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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for April 22, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Race officials crack down in Georgia

By Kirsten Robbins in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia

The green Georgia countryside.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

UCI Commissaries at the 2007 Tour de Georgia have been strict with team managers and riders; dishing out over sixteen enforced infractions after yesterday's stage alone. The penalties included disqualifications for hanging onto their team cars as well as steep fines for distributing water bottles outside of the time allotted for vehicle the vehicle feeding zones.

Earlier this week, Discovery Channel team's director Johan Bruyneel was not permitted to drive during stage five because of a speeding infraction the previous stage. On Friday, there were numerous 200 Swiss-Franc fines distributed under feeding infractions and four riders plus a team vehicle were disqualified from the race.

UCI official Mike Shea follows each stage in the Com 1 vehicle and has the final word on infraction penalties given during each stage. Despite criticism from within the race caravan, Shear said that the seemingly harsh penalties are not harsh at all. "Rules are always in place but they are not always enforced," Shea said before the start of stage six in Stone Mountain Park. "It may seem strict this week but it's not. The fines we have been giving are 200 Swiss Francs but by my rule book they are suppose to be 1000 Swiss Francs applied for a feeding infraction."

The opportunity for riders to feed from the team vehicles is supposed to end with twenty kilometres to the finish of each stage. Shea allotted an extra six kilometres to the end of the feed zone because the previous location was on a descent. "We extended it to with in thirteen kilometres to go on Brasstown Bald," he said. "I gave a warning with one mile to go before closing the feed zone, which was plenty of time considering we had already passed the official feeding nearly five kilometres prior to that warning. So all of the feeding fines started after the climb had started and to the teams who were handing out water bottles freely."

The disqualifications occurred when riders were found hanging off of team cars to get back into the peloton, not uncommon in stage racing when riders become tired and need a little help finishing within the time cut.

The Priority Health team was one of those charged with a feeding infraction. "The rules are the rules and obviously everyone needs to stick to them," said team director Glen Mitchell. "The assistance that we were giving was not to win the race was just to have our riders finish in the time cut so they can start the stage the next day. They are obviously not a threat given the way they are feeling. But as a team it is always good to have everyone finish for morale. It takes just a couple of seconds to help a rider and (that kind of help) usually accepted by the officials. Obviously we were in the category where they though our assistance to the riders was too much and the officials are a little harsher in their decision making and we lost our second car and two riders (to penalties). The officials are making their voices heard to say that they are not going to tolerate infractions during this race."

One disqualification was overturned this morning due to a Shea's reevaluation. Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light rider Adam Bergman was slapped with a disqualification for hanging onto the medical vehicle. Bergman has been suffering form bronchitis and held onto the medical car while the Doctor searched for throat lozenges. "In the case of Bergman, it was characterized as a mis-report," Shea said. "In speaking to the doctor, we appreciated that he was being medically treated and so what he was doing at the car and why he was hanging onto the car was legitimate."

Marinangeli stopped for high hematocrit

By Gregor Brown

Marinangeli at the 2006 GP Beghelli
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Sergio Marinangeli of Pro Continental team Aurum Hotels was declared unfit to start in stage two of the Giro d'Abruzzo.

The 26 year-old Italian from Gualdo Tadino, second in Stage 1, was subject to a pre-race doping control that revealed a high hematocrit level and will not be allowed to race for 15 days.

This was not the first time for Marinangeli, professional since 2003 and winner of the 2006 GP Beghelli, has returned a high hematocrit reading; in March 2005, the then Naturino rider was stopped from competing in the Coppi e Bartali.

Riccardo Riccò Returns

By Gregor Brown in Belgium

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is returning to racing after nearly a month off. Today, he will line-up in the 42nd Amstel Gold after having last successfully appeared in the Coppi e Bartali, where he won the final stage against the likes of Danilo Di Luca and Michele Scarponi.

He will once again face a field of challengers, like 2005 winner Di Luca, when he lines up for the first time in the Dutch one-day classic. He reckons he can't win the race but he aims to be at the front.

Riccardo Riccò
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"I will take on Amstel for the first time, with the intentions of finding my rhythm," the 23 year-old said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I feel good and relaxed. If I am able to stay up front it is for certain my breaks will not be holding me back." Riccò will also line-up in the Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday) and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday, April 29th). He figures he chances are better on the steep slopes of the Mur de Huy.

