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Latest Cycling News for September 7, 2006

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Vuelta: Rodriguez satisfied

By Shane Stokes in Burgos

Illes Balears rider Joaquín Rodríguez was part of yesterday’s breakaway in stage 11 of the Vuelta a España, policing the move for the Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears team. He eventually finished 10th, 3.37 minutes behind the winning time of Discovery’s Egoi Martínez.

"Today was similar to yesterday in that it was obvious for us that we had to place a rider of the team in every breakaway," Rodríguez said. "Today it was my turn to be ahead. There were many attacks in the first kilometres. We tried to control them all but when that breakaway went with so many riders, it was almost impossible to do that.

"But considering the fact that there was nobody dangerous for the general classification the team let them go. That gave Alejandro Valverde the possibility to have a quiet day, and that is exactly what we wanted."

Top 5 wide open for Unzue

"Many thought that the Vuelta was going to be decided on La Cobertoria in Sunday," Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears directeur sportif Eusebio Unzue has told Spanish newspaper AS on Thursday. "But in fact, the opposite happened. The race is wide open with five overall contenders that all ride on the same high level."

General classification leader Alejandro Valverde is closely chased by Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), Carlos Sastre (CSC), José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), who are all still in contention to take away his lead in Saturday's race against the clock in Cuenca.

"However, I don't think that the time trial in Cuenca will result in big differences," continued Unzue. "I think the best riders will again perform equally. Alexandre Vinokourov has found a high level of form pretty fast, but I don't think that he will progress further now. Let's not forget Kashechkin, who has been the most consistent until now, as well as Sastre and Marchante who managed to hang on in the difficult moments."

Dekker to World's despite wrist injury

Wednesday's third stage of the Tour of Poland saw birthday boy Thomas Dekker crash hard because of a straying dog, injuring his left wrist. The Rabobank rider wasn't the only one hitting the tarmac - Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha also went down, but could continue the race, unlike the 22 year-old Dekker. He struggled on for more than one hour after the crash, but was then taken to hospital, where doctors feared a fracture. Fortunately, it turned out no bones were broken.

Dekker had been preparing the World Championships in Poland. "That event is not in doubt," said team director Erik Breukink. "He will be able to ride some races in the meantime. But it is a disappointment - he was very motivated for the course."

Now, the young Dutchman will participate in Paris-Brussels on Saturday, as well as in the GP Wallonnie next Wednesday.

Gonchar to stay at T-Mobile

According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Ukrainian rider Serguei Gonchar has extended his contract with German T-Mobile team for another year. The squad neither denied nor confirmed this.

Gonchar, who has won two stages in the Tour de France this year, as well as taking the overall lead for a few days, might thus be an important helper for a yet-to-sign major stage race contender, together with Australian Michael Rogers and German Patrik Sinkewitz. After losing its Grand Tour performers Jan Ullrich and Andreas Klöden, the team is re-structuring completely and will officially announce the full changes on September 27.

Garzelli to Acqua & Sapone

Italian Stefano Garzelli will not be included in a ProTour team next year anymore: the Liquigas rider, winner of the Giro d'Italia in 2000, has signed a two-year deal with Continental Pro team Acqua & Sapone. The 33 year-old won three races this season and finished second at the Clasica San Sebastian.

Jalabert to Agritubel

One day after it was made public that Aurélien Clerc (Phonak) was given a new contract at French Bouygues Telecom after the retreat of the Swiss team's sponsor at the end of the season, his current teammate Nicolas Jalabert has also found a new home for next year: the 33 year-old brother of Laurent will be riding for continental team Agritubel in 2007.

2007 Tour stage start in football stadium

Details of the first stages of the 2007 Tour de France in Belgium have leaked in the Belgian press. According to Sportwereld, the Tour stage on Tuesday, July 10 will be started in the football stadium of Waregem in the North of the country. "I talked to competition director Jean-Marie Pescheux about it, who seemed pleased with the idea," said Jef Braeckevelt, team director of Jartazi - 7Mobile. "If we have the race inscription on the field, the spectators on the tribunes get a unique view of the Tour stars."

Pescheux, for his part, is reported to visit the stadium next week on Thursday, after meeting with the organisers of the stage taking the peloton from Dunkerque to Gent on Monday, July 9. The 2007 Tour de France will be started in London, and the full route will be announced by organiser ASO in Paris in the end of October.

Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic on soon

Preparations are nearly complete for next Saturday's Eastmon Digital Photo Stores Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, considered Australia's premier one-day race. A solid field of over 190 cyclists will tackle the 228 km course starting in Prince Street, Grafton, around 7:30am on September 16 and the first riders will finish in Otho Street, Inverell, around 2:30pm. The Women’s race will finish in Glen Innes with the winner expected to arrive around 1pm.

The combined C and D Grades along with the women competitors will be the first to leave at 7:30am. The A and B grade will start at 8:15 with the winners expected to complete the course in around 6 hours and 30 minutes. Riders ranging from 20 years-old to 72 year-old Peter Brown from Port Macquarie make up the record field. Ambitions at the start line vary from taking a prestigious victory in the A Grade elite race to finishing in a personal best time.

Fresh from winning the Tour of the Murray River in Victoria, Robert McLachlan will be one of the favourites in the A Grade section. Thirty five year-old McLachlan has been in great form and the former Olympian will have a great chance in the 228km classic.

Winner of the 2004 race, Peter McDonald will return for a shot to join Victorian Jamie Drew as the only rider to win two Grafton to Inverell’s. McDonald is part of the Colnago-Caravello club in Sydney and is sure to figure in the results. Parramatta rider Trent Wilson will return from a successful season in America and will be looking to improve on his already impressive third in 2002 and fourth last year.

A host of up and coming U23 riders will also make their mark in the A Grade section: Victorian Patrick Shaw was tipped by inaugural race winner Alan Grindal as a possible winner of last year's race and was in a good position until a fall in Glen Innes saw the young rider taken to hospital.

The Women’s 160km race from Grafton to Glen Innes will see 14 competitors line up, starting with the Men’s C & D grades. Kate Nichols has been tipped as an early favourite. Nichols will have the added bonus of her father Kevin, an Olympic Games Gold Medallist in 1984, starting with her in the C Grade section and having local knowledge of the course as he is a Grafton native.

Fresh from the Junior World Championships. Tiffany Cromwell has been given special permission to start the event and will be a rider to be watched. Leonnie Aisbett and Vicki Eustace are both in good form as well.

T-Mobile at Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt

Matthias Kessler will lead the T-Mobile team at Sunday’s "Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt" in Germany. The Nuremberg-native will be joined at his home race by the two Tour starters Mick Rogers from Australia and the German Patrik Sinkewitz.

In Olaf Pollack, sports director Mario Kummer has nominated a rider with an excellent track record on the circuit in Nuremberg. The 32 year-old sprinter won the 2001 edition of the UCI cat. 1.1. race and should be a podium contender in the event of a bunch sprint finish in front of the city's opera house.

The same goes for British Mark Cavendish, who is riding his third race as a stagiaire for the squad. At the last week's Tour of Britain, Cavendish bagged several podium placings and claimed the points jersey in an excellent break-out performance.

Rounding out the roster will be Dutchman Bram Schmitz, who is making his competitive comeback after a long period of illness.

"It will certainly be a fast race on a demanding parcours, but at 156 km the distance isn’t too long," said Mario Kummer. After nine laps of a larger rolling circuit - total distance 116 km - the successor to 2005 winner Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) is likely to be decided over eight laps of a smaller old town circuit - total distance 40 km.

Powerade Dome2Dome SA's preparation for World's

The Powerade Dome2Dome Cycling Spectacular next Sunday, September 17, might just give South Africa a vital final push towards claiming medals at this year's World Championships that take place in the week following the event. The national team will leave for Austria only a few hours after the race, as the riders specifically requested to participate in the Dome2Dome. Daryl Impey from the dominant Microsoft team commented: "The race is only a week before World's and is perfect in every sense for our final preparation."

According to Impey, few races in South Africa present riders with a tough enough course and the distance of the Powerade Dome2Dome "makes it the closest thing we have in SA to international standard."

The participating field has been bolstered by the return of Continental Team Konica Minolta, which will be riding on good form they gained from months of racing in Europe. "We have many riders who will be on form for the race and the event will certainly not be an easy one," continued Impey. "Having more teams in the race will make this a lot harder."

The World Championship circuit is very similar to what the riders in the Powerade Dome2Dome will experience, according to national team manager Tony Harding. "The climb at the World's circuit is not too difficult and it suits us," noted Harding. "Both Daryl and Hanco can climb rather well but it is their sprinting abilities that will give us a shot at the finish."

Harding, who managed the team recently in the Tour of Qinhai Lake in China, said Impey gained a lot of climbing confidence after surviving the brutal climbs on that tour. The Dome2Dome will furthermore be a good indicator for the two U23 South Africans of what is to be expected when they hit the tarmac in Austria.

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