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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 16, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Elk Haus can stay in Deutschland tour

By Susan Westemeyer

Riders at the Tour of Germany
Photo ©: Jon Cannings
(Click for larger image)

Team Elk Haus Simplon will be allowed to ride the Deutschland Tour to the end, since a court in Hamburg, Germany, postponed a further hearing on its preliminary injunction against the race organizers. The court put the hearing off until Monday, at which time the race will be over.

The tour revoked Elk Haus wild-card invitation last week, saying the team had not complied with all the paperwork requirements, including submitting the required signatures to the UCI's Code of Ethics. The Austrian Professional Continental team went to court and obtained a preliminary injunction, which allowed it to start.

The judge on Wednesday noted that the signed code of ethics statements have since been submitted and suggested that the two sides reach a settlement. The attorneys for the Tour rejected this, according to the press agency dpa, saying it was important that its believability be maintained. The judge's final decision is now due on August 20. The race ends on August 18.

Race exclusions contribute to end of Unibet
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

On its website,, the Unibet Professional Cycling Team cited "unjustified exclusion ... from ProTour races organized by the 'Big Tours' (ASO, Unipublic, RCS)," as a factor in the decision to end the team's sponsorship.

In December 2006, the squad was awarded a ProTour license by the UCI and along with that the "right and obligation to start in world's highest cycling competitions." The team fell victim to an ongoing power struggle between the UCI and Grand Tour organizers and was prevented from starting several major races throughout the season. French organizers often refused to invite the team, citing French laws prohibiting the advertising of foreign gambling.

At the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, the team was only allowed to compete in a jersey with out the team name. It raced in jerseys with question marks. In fact, Unibet's participation in just about every subsequent ProTour event would be in question, and the "exclusion was repeated by ASO for other races in France and Belgium." Perhaps the most significant exclusion was not being invited to the Tour de France.

"This mutually-taken decision was a very difficult one, but as the team and the individual riders had been excluded to compete for discriminatory and inconsistent reasons, Unibet had no other choice," said Petter Nylander, CEO of Unibet, an online sports betting site listed on the Stockholm stock exchange

The International Herald Tribune reported that Unibet on Wednesday had released a disappointing earnings report that missed market expectations and that Nylander attributed the squad's woes to increasing Unibet's legal expenses.

Although Unibet is withdrawing from ProTour team sponsorship, the company has not ruled out participation in sports in general. Citing its passion for sports, the organization said it "continues to defend its vision to develop winning synergies between the company and the world of sports."

This withdrawal was not a surprise to the team or many fans. Team manager Koen Terryn told VRT the decision was expected.

Unibet's withdrawal of sponsorship comes less than a week after ProTour team Discovery Channel announced it was disbanding. Team Astana is also at risk for losing its ProTour license in the wake of several recent doping scandals. There were 20 ProTour teams going into the 2007 season.

Spanish federation defends Valverde

The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) defended Alejandro Valverde's participation in the upcoming road world championships in Germany. Earlier this week, the Stuttgart organizing committee leader came out against Valverde's participation in Stuttgart, due to his alleged involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

The Federation sent a letter to the organizing committee, the German Cycling Federation, and the UCI on his behalf according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Without releasing the letter's contents, the Federation indicated it would support Valverde for Spanish national team at worlds.

The organizing committee had also said Erik Zabel was not welcome, but there is one key difference between the riders. Zabel has confessed to doping in his past, whereas Valverde has maintained his innocence.

Dutch and Belgian time trial champions crowned

Leif Hoste (Predictor - Lotto)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Defending Belgian time trial champion Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) successfully defended his national title Wednesday in Maldegem. The 30 year-old finished the 45 km course in 57'10" ahead of Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and team-mate Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

Françis De Greef (Davitamon-Win for Life-Jong Vlaanderen/Ruisbroek) won the U23 division while An Van Rie AA-Drink Cycling Team) won the 22.5km women's version in 32'24".

On the same day in The Netherlands, more time trial titles were awarded. Stef Clement won the men's title in 54'11". Michiel Elijzen and Rick Flens finished second and third. Lars Boom won the U23 title, and Kim van Dijk won over second-place Regina Bruins and third place Mirjam Melchers.

