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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 13, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Zomegnan explains RCS Sport's stance

Gerolsteiner and Rabobank respond

Angelo Zomegnan, events director at RCS Sport
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Last night, RCS Sport announced the teams that were in line to compete in its races, namely the Giro d'Italia, Milano-Sanremo and the Tirreno-Adriatico. Somewhat surprisingly, there was no mention of ProTour team and, following along the guidelines laid out in December, it gave three of the ProTour teams an option to opt-out of the Giro and Tirreno.

Based on the December 12 press release, the Grand Tour organizers in a sense consider their races outside of the ProTour run by the UCI. RCS Sport, the ASO and Unipublic organise a series of 11 events that include the Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia.

At the time of the December release, Astana and were not yet part of the ProTour, and are not listed under the invited teams. The former was selected as a wild card for the RCS Sport events while the latter was not mentioned at all. "Regarding Unibet, there are not preconceived hostilities," explained Angelo Zomegnan, events director of RCS Sport, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was not invited for technical and economic reasons linked to the Giro's interests."

RCS Sport singled out three ProTour teams, Caisse d'Epargne, Gerolsteiner and Rabobank, who have until Friday to indicate if they want to participate. According to the December statement, it is not "compulsory for teams to compete in all eleven races," and so Zomegnan sent out invitations to the ProTour teams last month to inquire about their intentions.

"The three did not respond to our invitation nor did so in an inadequate way," continued Zomegnan. "Caisse d'Epargne did not respond to the letter we mailed on January 20. The other two replied that they have a 'right' to participate, and that is for us unacceptable."

Gerolsteiner waits

Schumacher at 2006 Giro
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Gerolsteiner was upbeat about participating and indicated that several of its riders had season aims in the Corsa Rosa. Team spokesman Jörg Grünefeld noted to Susan Westemeyer of Cyclingnews, "So far we don't have any official statement from RCS. ... Gerolsteiner has a couple of riders who have chosen the Giro for their season highlight. We all hope we can once again discover a talent like Markus Fothen or Stefan Schumacher, both of whom first showed us in the Giro that they are some of the best young riders in the world.

"But we are still awaiting the information from RCS," he concluded.

"If things come as we have heard, we see it as an honour to get the choice of starting or not starting," quipped Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer to Cyclingnews. "But we feel highly responsible to the ProTour, so we will definitely show up."

Rabobank responds

Dekker wins 2006 Tirreno
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"Now, I don't know what this means," commented Rabobank team director Erik Breukink yesterday evening to Dutch journalists. "We did register with them, [General Manager] Theo De Rooij assured me of that. And if you look at it on a purely sporting basis, we do not deserve a refusal to participate in Tirreno and Milano-Sanremo.

"With Erik and Thomas Dekker and Oscar Freire, we have won the overall classification of Tirreno once, and Freire was also once the best in Milano-Sanremo. Concerning the Giro, one may debate on it, but to me this doesn't seem to be the right way to decide over a participants' field."

General manager Theo De Rooij counts on the UCI to fix the problem, and is firmly decided to participate in these Italian races. "The UCI has let the organisers of the three Grand Tours know that all ProTour teams will race in their events," he said. "I don't think we have to re-iterate our coming once again."

The teams will know whether or not they will participate in the Giro, Sanremo and Tirreno when RCS Sport makes its final selection this Friday, February 16.

2007 Lampre-Fondital - Quality over quantity

2007 Lampre-Fondital
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Monday, in Brescia, the 2007 Lampre-Fondital team was presented with one aim in mind; quality over quantity. "The quantity of successes has been great but now we need to better the quality," said Team Manager Giuseppe Saronni to La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding his team of 25 riders.

2006 marked a year of close calls, with Alessandro Ballan being close to the win at Paris-Roubaix, Damiano Cunego showing his 2004-brilliance at the Giro d'Italia before going on to take the Young Rider classification in the Tour de France and Daniel Bennati racking up sprint wins but falling short in the Tour.

With the presentation held at Luigi Olivari military airport in Ghedi, the team is hoping for inspiration from the many fighter jets. Cunego was kitted as a pilot to experience Italy's PA-200 and noted, "I can say that I also tried this." (Cunego did not actually fly in the jet, which cost €28,000 an hour when in operation.) "I am passionate about motorized vehicles but this is completely different than racing cars. ... These planes really have some power and I hope that this will be a good omen for the season."

