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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for November 22, 2006

Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams

2007 Tour de Georgia slightly easier but longer

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The bunch will tackle an extra day in 2007
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The 2007 Tour de Georgia route announcement was made today, and unveiled a route that will cover an additional day and feature a uphill time trial to the top of Lookout Mountain. "Adding an extra day is for sure going to make the race a worthy event," said Health Net-Maxxis' Nathan O'Neil, who wore the very first leader's jersey of the event.

"It will not be as difficult as other years, but we are adding another day," Medalist Sports' Chris Aronhalt told Cyclingnews regarding the changes to the route. An example of the change in difficulty can be seen in the individual time trial. Last year's time trial went up and over Lookout Mountain with a extremely technical descent that finished in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For 2007 the time trial will finish on top of the mountain while Chattanooga will host a road stage finish a day prior to the time trial.

"Rome to Chattanooga is supposed to be gorgeous -- I don't know how difficult it is yet, not as much as the six gap stages like the ones that head into Dahlonega, but it will be picturesque," Aronhalt continued. "That is why we looked into having an uphill time trial. And there is an uphill with Mt. Alto going into Rome."

A big change to the course is in the north Georgia mountains, which previously took two days of the race. The change comes on stage five, with the race starting again in Saul Raisin's hometown of Dalton but then going directly to Brasstown Bald. "That will still be a tough day," said Aronhalt.

Another change is with the overall finish of the tour, which will return to downtown Atlanta in the form of a circuit race, with hopes of finishing in Centennial Olympic Park. "The start/finish line will be at the park -- it's the same finish line as 2003. It will be a seven to ten mile circuit of at least nine times," Aronhalt explained.

Brasstown Bald will once again be the featured (and dreaded) stage that will likely decide the overall winner. Former stage winner Cesar Grajales, who will return to the local Jittery Joe's team for 2007, commented about the difficulty of the final climb. "I only include [Brasstown Bald] on the menu when training for the Tour de Georgia!"

Two ProTour teams have already made plans to be in Georgia in April, with Discovery Channel and Predictor-Lotto accepting their invitations.

2007 Tour de Georgia: April 16-22
Stage 1: Peachtree City, Ga. to Macon, Ga.
Stage 2: Thomaston, Ga. to Rome, Ga.
Stage 3: Rome, Ga. to Chattanooga, Tenn.
Stage 4: Chickamauga/Walker Co., Ga. to Lookout Mountain, Ga. (ITT)
Stage 5: Dalton, Ga. to Brasstown Bald Mountain/Towns Co., Ga.
Stage 6: Lake Lanier Islands/Hall Co., Ga. to Stone Mountain Park/Dekalb Co., Ga.
Stage 7: Atlanta, Ga. (circuit race)

Lance to return… to New York City Marathon

Armstrong broke the three hour barrier
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Just weeks after completing what he labeled "the hardest thing I've ever done," Lance Armstrong has confirmed he will return for another attempt at the New York City Marathon in 2007. The 35-year-old confirmed to news agency Reuters "I'm going back next year; I've decided I'm going back."

Armstrong raised over US$600,000 for his foundation and cancer research during this year's event. "I'm still shaking it off. I'm still limping," said the seven times Tour de France winner.

The American also cleared any cloud hanging over the Discovery Channel's recent signing of Ivan Basso. "We have a zero tolerance policy," explained Armstrong - who remains a minority shareholder in the team. "If someone either admits doping or is caught doping or prosecuted for doping then they're out."

Basso was implicated in the Spanish Operación Puerto investigation but his files were shelved by the Italian cycling federation (FCI), clearing the way for the former-CSC rider to race and find a new team. Within a fortnight of the decision, Armstrong announced, "It's done," meaning Basso had signed for Discovery Channel.

Skibby's book released

Extracts from the autobiography of former Tour de France stage winner, Jesper Skibby, have been released to the press ahead of the book's official launch in Denmark today (Wednesday). As reported by Cyclingnews yesterday, Skibby had promised to lift the lid on his drug-usage during a 15-year professional career.

In the book titled, Skibby: Understand Me Correctly, the Dane writes, "The effect was almost immediate. On the bicycle I had a huge reserve of strength and I felt stronger than ever."

The book does not detail whether Skibby used performance-enhancing drugs during the major victories of his career, namely a stage in the 1989 Giro d'Italia, two stages from the 1991 Vuelta a España and a stage of the 1993 Tour de France.

Skibby, who has now been retired from cycling for six years, did not name those who supplied him with the drugs but admitted to injecting himself.

Oscar Pereiro: Wait and see

The 2006 Tour de France winner is still to be determined. First placed Floyd Landis (Phonak) claimed the title in Paris, but a few days later, one of his doping tests came back positive for stage 17. While Landis is working to prove his doping positive was incorrect, second-place Tour finisher Oscar Pereiro must bide his time and let the judicial processes play out. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez spoke with Pereiro by phone.

Spanish Oscar Pereiro of the Caisse D'Espagne team
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Oscar Pereiro finished second in this summer's Tour de France after performing well throughout. He wore the yellow jersey at some crucial stages during the race's final week. Pereiro said months ago that he was already glad to earn a spot on the second step on the podium in Paris. However, fate may still surprise him with a win if Floyd Landis' positive doping test from stage 17 holds up. Pereiro would be the first Spanish rider to win the Tour de France after Miguel Indurain's sensational final victory in 1995.

