Rabobank is taking its top names, Giro d'Italia winner Denis Menchov and three-time World champion Oscar Freire to the Tour of Belgium this coming week. The race runs May 26-30.
"We start with our team of stars," directeur sportif Eric Breukink told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
The Dutch team will look to defend the overall title won last year by Lars Boom. Boom, who has just completed the Amgen Tour of California, will not ride the Belgian race.
Both the top stars have recovered from respiratory illnesses which held Freire out of the Giro d'Italia and caused Menchov to cancel his training in the Sierra Nevada. The team moreover includes Koos Moerenhout, who was also too ill to make the Giro squad, and Dimitry Kozontchuk, who dropped out of the Giro after crashing several times. The line-up will be rounded out by Bram Tankink and Joost Posthuma.
"First I had to disappoint the organization that we might not be a complete team, but now I can make them very happy with the announcement that our stars will come", said Breukink.
The Cervélo team may have lost an option for the General Classification with Xavier Tondo having an off-day yesterday on the Monte Zoncolan, but the outfit is still upbeat about Carlos Sastre's possibilities now that the Giro d'Italia has reached its final week.
Tondo, who enjoyed a promising third position on GC on Sunday morning, could not keep up with the best on the hard mountain stage that saw Ivan Basso return to former glory - instead, he finished in 100th place, 25'25" off the stage winner.
"Tondo didn't feel well from the start of the stage," commented Cervélo sports director Alex Sans Vega. "It's an accumulation of the fatigue. It's his first grand tour that he's going to finish..."
To the team's delight, however, 2008 Tour de France winner Sastre lived up to his expectations on the Giro's queen stage, finishing sixth behind Basso. On GC, the Spaniard is fourth, right behind the Liquigas leader, with other contenders such as Alexandre Vinokourov and Cadel Evans in fifth and sixth place.
Sans Vega followed Sastre's progress on the final Monte Zoncolan climb on Sunday with satisfaction. "Liquigas did huge work today, and Basso was very strong," he said. "At first, Carlos couldn't go at their rhythm. Then he recovered and went pretty well on the second half of the climb. I keep saying the same thing, today it was Tondo, yesterday it was Garzelli, so something to can happen to anybody at any time in this Giro. Until Saturday, the Giro will be wide open."
With further die-hard tests such as the time trial up the Plan de Corones coming up on Tuesday, as well as a more than challenging final week-end, the Cervélo TestTeam is placing its bets on the in-form and well-experienced Sastre. "We lost the option with Tondo, so now we will help Carlos to the maximum," Sans Vega continued. "The race is very exciting right now. For the fans, it will be a race that is spectacular until the final day in Verona....
Two amateur Kazakh riders have been arrested for “smuggling and use of doping products” by French authorities. They were on their way to the Tour de Franche-Comté for their team, Charvieu Chavagneux IC.
According to the AFP news agency, a search of their luggage in Audelange, Jura, uncovered performance-enhancing drugs which are outlawed in France, but are legal in some other countries. The exact products discovered were not released.
Both riders were held for detention and then released. Their home in Isère was also raided.
The names of the two riders were not released. One of them is a 26-year-old who is said to have ridden a year for Team Astana. The other is a 25-year-old, who only recently moved to France, at his friend's recommendation, and is said to have previously ridden for continental teams and the Ulan- based team Capec.
Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) was the highest placed American rider of the seven UCI-registered Continental teams invited to the Amgen Tour of California this year. The Boulder native didn't get the stage win he was hoping for but walked away from the event pleased with a 10th place, surrounded by ProTour contenders, in the overall classification.
"I finished in 10th and they are all ProTour riders in front of me, except for Rory [Sutherland]," said Zajicek. "I'm really happy with my GC place. This is by far the hardest race this year and these guys have been doing big stuff in Europe all year and that has helped them so much.
"I'm happy to be where I am and 11th overall is great but it doesn't really mean a whole lot. I was really hoping for a stage win."
Zajicek spent most of his early season preparing specifically for America's biggest stage race. At the end of April, he placed fourth overall in the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico. The National Racing Calendar (NRC) series event included six ProTour riders with RadioShack's Levi Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong, Jason McCartney and Garmin-Transitions' Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Thomas Peterson.
At the Amgen Tour of California, Zajicek proved his form against the climbers during stage three where he finished with the front selection behind a breakaway of three riders that included Leipheimer, Zabriskie and eventual overall winner Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia).
"I really came here to win a stage but I am very happy with how everything has gone for me on the climbs this week," said Zajicek. "I'm happy with how everything went. Every stage has been really hard but we haven't had any big selections, other than on Bonny Doon Road when there were the three guys up the road."
During the 'queen' stage six, Zajicek tackled the final ascent to Big Bear Lake with the lead group of 20 riders, attacking several times before the final sprint to the finish line...
