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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, May 17, 2010

Date published:
May 17, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Chicchi awaits sprint showdown in California opener

    Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo)
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 12:00 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    Will there be a new sheriff in Sacramento?

    Italian sprinter Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo) is looking to mark his territory in the bunch sprint at the opening stage of the Tour of California on Sunday. The 168km road race begins in Nevada City and is expected to end in a showdown between some of the fastest men in the world on the streets of Sacramento.

    “Looking at the maps, it seems tomorrow might be the only chance for sprinters,” Chicchi told Cyclingnews. “I hope for the best and will look for other opportunities later in the week. We are here to do our best no matter what.”

    On paper, the Amgen Tour of California’s opening stage is the only promising day for the sprinters. The route is predominantly downhill and finishes outside Capitol Park in Sacramento. Ten-time Tour de France stage winner, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) is the odds-on favourite to win the sprint. If the new Western-themed paint job on Chicchi’s Cannondale is any indication, there could be a new sheriff in town come sundown tomorrow.

    “It’s been 25 days that I haven’t raced so I am in good shape and rested,” Chicchi said. “I think my chances for a stage win are pretty good even against riders like [Tom] Boonen, [Mark] Cavendish and [Theo] Boss.”

    Following stage one, the race heads into the mountains where Chicchi’s role will revert to helping his teammates Manuel Quinziato, Peter Sagan and Brian Vanborg.

    “My job is to make it hard so that we can finish in a sprint on the other days,” Chicchi said. “Otherwise, my role will be to help the other guys on the team.”

    Chicchi kicked off his racing season at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina in January. The South American race offered the Liquigas-Doimo squad a break from Europe’s harsh winter months.

    “After the winter we had in Europe this year, it was not easy get in good shape,” Chicchi said. “I...

  • Hunter on the prowl for California stage win

    Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions)
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 12:15 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Garmin-Transitions sprinter seeking success in Amgen Tour

    A new addition to the Garmin-Transitions team for 2010, South African Robbie Hunter gave the team its first European win of the season in the Tour of Murcia in March. The 33 year-old is back in action at the Amgen Tour of California and looking to improve upon his solid results at the recent Tour de Romandie.

    After his successful start with back-to-back wins in Murcia and two days in the leader's jersey, Hunter's early season was waylaid by a bout with Achilles tendonitis which forced him to miss out on the Spring Classics.

    "It's weird, it's one of those problems I don't know what caused it. I hadn't changed anything on the bike - maybe it was the really cold weather we raced in in Tirreno-Adriatico. It was the only thing I can really pinpoint as a cause.

    "I had good training in the off season in South Africa, and the idea was to have a good pre-season up until the Classics," he said, but added that there is still plenty of racing left in the season.

    "People look back and all the Classics have come and gone and try to balance out who's been good and bad and put the numbers on the board, but if you look forward there is still a long part of the season left. There's still the Tour, and we're not even a quarter of the way through the Giro yet. There's a lot still to come and there are a lot of guys who still want to get results."

    Hunter is in California to help support his teammate and general classification contender David Zabriskie, but will have his own ambitions for the sprint stages. The first one comes with the 168km first stage into Sacramento, which is virtually guaranteed to be a bunch sprint. The victor will get the spoils of the first leader's jersey as well, something Hunter said he'd like to win.

    "I'm feeling pretty good. I just got thru Tour de Romandie. The condition is good. Our objective is obviously to get Zabriskie into the position to maybe take the jersey on the last day, but I've got some...

  • Evans still second overall at Giro

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) wraps up at the top of Monte Termicillo.
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 18:38 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    World Champion admits it's been a tough first week

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) stopped just a few metres after the finish at the top of the climb to Terminillo to pull on an extra rainbow jersey. The cold mist had collected on his face, emphasising the pain he was feeling after a second hard day of racing in the Giro d'Italia.

    The World Champion won the stage on the dirt roads to Montalcino on Saturday and finished ninth, in the same time as race leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), at the summit of the Terminillo.

    Evans told Cyclingnews that that the first mountain stage of the 2010 race had caused little change in the overall standings because of the intensity of the racing during the weekend and the first week of the Giro.

    "I think everyone was a little bit tired today after the huge effort we all made yesterday on the dirt roads," Evans said.

    "In the finale like that it's one-on-one, nobody really has any teammates and so that makes for defensive racing.

    "It's also been a pretty crazy first week. The route was pretty tough, especially with the stages in Holland, which were more of a lottery than about the strength of rider's legs. The speed was really high in the first two hours of the stage yesterday and even today it was lined-out as they went for the climber's points. I haven't seen that for a while."

