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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for December 3, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Stomach problems swing against Pendleton in Sydney

By Karen Forman in Sydney

Victoria Pendleton
Photo ©: Nick Rosenthal
Click for larger image

What had happened with the World Champion? That was the question on a lot of lips around the track when Great Britain's sprint, team sprint and keirin 2007 World Champion Victoria Pendleton was knocked out in the quarter final of the sprint after qualifying second, on the first day of this weekend's Sydney Track World Cup.

Eyebrows were raised again on day two, when the SIS rider, who won her first world title in the sprint in 2005, didn't show up at all for the 500 metre time trial. But then she appeared on the final day today to not only qualify for the semi final in the keirin after finishing second to Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite (and in front of third placed Kanis) in the first round, but to win the final with a dazzling display of sprinting in the final straight.

Taking first position behind the derny, the World Champion looked very determined to right the wrongs of the past couple of days. Constantly looking over her shoulder and alert to any moves behind her, she still wasn't quite ready when the bike pulled up and Belarane rider Natallia Tsylinskaya went around her; and fell back to second last wheel…momentarily. In the finish straight Pendleton suddenly found the legs to sprint around the outside of the group to win the race. It was a fantastic end to a rather disappointing weekend.

But what had happened to the rider cited as a potential Olympic medalist in Beijing next year earlier during the weekend? According to her coach of one year, British coach Jan van Eijden, it was a case of "trying something different which didn't work" in the first instance; and having an upset stomach in the second.

Pendleton had started well with her second place qualification (11.02.04) behind eventual gold medalist Willy Kanis (Netherlands) in Friday's sprint and van Eijden said they had been happy with that effort. Pitted against eventual bronze medalist Natallia Tsylinskaya (Belarus) in the quarter final, she then, according to van Eijden, "tried something different", which didn't succeed.

"She tried to go from the back rather than the front," her coach told Cyclingnews. "It was just to try to get a bigger perspective of what she can do. But it didn't work."

Victoria Pendleton
Photo ©: Dana Ross
Click for larger image

It was somewhat ironic that Kanis and Tsylinkskaya both went on to win medals in the event, while the World Champion in the event finished back in eighth spot. It wasn't the result the team had hoped for when they arrived in Australia for the opening round of the 2007 Track World Cup. "We had been hoping for top four," van Eijden said. "It was disappointing."

The next day, Pendleton was ill with stomach problems of unknown cause ("who knows, a change of food, racing for the first time since October") and decided not to contest the time trial. Prior to this weekend, her most recent racing was back at the beginning of October, when she won the sprint, keirin and time trial in the British nationals.

Sunday's keirin qualifier showed that she's not going to let a stomach ache – or a tactical mistake – get her down and that she is well on track to Beijing.

For full coverage of the Sydney Track World Cup, click here.

Hammer slowed by back injury but on track for Beijing

By Karen Forman

Sarah Hammer at the 2007 Track Worlds
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

When United States gun Sarah Hammer "only" managed fifth place in the women's individual pursuit qualifying on the first night of this weekend's Sydney Track World Cup, there was a great deal of speculation over why the reigning World Champion hadn't performed better.

It must have been her back, it was assumed. After all, it wasn't so long ago that she was off the bike nursing a serious injury sustained in training. Perhaps the injury was troubling her.

Actually, the truth was anything but. Hammer's back is fine, thank you very much. And her fifth place was pretty much all the 24 year old and her coach Andy Sparks had hoped for at this event, give or take a position. Sparks, also Hammer's fiancé, told Cyclingnews during a break in Saturday's World Cup program that she had been pain free and satisfied with her ride. "Our goals for the first World Cup, which was our official start of the year, was to have fun with them," Sparks said. "It will be hard to remember that next year, when we are full-on for Beijing.

"Apart from having fun, we wanted to pick up Olympic qualifying points and get in the top four in the pursuit. With how the qualifying is, we don't want to leave it to the Worlds, because anything can happen – you can get food poisoning or something – but we're still in our early buildup, so our expectations aren't too high."

Of course, given her glittering return from retirement, the back injury certainly set her back with her preparation for the Beijing Olympics. But things are back on track now. Sparks concedes that doing six to eight races in a year – especially with long haul travel involved – isn't conducive to high performance or for setting world records. "At least the Sydney and Beijing World Cups are only a week apart, so it's virtually a two for one trip for us. Then it's the LA World Cup, the Worlds and then the Olympics.

"That's five events. Sarah will do all five. There is where the back injury might turn out to be a good thing. It forced us to start our training four months later, which might mean that she still has more to give by the time the Olympics come around and therefore an advantage over the riders who started training before her. She will certainly go into this year much fresher."

