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First Edition Cycling News for March 18, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Laura Weislo

Giancarlo Ferretti back?

Giancarlo Ferretti (l) with Petacchi in 2003
Photo ©: Yuzuru Sunada
(Click for larger image)

After the disappointment in late 2005 of SonyEricsson, it could be the time for Giancarlo Ferretti to return. The former Team Manager of Fassa Bortolo has been at the Tirreno-Adriatico where it has been discovered that he may be putting a team together for 2008.

Ferretti, or the 'Iron Sergeant,' has been head of some amazing squads in the past. Ferretti has been a beloved and feared mentor for many big names in cycling. Rolf Sorensen, Pascale Richard, Gianni Bugno, Johan Museeuw, Paolo Bettini, Gilberto Simoni, Ivan Basso and Alessandro Petacchi have all been shaped by his leadership.

Ferretti is currently at the Tirreno-Adriatico as a consultant for Weber, part of the Saint Gobain group, based near Modena. The company, who produces building adhesives, rivals to companies Mapei and Fassa Bortolo, sent Ferretti to research the Tirreno as part of its sponsorship of the Giro d'Italia. This May, Weber will be the title sponsor of the newly-reintroduced young rider's jersey. And it is with Weber that Ferretti could return in grand style.

According to Tuttosport, the company will decide in June, based on the Giro experience, if they will sponsor a team for 2008 and beyond. "I am at Tirreno as a representative for Weber," said Ferretti to tuttobiciweb.com. "They are a multinational company that has selected to sponsor three great events; Tirreno-Adriatico, Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia. I am joining along with this company in its first pass in the world of cycling; trying to illustrate the potential of this sport and to make it understood what has to be done to have a team.

"Certainly I would be happy if this venture brought forth a new team but it is another discussion and premature. The heads of Weber have decided for this first pass at cycling sponsorship, and only after will they evaluate and decide if and how to prolong their involvement."

Coming up on

This Thursday through Sunday Cyclingnews will be covering the Race to the Sun, Paris-Nice, live. Coverage begins around 14:30* local European time (CEST)/ 9:30 (USA East)/ 0:30 Australia (EST) - also on WAP-enabled mobile devices at http://live.cyclingnews.com/
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*12:30 Saturday, March 17.

What riders would Ferretti consider? According to Tuttosport, the top picks would be Danilo Di Luca and Daniele Bennati, followed by Alessandro Ballan and Luca Paolini. The next selection of riders could likely come from Riccò Riccardo, winner of stage 3 of Tirreno, Emanuele Sella and Juan Antonio Flecha, Kim Kirchen and Yaroslav Popovych, winner of Paris-Nice stage five. The names considered for general classification leaders are Tyler Hamilton and Cadel Evans.

Like the 'Iron Sergeant' pointed out, this is all "premature" but during the Tirreno, Sanremo and Giro he would surely start making contacts with riders for the possibility of returning in 2008.

Discovery close to signing new sponsor

By Jean-François Quénet in Cannes

Johan Bruyneel
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel announced earlier this year that they would not continue to sponsor the cycling team after end of the 2007 season, and it was speculated that the somewhat controversial team headed by Belgian Johann Bruyneel would have a difficult time finding a new sponsor because of their signing of Ivan Basso. But Bruyneel told French reporter Gabriel Richalot from Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France that "We are very close to getting another title sponsor. Before it's signed, it's not guaranteed, but as far as I know we'll be there again next year."

On the roads of Paris-Nice, Discovery Channel is clearly one of the strongest teams, even with Ivan Basso lining up in Tirreno-Adriatico (and abandoning). Most of their top riders are still far from their peak of form scheduled for the Tour de France. But increasingly, it appears that the team has fewer friends in the peloton than in the past. After making the controversial move to sign Basso, breaking the UCI Pro Teams code of conduct, the team is getting criticism behind the scenes, and less cooperation on the road.