    The Terminillo confirmed that Carlos Sastre (Cervélo Test Team) is no longer an overall contender, but all the pre-race favourites now fill the top-ten. Evans is 1:12 behind Vinokourov, but leads Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) by 21 seconds and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) by 39 seconds. Other possible rivals such as Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) and Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) are respectively 1:35 and 1:47 behind Evans.

    "This is the first real mountain finish of the Giro and so it's an early indicator of what's to come," said Evans.

    "A group formed at the front in the second half of the climb and that...

  • Anker Sørensen wants another Grand Tour win for Denmark

    Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank) celebrates his stage win
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 19:13 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Giro stage win just the start for Saxo Bank climber

    Chris Anker Sørensen claimed the fifth win of his pro career at the top of the Terminillo in the Giro d’Italia on Sunday and confirmed the reputation he had established with victory on the queen stage of the Dauphiné Libéré two years ago in La Toussuire. Last year he made his debut at the Tour de France at the service of the Schleck brothers.

    “I’m really, really happy,” Sørensen said moments after winning at the top of the mountain closest to the Italian capital of Rome. “It’s a great victory. This is the first mountain stage of the Giro, which is one of the biggest races in the world. Seven weeks ago I broke my right collarbone, so I wasn’t sure to be here for the Giro. It’s an incredible comeback.”

    Sørensen was victim of a crash during stage six of the Volta Catalunya. That day he said: “I hope for a miracle to let me be able to ride the Giro.” The miracle happened. The 25 year-old Dane was also smart enough to save some energy for the first uphill finish.

    “I came to this stage fresher than other guys because I took it easy yesterday,” he admitted.

    At Saxo Bank, Richie Porte has surprisingly taken on the task of riding for the Giro's general classification. The Australian moved up to sixth position at the Terminillo after David Millar (Garmin-Transitions), Vladimir Karpets (Katusha), and Milram's Linus Gerdemann and Thomas Rohregger were unable to stay with the favourites on the final climb.

    Since his stage win at the Dauphiné, Sørensen has acquired a lot of experience in his role as a domestique in the mountains of the Tour de France, but it doesn’t mean he has given up his personal ambitions. Two years ago, he was regarded as Denmark’s new climbing sensation but asked reporters not to make any comparison with his compatriot Michael Rasmussen because he had a very different...

  • Vinokourov fears Cadel Evans

    Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) finishes stage 8.
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 20:01 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Astana leader set to keep pink after defensive ride on Terminillo

    Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) did not turn up for the race leader’s press conference after stage eight to Terminillo, claiming that he was too tired and complaining about a 120km transfer to his hotel.

    He probably also heard the whistles from the Italian crowd and read the sign one spectator was holding up opposite the podium. It read: "Vinokourov ora hai perso anche la lealta" – “Vinokourov now you've lost your respect as well”. It perhaps refers to Saturday's stage, when Vinokourov did not wait for Nibali and Basso, after they crashed just before the dirt road section.

    During stage two in Holland, Liquigas had refused to drive on the front of the bunch when Cadel Evans crashed, the Australian consequently losing more than 40 seconds on the general classification.

    Vinokourov ignored the criticism and pulled on the pink jersey for a second consecutive day, and for the third time in this year's Giro. He has a 1:12 lead on Cadel Evans (BMC), with Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) third and fourth at 1:33 and 1:51. With no more mountain stages until stage 14 to Asolo, next Saturday, he should be able to keep it until then. Unless Astana let a break get away, so he can save his team for the final week in the mountains.

    The only thing Vinokourov admitted before disappearing down Terminillo was that he considers Evans his biggest threat to overall victory.

    "After the effort yesterday, I think we all had sore legs but the team took advantage of the work by the Omega Pharma-Lotto and then Lampre teams," Vino said.

    "Near the finish I carefully controlled Evans and everything worked out okay. Yesterday I realised that he was the strongest, so today I just watched him. He's the one that I fear the most."

  • Sastre rules out Giro challenge

    Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) lost more time on stage eight
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 20:28 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Crash leaves Spaniard suffering on Terminillo

    Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) started the Giro d'Italia as one of the three big-name overall contenders alongside Cadel Evans (BMC) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana). But after just eight days of racing he has admitted he has no chance winning the race.

    The 2008 Tour de France winner lost precious seconds in the Netherlands and in the team time trial but lost any chance of overall victory on the dirt roads to Montalcino due to a crash and mechanical problems. He finished 5:20 down, hurt his back in the crash and lost a further minute to the other overall contenders on the climb to Terminillo. When the other contenders surged clear in the final four kilometres, Sastre was unable to go with them. He is now 21st in the general classification, 8:10 behind Vinokourov.

