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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for January 18, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson & Jeff Jones

O'Grady renounces green jersey search; aims for Classics

By Shane Stokes

Stuart O'Grady
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Stuart O'Grady may have finished twice second and once third in the green jersey classification in the Tour de France, but he has now decided that he will no longer chase the points jersey for best sprinter in the race.

O'Grady finished just 12 points behind maillot vert winner Thor Hushovd in the 2005 Tour and finished second on the 13th stage of the race. However his move to CSC has coincided with a change in direction, the Aussie opting henceforth to focus on Classics instead of his familiar Tour bunch sprints.

"I think if I was going to win the green jersey, it would have happened by now," he told Cyclingnews at the Team CSC training camp in Lido di Camaiore in Italy on Tuesday. "I have had enough close calls. It is just a tiring classification to go for - you put so much energy into it and that takes your edge off winning stages. You kind of become content with seconds, thirds and fourths as they all give you points. You lose that hunger for winning."

The 32 year old says that his move to CSC is part of a new beginning. "That was my whole reason for moving from Cofidis. With what happened a few years ago with the big scandal and everything, there was a sense of just being content to be bike riders with jobs. But I have been a pro for too long to just ride my bike through the French countryside for fun. And it (racing bikes) isn't fun! So if I do it, I want to do it properly. I want to get that winning feeling back."

O'Grady is part of a eleven-man provisional squad from which the final Tour de France selection will be made. "I have had big talks with Bjarne and management. I have told them that if it takes sacrificing going for the green jersey, then I will do it. If it means being part of the winning team in the Tour de France, then for me it is a big challenge, a big step."

"It would obviously be difficult, not being up there getting involved in sprints, but I have never won a bunch sprint. It is not my forte. I have won in breakaways. That is where I do it. I think that my experience in riding nine Tours will probably play a big part, being able to give something to the team. But also getting into breaks with Jens and Jacob Piil and whoever."

Instead of chasing sprint wins in July, the Australian will aim to hit form earlier on. He was fourth in the 2005 Milan - San Remo, third in the 2004 edition of the race and third in the 2003 Tour of Flanders. Coming close in the past means that doing well in these races will be one of his big focuses this year. "I want to have a real crack at San Remo and the Tour of Flanders," he says. "Roubaix is still a little bit out of my league, but if you are in the right team on the right day with enough team-mates around you, then anything is possible. [Servais] Knaven didn't win Paris-Roubiax because he was the strongest, instead, it was because Museeuw got marked out of the race and all of a sudden, he [Knaven] was the team man. Races like that, there is bit more of Lady Luck being involved and also having a strong team."

On the subject of teams, O'Grady is very happy with his new setup. "It is fantastic. It is definitely extremely professional. They dot their I's and cross their T's - Bjarne is a bit of a perfectionist, plus he has a lot of experience and a lot of time for the people around him. He is just a pool of knowledge. It is just fantastic team of riders, a great setup. What happened with Ferretti's team collapsing was very stressful, but it has all worked out well. I am now part of the best team in the world."

A full interview with Stuart O'Grady will feature on Cyclingnews later this month.

Also see: CSC training photo gallery

Gerolsteiner: The future is now!

By Susan Westemeyer in Gerolstein

The Gerolsteiner team
Photo ©: Susan Westemeyer
(Click for larger image) The Gerolsteiner team is presented for 2006

Several years ago, at Gerolsteiner's very first team presentation, Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer proclaimed, "The future belongs to us!" Today he acknowledges that these were big words that he hoped he could live up to. And today he believes he can, saying, "The future is now!" The team presented its mix of talented veterans and hopeful newcomers at its team presentation in Gerolstein, Germany, on Tuesday.

Holczer points with pride to the team's sixth place in the ProTour team ranking and their 23 victories last season, saying, "We have definitely established ourselves in the world's elite." It's not only the number of victories that are important, but the quality, which, he says, "have reached a new dimension." Among these he counted Georg Totschnig's Tour stage win, Levi Leipheimer's overall victory in the Tour of Germany, and Heinrich Haussler's stage win in the Vuelta, the only German stage victory in one of the Grand Tours in 2005.

