First Edition Cycling News for February 15, 2007
Edited by Sue George
Unibet.com in danger?
By Hedwig Kröner
Swedish ProTour team Unibet.com is currently in the very unfortunate situation of being a pawn in the power play between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers over the ProTour. ASO, RCS and Unipublic, the managing companies of 11 ProTour races, decided last December not to let the squad take the start of their events, because it had not yet received a ProTour license by the UCI at the time. Moreover, the team has to deal with the fact that it is currently not allowed to race under its official name in France, because of a legal procedure between the online gambling company and the French lottery.
Two days ago the Giro d'Italia organiser RCS reiterated that the team was not invited to its races, and just yesterday during the presentation of Paris-Nice, race director Christian Prudhomme confirmed that the team would not be invited in the ASO-organised events on French soil (Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Tour de France, Paris-Tours).
All of this could put Unibet.com in serious danger. "This could mean the end of our team," manager Koen Terry told news agency Belga. "The Swedish sponsors of our team are extremely unhappy and I can understand them. They invested millions, but are still waiting for returns - even if the question mark jerseys were still a good publicity operation. A sponsor wants his team to race under its own name, and our team will end up disappearing if it can't use its official jerseys. We were euphoric on the day we received the admission to the ProTour, and now all of this is turning into a nightmare. We are the victims, so we have to speak out about this."
Team spokesman Manuel De Smet hoped that the UCI will find a way to solve the problem. "We are the hostages in a conflict over the ProTour, and we can't do anything else than to wait for a solution of the UCI," he told Belgian newspaper Dernière Heure des Sports.
Discouraged team manager Hilaire Van der Schueren agreed, and was angry that the Giro d'Italia organiser RCS preferred Italian Pro Continental team Tinkoff. "What can we do? We have a ProTour license and we paid a lot of money for the riders we signed. For the Giro, we have Rujano, who was third in 2005, and Pena, ninth last year. For Sanremo, we have Cooke and Carrara, tenth last year and sixth at the Giro di Lombardia... Unibet.com has invested a lot financially, but also on an ethical level. And what happens? We're not allowed in the ProTour (races) and they prefer Hamilton's team? It's a scandal."
At the beginning of February, the UCI threatened the organisers to sanction their events, but UCI president Pat McQuaid has not yet announced any concrete measures.
UCI responds to RCS
By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid has already indicated his displeasure with the situation and reiterated on Wednesday that the UCI will do what it takes to get the ProTour back on track. It is, he feels, the only way forward for the sport.
"It is not just RCS who have done this, McQuaid said."You can't treat them in isolation to ASO; they are working together. Basically, from our point of view, it is the same situation as was the case for what they say will happen in Paris-Nice.
"This is unacceptable. The rules are being flagrantly discarded by the three organisers and we won't accept it. We will take whatever action we have to take to ensure that the rules are adhered to. It is obvious what they are trying to do is to kill the ProTour. That is their intention."
McQuaid is convinced of the merits of the series. "The UCI brought in the ProTour to develop the sport of cycling in Europe. By that I mean complete Europe, not just Western Europe. We are now considering globalising it in order to develop the sport on the highest level. That is our objective.
"It is not, as some might claim, a commercial operation on behalf of the UCI; the UCI does not make money out of it. It was brought in order to improve the economics of teams and of organisers. It has certainly been proven correct to do so with the teams because the teams have now got long contracts which gives stability to the team and to the riders. This is the type of thing that never existed in cycling before.
"The only organisers who ever really had stability were the Three Grand Tours and the way they are acting is reducing the possibility of other organisers in the ProTour from developing an amount of stability which can guarantee their future. I'm talking about Germany, Tour of Switzerland, Dauphiné Libéré and races like this. They need the ProTour in order to get the guarantees that they can obtain from sponsors as well. This in turn means they can invest in their events to improve the level of their race."
Tour of California aims to prevent doping
In the wake of cycling's ongoing doping scandals involving riders like Floyd Landis and those implicated in Operación Puerto, organizers of the Tour of California announced extensive testing for the performance enhancing blood-booster EPO. All tests at this year's event will include a screening for EPO. Ironically, the tour's sponsor is Amgen, the manufacturer of EPO, also a naturally occurring hormone which stimulates the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body's muscles.
"It is the right thing to do," AEG President Shawn Hunter said Tuesday according to the Mercury News. "Our race can serve as a positive step.''
The UCI granted permission for organizers to use the US$400 test. The Mercury News reported that at last year's event, four cyclists were tested every day, but none tested positive.
The move comes amid similar initiatives, like the testing program to be undertaken by Team Slipstream, who will test its riders' blood and urine 50 times a year at a price tag of US$20,000 per rider or $400,000 per team according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, organizers have also released a provisional start list including 2006 Tour de France stage winners Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank Cycling Team), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step-Innergetic), 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), world road race champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic), and world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). Last year's second place winner, Dave Zabriskie (Team CSC) will return, but the race will be without defending champion Floyd Landis.
