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Latest Cycling News, June 2, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Millar looks forward to Tour

By Gregor Brown in Milano

David Millar (Slipstream) is feeling tired after a long Giro
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Scot David Millar of Team Slipstream closed his first Giro d'Italia and is looking forward to the Tour de France. Training camps and the Great Britain national championships will fill the 31 year-old's time before the French Grand Tour, running July 5 to 27.

"I am really tired – just like everyone," he noted to Cyclingnews on Milano's Via Palestro after posting a time of 33'27" in the race ending time trial. "To be honest, I did not really expect to get a good result judging by my performance last week. I wanted to go 100 percent and that is all I can do at 100 percent at the moment."

Millar was key to the American team's winning team time trial on the race's opening day in Palermo. The victory put Christian Vande Velde in the race leader's maglia rosa, which he held for one day. Millar had his go in stage five to Contursi Terme, but a broken chain at just over one kilometre remaining put paid to his chances.

"I came into this race not at 100 percent. There was no way... My opportunities were in that first week. We won the team time trial, which was great and took all the pressure off. I had bad luck in stage five and then on in, I switched off and looked towards the Tour."

Millar was the team's hope for the final time trial, but instead it was American Danny Pate who scored the top finish for Slipstream in sixth - a feat which earned him a new moniker. "We've christened him 'Dan' ... he has aged so much in these three weeks we call him 'Dan'," said Millar. He, Pate, Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal will head to Switzerland's St. Moritz for a training camp following the Giro d'Italia.

"I am looking forward to having a break now. The four guys that are here, we are going up to St. Moritz tomorrow, go up to altitude for ten days to rest and recover," Millar noted. The city is just over the border from Italy and rests at 1822 metres altitude. "And then we are going to Gerona for a couple of days and then over to the Pyrenees to train over there. Basically, we just have a permanent training camp until the Tour. I will race nationals, but that is it."

In 2007, Millar won both the road race and time trial of his national championships.

Millar's push for the Tour de France has mentally helped him end the demanding three-week Giro d'Italia on a high note. "My head has been in the Tour de France the whole time, which is what is making it possible to go straight from here to altitude and stuff," he observed. "I am exhausted physically, but mentally I am pretty fresh – it is all Tour de France focus. I have managed not to stress myself out and I have very little responsibilities outside of the racing – it has been a good opportunity for me to work physically.

"We are an American team and we don't have all of that media pressure, which is why we chose it as an ideal Tour de France preparation. If this works out well, I can't think of better ways of preparing for the Tour de France. The work load we have done in the last three weeks is one of the hardest work loads I've done in my whole life."

The answer of Astana

Contador's answer to ASO was resolute
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Despite his non-preparation, Alberto Contador went on to win the 2008 Giro d'Italia. As much as for his performance, the team will be talked about for its last-minute invitation and the fact that Astana won't be in the Tour de France this year. The decision had them enraged enough that they started winning left and right, taking the Tour de Romandie, the Vuelta a Castilla y León, the Vuelta al País Vasco and Ronde van het Groene Hart, to name a few.

With the latest success, team manager Johan Bruyneel addressed the Tour de France organisers by saying "It is often said that actions speak louder than words. Today I hope that the ASO takes firm notice of the actions of the Astana Professional Cycling Team, not just in our victory at the 2008 Giro d'Italia, but also how professionally we have conducted ourselves throughout the entire season. This is the proof. We have taken a team of riders and staff and under the most arduous of situations won one of the most important bike races in the world. I cannot be prouder of any of them, nor can I understand why we cannot be allowed to defend our title in the Tour de France."

Bruyneel proudly added, "No one in their right mind would think that a professional cycling team with one week's notice could even participate in a Grand Tour, let alone come out on top. My hat is off to our whole team, and to all our staff that came together on such short notice to make this possible. As for our riders, well they saw opportunity where others saw no chance whatsoever. We will toast this victory tonight, not only for Alberto Contador, but for the Astana Team as a whole."

Astana's manager revealed that people wondered "if Andreas Klöden would be our featured rider, following his recent victory in the Tour de Romandie. I say he was a champion here because he willingly took on the roll of 'super domestique'. Unfortunately, he came down with a respiratory infection mid-race, but managed to play a decisive role for Contador in stage 19, before having to abandon. We could not have won without him."

The sports directors Alain Gallopin, Sean Yates and Alexandr Shefer always hoped that the team would eventually be allowed to race in the Giro, but to be told just one week prior was definitely not on their wish list. Bruyneel explained that "We have faced many challenges over the years, but none as difficult as putting together a squad with just seven days notice. This, coupled with a very difficult first week's racing, tested our team in ways we could never have imagined. To say I am proud of our staff and riders is truly an understatement; they accomplished the impossible and yet did it in the most professional manner I can think of."