Video: Team Type 1 takes rewards from year's biggest race
After a week of aggressive riding Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) won the prestigious King of the Mountains jersey at the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. Despite securing the jersey on the event's 'queen' stage six, the Dutchman rode into this third lengthy breakaway of the race during the eighth and final stage.
Although Rabou only needed to finish the stage inside the time limit to retain the KOM jersey, he took the opportunity to ride in one final breakaway during the last day. The finale was a 134km circuit race that included four laps of a 33km course and a 1,000 foot climb up the Mulholland Highway, located 10km from the finish line in Agoura Hills.
This time his breakaway companions were Yaroslav Popovych (Team RadioShack), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank), George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Oscar Pujol Muñoz (Cervelo Test Team), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Carlos Barredo (Quick Step).
"I woke up this morning and I was thinking that it would be really cool to be in the breakaway with the KOM jersey, so I tried to do it and apparently I was in the break so my goal was achieved for today." said Rabou.
"My goals for this Tour were to show myself to all the teams and to my team and to the public. One of the main goals...
Intestinal problems caused Quick Step rider to abandon Giro
The consequences of the intestinal problems which forced Wouter Weylandt of Quick Step out of the Giro d'Italia have left him hospital in Ghent, Belgium, suffering from dehydration.
Weylandt won the Giro's third stage ending in Middelburg, Netherlands but came down with intestinal problems during the race and was unable to start on Thursday. He returned home to Belgium, but the problem worsened.
On Friday, he went to the emergency unit of Ghent University Hospital, where he was taken into hospital. "He had serious dehydration," team manager Wilfried Peeters told Het Nieuwsblad. "He has lost 5 kilograms."
Team doctor Toon Cruyt said the problems should be resolved over the weekend.
Rogers dedicates his California victory to Italian
The stage of the Giro d'Italia to the summit of Monte Zoncolan was a great race to watch but for Italian coach Professor Aldo Sassi it was an especially emotional day.
Sassi, who coaches both Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans, is currently undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. He revealed his personal battle in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport just a few days before the start of the Giro. He described Basso and Evans as being like two sons to him and claimed if either win the Giro, it will prove that it is possible to win without doping.
"I can't choose between them. Cadel is the strongest athlete I've ever coached. Ivan is the one with more determination," Sassi said.
"Cycling has improved a lot. Things have really cleaned up. If either Ivan or Cadel win the Giro, we'll have the proof that you can win without doping. I totally trust them and I'm certain they wouldn't do anything to hurt me…."
Times for the climb and data calculated by Gazzetta dello Sport seemed to back up Sassi's hopes.
Basso climbed the 10.1km to the summit of Monte Zoncolan in a time of 40:45, one minute and 45 seconds slower than Gilberto Simoni in 2007. His average speed was 14.7km and he put out an average of 395 watts on the climb.
The VAM (Velocità Ascensionale Media) or average climbing speed adjusted for the gradient, was calculated at 1777m/hour and Basso's power to weight ratio was 5.68km/h. In the past Sassi has said that any value over 6.2w/kg for a long effort on a major climb at the end of a stage race could be an indication of doping.
Despite undergoing treatment, Sassi has been speaking almost on a daily basis to Gazzetta about the Giro and was rightly proud of how Basso and Evans rode on the Zoncolan.
"It was a intensely fought out stage, you can tell from the speed they climbed and the average power they put out. It was about 400 watts. Only a few riders can...
May ride Tour of Luxembourg, but still dealing with crash injuries
Lance Armstrong's preparations for the Tour de France remain up in the air, as he recovers from injuries suffered in a crash in the fifth stage of the Tour of California, which forced him out of the race.
Armstrong is still in the US, Team RadioShack spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews Monday afternoon.
It has been rumoured that the seven-time Tour de France winner will next ride the Tour of Luxembourg in early June. “There is a good chance that he will do Luxembourg,” Maertens said. “It will be decided next week.”
Race president Frank Zeimet confirmed that to the Luxembourg website Wort.lu, saying the decision would be not be made until a few days before the race starts.
The Tour of Luxembourg was the first race that Armstrong won after his comeback after cancer surgery, in 1998. “Lance Armstrong is a pro cyclist, who won't be at the start of the Tour of Luxembourg just to ride in the middle of the field. He is the type who always wants to win,” Zeimet said.
The Tour of Luxembourg runs June 2 to 6, ending barely four weeks before the start of the Tour de France. A participation there would make it impossible for him to line up at the Dauphiné Libéré (June 6-13), one of the two traditional Tour de France preparation races.
The beginning of April Armstrong said that he would ride the Tour de Suisse (June 12-20) as his final Tour de France preparation, instead of the Dauphiné, which rival Alberto Contador (Astana) has on his schedule. However, his team promptly denied that the final decision had been made, and it has now been rumoured that Armstrong would not ride in Switzerland either.
That would give Armstrong a minimum of racing going into the Tour de France. He abandoned the Tour of California on the fifth stage last week. His previous race was the five-day...