Veterans Davide Rebellin, Leipheimer and Totschnig lead the team, with each filling a different role. The Italian, who notes that "the team has constantly improved" over the years and hopes to stay with it until the end of his career, will concentrate on the spring classics and the Pro Tour individual ranking.

Leipheimer is looking forward to the Tour de France. "My preparations are going better than in 2005. And like last year I am concentrating on the Tour," the American said. "When everything goes well, a place on the podium ought to be possible. But I have other priorities, too."

Totschnig was treated as a hero, with the highlights film emphasizing his stage win, and is the team's other man for the three-week tours.

"I expect a change in the spring classics," said Holczer. "We now have more possibilities for top results here or there." Rebellin is the captain for the "hillier" races, and Frank Hoj is also a candidate. "When my legs are good, then I can win," Hoj said when asked if he could win Paris-Roubaix. But Holczer is also looking at youngsters Fabian Wegmann and Heinrich Haussler, as well as the two newcomers David Kopp and Stefan Schumacher.

These are some of the youngsters that Gerolsteiner is counting on for the future. There is also Marcus Fothen, who ended his first Grand Tour as 12th in the Giro last year, who is being joined this year by younger brother Thomas, a neo-pro, and Torsten Hiekmann, who has moved over from T-Mobile. "We are especially looking at the further development of our young guns. They are setting themselves more and more in the scene, they are moving more and more into the top ranks. And they are people who are very talented."

The team has always been known for its "family" atmosphere, and the team boasts two new brother pairs this year. Fabian Wegmann may well be riding for directeur sportif Christian Wegmann, his four-year-older brother. Christian, who will work at Paris-Nice, Romandie and even the Giro, doesn't anticipate problems "bossing" his younger brother: "We both know that the team comes first."

Teammates might be forgiven for mixing up brothers Marcus and Thomas Fothen, who strongly resemble each other. They have different talents, though. Thomas specializes in the classics and one-day races, while Marcus "is more for stage races." When asked what his highlight this year would be, Marcus responded, "riding the Tour for the first time." The moderator fussed at him, saying he had expected a different answer. So Marcus explained that the Tour was has professional highlight, the personal highlight would be the birth of his first child in April.

And who knows - perhaps in the year 2030, Team Gerolsteiner will proudly introduce the next generation of Fothens in the "family business"...

Gerolsteiner team roster

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Susan Westemeyer/Cyclingnews.com

Mark French returns with Commonwealth games bid at Sid Patterson GP

Australian track cyclist Mark French, whose allegations that other Australian Institute of Sport riders used his room at the AIS to inject themselves caused a storm of controversy in the run-up to the 2004 Olympic Games, plans to attempt to gain a spot in Australia's team for the Commonwealth games.

French, who was eventually cleared of charges of using and trafficking in banned substances, will try to set a qualifying time of 10.55 seconds for the flying 200m during the Sid Patterson Grand Prix at the Darebin International Sports Centre on Saturday January 21.

It will be French's first race since the discovery in his room at the AIS facility in Adelaide, Australia of a bucket containing used syringes, vials of equine growth hormone (eGH) and a homeopathic preparation called Testicomp led to him receiving a two-year suspension from cycling and a life ban from Olympic competition. The Court of Arbitration for Sport eventually found there was insufficient evidence that French had used eGH and that Testicomp, being a homeopathic preparation, actually did not contain banned corticosteroid, despite the claims on the product's label.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, another Australian sprinter, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Bayley, will also be trying to turn in a Commonwealth Games qualifying performance this weekend. The Commonwealth Games cycling team requires the sprint riders to record a time of 10.55 seconds for the flying 200 metres before 1 February 2006.

