Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tony Hawk Makes Good On Promise

Skateboard icon Tony Hawk strolled casually Saturday morning through the Teens Inc. Youth and Family Center in Nederland, escaping the heavy rain falling outside.

As Hawk passed one of the windows, he noticed a group of kids peeking in, their hair drenched, hoping to catch a glimpse of their hero. He turned, smiled and waved. Squeals of excitement were heard through the glass.

Hawk traveled to Colorado to fulfill a promise he made on prime-time TV. He vowed to name a skatepark after Nathan Lazarus, an 11-year-old student at Alexander Dawson School in Lafayette.

The two met while Hawk was a contestant on the Fox game show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" to win money for the Tony Hawk Foundation. Nathan partnered with him on a few questions and brought in $175,000.

Nederland's skatepark had already been approved for a $25,000 grant from Hawk's foundation, which helps build skateparks in low-income communities. The foundation offered an additional $50,000 if the town named it after Nathan.

"Nathan Lazarus helped me win more money for the foundation than I could have on my own," Hawk said.

On Saturday, Hawk made the trip to dedicate the new park, and a diverse group of skateboarders braved the wet weather to meet him. The line for autographs extended outside the Teens Inc. entrance to the nearby skatepark.

"It's crazy to have people come here and think of it as the Nathan Lazarus Skatepark," Nathan said. "I don't know what to say yet. It's just awesome."

"I think skating is a really active, healthy sport," Hawk said. "We all do something different, but we all come together to show each other what we're doing."

Randy Lee, executive director of the group Nedsk8, which secured the funding for the park, said the process was difficult at times because of the poor reputation skating has earned over the years.

"A skatepark can be a hard sell because it is mistakenly associated with juvenile delinquents. In reality, it's the opposite," Lee said.

The sound of wheels grinding on concrete was constant at the Lazarus skatepark, except when the rain forced everyone out of the bowls, dips and turns. Still, they stood to the side with their boards tucked under their arms and waited.

Hawk was also scheduled to do some tricks for the crowd — assuming the weather cooperated.

Finally the rain let up, and a group of six volunteers went down with brooms to sweep the water into the drain. As the park was officially dedicated in Nathan's name, the sun appeared from behind the clouds.

Hawk began to zip up and down the ramps, spinning in the air and landing trick after trick for the cheering crowd.

"It's indescribable," said Kohlton Anderson, 12, who had his skateboard signed by Hawk. "It's the best thing in the world."

Taylor Phinney wins Paris-Roubaix U23

By Steve Frothingham

American Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) won the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs on Sunday, emerging first from a group of 11 that entered the Roubaix velodrome together.

Phinney, 18, becomes the first American to win the race for riders under 23. The 170km race has been held since 1967 and has been won by budding professionals including Yaroslav Popovych, Thor Hushovd, Stephen Roche and Frédéric Moncassin.

The group of 11 that came into the velodrome contained three riders from the Capinordic team, who massed at the front as they came on the track, said Chris De Vos, the head soigneur for the U.S. national team.

De Vos said Phinney attacked with a half lap to go. "Taylor started sprinting and damn he was so strong, nobody could follow him," De Vos told VeloNews in an email.

Trek-Livestrong's Sam Bewley, a New Zealander, was the next member of an American team to finish, in 16th at 36 seconds. Other American team finishers were Dan Summerhill (Felt-Holloway-Garmin, 36th); Peter Salon (Garmin, 37th); Kirk Carlsen (Garmin, 39th); Jesse Sergent (Livestrong, 42nd); Cole House (BMC/USAC) 43rd); Carroll Austin (USAC, 52nd); Julian Kyer (Livestrong, 80th); Alex Howes (Garmin, 81st); Dan Holloway (Garmin, 88th); Iggy Silva (USAC, 89th) and Chris Monteleone (USAC, 90th).

"Axel calls and says, 'Taylor won! Taylor won!'" Phinney said. "I put the phone to my chest and started yelling to everyone in the group, and this ripple went through the group."

The ride included an A-list of top American roadies from the 1980s and 90's, including Olympic medalists Nelson Vails, Alexi Grewal, Ron Kiefel and Connie Carpenter-Phinney (Taylor's mother).

Merckx handed the phone to Taylor, who told his father he did an exuberant "Phinney victory salute" on the velodrome.

Axel Merckx drove the lead team support car at the race, with Eddy Merckx in the passenger seat. "What a way to impress, huh?" Davis Phinney said.

Taylor Phinney competed in the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix two years ago, crashing three times but vowing to return and win, his father said.

Davis Phinney rode the professional Paris-Roubaix four times during his career, in support of teammates Steve Bauer and others.

"I sucked in Roubaix," he said. "I didn't have the suppleness over the cobbles that Taylor has."

He said he was a little surprised at his son's performance because Taylor had told him Saturday night that he had a sore throat and felt he was getting a cold.

Armstrong: "It's been a hard three weeks"

Astana won the team classification at the Giro d'Italia but Lance Armstrong was already in Rome airport when his team mates climbed onto the podium in the shadow of the Coliseum.

Armstrong rushed to Aspen because his girlfriend Anna Hansen was about to give birth to his fourth child.

With the Roman roads still wet from the rain, Armstrong rode a cautious final time trial. He finished 53rd, 1-19 behind stage winner Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo) and so was 12th overall at 15-59. Team mate Levi Leipheimer was sixth overall at 5-28.

Armstrong has not talked to the media at the Giro since the protest during the Milan Show stage two weeks ago. He has often tweeted and posted video, and the Astana team issued a press release with his final thoughts on the Giro.

“I came in (to the Giro) open minded. I did not know what to expect, obviously because of the crash in Castilla y León, the time off the bike and the trip over here. In my view it has been a hard three weeks,” he said.

“In the second half of the race I showed that I was certainly getting better and I think we can take that away from here. It is promising for June and July. I may have disappointed some fans and people in the pressroom, expecting that I immediately should start winning big races. That is crazy. I am almost 38 years old. Both of my feet are firmly on the ground. It's taking a lot of work up to this point but we might ride strong and be in the front in July.”

“The style of racing in Italy is different, but I liked it,” continued Lance Armstrong.

“Despite some dangerous stages, it was a great race. The Giro del Centenario brought us to the most beautiful places of the country. The people here are enthusiastic. In the Giro I spent more time with the fans than with the media. It was cool and fun hanging around with the tifosi.”


Armstrong's Astsna team-mate Levi Leipheimer posed for photographs in front of the coliseum, satisfied with his Giro.

“I am not disappointed. Over the three weeks, there were five guys a bit stronger than me,” he said.

“Basically I decided to do the Giro more out of preparation for the Tour de France. I raced here against riders that were really targeting this race. What makes me happy is that I finished the Giro a lot stronger than last year and that we rode as a real team.”

“Lance Armstrong proved to be a good domestique, but also Steve Morabito, Andrey Zeits, Jani Brajkovic, Chris Horner, Dani Navarro, Yaroslav Popovych and Chehu Rubiera gave me a ton of support. Of course I would have preferred to win a stage. In the historic time trial of Cinque Terre I was very close to it, but already there Denis Menchov was better. Today, I preferred not to take any risks.”

The Giro ended with the future of the Astana team still in doubt. Some wages have been paid but other debts remain. However Team manager Johan Bruyneel is confident the team, in some form or other, will ride the Tour de France and next week's Dauphine Libere and the Tour de Suisse.

“Up to the Giro, Levi was undefeated this year. He has to be pleased with this race and the season he has had so far. A three-week Tour is very exhausting, especially on the mind,” Bruyneel said in the statement.

