By Andrew Hood
Australian sprinter Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) has been getting close to a big one for the past several weeks, taking fifth at the recent world championships and fourth at last weekend’s Paris-Tours.
On Thursday, he finally put all the pieces together, earning a breakthrough victory in the Giro di Piemonte in northern Italy.
With fine support from his team – fresh off its victory in Wednesday’s Milano-Torino with Marcos Serrano — Davis held off Italian duo Alberto Ongarato and Francesco Chicchi (both Fassa Bortolo) in a sprint for the finish line.
The second race of the autumn classics dominating the final month of racing in Europe, the Giro di Piemonte started off with quick attacks among the 152 starters. Thierry Marichal shot away with just 4km, quickly followed by Gorik Gardeyn at 6km. The duo nursed a lead of 3:10 at 38km and widened their lead to 9:15 at 61km.
The gap starts to narrow, however, when Liberty Seguros and Fassa Bortolo start to give chase in earnest. Marichal dropped back at 80km while Gardeyn stayed away until neutralized at 102km.
With Liberty Seguros and Fassa Bortolo controlling the bunch, others knew their only chance was to try to attack. Fabian Jeker (Saunier Duval) and Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola) tried in vain at 16km to go, but were reeled in with 9km to the line. Roberto Petito (Lampre) also tried with 2km to go, but Liberty kept a lid on the action to set up the mass sprint.
González signs with Euskaltel
Aitor González – the charismatic 2002 Vuelta a España champion – has agreed to a one-year deal to join Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2005, according to reports in the Spanish media.
González is expected to finalize the deal with a meeting scheduled with team boss Miguel Madariaga, perhaps as soon as Thursday.
González earned the nickname the “Aitornator” after his dominate win in 2002, but wilted under the watchful eye of Giancarlo Ferretti in two unsuccessful seasons at Fassa Bortolo. González won a stage in the 2003 Giro d’Italia and another at the 2004 Tour de France, but never contested in the overall standings.
Euskaltel-Euskadi is also expected to announce contract extensions with veteran Roberto Laiseka and Alberto López de Munain.
UCI meets again with grand tours
UCI officials met again Thursday with representatives of all three grand tours to try to hammer out a compromise over a deadlock concerning the planned Pro Tour set to debut in 2005.
UCI president Hein Verbruggen and Vittorio Adorni, president of the Professional Cycling Council, met with representatives from the renegade grand tours, which are still threatening to boycott Verbruggen’s planned renovation of cycling’s racing calendar.
Tour de France officials are the most vocal in their opposition to the Pro Tour, while the Giro and the Vuelta seem to be close to signing off on cycling’s new “super league” that will include 20 elite teams.
Details weren’t available on the extent of Thursday’s meeting, but that didn’t stop the UCI from releasing this statement: “Each party exposed its respective positions and agreed to carry on a constructive dialogue in order to succeed in an acceptable agreement for all.”
It sounds like there’s still work to be done.
Bettini taking no chances
With the World Cup title in the balance, Paolo Bettini is leaving nothing to chance as he readies for Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia. “The Cricket” endured a frenetic day on Wednesday as he honed his form for the season finale. With a razor-thin 13-point lead over Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Bettini doesn’t want any surprises en route. The Olympic champion took a morning flight from Pisa to Milan and then went straight into a five-hour training session accompanied by Quick Step teammates Michael Rogers and Davide Bramati. After 5 hours of training, Bettini stopped in Piazza Cavour in Como where a group of journalists had gathered to interview him. A crew from France Television also followed the at present World Cup leader for the entire day.
“The route really perfect for my way of riding,” Bettini surmised. “In certain points it is spectacular but also dangerous. The road surface along the brief descents that lead to the top of the Premana is awful and in sections it is covered with dry fallen leaves that make it very slippery. Let’s hope that the weather is good on Saturday otherwise, due to the elevation that we will be riding at, cold and rain could play a determining role in the outcome. Today I got the impression that I was trying out a stage of one of the grand stage races rather than a classic World Cup race.”
Bettini overcame Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) in the overall standings in last weekend’s Paris-Tours, slipping into the white leader’s jersey with just one race remaining in the 10-race series.
“My tactics are to remain glued to Rebellin’s back wheel,” he concluded. O’Grady confirmed for TdUnder
Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) has confirmed he’ll race in the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under to kick start his season. Last year, the Aussie star was forced by Cofidis to be in Europe and O’Grady wasn’t able to start in the Australian stage race. “I was bitterly disappointed I could not contest the race this year. But when I joined my new team, Cofidis, the event wasn’t in its plans for 2004,” O’Grady said. “However, during the recent European season, Cofidis could see the importance of the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under as a major key to my 2005 world campaign.”
Mike Turtur, Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under director, said he’s pleased at the confirmation of Stuart returning to defend his 2001 title.
“The fact that we have not only secured Stuart O’Grady but the Cofidis team is testament to the confidence the international cycling world has in our event, with Cofidis currently ranked tenth in the world,” said Turtur.
Apart from winning a stage of the Tour de France and wearing the Green sprinter’s jersey, Stuart notched victories in the World Cup Hew Cyclassics in Germany – being the first Australian ever to do so, two stages of the Dauphiné Libéré and the single-day GP Villers de Cotterets.
His success then transferred to the track, where he won Olympic Gold in the Men’s Madison with Graeme Brown, making O’Grady one of only 17 Australians to win gold.
Public enthusiasm for the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under continues to build each year. An estimated 470,000 spectators attended the 735km event in 2004, including some 70,000 at the opening street race in Adelaide’s East End and 85,000 at the final stage street circuit.
A full Cofidis team list competing at the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under will be circulated upon availability in the coming weeks. Illes Balears closer to Valverde
Spanish star Alejandro Valverde is close to signing a deal with Illes Balears, according to a report in L’Equipe. The French newspaper also said there are efforts to reduce Valverde’s 2 million euro buy-out clause from Kelme to 1.5 million euros.
Paolini under knife
World championship bronze medalist Luca Paolini (Quick Step) underwent surgey to mend a fracture in his right hand on Wednesday, team officials said. Paolini fell late in Sunday’s Paris-Tours and the surgery was performed in Antwerpen, Belgium. Paolini will take up his usual winter training after a few week’s rest.