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Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Date published:
May 5, 2010, 19:00
  • Bennati out of Giro, Freire's status still undecided

    Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) didn't survive the final climb with the front group.
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 09:10
    Susan Westemeyer

    Ag2R-La Mondiale, Cofidis also make changes

    Liquigas-Doimo has been forced to juggle its Giro d'Italia roster again, with sprinter Daniel Bennati ruled out due to injury. As of Wednesday morning, it was still unknown as to whether Rabobank sprinter Oscar Freire will be able to participate in the Italian Grand Tour.

    Bennati has withdrawn from the event due to a muscle injury, and will be replaced by Tiziano Dall'Antonia. The Italian team had already lost its captain, Franco Pellizotti, who finished second overall in the Giro last year. He was named by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Monday as being suspected of breaching Anti-Doping regulations due to irregularities in his biological passport.

    Rabobank's Oscar Freire is suffering from respiratory problems and remains in doubt for what would be his first appearance at the Giro. Various media reports Wednesday morning said that he had decided to withdraw from the race, but Rabobank indicated that the final decision had not yet been made.

    “He goes to hospital this afternoon (Wednesday) and then we will decide,” team spokesman Luuc Eisenga told Cyclingnews.

    If Freire is unable to ride, his place would be taken by first-year-pro Steven Kruijswijk.

    Ag2R-La Mondiale has named Hubert Dupont to take the place of Tadej Valjavec in the Giro. The team suspended Valjavec after he too was named by the UCI as showing unusual blood profiles in his biological passport.

    Dupont, 29, has ridden the Giro twice already, finishing 32nd overall in 2006 and 25th in 2007. On Sunday, he ended the Tour de Romandie in 21st place.

    Cofidis has also made a change in its Giro line-up. Tristan Valentin is out with bronchitis, and will be replaced by Damien Monier. Monier, 29, previously rode the Giro in 2008.


  • Keisse ready for his comeback at Dunkirk

    Belgium's Iljo Keisse (Quick Step)
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 10:31
    Richard Tyler

    Quick Step riders keen for results as contract re-negotiations loom

    Iljo Keisse will return to racing at the Four Days of Dunkirk in France on Wednesday after a six-week recovery from a broken collarbone. The Quick Step sprinter says his main goal for the remainder of this season will be to secure an extension of his current one-year deal with the team.

    "I have to enforce a new contract with Quick Step, and intend to finish every race as well as possible and help the team," Keisse told Sporza. "I haven’t raced for six weeks so I'll feel it [this week]."

    Keisse broke his left collarbone while preparing for the Track World Championships in March. The injury required surgery, which forced him off the bike for a week and the 27-year-old only returned to full training three weeks ago.

    "I have a plate and artificial ligaments in my collarbone. My legs are not in top shape, but I'm ready to return to racing. I'm not running any risk, so long as I don't crash," he said. "I'd have to have pretty bad luck to fall on the same collarbone."

    Both Keisse and Stijn Devolder are using the Four Days of Dunkirk to prepare for the Tour of Belgium later this month. After a disappointing Classics campaign, Devolder will lead the team in Dunkirk and, like Keisse, is also looking for a results in order to secure an extension to his contract, which is due to expire at the end of this season.

    Quick Step for the Four Days of Dunkirk: Stijn Devolder, Kurt Hovelijnck, Iljo Keisse, Andrei Kunitski, Nikolas Maes, Andreas Stauff, Kevin Van Impe and Thomas Vedel Kvist.

  • Samuel Sánchez checks out Tour’s cobbled stage

    Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has inspected the Tour de France's stage three this week
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 11:41
    Peter Cossins

    Galdeano convinced stone roads will cost a favourite hopes of Tour title

    Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez and his Euskaltel-Euskadi teammates Juanjo Oroz and Egoi Martínez spent Tuesday training on the cobbled sections of the third stage of the Tour de France between Wanze and Arenberg. They were accompanied by Euskaltel team boss Igor González de Galdeano, who was riding for ONCE the last time the Tour tackled the cobbles in 2004.

