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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 30, 2007

Edited by Sue George

A day of flats in Belgium

By Brecht Decaluwé and Gregor Brown in Middelkerke

Sven Nys (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

For the elite men racing 'cross in the heavy mud of Middelkerke, Belgium, on Saturday, a series of flats would influence the day's outcome. Sven Nys (Rabobank) initially broke away with three others: Belgian champion Bart Wellens (Fidea Cycling Team) and the Sunweb-Projob team-mates Sven Vanthourenhout and Jonathan Page. All four riders would suffer flats; albeit some were at more or less convenient times when it came to deciding the finish order.

Though the odds were good that Nys would have won anyway, he was helped by a few timely flats of his competitors. Page got his out of the way early in the race. Just before the race's midpoint, Page lost contact with the leaders after a flat tyre; he dropped back in a group with Thijs Al, Rob Peeters, Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux) and Gerben De Knegt (Rabobank). But his flat was early enough to keep him in the running for a good race.

One lap later Wellens punctured in the front group and fell behind. The Belgian champion lost a lot of time, too. Then, as fate would have it, the final rider in the company of Nys, Sven Vanthourenhout, also dropped away in front one lap later with a flat tyre.

Page
Photo ©: Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Nys didn't wait for anybody to come back and he developed an unbeatable lead on his way to victory. Second place was a surprised Page, who is finding his form after a tough season. Just a few weeks ago, Page also finished second at the US National Championships in Kansas.

The Dutchman De Knegt changed bikes in the pit while Page powered away. In the following sandy stretch, Page was able to stay upright while De Knegt got stuck for a moment.

After the race, a relieved Page said, "I knew it was possible and I finally put a race together, even after a flat tyre threw me out of the leading group." It's the third consecutive podium finish for page in Middelkerke.

On the other hand, Nys, taking his 16th win of the season, explained how he managed to avoid trouble. "We had to search a lot to find the right track on this course with a lot of rocks hidden under the mud. Once I had a safe route I kept using it every lap to avoid flat tyres. Actually I had a flat tyre early on in the race which was in my favour."

For complete coverage of the Middelkerke 'cross, click here.

Heras calls it quits

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) in the 2005 Vuelta
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Former Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras called it quits for his career. In October, the Spaniard finished serving a two-year ban from cycling competition that resulted from a positive doping test for EPO. Heras could have signed with any of the European continental teams offering him a spot on their rosters, but according to UCI code, he was prohibited from signing with a ProTour team for another two years beyond his initial two-year ban.

"I still don't understand the code of ethics and why ProTour teams can't hire a rider who like me has served his ban," said Heras Saturday to Marca. "Other top riders will have to quit the peloton because they can't find a team as well.

"Cycling is going through a bad period: teams, organisers, the UCI are at war, there is no unity, so it's very difficult to get out of the crisis," said the three-time Vuelta winner (2000, 2003, 2004).

The 33 year-old had previously raced for Liberty Seguros, Kelme and US Postal. He was disqualified from his fourth Vuelta a España win after he failed a doping test. Heras also won one stage each in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. In the latter race, he served as a lieutenant to Lance Armstrong in the mountains of the 2001 edition.

Heras indicated his decision was indeed definitive. As he told Marca, "I have thrown in the towel." He is one of several riders to announce retirement recently, either after positive doping tests or an inability to find a satisfactory contract. Others include three time Tour de France podium finisher and Spaniard Joseba Beloki, Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov, former World Champion Laurent Brochard and Spain's Oscar Sevilla.

Crashes mar first day of competition in Devonport

By Paul Verkuylen

Jessica Berry and Kirsty Broun - two riders who avoided crashes on day one in Devonport
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

The first day of the two day track carnival in Devonport was marred by two dramatic crashes that have left four riders hospitalized, one in serious condition.

The first crash of the day was during the running of the final of the women's lightening handicap. As the field rounded the first bend on the final lap, yesterday's wheelrace winner in Launceston Sarah Cure was making a move around the outside of the field when the gap she was riding through suddenly closed and she found herself with nowhere to go but into the rider ahead of her. Three riders came down in the fall with Cure and Melissa Hoskins being transported to hospital for further examination. The other rider involved Jessica Allen was able to walk away from the crash with minor injuries.

Unfortunately this crash was not to be the last of the day as during the final lap of men's C grade scratch race as the field was sprinting around the final bend, five riders went down.

