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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, March 12, 2010

Date published:
March 12, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Paris-Nice begins now, says Contador

    Alberto Contador's trademark 'pistolero' salute
    Article published:
    March 11, 2010, 17:14 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Win at Mende kick-starts Spaniard's race

    Alberto Contador's victory at the top of the 'montée Laurent Jalabert' in Mende was a repeat performance of  three years ago when he first claimed Paris-Nice overall. Yet even after donning the race leader's yellow jersey, the Astana rider was only partly satisfied with his performance.

    "I wanted to win here because of the time bonus but also to create a significant difference on my adversaries," Contador said. "That's why I tried to attack from far out."

    While he rode away from everybody with 1.6km to go to the top of the climb, he only preceded his compatriots Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez by ten seconds at the line.

    Today, the top 10 riders finished within 30 seconds of each other, while three years ago there were 40 seconds between Contador and Franco Pellizotti who got 10th, but Contador didn't see this as a significant improvement in the peloton.

    "I don't think the level of the GC contenders is higher this time," Contador answered Cyclingnews. "Every year the level of Paris-Nice is very high. There are always strong climbers but this time around, there are also rouleurs like Jens Voigt who threaten my lead."

    The double winner of the Tour de France said "no!" when asked whether or not Paris-Nice was over with three days to go. "It's the exact opposite," he replied. "We only begin now. It's even more difficult for me to win the GC now being the leader of the classification. My team is strong but it's hard to control such a race."

    In 2007, he was second behind Davide Rebellin after the uphill stage finish in Mende. He only overtook the Italian towards the end of the last stage in Nice.

    "I had some doubts about my rivals before today's stage and it remains open," Contador continued. "As for myself, I felt good but not super. I didn't feel good at the bottom of the final climb. I had to fight hard for position." A crash on stage 1 gave the Spaniard a bruise on his thigh, so...

  • Boonen hopes first Italian win is San Remo omen

    Cop this: Boonen lets fly on the podium
    Article published:
    March 11, 2010, 18:52 GMT
    Daniel Friebe

    Belgian champion reflects on Tirreno victory

    It has taken him several years – and considerably longer than he needed to achieve fluency in the local tongue – but Tom Boonen has finally learned to win bike races in Italy. The Belgian national champion's sprint win in stage 2 of the Tirreno-Adriatico in Montecatini was, incredibly, his first ever on Italian soil.

    With Milan-San Remo just ten days away, Boonen now hopes that there will be many more to come – preferably beginning with La Classicissima on March 20, if not before.

    "I've actually not raced that much in Italy," Boonen said in his post-race press conference in Montecatini, offering half an explanation for the drought he ended by taking an uphill sprint that proved too tough for fellow San Remo hopefuls like Oscar Freire and Alessandro Petacchi. "I've done eight San Remos and this is my third time at Tirreno. That's not many chances to win in Italy," Boonen continued.

    The 2005 world champion went on to admit that becoming the first Belgian to win a Tirreno stage since Dirk De Wolf in 1991 was "a nice feeling".

    "It's not easy to win stages at Tirreno," he said. "Everyone thinks that this is just another one-week stage race, but the riders here are in good shape and all trying to make up that last one or two per cent ahead of San Remo."

    Boonen's spirits and San Remo hopes will have received a further boost with so many of his rival sprinters falling away on the steadily-rising last kilometre through the streets of Montecatini.

    Daniele Bennati's Liquigas teammates led him expertly around the final bend, only to see Boonen launch himself from Bennati's slipstream and stomp across the line ahead of Rabobank's Paul Martens.

    "I told my teammates to get behind me, because I was just going to let Liquigas lead me out," Boonen explained. "There were three of Bennati's guys on the front, going around the last corner. I got a good jump and I think the strongest guy won."

  • Voeckler happy to get attention again

    Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
    Article published:
    March 11, 2010, 23:00 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Frenchman pleased with stage four performance at Paris-Nice

    Thomas Voeckler was the first non-Spaniard to the top the 'montée Laurent Jalabert' in Mende as he finished fifth in stage 4 of Paris-Nice today behind Alberto Contador (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).

