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First Edition Cycling News, June 2, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Contador gives Giro d'Italia a Spanish flavour

By Gregor Brown in Milan

Contador gives the thumbs up
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

A foreigner has not won the Giro d'Italia in 12 years and it has been even more, 15 years, since the last Spanish winner claimed the maglia rosa. However, 25 year-old Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour de France, put a Spanish twist into the normally Italian affair.

Back in April, it was hard to imagine that Contador would even ride the Giro d'Italia let alone win it. The Astana rider was busy exacting revenge for his team after it was denied entry into the Tour de France and the Giro by winning the Castilla y Leon and País Vasco. But everything changed when race organiser RCS Sport announced on May 4 that Astana had been given an invitation, just over a week from when the race was set to start. Flash forward, and thousands of supporters could be heard shouting "Contador, Contador" on Milano's Corso Venezia.

The time in between was filled with uncertainty and obstacles for the Spaniard, who had abandoned a mid-season vacation to race the three-week Italian Tour. He had not prepared for the race specifically, as he had done to win the Tour de France. After a somewhat unspectacular team time trial, Contador set about trying to stay out of trouble in the early stages, but then ran into bad luck with a crash in stage eight to Tivoli. Riding on a fractured elbow, he put important time on his rivals before the high mountains started in the stage 10 time trial. He then faced five tough mountain days: three in the Dolomites and, three days later, two in the Alps.

"The most difficult day was the first mountain stage to Pampeago," he revealed after putting on the overall winner's maglia rosa. But the win became possible after surviving the day: "When we crossed the line is when I thought I had the possibility to win."

Continue to the full feature.

As good as pink for Professor Pinotti

By Daniel Friebe of BikeRadar.com in Milan

Pinotti showed why he is
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Marco Pinotti isn't the first rider to earn the nickname "Professor". Once upon a time, Laurent Fignon went by the same moniker, but there the similarity ends, at least as far as time trials on the final day of major tours are concerned. No-one will ever forget Fignon's collapse on the Champs Elysées in the 1989 Tour de France, and Pinotti will never forget his rousing victory in the 28.5-kilometre test which today wrapped up the 2008 Giro d'Italia.

"When I got to Corso Buenos Aires, I was so excited, because I remembered last year when we rode down there in the peloton. But on my own, riding between those two lines of fans, was unbelievable." Pinotti beamed tonight, having seen the time of 32'45" (52.213 kph) he set earlier in the afternoon withstand the onslaught of the general classification men. Not only could the Italian celebrate his High Road team's fourth stage win of the Giro - he was also thrilled to see the young German Tony Martin hold on to second place on the stage, just seven seconds behind. Another early starter, the Russian Mikhail Ignatiev completed the final stage podium, trailing Martin by three seconds.

"It's fantastic for the team to win four stages," the 32-year-old told reporters in the Milan press room tonight. "Can you remember that we weren't even invited to the Giro at first, in February? Well, of course I was upset then, because I'm Italian, but when we did finally get the invitation, we just wanted to do well and honour the race. Another important thing is that we're finishing with eight riders - and we only lost Kanstantin Siutsou yesterday because he'd been in a long break the previous day and developed a tendon problem, probably because of the cold."

Pinotti then went on to hail Bob Stapleton, who rescued the team from the ashes of T-Mobile last winter. Pinotti called the American "the best manager anyone could have".

"We should thank Stapleton," he added. "Bob always lets us focus on the racing. It wasn't easy for the team this winter, but I was never worried, because he was able to keep the pressure on himself and not on the team."

Continue to the full feature.

Pinarello to Eichler – black is back

By Gregor Brown in Milano

Markus Eichler (Team Milram)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Germany's Markus Eichler has picked up where Giovanni Pinarello has left off by winning the Giro d'Italia's title for lowest placed rider in the general classification – this year noted by the numero nero. The 26 year-old of Team Milram successfully defended his place in the final time trial – and in fact padded out his place behind Mikhail Ignatiev who placed third on the final stage – to conclude the Italian three-week with a time of 94 hours 30 minutes and 30 seconds.

