What's Cool In Road Cycling

EuroTrash Thursday!

With just a week to go until it’s all about the Giro, the lads are doing their final prep in Romandie. While the one day riders hit the streets of Frankfurt today, you can read the latest on the Giro, Tour and Vuelta and find out who’s on top in the US and down and out in Belgium.

Tour de Romandie
In a little over a week the year’s first Grand Tour kicks off in Palermo. While some of the favourites for the 91st Giro d’Italia are doing their own preparation at home, a top selection of climbers and sprinters are taking one final opportunity to test the legs at the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland.

Run over six days, the Tour of Romandie features a good mix of tough climbs and opportunities for the flat land-ers to fine tune things ahead of the first three-week stage race of the season.

The Opener
Team High Road’s Mark Cavendish has continued his good form so far this year and won the opening stage ahead of Danielle Bennati, but not in a full on bunch sprint or with crafty late surge to the line. The opening stage was a 1.9km prologue time trial on the shores of Lake Geneva and ‘Cav’ showed that he can win against the clock as well as on a fixed gear or in a bunch sprint.

Stage 1 Morges to Saignelйgier, 182km
Yesterday’s first road stage was a reasonably lumpy affair, featuring two second category climbs and one first category at 20k to go.

With Rabobank winding in the early breakaways for defending champ, Thomas Dekker, it was on the final climb that all hell broke loose and a group of 10 went clear, hoping to contest the finish. The Astana team had other ideas and in the final kilometres, a group of around 40 riders were back in contention.

Kazakh champion Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) won the sprint after being brought to the finish perfectly by his four team-mates in the select breakaway (Andreas Klцden, Steve Morabito, Vladimir Gusev and Thomas Frei). Michael Albasini of Liquigas made a late charge to reel Iglinskiy in, but was unable to get over the Kazakh in the end.

While the team laid it on the line for Iglinskiy on stage one, he knows that attention may turn to a team mate before the week is up.

“I am so happy with the confidence that the team gave me today. My personal ambitions for the next days are the team ambitions. In theory Andreas Klцden is our leader. We will know more after the time trial,” he said.

With Cavendish losing 13minutes on the stage, Albasini will head into today’s second road stage wearing the leader’s jersey.

Stage 1 Results
1. Maxim Iglinsky, Astana 4.47.28
2. Michael Albasini, Liquigas same time.
3. Markus Zberg, Gerolsteiner
4. Thomas Dekker, Rabobank +0.02
5. Alexander Efimkin, Quick Step same time

GC after Stage 1
1. Michael Albasini, Liquigas 4.49.30
2. Maxim Iglinsky, Astana +0.01
3. Markus Zberg, Gerolsteiner +0.08
4. Roman Kreuziger, Liquigas s.t.
5. Thomas Dekker, Rabobank +0.09

Remaining Stages
Stage 2 01/05, Moutier to Fribourg, 170 km (3 x KOMs and 2 x Sprints)
Stage 3 02/05, Sion to Sion, 18.8km ITT
Stage 4 03/05, Sion to Zinal, 126km (4 x Cat 1 KOMs and 2 x Sprints)
Stage 5 04/05, Le Bouveret to Lausanne, 159km (2 x Cat 1 KOMs and 2 x Sprints).

Rund um den Henninger Turm
Frankfurt’s traditional May Day race will feature some top names in 2008 in what looks like being the final year of the current sponsor and hence, the event’s familiar name.

As mentioned in Monday’s Euro Trash, Liquigas was ‘un-invited’ to the event after failing to sign the ethical cycling charter that other ProTour teams have put their name to. One less team to worry about for the men with the Classics form, so Davide Rebellin and Gerald Ciolek will be amongst those to watch.

Ciolek’s High Road team mate, Marcus Burghardt will be pinning a race number on for the first time since his knee surgery two weeks ago and is looking forward to racing again, although not with ambitions of winning.

“I asked [the team] if I could ride as this is one of my favourite races,” he told Sporza. “I will help the team in the beginning and if I finish, it will have been a success.”

Grand Tour News

The Giro
Next Saturday, Rabobank’s Big Tour rider, Denis Menchov will be making his Giro debut. At 30 years of age and already a winner of the Tour of Spain, Menchov will be taking Columbian climber Mauricio Ardila to assist him on the tough, steep climbs that are a feature of the Italian national tour.

2008 will be a testing year for the Orange Squad, who have relied heavily on Michael Rasmussen for results in the past. After the Dane’s exclusion and sacking at last year’s Tour de France, Rabobank will be hoping Menchov can bring some results at the Giro, but especially the Tour, as both races have a higher profile than the late season Vuelta.

Di Luca Clear To Defend
A decision on Wednesday from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has cleared the way for the 2007 Giro winner, Danilo Di Luca to be on the start line in Palermo.

The sole CAS appointed arbitrator, Professor Luigi Fumagalli, rejected Di Luca’s appeal against his already-served three month ban from 2007 and also rejected the counterclaim from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) who were seeking a further two year ban for “The Killer” under section 2.2 of the WADA code “for use or attempt to use prohibited substances.”

In a CAS press release, Professor Fumagalli confirmed that “Di Luca’s frequent medical encounters to Dr Santuccione during 2004 constituted a violation of article 16.4 of the Anti-doping regulations of the FCI [Italian Cycling Federation].” Santuccione was at the centre of the “Oil for Drugs” case, where Italian police monitored the comings and goings of various athletes to the doctor’s surgery, allegedly for the purpose of acquiring performance enhancing drugs.

