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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 9, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Hamilton targets Giro

By Hedwig Kröner

Tyler Hamilton
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

After serving a suspension of two years, American Tyler Hamilton has made his comeback in the pro ranks at the GP d'Ouverture de la Marseillaise in the south of France on Tuesday this week, and is currently racing the Etoile de Bessèges stage race in that same region.

Speaking to French newspapers Le Monde and L'Equipe, the Athens Olympic Champion revealed his first goals for this new season: Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d'Italia. "I want to be operational at the Giro," he said. "I prepared for this race to come back at the highest level. Even though I'm already 35, I know I can still win races and I think I still have the rhythm even after two years of absence."

Hamilton also honoured the confidence placed in him by his new team Tinkoff. "I want to give my experience to this team, which offered me the chance to race again," he explained. "Now, I want to prove I'm still a rider."

Oleg Tinkov, the squad's manager, also thought that Hamilton "earned a second chance. He paid for what he did and now he has the right to reintegrate society."

Looking back on the two years he spent without a team, while still training and racing at events open to non-licensed riders, the American even has plans to write a book. "People only know a tenth of what happened to me," he said. "The press destroyed me. Without my wife Haven I would never had the strength to come back."

But even if Hamilton sat out his ban for blood transfusion, he was recently associated with yet another doping affair: the name of his wife Haven allegedly appeared on a fax transmitted by Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor accused of performance-enhancing practices in Spain. "That is completely false!," replied Hamilton when confronted with this information. "My lawyers asked for a copy of these documents, which actually never arrived. It has to be a really bad falsification. I was never under Eufemiano Fuentes' treatment."

While the former Phonak rider regretted not having asked his hearing to be made public ("I told Floyd not to make the same mistake"), he never lost the dream of racing again. "I always had the hope of coming back," he said. "I kept ready. Cycling has always been my passion, and now I can make a living of it again. My bank account is not what it used to be... I spent $500,000 on lawyers to defend myself. Do you think I would have done that if I wasn't innocent?"

Now, Hamilton is eager to show that he still has it in him. "I'll use the rage that built up inside of me to push the pedals even harder," he added. In Italy, he trains every day with a group of about 50 cyclists, which includes Luigi Cecchini, an Italian 'preparatore' who also advises Jan Ullrich. "Cecchini is my best friend before being my coach," Hamilton emphasized. "He never abandoned me, not even in the darkest hours. This experience has made me tougher."

No more Unibet jerseys in Bessèges

By Hedwig Kröner
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Swedish ProTour team Unibet, whose online gambling sponsor is currently not allowed to advertise in France, had to revert to generic 'question mark' jerseys at the French season opener GP d'Ouverture de la Marseillaise on Tuesday. The following day, the stage race Etoile de Bessèges started, and organiser Roger Fangille let the team start wearing their official jerseys.

"What can we do?," Fangille told L'Equipe. "Several lawyers [representing team Unibet - ed.] came to see us with tons of documents, saying we refuse this team to start. We are just small race organisers, far away from any legal issues."

As the race got underway, French police officers established a report on the matter, and subsequently, on stage two, the team took the start in Nîmes wearing - again - the question mark jerseys. Even though Baden Cooke won the final sprint that day, sponsor Unibet seems to have a serious problem appearing at cycling races in France.

The European Commission has been asked to rule on the case opposing French law and the online gambling company.

T-Mobile sends 13 to Mallorca Challenge

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile Team is sending 13 riders to the five day Mallorca Challenge, the team announced Thursday. It will mark the season debut of Linus Gerdemann, Giuseppe Guerini, Andre Korff, Patrik Sinkewitz and Thomas Ziegler. The rest of the squad will arrive in Mallorca after riding either the Tour of Qatar or the Etoile de Besseges in France.

"The race's main purpose is to get our Classics specialists fitter for their upcoming tasks," said manager Valerio Piva. "After riding at high speeds on the flat course in Qatar, the different terrain in the tour stages will offer the best pre-conditioning to test out their form for the spring."

The team will not concentrate on the overall standings, but will instead go for stage wins. "We have a large contingent of pros and want to give everyone the chance of showing what they're capable of," Piva noted. "That means 'Die Mannschaft' (the team) will always be able to show a new face."

The race will also be the debut of Jan Schaffrath, who rode with Telekom/T-Mobile from 1997 to 2005 and returns as an assistant team manager for T-mobile this year.

