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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for February 13, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Laura Weislo

Yates confident in finding replacement for Discovery

By Shane Stokes

Discovery is withdrawing sponsorship after three years
Photo ©: Kirsten Robbins
(Click for larger image)

On Friday Discovery Channel directeur sportif Sean Yates received the unexpected news that the media giant would not be renewing its contract with the ProTour team when it expires at the end of the current season. He and others linked to the squad had expected an extension to be given but this is not the case; it means that the riders and staff have a nervous time ahead while Bill Stapleton, Johan Bruyneel and others do what they can to get a new backer.

Yates was with the team at the start of the Challenge Volta a Mallorca and said that he was surprised by what had happened.

"It was unexpected," he stated. "They have been involved for three years. I guess the primary reason they came into the sport was because of Lance... he is no longer here as an active rider although he is involved with the team. Three years is one of the shorter periods of sponsorship that I can remember for a top team. I would say that normally the optimum amount of time is five or six years to gain the maximum amount of publicity, of payback, so one would have thought that they would have continued a bit more. But no, that's not the case."

"Bill Stapleton and the others will be dealing with this [looking for a new sponsor]. We are just going to keep our heads down and work away... that is nowhere near my department. I am just over here doing what I have to do. The team is run out of America so I would imagine a replacement would be an American sponsor."

Yates said that the management have been preparing for this possibility. "They have had certain discussions, have looked around, because that is the way it is, you can't just assume that they [Discovery] are going to continue, no matter what. And if someone enquires about coming on board, you are going to follow it up. But beyond that I just don't have a clue.

"I personally would like the team to continue for many more years. I feel I have been very, very lucky to get a job in this sport. The first few years I was with CSC which is an English speaking team, basically, and then I went onto Discovery which, while it has mixed nationalities, is also English speaking.

"I have just been exceptionally lucky in the sport that I have been able to work under those conditions. And to work with Johan... he has just been fantastic. We get on so well, and with Dirk [Demol], Laurenzo Lapage and Eki [Ekimov] now as well. It is a dream team really, as far as communication goes and getting on as friends. You could not ask for anything better."

Although Yates says that he's uncertain what will happen, he is remaining positive. "I think we are pretty confident that we are going to find a replacement sponsor. Individual riders know that if they are going to perform, they are going to find a job somewhere else. So it is more the the end of the day we will find a job, one way or another. But I can't imagine a team of this size not finding a sponsor. We have to just wait and see. For now, we will just get on with what we are paid to do, which is to work with Discovery until the end of the season."

In order to continue with its current size and structure, the team will likely require around 15 million euros per year according to Het Nieuwsblad.

Boonen in Mallorca for training

By Shane Stokes

Tom Boonen's back
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen won four stages in the Tour of Qatar but has yet to figure in the sprints at the Challenge Volta a Mallorca. Cyclingnews spoke to the 2005 world road race champion prior to the stage two start in Cala Millor and the Belgian said that he was planning on taking things relatively easy this week.

"I am feeling pretty good but I am not here to take any risks," he said. "I wasn't planning on doing the race at first, but it is over two weeks between Qatar and Ruta [Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol], so I came here to do some training rides. I wasn't planning on doing the stage yesterday but I did it and did one hour afterwards. Today I will do the same and then maybe again on Wednesday. For the rest of the time, it will just be training. I'm going straight away to Ruta after this."

This time last year Boonen was winning left, right and centre in the white jersey of world champion. It's a little strange to see him back in the blue of QuickStep-Innergetic yet despite the change, he says that life is not hugely different. "Things are not that much quieter this year, it is always the same. I guess it was perhaps a little bit easier in the winter because I didn't have to do so many special occasions and I was not always the centre of attention. But either way, the preparation is always hard when you're preparing for the big Classics. It is never easy."

"As regards the Classics, I want to want to do well in all of them. The three weeks from Milan-San Remo are the most important of the season for me. I will try to win one of them and if so, then my season is already good."

Boonen has yet to win the Italian Classic opener and says that it is on his list of targets. "Milan-San Remo is not the most beautiful classic of all; for me, the Tour of Flanders or Roubaix are more difficult and more satisfying. But that is what makes it [Milan San Remo] so hard to win, because there are a lot of contenders. We will see how it goes."

Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Tornio invites announced

RCS Sport confirmed the stages and teams for the 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico today. Eighteen ProTour teams and four wildcards will take part in the seven stage event starting on March 14. Following the selection model for the Giro d'Italia, not all ProTour teams will be required to start, and defending champion Thomas Dekker's Rabobank team has been given the opportunity to decline the invitation.

Tirreno-Adriatico stages
Stage 1, March 14, Civitavecchia - Civitavecchia, 160 km
Stage 2, March 15, Civitavecchia - Marsciano, 202 km
Stage 3, March 16, Marsciano - Macerata, 213 km
Stage 4, March 17, Pievebovigliana - Offagna, 161 km
Stage 5, March 18, Civitanova Marche - Civitanova Marche Alta TT, 20.5 km
Stage 6, March 19, San Benedetto del Tronto - San Giacomo Monti della Laga, 164 km
Stage 7, March 20, Civitella del Tronto - San Benedetto del Tronto, 177 km

RCS also announced teams for the oldest race on the Italian calendar, Milano-Torino, which is not a ProTour event. First run in 1876, the 92nd edition will consist of 18 teams of 10 riders each. The race will retain its classic 199 kilometre parcours, where last year Igor Astarloa prevailed ahead of Franco Pellizotti and Mirko Celestino. Astarloa and Celestino are now teammates on Milram, one of nine ProTour teams to get the nod for Milano-Torino.

