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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, May 7, 2011

Date published:
May 07, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Aerts to continue his career despite heart problems

    Mario Aerts could have another go in the early breakaway
    Article published:
    May 06, 2011, 9:11 BST
    Cycling News

    Omega Pharma-Lotto rider training again

    Mario Aerts has started training again and will continue his cycling career, despite on going heart problems. The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider has been diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia.

    He was scheduled to undergo cardiac surgery last week, but it was cancelled. However, doctors said that the condition would not prevent him from continuing his athletic career.

    "I admit that I have difficulties with the diagnosis,” the 36-year-old told Het Nieuwsblad. “But last week I thought about it all and finally decided to continue racing.”

    It was not necessarily a popular decision. “Many people around me said I was crazy and advised me to stop, but I didn't.”

    Aerts trained again on Thursday for the first time and said “It felt good.” His biggest fear now is that he will have to miss this year's Tour de France. “I don't think my fitness will build up fast enough.”

  • Giro d'Italia: 23 teams presented in Turin

    The Italian colors lit up the sky
    Article published:
    May 06, 2011, 23:16 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Traditional gala honours Italian unity

    Friday afternoon saw Turin's ambient Piazza Castello host the presentation of a Giro d'Italia aiming to celebrate 150 years of Italian unity. Beginning in Italy's first capital and sweeping south as far as Sicily before beginning the long trek back north to Milan, the race route is designed to showcase the country's sense of nationhood and collective belonging.

    To emphasise the motif, the presentation was heavy on patriotic imagery, as it combined the ceremonial opening of the Giro with the annual celebrations of the veterans of the mountain brigades of the Italian army, the Alpini, who are also gathered in Turin this weekend. Two flyovers from the Frecce tricolori left plumes of green, white and red smoke to linger in the skies above, while the Alpini led the riders in a parade into the piazza.

    Italian defence minister Ignazio La Russa then took to the plinth to address the Alpini only to face loud jeers from sections of the crowd as he delivered his speech. The Alpini themselves then responded only half-heartedly to his attempts to drown out the murmurs of discontent with chants of "Italia, Italia."

    While this spectacle unfolded, the riders were left with a long wait at the fringes of the square before being presented to the crowds. With three gruelling weeks of racing ahead of them, there was widespread bemusement among the peloton as they stood on ceremony, and some riders understandably opted to sit as La Russa continued his lengthy oration.

    Nonetheless, the Giro's main players were all present and correct in Turin on Friday afternoon. Pre-race favourite Alberto Contador was in relaxed mood as he chatted with his former Astana teammates, while Mark Cavendish joked with fellow British fastman Adam Blythe.

    Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi attracted the bulk of the cheers from the home crowds, although Alessandro Petacchi, Stefano Garzelli and Italian...

  • Radioshack aiming high in California

    Defending Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco champion Chris Horner (RadioShack) on the decisive Alto de la Antigua ascent.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2011, 1:37 BST
    Cycling News

    Leipheimer and Horner to lead two pronged attack

    Team RadioShack will go to the Amgen Tour of California (May 15-22) with the clear ambition of winning the overall classification. An in form Chris Horner will join three time winner Levi Leipheimer to make a formidable leadership duo. Since the beginning of the season the Tour of California has been one of their big objectives and both riders are ready for the challenge. They will be surrounded by a strong group of riders combining a mixture of experience and young talent.

    "There is no doubt that this is one of our biggest events of the year," said Team Manager Johan Bruyneel.

    "We are an American registered team. Our biggest sponsors are American. So this race is important to our sponsors and therefore important to the team.

    "Three-time winner Levi Leipheimer will of course be our leader," continued Bruyneel.

    "This race suits him very well and this year even more than the previous ones. The race route has become harder; we now have two mountaintop finishes, and then there is the time trial in Solvang. Levi has never lost there. Chris Horner will be our perfect alternative. Thanks to his performances earlier this year in Catalunya and the Basque Country he deserves the co-leadership.

    "Chris never disappoints us. Age doesn't seem to have an impact on him. In fact like a fine win he only seems to improve," the Radioshack team manager joked.