Read full results of the Belgian and Dutch national time trials.

Soler capitalizes on Tour de France form for win

Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) is the new leader
Photo ©: Freddy Guérin
(Click for larger image)

Team Barloworld's Mauricio Soler showed he's kept his form from the Tour de France, where he won the mountains classification, by winning the second stage of the Vuelta a Burgos Wednesday.

Stage two travelled 149km from Areniscas de los Pinares to Lagunas de Neila and featured four KOMs and a steep uphill finish which the Colombian climber exploited to move away from the lead bunch of 18 riders, including Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval - Prodir).

Soler captured a solo win with a 17 second margin and took over the overall leadership in the race. The Columbian was one of the main protagonists to splinter the group up the final 10km climb to Lagunas de Neila. With just two kilometers to go and only a few riders remaining at the front, Soler attacked again, and no one was able to stay in his wake. Carlos Castaño (Karpin-Galicia) and Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) finished second and third.

For complete coverage of the Vuelta a Burgos, stage two, click here.

Roamfree adds detail to ProTour ideas

By Paul Verkuylen has shed some light on its ProTour intensions, after announcing earlier this week it would throw $20 million dollars behind an Australian ProTour team. The Australian company, owned by former Australian Rules footballer turned businessmen Tony Smith, has revealed its eight figure pledge will be made over a period of five years, meaning another estimated $15 million in additional funding is required to make the plan viable.

"The main focus at the moment is to increase awareness of the project and to hopefully attract another major sponsor to jump onboard," explained Pro Cycling Australia CEO Dr Paul Varcoe to PCA is currently chasing another major corporate backer in addition to Australian government and Tourism Australia support in order to make the plan a reality.

PCA has no plans of forming a squad for 2008 to form the base of its ambitious ProTour entry the following year, instead Varcoe envisages the ProTour squad would have some form of alliance with the Australian Institute of Oceania Continental squad.

"We have contacted prospective directors and riders who are interested in working with us, we have spoken to the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Sport as well as the Prime Minister's office in regard to an official government fund, which is under consideration," said Varcoe when asked what further steps had been taken to make the project a reality.

To become a ProTour team the squad would need to acquire a much sought-after ProTour licence, and Varcoe says he has already held discussion with the UCI's ProTour director Alain Rumpf. "Having an Australian ProTour makes sense, along with the Tour Down Under; it all fits in with the global thinking of the UCI ProTour," he said

With the ProTour licences coming up for renewal in 2009 and most high profile riders contracts ending around that time, it makes sense for the team to begin preparations now. "We hope to have the project finalised by the middle of 2008, any later will be too late," Varcoe concluded.

Cycling Australia has said PCA has its support to make the idea happen. "We certainly endorse the project and are working with them in whatever ways we can be useful," CA president Graham Fredericks told the Herald Sun.

Smith, who has spoken to some of Australia's top cyclists about his plans, isn't deterred by the current situation at the sport's top level - where doping controversy has overshadowed the world's biggest races for the past 18 months. Instead, the businessman believes that now is the right time to buy into the sport.

"I see it as an opportunity because when other people get scared, it's normally a great buying opportunity - you buy on the down and sell on the up," Smith told The Age. "For the educated, what's happened with these people being kicked out for drug cheating is actually the best thing that could possibly happen for the sport.

"So, if that's the case, it's the best thing that could happen for sponsors, but some of the sponsors are big banks and all the rest of it - they're people who make decisions from an ivory tower," he added. "Unless you get up and close and comfortable with it, you could have a knee-jerk reaction."

Sanchez acing to win

By Hernan Alvarez

Sanchez celebrates
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has had a relatively quiet year after a stellar 2006 season when he ended the year with a solo victory in the one-day classic, the Championship of Zurich. Always an animator of the races, Sanchez is back in action at the Vuelta a Burgos as preparation for September's Vuelta a España. The Euskaltel-Euskadi star has been preparing for his main goal, the Vuelta.