Sparks said that another oft-asked question was how the coach-rider relationship affected the couple's personal relationship and vice versa. They had met at the Olympic training centre in Boulder, Colorado at a time when both were talking about giving elite racing away. Hammer retired in 2004. "For us we didn't have a choice but to make it work," he said. "When she decided she wanted to come back we put a plan together to win Olympic gold and that was it. The issue was that the only indoor velodrome in the United States is in Sarah's home state California so we had to move back. "

Returning to training, Sparks said, wasn't just a case of flipping the switch. "We did three months of road work for a start, watched the 2004 Olympics, and then in November got into some serious training. In January 05 we moved to California. At her first return to serious competition at the US Nationals in 2005, Hammer won the pursuit in 3.41 – one second faster than Australian Katherine Bates' silver medal in LA – as well as the individual pursuit.

Hammer's next international contest was the Manchester World Cup, in which she qualified first in the pursuit and ran second to Bates in the final; while winning the points race.

The LA World Cup to follow netted gold in the pursuit, while the 2006 Worlds presented her with gold in the same event. Earlier this year (last season), she won all three at her only World Cup for the season in LA and won the world title pursuit in Spain. "We were going to the Pan American championships, but it was then she had the back injury and we took three months completely off the bike," Sparks said. "Until Sydney, Sarah hadn't ridden a pursuit since the March worlds. A lot of people were surprised she got fifth here in Sydney, but it was her first race of the year."

Sparks said the pair, who plan to marry after the Olympics, were thinking positive. "Until you have those sorts of injuries, you tend to take your health for granted," he said. "We knew taking time off the bike was the only way to deal with it at its root. We didn't want to resolve the superficial problem. And the treatment was time. We gave it time and now we are on track to Beijing."

Gent Six Day victors look to Beijing

Elite trackies face decisions in the lead-up to Beijing 2008.

By Gerard Knapp in Gent, Belgium

Keisse & Bartko get the flowers
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

While many of the usual suspects in track cycling's elite are half-a-world away in Sydney this weekend, competing in the first round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Belgium's Iljo Keisse and Germany's Robert Bartko, the victors in last weekend's Gent Six Day, are still in Europe, both singling out the upcoming Beijing round of the UCI's track-fest to stake their claim for country and self at next year's Olympics.

In the lead up to an Olympic year, it's always difficult to determine if track cycling is enjoying a resurgence of popularity – you could argue its heyday is so distant that this should be considered almost virgin growth – but Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome is buzzing with almost 400 hopeful athletes and good crowds.

Last weekend at Gent's 't kuipke', as the locals call their compact and noisy 166-metre velodrome, the crowds were out in force and full voice, cheering on the local hero, Gent resident Keisse. But Gent is perhaps unlike other Six Day events; it is well attended by locals – given Belgium's cycling culture – as well as many British cycling fans who can reach the friendly and beautiful small Flemish city relatively easily. Event promoter, Patrick Sercu, obliged for the Channel-crossers by ensuring this year's field included the crack-but-not-so-sizzling team of England's Brad Wiggins and Manxman Mark Cavendish.

In theory – based on their track and road-racing records – this duo should have been seriously challenging for the win (surely with Sercu's blessing), not some 39 laps in arrears by the end of the meet. According to experienced watchers, it seems young Cavendish struggled to find his undoubted form after a post-road season lay-off. He still has time to regain his power, as both riders said they were prepared to abandon road cycling's big paycheck of riding the Tour de France in 2008 to focus on capturing gold on the boards in Beijing 2008.

For the full Gent Six Day victors look to Beijing feature, click here.

Tinkov and Savio comment on Giro 2008

By Gregor Brown in Milan

Gianni Savio
Photo ©: Steve Thomas
(Click for larger image)

Two of the most out-spoken team representatives in Italian cycling gave their thoughts on the 2008 Giro d'Italia after it was presented on Saturday evening in Milan. Italian Gianni Savio, Team Manager of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia, and Russian Oleg Tinkoff, Team Owner of Tinkoff Credit Systems, both oversee Professional Continental teams that are based in Italy and gunning for a spot in the first Grand Tour of the year.

Savio has long had a team represented in the Giro under the Selle Italian sponsorship, and it was only this year that he was not able to take a team. 2008 will be different thanks to the signing of Gilberto Simoni, a two-time winner of the race. "We have trust that we will be invited because we have Gilberto Simoni, who has won the Giro twice, and we have a team that has always honoured the Giro and respected the ethics of cycling," said Savio to Cyclingnews.

"Simoni was asked by a journalist which of his two Giro wins were the best, he said the second. The first one he said he just arrived, and the second was even more difficult because he had to repeat. I said that I hope it will be his third victory that will be the best," he continued with a grin.

