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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 25, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams and Laura Weislo

Seasons greetings from Cyclingnews

By Gerard Knapp

Merry Christmas!
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

At the end of another year of racing on the road, track and dirt, the Cyclingnews.com crew wish our readers all the best for the holiday season. As is the custom, one tends to look at the year and on that topic, we're still looking, or at least seeking your input as to what really rocked in 2007. Yes, this is another gentle reminder to cast your vote in our annual Readers' Poll, where we ask you to tell us what moved you over the year.

At Cyclingnews, we've enjoyed another season of continued growth and coverage, and extend our thanks to you for your support and thanks to our advertisers for their support, without which the site could not continue to grow as it has. A huge thank you as well to the numerous contributors from around the world who help extend the reach of our staff, already spread across three continents.

While there were many great performances and exciting races, I'm not sure if we can all look back at 2007 and think 'progress was made', especially when we saw the leader of the world's biggest bike race being kicked out of his team - and the Tour de France - while wearing the leader's jersey. Well, there's a precedent to remember, and one we hope is never repeated.

At the same time, nothing it seems can slow down the momentum behind cycling as a sport and being part of society. More and more bikes are being sold and in 2008, as the world keeps searching for answers to the climate issues threatening our environment, the humble bicycle is seen as one of those answers.

Merry Christmas from everyone at Cyclingnews.
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

This year we brought you some great reports and diaries from around the world, and few captured the excitement of 'doing something you love for a living' no more than the American women featured in the US Women's Cycling Development program, such as the effervescent Mara Abbott - one of the revelations of the 2007 season.

This year we saw change of ownership for Cyclingnews, with Knapp Communications Pty Limited handing over the baton to the UK company, Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited, an experienced publisher of magazines and websites. However, there's been no change to what we've brought you since that time, and I can only express my gratitude to the staff, contractors and contributors who just kept on doing their great work.

Cyclingnews continued its support four teams racing on three continents this year: the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS/Cyclingnews) team in Australia, Jonathan Vaughters' Team Slipstream in the USA, to Kevin Tabotta and Shayne Bannan and the South Australia.com - AIS squad, and of course, Team DFL-Cyclingnews.com, based in Belgium and taking on the big guns in Europe.

Safe riding, and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2008.

Langkawi route to be revised?

The route map may be revised
Photo ©: Tour de Langkawi
(Click for larger image)

One week after the Tour de Langkawi organisers announced a surprising new route which put the race's decisive climbing stage just two days into the event, the race's CEO hinted that the route may be reverted back to the traditional format after complaints from teams and some sponsors.

According to Malaysia's New Straits Times, CEO Datuk Naim Mohamad was entertaining the possibility of moving the mountainous stage from Tapah to the Genting Highlands from the second day to a spot sometime later in the nine stage event, as has been the case in previous years, but the change has yet to be confirmed.

"We had initially planned the route to meet several criteria and to ensure that costs can be reduced. But seeing that there have been some serious requests for a more traditional route, we will be considering this," said Naim. "It will be up to the organising committee to decide and for the Sports Minister to approve of the changes."

The 13 edition of Le Tour de Langkawi is scheduled to start February 9 in Alor Star, and finish up on the 17th in Kuala Lumpur.

Levi Leipheimer: Back for more, part two

Home for Christmas with Levi Leipheimer.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

In a general sense, racing has been good for Leipheimer, with many marquee wins and high placings on his palmares. The Tour, however, did not start so well for him and has been a love-hate relationship for him – with strong overall finishes in 2002 and 2004, but crashing out in 2003. "I am pretty satisfied with what I have done so far," he said. "The one thing is, when I first went to the Tour in 2002 with Rabobank I had no idea what to expect – and here I was leading this Dutch team. It was all a little bit overwhelming! I did my best, I am very proud that I got eighth in my first Tour. But it was hard because a lot of people were very critical, especially the Dutch people and Dutch media. I just had to stay focused and do my thing."

