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Latest Cycling News for August 23, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Sastre's rival for Vuelta: himself

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Carlos Sastre fires along
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre confronted the three Grand Tours last season: Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España. But this year has been a bit different for him. He was not at the Giro and in the Tour the CSC leader finished fourth, as well as last year. Now, the Vuelta (September 1 to 23) will be his next challenge.

"I always love this race. Once I recovered from the Tour, I think that I have done with my training, so I aspire to be on the podium in the end," the 32 year-old Spaniard explained to Cyclingnews.

"There are no rivals for me because the maximum rival I have is myself; the rivals are chosen by the route." Indeed, Sastre considered that the Vuelta's route favours the climbers. "Yes, I think so, because there are six very demanding mountain stages [Lagos de Covadonga, Ordino, Cerler, Granada, Abantos and Ávila - ed.] but also the one which includes the Alto Campoo climb [Logroño], and only two time trial stages, in Zaragoza [49 km] and in Villalba [25 km]."

The first mountain stage on the top of the Lagos de Covadonga climb will be "a serous test" for the Vuelta GC candidates, "mainly, because the next day we will confront another very demanding stage between Cangas de Onís and Reinosa." In Sastre's opinion, it will be also very important "to recover before facing the long time trial between Cariñena and Zaragoza because the main differences will be made there."

"Obviously, the two mountain stages in the Pyrénées [Cerler and Ordino Arcalís - ed.] could decide the race, although this Vuelta's route has been designed in order to maintain the sense of expectancy from the beginning to the end," Sastre warned.

In the third week there are two key stages: "Talavera de la Reina-Ávila and Ávila-Alto de Abantos." Sastre knows this region very well because he lives near there and usually trains there. "A selected group always arrive to Ávila, so that we have to pay more attention in order not to let a rive save himself or to have an opportunity," the veteran rider from El Barraco (Ávila) concluded.

Sastre will be accompanied by a strong group formed by his countryman Iñigo Cuesta, the Danes Michael Blaudzun and Chris Anker Sørensen, American Christian Vande Velde, Russian Alexandr Kolobnev, Dutchman Karsten Kroon, Swede Marcus Ljungqvist and Ukrainian Volodimir Gustov.

Prodir takes "decreased" role in team sponsorship

Swiss company Prodir announced it will take a "decreased" role in the sponsorship of Mario Gianetti's team, Saunier Duval-Prodir, starting with 2008. The manufacturer of pens joined with Gianetti as a sponsor in 2004 and its commitment runs through 2009.

"After four years of sponsoring in the professional cycling (investment that provided very good results and that guaranteed the expected 'return of image') it is now time for Prodir to make some strategic changes based on our needs dictated by the market in which we operate," read a Prodir press release. "Consequently, our role within the Saunier Duval–Prodir Team will decrease starting from 2008. This decision has been taken in mutual agreement by Prodir and Mauro Gianetti and it does not implicate any unilateral breaking of the contract."

Prodir produces pens to be used as marketing tools by its customers. It became involved in the sport in late 2003 when Gianetti was building a team for the following season. Gianetti wanted a Swiss company to join forces with his Spain-based Saunier Duval sponsor, and found the match in his home region of Ticino.

Prodir noted that the recent doping issues within the sport did not bring about its decision. "We also want to clarify that the recent doping scandals, that obviously did not have any positive effect on cycling, did not have any influence in the decision made by Prodir to reduce the sponsorship... Or better, we recognize Mr. Gianetti's efforts and determination of clarity."

It is not known what changes will come from Prodir's decreased involvement.

Trusov with impressive second

Nikolai Trusov scored an important moral boost by finishing second behind Italian Alessandro Petacchi in the opening stage of the Regio Tour Wednesday afternoon. The 22 year-old Russian signalled his continued emergence as sprint force that was first seen on a big stage during the Giro d'Italia last May.

"This placing is an honour and it is almost like a success for our team," said Tinkoff Credit Systems Directeur Sportif Orlando Manini. "To arrive second behind Petacchi is a truly important result, above all for a young rider like Trusov."

