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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for February 1, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson, Les Clarke & Jeff Jones

Freire back for Challenge Mallorca

By Les Clarke

Oscar Freire winning the 2004 world championships
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

After a disastrous 2005 that saw him miss most of the season through injury, three-time world champion Oscar Freire will be making his long-awaited comeback in several days at the Challenge Mallorca (February 5). Rabobank's champion sprinter started 2005 with wins at the Challenge Illes Balears and Tirreno-Adriatico in February and March before he was forced off the bike following surgery for complications around the saddle area, the sensitive nature of the injury ensuring his layoff from racing was long.

Freire, whose exploits in one day, shorter stage and world championship races have made him one of the peloton's most feared sprinters, wants to erase the memory of 2005 by enjoying a strong 2006, and according to Rabobank spokesman Jacob Bergsma, "Oscar has left the troubled 2005 season far behind and is looking for new horizons." If the Spaniard's early season form is good, which can be expected, look out for his super finishes in races such as Tirreno-Adriatico (March 8-14)and Milan-San Remo (March 18), which he won in 2004 after Erik Zabel's infamous early victory celebration.

But before then Freire will ride one or more of the Challenge Mallorca series of races ahead of the Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol, February 12-16) before targeting the spring classics, where he'll surely be among the contenders. Freire usually races frequently during the spring period, including the big classics and many of the smaller semi-classics. Following a break during the Giro d'Italia (May 6-28), Rabobank aims to have their man riding the Tour de France before late September calls and win number four beckons at the world championships in Austria (September 24).

An interview with Andreas Klöden: The man who would be king

Andreas Klöden is determined
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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30 year-old German cyclist Andreas Klöden was compared favourably to Jan Ullrich when he burst onto the scene in 2000, but an injury-plagued career has seen him never quite reach his full potential. Shane Stokes spoke to him at the T-Mobile team presentation in Mallorca earlier this month to find out how he will do things differently this year.

He may not have won a massive amount of races, but his palmares proves that Andreas Klöden is one of the most talented riders in the peloton. Winner of Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Pais Vasco in 2000, he took bronze in the Olympic road race that same year and then, four years later, went on to win the German championship and place an excellent second in the Tour de France.

In-between the two bursts of form, Klöden was held back by injury, but when he is in full shape he displays a level of ability which is not far off that of his T-Mobile team-mate - and Teutonic compatriot - Jan Ullrich. Many predicted that his superb ride in the 2004 Tour would lead to a boost in motivation, leading to a similar or even strong challenge in 2005.

Click here for the full interview.

Boonen three for three

Belgian ace Tom Boonen has raced three times so far this season - and won each time. So far, the world champion has sprinted to victory in the GP Doha , January 27 and both stages of the Tour of Qatar - the second stage without even trying.

"Today it wasn't our intention to win at any cost," said Boonen in a team statement after stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar,. "However, the race situation put us in a position to try the sprint, and in the end, everything went well."

Gerrans and Deignan injured

The crash
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

AG2R riders Simon Gerrans and Philip Deignan were in hospital in Aix-en-Provence last night after crashing in the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise.

Gerrans, the recent overall winner of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, fell in the final sprint, fracturing his left collarbone, rupturing his acromioclavicular ligaments and sustaining head injuries that required several stitches. He will be transferred to today to a hospital in Nice.

Deignan fell on the final descent, some 5km from the finish and broke his right collarbone. He will undergo an operation today in Aix-en-Provence.

Surgery for Dean

New Zealand cyclist Julian Dean (Credit Agricole) has undergone an operation to remove his gall bladder and appendix after dropping out of last week's Trust House Classic (Tour of Wellington) complaining of abdominal pain.

Dean withdrew from the race after the third stage and was taken to Wellington Hospital for tests. On Saturday he went under the knife and was discharged on Tuesday, according to stuff.co.nz. He is now recovering at home in Rotorua.

