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Two years after Tour, Giro plans summit finish for Galibier
Two years after the Tour de France’s epic stage finish on the Galibier in the 2011 race, Italian newspaper Tuttosport claims that the Giro d’Italia will have a summit finish on the same legendary mountain.
According to the report, the start is already planned for Naples, in the south of Italy, with either a team time trial in the city or an individual time trial, followed by a stage taking the race further down Italy’s western coastline.
Tuttosport then claims that the next leg will take the Giro across to Puglia on the south-eastern corner, before heading up to Vincenzo (the birthplace of Tullio Campagnolo, founder of the company of the same name, in the 30th anniversary of his death) and Longarone in the Dolomites in the far north-east. En route, a brief incursion to Florence mid-way up the peninsula with some finishing laps around the 2013 world championships circuit is also planned.
Of the mythical climbs of the Giro, the Gavia is expected to feature, and possibly the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, well known for its importance in Eddy Merckx’s rise to power - he took the lead here in 1968, en route to becoming its greatest ever star - and also being for where he was dropped by Spain’s Jose Manuel Fuente in 1974.
However, the grand finale will - if confirmed - surely be the most spectacular finish of all: the Galibier. Tuttosport notes that although Alpe D’Huez was also considered, the Galibier’s relative proximity to Italy and the fact that the Tour was able to put on a stage finish there in 2011 have both played a part in convincing the organisation. However, a definitive decision has yet to be made.
Horner seeks repeat general classification victory
The 40-year-old American had a stellar start to his 2012 season with a second place result at Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico, Horner's return to racing after an eight month hiatus following his crash in the 2011 Tour de France.
Horner skipped the Volta a Catalunya to heal a minor injury sustained at Tirreno-Adriatico, but in his next race he finished ninth overall at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Horner rode the Ardennes Classics and then returned to the United States for his Amgen Tour of California title defense.
Horner will have strong support on what's considered the most difficult route in the California race's history from teammates such as Tiago Machado, fresh off a 15th place overall result at the Tour de Romandie, plus reigning US professional champion Matthew Busche, the 2011 Amgen Tour of California revelation who was instrumental in shredding the peloton on last year's summit finish at Mt. Baldy where then teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner finished together in first and second place.
Strong men Gregory Rast, Markel Irizar and Jens Voigt will provide plenty of horsepower on flat to rolling terrain while New Zealand's George Bennett and 2010 US pro road champion Ben King round out the team's line-up.
The Amgen Tour of California begins May 13 in Santa Rosa and concludes on May 20 in Los Angeles.
RadioShack-Nissan roster for Amgen Tour of California:
George Bennett (NZl), Matthew Busche (USA), Chris Horner (USA), Markel Irizar (Spa), Ben King...
Saxo Bank Spaniards to skip Tour de France
As further evidence that Alberto Contador will return to Team Saxo Bank when his doping suspension ends this summer, both Daniel Navarro and Benjamin Noval will skip the Tour de France in order to support Contador as Saxo Bank captain in the Vuelta a Espana.
Contador's suspension for his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France expires in early August. His contract with Saxo Bank was dissolved due to the ban, but he is expected to re-sign with the Danish team.
Navarro was originally scheduled to ride the Tour this year, but will now ride the Vuelta instead. "Alberto needs me, and I want to be good for the month of August," he told elcomercio.es. He also noted that "in addition, this year there is less time between the Tour and Vuelta."
His schedule has also been changed to include the Critereum du Dauphine (June 3-10), which he likes "because it is where I got my only win as a professional." He won stage 5 of that race in 2010.
Noval will also support his landsman in the Vuelta. He will build up with, amongst others, the Tour de Picardie and the Tour of Poland before taking on the Eneco Tour (August 6-12), "where I will be with Alberto Contador before our next goal, the Vuelta."
Merckx bouyed buoyed by Gila performances
Bontrager-Livestrong team director Axel Merckx said Tuesday that the development squad's recent success at the SRAM Tour of the Gila in New Mexico should provide his stable of young riders with a nice confidence boost as they rev up for next week's Amgen Tour of California.
"It's for sure good for the morale, and we are excited," Merckx said. "But we are going to California really humble. We are, after all, a young team. We are there to learn and show our talent around. That's what we are going to try and do there. It's a huge opportunity for our riders to showcase themselves and to give them an introduction to a high level of cycling, the place where they actually want to get to. So it's a huge opportunity."
Bontrager-Livestrong took the team GC prize at Gila, while Joe Dombrowski took home the Best Young Rider jersey with a third-place overall finish behind Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) and Chad Beyer (Competitive Cyclist). Dombrowski's teammates Lawson Craddock and Ian Boswell finished one-two on the final stage, approaching the finish line of the "Gila Monster" with their clasped hands lifted skyward like LeMond and Hinault in the '86 Tour.
"I'm obviously very pleased by the results at Gila," Merckx said. "I think we've really put together a good roster, and those guys are really tight together and are really helping each other out. You mention three names, but this is the work of the whole team. Some guys had been protecting Joe all week and defending his jersey and his GC spot. Those three guys for sure have the results and have shown themselves to do more, but the other guys have put in a lot of work also for this team, and that's...
