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First Edition Cycling News for December 31, 2006

Edited by Gregor Brown & Steve Medcroft

Team TIAA-CREF's silent partner unveiled

TIAA-CREF's secret financial backer Doug Ellis
Photo ©: Beth Seliga
(Click for larger image)

In the past three years, the TIAA-CREF team has grown from a development team of promising junior and U23 riders, to become one of three UCI-registered Professional Continental teams in North America. But just who is helping out behind the scenes? Mark Zalewski secured an exclusive first interview with that rarest of individuals - a wealthy American businessman prepared to invest in the sport.

Led by veteran American pro Jonathan Vaughters, the TIAA-CREF team has evolved into a program that states becoming a ProTour team as its ultimate goal. Since the early days, Vaughters has alluded to a silent partner in the process, providing the financial backing to jump-start the team and keep it running.

In 2007, that partner will be even more crucial as the team marches on without a title sponsor. So who is the man behind the curtain? It is New York financial investor, Doug Ellis.

To some inside the cycling world of North America, it has been known for some time that the TIAA-CREF team was supported by an outside and anonymous source. Throughout that time, team Vaughters refused to name names, or disclose how much this "benefactor" was donating. Eventually he disclosed that this person was the "team owner" and speculation began to circulate as to who this person with the deep pockets could be... a former pro, an industry magnate, Daddy Warbucks?

None of the above, actually. In fact, when hearing the name Doug Ellis, the average North American cycling fan might shrug. A European fan might think it be the former chairman of the Aston Villa football club. A select few might recognize the name from the USA Cycling Development Foundation donor list. Regardless, Ellis is a successful business investor from New York that is simply a fan of cycling, and wanted to get involved.

Read the full interview with Doug Ellis.

Maxime Lefèbvre in trouble again

By Brecht Decaluwé

Several sources are reporting that French cyclo-cross rider Maxime Lefèbvre (Josan) is in major trouble again. After his strong performance – Lefèbvre finished sixth at the North Sea cross in Middelkerke - the rider apparently forgot to show up at the medic post for the obliged doping control. Sporza reports that the local speaker announced in three languages that the top-10 was obliged to head for the medic. Traditionally, the riders' numbers were also published at the normal location.

This could mean the end of Lefèbvre's career as the Belgium-based rider has been in trouble before. He tested positive (Heptaminol) after a race in Raismes in April 2004 and got sidelined for a year. During the summer of that year he illegally raced with a Belgian license in Zolder and received a UCI-fine. He came back in competition during the spring of 2006 and his best performance was a fourth place in Wachtebeke last week. The normal punishment for this kind of incident is a fine of 300 euros and a ban, but Lefèbvre may face tougher sanctions due to his previous offences.

Erik Zabel wants certainties

DNA and Jan Ullrich

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

Erik Zabel, 14 years as a professional and 36 years-old, knows a lot about the world of cycling. "Cycling is my second family," said the German in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It is not work but passion, fun, love. I consider myself very fortunate."

Perhaps because of this "passion" Zabel will continue racing to the end of 2008, when he will be 38 years-old. He passed the Festina Affair in 1998 but this last summer his "second family" was jolted by Operación Puerto.

"In these months there is greater confusion, and the confusion has poisoned our sport," continued Zabel in regards to the investigations following the raids of Eufemiano Fuentes' offices. "You are not able to go forward like this because in sport it is necessary to have certainties. ... You are not able to go with these doubts to the startline of a race."

Ullrich and Zabel in 2001
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Before switching over to Milram at the beginning of 2006, signing a three-year contract, Zabel was very much a T-Mobile man. He would have likely stayed with the pink-coloured team had he not been made to feel unwanted.

"We were together for 11 years in the same team," Zabel replied when referring to former teammate Jan Ullrich and Ullrich's involvement in Operación Puerto. "Then he no longer wanted me. I called [Rolf] Aldag to talk with Jan, but he said to me 'he is not found or responding.' Ullrich should have had more interest and respect for the others. ... [Now] at the most we say 'ciao.'"

When referring to the blood bags seized from Fuentes and the state of cycling, Zabel says he is in favour of DNA testing. "With the DNA tests we could have certainties right away, and that is what we need."

Ivan Basso to race Milano-Sanremo

Basso leads in 2002 Sanremo
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Friday, when receiving the 40th Premio Sport in Camaiore (near Lucca, Toscana), Ivan Basso commented that he would race La Classicissima, Milano-Sanremo. He confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport that he will race to win the 2007 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France and added "I will also be at Sanremo, I want to see how the finish will go. ... Sanremo is alluring to me."

