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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, April 24, 2010

Date published:
April 24, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Eeckhout to return to racing in a month

    Niko Eeckhout was unsurprisingly the most combative rider of the day
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 10:47 BST
    Susan Westemeyer

    Belgian relieved to not be sitting in a wheelchair after breaking vertebra

    Niko Eeckhout will have to sit out from racing for a month with a broken vertebra, but has gladly accepted his enforced break after considering how much worse it could have been. A back specialist said that a new scan showed it would be safe for the An Post-Sean Kelly rider to return to racing in four week's time.

    “When he showed me the picture, I saw how close everything was,” the 39-year-old told the Belga news agency. “I've been very lucky, or else I might be in a wheelchair now. “

    That knowledge has helped him to accept the injury. “It makes it slightly easier to resign myself to this misfortune; it could have been much worse.”

    Eeckhout broke a vertebra in a crash in the GP Pino Cerami on April 8, but extent of his injury was not revealed until a week later. He started in both the Brabantse Pijl and the GP Denain, but had to abandon both due to the pain.

    Eeckhout is expected to resume light training on Monday.

  • Simoni doubtful about riding the Giro d'Italia

    Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Farnese Vini) in his new jersey
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 11:04 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Italian to decide next week after suffering in Trentino

    Italian veteran Gilberto Simoni has admitted he may not ride the 2010 Giro d'Italia as the swansong to his long career after all, following a disappointing performance in the Giro del Trentino.

    The 38 year-old two-time Giro d'Italia winner signed a contract with the Lampre-Farnese Vini team last week just in time to ride the Giro del Trentino on home roads in the Dolomites. Simoni had kept training and made himself available for out-of-competition doping controls before he inked the deal. His dream was to ride the Giro d'Italia one last time before finally retiring.

    However, Simoni suffered in the mountains at the four-day Giro del Trentino, losing 3:08 on the final mountain stage to Alpe di Pampeago. He finished 29th overall, 5:26 behind winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana).

    Simoni revealed his doubts about the Giro d'Italia to Gazzetta dello Sport.

    "I'm not sure if I'm going to ride the Giro. I'll decide in the middle of next week," he said.

    "The Giro's not a walk in the woods, it's 21 days of hard racing. I like to stay up front in the mountains, but here [at the Giro del Trentino] I was scratching around a lot at the back."

    Simoni, whose professional career commenced in 1998, was expected to be part of the Lampre-Farnese Vini team for the Giro d'Italia along with former rivals Damiano Cunego and sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.


  • Liège-Bastogne-Liège teams are presented in Belgium

    Philippe Gilbert is quizzed by the media
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 16:43 BST
    Cycling News

    Gallery: Contador, Gilbert, Schlecks gather for 'La Doyenne'

    The countdown to the final Classic of the spring began on Saturday afternoon as riders attended the official Liège-Bastogne-Liège team presentation.

    The 25 teams in the race were called onto a stage one by one, with legendary French race announcer Daniel Mangeas reeling-off their best results and asking them for a brief comment on their chances for Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    Before going on stage in the huge marquee, the riders gather in the centre of the Palais des Princes-Eveques. The atmosphere was that of a friendly weigh-in before a prize fight, as riders and rival directeur sportifs said hello but carefully check out each others fitness and tested their confidence.

    Local hero and big favourite Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma) tried to play it cool but was clearly nervous, knowing victory would change his career forever and perhaps make him the most complete Classics rider of his generation. He was mobbed by the crowds, but patiently posed for dozens of photographs and autographs.

    World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) and former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) were also spotted by the crowd outside the presentation and swamped by requests for autographs, but managed to escape and get back to their hotels on their team buses.

    Saxo Bank was one of the last teams to be presented. Andy and Fränk Schleck looked laid-back and confident, with both promising to make it a hard race for Gilbert and anyone else hoping Liège-Bastogne-Liège will finish in a sprint. We can expect them to go on the attack as early as the Côte de la Redoute, 35km from the finish, and blow the race wide open.

    Alberto Contador (Astana) mingled with his former teammates, who now ride for Lance Armstrong's RadioShack, and Christian Vande Velde joined his Garmin-Transitions team, revealing he will support Canada's Ryder Hesjedal after the Canadian's second place result in the Amstel...

