First Edition Cycling News for August 17, 2007
Edited by Laura Weislo
Valverde gunning for Worlds despite German objections
Just days after the World Championships committee president Susanne Eisenmann said that he is not welcome at the Stuttgart event, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde has insisted that he is targeting the World Championships and fully intends to race as long as he is selected by his national federation. Eisenmann expressed concerns over Valverde's alleged involvement in the Operación Puerto doping scandal, allegations which he has been fighting vigorously all year.
Seeking to improve on his third place finish of last year's World Road Championships, Valverde told AS, "I do not have anything to hide. I am clean and I am getting tired of saying it." He wasn't impressed with the attitude of the Germans against his compatriot Alberto Contador, who faced harsh criticism and exclusion from the Vattenfall Classics in Hamburg over similar allegations. "The Germans go against everybody, even against themselves. Days ago they told Contador he could not race in Hamburg. Now they attack me."
The race organiser admitted that they could not legally exclude Valverde. "It is evident that they cannot prevent me from going. If I am selected, I will go to Germany with a strong mind and all the desire in the world to win the championship. That is my aim and I am working for it."
Valverde skipped the Vuelta a España in favour of resting up from his efforts in the Tour de France to prepare for the Worlds. "We changed the calendar," he admitted. "I am racing in Burgos but still holding onto the good form after taking sixth in the Tour. When I finish in Burgos, I only have the GP Plouay in France (September 2nd) and then I will prepare for the Worlds. The rumours and the news that come from [Germany] are not going break my focus."
Milram wants Zabel at Worlds
Milram team manager Gianluigi Stanga reacted to the statement of Worlds organisers that Erik Zabel was not welcome at the World Championships, saying that he felt the need to intervene on discussions which he considers "absurd". Committee president Susanne Eisenmann named Zabel as one of the riders not welcome in Stuttgart because of his admitted use of the banned blood booster EPO in the 1990's.
In a strong letter of recommendation which came courtesy of the Milram team's press agent, Stanga said that Zabel "lives bicycle racing 365 days a year, 'resting' at the Six Days during the winter", and races from January to October on the road, something which has made him "the most esteemed rider in the peloton" and an "example of professionalism and reliability."
The selection of the German team for the World Championships will be decided by the German Cycling Federation (BDR) on August 29.
Adidas stays with T-Mobile
T-Mobile general manager Bob Stapleton, successful earlier this month in securing the continued support of the team's title sponsor, has now been successful in persuading Adidas to continue sponsoring the team, the sportswear maker announced Thursday. The company said that the American "has outlined an action plan to Adidas for preventing doping in his team and improving the environment in the sport. Based on these actions, Adidas will continue the support of the team and its management."
The firm had announced in July after Patrik Sinkewitz' positive doping test that it would reconsider its sponsorship of the team. "Adidas made the decision knowing there are still many loopholes in doping controls and that there are no guarantees for a drug-free sport," the company continued, "But from Adidas' perspective, the T-Mobile Team has taken forward-looking and necessary steps towards this goal. The alternative of withdrawing from the involvement would equal surrender in the face of the doping problem."
Ciolek doubles up in D-Tour
T-Mobile's Gerald Ciolek sprinted to back to back victories in the Deutschland Tour on Thursday. The 20-year-old blasted off the wheel of lead-out man André Greipel to take the stage seven victory ahead of Erik Zabel (Milram) on the rain soaked roads of Regensburg. The win followed his hotly contested win on stage six where he barged past Italian Danilo Napolitano to take his first win since he took the overall victory in the Rheinland Pfalz Rundfahrt and a stage in April's Niedersachsen Rundfahrt.
"Yesterday, there was a beer to celebrate, today, maybe there'll be two," Ciolek joked on the team's website, www.t-mobile-team.com. The team had its work cut out for it bringing back a motivated break of five which gained more than five minutes on the field. When the break was brought back with 10 km to go, the team also had to assemble its lead-out on a difficult run-in to the sprint which included a hairpin bend 700 metres from the line.
"I'm delighted for the team who were highly motivated right from the start in Saarbrücken and concentrated so well on the task in hand,” said sporting director Jan Schaffrath. "It's beautiful to see how victory comes when all the riders work together and have a little bit of luck on their side. The riders have been rewarded for their work.”