    To finish only 20 seconds after the Tour de France champion was satisfying for the Bbox Bouygues Telecom Frenchman who preceded Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo), Christophe Le Mével (Française des Jeux) and defending champion Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne).

    "Although I knew my team and my directeurs sportifs were confident in me, I didn't want to be forgotten by the public," Voeckler told Cyclingnews a few minutes after the stage finish. "I was really well positioned at the bottom of the climb. My team had done a great job to place me well there. I wouldn't have given my position away.

    "I took a lot of risks. That reassured me about my personal confidence. A couple of years ago I would have attacked early in such a climb but I'm more reasonable now. I can't pretend that I'll distance the top Spanish riders just like that."

    Voeckler opted to hold on. "Had I been offered a 5th place this morning, I would have signed for it straight away," he added. "This edition of Paris-Nice is really contested at a high level. I don't want to do self-congratulations, but I just know there's no coincidence being up there today.

    Last year, Voeckler won the Etoile de Bessèges and the Tour du Haut-Var but broke a collarbone at Paris-Nice the day after finishing 2nd behind Jérémy Roy in stage 4. The Frenchman was pleased to get a similarly strong result this year.

    "I haven't had the same results as last year in the earliest part of the season but at the Tour of Sardegna I was already in good company [he finished 3rd at the Italian stage race in February]. Today is not a win,...

  • Petacchi accused of tax evasion

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) looks a little worse for wear after his sixth successive win at GP degli Etruschi
    Article published:
    March 12, 2010, 9:34 GMT
    Cycling News

    Italian sprinter allegedly left extra income undeclared

    Alessandro Petacchi has been accused of tax fraud after being caught up in a wider police investigation in Italy.  The Lampre-Farnese Vini sprinter allegedly earned three million Euro in image rights and advertising contracts during his time with the Milram team without declaring them to Italian tax authorities. According to Italian newspaper Il Giornale, the fraud was organised through a Dutch company, with Petacchi keeping the money in a Swiss bank account.

    On top of a substantial fine, the 36 year-old could see criminal proceedings opened against him if the allegations are confirmed and Petacchi is found guilty. Petacchi is the latest Italian professional cyclist to be investigated by the country's tax authorities after Mario Cipollini, Davide Rebellin and most recently Paolo Bettini were targeted by Italian tax investigators.

    Petacchi is riding Tirreno-Adriatico but has failed to show in the opening two stages because of the injuries he suffered in a pre-race crash.

    "I don't know anything about it. I haven't been notified of anything. I've got to speak to my lawyer to understand what's going on," was all Petacchi said to the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper when asked about the tax fraud accusations.

  • Zabel and Cipollini refuse to write off Cavendish

    Erik Zabel chats with Mark Cavendish on the road
    Article published:
    March 12, 2010, 9:48 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Former Milan-Sanremo winners say he could still win La Classicissima

    Mark Cavendish has struggled on the climbs at Tirreno-Adriatico, confirming he is still far from his best after missing a vital block of pre-season training due to major dental problems. However both his sprint coach Erik Zabel and Mario Cipollini have refused to write him off as a possible Milan-Sanremo winner.

    Zabel was with Cavendish for the opening two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico and will be back in Italy next week for Milan-Sanremo. Zabel won Italian classic four times during his career and knows that because the race is such a lottery, the strongest and fittest rider doesn't always win.

    "We expected him to be in better shape after what we saw at Strade Bianche. I was surprised that he lost contact with the group but you know, that's cycling," Zabel told Cyclingnews.

    "We haven't made a big deal about it because we still believe there's a chance for Mark to be there in Milan-Sanremo. Of course after his teeth problems, he's not had the best preparation for the season but you've always got to give it a go because you never know what might happen in Milan-Sanremo."

    Mario Cipollini was one of the first people to congratulate Cavendish after he beat Heinrich Haussler to win Milan-Sanremo last year. He is often critical of riders in a column he does for Gazzetta dello Sport but has huge respect for Cavendish after he won Milan-San Remo at the very first attempt in 2009.

