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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 5, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Tour of Germany stage 3 wrap-up

19 year-old German takes copycat victory

By Anthony Tan

19 year-old Gerald Ciolek (Team Wiesenhof Akud)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Just as he did at the German national championships two years ago, 19 year-old sprint sensation Gerald Ciolek once again upstaged his bigger-named rivals in a fiercely-contested bunch gallop, coming home triumphant on the third stage of the Tour of Germany.

Entering the finishing straight in the town of Schweinfurt, located in the heart of central Germany, all eyes were on Lampre-Fondital's Danilo Napolitano and Milram man Erik Zabel. The pressure was on both to notch a win, which may have caused the Italian to go too early - but just when the latter appeared poised for victory, Wiesenhof Akud's Gerald Ciolek blasted out of the bunch with head bobbing and pedals stomping, powering past Zabel and T-Mobile's André Greipel, who finished third.

As a result of Zabel's four second places on the day, which included three intermediate sprints out on the road, the race almost saw a change of lead, but not quite. Discovery Channel's Vladimir Gusev is now on equal time with the evergreen German, while the rest of yesterday's top ten slipped down a notch.

Rounding out the top five were a pair of young Australians, Luke Roberts (Team CSC) and Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole). Together with Ciolek and stage one victor Assan Bazayev from Kazakhstan, the Deutschland Tour has shown there's a wealth of new sprinting talent ready to emerge.

The mostly-flat stage from Witzenhausen to Schweinfurt featured a day-long escape by Saunier Duval-Prodir's Marco Pinotti, who escaped shortly before the 40 kilometre mark. The Italian soon built a sizeable lead of nine-minutes plus, but the length of the stage and up-and-down parcours eventually put paid to his chances, and it was peloton groupé with 20 kilometres to go, leading to the inevitable bunch sprint.

Stage four from Heidenheim to Bad Tölz doesn't pose any major obstacles, and is tipped to be another one for the fast-men. Provided Team CSC's Jens Voigt doesn't have anything to say about it, of course.

Click here for the full results, report & photos.

Hesjedal withdraws from Germany

Canadian Ryder Hesjedal was forced to abandon the third stage of the Deutschland Tour, reducing the Phonak team to six men. Shortly after crossing the finish line on the previous stage, Hesjedal was hit by a police vehicle and injured his knee, and although he started the following day, the 25 year-old abandoned after some 40 kilometres.

Astana asks for four-year licence

Dutch press agency dpa reports that Astana has requested a four-year ProTour licence from the UCI, up to an including the year 2010.

Contrary to some previous reports, Astana is still running off the licence of Active Bay, the company part-owned by former Liberty Seguros-Würth team manager Manolo Saiz and Astana's predecessor. Saiz's role ceased to exist shortly after his name arose as one of the key figureheads in Operación Puerto, the investigation into an alleged organised doping network in Spain.

As a consequence of a large cash-injection from the Kazakhstan government and several Kazakhstani investors, Astana is believed to have the financial grounding to continue in its current form.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operation Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operation Puerto

O'Grady happy with contract renewal

Stuart O'Grady (CSC)
Photo ©: Ulrik Møberg
(Click for larger image)

"Continuing on the team is the obvious thing for me to do in order to concentrate on the classics, in which I have a lot of experience and also results," said 32 year-old South Australian Stuart O'Grady on, soon after signing a two-year extension with his current team and just before taking the lead at the Tour of Denmark on Friday.

"At the same time, I'm looking forward to the big stage races," he added, "where I have a new role with a lot of responsibility and my job will be to protect our team captains.

"There's no doubt joining Team CSC has given my career a boost. The team has big confidence in me and supported me right from day one. Bad luck has prevented me from making the results I'd been hoping for, but there are still some good races ahead of us. I really enjoy being a part of Team CSC, where I've established a lot of friendships. Now I know what lies ahead of me for the coming years, and that gives me the opportunity to achieve many big results together with the team," said O'Grady.

