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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for December 16, 2006

Edited by Laura Weislo

Tom Boonen under less pressure

By Gregor Brown in Marina di Bibbona

A reporter questions Tom Boonen.
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Quick-Step started its 2007 season this week in Marina DI Bibbona, Italy with a noticeable change; the king of the classics, Tom Boonen, is no longer in his world championship stripes. The rainbow colours have been passed over to Italian teammate Paolo Bettini and so too has some of the pressure.

Boonen, 26 years-old, proved a point in 2006; that there is no such thing as a curse on the world champion. The Belgian started his season by winning immediately in Qatar, barely missed out in Milano-San Remo but came back to score his second Tour de Flanders. Although he did not win a stage or the maillot vert in the Tour de France, he spent time in the coveted maillot jaune.

"I was very happy with the yellow jersey," explained Boonen of his July in France. "At the beginning I wanted a stage [win] more than the jersey. But having the jersey was different than I expected; four days in the yellow, it was something I will remember for the rest of my life."

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Tom Boonen led the Belgian team in the world championships in an attempt to defend his 2005 title. He was unsuccessful in keeping the rainbow colours but he reckons the added pressure won't be missed. "[In 2007] I hope to do as good as the last few years. I always say the same at the beginning of the year, and it is always hard. This off season has been better for me, without the [world champion] jersey.

"I think it was good that Paolo won and I am out of the jersey. Maybe there will be less pressure. Now the goal, like always, will be to win races straight away [in the early season - ed.]. This year everyone watched me because they were searching for a curse on the rainbow jersey."

Click here to read the full feature.

Schleck sportsman of the year

The man of the moment:
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)
Frank Schleck, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2005 and continued his success this season, has been awarded his country's sportsman of the year award. The Luxembourger's fame surged after he ended 2005 with podium finishes at Züri-Metzgete, the Giro dell'Emilia and the Giro DI Lombardia.

Schleck continued to display his emerging talent with a fifth place overall in Paris-Nice, and came back from a concussion suffered in the Vuelta al País Vasco to win the Amstel Gold Race. He followed up that performance with a fourth place in La Flèche Wallonne and a seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège race. Later in the season, he achieved one of every cyclists' main goals, winning atop the Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France.

Frank Schleck beat out runner David Fiegen and his own brother and Team CSC teammate, Andy for the honours.

A Spaniard in Italy

By Monika Prell

For Ricardo Serrano the biggest adventure of his career has already begun. The Spanish cyclist signed a contract with the Italian team Tinkoff.

The 28 year old from Valladolid became pro in 2003 with the Team Labarca 2-Café Baqué. From 2005 to 2006 he rode for the Kaiku team. In 2006 he won his first race, a stage and the final classification of the Vuelta a Burgos.

When Kaiku ended its sponsorship after not being selected for the Vuelta a Espana, Serrano received offers from many teams, including Saunier Duval. But finally, he decided to sign for the new Italian team Tinkoff. "I felt like changing the country. It will be a great adventure because I'll go alone, without friends, and I won't be with Spanish riders", he commented when he signed the contract.

Now, after the first team meeting in Rivera Romagnola, near the town of Riccione (Italy), Serrano said to that he has been accepted, even if at the beginning he "felt a bit lost because of the language." He's happy about the team, which consists of cyclists from Russia, Germany, Italy and America, whose goal is to win as much as they can and to be invited to participate at the Giro d'Italia.

Serrano will have his chances, even if he admits that Tyler Hamilton will be the leader. But "when I feel good, I'll be behind him and in front of the others", said Serrano. His schedule for the first two months will "probably" be the Tour de Mediterranée, the Vuelta a Valencia, the Tirreno Adriático and the Semana Internazionale de Italia.

At the moment he is training in Valladolid to be fit for the team training camp, which will take place from January 8th to January 24th. He hopes to have then more details and to be in good competitive form, so that he can "attempt to win more races than last year."

Grajales returns to Jittery Joe's

Cesar Grajales (Jittery Joe's)
Photo ©: Michael Murphy

After spending two years with Navigators, Colombian climber Cesar Grajales who made a name for himself when he won the Brasstown Bald stage of Tour of Georgia in 2004, is back in a Jittery Joe's jersey. Also returning to 'The Bean Team' after a one-year hiatus with Nerac-OLP is Thad Dulin.

Renewing with the team are Australians Jeff Hopkins and Trent Wilson and Americans Neil Shirley, Evan Elken and Austin King, while eight new riders have signed on for 2007. The new signings are Matt Shriver(TargeTraining), Australians Tommy Nankervis (Priority Health) and Cody Stevenson (FRF Couriers-Caravello), 2006 Canadian espoir road race and time trial national champion David Veilleux, 2006 Sun Tour runner-up and Australian mountain bike national champion Chris Jongewaard, and neo pro Tim Henry.

"We have put together the strongest squad that Jittery Joe's has had in our six year history," said team manager Micah Rice, "we will be a contender in any race we attend whether it be a fast criterium like the Athens Twilight or a grueling stage race like the Tour de Georgia."