Teams for Milano-Torino: Ag2r Prévoyance (Fra), Cofidis (Fra), Lampre-Fondital (Ita), Liquigas (Ita), Quickstep-Innergetic (Bel), Saunier Duval-Prodir (Spa), Team CSC (Dan), Milram (Ita), T-Mobile (Ger), Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo (Ita), Barloworld (GBr), Ceramica Flaminia (Ita), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare (Irl), OTC Doors-Lauretana (Ita), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia (Ven), Team LPR (Swi), Tenax-Salmilano (Irl) and Tinkoff Credit Systems (Ita)

Of note, RCS Sport also announced that the Giro della Provincia di Lucca will not be held in 2007.

Backstedt hurting

By Shane Stokes

Magnus Backstedt
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Magnus Backstedt was aiming to make another attempt at the world hour derny record last Autumn but those plans were scrapped when he had a bad fall. Months later, he said on Monday that he is still suffering from the after-effects of the crash.

"The form is good but I am struggling big time with my shoulder. I am not really sure what to do. You name it, I have tried it - physio, everything. It has all been done. But it is not improving. I am sort off as a position now where I don't know what to do with it as it is not getting any better.

"At a moment I'm just trying to keep training and will start today and tomorrow to see what happens with the shoulder. After yesterday it was getting quite a lot worse. Sore doesn't cut it, really."

The giant Swede explained how the crash happened. "I was doing Madison training down the track in Newport in October. We mistimed a Madison change and the guy that I was riding with came in straight underneath my wheels at 60 kilometres an hour. There is nothing you can do when that happens, I just went down and that was it. I thought I had just snapped my collarbone which means that after three weeks you are good to go again, but it turned out to be a lot worse.

"It was a fifth degree separated shoulder, so all the ligaments had gone. Anything that was in there previously is not in there any more. The collarbone went straight up through the trapezius muscle. I'm struggling big time with flexibility and I have still got a metal plate in my shoulder as well, which causes even more stiffness.

"It is unfortunate because I was going to go for the derny record. But what can you do? I will keep on working and hope that things improve and take it from there. Sooner or later it will sort itself out, but would rather it was on the sooner side! For now, the Classics are still a target and until a moment I decide I can't actually ride with this, then they still will be on the list."

An American 'cross revolution

Katie Compton
Photo ©: Mark Legg
(Click for larger image)

The US Cyclo-cross team stunned the world by taking three silver medals at the world championships this year. While remarkable, the medals won in this year's 'cross worlds weren't the first big results for the US in cyclo-cross. In 1999, Matthew Kelly won the gold in the junior men's race and Tim Johnson took bronze in the Espoirs. The next year Walker Ferguson took silver in the juniors, and the women have been competitive for years - Alison Dunlap and Ann Knapp scored top ten finishes for several years. Does this year's haul signal a new era in American cyclo-cross? Racer and writer, Peter Hymas, explores the potential for a US 'cross explosion.

While the state of American professional cycling was arguably at its absolute nadir in the years following World War II, Frank Kramer, one of the sport's founding champions opined on what it would take to return the sport to its former state of grandeur. And what was Kramer's reply?

"Only one good American rider."

Approximately 2 weeks ago, in an unprecedented performance at Belgium's Hooglede-Gits hosted World Cyclocross Championships, not one, not two, but three good American riders earned a hat-trick of silver medals: Danny Summerhill, Katie Compton, and, perhaps most astonishingly, Jonathan Page.

Click here to read the full feature.

Liquigas for Tour Mediterranéen

Italian ProTour team Liquigas are counting on a mixture of youth and experience at the Tour Mediterranéen starting tomorrow with a 26.2km team time trial along the coast of Gruissan near Narbonne. The team's veteran, Andrea Noè, will be joined by 21 year-old Roman Kreuziger, Leonardo Bertagnolli, Francesco Chicchi, Francesco Failli, Matej Mugerli, Roberto Petito and Alessandro Vanotti.

The six stage, five day race finishes on Sunday with a final stage that crosses the famous climbs of the Cipressa and Poggio before finishing in San Remo.

Irish team for Manchester World Cup

Cycling Ireland will enter five riders for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup taking place in Manchester from February 23-25. Navigators professional David O'Loughlin is continuing his buildup to the World Track Championships in Mallorca and will ride the 4000m individual pursuit - an event he rode for the first time just a few months ago.

O'Loughlin has also been entered for the men's points race and will team up with Dermot Nally, Paul Healion and fellow Navigator's pro Ciaran Power in the 4000m team pursuit.

Louise Moriarty from Dublin will ride the women's points race as well as the 3000m individual pursuit.

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