  • Vande Velde takes on Tour rivals at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Christian Vande Velde renewed with Garmin-Transitions for three years.
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 17:35 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Garmin-Transitions captain to ride for Hesjedal before Romandie and the Giro

    Christian Vande Velde joins the long list of Tour de France contenders riding this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège and will play a key role for the Garmin-Transitions team, supporting Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, who has a real shot at victory.

    Vande Velde will travel to Switzerland after the race for the Tour de Romandie and then spend only two days at home before heading to the Giro d'Italia. But he wanted to be in the Ardennes to help Hesjedal after the lanky Canadian finished second in the Amstel Gold Race and then tenth in Flèche Wallonne.

    "I'm really happy to be back here racing again. I used to ride this race all the time and it was a big objective, so it's nice to be back here," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews at the team presentation on Saturday afternoon.

    "I wasn't supposed to be here but Ryder Hesjedal is doing so well, that I want to be a part of it and help him out as much as I can. It's been so hard to watch the team do so well and not part of it. It's inspirational but at the same time I want to be amongst it. My form's coming good. I'm fit, but being race fit is a different animal. We'll see what I can do. As luck will have it, it's going to be 20 degrees tomorrow and so it's not so hard to come here. It's raining in Spain, so I'm lucky."

    The wind could be a factor

    Vande Velde rode the new final section of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with his teammates on Friday. He predicted the wind in the region could play a key factor in how the race evolves and is eventually decided.

    "I'm glad I rode the course because my perspective was from 1999 and 2000 and half the time I was like 'where am I?" But a lot of what will happen will depend on the wind. It was coming from the north when we did it and so it was headwind coming back. A lot of the route is in the valley now and were going to have a tailwind tomorrow. That could completely change the race and it won't be as...

  • Paolini, Mazzoleni and Elisa Basso face trial in Bergamo

    Luca Paolini at the presentation of the 2010 Giro d'Italia.
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 17:38 BST
    Cycling News

    Operazione Athena wrapped up after four years

    Four years after a police investigation first began, Italian professional Luca Paolini has been formally ordered to stand trial for allegedly buying and using banned substances. A trial date was set this week after an Italian judge wrapped up the four-year Operazione Athena, which had investigated a drug dealing ring in several gyms in the Bergamo and Como area of northern Italy.

    According to Italian newspapers Gazzetta dello Sport and the Eco di Bergamo, Paolini will go on trial in Bergamo on May 7, along with 28 other people, including former professional Eddy Mazzoleni.

    Mazzoleni's former girlfriend, Elisa Basso, the sister of Ivan Basso, is also facing trial.

    The Italian newspapers report that Paolini is accused of allegedly buying and using banned drugs, including EPO in July 2005. In 2006 he was allowed to ride the World road race Championships in Salzburg, Austria as part of the Italian team, despite being formally notified that he was under investigation.

    Paolini is not on the start list for Liège-Bastogne-Liège and did not ride the Giro del Trentino. The 33-year-old Italian is riding with the Acqua & Sapone team this year and recently wore the leader's jersey at the Three Days of De Panne before losing it to David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) in the final time trial.

    According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Mazzoleni and Elisa Basso also face trial unless they plea bargain, with Basso reportedly accused of allegedly selling illegal drugs and banned substances. Mazzoleni finished third in the 2007 Giro d'Italia behind Danilo Di Luca. He retired in July that year and was subsequently banned for two years for his involvement in the Oil for Drugs investigation in Italy. He now runs a restaurant.

    The police investigation was called Operazione Athena and initially saw eight people arrested and several gyms searched by police. Police reportedly found...

  • Andy Schleck promises attacks at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Andy Schleck on the podium with his Liège - Bastogne - Liège winner's trophy.
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 18:54 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Saxo Bank star predicts a race of elimination on the côtes

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has said he will ride a defensive race and wait for a possible sprint finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has warned the Belgian that he will go on the attack somewhere on the ten côtes that characterise the last major Classic of the spring.

    Andy Schleck won Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year and so will start the race wearing number one. As ever, the lanky rider from Luxembourg seems unworried by the weight of expectation and pressure on his shoulders. He will race in parallel with his older brother Fränk and with strong support from the rest of the Saxo Bank team, making him a strong favourite to repeat his 2009 win.

