Zubeldia. The final stage is expected to favor the sprinters.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage six of the Volta a Catalunya.

Tour de 'Toona postponed until 2010

The Tour de 'Toona, an American stage race in Pennsylvania, has been postponed until 2010 due to a lack of sponsorship and the generally tough economic climate.

"It was a tough decision to make," said the race's Media Director Bob Leverknight according to the race's website. "We weighed a lot of factors, the lack of sponsors, sponsors that cut their commitments, and the general economic climate."

"I'm very disappointed, but with times being what they are, we had to do this," said race Director Larry Bilotto. "This year, times are tough all over, but, as times improve, we will be back with our partners.

The Tour de 'Toona began in 1987 as a one-day race. With the exception of 2008, when it ran as a one-day criterium event in downtown Altoona, the race has generally run as a multi-day stage race for more than the past decade.

The elimination of another stage race in the US means still fewer options for young riders to test their legs against elite riders. The race joins a list of other top American races cancelled for 2009 including the Tour de Georgia and the Tour de Leelanau and the Priority Health Classic.

Organizers hope that cancelling the July 2009 event and resuming the race in 2010 will allow more time to recruit sponsors and improve planning for the event.

Celebrate with Cyclingnews' Giro Sweepstakes

The centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia has started off with exciting finishes, beautiful terrain and great performances by the superstars of cycling. We're celebrating the Giro in the best way we know how - working the race to bring you daily race reports, photos, features and live coverage.

Thanks to our friends at BMC, you can share in the celebration - simply enter our BMC-Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia Sweepstakes for a chance to win.

One lucky Grand Prize winner will receive a BMC SLC01 Pro Machine road bike frame - the same frame ridden by the riders on the US-based BMC Racing Team - as well as an Assos-made BMC team jersey, cap and socks.

Enter the contest at All you have to do is answer two questions and complete the entry form - you don't have to buy anything! Please only enter once and good luck!

Entries close May 31, 2009, at 11:59PM Pacific time.

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