First Edition Cycling News for January 6, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones
Valverde, Vinokourov and Cunego in Murcia
The Vuelta a Murcia-Trofeo Alfonso Gúzmam will feature some big names when it kicks off on Wednesday, March 1 in Spain. For the 26th edition, Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears), Alexandre Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre - Fondital) are all down to start, as is Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), the winner of the King of the Mountains jersey in the last Tour de France. There is a possibility that Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) will also be on the start line, together with his confirmed teammate Max van Heeswijk.
The five day race totals 643 kilometres, starting with a 162 km stage between Murcia and Las Torres de Cotillas, which also serves as the start of stage 2. The second stage includes the climb of Alcantarilla and finishes in Alhama de Murcia over a total of 172.4 km. Stage 3 is a 21.3 km time trial in Jumilla, while the queen stage 4 will be over 148.6 km between Caravaca de la Cruz and the alto del Collado Bermejo. The tour finishes in the Murcian capital with a 138.7 km stage.
The race features four Cat. 1 climbs: Alto la Perdiz in stage 2, and the Altos de Campo de San Juan, Espuña and Collado Bermejo, all during stage 4. Eight Spanish teams will start: Illes Balears-Caisse d'Espagne, Liberty Seguros, Euskaltel Euskadi, Kaiku, 3 Molinos Resort, Comunidad Valenciana, Andalucía Paul Versán and Relax GAM, and six foreign teams: Lampre, Ceramica Panaria, Discovery Channel, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Unibet.com.
Stage 1 - March 1: Murcia - Las Torres de Cotillas, 162 km
Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón
Rabobank team presentation
Dekker & Dekker back on board
The presentation of the Rabobank team was held in Rotterdam on January 5, during which, it was announced that both Erik and Thomas Dekker will continue their careers with the team. For Erik Dekker, 2006 will be his last season as a rider. After he retires, he will become a sports director with Rabobank, taking over the duties of Joop Zoetemelk from January 1, 2007.
At the end of 2006, Erik will have ridden fourteen and a half seasons as a professional. With Jan Boven, Michael Boogerd and Richard Groenendaal, Dekker is one of only four riders that have been with Rabobank ever since the start of the team in 1996. Of those four, Groenendaal recorded victory number 1500 for Rabobank by winning the 'Centrumcross' in Surhuisterveen, the Netherlands. Erik Dekker has a total of 68 professional victories, and contributed 55 to Rabobank's 1500.
General director Theo de Rooij has reached an agreement over a new and better contract for the talented Thomas Dekker. The final date of Dekker's current contract would normally have been the end of 2006, but The Netherlands' Sports Talent of the year will now stay through the 2007 season. In 2005, Dekker won ProTour-stages in Critérium International and Tour of Poland and was crowned Dutch champion in the individual time trial.
With a roster of 25 riders, Erik Breukink's Rabobank team is approaching the new season full of confidence. Bringing in Juan Antonio Flecha, Mauricio Ardila and Graeme Brown, the orange brigade has gained depth. Marc de Maar will step up from the Continental to the ProTeam, while during the 2006 season, promising newcomer Kai Reus will make the switch from the Rabobank Continental Team to the Rabobank ProTeam.
Click here for the full roster
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by DCP/Bert Geerts
Ceramica Panaria heading back to Malaysia
By Shane Stokes
A year after it won a staggering seven out of the ten stages in the race, the return of the Ceramica Panaria-Navigare team has been confirmed for the 2006 Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi.
With Australian fastman Graeme Brown now a member of the Rabobank team, the responsibility of leading the orange-clad squad in the sprints will pass to the Argentinean rider Guillermo Ruben Bongiorno. The 27 year old won stages two and six last time round, finished second to teammate Brown on two other legs of the race and placed third in the final points classification. The performance proved to be something of a breakthrough for him, with Bongiorno returning north and going on to take his first European wins with a succession of good victories. He topped the podium on stages of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, Settimana Lombarda, Brixia Tour, Regio Tour and in both the GP Citta Di Misano Adriatico-Integra S plus the Giro della Prov. Reggio-Calabria.
Bongiorno's bid to take up where Brown left off will be enhanced by a strong leadout team. Italians Mirko Allegrini, Matteo Priamo and Maximiliano Richeze plus the Ukrainian Sergiy Matveyev will do what they can to help the Argentinean fastman shine on the flatter stages of the race.
First Cartel managing director Imran Abdullah welcomed the news and saluted the team's performance last time round, particularly the showing by Graeme Brown in winning five stages. "We are proud to have been associated with the rise in Brown's career," he said. "He's another rider who's moved on to better things and earned a big contract with Rabobank, after establishing himself with some astonishing records in the Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi."
"Now, I think it will be time for Bongiorno to move out of Brown's shadow and take his place as the team's top sprinter. It will be interesting to see how this Argentine, who is his country's top professional, fits into this new role.
"I for one, will expect to see Bongiorno right up there, challenging for wins in every sprint stage finish."
The Ceramica Panaria-Navigare team are however looking beyond the bunch gallops. Mindful that the hilly nature of this year's race is going to play a crucial part in determining the overall classification, the squad will head to Malaysia with another string to its bow.