For a complete start list, click here. Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the Tour of California beginning February 18.
Millar feeling good despite disruption
By Shane Stokes
"Things are good, very good," he told Cyclingnews this week at the team hotel in Majorca. "I could have had a better start to the year, what with the crash and everything. Myself and Christian Vandevelde were out training, just leaving Girona, when it happened. It was just one of those really stupid crashes. We were both going around a roundabout and basically I went one way, he went another and then we came back in together and collided. I just flipped over.
"It was one of those crashes which is really bad because it was only about 20 or 30 kilometres an hour and I had a huge impact my left leg. I then had to take two weeks off the bike and to be honest, yesterday was the first day it stopped hurting."
Millar returned to cycling last July following a two year ban and worked hard to get back into good shape. He won a stage of the Vuelta a España and was also prominent in the world road race championships. He has trained a lot since then, and says that this base may have offset the time he lost with the fall.
"The crash was on January the second, so it was a perfect start to the year! Fortunately I had had a really good winter beforehand so the work was kind of there. If I had done things in my old style where I hadn't ridden that much coming into the season, then it would have been panic stations. But, fingers crossed, it is just going to delay me by a few weeks.
"I didn't really stop training, actually," he continues. "I was in the UK and I was training there with the under 23 team for the whole of November. I was doing a lot of the track, I was in the gym. I was basically working really well through October, November, early December, really consistently. Then in the middle of December I started to move to Spain [Girona] so lost about two weeks then.
"I had the crash after that, just when I started going again, so I missed out on about a month in all. But maybe it was a blessing in disguise because otherwise I think I might have been too obsessive at the moment and that might have meant that my head would have been falling off in April! Perhaps it has been a good thing in ways."
A full interview with David Millar will appear soon on Cyclingnews.
Boonen admires Freire
By Monika Prell
Tom Boonen, until now the star of the season of 2007, commented during the Challenge of Mallorca to the Spanish newspaper AS that he admires Oscar Freire.
"I hope to see him a lot here these days. It's a pleasure to ride beside him because we [the cyclists] don't see him a lot," said Boonen. Due to various physical problems, Freire did not compete in as many races in the last year.
Boonen called Freire "the most talented cyclist of the world." The young Belgian star admires Freire "not only for his speed and his ability to get in on every sprint even if he does not have a strong team around him," but also for his specialization. "I win a lot, but I compete hundred days a year. Oscar competes thirty days and he wins world championships, the most important classics, and some stages of the Tour. I wish I could be like him!"
Boonen has his own take. "I don't believe in the theory that says that Freire were well, he would win more races. I think it is the opposite. Perhaps I have no possibility to surprise. Freire benefits from surprise, and he doesn't have legs that are so tired like mine." Boonen finished by saying, "Every cyclist has his own characteristics. From Oscar, they don't ask for more because he is like that.
Luperini leads the women's Menikini-Gysko team for 2007
With 400 career wins including four Tours of Italy, three Tours de France, and three editions of the Vallona Arrow, the 33-year-old Italian Fabiana Luperini has earned the nickname "La Regina" [editor's note - "the queen"] among fans. She will lead the Menikini-Gysko UCI women's team for 2007. Luperini previously rode for Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line.
Menikini-Gysko will be managed by Walter Zini. The team will hold a presentation of its riders and racing programme on Saturday, February 17 in Milan.
Besides Luperini, other members of the team include Sigrid Corneo (Italy), Marina Romoli (Italy), Silvia Valsecchi (Italy), Carmela Massaro (Italy), Karin Aune (Sweden), Eneritz Iturriaga (Spain), Dorte Rasmussen (Denmark), Elodie Touffet (France), Miho Oki (Japan), Rochelle Gilmore (Australia), and Olivia Gollan (Australia).
For more information of the team, please see Cyclingnews' team database, with its listing of UCI women's teams.
Serrano: Tinkoff's hope for the Tour Méditerranéen
By Monika Prell
Ricardo Serrano, who wears the colours of the Italian-Russian Tinkoff team this year, made his season debut at the Tour Méditerranéen. According to todociclismo.com, the 28-year-old Spaniard admits that his competition form is "good," but still not "the best."
"My big objective this year is Tirreno-Adriatico, so that I wanted to start the season well, but without being at 100 %. Later on, it will depend on if we will ride the Giro or not, for this reason I still don't know exactly my racing schedule," said Serrano.
He considers the Tour Méditerranéen to be characterized by "short and nervous stages." He hopes to stay near the front in France and will take it race by race.