Team CSC's Jens Voigt maintained his slim lead on the overall classification going into the decisive individual time trial around Fürth. He leads David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) by 33 seconds and Rabobank's Robert Gesink by 1'14".
Contador to ride Discovery's last race in Missouri
The Discovery Channel team will bid adieu to their American supporters by sending a star-studded team to the inaugural Tour of Missouri in September. The Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and third placed finisher Levi Leipheimer will head up a strong team including George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych, Tony Cruz, Jason McCartney, John Devine and Fuyu Li.
The Tour of Missouri is seeking to build on the success of the other major US Tours, the Tour de Georgia and Tour of California, and high profile names will help bring in the fans to the 600 mile race which begins in Kansas City on Tuesday, September 11 and finishes in St. Louis the following Sunday.
"To have Johan Bruyneel commit to bringing Discovery Channel's Tour de France 'dream team' to the Tour of Missouri is very special for this first-time race," said race director Jim Birrell. "We will have three riders from the top eight of the Tour de France, two being from the final podium, and I look forward to hosting the entire Discovery Channel team during their swan song on domestic soil."
The race will not only be the team's final event, but will also be its director's swan song. Bruyneel announced he would retire from the sport after the announcement that Tailwind Sports, the owner of the team, was ending its search for sponsorship and dissolving the team.
"I have always enjoyed directing in the U.S. because of our success and an amazing group of fans that come to see us race," Bruyneel said. "It is sad to think that this will be one of the last times I will be directing, but I am glad it will be in front of a such great fans."
Leipheimer will be seeking to bookend a successful year with another win in Missouri. "I have had an amazing 2007 season which started out when I won the Amgen Tour of California," Leipheimer said, "followed by a successful showing at the Tour de Georgia and then finishing on the podium at the Tour de France. It is only fitting to close it out my season with a US homecoming at the Tour of Missouri." Leipheimer continued, "I have always said that there is nothing that compares to racing at home and it will be very special for me to have guys like Alberto, Popo and George riding next to me in my final race as a Discovery Channel Team member."
Arrieta number one in Vuelta
Vuelta organiser Unipublic was faced with a difficult decision before the start of this year's event. Last year's champion Alexander Vinokourov and third placed Andrey Kashechkin both went positive for banned blood transfusions leading to their exclusion from the race, and second placed finisher Alejandro Valverde chose not to start - so who would get to wear number one in Vigo on September 1? Rather than dip down to fourth place to hand the number over to CSC's Carlos Sastre, organisers decided to sort the teams and riders in alphabetical order to determine the bib numbers. This leaves Ag2r's José Luis Arrieta at the top of the start list.
The 36 year-old Spaniard was given the honour because he "Represents those that have worked and worked in the Tours, and cycling in general, in an anonymous way in support of their team leaders - without them cycling would not occupy the place of privilege that it occupies with the fans of the sport." Arrieta won stage 19 of last year's Vuelta, and has just re-signed with the Ag2r team for next season.
Next week, once the Vuelta a Burgos and Deutschland Tours are finished, the teams will submit their definitive lists of riders who will participate in the Vuelta, which runs from September 1-23.
Numbers 1 - 9: Ag2r Prevoyance
Horner ready for more
Chris Horner is a professional athlete that was given a rare item in sport, a second chance. After making it to the big show across the Atlantic early in his career, Horner decided to give up his spot and return to the States where he felt more comfortable. After dominating the American scene, he went back to Europe in 2004 at the age of 32, taking a pay cut and a big risk.
The gamble paid off with a win in the sixth stage of the 2005 Tour de Suisse and his first trip to the Tour de France. This year, maturity and confidence allowed him to help Cadel Evans to the second step on Le Tour's podium while finishing fifteenth himself. Now he is ready for the final, and perhaps most exciting, chapters in his cycling career, as he told Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski.
To say that Chris Horner is good for an interesting sound bite is like saying the French love wine or Belgians love beer. Horner usually has something interesting to say and is rarely reluctant to share it. Maybe this is why he is often the crowd favourite, especially when he returns to the States to race. Such was the case last weekend near Chicago where he and Predictor-Lotto team-mate Freddie Rodriguez were the star attractions at the Tour of Elk Grove.
