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We begin today in Italy. For what better place could there be to start? Benna! Daniele Bennati won Thursday's Giro del Piemonte ahead of Luca Paolini and Alexandre Usov. And there was much rejoicing! A long sprint allowed il Pantera (the Panther) to open up a significant gap and celebrate his second win in Piemonte. The first was in 2006, for those keeping track of such things. Now, it's vacation time for Benna, after a season that included seven victories, making him the most winningest rider at Team Liquigas. After the race, Bennati thanked his team-mates for their hard work controlling the 199 km race. "Carlström led me through the final two kilometers, then at around 200 meters to go, I decided to go. It was a long sprint, but all worked out for the best," he concluded. Next season, the Tuscan sprinter would like to win a classic, especially Milano-San Remo, which he said "intrigues me." See you on the Via Roma! The Gossip gratefully acknowledges the Bennati Research Team for their valuable contributions to this post.

Gustav Larsson has had an eventful transfer season. Everyone thought he was transferring to Caisse d'Épargne. Guess again. Bjarne Riis came through with the counter-offer, and Larsson will remain at CSC-Saxo Bank next season. Craigslist, Sweden: For sale, Spanish-Swedish dictionary, Spanish grammar book, Sun screen. Must sell. Email for info. Thanks for looking!

Christophe Laurent will return to France next season after a year with the American Team Garmin. Though Laurent had one more year on his contract with Garmin, he has negotiated an early exit, and will ride for Agritubel in 2009. Laurent said on his webby that he had reached verbal agreements with both teams, and would sign the official agreements presently. Explaining the decision, he cited the language barrier and a general failure to fit into the team. The requirement to live in Gerona also did not suit him especially well, he said. No doubt the non-selection for the 2008 Tour de France also did not suit the French rider well. The 31 year old Laurent previously rode for Agritubel for two seasons, 2005 and 2006, and found success there as a rider for the breakaways. Bonne Chance, Christophe!

Nearly all of the riders from the disbanding Crédit Agricole have found teams for next season. The nice people at L'Équipe have made us this handy-dandy cheat sheet. Team Cervélo is the winner, boasting five former Agricoles on next year's roster. Not that anyone is counting or anything.

German sponsors do not heart the bike racing. There will be no opportunities to type Rundfarht next season, as there will be no Deutschland Rundfahrt. Schade. Or, perhaps Sheiß. The decision came after the D-Tour lost its title sponsor, Tiroll, and all hope of securing a new one. The dopage fall-out has also led to the cancellation of the Stüttgart Six Day track event. ARD and ZDF will no longer broadcast the Tour. The German Bundestag may cut off funding for the German Cycling Federation. Really, it's a rough time to be a cycling fan in Germany, if in fact, there are any left.

For their part, the ASO defended their hard-line against doping and strict testing programs. We're trying. We're trying really, really hard. Bad dopers, very bad dopers. French television will still continue to show the race. The Tour de France is more than a sporting event said a recent statement confirming French teevee's continued loyalty to the event.

On a brighter note, German dairy company Milram will continue to sponsor the last German pro tour team standing. At least, for now. The sponsor has also made clear that it reserves the right to withdraw in the event of a doping scandal. The new team contracts will specify that riders may undergo independent testing by the team, and could be fired for suspicious results. The team management has not yet specified what measures they may take the ensure their riders' cleanliness. Soap and water will probably not be sufficient. Just trying to help out.

In other German news, Jan Ullrich will not return to racing. Absolutely not, said Ullrich's long-time manager Wolfgang Strohband in a statement this week. Rumors had circulated over the last few weeks that der Jan might consider a big Comeback. I mean, all the cool people are doing it. Jan, clearly not one of the cool people.

Obligatory Armstrong Mention. Lance Armstrong will not attend next week's official unveiling of the 2009 Tour de France. Instead, Armstrong will stay home and train. He told Gazzetta dello Sport recently that he weighed 82 kilos at the beginning of the summer, but now he is down to 76. He hopes to lose ten more before riding the Tour, if in fact he rides, which remains for now uncertain. In the meantime, the ASO will present the plan for next July's party on Wednesday, 22 October. Former winners Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador will both be present, doing their best to look enthusiastic about the proceedings. True confessions? Here at the Gossip World Headquarters we find it terribly difficult to rally the enthusiasm in October for a grand tour. We do, however, look forward with immense anticipation to the fashion choices at next week's event. Our fashion correspondents are standing by.

