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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, May 6, 2011

Date published:
May 06, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Rodriguez is fired up for the Giro d'Italia

    Team Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez speaks in the lead-up to the Giro d'Italia
    Article published:
    May 05, 2011, 19:25 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Spanish climber believes the route suits him better than ever

    Joaquim Rodriguez, the number one ranked rider by the UCI for 2010, is fired up for the Giro d'Italia, a race he has chosen as his main goal for the 2011 season. That decision came after the Team Katusha racer realized that the course suits him more than any Grand Tour he has done in the past.

    "I'm ready to challenge Contador," he told Cyclingnews in Turin. "Alberto has showed that he's very strong and he won the Giro before (in 2008), but this Giro has a very different course. This Giro is more difficult than the Tour de France. Alberto is not the only favourite, let's say he's the main favourite."

    "I'm now in the condition I wanted to have at the start of the Giro. There are so many mountains! The steeper it is, the better it is for me. These are the most difficult mountains for a Grand Tour. It's a perfect course for me, especially because of the few numbers of kilometres against the clock.

    Rodriguez said he not thinking of what might happen to Contador once the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) makes its decision - expected sometime after the Giro d'Italia - on Contador's doping case.

    Referring to Contador, Italian reporters mentioned to Rodriguez that this will be the first time the potential winner of the Giro might have his result cancelled after the race, should CAS decide to ban him. But Rodriguez, who is the captain of Katusha, insisted that it won't influence how he races.

    "I have a style, and I won't change it," Rodriguez said. "My style is to attack and to listen to my feelings. With all the time bonuses up for grabs at uphill finishes, I just have to follow my instincts anyway."

    "The only difference compared to the Vuelta a España last year is that I won't be trying to get the pink jersey...

  • Di Luca to support Rodriguez in Giro d'Italia

    Katusha teammates Danilo Di Luca and Joaquim Rodriguez.
    Article published:
    May 05, 2011, 21:50 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian "at 80 per cent" compared with 2007

    Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) has admitted that he is only at 80 per cent of his capabilities as he rides the Giro d'Italia for the first time since his return from suspension.

    The Italian finished second in the 2009 Giro but was stripped of the result and suspended after testing positive for CERA. Di Luca was previously implicated in the "Oil for Drugs" inquiry, for which he received a three-month ban in late 2007.

    "If we want to talk in terms of percentages, we can say that when I won the Giro [in 2007] or two years ago, I was at 100 per cent and now I'm at 80 per cent," Di Luca said at Katusha's pre-race press conference in Borgaro Torinese on Thursday.

    When pressed further on that frank assessment of his form, Di Luca sought to steer the conversation away from the question of doping, and instead blamed the drop off in his performance on the fact that he had spent the 2010 season sidelined from competition.

    "It's not because I haven't trained like before or because I followed a different preparation. In my opinion, it's just physiological," Di Luca insisted. "Training by yourself without racing and then racing is very different. This Giro d'Italia will be useful to me not just for the rest of the season but for my whole career, as I will take on the effort of a three-week race again."

    Di Luca was initially handed a two-year suspension after his positive test for CERA, but that sanction was reduced after he collaborated with CONI investigators by explaining doping methods. He returned to action with Katusha ahead of the 2011 season. While Di Luca says that he remains the same man as before, he insisted that he had learned from his mistakes.

    "It's not that I'm so different to before as a man – I'm still me," he said. "Naturally,...

  • Keisse to serve out remainder of doping ban

    Gent's Iljo Keisse.
    Article published:
    May 05, 2011, 22:10 BST
    Cycling News

    Quick Step rider must make up six months in Belgium

    The Brussels Court of Appeal today dismissed the argument of Iljo Keisse, who challenged his two-year ban which was imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). 

    The Belgian who rides with the Quick Step team must now serve out the balance of his suspension from competition. His ban will end on two dates: August 6 outside Belgium, and January 27, 2012 in his own country.

    Keisse tested positive for two substances in November, 2008 but successfully argued that he was not responsible for the drugs, Cathine and HCT, being in his system.

