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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for June 17, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Tour de Suisse stage 7 wrap-up

Oscar's way, Oscar's day

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) pulled off an impressive solo win in the seventh stage of the Tour de Suisse, with a cheeky attack in the closing kilometres to drop his four breakaway companions and hold off the peloton by just 3 seconds. The sprinters had to settle for second place, with Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) edging out Erik Zabel (Milram) for the honours. The overall classification remained unchanged, with Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) still in the lead.

Freire was one of four survivors of an early break, the others being Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Fondital), Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) and Matthew White (Discovery Channel). With a hard charging peloton chasing them all the way into Ascona, there wasn't much room for tactics. But Oscarito surprised everyone by jumping over a median strip with 5 km to go to take the shortest way around a roundabout...and he was gone.

Click here for the full results, report and photos from stage 7.

McEwen abandons

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) has left Tour de Suisse during stage 7. His team reported that he had a light inflammation in his left knee, and wanted to avoid any risks just before the Tour de France. However, according to the team doctor, everything will be OK after a few rest days.

The USA Junior and U23 program: Taking care of the kids

In the wake of Lance Armstrong's retirement, American cycling has begun looking to the future of the sport to see if there's another champion of his calibre waiting in the wings. And while the seven-time Tour de France winner may be a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, USA Cycling is doing its best through its junior development programs to increase the nation's stocks in the European pro peloton. Cyclingnews' Les Clarke finds out what it takes to look after the young ones.

Steve McCauley (r) with a couple of the juniors

Photo ©: Les Clarke

(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling's Under 23 program, in one guise or another, has helped produce champion riders such as Armstrong, Hincapie, Julich and Zabriskie through a closely-watched program conducted in the heartland of European cycling, Belgium. With the current crop of American riders mostly aged over 30, the sport's administration in the US is looking ahead to ensure the next generation of American professionals can make the smoothest possible transition to the professional ranks.

The current U23 program has been in place since 1999, and has been the primary source of development for young American riders looking to get their foot in the door in Europe. Several years of sponsorship and some good results has solidified its place at the head of USA Cycling's development push, and the alumni of the program speaks for itself.

"The U23 program began in 1999, and the current CEO of USA Cycling, Steve Johnson, started that program with the help of Noel and Els Dejonckheere in Izegem, Belgium. Dave Zabriskie was in that first crop of riders that came here and raced in that team," says Steve McCauley, director of USA Cycling's junior athlete program.

Click here for the full story.

Discovery Channel names Tour roster

The Discovery Channel team has named its first ever Tour de France roster without Lance Armstrong, who retired last year. Team manager Johan Bruyneel named the following nine riders to the squad, which has plenty of strength even if it lacks a star of Armstrong's calibre: George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli, Jose Azevedo, Egoi Martinez, Pavel Padrnos, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Benjamin Noval, and Jose Luis Rubiera. Additionally, Vladimir Gusev and Michael Barry have been listed as reserves.

"Although 2006 will be my first Tour de France as a director without Lance on the team, I am extremely motivated to have our team continue to be a major factor in this race," said Bruyneel. "I had a similar feeling in 1999, when we came in as an underdog even though we had strong riders. I am confident that with the team we are bringing that we can have at least one of our riders finish in a top placing in Paris. The road to the Champs Elysees is difficult and many things can happen. Our guys are ready for the challenge."

George Hincapie has focused his 2006 season on the Tour de France, especially after his biggest classic goal was dashed after he crashed in Paris-Roubaix. Hincapie won the queen stage of the 2005 Tour, and showed good early season form by winning two stages at the Tour of California, placing second in the time trial and fifth overall at the Three Days of DePanne, as well as third at the Tour of Flanders and fifth at Gent-Wevelgem. After recovering from his Paris-Roubaix crash, he returned strongly in the Dauphine Libéré with several top 10 placings and a 10th overall.

26 year-old Yaroslav Popovych has followed a steady path of success culminating at the 2005 Tour, as he captured the best young rider jersey while helping Armstrong win his seventh Tour. Popo won the time trial at the Vuelta Castilla y Leon, as well as taking a stage win, two third place stage finishes and third place overall at the Tour de Georgia.

Paolo Savoldelli already has one grand tour under his belt after finishing fifth in the Giro d'Italia, after starting as one of the favourites. He suffered from bad allergies during that race, but still finished with a stage win and a second place in another. He is aiming to ride in the service of his teammates at the Tour.

Jose Azevedo is the team's fourth GC rider. In 2004 "the Ace" finished fifth in the Tour after riding domestique for Armstrong, showing his strength in the time trials and mountains. This year, he has also focused on the Tour as a main goal, but has placed sixth overall at Paris-Nice, fifth overall at Castilla y Leon and fourth on stage 4 and fourth overall at the Dauphine Libéré.

The experience of Viatcheslav Ekimov will once again be valuable to the Discovery Channel team. Forty-year-old Ekimov has ridden 14 Tours, missing last year's due to injury. He will be a key support rider along with Jose Luis "Chechu" Rubiera, who had a strong Giro and will be valuable in the mountains.