Filippo Simeoni has one more reason to not love Armstrong. As if he needed another. Simeoni, currently the Italian national champion, thinks it's a tad unfair that Armstrong who suddenly decided that he wanted to ride the Giro has a confirmed invite. Simeoni does not. The Italian Champion does not know if his team will be invited to next year's Giro. Oh, and, he doesn't yet know which team's roster he will grace.

Clean Water boys. The new Team H20-Teltek directed by Max Radoni has announced its first two signings. Rubens Bertagliati and Sergio Pardilla have officially joined the roster. Bertogliati, formerly of Scott-American Beef, wore the Yellow Jersey in the 2002. He won a stage, too. Pardilla, currently riding for Burgos Monumental won the queen stage of the 2006 Tour de l'Avenir and the overall at the 2007 Tour des Pyrénées. According to Rumor, Radoni currently negotiates with Davide Rebellin, who still needs a team. Other riders connected with the new Clean Water Team include: Luca Paolini, Filippo Simeoni, Patrice Halgand, Aurélien Passeron, and Michaël Szkolnik. Radoni, who manages the amateur team BC Vallauris, is expected to bring three riders from his current team: Micula Dematteis and the brothers Pedro and Jesus Merino. The team will register in Luxembourg, and is seeking a ProContinental license from the UCI. Team H20, the sponsor, aims to improve access to clean water throughout Africa. Teltek is a Canadian telecommunications corporation.

Marta Bastianelli will miss one year of competition. The 21 year old former world champion tested positive for the stimulant fenfluramine, used a weightloss drug, on 5 July at the U23 European championships in Verbania. The procura of CONI requested a two year ban, but the Tribunale nazionale anti-doping decided upon one year, because she had received the drug on a doctor's prescription. The suspension ends 7 August 2009. Bastianelli's lawyer, Giuseppe Napoleone, told the press that they would almost certainly take the case to TAS, in an effort further to shorten the sanction. Napoleone suggested that the revised WADA code that goes into effect in 2009 might offer a possibility to alter the sanction in light of the responsibility of the doctor for prescribing the herbal supplement that contained the drug.

No Maglia Rosa for Danilo Diluca next year. Diluca has said that he will not target overall victory at next year's 100th anniversary Giro d'Italia. Instead, he plans to chase classics wins and a make a serious run at the World Championship in Mendrisio. One wonders if Franco Ballerini is aware of this plan. Care to comment Signor Ballerini? On the subject of Ballerini, the national team selector has turned down several offers, including one from Lampre, to sign on as a full-time DS. Ballerini said he enjoys his role as cat-herder to the Azurri, and has no plans to give it up just yet. Here at the Gossip we miss the pre-Ballerini Azurri, what with the Drama and the Egos, but we can't argue with the winnings. Ballerini boasts three straight world championship victories, for those playing along at home. Who will be next? Diluca is certainly hoping it's his turn. In other Diluca news, with his win at the Giro dell'Emilia, Diluca secured overall victory in the Italian Cup by 10 points over Stefano Garzelli.

From the Statistics Department. Bernhard Kohl is the 13th positive doping control in Austrian cycling since 1999. Can anyone name 13 Austrian cyclists?

As of this writing, 7 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes and 52 seconds remain until Ivan Basso returns to racing. But who's counting? Well, Basso is. Basso will take the start at the Tour of Japan. Damiano Cunego will also be present. In a recent interview, Basso said he hopes that Cunego wins Lombardia. Then, he hopes that Basso wins Japan. No, Ivan, that would not make you the winner of Lombardia. Not even in some kind of alternate universe. Sorry, better luck next year. Alessandro Ballan commented in a recent interview that he'd seen Basso out training. Apparently, the Varesino looks fast. He will need to be, if he hopes to win next year's Giro.

Last, but not least, a race notice. Has anyone noticed the Herald Sun Tour? You know, stage race, Australia, Spring. We feel certain you've heard of it. Well, thursday it completed its fourth stage. Lars Bak of CSC-Saxo Bank took over the race lead from team-mate Stuart OGrady. Australian Chris Jongeward of Panasonic won the stage from a three-up break.

That's all for today from the Gossip World Headquarters. We'll be back. Soon. Consistency, order, routine, so not what we do best.

À presto!