    Bruyneel is all too aware however that 2011 edition of the Amgen Tour of California will be no pushover despite fielding one of the strongest team lineups.

    "Every year the teams are sending better riders to this race. Andy Schleck will be there - and with the ambition to win, and then there are the other American...

  • The winning formula proves true again in Spartenburg

    Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare) called to the line at the 2011 Roswell Criterium.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2011, 6:53 BST
    Cycling News

    UnitedHealthcare a class above so far in Speedweek

    Are UnitedHealthcare unstoppable? Maybe not, but they are clearly doing something right because they are making winning look easy. So far in Speedweek, only one person has managed to break the stranglehold of the UHC boys, Luca Damiani, and that was on day one in Athens. Of course you would hardly call Athens a failure - they did manage second with Boy Van Poppel, but since then they have been victorious in all four of the other Speedweek Crits. Jake Keough rampant with three wins, and lead-out man Hilton Clarke picked up the Beaufort Memorial on Wednesday.

    Some may find their domination not all that surprising considering that many of the other large US teams have chosen to send stronger rosters to races like the Gila and the Joe Martins Stage race, but  their results have certainly be no fait accompli. Boy Van Poppel, Karl Menzies and Hilton Clarke are all race winners on their day, but things still have to go right, just ask Tom Boonen or Alessandro Petacchi.

    Keough was all too aware of this fact as he praised the work of his team after the race.

    "The Team rode extremely well tonight. I felt super strong and my sprinting legs are just starting to come around," he said.

    "We are now dialing in the lead out and making minor tweaks to perfect it. The guys on this Team work so hard every race to put one of us in a position to deliver a victory and I’m glad I was able to do that tonight."

    In what has become a familiar sight in Speedweek, a blue blur amassed in the final 10 laps and dragged the eventual winner Jake Keough to the line, essentially an arm chair ride.

    "We saw other teams throwing quite a bit at us late in the race, especially Kenda/5-hour Energy and Exergy," General Manager and Team Director,...

  • Millar: Giro so hard that it might neutralise the race

    Millar is encouraged by the new generation of riders coming through,
    Article published:
    May 07, 2011, 9:19 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Garmin-Cervélo rider hoping for performance in TTT

    Speaking to Cyclingnews ahead of the inaugural team time trial of the Giro d’Italia, David Millar acknowledged that Garmin-Cervélo doesn’t have "a pure time trial team".

    "We’ve got half power but technically we’re good", Millar stated.

    The Brit said he was "excited in a strange way" by this extremely hilly Giro d’Italia. He also suspects that "not many riders will be racing till the end". With 207 starters and a UCI derogation to host 23 teams instead of the maximum of 22, the pink race can afford to lose the sprinters after stage 12 and the riders fed up by the uphill finishes.

    "It’s so hard that it might neutralise the race", Millar warned.

    As an anti-doping campaigner, the Scotsman is probably more excited by the new ‘no needle policy’ than by the race itself.

    "We’re in advance doing that", he said of the Garmin-Cervélo team he has tremendously helped going to the clean way of cycling three years ago already.

    When he won the prologue of the 2007 Paris-Nice in Issy-les-Moulineaux with Saunier Duval after coming back from suspension, he spread the message: "The young riders have to know that they don’t need injections or recovery drips."

    "We’ve proved that needles aren’t necessary to perform", he explained.

    "There’s no medical proof that intravenous fasten the recovery more than drinks. There’s an old culture coming from old riders to convince the young cyclists that needles are needed. There are no facts to prove that but that’s what they think. It’s now time to change this culture. The UCI doesn’t always take good decisions but this is a good one. We have to remember that it’ll benefit the riders. This is a big step."

    Millar is confident that police forces will help the sport authorities to make this new rule respected.

    "There has been a large presence...

  • Nibali ready to take on Contador at the Giro d'Italia

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale)
    Article published:
    May 07, 2011, 10:32 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Sicilian remains calm in spite of home pressure

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) starts the Giro d’Italia as the leader of the Italian challenge to Alberto Contador, but the Sicilian has insisted that such pressure and responsibility on his shoulders has not affected his mindset in the build-up to the race.

