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First Edition Cycling News for May 21, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Arvesen: "I'm sorry for Bettini but I only win once every four years"

By Jean-François Quénet in Fiorano Modenese

Podium time.
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who won the eighth stage of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday, wore the jersey of National Champion when he rode to his first stage win in Faenza in 2003. In fact, he's no stranger to Italy, where he turned pro with ASICS after he claimed the U23 world champion title ahead of Oscar Freire. Away from the races, he still splits his time between his hometown of Molde in the northwest of Norway and his apartment near the lake of Garda in Italy. He speaks fluent Italian, a language widely spoken inside his CSC team.

"Becoming the world champion helped me turn pro," he said. "Winning a stage with the national champion jersey wasn't bad at all. But beating the world champion, who is an Italian, is the most beautiful win I could get at the Tour of Italy. I'm sorry for Paolo Bettini, but I win only once every four years. He does it much more often than I do.

"This win is very important for me because I've been close to big wins in the past and I didn't get them." Arvesen was second in a stage of the Tour de France in 2005 between Paolo Savoldelli and AG2r's rookie Simon Gerrans. He was second again behind Frédéric Guesdon in Paris-Tours last year.

Only three Norwegians have won stages in the Tour of Italy, and none of them settled for just one. Knut Knudsen, who was a pursuiter and the first real professional cyclist in a country famous for its skiers, won stages in 1975 and 1977 and a prologue plus two stages in 1981. Dag-Erik Pedersen, a pure climber, won mountainous stages in 1984 and 1986. That was all before Dag-Otto Lauritzen brought to Norway their first win in the Tour de France (Luz-Ardiden, 1987).

"As a Norwegian, people know Thor Hushovd much more than me," said Arvesen of the only other Norwegian in the Giro. "That's because he is a true winner and that's normal. I'm just happy if I can play my part for popularizing cycling in my country. When I was a kid, cycling wasn't big in Norway but we all knew about Knut Knudsen. He was my childhood hero. Therefore it's really nice that he was here to see me winning today."

Arvesen fought a lot with Bettini to make the today's break work, but the initial presence of Riccardo Riccò in the front group prevented him from taking his turns until the new star of Italian cycling dropped back. "Riccò is a threat for the white jersey that we also target with Andy Schleck," the Norwegian explained. "Andy is young, but we have ambitions for him on GC. He might finish in top 10 in Milan."

Pinotti considered giving up the maglia rosa defense

By Jean-François Quénet in Fiorano Modenese

Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile)
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By a margin of 28 seconds, Marco Pinotti kept the pink leader's jersey for the third time in the Giro d'Italia Sunday, but it wasn't an easy task for the six man T-Mobile team. "For the first 100 kilometres, my companions have realized a work that is impossible to describe. They have done it with their heart," said Pinotti.

Yet at the end, Pinotti had to set the pace at the front of the bunch, often by himself. He even led the bunch to the finishing line of Fiorano Modenese, which he crossed in 23rd position behind the 22 break riders. "This is the first bunch sprint win of my life," he laughed afterwards.

Pinotti has an easy-going, polite manner, and leading the Giro puts him in an even better mood. "This position increases my profile. It doesn't hurt me to become more famous," he said. Now that Andrea Noè is 28 seconds behind him, he might have to reconsider how long he can realistically continue his pink jersey adventure. Talking in Italian about his chances to hold the jersey, he referenced an English-language proverb: "Don't count the chickens before they hatch."

Pinotti isn't the kind of bike racer who kills time using a play station. He's the first to give credit to the other cyclists, even though many don't share his level of education. "All of us now travel with a computer and read books," he said of the professional racing lifestyle.

Returning to the subject of the race, Pinotti said he was amazed by the way the break riders rode. "They were 22 riders with six minutes lead 80km before the finish, and they still had four minutes at the end," he said.

"It was unlikely that we'd catch them. That's why Milram didn't work for a bunch sprint finish. I also have the impression that some of them got dropped on the climb. There was no way that the breakaway would have succeeded if Riccò had stayed up there. When he moved back to our bunch, Saunier Duval also came and worked at the front of the bunch. I believe they were practicing for the time in the Giro when they'll have to defend the pink jersey. I retain Simoni and Riccò among the hot favourites."

Pinotti was concerned that his teammates had to work so hard. "At some stage, I've thought that we should maybe give up and let the breakaway take 15 minutes. What would have the teams of the favourites done?" In fact, riders like Caisse d'Epargne's David Arroyo, Tinkoff's Evgeni Petrov, and also Patxi Vila and Marzio Bruseghin from Lampre were not the type of riders to be offered half an hour lead like happened with Oscar Pereiro at last year's Tour de France.

"Wearing the pink jersey definitely gives the feeling of responsibility," Pinotti concluded.

For complete stage 8 coverage of the Giro D'Italia, click here.