    "It’s going to be madness," Galdeano told Bilbao’s El Correo. You go from a wide road onto a track that’s a third of the size and full of pot-holes. And the wind is always blowing here as well."

    Galdeano never rode Paris-Roubaix during his 12-year pro career, but he still has vivid memories of that Tour stage in 2004, when Euskaltel’s Iban Mayo crashed on the cobbles and lost all hope of challenging for the yellow jersey. "The most important thing is get your positioning right.

    "The first three sections are in Belgium, but the four that follow in France are the worst," he added. The last of them at Haveluy is less than 10 kilometres from the stage finish and is rated four out of five in terms of difficulty at Paris-Roubaix.

    "What it comes down to is that you have to be lucky. Or at least you have to avoid having any bad luck. If you puncture or crash, it will be a long time before the team cars can get up and attend to you. This stage will be decisive, not in terms of who wins, but because somebody will definitely lose the race here," said Galdeano.

    "We will just have to pray. All the sections are difficult, except the first one. In the French sections the stones are three centimetres apart," he added. "Now that the riders have seen them they will know what they are up against."

    A fundamental part of the reconnaissance was a focus on equipment choice. The three riders tested a number of different wheel and tyre options, as well as different tyre pressures. Euskaltel mechanic Tomás Amezaga indicated they would probably opt for 24 or 25mm tubulars, inflated to six or seven kilograms, rather than the usual nine kilograms of pressure.

  • BMC's Louder ready to sacrifice for Evans at Giro

    Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team)
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 13:51
    Richard Tyler

    US rider feeling fresh ahead of Grand Tour debut

    Jeffry Louder will start his first Giro d'Italia on Saturday in support of BMC teammate and race favourite Cadel Evans. The American has had a slow start to his first full season racing in Europe, but says the measured approach has seen him arrive in the Netherlands fresh and ready to support his team leader.

    "I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm a little bit daunted, but I feel like the team has given me every chance to prepare and I've worked really hard all winter and all spring," Louder told Cyclingnews from Amsterdam on Wednesday. "Honestly, it's a dream come true for me to do a Grand Tour. I think if I weren't nervous it'd be strange, but I think I'm as prepared as I can be and I'll just take it day-by-day."

    Louder's main objective at the Giro will be to protect Evans. The Australian has made little secret of his desire to with the race overall and will count on his teammates to guide him safely into the event's decisive third week. While he is eager to complete his first Grand Tour, Louder said his major objective will be to fulfill his role as a domestique.

    "To me, the number one focus is on Cadel and I think the whole team is going in with that same desire. Personally, I want to finish the race, that's important to me, but I'm not going to compromise supporting Cadel just to finish the race," he said. "I'd be much more proud to go all out for two weeks, lose the plot in the third week and have Cadel win the race than hold back just to finish.

    "Each day, once I've done my job, I'm going to take it easy and just try to get through to the next day. I love going in the breakaway and if that's my job on any given day I'm definitely going to capitalise on that opportunity. There's a lot of opportunity in a three-week race, but there's a lot of questions – I've never done a race over ten days so who knows what's going to happen."

    Louder acknowledged that riding on the team of a race favourite adds an extra dose of pressure in his first Grand Tour, but was quick to throw a positive light on the responsibility.

    "It adds a certain type of stress, but it also gives you a focus," he said. "It's great coming into a race with such an important leader and one who can really win the race. It gives the whole team a focus that not a lot of the teams get the luxury of, so I think that's a good thing."

    Louder has already accompanied Evans to success this season at Flèche Wallonne last month. The team's first win of the year came amid a period of turmoil for the US squad, with Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio having been placed on non-active status ten days earlier, and the announcement of Thomas Frei's positive for EPO coming just a day after the Belgian race. Louder said that despite the distractions of the past month, morale within the squad remains high.

