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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Tour de France Cycling News for July 8, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson

Rabobank gets budget boost

Erik Dekker (Rabobank) powers a break in stage 3 of the Tour
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

The budget of Netherlands pro team Rabobank has been increased for next year, the bank's CEO Bert Heemskerk has revealed. Speaking to the Telegraaf newspaper, Heemskerk said that the team will be cashed up to the tune of 12 million Euros in 2006, making it the largest sporting sponsorship in the Netherlands.

"It won't be a spectacular increase," said Heemskerk, "but the team leadership will have some extra options."

Heemskerk also revealed that Rabobank intended to extend its sponsorship of the team to 2008, and hinted at developments beyond that. From next year the team's clothing will also carry the logo of the bank's investment arm, Robeco and Heemskerk recently let with Tour boss Jean-Marie LeBlanc to discuss the Tour starting in Utrecht in 2009.

"In that year we will open out new 105 metre tall head office in Utrecht," said Heemskerk. "A tour start would be a great way to open the building."

MTB World Cup back in US after three year gap

Angel Fire, New Mexico hosts combined cross-country and downhill round this weekend

By Steve Medcroft

World Cup mountain biking returns to the U.S. this weekend (July 9-10) in Angel Fire, New Mexico as the UCI holds its seventh round of cross country and sixth rounds of four-cross and downhill. The World Cup last made a stop on U.S. soil in 2002 in Telluride, Colorado.

After last week's virtual racer's vacation (due to many riders skipping of the Balneario Camboriu, Brazil World Cup July 2-3), more than 300 riders from over 30 countries are competing in the weekend's races. Many of them are Americans looking for a rare chance to test themselves against some of the world's top mountain bike racers, such as South African Greg Minaar (Team G-Cross Honda), who currently leads the World Cup downhill series and has won both of the last two races.

The cross-country start line will be thick with almost a hundred men signed up including series leader Christopher Sauser (Siemens Cannondale) and NORBA series leader and Canadian national champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis). Missing though will be Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida) who showed devastating mid-season form in Brazil (winning by five minutes) and crept close enough in World Cup points to threaten Sauser's lead. Hermida decided to head home to prepare for the Spanish mountain bike national championships at the end of the month instead of coming north to contest the series.

There will be more than fifty competitors in the women's cross country too. Series leader and all-around World-Cup dominator Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) is in Angel Fire and ready to repeat her Brazilian performance (a win) and not her Mont Sainte-Anne showing (second). Not on the start list is the only women to best Dahle in World Cup competition in the last two-plus years: Marie-Helene Premont. Which means the most likely challenge to Dahle should come from Sabine Spitz (Specialized), who led Dahle in Brazil before snapping a chain, or possibly Americans Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Chix), who seems to have recovered her form after injuries derailed her career the last two years or Willow Koerber (Subaru - Gary Fisher), who's fresh off her best World Cup result ever (fourth in Mont Sainte-Anne).

The racers will be challenged with more than just crowded fields of strong competitors - Angel Fire is an altitude race. The cross country event alone starts at almost 8,500 feet and climbs to 10,100 before turning back for the start/finish line. Although many World Cup and U.S. domestic races are held on ski resorts, not many top out above 9,000 feet. The fact has been so daunting that many top racers have spent the bye week camped out in mountain towns across the west to try and adjust to the altitude.

Weather could also be a factor. Angel Fire sits on the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range (on the opposite side of Wheeler Mountain from Taos) and is essentially rocky, mountainous, high-desert terrain. The air can be dry and the intensity of the sun at the venue's elevations, surprisingly sapping. There is also a propensity for quick-developing, late-afternoon thundershowers; weather that could impact both the downhill and cross country events which are being held in concurrent afternoons. Forecasts for the weekend are no help. On Thursday evening, as the tents were being erected in the expo area, Angel Fire's own Web site called for temperatures in the mid eighties and clear skies. At the same time, the U.S. National Weather Service hints at visits from the infamous thunderstorms.

Despite the challenges though, expect a strong showing from the natives. North American's showed increasing strength at the world Cup in Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec (June 24-25) when Brian Lopes, Jill Kintner (Yeti) and Tara Lanes (Giant) scored podiums in four-cross, Adam Craig (Giant) took fourth in men's cross country, Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain - Business Objects) won the women's cross country with Willow Koerber and Mary McConneloug (Kenda Tires - Seven Cycles) behind her in fourth and fifth.

Pollack to undergo surgery

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile sprinter Olaf Pollack will be operated on this month for pelvic vein problems. Although Pollack will have to take a break from his bike, it doesn't necessarily mean that his season is over. "The way it looks now, I can ride again in late fall," he said. "I won't accomplish a whole lot, but a return to racing this year will be a good preparation for 2006."

Kessler to CSC? No, says T-Mobile

By Susan Westemeyer

One of the latest transfer rumours has T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler signing with CSC. The Danish newspaper Politiken says that T-Mobile told the 26 year-old Kessler that his financial demands were too high, and that they wouldn't agree to them. However, the paper also notes that CSC wouldn't necessarily offer as much money as Kessler is seeking, but could offer him new challenges and opportunities instead. T-Mobile spokesman Luuc Eisenga says there is no truth in the story, and that Kessler and Olaf Ludwig will sit down to negotiate after the Tour.

Other transfer rumours affecting T-Mobile have Alexandre Vinokourov going to either Discovery Channel or Cofidis, and Erik Zabel to Phonak (with one rumour calling that "99% certain").