Hushovd happy with his compatriot's success

By Jean-François Quénet in Fiorano Modenese

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
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At the start of stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia in Barberino di Mugello, Thor Hushovd learned that the only other stage finish in Fiorano Modenese in the history of the Giro saw a win by his compatriot Knut Knudsen in the opening stage starting in Milan thirty two years ago (in 1975). "This is something I'll put in my mind today," he said. "My motivation will be to keep Norway unbeaten."

A Norwegian won, but instead of Hushovd, Kurt-Asle Arvesen took the honour for his country, as he did four years ago in Faenza when he wore the jersey of National Champion. His win pleased Hushovd who finished in the bunch.

"It's very good that Kurt won today," Hushovd said on the finishing line. "I know he has worked really hard, he deserves something like this. As for myself, winning today was out of (the) question. I suffered all day in the bunch. It was one of these extremely bad days that we experience sometimes. It was no fun at all but fortunately Norway remains unbeaten here. I hope I'll be all right tomorrow because there are more chances of a bunch sprint."

Knudsen, who used to race under the legendary colours of Bianchi and has since become a commentator at the races in Norway, was also present in Fiorano Modenese. He does commentary for NRK, the Norwegian public TV channel that covers the Giro.

Tour Down Under for ProTour?

The leaders at the Tour Down Under
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South Australian Premier Mike Rann met with UCI President Pat McQuaid in London this weekend to lobby for an upgrade in status for the Tour Down Under, a traditional season-opening race for many pros in Australia every January.

South Australia is competing with Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia and California to earn status as the host of the first-ever ProTour race outside of Europe.

The UCI is scheduled to make a decision in Stuttgart, Germany, in September.

"We intend to lodge our formal bid by the end of June but lobbying for it will be ongoing right through until the final decision is announced in September," said Rann according to Adelaide's The Advertiser. "The meeting with Mr. McQuaid was very positive but there is a long way to go yet."

Motives for joining the ProTour include increasing international television and press coverage as well as drawing more visitors. This year, less than a half dozen of the 20 ProTour teams competed at the Tour Down Under. If ProTour status were granted, all ProTour teams would attend.

The tenth anniversary edition of the Tour Down Under is scheduled for January 19-27, 2008. Swiss racer Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance) won the 2007 edition.

Landis hearing gets rest day

Followers and participants of the Floyd Landis hearing got a well-deserved rest day Sunday after six straight days of testimony of witnesses provided by Landis' team and the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA).

Yesterday, Landis took the stand for the first time in his defense late in the day after the arbitration panel heard testimony by USADA witnesses Don Catlin, recently retired as chief of UCLA's analytical laboratory and Dr Wilhelm Schanzer, director of the Institute of Biochemistry of the German Sports University in Cologne.

Landis swore under oath that he had never taken any banned substances including testosterone. His testimony will continue 8:00 PDT Monday morning. When his own lawyers have finished, the action in the courtroom will heat up. Then, USADA lawyers have the opportunity for cross-examination.

The hearing is scheduled to end Wednesday, but as time runs out, closing statements will be held at a later time and date to be decided.

Three arbitration panelists will make a decision following the hearing. If Landis is found guilty of doping, he will face a two-year ban from cycling and possible loss of his Tour de France 2006 title. However, any verdict is likely to move the case to its next phase, a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case.

Barloworld works magic in France

Robbie Hunter (Barloworld)
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After the final two stages held Sunday, Robbie Hunter won the French Tour de Picardie stage race.

On the fourth and last 91.5km stage of the three-day tour, the Barloworld pro successfully defended a lead over Jartazi cyclist Janek Tombak from Estonia. Third overall was Italian Alessandro Proni, who attacked Hunter, together with Tombak, on the final hill when the bunch was three kilometres to go. It was a valiant effort to gain time through a gap and finishing bonuses, but Tombak would fall three seconds short of his goal.

Tombak pulled off a surprising victory in the fourth and final stage ahead of Alessandro Proni, even though the two escapees weren't able to seize the overall lead.

The 30-year-old Hunter was strongly supported by the entire Barloworld squad on the final hill, where it worked to defend his leader's jersey. The Tour de Picardie is Hunter's sixth win of the season, which includes the Volta ao Santarem stage race.

The morning's 93.5km rainy stage 3 from La Croix Saint Ouen to Soissons took a heavy toll on the peloton. Sébastien Chavanel won ahead of Mark Renshaw after a bunch sprint, but 72 riders withdrew from the race.

Tinkoff believes in Petrov for Giro GC

By Jean-François Quénet in Fiorano Modenese

Tinkoff Credit Systems in Stage 1
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The Tinkoff team seems to have boundless capacity for participating in breaks at the Tour of Italy. Since they finished seventh in the inaugural team time trial, they have hardly missed a breakaway.