Bruyneel summed up the year, concluding, "This year has been very interesting to me and Team Astana. Coming off of multiple years before when we won the Tour de France with our formula, we have now had to face a lot of adversity and challenge upon challenge in 2008. And yet here we are, with 16 victories this year, as well as the #1 and the #3 finishers in the most recent Tour de France. And now we have won the Giro d'Italia in a true team effort, with Alberto Contador leading the way. Where do we go from here? Regrettably we do not have much say in that decision. But wherever it is, know this: we will come to win, period."

Giro sound bites


Directeur sportif Orlando Maini was happy that the aggressive racing that they have shown in the past finally paid off. "This Giro, we were protagonists from the beginning to the end. The two stage victories by Brutt and Kiryienka have delighted all of us, and outside of the crashes of Brutt and Loddo, which resulted in their eventual abandonment of the race, the team witnessed the talent of Kiryienka in the Dolomites, and the tenacity of Trusov."

Maini did acknowledge that not all was perfect and besides the mentioned abandonment of Loddo in the first week, he found that "there were expectations of Mazzanti and Petrov that went unmet."


Directeurs sportifs Antonio Bevilacqua and Oscar Pellicioli looked back at Milram's performance with mixed emotions. "We are semi-satisfied," Bevilacqua said. "We came close to winning with Zabel in the second stage, and we worked well in all the sprint stages. Our riders are the best in this kind of stage. To be honest, I'm a little angry about the San Vincenzo stage, when Zabel got boxed in in the last meters. I think we would have been able to win it. However, the guys did well in all the sprint finishes, showing that we are the best team in setting up a sprint."

Pellicioli added, "I want to thank our riders because they never gave up in the mountain stages. This Giro was very hard and a lot of riders – nearly 60 – dropped out. Besides, there were a lot of kilometers of transfers after the stages, and that is not as easy as you might think."


Directeur sportif Matthew White was positively surprised about the team all the way until the end. "Well I'm gob-smacked! Just when you think the Giro has no more surprises left. Hats off to our boys, especially Danny Pate, who suffered through and survived the mega mountain stages." White explained, "He has really shown what an engine he is on the flats and in his specialty, the time trial. For Danny to achieve this result on the last stage of his first Grand Tour is an incredible achievement and a great sign for the Tour."

White also praised Christian Vande Velde. "Christian put in another classy ride with a very solid top 10. Dave [Millar] and Ryder [Hesjedal] gave all they had after a very demanding three weeks." White concluded that the "Next stop for these four is the tranquility and thin air of St Moritz, Switzerland. There, they will relax and unwind for ten days till the workload starts in the build up to the biggest race of the year - the Tour de France."


Daniele Bennati won three stages and the points classification
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team manager Roberto Amadio said that "These results demonstrate our abilities and confirm the success from last year, when we won the overall title. The success comes from a solid and united group, with two leaders capable of big things, Bennati and Pellizotti. Daniele has shown his professionalism in winning the points classification in a race dedicated to climbers. From Franco, we knew his determination. He won a historical stage and wore the pink jersey." Amadio also praised Vincenzo Nibali. "He is the future of Italian cycling in the Grand Tours."

Bennati was also happy. "I came with the objective of a minimum of winning one stage; now I am going home with three wins. With that comes a maglia ciclamino, which in the beginning I didn't think I would be able to carry all the way to Milano." After a brief visit in the United States, his next objective is the Tour de France. "I will try to win as many stages as I can and try to battle for the green jersey of the points classification. I know this is ambitious, but thanks to the support of Liquigas, not impossible."

Saunier Duval

Young rider classification winner Riccardo Riccò said, "I'd like to thank my team for their help throughout the Giro, all the assistants, all the riders and, above all, my coach, Pietro Algeri. He's an experienced man and he can always stay cool. Me, with my winner attitude, I can sometimes be quite problematic. This is who I am, I hope I can get tempered with time. Luck didn't help me much in this edition of the Giro, but I know next year, with one more season upon my shoulders, it will be difficult to beat me. I'm exhausted right now, both physically and emotionally. I'm going to Sardinia for a two-week holiday, and then I'll start thinking of my goals for the second part of this season: the World Championships and the Giro di Lombardia."

Rabobank happy with Menchov, not with Brown

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) had a great race and is hoping to use it as a good base for the Tour
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Rabobank decided to take a chance this year and send Tour de France captain Denis Menchov to the Giro d'Italia. Their theory was that he has always done well in the Tour and then done even better in the Vuelta a España, winning the latter twice. So, they thought, instead of using the Tour in effect as a warm-up for the Vuelta, why not use the Giro as a warm-up for the Tour? And it worked out, with the Russian finishing fifth overall.

Even though Menchov got sick during the race, the team was satisfied with its gamble. "At least, the Giro has given Denis satisfaction," said Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink. "After the Kronplatz, when his cold was at its worst, he started to ride better on a daily basis. It is a very good sign that he recovered so well and quickly. He was amongst the best again in the final two mountain stages. His ability to recover is Denis's strongest characteristic. Here, it turned out to be optimal. That is great for the morale in this preparatory stage of the Tour."