    "You can see that Mark is behind with his training and is struggling. And he needs this race to find some form. But he's very young and so gets on form really quickly. He's also very talented and has huge class, so I'd never right him off," Cipollini told Cyclingnews.

    Looking at the big picture

    Zabel's words reflect those of the HTC-Columbia team and Cavendish himself. His hopes of a second victory at Milan-Sanremo may be slim but he has other major goals later in the season and will perhaps be stronger and...

  • Xacobeo prepare for Catalunya on pilgrimage trail

    The Xacobeo Galicia squad for 2010.
    Article published:
    March 12, 2010, 11:35 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Spanish squad ready for home stage races

    The Xacobeo-Galicia team have completed a 600km "training" ride along one of the branches of the Camino de Santiago, the series of pilgrimage trails that lead to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. Having set off from Lisbon on Tuesday, the team’s roster of 16 riders completed the journey to Santiago on Thursday afternoon.

    The three-day trip served partly as training prior to the team’s participation in the Tour of Catalunya and a series of one-day races in northern Europe at the end of March, but also as a promotional exercise for their home region of Galicia in north-west Spain. Last year the team went off-road on mountain bikes to complete a branch of the Camino de Santiago from Navarra in north-east Spain.

    Team leader Ezequiel Mosquera said he’d really enjoyed a trip that had enabled the team to build form and lose weight over three seven-hour days in the saddle over what is often testing terrain. “Trips like this allow you to get out of the daily training routine and spend some relaxed time with your team-mates away from the tension that racing always brings,” said Mosquera.

    “It’s a really beautiful route and riding it on our road bikes brings obvious advantages. The only down side was the heavy traffic that we encountered on some sections,” explained Mosquera, who has a busy few weeks ahead of him with the Tours of Catalunya, the Basque Country and Castilla y León.

  • On the start line of Paris-Nice

    Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale talks to the media
    Article published:
    March 12, 2010, 13:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Pictures from stage 5 from Pernes-les-Fontaines to Aix-en-Provence

    A bright sunny morning greeted the riders in Provencal Pernes-Les-Fontaines. Temperatures were still cold, but the atmosphere on the plane tree roads of the small town suggested a hint of spring on the road to Nice for the riders, who were thankful for the improving weather conditions.

    The start of stage five to Aix-en-Provence was given right across from the cycling-friendly town's 'musée du cycle', where people sat outside on the terrace for a cup of coffee in the sun.

    Looming on the horizon was the famous Mont Ventoux, but the Paris-Nice peloton turned southwards toward the regional park of Lubéron after the start.

  • Caisse d'Epargne still on the hunt

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
    Article published:
    March 12, 2010, 16:12 GMT
    Hedwig Kröner

    Sanchez and Valverde not yet beaten by Contador

    Despite missing out a stage win so far Caisse d'Epargne leaders, Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde, are keen to makir mark on this year's Paris-Nice.

    Even though Astana's Alberto Contador has held the overall lead since stage four to Mende, Sanchez, 2009 winner of the event, hopes to put the leader in trouble.

    "Alberto has a firm grip on the race now," he told Cyclingnews before the start of stage five in Pernes-les-Fontaines. "Still we will try and change this, depending on how the race goes every day, and play our card."

    Nevertheless, Sanchez admitted, "But I think he has really good chances of winning now."

    Caisse d'Epargne's chance will be to attack the Spaniard whenever there is an opportunity, with the firm aim to make up some time and even score a stage victory. "I will work for Alejandro but I could also ride for myself if there is the right opportunity. Of course I would still like to win a stage but I also need to work for my team. We will see!" said Sanchez.

    Later in the stage five to Aix-en-Provence, the Spaniard kept his promise and attacked several times, but a nervous day raced at high speeds put an end to all breakaway attempts save for the final one by the impressive stage winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas).

    At least, now that the 'race to the sun' has reached Provence, Sanchez was happy to find the weather conditions improved. "The worst is behind us now. At least, the sun is out here in the south and that already makes a big difference," he said.