In the Trofeo Fuga Gilera classification that is determined by the number of kilometres off the front, three Tinkoff riders occupy all top three spots. Mikhail Ignatiev leads with 314 points ahead of Elio Aggiano with 304. Pavel Brutt, who was away on stage 8 for the third time since the beginning of the Giro, is in third with 303 points. Teammate Evgeni Petrov also included himself in the front group, which was an important move for the evolution of the general classification.

Brutt tried to anticipate the sprint on the long straight of the Ferrari circuit of Maranello. "I tried to win the stage because this is what I want to do every day," the 25 year-old from St-Petersburg commented.

"I believed I could do it, because everybody was working well in the breakaway, but I wasn't strong enough for winning. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow because the stage arrives 100 meters away from where I now live in Lido di Camaiore. Anyway, today is still a good day for us because Petrov moves up on GC."

Petrov is the designated leader of the Tinkoff team for this Tour of Italy since he's an experienced rider after many years racing for established Italian and Spanish teams (Mapei, Banesto, and Saeco) since he became the U23 world champion in Plouay in 2000 for both road race and time trial.

"Today I wanted to try and win the stage, but it's difficult to make it because the course was very difficult today," Petrov said. "It's a pretty good day anyway. I moved up to 8th position on GC. I will try to go for GC this year, and my other goal is to win a high mountain stage."

Hincapie is back in business

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)
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Finishing sixth in Fiorano Modenese, Team Discovery's George Hincapie got his first encouraging result since he broke a wrist at the Tour of California earlier this year. "I thought I had a chance to win today, but in the sprint, I got boxed in," he explained. "As I was 50 meters off Bettini, I couldn't make my sprint, but my legs were feeling really good today."

Frustrated that he missed the classics this year, Hincapie decided to start the Giro for the first time in his 13 year-old career instead of riding the Tour of Catalunya and the Dauphiné as he has other years.

"I'm really happy with this choice of program," he said. "It should lead me to the Tour de France with a good condition."

Mourey says the Giro fits with his cyclo-cross program

By Jean-François Quénet in Fiorano Modenese

The only Frenchman in the 22 man breakaway was cyclo-cross national champion Francis Mourey, who was third at the World Championships last year but missed the race for the rainbow jersey this year.

"I rode the Tour de France two years ago, but I have another full season of cyclo-cross ahead of me, and the Giro actually fits better in my program, he said on the finishing line of Fiorano Modenese. After the French road championships, I will only focus on the next season of cyclo-cross."

"I'm very happy to ride the Giro again," Mourey continued. "Today I made the right move. In the finale, I was on the wheel of Arvesen who ended up being the winner, but I wasn't strong enough to follow him. I think at the end, I'm where I should be (14th). It's a pity to be in a breakaway and not win. When you come to a Grand Tour, it's for winning something. At least after Fabien Patanchon's break yesterday, we show that while there may not be many riders left from Française des Jeux, we keep fighting."

Veikkanen getting lonely

By Jean-François Quénet in Fiorano Modenese

Finnish champion Jussi Veikkanen is one of the foreigners on Française des Jeux who usually shares space at the back of the bus while the Frenchmen gather in the front. But he's been left alone since South African Ian McLeod and New Zealander Tim Gudsell were forced to pull out.

The latter will have to spend a second night at the hospital of Borgo San Lorenzo, where he was supposed to stay for only one night. "I will have to stay away from my bike for at least six weeks," said a bitter Gudsell said while his directeur sportif Martial Gayant explained that the Kiwi will return home to recover before returning to Europe in mid-August for the end of the season.

FDJ is now reduced to only five riders since an exhausted Cyrille Monnerais pulled out in the middle of stage 8. "I'm now the only foreigner, and I'm also the only Finnish rider in the Giro," Veikkanen said. "I would have liked to be able to speak with my compatriot Kjell Carllström, but I understand that Liquigas is keeping him for the Tour de France. I did the Giro last year already. I finished it. I really like this race. It's the right time of the year for cycling, the atmosphere here is great, the people are very enthusiastic."

Veikkanen is in 67th place for now, but he aims for a higher spot on the general classification. "I came here with the idea of riding for (the) GC. I went all right in the hills we've had so far. I also prefer the Giro to many other races because the repetition of the hills suits me better than the big roads and the crosswind. We'll see how it goes in the mountain. If I don't secure an interesting position on GC, then I'll concentrate on one stage."

Voeckler out with knee injury

Thomas Voeckler leads
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Thomas Voeckler was involved in an 80-man crash on stage 4, and the pain in his left knee was hurting him more and more, so he decided to quit the Giro d'Italia after stage 7.

"It makes me really sad because it's my first time doubling up the Giro and the Tour, and I wanted to do something here, I thought I'd go for a stage win," he said.

As a world traveler, he's still happy to have paid a visit to Italy. "The start in Sardegna was absolutely spectacular. I'm also a professional cyclist for the purpose of seeing the world and enjoying such great places." The Bouygues Telecom rider should still be able to prepare for both the Tour de France and the Dauphiné.

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