"I am aiming for the Flèche Wallonne. It is better adapted for me. I have never raced it but Monday and Tuesday I will go to try the Mur de Huy," he continued. "The fans push me on and give me confidence. I like to ride in an attacking style, to give cycling a show, something that it is has been missing.

"Wait for me on the Mur de Huy," he advised his fans of the 1300 metre climb, which has gradients between 14 and 19%, and the upper part tops out near 25%. "Valverde, who won last year, will be the favourite. Then, I also think that there will be Samuel Sánchez, Boogerd, Di Luca, and Rebellin. I want to also be there with them."

Joining Riccò for the last two of the Ardennes Classics will be two-time Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni. His teammate is building his form for a third run at the Corsa Rosa title, and Riccò plans to be there right at his side.

Over the last two weeks "we tried some of the stages. Tre Cime, Zoncolan, Oropa and the Verona time trial, on the penultimate day. What everybody says is true, the Zoncolan is very scary. The Oropa mountain time trial, even though short, will make some selection. And the Verona time trial is not for specialists, there are some hard bits adapted for us climbers; Basso will not be able to make huge advantages."

His captain is currently racing in the Tour of Georgia but plans on flying back for Wednesday's Classic. Riccò believes Simoni is prepared to win. "I have seen him very concentrated," he said of Simoni, who finished fifth on Friday's Brasstown Bald stage. "He is stronger than the last years, because he knows that this maybe the last big occasion for a triple. At his side, I am convinced I will have a great race."

Cyclingnews will bring you live coverage and race reports from all three of the Ardennes Classics.

McCartney down with meningitis

By Kirsten Robbins

Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Discovery Channel team's super domestique Jason McCartney was admitted to Atlanta's Emory Hospital after complaining of severe headaches before the start of the Tour de Georgia. Doctors in Atlanta confirmed with PJ Rabice, the Discovery Channel's public relations officer, that McCartney is suffering from viral meningitis.

It was an unfortunate loss for the Discovery Channel team when their prized domestique with drew from the race before it began. McCartney has been has was first noticed by the Discovery Channel after winning a stage in 2004. Last year he proved to be one of the strongest riders in the field during the Brasstown Bald stage dangling in front of the field allowing his teammate and stage winner Tom Danielson to rest for the final climb. He has proved to be on tremendous form this year after capturing third place in the Tour of California while working for race winner Levi Leipheimer.

The team flew over to Europe to compete in a series of stage races before returning the US' Tour de Georgia. "(McCartney) was sick at the Castilla y Leon and almost did not race there," Rabice told Cyclingnews. "He went home and was training in some really cold weather. He is pretty lean right now while getting ready for the Giro d'Italia and training long hours in 25-30 degree weather in Iowa because the weather is so crappy. His immune system may have been down as far back as the Castilla y Leon."

McCartney arrived in Atlanta and began complaining of severe headaches on the Friday before the race was scheduled to start. "By late Sunday night his headache was so severe and to the point of nausea," Rabice said. "He was taken to the hospital where the doctors ran a bunch of tests and the prognosis was that it was a case of viral meningitis. It is not contagious or life threatening but he had to remain in the hospital and continue to take medication for the severe headaches involved."

McCartney will remain in the hospital until the results of his second set of tests are clear. "In the last few days he has been up and down with his headaches," Rabice said. "The doctors have been doing other tests to make sure that they are covering all of the bases because of the fluctuation of his headaches. As of yesterday afternoon he was feeling much better and his headaches were going away. The doctors expect to release him (Saturday) afternoon or maybe as late as (Sunday)."

McCartney's family flew in to Atlanta to visit him in the hospital. They had made arrangements to attend the Tour de Georgia to watch the final three stages before flying back to their hometown of Iowa City.

Volksbank neo-pro ends career

By Susan Westemeyer

Neo-pro Simon Schärer of Team Volksbank has ended his pro cycling career after only two months, the team announced Saturday. "It was a good two months," the young Swiss rider said, "but cycling alone is too little." He said that he didn't have the necessary discipline "to get used to the structured daily routine. That is frustrating."

