Weekly Rap - August 21, 2008By Rick Scott
Plenty of terrain to cover this week in The Weekly Rap, your professional cycling highlight reel. We’ll roll out from and finish in the U.S., but along the way we’ll pedal through Austria, Germany, Italy and Demark.
Cascade Cycling Classic
While the Euros were racing in France in July, Astana stars Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner were in Oregon taking out their frustrations on the domestic peloton at the Cascade Cycling Classic (July 9-13) as a two-man wrecking crew. The festivities got underway with the 132-km Prineville Road Race that finished with the 2-km Pilot Butte climb. Rock Racing’s Santiago Botero reached the base of the mountain first and was not to be caught despite the valiant efforts of Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) and Jeff Louder (BMC). Stage 2 also finished atop a mountain in Bend with the 128-km Three Creeks Road Race that culminated with a 10-km climb. An 11-man break was five minutes up the road when they hit the Three Creek’s Snow Park Mountain. Leipheimer along with Botero and Baldwin picked off dropped riders in pursuit of the leaders. The trio of strongmen was able to minimize their losses on the day, but they weren’t able to reel in all the riders in the break. Team Type 1’s Matt Wilson won the stage by outsprinting Garmin-Chipotle’s Thomas Peterson and earned the yellow jersey with a 37-second lead on Leipheimer, the two-time Amgen Tour of California champion.
Using Cascade as training for the Beijing Olympics, Leipheimer powered his way to a win in the stage 3 22.4-km individual time trial, which included difficult climbing sections in the first half followed by a fast return. The Santa Rosa, California resident also garnered the yellow jersey for his efforts holding 1:28 in hand over Bissell’s Tom Zirbel. Later that evening, the peloton competed for 90 minutes in the only flat stage of the race: a fast criterium. Horner single-handedly kept the seven-man break close and once they were neutralized by the efforts of Toyota-United, the red, white & blue team piloted Amgen Tour of California stage winner Dominique Rollin to victory with no change in the overall. In stage 5 (134 kms), Horner again rode selflessly at the front for Leipheimer to keep a threatening 12-man break in check thanks to some allies from another team. Team Type 1’s Moises Aldape pulled off the win at the summit of the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resorts in a tactical finish ahead of a couple breakaway companions. Leipheimer was able to pad his GC lead to 2:30 over Louder, who climbed into 2nd. Concluding with the 138-km stage 6 Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, Horner was again at the front attentively policing until a non-threatening mix of a dozen riders went clear. Then BMC took command of the front in support of Louder and teammate Darren Lill, who was 3rd GC as the riders completed five circuits. In the approach, Successful Living presented by Parkpre took control in the final 5 km and their closer, Ricardo Escuela, sprinted to victory. Leipheimer attributed his overall win to Horner’s tireless teamwork. BMC’s Louder and Lill completed the podium.
Tour of Austria
Violent thunderstorms forced organizers to cancel the opening 1.5-km prologue at the Tour of Austria (July 6-13) after many of the riders had already completed the course. Two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini finally opened his 2008 account by winning the first stage, a 171.2-km trek that departed from Klausen. The Amgen Tour of California stage winner sprinted past Gerrit Glomser (Team Volksbank), who seemed to ease up just before crossing the line after a pack of 24 riders came together in the final approach into Toblach. CSC-Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen snatched the GC lead by winning stage 2 atop a mountain in Alpenhaus after deftly deploying a defiant attack with 8 kms remaining. The peloton endured a five-mountain assault in stage 3 won by LPR Brakes’ Ruslan Podgornyy after riding 183.7 kms into Pragraten am GroBvenediger. Although Thomas Rohregger (Elk Haus-Simplon) finished the stage 3rd, his consistency was rewarded with the yellow jersey.
Stage 4 was the longest at 212.8 kms. Rohregger aggressively added two seconds to his GC lead by pocketing a mid-race time bonus sprint. A pair of riders was away most of the day and weren’t absorbed until 7 kms remained. Team Columbia controlled the finale capped by Andre Greipel’s win after a pack gallop. The homers were thrilled when Astana’s Rene Haselbacher completed a successful two-man break by winning stage 5 when they finished the 179.7-km route 2:30 ahead of the field. Rohregger added a few more seconds to his GC lead over Podgornyy heading into the decisive stage 6 time trial. German time trial champion Bert Grabsch won the stage for Team Columbia. Not only did Rohregger surprise by defending his overall lead in the 25.9-km time trial, but he managed to gain a few more seconds on the surging Vladimir Gusev (Astana) and Podgornyy heading into the final stage. Sprinting into Vienna after 128.5 kms, Amgen Tour of California stage winner Tom Boonen jetted to stage victory for his Quick Step-Innergetic unit. Rohregger became the 19th Austrian to celebrate the overall win at the Tour of Austria while Gusev and Podgornyy settled for 2nd and 3rd.
