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Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, May 7, 2010

Date published:
May 07, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Australia boasts record Giro entry

    Cadel Evans is primed for a shot at winning the Giro d'Italia.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 6:33 BST
    By:
    Greg Johnson

    14 Australians to contest Italian Grand Tour

    Regardless of whether Australia’s Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) capitalises on his position as favourite at the Giro d’Italia, the race is already a historic edition for the nation. Australia will have 14 riders across 10 different teams lining up in Amsterdam for this year’s race, more than have contested any one previous edition in the event’s 100 year history.

    The record entry means that nearly one third of the 45 Australians to have ever contested the Giro will be involved in this year’s race. That includes four debutants at Italy’s Grand Tour: Cameron Wurf, Jack Bobridge, Luke Roberts and Richie Porte.

    Evans, taking part in just his second Giro having debuted in 2002, will wear the Giro’s maglia rosa for the second time if he takes the three week race’s lead at any point this month. He is one of just four riders to wear the prestigious jersey, with Evans, Brett Lancaster and Robbie McEwen having worn the jersey for one stage each while Bradley McGee held it for two stages during his career.

    McEwen has won significantly more stages at the Giro than any other Australian rider and has the opportunity to add to that when he returns with Katusha this year. McEwen has won 12 Giro stages during a career that can only be described as highly decorated, and he’s determined to show that despite a lengthy recovery from injury he can still compete with the world’s top sprinters.

    "I'm purely going there to win a stage and if I can win one stage then that would be awesome, considering where I've come from last year with the injuries,” McEwen told Cyclingnews earlier this week. “I've started slowly but surely to find my legs again and build up strength through the first part of the season."

    While McEwen tries to improve his impressive stage victory record, should any other Australian win a stage this year it would boost the number of stage winning riders...

  • Sastre motivated for Giro win

    Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) smiles during questioning at the press conference.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 8:40 BST
    By:
    Jean-François Quénet

    Limited racing program won't stop Spaniard

    Former Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre is one of the favourites for this month’s Giro d’Italia, with the 35-year-old making his intentions clear after arriving in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. While it’s the Spaniard’s fifth Giro it will be only the second time Sastre has captained a squad, following his fourth place last year which became a third after Danilo Di Luca’s positive doping test.

    “I almost came third,” said Sastre with a hint of irony. With last year’s winner Denis Menchov not defending his title in order to focus exclusively on the Tour de France and Franco Pellizotti’s late sidelining for anti-doping reasons, Sastre is an obvious candidate for the maglia rosa.

    “It’s a huge opportunity to win the Giro this year,” the Cervélo TestTeam rider said at a press conference in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium. “But there are still many important riders on the start line with Cadel Evans, Alexandre Vinokourov, Bradley Wiggins and Ivan Basso. If I happen to win the race it’ll be great.”

    Sastre decided last November to focus on the Giro d’Italia as his first goal for 2010. “With two stage wins, I kept very good memories of this race last year,” he said. “After a hard Tour de France, I wanted to re-start the computer and I’ve thought the Giro would be the best way to do so. I’ve also had a difficult off-season. The winter has been bad, but I have followed my plan with the idea to arrive here with good form.”

    Sastre’s limited racing thus far this season, just eight days of competition, was deliberate. Sastre completed seven days at the Tour of Catalunya, where he helped Xavier Tondo win a stage on his way to second overall, followed by Liège-Bastogne-Liège where he was caught in a crash before being dropped with 30km remaining.

    “I feel fresh and...

  • De Post puts Merckx on de stamp

    The limited edition Eddy Merckx postage stamp.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 9:24 BST
    By:
    Greg Johnson

    Cycling legend coming to a Belgian mail box near you

    His face is one of the most recognizable in the world of cycling and now sporting legend Eddy Merckx could greet you when you check the mail box. The Belgian postal service, De Post, has launched a limited edition of postage stamps featuring a portrait of the cycling great, in addition to imagery of the rider wearing the Tour de France’s yellow jersey and the Arc de Triomphe.

    Merckx attended a special ceremony to launch the stamp earlier this week, as did the nation’s prime minister Yves Leterme.

    The Belgian rider is generally considered one of, if not the, best of all time thanks to his comprehensive career. Merckx won the Tour on five occasions, the Giro d’Italia a further five times and the Vuelta a Espana on one occasion.

