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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for December 13, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Vinokourov slams European pro scene

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) celebrates his last Tour stage victory - two days later, his positive test result excluded the whole Astana team from the French race
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

While the International Cycling Union is preparing to appeal the one-year suspension given to Alexander Vinokourov by the Kazakh cycling federation for blood doping during the last Tour de France, the former Astana rider has turned a page in his career. Back in his home country, 'Vino' is planning new professional projects such as the construction of a sports hotel in Southern France and a restaurant in Nice.

"I didn't imagine to end my career this way," the 2003 Tour de France podium finisher told L'Equipe on Wednesday, December 12, after announcing last week that he would not consider a return to racing next year even if his reduced ban would make this possible. "I've earned a good living and it is time to move on to something else, also because they don't want me in cycling anymore."

Vinokourov revealed that one of the conditions for the 'new' Astana team directed by Johan Bruyneel to obtain the ProTour status was that he would be erased from the structure. "That was the main requirement for Bruyneel to get the license," he said. By making the connection with the Kazakh sponsors, Vinokourov had personally helped to create the team out of the ashes of Liberty Seguros in June last year. But by testing positive for blood doping, the former cycling star has become persona non grata not only at Astana, but also with regard to the European pro cycling scene.

"I have learned that there is no friendship in Europe," Vinokourov continued. "The priority is to make good business on the backs of others. After the scandal at the Tour, I didn't expect any phone call from the other riders. I was right, as nobody called me. But my former colleagues shouldn't laugh too much about my fate, as it could always backfire on them. When I will write my memoirs, some will be surprised to learn that little Vinokourov wasn't so naive after all, even when he first started out in Europe. I've seen a lot of things, even amongst those who want to appear whiter than snow today."

The vice-president of the Kazakh cycling federation, Nikolay Proskurin, went even further, saying that Vinokourov had been a disturbing figure to the Astana team's former management right from the start. "It took us some time to realise that we had been wrong in creating the Astana team last year," Proskurin added. "We gave all the keys to our team to Marc Biver and Tony Rominger, but we didn't understand that it was our country's money that interested the most. As soon as they realised that there wasn't any more money to make, they let us down. With the announcement of the positive control, Vino was put in the trash without trying to find out the truth. As if this affair suited them somehow."

Rather than taking into account the gravity of the doping problem in pro cycling today, Proskurin preferred to see the exclusion of Vinokourov in the light of an anti-Kazakhstan conspiracy. "In Europe, they don't know what to think of Kazakhstan," he continued. "When we arrived in the pro cycling scene, we quickly understood that we scared those who were in it for a long time. There was a rejection of the Kazakhs. But nobody ever dared to reproach us something from eye to eye. Patrick Lefevere, for example, who was the president of the teams' association, never came to shake hands with me. As if we had the lepers, as if we represented the new Genghis Khan."

Vinokourov, meanwhile, is more popular than ever in his home country. Besides posing for fashion magazines, the multiple Tour de France stage winner will also be co-starring in a TV show for Christmas.

2008 Tour de Romandie announced

The itinerary of next year's Tour de Romandie has been unveiled by the event organisers. The 62nd edition of the ProTour stage race taking place in the French-speaking part of Switzerland will be run from April 29-May 4, 2008, and serve, as usual, as a final preparation for Giro d'Italia contenders. But next season, the Tour de Romandie outcome may be more open to climbers as there will be less overall time trial kilometres than this year, when Thomas Dekker of Team Rabobank scored the final victory.

The prologue held in the streets of Geneva will be extra-short, only 1900 metres, and the long time trial usually raced on the final day will take place on Friday, May 2 in Sion. In between, the Swiss mountains will surely do some damage and provide a worthy winner of the event.

The six stages outline as follows:

Tuesday, April 29 - prologue: Genève-Genève (1,9 km)
Wednesday, April 30 - Stage 1: Morges-Saignelégier (182,4 km)
Thursday, May 1 - Stage 2: Moutier-Fribourg (170 km)
Friday, May 2 - Stage 3: Sion-Sion (18,8 km ITT)
Saturday, May 3 - Stage 4: Sion-Zinal (126,5 km)
Sunday, May 4 - Stage 5: Le Bouveret-Lausanne (159,4 km)

Sánchez' future at Euskaltel uncertain

By Monika Prell

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) wins stage 13 of the 2006 Vuelta a España
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Euskaltel-Euskadi and Samuel Sánchez: two names that seem to belong together, as the Asturian has been the most successful rider of the Basque team for a few seasons already. But now the partnership seems to be endangered. Sánchez' contract ends at the end of 2008, and until now, the two parties have not agreed on the conditions for an extension. Euskaltel already made an offer to Sánchez during the first meeting of the team, but has asked for a salary increase, as reports Deia.