T-Mobile for the Mallorca Challenge: Eric Baumann, Lorenzo Bernucci, Marcus Burghardt, Scott Davis, Bernhard Eisel, Linus Gerdemann, Giuseppe Guerini, Bert Grabsch, Andreas Klier, Servais Knaven, Andre Korff, Patrik Sinkewitz, and Thomas Ziegler.

Ballerini envisions Italian year

By Gregor Brown

Ballerini and Di Luca
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italian National director sportif Franco Ballerini envisions a bright year for the Italians; conquering the pavé and Grand Tours, as well has cultivating its youth. "We are at a level to perform better than 2006," said the Tuscan to Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

It has been five years since an Italian has finished the Tour of Flanders first, and even longer, nine years, since an Italian has taken the Maillot Jaune of the Tour de France. Ballerini thinks that with riders like Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) and Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel) 2007 could be the year for his country.

"In the north on the pavé we are able to grasp the victories that we miss. We are protagonists - now Ballan, [Daniele] Bennati and also [Filippo] Pozzato are ready," he noted to the Italian news paper.

"In the Giro d'Italia I see youth, like Basso and [Damiano] Cunego, as favourites, even if [Gilberto] Simoni, who is older, is still ripe. And the Tour, which can finally return to the tricolore [Italy's colours - ed.], with Ivan."

Not forgetting the current World Champion Paolo Bettini, Ballerini continued, "he has the head to make the difference, you saw this in [the Giro di] Lombardia. Also [Alessandro] Petacchi can return to claim sprints; he has to remain calm and chase away the ghosts."

Youth will also be in Italy's corner with rider like Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Davide Viganò and Alessandro Proni (Quick-Step), Dario Cataldo, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-Fondital). Italy kicks off its season with the GP Costa degli Etruschi this Saturday, February 10.

Basso in California, then Tirreno

By Gregor Brown

Basso in Disco clothing
Photo ©: Kirsten Robbins
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso is ready to start his 2007 campaign. This year he will head west, starting his season with his new American team on US soil, in California. "The Tour of California, starting February 15, will be the first race with the new team; excellent teammates and an optimum team," said the 29 year-old Italian in a TV interview with SKY Life - Sport.

This past year, after being linked to Operación Puerto, Basso made the switch from Bjarne Riis' Danish Team CSC to join Johann Bruyneel at Discovery Channel. He did not want to talk on the subject of the Spanish investigation, "I pay a good lawyer for that, question him," but rather on his new team and upcoming season.

After two training camps, he is finding that the differences between his old and news teams are small. "We are talking of two of the best teams in the world. CSC and Discovery are very similar in their management and in their methods of preparation; I have noted only minimal differences in switching teams."

Basso indicated that after California he will return home to compete in the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Milano-Sanremo. "I am very calm inside. There will be new and old adversaries at the Giro [d'Italia] and Tour [de France]. ... The Tour is the most beautiful race in the world. The Giro I have already won, and the Tour I have a crazy desire to race at the highest of levels. I am not angry, I do not harbour bitterness. Rage causes you to make stupid errors; with hurriedness and the desire for revenge you do not get far. I want to go far; I am preparing well."

After spending time in the USA, Basso was happy to comment on what he thought about its riders and fans. "The passion of the people is not yet at a level like ours [in Italy] but it is close," he continued. "In the USA there are already the champions to win in every type of race, one-day races and stage races. All in all, cycling in America does not lack anything for success."

Barloworld for Etruschi

Team Barloworld will make its European season debut this weekend in the GP Costa degli Etruschi, only a few kilometers away from its training camp in Castagneto Carducci, Italy.

"We worked hard during our training camp," said director sportif Valerio Tebaldi, "and we think we have a competitive team for such a course." He said that the team has a group of "really experienced and skilled" sprinters, who ought to do well.

Barloworld for GB Costa degli Etruschi: Giosue Bonomi, Diego Caccia, Gianpaolo Cheula, Enrico Degano, Alexander Efimkin, Robert Hunter, Paolo Longo Borghini, James Perry, Hugo Sabido and Geraint Thomas.

Godfrey out of track worlds

Hayden Godfrey has been withdrawn from New Zealand's track cycling team for the Manchester World Cup and the upcoming World Championships in Mallorca for medical reasons.

