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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for January 27, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Phonak aiming high

By Shane Stokes

Georges Lüchinger (right)
Photo ©: Andrea Kobler
(Click for larger image)

Having presented its team at its headquarters in Stäfa, Switzerland on the 20th of this month, the Phonak squad is aiming big for 2006: The stated goal is to win the Tour de France. Last year, Floyd Landis finished ninth in his first season as a team leader, while Santiago Botero showed strong form in winning the Tour of Romandie. The former is confident that natural progression will aid his challenge this time round, while the latter is restructuring his season in order to hit form later and thus be more of a factor in July.

Team boss John Lelangue is clear about Phonak's capabilities. "We're going to France to win the Tour de France," he stated at the presentation, which included guests such as cycling legends Ferdi Kübler and Eddy Merckx, plus Jean Marie Leblanc.

Phonak finished second in the ProTour team standings in 2005, being bested only by Team CSC. The 26 riders will be even more focused on success this time round, with new signings such as Axel Merckx and Koos Moerenhout adding strength to the squad. Merckx will aim to be strong in the spring Classics (the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are particular focuses) and the Giro, then fulfil team duties and chase stage wins in the Tour. Landis, meanwhile, is likely to ride the Giro in order to hit peak form for July.

2006 is a big year for Phonak, not only in terms of chasing results, but also because it marks a transition for the team. After several years of backing, Andy Rihs' company will move on after the end of the season.

"We've reached the level of awareness that we wanted," he said at the presentation. "It's all about making a tremendous investment in order to make a broad public more aware of a product." Fortunately the future seems secure after Phonak steps down; a presenting sponsor, iShares, has been signed on for this season, and it is rumoured that it may take over the main sponsorship in 2007. Either way, cycling enthusiast Rihs will stay involved as owner of ARcycling, the holding company for the team, and will be doing what it takes to ensure that the Swiss squad secures full sponsorship for the future.

Phonak has a secret weapon for 2006: its BMC Pro Machine is the first bike to be built entirely using Easton CNT nanotechnology. This special type of carbon will ensure that its road and time trial bikes are amongst the lightest in the peloton.

In terms of their early racing programme, things get underway in Friday's Doha International GP. The Tour of Qatar follows, then the team will participate in events such as the Trofeo Mallorca, the Tour of California and the Tour of Valencia. Het Volk, Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, and Milan Turin then take things up to Paris-Nice.

Even if it is unsure if races such as Paris-Nice will be part of the ProTour, Lelangue said that the team will continue to support events like this. "We want to do well in races such as the Tour of California and other events, but I guess my priority is to do well in the monuments. The races that have a big history in the sport. My position is different to that of some of my colleagues...even if some of the races are not there in the ProTour this year, they will still be pinpointed. For me it is important to be there with a big objective for those races, whatever happens in the future between them and the UCI. So the Giro, Paris-Nice, Tirreno Adriatico, Milan San Remo, the Vuelta - all those races are big objectives for us."

Also see: Inside the Phonak training camp: How the Swiss squad prepare


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Andrea Kobler

  • Georges Lüchinger (right) interviews Phonak 'old hand' Bert Grabsch. According to the German rider: 'I hope the team will continue even after the main sponsor Phonak has withdrawn.'
  • John Lelangue (right) with new team member Axel Merckx.
  • Floyd Landis (right), talking to former Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc.
  • Ferdi Kübler: the oldest living Tour de France champion (left) with Jean-Marie-Leblanc. Kübler won the Tour de France in 1950, the first Swiss rider to do so.

Barloworld channeling Saeco?

Barloworld, not Saeco.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The South African team Barloworld was presented in the Tuscan spa resort of Montecatini this week, where the riders are busy training for the season ahead. Run by Claudio Corti, the team has new red jerseys, Cannondale bikes, and the presence of Igor Astarloa, and observers could be forgiven for thinking that it was the reincarnation of the Saeco team.

"We've got a good team that is set to grow in the future as part of a program of development we're putting together with our sponsors, but I'm convinced 2006 will be a satisfying season," said Claudio Corti.

The team's three directeur sportifs (Alberto Volpi, Valerio Tebaldi and Christiaan Andersen) are already hard at work, getting ready to give Team Barloworld a successful start to the season. The team will make its official debut at the GP degli Etruschi in Tuscany on Saturday February 4, while three riders will ride the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia as part of a South African national team, with Ryan Cox one of the favourites after winning the race last year.

Igor Astarloa is again back with Claudio Corti after two unfortunate seasons, and he is hoping to recreate his success at Saeco in 2003, when he won Fleche-Wallone and the world road race championships in Hamilton. "I think I'm physically back to my best and I'm confident of doing well this year," said the Spanish rider. "The spirit in the new team is what I need to help me be successful again."

Click here for the full team roster


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Rujano out of Tour de Langkawi

By Shane Stokes

With a week to go until the start of the 2006 Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi, it has been announced that Giro d'Italia climbing sensation Jose Rujano has withdrawn from the race. The Venezuelan finished a close second to Ryan Cox last year but is said to have suffered an injury while preparing for the Vuelta a Tachira.