"Looking back on it I am proud of myself for that, but I always wondered – after doing the race a few times – if I could ever win the race. It's hard! Lance and Ullrich, those guys were just so much better, and it was hard for me to really visualize that. I just tried to do my best and eek out a place every year. Until this year, when I was thirty-one seconds from winning. That is when I got to the point where I said, 'I can win the Tour!' That is obviously the one thing I want to do before I retire – win the Tour."

Speaking of a love-hate relationship, the UCI is not exactly on his Christmas card list after what happened the day before the Tour last year. Levi's much-researched and refined time trial position, which he debuted at this year's Tour of California was deemed unsafe and against the UCI rules since his aerobars were not perpendicular to the ground. This news coincidentally came on July 4, the day before the Tour start.

"It wasn't what I wanted!" Leipheimer laughed. "In the end though, like the last time trial with the position we were in with me fighting for the podium, it's not like I am thinking about it during the time trial. 'Oh, if only my bars were higher!' I was just going as hard as I could. The frustrating thing is they don't give you a good reason why you have to have your bars flat."

"With the restrictions they seem to make up as they go along it's not worth it. The day before the Tour [of Missouri] when we went to get it checked out before the start the commissaries said we were fine. It was so stupid, it was the same position I had in the Tour. The rule is what it is, but certain commissaries feel like it is a bad thing to have your hands up. Personally I think they don't like the way it looks. It's the only thing I can think of!"

Stepping back a little farther, as for how he got to where he is professionally, Leipheimer said he has no regrets and would do it the same, including with the teams for whom he has ridden. "Going to Rabobank and Gerolsteiner, I wouldn't trade that. At the time, that was my opportunity and I learned a lot. It made me stronger and smarter in the end. Later in my career, when I look back at the teams I've raced for and the countries I've raced in, it's priceless. I don't have any regrets about teams I went to or races that I chose to focus on."

To read part two of the interview, click here. Or start with part one.

Garcia latest Relax-GAM victim

27 year-old Jorge Garcia is the latest rider from Relax-GAM to hang up the bike rather than face unemployment in 2008. The team, which was a UCI Professional Continental squad for 2007 failed to complete the UCI's requirements to renew its license for the coming season after negotiations to keep GAM as title sponsor failed.

Garcia told the Spanish newspaper El Heraldo about his decision to quit racing. "It is a deliberate decision," said Garcia. "I would gladly come back, but there is no other choice. I leave at 27 years of age, which is too soon for me."

"If after the Vuelta they had said to me that they did not have a team for me I would have reconsidered, but now I have no confidence in my team and it is too late to find a place in another squad.

After Relax renewed as title sponsor, Garcia and Angel Vicioso renewed their contracts, but the loss of GAM and the failure to secure another sponsor has put the future of the team in question. "I know that they have done everything possible to keep the team moving forward, but have thought little about the riders and assistants. They did not say anything to me of the disappearance, nor of the loss of GAM, only that they were waiting for another sponsor."

Belgian CX coach bides his time

Belgian national cyclo-cross coach Rudy De Bie is in no hurry to make his selection for next month's world championships in Treviso, Italy - preferring to wait until after the Liévin round of the Cyclo-cross World Cup on January 13. The Belgian squad is usually selected following the national championship - held on January 4 in Hofstade - but De Bie says the event is not a reliable measure of which riders are in form.

"The Belgian championship is a special competition, where extra factors come into play aside from form alone," De Bie told SportWereld. "The parcours in Hofstade is not as extreme as last year, but it remains a championship. However, I do not want to base the entire selection on that kind of competition."

Under UCI rules, Belgium is allowed eight starters in the elite men's race: a six-man selection plus the outgoing world champion (Erwin Vervecken) and UCI rankings leader (Sven Nys).

