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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for October 20, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

Gunn Rita Dahle: The victory junkie and the 24-hour coach

Ripping to olympic gold
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Gunn Rita Dahle is the reigning queen of cross-country mountain bike racing after a year in which she won almost every race she entered, including six of the seven World Cups, the world championships in both cross-country and marathon disciplines and the Olympic MTB race. She told John Stevenson about her 24/7/365 attitude to being the best mountain biker in the world.

Every few years women's mountain biking seems to produce a rider who is so much better than everyone else that you wonder why they'd even bother to line up against her. In the last few years Gunn Rita Dahle has joined the ranks of mountain biking's superwomen and this year demonstrated her total superiority with a devastating series of victories.

But it hasn't been an effortless rise to the top. Her career almost ended in 2000 when overtraining and an excessive workload in preparation for the Sydney Olympics put her off the bike for months. Dahle put her sporting life back together and achieved one of cycling's all-time comeback rides when she won her first world championships in 2002.

Since then, Dahle has won 11 World Cup races and the 2003 European championship, in addition to her 2004 victory collection. We kicked off with the obvious question: how does she do it?

Cyclingnews: It's been an amazing season for you. What's the secret?

Gunn Rita Dahle: There are really no secrets behind all the gold medals. First of all we changed a lot after Kenneth took over as my trainer and manager springtime 2001. (Kenneth is my fiancé and we have been living together since December 1998 - he used to be a road racer on the Norwegian National team.) We do everything that has to do with training and preparation together and that means that we do all trainings together, he does my massage and we are together more or less 24 hours a day, 360 days a year.

Click here for the full interview.

Anger fuelled O'Grady's season

Top Australian to discuss doping in public forum

With a Tour de France stage win, a World Cup victory and an Olympic gold medal, Stuart O'Grady has had the most successful season of his ten-year professional career. But the affable Aussie has been powered this year not just by hard work, but by anger at the scandals that have swirled around cycling and his Cofidis team this year. Anger at both the drug cheats who dragged the sport and Cofidis team through the mill, and those who falsely accused others of doping.

"It definitely made me hungrier," the Tour de France stage winner and Olympic champion told Rupert Guinness from the Daily Telegraph. "The best way of putting it all behind me and getting on with my job was to absolutely try and win every race. I take my anger out on the bike. That was my way of shutting up the critics who were looking down on the Cofidis team."

Cofidis was subjected to a French police investigation early in the season that saw several riders leave the team. Management suspended the team's racing program, resuming after several weeks of inactivity only to have team member David Millar admit to using EPO at the 2003 world championships.

O'Grady and his countryman and teammate Matt White were never implicated, but they still suffered from the stigma of guilt by association. "There were isolated cases. But we are not all bad guys," O'Grady said.

Despite the perception that the subject remains taboo among cyclists, it is one O'Grady is willing to discuss if it helps eradicate the problem.

He and White will be guest speakers next Wednesday, October 27, in the "Cycling - The Truth" public forum at the Kent Brewery in Broadway, Sydney, Australia.

"I haven't really said much about it because I don't like getting involved in it," said O'Grady. "But it happened and we were there amongst it. And it is an opportunity [for the public] to hear the tale from our side," he told Guinness.

"I work bloody hard at what I do and they [drugs] are never an option. I don't want to win a bike race that bad. I prefer life, and life after the bike. I would never consider taking a risk like that ..." However, after 10 years in the professional scene, O'Grady can see how some riders feel they have no alternative but to use drugs. "Everyone has the right to make a decision," says O'Grady. "There is a lot of pressure on athletes to win. Most want to be in the limelight of winners."

For bookings to "Cycling - The Truth", to be held in Sydney next Wednesday, October 27, telephone: +61 (0)418 402848.

Rabobank completes Continental team

Top Aussie youngster Walker goes Dutch

The Rabobank team has announced the completion of the roster for the 'Continental' team that it will run as a feeder for its Pro Tour team under the UCI's new structure for professional cycling from 2005.

Eight new riders join the team, which is derived from Rabobank's existing Division III development squad. Remco van der Ven joins comes across from the now-defunct Bankgiroloterij team, and Hans Dekkers switches from Rabobank's current Division I squad to the Continental team.

Top young Australian talent William Walker, who recently proved that long races hold no fears for him when he won the Melbourne to Warrnambool also joins the team, as well as Russian Dmitri Kozontchouk.

The remaining four newcomers all hail from the Netherlands, in keeping with Rabobank's status as the de facto Dutch national pro team. They are Thom and Frank van Dulmen, Tom Leezer and Tom Veelers.

The roster is completed by riders already signed up by Rabobank: Tom Stamsnijder, Kai Reus, Marc de Maar, Stef Clement, Michiel Elijzen and Mathieu Heijboer - all from the Netherlands - plus Serge Pauwels from Belgium. In addition the Continental team will provide a home for four cyclocross specialists, Dutchmen Richard Groenendaal and Lars Boom and Belgians Bart Aernouts and Sven Nys.

Four members of the current Division III team will move up to the 2005 Rabobank Pro Tour squad: Thomas Dekker, Theo Eltink, Jukka Vastaranta and Rory Sutherland. In addition, Koen de Kort and Bas Giling will leave the team to ride for other sponsors.

Blijlevens goes for speed

Dutch former professional Jeroen Blijlevens has announced he is to make an attempt on the world land speed record for bikes. Currently held by Blijlevens' countryman Fred Rompelberg at 268.6km/h (167.9mph), the record involves drafting an air dam mounted on a high-powered car across Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. While it's arguably not much to do with cycling - you're more or less sucked along by the vortex behind the car - the speed record is undeniably a major test of bravery. Or insanity.