The team can look back on the 2006 season with a sense of pride; they were the top ranked Italian ProTour team and finished fifth overall in the competition behind Team CSC, Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, Rabobank and on equal with Discovery Channel. Its 27 wins were mostly thanks to sprinters Bennati (9) and Danilo Napolitano (7).

"My preparations are the same as one year ago, but this winter I went to the Canary Islands," said Bennati, who started his season last weekend in the GP Etruschi, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "In 2006 I set myself up to peak for the Northern Classics but this year I am aiming to win immediately."

Ballan will once again point towards the pavé; hoping to improve on his placings in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix (5th and 3rd). "It has been a warm winter, seven degrees hotter than normal, and this has helped me prepare," noted Ballan who lives in Veneto. "I have all I need to do well; serenity, conviction and a team that feels like home."

Cunego is in control
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Cunego has packed his bags and departed for Spain where he will start his 2007 season in the Ruta del Sol. "Am I able to return like 2004?" he questioned of the year in which he won the Giro d'Italia and the Giro di Lombardia. "Also better, because my motor has grown in these years and I have gained experience.

"I am starting my season Sunday at the Ruta del Sol and I can't wait. With the races we will be able to make a clearer picture and see if we can go better yet. The team is stronger than ever and I know I can count on them."

Regarding the 2007 Giro, Director Sportif Beppe Martinelli added, "Damiano has an obligation to win it, the Giro." "I am not hiding my desire to win the race" Cunego concluded. "Basso? The rivalry with him has risen to an artificial level. Even if we don't talk much, I will see him on the roads. Anyway, he is not my only rival, for the race there will be many dubious [riders]."

2007 Lampre-Fondital team: Alessandro Ballan (Ita - 06/11/1979), Claudio Corioni (Ita - 26/12/1982), Damiano Cunego (Ita - 19/09/1981), Daniele Bennati (Ita - 24/09/1980), Daniele Righi (Ita - 28/03/1976), Danilo Napolitano (Ita - 31/01/1981), David Loosli (Swi - 08/05/1980), Enrico Franzoi (Ita - 08/08/1982), Fabio Baldato (Ita - 13/06/1968), Francesco Gavazzi (Ita - 01/08/1984), Giampaolo Caruso (Ita - 15/08/1980), Giuliano Figueras (Ita - 24/01/1976), Gorazd Stangelj (Slo - 27/01/1973), Jaime Castañeda (Col - 29/10/1986), Marco Marzano (Ita - 10/06/1980), Marzio Bruseghin (Ita - 15/06/1974), Massimiliano Mori (Ita - 08/01/1974), Matteo Bono (Ita - 11/11/1983), Morris Possoni (Ita - 01/07/1984), Paolo Bossoni (Ita - 02/07/1976), Paolo Fornaciari (Ita - 02/02/1971), Paolo Tiralongo (Ita - 08/07/1977), Patxi Vila (Spa - 11/10/1975), Sylvester Szmyd (Pol - 02/03/1978) and Tadej Valjavec (Slo - 13/04/1977).

See Cyclingnews' Teams Database for more information.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Swiss license for Ullrich?

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich just finished an eight-day training camp on the island of Mallorca with his friends Andreas Klöden and Matthias Kessler, both of Team Astana. "Hard training is simply more fun with a group of guys who know each other well. We had good weather and worked hard for eight days of training," said Ullrich, who returned to his home in Switzerland Monday evening.

He is supposedly in close negotiations with two teams, and there are rumours that there may be an announcement out of Switzerland this week. Apparently he will be receiving a new Swiss license. (The 1997 Tour de France winner denounced his license in October.) Last month, Bernhard Welten, who is handling the Swiss Olympic investigation of Ullrich, said that the German was, at the moment, free to ride again, once he had a license.

In addition, there was a court hearing Tuesday morning in Hamburg, Germany, concerning his libel case against Dr. Werner Franke. Franke had appealed an injunction which prevented him from claiming that Ullrich had paid Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes €35,000 for doping products. An announcement of the court decision is expected sometime Tuesday afternoon.