Albert: I'm no Eddy Merckx

Belgian cyclo-cross ace Niels Albert has hit back at claims from four-time world champion Roland Liboton claiming that the 21 year-old thinks he's the next Eddy Merckx. In response to Liboton's comments, made in the Belgian press, Albert told Sporza: "Liboton may criticise me, but I never think that I'm like Merckx."

Albert has made his mark in the elite ranks this season, but the Palmans rider's main goal remains the U23 world championship title in Treviso on January 26. "I'm satisfied with my season so far," he said. "I feel better than previous years - I have more power in my legs. And the others should not forget that in February I'll only be 22. I can grow stronger yet."

The cyclo-cross calendar is jam packed during the next six weeks, with three World Cups and the World Championships, but Albert insists the busy schedule will help him maintain form. "I recuperate quite fast," he said. "So these weeks with many events suit me well."

"The 2008 World Championships are naturally one of my big targets. But there are still other riders who have a chance there."

Parra heads home to Colombia es Passion

Ivan Parra (Selle Italia)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Former Cofidis rider Ivan Parra will join Colombian Continental squad Colombia es Passion next season, according to Sporza. The 32 year-old had ridden for Cofidis for the past two seasons, but enjoyed his best days in 2005 at Colombia - Selle Italia, winning back-to-back stages at the Giro d'Italia as well as the Colombian time trial championship. He also finished 13th in this year's Giro and placed third on Stage 15.

The younger brother of Fabio Parra - the only Colombian ever to finish on the Tour de France podium - Ivan began his professional career at Vitalicio Seguros in 1999, then rode for ONCE from 2001-2002, Kelme in 2003 and Cafe Basque in 2004.

Besides the experienced Parra, Colombia es Passion has registered the following riders for 2008: Alexis Castro, Freddy Gonzalez, Edwin Parra, Juan P. Forero, Robinson Chalapud Rafael Montiel, Wilson Marentes, Camilo Suarez, Fabio Duarte, Elver Corridor, Jarlinson Swamp, Jeffry Romero, William Rodriguez, Juan E. Arango and Sergio Luis Henao.

The team will be directed by Luis Fernando Saldarriga.

Caico names 2008 roster

Another Colombian registered squad, Caico Cycling Team, has named its roster for 2008, comprising riders from Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The full roster is: Javier Zapata (Col), Alejandro Cortes (Col), Alexander Gonzalez (Col), Jorge Martinez (Col), Carlos Pulgarín (Col), Jaime Aparicio (Col), Diego Navarro (Col), Wendy Cruz (Dom), Eric Vidal (Dom), Augusto Sanchez (Dom), Agustin Font (PuR), Enrique Matei (PuR), and Josean Duprey (PuR).

Agustin Font and Jorge Romero will be the directeur sportifs.

Kohl retuns to the cold

Bernhard Kohl got a shock when he returned to Austria from a training camp on Gran Canaria - there was a temperature difference of some 30 degrees! Now, instead of riding his bike in the sun and warm temperatures, the Gerolsteiner rider will be hitting the skis to work on his condition.

Writing on his website, bernhardkhol.at, he said that after the team presentation in January, he will return to warmer climes for training. He will open his season at the Tour of California again, and then head to Paris-Nice. "I hope to show some good results at the beginning of the season. After all, I want to qualify for the Olympics," he said.

Cyclingnews Reader's Poll

It's that time of year again - vote for your favourites

(Click to vote)

As the year draws to a close, it's time for you to review the year in cycling and cast your vote in the annual Cyclingnews Readers' Poll.

And as in previous years, we have a wee incentive so you can justify the time and mental exercise: the chance to win a Christmas stocking full of the latest carbon fibre goodies from our friends at Zipp, like the lightest crankset on the market, plus animal-strength handlebars and a classy-looking stem.

So please, contribute to what has become one of the largest global polls of the cycling community and cast your vote. Please try to complete each category and only vote once, as we do a thorough review of the votes and make sure we remove all the duplicates.

Please visit this link to get started.

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