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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 9, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Health Net bids farewell to Henderson in ProTour

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor, and John Trevorrow

Greg Henderson (Health Net)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

New Zealand sprinter Greg Henderson, a former world champion in the scratch race, was released from the second year of his two-year contract with the American Health Net-Maxxis team in order to sign with the ProTour T-Mobile squad for 2007.

"I am extremely grateful to the management, staff and riders of Health Net Presented by Maxxis for allowing me to pursue my lifelong dream of racing at the Pro Tour level in Europe," Henderson said in a team statement. "The team has supported me for over three years and been instrumental in helping me reach my highest potential as a pro cyclist. The organization has been absolutely critical to my development as a rider and as a professional."

Henderson was a key player in the dominating Health Net squads of recent years, making up a powerful duo with Gord Fraser at races like the Tour de Georgia where he helped Fraser win the sprint jersey. Henderson came into his own this year, even after he was sidelined for the first half due to injury. He won the inaugural Reading stage of this year's Philadelphia International Championship before sprinting to the win in Philly three days later.

Directeur sportif Jeff Corbett has managed Henderson for years now and is happy to see this door open for him. "I've watched him just get better and better every year," he said. "Moving to a ProTour team is the logical next step for Hendy. Naturally, we wish Greg all the best at his new team."

Henderson follows a recent trend of ProTour teams dipping into Health Net for talent. It began with Jason McCartney riding strong in 2005, particularly at the Tour de Georgia where Johan Bruyneel took notice. Last year Tyler Farrar strong riding on both the Health Net and U.S. National team landed him a spot with Cofidis.

At the Herald Sun Tour in Australia, where Henderson is currently racing, Cyclingnews asked him how the deal happened. "It came about in a funny way," said Henderson. "I had already sent a CV to Bob Stapleton and he saw me win in Philly so I sent another CV through to Alan Peiper, as he had texted Katie to ask if I was still interested in racing in Europe. Alan got in touch with his good mate Henk Vogels as he hadn’t seen me racing very much, and Henk said 'If you don’t sign him it will be the biggest mistake you make.' Henk is a good guy...

"I’ve pretty well won most of the big races in the States and I have always had a passion to race at the highest level. It has been a tough road as New Zealand doesn’t have a development set up like Australia, and racing in the States and Australia has been great for me. But I’m pretty much unproven in Europe and it could all go pear shaped, but I’ve just got that hunger to race, that hunger to perform. I can guarantee I will give it everything," Henderson added.

T-Mobile seemed like the perfect option for the Kiwi cyclist, not only because of its international renommée. "T-Mobile is a great team to join," he continued. "They are very professional and will help me make the transition from US racing to the cut and thrust of Europe. They also have a few English speaking guys which will make it a bit easier. I'm also looking forward to racing with Mick Rogers. I don’t know Mick that well but I admire him a lot and it will be great to ride with him.

"I just want to see how far I can go. I have made it to world champion on the track, now I want to see if I can make it in the biggest scene of all on the road in Europe. I’ll just take it nice and slow. I would love to ride the classics and a grand tour, and of course I’ve dreamed of riding the Tour de France. But it might not happen in my first year," he concluded.

"Crocodile Man" to T-Mobile

By Susan Westemeyer

Australian Adam Hansen has signed with German T-Mobile for the coming season. The team has not yet confirmed the transfer but Hansen told Cyclingnews that he signed the contract and sent it back to the team. Hansen, 26, has ridden for Austrian teams for the last few seasons, but is best known for being cycling's "Crocodile Man", having won Australia's Crocodile Trophy twice. The event has been described as "probably the hardest bike race on the planet," and Hansen said, "You can't explain the Crocodile Trophy, I wish I could but there are no words to explain it, it's a mental race. Its hard as hell, physically and mentally. It's a race that takes you so far out of your comfort zones, you wish you never signed the start sheet."

Hansen described himself as an all-rounder, who time trials and comes over the smaller hills well. He has been in contact with T-Mobile's team doctor, Lothar Heinrich, since 2004, and looks forward to his new challenge, saying "It's going to be great to be part of their new anti-doping campaign and with this type of mentality, it's going to make me very comfortable to join a ProTour team with this way of thinking. T-Mobile is now a role model for the other teams to follow and why would any rider not want to be part of something great that's going to help our sport?"

Watch out for an in-depth interview with Hansen on Cyclingnews in the next few days.

Gerolsteiner's satisfied with week-end races

The German mineral water team was happy with the outcome of this past week-end of racing in Italy and in France. After scoring at the Giro dell'Emilia, won by Davide Rebellin, Gerolsteiner showed itself again at the Gran Premio Beghelli: Fabian Wegmann tried his best to get away on Sunday, joining an escape group with stagiaire teammate Johannes Fröhlinger, and later attacking on the penultimate lap. Teammate Andrea Moletta also tried an attack, but none of them were successful, and the race came down to a mass sprint. Moletta ended up as the best Gerolsteiner finisher, in 18th place.

Directeur Sportif Christian Wegmann had praise not only for Fröhlinger ("He rode very well"), but also for the others. "It's too bad, the guys were strong today and came out in the breaks. But unfortunately it didn't work out."