Mexican climber Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio finished an excellent third behind Ryan Cox (Team Barloworld) and José Rujano (Colombia Selle Italia) at the top of the sadistic climb of Genting Highlands last February. The then-26 year old lost time on the flatter stages of the race but, confidence boosted by his overall win in the 2005 Tour de Trentin plus the tougher profile of this year's Tour de Langkawi, he should feature amongst the list of favourites when the 2.HC race gets underway in on February 3rd.
Mirko Allegrini, Guillermo Bongiorno, Sergiy Matveyev, Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio, Matteo Priamo, Maximiliano Richeze; Reserves: Fortunato Baliani, Luis Felipe Laverde, Aitor Galdos; Team manager: Roberto Reverberi.
Saunier Duval Prodir heads Stateside
The Saunier Duval-Prodir team is heading to the USA for the Tour of California in February. The team has been named with the following eight riders: Gilberto Simoni, Jose Angel Gomez Marchante, Koldo Gil, Marco Pinotti, Riccardo Ricco, Alberto Benitez, Charles Dionne and Aaron Olson, directed by Joxean Matxin Fernandez.
After the Tour of CA, Marchante, Gil and Simoni will stay in the US for an additional five days. They will undergo aerodynamic tests in the cycling specific San Diego wind tunnel, where they will be joined by David Millar, who will share his experience with the others.
The wind tunnel testing will examine the performance of the new ultralight Scott Plasma time trial frame, the riders' outfits, designed by Santini, the Ritchey time trial bars, Selle Italia's saddles, and Met's helmets.
Leben out with broken elbow
The new German professional team, Weisenhof-Akud, will have to start the season without Christian Leben. The 20-year-old was mountain biking with his training partner, Rabobank's Grischa Niermann, when his bike slipped in a muddy rut and he fell on his arm. The result? A broken elbow and a delayed start for this season.
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer
Biathlon for Lang?
Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang tried almost everything in his off-season training, including biathlon, that combination of cross-country skiing and shooting that is extremely popular in Germany. "A dream was fulfilled for me with a simulated biathlon," he writes on his website, www.seppels.net. "I didn't just train every day but could find out for myself just how difficult biathlon really is. Out of 20 shots (standing and prone) I missed exactly 13."
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer
Seymour and Aiken to clash in cyclo-cross championships
By Shane Stokes
Following a rare defeat last time round, former Irish national cyclo cross title holder Robin Seymour is hoping to reclaim his crown at the championships in Corcagh Park, Clondalkin this Sunday.
Seymour was undefeated for over a decade, taking a remarkable 13 consecutive national cyclo-cross titles. However, that run came to an end 13 months ago when the Team WORC cyclist was outsprinted by talented Banbridge CC rider Roger Aiken at the race in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor.
Up to that point, Seymour had dominated off-road races for years. In addition to the baker's dozen of cross titles, he had netted 11 cross-country and one downhill mountain bike gold medals. Aiken had a different background, regularly taking part in road races and ultimately benefiting from that speed when it came down to the final sprint last December.
Since then, the two have continued on their separate paths. Aiken was based in Belgium for much of the year, competing as part of the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy and returning home to win the opening stage of the 2.2 ranked FBD Insurance Rás. He took the Irish national hill-climb title, rode the Tour of Britain, and will spend 2006 in the colours of the new Sean Kelly Racing Team.
Meanwhile, double Olympian Seymour continued to focus primarily on off-road competition, winning his twelfth Irish MTB cross country title last summer. He also raced to a fine victory with Tarja Owens in the mixed category of the TransRockies Challenge in Canada.
Although a strong turnout is expected for Sunday's event, many predict that a Seymour-Aiken is once again the most likely outcome. Both have shown good form this winter, with Aiken gaining an important psychological boost when he finished 39 seconds clear of his rival in the Tymon Park Classic on November 27th. However, more recently he has been battling a virus and a chest infection, the illness hampering his preparation for this Sunday's race.
Seymour has enjoyed a better run of things, being based at the Kelly Academy in Belgium and doing several cross races there.
All things being equal, descriptions of Sunday's course as a fast, flowing one would seem to favour Aiken's road background. However, Seymour appears to have had the better build-up, ensuring that this weekend's battle should be an exciting one.
Amongst the others in the hunt for a high placing are last year's bronze medallist Owen Jefferies (Dave Kane), current Ulster champion Andy Layhe (Apollo CC), Niall Davis (IMBRC), fellow U23 Philip Roche (Team-WORC), talented junior Alistair McSorley (Apollo CC) and the evergreen veteran Robert Lamont (XMTB).
Seymour, Roche and David Gill landed the team prize for the WORC squad last time and should be in the hunt again. They will square up against squads such as Apollo CC, IMBRC, Banbridge and Newry Wheelers in their bid to retain that title.
* In a boost for the event, it has been announced that the national broadcaster RTE will be filming the championship. The race will be shown on the OB Sport TV programme on January 20th.
Sooty Park rides again
If you missed the premiere of Cycling Sooty Park on Channel 31 (Australian TV) on Tuesday evening, set the recorder for 4.30pm today (Friday) or tomorrow (Saturday) at 6.00pm.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)