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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for July 1, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones & Hedwig Kröner

San Francisco Grand Prix drops women - hopes to secure sponsorship for men

By Mark Zalewski

Dave Chauner, CEO of Threshold Sports and organizer of the Pro Cycling Tour, announced today that this year's San Francisco Grand Prix will not include a women's event, due in part to T-Mobile not renewing as a sponsor and the prohibitive costs to running two races on the city streets of downtown San Francisco.

"T-Mobile elected not to renew its title sponsorship for strategic reasons," said Chauner. "Part of T-Mobiles commitment was the requirement to add a women's race in 2003, the first year of their title sponsorship. It was important for [T-Mobile] to host a women's race... without their support and the costs and time required with additional TV time made it cost prohibitive this year. The time requirements for using the city roads preclude us from running two races. We are going back to the original format the city approved the first couple of years."

Bob Stapleton, team manager for T-Mobile's women's team, told Cyclingnews that he is very upset about the decision to cut the women's race from the event. "It's a real loss to women's cycling and to the entire event as a whole. It's the best women's event anywhere."

Stapleton said that T-Mobile had a two-year deal with the race organizers and that the company decided to spend it's marketing money in other areas this year. "T-Mobile had a two-year deal to sponsor the race. They thought they could put the money to use elsewhere. T-Mobile is one of, if not the, largest sponsor of cycling in the world - they are not the issue."

Race organizers and the City of San Francisco have been back and forth over the issue of money surrounding the race for some time now. Much of the problems originate with former mayor Willie Brown forgiving a loan to the race from the city to pay for security. The same problems plagued the race in recent years culminating with the organizers threatening to move the race to another west coast venue. Proponents cite the substantial increase in revenues the race generates while opponents point out the huge bills that run-up each year.

This prompted the new mayor, Gavin Newsome, to create a special waiver that would reduce the city fees for the race by one dollar for every two dollars the race generated in revenue. In short, this meant the cost of running the race would drop from more than $300,000 to less than $90,000, with the agreement continuing through 2007. The waiver was narrowly passed on April 5, 3005 by a 6-5 vote of the city's board of supervisors.

This brought mixed reactions from a variety of people, including city board supervisor Chris Daly, who cited the fiscal crisis the city budget is facing as a major reason to tighten city purse strings. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that some in San Francisco, including Daly, are also suspect of the relationship that local businessman Thomas Weisel has with the race organizers and other stakeholders. Chauner stated to The Chronicle that he "has never asked Tom Weisel for a penny for this bike race."

As it currently stands, the San Francisco Grand Prix's men's race seems to still have a green light with new sponsorship arrangements reportedly in the final stages. "We are going to make an announcement July 15," said Chauner. "We are in negotiations with a couple of really good sponsors right now."

But for the women, they will have to watch from the sidelines this year as another prominent event is erased from the calendar.

Fabre explains RAGT withdrawal

After only two seasons as main sponsor of a professional cycling team - initially intended to last at least three years - French seed producer RAGT Semences has decided to end its support by the end of 2005. Alain Fabre, Chairman of the RAGT Supervision Council, explained his reasons in a statement and according to him, the UCI's pro cycling calendar reform, the ProTour, is largely responsible for the decline of the squad.

"At the end of the 2004 season, which was very gratifying both from a sport and media point of view, cycling changed dimensions," he said. "In fact, team selections with ProTour were set up from the start of the second year. This no longer allowed us to meet the demands of the better cyclists, who left us for richer teams. This serious trend was confirmed and, with no guarantee of being able to participate in leading events, we were no longer even capable of providing a full calendar for our cyclists. We are obliged to withdraw within a reasonable time span to maintain our integrity and thus enable the cyclists to find other teams if a new sponsor does not turn up."

Fabre, who did not regret his support of the cycling team, continued by paying homage to the sport, which he said was "a wonderful federating force for both our staff and our customers, who have all showed interest in our adventure in professional cycling. [...] For us, our involvement in cycling has been a genuine lesson in integrity, team spirit and courage. It is a world in which everyone knows what working and giving the best of themselves means."

Zabel looks to the future

T-Mobile's Erik Zabel is using his unaccustomed free time this summer to think about his future. He acknowledged that the team had offered him a two-year contract, with continued employment after his active career. "I have a good offer from Olaf Ludwig," he said in a dpa interview. "I hope we can find a solution that will satisfy both sides."

