First Edition Cycling News for February 20, 2007
Edited by Hedwig Kröner, Steve Medcroft & Greg Johnson
Uncertainty continues after ProTour talks collapse
By Shane Stokes
With less than three weeks remaining before the start of Paris-Nice, the first race listed on the ProTour calendar, hopes of a resolution to the controversy surrounding the exclusion of Unibet.com are fading. The UCI and ASO, organiser of the race plus other events such as the Tour de France, met today in Lyon, where UCI president Pat McQuaid and ProTour manager Alain Rumpf represented the governing body while ASO president Patrice Clerc and Gilbert Ysern spoke on behalf of the French company.
McQuaid had requested the meeting but any possibility that the current uncertainty and conflict could be resolved was lost when the talks broke down.
The UCI issued a press release on Monday evening about the matter. Entitled 'ASO's Stance Blocks Any Discussion With The UCI,' it lays the blame for what happened squarely at the door of Clerc and Ysern.
"During this meeting, requested by the UCI President, ASO maintained its position rejecting the UCI's function and legitimacy as an international federation, which it seems to want to take control of through its strategy to destabilize. ASO is in fact refusing the UCI the right to set participation rules for races entered on the UCI ProTour calendar.
"On this basis, which is totally unacceptable to the UCI, no agreement or compromise could be reached. Talks between the parties were therefore unsuccessful." ASO has yet to issue its own take in relation to what occured at the meeting.
What happens next remains to be seen. The UCI had previously threatened to impose unspecified sanctions and this now appears to be increasingly likely. The matter is further complicated by Italian organiser RCS' announcement last week that it would also prevent Unibet.com from participating in Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro d'Italia.
Midway through December, Unibet.com succeeded in acquiring a ProTour licence, having met the financial, ethical and sporting obligations to do so. However, despite this, the team has been locked out of many of the ProTour events after declarations by ASO, RCS and the Spanish organiser Unipublic that they would stand united against the ProTour's selection criteria. McQuaid has said that their intention is to destroy the top division series, which has the stated aim of furthering the development of the sport in Europe and worldwide.
"The UCI will soon decide what action to take due to the deadlock created by ASO's attitude, which has decided to put itself in an illegal position vis-à-vis the sport's movement as a whole," concluded the UCI release. "[It] can only regret the irresponsible behaviour of its partners, which will seriously harm the general interests of all those involved in cycling."
The response of the professional teams will also be of interest to many. At the end of last month the CPA rider's council backed the UCI on the ProTour issue, It is uncertain if the teams will now unite behind Unibet and threaten to boycott any of the races organised by ASO, RCS or Unipublic. Discovery Channel's Sean Yates told Cyclingnews in recent days that such a show of group solidarity may be necessary if teams are to have any say in this issue.
Steels complains about Brown
Tom Steels, who crashed badly in a bunch sprint at the second stage of the Tour of Qatar, has sent a letter of complaint about the accident to the UCI. The Predictor-Lotto sprinter had to undergo medical treatment in a Doha hospital at the time for a broken collarbone and receive six stitches to his head.
Steels blamed Rabobank sprinter Graeme Brown for his fall, and now wants the UCI to react. "I made it clear to the UCI how unsafely Brown sprinted and what injuries I suffered," the Belgian told the Telegraaf.
"If things like these remain unpunished, the UCI commissaires risk that a beautiful discipline like this becomes a common boxing match. That would be a sin. I hope that the UCI follows it up."
By Susan Westemeyer
Peter Luttenberger announced his retirement from cycling at a press conference on Monday, February 19. The Austrian rode the last four years for Team CSC, which did not renew his contract at the end of the last season.
"I would liked to have continued riding," he said, according to sport1, "but the negotiations got stuck on the question of finances. I wasn't willing to ride for under a specific price."
As Luttenberger explained to Cyclingnews, because of the extended negotiations, "I stayed out of the cycling scene for a longer time, and I noticed that I didn't miss it at all. The continuous negative news about cycling made the decision easier. 12 years as a pro are enough."
Luttenberger, now 34, turned pro in 1995. He had his best year in 1996, when he won the overall Tour de Suisse and went on to finish fifth overall in the subsequent Tour de France.