The rejection of Di Luca’s appeal means there will be no potential for legal action from the Italian as a result of having to surrender his lead in the 2007 Pro Tour series, which was eventually won by Cadel Evans with his ride at the season ending Tour of Lombardy – a race Di Luca was unable to ride due to the CONI ban.

“It is a sentence that I did not expect,” said Di Luca to La Gazzetta dello Sport, “I expected a complete acquittal and am disappointed. The important thing, however, is that it is all closed. Now, I do not want to speak anymore about it. I am thinking only of the Giro.”

New Drug Rules For France
French authorities are doing their best to avoid embarrassing situation that arose at the Tour de France in 2007, where the biggest story of the race were the numerous drug scandals involving some of the top names in the sport.

A new series of laws has just been passed by the French parliament which will punish the possession and trafficking of sports related doping products with both fines and prison sentences.

AFP reports that the sentence will comprise a year in prison and a 3,750-euro fine when the offence is committed by a sports person for his personal use, and when an organised group [read: ‘cycling team’] is involved, the penalty will be increased to seven years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros.

Of course, a 3,750euro will seem like a drop in the ocean to a million-euro-per year Tour contender, but one would imagine that the threat of 12 months in a French prison will be more discouraging than the “pay a year of your salary” fine that was soooo successfully implemented by the UCI last year. No doubt the invoice that Pat McQuaid sent to Vino and the other dopers has been lost in the mail somewhere.

Vuelta a Espana Teams
Team High Road are putting a positive spin on their exclusion from the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, with sprinter Mark Cavendish saying that there are other races at that time of the year that mean more to the team’s sponsors.

“The race is not as important as the Tour de France and the Giro [d’Italia] for our sponsors. Actually, the Tour of Britain and the Tour of Missouri are more important to them than the Vuelta,” Cavendish said on Eurosport.

“The organisers’ decision is probably political: perhaps they want to please the crowd with more popular riders in their country.”

STOP PRESS: Grand Tour team selections are “probably political.” I think Cav may be on to something there!

On August 30, Astana will finally get to roll out in a Grand Tour in 2008, with Johan Bruyneel’s Kazakh sponsored squad getting the nod from event organisers, Unipublic. Let’s hope Alberto Contador can hold his form through to the end of August and show what he is capable of over three weeks.

The selected teams are:
Ag2r – La Mondiale (FRA)
Andalucia-Caja Sur (ESP)
Astana (SUI)
Bouygues Telecom (FRA)
Caisse d’Epargne (ESP)
Cofidis, le Credit Par Telephone (FRA)
Credit Agricole (FRA)
Euskaltel – Euskadi (ESP)
Franзaise Des Jeux (FRA)
Gerolsteiner (GER)
Karpin Galicia (ESP)
Lampre (ITA)
Liquigas (ITA)
Quick Step (BEL)
Rabobank (NED)
Saunier Duval – Scott (ESP)
Silence-Lotto (BEL)
Tinkoff Credit Systems (ITA)
Team CSC (DEN)
Team Milram (GER)

USA National Racing Calendar Update
Following the latest round of the season long 2008 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC), the Sea Otter Classic in California, Santiago Botero sits on top of the Men’s rankings with a comfortable 88point lead over Aussie Rory Sutherland.

Men’s Rankings
1. Santiago Botero (COL/Rock Racing) 286
2. Rory Sutherland (AUS/Health Net-Maxxis) 198
3. Chris Baldwin (Boulder, Colo./Toyota-United) 165
4. Burke Swindlehurst (Salt Lake City, Utah/Bissell) 147
5. Dominique Rollin (CAN/Toyota-United) 125

Men’s Team Standings
1. Rock Racing 492
2. Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team 439
3. Health Net Pro Cycling Team presented by Maxxis 395
4. Colavita/Sutter Home Men’s Cycling Team presented by Cooking Light 368
5. Successful Living Pro Cycling Team 340

Thanks to her surprise win at the Sea Otter Classic, Australian teenager, Tiffnay Cromwell is climbing the women’s rankings and now sits in fourth place overall.

Women’s Individual Standings
1. Alex Wrubleski (CAN/Webcor) 302
2. Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo./High Road) 255
3. Katharine Carroll (Sausalito, Calif./Aaron’s) 224
4. Tiffany Cromwell (AUS/Colavita-Sutter Home) 209
5. Leigh Hobson (CAN/Cheerwine) 184

Women’s Team Standings
1. High Road 593
2. Cheerwine Professional Cycling Team 588
3. Aaron’s Cycling Team 455
4. Webcor Builders Women’s Professional Cycling Team 454
5. Colavita/Sutter Home Women’s Cycling Team presented by Cooking Light 417

The Tour of the Gila is the next race on both the men’s and women’s series which started yesterday in Silver City, N.M. Gregorio Ladino Vega won the opening stage in the Pro Men’s event, while Leah Goldstein was the fastest in the Pro Women.

Quick Step’s Kevins K-O’d
A training ride in the area around Zottegem in Belgium, has left Quick Step’s two Kevins, Van Impe and Hulsmans with smashed bikes, but luckily only minor cuts and bruises.

“We were just riding along easily,” explained Hulsmans, “when at a car coming from behind, hit us and threw us to the ground. The impact sent Van Impe clear to the other side of the road.”

One of two other riders training with the Quick Step duo broke his collarbone, but, “considering how fast the car was going, and by the look of our bikes, I must say that it could have been much worse,” Hulsmans said.

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