Schärer, 24, said that his best memory of his short pro career was "the togetherness and the mood in the team. Both impressed me. I hope that the guys have a good season." He has completed his training as an electrician and plans to work as a service technician "and ride my bike in my free time."

"Simon had the basis for a solid career," said team manager Thomas Kofler. "But I can understand and respect his decision, when he believes that he won't be happy in the long run as a professional athlete."

Amy Gillett Foundation fundraiser a success

Some of the board
Photo ©: Gary Newvine
(Click for larger image)

On April 19 in Melbourne, the Amy Gillett Foundation hosted its inaugural AGF Friends function. Guests attending, by invitation only, represented a cross section of AGF supporters - patrons, ambassadors, board and committee members, corporate partners and Club 500 members. Special guests included Phil Anderson (AGF Patron) and Denis & Mary Safe (Amy's parents).

The evening acknowledged the ongoing commitment and support these people and organisations have given to the AGF and the important role each have played in assisting the AGF to achieve what it has, in only its first year of operation.

Not open to the general public, the venue showcases Paul and Charlie Farren's private collection of vintage bicycles over the centuries, some dating back to the late 1800's when wooden rims were all the rage! The display, both fascinating and unique, proved the highlight of the evening.

Many would recall the tragic accident in Germany 2005, in which an out of control car veered into the AIS women's cycling team. Amy Gillett was killed and her five teammates seriously injured. The AGF's primary objective is to reduce the incidence of death and injury caused by the interaction between cyclists and motorists. To ensure incidents like Germany are not repeated in Australia, the AGF is promoting and encouraging safe and responsible road use and mutual respect between these road user groups.

If you'd like to be involved or support the AGF, go to www.amygillett.org.au for more details.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gary Newvine

Jaksche blasts critics

By Susan Westemeyer

2006 Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Jorg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jörg Jaksche is another Operación Puerto rider who has found a team and rejoined the pro peloton. Riding for Team Tinkoff, Jaksche says that he has nothing to fear from any further steps in the doping scandal. "I have done everything that the UCI has asked, " the 30-year-old said in an interview with sport1.at. "I was even the only rider who declared himself ready to give a voluntary DNA sample. But everything is very unclear. Who knows, what will happen. I have the impression that something has to happen, because certain people have leaned too far out the window."

The 30-year-old explained further: "These people have to figure with legal steps against them, if they have falsely accused riders like Ivan Basso of doping. Our status has fallen from a respected rider to that of a beggar. Someone has to pay for that damage. That's why they are so interested that the investigation reach the results they want."

Does he believe that Basso will be allowed to ride the Tour de France this year? "He will definitely ride. His sponsors will make sure of that. Nike is Basso's main personal sponsor and an official partner of the Tour. Versus (an American television network that used to be called Outdoor Life network and that broadcasts the Tour de France in the US) belongs to Discovery Channel, and as far as I know, has bought the US TV rights to the Tour for the next four years. So theoretically speaking, Basso shouldn't have any problem in France."

Jaksche sympathized with landsman Jan Ullrich. "I'm sorry that Ullrich has been so massacred. It's really awful. I don't believe that he cheated. I have information from every possible side -- there are many rumours going around, all concerning Jan's innocence. They sound plausible. He's never been found to have cheated."

Jaksche is confident that there will be no match of his DNA samples to blood bags taken in the investigation. "Why else would I agree to a DNA test? If I didn't have a clear conscience, then I would never have offered the comparison, rather I would have tried to stop it. I am ready for it at any time. As soon as the UCI has the documents out of Spain, it will happen."

He doesn't like the suggestion that Tinkoff has a bad reputation because it has hired several prominent riders who have been involved in doping cases, such as Tyler Hamilton and Danilo Hondo. "That's just hypocrisy," he said. "Why do they always pick on Tinkoff? Gerolsteiner has two Directeur Sportif who were caught, and numerous riders who have something dirty to hide. Certain people make it easy for themselves, in that they simply forget the past."

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

Field full for Tour of Virginia

On April 24, the seven-stage/six day 2007 Tour of Virginia begins with Stage 1, the Natural Bridge Individual Time Trial. The race starts with a full field of 29 teams and 150 riders -- an increase of 50% over 2006 -- as the event commences its fifth year.

