Ivan Basso is just about ready to start his ambititous 2006 season. Milano-Torino will be his first race pf the season and that takes place this Saturday. Recently the potential Giro Tour winner was promoting the marriage of Skoda cars and FSA wheels and TuttoBici got a chance to talk to Ivan and see how he is handling the pressure of going for two Grand Tour wins and heightened expectations in the post Lance era.
How is Ivan doing?
My condition is good because I trained well. From January 1st to today I rode 5500 kilometers and readjusted my training program from previous years. What do I expect in my debut? I would like to get a taste of racing again and get good work in with an eye to Tirreno-Adriatico. TA will be a good block of tests that will give me the opportunity to test my time trialing followed by a mountain stage. — Ivan Basso
RCS, the organizers of the Giro D’Italia announced that 22 teams will compete in the next edition of the Giro D’Italia. The 20 major ProTour teams are included in the mix along with Panaria and Selle-Italia. Panaria has earned their place with great performances of Emanuele Sella and Brett Lancaster. Brett Lancaster wore the Maglia Roas after a blistering 1k prologue time trial last year, while Emanuele Sella is a young fan favorite after winning a stage in Cesenatico in 2004.
Selle Italia earned their berth in the Giro based on the performances of Jose Rujano and Ivan Parra who terrorized the field with wins in the mountainous stages. Rujano nearly stole the Giro from Paolo Salvodelli ont he final mountain stage to Sestrierre, but came in a surprising third place. Neither of these riders will be on the team this year as Parra is now riding for Cofidis and Rujano is not riding for Selle Italia despite being under contract. Rujano pulled a no show for this past weekend’s races GP Chiasso and GP Lugano. The little Venezualan rider may wait out his contract with Selle Italia and join Quick Step for the Tour de France.
Despite the roster changes, Selle Italia does have a decent team that will probably provide some sparks with newfond South American talent Jose Serpa. Wladmir Belli, Fredy Gonzalez and other Italian veterans round out the the revamped roster for Gianni Savio’s squad.
Mario Cipollini still wants to be involved in cycling and has his eyes on being a director on a team. Cipo is still recovering from a bad ski crash that resulted in a knee injury. The ex world champ made this thoughts on his future known at the unveiling at the Giro della Provincia di Lucca which is a race in Cipo’s home region in Italy.
Even though being a director of a team is where Cipo sees himself in the future, Amore E Vita team Boss Ivan Fannini has a standing offer for Cipo to join his team as a racer. Fannini has a bit of extra cash in the checking account since his team landed McDonalds as a large sponsor. Hopefully, Mario will pass that offer up.
It would be a huge coup for me and for Mario. Cipo has been a fuoriclasse (above class rider, champion) and I am convinced that he can regain his form and do well. (Then jokingly added) In all of these years Cipo has not had to work that hard. He would always stay in the middle of the peloton, contest the final sprint and win.
Cipo responds with a smile…
I have tons of respect for Ivano Fannini and his entire family. He is the one who put me on a bike and gave ma a chance to race. He would like to see me racing until I am 40 years old, and in cycling today that is very difficult. I just don’t think I am the type of athlete that can keep competing until a certain age and I am happy with the way I finished out my career winning the Giro della Provincia in 2005.
So it looks like Cipo will stick to his director aspirations and not push a peddle in anger anytime soon.
What team has the current World Champion and the reigning Olymipic Road Race Champ, plus several top classics riders? Quick-Step looks strong this year and the team flexed its muscles in three separate races this week.
Remmert Wielinga won the GP Chiasso, Nick Nuyens won Kuurne Busselles Kuurne and Paolo Bettini took the GP Lugano.
Our team was fantastic today – Bettini said, with this his 2nd win of the season – at the bottom of the final ascent I had 4 other team members around me. Scarselli, Wielinga, Vasseur and Van de Walle all did a fantastic job that I went on to finish. I’m in good form and must admit that I’m having a great start to the season. I am motivated and want to make the most of this and the great form that I am in order to try and get a few more victories under my belt
Some very impressive results show that the Belgian team has good form for the Classics which are still a month away. Milan San Remo will be a challenege with Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen both aspriring to win the race.
Qucik Step News
The first edition of the modern Tour of California is in the books with a win by Floyd Landis. Was the race worth the effort? Will it justify Amgen’s marketing budget? Did the organizers lose money or make money or break even? So many questions, but from my vantage point up in the armpit of the USA (New York State, actually it is nice here, but seeing the Cali weather makes me yearn for some sunny days and dry roads) it would have to be a success.
The Amgen Tour of California brought out some very good competition to the shores of the USA. Most importantly many of the big names to honor the ToC with their presence were American stars. This is a new phenomen of the last 10 years that so many American riders are at the top of the sport. We have more potential Tour winners than Spain or France! and this is the year after Lance Armstrong has retired. Problem is that not many of these riders are as well known in non-cycling households. They know Lance because he is a superstar, but they *may* have heard of Levi and Floyd. They know Big George is Lances longtime friend, but do they know about his fight to win Paris-Roubaix? Probably not.
All of the big name Euro-based American riders were on hand and they were on form. Hincapie won two stages, Floyd Landis won the important stage 3 TT that gave him the win and Levi Leipheimer started off by taking the prologue. These are all good names to take up the headlines of the inaugural Tour of California. The organizers couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the top American riders who made the race seem important even though it is in February.