The short-lived maglia nera ('black jersey') of lowest placed classification rider made its comeback after 57 years, and in the 2008 edition it was honoured with a black back and bike number instead of a racing top. The maglia nera was awarded from 1946 to 1951; the last winner was Giovanni Pinarello, who later founded the famous bicycle company based in Treviso.

"I am happy that I made the finish; I am completely empty," Eichler revealed to Cyclingnews after finishing the final day's time trial with a time of 36'08". "I will be happy when I am home tonight. This is my first three-week tour."

Eichler took over the lead after Italy's Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval-Scott) abandoned on last Sunday's stage to Passo Fedaia. "It is nice," continued Eichler. "I am happy that I am finished, I think that I did a good job for the team."

He has received some press back home in Germany for his accomplishment. "I saw only a little bit of news on the internet, we don't get to look every day."

Unlike the jerseys and other competitions, such as fuga classification, there is no prize money offered for the numero nero.

Eichler represented the number well by climbing over the Cima Coppi of Passo di Gavia last in yesterday's stage to Tirano. "The first climb, Gavia, I went at my own speed. It was a big group and I was off the back of them by about 300 metres. I went at my own speed, the best I could do. And I think also [last] on the Mortirolo."

He had a good feeling that he would finish the stage yesterday and ride into Milan as the celebrated numero nero; however, 24 hours earlier he was not so sure. "Yesterday, I as thinking that, 'Okay, I am going to finish.' The day before I was thinking 'F**k, it is not possible.' It was up and down throughout the stage, whether or not I could finish."

A small break will follow the Giro d'Italia, during which Eichler will talk to his team about his upcoming programme.

Cardenas rides through tragic news

Team Barloworld's Felix Cardenas had just completed the Giro d'Italia's penultimate stage on Saturday when he was given the news that his brother had been killed - but even through the shock and pain, the Colombian chose to ride the final time trial in defense of his top 20 position on the general classification before heading back to his native country for the funeral services.

Jorgen Cardenas, 47, and the father of seven sons, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while repairing his car's flat tyre on a roadside in Colombia. While Cardenas rode his time trial, where he finished in 117th place, only dropping one place on GC behind LPR Brakes' Paolo Savoldelli to 16th overall, team manager Claudio Corti arranged his travel back to Colombia for Monday morning.

Cyclingnews' extends its sympathy to the Cardenas family.

Devolder and Boonen getting ready for the Tour de France

By Brecht Decaluwé

Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Yoni Peeters
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder had a good week of training in the Tour of Belgium this week. Boonen won the last stage in the bunch sprint, while overall winner Devolder proved to be the strongest in the peloton both uphill and against the clock. Quick Step now has riders for both the green and yellow jersey in its ranks, although Devolder isn't expected to win the Tour de France... right away.

After winning the Tour of Belgium, Devolder radiated confidence as he had shown a series of impressive performances this week. Combined with a good training week in the Alps last month and the Belgian media and public found the man to carry the hope for a good performance in the overall classification at the Tour de France in July.

The Belgian champion, however, tried to remain cool and played down the expectations a little. "My top form hasn't been reached yet, so I certainly need the Tour de Suisse to be at my absolute top in July. I'll try to take it easy over there, but I have good legs and if I'm up with the best uphill then I will not allow anybody to ride away. Still I will try not to force anything because the only thing that matters is the Tour," Devolder confirmed that he has high hopes for a good performance in France.

Team-mate Tom Boonen won the last stage in a bunch sprint and that in his first week of competition right after his post Spring Classics break. "I had done my part of the work this week and felt tired in a good way. I had been riding with my nose in the wind quite a bit and winning a power sprint after that is good for the moral," the strong Belgian one-day specialist said to Sporza after his victory in Putte.

When asked if there wouldn't be a conflict of interests in the team with both a sprinter and a rider for the overall classification lining up at the start of the Tour de France, Boonen tried to explain why that wasn't the case. "It's a luxury, and we will not make problems about that. Stijn is strong uphill, but he only needs to follow the best riders at that stage," Boonen hinted out that Devolder didn't need too many team-mates in the mountains.

