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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 4, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson & Hedwig Kröner

An interview with George Hincapie: Opening new doors in 2006

A face that stands out
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
Click for larger image
With a breakthrough stage win at last year's Tour de France, George Hincapie's stock rose even higher at the end of 2005. Categorised as Discovery Channel's hope in the spring classics, great results in Paris-Roubaix and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne proved that status. But his win on stage 15 of le Tour proved even more, and Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski found out how success last year has influenced Hincapie's approach to 2006.

When Cyclingnews spoke with George Hincapie little more than a year ago, talk was centred around the then 31-year-old finally escaping the demons preventing him from climbing to the top podium step in one of the famous spring classics - possibly even Paris-Roubaix. Well, 2005 didn't see Hincapie on the top step of the podium in Roubaix - instead, he found himself celebrating a win on the most difficult climbing stage of the Tour de France. From that moment on, Hincapie's cycling paradigm has been turned on its ear. And now that his team captain will be watching the Tour de France and not racing it, his aspirations and goals are shifting as well.

At first glance, it may seem surprising to call 2005 a 'breakthrough' year for a seasoned professional of over ten years like George Hincapie, considering the number of excellent performances he's enjoyed in that time. But with five individual wins, including stage 15 of the Tour de France (while playing a pivotal role in helping his boss win the Tour), it's clear that 2005 was a special season. No longer can he be viewed as a threat only for the one-day classics or sprint finishes - he can ride with and beat the best ascending mountains or even racing against the clock. So for 2006, with no clear leader yet appointed on the Discovery Channel team, George is training with new goals in mind.

Click here for the full interview

AIS crash: driver sentenced

The public prosecutor's office of Gera, Germany, announced Friday that Stephanie Magner, the now 19 year-old car driver who caused the July, 2005 crash in which Australian Institute of Sport rider Amy Gillett was killed and five of her team-mates were seriously injured, will receive a fine of 1440 Euros and not be allowed to drive for eight months. The group of riders were training in Thüringen, Germany, to prepare for a stage race when the accident occurred.

Magner, who was 18 years old at the time and had just received her driving license, was accused of involuntary manslaughter and five cases of negligent assault. Losing control of her vehicle for reasons which have not been revealed, Magner was also badly injured in the accident. Because of her young age, the milder German youth criminal law may have been applied in the sentence.

Related stories

April 3, 2006: Mark Webber cautions motorists to watch for cyclists in Amy Gillett's name
February 21, 2006: AIS survivors tell of crash and recovery
February 7, 2006: AIS crash verdict: "German law was applied"
February 4, 2006: AIS crash: driver sentenced
December 25, 2005: An interview with the survivors of the German tragedy
December 23, 2005: An interview with Warren McDonald
December 13, 2005: Emotional conclusion to Amy Gillett Charity Ride
Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride diary
October 28, 2005: AIS women at charity luncheon in Sydney
October 20, 2005: Yaxley making solid progress
October 6, 2005: Investigation in Gillett's death almost complete
August 24, 2005: Graham vows to return
August 22, 2005: Yaxley and Rhodes home
August 18, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley bound for home
August 14, 2005: Yaxley and Rhodes continue to make progress
August 11, 2005: Brown vows to return to cycling
August 8, 2005: More support for Gillett-Safe Cycling Foundation
August 3, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley out of intensive care
July 29, 2005: Amy Gillett's life recalled in moving service
July 28, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley recovery 'amazing'
July 24, 2005: Yaxley improving, Rhodes still unconscious
July 21, 2005: AIS head 'optimistic' about recovery; 'Brownie' tries his best
July 19, 2005: Unprecedented carnage in Germany
July 18, 2005: Amy Gillett dead after crash in Germany

Valverde starts season in Mallorca

Valverde after taking his second stage win at the 2005 Mallorca Challenge
Photo ©: Franklin Tello
Click for larger image

Spanish Wunderkind Alejandro Valverde will return to racing this Sunday, February 5. The 25 year-old is starting his 2006 season at the Mallorca Challenge, where he will compete in three of the five one-day races the Spanish island is hosting. Describing his current form as "neither good nor bad", the Illes Balears rider who last year won two of the Challenge stages as well as the general classification, told Spanish newspaper Marca he hadn't set his mind on an early season victory this year. Instead, he was going to ride, "a mountain stage to give [team-mate and 2004 Mallorca Challenge winner] Toni Colom a hand," as his objectives lay further ahead: the Belgian Classics, the Tour de France and the World Championships in Salzburg, Austria.