    It was more than his Grand Tour conquests that gave Merckx his reputation, however, as his list of results in one day races is no-less impressive. He was a three time world champion and had won Milan-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Giro di Lombardia all on more than one occasion.

  • Konovalovas lays low ahead of Giro time trial

    Ignatas Konovalovas talks tactics with his Cervelo Test Team sport director.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 9:35 BST
    By:
    Jean-François Quénet

    Lithuanian unsure of repeat victory chances

    Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas took a surprise victory on the Giro d’Italia’s final stage last year, but hopes of picking up where he left off when this year’s race commences in Amsterdam might be asking too much of the 24-year-old.

    “It’s going to be difficult for me because I have been sick for most of the first part of the season,” Konovalovas told Cyclingnews in the Netherlands. “I got the flu at the Volta ao Algarve and I was out for 10 days after that. I got sick again and off the bike for another seven days after Tirreno-Adriatico. My blood results have gone down, so it’s hard to say how my shape is before this time trial. Last year my win was a big surprise for everyone.”

    Last year’s Giro d’Italia was Konovalovas’ first Grand Tour. He credits former Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre for acknowledging his strength an encouraging him during his first Giro.

    “The hardest part of it was at the end of the first week when we had a couple of stages longer than 200 kilometres,” he recalled. “After 10 days, I was like a zombie but most of the other riders were too, so you don’t care about anything. Carlos Sastre gave me a lot of motivation during the third week. He said ‘I see you’re strong, you can make it in the final time trial’. He was obviously right.”

    Konovalovas also finished inside the top 10 at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Road Championship in the time trial, showing he’s one of the world’s most interesting prospects for the race against the clock. He might be unsure of his current condition but Konovalovas prepared specifically for the 8.4km flat opening stage.

    “My last seven days of training have been on my time trial bike exclusively,” he said. “My favourite distances are no less than 15 or 20km. Normally the longer the better. I came here...

  • Nibali ready to serve Liquigas at Giro

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) talks to his fan club that traveled from Italy to cheer him on
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 11:15 BST
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Young Italian assigned to replace Pellizotti

    Last Sunday, Vincenzo Nibali was at home in Sicily, giving his body a break after an early start into the 2010 season where he was initially scheduled to ride the Tour of California in May. But with Liquigas' Giro leader Franco Pellizotti being taken out of competition on Monday because of irregular blood profiles in his biological passport, Nibali was called into the team at the very last minute.

    The 25-year-old did not have much time to prepare for the Grand Tour. A couple of road training rides and a quick test of his time trial bike was all he could manage before flying out to Amsterdam to line-up at his third Giro d'Italia. Having finished 11th at the event two years ago, Nibali said that he was conscious of his role in replacement of Pellizotti, at the side of Ivan Basso, the team's leader.

    "I felt they had confidence in me being the right man to substitute Pellizotti," he when asked by Gazzetta dello Sport journalists whether he had felt honoured to recieve the call-up. "To serve the team, help Basso, take over a leading role. In a delicate moment like this one, I had to oblige to the team's decision."

    Nibali did not comment on the Pellizotti, who now faces disciplinary action by the Italian cycling federation, but recalled the 2008 Giro which saw his teammate finish fourth overall and himself 11th. "That's when I learned to manage the load of pressure, the sense of responsibility and the length of the race."

    Despite his late inclusion in the Liquigas roster, Nibali hasn't set himself any limitations to what he could achieve at this Giro, even without having reconnoitred any of the mountain stages.

    "I did the Terminillo and the Zoncolan in the 2007 Giro, and the Plan de Corones, Gavia - albeit from the other side - and the Mortirolo in 2008," he said. "I rode up the Grappa during training. But I have a dream. Hopefully in Verona I will be able to reveal it!

    "My form is good. I had an altitude...

  • Bakelants hopes for Giro stage win

    Jan Bakelants tucks in
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 11:17 BST
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Omega Pharma-Lotto rider ready for first Grand Tour

    Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto) will take to the start line of his very first Grand Tour at the Giro d'Italia in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday, and the young Belgian is looking forward to it. After some good results in medium-length stage races since his victory of the Tour de l'Avenir in 2008, Bakelants is curious to find out how a three-week race will affect his body and performances.

    "I know I can get through ten days of racing, like at the Tour de l'Avenir or at the Eneco Tour last year, where I finished ninth," Bakelants told La Dernière Heure. "But this will be twice as long."

