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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 23, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson & John Kenny

ENECO Tour stage 6 wrap-up

Breakthrough for Kopp

Kopp takes the sprint
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Gerolsteiner rider David Kopp won the bunch sprint of stage 6 of the Eneco Tour of Benelux in St. Truiden, Belgium, on Tuesday. The German left Marco Zanotti (Unibet.com) and Phillippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) to take second and third placings respectively, but raced the finish straight in front.

"Two kilometres before the finish, I got the green light from 'Schumi'," Kopp said, explaining why the Gerolsteiner team didn't try to get Stefan Schumacher to the front in search for bonus seconds for the general classification. "I got out of the last curve in perfect position, and then gave it full gas on the last 400 metres in front - that was so cool!"

Kopp's teammate Schumacher is still second-placed on GC behind George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), as the overall classification did not change with the bunch sprint. However, a mass crash some 60 kilometres from the finish took out several riders, amongst them Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile), Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) and Carlos Da Cruz (Francaise des Jeux).

The day saw a 190 kilometre-long breakaway from Grégory Rast (Phonak Hearing Systems), Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto), Andoni Aranaga Azkune (Euskaltel) and Sebastian Langeveld (Skil-Shimano) - but with the sprinter's teams putting the pressure on after the Muur de Huy, the escapists were caught with two kilometres to go.

With Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher only three seconds behind Hincapie, the Eneco Tour of Benelux will thus be decided in Wednesday's stage 7, which will see the riders tackle some of the famous climbs of Liège-Bastogne-Liège - perfect terrain for an exciting finale.

Click here for the full results, report & photos from stage 6.

Langkawi's future still in doubt

Issues relating to thousands of dollars' worth of unpaid prize money caused a serious stir before this year's edition of the Tour de Langkawi. However, reports in the Malaysian media are now rife with further damaging news on one of Asia's most prestigious races.

Estimates now place the debts of organisers First Cartel at over one million US dollars. The situation has prompted the UCI to issue an ultimatum, asking for all debts to be paid by September 1, 2006, or be removed from next year's calendar. Anthony Tan reports.

Torrential rain saw the final stage of the 2006 Tour de Langkawi washed out - but organisers now face a far bigger crisis.
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Earlier this year, the UCI sent a letter to the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF), demanding all debts owing from previous editions of the Le Tour de Langkawi to be settled by September 1, 2006. If they failed to satisfy that demand, a sanction on hosting any future international cycling events would be applied.

While it was the privately owned company, First Cartel Sdn Berhad, directly accountable for these monies owing - estimated to be in the range of 4-7 million Malaysian Ringgit (US$1,09-1,90 million) - the MNCF, and ultimately anyone else involved with the race, would bear the brunt of non-payment.

"We must follow our regulations, and our regulations state that races cannot continue if they continue to mount debts," UCI president Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews in a phone interview on August 14.

Click here for the full story.

Bruyneel comments on UCI doping inaction

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

In a pre-Vuelta telephone press conference Tuesday, Discovery Channel director Johan Bruyneel spoke about the latest reports on Operación Puerto, particularly in light of the Vuelta starting in a few days. "I understand the UCI has sent several teams names of riders that they assume are implicated in the affair," he said. "I can say first we did not receive any names and we don't have anybody implicated in that affair."

When asked what his thoughts are of the way the revelations are being handled, Bruyneel expressed his contempt for the UCI, citing his and other director sportifs asking, then demanding that the governing body take action. "I think we are back at the same point where we were before the Tour de France. It's up to the teams to make a decision and I am a bit disappointed about that. If there is an authority then the authority needs to take the responsibility and not leave it up to the teams."

"All of the teams sat together at a meeting last week and we were pushing towards certain things. One of the issues we asked for was to take out all of the people who are under suspicion for the time being until the situation is more clear. We sent that message to the UCI but at the same time they have not followed us in that way of thinking. We asked the UCI to provisionally suspend two teams, Phonak and Astana, because of the large amount of people implicated."

Bruyneel also noted that the major revelations seem to come in step with major cycling events which does not make matters any better for the sport. "It's sad we are in the same situation before one of the three big events of the year. It would have been easy for the UCI to have done this weeks ago and ultimately take the responsibility themselves and say, 'This needs to happen and this is what has to happen.' I don't think it does the sport any good to send these messages out on the eve of big events, and on top of it, not taking a clear standpoint."

"The sport is not in a good spot right now and something has to happen. What has to happen is that there has to be a get-together of the main actors -- organisers, teams and the UCI -- and we all have to do the same thing. I hope that that the teams involved will take the necessary action, but ultimately I am disappointed in what our governing body is doing about this."

Hincapie, Zabriskie, Leipheimer headline USPRO championships

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The organisers of the USPRO road and time trial championships in Greenville, SC announced today the big guns who will be coming from Europe. It was certainly no surprise to see Greenville resident George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) on the start list as he knows the roads of the race course like the back of his hand. Joining Hincapie from the ProTour ranks will be Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) who is set to join Hincapie next year on Discovery Channel, as well as David Zabriskie (Team CSC) who has to be one of the favourites for the time trial title.

