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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for August 29, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Alberto Contador comments on future and the Vuelta

By Monika Prell

Alberto Contador concentrates
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is looking for a new contract, while preparing to follow an exciting Vuelta a España. The 24 year-old will be leaving Discovery Channel when the team disbands at the end of 2007.

He affirmed in an interview with AS that he does not know if Dutch Team Rabobank will make an offer. "My representative Toni Rominger is the one caring for my future. He said to me that there are many teams that are interested in me. When the offers are more concrete, we will study them."

He is worried that some of his team-mates won't find a new home. "The best known have already found a squad: [Tom] Danielson Slipstream, [George] Hincapie and [Janez] Brajkovic T-Mobile, Egoi Martínez Euskaltel... But I worry the others, including the helpers, who won't find anything."

'Kid Contador' has requirements of his new team. It "should trust in me and be willing to help me win the Tour de France again. And I would like to feel good with them. The economical part is also important. I don't consider myself to be low-paid, but after my win of the Tour my asking-price increased even more."

The young Spaniard won't compete in the Vuelta a España, but he will follow the race with interest. He sees Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) as highest favourite because of the performance the Australian showed during the season. But at the same time, he considered that "it will be a very open Vuelta, there are many riders with possibilities."

Amongst his own team-mates he tips the form of Janez Brajkovic and Stijn Devolder. He considers the toughest Spaniards to be Carlos Sastre (CSC), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and José Ángel Gómez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir). "The first two have already shown that they are good in big Tours, but the two other did not compete the Tour and are surely fresher."

Discovery for the Vuelta

Stijn Devolder has multiple reasons to celebrate this week. He turned 28 years old today, only one day after signing a two-year contract with Quick.Step-Innergetic, and has been named captain of Discovery Channel's team for the Vuelta a España. The Belgian rider won the national road championship this year and took the overall title in the Tour of Austria.

He will be supported in Spain by Janez Brajkovic, Tom Danielson, Allan Davis, Egoi Martínez, Jason McCartney, Sergio Paulinho, José Luis Rubiera and Jurgen Van Goolen.

Berzin returns to peloton

Evgeni Berzin may be returning to the professional peloton to race for the first time since 2000. The 37 year-old Russian, winner of the 1994 Giro d'Italia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, has re-found his racing form, and he has attracted the attention of Professional Continental Team Tinkoff Credit Systems.

Compatriot and Tinkoff Team Owner, Oleg Tinkov, would like to have Berzin in his 2008 squad as a mentor to the younger riders. Berzin will travel to Forte dei Marmi (Tuscany) this Sunday or Monday for a training camp with the team.

"We have known each other for a few years," he said of his relationship with Tinkov during an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He was a racer and he loves this sport. He would like that I become a maestro to his younger riders. I would like to be utilized for preparation and organization of life outside of cycling. A rider has to think right away about constructing his future, because as soon as he stops riding there will be no one, even if on the bike he was a champion. Many do not know this. The real world is different than that of cycling.

"I will study the team," he continued of the upcoming training camp. Mikhail "Ignatiev has a good rhythm, but he has to learn how to race. How many races did he throw away this year? [Pavel] Brutt and [Ivan] Rovny are good, but... I think they started too early. It would have been better to wait to race the Giro d'Italia at age 22."

The attraction back to the sport which he left at 30 years-old is based on passion and not greed; Berzin owns three Fiat car dealerships near Milano. "At first it was a big effort. All of my friends dropped me," he continued. Berzin was reportedly up to 81 kilograms before dropping down to his current weight of 67 kilograms.

"This year I rode 20,000 kilometres, and now it is the others that are being dropped."

Oscar Freire: A man without a country

Oscar Freire likes the Worlds
Photo ©: AFP Photo
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Spaniard Oscar Freire is a conundrum. He's accomplished what only legends like Alfredo Binda, Eddy Merckx and Rik Van Steenbergen have been able to do: win three World Road Race Championships (1999, 2001, 2004). Add a couple of wins in Milano-Sanremo, fistfuls of Grand Tour stages and a slew of other impressive results, and by all accounts he should be a huge celebrity in Spain. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez finds out why the Rabobank rider considers himself "a man without a country."

