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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition News for December 14, 2006

Edited by Sue George & Anthony Tan

Vuelta 2007 preview

Tough opening half and hard finale make for suspenseful race

Victor Cordero
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Next year's Tour of Spain will adapt an unusual pattern, with the first big day in the mountains coming early on and then many of the other principal difficulties taking place in the first half of the event. It should make for nervous, aggressive racing. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes was at Wednesday's launch in Madrid.

As official race song, Nena Daconte's infectious 'En Qué Estrella Estará" was played many times a day during this year's Tour of Spain. On Wednesday, the organisers continued that theme by launching next year's event under the title "El Sueño de Las Estrellas" or, in English, the Dream of the Stars. Ongoing tensions with the UCI plus suggestions that the Spanish Tour could end up being reduced in length have perhaps been part of this push to underline the idea that this race is an important target for the big names in the sport. Hence the catchy slogan. But whatever the reason, Unipublic appears to have done more than enough to ensure an exciting contest next year.

The general feedback from the riders at the launch was that the 2007 edition is similar to, or perhaps a little easier than the 2006 race. What makes it interesting, though, is that many of the hard stages come very soon after the start, with three summit finishes inside the first ten days. The route settles down for a while but then gets more competitive near the end, making it likely to be a very open, unpredictable tour.

Click here to read the rest of the feature.

Vuelta route reactions

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne, second in 2006)

Alejandro Valverde, 2006 runner-up
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

"It's a hard route but a very nice one. In terms of difficulty, it's similar enough to this year's race.

"There are some hard stages such as the one to Lagos [de Covadonga]. I think the time trials are good, too. Overall I think it is a very nice Vuelta."

When asked if one year he will concentrate exclusively on training for the Vuelta: "For the moment, the big goal is to do a good Tour de France, that is the top priority. But after that I'd like to ride well here."

On sharing team leadership with Oscar Pereiro in the Tour and Vuelta: "It is possible that we can both do well. If you look at this year's race, Andrey Kashechkin and Alexandre Vinokourov were both up there [first and third]."

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne, 49th in 2006)

Pereiro could be crowned Tour de France champion
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

"It looks good. I think the route is a little easier than this year and that is good for those riders who don't think too much about [doing] the Vuelta. I think after seeing this route, it is not very, very hard and that may be better in some ways.

"I live six kilometres from Vigo and so it is very special for me that the race will begin there. I think this is the best sensation for me, after being a professional for eight years.

"My big goal next year is to go to the Tour de France in top shape," he continued. "I'm not sure yet where I will end up [with regards to this year's race] but riding well there again is a priority. After how things went this year, I think it is going to be the biggest race in my programme. After that, the Vuelta will be the second priority for me.

"I have many dreams in the sport, and winning the Vuelta is one of them."

On how he will prepare in 2007: "I will have the same programme as this year, but I will do things differently after the Tour. This year things were a bit complicated due to commitments and receptions and all that. It made it very hard to train properly for the Vuelta."

Denis Menchov (Rabobank, winner in 2005)

2005 winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

"I will try to win but to do so in such a long race is tough. The first part of the Vuelta is the hardest. I don't think that this course is as difficult as this year's race, but then anything can happen over three weeks.

"I think this is quite different to the 2005 Vuelta. The early part of this race is very hard and then the final three days are too. But 2005 was tough throughout the whole three weeks.

"I think I will do largely the same programme as in 2006. The Tour de France is the big goal; after that, we will see."

José Ángel Gómez Marchante (Saunier Duval)

"I think the course is good. I think there are hard mountains at the start, then a more tranquil few stages before it gets tough again at the finish. I think it is probably of a similar difficulty to this year, although the inclusion of the Lagos [de Covadonga] and Abantos will lead to some good racing. Both these days are important, plus the two other summit finishes and then the stage to Granada as well."

Team CSC announces 2007 roster

Team CSC controlling the race
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

During a media event held in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier today, Computer Sciences Corporation and Team CSC, the number one professional cycling team in the world, announced the Team CSC line up for 2007.

Some of the 25 riders returning to the team include Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland), Stuart O’Grady (Australia), Carlos Sastre (Spain), Fränk Schleck (Luxembourg), Jens Voigt (Germany) and David Zabriskie (USA). Five new riders joining the team are Juan José Haedo (Argentina), Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), Chris Anker (Denmark), Anders Lund (Denmark) and Matthew Goss (Australia).

"I am very proud to present our new team for 2007," said Bjarne Riis, owner and manager of Team CSC. "Everyone knows that 2006 was a challenging year for cycling, but today I know that we have the riders, staff and policies in place to ensure that Team CSC remains the team to watch."

"We are proud to be the title sponsor of Team CSC for the seventh year in a row," said CSC President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Laphen. "Our business is dedicated to excellence, teamwork and delivering meaningful results to our stakeholders, and Team CSC continues to bring those values to life on the professional cycling circuit."