BMC American not at his best in team time trial
Taylor Phinney looked disappointed after losing the Giro d'Italia leader's jersey to Garmin-Barracuda's Ramunas Navardauskas in circumstances in which he normally would have performed, but he wasn't able to ride at his normal level during the stage 4 team time trial.
Phinney's BMC Racing Team only finished tenth in Verona and lost 31 seconds to their American rivals. As a result Phinney dropped from first to fifth on general classification, 13 seconds behind the 24-year-old Lithuanian.
"I feel guilty," he said at the finish line. "The team has waited for me on several occasions. Normally in a team time trial I'm one of the strongest. Today, I was a weight for BMC. I feel sorry for Marco Pinotti and Thor Hushovd who could have taken the pink jersey in the coming days. I've made them lose some time. I thank my teammates for dragging me to the finish. They could have let me down and continue without me. I wasn't good today."
Phinney emphasized that his poor performance was not a consequence of his injured ankle that needed three stitches after his crash on stage 3 in Denmark. He was able to pedal normally but his body was empty. It might have been kind of a depression after the crashes and the emotion surrounding the maglia rosa.
"I don't why," he said. "I just had no power. Fortunately, I haven't crashed today."
He came close to crashing again, though. Phinney went off the road on a turn but remained upright and returned to the tarmac with some grass in his derailleur.
"I was right on his wheel when it happened," Phinney's teammate Alessandro Ballan...
Team time trial puts Hesjedal first among Giro GC contenders
Stage 4 of the 2012 Giro d'Italia was the 20th team time trial in the history of the corsa rosa. The first one, from Viareggio to Marina di Massa in 1937, does not count as such in the official statistics as it was recorded as an individual victory for Raffaele Di Paco. The Bianchi team opened the record book with a win at 47.729km/h on the car racing circuit of Modena - where stage 5 will kick off - in 1953.
American teams have won four of the last five team trials at the Giro: Slipstream brought Christian Vande Velde into pink in Palermo in 2008, Columbia won in 2009 at Lido di Venezia, HTC-Highroad won last year in Torino and this year Garmin-Barracuda took top honors in Verona.
"Wow, one more TTT win for Garmin!" said Ryder Hesjedal who was waiting for the time of the last team on the road, BMC. "It's perfect. We had a good ride. We could feel the strength of the squad. Unfortunately, it was a bit chaotic on the climb, and we lost Alex Rasmussen there."
The Dane was the virtual maglia rosa as he was the highest ranked of the Garmin-Barracuda riders after finishing the inaugural time trial in third place. He admitted at the end of the team time trial that he didn't sleep much the two previous nights as the idea of becoming the race leader excited him.
There was, however, a hint of relief in the camp of the Giro organizers as they had feared that such a wearer of the pink jersey might have to be excluded in the middle of the race. Rasmussen has been cleared of his three violations of the anti-doping whereabouts rules by the Danish cycling federation, but the UCI has appealed the verdict and...
Team time trial win puts Navardauskas in maglia rosa
Stage 4 of the Giro d'Italia was a momentous day for Garmin-Barracuda as the US-based ProTeam proved its team time trial might in Verona. Not only did the team win the stage, but 24-year-old Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas earned the leader's maglia rosa after the BMC Racing Team of overnight leader Taylor Phinney finished 31 seconds back in 10th place.
Garmin-Barracuda's Jack Bauer spoke to Cyclingnews after the stage win.
"It's an amazing feeling. We came here to win," Bauer said. "We always put such a lot into the event, the team time trial.
"To come off and win by such a margin is a fantastic feeling. And also to put Ramunas into the pink jersey is fantastic for the team."
The 27-year-old New Zealander also spoke about teammate Alex Rasmussen, who was highest placed on general classification amongst the Garmin-Barracuda team entering the stage but was dropped on the climb, and the team's efforts over the final 15km which cinched the stage win and pink jersey.
Lithuanian in maglia rosa after team time trial victory
Ramunas Navardauskas has been nicknamed "The Honey Badger" by his Garmin-Barracuda teammate Dave Zabriskie - and the 1.9m tall Lithuanian certainly acted like the proverbially tenacious animal on Wednesday when he fought tooth and nail not to lose contact with his teammates in the closing kilometres of the Giro d'Italia's team time trial. And with a pink jersey at stake, who could blame him for being so determined?
"I was going really deep in the last part of the course," Navardauskas told reporters in his post-race press conference. "I knew if I stayed within their time I could get the jersey and the gap kept on opening. But the team was trying hard, and we managed to stayed together. It was impressive how hard they were trying."
Just like in 2008, when the same team (then known as Slipstream-Chipotle) took the team time trial win in Palermo, a pink jersey was at stake. Four years ago it went to Christian Vande Velde, also part of Wednesday's winning team, and fourth across the line in Verona.
Navardauskas's sixth place, though, in the opening short time trial in Denmark, meant that after Alex Rasmussen, third in Herning, was dropped mid-way on Wednesday's team time trial, the Lithuanian was next in line for the Giro throne.
"I'm not usually so bad in team time trials," Navardauskas said - and in fact he rode his first Tour in 2011 as a first year pro last year partly for that reason, a gamble that paid off when Garmin won.
"But with Alex there, too, we both had a chance of getting the pink jersey. So I did everything I could to help him and thought that even if he finished ahead of me, if I stayed with the team I would have a chance of getting the...