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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for February 5, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Hammond and Rider's Council back ProTour in Paris-Nice row

Plenty of discussions over the ProTour these days - but riders feed too much on rumour, says Hammond
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Roger Hammond is part of the CPA Rider's Council representing professional cyclists. Earlier this week they allied with the UCI in regard to the decision by ASO to block ProTour team from riding Paris-Nice.

The T-Mobile rider talked to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes this weekend, explaining why the Council feels that ASO are wrong in their stance.

This week has been marked by an escalation of the dispute between the UCI and ASO, with the latter reiterating that it will not invite ProTour team to Paris-Nice. This has been passed off by some as being a consequence of the French restrictions on gambling, but Saturday's news that the organisers of the Vuelta have also said that they will block the Swedish-registered team show that the stance is due, at least partly, to the struggle between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers.

One group which should perhaps have the most say is seldom heard from; that of the riders themselves. The organisers are responsible for putting on the events and the UCI is responsible for running the sport, but those actually pedalling the bikes are the people who the whole sport revolves around. Yet in spite of their 24-7 involvement - or, perhaps, because of - they lack a strong political clout.

The establishment of the CPA's Council of Riders of the Association of Professional Cyclists has however afforded riders a bigger role in the sport. Led by Jens Voigt and Jose Luis Rubiera and also featuring riders such as Matthias Kessler, Michael Rogers, Philippe Gilbert, Iñigo Cuesta, Cédric Vasseur, Thomas Dekker, George Hincapie, Filippo Pozzato, Fabian Cancellara, Roger Hammond, Denis Menchov, Thor Hushovd, José Azevedo and Dario Cioni, they are acting as a representative group and a communication link between those in the suits and those on two wheels.

To read which stance Roger Hammond and the CPA take on the ProTour issues, click here.

Sevilla - and Ullrich? - to Relax-Gam

By Susan Westemeyer and Monika Prell

Oscar Sevilla and Jan Ullrich riding out before the 2006 Tour de France - in which they never competed
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Another rider named in Operación Puerto has found a new team for the 2007 season. Professional Continental Team Relax-Gam Fuenlabrada has announced that it has signed Oscar Sevilla. The Spanish rider, who was suspended by Team T-Mobile shortly before the start of the Tour de France and was subsequently fired, signed the contract early on Saturday, and will be introduced at the team's presentation Monday at noon in the city of Fuenlabrada.

Sevilla confirmed to that he has signed with Relax. "It is a one-year contract and it is all set. I hope to be in Mallorca this week." He hopes to be able to race as soon as possible, "which is what I want more than anything at the moment."

The team is also rumoured to be interested in a former T-Mobile teammate of Sevilla's - Jan Ullrich, who was also suspended and let go by his squad after being named in the Spanish doping affair. The press agency Europe Press reported that Relax has made him an offer to become the team's captain, but Michael Lang, Ullrich spokesman, refused to comment to Cyclingnews.

Other members of the Relax-Gam Fuenlabrada include Jan Hruska, Francisco Mancebo and Santiago Perez, who has recently returned to cycling after sitting out a two-year ban for blood doping.

Landis happy for official French support

Floyd Landis was happy to hear that French Sport Minister Jean-Francois Lamour has requested a postponement of the French anti-doping agency's hearing which was scheduled to be held next week.

"We recognise and appreciate his contributions to this end," Landis' spokesman Michael Henson told the AP. "His reasoned approach is consistent with Floyd's goal of defending this case on the merits.

"We will continue to demand that USADA and other prosecutive authorities comply with their obligations to find the truth, rather than adopt a 'win at any cost' attitude," Henson said.

Charteau will "play to win" in Langkawi

By Greg Johnson in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Stage winner Charteau also gets the yellow jersey
Photo ©: Shane Goss
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After storming to victory in yesterday's stage three of the Tour de Langkawi, French Anthony Charteau has declared himself as a contender for this year's title. The Crédit Agricole rider went off the front early in yesterday's race, drawing a 10-minute margin over the peloton and storming on to win both King of the Mountains climbs and claim the overall victory by nearly four minutes.

"Considering the lead I have now, I will play to win overall. It's going to be hard; I don't know much about the Colombian rider who's now in second [on GC - Walter Pedraza - ed.], but I presume he climbs well," noted a relaxed Charteau after the race. "I'm not worried about the flat stages, though - at Crédit Agricole, we're used to riding hard on the flat."

Yesterday's victory, which saw the 26 year-old take a four minute lead on General Classification, put Charteau in the unexpected position as the team's leader, despite his view that his form isn't top yet. "Initially, I was here just to go with the breaks, because I'm not in the best shape just yet - I'm here for my team leader Francesco Bellotti. Our plan was to be in the first break, and on the first climb, wait for him [Bellotti] at the top to help him at the end. When it became obvious our advantage was significant, it was decided it was enough for me to keep going on my own after the first climb."