    The Belgian cycling federation did not take disciplinary action against him, but the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency appealed to CAS and won in July, 2010. The effective date of his suspension took into account 11 months already spent out of competition awaiting the verdict of the Belgian federation, and his ban was to end August 6, 2011.

    Keisse then argued to the appeals court in Brussels that the CAS did not have the jurisdiction to deny him his right to work. The court suspended his ban on November 10, 2010.

    In the interim, the UCI informed Keisse that the court's deliberations only allowed him to continue racing in his own country, keeping him out of competition in several overseas track...

  • Sastre content with Giro d’Italia preparation

    Sastre and Menchov give Geox-TMC two strong cards to play
    Article published:
    May 05, 2011, 23:15 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Spaniard foresees early shake-up at Montevergine and Etna

    Carlos Sastre is adamant that his preparation for the Giro d’Italia has been unaffected by the uncertainty that surrounded his Geox-TMC team’s racing programme earlier in the season. Although the squad failed to secure an invitation to the Tour de France, Sastre explained that a Giro d’Italia was always in his sights and so his early season plans were not disrupted.

    "My plan in November was to do the Giro d’Italia, so for that reason nothing changed in my programme," Sastre told Cyclingnews in Borgaro Torinese on Thursday. "The beginning of the season was not easy, but finally I am here at the Giro d’Italia. My condition is not bad. I feel quite happy with how I am in this moment, so now I will see how my body reacts and how my condition is."

    Sastre is joined in Italy by Denis Menchov, who returns to the Giro for the first time since his victory in the centenary edition of 2009, and the co-leaders will form an intriguing double act on the race. Both hugely experienced riders, Sastre is confident that their talents will dovetail in the best interests of the team.

    "I think that we know each other very well and we can work without any problems," Sastre said. "We have a really hard Giro d’Italia in front of us, and sometimes it is better to play two cards rather than only one.

    "If you have two riders who can hope to win the Giro then it’s much better than only one. We have our two cards and you can look to play those cards at the right moment."

    Sastre cited Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) as the biggest obstacles facing the Geox-TMC tandem at the Giro. Although Contador’s sporting fate is yet to be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,...

  • HTC-Highroad ready to get Pinotti in pink after team time trial

    Marco Pinotti (HTC - Highroad), the Italian time trial champion, rides to a sixth place finish in stage 7.
    Article published:
    May 06, 2011, 0:22 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    American team prepared to repeat the success of 2009

    A duel between American teams HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo is expected for Saturday's inaugural team time trial at the Giro d'Italia starting from Turin to celebrate the 150 years of the unity of Italy. "This duel is nothing new," HTC-Highroad's directeur sportif Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews in Piedmont.

    The 2008 Giro started in Palermo with a team time trial and the win of Slipstream (now renamed Garmin-Cervélo) led on the line by Christian Vande Velde while a year later, stage 1 in Lido di Venezia was dominated by Columbia-Highroad (now known as HTC-Highroad) and Mark Cavendish took the honour of crossing the line first to put on his first leader's jersey at a Grand Tour.

    "Two years ago, Cavendish was an up and coming rider and it was a team's decision to promote him," Piva remembered. "Now the situation is different. Should we win the team time trial on Saturday, Mark will have other possibilities to get the pink jersey again, but he's now at a point of his career where it wouldn't change anything if he was the race leader after the team time trial or not."

    HTC-Highroad yet has to have a meeting to determine which one of the riders will cross the line first but Piva didn't hide that Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti will be the one. "In theory, yes, it'll be Pinotti," the DS said. "It was already the decision taken at Tirreno-Adriatico. It would be a homage to his great contribution to the team and to the Giro that honours the tri-colours this year."

    HTC-Highroad will have two distinctive jerseys in the race on Saturday with

  • Menchov to go for two or three more years

    Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) sets the pace in the lead group.
    Article published:
    May 06, 2011, 4:40 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Russian star ready for the Giro after Geox Tour de France omission

    Two years after winning one of the less mountainous editions of the Giro d'Italia (the centennial), Denis Menchov is back for a totally different type of racing with a lot of hard climbs on the menu, but the Russian from Geox is also more motivated because he won't get a chance to ride the Tour de France for the first time since 2001.

