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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Date published:
March 03, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Senegalese trio acquitted in Vandenbroucke case

    The courtyard inside La maison bleue, the hotel where Frank Vandenbroucke was found dead.
    Article published:
    March 02, 2010, 21:53 GMT
    Cycling News

    Accused released from prison after nearly 5 months

    Three Senegalese people were acquitted on charges of theft by the regional court in Thiès, Senegal today. The trio had been accused of theft or as accomplices to theft of possessions belonging to the deceased Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke.

    Vandenbroucke was found dead in a hotel room in Saly, Senegal on October 12 at age 34. Seynabou Diop, the woman who was with Vandenbroucke on the night of his death, Alassane Gaye and Mbaye Seck were accused of stealing two cell phones and a sum of cash from him, but denied the charges.

    The three defendants have been in jail since October, but were never implicated in the death of Vandenbroucke.

  • Armstrong better than 2009, but Contador still the favourite, Bruyneel says

    Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) after the final stage of his second Tour Down Under
    Article published:
    March 03, 2010, 9:47 GMT
    Cycling News

    American to concentrate on Murcia time trial

    Lance Armstrong is in better shape than last year, but Alberto Contador is still the favourite this year, according to RadioShack team director Johan Bruyneel. The experienced Belgian led both riders in last year's Tour de France, where Contador finished first and Armstrong was third.

    "Contador is the favourite because he has shown that he is above everyone else. Lance is better than last year but we still don't know if it will be enough to beat Alberto" Bruyneel told Spanish newspaper Marca.

    "This year is different for Armstrong. This year is different for Armstrong because right now he is a rider starting off his season and last year he was still finding out what it meant to be a rider again,” Bruyneel explained. “His body was not accustomed to long, hard workouts, and he had lost the usual benchmarks after being retired three years.”

    Armstrong will make his European season debut today in the Vuelta a Murcia, where he will meet other Tour de France contenders Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky).

    Bruyneel said that the seven-time Tour winner would concentrate on the time trial stage and not the overall title. “He's going to test himself in the time trial and try for a good result, but winning is another matter because there are other people who are very well prepared," he said.

    The time trial stage is on Saturday and is on a totally flat 22km course. Menchov, Wiggins and Zabriskie are also expected to target that stage.

  • Fuglsang hopes his early season woes are over

    Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    March 03, 2010, 10:46 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Young Dane's power decreased after training camp

    Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang was one of the breakthrough riders of the 2009 season, winning both the Tour of Slovenia and the Tour of Denmark, as well as finishing second in the Giro dell'Emilia. But the Saxo Bank rider has not been able to get up to speed so far in 2010.

    The 23-year-old had a good training camp in January, but since then has been unable to ride as well as he hoped. “I can see it when I look at my power metre. I can't produce enough watts compared to what my pulse indicates, and it is very frustrating," Fuglsang told the Danish news agency Ritzau.

    Fuglsang had some minor knee problems over the winter, but that has cleared up and said it is no longer a problem. “At training camp on Fuerteventura, things went beyond all expectations and I could not understand why it went so well. But since then I've dropped into a hole.”

    However, things are looking up for the former mountain biker. “Only the last few days that things are starting to get better. Maybe I just needed a little break.”

    Fuglsang is riding the one-day race Giro del Friuli in Italy today, and will ride Paris-Nice which begins on Sunday.

  • Pellizotti convinced form will peak for Giro d'Italia

    Race leader Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) adjusts his helmet.
    Article published:
    March 03, 2010, 11:31 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Italian makes season debut at Giro del Friuli

    Italy's Franco Pellizotti makes his season debut on home roads at the Giro del Friuli on Wednesday, but his 2010 season is firmly built around winning the Giro d'Italia.

    Pellizotti is one of the four stage race leaders at Liquigas-Doimo, along with Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. There was tension in the Italian team last year about who was the leader at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. This year the leadership roles have been clearly defined and with the Giro packed with tough climbs, Pellizotti has been named as leader on equal terms with Basso.

    At 32, and after ten years as a professional, 'Peli' is convinced he is now at his best. He has worn the maglia rosa but never won the Giro d'Italia.

    "My big goal is to win it this year. After Friuli, I'll ride Eroica, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo, but everything is aimed at being my best for the Giro," he told Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday.

    "Last year I finished on the podium behind Menchov and Di Luca. Now I'm 32 and I think my moment has come. All my season will be built around the Giro d'Italia and I'll be at 100 per cent."

    "I know a lot of people want to win the Giro but I really like the course. I won’t be penalised by the time trials this year. There's the mountain time trial to Plan des Corones but I've won that in the past. This year the final week will be tough and decisive because there are climbs like the Zoncolan, Gavia and Mortirolo."

    Pellizotti picks Spain's Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) as his perhaps biggest rival. He insists that he and Basso will race together and not against each other.

    "This year's Giro suits Sastre. He's a lightweight climber who goes well on the really tough climbs. He'll be a big threat. There's also Cadel Evans. He's a real fighter and will be proudly wearing the rainbow jersey. Basso is also a favourite and then we'll have to see what riders like Alexandre...

