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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 25, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

60th Tour de Romandie: Last chance to sharpen up before Giro

By Anthony Tan in Geneva, Switzerland

Santiago Botero (Phonak) snatched the win in the final time trial in 2005
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Finishing up less than a week before the start of the Tour of Italy, this year's Tour de Romandie, as always, is perfectly placed for riders wishing to fine-tune their form before the Giro - or, like Santiago Botero did last year, win one of the most prestigious week-long stage races on the ProTour calendar. Or, for riders like Jan Ullrich, start the season with a shock to the system in an effort to catch up on lost racing time.

Botero rated his comeback win in 2005 more important than any of previous victories; a big call, given stage wins and a mountains jersey at the Tour de France as well as a world time trial championship are listed on his palamrès. Nevertheless, the Colombian had been through a long period of mediocre form, and his victory in Switzerland proved he still has what he takes to win.

2006 marks the 60th edition of the Tour de Romandie, so named because it is held entirely in the country's French-speaking region to the west. 656,3 kilometres, a prologue and five stages including the traditional final time trial in Lausanne is Romandie in a nutshell; but looking closer, this race is much more than a bunch of stages glommed together.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/

Despite being only 3,4 kilometres long and having little change in elevation, Tuesday's prologue in Geneva is a surprisingly accurate indicator of who will be in contention to win later on in the peace. Australia's Bradley McGee has won here two years ago and believes he can do it again. The next day, the tour moves northeast to Payerne for a 169 kilometre road stage; dotted with just two Cat. 3 climbs, one can expect the race's only bunch sprint - so Robbie McEwen, eat your heart out!

Stage 2 starts and finishes at the race's northernmost point in Porrentruy, also the longest at 171,2 kilometres. With two Category 1 climbs (km 56,2 and km 157,7) along the way and a total 1,810 metres' elevation, Thursday, April 27 is one of the most difficult days in the saddle; maybe one for those often-aggressive Liberty Seguros guys, like Jörg Jaksche or David Etxebarria.

Click here for the full preview, Start list, Past winners, Stages, and Map.

An interview with Steve Johnson, acting CEO of USA Cycling

Promoting from within

In light of the recent departure of Gerard Bisceglia from USA Cycling, the next in command, Steve Johnson , was the obvious choice to serve as the immediate replacement. But just who is Steve Johnson? Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski found out, and where he thinks USA Cycling - as well as U.S. cycling in general is headed - along with a few other issues.

Steve Johnson
Photo: © USOC
Click for larger image

Steve Johnson is quickly coming upon his six year anniversary as a full-time employee with USA Cycling. Like a lot of people within the cycling community, he sort of 'fell into' his position - beginning as a consultant for the organisation while he served as a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Utah. He was brought in to develop the athlete side of the organisation as the organisation moved towards professional rather than strictly amateurs representing the country in events such as the Olympics. But like many of us, Johnson is first and foremost a cyclist himself.

Cyclingnews: Tell me how you came to USA Cycling?

Steve Johnson: I have been a cyclist and competitor at the elite and masters levels for thirty years. I have been the director of what used to be called a district, an official and have basically been in and around the sport for a long time. I was a college professor for fifteen years. I was recruited by USA Cycling back in 1998. I was asked to design a high-performance plan and got EDS to fund some of what I thought were really appropriate programs. One was the U23 program and the other was the coaching association. Another was the ranking system that is still in place today. And another was a junior regional program. So I got all of that up and running as a consultant and then discovered at the end of 2000 that EDS was going to go away. In the process of getting all of this going I got more and more involved that I should have - you know how that happens when you are passionate about something - you lose all perspective!

At that point I sat down with Thom Weisel about creating a foundation - a major donor fundraising program to keep the money going into the programs we started. That just grew into these other opportunities over time. Basically it's been a huge component in support of the organisation. It pumped over $4 million into athlete programs in the last five years. It not only kept the programs that I started going but it also ended up funding everything we do in athletics - mountain bike, women's programs and other important stuff. From the beginning I believe the top end of our sport is connected to the bottom - if you look at membership growth and grassroots, you cannot disconnect the athlete performance side of it. And a lot of the membership growth is a result of Lance Armstrong putting our sport on the radar screen for millions of new fans. A few of those buy bicycles and that pumps billions into the bike industry. One out of every hundred decides to become a member, so there are ten thousand new members - it becomes a complex, interconnected ecosystem.

I think that elite coaches are absolutely critical to supporting the whole thing, and creating an industry. Making an association for them to share information and create structure was critical. We have grown from just a few people who had coaching licenses in 1999 to over 1,200 now. That has been a big factor with our growth as well.

Click here for the full interview

Pro Tour teams court American sponsors in Georgia

The very final podium showdown between Floyd Landis and Tom Danielson
Photo ©: Trish Albert
(Click for larger image)

Sparks flew in the 2006 Tour de Georgia as the race came down to a showdown on Brasstown Bald mountain between two American riders on ProTour teams, Floyd Landis and Tom Danielson. The presence of several ProTour teams in Georgia, and at the Tour of California in February is an indication that top European-based teams are taking US cycling increasingly seriously. Kirsten Robbins finds out why.

