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Latest Cycling News, March 31, 2009

Date published:
March 31, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Di Luca defends in Settimana Lombarda

    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    The 39th Settimana Lombarda stage race starts today in Brignano, Italy, with a strong Italian field....

    The 39th Settimana Lombarda stage race starts today in Brignano, Italy, with a strong Italian field. Danilo Di Luca, 2007 Giro d'Italia winner, will defend his title against Gilberto Simoni, Davide Rebellin and Giovanni Visconti.

    There are 25 teams and 194 riders slated to start in the northern Italy stage race (held in the Lombardia region). Alessandro Petacchi, Francesco Ginanni and Coppi e Bartali stage winners Danilo Napolitano and Yuri Mitlushenko should head the sprint stages.

    The race starts with a team time trial stage of 18.7 kilometres in Brignano. Next weekend's stages should decide the overall title. Stage five covers Colle della Maddalena before the finish in Flero and stage six, Sunday, covers the Colle Gallo, Selvino and Boccola prior to the finish in Bergamo.

    Di Luca (LPR Brakes) won the 2008 edition over teammates Paolo Savoldelli and Daniele Pietropolli.

  • Wegmann goes too early in Brabantse Pijl

    Fabian Wegmann too early in Brabantse Pijl
    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    German Champion Fabian Wegmann under-calculated the distance to victory in Sunday's Belgian Classic,...

    German Champion Fabian Wegmann under-calculated the distance to victory in Sunday's Belgian Classic, Brabantse Pijl. The Milram rider finished third behind Anthony Geslin (Française des Jeux) and Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step).

    "I am disappointed, we were so close!" said Wegmann in a press release. "We rode well the whole race and also in the finale, which was a really strong team performance. I sprinted at 250 meters in the optimal position but it turned out to be 30 meters too early."

    Wegmann's teammate Christian Knees led the eight-man escape group in to the finale. Wegmann, at the back, attacked down the right hand side of the road. The French duo were able to bring him back just before the line.

    "I would still like to thank the whole team, even if I would rather have thanked them with a win."

    Wegmann finished second in Eroica Toscana three weeks ago. He won the German Championships and the GP Miguel Indurain in 2008.

  • Giro reveals Roman time trial details

    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport revealed the details of the final stage of the 2009 edition, May 9...

    Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport revealed the details of the final stage of the 2009 edition, May 9 to 31, yesterday in Rome. The stage race ends with a 15.5-kilometre time trial through the country's capital city, passing moments such as the Colosseum and Piazza di Spagna.

    "It will be a tribute to Rome," race director Angelo Zomegnan told Agr. "It is important to remember where this Giro starts, it was clear that this edition would arrive here in Rome."

    The 100th anniversary Giro d'Italia starts with a team time trial on Venice's lido. After one week of racing, there is a second time trial – a 61.7-kilometre test in the Ligurian region. The race travels south for its conclusion in Rome.

    The stage starts and finishes near the Colosseum. It begins with four kilometres of uphill and the final 11 are flat (15.5km in total, up from the original 15.3km). There are 17 turns in the breathtaking circuit that takes in Via Veneto, Piazza di Spagna, San Pietro, Castel Sant'Angelo, Piazza del Popolo, La Bocca della Verità and Il Circo Massimo.

    The Italian Grand Tour used Milan as its finishing city in recent editions. Zomegnan is considering a return to Rome in 2011 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy.

  • Kohl's and Rasmussen's former manager arrested

    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Federal police arrested sports manager Stefan Matschiner, 34, Monday night in Austria. Viennese...

    Federal police arrested sports manager Stefan Matschiner, 34, Monday night in Austria. Viennese prosecutors suspect him of providing doping materials to his clients.

    Matschiner was the manager for, among others, Bernhard Kohl and Michael Rasmussen. Kohl is serving a two-year suspension for having used Erythropoietin (EPO) CERA during the Tour de France. Rasmussen is serving a suspension for providing false information about his whereabouts.

    According to spokesman for the public prosecutor in Vienna, Matschiner dealt in forbidden substances "quite recently" and supplied "numerous athletes," but names are unknown.

    Matschiner has denied any involvement in doping. After his arrest, he said, "Sport is over for me. I am done with this dishonest scene."

    Meanwhile, Kohl testified this week. A ten-man Special Commission on Doping questioned him for several hours, with the emphasis on his relationship to Matschiner.

    Kohl said Matschiner's arrest did not surprise him. He has been in touch with investigators for a long time now, he explained.