Germany’s Sachsen Tour opened July 23rd in Dresden with a 188-km stage for the sprinters that concluded in Niesky in a bunch sprint won by Team Columbia’s Greipel. A trio spent most of the stage away in a break that built an 11-minute advantage, but they were caught with 3 kms left. In the longest stage ever in the history of the race, stage 2 departed Gorlitz and finished 242 kms later in Frohburg. A long four-man break was hauled in with 40 kms to go. During the finishing circuits, CSC-Saxo Bank assumed the helm and lifted the pace to warp speed causing a split in the field. With 5 km to go, eight men moved away with British National Team’s Dean Downing the surprise winner, who pocketed enough time to earn the leader’s tunic. But Greipel wanted the jersey back and he staked his claim with another sprint win in stage 3. Traveling 188 kms from Eilenburg to Freital, Greipel desperately clung to the back of the group by his fingernails on the 3-km climb on the final lap of the finishing circuit. Only 30 riders made the front group after the climb and Greipel proved to have the fastest wheels.
Team Columbia asserted their dominance in the stage 4 time trial by finishing 1-2-3. Grabsch took top honors along with the GC lead by covering the 36-km flat course in hot and windy conditions ahead of teammates Tony Martin and Michael Rogers. On the final day, a six-man break departed 35 kms into the 146-km stage starting and ending in Dresden. Five of them were able to make it to the finish a scant 15 seconds ahead of the peloton. CSC-Saxo Bank’s Karsten Kroon won the stage, but it was Team Columbia that owned the podium. For Grabsch it was his first-ever stage race win in his 11-year career while Rogers and Martin finished 2nd and 3rd overall.
Italy’s Brixia Tour got underway in Rottofreno July 23rd with a 152.3-km sprinter’s stage aced by Lampre’s Danilo Napolitano in Orzinuovi. Later that day, Team Skil-Shimano amassed at the top of the GC by winning the 12.3-km team time trial in Brescia with Japanese rider Yusuke Hatanaka donning yellow. Italian Eddy Ratti (Nippo-Endeka) rode to a solo victory six seconds ahead of the lead group in stage 2 (157.4 kms). LPR Brakes’ Gabriele Bosisio won stage 3 (151 kms) by two seconds while the updated GC listed nine Italians in the top 10 with Santo Anza (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) occupying the catbird seat. Anza finished like a champion in the 156.5-km stage 4 when he won the sprint from a group of four. The field sprinted into Darfo Boario Terme after the 184.5-km final stage with Mattia Gavazzi (Preti Mangimi) winning the day. Anza held onto the overall victory with a margin of nine seconds ahead of Francesco Masciarelli (Acqua & Sapone) and 16 seconds ahead of Ratti.
Tour of Denmark
The summer’s hottest month concluded with the Tour of Denmark (July 30-August 3). The opening stage finished in a pack sprint top-lined by CSF Group Navigare’s Ruben Bongiorno. But this is CSC-Saxo Bank home race so they were firing on all cylinders. The team’s Matti Breschel took out the second stage after another field sprint. Breschel won again the following day in a stage that did produce small finishing gaps. The duel between the sprinters continued in stage 4, which was won by Bongiorno. The fifth round was a 14.5-km time trial bested by CSC-Saxo Bank’s Gustav Erik Larsson. The final salvo was fired by CSC-Saxo Bank’s Juan Jose Haedo, winner of the most Amgen Tour of California stages. Haedo won stage 6 ahead of Breschel, the latter of whom won the Best Young Rider title. Although CSC-Saxo Bank finished 4 riders in the top 10, they failed to claim the overall. Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Team Designa Kokken) earned that honor with Barloworld’s Steven Cummings and Tom Stamsnijder (Gerolsteiner) only seconds behind in the final standings.
Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium
Race #8 of the USA Crit Series, the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium has the biggest crit payday of the year. Held August 2nd in Charlotte, North Carolina, a strong group of sprinters escaped with 14 laps to go. With an equitable mix of teams and so many fastmen ahead, the field didn’t seem motivated to bring back the break, which worked well together. HealthNet’s Frank Pipp hit out of the last corner first, but Colavita-Sutter Homes’ Alejandro Borrajo dashed around him to win the $12,500 first prize. Team Type 1’s Emile Abraham came home in 3rd. The event has raised a million dollars for the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas in the last four years.
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Rick Scott is president of Great Scott P.R.oductions, an entertainment and sports public relations, marketing and management boutique. He can be contacted through www.greatscottpr.com.