Sanchez spent last season as one of the most attacking riders in the peloton, using his power to nab stage wins in the Vuelta a España, a second place in La Flèche Wallonne and the Tour of Lombardy. He also took two stages of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and wore the leader's jersey until the final stage time trial. This season he's scaled back his calendar a bit, but still managed stage wins in the Basque Tour - this time in the final time trial - and a mountain top win ahead of Alexander Vinokourov on the final day of the Volta a Catalunya.

Cyclingnews caught up with the Spaniard in his hometown of Oviedo where he was busy training for the Tour of Spain. "I'm in a preparation phase right now," said Sanchez. "I have to race the Vuelta a Burgos to start getting into the rhythm of competition. I hope to reach the Vuelta in good condition in order to do it well. Now I still have to face the Vuelta a Burgos as part of the preparation to reach Vigo in good condition at the start of the Vuelta."

Before Burgos, Sanchez took part in the Clasica a San Sebastian, but only to gain form. He limited himself to finishing the competition, coming in 105th place among 117 riders. "It was positive for me," he said of San Sebastian. "I was able to finish the race. It was a good 230-kilometer training to start getting the rhythm. [This kind of race] makes you know where your place in race is and know your weak points in order to keep on training for the next races."

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Sanchez started the Vuelta a Burgos still with the goal of gaining fitness and building race speed. "I have expectations to get into the rhythm of competition and gain fitness little by little. Not more. I won't go for any stage win or personal achievements. I think the goal is clear, it is the Vuelta a España. And we must go easy up to there - accumulating racing kilometres and nothing else. We won't put engines at full speed there in Burgos."

A versatile rider, Sanchez has had success on just about every type of parcours, and this kind of talent just isn't something that can be trained. "I think it is a bit innate," Sanchez said. "I think it is in your genes. Riders of my style are very profitable for any kind of team in Europe, because I can win climbing, going down, in a flat finish, in a bunch sprint, in a time trial."

Despite being the kind of rider who can perform throughout the year and who would be a desirable acquisition for just about any team, Sanchez has remained loyal to the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team since the start of his professional career in 2000. His loyalty to Spain has also translated into a preference for the Vuelta over the Tour de France - a race which he hasn't started since 2003.

"I think that doing two Grand Tours in one year is to much one's body much," Sanchez explained why he prefers to sit out the sport's biggest race. "This way I have time to be able to rest during the Tour de France and to prepare myself well with good workouts thinking of the Vuelta a España. So indeed I reach (Vuelta) a bit more rested than the ones who raced the Tour."

To read the complete feature, click here.

Martínez back to Euskaltel-Euskadi?

By Monika Prell

Egoi Martínez (Discovery) at the 2006 Vuelta a España
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Egoi Martínez left Euskaltel-Euskadi at the end of 2005 for destination team Discovery Channel, where he showed a great performance during the last two years. Amongst other races, he won the eleventh stage and the mountain classification of the Vuelta a España in 2006.

Now, after the announcement of the retirement of the sponsor at the end of 2007, the 29 year-old has to look for a new team, and he could return to his former team. During this year's Tour de France, Miguel Madariaga, the General Manager of Euskaltel-Euskadi, asked Discovery Director Johan Bruyneel for Martínez, but Bruyneel refused, answering that the winner of the 2003's Tour de l'Avenir was already integrated in the plans of Discovery Channel for next year, so that there were grounds for neither an offer nor an excuse for negotiations between Euskaltel-Euskadi and Martínez.

At the time, nobody knew Discovery Channel would announce the end of its sponsorship. "This news came as very surprising for me. I thought that Johan (Bruyneel) would give me an offer soon. I did not think of other possibilities, of other teams, because I was very happy there... . Now, I have to begin to search, because actually, I don't have anything concrete, even if I am aware that some teams are interested in me," said Martínez to Deia.

Euskaltel-Euskadi will make the rider an offer this week. "He is a rider who is tremendously interesting, more than any other we contacted until this moment, because he fits perfectly in our philosophy and in the form of working of this team. We would like to have him with us, but we won't fire the other ones for him. We don't want to break the dynamic of the team," confirmed Madariaga.