Team manager Miguel Madariaga has not been able to answer this request yet because of a lack of funds. But Madariaga will meet with team sponsors in the next few days and explain to them that one of the figureheads of the squad may leave in 2009 - Sánchez already has a lot of offers from other ProTour teams. Madariaga hopes to be able to retain the rider within his squad and will give him an answer on January 10, when the team will hold its official team presentation in Irún (Gipuzkoa).

The Asturian has expressed his desire to continue in this team, but he cannot reduce his demand as it is still lower than the offers he received from the other teams.

Now, both parties have to wait. Sánchez, who will get married on December 28, meanwhile underwent medical surgery to remove small fibromae from his right hip which were the result of a crash in the last Vuelta a España. He also had removed a little blastoma from the saddle area that caused him pain for some time already.

Martinez returns with Amore&Vita

Miguel Martinez, Olympic gold medallist and mountain bike world champion in 2000, has decided to return to racing after more than one year spent out of competition. The Frenchman has signed a one-year deal with the Italian Continental Pro team Amore&Vita and will be racing on the road as well as on his mountain bike during next season.

"I still love the bike too much to give up my career altogether," said Martinez to L'Equipe on Wednesday. The 31 year-old also spent two years in pro road cycling, 2002 with Mapei and 2003 with Phonak, without being very successful. "I was being told that I had nothing to do in that scene," he added. "I always did the best I could in my profession, without doping, and they quickly made me understand that I didn't perform as they wanted. But today, I really think that things have changed. I'm convinced that cycling evolves in the right direction and I want a second chance at top level."

Besides road racing, Martinez will target the World Marathon Championships on July 6 in Italy next season.

Crawford signs for Marco Polo

By Greg Johnson

Australian cyclist Jai Crawford has signed to ride for Asian Continental team Marco Polo in 2008, in a deal that will see him help guide the future of Chinese cyclists. The Tasmanian, who put in some impressive performances with rival Asian squad Giant A.R.T. during 2007, will relocate to China for 2008 while riding for the outfit.

"Marco Polo will give me the chance to race in Europe as well as the two big Asian races, Tour de Langkawi and Tour of Qinghai Lake," said Crawford. "I couldn't move on to the higher level I had hoped my results in 2007 would allow but it has been an incredibly difficult year for many riders to find teams so I took heart from the four contract offers I attracted."

Crawford made a strong return to the sport in 2007, having been sidelined for much of 2006 after suffering a serious bout of glandular fever. The rider signaled his intentions early in the season by winning Thailand's Tour of Siam in January, before storming up Genting Highlands in Malaysia's Tour de Langkawi to secure his fifth overall placing.

"Marco Polo may be a Continental team but it is absolutely a step forward, and at the age of 24 I certainly still have aspirations to ride at the highest level," added Crawford, signaling that he still has European ambitions. "I feel Marco Polo gives me the best platform to showcase my climbing ability and continue to develop as a rider whilst still fulfilling my duties to the team."

After riding for little more than a bike and some airfares in 2007, Crawford will receive a salary in addition to his accommodation in China next season. While in China, Crawford will be responsible for assisting the team with the development of its Chinese riders.

"I am looking forward to working with the Chinese riders at Marco Polo, I will be at the training camps to give some tips from my training experience and ultimately help them achieve results in races," he said. "I will also relish the opportunity to help Trek China continue the establishment of their leading brand in the Chinese market."

Crawford has already been impressed by the Chinese squad. The 24 year-old is expected to complete a programme next year spread across both Europe and Asia. "I am already impressed with the professionalism of Dutch Team Manager Gudo Kramer and his assistants," said Crawford. "They have made me feel welcome and appreciated as a rider, two important and valuable emotions to have at any team. My decision to sign with Marco Polo could be considered a little out of left field, given I will be based in China next year, but I am confident I will have a better race programme, the best equipment and a balanced lifestyle living with my girlfriend.

"I have high expectations of myself next year and a debt to pay for Marco Polo's good faith, I plan on fulfilling both," he concluded.

Pendleton Sportswoman of the Year

Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade won the team sprint in Mallorca
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

The members of the Sports Journalists' Association of Great Britain (SJA) have voted Victoria Pendleton their Sportswoman of the Year. The presentation of the trophy took place in London on Wednesday, December 12, in front of a star studded assembly of sportsmen and sportswomen as well as journalists from national and regional newspapers, TV and radio. Pendleton shared the top honours with motor racing's Louis Hamilton, who won the SJA Sportsman of the Year Award.

Pendleton scooped most votes in recognition of her winning three world championship titles on the track in Mallorca last March: keirin, sprint and team sprint. Despite challenging performances by many other top sportswomen during the summer and more recently, nobody could produce the impact of this multiple championship performance which took her onto the platform where two years ago she was merely asked to present an award to British Cycling's chief coach Dave Brailsford. Now, she was there in her own right and thanked UK Sport and British Cycling as well as her personal coach Shane Sutton for their support.