In between races Horner sat down with Cyclingnews to talk about the Tour, the sport and where his career is headed. His 15th place overall in the Tour was impressive, especially considering that he wasn't focused on the overall classification. "I wouldn't say I wasn't trying as much as it wasn't a priority!" the always easy going Horner joked about his Tour finish. "It was about tenth down on the important list to do."
To read the full interview, click here.
Zabel to lead Milram in Hamburg
Just one day after the conclusion of the Deutschland Tour, the ProTour will head to Hamburg for the Vattenfall Cyclassics. Milram's Erik Zabel will be looking to make up for last year's narrow loss to Oscar Freire while leading the team. The 229.1 kilometre course isn't necessarily one for the sprinters, however, with the short, steep climb up the Waseberg facing the riders three times, the last of which comes with just 16 kilometres to go.
Milram's Ralf Grabsch explained on the team's website, www.team-milram.com, that the difficulties extend beyond the terrain: "On this course you've got to pay attention to the weather conditions. It's extremely susceptible to wind, so the field might be torn apart early," he explained. "Otherwise the course is flat, everything will concentrate on the final lap. Everybody will try to be in the front on the climb. Whoever has enough power here has a good chance to be in front in the finish as well."
Martin Müller explains that the proximity of the race to the Tour of Germany will change the dynamic as well - last year the race fell one day before the start of the Tour, while this year it is one day after. "It's going to be another race this year. Many riders starting in Hamburg did the Deutschland-Tour before. I think at least 60 per cent. That means they're mixing up with the fresh riders," Müller explained. "We've got nine racing days in our legs from the Deutschland-Tour. Maybe a group goes with fresh riders only. Then we'll have to see how the race develops. Many riders are a bit tired already, so I can imagine that the group won't be let go too far."
BMC to Beijing
BMC Pro Cycling team athletes John Garcia, Nathan Miller and Scott Nydam join the US Team at the 'Good Luck' test event held on the Beijing Olympic course. Immediately following their return, the riders join their BMC team-mates for a short training camp in the mountains of North Carolina preceding the US Pro road and time trial championships in Greenville, South Carolina.
"I am very happy about this opportunity for Garcia, Miller and Nydam. All three of these riders are showing a lot of promise as road racers of the future; and they are ideally suited for the Beijing courses," said team director Gavin Chilcott.
All three riders will participate in the road race, while Nydam and Garcia will contest the time trial.
Chilcott added, "In addition to working hard at building the BMC team organisation, we have invested a lot in these new 'talent' riders this year. In addition to being physically gifted athletes, these athletes are also highly motivated to take advantage of good opportunities. The results of that motivation take form in a lot of ways, ranging from Scott Nydam's 6th place overall finish at the Tour of Georgia to the enthusiasm and seriousness with which these guys have approached the trip to Beijing."
Champions to T-town finals
Friday night will see a talent-filled field hit the 'concrete crater' for the 31st Annual Air Products final in the newly named Valley Preferred Cycling Center, formerly known as the Lehigh Valley Velodrome. The event highlights the venue's commitment to rider development, holding races for riders of all ages in addition to the Artie Greenburg Memorial 10 mile Final and other professional races.
Back again for the second week in a row will be 2004 Olympic champion Ryan Bayley of Australia along with his team-mates Mark French, Jason Niblett, Shane Kelly, Joel Leonard, Daniel Ellis, Scott Sunderland, Anna Meares, and Kerrie Meares. The Aussies will be joined by Italian Olympian Roberto Chiappa, the 2006 Keirin World Champion Teun Mulder and his team-mate Tim Veldt of the Netherlands. Also starring will be Malaysian Olympian Josiah Ng, British Olympic team members Matt Crampton and Jason Kenny (2006 Junior World Champion), US Olympians Adam Duvendeck and Jennie Reed, T-Town Express riders Andy Lakatosh, Ben Barczewski, and Ryan Nelman, along with many more world-class athletes.
When asked how he felt about the competition this year at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center Ryan Bayley responded, "I think that the competition is really good this year. Last year it was mostly Americans and they were going quite quickly, but it was not as much of a challenge. This year is another story. The Americans have stepped up tremendously and the high quality European riders are making it much more difficult for me to win, which I am not particularly fond of," Bayley said jokingly. "I enjoy riding the Keirin but the sprint is where it's at for me. I am looking forward to the finals to see who really is the fastest rider."
For more information visit thevelodrome.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)