Landis to publish book in June

Floyd Landis may not be in training to ride the Tour de France this summer, but he hasn't been idle. He has been working on his autobiography, which is scheduled to be published in late June just prior to La Grand Boucle, the AP reports.

The book, titled Positively False, will tell his life story, including growing up in a Mennonite family and detailing his love of cycling. It will be published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment.

Igor Astarloa - first race in blue

By Monika Prell

Basque cyclist Igor Astarloa will debut in the Tour Méditerranéen that starts on Tuesday in Gruissan. The 2003 world champion will defend for the first time the colours of his new team, Milram, his seventh team since his begin in professionals in 2000. According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, he will be the leader of his team, assisted by his teammates Mirko Celestino, Andriy Grivko, Brett Lancaster, Mirco Lorenzetto, Elia Rigotto, Fabio Sabatini and Carlo Scognamiglio.

The Tour Méditerranéen will have only one Spanish team, Caisse d'Epargne, who will participate with four French riders, French champion Florent Brard, Eric Berthou, Mathieu Perget and the new professional Sébastien Portal; one Italian, Marco Fertonani, and three Spanish cyclists, Iván Gutiérrez, Joaquím Rodríguez and David López García.

There is also the participation of Tyler Hamilton for Tinkoff Credit Systems. The American will continue his racing after having fulfilled his two-years doping sanction. For the sprints there are cyclists such as Australian Bradley McGee, Italian Daniele Bennati and Briton Jeremy Hunt, winner of the recent Grand Prix La Marsellaise.

The Tour Méditerranéen consists of six stages, starting with a team time trial on Wednesday. The most selective stage will be held on Friday, finishing on the famed Mont Faron.

Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen for 2007

By Susan Westemeyer

Niko Eeckhout of Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen knows what he wants to accomplish this season: Winning the Tour of Flanders would be great, but he would be happy with a top ten finish. The current Belgian road champion intends to ride for another two years, Eeckhout said yesterday at the Pro-Continental team's presentation.

"If I have the same form this year that I had last year, then the top ten ought to be in reach," he said, according to Sporza. "That would be beautiful." He is also looking to do well in the Omloop Het Volk and Paris-Roubaix.

Team Manager Christophe Sercu looked back with satisfaction at the team's 2006 season. "We had Willems' overall win in Bessèges, Veuchelen's solo victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen, and Eeckhout's Belgian title, as well as other successes." And 2007 has started out well, too, he noted, with two stage wins in the Tour Down Under.

Director Sportif Walter Planckaert said, "We have a team that can compete the whole year. 30 wins like in 2006 is perhaps a bit much, but we ought to be able to get 20 to 25."

Steven Caethoven, who won the second stage of the Tour Down Under last month, hopes to ride well enough this season to gain a contract with a ProTour team next year. "It is time to make the step," he explained to Het Laatse Nieuws. "I had an offer from a larger team after my first pro year, but it was too early. Now I am more mature and more experienced."

Riders: Bart Vanheule (Bel - 10/11/1983), Benny De Schrooder (Bel - 23/07/1980), Dimitri De Fauw (Bel - 13/07/1981), Evert Verbist (Bel - 27/06/1984), Frederik Veuchelen (Bel - 04/09/1978), Glenn D'Hollander (Bel - 28/12/1974), Ilzo Keisse (Bel - 21/12/1982), Jelle Vanendert (Bel - 19/02/1985), Johan Coenen (Bel - 04/02/1979), Kenny De Haes (Bel - 10/11/1984), Kenny Lisabeth (Bel - 22/06/1981), Koen Barbé (Bel - 20/01/1981), Kurt Hovelynck (Bel - 02/06/1981), Matthew Gilmore (Bel - 11/09/1972), Nico Eeckhout (Bel - 16/12/1970), Nikolas Maes (Bel - 09/04/1986), Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel - 13/06/1982), Serge Pauwels (Bel - 21/11/1983), Steven Caethoven (Bel - 09/05/1981), Sven Renders (Bel - 12/08/1981), Tom Stubbe (Bel - 26/05/1981) and Wesley Van der Linden (Bel - 07/03/1982).

Management: Team Manager Christophe Sercu, Directeurs Sportifs Roger Swerts, Jean-Pierre Heynderickx and Walter Planckaert.

See Cyclingnews' Teams Database for more information.

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