Many voices in Paris-Nice criticized Discovery Channel the day Basso resumed racing in Europe. For instance, Gerolsteiner's Hans Michael Holczer said: "It's not good that riders implicated in that affair take part in races until everything is clarified, not only Basso but all 50 or so riders."

Operación Puerto has initiated a strong anti-doping campaign in Germany as well, but Bruyneel stated, "Who has got something against me? Madiot, Lavenu... well, the Frenchmen." He admitted to Richalot that, "Blood transfusions exist in cycling", but insisted "I have never cheated." Bruyneel, asked what should be done about the problem of doping said, "Cycling is by far the sport who does the most about it. The more hunters have sophisticated weapons, the fastest rabbits run. It's only a comment. I don't have any solution."

Basso's spring interrupted

2006 Giro winner stops in Tirreno and will skip Sanremo

Ivan Basso shows his good, right wrist
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"It really makes me upset. There is not a fracture to the scaphoid, which what I was afraid of, because that would have been a tragedy, but I took a good bang," explained Ivan Basso Friday evening, shortly after leaving the hospital to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 29 year-old rider from Varese was in the car with his manager Giovanni Lombardi, driving back to the team's hotel where Saturday morning he decided say 'ciao' to the Tirreno-Adriatico.

"The orthopaedist [Francesco Rosa - ed.] said to me that I was saved from fracture by a few millimetres; if the scaphoid broke that would have been six weeks of not riding. They preformed three x-rays and in the night a MRI of the hand. I strained a ligament, and there is a deposit of liquid inside. All of my body weight went down on my left wrist when I crashed. They have applied a rigid bandage. To continue [in Tirreno] will be difficult."

By missing out of the final stages of Tirreno means that Ivan Basso will not take part in a crucial time trial test, stage 5 in Civitanova Marche. It is now also likely that he will skip Milano-Sanremo, in one week, due to the nervousness of the race. Although he prefers not to jeopardise his whole season the lack of competition kilometres could ruin his chances at a Giro d'Italia repeat.

"I don't want to risk anything," he stated. "If I got tendonitis in the wrist then I would compromise all of my season. The wrist is a delicate spot. ... Luckily it did not fracture. But something is there [in the wrist] and to race a bike like this, in a nervous race, is very demanding and not ideal."

Basso finished the day, accompanied by Discovery Channel teammate Vladimir Gusev, 6'54" back on compatriot and stage winner Riccò Riccardo.

Riccò displays tremendous talent in Tirreno

Riccò puts in his attack
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Riccardo Riccò put his name put his name at the top in 2006 as a neo-pro, when he took his first professional win in the fifth and final day of the Settimana Ciclistica di Coppi e Bartali, ahead of Olympic Champion Paolo Bettini. Now he is building on last year's successes, having already won a stage in Argentina, he twice rocketed solo to stage wins in stage three and stage four of Tirreno-Adriatico. In the process, Riccò left behind seasoned riders like Alexander Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Filippo Pozzato and Stefano Garzelli.

It is Riccò, the 23 year-old from Formigine, along with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Giovanni Visconti (Quickstep-Innergetic), who form a triple threat for Italy's future in cycling. "Vincenzo is more for the Grand Tours, Giovanni for the Classics. We are friends but rivals. I am more complete, like Cunego or Valverde," Riccò told La Gazzetta dello Sport after his win in Macerata.

The Saunier Duval-Prodir rider, under the direction of Pietro Algeri, proved his cunning skills with a powerful attack in the finale, a 2600m stretch to the finish, averaging 7.2% gradient, with a maximum of 12%. He joined Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) but quickly left him and finished ahead of Vinokourov, an acknowledged and accomplished rider, by two seconds.

He believes that these types of attacks are amongst his best traits. "I followed my instinct. I watched, everyone was on the rivet and I attacked. This sort of dry attack is my best characteristic." He does not rule out the overall classification; he will suffer on the time trial stage but the following day, up to San Giacomo, he can show his prowess. "I will have to defend my self in the time trial," continued Riccò, who, after stage three, is in second, 21 seconds behind Alexandr Arekeev (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo). "But seeing how I am going on the climbs, I think I can do it."