Some notable names remaining in Europe are three-time winner Freddie Rodriguez and his Davitamon-Lotto teammate Chris Horner, who will both be racing the Vuelta. Horner made a stateside appearance the other week at the Tour of Elk Grove in Chicago, commenting that he was finally recovered from an extra-brutal Tour de France. Also, Bobby Julich will not be racing though Christian Vande Velde will.

Joining Hincapie for the Discovery Channel team in the road race will be Jason McCartney who will also race the time trial with the Race2Replace winner A.J. Smith. Viacheslav Ekimov will also make his debut as directeur sportif for the team, but there is no word yet on if he will be getting a haircut in his new role on the management side of the team.

Hermida returns home amid Operación Puerto accusations

Spanish mountain biker José Antonio Hermida has revealed that he left the world mountain bike championships because a nickname on the Operación Puerto list has been alleged to refer to him.

In a statement issued through his Multivan Merida team, Hermida said, "On August 18th the RFEC [Spanish cycling federation] sent me a fax requesting me to leave the National Team in New Zealand, following direct instructions given by the UCI. The main reason given by the RFEC, on behalf of the UCI, was none other but the supposed appearance of a nickname on a paper belonging to someone involved in the so-called Operación Puerto, a name which has been falsely and artificially attributed to me, without any consideration or certainty."

The general secretary of the RFEC, Eugenio Bermúdez, subsequently confirmed the claim, telling Spanish sports paper Marca that recalling Hermida was, "permitted by the regulations".

Nevertheless, Hermida has reacted angrily to being pulled from the Spanish MTB world's team. "There is no data available which could place in doubt my professionalism, and even less force me to abandon an international competition," said Hermida. He said that the justification for withdrawing him from the event is "absurd and beyond any sports regulation," and added, "it has led to the initiation of the appropriate penal and civil proceedings ... against both the Secretary General of the RFEC, Mr Bermudez, and the RFEC itself."

Hermida's team has distanced itself from the affair, saying in a statement, "At the moment, José Hermida is neither suspended by the UCI nor is he subject to any other sanctions. The Multivan Merida Biking Team will follow this case very critically and has already asked for a complete look in the files in order to get an objective understanding of the situation at hand. As one of mountain biking's leading race teams, the team follows a zero-tolerance strategy in case of a doping offence."

Freire out, Walker in

Rabobank rider Oscar Freire has pulled out of the Tour of Spain because of a neck injury. Australian under-23 national champion Will Walker make his debut in a grand tour when he takes Freire's place in the Rabobank squad.

Three-time world champion Freire, who won two stages of this year's Tour de France, said that he had decided to withdraw because the injury would prevent him from competing at the desired level in the three week race. Intensifying his training in preparation to the Tour of Spain has aggravated the injury. He will now undergo extensive neurological examinations.

Earlier this week, Freire had indicated that he would be on the start line in Malaga on Saturday for his national tour. However, that hope has been scuppered by the injury. "It's a problem I've had since the Tour de France and the pains I get make me feel dizzy," Freire told Radio Marca. "I thought I might be able to make it in time but it is now clear that I won't."

Freire said that he hoped to recover in time to challenge for a record fourth road race world crown in Salzburg in September. He withdrew from last year's championships in Madrid because of a back injury. "I hope I will make it although I don't think I will be as well prepared as I had hoped," he said. "Still, if I don't win this year there will be other opportunities in the future."

Pereiro ready for big ride in Vuelta

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Tour runner-up Óscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) is satisfied with his form after returning to racing in the Clásica de Los Puertos on Sunday. "I was better than I hoped. I do not have the suitable rate of competition, but I looked after myself well and I finished without any problems," he told Spanish sport newspaper, As.

"I have tried to follow my training routine as well as I can. I have been training for three hours [a day], a little less than usual," Pereiro said.

"I am very tired, mainly psychologically, due to all has happened to me [after the Tour]. But, the form of the Tour is not lost in a month, so I hope to be again among the best riders in the Vuelta."

Pereiro is yet to be formally crowned Tour champion after winner Floyd Landis returned a positive drug test, but he already considers himself the winner. "Yes [I see myself as the rightful winner], but I am really hurt by the Floyd Landis affair, because he is my friend," he said.

Pereiro said that he is happy to ride for Valverde in the Vuelta. "Evidently we both want to aspire to win the Vuelta. What I want is to arrive as fresh as possible at the last week to obtain a satisfactory individual classification…. Valverde is more fresh than me for the Vuelta; If I have to work hard for him, I will do."

Meanwhile, Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne has confirmed its line-up for the Vuelta. The team is: David Arroyo, Vicente García Acosta, Joan Horrach, Vladimir Karpets, Pablo Lastras, Oscar Pereiro, Joaquín Rodríguez, Alejandro Valverde and Xabier Zandio.