He admitted that it was hard at first to accept the team's decision not to take him to the Tour this year. "I wanted to be part of the Tour team for Jan," he said. "But I could fully understand Walter Godefroot's argument when he said: If you're a water carrier, then you're not a sprinter any more."

After the German championships, third-place finisher Zabel said he would like to take 18 year-old winner Gerald Ciolek under his wing. "Maybe there's a chance for him to ride where I ride. I could help him."

The temperamental sprinter will follow the Tour on television, but only to a certain extent. "When it comes down to the last five kilometres in the sprint stages and my pulse is at 160 - then I'll probably turn the TV off." He will be guest commentator on the German TV broadcaster ARD, but "probably just the last weekend. It would be very difficult for me emotionally to comment on my sprinter colleagues in the first week."

And who's going to win that race in France? "I don't want to make a prediction."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Pollack faces surgery

T-Mobile's Olaf Pollack faces pelvic surgery. Examinations at the Virchow Clinic in Berlin showed that undersized or twisted arteries in his pelvis and the resulting circulation problems are responsible for the muscle problems in his legs that have plagued him for months. "Together with my directeur sportif and the doctors I will decide by the end of the week, whether it will be done immediately or at the end of the season," said the 31 year-old sprinter.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

International Tour de Toona offers more moolah

Organizers of the International Tour de Toona announced recently that the total purse for the 2005 edition will increase by $15,000 compared to last year's race, bringing the total to $110,000 for both men and women.

Larry Bilotto, Tour de Toona race director explained that the decisions behind the changes include attracting more women's teams and better recognition of the difficulty of specific stages. "We increased the women's GC prize money by $5,000 to increase team participation... we've also done some restructuring of various categories to be in closer compliance with United States Cycling Federation guidelines."

Race promoter Rick Geist cited the return of old and the addition of new sponsors as a major factor in the increase. "Much of the credit belongs to [sponsors] for recognizing and acting on the increasing popularity of our sport. There's no reason that the top teams in the nation should not be in Altoona during the last week of July. The Tour now has to be even more of a ‘must participate event' for the top teams in cycling."

Van Loocke to continue with Landbouwkrediet

Jurgen van Loocke has renewed his contract with Belgian team Landbouwkrediet-Colnago by another year. The 25 year-old neo-pro already achieved a victory for his team this season: against Tom Boonen in the Tour of Belgium.

Racing continues in Co. Cong and Wexford

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

With the Irish National Road Championship done and dusted, competition will locate this weekend to Cong in Co. Mayo for three days, whilst Enniscorthy in County Wexford is on stage on Sunday. Both locations are steeped in history with Cong nestling on the shores of Lough Corrib, and Ras Connachta, Enniscorthy developed around the 13th century when a castle was built on a rock at the head of the tideway.

The local hero and recently crowned Irish National Road Race Champion, David O'Loughlin will not be on the starting line when the Ras Connachta three-day stage race gets under way Friday evening in the village of Cong, Co. Mayo. O'Loughlin has taken a break from cycling for a few days, but as a former winner, he'll be keeping a watching brief on proceedings.

In the absence of the national champion at least the promoting club, Mayo Wheelers, have received confirmation that the team champions' from last Sunday, Cycleways.Com members, Stephen O'Sullivan, Philip Finnegan and Eugene Moriarty will be on the line when stage one sets off at six o'clock this evening.

As usual the organising committee headed by Brian O'Loughlin and company have attracted all the leading teams in the country. The event gets under way with a 50 mile road race and on Saturday it is split with a road stage and a time trial with an 80 miler on Sunday for the wrap up. The Dan Morrissey/Carrick Wheelers Road Club cyclists will be anxious to make up for the disappointment of not getting the team prize in the Nationals, last week, and also for not making the podium in the individual section.

With examinations out of the way, Planet X's Mark Quigley from Partry, Co. Mayo and a former Under-23 champion is keen to get on the winners ladder over the weekend. The three-day event will come as a bonus for Martin Munroe who has been selected to represent Ireland in the MDonnelly Junior Tour, which is scheduled for Castlebar in 10 days time.

Also, down for decision on Sunday will be the staging of the Eddie Tobin Memorial event in Enniscorthy. The organisers Slaney Cycling Club have laid on a very attractive programme which will make for good competition to honour Eddie who worked on behalf of cycling at all levels. The racing gets under way at one o'clock and the Riverside Hotel are the main sponsors.

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