Daniele Tortoli was also impressed. He was the DS of Grassi-Pantani, the amateur squad that Riccò was a part of, and also guided the likes of Mario Cipollini and Michele Bartoli. "I turned on the TV... I had never seen something like that in a stage race," quipped Tortoli.

Riccò, 2001 Junior National Cyclo-cross champion, will continue his preparations for the Giro d'Italia, where, along with helping teammate Gilberto Simoni win the overall, he aims to win the newly-reintroduced young rider's jersey, the Maglia Bianca. It would be in the same race where his idol ruled some years past. "Marco Pantani," said Riccò. "The autograph that he dedicated to me is one of the dearest items I have."

Haussler's very bad days

By Susan Westemeyer

A smiling Heinrich Haussler
Photo ©: Jean-Francois Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Heinrich Haussler surely had other plans for the 2007 season. Knee problems held him back at the beginning of the year and then he had his wisdom teeth pulled. But at least he was ready to start racing again, and made his season debut in Paris-Nice. And it wasn't a pretty sight.

"The five-kilometre prologue was really hard. I really had to torture myself. My form is simply not there," he wrote on radsport-aktiv.de.

The first stage "wasn't as difficult as expected," but he noted that he's not able to ride with the best. In the second stage he had to drop back only 1000 meters before the finish, saying "The form just isn't there."

He bounced back enough in the third stage to not only join a breakaway group, but to take over a jersey. "I was able to win all the mountain rankings and so took over the jersey for the best climber of the race." His escape was ended three kilometres before the finish, and after the race he "was pretty tired."

Haussler paid for that the next day, saying "You wouldn't believe how tired I was today." He was able to defend his mountain jersey, and teammate Davide Rebellin took over the leader's jersey.

And then came stage 5. "Today was the worst day in my whole cycling career." The team had to ride all out in order to defend the yellow jersey, and on top of that, Haussler forgot to eat. He had to drop back with some 50 kilometres left "and then I had to ride alone behind the field. I could hardly see and at some times on the flat I was only going about 12 kilometres an hour. Finally, I began counting down the kilometres. At last I finally came to the finish, thank goodness -- as the last one in. And without even trying, I was able to defend my mountain jersey."

It all proved too much for the young German-Australian rider, and he abandoned in Saturday's stage.

Beloki to make comeback?

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Joseba Beloki
Photo ©: Marion Clignet

The Basque cyclist Joseba Beloki, once named in the now shelved Operación Puerto affair, has told the local newspaper El Correo Vasco that he is ready to return to competition this season: “I am waiting for some interesting opportunity, because I want to compete about two more seasons."

Beloki does not discount the possibility of being picked up by a Pro Tour squad, and in this sense, admitted that, "I have already established contact with some of them. Euskalte-Euskadi? Could be possible."

He does not forget the damage caused by his supposed implication in the Operación Puerto, "because now nobody can forget that we have supposedly done something bad ." The veteran Spaniard rider said in addition that, "Once the judge filed this affair, the UCI was first to pressure the teams not to sign us."

Beloki referred to Ivan Basso, "who is taking part in the Tirreno, so that I believe that it is going to help us". He insisted that, "I have decided to continue without any problem, and, the reason why I am not doing it now is that my squad -Liberty- has disappeared, not because I am sanctioned."

Simoni to debut in World Cup

Gilberto Simoni will make his debut in the Mountain Bike World Cup this weekend in the Canary Islands. "My legs are good. Leaving Valenciana I felt prepared," said the 35 year-old rider from Trento to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The course is all gravel, not very technical, so not very suited to my skills."

The 91 kilometre run will be the first test for the Italian National Champion Marathon Mountain Bike champion. There are two more rounds this July, the 8th and 15th, which after the Giro d'Italia will be his major objectives.

"I need to be careful as not to crash and have some luck. I will go 'all out' to try to win."

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)

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