"It was just an intense pain in my stomach that I had already had and I thought I had better get to a doctor," Dean told NZPA on Tuesday. "They ran a couple of tests and suggested I get taken care of immediately."

"It could've gone away, but it can also explode and get worse as well. There was always the chance it could have receded and I would never have had the problem again, but it's a risk to take and I didn't want to have problems later in the year with the Tour de France on the cards."

Dean is no stranger to medical problems. In 2005 he spent two months off the bike with a broken elbow sustained in the Giro d'Italia. In 2004 he famously turbo-trained his way back to fitness and a place in Credit Agricole's Tour de France team after breaking both arms. He's not planning any more medical holidays.

"Nothing, that's it. It's finished," Dean said of the prospect of more hospital visits. "This is difficult, but not as difficult as some of the things I've had to deal with over the last couple of years. My team were very understanding and supportive and said to take my time. They want to make sure I come back healthy and strong and the Tour de France is the main objective."

Dean was scheduled to return to Europe Tuesday, but now plans to travel on February 10. His doctors have told him he will make a full recovery and should be fit to ride in a bout a week.

New Zealand women tune up with World Cups

New Zealand's women's cycling team will probably use the two southern hemisphere rounds of the World Cup as final preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next month.

The team plans to line up for the Geelong round in Australia, February 26, return home for the March 5 round in Wellington and cross the Tasman again for the Commonwealth games in Melbourne, which starts March 15.

Bike New Zealand high performance director Michael Flynn said that from a technical point of view the Wellington race will provide a perfect build-up for his riders, with the course taking the riders up the very steep Boulcott Street hill in each of the 20 laps of the 6.5 kilometre course.

"It's as good a hit-out as we can get from a technical perspective because the course they'll be on in Melbourne a couple of weeks later is similar to the Wellington one -- a lot of turns, a lot of hills," he said. "Ideally we'd have liked it to be a week later, but that's OK. We'll leave for Australia the next day and do our final preparation at our base in Launceston."

Flynn said the quality of the opposition in Wellington will ensure his riders are tested, with several of Europe's top riders confirmed in the field.

"You don't come all the way from Europe, spend all that money, if you're not going to win some points. For the other Commonwealth riders too it'll be the last part of their final preparations, so it'll be a good race,'' he said.

Race director Jorge Sandoval said confirmation of the New Zealand team's entry was good news. "It's great to see the New Zealand national team racing world class opposition right here, in our own country. That doesn't happen often," he said.

Ignatiev leads new Russian team

Michail Ignatiev
Photo ©: Team Tinkoff
(Click for larger image)

Seven time world champion Michail Ignatiev will be the leader of Russia's newest Continental team: Tinkoff Restaurants, sponsored by the popular Russian brand for at least the next three years. The driving force behind the team is Oleg Tinkov, Chairman of the Board of Directors and an owner of Tinkoff Private Breweries, as well as being a keen cyclist himself. Tinkov will not only be involved in the team as a sponsor, but will also take part in a few races during the year.

Apart from Ignatiev, the team also boasts Alexander Serov, Nikolay Trusov, and Sergei Klimov, who are all World, European or Russian Champions. Other riders include Pavel Brutt, Ivan Rovny, Anton Mindlin, Vladimir Schekunov, Egor Kazakov, Ilya Chernetsky, Ilya Krestyaninov and Oleg Tinkov

The team is based on the St. Petersburg cycling school, which has been in existence for almost 40 years. Currently managed by Alexander Kuznetsov, who has been responsible for training more than 40 World and European Champions and world record holders. Nine out of the 12 riders on the roster have been groomed by Kuznetsov.

The team will race on the track and the road, and includes several members of the Russian National Team who will represent their country at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It's also aimed at preparing riders to eventually race in the Tour de France.

Team Tinkoff will be partnered by Siberia Airlines, which has a long-standing co-branding relationship with the Tinkoff brand.