Continued team manager Bjarne Riis, "Stuart is a world class rider. He's experienced and a very nice person, who fits in well with the rest of the team. He's a big profile and I'm very happy we can keep him on board.

"He's a complete rider, who can win the classics and also do well in the time trials. At the same time, Stuart is one of the riders who can take on a big responsibility and make it work out on the roads - especially in a big race like the Tour de France," said Riis.

Liquigas for Lazio, Matteotti & Marchigiana

This weekend at the Giro del Lazio and Trofeo Matteotti, scheduled for August 5 and 6 respectively, Liquigas will be placing their trust in recent GP Città' di Camaiore winner Luca Paolini, along with Danilo Di Luca and Stefano Garzelli. In both races, the team will be also include Patrick Calcagni, Eros Capecchi, Enrico Gasparotto, Roman Kreuziger and Alessandro Spezialetti.

Di Luca will once again be the leader in next week's double-header from August 8-9, known as the Due Giorni Marchigiana, where he will be supported by Stefano Basso, Eros Capecchi, Mauro Da Dalto, Emanuele Fornasier, Roman Kreuziger, Matej Mugerli and Alessandro Spezialetti.

In all three races, their direttore sportivo will be Mario Scirea.

Time for China to get professional

By Anthony Tan

With the best-placed Chinese rider at recent Tour of Qinghai Lake almost half an hour down on overall winner Maarten Tjallingii, officials concede the only way to improve is to establish Continental teams that compete regularly in international-level races.

"We have to admit that the level of Chinese riders is to be improved," said Jiang Guofeng, secretary-general of the Chinese Cycling Association (CCA), to the China Daily. "As we know, practice makes perfect, yet Chinese riders have hardly any opportunity to do that. We have to send athletes to overseas pro-teams to make them improve in a decent way."

Lucien Bailly, technical advisor of the Tour de Qinghai Lake and a senior officer of UCI, admitted "China needs to professionalise its cycling teams and cyclists in order to be competitive in international cycling races."

Ma Haijun of the Marida Chinese national team was the country's best performer in the 2.HC event that ended a fortnight ago, finishing third on the fifth stage and 25th overall, while national champion Fuyu Li of the Marco Polo Cycling Team was 48th overall.

"You have to compete in professional circuits around the world, otherwise there is no chance to move up for us," said the 28 year-old Li. "To feel the cycling environment in Europe is very important for me. I am expecting to bring it back home and make it benefit all my Chinese counterparts."

Small steps are being made, however. Neo-pros Jin Long and Fang Xu joined Dutch-based squad Skil-Shimano this season, while Li and Yu Tong ride for Marco Polo. In addition, Chinese teams are forming partnerships with bicycle factories, and are inviting senior experts and trainers from top UCI-ranked teams. And just this week, Lampre-Fondital announced stagiaire roles for two Chinese riders: Hong Kong's Wu Kin San and Xu Gang from Shanghai (see separate story).

"CCA aims to make a breakthrough in cycling by adopting professionalism, and it has already been proved to be the best approach," said Wang Xuanqing, CCA vice-president. "It won't be long before China establishes continental teams involved in international races - it's what we have to do," he said.

Lampre take two Chinese stagiaires

Lampre's Chinese connection
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Lampre-Fondital have made a historical first step in the ProTour ranks, taking on two Chinese stagiaires: 21 year-old Wu Kin San from Hong Kong, and Xu Gang, a 22 year-old from Shanghai.

Thanks to mediation with their bike supplier, Wilier Triestina, Lampre is keen to explore a basin where the bicycle is the most important form of historical transport, and which could be rich of new talent, as well as an interesting commercial opportunity in light of the 2008 Beijing Games.

The two Chinese racers will be in Italy for a month, and are scheduled to take part in some of the biggest August races, beginning with the Giro del Lazio on Saturday. In this period, they will be attempting to prove their worth for a potential spot on the team the following season.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)