    “It’s true that there’s more pressure, but I’m approaching the race with the same calm as ever,” Nibali said at Liquigas-Cannondale’s final press conference. “I’ve arrived in the condition to do well. As always, I’m looking to do my best, and if you do that, then you can’t be disappointed.”

    Although Contador rides the Giro with the spectre of a possible suspension looming over him as the Court of Arbitration for Sport deliberates on his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France, Nibali does not believe the Spaniard will be affected by the matter out on the road.

    “We’ve seen him before and we see him now, he’s still the same,” Nibali said. “He hasn’t changed much, and he’s approaching the Giro better than he did in 2008, as he is better prepared this time.”

    A popular topic with sections of the Italian press was the impact that the potential of a retrospective disqualification for Contador might have on the tactics at the Giro.

    Nibali was careful not to be drawn into speculation about whether riders would be tempted to compete for second place, in the hope of being declared the Giro winner if Contador is subsequently suspended.

    “Answering that is a little difficult,” Nibali said warily. “If he drops me, it means that he is stronger. I’ve come here to do the maximum, to do my best. I’m not giving...

  • Sella happy to avoid being tipped as a favourite for the Giro d'Italia

    Emmanuelle Sella is happy to be back in his favourite rae
    Article published:
    May 07, 2011, 10:38 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Italian climber to target the three stages in the Dolomites

    Emmanuele Sella is back at the Giro d’Italia where he won three stages and the king of the mountain jersey in 2008 before testing positive for EPO several months later. He’s been overlooked as a favourite, with Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali taking the spotlight but he refers it that way, knowing he could emerge as a contender in the mountains.

    “I prefer it that way,” the Androni Giocattolii rider told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in piazza Castello in Turin. “I prefer to be forgotten. It might help me later in the race.”

    While Spanish climbers Joaquim Rodriguez, Igor Anton and Astana team leader Roman Kreuziger are highly rated, Sella should probably be taken into consideration after his results from the early part ot his season. He was third overall at the Tour de Langkawi, fifth  at the Giro di Sardegna, second at the Clasica Sarda, he won the Settimana Coppi & Bartali, was second at the Giro dell’Appennino and second (in the same time as Kreuziger) in the queen stage of the Giro del Trentino at Madonna di Campiglio. Not many of the climbers of the Giro have been so consistent before the start in Turin.

    “For me, this is a nice Giro, a very hard one,” Sella said. “I’m fit and I’ve demonstrated that I'm fit, so I hope to get some good result. The atmosphere of the Giro is great. I’m not worried. I’m aware of what I can do. I’ll probably wait for the end of the first week to see how my form really is, then I’ll figure out if I should go for GC or try to win a stage or more.”

    The little rider from the Veneto region is particularly looking forward to the three...

  • Merckx tips Contador to win the Giro d’Italia

    Eddy Merckx was on hand in Kortrijk on Friday.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2011, 12:27 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Five-time winner optimistic for the sport despite doping scandals

    Eddy Merckx believes Alberto Contador will win the Giro d’Italia but has predicted that the numerous mountain finishes and the presence of key rivals Vincenzo Nibali, Michele Scarponi and Roman Kreuziger will create a very open race. 

    Merckx spent most of his career racing for Italian teams and earned the nickname of ‘the Cannibal’ after winning all the jerseys at the 1968 Giro d’Italia. He will be a special guest on Italian television during the final week of the race when the mountains stages are expected to decide the winner of the of the maglia rosa.  “Italy is my second home. I became Merckx here and learnt everything during my time racing in Italy. I feel very Italian.” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

    “This year’s route is hard, really hard. But the Giro is always hard; it was even in my day. The best mountains are in Italy and for the fortune of Italian cycling; they’re in the north and the south of the country. Only Italy can host a stage like the one at the summit of Mount Etna.”

    “This year’s Giro will be won in the mountains. I don’t really think the final time trial to Milan will count too much after all those climbs. The hardest and most dangerous climb is the Zoncolan. Fortunately it wasn’t around in my time…”

    Italian cycling has been hit by further doping scandals in recent weeks. Yet Merckx insisted he is optimistic about the future of the sport,...