According to APA press agency, Luttenberger wants to spend some time with his family, work on his house in Graz-Seiersberg and start cultivating his own wine. "I can't complain," he said. "They were good years."
Hansen taking relaxed approach to California start
T-Mobile's Adam Hansen is easing himself into the Tour of California at the request of team management, ahead of what he expects to be a hard slog to the final stage. Despite the 'no pressure' situation for the opening stages, Hansen posted an encouraging time in Sunday's prologue, finishing as the German squad's highest placed rider in sixth place.
"With having Ralf and Bob there to tell me there was no pressure, it was a very relaxing feeling," explained the Australian of his opening-stage performance.
"I just used my normal road bike with shallow spoke wheels [on the prologue], so it was no disc, no aerobars, no front aero wheels, nothing," he added. "I went with a pretty relaxed view into the race as it was my first one."
The two time Crocodile Trophy winner knows there's some tough work ahead, with the new signing knowing his job is to support the team's leader for the remainder of the tour - fellow Australian Michael Rogers.
A full interview with Hansen will be available on Cyclingnews shortly.
Wiggins okay despite training accident
Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins has suffered what he describes as a minor setback ahead of his international track racing return next week, after suffering a suspected groin strain and cuts to the head in a bizarre training accident. The Olympic pursuit champion was thrown over the handlebars of his bike while training on the rollers last week when a sweat towel got caught in the front wheel causing it to lock.
"I think this is a minor setback," British track coach Shane Sutton told The Guardian. "He is in really good shape and given the way he is going I don't think it will destroy his form. He's a little bit down about it, but mentally it's about drawing a line and moving on."
Meanwhile, Wiggins has told the paper that he understands why some people have lost faith in cycling amid a host of doping allegations that have dogged the sport for the past 12-months.
"I'm a fan as well [as a rider], and always have been," he explained. "The events of the last six months have made me think twice about whether I still love it."
Wiggins returns to track racing this weekend at the Manchester round of the Track World Cup and before turning his attention to preperations for this year's Tour de France, which kicks off in his home town of London.
Brown meets new squad in Netherlands
By Greg Johnson
Australia's Katie Brown has continued her comeback to professional cycling after touching down in the Netherlands last week and meeting her new Virenden Van Het Platteland teammates. The 25 year-old was one of five riders seriously injured in the German training accident that claimed the life of fellow Aussie Amy Gillett.
"I have arrived in the Nederland's [on Friday] and let me tell you I have never been so cold in my life," Brown told her new website www.katiebrown.com.au.
Brown met with her new squad and went for a 120 kilometre training ride in five-degree temperatures on the weekend, while her family back home in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, enjoyed the 30-degree conditions.
"I don't know about all you, but I have no idea how to dress to go training in temperatures like that," Brown continued. "I had a long thermal undershirt on, a thermal jacket a vest, two pairs of gloves, knick and long knick's over the top, bootie covers and ear warmers. However this did not stop the cold seeping in under all the layers!"
Brown returned to professional cycling in January at the UniSA Women's Criterium Series, run in conjunction with the Tour Down under in Adelaide, Australia.
The 2000 Youth Olympic Criterium Champion heads into warmer temperatures later this week, when the squad goes to Mallorca on Friday for a training camp.
"All the girls are really friendly and I look forward to the coming season," she concluded.
Last-minute change for Barloworld
South African team Barloworld has made some last-minute changes to its racing programme: it will ride the upcoming Trofeo Laigueglia on Tuesday with a different team than the one planned, without leading sprinters Fabrizio Guidi and Robert Hunter. For the Italian one-day race, directeur sportif Alberto Volpi will have a young team with South African neo-pro John Lee Augustyn, Mauricio Soler, Diego Caccia, Gianpaolo Cheula, Paolo Longo Borghini, James Perry and Kanstansin Siutsou.
From Wednesday, February 21, a second squad of Barloworld riders will participate in the five-day Volta ao Algarve stage race in Portugal. Hunter and Guidi will be backed up by Pedro Arreitunandia, Giosué Bonomi, Ryan Cox, Enrico Degano, Alex Efimkin and Hugo Sabido.