Teams expected to animate the race are UCI Continental teams, Kodak Galleries/Sierra Nevada, Rite Aid, AEG-Toshiba, Priority Health/Bissell, Rock Racing, Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast, and Calyon/Litespeed (a development squad for the French Credit Agricole team)VMG (US U-23 development squad). But as always, watch out for surprises.

Matt Butterman, the event's executive director, said: "Not only is this the largest, but also it's the strongest field in the race's history. This year we are on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, and there's a depth in the talent list that we haven't seen before. Each team represented is bringing a very solid squad. With 29 teams, that's going to make for a very exciting race. No one team will be able to control the action, everything can change on any given day, and that's what makes our race really special. Let us not forget, too, that a number of riders and team managers have remarked that this is the most scenic course they have encountered in the USA, and it reminds many of racing in Europe."

Returning this year is the 2003-4 champion, Scottie Weiss, riding for AEG-Toshiba-Jet Network, who is looking for an historic third win. Last year’s General Classification winner, Brent Bookwalter, now riding for the National Development Squad, will unfortunately not be on the start line after suffering a severely broken left leg in a crash last week while racing in Europe.

Although a hilly race, the Tour of Virginia traditionally promises much for the sprinters. Sprinting sensation JJ Haedo will be off racing in Europe with the CSC team, but his brother Lucas is now racing in the US and will be coming to the Tour of Virginia with the brand new Rock Racing squad, managed by Frankie Andreu. So far Lucas Haedo has a slew of top five results in the USA to his credit.

Phil Southerland will be heading Team Type 1 Monitored by Freestyle, a team composed entirely of cyclists with diabetes. This is the first time in US, and possibly world history, that such a team has competed in a professional bicycle stage race. The members of this team are all seasoned professionals, and most have raced together before, but this exact lineup will unify for the first time in stage two, the Lynchburg Criterium.

For a full roster of this year’s entrants, and full stage information, please visit the Tour of Virginia website, www.tourofvirginia.com.

Tour of Ulster fields first female racer

With almost two weeks remaining before the start of the 2007 cycling Tour of Ulster, the entry list is virtually complete with around 100 of Ireland's top cyclists already entered. The Tour of Ulster runs over the weekend of May 5th to 7th and this year will be largely based in counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry.

The 2006 Tour of Ulster winner, Ray Clarke from Clonmel, will be back to wear the number 1 jersey, again supported by the Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers who have dominated in many of this years early season races in Munster. The powerful Murphy & Gunn team which took the team award in 2006 are also entered, this time with a younger squad, some of them already making their presence felt on one day events around the country.

The Irish News sponsored "Young Rider" competition could well go to one of the Murphy/Gunn outfit, but Ulster's young hopefuls, such as Simon Williams (Orchard Wheelers),or Martyn Irvine (Ards CC) have been showing great form in Northern events lately, and will be well enough able for the southern invaders. Williams in particular has rarely been out of the top ten in local races since the season kicked off in March, and he will have the benefit of experienced professional Stephen Gallagher with him on the Orchard Wheelers squad. Gallagher who normally rides with the Sean Kelly team in Europe, had been sidelined for the past month or so with a wrist injury, but if his pre accident form is anything to go by, he could be a possible overall winner.

Tour of Ulster regulars, the Stamullen/M.Donnelly Road Club will be missing this year, having instead opted for the "Presidential Tour of Turkey," an international race which takes place over the same weekend.

One competitor sure to attract major interest is the sole lady entrant, in a race that has for the last 50 years been the exclusive preserve of the men. Siobhan Dervlan, the current Irish ladies champion, and a member of the Europe Continental team,"Lotto/ Bodysol", is a likely starter. Last weekend in the Netherlands Siobhan placed twenty first from a field of 164 ladies, in the "Rondevan Drenthe" and she is a full time bike rider.

Route details can be downloaded from the race website at www.tourofulster.com.

Ride of Silence plans fifth annual memorial

The Ride of Silence, a grass-roots, global network of group rides held simultaneously and in complete silence in honour of cyclists injured or killed by motorists, has announced the date and time for the 2007 edition. Spokesperson Mark Hagar says that "the 2007 Ride of Silence will start globally on Wed. May 16th, at 7:00 PM. Rides in the southern hemisphere will take place on Sat. May 19th at 10 AM, for rider safety, and greater visibility to the public and media."