Team roster

Michail Ignatiev, Pavel Brutt, Nikolay Trusov, Ivan Rovny, Sergey Klimov, Anton Mindlin, Alexander Serov, Vladimir Schekunov, Egor Kazakov, Ilya Chernetsky, Ilya Krestyaninov, Oleg Tinkov. Team manager: Alexander Kuznetsov.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Team Tinkoff

Health Net sponsor Tour of California

Health Net and race organiser AEG announced yesterday that Health Net will be a founding partner of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California (February 19-26) and presenting sponsor of the race's eight-day traveling Lifestyle Festival.

In its role as presenting sponsor of the Lifestyle Festivals, Health Net will host eight consecutive days of free race-day activities at each finishing city, consisting of health and fitness screenings, cancer awareness education, bicycle stunt shows, live music, sweepstakes drawings, family activities and interactive displays featuring more than 40 participating companies. Health Net will also serve as the race's official medical provider, co-ordinating all medical support for the race's athletes and staff as well as be the presenting sponsor of the tour's third stage - the time trial in San Jose.

For more information on the Amgen Tour of California, please visit: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com

Busy program for Austral wheel race

The program for the 108th Jefferson Ford Austral wheel race, held this year on February 4, has been released, with plenty on offer for fans as Shane Kelly, Darren Young, Todd Wilksch and Mark French go head-to-head several times during the night's racing. All four will meet in the sprint derby, the Austral wheel race, the keirin and the Lance DeLuca Memorial scratch race. French will be looking to make a solid comeback after two seasons out of the sport, and should come out super motivated on the night.

The women's racing should be entertaining also, as Scottish rider Kate Cullen goes up against New Zealander Liz Williams and local girl Apryl Eppinger, who has enjoyed a strong season in so far 2005-06. They'll race each other in the women's scratch race and handicap, and with both Cullen and Williams looking for form ahead of next month's Commonwealth Games, the competition is sure to be intense. Other races on the night include a motor pace scratch race, aces elimination and an all-in scratch race. There's a large contingent of Japanese riders making the trip to ride most events on the night - they're sure to provide some colour to the evening's proceedings.

Racing starts at 7pm, with tickets available from $20 at the door, or contact Ticketek on 132 849.

For more information see www.cyclistsinternational.com.au

Bend Memorial Clinic sponsors Cascade Classic

The Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation announced that Bend Memorial Clinic is the new title sponsor of the 27th Cascade Cycling Classic, to be held this year on July 12-16. A part of the National Racing Calendar, the Cascade Classic consists of six stages run over five days for the Pro 1/2 men and a slightly shorter version for the Pro 1/2/3 women, Masters 35+/45+ and Category 3 riders.

Organisers see this event as integral to the community of Bend, and say they're delighted a local business has been able to support the race. Registration will open soon at Sportsbaseonline.com, and for more information, please contact info@cascade-classic.org or call the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation on 541-388-0002.

Pacesetter Steel Service team

Pacesetter Steel Service Cycling Team
Click for larger image

The Pacesetter Steel Service Cycling Team has announced its roster for 2006. The team from Atlanta, Georgia will have a primary focus of road racing throughout the Southeastern US and select events nationally, including races on the NRC schedule. The team will consist of seven elite riders competing in the Pro/1/2 category on the road, as well as a developmental squad of riders competing in categories 3 and 4. The team's mountain bike focus will be on Pro, Semi-pro, and Expert categories.

Click here for the full announcement and roster.

Nature Valley elite team for 2006

The 2006 Nature Valley Elite road team, presented by Nature Valley Granola Bars, Penn Cycle, and Green Mill Restaurants, has announced its 2006 roster. Based in Minneapolis, MN, the team will focus on regional events and NRC events including the Nature Valley Grand Prix, Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of 10,000 Lakes, International Cycling Classic and local events which can be found on the Minnesota Cycling Federation calendar of events.

Click here for the full roster and announcement.

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