    It's no secret that he wasn't pleased with the decision of Rabobank to not let him defend his crown at the Giro last year.

    "But it was in the interest of the team to have me in the best condition for the Tour de France," said the man who came third behind Alberto Contador and Fränk Schleck in July 2010.

    "Physically, I'm well," warned Menchov who chose to only take part in the Tour de Romandie (he finished 14th) in the past five weeks. "What I've done in Switzerland last week was good enough. I think my training has been good."

    The Giro is a little bit special this year," he continued. "The second part is really hard. In a Grand Tour, what counts is the condition anyway, not the number of hills or how hard they are. It's not going to be everyone against Contador. He is the most difficult to beat of all our rivals but other riders also look very well before the start of the Giro. Five or six riders can win it. Nibali is probably the other hot favourite, now that he has won a Grand Tour at last year's Vuelta. Whoever has won a Grand Tour is a more serious contender than anyone who hasn't yet. Experience counts so much on three weeks of racing."

    Geox team manager Mauro Gianetti stated that the disappointment of not riding the Tour de France despite having former winner Carlos Sastre in addition to Menchov is now behind them. "We've...

  • Porte: This time it's all about Contador

    Richie Porte was the relevation of the 2010 edition, managing to wear pink for a few stages.
    Article published:
    May 06, 2011, 6:35 BST
    Jane Aubrey

    2010's Giro sensation on selection, regret and the Tour

    Richie Porte was the revelation of the 2010 Giro d'Italia. He wore the maglia rosa for three days and went home as winner of the young rider classification but perhaps most impressively, he was in the general classification top 10 for the entire duration of the race. On the eve of this year's Giro, it's a very different Porte staring down the barrel of the next three weeks.

    "This time last year there was no pressure whatsoever," he told Cyclingnews. "I had a good race – it turned out pretty well."

    The Australian has only known that he needed to join the Saxo Bank team in Turin for a week. The result is a relaxed rider who hasn't really had the chance to think about the arduous task ahead.

    "I haven't had the stress of thinking about it for months and reading about how it's the hardest this and that," Porte explained. "When you look at the parcours it is probably something that a lot of guys would be losing sleep over. I don't think there're many Grand Tours that have been so hard. Everybody has to go up them [mountains] so everybody's in the same boat."

    Given his exploits in 2010, there is some pressure but it's all about doing the job for team leader Alberto Contador. It might be a bit sad in some ways, riding along and being an hour down knowing that it was only twelve months ago he was in a fight for the overall, but that's the reality of the job.

    Riding the Giro for a cause

    Porte's selection for the Giro raised a few eyebrows, especially given his recent health struggles with some pesky allergies that dogged him. Some even questioned whether the team had Porte's best interests in mind. It...

  • Boom extends Rabobank contract until the end of 2014

    Lars Boom (Rabobank) gives it a go
    Article published:
    May 06, 2011, 8:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Big week of signings for Dutch team

    Rabobank has announced that Lars Boom will continue to ride for the ProTour team until the end of 2014 following an extension of the Dutchman's contract.

    "In recent years, we have built up something beautiful," said Boom from the United States where he is currently preparing to take part in the Tour of California. "The cooperation is very good, and a three year contract is a vote of confidence. I feel great to face the future with Rabobank."

    The news follows the announcement earlier this week that Tom Leezer has extended his contract until the end of 2013, while 20-year old Dutch climbing talent Wilco Kelderman will join the senior Rabobank Team as of next year, having proved himself in the continental development team over the last few seasons.

    The team's technical director Erik Breukink explained he has great confidence in Boom's future.

    "Lars has made another step this spring," he explained. "He comes ever-closer to the top of the field. The confidence that he can compete for results in the future is great. Lars is one of the better Dutch riders with huge potential in some areas. Flanders and Roubaix are races that he will have a major impact in in the future. Furthermore, we believe that he can continue to develop in the smaller stage races."

    Boom's results in the Classics this season were impressive and there is no doubt Rabobank will be hoping it's just a sign of things to come. The former cyclo-cross world champion finished 9th at Gent-Wevelgem, 37th at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and 12th at Paris-Roubaix. He started the year by winning the opening stage of the Tour of Oman.