“I am hopeful and confident that we can ride those races. The financial woes that left salaries unpaid are not completely resolved yet. I hope that the team sponsors will meet the deadline for the bank guarantee and the payments. Moreover the UCI now wants more guarantees about the team for the rest of the year.”

“The UCI will decide soon about the near future of the Team. We hope to know more in the coming days. The best solution is that we can continue with our current structure. I expect that we will have a team at the start of the Tour de France.”

Menchov Overcomes Disaster To Save His Giro

Rabobank's Denis Menchov saved his Giro d'Italia victory from near ruin following a last-kilometre crash in the final time trial in Rome. The Russian was on track for the best time, but slipped out on the rain-soaked cobbles and slid down the road.

After jumping up, getting a perfect bike change from his mechanic, he waged an adrenaline-fueled dash to the line to save the day. Menchov finished 10th on the day and 21 seconds faster than second overall Danilo Di Luca.

The stage was won by the Lithuanian time trial champion, Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo TestTeam), who was one of the last riders to enjoy a dry course. The 23-year-old slipped in one second faster than Garmin-Slipstream's Bradley Wiggins, who encountered the rain on the last half of his race.

The day in glorious Roma dawned with anticipation in the air - the first riders looking forward to polishing off the fastest Giro d'Italia in history while the later riders looked at the skies in concern, hoping the rain would hold off.

Ignatas Konovalovas, the Cervelo Test Team's Lithuanian time trial champion set the early fastest time, just finishing his effort as a brief shower began to fall on the twisting, cobbled course.

The rain made conditions difficult for Garmin-Slipstream's Bradley Wiggins, who was fastest at the early checks. The Olympic champion encountered not only slippery rain-dampened turns but also a stopped Bouygues Telecom car, which was attending to Matthieu Sprick, in the approach to the line.

None of the riders who encountered the wet roads could crack the top ten, and indeed it wasn't until the showers let up and the steady breeze dried most of the course that Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad) could slip in for seventh fastest.

Konovalovas' time remained unchallenged as the top riders on the general classification took to the course. One by one, the top names tried but failed to reach the Lithuanian's time. Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), a time trial specialist, fell 16 seconds shy.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was not taking any risks as the rain began anew, and finished well off the pace.

Di Luca, on the other hand, rode the time trial as if his life depended on it. Hurtling through the bends and hammering over the cobbles, the Italian threw caution to the wind and led at the first time check by one second. Overall leader Menchov was five seconds behind after just 4.4km.

Di Luca's gamble failed to pay off, however, and he faded significantly by the second check, falling 14 seconds behind Menchov.

His victory seemingly sewn up, Menchov headed into the final kilometre on track for the fastest time, but on the rain-sodden cobbles, disaster struck and he crashed. A quick bike change saved the day, however, and the Russian was able to get to the line just in time to save his Giro. He finished 10th overall, even extending his lead over Di Luca to 41 seconds in the process.

The normally stony-faced Russian let out a rare display of emotion as he crossed the line, dropped his bike and pumped both fists in the air and roared with joy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ivan Basso Rebuilds a Career and a Reputation

Ivan Basso gives his fans a kiss before today's 20th stage.

“I was away from the sport for two years, and I didn’t think it was right that I made the decision,” said Basso, the winner of the 2006 Giro and a favorite at this year’s race. “But I think we need to apologize to the fans. I’m coming off a very tough time, and I’m trying to do something good for cycling.”

Basso is in his first season after a two-year doping ban, and he is treading carefully in his first Grand Tour race in three years. He was implicated in a doping ring in Spain, using the name of his dog, Birillo, as his code name at a blood-doping clinic. He admitted not to doping, but to thinking about doping.

But his redemption among his fans, competitors and countrymen started long before this race. Basso, 31, once thought to be the next coming of Lance Armstrong, spent two years thinking about it, creating it and acting on it.

“It is important that I try to get the fans to believe in me again,” he said. “But I know I have three types of fans. Those who were with me all the time. Those who had big delusions about me but decided to follow me again. But some fans want to kill me for what I’ve done.

“There will always be a group who are unhappy, and I’ve learned to understand that.”

“There was something broken in 2006 when Basso was involved in doping, and it was the point of no return for many of his supporters,” said Paolo Tomaselli, a reporter who covers cycling for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “He once had a clean image as a good guy. People loved him. But they don’t trust cycling anymore. They might respect Basso, but no, they will never again be able to love him. Here in Italy, this is the worst thing for a sportsman.”

Basso said he thought of that during his two-year exile. He wondered how fans would greet him, or if they would accept him.

To keep his head from spinning, Basso would turn to his wife, Micaela, and his two young children, Santiago and Domitilla, for support.

“Whenever I’d be thinking about my big problems, I’d sit on the bed, and my children would jump on me and want to play,” he said. “This is the only way I could get through this.”

But then came a revelation. He needed to return to cycling and prove to everyone he was clean.

So Basso contacted someone with a solid reputation in Italy for training athletes the right way: Aldo Sassi. In February 2008, Basso traveled to the Mapei Sport training center, where members of Italy’s national ski team prepare for competition. He asked Sassi to train him.

Sassi said yes, but only if Basso agreed to be subject to rigorous testing, which included periodically measuring the hemoglobin mass in his blood. Sassi, looking for a near guarantee that Basso was clean, said that variations in hemoglobin mass could indicate doping.

“We knew cycling was in an emergency because of doping and thought it would be good to support an athlete who wanted to race clean,” Sassi said. “Basso said, ‘Yes, but I want to be totally transparent, 100 percent, and you can test me every time you want.’ I strongly believe that he is clean now.”

Sassi posts all of Basso’s training data, blood data and drug testing data on the Mapei Web site. There are pages of graphs and information, with the latest data — hemoglobin mass and blood test updates — posted on May 7. Basso’s personal Web site also has a link to the data.

“Basso’s way of doing it is the best,” said Michael Ashenden, a blood-doping expert from Australia. “I couldn’t ask any more of an athlete than to do what he is doing. I don’t know how an athlete could manipulate all that data without being discovered.”

Some riders, including David Millar, have applauded Basso’s efforts. Millar, who served a two-year ban for admitting he had used the blood-booster EPO, said: “In all honesty, he’s coming back the right way. You have to remember that in Italy, cycling is a national sport, and he’s been vilified very little here.”

Still, Basso said he felt pressure to succeed so he could rebuild his name. But he is convinced that winning need not come right away.

“I don’t need to convince people in 21 days that I am doing things the right way because I know it will take two years, three years to do that,” he said of this three-week race. “I prefer the fans wait to judge me. Now I just need to work and just shut up.”

Alexander, Granger Take 70.3 Hawaii

Australians Craig Alexander and Belinda Granger resurfaced onto the race scene with wins at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.

While the pro field at Saturday’s Ironman 70.3 Hawaii was not long (only 17 pros started), the storylines among the day’s top pros were numerous. Australians Craig Alexander and Belinda Granger claimed the victories in Hawaii after a few months off for each. Alexander chose to sit out from the race scene so he could spend time with his family and newborn baby, while Granger was sidelined after having surgery on an artery in her stomach. Prior to their hiatuses, the two had begun successful race seasons with Alexander winning Ironman 70.3 Geelong and Ironman 70.3 Singapore, and Granger winning Ironman Malaysia. Canadian Samantha McGlone also had a successful comeback, finishing second in Hawaii after taking more than six months off of racing and training to deal with Achilles tendinosis.

Contador Concludes Pre-Tour Alps Recon

Alberto Contador of team Astana concluded a five-day training session in the Alps in which he previewed four stages of this July's Tour de France.

While in the Alps Contador previewed stages 15-18, comprising three road stages and the final time trial.