Trusov made his way through the 2007 Giro d'Italia while placing himself well in the sprints. The most visible day for him happened to be part of the maxi-caduta ('large crash') at the end of stage 11 to Pinerolo. The sprinter was the first one to lose control on the wet finishing straight that saw many top favourites scrabbling across the ground.

The team will work to give Trusov a chance to score his season's first victory in the following four days of the Regio Tour, which concludes Sunday. The team in Germany consists of Elio Aggiano, Daniele Contrini, Steffen Weigold, Mikhail Ignatiev, Alexander Serov, Vasil Kiryienka and stagiaire Alexander Gottfried.

Rasmussen considers Masciarelli Acqua & Sapone

Rasmussen at his rest-day press conference
Photo ©: Makoto Ayano
(Click for larger image)

The Coppa Agostoni had a surprise visitor yesterday in Lissone when Michael Rasmussen appeared and had a meeting with Acqua & Sapone Team Manager Palmiro Masciarelli. The Dane, who left the Tour de France in disgrace and subsequently was fired from his team, Rabobank, is looking for a new team and the possibility of racing the Giro di Lombardia.

"I am a free rider and I am even able to race tomorrow," explained the 33 year-old to La Gazzetta dello Sport after a 30 minute meeting with Masciarelli in the team's bus. "I don't have debits with anyone. In fact, I have credit because Rabobank drove me away, provoking economic and moral difficulties. I was a victim of a big injustice and my lawyers are working to set matters correct. My objective is to find a team because I wish to have a great Lombardia."

Rasmussen left many with doubts regarding his whereabouts in the build up to the Tour de France. During the race it was discovered that he missed out of competition controls and the situation worsened when his recollection of whereabouts was contradicted by Italian journalist Davide Cassani.

"They were Danish [Federation] controls. They don't have the right to make them," explained Rasmussen regarding his missed controls. "I was not in Denmark and my license is from Monaco. I did not miss the WADA or UCI controls. The UCI even made one when I was in Denmark for the national championships on June 30.

"I am not able to say. There is something going on," he responded when asked why he lied by saying he was in Mexico instead of Dolomites, where he was spotted training by Cassani. When the uncertainties were uncovered Rabobank dismissed Rasmussen. "I can say that, other than the training in the Dolomites, I was in the Pyrénées in this same period. Rabobank knew where I was because it had paid me for the airplane ticket."

The case of Rasmussen has left many doubts but nothing that can stop the Dane from signing for a new team and competing.

Riis speaks out

Team manager Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

At the beginning of August, Team CSC decided not to take legal action against former CSC rider Jörg Jaksche, who had risen strong allegations against Bjarne Riis in the now infamous Spiegel interview. Riis, Jaksche claimed, had been aware of doping practices on the team. Riis did not want to let the issue go completely without comment; Katharina Schulz of Cyclingnews takes a look at a recent Danish paper B.T. in an exclusive interview.

"The man is out of line," Riis stated in regards to the allegations made by Jaksche in the Spiegel interview. "It was really hard for me when this thing started. Because I thought it was so grotesque. The year before I had not renewed Michael Rasmussen's contract based on something that wasn't even a real suspicion because I wanted everything to be in order," Riis told the paper. As it has become known now, Riis had decided to send home Michael Rasmussen in 2002 just before the Giro della Provincia de Lucca because of irregularities in his blood profile.

Jaksche's report shows him in a somewhat different light, amongst other things, he describes having sat in a ski lift with Riis and talked about Jaksche's race calendar but also about what could be done so that he would be able to deliver the goods. Jaksche was getting anxious because riders were being tested for EPO and he was afraid of not being able to get up to scratch anymore.

Read the full feature.

Klöden feels cheated by dopers

Team Astana riders who have tested positive for doping "have done great damage to cycling and to the team," said Andreas Klöden. "They destroyed my chances at the Tour de France."

In an interview with the German magazine Sport-Bild, he said, "I have to suffer because members of my team screwed up and tried to cheat. As I see it, the Code of Ethics needs to be re-worked. No manager and, certainly, no team-mate – like me – can see what the other riders are doing. They used dope and the remaining 26 of us are being punished. That is just not right."

Team Astana left the Tour de France after Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood-doping. Andrey Kashechkin also tested positive for blood-doping earlier this month, and Matthias Kessler was positive for testosterone earlier this year.