2007 Jittery Joe's Professional Cycling Team Roster:

Thad Dulin
Evan Elken
Cesar Grajales
Tim Henry
Jeff Hopkins
Chris Jongewaard
Austin King
Tommy Nankervis
Neil Shirley
Matt Shriver
Cody Stevenson
David Veilleux
Trent Wilson
Director-Jesse Lawler

Navigators teams up with Cycling Center

Bernard Moerman (R)
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image
The Navigators Insurance Cycling Team has announced a collaboration with the Belgian based Cycling Center that will increase its investment in the growth and development of American cycling. The team will use the Hertsberge, Belgium center as its base for the expansion of the European part of its schedule. In addition, the Cycling Center based amateur team will serve as a developmental program for America’s longest running professional cycling team.

Navigators team manager Ed Beamon said, "The Cycling Center relationship offers us an opportunity to strengthen our ties with developing American talent, and hopefully provide an opportunity to guide a few young riders toward the professional ranks. We have had several members of the team who have come through the Cycling Center system, and now we will have the opportunity to pay closer attention and offer some direction in the development of these young guys."

Former Navigators riders Jeff Louder and Brian Sheedy are both Cycling Center 'graduates', and 2007 as are team member Kristian House, and Team Training Analyst Craig Upton. "I think another really important aspect of this is the Cycling Center’s commitment and passion for ‘Clean Sport’." Beamon said. "We want to be working in an environment where these young guys are learning how to win and be competitive based on their hard work, focus, and determination, and that’s a message they are going to get in this program."

The man behind the Cycling Center, Bernard Moerman is pleased to work with the American team. "This is an opportunity that we have been waiting several years for. We have strong ties to the Belgian cycling community, but our real mission is and has been to work with American athletes, and provide a comfortable yet competitive environment for them to grow as cyclists, and hopefully professionals." The agreement with the Navigators will offer the clients of the Cycling Center a unique opportunity. "In working with the Navigators, we have an opportunity to see exactly what a top professional team is looking for in a developing amateur," continued Moerman, "and we will be able to feed their staff information regarding our top guys."

2007 Navigators Roster:
Ben Brooks (AUS)
Glen Chadwick (NZL)
Hilton Clarke (AUS)
Matt Cooke (USA)
Benjamin Day (AUS)
Oleg Grishkin (RUS)
Kristian House (GBR)
Valeriy Kobzarenko (UKR)
Sergey Lagutin (UZB)
Darren Lill (RSA)
David O’Loughlin (IRL)
Ciaran Power (IRL)
Viktor Rapinski (BLR)
David Rodriguez (USA)
Bernard Van Ulden (USA)
Kyle Wamsley (USA)
Michael Wolf (USA)
Phil Zajicek (USA)

Elk Haus team meeting

The Austrian Professional Continental Team Elk Haus Simplon is gathering its riders for a two-day team meeting this weekend. All 18 riders will gather for the first time at Therme Loipersdorf. "It will be a casual get-together," says Team Manager Bernhard Rassinger. The agenda includes both training and relaxing.

It will be a chance for the riders to gather their energy for the upcoming season, Rassinger noted. They will need it, he added, because, "We want to repeat as Austria's most successful team in 2007."

2007 team roster:
Peter Pichler, Michael Pichler, Marc Weisshaupt, Wolfgang Murer, Thomas Rohregger, Harald Totschnig, Hannes Gründlinger, Jochen Summer, Stefan Rucker, Christian Pfannberger, Robert Lauscha, Martin Comploi, Harald Starzengruber, Jan Valach, Thomas Konecny, Stefan Denifl, Clemens Fankhauser, and Markus Eibegger.

Carrigan and McEwen to Cronulla

2004 Olympic gold medallist Sara Carrigan will take part in the Cronulla International Cycle Grand Prix on Sunday. The 26 year old Carrigan, who took a short break from cycling to work on her Bachelor of Education, will be matched against her Commonwealth Games gold medal winning teammates Kate and Natalie Bates, as well as World Cup winner Rochelle Gilmore, former World Junior Champion Skye-Lee Armstrong and one of Australia’s fastest women cyclists Kaarle McCulloch. The women’s grand prix will be 18 laps of a testing 1.34 kilometre circuit and will start at 10.40 am.

Robbie McEwen, who has been showing fine off-season form in recent weeks, is taking no chances in the Horsell International Grand Prix and has enlisted further help from Jason Phillips, the seasoned professional with the German team Heinz von Heiden. Phillips is a recent winner in a Grand Prix in Queensland and completes a formidable trio along with Nick Gates, winner of the Surfers Paradise Grand Prix.

McEwen has never won this race, and will get competition from the likes of Graeme Brown, the dual Olympic champion, racing for Rabobank and Matt White (Discovery Channel). But the short 40 kilometre race might not keep trackies like 4-time world track champion and Olympic gold medallist Steve Wooldridge and Commonwealth Games champion Ben Kersten out of the running. The men’s event will commence at 11.30 am, and will be televised on Network Nine from 11am to 12.30pm.

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