Saunier Duval Prodir's squad for the Vuelta

Saunier Duval Prodir today announced its team for the last grand tour of the season. José Ángel, Gómez Marchante and Koldo Gil are the team's candidates for the GC. Gómez Marchante won the Tour of the Basque Country in April, although he had a poor Tour de France. Koldo Gil, who had some good mid-season results, including one stage victory and second place overall at the Tour de Suisse, is coming back after a series of injuries and has had only 20 training days.

David Millar will also be at the Vuelta's start in Malaga, competing in his second grand tour since returning from a drugs ban. Leonardo Piepoli is the team's climber and Francisco Ventoso is the nominated team sprinter. David Cañada has recovered from the broken collar bone he sustained in the Tour. The remaining riders are José Ángel Gómez, Juan José Cobo and David de la Fuente, the most aggressive rider at the 2006 Tour de France.

Australian MTB world's rider hospitalised

Queensland cyclist Renee Junga, 20, has been airlifted to Auckland City Hospital suffering suspected spinal injuries after a training accident ahead of competition at the MTB World Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand, according to Cycling Australia.

Junga, who is also a member of the BMX High Performance Program targeting the Beijing Olympic Games, crashed during training on the four-cross course on Tuesday afternoon.

The Championships' medical team was quickly on the scene and she was initially taken to Rotorua Hospital. After extensive tests, including an MRI, CT scan and x-rays, doctors decided to transfer her by helicopter to Auckland City Hospital.

Her mother, Sallie Howie, was notified immediately after the accident and was on the first available flight to Auckland. She arrived shortly before midnight local time.

The full extent of Junga's injuries is not yet known. Doctors have confirmed however that she has suffered spinal trauma.

Renee, who won the silver medal at last year's BMX World Championships in France, was the 2005 Australian Female BMX Cyclist of the Year.

No further details will be released without permission from her family, Cycling Australia said.

Burghardt has knee surgery

T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt underwent a successful knee operation Tuesday morning in Switerzland, the team has announced. The 23-year-old had been suffering from pains in his left knee for several weeks. He had tried to combat it with physical therapy, but when that didn't work, he had to go for the operation. He should be in the hospital two or three days before heading to Frieburg, Germany, for intensive physical therapy.

Burghardt hopes that he "can wear a start number at least once more" this season. "I have a guilty conscience, because I haven't been able to ride for so long," he says. "The others on the team have had to make up for my absence."

Colavita-Sutter Home changes management

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

John Profaci, general manager of the Colavita-Sutter Home men's cycling team, confirmed with Cyclingnews today that he will be making changes to the team management for next year. Tom Schuler and his Team Sports management company will be taking over the management of the team -- similar to his role on the counterpart women's Colavita-Cooking Light team when it merged with the Quark team after 2005. "Some things just didn't happen this year," Profaci said. "The idea is to bring the two teams together -- we just couldn't get them to mesh this year."

Profaci also said that Frank McCormack will stay on as director sportif of the men's team. "Frankie is so important to the team and Tom has a lot of respect for him," he said. The move will create a team structure modeled after Schuler's successful Saturn programme that dominated domestic racing for twelve years, which Frank McCormack, as well as his brother Mark, were both a part.

Profaci said Schuler is in the beginning stages of talking to prospective riders for next year, using the criterium nationals as a starting point.

Fantasy La Vuelta 2006 Game Tips

Register now!
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With just a few days left until the 2006 Vuelta a Espana kicks off, now is a good time to start thinking about your strategy for your team selection for the Fantasy Game. Here's what Grand Prize winner from last year's game, manager "Tim M" from the USA, had to say on his winning 2005 selection:

"For the Vuelta I made sure to get some riders from the non-ProTour team Comunidad Valenciana since like the Giro, those '2nd tier' teams race very hard. Carlos Garcia Quesada rode will last year, and Ruben Plaza is a very good time trialist and I knew that would be important this year. You mostly need riders that will do well overall because they place high on most stages as well as in the KoM and Points competition. With the addition of some sprinters like Petacchi and Thor for the stage points."

"For the last few riders I tracked the points the first few days before the fantasy teams were finalized and got some riders that did not cost much and scored some points with René Haselbacher and Christian Vandevelde. Both those riders came through for me as well in the final weekend getting some points. Most important of all was to have luck with all of my GC riders not crashing, leaving the race, or not being allowed to start a stage by their team."

There's more info on last year's winners selections and tips on the main Fantasy site.

Register now!

Create your teams today. Registration has already begun. Be a professional team manager for the 2006 La Vuelta and create your own dream team from any of the real life riders in this year's Vuelta. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with other virtual managers from around the world. Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win some great prizes.

Riderlist Uploaded

The official La Vuelta rider list has been uploaded to the game site ready for your winning team selections to begin. We have based the points for each of the riders for the Vuelta on a merged list of ProTour points from both the end of last year and the end of May this year (post Giro 2006). More information on the Rider Reference details can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel format in the Downloads section.

Play for FREE in La Vuelta 2006 game

Remember you can play for free for the first 6 stages! Try your teams out and see which rider combination is best.

We hope you enjoy this year's game and look forward to seeing your winning team online soon.

Good luck!

The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team

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