The remainder of the team consists of Egoi Martinez, Pavel Padrnos and Benjamin Noval

French sports minister wants names released

The French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour has asked the Spanish authorities to name all the athletes involved in Operacion Puerto before July 1 - the start of the Tour de France. Speaking to Spain's sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky at the final of the French Open last weekend, Lamour was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "We spoke about it at length. I told him of our concern that the names be known, if possible, before the opening of the Tour de France. He is doing what he can."

Lamour is concerned that the Tour de France be drug free, as the 1998 Festina affair still haunts the sport. He supported ASO's decision to exclude Comunidad Valenciana from the race. "The Tour de France must go ahead in total transparency," he said. "That is to say with people who cannot be suspected of having benefited from these transfusions."

The international riders association (CPA) issued a statement later today generally supporting Lamour's request. "The CPA congratulates [Lamour and Lissavetzky] for this initiative which is aimed at defending the interests of clean athletes," it read. "Nevertheless, the CPA asks the Minister why this concern should be limited to cycling. After having been informed by the press that athletes of other sports may be implicated, the CPA wishes to know if the Minister made the same call before the beginning of other athletic events, like, for example, Roland Garros or the soccer World Cup."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Rujano says thanks and goodbye to Selle Italia

Venezuelan rider Jose Rujano has left Selle Italia for Quick.Step, bidding goodbye to Gianni Savio and the gang, and offering his apologies for some of the things he did during his last months with them. "I wish to publicly apologise for the mistakes committed at the beginning of the year, when I didn't turn up to the races, and for my behaviour at the time of my withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia," he wrote in a letter to the team. "I went through a difficult period and made some erratic decisions.

"I thank the organisation, the sponsor, Gianni Savio, Marco Bellini, and all my teammates, with whom I have spent three very nice years, and this last one, which was my fault, was a little less so. With Selle Italia, I obtained some great results and I hope to achieve others with Quick.Step, always remembering the team that launched me into the professionals."

For its part, Selle Italia accepted Rujano's apology and wished him all the best for his future with Quick.Step.

iShares confirms as main sponsor for Phonak

Phonak's presenting sponsor iShares has been confirmed as taking over as the head sponsor of the Swiss cycling team from 2007 onwards. The team announced that its managing company ARcycling AG has signed a three-year contract (2007-2009) with Barclays Global Investors N.A., iShares' parent company headquartered in San Francisco. Thus, the team will be known as iShares in 2007.

"With iShares we have a new title sponsor who is exactly in line with what we had in mind," said ARcycling AG founder and team owner Andy Rihs. "We wanted a partner who is a global player, enthusiastic about cycling and the opportunities the sport offers to leverage its brand in a variety of ways."

iShares CEO Lee Kranefuss commented, "I'm extremely pleased for the iShares brand to be associated with such a well-regarded and well-organised ProTour team. For iShares this sponsorship represents an excellent opportunity to further expand the visibility of our brand across Europe, which is a market of strategic importance to us."

Liquigas, Milram and Gerolsteiner for Eindhoven

The Italian squads Liquigas and Milram, and German Gerolsteiner have named their rosters for this Sunday's ProTour team time trial in Eindhoven. Liquigas will race with Dario Andriotto, Magnus Backstedt, Mauro Da Dalto, Marco Milesi, Matej Mugerli, Vincenzo Nibali, Manuel Quinziato and Marco Righetto, with Mario Scirea as D.S.

Team Milram will bring Alessandro Cortinovis, Michele Gobbi, Elia Rigotto, Maarten Den Bakker, Fabio Sabatini, Matej Jurco, Carlo Scognamiglio, and Martin Muller. Antonio Bevilacqua will be D.S.

Finally, as defending champions, Gerolsteiner has named a strong line-up for the race. With the experienced Michael Rich at the helm, the team can also count on Stefan Schumacher, Thomas Fothen, Torsten Hiekmann, Frank Høj, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang and Volker Ordowski. Christian Henn and Theo Maucher will be the directors.

British criterium championships

By Gerry McManus

Both the men’s and women’s British circuit race champions will be crowned on the weekend of 17th and 18th June. The women’s event runs on Saturday in the northern town of Curborough in Staffordshire and the small town of Horwich in Lancashire hosts the men’s event not far from the Manchester Commonwealth Games road race circuit in Rivington.

Elite Women’s Criterium Championship

43 entries in the women’s event will race for an hour to see who will succeed last year’s winner Amy Hunt. Former champions Helen Gutteridge (Team Luciano (2003) and Clare Goss (Fat Birds Don't Fly) (2004) both race on the tight circuit where fitness will be tested to the limit.

Laura Bissell (GS Strada) will look to emulate her brother Peter who won his first champion’s jersey in the U23 road race recently and her vast experience on the track may just make the difference. Bissell currently sits third in the British Cycling Elite women’s ranking ahead of fourth placed Gutteridge. Last year’s runner-up Kim Blythe (Raleigh-ERV) will be looking to step up to the gold medal but has needs to improve on her recent performances. So far this season Blythe has scored only once in the BC women’s road race series but championship events can have the effect of bringing out the best in some competitors.

Joanna Rowsell (VC Londres) has proved the most consistent in the BC women’s series with two second places and a third in the first four counting events and she leads the series with one race to go. Watch out too for Leda Cox (Team Rapha/Condor) who showed form when she won bronze in the Derny paced championships at the beginning of the month.

Click here for the full preview and start list

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