    Although Bakelants will race at the service of his team leader Sebastian Lang, he will have the freedom to shoot for stage victories whenever the opportunity arises. He said he would prefer to take those chances rather than achieve an "anonymous" top-30 placing overall.

    "What sense does it make to just follow the rest and finish 25th? Nobody ever recalls such a placing. I prefer to race aggressively like [Quick Step's Dries] Devenyns did last year, when he went for a stage victory twice. I hope to get this chance in the second week of racing, when the general classification will be established - I will certainly take the initiative to try and score a stage then."

    While Bakelants has shown good form in recent weeks, at the Tour de Romandie and the Ardennes Classics, he knows that there is still a great margin between his own capabilities and those of his more experienced colleagues.

    "You have to be realistic with regard to the competition," said the 24 year-old. "I'm happy with how the start of the season went for me. I'm here for a stage victory, but being a rider who's only in his second year as a pro, it won't be a scandal if I don't achieve my goal."
     

  • International Tour de ‘Toona returns

    Alison Powers (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) rode to a close second place.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 13:00 BST
    By:
    Kirsten Frattini

    Organisers bring mountain-top finish to Blue Knob

    After multiple race cancellations hope is on the horizon for the women’s peloton, with the International Tour de ‘Toona scheduled to take place August 23-29 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Organisers will test run the seven-stage race after a two-year hiatus with the aim to bring it back to the National Racing Calendar (NRC) in 2011.

    This year the race will return as a seven-day women’s stage race and will include a three-day event for the men during the final weekend. “We love the race and want to continue the tradition started over 20 years ago,” said race director Larry Bilotto. “It is also an economic boost for the area, along with introducing the area to outsiders and the sport to insiders. The USCF will consider putting it back on [the NRC] through the bid process if we are successful this year.”

    Organisers have historically highlighted the women’s race as the marquee event and have offered equal prize money and race distance as the professional men’s category. It’s an element of the event that’s not lost on the athletes, according to Team Vera Bradley Foundation’s Alison Powers.

    “That is one thing that has been so amazing with ‘Toona was that it had equal prize money and distances and it was probably the only race to do that in all the world,” said Powers. “Me, and I’m sure the rest of the rest of the women’s peloton, really hope that ‘Toona comes back, because it was the really one of the hardest and best races for women on the calendar.”

    The women’s racing will kick off with the Downtown Altoona five-kilometre individual time trial on August 23 and then move into the hills for the stage two Vintondale to Cairnbrook Road Race on August 24. Stage three will include a new mountain-top finish atop the famed Blue Knob ascent in the Laurel Hill State Park to Blue Knob All Season Resort Road Race on August...

  • Simoni sentimental ahead of Giro swansong

    Gilberto Simoni came in third in the 2008 time trial at Plan de Corones.
    Article published:
    May 07, 2010, 13:30 BST
    By:
    Hedwig Kröner

    Two-time winner still looking for glory in final race

    On the eve of the 93rd Giro d'Italia, Gilberto Simoni has reflected on the role the race has played in shaping his 16-year professional career. The two-time winner of the Giro will close his career at the race and is hoping to achieve some final glory.

    Simoni, who can look back on 13 Giro participations, has developed a special bond to the event. "It was the Giro that brought me to cycling when I was a child," he told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport. "It triggered my dreams. Francesco Moser inspired me."

    The Lampre rider comes from a tiny village named Palù di Giovo, in the province of Trentino, also the hometown of 1984 Giro winner, Moser. "It counts 550 souls," he said. "But it's won three Giros and four riders coming from there have worn the maglia rosa: Aldo, Enzo and Francesco Moser, and myself. We have the Giro in our genes."

    At 38 years of age, and facing tough competition, Simoni knows that another overall victory in the three-week race may be an impossible feat. Therefore, his objectives remain broad: "I will race a diverse Giro. I have the possibility to watch what happens a step back, I don't have the pressure of a result. The final victory is not the only one. There are so many possibilities. I just want to be at the height of my own story."

    Simoni also spoke of his love for the Monte Zoncolan, which will form the climax to stage 15 of this year's race. The Giro has visited the climb twice since 2003, with Simoni the stage winner on both occasions.

    A third victory on the Zoncolan would be "absolutely beautiful, but I don't want to dream about the impossible," he said. "I was always fortunate in the Aprica [stage 19], but I got second there three times. I feel I have to take a revenge on the Plan de Corones [