Does Klöden regret his decision to sign with Astana? "If you had asked me that question before the Tour de France, I would have answered no." Everything was satisfactory – the sporting directors, the team management, the material. "Now I think differently. Unfortunately I cannot foretell the future. Other teams dealt fairly with their clean riders. We were treated as scapegoats; punished and thrown out."

He does not know what the team's future will be, saying only that "Very, very much will have to change if it is to continue." He said that he has not started discussions with other teams and has received the first inquiries." Klöden would not rule out return to T-Mobile. "I am a professional. I can imagine riding for any team which offers me the appropriate conditions for a successful Tour de France."

Millar "would have won"

David Millar was 11 seconds down in 16th
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

David Millar finished the prologue of the Eneco Tour 16 seconds down in 11th place, instead of winning it as he had planned. And he knew exactly who to blame for that: the weather.

By the time he came to the starting line in Hasselt, Belgium, the rain was pouring down. The city course had many sharp turns, cobblestones and puddles along its 5.1-kilometre route, and it was much too dangerous for the later starters to do anything but ride for safety rather than for the win.

"I felt myself sliding. This is really bad luck," the Saunier Duval rider said on Belgian TV, according to "It also happened to me twice in the Tour, when it started to rain before the start. If it had been dry, I certainly would have won."

McEwen still unhappy over non-selection

The battle lines have been drawn: Robbie McEwen wants to go the Vuelta a España and his team, Predictor-Lotto, said "The case is closed. McEwen won't go."

"I understand the team's commercial interests," the sprinter admitted on "I understand that they want wins in the Eneco Tour, but my form has been based on riding the Vuelta." He continued, "I am still very angry concerning the way everything has gone. OK, the Vuelta wasn't originally in my program but neither was the Eneco Tour."

Team manager Marc Sergeant countered, "For years the national lottery has wanted a win in the Eneco Tour, because it is a sponsor of the race. Plus it gets as much attention in Belgium as the Vuelta. It is simple: the selection has been made."

McEwen met with Marc Coucke, the head of Omega-Pharma (the sponsor behind the Predictor product), who said that "he had no objection to my selection but would leave it to the team management to decide." The rider and Sergeant were scheduled to meet again Wednesday evening. "I think that McEwen is professional enough to know where he stands," Sergeant said.

Hunter stays with Barloworld

Hunter after his stage win in the Tour
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Robbie Hunter has decided to stay with Team Barloworld. He signed a one-year contract this week to extend with the team.

"I'm really happy to stay with Team Barloworld and the team of riders I work really well with," the South African rider said. "I feel proud to race in a team of real professionals, while wearing the colours of an important company from my country. At Barloworld I've found an ideal setup and I'm pleased I've been able to pay the team back for the faith they put in me at the start of the year."

Hunter's most recent successes include a stage win at the Tour de France and finishing second in the points competition. The 30 year-old is now looking forward to riding for South Africa in the World Championships in Stuttgart next month.

"Rob has always been a talented rider and at Team Barloworld he's finally found the support and set-up he needs to do his best," said Team Manager Claudio Corti. "We're really happy he's decided to stay with the team because as well as riding impressively throughout the season, he's also become the favourite son of everybody that works for the Barloworld group of companies worldwide. His fan base both in South Africa and abroad has grown exponentially since his extraordinary results in the Tour de France this year."

Mie Bekker Lacota finds motivation

Dane Mie Bekker Lacota has her motivation for cycling back as starts racing again. Following her dream debut with team Flexpoint by winning The Omloop Het Volk, the former Junior World Champion decided to take a break from cycling last May.

"I simply lost all the motivation and didn't see why I was doing it all... I had no goal. Like that there was for me no sense in continuing my career. That's why I took some time to do things I couldn't do as I pro-cyclist. I even got a job delivering mail, with this is I kept my condition quite OK."

Bit by bit Bekker Lacota got the joy for cycling back. "My motivation is back and I have a very clear goal for the coming future. I'm going to do everything for the Olympics in Beijing 2008. I want to win the Olympic Point's race. To show good in Beijing I will have to ride many road races. I'm hoping I can do that for the Flexpoint formation, my team at the moment, I got great support from them the past period of time."

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