On his part, Martínez sees the offer of Euskaltel-Euskadi as "one of the alternatives," but he hopes for more offers. "I am looking for a team where I would like to be as much like being in this team (Discovery) and where I can do a similar (race) calendar. I want to feel really appreciated, like I do it now." A possible alternative for the cyclist from Navarra could be Eusebio Unzuè's team Caisse d'Epargne.

At the moment, Martínez is focussing on the Vuelta a España, although he admits that this is difficult. "These (times) are complicated, difficult to digest, and I am not very motivated. The pressure after the victory in the Tour de France was minimal, but now I have to motivate myself again," said Martínez.

T-Mobile to Tour of Britain

T-Mobile Team will participate in the Tour of Britain, taking the last empty space in the line-up, race organizers announced Wednesday afternoon.

The German ProTour team is expected to send Linus Gerdemann, who won a stage in the Tour de France and wore the leader's jersey for a day, as well as the team's two British riders, Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond. The remaining three riders will be announced later.

McCook to lead Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast at USPRO Criterium

Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast drive the pace at Elk Grove
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team, in training for this weekend's USPRO Criterium Championship in Downers Grove should have plenty to talk about and just as much momentum. Led by two-time winner and performance director Jonas Carney, the lineup also includes former champion Dave McCook who took second place in stage two of the Elk Grove Village stage race just last weekend and Martin Gilbert, who placed third in stage three.

"Of course we're rarely satisfied with anything other than a win," said performance director Jonas Carney of having Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast athletes on two of the three podiums in Elk Grove. "But for a first-year team, we've never ridden better and we're going into the USPRO Criterium with a lot of momentum and showing that we mean business."

McCook won in 1994. He will be joined by team-mates like Martin Gilbert who won the Pan Am Championships in May, former Canadian National Champion Dominique Perras and new sprinter Keven Lacombe. Reid Mumford is a local resident of the Chicago area who will be riding on home turf for one of his first major races after recovering from a tibial plateau (ankle) fracture earlier this year.

"There's probably no more competitive Criterium in the world," said Carney, putting his A-team lineup of sprinters through intensive legwork for the race he says is not just about sprinting.

"Typically it comes down to a field sprint, but it's not just a sprinter's race. I've competed many times and know you need to have incredible fitness to last in the Midwest heat and humidity in August and against the kind of field this criterium attracts," said Carney. "It's going to be a tough race but we have guys who know how to battle for position and deliver a sprinter. And this criterium will come down to position. Five laps out you need great fitness especially as the battle becomes chaotic in the closing laps." Carney should know; he won the race in 1997 and 2004.

Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast for Downers Grove: Martin Gilbert, Reid Mumford, Ryan Roth, Jonny Sundt, Keven Lacombe, Dave McCook, Dominique Perras, and Dan Bowman.

Star Crossed takes it up a notch

The Star Crossed, America's first twilight cyclo-cross race, will return September 22 to King County's Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington. The event will kick off the US 'cross season for the sixth consecutive year under the bright lights of the velodrome.

This year the race is stepping up in prestige; it's earned UCI designation and will be not only the first UCI race in a series of top caliber cyclo-cross races on the West Coast, but also the first UCI level race in the US. Current Danish national champion Jochim Parbo is the first big name international rider to confirm his attendance.

Long time sponsor Full Speed Ahead has increased their support to become co-title sponsor. "Star Crossed has been a fixture in the northwest cyclo-cross scene and it keeps getting bigger and better. It's a great kick-off for the national season," said Max Ralph, Marketing Manager FSA. Local sponsor Gerk's Alpine Hut also joins the family of sponsors for this year.

Nature Valley Grand Prix on TV

Kristin Armstrong (TEAm Lipton)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

TV coverage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, held June 20-24, and a fixture on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, is set to air on Versus (formerly Outdoor Life Network) August 19 at 3:00 pm and August 21 at 5:00 pm (Eastern Daylight Time). Announcers Bob Roll and Dave Towle will call the action for the summary race coverage.

Ivan Stevic (Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team) and Kristin Armstrong (TEAm Lipton) won the race.

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