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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for March 15, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Flickinger buoyed by a new beginning

By Anthony Tan

New Bouygues Telecom recruit Andy Flickinger (far R) at the Tour de Langkawi
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Seven centimetres shy of the two metre mark but more lanky than statuesque, Andy Flickinger feels that after two up and down years following his breakthrough win in Plouay, his luck is about to change.

His four years with AG2r Prévoyance were not without success, however. A stage win in Paris-Correze, another last year at the Circuit de la Sarthe, and, of course, his finest moment to date - victory at the GP Plouay in 2003. But a rather controversial selection - or better put, non-selection for Flickinger - for last year's Tour de France squad saw him pick up the phone and dial the number of team manager Jean René Bernaudeau. Two weeks later, a deal was done: the next two seasons would see the 27 year-old ride for Bouygues Telecom.

"We started to speak together at the start of July," recalls Flickinger. "We spoke first by telephone in the first week of the Tour de France; I called him and then he called me the next week to speak about the contract, then that was it."

Asked what he's expecting of himself, having just completed a week's racing in Italy at Tirreno-Adriatico, the approachable man from St Martin d'Heres isn't quite sure.

"I don't know... I just want to do my best this year; I worked a lot this winter and I am skinny for the start of the season. I want to be strong in the Classics, and after, I want to make the Giro [d'Italia team] and be good in the Giro. After, I don't know if I'll go to the Tour de France or not, but I want to be good for the team and be [an] important [rider] in the team."

Okay, so what does Monsieur Bernaudeau expect, then?

"He wants me to be me, to be normal, to do my best, to be serious, and to boost the younger riders because of my experience."

That's plenty of things to think about, but so far, Flickinger is taking it all in those big strides of his. A fact helped by his eight years as a professional, which also keeps him grounded when people ask him if he feels any extra pressure to come away with another big win.

"The first year after Plouay I thought that, but now I don't," he said. "I'm a rider, I do my job, and I'm sure if I do my job, I'm going to be strong. But sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not... and I think this year I'm going to be lucky."

Look out for the interview with Andy Flickinger later this week.

Rory Sutherland interview: Rory's Story

Rory Sutherland is frustrated with his suspension,
Photo ©: Rory Sutherland
(Click for larger image)

With a number of high profile doping cases recently being awarded, including that of former Phonak rider Tyler Hamilton, the cycling public - and public in general - may be starting to assume an convicted cyclist is guilty until proven otherwise. However, as the case of young Australian rider Rory Sutherland demonstrates, these lines are not so clear cut.

Although advised not to engage with the media, the 24 year-old from Canberra chose to respond to an invitation from Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan to hear his story.

On December 21 last year, the 24 year-old from Canberra was dealt a career-threatening blow. He tested positive for a little-known drug called Clomiphene - practically unheard of in endurance sports and not expected to produce any performance enhancing effect according to some medical experts, although it is on WADA's banned list because it can inhibit estrogen, thereby increasing the body's testosterone production. Regardless, the disciplinary committee of the Belgian Cycling Federation (with whom he holds his racing licence) chose to suspend the then 23 year-old for two years with a nine-month conditional sentence.

When contacted by Cyclingnews soon after the news broke, Sutherland claims he had no prior knowledge of the substance until he was told it was present in his body at the time he was tested, which occurred at the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany) in August 2005. Evidence reveals the concentration of Clomiphene in his body was in the range of 5-10 nanograms - in other words, 5-10 billionths of a gram - and it was this argument that was put forward to the disciplinary committee at his November 23 hearing.

Furthermore, an independent investigation committee wrote in its report that it did not find "any indication that Sutherland was directly or indirectly implicated in expressing interest in or in using substances classified as doping agents" and that "Sutherland took the substance unknowingly."

Now sitting at his home in Canberra, supported by family and friends, Sutherland isn't too sure what to do. Should he appeal to the sport's highest authority, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)?

"This is a very difficult question for me to answer," he says.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Lampre for M-SR

Alessandro Ballan's third place overall in Tirreno-Adriatico has not surprisingly guaranteed him a spot for this weekend's La Classicissima, Milano-Sanremo, with the 26 year-old also looking ready to tackle the Belgian Spring Classics.

Damiano Cunego's presence is also confirmed for M-SR, and together with Ballan, the eight-man Lampre-Fondital team includes Danilo Napolitano, Claudio Corioni, Giuliano Figueras, Paolo Fornaciari, Gorazd Stangelj and Matteo Carrara.

The Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale stage race follows starting next Tuesday March 21 and concluding March 25. There, team manager Giuseppe Martinelli has decided to run with Damiano Cunego, Marzio Bruseghin, Danilo Napolitano, Paolo Tiralongo, Morris Possoni, Tadej Valjavec, Gorazd Stangelj and Sylvester Szmyd.

Merckx: "I'm convinced Landis can win the Tour"

Reiterating his comments made earlier about his team-mate and recent Paris-Nice winner Floyd Landis, Axel Merckx is confident that together with his Phonak team, the 30 year-old American can win the Tour de France.

As the team's "Captain de Route" (captain on the road) piloted his team through a challenging Paris-Nice and helped the Californian to achieve his greatest athletic triumph, Merckx said afterwards: "Everything went perfectly. We had no problems to speak of."

Following a hard week of racing, the 33-year-old enjoyed some time off with his wife, four year-old daughter Axana and eight-month old baby Athina. The new member of the Phonak Cycling Team is said to be content, carrying out his duties as Captain de Route without any problems. "Everyone did an excellent job," Merckx said in praise of his team-mates.

The son of arguably the greatest cyclist that ever lived added he enjoys working with Landis: "It's true that it's the first season for us as team-mates. But we've known each other for a long time - we're friends. That makes the work easier. "I'm convinced that Phonak, together with Floyd Landis, can win the Tour de France," he said.

CSC satisfied with Tirreno outing

Along with the Discovery Channel trio of Paolo Savoldelli, George Hincapie and Tom Danielson, Team CSC were the other team to finish with three riders in the top 15 at Tirreno Adriatico, also placing second in the teams competition to the American outfit. Ivan Basso was best placed in seventh overall, while Karsten Kroon and Kurt Asle-Arvesen finished ninth and eleventh respectively.

"If we disregard the two crashes, Tirreno-Adriatico has been a good race for us," said CSC directeur-sportif Scott Sunderland after the finish in San Benedetto del Tronto. "We won a stage with Cancellara, and with three riders among the top 11 in the overall standings, we've been one of the strongest teams here.

"At the same time the race has served as a really good preparation for Milano-Sanremo and the other one day races waiting for us in April. It has also been good to see that Basso's already at a high level, even though he hasn't worked specifically to achieve results just yet," he said on the team's Web site, team-csc.com.

Aachen wants TdF 2008 time trial

The city of Aachen, Germany, has officially submitted its request to take part in the 2008 Tour de France, the Aachener Zeitung reported today. Mayor Jürgen Linden has asked that the city host the start and finish of a time trial. The city's request is being supported by the neighboring areas in Belgium and the Netherlands. A response is not expected until autumn of 2007.

Courtesy Susan Westemeyer

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