The Giro wasn't strictly warm-up, Menchov would not at all have minded a podium place, and without his cold, might have achieved it. "That is a realistic assumption," said Breukink. "Perhaps things would have gone differently had he not had that cold. But, that is all in the game and we are not going to use it as an excuse. Half the pack has been ill. Other world-class riders have also experienced setbacks. We are content about this Giro. It was good and definitely encouraging for the Tour."

The race had an additional benefit, he noted, for the whole team. "The team did not ride around as anonymously as in other years. That was also a good development for the other riders. They had a captain, an objective. That became clear on the basis of the atmosphere in the team."

Not everything went well, though, and sprinter Graeme Brown came in for some criticism. "I found the way in which Graeme Brown started this Giro a disappointment. He was not well-prepared," said a disapproving Breuking. "You cannot expect to just ride yourself into shape in a tour such as this one. Graeme started off on the wrong foot in this tour and then it is impossible to turn that around, which also became reality later on." Brown was in a number of crashes in the first week of the race, he noted. Nonetheless, "he was not in a good condition before he experienced those setbacks, but we do not need to tell him that."(SW)

Bennati to US races

Good news for cycling fans on the East Coast of the United States. Liquigas will send a strong team to the Commerce Bank Triple Crown races on June 3, 5 and 8. And its captain will be none other than Daniele Bennati, who is coming off three stage wins in the recent Giro d'Italia. The Italian also took the points jersey.

The Lehigh Valley Classic will be run over 12 laps of 11.4 kilometres each and the Reading classic is 119 kilometres in length. The final race, the Philadelphia International Championship, has a classics distance of 230 kilometres.

Liquigas will have the following riders to support Bennati, Maciej Bodnar, Claudio Corioni, Alberto Curtolo, Enrico Franzoi and Ivan Santaromita.

On the last day, the team will be visiting the Cannondale production centre in Bedford. Liquigas rides on Cannondale bicycles.

Paris-Roubaix espoirs goes to Dutch rider

Having the Paris-Roubaix espoirs race in June rather than in April has an advantage weather wise. However, the rambling over the pavés is just as hard and the U23 riders had to endure 36.5 kilometres of rough cobbles – about a fifth of the 180.5-kilometre race. There were 23 sections, and the young riders were not kidding around, averaging 41.439 km/h.

Dutch rider Coen Vermelfoort of Rabobank Continental took the top spot relegating Italian Giorgio Brambilla to second and Swiss rider Laurent Beuret to third.

New Zealander Clinton Avery ended the day in fifth place.

Japanese road champions crowned

By Greg Dillon

Hidenori Nodera of the Skil Shimano is the men's Japanese road champion, while Miho Oki was crowned in the women's race.

Nodera was the strongest of a four-man break, which battled it out after almost 200 kilometres. He beat Kazuro Inoue (TEAM NIPPO-ENDEKA) and Shin-ichi Fukushima (Meitan Honpo-GDR) to their respective silver and bronze medals.

Oki on the other hand soloed in for victory in the women's race, with a lead of over a minute ahead of a chasing trio with Yuka Yamashima (Cyclebase Asahi Racing), Hagiwara Mayuko (Kanoya National Institute of Fitness and Sports) and Ayako Toyooka (Team AYAKO.TOYOOKA). Yamashima took silver, one second ahead of Mayuko, while Toyooka narrowly stayed out of the podium celebrations.

Papstein new German mountain champion

Björn Papstein is the new German mountain champion. The 3C-Profi won with a comfortable three-minute gap in the race in Passau/Bavaria. After 122 kilometres in 3h30'46", he beat his team captain, Holger Sievers, and Christoph Meschenmoser (Team Ista). "Today, everything went perfect," Papstein said after the hilly affair with 4200 vertical metres.

2005 German road champion Dirk Müller (Team Sparkasse) was the first to start the action, taking off in the fourth of ten laps. He never gained more than a minute and was caught with three laps to go. Then Papstein, who hails from the dead-flat northern part of the country, attacked and got away for good.

Defending champion Andreas Schillinger did not have a good day and ended up in 23rd spot.

Trixi Worrack won the women's title.

In the U23 race David Rösch from Team Rothaus had the best legs. In the race, which was held together with the men 's elite race, but scored separately, Rösch won the title with an advantage of 15 seconds over Florian Frohn (Team Thüringer Energie) and 49 seconds over Dominik Nerz (Team Ista). With the third place, Nerz took over in the Bundesliga ranking, with 395 points. Second is Erik Mohs from the Continental Milram team ( 372 points) and Mathias Belkam from Team Brandenburg (362 points). Team Thüringer Energie won the teams classification for the day ahead of Rothaus and Brandenburg. That allowed them to increase the lead in the Bundesliga teams standings

The junior titles were taken by Christopher Roth in the male category and Mona Eiberweiser for the females.

(Additional research and assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer).

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