    "At the moment I'm suffering, suffering and suffering," Sastre told Cyclingnews on the steps of the team bus.

    The Giro is not over, there's still a lot of important stages to come, but as everyone saw, the overall is not my goal anymore. I'm eight minutes behind and the other guys are really strong. That's why I told Xavier Tondo to attack and do his own race. He's in really good shape and I'm not here to block my teammates and make them ride for me."

    Sastre is experienced enough to know that he can only fight on and hope to recover for the final week of the Giro in the mountains. He lost time during the last year's Giro but went on to win two mountain stages and finish third. He now hopes to do the same this year.

    "It's been a very difficult first week. I just hope to come back step-by-step and recover from all the crashes and all the problems I've had,' he said.

    "We knew before the start of the Giro that it would be a difficult first week. We knew it would be crazy in Holland and on the white roads. I didn’t do anything wrong, I was just unlucky. I broke my bike, a wheel, I had to take everything and fight on. Today I just stayed...

  • Basso satisfied after climb to Terminillo

    Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) held firm in the maglia rosa group today
    Article published:
    May 16, 2010, 20:46 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Italian insists he and Nibali can share team leadership

    Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) was stuck in the traffic at the top of Terminillo but was still smiling after holding onto third place overall, 1:51 behind Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana).

    Basso and teammate Vincenzo Nibali lost two minutes on the dirt roads on Saturday, with Nibali dropping out of the pink jersey. But they looked comfortable on climb to Terminillo and were confident after the first mountain finish of the Giro.

    "It was a tough stage because we went hard all day but the climb to Terminillo is fast and so it was difficult for anyone to get away," Basso told Cyclingnews. "We're happy though, we've improved our position overall and we've shown we're strong.

    "After the first week of racing, I think everyone is about equal after moments of good and bad luck with crashes and punctures. That's
    cycling and things like that happen in three-week stage races. We've still got two weeks to race, with a lot of hard stages to go, so we're okay."

    When Nibali had the maglia rosa, it seemed that he would overshadow Basso as team leader at Liquigas-Doimo. Now they are closer in the general classification, it is not clear who will eventually go on to lead the team in the fight for the pink jersey. For now, Basso insists they can share leadership in the team.

    "There's been a lot of talk about how me and Vincenzo can or can't both compete for the pink jersey," Basso said.

    "But we're actually very compatible. He's fairly young and inexperienced, while I'm getting old and have experienced trying to win the Giro and Tour de France several times. Because of that there isn’t any competition between us because we're from two different generations. If he shows that he's the strongest, I'll totally back him up and vice-versa.

    "I hope people noticed yesterday that in a difficult moment, I opted to wait and drop back to wait for him so that we could ride together and limit the time we lost. I helped him...

  • Petacchi out of Giro d’Italia due to bronchitis

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre - Farnese Vini) after abandoning the Giro d'Italia during stage 8.
    Article published:
    May 17, 2010, 1:19 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Veteran sprinter eyes first Tour de France since 2003

    Alessandro Petacchi pulled out of the Giro d’Italia 40.5 kilometres into stage eight without having experienced pleasure of a stage win in the 2010 edition of the race.

    "My form was good," the Italian explained. "But my health is not good. I've been suffering with bronchitis since day one in this race. Last night I almost didn’t sleep. I didn’t manage to recover from yesterday’s stage. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the stage today."

    After he pulled out, his Lampre-Farnese Vini team was the most active at the front of the bunch as it worked to bring the breakaway back and set-up a potential uphill stage win for Damiano Cunego.

    "It’s a pity that I can’t continue," said Petacchi. "Tomorrow there was an opportunity for me to win and there are more stages to come for sprinters. This year, I’ve been affected by crashes but my condition was getting good for the Giro. I’ve tried to cure this bronchitis but it didn’t work out."

    Petacchi’s return to competition isn’t scheduled yet and will depend on his health in the coming weeks, but he’s determined to have a go at the 2010 Tour de France. He hasn't competed at the Tour since he won four stages in 2003 prior to retiring at the start of the Pyrénées.

    In 2008, he was supposed to ride the event with Milram but he missed out after being suspended for exceeding the World Anti-doping Agency's legal limit for asthma medication Salbutamol. In 2009, he rode for LPR, a team that wasn't selected for the Tour de France.

    "I’ve chosen Lampre for the race programme, because I wanted to do the Giro and Tour this year," Petacchi said. Despite his early retirement from the Giro, it had been rumoured that he had planned to abandon the race after two weeks in order to prepare for the Grande Boucle. The mountainous final week of the Giro only offers sprinters one opportunity for a stage...