Savio said he saw the 2008 Giro as a a balanced course. "It is a beautiful course that shows the sport as modern but keeping in the antique fashion of the Giro. The number of kilometres in the time trials will be compensated by the mountains, and there is also the time trial that is a mountain time trial on Plan de Corones. Like always, it will be a Giro for a complete rider, but above all, it is for the climber. Naturally we are hoping it will be a race for Gilberto Simoni."

Tinkov made his debut in the Italian three-week race this year, and is hoping to be invited again. "We are talking all the time, I don't know – it is not a certainty until you have the invitation, but we will do all we can to get invited."

The parcours will suit one of his star riders, Mikhail Ignatiev. "It is a good parcours for our team, not much easier but it is better than this year with the number of time trials."

After USGP, it's Christmas in Belgium for Canada's top 'crosser

By Gerard Knapp in Belgium

Lyne Bessette – still smiling
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

Last weekend Canadian cyclist Lyne Bessette had lined up at Koksijde in Belgium just hoping to secure enough points to keep her Cyclo-Cross World Cup hopes bubbling, despite feeling the effects of a recurring virus after her flight back to Europe from North America earlier in the week.

Then it was back into the air for a flight across the Atlantic to the USA for the fifth round of the USGP series, this time in Portland, Oregon. But after this weekend of racing, the former Canadian road champion-turned-cyclo-cross specialist will be heading back to Belgium and this time to stay in Europe until the Cyclo-Cross World Championships, to be held in Treviso, Italy, on January 26-27, 2008.

"My goal is to get a front-row start [at the world's]," she said, warming down on her stationary trainer after the Koksijde round of the World Cup, "and to be healthy!" In the soft sand of the Koksijde course, Bessette finished a relatively disappointing twelfth, but wasn't too concerned. "I am still feeling sick. I had this sinus infection in the States and I'd just finished off my course of antibiotics. So I took the plane [from North America to Belgium] and my throat just flared up again."

The soft sand of the Koksijde course sapped the energy from the riders' legs, and there was no place to hide if not in 100% form. But Bessette believes that twelfth place in elite European competition is worth more towards her World Cup tally.

"Today I maybe did 100 points? So for me it's worth it [to race in Belgium]; I'd have to do about five races in the US to get that many." The more points, the better the starting position and that is paramount to her plans in the lead-up to Treviso.

Bessette's husband, US racer Tim Johnson, didn't go to Belgium last week but stayed training in the US and perhaps being in the one placed helped on Saturday, as he took out the elite men's race in the Portland round of the USGP series.

Clearly, all the travel catches up with these cyclists. Last weekend the current World Cup points leader, USA's Katie Compton, finished second in the World Cup race against the best in the world; this weekend back in Portland in a largely domestic competition, she was second again.

That is why Bessette is keen to get back to Belgium and stay there until the world's. Critical to staying away from home and family is to be in a good environment, and Bessette was effusive in her praise of her hosts in the Belgian village of Braine-le-Conte. She stays in the family home of her bike mechanic and friend, Michel Majorek, "and his mom's an awesome cook", she said. The training in the area is well-suited to preparing for cyclo-cross. "It's not too flat, you have the woods, and there are lots of nice races in the area, and it's not too far [from the major races]," said Majorek.

The former road champion – Bessette is a two-time winner of the Tour de L'Aude Femini, arguably one of the toughest stage races in women's cycling – is having an impact in cyclo-cross, since her first outing in domestic competition. She admitted her that her dismounts and running in her first race may have brought a few laughs from spectators, until she was able to re-mount and then gap the field and finish by two minutes.

Between now and the World Championships, Bessette will have another four opportunities to keep accumulating those UCI points, with the next round of the Cyclo-Cross World Cup.

Team Sparkasse signs Australian Champion

Darren 'Lappers' Lapthorne
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Team Sparkasse’s announced this week that it signed Australian Champion Darren Lapthorne to a contract for the 2008 season meaning the Australian will be headed to Europe at the end of the summer. “Australians have a great reputation in Europe," said team manager Mark Claudmeyer. "I’m sure Darren won’t disappoint us.”

Lapthorne won his Championship jersey with a solo winner in Ballarat, Victoria after the 200 km National Championship road race. He won with a lead of 15 seconds ahead of Robert McLachlan

“I want to find a strong team in Europe, maybe make it into the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia,” the 25-year-old had told his team manager after his championship race. What a lucky coincidence that Scott McGrory is the manager of Lapthorne’s Team Porsche. McGrory, who was part of Dortmund’s RC Olympia in the 90’s and a successful 6-Days athlete until two years ago, pulled some strings and placed the rider from the fifth continent with Team Sparkasse. “It’s an excellent place for him, he can race a great program and the human factor fits as well,” McGrory said.