The Tour de Georgia has just completed its fourth annual event with a very successful ending. The tour attracted several of the top ProTour teams to come to Georgia and compete for the podium's top spots. What is attracting the European teams to take American cycling seriously?

Directeur sportif of Phonak, René Savary, said the recent growth of interest in cycling was the reason why ProTour teams were crossing the Atlantic to race here. "Cycling has always been well known here in America. But in this moment is it growing stronger here. There are so many fans out here to watch the races and it really reminds me of racing in Europe," he said. And the growth in interest of cycling in America is one of the main reasons American sponsors are taking steps into the sport.

"The media will make the sport more popular now," said Savary. "The future is now growing for the sport here and all it needs is time. The sponsors know this and the cycling teams know this. There are many companies here that want to be apart of this sport now. It is a good moment to for the European teams to try to be apart of this market. The U.S. is so much bigger in sponsorship and media now."

Many teams like Phonak already have existing sponsors from the U.S. "Georgia is important for our team because our sponsors like I Shares are here and they want to see us race here too," said Savary. "Every race is important to us. We come to the U.S. races to win we need to show our sponsors here that we are really able to win here too."

Click here for the full feature

Spanish federation proposes to shelve Gonzalez case

The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) has proposed to shelve the doping case involving Aitor González (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who allegedly tested positive for an anabolic agent in the Vuelta a España last year. According to Europa Press, the RFEC said it accepts the arguments put forward by González, who claimed that the positive was a result of a contaminated legal supplement called Animal Pack.

The Biochemistry Department of the University of Extremadura obtained and analysed 11 tablets of Animal Pack, and determined that they were indeed contaminated with other products. Thus, González arguments carried more weight with the RFEC, even though under WADA rules, the athlete is solely responsible for what he or she puts in his body.

If the case is dismissed, González will likely meet with Euskaltel manager Miguel Madariaga to discuss a continuation of his contract.

Riding for the heart in Liège

By Miwako Sasaki

Italian consul Riccardo Rusconi (R)
Photo ©: Miwako Sasaki
(Click for larger image)

The third Contre la montre pour le coeur (Time trial for the heart) was held in Liège last Friday. It was a charity event of La Fondation de Recherche en Cardiologie Pediatrique, a medical foundation researching children's heart problems, and was organised by the Association Professionelle des Journalistes Sportifs de Liège-Luxembourg.

The event was a two-rider time trial, which paired a professional rider and a person from the Wallonne region. It was 1.6 km around Place Saint-Lambert, where Liège-Bastogne-Liège started on Sunday.

Many professional riders took part in the charity event, and enjoyed riding with their new 'teammate' under the clear sky. Thierry Marichal and Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis), David Etxebarria, Angel Vicioso and Jose Antonio Redondo (Liberty Seguros), Steve Morabito and Jonathan Patrick McCarty (Phonak), Philippe Gilbert, Christophe Detilloux and Frederic Finot (Française des Jeux), Jean-Claude Lebeau (Landbouwkrediet) and Christophe Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto) were all present, and all of them rode Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Wilfried Cretskens, Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), and Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) were also there, although they didn't start Sunday's Classic. Some pro riders rode two or three times with their other teammates, so there ended up being around 30 pairs in Place St-Lambert.

There was no Italian rider for the charity event at all this year, but instead of them, Italian consul Riccardo Rusconi did it. He wore the azzuri colours, and rode the time trial with Christophe Detilloux. The Giro d'Italia will come soon to Liège, and the presentation will held in Place Saint-Lambert on Thursday, May 4.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Miwako Sasaki

Boogerd rides World's course

Rabobank's Michael Boogerd has taken a trip to Salzburg, Austria, in order to ride the world road championship parcours on Tuesday, reports ANP. He was joined by Dutch coach Egon van Kessel and Lars Boom. "Michael and Lars are two important riders," Van Kessel was quoted by ANP as saying. I really would like to hear what they think of the parcours."

Förster on the mend

Gerolsteiner sprinter Robert Förster is not as seriously injured as first thought. He crashed Saturday in the Oddset Rundfahrt, landing on his right shoulder, which was operated on two years ago. Nothing is broken and the ligaments are also not damaged, he now reports, and he is again training for his third Giro d'Italia participation. "We'll have to see how the healing process goes the next few days, but at any rate it looks good for 'Frösi'," says team spokesman Mathias Wieland.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Another Gerolsteiner baby

The Gerolsteiner family has enlarged itself yet again - Maxine Fothen wasn't the only little arrival last week. On Tuesday, April 18, Georg and Michi Totschnig became the parents of Josef, who joins sister Emma and brother Max. Mother and child are doing well.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago for Rheinland

The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team has been named for the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, which takes place between April 26-30. Bert De Waele, Steven Kleynen, Sven Renders, Jean Claude Lebeau, Fréderic Amorison, James Vanlandschoot, Kevin Neirynck, Jurgen Van Loocke. Sports director: Marco Saligari.

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