CAVENDISH RIDES CRITS BEFORE STARTING OLYMPIC TRACK TRAINING

Mark Cavendish (Columbia) won the Peer criterium in Belgium on Wednesday night and will ride against Tom Boonen in Herentals on Thursday before heading back to Britain to begin his track training for the Beijing Olympics.

Cavendish beat Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) in a ?friendly? sprint to the line after the two went clear of the rest of the bunch. Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) was third.

Cavendish finished third in another post-Tour de France criterium in Stiphout in Holland on Tuesday night. Andy Schleck (CSC) won the race ahead of team mate and Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre.

The 23 year-old British sprinter will take on Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) in Herentals on Thursday night. Criteriums are often little more than exhibition races but it will be interesting to see which of the three big-name sprinters wins the race.

imageimageMark Cavendish (top) and Tom Boonen meet some eager fans at the Herentals crit in Belgium. Photos by Luc Claessen

The Herentals criterium is expected to be Cavendish?s last race before he heads to Manchester to begin his final track training for the Olympic Games Madison. Cavendish will team up with coach Rod Ellingworth for a week of intense training. He is expected to test his individual pursuiting ability while in Manchester so that GB coaches and management can decide whether to enter him for the second individual pursuit place in the Olympics.

Geraint Thomas is currently favourite for the second spot alongside Bradley Wiggins after some impressive times in training but the powerful Welshman may be kept for the team pursuit if Cavendish impresses.

Cavendish wins Herentals Criterium>>

MORE ITALIANS TEST POSITIVE FOR EPO

The Italian Olympic Committee has announced that two more Italian riders have tested positive for EPO.

The Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (Coni) said that Lampre’s Paolo Bossoni and new Elite road race champion Giovanni Carini both failed tests for EPO.

The Lampre team immediately suspended Bossoni and pulled him from their line-up for Saturday?s Clasica San Sebastian race.

PIEPOLI DENIES DOPING IN ROME HEARING

Riccardo Ricco?s former room mate and close friend, Leonardo Piepoli has denied doping during questioning with the Italian anti-doping investigators in Rome on Thursday.

Piepoli arrived two hours late for the hearing but left after an hour. ?I came as a witness and I said everything I had to say,? he said before jumping in a car.

The head of the anti-doping investigators Ettore Torri admitted to reports that Piepoli had denied doping. ?He didn?t say anything important for the investigation that are underway. He denied everything.?

During questioning on Wednesday in Rome, Riccardo Ricco confessed to using EPO and was formally suspended by the Italian Olympic Committee on Thursday. Any eventual ban Ricco receives for taking EPO will be back dated to today.

BRESCHEL IN CHARGE AT TOUR OF DENMARK

Matti Breschel (CSC) is the new leader of the Tour of Denmark after winning the second stage on Thursday afternoon.

The Dane beat Jurgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) and Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) in a sprint finish and took the lead thanks to finishing fourth in Wednesday?s opening stage. He leads Zberg by three seconds. Britain?s Roger Hammond (Columbia) finished tenth as he continues his build-up to the Olympic road race on August 9.

SASTRE TO RIDE CLASICA SAN SEBASTIAN

Carlos Sastre received a hero’s welcome when he arrived in his home village of El Barraco north of Madrid on Wednesday night. However, the Tour de France winner will have little time to savour his success because he will ride the Clasica San Sebastian on Saturday and then fly out to Beijing to ride for Spain in the Olympic road race.

Sastre is just one of several big names who will ride the Clasica as final build-up for the Games. Also on the start list are Athens Olympic road race winner Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Andy Schleck (CSC) and current ProTour leader Damiano Cunego (Lampre).

There will be a full report from the Spanish race on cyclingweekly.co.uk immediately after the race.

ARMSTRONG AND KATE HUDSON SPLIT

And finally on as lighter note, the US tabloids and gossip website are reporting that Lance Armstrong has split from girlfriend Kate Hudson.

The two had been dating for three months but split up at the weekend. Armstrong is reported to be training hard on his mountain bike ready for the Leadville 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado on August 9.