"I began with the uphill finish in Switzerland, in Verbier, which is new," said Contador, the 2007 Tour de France champion. "It's a hard finish, but I don't know how much of a difference it will make among the favourites. I don't know if it's tough enough, though it's good for me. Then I saw the Grand and Petit Saint Bernard, a stage in the third week, after the second rest day. It will be a day of attrition, though it depends on how the general classification goes and if there are brave people who wants to animate the race The altitude will also will be an important factor.

"We also saw what I consider the queen stage of the Tour [stage 17], finishing on Le Grand-Bornand," continued Contador. "Although it is not very long, only 169 kilometres, it has five difficult mountain passes, beginning with the Cormet de Roselend, which is climb from the start, and ending with the Romme and Colombiere climbs, with the finish line only 15 kilometres afterwards.

"Finally, we have seen the final, 40-kilometre time trial in Annecy. The course is flat enough and there are no complicated curves. The only prominent feature is a three-kilometre climb at kilometre 25, after which the course is favorable. In spite of everything it will be a difficult time trial because it's the day after the queen stage."

Contador plans to recover from his trips to the Alps in order to prepare for the next race in his schedule.

"I did some good base work thinking about the Tour," said Contador. "I gave myself a few good beatings in training so next week I will recover a bit, because on Sunday [June 7] I begin again with competition".

Contador will compete in the upcoming Dauphiné Libéré which takes place June 7-14.

Giro d'Italia 2009 Stage 20 Final Kilometers

Friday, May 29, 2009


Does protein cause osteoporosis?

Won't it make me skinny?

Do carbs cause diabetes?

Don't they make you fat?

During the 70s, the Atkins Diet Revolution was all the rage in the diet world. During the 80s, cutting calories was the magic answer. In the 90s, Susan Powter and the low-fat fad ruled.

Now we've managed to come full circle for one of the worst diets on the planet: the Atkins New Diet Revolution.
Virtually every nutritionist, doctor and health expert condemns the high-protein, low-carb diet.

But, we hear that "high protein" works, and we read the bestseller, and we jump on the bandwagon without knowing if this is really the best way to eat or lose weight.

And who can blame us? All you see are books, ads and celebrities talking about how great protein is.
Let's talk about what protein is, first.

There are different types of protein, but all proteins are made up of combinations of about 22 amino acids. There are more, but these 22 are necessary to human survival.

Our beliefs about protein are often inaccurate. People worry they aren't getting enough; they think it's the magic weight-loss cure; they think vegetarians are going to keel over and die.

None of these beliefs are true. It's very easy to get enough good protein being a vegetarian. You really only need about 20% protein in your diet to be healthy, and the source doesn't matter. The body will accept the amino acids and put them together into proteins for you - you don't have to worry that you're getting "complete" proteins, as long as you eat variety in your diet. And the body also can't tell between a plant amino acid and a meat amino acid, because there is no chemical difference. An amino acid is an amino acid is an amino acid!

What a lot of people aren't told is that protein can actually be bad for you. This comes from the misunderstanding that extra protein builds "extra" muscles.

Don't bodybuilders eat a lot of protein for muscle growth?

Some do, yes. But that can be misguided. Because once the body gets the protein needed to maintain its muscle cells, it outright dumps the rest. It's similar to how the body naturally flushes excess Vitamin C. A bodybuilder might need more protein to support more muscles, but the average person does not need to be eating bacon and steak at every meal. We focus so much on protein, we forget about how important vegetables and fiber are.

I always thought high-protein foods were unhealthy because they have saturated fat. Isn't heart disease a big concern?
It's a huge concern. Heart disease is America's number one killer. So it makes sense that you'd want to avoid foods that might encourage heart disease. And that's a problem with protein. Many proteins, like bacon and steak, are loaded with saturated fat. But that's not the only problem.

The body will flush excess proteins away. But it's a little more dicey than the way your body gets rid of vitamin C.
How so?

The difference is that flushing protein from the body takes a great deal of energy. Eating too much protein causes something called ketosis, which is what diabetics actually experience. The liver gets filled with ammonia, a toxic substance, and must convert it to urea. The kidneys must then excrete the urea, which is enormously taxing.
So the high-protein diet isn't such a good idea.

You can lose weight on a high-protein diet quite easily. It's a vanity diet, however. That means it's a diet where the only goal is dropping weight immediately. Health, long term looks, and lifestyle are not important. Honestly, can you eat a high-protein diet forever? No, not without getting bored and seriously ill. Will you feel healthier, be more fit, more toned, or tight? No, you won't. As nice as bacon, butter and steak seven days a week might seem, that much protein and fat is just not healthy.

Different types of protein have different issues. Animal protein is rich in homocysteine, which is known to cause heart problems, strokes and even osteoporosis. Homocysteine is actually a biomarker for heart disease. There's evidence that homocysteine, when there's too much in your body, might also be linked to other diseases like Alzheimer's.

I'm never eating protein again.

Protein isn't bad. It's incredibly important for your body. It's something you absolutely cannot live without. Protein maintains your cells. It helps muscles, hair, skin, eyes, and especially the brain. Protein is a great long-lasting energy source, too.
The problem is thinking that any one nutrient, whether it's protein, carbs or something else, is going to be the miracle solution for a perfect body.

Are carbs healthy or not?

It really depends on the kind of carbohydrate. Just like fat and protein, there are good carbs and bad carbs.
According to the Associated Press, studies in which people consume white, refined grains versus whole grains and vegetables have fatter midsections.

Scientists think Americans' expanding waistlines are linked to a diet high in refined, bleached carbohydrates, such as white bread and rice, pastries, pasta and beer.

When wheat and other whole grains are refined, the nutritious, fibrous husk and germ are removed. What's left is more attractive and sweeter to the taste, but this refined product is also much higher on the glycemic index than whole grains, and sends blood sugar spiking. Insulin floods the system to alleviate this spike, which in turn can slow down the metabolism and store fat. Insulin-related fat storage is linked to the midsection.

Unfortunately, this insular fat is some of the hardest to get rid of, not only because the body becomes conditioned to believe it must store the fat, but because the stomach muscles are not attached to joints like other muscles in the body, so getting them to burn off the extra layers of fat is more difficult. However, with a combination of whole grains in the diet and regular exercise, the stomach will eventually shed its stored fat.

In the most recent study, researchers found that consuming refined instead of whole grains boosted the average participant's waist by an entire clothing size in just three years! On the other hand, participants who ate only whole, brown grains, and favored vegetables, did not experience weight gain or increased waist size. Many even lost weight.

Astana team set to survive past May 31

It looks more and more likely that the Astana team will survive after the Giro d'Italia after the team's Kazakhstan sponsors paid a large part of their debts. However UCI President Pat McQuaid has refused to guarantee that the team can ride the Tour de France.

McQuaid has been working hard behind the scenes to resolve the team's problems and told Cycling Weekly that the bank guarantee has been repaid and other debts have been paid.

“The deadline we've given them is a bank guarantee deadline and the payments are up to schedule. They've paid sums of money in recent weeks, and they may be in order. The bank guarantees I believe have been put back in place," McQuaid said before the stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia to Mount Vesuvius.

It seems that riders and staff have received some of their wages but McQuaid seems to be trying to pin down sponsorship payments from the Kazakhstan sponsors for the rest of 2009.

“We've also asked the Kazakhs for other guarantees about the team for the rest of the year, and when we get responses about that we will decide whether or not to go to the license commission for the withdrawal of the license,” McQuaid said.

“There's still no guarantees that the team will ride the Tour de France. The license commission meets in mid-July and that's when any decision will be made."


Johan Bruyneel has refused to give details of negotiations with Astana in recent days or reveal if he and Lance Armstrong have secured a new sponsor for the team.