Shamus Liptrot was the most seriously injured as he careered over the fence. Liptrot was treated for his injuries by ambulance personnel at the scene before being taken to the Bernie Hospital where he is in a critical condition in the intensive care ward. It is not yet known the extent of his injuries; however he is awaiting transport to another hospital, possibly Hobart or Melbourne when his condition improves.

The crash was so bad that two hours worth of racing was removed from the program as ambulance officers attended to those injured. Jason Bellchambers, who struck a light pole with his shoulder was taken to hospital for further treatment, while three other riders were able to walk themselves to the St John's Ambulance aid station close by.

For full coverage of the first day of racing at Devonport Carnival, click here.

Paolo Bettini takes Il Premio Gazzetta

By Gregor Brown

Paolo Bettini
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Italian Paolo Bettini has taken the Fourth Premio Gazzetta as best cyclist of the year for 2007. The honour – bestowed by Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport – was in recognition for the 33 year-old's performances this last year, which included a repeat win in the World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany. It was his second year in a row to win the award following last year's win.

Alberto Contador, winner of the Tour de France and Paris-Nice, finished second behind the Quick.Step-Innergetic rider by 43 points. The award (also called Premio Coppi-Bici d'Oro) was calculated by taking the votes from the team managers of the 20 ProTour teams, the organisers of the major races and 17 past cycling legends, such as Eddy Merckx.

"I am in agreement. It is true that Contador won the Tour, but even I miss winning the Worlds twice in a row," commented the most decorated cyclist in history, Merckx, to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The win in the World Championships – the third after a stage win in the Tour of California and Vuelta a España – was also an emotional comeback of sorts for the rider from La California (Livorno). The International Cycling Union (UCI) and Stuttgart race organiser had attempted to ban the defending champion from taking part due to his refusal to sign the UCI Riders' DNA Agreement. Bettini fought back and won ahead of Alexandr Kolobnev and Stefan Schumacher while firing an imaginary gun into the air as a victory salute against those who had to try to keep him from racing.

His 2007 season was not as impressive as last year's when he won the GP di Lugano, the Italian Championships, two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico, a stage in each of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta in addition to the Worlds. The lack of total wins showed in a tighter finish; Bettini gained 77 points to Contador's 35, while Danilo Di Luca (Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro) and Cadel Evans (ProTour overall) trailed behind, respectively. Last year, Il Grillo Livornese took the prize by 59 points over Alejandro Valverde.

"Paolino is unique," confirmed the Italian National Directeur Sportif Franco Ballerini. "While racing he's aware...understands in advance how the events will unfold – He is gifted with a special radar."

Past winners of the Oscar Premio Gazzetta (or 11th Premio Coppi-Bici d'Oro): Jan Ullrich (1997), Marco Pantani (1998), Lance Armstrong (1999, 2000), Gilberto Simoni (2001) Mario Cipollini (2002), Paolo Bettini (2003), Damiano Cunego (2004), Tom Boonen (2005) and Bettini (2006).

Tour de Vineyards ready to kick off

In just a few days, at least 155 racers will line up for the 2008 Star & Garter Tour de Vineyards. Three-time winner and defending champion Heath Blackgrove (Toyota United Pro Cycling Team) will return along with 2007 Tour of Southland winner Hayden Roulston (Trek), Oceania time trial champion Gordon McCauley (Craven UK), the 2007 Benchmark 8 series winner Paul Odlin, Jeremy Yates and Hayden Godfrey (Subway Cycling Team), and Aaron Tuckerman (Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team).

The 2008 edition of the race will run from January 2 to 5 per the following schedule. Distances vary by category.

January 2: Stage 1 - Hope Circuit Race
January 3: Stage 2 - Richmond, Spooners, Korere, Rainy River, St. Arnaud Road Race
January 4: Stage 3 - Richmond, Reay, Tapawera, West Bank, Takaka Hill Road Race
January 5: Stage 4 - Hill Street Circuit Race

ValueAct Capital Cycling for 2008

Katie Mactier in action
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

Building off a successful inaugural season, the ValueAct Capital Professional Women's Cycling Team will add talent to its 2008 roster with new riders Nicole Evans, Leah Goldstein, Marni Hambleton, Lara Kroepsch and Chrissy Ruiter to join the current line-up. The team aims to be among the best in the US.