Oscar spoke from his home in the Northern Spanish region of Galicia where he is undertaking his pre-season preparation. This year's sudden world-wide fame did not compromise his character; he remains gentle and polite with everyone who asks him for an autograph, a picture, or an interview. The 2007 season looms close for Pereiro, who is now the virtual Tour winner. "We've start doing the first things, training, going to the gym, etc. I ride on my mountain bike two or three days a week," said Pereiro.

To read the full interview, click here.

Experienced Belgian selection for world cup #6 in Koksijde

By Brecht Decaluwé

Belgian national coach Rudy De Bie announced the ten names for the sixth world cup event, this Saturday in Koksijde. Experienced Belgian amateur champion David Willemsens (Vos Sportief), winner of Sunday's Leicestershire, grabbed his first selection of the season. Tim Van Nuffel (Stevens Racing Team) returned in the selection after being dropped for Pijnacker. These two riders take the places of Jan Verstraeten (SD Worx) and Jan Soetens (Jartazi - Promo Fashion), they're struggling to confirm there inspired performances of October. Rudy De Bie probably prefers these strong experienced riders for the sandy terrain in Koksijde.

The selection: Sven Nys, Sven Vanthourenhout, Bart Aernouts, Erwin Vervecken, Bart Wellens, Klaas Vantornout, Kevin Pauwels, Davy Commeyne, Tim Van Nuffel and David Willemsens.

United parts ways with USA Cycling

by Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

One of the tangible benefits of being a USA Cycling member has been United Airline's voucher exempting members from paying extra to fly with their bikes - saving US$80 in baggage charges each way. However, that benefit will not be renewed as United ends its sponsorships of individual sports.

"United decided to discontinue all of their sponsorships of national governing bodies, so it's across the board, not just with USA Cycling," USA Cycling's Andy Lee told Cyclingnews. "They will still be associated [with the] US Olympic Committee - they were a partner with us for sixteen years which was pretty amazing."

The loss of the voucher programme will undoubtedly affect those members who normally count on the savings, but Lee says USAC is looking at similar sponsorships for the future; "That is our goal right now. We know there are members who would pay a little more to fly on United in order to save money on their bike. We are starting to research some other companies that can step in and fulfill that role. The United deal and voucher deal was very valuable to our members, but that was only beneficial to members who travelled and lived in markets served by United. Now we can go out and try to find a sponsorships that could benefit a larger number."

United Airlines did not return requests for comment.

T-Mobile auctions off VW Bus for charity

By Susan Westemeyer

The T-Mobile Bus
Photo ©: T-Mobile
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden is leaving the T-Mobile Team, and the team is also getting rid of his namesake, 'Hilde' - a 1968 VW Bus that the team used for promotional purposes. The specially-outfitted bus will be offered on the German eBay auction site for a starting price of 7,777 euros, with all of the proceeds going to the team's charity, 'Schools for Africa'.

The team introduced the bus and its companion, a 1968 VW Beetle nicknamed 'Ulle' in June 2005. The two vehicles appeared in 2005 and 2006 at various races, including the Tour de France and the Deutschland Tour.

The auction is scheduled to start on November 23. There has been no word as to what will become of the 'Ulle' auto.

Crake moved to Burwood Spinal Unit

Injured Australian cyclist Paul Crake has been transferred from the Christchurch hospital, where he underwent surgery mid-last week to help stabilise his spinal injuries, to the Spinal Unit of the Burwood Hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 29-year-old will remain at Burwood Hospital until he is cleared by doctors to return to Australia where he will commence an extensive rehabilitation program.

Crake, a cycling medallist and stair climbing champion, suffered the injuries during November's Tour of Southland in New Zealand. The rider was one of five people blown from their bikes in gusty conditions during the final kilometres of the eighth stage. While the other riders escaped serious injury, Crake hit his back on a fence post leaving the Canberra based rider paralysed with minor fractures to the C1 and C2 cervical vertebrae, a fracture to the T5 thoracic vertebrae and dislocations from T5 down to T7.

Crake's family are welcoming any messages from well wishes to be sent through to the hospital (see address below) or through Cycling Australia's website www.cycling.org.au.

Paul Crake
Patient Spinal Unit - Burwood Hospital
Cnr Mairehau & Burwood Roads
Burwood
Christchurch 8083 New Zealand

Buitenpoort Flexpoint Team becomes Team Flexpoint

Dutch women's cycling team, Buitenpoort Flexpoint, will be renamed Team Flexpoint for the 2007 road season. Title sponsor Buitenpoort Catering has decided not to continue its association with the team after two successful years of sponsorship.

Flexpoint Uitzenden, Detacheren and Werving & Selectie will become the team's main sponsors while manager, Jean-Paul van Poppel, will again be at the head of affairs. Van Poppel is happy with the renewed sponsorship contract, saying, "The cooperation with Flexpoint was very optimal the past two seasons. It's important for the team that the continuation is guaranteed."

Team Flexpoint has four new names for 2007: Loes Markerink, Iris Slappendel, Mie Bekker Lacota and Trine Schmidt Hansen.

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