There has been a lot of speculation that Spain's Alberto Contador would use the team's financial problems to jump ship and perhaps join the Caisse d'Epargne team for the Tour de France.

However, Bruyneel today dropped a strong hint that Astana will remain as the title sponsor and that 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will stay with the team.

“I've spoken with Alberto at length on the phone yesterday and there's not a single thought in his mind (about leaving),” Bruyneel said.

“He's going to be with our team. We don't know yet what it's going to be called yet but hopefully it's Astana.”


By Bob Roll

Just as Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii so too did Vesuvious bury the chances of Danilo Diluca to win the Giro. Although Diluca picked up 8 seconds in time bonuses for finishing third on the stage to Vesuvious, the most spectacular ride of the day belonged to Denis Menchov.

Bike racing is a chess game fought by mountain climbing boxers on two wheels. The closing the stage of this year’s Giro is a 9 mile individual time trial which is a discipline that Menchov excels at. The time trial has never been Diluca’s specialty and so in the chess game of this year’s Giro it was Diluca that needed to take more then 45 seconds out of Menchov in order to have a chance to win the Giro this year. Every time Diluca attacked, Menchov was instantaneously able to respond. That was the battle of the race. The final climb to Mount Vesuvius was as thrilling as bike racing ever gets. There were scintillating attacks by the Giro’s best climbers. Nearly all the heads of state tried to attack at one point or another. The first serious attack was made by Ivan Basso. Carlos Sastre counter-attacked and provided us with a spectacular full blown brawl with Ivan Basso. Sastre’s acceleration proved to be a little too much for Basso and Sastre soloed to a great stage win. As Basso faded, Pellizotti, Garzelli, Simoni, and David Arroyo all took turns attacking the lead group of Menchov and Diluca. Lance Armstrong rode a very impressive stage and continued to claw his way back to the leaders each time there was a major acceleration.

Diluca who seemed to be in serious trouble at the beginning of the climb waited until the final two or three kilometers before his attacks were launched against Menchov. Diluca’s attacking swept up every body except Sastre and Pellizotti, but the one thing Diluca needed to do, drop Menchov, proved to be impossible. Diluca’s chances have faded as each kilometer towards the finish in Rome is covered but he will not go down without a fight. Menchov has ridden a perfect Giro so far and will now steal himself for the time trial on Sunday.

The Giro is a curious event sometimes and has been full of intrigue and questionable governance in the past. Some of the former winners that were not Italians have regularly reported nefarious incidences of nationalistic favoritism. In the modern era of cycling with much more intensive media coverage and scrutiny have prevented a lot of diabolical tactics but if your Denis Menchov it is impossible for these legends not to haunt your waking hours and probably your sleep also. With two days to go in the Giro believe me about anything can happen. Lets hope however that is the legs that tell the story and no stripe of misadventure enters into the equation. Strange things happen the last weekend of the Giro. It has however been an exceptionally thrilling edition so far. Buona Fortuna Tutti.

Ivan Basso Confirms Vuelta Participation

Liquigas' Ivan Basso, who is currently racing the Giro d'Italia hoping for a final podium placing in Rome, has confirmed that he will be participating in the Vuelta a España this year. The Italian, who is making his came-back after two years of suspension due to his implication in the Operación Puerto affair, will not race the Tour de France but concentrate on the Spanish Grand Tour instead.

"Yes, I will be racing the Vuelta," Basso told Spanish Marca on Thursday. "I'm very happy about it. I've seen the route on paper several times and it seems very nice to me. At the presentation of the Giro I was very happy when the representatives of Unipublic welcomed me to their race, saying that they were happy to have me at the Vuelta. I'm also very happy to be able to race it."

The Italian Grand Tour contender is positive that he will be able to race for the victory in Spain later this year, as he is getting back into racing rhythm at the Giro d'Italia.

"Aside from my result, this Giro will serve me to get back my former resistance and strength after almost three years without racing Grand Tours," he continued. "Because this is impossible just by training. I'm convinced that in the Vuelta you will see me even stronger because in a stage race like the Giro you have to make great efforts, but it is also training for other competitions."

As Spaniard Alberto Contador will probably be absent from the Vuelta, Basso could be the big favourite for this year's edition. At the moment, the 31-year-old is battling for the Giro podium.

Sastre solos to second stage

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) won his second stage of the Giro d'Italia, soloing to victory on stage 19's mountaintop finish at Vesuvio. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) followed in second place, 21 seconds back, while Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) out-sprinted Denis Menchov (Rabobank) for third, nine seconds after Pellizotti.

Sastre escaped the peloton early on the finishing ascent of Vesuvio, bridging to Ivan Basso (Liquigas), the climb's early aggressor. Inside of five kilometres remaining in the stage, Sastre dropped Basso and ascended at a steady tempo all the way to the summit finish. While Sastre climbed away to stage honours, Di Luca and Pellizotti repeatedly attacked on the ascent trying to crack the maglia rosa Menchov.

Pellizotti succeeded in distancing himself from Di Luca and Menchov with three kilometres to go, joining forces with Basso who sat up to wait for his teammate. With two kilometres to go Basso could no longer match the pace of Pellizotti and was dropped and passed by the surging duo of Di Luca and Menchov.

Pellizotti managed to close the GC gap by several seconds on Menchov, but Menchov's attention was clearly focused on staying with Di Luca who he led by only 26 seconds at the start of the stage.

Menchov successfully defended his general classification lead over Di Luca, now narrowed to 18 seconds, while Pellizotti lies in third place 1:39 behind the race leader.

Early in the stage, after only 16 kilometres of racing, Mauro Facci (Quick Step) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) attacked and built a lead of seven minutes over the peloton. The duo maintained their escape for nearly the entire stage, but were no match for a LPR Brakes-led peloton which swept them up at the beginning of the 13-kilometre climb of Vesuvio.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Triathlon’s Stars Resurface In Hawaii

American Chris Lieto, Canadian Samantha McGlone and Australians Craig Alexander and Belinda Granger will compete at the Kohala Coast of Hawaii on May 30 after hiatuses from racing.

If you happen to be vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii this week, you may notice an unusual number of athletes swimming, biking and running in the region. All week, several of the sport’s top athletes have been riding up and down Queen Kaahumanu Highway in preparation for Saturday’s Ironman 70.3 Hawaii. The race’s proximity to the Ironman World Championship site, as well as the high-caliber athletes that come to the island, make this an important event on the calendar. This year’s race is especially important as it marks the comeback of Canadian Samantha McGlone, and Australians Craig Alexander and Belinda Granger.

McGlone has not raced since she finished third on July 20, 2008 at the Ironman 70.3 Vineman in Sonoma County, Calif. A bad case of Achilles tendinosis has kept McGlone sidelined until this weekend, where she will defend her wins at this race in 2007 and 2008. World champion Alexander has been missing from racing action since winning at Ironman 70.3 Singapore on March 22. He has been spending time back home in Australia with his family, including their newborn baby. Fellow Australian Granger also took a break from racing after her win at Ironman Malaysia on February 28 to have surgery on an artery in her stomach.

Out to test Alexander’s fitness will be fellow Australian Luke McKenzie and American Chris Lieto. On the women’s side, American Bree Wee is likely the biggest threat for McGlone and Granger. Wee is undoubtedly the most prepared for the conditions as she lives and trains in Kona, Hawaii, and has had some early success in the 2009 season.

Popovych Tries Again

After a day-long unsuccessful break on Monday, Popovych was ready to go again on stage 18: "Before the stage I asked Johan if I could try again. I was feeling good, recovered well after Monte Petrano and since we're not in the GC hunt, I thought I could do something nice. It was also good to be with Andrey Zeits. He's a young Kazakh rider and I have a lot of experience as a professional rider. I tell him to go or to be careful or to look out for this guy. I thought he had a very good chance to win or do something today, but regardless it's a great experience for him and to learn. I think he has a very bright future and if I can help him, then great."