Asked if he thought he was ready for an overall victory in the Tour, Valverde declined. "I can see myself winning a stage and placing in top five," he said. "It's not impossible [to win the Tour in 2006], but I might still lack one year of experience and maturity. I'm only 25 years old."

For the nearer future, the Spaniard is eyeing Liège-Bastogne-Liège as the Classic that suits him best. "I think I could do very well in both Amstel and Liège. If I had to choose, I'd go with Liège because of the type of ascents it includes: they're not walls, but climbs," he explained.

For this year's overall Tour de France victory, the Spaniard pointed at Team CSC's Ivan Basso as his top favourite. "People say Ullrich [will win], but I think it will be Basso because he has greatly improved his time trialling and in the mountains, he's stronger than Ullrich," the man from Murcia continued.

Valverde, too, has been working on his time trial capacities over the European winter, improving his skills with the help of an Italian biomechanic, Alessandro Mariano. Since adjusting the position of his cleats at the Pinarello factory in November 2005, the rider has been changing his pedalling frequency in a bid to imitate the style if the seven-times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong.

"I'm riding with a different cadence now," Valverde said. "Before, I rode an average of 84-85 pedal strokes per minute. Now, in training, I reach an average of 90-95. I'm more agile, I feel better. I waste less energy and my muscles recuperate better afterwards."

Petacchi starts season at Etruschi

Today's GP Costa degli Etruschi will be the first competition outing for top Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) who will be hoping to start his season off with a bang in the same way as Tom Boonen has started his. A showdown between the two is a way off, but Petacchi's Milram team-mate Erik Zabel has been unable to get past the Boonen missile in Qatar, and a victory for Ale-Jet in Etruschi will help boost his morale ahead of their eventual first meeting.

Petacchi won in Etruschi last year, but says he is not so confident of his form this year. "My condition is not so brilliant as last year," he said. "I want to make a good performance. The GP Costa degli Etruschi brought me a lot of fortune: to win again would be the best way to start the season."

Petacchi won't have things all his own way. Last year's runner-up, Luciano Pagliarini (Saunier Duval - Prodir) will be looking to improve on that finish, and other speedsters including Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), Fabio Baldato (Tenax), Daniele Colli (Liquigas) and Enrico Degano (Barloworld) all looking to add their names to the Etruschi honour roll.

Nys racing despite injury

Rabobank cyclocrosser Sven Nys will be participating in this weekend's races even though he injured his right hip in a fall at the World Championships in Zeddam, last Sunday. Although he could only train properly on Thursday and Friday, the Belgian doesn't want to give up on his lead in the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee, of which the Krawaten Cross on Saturday, February 4 is round #6.

"I'm starting in Lille, even though I'm still in pain," Nys told Belgian newswires. "I don't want to just give away my leadership in the GVA Trofee." Nys still heads the series with 25 points ahead of Bart Wellens.

Meanwhile, he wasn't sure if he would be able to compete in Sunday's cross race in Hoogstraten, counting for the Superprestige series, which he leads, too. "First, I have to get through on Saturday," he continued. "On the bike, I don't feel my injury too much, but whenever I step on or off, the pain is still there. I hope there will be enough adrenaline flowing through my body on Saturday so that I don't feel my hip too much."

Gerrans and Deignan out for one month

French team AG2R has announced that Simon Gerrans and Philip Deignan, who both crashed in the Grand Prix d'Ouverture de la Marseillaise last week, have been successfully operated on. According to the team doctor Eric Bouvat, they will be able to return to racing in 30 to 45 days time, depending on the speed of recovery.

Irishman Philip Deignan underwent surgery on his right collarbone on Wednesday. He will be able to get back on a home trainer in about ten days, and has already been released from hospital. His team-mate Simon Gerrans, winner of the 2006 Tour Down Under just two weeks ago, has to remain in a Nice hospital until next week after being operated on both shoulders on Friday.