Moreover, the French ProTour team also leads the team classification, and four of its riders are still within five minutes from the top of GC, which might help Charteau in keeping his pole position in the mountains. "Clearly, Francesco Bellotti came here to win after finishing second in the Tour de Langkawi last year. We also had the intention of looking after Benoit Poilvet, who is riding really strongly after our off-season training camp. I'm not a bad climber myself so I can also play a role, and there's also William Bonnet who surprised everyone [today], because he's supposed to be a sprinter. The training camp we did here has paid off, and to have four riders in the top 25 will make things easier to defend the yellow jersey," the overall leader said.

On stage 8, the Tour of Langkawi will again tackle the dreaded Genting Highlands, which have traditionally played a major role in the outcome of the race. Charteau was confident about the challenge, but the team has also other cards to play. "On Genting, everything will depend on my condition on that day; it's true I have a good advantage, and that it might be possible to win overall. But if I don't, Francesco Bellotti is a really good climber and he likes these kind of gradients, like Genting - so if I'm not able to do it, he will," Charteau added.

Kohl to target White Jersey in Tour

By Shane Stokes

Bernhard Kohl (T-Mobile) at the 2006 Dauphiné
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Austrian road race champion Bernard Kohl is planning to build on his strong 2006 season and will make his Tour de France debut this summer. Now with Gerolsteiner, the 25 year-old climber surprised even himself when he finished third overall in the Dauphiné Libéré last season, ending the race 2'51 behind Levi Leipheimer and 1'03 off the second place of Christophe Moreau. He also rode well in the Tour of California and the Tour of the Basque Country, finishing 12th in both.

Kohl got acquainted with his new teammates at German team's recent training camp in Mallorca and there he outlined his expected race programme to Cyclingnews. "I start at the Tour of California. That is my first race. Then Paris-Nice. After that, Basque Country, Romandie, and then if all is going to plan, the Dauphiné and the Tour de France."

Because of the challenge of riding the Grand Tour, he is planning on a quieter spring. "Last year it was important to show well in California but this year I will start a little bit easier. The season is long and with the Tour de France... that is an important race for me. Hopefully I will be in good shape in the Tour of Romandie. They will be the first big mountain stages that I do. I will keep building from there and hopefully go to the Tour de France.

"It is my first Tour so it will not be easy. I think the white jersey is possible to target, if everything is good. I will be up against [Linus] Gerdemann, [Janez] Brajkovic, [Thomas] Dekker... I think it will be a good fight for the white jersey. For this team that classification is also important; Markus [Fothen] led it last year."

Kohl said he was settling in well so far. "The team is different to T-Mobile last year but it is very friendly, everybody is very nice and in a big team, that is important. It is also much younger than T-Mobile was; in Gerolsteiner, most people are 18 to 24 or 25. I think that makes for a better feeling."

A full feature on Bernhard Kohl will appear soon on Cyclingnews.

Tuscan training camp for Lampre

Italian team Lampre-Fondital is currently still holding a training camp in the challenging hills around San Vicenzo, Tuscany. Two training groups were formed by general manager Saronni Giuseppe: one composed of riders that will race in the first events of the season, and the other including those who are meant to 'peak' later. After the first week of training ended, directeur sportif Maurizio Piovani was satisfied with the progress his riders were making.

"We're training very well here - both groups have reached a good level already," Piovani said. "Personally, I follow the group that will be racing the first seasonal events, and from what I've seen, I'm sure they will be well-prepared."

Training sessions include longer distances of 190 kms, as well as shorter, more intense rides. Also, the time trial bikes have been put to a test by those riders who will use them at the team time trial in the Tour Méditerranéen, which will take place from February 14-18.

Ullrich partners with sports-clothing company

By Susan Westemeyer

Are things finally starting to go Jan Ullrich's way? He gave a voluntary DNA sample to German prosecutors last week, and has been most recently linked to Team Relax-GAM, which just signed his former teammate Oscar Sevilla. And now the German can boast a new sponsor and advertising contract, even if he still lacks a racing license for this season.

Ullrich will become the "Bionic Man" for X-Bionic sportswear, manufactured by X-Technology Research Swiss, it was announced over the weekend. The firm makes clothing for competitive athletes.

The 1997 Tour de France winner will not just be an spokesman for the company, but is also helping to develop the "Jan Ullrich Kompetenz Produkt" line of clothing. The firm is taking advantage of the cyclist's experience to create new products. "Together with us, Jan has developed sports clothing that breathes; it cools you down when you sweat and heats up when you're cold," said Professor Bodo Lambertz, director of X-Technology's research department.

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