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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for December 7, 2006

Edited by Gregor Brown

D-day for ProTour hopefuls

Neil Stephens hopes for best for two teams

By Shane Stokes

Manolo Saiz
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Both Manolo Saiz's Active Bay team and the Swiss-registered squad managed by Marc Biver, featuring riders such as Alexander Vinokourov, have a crucial appeal with the UCI license commission today, Thursday, in order to see if they can secure a ProTour license for next season.

Biver's Astana squad was last week refused a license, while there have also been reports that Saiz was unable to provide the financial guarantees necessary in order to hold onto his own one. One serious complication is that both teams have cited the Astana conglomeration of Kazakh countries as their main sponsor.

Today's appeal meeting is therefore crucial to their hopes.

Earlier this year, Saiz was forced to step away from the team due to his implication in Operación Puerto, but insists his contracts with Astana and many of the riders remain valid. However, Biver maintains that the team's non-participation in the Tour de France means that they have no obligations towards Saiz, making a legal battle a real possibility.

Former Australian pro and Tour de France stage winner Neil Stephens has worked with both groups, spending a lot of time with Saiz as a director sportif with the Liberty Seguros team and then being part of the new setup which helped Alexander Vinokourov win the Vuelta a España in September. He doesn't know how things will work out and refrains from taking sides, but says that he is saddened that things have become so complicated.

Stephens talks
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

"I've had contact with other directors [on the team], although not with Manolo himself, and we don't really know a lot," he stated while talking to Cyclingnews in recent days. "We are hearing that Manolo is going to go on, we are hearing also that the sponsor that he presented for 2007 was Astana. We also heard that Astana are not interested. I hope it is not the situation, but unfortunately it looks like it is going to end up in a legal battle, which would be a real shame.

"If there was any possible way that two teams could happen, then that would be great... Manolo's team and the new Swiss team. That would be fantastic, everyone would have their jobs. But if Manolo presents Astana as his sponsor and they are determined instead to go off and setup their own team, then there could be a legal battle... In that case, who is going to be right and who is going to be wrong?

"The bad thing is that I think a lot of times people lose sight of something... When they say that this person should do this and that person should do that, they forget that they are talking about families. The masseurs, bike riders and mechanics are all involved and, at the end of the day, all they are trying to do is feed their own families."

Biver has said that his team will not appeal should the UCI stick to their original ruling. The team will instead take out a professional continental license, relying on wildcard invites to get into the biggest races.

That is of course dependant on what happens with a possible court case. If Saiz wins, he will have control of the budget and could compel riders such as Vinokourov to race for his squad. However if he is unable to prove the sponsorship contract is valid, it remains to be seen if he has the necessary funding to even run a team in 2007. He also faces the second hurdle of having to clear his name in the ongoing judicial case relating to Operación Puerto.

Last week two teams successfully went forward for final consideration, namely Unibet.com and Barloworld. Astana is hoping that the appeal will once again make this a three-way fight. The ProTour license vacated by Phonak is up for grabs, although if Saiz ends up losing his due to the financial issues, that would effectively free up a second slot.

Ullrich won't have to testify in Operación Puerto

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich's spokesman, Michael Lang, has told www.sport1.de, "Jan's attorneys have been notified by the Spanish court responsible for the matter that they do not lay any value on his testimony in this [Operación Puerto] case." Lang, who is currently in Switzerland with Ullrich, confirmed to Cyclingnews that this meant that Ullrich would not have to testify in either Spain or elsewhere concerning the case.

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

T-Mobile riders training around the world

By Susan Westemeyer

Patrik Sinkewitz in early 2006
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

It's training time again, and T-Mobile's riders around the world are looking to get into shape. One group just finished a training camp on the Spanish island of Lanzarote. Patrik Sinkewitz anticipated typical German weather and took off for South Africa, where he has 25°C and sunshine. Had he known that the weather at home would stay so nice, he might have stayed at home, but he is pleased with the optimal conditions he has found and is also pleased with his progress.

"I feel better than I did a year ago, it's really going well," he said on his website, www.patrik-sinkewitz.com. He'll be flying home for the holidays before taking off for the team's official training camp on Mallorca.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Adam Hansen is preparing for his first season with T-Mobile with methods that are new to him. "I have to admit, that I do try something different every year, last year's base training was more of the crazy stupid but this year's training set out by [T-Mobile team doctor] Lothar [Heinrich] is kinda........hard," he wrote at www.adamhansen.com. "It involves runs in the morning, Swiss ball stuff, training in the arvo, Swiss ball stuff and sometimes gym work."

A few days later, his training changed. "I have been doing some solid rides lately and now I have my first break (if you call 1.5 hours of riding a rest day!), then into some serious gym work. All this gym work is kinda good and I'm learning heaps. I'm amazed that these types of programs exist. But I will try it and see as I'm pretty new to it and love to know if it really works."

