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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for August 23, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Stars align for Vuelta

Defending champion Dennis Menchov is back to defend the Vuelta crown that he inherited by default when initial winner Roberto Heras returned a positive drugs sample. Menchov will race alongside Tour stars Oscar Pereiro, Alejandro Valverde and Carlos Sastre. Alexandre Vinokourov, Iban Mayo and a host of local riders looking to make a name for themselves make the battle for the overall one to savour. The big-gun sprinters are ready as well. Robbie McEwen versus Alessandro Petacchi is the battle royale that observers missed in the Tour - who will emerge as the fastest in the world? John Kenny previews the final grand tour of the year.

The favourites

Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Dennis Menchov (Rabobank) is a good bet to defend his Vuelta crown. Menchov was denied the opportunity of standing on the final podium in Madrid as the initial winner, Roberto Heras, had not been disqualified by the end of the race. Heras returned a 'non-negative' sample for EPO on stage 20 of the race, but his guilt was not confirmed until November 25. The whole experience may sound vaguely familiar…. Menchov will surely want to savour victory at the final podium presentation, not months after the event and it may help inspire him to put in a great ride. Moreover, there is still a small amount of doubt concerning Menchov's win as Heras has not exhausted all the avenues of appeal.

Despite his obvious good form, Menchov is being coy about his chances for the overall. "I'd love to win the race, but the Vuelta is a secondary objective this year after the Tour and I don't feel as fresh this time," the Russian told Spanish newspaper Marca. It's not unusual for sportspeople to underplay their chances, however, so he should still be marked as a favourite.

Menchov had a great Tour de France, finishing sixth and winning stage 11 in front of Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis. He can also count on the assistance of Tour polka dot jersey winner Michael Rasmussen, who lent Menchov valuable assistance when he struggled on l'Alpe d'Huez.

Click here for the full preview, stage details, start list, past winners, features and map.

Discovery Channel's Vuelta: Danielson's coming-out party

Discovery Channel's director sportif Johan Bruyneel and team leader Tom Danielson held a press conference call today as they prepared for the upcoming Tour of Spain - discussing the team's goals and the new role for Danielson as he takes the helm for the final grand tour of the season. Cyclingnews North American Editor Mark Zalewski was there to hear how Discovery's Vuelta preparation is coming along.

Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Back in January when Cyclingnews spoke with Bruyneel and Danielson at the team's presentation in Beverly Hills, it was already decided that Danielson would not race the Tour de France so that he could be the team leader for the Vuelta - both to better his seventh place from 2005 and to prepare for him to lead the team in the 2007 Tour de France. "When we decided Tom would be the leader for the Vuelta, which is something we decided in the beginning of the year, we decided Tom would focus on the Giro and the Vuelta - the two big races he did last year. I wanted to see improvement in both of them. After his seventh place last year in the Vuelta, he had all the reasons to be the team leader this year if everything went to plan. "

It is clear that Bruyneel has been working on long-term plans for Danielson, particularly trying to prevent developing him too quickly even though he started racing in Europe later in his career. "That is one of the reasons why I didn't want him to do [the Tour de France] this year," said Bruyneel. "His age is not a comparison of his experience as a professional rider, so in my point of view he is still a young rider. I thought it was better for him to do two big stage races in one year so that next year he can do the Tour."

Click here for the full story

Cordero accepts UCI decision

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Vuelta a España director Victor Cordero has confirmed that there will be 21 teams at the start of the Vuelta in Malaga, as there has been no revision of the ProTour licences of Astana and Phonak by the UCI, and there are no new names due to come out in the Operacion Puerto affair.

"The UCI assures us that it hasn't received any new information with respect to Operacion Puerto, and, although the investigations are in progress, I do not believe that in a short time there will be new information," said Cordero to El Faro de Murcia.

The Vuelta director knew of UCI president Pat McQuaid's declarations on Cyclingnews that there would be "no new names" announced yet, and also received an official communiqué from the UCI telling him that the Astana and Phonak licences would be maintained.

"I am not going to question the UCI decision; I accept it," said Cordero. "The Vuelta will have 21 teams at the start in Malaga next Saturday, and if circumstances occur so that we have to apply the Code of Ethics, then we will do so."

In this sense, Cordero insisted that "no cyclist implicated in any anti-doping investigation will take part in the Vuelta", and he pointed to the Comunidad Valenciana affair. "As of today, this continues to have 17 cyclists allegedly implicated."

Finally, Cordero hopes that there will be no repeat of the Heras scandal, and hopes that "a cycling star emerges from this edition of the Vuelta, and why not Valverde? He is a charismatic cyclist, who has a great image. It is Valverde time."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación 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 Operación Puerto

Kohl leads T-Mobile in Vuelta

Climbing specialist Bernhard Kohl will lead the T-Mobile charge in the Vuelta a España, which starts this Saturday in Malaga. It's the first time that the young Austrian will have the leader's role in a three week tour. "The management's belief in me is a huge honour," said Kohl, who has been training intensively for the Vuelta since recovering from a heavy cold.