With the blistering heat now passed, rain fell during part of the stage, bringing up diesel on the roads and making them slick as ice, resulting in various accidents including the one described by Zeits.  The break included riders from almost every team and gained a time advantage of five minutes.  In the peloton Rabobank set pace for leader Menchov while LPR looked after the interests of their man Danilo Di Luca who is 26-seconds back on GC.  But with many sprinters already out of the race and the tired-factor weighing heavily on those still riding, there was little interest in catching the breakaway today.  Saxo Bank’s Jason McCartney tried an early break from his companions at 10km to go but was brought back, as were other late attacks near the finish line in Benevento.  In the final drive to the line it was the little uphill pitch that sealed the deal for Scarponi as he claimed his 12th career victory.

Regarding today’s stage and what is still to come, Sports Director Alan Gallopin said, “We did what we had to do. We now want to win the Team GC so we had to control the two Columbia guys. Hopefully we can do something special in the next few days."

What’s left to ride in the 92nd Giro d’Italia that still could make a difference in the final outcome?  Friday is the last climbing stage as the peloton rides up the world’s most famous volcano, Vesuvius.  It’s the last opportunity for Di Luca to dislodge Menchov before the time trial in Rome on Sunday. Known for excelling in the discipline, it isn’t likely that the quiet Russian would lose time to Di Luca on the time trial stage, which makes Friday all the more important if a shake-up is going to occur.   And that’s a big “if” at this stage of the game.

The Lance Factor

by Graham Watson

The cheers that went up in the press room when Lance Armstrong attacked on Wednesday's stage told us several things - the American is much loved by the media, his short burst of energy at Blockhaus helped liven up a somewhat dull Giro, and there's is just a hint, or maybe a hope, that Lance will repeat his attack in tomorrow's climb to Mount Vesuvius.

To make suggestions of Lance taking a stage-win would have seemed stupid even a few days ago, yet such is the magnetism of this exceptional athlete that people in the Giro are openly talking of this prospect - yet it is of course, a near-impossibility given the knife-edge situation affecting the overall leadership.

The incredible thing is, Lance has only to make a move, a surge, or even a playful acceleration to get everyone up on their feet and staring at the TV screens. One thing is for sure, Lance is coming into form at just the right time, and he'll leave this Giro with a full three weeks' racing in his legs which in turn will set him up for a month-long training regime at altitude when he gets back to the 'states.

With Levi Leipheimer out of contention now, Lance is free to race the race the way he wants to, and that has given Astana something to look forward to, a thing to focus on in the days that remain. I'm sure Lance wants to leave Italy knowing he has managed to give the adoring tifosi something to remember him by, and if he doesn't actually manage a top performance on Friday, then maybe it will come instead in the showcase time trial on Sunday.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 18 - Final kilometers

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Franco Pellizotti Rules The Blockhaus

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) moved himself into a position to make the final podium by winning stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia. On the 83 kilometre stage from Chieti to the mountain-top finish of the Blockhaus, he stormed away from the group of favourites, leaving Carlos Sastre behind on the relentless climb. His teammate Ivan Basso also moved ahead of Satre in the overall classification.

Stefano Garzelli out-sprinted Danilo Di Luca for second place, 42 seconds behind Pellizotti, while race leader Denis Menchov followed six seconds later in fourth.

Menchov remains in the race lead, holding a 26-second advantage over Di Luca and 2:00 ahead of Pellizotti.

Pellizotti attacked on the lower slopes of the 23.5-kilometre Blockhaus climb and steadily built a 50-second lead over a four-man chase group containing local favourite Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini), maglia rosa Denis Menchov (Rabobank), teammate Ivan Basso and mountain classification leader Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo).

An acceleration by Di Luca in the closing kilometres dropped Basso and Garzelli, but Garzelli was able to recover and regain contact with Di Luca and Menchov. Di Luca and Garzelli managed to open a slight gap over Menchov as they sprinted for second place honours.

The shortest of Giro d'Italia road stages began with a 10-rider break containing Ruggero Marzoli and Giuseppe Palumbo (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo), Félix Cardenas (Barloworld), Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Giovanni Visconti (ISD), Matteo Bono (Lampre - N.G.C.), Riccardo Chiarini (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Gonzalo Rabunal and Delio Ferandez (Xacobeo Galicia).

The escapees reached the 23.5-kilometre ascent of the Blockhaus with a 2:00 advantage over the peloton and quickly splintered under the impetus of Voeckler and Cardenas. The Colombian soon found himself alone at the head of the race before being absorbed by the GC favourites with approximately 15 kilometres remaining to the summit finish.


1 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 2.21.06
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 0.42
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini 0.43
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.48
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas 0.57
6 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C. 1.54
7 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas 1.55
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 1.59
9 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team

General classification after stage 17

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 72.28.24
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini 0.26
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 2.00
4 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas 3.28
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 3.30
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 4.32
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 7.05
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 8.04

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Popovych Nearly Goes The Distance

Yaroslav Popovych took the hardest day at the Giro d'Italia head on with an attack only two kilometres into the 235-kilometre stage on Monday.

"I went clear for the team and then I just took the situation as it came to me."

Popovych broke away with 19 others, forming a well-balanced lead group. They battled over the race's climbs, but prior to the fourth and final climb of Monte Petrano the Ukrainian was on his own.

"There were a lot of guys just trying to save their legs in the escape. I am not stupid, I saw many riders who joined the escape and then pulled very little. When we took seven-plus minutes and we had a good rhythm, but they helped only a little bit."

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Gabriele Bosisio (LPR) were the last to stay with Popovych, who was trying for a stage win and staying up the road in case team captain Levi Leipheimer needed him in a crucial moment. Cunego was fighting for a stage win to salvage his Giro d'Italia and Bosisio was seemingly playing dead for classification favourite and teammate Danilo Di Luca.

"The strongest were Cunego and I but not Bosisio. Let's not kid ourselves! Bosisio stayed on our wheels all the day and did not pull one metre," said Popovych, who stayed on his own until 2.5 kilometres remaining of the 10.4-kilometre climb. Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) then passed him and went on to win the stage. The Astana rider eventually drifted further back, passed by teammates Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong, to finish 18th.

Popovych joined team Astana this year to ride at the side of Armstrong and under the guidance of Johan Bruyneel. He raced the 2008 season with Silence-Lotto.

Could This Powerful Breakthrough Beat Cancer and Auto-Immune Diseases?

In this interview with Dr. Burton Berkson, he explains how low dose Naltrexone can have amazing effects on arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Is The Difference In Fats?

What is saturated fat? What's trans fat? Should I be using butter or margarine?

Oh, fat. What would we do without it?

Probably a whole lot more!

But seriously, what we're talking about is the fat you eat, whether for health, flavor or habit. Not all fats have the same effects, and it's important to use the best kinds in your cooking. Today we're going to look at the wonderful world of fat.
There are saturated fats, which come from animal sources like dairy, meat and eggs. These fats are so bad for the heart and arteries - and we love 'em. This is a large part of why Americans struggle so much with heart disease, obesity, and strokes.
Unsaturated fats are a better bet. They go by polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and plain old unsaturated. All of them are better by far than saturated fat. In fact, a little in the diet is a good thing. Examples include nuts, vegetable oils, avocados, and fish.

We do need fats, after all. Fat gives us energy, and it nourishes our cells and muscles. Fats keep our skin and hair looking supple and healthy.
Fats also do something else: they help us absorb vitamins and nutrients. Without fat, a lot of us would be crippled by vitamin deficiencies.