The introduction of Team CSC’s 2007 roster was part of the team’s first visit to South Africa. In addition to holding its traditional team-building "survival camp" during the stay, Team CSC interacted with South African cyclists. One highlight was the visit to the Life Development Cycling Academy (LDCA) in Khayelitsha outside Cape Town. The LDCA focuses on promoting the sport of cycling in disadvantaged communities.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"Team CSC’s visit to South Africa has inspired South African cyclists of all races," said Martin Vergunst, managing director of CSC’s operations in South Africa. "The team’s visit has been particularly significant to the LDCA which, in the last three years, has transformed the lives of many South Africans and created new sporting heroes. Having the opportunity to cycle with and learn from the world’s best has been an unforgettable experience for these talented young riders."

South Africa, which stages two of the world’s largest mass participation cycling events, is a popular destination for cyclists. "With world-class facilities and accommodations, South Africa has an ideal climate, fantastic roads and cycling terrain, as well as a large and passionate local cycling following which was very excited to have Team CSC in the country," added Vergunst.

Mattan to sign for DFL-Cyclingnews

By Anthony Tan

Davitamon-Lotto rider Nico Mattan will most likely be switching to colours in 2007
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Pending his manager's signature, Nico Mattan will be DFL-Cyclingnews' highest-profile acquisition in the history of the team. " seemed like the best choice to me," said the Davitamon-Lotto rider and winner of Gent-Wevelgem in 2005 to "I still want to do one more year."

Team manager Eric Vanderaerden, a former winner of Paris-Roubaix, added that Mattan may help the soon-to-be Pro Continental team gain a wildcard entry in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), where he believes the 35 year-old can still finish in the top fifteen riders.

"I have not yet signed, but that is only one formality," said Mattan, who has already reached an oral agreement with Vanderaerden. "I had other offers, but this team was the best choice and I can choose my own program. The motivation is still there; I can impart [my knowledge] to the younger riders in the team."

Said Cyclingnews publisher Gerard Knapp, "The team management had been speaking with Nico for some time now, and we're delighted that agreement has been reached, even though the contract is still to be signed, but that's expected later in the week.

"It is a reflection of the interest in the team that the Belgian press were so keen to report on the next step in Mattan's career that they jumped the gun to some extent. But, it's a pretty big story for them, as the directeur-sportif of the team is Belgian cycling legend, Eric Vanderaerden, plus the team has been based in Belgium for years now.

"Even though it is a British-registered team, with riders from Australia, the UK, Belgium and other European countries, it has very strong ties to Belgian cycling, and a combination of a popular Belgian rider working with a Belgian cycling legend as his sporting director, should lead to good exposure in the European media."

With the transfer market closing this Friday, December 15, Vanderaerden said Mattan's manager will be coming from England this week to sign the contract. Vanderaerden also hopes to gain the signature of Finnish rider Jukka Vastaranta (ex-Rabobank) and possibly two Colombian riders.

Melchers on her way back

Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint)
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
(Click for larger image)

2006 was a year of enormous disappointment for Mirjam Melchers-van Poppel, even after her victory in the Tour of Flanders in early April.

In a hospital at Veldhoven, doctors diagnosed a vasoconstriction in the left leg of the Moergestel resident. She underwent an operation in early June and started her rehabilitation with an eye toward the world championships in Salzburg.

In the preparation for the worlds, Melchers started the Euregio Ladies Tour without ambitions. Her fitness was improving and positive feelings were returning until she crashed badly in stage three. She broke her hip, pelvis, and jaw.

"I still know everything from the crash, I had consciousness. But fortunately all the annoying memories are gradually disappearing a little," said Melchers

In the beginning, Melchers gave herself no option to quit the sport, but during the recovery period, she focused in stead on progress. To ride at an elite level was not her first priority. "First I had to go back to basic, to normal functioning to daily things without feeling any pain. I have thought about a lot of things, and you start to realize that there is much more then only cycling. At certain moments during the recovery process and the rehabilitation, I have thought about quitting. It was certainly not a normal crash, but due to the fact that I can and want to speak about it, I have decided to go on."

Now after three months, things are going well again. She does not know for sure if she will continue her career, but according to her husband and manager, Jean-Paul van Poppel, she is motivated to make a comeback.

On January 26, Melchers will undergo another operation on her jaw in the University Hospital of Aachen. On January 10, doctors will decide if they can remove the screws in her pelvis as well during the same operation.

Asian Games continue

China's Shuang wins women's sprint, second Asian Games gold

Guo Shuang of China won the women's sprint in Doha over teammate Gong Jinjie in the final matchup Wednesday. She won in two rides. It was Shuang's second medal of the games. Earlier this week, she won the 500m individual time trial, setting an Asian Games record of 35.175 seconds.

