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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for December 6, 2006

Edited by Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso with Discovery in Austin

The Italian rides with the Texan

Ivan Basso backed by Discovery Channel
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

It has been nearly a year and a half since Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong were side by side in their bicycle kits. Monday, December 4, the two were reunited in Austin; this time in the same Discovery Channel team colours. One month ago, Armstrong and Team Manager Johan Bruyneel struck gold, of sorts, when they got the signature of the 29 year-old Italian.

After the chaos of Operación Puerto, Basso reached a termination of his contract with Team CSC and started to search for a new team. At first it appeared he would have trouble finding a ProTour team willing to take the risk in a rider that could be dragged back into the Spanish investigations, but in the end Bruyneel, along with the team's lawyers, determined he was a safe bet.

After the press conference and Giro d'Italia route unveiling on Saturday, Basso left his home in Cassano Magnago, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Armstrong's home town of Austin, Texas for the first Discovery Channel camp. Monday, the two rode together for the first time since July 2005; a three hour ride around the hills of Austin.

"It was not the fist time that I had talked to him," Ivan Basso said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "There were e-mails and SMS messages. ... I found him looking fit; he was slim from the New York City marathon and as I remembered him. He still goes strong on the bike."

After the team spent a year of searching for direction, Armstrong has seemingly handed over his captain role to the only Italian on the team. Basso continued, "He said to me, 'it is better late than never. This is your team. Here you can win the Tour.' For me it is the start of new adventure, one that I hope will finally get me the maillot jaune. I am emotional, like a few years ago when I switched from Fassa Bortolo to CSC. But, with respect to that transfer, this time it is a smaller step up. I have grown; I know myself and what I am able to obtain."

Armstrong and Basso in 2005 Tour
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Basso has found comfort in his new teammates, including Americans Levi Leipheimer, who, following his contractual agreements, is still riding in his 2006 Gerolsteiner kit, Tom Danielson and George Hincapie. He will be training with the entire team through Tuesday, December 12, focusing on riding and gym-work, along with team building activities like paint-ball gun battles and go-kart racing.

"This is a team that is used to winning, and after seven years they have a new prospective number one," continued Basso to Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Everyone is very excited to have me with them. Bruyneel had told me it would be this way, but here I was able to verify this in person; the respect from my teammates, from Hincapie to Padrnos. I know that it will not be difficult to feel like a leader of this group."

Team manager Bruyneel added, "We are ready to be back into the game. ... The arrival of Basso has created a rise in the team's motivation. It had felt the lack of a leader for the Tour."

2007 Discovery Channel riders (26): Antonio Cruz, Benjamin Noval, Brian Vandborg, Egoi Martínez, Fumiyuki Beppu, Fuyu Li, George Hincapie, Gianni Meersman, Ivan Basso, Janez Brajkovic, Jason McCartney, José Luis Rubiera, Jurgen Van Goolen, Levi Leipheimer, Matthew White, Pavel Padrnos, Sergio Paulinho, Steve Cummings, Stijn Devolder, Tom Danielson, Tomas Vaitkus, Trent Lowe, Uros Murn, Vladimir Gusev, Volodymyr Bileka and Yaroslav Popovych

Ullrich's manager blasts Deutschland Tour organizers

By Susan Westemeyer

As might be expected, Jan Ullrich's manager doesn't think much of comments that his client shouldn't be invited to the Tour of Deutschland next year. "If it weren't for Jan, the Deutschland Tour, as it is now, wouldn't exist," Wolfgang Strohband told "It's an insult to the fans to discriminate against one of the most successful German athletes simply because of speculation, and to want to deny him a start" in the tour.

Strohband further criticized comments from German television officials, who said that they would have "a problem" televising a Deutschland Tour which included Ullrich. "Things have gone too far when a race organizer is put under such pressure by television officials and sponsors. Soon the TV programmers will be picking out the team line-ups."

He concluded, "Jan will ride again in 2007, even when that won't please some people. The very fact that some people never want to see him ride again is a very strong motivation for Jan."

For now, no barrier to Ullrich return

By Shane Stokes

Ullrich in better days
Photo ©: John Pierce
Click for larger image

Although the Swiss Cycling Federation is planning a disciplinary case against Jan Ullrich, the UCI has said that it cannot currently prevent him from racing.

"Under the situation at the moment, he can ride just as Basso can," UCI president Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews this week. "However I do note that there are statements that his procedure might start in January and, also, he doesn't at this moment have a team."

The 1997 Tour de France winner was implicated in the Operación Puerto affair and missed the Tour de France as a result. In October he returned his racing licence to the Swiss federation, protesting at what he claimed was a media campaign conducted against him by senior figures there and in the country's Olympic committee.