So fat is a friend - but you have to choose your friends wisely.

The best fats are Omega-3's. These fatty acids fight bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, and stimulate the brain. They've become very well-known in the health community and anyone interested in a good diet or becoming healthier has probably heard of them. Hundreds of studies in the last year or two have shown that Omega-3's are really lacking in the American diet. That's a shame, because these fats actually help you think clearly. They play a role in things like memory and cognition, and they influence our moods, too. Examples include nuts, salmon, red tuna, avocados, flaxseeds, and olive oil.

I like olive oil. Is canola oil more or less healthy for you than olive oil?

Canola oil is fine. It is a rapeseed derivative, which makes some people oppose it because they're misinformed about the rapeseed plant. A common myth is that mustard gas is made from the same plant canola oil is made from. That's baloney.

Let's talk about the worst fats of all.

Isn't saturated fat the worst?

It's got nothing on trans fats. Trans fats are also called hydrogenated fats. These are chemically-treated, heat-blasted unsaturated fats. We say "trans fats," because they were transferred from one type of fat to another. They become structurally similar to saturated fat, but worse. Most prepared and packaged foods contain trans fats, which are linked to all the problems saturated fat is known for, in addition to diabetes, depression and mood swings. Examples include most packaged foods (especially ones with crusts, crackers, cakes, cookies or croutons), shortenings, margarines and spreads.

I know the safety level for saturated fat is just a few grams a day. What about trans-fat?

The U.S. government says no one should ever eat trans fats. Period. The safety level is zero. And yet, that's all that you see in just about every food imaginable!

I thought margarine was better than butter.

Absolutely not. Most margarine is just a blend of different hydrogenated fats. It's terrible for your body. But margarine was popular for decades because people thought butter was the bad guy.
Since it doesn't have cholesterol or saturated fat, it became an American staple. It was a good idea to find a substitute for saturated fat, but butter is actually less harmful than margarine.

So what do I use?

There are some great butter and margarine substitutes out there. One great example is Earth Balance, which is a delicious Omega-3 spread that is far healthier and tastier than margarine.

Dave Zabriskie - "Sweet Child Of Mine"

Tom Danielson of Team Garmin talks about today's stage and DZ's singing.

Ouch! That was a hot, hard day out there today. Best moment was when DZ stole the microphone from the announcers at the start and sang. He sang sweet child of mine by Guns and Roses to the whole race, fans, and chaos that was at the start line. Start searching youtube for it! It was legend.

Leipheimer "Lance had to wait for me today"

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) lost two and half minutes to all main rivals in the Giro d'Italia on the climb to Monte Petrano and dropped from third overall, 43 seconds behind Denis Menchov, to sixth at 3-21.

Leipheimer was unable to hold the pace when Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre began to attack on the climb to the finish and claimed it was only thanks to Lance Armstrong that he didn't lose even more time.

“I was not as strong as those guys, it is plain and simple, they were stronger. Today was the day that separated everyone and you see who's strong and who's not…” he admitted.

“Immediately at the bottom of the climb, they started going faster and I didn't feel strong enough to go with them. I don't feel as strong as before and you see the difference between a seven-time Tour winner like Lance. He was stronger and he had to wait for me today. I just did not feel like I had it today.”

Lance Armstrong played the perfect domestique in the finale. He initially went with the leaders and got up to Menchov's group but then eased up, waited for Leipheimer and paced him up the second half of the climb.

“(Without Lance) I would have lost much much more time. He saved me minutes and minutes,” Leipheimer said.

Asked if he can recover and come back on Blockhaus on Wednesday, Leipheimer could offer a brave but unconvincing “I'll try, I'll try.”

He could perhaps pull back time in the final time trial in Rome and perhaps even push for a place on the podium but he must know that his chances of final victory ended on the slopes of Monte Petrano.
Lance Armstrong post-race: "Tough stage. Maybe one of the hardest I have ever seen. Relentless climbing and oppressive heat."

Sastre dominates on mountain of truth

Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) proved today that he is not only prepared for the Tour de France but also remains in contention to win the Giro d'Italia. The Spaniard took the stage victory on the Monte Petrano mountain, the final climb of the day and a mountain of truth for all Giro contenders. Under a crushing heat, Sastre launched a decisive attack and distanced Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR) in that order.

Overtaking Ivan Basso (Liquigas), an earlier attacker who finished fourth, Sastre moved up to third position in the general classification, closing in on Di Luca and Menchov who maintained his maglia rosa.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) cracked during the final kilometres, losing 2:51 minutes and his third placing on GC. The American, after being towed up to the line by teammate Lance Armstrong, is now sixth at 3:21 behind Menchov.

Yaroslav Popovych (Astana) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre - N.G.C.) were the driving forces of the day's breakaway. The Ukrainian attacked on the descent of the penultimate climb and seemed to be out for the stage win for a long time until the race was on for the overall contenders chasing him from behind. Cunego was also off the front, behind Popyvich, but got caught first as Sastre and company hit the gas.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ivan Basso Gives It His All - Vuelta Next?

"I owed it to myself, my team and my fans to try. It is the first Grand Tour in three years, and I think that this gives me confidence for the Vuelta [a España] and for next year's Giro. I am re-familiarising myself with attacking, an escape, the effort that you feel.

"In the end, the result was not sufficient, but I believe it was what I had to do."

Basso may have another chance to get a result in Monday's stage to Monte Petrano. The 237-kilometre stage finishes with a 10.4-kilometre climb, the fourth of the day. Menchov may be the man favored by Basso, but the steady Russian is not letting his guard down.

"It was a very interesting move by Basso," said Menchov. "Today and tomorrow are the days to try. It did not work, but it was a good try."

Basso Discovers He Has Few Friends At The Giro

By: CW News

Ivan Basso (Liquigas) tried to pull back time on his rivals with an attack in the Apennines on Sunday but quickly discovered that he has few friends in the gruppo and a lot of riders willing to work for his rivals.

Basso jumped away on the Monte Casale climb, 40km from the finish in Faenza and looked determined to blow the race apart 24 hours before the toughest and perhaps decisive stage of the Giro.

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua& Sapone) went with him and the two opened a 1-15 gap on the maglia rosa group but that is as big as it got before strange alliances began to form in the chasing group.

Race leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) let Danilo Di Luca's team mate Alessandro Spezialetti do the work and then a series of 'friends' from Caisse d'Epargne and Quick Step went on the front and helped close the gap. Even Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia) drove hard on the front but he had the excuse that he was defending his lead in the best young rider's

Basso's attack was perhaps to soften up his rivals a day before the key mountain finish at Monte Petrano. It could have dramatically changed the overall standings in the Giro but in the end it was all a waste of time and he was left with the bitter sensation that perhaps his Italian rivals prefer to see Menchov win the Giro.

The only big-name riders to lose were Lance Armstrong, Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni. The Texan went back to the Astana team car during Saturday's stage and learnt what it's like to be a domestique. On Sunday he found out that he is still not as strong as the overall contenders in this Giro. Finishing with Cunego at 2-56, showed he still has a fair bit of work to do before the Tour de France.

Basso didn't stop to speak to journalists at the finish but later vented his anger on television.

“I had to do something to see how things are I think I raced well. The result isn't what we hoped but I think I had to try. I'm not interested about my rivals and making friends,” he said.

Di Luca was criticised for making his LPR team mates chase the break on Saturday and then failing to take the final time bonus. On Sunday everybody had a go at Basso. He showed he can aggressive but realised he has few friends and perhaps not the strength and power he had in 2006 when he won the Giro as a client of Dr Fuentes.

“Basso made a good attack but it was quite a way from the finish and he got caught,” Di Luca said.