Oscar Freire hails from a land celebrated for producing exceptional cyclists: diminutive Basque mountain goats, the massively powerful Miguel Indurain, the graceful Abraham Olano but his country is not generally known for riders who excel in the one-day races. In fact, Freire's punchy sprint and affection for the Classics is so undervalued in his native Spain that after beginning his career on the Vitalicio Seguros squad in 1998, the rider from Torrelevaga has always ridden on foreign teams: Mapei from 2000-2002 and Rabobank ever since.

Freire takes the lack of wider recognition in stride, laughing about it when asked what he would title his autobiography if he were to write one. "Nobody's ever asked me that before. I would have to think about it a lot," he chuckled. More serious, he contemplated, "It is not easy at all. I think I would title it 'The rider who doesn't fit in his country.'"

Read the full interview.

Marc Biver may quit as Astana manager

Marc Biver may quit his job as general manager of Astana, the Kazakhstan-based team that had a string of doping troubles after three of its riders, Matthias Kessler, Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, were caught for doping.

According to French paper Le Matin Biver will make an announcement in the near future. The conditions set forth by the Swiss were not accepted by the Kazakh directors of the team. The team has a Swiss license, but otherwise is entirely backed by Kazakh enterprises. The riders had to sit out for a month according to the Code of Ethics enforced by the UCI.

The management of Astana has come out immediately to deny that Biver will quit. "That is nothing but a rumour. Mr. Biver has a contract until 2010, and right now there is no other decision," an Astana spokes person told dpa.

Dekker not enjoying Eneco lead

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) took over the lead
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank's Thomas Dekker is the new overall leader in the Eneco Tour, but he is not enjoying the role. He took over the lead when Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) had to leave the race because of injuries suffered in a crash which also brought down the young Dutchman.

Dekker didn't want to take the lead in that way, and is also suffering from the crash himself. "It is a pity for Nick Nuyens that things end this way," Dekker said on "I am not really happy, even though it is nice to have the leader's jersey, of course."

About 40 kilometres into the race, Nuyens fell heavily to the ground and Dekker, who was on his wheel, went down with him. "I immediately had an intense pain in my right leg. I could not even stand on it at first, so I immediately thought the Tour was over for me. I laid there for a few minutes, but it felt better after that so I decided to get back on my bike. The pack held back so we could catch up pretty quickly." The 22 year-old suffered injuries to his right shin and left side of his torso.

Dekker leads José Enrique Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) by four seconds and Saunier Duval's David Millar by six seconds going into Wednesday's final time trial. "First, I am hoping to get a good night's sleep and we will see what happens tomorrow," he continued, worried about his chances. "But I was on my bike in pain for three hours today, so I can take another forty-five minutes."

Den Bakker wants to keep on going

Maarten den Bakker
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Maarten Den Bakker is 38 years old and has been riding professionally since 1990, but doesn't see any reason to stop quite yet. He would like to ride for one more year, he said Tuesday after the sixth stage of the Eneco Tour.

The Dutchman expects to hear next week whether his current team, Professional Continental Team Skil-Shimano, will offer him a new contract. "If it doesn't work out with Skil then I will look for another team," he said, according to "But I hope that I can remain at Skil because it is a very good team.

"I am still motivated, and think I can still teach the boys something. I think that there is a lot of young talent in the Netherlands right now, for that reason it is good that there is a team like Skil-Shimano."

Den Bakker started his career with PDM, and also rode for TVM, Rabobank and Milram before joining Skil-Shimano this season. His biggest success was winning the Dutch national championship in 1999.