    "If you had to time a race to have such success, that was perfect timing, because there was definitely things happening at that time that were not all positive for BMC. But we're moving on and we're moving ahead and the team is focused on racing well at the Giro."

    While Louder has raced in European events with BMC since 2008, this season represents his first full year of competition outside of the United States. The 32-year-old played an active role in BMC's 2010 Classics campaign, but failed to finish at Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold Race or Flèche Wallonne. Despite a level of frustration of those results, Louder has arrived in Amsterdam ready for the Giro.

    "Things so far this year aren't going the way that I'd like. I'd love to be finishing every race and be up there in the top-ten every time, but even though I'm a rider who's done races all over the world and has a lot of experience, this year's been a new experience for me - doing big races week-in, week-out, and racing for riders who are there to be part of the finale," he said.

    "The goal from the get-go was to be good for the Giro, so that's meant that I've had a slow start. I'm definitely fresher for that. I can't tell you that I've given myself confidence from the DNFs, but at the same time I've followed the plan through the winter to be as fresh as possible for the Giro."

  • Gusev returns to ProTour with Katusha

    Vladimir Gusev won a stage in the 2007 Tour de Suisse.
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 14:51
    Cycling News

    Russian finds a home after Astana ousting

    Russian Vladimir Gusev has signed a contract through the end of 2011 with the Katusha squad, the team announced today. Gusev, 27,  has been out of ProTour level competition since 2008 when his then-Astana team dismissed him for alleged irregular blood values detected as part of the team's independent testing programme.

    Despite Gusev's assertions that he never took performance enhancing drugs, he was left off the Russian team for the Beijing Olympic Games.

    He finished out the 2008 season racing for the Russian National Team at the world championships and Chrono des Nations.

    Gusev took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which in June, 2009 decided that Astana was wrong to fire him and instructed the team to pay his back salary, legal costs and damages.

    A Classics specialist, Gusev is best known as one of the unfortunate trio of riders who were disqualified from the 2006 Paris-Roubaix after going through a level crossing after the gates had come down. He also won a stage of the 2007 Tour de Suisse and the overall mountains classification as well as the Tour of Belgium the same year.

  • McEwen feeling strong ahead of Giro return

    Robbie McEwen (Katusha) is a favorite among the sprinters.
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 23:22
    Richard Tyler

    Katusha sprinter targeting stage wins in lead up to Tour

    Robbie McEwen will end a two-year drought of Grand Tour racing when he starts the Giro d'Italia in Amsterdam on Saturday. The Australian will target stage wins in what will be also be his first three-week race with Katusha.

    Last year, McEwen was forced to sit out the Giro and Tour de France as he fought back from a series of crashes and a serious knee injury. The veteran of eight Giros and ten Tours is enthusiastic about making his return this weekend.

    "The Giro is one of my favourite races and always has been. I did it every year from 2002 and then obviously missed it last year due to injury. I'm looking forward to getting back there because it's two years since I did a Grand Tour," he told Cyclingnews from his home in Belgium on Wednesday.

    McEwen will travel north to join his teammates in the Dutch capital on Wednesday evening. After racing all of the major cobbled Classics he is using the Giro as part of his preparation for a similar return to the Tour de France in July. His focus will be on securing a stage win over the course of the next three weeks.

    "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. I've started slowly but surely to find my legs again and build up strength through the first part of the season," he said.

    "I think a few weeks at the Giro will stand me in good stead for the Tour and the rest of the season. I knew I'd need this first six months of the season to build back up to a good level. I'm feeling pretty good at the moment, pretty strong and I've had a couple of good performances. Second at Scheldeprijs wasn't bad, but I'm just keen to getting back to what I do best and that's the bunch sprints at the Grand Tours."

    The Giro will be his first major tour since joining Katusha at the start of 2009. The team heads to the race with multiple objectives, but McEwen isn't fazed by the fact that he'll be left to fend largely for himself in the sprint finishes.