“I don't know if they were chasing for Denis but we brought the break back. If some one doesn't have friends in the group that's there problem. You've got to know how to make friends in cycling…”

Menchov just smiled when asked about his friends in the gruppo. He took a risk by calling Basso's bluff and letting him go, preferring to make his closest rivals and hope that his 'friends' would do enough to ensure that Basso wouldn't be able to stay away.

“It was an interesting finale. There were lots of interesting attacks today,” Menchov said in the after race press conference, again happy to compare the Giro to game of poker, knowing that he is excellent at calling the bluff of his rivals.

“Basso played a card and tried to change the race. It was a good attack and probably looked good in TV but it didn't come off. I didn't go after him because I was marking my closest rivals Di Luca, Leipheimer and Sastre.”

When asked the work by his friends in Caisse' d'Epargne and Quick Step, Menchov was slightly embarrassed.

“I know if I have a lot of friends in the peloton but some times they can be useful,” he said.

“Often a lot of things coincide in races. Some riders defend their position overall and so they have for same interests. The Quick Step rider? Perhaps he was just trying to get himself on television. The Giro is an important race…”

Menchov stopped smiling when he was asked about Monday's 237km stage from Pergola to Monte Petrano. It is twists up and down all day on twisting country roads in the spectacular Marche region and includes the climb of Monte Nerone (13.35km at 7.6%), Monte Catria (11km at 8%) and then ends with the climb to the summit of Monte Petrano (10.4km at

Menchov knows that if Basso attacks again, perhaps before the final climb, he will have to go after him.

“I think it's the most important stage of the Giro,' he said.

"It's long and it'll be very hot again. It' also ends with an uphill finish. I'll have to watch more riders because I know that Basso could go for a long-range attack. We'll see what happens. I have two or three riders that I have to follow them then two or three who are dangerous.

I think Danilo di Luca is a big threat but Carlos Sastre is a real wolf in sheep's clothing. He showed that at L'Alpe d'Huez in last year's Tour de France.”

Bertagnolli perseveres for stage win

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) won a hot and hilly stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia. On the way to his first Giro d'Italia stage win, Bertagnolli was part of the main break of the day along with 15 other riders. As the peloton negotiated four categorized climbs, the lead group splintered and riders took turns dropping off.

By the final kilometers of the race, it was just Bertagnolli and Serge Pauwels (Cervelo Test Team), but Pauwels sat up, seemingly under team orders, leaving Bertagnolli on his own for the duration of the race. Bertagnolli's perseverance paid off in the form of a stage victory on the streets of Faenza.

The day's action started with an early break by Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) and Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), but they were caught at 15km.

The next significant break was the one with 16 riders which had just about every squad represented except the Rabobank team of the maglia rosa, Denis Menchov.

Along with Bertagnolli was his teammate Jose Serpa, Lars Ytting Bak (Saxo Bank), Daniel Navarro (Astana), Eduard Vorganov (Xacobeo-Galicia), Andriy Grivko (ISD), Marco Pinotti (Team Columbia-Highroad), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne), Marco Marzano (Lampre), Serge Pauwels (Cervelo Test Team), Nikita Eskov (Katusha), Gorazd Stangelj (Liquigas), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Matteo Montaguti (LPR Brakes Farnese Vini), Alessandro Donati (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo) and Hector Gonzalez (Fuji-Servetto).

Of these riders, Serpa was the highest placed, just 9:52 down on Menchov in the GC going into the stage. Grivko was clearly in the mix for the mountains jersey - challenging Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone).

The break got up to five and a half minutes on the maglia rosa chase group. In that group, Ivan Basso (Liquigas) went on the attack on the day's penultimate climb, the seemingly innocuous category three Monte Casale. He took Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) with him and the two went on a quest to catch what was left of the break.

Basso's gamble failed to pay off, and on the final climb, the category 2 Monte Trebbio, they were caught by the the maglia rosa group. Danilo Di Luca tried one significant attack on a climb, but Menchov and the others responded immediately and the group was soon neatly back together.

Up ahead, Bertagnolli was chased by four riders who came together in his wake: Pauwels, Pinotti, and Bak. The four riders failed to cooperate, leaving the Italian alone to take his first Grand Tour stage. Pauwels took the sprint for second, Pinotti third. Bak and Marzano rounded out the top five.

There were no major changes at the top of the GC. Menchov retained his lead in the overall classification and will wear pink for another day in the mountains tomorrow. Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), who was eighth, dropped out of the top 10.

Two riders did not start the day, including Eros Capecchi (Fuji-Servetto) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream). Others, like Ricardo Serrano (Fuji-Servetto), David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream), abandoned during the tough stage.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Levi Leipheimer Bets On Monte Petrano

Levi Leipheimer hopes that Monday's Giro d'Italia stage to Monte Petrano holds the key to winning his first Grand Tour. Sitting in third place overall after stage 14, the American rider from Santa Rosa, California, trails in the general classification by just 43 seconds with a little less than half of the three-week race left to complete.

"I think Monte Petrano is the biggest day we have from now until the finish," he said to Cyclingnews. "Obviously, there are two uphill finishes with Blockhaus and Vesuvio, but Petrano is a long day and it is probably going to be hot, some guys can just crack."

Monte Petrano, stage 16, promises to be one of the most testing days of the centennial Giro d'Italia. Four categorised climbs make up the 237 kilometres of the stage through Le Marche region. The fourth and last, Monte Petrano, is a 10.4-kilometre climb up to 1,101 metres.

Leipheimer, third overall in the 2007 Tour de France, has the experience to manage the testing stage as a possible platform to a Grand Tour win. However, two-time Vuelta a España winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is leading the race and will be tough to beat. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini), the 2007 Giro winner, is in second at 34 seconds.

"I keep saying it, but it is day-by-day and kilometre-by-kilometre. If I feel good I will attack, I promise you that," said Leipheimer.

The attacks may not come, according to Di Luca, who distanced Leipheimer by three seconds Saturday in Bologna. Di Luca, who wore pink earlier in this Giro, said he has never seen Leipheimer go on the offensive in the Giro d'Italia.

"Well, if he is only six seconds ahead of me in Rome, then I won't have to attack," Leipheimer said.

If Leipheimer misses the opportunity to take control on the Monte Petrano stage, then he can look forward to the race's final day. The Giro d'Italia finishes with a 14.4-kilometre time trial in Rome, May 31.

World Cup racing returns to Spain

Madrid is the final cross country of the UCI World Cup spring campaign and the last chance for riders to shine at this highest level of competition for two months, so the competition will be intense on Sunday.

As one of the more unique World Cups on the circuit, Madrid offers the highest level of competition in the center of a major capital city. Held in the 1,800-hectacre Casa de Campo park, the event brings out tens of thousands of spectators, who can easily access the site by subway right next to the course.

The seven-kilometre course does not feature the long climbs of some of the more mountainous venues, but is by no means easy. Multiple short, sharp climbs and fast, hardpacked straightaways mean that there is nowhere to rest on this circuit. Add in the usual blazing sun, high temperatures and dust, and this becomes a race of attrition.

However, this year may see the first ever wet World Cup in Madrid. Rain moved in Friday evening, and continues to fall sporadically through training on Saturday, with temperatures falling over ten degrees (Celsius). While the hardpacked dirt is not likely to turn into mud bogs, it is making some downhill sections slick, and the formerly fast singletrack surprisingly slow.

Ivan Basso - Checks In From The Giro

We are already over halfway into the Giro d'Italia as I write this in my hotel room in Florence. It is hot here, but I have the window open to let the Tuscan breeze carry me through my recollection of the last days and calm me ahead of what will be a high-intensity second half.