Gilberto Simoni and Saunier Duval-Prodir continue

After the announcement of Saunier Duval-Prodir keeping their ProTour license through 2010, the team is interested in retaining their star rider. According to Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Gilberto Simoni and Saunier Duval-Prodir are close to reaching an agreement that would prolong their contract from the end of 2007 to 2008. The 35 year-old rider from Palù di Giovo (Trento), winner of the 2001 and 2003 Giro d'Italia, is in discussion with the team's general manager, Swiss Mauro Gianetti.

Since leaving Lampre-Caffita at the end of 2005, Il Trentino has found new life in the yellow colours of the Spanish-Swiss team. For 2007 his goal will again be to win the Giro d'Italia, where he finished third in 2006.

Slipstream-Chipotle announces pro continental status

In a bold move upward for 2007, Team TIAA-CREF not only becomes Team Slipstream presented by Chipotle, but moves up a big notch into the UCI's professional continental category. The team's unique cross-Atlantic schedule consists of racing the USACycling professional tour, the European Continental Tour and hopefully a few ProTour wildcard starts. This schedule will prove challenging but rewarding for both riders and sponsors.

"We are happy to be growing - and growing at a rate that will put us on our objective of riding the Tour de France by 2009," director sportif Jonathan Vaughters announced.

"Team TIAA-CREF hasn't disappeared, their sponsorship has moved to our junior development team," he continued. "However, the professional team, Slipstream presented by Chipotle, is no longer in any way, shape or form a development team. We are still a young team, but now we will race to win, not learn."

Slipstream-Chipotle has added a few young and talented riders but without losing its deep roots as an American team. ProTour signings, such as Patrick McCarty (Phonak) and Kilian Patour (Crédit Agricole), bring experience, and young talents such as U23 Paris-Tours winner Huub Duyn (Rabobank) and Aussie Ben Johnson (Agritubel) bring enthusiasm. Returning star riders include current USPRO criterium champion, Brad Huff, U23 road race and criterium champion, Craig Lewis, and 2001 U23 TT world champion, Danny Pate.

"Pate will be one of the biggest surprises of 2007." states Vaughters, "He was right on the cusp of truly breaking through in 2006, I have no doubt he will have a few rides that leave people awestruck in 2007."

For the next season the team has reached an agreement to ride on Felt carbon frames. The team is reportedly working on a "unique and yet to be revealed" paint scheme.

Roster: Huub Duyn, Kilian Patour, Pat McCarty, Benny Johnson, Danny Pate, Brad Huff, Craig Lewis, Ian MacGregor, Tyler Butterfield, Blake Caldwell, Steve Cozza, Michael Creed, Jason Donald, Timmy Duggan, Lucas Euser, Michael Friedman, Will Frishkorn, Alex Howes, Michael Lange, Francois Parisien, Tom Peterson, Peter Stetina and Taylor Tolleson.

Staff: Doug Ellis (chairman, Slipstream Sports), Jonathan Vaughters (director sportif/General Manager), Johnny Weltz (director sportif), Elizabeth Seliga, CPA, MBA (chief financial officer), Prentice Steffen, MD (team physician/medical director) and Allen Lim, PhD (team physiologist)

Tinkoff's first team camp closes

Vasil Kiryienka makes 18

Italian-Russian Tinkoff Credit Systems has concluded its first team camp. The staff and 18 riders, including Tyler Hamilton and Salvatore Commesso, gathered this week on the Rivera Romagnola in the town of Riccione.

Team Manager Omar Piscina and financial backer Oleg Tinkov met with their riders to discuss the 2007 schedules and distribute technical materials; including Diadora, Biemme, Rudy Project and bicycles by Colnago. The Milanese bike firm will supply carbon C-50s, equipped with Campagnolo, to the team for the 2007 season.

Vasil Kiryienka was also at the team gathering. The 25 year-old Byelorussian became the newest member of Tinkoff Credit Systems when he signed a contract in Riccione. Kiryienka is the 2006 national time trial champion and finished sixth at the TT world championships in Salzburg.

"I really like Vladimir Gusev but he stayed with Discovery Channel," said Tinkov when asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport which rider he wanted but did not sign. "He is young and very interesting. And also from Discovery, I would have liked very much to have signed Yaroslav Popovych."

Thursday afternoon the team will travel from Riccione to Vicenza for photos.

Riders: Tyler Hamilton (USA), Elio Aggiano (Ita), Pavel Brutt (Rus), Ilya Chernetsky (Rus), Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Daniele Contrini (Ita), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Sergey Klimov (Rus), Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus), Ruggero Marzoli (Ita), Anton Mindlin (Rus), Evgeni Petrov (Rus), Ivan Rovny (Rus), Alexander Serov (Rus), Ricardo Serrano (Spa), Nikolai Trussov (Rus), Steffen Weigold (Ger) and Vasil Kiryienka (Blr)

McEwen to spearhead Predictor-Lotto attack in Tour Down Under

Robbie McEwen in the Tour's green jersey
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France sprint champion, Robbie McEwen, who last weekend won the Australian criterium championships, will spearhead the Predictor-Lotto team attack at the 2007 Tour Down Under. The 34 year-old Queenslander this year won three stages of the Giro d'Italia and three stages of the Tour de France as well as the coveted green sprinter's jersey. In the eight-year history of the Tour Down Under McEwen has won 11 stages, the most of any rider, and is expected to add more to the list in 2007.