    "The guys will do their best to help me, but we don't have a sprint-specific riders going to the Giro. We've got guys like [Vladimir] Karpets to ride for GC. Guys like [Giampaolo] Caruso, [Evgeni] Petrov and [Mikhail] Ignatiev to try and get in breakaways, [Luca] Mazzanti also for the hills," he said. "I guess two guys I might be able to rely a bit on some of the flat stages are Joan Horrach and hopefully Pozzato, to put me in position and drop me off where I need to be."

    McEwen's previous participations at the Giro have seen him leave the race around the event's second rest day in order to reach a peak for the Tour de France. While his focus will remain on the flatter stages in opening two weeks of this year's race, he didn't completely rule out the possibility of pushing all the way through to Verona.

    "With the Tour coming up only four weeks after the Giro finishes, its not really realistic that I'm going to finish the Giro and ride through the last week in the mountains when there's only one flat stage left. My plan is to get through the first two weeks, but you never know, I haven't finished the Giro yet; You never know, maybe [this year].

    "I'm just going to take it day-by-day and treat each stage like a one-day race. The hillier stages I'll just take it a bit easy to make sure I can make it to the start the next day so I can concentrate on the sprints."

    After the Giro, McEwen intends to race the Tour of Switzerland as a final preparation for his return to the Tour de France. However, with the birth of his third child imminent, the 37-year-old is preparing to juggle his professional and personal life in June.

    "My programme has been quite successful over the last eight or nine years – do a couple of weeks of the Giro, go to the Tour of Switzerland for a week and then go to the Tour," he said. "My wife's due to give birth on the 12th [of June] and Switerland starts on the 13th, and I want to be there for her."

    McEwen pointed towards the Giro's pan-flat, 209-kilometre stage three from Amsterdam to Middelburg as an opportunity to kick-off a big month of celebrations for the family.

    "I'd love to win on Monday. It's my son's birthday, so that'd be cool."

  • Garmin-Transitions confirms Giro roster

    Garmin - Transitions sets tempo in the peloton.
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 16:31
    Richard Tyler

    Farrar to lead the charge for stint in maglia rosa

    Garmin-Transitions has confirmed its line-up for the Giro d'Italia, with Americans Tyler Farrar and Christian Vande Velde to lead the nine-man roster. Under-23 time trial world champion Jack Bobridge will make his Grand Tour debut at the race.

    Farrar will start the race as one of the favourites for the flatter stages in the first fortnight of the Giro and will be aiming to secure the leader's maglia rosa in the opening days of the race. He will be able to call on Murilo Fischer and Julian Dean to provide a lead-out, while experienced riders David Millar and Svein Tuft will also be on hand to help set up Farrar.

    Vande Velde is likely to use the Giro as part of his build up to the Tour de France. Last year, the American crashed out of the Giro on the third stage, but will be aiming to make it through to the tough mountain stages that punctuate the third week of the race. Ireland's Daniel Martin will also be looking to demonstrate his ability in the mountains, and aim for a high finish on general classification. Millar's strong performances during the spring Classics are a sign he too has the form to vie for stage wins.

    Australian Cameron Meyer will start his second successive Giro d'Italia, while compatriot Jack Bobridge will make his debut in Amsterdam on Saturday. The reigning under-23 World Champion has completed his planned-for commitments with the Australian track team and heads to the Netherlands after completing the first four stages of last week's Tour of Romandie.

    "Our squad is versatile, so we'll be looking for every opportunity for potential stage wins and with the team we have at this race even a day or two in the coveted maglia rosa is a realistic goal," said Garmin-Transitions manager Jonathan Vaughters. "The Giro always has one of the most competitive fields of the season and with our mix of youth and experience we also plan on animating this historic race."

    Garmin-Transitions for the Giro d'Italia: Jack Bobridge, Julian Dean, Tyler Farrar, Murilo Fischer, Dan Martin, Cameron Meyer, David Millar, Svein Tuft and Christian Vande Velde.