Looking ahead, Serrano will get a chance to test his legs again on February 20 in the Trofeo Laigueglia (Italy) and on February 25 in the Tour du Haut Var (France). During a winter training camp, Serrano showed that he was the cyclist on his team with the best form, so he hopes not finish too far from the podium in the Tour Méditerranéen. In yesterday's stages, he showed his early form by finishing ninth in the second stage and third with his team Tinkoff in the team time trial.
"Best winter ever" for Risi
Together with his racing partner Franco Marvulli, Bruno Risi was a happy winner of the Hasselt Sixday, which finished on Tuesday night in Belgium, putting an end to the European Sixday season. After an exciting finale, the Swiss pair had beat Iljo Keisse and Marco Villa by nine points, and Risi scored his eighth victory this winter and the 46th of his entire career.
"This was my best winter ever," Risi told the Standaard after the races. "Last winter, I had to abandon before the end of the season after a bad crash in Bremen. During recovery, I considered ending my career, even if it was very successful. But my wife supported me so I decided to continue. My last goal now is to get a Gold medal in Beijing. But this winter was awesome... Hasselt looked like an ordered win, but it wasn't: Keisse had the benefit of his home public, and Villa remains a smart fox, who knows exactly when to put the hammer down."
Sánchez and Colom expect a sprint
By Monika Prell
Going into the final stage of the Volta a Mallorca, GC leader Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) is warily optimistic. According to todociclismo.com, he said that one difficult stage remains and the race is still not won.
"It's a victory for the whole team but it's still too early to celebrate. The last stage is complicated, and there can be some surprises," affirmed the 23-year-old. He thanked his teammates who "once more have worked well for me" and complained that "I lacked a bit of luck. I gave all in the last kilometer to win the stage. One of the keys for the good teamwork is the week we spent here on this island during our training camp."
His objectives for the final stage are "to control the race and to win the stage with Alejandro Valverde, Vicente Reynés, or José Joaquín Rojas, because the terrain is very good for them."
Sánchez is not the only one expecting a sprint. So is Toni Colom (Astaná), who won the stage on Wednesday. "It's a great recompense for me to forget the fall I suffered some hours before the first stage when I received a strong blow to my wrist." The stage will be "complicated like last year's because the time differences between the first riders are not very big, and we will race on small streets," but he thinks that the stage "will end in a sprint."
Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast invited to South Africa and Ireland
Fresh off its first race at the Tour of the Bahamas, the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team announced plans to compete internationally by sending squads to race in South Africa and Ireland. At the Tour of the Bahamas, Martin Gilbert took second in Stage 2, third in Stage 3, and was the highest overall finisher for the team, in sixth overall.
"We're pleased with our result in the Bahamas," said Performance Director Jonas Carney. "It was a good way to warm up for the season and to test the way the guys work together. Judging from this first race, we're looking at a highly motivated season and we want to race against the best competition there is so that means competing both domestically and on the international stage."
The team will head for the ten-day, 1,400km Tour of Maloti in mid-March where it will race against UCI Professional Continental squads from Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Australia, and South Africa.
Two months later, the team will race in Ireland in the 54-year-old FBD RÁS, an eight-day, 1,200km stage race that loops around Ireland from Naas to Skerries.
"We invited the team to join the race this year because we have a lot of respect for the roster of riders Jonas Carney has put together," said organizer Dermot Dignam.
"Ireland will be an excellent event to get our athletes in shape and conditioned for some of the bigger US races in June including Philadelphia," said Carney. "We're looking at a tough, eight-day stage race with big climbs and a lot of potential for stiff crosswinds and rain. But we'll be ready."
Nature's Path pro-am cycling team for 2007
The Nature's Path Pro-Am Cycling Team will continue to contest the National Race Calendar as underdogs for 2007. The small team retained its four-man roster from 2006, with a new addition Peter Penzell coming from the Rite Aid Professional Cycling team.
Once again Nature's Path Foods has increased their financial backing of the team for 2007. A new partnership to the team has come from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization of the Greater Richmond, Virginia area.
"We have decided to partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a means to conduct youth outreach to promising kids not only in Richmond, but in reality, everywhere our traveling takes us for events," said the team's manager/athlete Craig Dodson. "We are looking to supply bicycles, helmets, and an academic scholarship to Big Brothers Big Sisters youth during our season long quest to educate kids about cycling and the positive lifestyle achievements that often spawn from the sport."
Since the team's athletes are compensated for their living, travel, and race expenses, as well as health insurance and food costs, racing and outreach efforts are full-time obligations.
For a complete roster, click here.
Essex Brass cycling team for 2007
The Essex Brass Cycling Team has announced its 2007 rider and sponsor lineup. This team is based in Michigan, around the Metro Detroit area. The team will race around the Midwest and Canada, as well as engaging in the Michigan Points Series Challenge.
For a complete roster, click here.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)