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SOLER TO RIDE TOUR OF BRITAIN

Colombian climber Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) is hoping to get his season back on track at the Tour of Britain in early September after a nightmare Tour de France.

Soler won a stage in the Alps and the polka-dot climber?s jersey in 2007 but crashed on stage one this year and pulled out on stage five because of a minor fracture in his wrist. The lanky Columbian did the same in the Giro d?Italia in May, raising serious doubts about his bike handling ability and now has a lot to prove as Barloworld look for a new sponsor.

After spending almost a month in Columbia, Soler has now returned to Italy and will race for the first time at the Trofeo Melinda on August 23 and then Giro del Veneto on August 30.

He will then travel to Britain for the start the eight-day race in London on September 7. He is also planning to ride the world road race championships in Italy and the Tour of Lombardy in late October.

TEAM COLUMBIA DOMINATE IN FRANCE

Team Columbia dominated the third stage of the Tour de L?Ain stage race in France on Tuesday and Germany?s Linus Gerdemann proved he is back to his best after breaking his femur in March.

Gerdemann won the morning split stage in the rain, beating David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and then finished second in the afternoon time trial behind team mate and fellow German Tony Martin. Frantisek Rabon completed a Columbia and German 1-2-3 with third place. The four-day race ends today with Columbia confident of defending Gerdemann?s 12-second lead.

Gerdemann had hoped to target the Tour de France after winning a mountain stage and wearing the yellow jersey in 2007 but his serious injuries in the Tirreno-Adriatico crash forced him to focus on the end of the season and is now targeting the Tour of Germany.

TOUR OF PORTUGAL KICKS OFF POST-OLYMPIC RACING

While many riders will be hoping to enjoy a break from racing after returning from the Beijing Olympics, August marks the start of the second half of the season for many riders as they build-up for the Vuelta Espana, Tour of Germany and world championships.

The 70th edition of the Tour of Portugal kicks off today with 6.4km prologue around the town of Portimao in the south and ends on August 24 in the northern town of Felgueiras with a 31.2km time trial.

The heat and hilly parcours will as usual make a hard race as the Portuguese teams take on the likes of Lampre, Barloworld ?with Baden Cooke and Enrico Gasaprotto, Scott, Cofidis and Agritubel. The Garmin team is also riding, with Dan Martin expected to do well on the climbs.

Tour of Portugal stages:

Prologue: Portimão – Portimão 6.4km

Stage one: Portimão – Beja 198.6lm

Stage two: Vila Viçosa – Castelo Branco 165.5km

Stage three: Idanha-a-Nova – Torre 171.5km

Stage four: Guarda ? Viseu 164.6km

Stage five: Gouveia – São João da Madeira 186.0km

Stage six: Aveiro – Gondomar 170.6km

Stage seven: Póvoa de Varzim – Santo Tirso 177.8km

Stage eight: Barcelos – Fafe 169.8km

Stage nine: Fafe – Mondim de Basto 146.2lm

Stage ten: Penafiel – Felgueiras 31.2km TT.

FREIRE BACK TO SUCCESS IN DUTCH CRITERIUM

Spain?s Oscar Freire pulled out of Saturday?s Olympic road race with stomach problems but was quickly back to his best in Europe, winning a criterium in Holland on Wednesday night.

The Tour de France green points jersey winner beat Steven De Jongh and Servais Knaven. The three-time world champion will ride the Vuelta to prepare for the world championships in Italy.

CUNEGO BACK IN ACTION IN ITALY

Italy?s Damiano Cunego (Lampre) will make his return to racing in the Tre Valli Varesine semi-classic in Italy on August 19, after recovering from his nasty crash in the Tour de France.

Cunego hit a wall at speed during stage 18 and needed several stitches in a deep cut on his chin. His injuries forced him to miss the road race in the Beijing Olympics but he now hopes to finally find some form for the world championships in Italy at the end of September. The Tre Valli Varesine race ends with six laps of the world championship course and should reveal if sprinters like Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire have any chance of victory.

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