  • Evans looking to make Giro d'Italia history

    Cadel Evans (BMC)
    Article published:
    May 5, 2010, 23:24
    Stephen Farrand

    BMC rider could be first Australian to win the maglia rosa

    Cadel Evans (BMC) will wear number one at the Giro d'Italia and his recent performances and consistent history in the Grand Tours makes him the leading favourite for victory in this year's race.

    Brett Lancaster was the last Australian to wear the maglia rosa after winning the prologue time trial in 2005 but Evans could become the first Australian to win the Giro d'Italia.

    Evans wore the maglia rosa for a day in the 2002 Giro d'Italia but then lost it in spectacular style on the Passo Coe as he cracked and lost 15 minutes to eventual winner Paolo Savoldelli. That was eight years ago, at the beginning of Evans' transformation from world class mountain biker to Grand Tour contender and proud world champion.

    Evans has not ridden the Giro d'Italia since 2002, preferring to focus on the Tour de France. But since quitting Silence-Lotto for BMC, his personal links to Italy and the conviction that he can be competitive in two Grand Tours have led to him targeting this year's race.

    "Unfortunately I can still remember most of that day in 2002. Not every detail, but too much for sure," Evans joked recently during an interview, revealing his often unique sense of humour.

    "It was the first Grand Tour I did in my career and now it feels right to go back. I really wanted to return to the Giro for lots of reasons. My coach is Italian, my wife's Italian, my family's Italian, I live two kilometres from the border and I like racing in Italy."

    "Racing in Italy has been a key part of my progression in becoming a road rider. Last year I chose the Vuelta to be my best for the worlds but I always wanted to come back to the Giro. After changing team and joining BMC it fit in pretty well."

    Two Grand Tours in one season

    Evans often seems to be stronger in his second Grand Tour of the season. Others may peak for just three weeks in July, but he is able to hold his form for much longer. His victory at Fleche Wallonne showed he is already on form and while other riders will ride the Giro while keeping one eye on the Tour de France, he will be riding to win.

    "Doing two Grand Tours in 2007 and 2009 worked for me," he said, hinting at his second place in the Tour de France and fourth in the Vuelta Espana and overall victory in the UCI ProTour in 2007 as well as his strong end of season in 2009.

    "I'm not going to the Giro to train, I think racing at the front is as good as training. I'm going to try and do as good a Giro as I can.

    "I can hold my form for a long period of time and I know I can recover from one and build up for a second one. It might not work but looking at things logically, there's no reason why I can’t peak again at the Tour de France, even if it goes against more conventional thinking."

    Giro reconnaissance

    Evans has made up for his lack of Giro d'Italia experience by studying many of the key stages. BMC held special training camps around other races to study the team time trial course to Cuneo and the stage to Montalcino that includes the Tuscan dirt roads. After the Ardennes Classics, Evans used a recovery phase at altitude in the Dolomites to check out many of the key climbs in the testing final week of this year's race.

    He rode the Plan de Corones time trial course last week, admitting he had never seen anything like it.

    "I've done everything I can to be good. Everyone says the Giro has changed in the last few years but we'll see," he said.

    "The stages in the first half will still be important. Holland and the Strada Bianche stage are all difficult to manage. It's going to be really hard in the final week. The 2010 Giro has some incredible mountains: Plan de Corones, Monte Zoncolan, Mortirolo and the Gavia pass. As with any Grand Tour, being good every day will be important. Overall, it will take a versatile climber to win it."

    Evans rightly picks three experienced riders as other favourites for the maglia rosa but knows enough about the Giro to expect some surprises.

    "At the moment, I would say Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre and Alexander Vinokourov. Then there are always one or two unexpected riders who come into the list during the race," he said.

    If Evans emerges as overall winner after the terrible final week in the mountains and the final short time trial around Verona, it would be his first Grand Tour success and he would be the first Australian to ever win the Giro d'Italia.