By Andrew Hood
Three-time world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) headlines an all-star field for Tirreno-Adriatico set to begin Wednesday in Tivoli along Italy’s western coast.
The race of “due mari” pushes east across the middle of the Italian peninsula and serves as an ideal proving ground for contenders for Milan-San Remo. Among the former MSR winners taking the start include Freire, Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel (Milram) and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). Other big names include Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker (Rabobank), 2003 world champ Igor Astarloa (Barloworld), last year’s Tour green jersey winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Robbie McEwen and Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto).
An on-form George Hincapie joins Discovery Channel teammates Tom Danielson and two-time Giro champ Paolo Savoldelli with Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Danilo Di Luca, Magnus Backstedt and Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas), Ivan Basso and Stuart O’Grady (CSC), and Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) also lining up.
The race is typically a sprinter’s paradise, but many of the stages finish with short but tough uphill approaches. A new twist, an individual time trial, is back in the fold for the first time in several years and the 20km race against the clock is sure to be a king-maker.
2006 Tirreno-Adriatico, March 8-14Stage 1, March 8: Tivoli-Tivoli, 167.9kmStage 2, March 9: Tivoli to Frascati, 171kmStage 3, March 10: Avezzano to Paglieta, 183kmStage 4, March 11: Paglieta Civitanova to March, 219kmStage 5, March 12: Servigliano-Servigliano, 20kmStage 6, March 13: S. Benedetto del Tronto to S. Giacomo, 164kmStage 7, March 14: Campli to S. Benedetto del Tronto, 166km
Petacchi wins in Lucca
Not to be out-done by the victory of arch-rival Tom Boonen in Paris-Nice, Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) put the world on notice with an impressive win at the Giro di Lucca on Monday.
None other than teammate Erik Zabel acted as his set-up man in the sprint victory ahead of Claudio Corioni (Lampre). The victory was Petacchi’s sixth on the season, compared to Boonen’s eight.
Petacchi’s season haul should go as he’s slated to start Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday against a stacked field. Angry words from Murcia winner González
Vuelta a Murcia winner Santos González didn’t mince words when asked about his expulsion from last year’s Vuelta a España by his Phonak team while sitting in eighth place overall.
Though he didn’t fail a UCI-sanctioned test nor penalized for doping, González was eventually let go by the Swiss ProTour team despite having a contract for the 2006 season when he returned inconsistent blood tests in internal, team-conducted tests.
“This triumph has a special dedication to John Lelangue and Juan Fernández who wanted to bury me last year in the Vuelta,” González told Spanish reporters, referring to Phonak’s team manager and sport director. “They made it very hard for me, but I am here and I will be around for various more years in the professional world.”
A bitter González was forced to settle for Spanish continental team 3 Molinas, which he promised he would win the Vuelta a Murcia as a personal revenge against an injustice he says was motivated by money.
“I will never forget this, or their names or their faces,” he said. “They told me if I renounced my contract that remained that I could continue in the race and if I didn’t do it, they would oblige me to quit the race.”
González, 32, has since filed suit against the Swiss team for 1 million euros.
“Now I am more tranquil and more concentrated,” he said. “They’ve given me a story that’s not deserving. I have endured a very bad winter, without seeing a penny, without being able to sign with another team. It’s been very hard.”
González’s troubles at Phonak were undoubtedly the result of falloutfrom a scandal plagued 2004 season which saw positive doping results fromthree of the team’s top riders. American Tyler Hamilton and Spain’s SantiagoPerez both tested positive for homologous blood-doping, a charge both denied.(Hamilton recently lostan appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.) Also that year,Swiss rider Oscar Camenzind tested positive for EPO and promptly retiredfrom the sport.
The team was forced to appeal to CAS to be included in the 2005 ProTour team line-up after the UCI ruled that the team had taken few steps to prevent doping among its riders. Lelangue and Fernández came to Phonak after a team-wide management shake-up and as part of an effort to clean up the team’s image.
Breschel’s spring is done
Team CSC’s Matti Breschel won’t be starting the spring classics after medical exams taken late Sunday evening revealed the young Danish sprinter suffered two fractured vertebra in his crash in Sunday’s third stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.
According to a report on the team’s web page, Breschel will be out at least three weeks and likely won’t be in condition to line up for the April classics.
Breschel, 21, had already scored a pocket full of top finishes this season and seemed destined to win his first professional race when he crashed 50 meters from the finish line Sunday.
“It’s very unlucky because it was obvious that he was in great shape and regardless it’s a big shame when a stupid crash puts a rider out of commission like that,” Team CSC sports director Tristan Hoffman said. “It simply couldn’t be more unlucky. Matti had the opportunity to win this stage and thereby enough bonus seconds to also win the race overall. He’d already beat Robbie McEwen in the last intermediate sprint, so there’s no doubt he was flying.”
Armstrong’s lawyer wants charges dropped
Lance Armstrong’s lawyer asked a court Tuesday to drop charges in a defamation lawsuit against the seven-time Tour de France champion.
Italian cyclist Filippo Simeoni brought the suit against Armstrong following an April 2003 report in the French newspaper Le Monde. Neither man was at the court in Latina, near Rome. A judge will decide April 13 if a trial will go forward.
In the report, Armstrong contended that Simeoni had agreed to testify against doctor Michele Ferrari in exchange for a lesser penalty if the Italian rider was accused of doping by the sport’s governing body.
Ferrari received a suspended jail sentence for a year in October 2004 for sports fraud and malpractice. Ferrari once advised Armstrong, but the American cut ties with him after the doctor was convicted.
Armstrong’s lawyer, Enrico Nan, said charges should be dropped because a foreigner should not be held responsible in Italy for comments made to a French newspaper “even if the Internet can be read anywhere.”
Armstrong already has been cleared in a Lucca court of another case brought against him by Simeoni. In that case, Simeoni had accused Armstrong of threatening him after the American chased him down during a breakaway in the 2004 Tour de France.
In addition, a Paris criminal court in January refused to hear a defamation suit brought by Simeoni against Armstrong for his comments to Le Monde. Judicial officials said the statute of limitations had expired and Simeoni’s lawyers misinterpreted French law. The Associated Press