Basso last competed in, and finished, the spring-time race in 2002 with Fassa Bortolo. Five years later, with Discovery Channel, he will be hoping for a re-birth of sorts after an up and down 2006, which saw him win the Giro before being booted out of the Tour for alleged links to Eufemiano Fuentes.

"I found a lot of affection from the people and many colleagues," he continued in regards to the difficult times surrounding not racing and being put on trial in Italy.

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

Iban Mayo in Saunier Duval-Prodir colours January 2

Basque cyclist Iban Mayo will be presented to the public in his new team colours on January 2 in Bilbao, near the Spanish sponsor's headquarters. Mayo signed for the 2007 and 2008 seasons with Saunier Duval-Prodir.

New members to the Spanish-Swiss team for 2007 include Iker Camaño, Jesús del Nero, Raivis Belohvosciks and neo-pro Raúl Alarcón.

Along with Mayo, Iker Camaño will be making the transfer from Euskadi-Euskaltel. Mayo, from Biscay, turned professional with his home team in 2000 and served seven years in its orange colours. In 2007, with Saunier Duval-Prodir, he hopes to have a return to form, like in 2003, when he took a stage of the Tour de France and the overall of the Pais Vasco.

The entire team will be presented in Estepona on January 18.

Isidro Nozal signs for Karpin-Galicia

Isidro Nozal will race in 2007 for Spanish professional continental squad Karpin-Galicia. Friday, the 29 year-old Spaniard, second in the 2003 Vuelta a España, signed a one-year contract according to AGR.

Nozal, formerly with Manolo Saiz's Astana team, had been sidelined since last June when he was named in the Operación Puerto investigations. In October the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) dropped the disciplinary files opened against Spanish cyclists listed in the inquiry and Nozal, who had also received a letter from the Spanish judged in late summer, was able to return to racing.

Jorge Sandoval honoured in New Zealand

Jorge Sandoval's long-standing passion for the sport of cycling has been rewarded in the New Zealand's New Year Honours list. Chilean-born Sandoval, who has been made an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to cycling, said he felt privileged at receiving the honour.

Sandoval fled to New Zealand as a political refugee from the oppressive regime of Dictator Augusto Pinochet in the mid 1970s. He has been a cycling administrator in his adopted country for over 25 years and he has organised over 30 elite international events in that time, including last year's international women's cycle tour and the women's World Cup cycling event.

"It's just a tremendous honour," Sandoval said. "It is a privilege to be on the list." Sandoval said the honour took him back to 30 years ago, "when I arrived in this country with a couple of T-shirts and a few Spanish records".

"I think it shows you the quality of this country in which it gives every opportunity to everyone, whether you are a New Zealander or you are an immigrant."

"Over the past few years, I have been nominated by people who have nothing to do with our sport and twice awarded the Administrator of the year award and this year I was a finalist in the Wellingtonian of the year. In all my 20 years promoting cycling, I have never being recognised by my national body."

Sandoval said the honour was also recognition for the country of his birth, Chile. "It is also an honour because I also represent my country, Chile, and I also try to be the best citizen because I am an ambassador for my country.

"... To the many volunteers who came out every year to help and run these events, to all the participants and of course, to the New Zealand Police, without their support, the sport of road cycling could not exist."

Bay Renaissance Criterium draws Carnival stars

Riders are looking forward to the Bay Renaissance Criterium that will take place on New Years Eve along North Terrance in Burnie. Although it will test some riders endurance after they have had a heavy schedule by competing at Rosebery, Latrobe, Launceston and Devonport Carnivals.

Some of the big names in cycling will compe with Ben Kersten, Jame Carney and local hero Nathan Clarke among others. However, they may not have it all their own way with 2005 winners Bernard and Wes Sulzberger making a start and as they have not been competing in the Carnivals they should be relatively fresh.

Sister Grace Sulzberger should also start as a favourite in the women's event but the form of Liz Williams and Belinda Goss should make it a great race. Kirsty Broun is sure to make an impact as her return to cycling after ten years off the bike has been impressive, considering she broke her arm in September she has managed to turn a few of the women's heads to ask who is this new talent?

Check back on Cyclingnews for complete action from the Burnie Bay Criterium. Also see our complete Tasmanian Carnivals 2006 coverage.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)

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