The Tour de France dominates professional cycling in July but with the Olympic Games less than two weeks away, many of the contenders for gold are using smaller stage races to fine-tune their form.


The Great Britain team competing in the five-day Sachsen Tour race in Germany ended the race with another good result as Ben Swift took eighth on the stage around Dresden.

Karsten Kroon completed a perfect day for CSC, winning the stage after being in the decisive five-rider break that formed on the big climb of the 158km stage. Great Britain were hoping the race would comeback together but Swift still showed his form by finishing third in the bunch sprint, 15 seconds behind Kroon.

The five-day race was final preparation for Swift, Jonny Bellis and Chris Newton before the Beijing Olympics. All three rode well and are close to their best, while Dean Downing took what is the best international result for Great Britain this year by winning stage two and wearing the race leader?s a jersey for a day.

Roger Hammond rode the German race with Team Columbia who dominated overall with Bert Grabsch winning the key time trial and overall. Michael Rogers was second overall and Tony Martin was third to complete a Columbia domination. Hammond finished 27th overall, showing some solid form before Beijing.

Swift, Bellis, Newton and Hammond will now head to the Great Britain team holding camp in Newport for some final training before flying to Beijing on August 2.


Ital had a nightmare Tour de France with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) first Italian overall in 20th place, almost 30 minutes behind Sastre. They are more successful at home, with Santo Anza (Diquigiovanni) winning the five-day Brixia Tour held in the Brescia area.

Anza beat Francesco Masciarelli (Acqua e Sapone) by nine seconds, with stage one winner Eddy Ratti (Nippo-Endeka) third at 16 seconds and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) fourth overall at 20 seconds.

Mattia Gavazzi (Preti Mangimi) won the final stage, beating Danilo Napolitano (Lampre)3 and Simone Cadamuro (Nippo-Endeka) in a sprint finish.

Steven Cummings (Barloworld) finished 20th overall at 4-42 in his last race before the road race and time trial events in the Beijing Olympics.


World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) has a difficult season but the little Italian seems to have found some form just at the right moment as he gets ready to defend the Olympic title he won so well in Athens in 2004.

Bettini win the second stage of the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium on Sunday, just 24 hours after team mate Tom Boonen won the opening stage.

Bettini beat Van Avermaet (Silence) and Alexandr Kolobnev (CSC-Saxo Bank) on the twisting finish up to the Namur Citadel. It was only his third win of the 2008 season but Bettini had finally slimmed down to his best racing weight and is confident he can be a contender in the hilly Olympic road race in Beijing.

“I’m really pleased, this is my third win in 3 weeks, so I cannot complain. The team was fantastic today and even Tom (Boonen) sacrificed himself for me during the final kilometers,? Bettini said.

?We didn’t gain the leader’s jersey but that isn’t really important, we are pleased with how things went. All of the team worked really hard for Tom both today and yesterday, so tomorrow We’ll be taking things a little easier. Now it?s time for the other teams to get


?I feel I my form is improving day after day, which can only be a good sign and a great run-up to the Olympics”