Gerrans was yesterday announced as a selection for Australia's team for the Commonwealth Games (March 16-26) and has said he hopes he will be be recovered in time to compete, but will surrender his place if he is not.

Liquigas, Quick.Step for Mallorca Challenge

Liquigas-Bianchi has announced its line-up for the upcoming Mallorca Challenge, which starts on Sunday, February 5. Luca Paolini, Magnus Bäckstedt and Vincenzo Nibali will head the team roster on the Spanish island, supported by Michael Albasini, Kjell Carlström, Dario Cioni, Nicola Loda, Vladimir Miholjevic, Marco Milesi and Franco Pellizotti. The squad has been training in Mallorca since last Sunday.

"Racing on the Balearic island will allow us to fine-tune the riders' form," said team manager Stefano Zanatta. "We aren't looking for victory obsessively, but I think the guys have worked hard and we may already get some good results in these races. After debuting in Australia, Luca Paolini is in good condition. I expect him to be one of the favourite riders to win together with Bäckstedt and Nibali."

Belgian team Quick.Step is also lining up in Palma de Mallorca this Sunday. Serge Baguet, Davide Bramati, Paolo Bettini, Francesco Chicchi, Ad Engels, Servais Knaven, Juan Manuel Garate, Josè Antonio Garrido, Filippo Pozzato, Leonardo Scarselli, Ivan Santaromita, Hubert Schawb, Davide Viganò and Wouter Weylandt are the team's selection to participate in the various Trofeos, with Baguet and Bettini racing in all five events while their team-mates will sign up for three or four races.

"Simply unbelieveable!" says Eisel

By Susan Westemeyer

"It is simply unbelieveable," says Bernhard Eisel, the first man to beat World Champion Tom Boonen this season. The Francaise des Jeux rider outsprinted Boonen in the 4th stage of the Tour of Qatar Thursday. And it wasn't easy, he says. The race started fast and the peloton quickly divided into three groups, with Eisel being in the last one. About 20 km before the finish, he started working his way up. "Together with a team-mate I rode in the wind, we absolutely wanted to catch up." He caught up with the leading group 2 km before the finish line, "but I was actually much too far back and wouldn't have had any chance, if it wasn't for two Rabobank riders who rode by. I hung on behind them and let them pull me to the front." With 600 meters to go, he got on Boonen's rear wheel. He noted that not only was Boonen in the wrong gear, "Tom was also too early in the wind. It was a paper-thin decision, that ended up super for me. And now I'm all in!"

"I'm so happy. Now I know that I can do it and I don't have to worry about the next race," he continued. "After the race I had to think about a conversation I had before the start with Fabian Cancellara. I told him, I didn't have enough to win. But he just said, it can all happen very quickly, you just have to believe in yourself. And it worked!"

Anti-doping news

The UCI has announced that the following riders have been sanctioned for doping offences.

Magnus Eriksson of Sweden, failing to submit to the anti-doping test during the race UCI MTB World Cup 15, Falun, Sweden on 13th August 2005, sanctioned by the Swedish Cycling Federation, 2 years' suspension from 15th September 2005 to 14th September 2007 and disqualification of the race.

Robert Nagy of Slovakia, tested positive with Testosteron during the race Österreich Rundfahrt, Austria, on 9th July 2005, sanctioned by the Slovak Cycling Federation, 2 years' suspension from 9th September 2005 to 9th September 2007 and disqualification of the race.

Andrzej Podhajny of Poland, tested positive with Etiocholanolone during the race Memorial Henryka Lasaka, Poland, on 14th August 2005, sanctioned by the Polish Cycling Federation, 2 years' suspension from 28th September 2005 to 27th September 2007 and disqualification of the race.

Tonton Susanto, Indonesia, tested positive with Ephedrine during the race Tour of Qinghai Lake, China, on 16th July 2005, sanctioned by the Indonesian Cycling Federation, 1 month suspension from 1st October 2005 to 1st November 2005 and disqualification of the race.

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