Kohl had originally set a stage win as his main objective in Spain, but now he is ready to "try and ride for the GC". He plans to stay out of trouble until the first summit finish on stage five and "keep all options open" and see what he can take out of the race. "If I have good legs in the mountains, then I believe that I can place high in the GC."

Sporting director Frans van Looy is however playing down the 24-year-old's chances in his second Vuelta. "Bernhard's third place at the Dauphiné Libéré in June showed what he is capable of," said Van Looy. "But the Vuelta is another calibre of race."

Kohl can count on the support of a mixed roster of youthful and experienced pros on the 3,213 km trek around Spain. Italy's Daniele Nardello will be his most experienced support-man; the 33-year-old from Varese is a veteran of 15 grand tours, including four Vueltas. Germany's Stephan Schreck has three Vueltas under the belt, the most recent in 2004, when he was one of three T-Mobile riders to survive a bout of food poisoning in the team camp.

Getting their first taste of grand tour action are André Greipel and Bas Giling: the Dutchman was pulled out of the Eneco-Tour after Saturday's time trial to concentrate on getting ready for his hardest test yet. Both riders will be entrusted with the task of keeping their captain out of the wind on the opening flat stages and simply surviving in the mountains. "If they reach the finish in Madrid then it will be a job well done," said Van Looy.

Scott Davis also starts his first Vuelta, though the Australian is a veteran of two Giros. Rounding out the nine-rider magenta roster are the Italian Lorenzo Bernucci, German all-rounder Thomas Ziegler and sprinter André Korff.

Pollack not seriously injured

T-Mobile Team breathed a deep sigh of relief Tuesday night with the news that sprinter Olaf Pollack was not injured in a crash during the day's Eneco Tour stage. It looked pretty bad - he lay in a ditch, was attended to by the race doctor and was taken directly to the hospital with a neck brace.

But he was able to return to the team hotel that same evening with the good news that there was no head injury, no neck injury, no back injury - but a heck of a lot of bruises. "It looked a lot worse than it was," said a relieved directeur sportif Frans van Looy. "He's ok now."

The team has already lost two riders to injuries in the last few days. Giuseppe Guerini cracked his collarbone last week in the Rothaus Regio-Tour, and Markus Burghardt had knee surgery Tuesday.

Wijnants to Quick.Step

Maarten Wijnants (Chocolade Jacques) will ride for Quick.Step-Innergetic next season. The 24 year old has been a pro for two years.

Junga to undergo surgery

Australian cyclist Renee Junga (20) will undergo surgery on Friday in the wake of a crash during training for the 4X (4 cross) for the MTB World Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand. "It was at the first double on the course," said Junga from her hospital bed. "I noticed the other girls were falling short on the jump so I put in an extra crank and missed it badly and flat landed."

Junga has broken the C1 and C2 bones in her neck and has suffered spinal trauma at T6. She has also suffered two broken ribs and a fractured sternum. Surgeons will operate on Friday to screw together the C1 and C2 bones. They will also operate on her back to stabilise her spine.

Junga has been buoyed by the well wishes, flowers and balloons sent by her friends in the cycling community. Her mother, Sallie Howie, arrived in Auckland last night and will be joined by husband Alistair, Junga's stepfather, tonight.

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

Meantime Renee's team mate, former MTB World Champion, Wade Bootes, will spend the night in Rotorua Hospital after crashing the warm up for today's qualifying round of the 4X competition. Bootes has suffered a broken nose, broken collarbone and concussion and will be kept in overnight for observation.

Charity ride ends in tragedy

A charity ride in Indiana, USA, trying to raise money for the families of slain police officers, ended in tragedy when two policemen (one retired) were killed, and another injured when their support van ploughed into them after being hit by a truck. According to AP, the accident happened at approximately 12:30pm on Tuesday, August 22, as a group of 10 current and retired police officers were riding south along Indiana 63 near the Indiana-Illinois state border.

52 year-old Lieutenant Gary Dudley (state police) and retired Lake County sheriff's Chief Gary Martin (63) were killed in the accident, while retired Indianapolis police officer Spencer Moore was injured, but is in a fair condition in hospital. It is not known whether any charges will be filed against the driver of the truck.

The group was part of a larger effort raising money for Indiana Concerns of Police Survivors, which supports families of police officers who are killed in the line of duty. 30 riders were scheduled to take part in various sectors of the ride, which was planned at being 1,100 miles long over 13 days, but may now be called off.

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