Face it, the TV coverage is basically a non-starter. Sure, the race was broadcast on TV. The coverage started off horrible, but gradually improved as the crew worked out the technicalities. Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll were sans Phil Ligget to broadcast the race, and they did their usual jobs. The main problems that I see with the TV coverage are the time at which it was broadcast. Some letters to Velonews clarified the TV coverage situation saying that the coverage was not produced by ESPN, but was produced by the Tour of California and was broadcast at times purchased by the organizers. This is understandable since this is a first year race and some networks probably would not want to take a chance broadcasting a new event in a sport that does not have a ball involved.
The sublime and (this word is way overused) Felliniesque closing ceremonies will included the now retired Super sprinter. Mario Cipollini was saluted with many of Italy’s great athletes. He didn’t ride his bike around the stadium with a rocket attached to his back or dance like he is in Cirque De Soliel, but Cipo’s style fit right in the the over-the-top production values of the closing ceremonies of the Olympics.
This week has a common theme, sprinter type riders taking two stage victories. Ale-Jet Petacchi took two stages at Valencieana, JJ Haedo, George Hincapie, and Olaf Pollack like winning so much they did it twice.
Since Floyd Landis’ dominating Time Trial win on Wednesday the Tour of California was pretty much set for GC placings. The rest of the stages did not give much chance for the top contenders to mix up the overall as the stages each came down to a sprint.
In the sprints there were some familiar faces showing up on the podium. Juan Jose Haedo took two wins that were very important for his new team. The sprints were pretty much the only stages where smaller US teams could compete since the other power stages were won by guys who are much higher on GC. JJ Haedo looks to have great form so far, but can he keep this form going into the Tour of Georgia in two months time?
George Hincapie has great form for the early season classics. Last year Big George grabbed the first win in a long time starting off a year of phenomenal performances that culminated with a win in toughest mountain stage of the Tour de France. George has started his year in winning ways again, by taking the “power” stages. When the pure sprinters are dropped on the hills George is the next best.
Olaf Pollack got a few sprint wins for T-Mobile allowing the German team to get some attention in an American rider dominated Tour of California. T-Mobile has a great deal of interest in the US market and showing the Californian’s watch the Tour the Pink and White certainly helps their visibility.
Ale-Jet Petacchi won a few stages in the Vuelat Valencienna, not huge nes since he is in great form taking wins almost at will. The big news will be the showdowns he will have with Tom Boonen and other super sprinters. The two Lampre sprinters Napolitano and Bennati will be looking to better the Milram man. If one of these two can best Petacchi in a straight sprint that will be news. They have been successful getting wins where Petacchi was not competative or in other races. Look for these two to get some more mop up wins and have a breakthrough against Petacchi possibly on the Giro.
Yesterday I called Floyd Landis’ Time Trial position the “Flying Protological Exam” because of the extreme forward position that places Floyds butt at the extreme end of the saddle. Landis did use this type of position last year, so it is not new. Last week, Landis and his Phonak team did some wind tunnel testing that enabled Landis to further tweek his position. How much did the wind tunnel work help Floyd Landis to improve his time trial position?
The big difference with Landis this year is not his extreme forward position, but the position of his arms which are placed very narrowly on the bars.The photo courtesy of Flickr user mnorri shows how narrows Floyd’s arms are in the aero bars extremely close. It also looks like Floyd is digging in for extra forward position by folding his hands together in a praying mantis motion. This position will now be dubbed the “Praying Landis” TT position.
Floyd Landis is fresh off wind tunnel testing that helped him improve his Time Trial position. This is the first time that Floyd tested the tweeked position that is similar to last year’s extreme forward motion position. Looks like the hard work paid off as Floyd Landis claimed the important Stage 3 TT win ahead of some strong CSC riders such as Julich and heavily favored Zabriske. The “Flying Proctological Exam” took the win in convincing fashion by besting second place David Zabriske by 26 seconds. George Hincapie proved that he is a good Time Trialer as he placed fourth in the TT and is fourth in the GC.
Levi Leipheimer pretty much “gave up the ghost” in the TT today falling down the standings to sixth place overall after getting a ninth place in the TT. It wasn’t Levi’s day as kisses from the Specialized Angel did not help his legs pump any faster on the wind swept course. Don’t worry Levi it is only February, don’t get the engine running too hot just yet, you have bigger fish to fry in July. (So does Landis, but hey…)
Stage 3 lived up to some of the hype that was being built up as a decisive stage. The strength of the Discovery Channel and CSC teams showed as they both had numbers in the final run in. The Disco team worked hard for George Hincapie who was probably the best sprinter out of the 23 man group that barreled into San Jose. Levi Leipheimer was left alone as the only Gerolsteiner man in the final group.
With a ten second time bonus Hincapie has a not-to-comfortable cushion going into the stage 3 time trial. Hincapie is a rouleur who can crank a big gear for hours, but Leipheimer is no slouch in the TT. Not sure where in the overall standings put Bobby Julich, but he was in the final group and could be another rider in striking distance for the overall. Also, Floyd Landis is in the mix for tomorrow even though it is painful to watch the man do a time trial. Move your seat up or bars back please…
Today’s stage shook out quite a few riders, but the race for the overall is still very close. Discovery Channel did look impressive as they worked hard to bring George to the line. CSC has the numbers too especially if Julich can win Wdnesday.
The Amgen Tour of California site has to be commended for providing video and live updates of the race. I was able to watch the major highlights and get a good sense for how the race played out. Who needs the ESPN2 coverage when the site gives you good info like this. Sorry, that was a Bob Roll moment of gushing, but more racing sites should emulate the ToC site. Only caveat is that the site does not list overall results very quickly. There are no overall or stage finish results even three hours after the finish.