The federation started an investigation into the charges against Ullrich and in late November it was announced that the anti-doping wing will open disciplinary hearings in early January.

The ProTour Code of Ethics currently prohibits riders under investigating from competing. However, considerable confusion has arisen due to directions from the Spanish judge in charge of the Operación Puerto investigation that evidence gathered cannot be used until the judicial process has been completed.

When McQuaid spoke to Cyclingnews last week, he stated that he had seen media reports that this position may be changing, with the judge possibly enabling the UCI and national federations to use some of the evidence. However, several days later he is still waiting for official confirmation of this.

"I haven't heard anything official from Spain so as such we wait what we can eventually do," he said. "It would be good to get to use the material we have. But it would be a lot more helpful if we can get additional material from the investigation so we can more clearly understand what exactly took place, and therefore be in a better position to sanction those riders who deserve it.

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

Milram meet in Montegrotto Terme

Erik Zabel and Ernesto Colnago
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

The 2007 version of Team Milram is meeting for the first time in Montegrotto Terme (near Padova, Italy). The objective is some on-bike training, along with team photos, distribution of technical gear, medical controls and planning of the 2007 schedules. The boys will also travel to Bremen (Germany) too meet with Milram's parent company, Nordmilch.

The 2007 Milram sprint train should be stronger than ever. Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel will welcome the new additions of Aussie Brett Lancaster and Ukrainian Volodymyr Dyudya.

"Yes, the train will become stronger," Petacchi confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Lancaster is used to keeping the speeds very high and he is able to be in the right position. Dyudya is still a little bit 'green' but he has the desire and the quality to be in this project. Don't forget [Alessandro] Cortinovis and [Elia] Rigotto. Alessandro is used to taking the train to the front of the group. Elia is shrewd and is very cunning, and he is also great in the confusion. [Fabio] Sacchi, [Alberto] Ongarato and [Marco] Velo are a guarantee."

Petacchi's calendar leading up to the Milano-Sanremo, will likely be Qatar, GP Etruschi, Volta ao Algarve, Volta Valenciana and Tirreno-Adriatico.

The next Milram meeting is planned to start on January 11 in Donoratico (Toscana), excluding the members of the team that will be attending the Tour Down Under.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Pereiro, Valverde and the Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

"It is not a sacrilege that I want to fight to win the Tour in 2007; I have my rights," Oscar Pereiro claimed with certain shade of annoyance when he was asked in an interview on Spanish radio Onda Regional de Murcia. The question was in relation to his statements to La Voz de Galicia last week, when he said, "... while if I will have options to win the Tour, I will not work for anybody."

Pereiro said the journalist "took it outside of context." The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears rider assured that there is "a friendly relationship" with his teammate Alejandro Valverde. "Valverde is able to take the Tour someday, because he has a lot time and the quality".

He also talked about the next Tour, and said that "It will once again be a different, without a clear dominant person." Pereiro appeared not concerned that some riders allegedly linked in the Operación Puerto, such as Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, could be back again. "What I want is to be among all the best riders."

Unlike his teammate, Valverde, Pereiro will delay the beginning of his 2007 season until April. "My calendar will be planned next week, December 14 to 15, in order to obtain my best form in the Tour." But he does plan to take part in the 2007 Vuelta a España, "because it will start in my region, Galicia," although he recognized that, "my high-priority objective is the Tour."

Luttenberger still trying to make up his mind

By Susan Westemeyer

Peter Luttenberger didn't get a new contract from Team CSC for 2007, and he is still trying to decide what he will do for the coming year. If he gets an offer that fulfils his financial and athletic interests, "then I will continue to ride. If not, then I wouldn't have any problem with giving it up," he told the APA press agency.

The Austrian rider says that he has offers from various teams, but nothing concrete. He has had no contact with the Austrian team Volksbank. "And things would have to change with other teams. They have to be prepared to make certain things a bit bigger," he said. "If a team has a big name rider, they will be invited to better races, and will therefore have a higher income from start money and paid expenses."

Lang training hard

By Susan Westemeyer

Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang is taking advantage of the mild German weather to get in as much training as possible. He rides frequently with Christian Bach of the Thüringer Energie Team and noted that this past weekend the two rode for four hours on Saturday and five hours on Sunday. Lang is combining his road work with mountain biking, running and weight lifting.

A dedicated worker, he even managed to get in some training during the team's recent team meeting, he writes on his website, There was a lot to do, planning the racing schedule, being fitted for shoes and clothing, posing for photos, meeting the new teammates, which made it difficult, "but it still worked out."

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