CANCELLARA’S EARLY SEASON DELAYED BY TRAINING CRASH

Fabian Cancellara?s build-up to the classics has taken another blow after a crash at home in Switzerland.

Cancellara won the prologue at the Tour of California but then pulled out of the race during stage one because of illness.

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CAVENDISH, BALLAN, HINCAPIE AND POZZATO AT EROICA

Although 2008 winner Fabian Cancellara may not make it to the start line of the Eroica, the dirt road race still has an impressive start list with some of the best classics riders and sprinters set to ride.

According to an entry list released by organisers RCS sport, 15 teams of eight riders will line-up in Gaiole in Chianti for the start.

Mark Cavendish is part of a powerful looking Columbia team that also includes world time trial champion Bert Grabsch, George Hincapie, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernhard Eisel.

World champion Alessandro Ballan leads the Lampre team and has made the Eroica his first objective of the season. He will check out the final sections of dirt road on Thursday afternoon.

If Cancellara does not ride, Saxo Bank will put their hopes in Stuart O?Grady, Andy Schleck, Matti Breschel and Kurt-Asle Arvesen.

Other favourites include new Italian classics contender Francesco Ginanni (Diquigiovanni), promising Garmin classics rider Martijn Maaskant, Giovanni Visconti (ISD) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).

British riders will be out in force at the race, with Roger Hammond leading the Cervelo team that also includes Daniel Lloyd. Ben Swift will be looking to continue his impressive debut at Katusha and Geraint Thomas is named as part of the Barloworld team.

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SIMONI WINS IN MEXICO

Gilberto Simoni swears he doesn?t start his training until January 1 but his win at the Vuelta Mexico on Tuesday proves he loves to lie about his training like many of us.

37 year-old Simoni won the third stage to Tlaxcala five seconds ahead of local rider Carlos Lopez. The tough stage split the field with the main bunch finishing 25 minutes down.

Simoni showed some form at the recent Ruta del Sol where he helped new team mate Davide Rebellin win two stages. Simoni will return from Mexico in time to ride Tirreno-Adriatico.


PETACCHI RAISES A SMILE ON FACEBOOK

Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi rarely gives a smile while racing and talking to the press but his fans on the internet are trying to brighten up his life.

A special page on Facebook called ?Regala un sorriso a Petacchi? ? ?Give Petacchi a smile? has been created in Italy and over 500 people have already signed up and offered jokes and suggestions on how to make Petacchi smile.

The Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport picked up on the story in Wednesday?s newspaper further boosting the numbers on the site. Several professional riders have joined the group, including Giovanni Visconti, Dario Cioni and Roman Kreuziger.

Asked about the group, Petacchi tried hard to crack a smile and told Gazzetta: ? I?d heard about it but I?m not on Facebook. To be honest I don?t know where people find the time to go on it. Anyway, here?s a smile and thanks for the support.?

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