"Changing the teams was a technical decision as we need our riders to compete in as many races to help them find and maintain their form," said team manager Claudio Corti. "Hunter and Guidi are better suited to ride the Algarve in Portugal, which is also a key market for our sponsor."
Corti complained that the latest road cycling reform by the UCI made it harder for so-called Professional Continental teams to find racing slots for their riders to compete. "We do not want to be penalised by the Italian race organisers for the late changes to our squad, but unfortunately the Professional teams face constant problems when planning their race calendar," he said. "This is caused by the current UCI rules and by the actions of some race organisers and the UCI’s refusal to intervene. The latest example of this was at the Tour Mediterranéen, where the maximum number of ProTour teams were not respected, and the Professional teams faced the consequences. There currently seems to be underlying issues and confusion within cycling and this is a concern to me and my sponsors."
Indeed, 10 ProTour teams participated in the Tour Med last week out of a total of 17, when the UCI only allows 50 percent of the total teams present at a Continental circuit race to be ProTour.
Quick.Step to Algarve
The Volta ao Algarve from February 21-25 will see the following Quick.Step riders line up at the start: Ad Engels, Juan Manuel Garate, Hubert Schwab, Gert Steegmans, Peter Van Petegem, Davide Viganò, Wouter Weylandt and Marten Wynants. Directeur sportif will be Serge Parsani.
More teams for Laigueglia
After the Challenge de Mallorca, the Tour Mediterranéen and the Tour of California, ProTour team Liquigas returns on home soil. Next-up event is the 44th edition of the Trofeo Laigueglia on February20, 2007.
On the Ligurian roads, Liquigas counts on Filippo Pozzato, who won the event in 2003 and 2004 - but the 2006 Milano-Sanremo winner has been struggling with a stomach bug lately. "Unfortunately, last week I came back from the Challenge de Mallorca with an unpleasant intestinal virus that weakened me," said Pozzato on Monday. "Now, I feel better and my good form is confirmed by the training that I made this morning. Laigueglia is certainly an important appointment: I hope to be one of the protagonists at the race."
In addition to Pozzato, team manager Mario Chiesa will line up Danilo Di Luca and Vincenzo Nibali, supported by Leonardo Bertagnolli, Roman Kreuziger, Andrea Noè, Roberto Petito and Alessandro Spezialetti.
For Pro Conti team La Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Selle Italia, the Trofeo Laigueglia will be the second Italian race this season, in which the Venezuelan-Italian squad already scored ten victories. In the hilly race involving the Ginestro climb (677m) twice on the parcours, the team directed on site by Marco Bellini will be composed of: Santo Anzà, Sergio Barbero, Emiliano Donadello, Fabio Duarte, Gabriele Missaglia, Josè Serpa and Mattia Turrina. Ceramica Flaminia
Italian underdog team Ceramica Flaminia will also participate in the race, lining up the following riders: Wladimir Duma, Antonio D'Aniello, Raffaele Illiano and Domenico Quagliariello (coming straight from the Tour Mediterranéen), as well as Michele Scotto D'Abusco, Hubert Krys, Tomasz Marczinski and Maurizio Varini.
"On hard courses like this one (Laigueglia), we have always been competitive," said the directeurs sportifs Simone Borgheresi and Massimo Podenzana one day before the event. "We think that we'll obtain a good result also this time around."
Double weekend win for Willemse Jnr
Team CSC - Marcello's Chris Willemse Jnr matched his triumphant victory in the Tour de Boland by winning the 115 km Bouckaert-Soenen Summer League cycle race in convincing style on Sunday 18 February.
It was a good week of cycling for both Willemse Jnr and the team, with the outfit filling the podium during Stage 2 of the Tour de Boland and excelled once again during the fourth and final stage, where the team's Garth Thomas won a 45-minute criterium held on Saturday, February 17. Craig Butland (Mr Price WP) finished second overall in the Tour, beating CSC - Marcello's Jeremy Maartens by one second.
Ryan Kemp (GT Eduloan Maties) finished second in Sunday's league race with Team CSC - Marcello's Garth Thomas and Abdelbasset Hannachi in third and fourth place respectively.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)