    "Until Tuesday I can't make any detailed public statements, because of the danger of prejudicing the case," he told the APA press agency. Kohl plans to hold a press conference this week and "answer all questions". (SW)

  • Ballan supports teammates in Paris-Roubaix

    Ballan supports teammates in Paris-Roubaix
    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    World Champion Alessandro Ballan will head north to help his Lampre-NGC teammates prepare for the...

    World Champion Alessandro Ballan will head north to help his Lampre-NGC teammates prepare for the Paris-Roubaix, where he finished third in 2008, though he will miss the actual race. The Italian had to forfeit his Classics campaign due to a cytomegalovirus.

    "I am doing better, and next week I will have some more exams to check the status of the virus," he said in video press release. "I would like to head north on the eve of the Paris-Roubaix to reconnoitre some of the sectors with my teammates."

    Doctors diagnosed Ballan with cytomegalovirus – a herpes-type virus that causes tiredness and fever – after his withdrawal from the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race mid-March. It was a blow for the World Champion who had hoped to repeat his 2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen win this Sunday and to have a chance at the Paris-Roubaix, April 12.

    "It will be hard to have another occasion to race the Northern Classics with the World Champion jersey. ... My objective is to return for the Giro d'Italia."

    Ballan won the World Championship last September in Varese, Italy. He attacked solo from three kilometres out to win the title over teammate Damiano Cunego and Dane Matti Breschel.

  • Saxo Bank bets on Kroon for Ronde

    Karsten Kroon leads Saxo Bank in Ronde
    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Karsten Kroon will be the leader of Team Saxo Bank in Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday, in Belgium....

    Karsten Kroon will be the leader of Team Saxo Bank in Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday, in Belgium. The Dutch rider finished fifth in the Brabantse Pijl last Sunday and will do his utmost to deliver his squad a victory.

    With Fabian Cancellara still struggling for form since his training injury sustained at the beginning of the month, Kroon will be the outfit's sole leader at the race, revealed sports director Lars Michaelsen to Belgian Sportwereld.

    "We have to count on Karsten Kroon in the Ronde," said Michaelsen. "Matti Breschel is not yet on his best form. Kurt-Asle Arvesen won last year in Harelbeke, but now it's a little different. He'll be turning his wheels to get some racing kilometres into his legs, I think."

    Cancellara will still be hoping to factor in the race. "He knows the course and can add a ton of experience to the team. He is a rider who looks beyond his own ambitions. If he's not great, he hasn't got a problem putting himself at the service of a teammate who has a winning chance. Like two years ago in Paris-Roubaix, where [Stuart] O'Grady won."

    Kroon, who finished seventh last year and may challenge is keeping his feet in the ground. "I can dream of victory, although I know that it will be immensely difficult. If I'm on the podium in Meerbeke I will be overjoyed," said the 33-year-old.

    "The amount of spectators and their enthusiasm make it the most beautiful course! There is nothing that matches climbing the Kapelmuur with the best. It gives you goose bumps on your arms. Even if it rains and the wind blows – it makes the whole thing just more heroic."

    With Saxo Bank having scored only a few victories thus far this season – a drought compared to last year – the pressure is on for a win. However, there’s no "negative pressure" according to Kroon. "Last year, we had the wind in our sails. It just flowed, from Tirreno to the Tour to the Olympic Games. You have to know when to enjoy...

  • Posthuma to defend De Panne

    Posthuma defends in De Panne
    Article published:
    March 31, 2009, 0:00 BST
    By:
    Gregor Brown

    Joost Posthuma will aim to defend his title in the Driedaagse De Panne stage race. The Dutchman will...

    Joost Posthuma will aim to defend his title in the Driedaagse De Panne stage race. The Dutchman will lead the Rabobank team in the three-day race that starts today in Middelkerke, Belgium.

    "I finished second two years ago and I won last year," he said this morning. "I will be trying to win again."

    Posthuma, winner of the Vuelta a Andalucía in February, took his 2008 victory thanks to the final stage. He won the time trial and took the general classification from Enrico Gasparotto. He finished second in 2007 to Alessandro Ballan.

    "It will all depend on today. If a break stays away then that will decide the race."

    The race starts with a 199-kilometre stage from Middelkerke to Zottegem. The second stage is a road stage from Zottegem to Oostduinkerke. The riders will face two stages on Thursday: a morning road stage and the afternoon 14.75-kilometre time trial. (BH)