The Ride of Silence memorial was started after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was struck and killed by a passing bus while cycling outside of Dallas in 2003. His good friend & coach Chris Phelan organized a memorial ride in Dallas on May 18th, titled the Ride of Silence, a slow paced silent 12 mile ride to honour/remember his friend. In just a 10 day period, via email and word of mouth, over 1,000 cyclists attended. Chris thought he had closure.

Word spread and in 2004, Rides of Silence took place on May 18th at 7:00 PM in 50 cities in the U.S. and Canada spreading to over 250 cities worldwide in 2006.

There are no fees to attend Rides of Silemce. For more information, visit the Ride of Silence Web site at http://www.rideofsilence.org/locations-international.php.

Valverde is ready for winning

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde is ready to lead Caisse d'Epargne in Amstel, Flecha and Lieja. Accompanied by countrymen José Joaquín Rojas, Luis León Sánchez, Joaquim Rodríguez (who gained the Gran Premio de Primavera in Amorebieta, Basque Country) and veteran Vicente 'Chente' García Acosta.

Valverde says Óscar Freire (Rabobank) as his main rival for gaining in the Amstel Gold Race. "Last year, I had bad luck at this races, but now it will be different," the twenty-six year old rider said.

But José Joaquín Rojas will be another valuable alternative for Caisse d'Epargne. Rojas finished 9th in the Gent Wevelgem and played a strong role in París-Roubaix. "I feel very well and very motivated. I know that I am capable of reaching the podium in any of these great classic races." Rojas said to Cyclingnews.com.

Samuel Sánchez to lead Euskaltel in Amstel Gold

Samuel Sanchez will lead Euskaltel-Euskadi in the second half of the April classics. After his victory in the final-stage time trial at the Vuelta al País Vasco and third in GC, the Austrian rider travels to the Netherlands and to Belgium with good legs.

Raisin announces engagement at TdG

By Kirsten Robbins

Saul Raisin made an appearance at the start of Stage 5 of the 2007 Tour de Georgia in his hometown of Dalton, Georgia. He rode one parade lap of the neutral circuits and later announced his recent engagement to Aleeza Zabriskie.

The young Credit Agricole rider has spent the last thirteen months recovering from a life threatening crash at the Circuit de la Sarthe in April of last year. His crash resulted in a hematoma the size of a lemon in the right side of his brain. He spent one week in a coma and awoke with a temporary paralysis to the left side of his body. Raisin claims he has been given a new perspective on life because his near death accident last year and does not take life for granted.

Raisin attended the Tour of California in February to ride each course ahead of the professional peloton to raise awareness for his foundation Raisin Hope, an effort to help those who suffer from brain and spinal cord injury. On the way home he was recognized by, now fiancé, Zabriskie. She had attended the Tour of California to watch her brother Dave Zabriskie and his CSC team in competition. Raisin commented on their short encounter. "She came up to me to introduce herself to tell me that she had prayed for me everyday since my accident," Raisin said. "I knew then that she was an angel watching over me and we have been together ever since. She has been to my home in France and this month I took her to a little chapel near my home behind Nice to propose to her."

USA Dev rider Devine has ride of life in TdG

John Devine (USA National Team)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

After wearing the Best Young Rider’s Jersey for one stage at the Tour de Georgia, John Devine (Dixon, Ill./VMG Racing) turned in another strong performance for the USA Cycling National Development Team with an eighth-place finish in the event’s signature stage, the 172-kilometre stage five from Dalton to the top of Brasstown Bald in Towns County.

The result signifies one of the best performances of his young career given the world-class field of international competitors racing at the Tour de Georgia.

Devine finished just 1:30 off the pace of stage winner Levi Leipheimer (Santa Rosa, Calif./Discovery Channel), who made his winning move on the final ascent to the mountaintop finish. Devine’s eighth-place finish was the best of any rider eligible for the Best Young Rider classification and vaulted him from 61st to 29th in the general classification.

In July, Devine, 21, will join Leipheimer and Brajkovic on the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team’s roster as the latest in a long line of USA Cycling National Development Team graduates to compete for a UCI ProTour squad, the highest level of professional cycling in the world.

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