    "It's the highlight of the first part of the season. I had a really good last year, my shape is great and so I'm not scared of anyone tomorrow. We will be there with the best and hopefully can put us up on the podium," Andy said at the team presentation, less than 24 hours before the start in Liège.

    Andy Schleck won with a powerful solo attack on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons last year. Road works on the climb mean the organisers have had to find a slightly new route through the Ardennes hills, but Schleck is convinced the changes will have little effect on the race.

    "It's a only a little change. I don't think it'll change the race much," he said. "This is a Classic and even on the flat they go hard and they go fast. I did the parcours yesterday but I don't see any change on the race. I might be wrong but I don't think so."

    Schleck was not worried about Gilbert playing mind games with his rivals. The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider has a good sprint finish, especially after a long, hard race, but Andy is confident that Liège-Bastogne-Liège won't be decided in a sprint.

    "For sure everyone will watch me but Liège is different to the two Classics before. If you are...

  • Leipheimer looking forward to his Gila defense

    Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack)
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 19:19 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    Californian confident Armstrong, McCartney will be strong

    Levi Leipheimer is aiming to defend his overall title at the 24th annual SRAM Tour of the Gila when it begins next Wednesday, April 28 in Silver City, New Mexico. The American said the high elevation, desert mountains and lengthy time trial featured in the five-stage event are the key components that drew him back for a second consecutive year.

    “Gila is a great race with challenging courses,” Levi Leipheimer told Cyclingnews. “I like the Southwest desert and the climbs that Gila has to offer. It offers some racing just prior to the Tour of California and is only one time zone away. Gila has a few things to offer, some altitude, good climbs and a tough time trial. It's a nice break from training and it is close by.”

    Leipheimer and his two Team RadioShack teammates for the race, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and Jason McCartney, will compete under the banner of Mellow Johnny’s, Armstrong’s Austin-based bike shop.

    “I'm building up towards the Tour of California,” Leipheimer said. “Last year I was pretty fresh at Gila going into the Giro d’Italia. I'm sure Lance is better this time around considering he isn't coming back from a broken collarbone. Jason has recently been racing and supporting the team as always, he's solid.”

    Leipheimer won the overall title last year ahead of Armstrong and Chris Horner placed fifth overall. This year, Horner has opted to compete in the Belgium Classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege and McCartney will take his place at the SRAM Tour of the Gila. “Like Lance and I, he [Jason McCartney] is at home in the US before the Tour of California,” Leipheimer said.

    The SRAM Tour of the Gila will field three additional ProTour riders from the Garmin-Transitions team with Dave Zabriskie, Danny Pate and Tom Danielson, who will be representing Zabriskie’s company DZ Nuts.

    Asked who he feels will be his...

  • No holding back for Horner at Liège

    Chris Horner (RadioShack) looked relaxed before the start
    Article published:
    April 24, 2010, 21:04 BST
    Richard Tyler

    RadioShack captain confident, Valverde the biggest threat in a sprint

    Chris Horner (RadioShack) believes he will have his best chance of winning an Ardennes Classic at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race he describes as the "best one-day race in the world".

    Horner will captain RadioShack on Sunday in his third appearance at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He finished eighth in his first appearance in 2006 and feels the profile of the 258-kilometre route is better suited to his strengths than the first two Ardennes Classics - Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne.

    "Liège is a much better course for me with the climbs being basically twice as long as they were at Amstel and at Flèche, so for me I think there's a much better chance of going for the win here than the other races," Horner told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Liège on Saturday afternoon.

    "I feel really confident. I don't think there's anybody I can't go with on the climbs, so it's going to come down to tactics; making the right moves and not making any mistakes before you get there."

    Despite top-ten finishes at Amstel Gold Race (10th) and Flèche Wallonne (6th) this year, Horner admitted that of the three Ardennes Classics he feels most comfortable on the Liège course. He raced the event in each of his two seasons with Belgian team Predictor-Lotto (2006 and 2007), and after surveying the course this week said expects the race's penultimate climb, the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, where Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) launched his race-winning attack last year, to once again prove a pivotal point on Sunday.

    "I know the course here really well," he said. "Amstel - I've raced many times, but they change it so you don't know the course. Flèche - I'm not real familiar with the course, so I don't know where to be at the right time and spend some energy here and there. But at Liège we rode the last 100 kilometres and I'm familiar with the race. When you know...