The qualities of the Sparkasse newbie are favourable to the team; with a height of 1.81 m and a weight of 68 kg Lapthorne is considered a perfect all rounder. “His strong suits are time trials and tours,” Mark Claudmeyer commented his new rider’s strengths. His accomplishments during the season support this. Before winning the Australian Championships he not only won stages at home, but also in Japan and at the Tour de Hokkaido. Furthermore he triumphed at the Belgian road race in Melle. His sportive goals for Europe are clearly defined, just like his personal ones. Besides English Lapthorne speaks Chinese, studies at university in Melbourne and meanwhile completed his “Master of Business”.

Evans does what he can for cycling in Australia

By Paul Verkuylen

Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Tour de France runner up has been very much in demand since returning home to Australia. The First Australian to place on the podium at the Tour and the winner of the ProTour competition has been dividing his time between preparations for the 2008 season and commitments to charity events and guest appearances at events such as the Sydney track World cup, where he hosted a private box. While at the track Evans fired the gun to start a celebrity scooter race that featured David Peachey, retiring Cronulla Sharks football player and founder of the David Peachey foundation.

The David Peachy Foundation was founded to help out indigenous kids from rural and remote areas that excel or show potential in rugby league, with a long-term view to extending to other sports, such as cycling.

On Sunday morning, Evans held his own charity event, a casual bike ride over the iconic Harbor Bridge in Sydney, with a field of 170 other cyclists. "It's strictly a social thing, racing is not allowed. My wife will be setting the pace. We are just out to have fun and raise money for the David Peachey foundation," Evan told Cyclingnews on the evening before the event.

The event raised more than $30,000 for the foundation after official sponsors, Citi and the Macquarie Bank each threw in $10,000.

Evans has shown just how humble a champion he is since finishing the season in October. Last week after winning the inaugural Sports Performer of the Year award, he donated half of his $50,000 winner cheque to the Amy Gillett Foundation. "It is my way of saying thank you for the support everyone has given me here," Evans said via video on the night. "I think the Amy Gillett Foundation would be a much worthier benefactor [of the money] than me."

The remainder of his prize he donated to the Ian Thorpe's Fountain for Youth, which was set up by the former Olympic swimming star to alleviate and treat illness and disease in people under 20.

"We do what we can, when we can to help," Evans said.

Next on the agenda for Evan's are some hot laps aboard a Lotus Exige S around Sandown Raceway during a private practice track day on December 6. But after that it's right back into serious training. "Training starts soon, so my time will get a bit limited," Evans concluded.

Kangaroo a prized catch for Tauler

By Karen Forman in Sydney

Few riders appeared quite as delighted as Spaniard Toni Tauler when he was presented with a cute stuffed toy kangaroo – complete with joey in pouch – during the medals ceremony for the men's pointscore at Sydney's opening round of the Track World Cup last night.

"I love Australia. I love the kangaroos and koalas," he had earlier enthused to Cyclingnews. And now he was getting his own!

"You know, we eat kangaroos in Australia."

Total expression of disbelief. "NOOOOOOO!"

"Yes, we do."

"But they are so cute and cuddling!"

Well, we hope we haven't put Tauler off his preparation for Sunday night's Madison with that little shocker! Or his lunch, for that matter.

The 33 year old from Majorca, who finished last night's pointscore with 27 points after a consistent effort , four down from winner, Kiwi Greg Henderson, was rapt with his silver medal. A pro rider on the road for 10 years before retiring after winning the Spanish time trial championship in 2006, he was only recently asked by Iles Balears to join its Six Day team and then have a go at the World Cups.

"This year I was fourth placed at the World Track Championships in Majorca and the team manager asked me to come to the track," he said. "When I was younger I have been in World Championships and also in the Sydney Games. This is my second time in Australia. I like Australia." And the kangaroos.

Tauler admitted that he had not been not expecting to do so well on Friday night. "I just started and attacked the first time, then I found I had one lap more and one lap more . . . I think it's crazy! I am retired!" He is looking forward to Sunday night's Madison and then will contest the rest of the World Cups in the national team before, hopefully, heading to Beijing for the Olympics.

Montfort extends with Cofidis

By Susan Westemeyer

Maxime Montfort has extended his contract with Team Cofidis for a year, through 2009. The 24-year-old Belgian expects to make his Tour de France debut in 2008 and is also looking towards the Beijing Olympics. He did not have any wins this year, but finished 11th in the Vuelta a España and 7th in the Deutschland Rundfahrt.

"We believe in him," team manager Eric Boyer told the "Gazet van Antwerpen". "We are patient enough to give him time to ripen his talent."

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