Head track coach Terry Gyde, and BikeNZ medical staff have advised that it is Godfrey's best interest to forgo these competitions while he gets further medical evaluations so that he can return to full health in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Jesse Sergent will replace Godfrey for the Manchester World Cup, and then stay on at the New Zealand track team's training camp in Spain in preparation for the track world championships at the end of March.

Tour of Missouri cities announced

The US will add another high-profile stage race to its calendar this year with the Tour of Missouri, a UCI 2.1 event, which will take place from September 11-16. The route, which will cover more than 600 miles of the 'Show Me State', was announced today by state and local officials and race organisers who are eager to show the state to the world. "The Tour of Missouri is an exciting way to showcase the beauty of our state," said Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder. "I believe this race will capture the imagination of the entire State of Missouri."

In its first year, the Tour of Missouri already is slated to be one North America's top three professional cycling stage races, behind the Tours of California and Georgia. "To have this race in my home state is unbelievable," said Dan Schmatz, who rides for the BMC professional cycling team, and is originally from St. Louis. "It will be unique to race on roads that I have trained on. I think Missouri will be surprised by what they will see. We're looking to put on a real-good show."

The cross-state journey will start in Kansas City and finish in Missouri's largest city, St. Louis, in the shadows of the famous arch. "Missouri is an absolutely beautiful state for a professional cycling race of this nature. It has rich and varied terrain. I think cyclists will be surprised by the amount of hills in the state," said Jim Birrell, the race's director and managing partner of Medalist Sports, who also manage the Amgen Tour of California and Tour de Georgia.

"The enthusiasm from state leaders in Jefferson City, to the civic leaders in the communities hosting this event, to the sports enthusiasts in Missouri really has been overwhelming. There already is a great grass roots buzz about this event. The event shows great promise and hasn't even started yet."

Stages of the Tour of Missouri

Stage 1: Kansas City - Kansas City
Stage 2: Clinton - Springfield
Stage 3: Branson (individual time trial)
Stage 4: Lebanon - Columbia
Stage 5: Jefferson City - St. Charles
Stage 6: St. Louis (circuit race)

Redlands Classic returns to original format

After cutting back the number of stages from six to three, and omitting the queen stage to Oak Glen in 2006, the Redlands Classic will get some of its original glory back for 2007. The race will have four stages this year, starting with the prologue time trial on March 22. There will be a new road race course for stage two, followed by the classic downtown criterium and Sunset Road Race stages.

"We are excited to bring the Classic back to its original glory," says Brian King, race director of the Redlands Classic. "We expect Redlands to be one of the most anticipated events on the 2007 National Cycling Calendar." An announcement will full parcours information is anticipated in the coming weeks.

SRAM issues voluntary recall for Force front brake calipers

By James Huang

SRAM has issued a voluntary recall for some Force front brake calipers.
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)
SRAM has discovered that certain Force front brake calipers may have been equipped with defective titanium mounting bolts and has issued a voluntary recall in response. According to SRAM officials, only a handful of brakes have failed in the field, and all failures occurred during installation. Regardless, affected brakes may separate from the fork during use and should be replaced immediately. Please note that rear brakes are not affected by the recall.

Brakes subject to the recall can be identified through the date code stamped on the back of the caliper and will include one of the following:

  • No date code at all (indicates early production).
  • Original date code range: 01JUN06 through 15SEP06.
  • Current date code range: 35T6XXXXXXX through 39T6XXXXXXX.

Affected brake calipers must be replaced as a complete unit as the mounting bolts are not replaceable. Corrective action will be taken as follows:

SRAM sales representatives will contact OEM clients directly to set up a replacement plan for bicycles currently in inventory as well as those that have already been delivered. Distributors are asked to please contact dealers who have purchased Force road brake sets and/or complete groups to arrange for replacement of front brake calipers. Dealers will be contacted either directly by SRAM or a SRAM distributor with a corrective action plan. Dealers are asked to compile a list of customers who may be affected by the recall. Affected consumers should contact the retail outlet from which the brake was purchased or their local dealer to arrange for replacement.

All affected front brake assemblies should be contained and returned to a SRAM distributor or regional SRAM sales office. In all cases, SRAM has reported that replacement front brake assemblies are currently in stock and have already begun shipping to end users in order to minimize down time.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)