At the same time, in France at Paris-Tours, Gerolsteiner finished the race with only three riders - but was very satisfied with that result, especially as Frank Hoj finished seventh. "We achieved a top ranking and got lots of points in the ProTour team ranking, and that's more than many other teams did here today" said directeur sportif Christian Henn. Breakaways and the wind tore the peloton apart, with only 67 riders making it to the end.

Most of the other riders, including the favourites, dropped out at the feed zone. "The field was already 10 minutes back at that point. There was no way to make that time up," Henn explained. Hoj, Thomas Fothen and Peter Wrolich represented their team in the remainder of the race. "Peter set himself well in the scene. Frank showed a strong performance, and Thomas rode well, too," concluded Henn.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Dekker "totally laid back"

Erik Dekker (Rabobank) at Paris-Nice this year
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

Rookie directeur sportif Erik Dekker is enjoying his new occupation. After several months of rehabilitation following his bad crash in the beginning of the Tour de France this year, where he suffered injuries to his face and lost several teeth, the former Rabobank rider is working again - but instead of wearing cycling gear, he manages the riders from the driver's seat of the Rabobank race car.

"I knew this was going to be my last year as a pro ever since 2004, so it doesn't come as a surprise to me," the 36 year-old told Sportwereld. That year, Dekker won Paris-Tours after 2 breakaway of 220 kilometres. "Riders are capable of doing very unusual things," he said, looking back at his feat. But Dekker also honours his possibilities within his new job. "I know that I can be of use in this function in the future: a directeur sportif can contribute to a victory, but he can't ensure it."

The Dutchman admitted that he still very much felt as if he was still racing when he drove the car. "But if something goes wrong, I'm not here to be a dictator," he continued. "To be a team director doesn't mean saying what's good or what's bad. It means to get the greatest possible outcome from the riders. I wrote down a number of ideas of what could be better in the team. But on top of that list there's also the fact that I don't own the truth."

Dekker, who has been with the Rabobank team for ten years, was never actually approached by other squads despite impressive results. "I don't know why," he said. "Maybe I made the impression to be too comfortable in my seat? Financially speaking, I didn't get the most out of my possibilities - but money was never the priority. If I had raced for the money, I'd better done two more years. I would have earned much more than what I do now."

Asked what how he experienced the change from rider to DS, Dekker said, "Mostly, I realize now how strange the life of a pro rider is. As a rider, you live with this constant pressure, which you become so accustomed to that you don't feel anything after a while. Since I stopped, I've never been so relaxed! A few months ago, I was sitting in the bar of a hotel at ten o'clock at night, and I looked at my watch because I should have been in bed by then - now, I'm totally laid back even if it gets a little late," he laughed.

Schleck gears up for Lombardia

Just like in Saturday's Giro dell'Emilia, CSC's Fränk Schleck went on the attack and tried to take a solo victory in Sunday's Grand Prix Beghelli. But once again Schleck was caught before the finish - just like his teammates Martin Pedersen and Nicki Sørensen, who also tried their luck during the Italian race.

"Martin was in the first serious break away, but unfortunately he was dropped with about 80 kilometers to go, when the riders hit the final laps," said sports director Kim Andersen. "After that, especially Fränk, but also Nicki tried to escape on the climbs, but they never opened up a decisive gap. On the other hand, it made the race extremely fast with an average speed of more than 43 km/h, and I'm very pleased with the fact we had five riders in the group of about 50, who finished the race. The riders who are supposed to be up front battling for victory in Giro di Lombardia got some great training, and that's exactly what we hoped for this weekend."

Phonak for next Italian races

The Phonak cycling team will be competing at the Giro di Piemonte and the Giro di Lombardia at the end of the season with the following squads:

Giro di Piemonte (Thursday, October 12): Martin Elmiger, Fabrizio Guidi, Patrick McCarty, Steve Morabito, Victor Hugo Peña, Michael Schär, Johann Tschopp, David Vitoria. Team management: John Lelangue, Adriano Baffi.

Giro di Lombardia (Saturday, October 14): Martin Elmiger, Patrick McCarty, Steve Morabito, Victor Hugo Peña, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär, Florian Stalder, David Vitoria. Team management: John Lelangue, Adriano Baffi, Monika Zürcher.

Vandborg to leave CSC

Danish rider Brian Vandborg will leave his home team CSC after the end of the season. Vandborg was rumoured to have signed with T-Mobile, but he now denied this and told Dutch sources, "I have indeed signed with another ProTour team. Not with T-Mobile, but with another squad." The 25 year-old is a talented time triallist, who won the national Championships in June, and placed fourth in the World Championships recently, won by teammate Fabian Cancellara.

Simoni enjoys MTB

Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is currently enjoying measuring up to mountainbike specialists. At 35 years of age, the Italian decided to finish off the 2006 season on dirt trails, and promptly became Italian Marathon Champion on September 24. Last week, he participated in the French Roc d'Azur for the first time in his career, and finished fifth in Fréjus - but he was leading the race on the last climb, the col du Bougnon.

"It's a very hard race, very 'roc'," Simoni told velo101. "The specialists made me suffer one more time. Every time, I'm in a good position but then I crack in the finale. I finished with exploded legs. But a part from my hurting legs, I look back on a beautiful race - I'm very happy to have come here to test myself against the big mountainbike champions. I hope to come back next year, as the Roc d'Azur really is a cycling festival."

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