Blijlevens retired from cycling earlier this year and will take up a position as an assistant directeur sportif with the Van Hemert-Eurogifts team in 2005. In the meantime, he's been looking for a new challenge, and this is it. He told Dutch news agency ANP "To reach that speed on a bicycle fascinates me."

He'll have to maintain the record speed for a mile (1.6km) after being towed by the pace car to get him started. Blijlevens plans to make his record attempt in September 2005 and will start his preparations in the coming weeks.

Phonak upbeat

Despite its problems in 2004 with Oscar Camenzind and Tyler Hamilton returning positive controls for EPO and homologous blood doping respectively, the Phonak team is upbeat about its successes in 2004 and its prospects for 2005. In the team's latest commentary on its website, team management said they were pleased at the improvement in the squad's UCI ranking: "With its 8th-place spot in the world rankings following the Giro di Lombardia, the team achieved its sought-after goal of a Top Ten ranking. The crew also made a massive improvement over last year's 17th-place ranking."

Directeur sportif Urs Freuler credited Tyler Hamilton - who joined Phonak from CSC for the 2004 season - and Santi Perez for much of the team's success this year. "The overall success at the Tour de Romandie and the Olympic time trial victory - both brought about by Tyler Hamilton - are the big deals,: said Freuler. "At the Dauphinée Tour, we had final rankings of second and third as well as a stage win. The Vuelta was a long-running success for us with five first-place finishes. Three of those and the second-place overall position were claimed by Santi Perez."

Freuler has ambitious goals for next year. "We'd like to establish ourselves there as one of the Top Five teams," he says. And the team also wants to make a mark in the Classics. "That's why we've engaged new aces who should help us reach this goal as well. Our athletic directors will lay out the programme so that we can compete at the Classics with the best riders." But the Classics will still be secondary targets behind the Tour de France. "Because I deliberately squeezed in all three big tours in the 2004 season, not much will change for us in terms of the difficulty of the programme."

Pucinskaite to Nobili Rubinetterie Guerciotti

Top Lithuanian rider Edita Pucinskaite will ride for the Italian-based Nobili Rubinetterie Guerciotti in 2005, according to an announcement from the team. Ranked fifth in the world, Pucinskaite won the Plouay round of the women's World Cup in August and finished ninth and tenth respectively in the women's road race and time trial at the Olympics.

Cesenatico to honor Pantani with sculpture

Marco Pantani's home town of Cesenatico has announced a competition for a design for a sculpture in honour of the 1998 Tour de France winner, who died in February. Cesenatico has been a destination for pilgrimages by Pantani fans since the climber's untimely death at 34 and the town wants to commemorate a citizen who "made sporting dreams come true and helped make people all over the world familiar with the name of Cesenatico."

The contest is open to artists from all over the world. The monument, which will be displayed in an open space in Cesenatico, should be no more than three metres high and submissions to the Cesenatico mayoral office should include a 1:20 scale drawing.

Favourites lead Crank Brothers GP of Cross

After the first two rounds in Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington at the weekend, favourites Marc Gullickson (Redline) and Gina Hall (Missing Link) have narrow leads in the Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series, which moves across the country next weekend for two rounds in Fort Stage Park in Gloucester, Mass on October 30 and 31.

Gullickson, with 70 points, holds a slim six-point lead over Canadian Geoff Kabush (Maxxis Giant), while Mark McCormack (Clif Bar-Colavita) sits in third just seven points adrift. Amazingly, none of these competitors managed to net a victory at the races in Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington. But the threesome are proving that in a series laden with exceptional talent, the overall title is likely to go to the most consistent racer who's able to maintain top form over several months. Nevertheless Italian national champion Daniele Pontoni (Selle Italia) and U.S. Espoirs national champion Adam Craig (Maxxis Giant), who won the Cannondale Stumptown Cyclocross Classic and the Clif Bar Grand Prix races respectively, are still in the running. Pontoni sits in fourth with 62 points, eight points behind Gullickson, while Craig sits in sixth, just 20 points behind the leader and 10 points down on fifth placed Carl Decker (Giant-Pearl Izumi).

On the women's side, Gina Hall (Missing Link) has staked out a more substantial lead than her male counterpart. After a second place finish in Portland and a victory in Tacoma, Hall has 90 points ­ 20 points ahead of her West Coast rival, Kona's Ann Knapp, who won the series opener in Portland. Rhonda Mazza (Vanilla/S&M) is currently sitting in third with 64 points, followed by Sarah Kerlin (Velo Bella) in fourth with 60 points and Josie Beggs (Starbucks Double Shot) in fifth with 53 points.

Four races remain in the series:

Race 3 - October 30: Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix of Gloucester Race #1, Stage Fort
Park, Gloucester, MA.
Race 4 - October 31: Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix of Gloucester Race #2, Stage Fort
Park, Gloucester, MA.
Race 5 - November 20: Beacon CX, Bridgeton, NJ.
Race 6 - November 21: Highland Park Cyclocross, Donaldson Park, Highland
Park, NJ.

Italian federation suspends five

The Italian cycling federation has suspended five riders after they returned positive samples in doping controls. Under-23 rider Manuel Quiriconi has been suspended for two years; under-23 Andriy Pryshchepa for two months; Alessandro Pasta (Sportsman 2) and Danilo Sbaraglia (Master 1) received four month suspensions and Sebastiano Leone (Master 2) has been banned for eight months.

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