"The work that is done for me is good for Stijn as well. If there's a train then he can sit behind me to stay in a good position." Devolder carries the hope of many Belgians for a strong performance in the Tour de France, but Boonen didn't want to add more expectations than needed. "We should wait after Switzerland. He has trained very hard, but Switzerland will teach us more. We shouldn't expect that Stijn will win the Tour... at least not this year," Boonen concluded.

Pauriol on a Tour de France mission

By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec

One week after finishing third in the Tour of Catalunya where he wore the yellow jersey for three days, Rémi Pauriol has been seen riding aggressively in the GP Plumelec although he didn't find the way to score his first win of the season. "I like the races in circuits", said the former amateur French champion (in 2004 in Boulogne-sur-Mer).

"The Tour of Catalunya has been my first result in a stage race", he continued. "Had I have been told before the start that I'd finish third in such an international event, I'd have been super happy, but now I'm disappointed that I lost the leader's jersey on the last day." On a very wet day on the way to Barcelona, he mostly focused on runner up Josep Jufre from Saunier Duval but seven riders were only separated by 11 seconds on GC and a breakaway finally crowned Gustavo Cesar Veloso from Karpin-Galicia the winner.

"It was a very interesting week with so many unusual stage wins by French riders," Pauriol said in reference to Cyril Dessel, Pierrick Fedrigo and Sylvain Chavanel while his Norwegian team-mate from Crédit Agricole Thor Hushovd also won the prologue and stage one. "But at the end, it was still an overall victory by a Spanish rider."

"I want to look at my ride positively though", he continued. "Initially I saw the Tour of Catalunya as a training session for the Dauphiné where I'll have to gain my selection for the Tour de France. What I did in Spain in a one-week long race is encouraging. It brings a lot of confidence. Now I feel I'm mature enough for riding the Tour de France for the first time but I will not announce that I'll produce results at the Dauphiné or anywhere for sure. I still prefer to create a surprise than disappoint people."

Crédit Agricole is one of these typical French teams who don't finalize their Tour de France roster before the end of the national championships, so the 26-year-old from Marseille will have to wait and see.

O'Grady back and better than ever

Not three weeks after crashing out of the Giro d'Italia and fracturing his collarbone, Team CSC's Stuart O'Grady not only raced the Bayern-Rundfahrt, but he also took fifth in the race's final 161-kilometer stage from Bad Neustadt to Erlangen. The tough Australian was unfazed by the broken clavicle which, when compared to his massive injuries following a crash in last year's Tour de France, seemed like nothing.

"He's been feeling better and better as the race has progressed so when I asked him if he felt up to doing the sprint, he said yes," said the team's director Scott Sunderland. "We've only got four guys left on the team and there were head winds on the final stretch towards the finish line and unfortunately we lined Stuart up a tiny bit too early so the sprint was too long for him. But just the fact that he even had the strength is absolutely fantastic on top of his recent injury."

Gerolsteiner's Heinrich Haussler won the stage while the overall victory went to Christian Knees (Milram). CSC's Lars Bak was the team's top rider in seventh overall.

"This was mainly meant as training for us, but Lars did really well and so did the rest of our guys really. We decided to do this race late in the game so three of our riders had to leave after the second stage to go to the States and do races there. But we got some good training and now we're ready for the next race on the agenda," concluded Sunderland.

Nürnberger women dominate German climbing title

Equipe Nürnberger dominated the women's mountain title, with Trixi Worrack, Claudia Häusler and Eva Lutz filling the podium. It was Worrack's third such title, following 2002 and 2005.

"That was a decisive performance by our girls," said Nürnberger Directuer Sportif Dennis Sandig. "We dominated the race from the start and won the individual, team and young rider titles. Anything less would have been a major disappointment."

"I am very happy with this title," said Worrack. "We went for the decision early. Because of the heat and the difficult course, it wasn't easy. It is always hard to win against your own team-mates. But we wanted to offer the fans an honest competition and fought it out."

The three winners dominated the 85 km race from the beginning. About five km into the race, at the first climb, the trio broke away and held a lead of up to three minutes. On the final climb, Lutz could no longer hold the pace, leaving Worrack and Häusler to sprint against each other. (SW)

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