"It's really flattering," said the 27 year-old from Stotfold in Hertfordshire. "I know where track cycling lies in terms of the UK's sports popularity so it is really nice that the journalists have given me support and recognition. When I came back from the world championships, I was really surprised by how many reports there were about my success in a variety of newspapers right across the board. It was quite a joy being in the airport and looking through the news stand seeing my big lollipop helmet head in all the papers."

Watched by proud father Max and mother Pauline, the British team sprinter announced that she would be aiming for four gold medals at the next track cycling world championships in Manchester at the end of March next year. "If my timetable allows it, then I will go for four," Pendleton announced. "We will have to wait and see but we have got one day extra to spread the events over so it should work out a lot easier." Her main objective for the year will, however, be the Olympic Games in Beijing where she will only have one discipline in which she can compete, the sprint.

Pendleton just returned from China where she raced in a World Cup meeting but was knocked off in the keirin final, fortunately without major injury. She won this event the previous week in the Sydney World Cup in Australia, and only returned to the UK the day before the London SJA presentation. While away, she missed the ceremony to present her with the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Team Inferno releases roster

Team Inferno Pro Cycling based out of Macedonia, Ohio, USA, has released its official 2008 roster. Building on 2006 and 2007 successes when the team was known as Abercrombie & Fitch Pro Development Cycling Team, Inferno Racing has signed some rising talent riders as well as some veterans from the professional peloton.

The team added has added experience to its sin the names of Jeff Hopkins, former Jr. World Champion and long-time Jittery Joe's member, and Remi McManus, a former US National Elite Road Race Champion. While offers remain with two other named riders, the young team built around its new leaders will challenge the bigger teams in their goal of winning the USA Crits Championship Series title.

Team Inferno Pro Cycling still has designs on being a continental team and desires to move higher within a short period of time, while making no disguise of their specialty. "We are a criterium based team," said the team's manager Chad Thompson. "We have signed some of the best criterium riders in the US, if not the world. We want to win what we should have won in 2007; The USA Crits Championship Series title." The team also plans to stack up as many NRC points as they can in the process, all while actually racing for charitable efforts.

This season, the team won the Athens Twilight criterium, the USA Crits Series SE and led all competitions within the USA Crits Championship Series until its leader Mark Hekman crashed at the US Criterium National Championships.

The 2008 roster is as follows: Andy Applegate, Bennet van der Genugten, Chadwick Thompson, Christian Parrett, Jaime Gandara, Jeff Braumberger, Jeff Hopkins, Jim Baldesare, Josh England, Marco Aledia, Matt Winstead, Remi McManus, Rich Harper, Ryan Gamm, Ryan Rish and Tim Swain.

Cycling stars at Cronulla Grand Prix

Olympic Games gold medallist Brad McGee is the last of the available professional cycling stars to sign up for the Cronulla Grand Prix, which will be taking place at one of Australia's most famous beaches this Sunday, December 16. The competing field now boasts 17 Olympians and twelve Tour de France stars.

Although Cadel Evans, 2007 Tour de France runner-up and Australian sportsman of the year, will not be racing, he will assist with race coverage on Network Nine that will be televising both the Women's and Men's events live.

The 2007 event has attracted virtually every available Australian ProTour rider including last year's winner Graeme Brown, the world's best road sprint Robbie McEwen, Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke, Tour Down under winner Simon Gerrans, 2007 Herald Sun Tour winner Matt Wilson, the Davis brothers, Alan and Scott of Bundaberg as well as Chris Sutton and Mark Renshaw.

However, the biggest coup could be Olympic Games gold medallist and winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix, Stuart O'Grady: the wearer of the yellow and green jerseys in the Tour de France is a cycling phenomenon and the race course will be well suited to his style.

Many of the stars will be keen to add this event to their honours, but for Matt White it will be one of the most memorable days of his life. The 33 year-old from Caringbah, that has competed on every level of the world cycling stage, will contest his last race close to where he commenced his cycling career.

New Zealand will also fly in a contingent around Julian Dean, who will be joined by UK star Jeremy Hunt. Ben Kersten, the big name in track cycling, has also just returned from China's World Cup and will look forward to matching strides with the best pro road racers.

Last year, the race attracted more than 8,000 spectators, and 2007 is appearing to be an even bigger affair with the race televised live nationally.

The women's event, the opening event of the 90 minute televised programme, has once again attracted a world class field headed by Olympic champion Sara Carrigan, World champion Kate Bates and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Natalie Bates, World Cup champion Rochelle Gilmore, World Cup track star Kaarle McCulloch, former World Junior Champion Skye Lee Armstrong and the leading contenders for the 2008 Olympics from all states of Australia. Joining the race from interstate will be Tiffany Cromwell from South Australia, Liz Young from Queensland, Olivia Gollan and Carly Hibberd from Queensland.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)