His place on the Colombia Selle Italia team will be filled by Colombian climber Jose Serpa. Another change sees former Domina Vacanze sprinter Angelo Furlan replacing Alexander Giraldo. Furlan will team up with Alberto Loddo on the flatter stages, while 1998 TMLTdL winner Gabriele Missaglia, Wladimir Belli, Walter Pedraza and Serpa could show strongly in the mountains.

According to organizers First Cartel (M) Sdn Bhd, directeur sportif Gianni Savio's plans to replace Rujano with 2004 TMLTdL winner Freddy Gonzalez were foiled when the Colombian suffered a broken collarbone in a crash during the Vuelta a Tachira. However managing director Imran Abdullah is confident that Savio's men will continue their strong showing in the race.

"I believe that Gianni will have something up his sleeves," he said. "As was the case with an unknown Rujano in 2003, we still might see something similar in the shape of an unknown Pedraza. Then again, you've got seasoned campaigners like Missaglia, who is a proven leader, alongside an unpredictable Serpa. I think with two sprinters, they'll also stand a good chance to go for stage wins as well."

Rujano's absence boosts the chances for other GC contenders such as Cox, Panaria Navigare's Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio and Navigators Insurance's Cesar Grajales. The latter has been named to lead the US squad in the 2.HC ranked event and, provided he is on form, has the ability to win overall. Last year a strong ride on the Genting Highland stage saw Grajales place fifth and move up to his final finishing position of fourth in the general classification.

The Colombian returns to lead the cosmopolitan New Jersey-based team. He will be joined by riders such as Italian Siro Camponogara, fast-finishing Russian Oleg Grishkine, multiple Canadian national champion Mark Walters and American Burke Swindlehurst. The Irishman Ciarán Power is also listed to ride, although the double FBD Milk Rás winner was scheduled for surgery this month to correct a long-running nerve problem. Confirmation of that final place on the team is expected soon.

Abdullah feels that Navigators can surprise. "We've seen the likes of Saturn, who not only came here to put up a challenge, but won the yellow jersey through Tom Danielson in 2003. Now, we hope Navigators will be able to do the same. They were just unlucky last year. It was the first time they came here last year, and probably they weren't really sure what to expect. Still, they managed to place Grajales in the top five and Grishkine was almost able to break the dominance of Panaria in the flat stages."

Meanwhile, the national team for the Tour de Langkawi has been showing well in the Tour of Thailand. Young rider Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi was holding the Asian riders' jersey after three stages of the race.

The 10-stage Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi begins on February 3 and runs until February 12th.

Michigan Bicycle Racing Association 2006

The Michigan Bicycle Racing Association (MBRA) has announced its 2006 road and track racing schedule. The racing starts on March 25 with the Flying Rhino Cycling Club Spring Training Series in Waterford, MI. The calendar concludes on September 16 with the Tour de Leelanau in Suttons Bay, MI.

Nearly every type of bicycle racing is featured in the calendar. From the Cone-Azalia Classic in May, which is modelled after the famous "Paris-Roubaix" race and includes the brutal Michigan cobbles, to the hilly epic, Tour de Leelanau, in September, which has become the de facto "Michigan World Championships", with every Michigan team sending their very best riders to battle for the victory.

Additionally, in its 3rd year of operation, the Velodrome at Bloomer Park in Rochester, MI offers more events than ever before. Friday evenings in the summer feature the NAS-Track Madison series with racing, food, refreshments and live music. The track racing season peaks with the SOUPerBowl on September 6th .

Selected Events

June 4, Tour of Cedar Creek State Road Race Championships (Muskegon, MI)
June 25, Wolverine State Time Trial Championships (Dearborn, MI)
August 5, Ada Criterium – State Criterium Championships (Ada, MI)

More information:

Ben Krieg dies

Ben Krieg
Photo ©: Ben Krieg archive
(Click for larger image)

Benjamin William Krieg, 30, of Iowa City, Iowa, USA, died at home on Wednesday, January 18, 2006, of a heart attack. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Ben was an keen cyclist, racing in both the Midwest and Europe. Ben was also well-known in the rock-climbing and snowboarding world.

Ben's brother Sam wrote the following obituary:

"All of us who knew Ben will always remember him not only for his drive, imagination and bright red, curly hair but also for the sheer spark of energy which he brought into every room that he entered. Ben was born on May 2, 1975, in Dubuque, Iowa, son of Kathryn Krieg and David Krieg. Ben is survived by his mother, Kathryn Krieg of Indianapolis, IN. and his father, David Krieg of Dubuque, Iowa; two brothers, John Krieg of Dubuque, Iowa and Sam (Karen) Krieg of Pocatello, ID. There will be no visitation and a private, family memorial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial may be made in Ben's name to the Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition. PO Box 22156, Lexington, KY, USA, 40522-2156.

More information:

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