"Last year, we had a young, spirited team that really proved they had the ability to succeed. Katie Mactier's wealth of experience really contributed to making this team gel," said Director, Lisa Hunt. "I wanted to build on that momentum, by adding more top stage race and single day race talent. It's a great group of riders!"

Three-time Mt. Hood Cycling Classic winner, Leah Goldstein will add firepower to the team's GC abilities at major stage races. Goldstein, the current Israeli National Road Race and Time Trial Champion who resides in British Columbia, excels in tough, hilly races and has a wealth of experience racing in Europe as well.

American Lara Kroepsch, who rode for TEAm Lipton for the past two years, will bring her sprinting strength as well as solid stage race experience. Kroepsch is a two-time Collegiate National Criterium Champion, with numerous podium spots in major NRC races.

Katie Mactier, who has already garnered two gold medals in the individual pursuit at the Sydney and Beijing World Cup Track events in recent months, will be racing with the squad, beginning in May. "I'm super excited to be hooking up with the girls again for another US road season. This year we are a bigger team and hungry to make our mark," said Mactier.

The team will be contesting a full NRC schedule for 2008, kicking off the season with the Santa Rosa Women's Grand Prix on February 18. Prior to that, the team will hold their training camp in Healdsburg, California, the week of February 11th.

ValueAct Capital Cycling Team for 2008: Sharon Allpress, Hannah Banks, Courtenay Brown, Nicole Evans, Leah Goldstein, Marni Hambleton, Lara Kroepsch, Katie Mactier, Martina Patella, Chrissy Ruiter, and Taitt Sato.

British Cycling's Cookson and Dailey win awards

Brian Cookson
Photo ©: John Pierce/Photosport International
(Click for larger image)

British Cycling's President Brian Cookson and Logistics Manager Doug Dailey were named to the New Year's Honours List for 2008.

Cookson won the OBE award for his role in the organisation's revival over the past 10 years. After earning a solid reputation as a competitor, international commissioner, regional official and race organiser, Cookson took over British Cycling leadership in 1997 when it was struggling financially and constitutionally. He played a role in the ensuing re-structuring.

"It has been my privilege to work with Brian for all of the 11 years that I have been at British Cycling and I have come to value highly his constant support and wise counsel when there have been difficult decisions to make," said Chief Executive Peter King. "His knowledge and understanding of the sport are second to none and his contribution over many years has been immense. Brian was one of those who put his head above the parapet to steer the Federation through the dark days ahead. His steadying hand on the tiller through the turbulent waters of the late nineties was crucial to the survival and re-invention of the Federation.”

"I am, of course, absolutely delighted to receive this Honour for services to cycling," said Cookson. "Most importantly, I'd like to thank all those who have supported me personally over the years, especially my wife and family."

"I think it will help us to raise the profile of cycling even more, especially with Doug Dailey having been given the MBE as well," added Cookson.

Doug Dailey
Photo ©: John Pierce/Photosport International
(Click for larger image)

The recipient of the MBE, Dailey, has also served as National Coach and administrator while with British Cycling. A talented cyclist himself, Doug enjoyed a highly successful 26-year career during which he was twice the British Amateur Road Race Champion. He represented Great Britain on numerous occasions, including the 1972 Olympic Games, several Milk Race Tours of Britain and international events throughout the World.

Since 1986, Dailey has spent much of his time working for British Cycling. He has been Team Manager for Great Britain and England teams at many events over the years, including five Olympics, four Commonwealth Games and numerous World Championships.

"Doug is one of the longest serving and most loyal members of the staff team at British Cycling," said King. "After an outstanding career as a competitive cyclist he served the Federation well... . Since then he has played an absolutely pivotal role in the success of the Great Britain Cycling Team and has been at the heart of the operation throughout the glory years."

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by John Pierce/Photosport International

Counting down to SSWC registration

In little more than eight months, it will be time for another Singlespeed World Championships. Set for August 23-24, 2008, in Napa, California, there's still plenty of time to pick your gear and start training, but not so much time left to register.

Organisers announced the registration will open on January 1, 2008, at 12:00 am (Pacific Standard Time), but racers who don't make it in are welcome to come by nonetheless. "We still encourage you to come out and play that weekend anyway," said organisers in an e-mail. "There will be lots of rides going on all over the Bay Area."

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