According to the People's Daily, China has won all five gold medals in the women's sprint in Asian Games history. In four of those, the country has taken the second spot on the podium, too.

On the men's side, Tsubasa Kitatsuru of Japan won gold in the sprint, in three rides after he was relegated in the second ride. Korea's Lae Seon Choi took silver.

The 40km men's points race final was won by Hong Kong's King Wai Cheung with 22 total points. Vladimir Tuychiev of Uzbekistan (18 points) took second with Ilya Chernyshov (Kaz) in third at 17 points.

Hincapie tops list of 50 most influential people in Greenville

George Hincapie
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

In its December 2006 issue, Greenville Magazine chose George Hincapie as the most influential person in Greenville, South Carolina. Hincapie topped a very impressive list of political, economic, and philanthropic heavy-weights that have helped Greenville grow globally and nationally. Through his international cycling fame and his local economic interest with Greenville-based Hincapie Sportswear, George has brought valuable international attention to Greenville and helped it become known as a good place in the world to live and work.

Among other successes, Hincapie won the US pro road championships, held in Greenville in September.

Eisel looking to the Tour?

By Susan Westemeyer

Bernhard Eisel (Francaise des Jeux)
Photo ©: Christine Grein
Click for larger image

Bernhard Eisel agreed early to change over to T-Mobile Team for the coming season, reaching a verbal agreement with team manager Olaf Ludwig. Then suddenly, Ludwig was on his way out of the team management, but fortunately his successor, Rolf Aldag, agreed to accept the agreement, for which Eiesel was very appreciative. "They didn't have to do that."

The "new" new team offers him an unexpected opportunity, the Austrian sprinter told "We don't have any big heroes on the team, but we have lots of young riders who can and will provide surprises. I see it as an advantage that no big names are in the way. Plus that means that there are now places free on the Tour team!" he laughed. With the Ludwig team, "I had never speculated on a Tour start. But now the chances are not bad at all."

Eisel also noted that the warm European fall has turned his training plans upside down. "I had actually planned not to be so much in the saddle this winter and to bring myself in form with cross country skiing and ski tours." But the lack of snow put an end to that, even when it is now finally getting colder. "It's too risky to start skiing at this late time in my preparations. The body shouldn't get used to other sports. There's not enough time left."

He had a welcome change in his preparations when he recently spent ten days on Lanzarote with 14 teammates. "We didn't just ride our bikes, but also played football and badminton. That was a welcome change and was also very important to building the team feeling."

Lang goes back to nature

By Susan Westemeyer

Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Sebastian Lang evidently just can't get enough of stage races. When the Gerolsteiner rider can't find one to ride, he'll make up his own, even if it is winter. So he set off this morning on a four day 500km mountain bike tour from Erfurt, Germany, to Oberammergau, Germany. "This is an idea that has been floating around in my head for a long time," he said. "I really wanted to get back to nature, avoid the asphalt and do this on a very minimal basis." To do this, he will overnight in youth hostels and take only the most necessary equipment with him. The most important thing, he said, "is to have as little as possible to do with civilization, to have time for myself and my thoughts. Sort of a 'trip to the inner me' on the bike."

Lang set off Wednesday morning from his home in Erfurt with the goal of reaching his parents' house in Sonneberg in the early afternoon, about 110km through the German forests and backroads. On Thursday he plans to continue on to Nürnberg, where he will meet up with a friend who will go on to Oberammergau with him, arriving there on December 16. On Sunday the two will head back north, taking the train part of the way home. "But I'll be on my own again in the woods for about the last 200 km," Lang noted.

Canberra Cycling Club raised funds for Crake

Paul Crake (Uni SA)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
Click for larger image

Last Saturday, December 9, the Canberra Cycling Club held its annual Christmas Dinner and fundraising event for Paul Crake.

The club raffled and auctioned off goods donated by Oenone Wood, Matthew Hayman, Dylan Cooper, Niki Fisher, Morrison Photography, James Williamson, Tim Gavel, Brett Lancaster, James Meadleyand, and other local members.

The night was a success with the club matching all funds raised on the night. A total of $7634 will be presented to Crake later this month when he returns to Australia.

The club will hold further fund raising activities for Paul including the Carts Christmas Criterium on December 20th at the new Stephen Hodge Criterium Circuit and an Ebay auction in early January of products donated by many local and professional cyclist and runners throughout the region.

NZ track team woes continue

The New Zealand track team's bad luck continued in advance of the upcoming World Cup track meet this weekend in Moscow. This time, the team suffered a bout of food poisoning.

Coach Terry Gyde told Auckland's NewstalkZB that the food in Moscow has been "horrible" and doubted that any carnivore would touch some of the meat the team saw. Fortunately, the team was slated to begin receiving its meals from a new source for the duration of their stay.

Upon its arrival in Moscow, the team had discovered the loss of important pieces of luggage, some of which never left the airport back home.

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