I can say that I am more or less satisfied with my first Grand Tour after three years. Clearly, I wanted to be higher up in the classification at this point, but it is not so bad considering those who are ahead of me. There are riders who have ruled the past Grand Tours: Denis Menchov won the Vuelta, Carlos Sastre won the Tour, Levi Leipheimer was on the podium at the Tour and Danilo Di Luca won the Giro.

Then, even within my own team, there is Franco Pellizotti. He finished just off the podium of last year's Giro d'Italia, when Alberto Contador won and I was only re-starting. You have to consider that I am right behind all of these high-level riders.

I am not intimidated or scared of them, mind you. The ambition is clear: to do better and better over the next stages. There are still three mountaintop arrivals where I can stake my claim. The long climbs of the Monte Petrano stage, Blockhaus and Vesuvio will be my stomping grounds and I have to have faith, through and through. I can guarantee you that the last week will be full of surprises.

I mentioned Pellizotti above because he is one of the big favourites for this centennial Giro d'Italia. The team leadership situation is just like in the past when I raced with Carlos Sastre at the Tour de France. Up until now, we both have ridden up front at the tail end of a stage. He will try a move and then I will try a move, it is a perfect division of leadership.

Both of us are racing with the ambitions to arrive on the podium after the final time trial in Rome. The problem for us is not how we are going to share the leadership, but how we are going to recover two or three minutes on Menchov. That Russian is going truly fast.

Menchov showed his strength in the time trial on Thursday, even if I had gone to train on it more than any other rider had. In my head, I had the idea to go a lot stronger. The reality is that it was a stage with many changes in rhythm that required you to have good bike handling skills and the condition to ride a time of 90 minutes.

I think that my time could have been a little bit better, but I am okay with the time as it is.

Coming through the window are sounds of fans who have just witnessed Cavendish's third stage win. It has been an amazing Giro d'Italia for his team, from Venice to Florence, 13 days.

The days blur by when you are within a three-week race. It is the same everyday, after the stage I arrive and I have a small lunch, have a massage and relax. Often I am talking to my family via the computer or telephone.

If it involves computers, it also involves my right hand man and roommate Kjell Carlström. He is always helping me out, as I mentioned in my last post. A lot of the time, we will just put the computer aside and talk, old school style.

We talked about the ride of Lance Armstrong in Thursday's time trial. He had a very strong ride if you take into consideration he had a broken collarbone a month and a half a go.

He is doing wonders for this year's Giro d'Italia. I look around everyday and see hundreds of fans waiting for me, but it is nothing when you see the numbers that are there for Lance. I take a peak and I can tell that they are all so happy to get a photo or an autograph from him.

It is better this way, the fans can keep him busy and Pellizotti and I will get about with the rest of the Giro. We are going to do what we can to dethrone Menchov prior to the time trial in the Eternal City of Rome.



Friday, May 22, 2009

Popovych ready for Giro fight, despite missing payments

By Gregor Brown in Florence, Italy

Yaroslav Popovych is prepared to defend his team captain Levi Leipheimer in the second half of the Giro d'Italia, where Leipheimer currently sits in third overall, despite the Astana team's money problems.

A win in the Italian three-week stage race could help the team secure additional funds to continue its season. The riders and staff are awaiting the payment of two months of salary from their Kazakh backers.

"With Lance [Armstrong] and [Johan] Bruyneel we are more secure. If I was in another team, with another manger then I would be afraid," Popovych said.

Popovych added that he is not searching for other teams despite missing salary payments. He prefers to focus on the team's objective: helping Leipheimer make up the 40-second disadvantage on race leader Denis Menchov (and six seconds from Danilo Di Luca, in second overall).

"I am not afraid to work, this is not the problem. As long as I am good health I will be up there."

One problem is the loss of important mountain helper Chris Horner ahead of three difficult mountaintop finishes. Horner returned home to Oregon following a crash in stage 10 and a subsequent muscle strain in his left calf.

"Lance is going better and [Janez] Brajkovic is going better in these days. We have a strong mountain team."

Popovych is familiar with delivering a leader to the overall win. He helped teammates Armstrong and Alberto Contador win the 2005 and 2007 Tours de France, respectively.

Cheeky Cipo Sneaks A Ride At The Giro

Mario Cipollini may have retired for good in 2008 when he pulled out of the Rock Racing team but even at 42, he couldn't resist getting on his bike and riding with the Giro d'Italia peloton on Friday.

Cipo joined the peloton for a few miles near his home in Lucca and then jumped ahead to the finish in Florence to see Mark Cavendish win his third stage of this year's race.

Cipollini is a big Cavendish fan and thanks to Max Sciandri, the two went training together several times during the winter.

Cipollini is occasionally critical of Cavendish in his blog published every day in Gazzetta dello Sport during the Giro but only because he wants him to be as successful as possible.

“I think Cavendish is a huge talent,” Cipollini told us after seeing Cavendish win yet again in Florence.

“He's a going to be a great sprint 'campione'. He wasn't at his best when he started the Giro but like all the great riders, he's got better and better, and still won when he's not at his best.”

“He's still got things to learn but he's special. You have to be special when you win Milan-San Remo at your first attempt and then come to the Giro not at his best and beat people like Petacchi and everybody else.”

Cavendish quits Giro d'Italia

Team Columbia has confirmed that Mark Cavendish will not continue in the Giro d'Italia when the race heads into the Apennine mountains on Saturday's 14th stage.

After winning his third stage in Florence on Friday, Cavendish said he would talk to the Team Columbia management and decide together whether to continue.

Just after eight o'clock, the team issued a statement confirming that Cavendish would not continue in the Giro.

“He has had a very successful couple of weeks at the Giro but he is still young and he has a long career ahead of him,” commented Team Manager Rolf Aldag.

“He has already raced 55 days this year and it is our view that the best thing for Mark is to take some recovery now before the Tour.”

In the absence of Cavendish, Team Columbia will focus on overall success with Michael Rogers and Thomas Lovkvist, while Edvald Boasson Hagen is expected to take over sprinting duties in the final stages of the Giro.

Tour de France in Cavendish's sights
During the post-race press scrum, Mark Cavendish was pressed about if he will continue in the Giro after his third win.

He has huge respect for the Giro and suffered to finish last year but he and Team Columbia know there are plenty of reasons for not continuing in this year's Giro. The next four stages are all in the Apennines mountains and the only remaining stage for the sprinters is in Benevento next Thursday. Hanging on in the hope of winning there would do far more damage than good to his winning speed.

It is highly likely that Cavendish will pull out of the Giro, take a short break and then begin building up for the Tour De France by riding the Tour of Switzerland in June.

“I'd like to carry but I'm going to sit down with team and decide what to do,” he said in the after race press conference.

“There could be a sprint near the end of the Giro but I don't think it's likely that I'll be there because it's better for riders who are all-rounds. I want to carry on as long as possible but I've got other objectives for myself and the team. We'll sit down, talk and discuss the situation.”

Because he may pull out of this year's Giro, Cavendish was asked if he had now become less emotive about his cycling and more of a professional. He responded that he is a total professional because he loves cycling so much.

“I think the reason I'm so professional in what I do is that I love the sport and everything about it. I love to race,” he said.

“It pains a rider not to go the start. I'm not the only rider suffering; there are 200 riders who are tired. Sometimes pride can take over logic but I've got to look at both sides and considered my options. Nobody wants to stop but I was 24 only yesterday and I want to have a long career, so we have to see what happens about the rest of the race. The Tour de France is in five, six weeks time. I'll be going there to hopefully put on a good show.”

A good show means more sprint victories and a determined attempt to win the green points jersey. Cavendish has achieved the goal he set himself for this Giro. Now it is time to get ready for the next big goal.