Dutch World's team shaping up

Six of ten places on the Netherlands' World Championships team have already been filled noted national coach Egon van Kessel, Tuesday in Landgraaf, following the sixth stage of the Eneco Tour. Michael Boogerd, Thomas Dekker, Koos Moerenhout, Karsten Kroon, Robert Gesink and Laurens Ten Dam are set on the team, "unless something happens to them in the next month."

Van Kessel was impressed by Maarten Tjallingii's performance in the Eneco Tour, but said, "I can't draw any consequences from that. It is between Maarten and Joost Posthuma." The latter is riding the Vuelta a España, and the coach wants to wait and see his performance. "I have enough choices, and I can wait quietly."

Stef Clement and Posthuma are the leading candidates for the time trial, but van Kessel is also considering Michiel Elijzen, who won the Eneco Tour's opening prologue. "Clement and Posthuma are riding the Vuelta. That is not the ideal preparation for the time trial."

Stuart O'Grady back on bike

Stuart O'Grady is back on his bike after a week or so on the home trainer. The winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix hit the streets of Monaco for the first time since his Tour de France crash.

"I managed to build it up to seventy kilometres yesterday, and I'm feeling extra good," he said. "I don't think I'll ride in Europe again this season, and [I] expect to head home to Australia in September or early October."

His next race could likely be the Tour Down Under, in January. "My team, CSC, hasn't yet confirmed that we'll be part of the race, but I am hopeful we'll be there". It is "very exciting news to hear that the event could become a part of the ProTour."

A crash in the eighth stage of the Tour de France left him with eight broken ribs, a punctured lung and a broken shoulder.

"I am still a little sore but my recovery has even surprised me." O'Grady and his wife recently celebrated the birth of their daughter, Keira Rose.

"I might even tackle a few local races under the Cycling SA banner once I get better prepared. Luke Roberts [CSC team-mate] and I came first and second in the Cycling SA state titles earlier this year, so another crack at an SA championship would be good, plus the Aussie titles could be on the agenda as well. I just need to get right and in a ready to race type condition before I commit to anything."

Doping allegations against German U23 coach

The acting coach of the German U23 National Team has been accused of having used doping products during his career as a rider. The coach, Bernd Dittert, has denied the charges, according to the German cycling federation's vice president, Harald Pfab. The organizers up the upcoming World Championships in Stuttgart have asked the German federation, the Bund Deutsche Radfahrer, for a quick explanation of the charges.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung claimed to have copies of letters written by Pfab and an unnamed individual in which it is claimed that the Institute for Doping Analysis and Sports Biochemistry in Kreischa, Germany, has proof that Dittert was doped in 1987 and 1988. Dittert rode on the East German national track team in the 1980s. In addition, the letters are said to claim that the BDR hired Dittert in 1993 without doing a background check on him.

Dittert took over the coach's job in June, after Peter Weibel was suspended due to doping allegations.

World's organization committee Chairman Susanne Eisenmann called on the BDR to investigate Dittert's past as quickly as possibly. The federation agreed to the request.

Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic

Organisers of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic say all plans are on schedule with just over two weeks until the race. New major sponsor BK Oliver Home hardware is on board for the 47th edition.

The Grafton to Inverell is touted to be Australia's toughest one day cycle race and has been consistently attracting field of 180 riders, and this looks set to continue. With $20,000 in prize money on offer the race attracts many riders. Entries have been rolling in ahead of this weekends closing date and are expected to continue into next week.

Organisers have made some changes to the race format for this year. They have axed the D grade section and added an extra 10 paid-placings to the C grade category prize list. C grade will start its 228-kilometre trek from Grafton at 7:30. The A & B grades have been combined this year and will depart Grafton at 8:15.

Riders also have the option of entering as part of a team in all grades. Organisers have added a team's category for C grade and the combined A and B grades. Teams can have a maximum of five riders. The first three riders to finish in each team will have their finishing times count towards the team result with the fastest combined team being awarded the win. The winning teams in each grade will take home $500 for their efforts.

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