The Sid Patterson Grand Prix meeting will also include a keirin and sprint derby featuring French and current Australian keirin champion, Joel Leonard, among other races. Other competitors include Commonwealth Games cyclists from England, Scotland and New Zealand

For more information see www.vic.cycling.org.au

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Australian doping allegations & Mark French's comeback

January 26, 2006: Mark French in last-minute qualifier
January 21, 2006: Mark French misses Commonwealth Games qualification time - just
January 18, 2006: Mark French returns
July 12, 2005: Mark French cleared
November 18, 2004: Anderson report clears all but French
August 13, 2004: Dajka loses final bid
August 4, 2004: Witch hunting in the 21st century, part 2

August 3, 2004: Dajka appeal will be heard
August 2, 2004: Dajka misses deadline to appeal
July 30, 2004: Kersten in, Dajka out of Australian Olympic squad
July 29, 2004: Dajka's spot in Athens squad faces new threat, Selective leaks or reporting designed to defame?, Growth hormone test is go
July 29, 2004: Dajka's spot in Athens squad faces new threat
July 21, 2004: Australian Olympic Committee selects Eadie and Kersten
July 19, 2004: Eadie wins appeal
July 19, 2004: Eadie considers legal action
July 16, 2004: Dajka cleared by Customs
July 14, 2004: Eadie out, Kersten in, pending appeal
July 13, 2004: Eadie lodges appeal
July 12, 2004: Eadie hit with doping notice - from 1999; French saga rolls on
July 10, 2004: AOC 'withholds' Dajka from Australian Olympic team
July 9, 2004: Pound comments 'ill-informed', says ASC
July 2, 2004: Anderson report clears named riders; full Australian Olympics cycling team nominations
July 1, 2004: The high cost of controversy
June 26, 2004: Accused rider hits back: 'I was never in Adelaide'
June 25, 2004: One week for French inquiry
June 24, 2004: Mark French makes statement
June 23, 2004: Pound weighs in
June 22, 2004: Cycling Australia welcomes inquiry; Riders deny involvement in doping
June 22, 2004: French gets life, but still offers to assist new enquiry
June 21, 2004: Lifetime Olympic ban for French
June 19, 2004: French faces blowtorch from sports authorities
June 18, 2004: Opposition calls for inquiry into AIS track cycling program
June 9, 2004: French suspended two years
June 1, 2004: Horse hormones found in French's room

Popham calls it a day

By Shane Stokes

Irish MTB racing has suffered a big blow with the news that one of its most promising young downhill racers, Jamie Popham, has announced his retirement.

In a press release issued earlier this week, Popham listed a number of reasons for the decision. Monetary conditions are a big factor, these including the controversial decision by the Irish Sports Council to exclude non-Olympic athletes from the International Carding scheme in 2006, plus the reduced funding for international teams. The lack of a sponsorship deal has also made things very difficult.

Popham stated that the lingering effects of a broken ankle suffered in 2004 has also played a part.

The Bray rider highlighted his talent when he finished an excellent fifth in the 2003 European junior championships. He also became the first non-British rider to win a NPS series in the UK when he took the junior series. In 2004 he started the season as highest ranked junior in the world and repeated his fifth place in the European championships for that category. However, hopes of a strong ride in the world championships was dashed due to the ankle injury he suffered in the run-up to the race. He was 23rd there.

Despite his promise, Popham was overlooked for a grant last year by the Irish Sports Council. He appealed the decision and was just one of nine Irish sportspeople to succeed in being re-awarded funding. However, while he secured €4,600, this was far less than the amount he needed to ride a full international programme last season.

"I am disappointed with the result of the appeal as I had applied for an international grant of €11,500, which has been refused," he said at the time. "While the grant of €4,600 will help, the cost of my race season including the eight races of the World Cup Series in 2005 is approximately €20,000. This figure excludes all equipment."

"Some of the races are in Canada, Brazil and the USA and so, without some private sponsorship, my full race program for 2005 is now in doubt."

Popham received some welcome assistance from the Irish telecommunications company Eircom towards the end of the season and this enabled him to do more races than would otherwise have been possible. He had finished second to Ben Reid in the Irish national downhill championships in Mallow, Co. Cork, and was 36th and 40th against far older riders in the World Cup events in Canada and the US. He went to the world championships hoping for a good ride but crashed heavily on the morning of the race. It was thought he would have to pull out of the championships but he insisted on competing, finishing a brave 62nd.

Popham's junior results had showed him to be a real prospect for the future; he and Ben Reid were described by former World Cup winner Steve Peat as strong talents. However it seems now, unfortunately, that his career has come to a close.

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