"This year I won the Down Under Classic and finished third overall in the Tour Down Under despite not being in peak form," said McEwen. "If I can do that again I'll be really happy and if I'm going well might do even better."

McEwen says the Predictor-Lotto team for the 2007 Tour Down Under is a strong one that could challenge for overall honours.

"I would say our team looks like a 'GC' team rather than a sprinter's team," said McEwen. "In the finishes I'll be trying to work with Geert Steurs [new pro] and Fred [Rodriquez] and for the rest of the race we'll have Matthew Lloyd, who's a talented climber and Josep [Jufré] who's a good climber as well. ... Jufré has finished in the top-15 overall in the Vuelta [a España] but in this year's Vuelta he crashed out and did a lot of damage cutting the tendons in his arm, so the Tour Down Under will be his come back race."

Victorian Matthew Lloyd, 23, will debut with the team in Adelaide signing up after a stellar year with the SouthAustralia.com-AIS team that saw him win stages in the Tour of Japan and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and finish third overall in the U26 Giro d'Italia.

McEwen is one of the most prolific winners in the sport of cycling and acknowledges there is a weight of expectation on him now to deliver every year.

"I don't know if I'll get better in 2007 but if I can be anywhere near the level I was this year I'll be very happy," he said. "Any year you win a grand tour stage is pretty good and the Tour will be one of my major goals again but I also want to have a good go at Milan-Sanremo in March without any injury or illness concerns - I had a broken rib this year.

"Tour Down Under let's me fine tune everything in good weather and with good racing before I go to Europe, and I'll stay in Australia for an extra two weeks after the race to make sure I have a good base."

The South African registered Barloworld has also confirmed its line up with South African Robert Hunter, 29, expected to challenge McEwen's sprint supremacy. Hunter's career highlights include stage wins in the Vuelta a España, Tour de Langkawi and Tour of Switzerland plus overall victory in the 2004 Tour of Qatar. On board with Hunter will be Italian Fabrizio Guidi, 34, whose resume boasts two stage wins in the Giro and three stage wins in the Vuelta. He has also claimed stage victories in Paris-Nice and the tours of Denmark, Austria and Poland.

Welsh star, Gereint Thomas, will debut with Barloworld at the Tour Down Under as one of the youngest riders in the race. The courageous 20 year old is forging a career in the sport after fighting back from serious injuries he sustained in an accident in Sydney in May 2004 which forced doctors to remove his spleen. This year he won the European U23 pursuit title and took silver at the track world championships in Bordeaux as member of the Great Britain pursuit team. He claimed bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and was the 2004 junior world champion in the scratch race.

The Navigators team will return to Adelaide in 2007 with four Australians in the starting eight. Commonwealth Games road time trial silver medallist and Jayco Herald Sun Tour stage winner, Ben Day, joins the team which also boasts sprinter Hilton Clarke. Clarke this year enjoyed great success in American including victory in the USPro criterium championship while back in Australia he successfully defended his sprinter's crown in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. Ben Brooks and Glen Chadwick are the other two Australians in the line up. Also on the Navigators roster is three-time Olympian and former Ukrainian road champion Valery Kobzarenko who this year won overall honours in the Tour de Beauce. 2003 U23 world road champion and six time Uzbekistan champion, Sergey Lagutin, will also travel to Adelaide.

Predictor-Lotto
Robbie McEwen
Mario Aerts
Fred Rodriguez
Josep Jufré
Nick Gates
Geert Steurs
Wim Vansevenant
Matthew Lloyd
Team Manager: Hendrik Redant

Navigators
Hilton Clarke
Valery Kobzarenko
Ben Day
Sergey Lagutin
Glen Chadwick
Viktor Rapinski
Ben Brooks
Darren Lill
Team Manager: Edward Beamon

Barloworld
Robert Hunter
Fabrizio Guidi
Diego Caccia
Giampaolo Cheula
James Perry
Enrico Degano
Paolo Longo Borghini
Gereint Thomas
Team Manager: Alberto Volpi

The 2007 Tour Down Under will be held January 16 – 21, 2007. For further information please visit the official website at www.tourdownunder.com.au.

Usov continues with Ag2R Prévoyance

Ag2R Prévoyance has confirmed that Alexandre Usov will continue with the team. The Byelorussian has signed a contract to continue with the France-based team for the 2007 season, bring the team up to 27 riders for next year. The 29 year-old went winless in 2006 but finished 5th in stages of the Deutschland Tour and the Vuelta a España.

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