Den Bakker wins after Keystone Cops finish in Austria

The third stage of the Tour of Austria ended in farce with the relegation of the first five riders across the line. Victory went to the wily Martin Den Bakker who saw a fatal error by his four breakaway companions and seized the opportunity.

Den Bakker was positioned last in the lead group of six when four of the riders followed a vehicle off the course. The four soon realised something was wrong as they found themselves among other traffic, but ploughed on regardless. Eventually they found a crowd barrier and realised they could get back on the course by crossing it. They climbed over and staged a very short sprint for the line.

Some time later, Den Bakker, having gone the long, official way to the finish, rolled across the line and raised his hands to claim the win ahead of Przemyslaw Niemec, who had followed him.

Quick.Step to Tour of Britain

The Quick.Step-Innergetic team has been confirmed as starting in the Tour of Britain (August 30-September 4). The organisers also hope to attract current Tour green jersey wearer Tom Boonen to the race, and believe at this stage that there is an "80 percent chance" that he will ride. Boonen won a stage in last year's inaugural edition.

Tour de Toona to open with concerts and trains

Time trials and music will be combined for the first stage of this year's Tour de Toona. Starting at the Railroaders Memorial Museum, the downtown time trials will be complemented by two concerts at the finish. "The museum's participation will help anchor what promises to be one of the most spectator-friendly races we have ever had," said race promoter Rick Geist. "This course gives fans and spectators multiple opportunities to follow the race. From the start line, they can take the bridge over the tracks and see the riders come back up 10th Avenue, and then watch them finish at 14th Street. It's probably the easiest course on which to watch racing that I have ever seen."

The first stage of the International Tour de Toona begins on July 25 in Altoona, PA. More information from www.tourdetoona.com

Australian U23 squad to China

Six members of the AIS Mapei Aqua Australia development squad will travel to China next week for the Tour of Qinghai Lake. The week-long race is rated 2.HC in the UCI's classification system, the grade just below ProTour status. However, while that status usually indicates a well-established or lucrative event such as Malaysia's Tour de Langkawi, Qinghai Lake gets its props from being an extremely tough event, with climbs to over 4000m in altitude.

Qinghai Lake will therefore be a serious test for the young riders in the AIS development program, which aims to prepare the riders for futures in professional cycling. The Australian system's success is demonstrated by the current Tour peloton, which contains a record 10 Australians.

The team for Qinghai Lake will include Simon Clarke, 18 (VIC), Sean Finning, 20, (VIC) Matthew Goss, 18 (TAS) James Meadley, 21 (ACT) and Matthew Rex, 20 (SA). The five are all members of the Cycling Australia / Australian Institute of Sport Development Program and recently returned to Canberra after several months based in Italy and racing in Europe. Team Pursuit world champion, Peter Dawson, 23, (WA) joins the group after spending most of the season receiving treatment for a niggling injury to his right knee.

"The Qinghai Tour is a great development race for them because it is definitely outside their comfort zone and it toughens them up," said Australian Coach, Brian Stephens who will go to China with the team. "They'll eat food they're not used to, experience sleeping conditions they're not used to and have to combat the effects of racing at altitudes between 2700m and 4000m.

"It's going to be a hard nine days but I'm confident they can make their mark and I'm hoping they can pull off a stage win at least," said Stephens.

Clarke is the 2004 junior teams pursuit World Champion while Goss last year claimed gold in both the Madison and teams pursuit at the Junior Track Cycling World Championships and in March this year made his senior World Championship debut with a bronze medal in the teams pursuit in Los Angeles.

The squad has had an impressive season so far with Goss winning the opening stage of the Tour of Japan in May. Team mate Nic Sanderson, 20, took out the final stage in the same event and the Victorian has stayed behind in Europe after recently earning an internship with the Wurth outfit in Spain. Wurth acts as a feeder team for the Spanish registered Pro Tour team Liberty Seguros. A former rider in the program, Queensland's Allan Davis, is currently racing with Liberty in the Tour de France.

Irish juniors flex TT muscles

By Tommy Campbell

With the discipline of time trialling very much to the fore after the Tour's opening stage and team TT, Irish riders get a chance to show what they are capable of against the clock on the Wicklow Road tomorrow (Saturday). Sorrento Cycling Club is hosting a 10-mile time trial on the new improved surface of the N11 in Wicklow. The start however has been moved to the village of Newtown-Mount-Kennedy just off the N11 about 10miles south of Bray.

It is also an ideal opportunity for those in the Leinster area or further afield with ambitions for higher aspirations in the MDonnelly Junior Tour, which starts next Tuesday in Castlebar with a time trial to flex their muscles.

According to race organiser, Robert Cullen, "the course promises to be a quick one, even though it is not flat and contains several drags, the new surface makes for fast riding."

Sign on is located adjacent to 'Gregory's Garage' and will be open from 10am with racing commencing at 11am.

The race caters for all categories although Under 12s race will be run on a shorter 5 mile (8km) course, all other categories including U14s & U16s will race on the full course. Prizes will be awarded for all categories. For further details please contact the race organiser, Robert Cullen on 087 233 5348.

New Zealand appoints BMX coach

BikeNZ has announced that Grant White has been recruited to the long-term position of National BMX Coach.

White, an former international BMX rider for Australia and New South Wales and Australian BMX coach, has spent the last three years running his own business offering professional BMX coaching services to a number of world-class riders.

As New Zealand's national BMX coach, White will lead BikeNZ's BMX high performance programme in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where BMX will make its debut as an Olympic sport.

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