  • Tour of Murcia director denies anti-Italian stance

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
    Article published:
    March 03, 2010, 12:01 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Guzmán backs-down after UCI letter, race gets underway on Wednesday

    Tour of Murcia Director Paco Guzmán has back-tracked on a statement he made last month in which he said Italian teams would be banned from the five-day race. The initial statement came in reaction the ban currently in force against Murcian local Alejandro Valverde racing in Italy.

    Guzmán had told Spanish newspaper AS in early February, "There will be no Italian teams participating due to the fact that they aren't letting Valverde race in that country. Alejandro is Murcia's best rider and I don't want them in our race."

    But on Wednesday, Guzmán told AS that he had been wrong to make what he called a "colloquial statement", and that there was no ban on Italian teams taking part in the event. Instead, he said, the Italian teams had chosen not to participate, and further deflected any anti-Italian sentiment by referring to the race's Trophy Marco Pantani – a prize awarded for the first rider to crest the Alto de Collado Bermejo on stage three of the event.

    Guzmán's back-flip comes after International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid issued a letter to the Spaniard on Tuesday asking him to explain the basis for his earlier statements.

    "As a result of what I read in the press this week, I wrote a letter to [Guzmán] outlining [the UCI's] opinion of his approach," McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.

    The letter, extracts of which were published by Italian media sources on Tuesday, contends that Guzmán's statements about disciplinary proceedings against any rider were inappropriate. It asked him to issue a retraction of any decisions that might have discriminated against Italian teams.

    While McQuaid acknowledged that the UCI didn't have evidence of any specific cases of teams being denied entry to the race, he appeared satisfied with reports of Guzmán's retreat. "I've been told this morning that in the Spanish press he's apologised...

  • Dekker gets two-year suspension for EPO use

    Dutchman Thomas Dekker positive for EPO
    Article published:
    March 03, 2010, 13:10 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Dutch rider caught by re-examined control under biological passport programme

    Thomas Dekker has been suspended for two years for using EPO, the Monegasque Cycling Federation announced today. The suspension runs until July 1, 2011.

    The 24-year-old from the Netherlands was tested for EPO in an out-of-competition doping control on Christmas Eve 2007 but that test was negative. According to the International Cycling Union (UCI), data gathered under the biological passport programme in 2008 and 2009 “demonstrates convincing evidence of the use of the prohibited method of oxygen transfer.”

    These results prompted the UCI to review Dekker's past doping controls, including the one taken in December 2007. The WADA accredited laboratory in Cologne, Germany, re-examined the urine sample and found it to contain EPO.

    Dekker was suspended by Team Silence-Lotto on July 1, 2009. He had joined the Belgian team that season after leaving Rabobank the previous August under unexplained circumstances.

    The Dutch rider, who lived in Monaco and rode under a Monegasque licence, has said that he used EPO only the one time, acknowledged his “mistake” and accepted full responsibility. Dekker has indicated he plans to return to riding after this suspension ends in 2011.

  • Langkawi benefits the Kelly crew

    Michael 'Bling' Matthews (Jayco Skins) grabs another stage of the tour ahead of Alex Candelario (centre) of Kelly Benefit Strategies and Dmytro Grabovskyy (far right) from ISD-Neri.
    Article published:
    March 03, 2010, 14:11 GMT
    Les Clarke

    Kelly Benefit Strategies heats up its pre-California racing schedule

    Kelly Benefit Strategies may be the only American squad at this year's Tour de Langkawi but one of its sprinters, Alex Candelario, believes the race will prove great preparation for the team's big target this year, the Amgen Tour of California.

    Candelario's trademark moustache was out in full force at the start of this year's race and the affable 35-year-old made his presence felt with second place on the third stage to Mersing. He told Cyclingnews that any wins are a bonus, given that the team has May on its mind.

    "In the US we're really focused on the Tour of California - pretty much all of our international trips are focused on having a good race there. We're also going to France just prior to California just to get in some hard stage racing [including the Tour of Brittany]," said Candelario.

    "Initially [Andrew] Bajadali was going to come over [to Langkawi] because he would have had a good shot at the Genting climb, but for GC hopes we still have Neil Shirley, who's going well at the moment and for the sprint stages we have Zach Bell. This is our first race and we just wanted to come over and get some good fitness in and maybe even win a stage.

    "Neil's really light right now and over the past year or two he's really come into his own; I think he can definitely have a good day [on Genting]. I think we'll get used to the heat and the time zone as the race goes on - there's a 16-hour time difference for us," he added.

    According to the Las Vegas native, the publicised lack of big names hasn't hurt the quality of racing too much, but admitted that there's a certain star quality lacking in comparison to previous years.

    "For a first race of the season, the pace is good. The first hour-and-a-half on the first day was good but it [the field] probably doesn't have the depth it has had in previous years. For us it's great...