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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 22, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Sue George

Paris-Nice becomes "free event"

Last year's Paris-Nice
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The French Cycling Federation FFC has agreed to let Paris-Nice take place under its rules and regulations. The race organiser ASO, who also manages the Tour de France amongst other events, had asked the FFC to place the race under its authority, after talks with the UCI were caught in a deadlock.

Jean Pitallier, president of the FFC, signed a convention with ASO on Wednesday, "with the objective to save a competition that should remain an event of highest importance within the heritage of French sport," according to an official communiqué. Paris-Nice will thus become a "free event within the national French calendar", meaning no UCI points will be awarded.

The FFC will send its own commissaires to the race to ensure that rules of competition are being followed, but they will not only come from its own ranks. "We will name the commissaires to the event," Pitallier told AFP, "but they will not all be French. The Spanish federation has agreed to send us a commissaire, and we're going to solicit the Italian federation as well."

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Asked about the legitimacy of the new situation, Pitallier responded, "It's true that one article of the UCI regulations mentions that the national federations have to respect the rules of the UCI, but it is also mentioned that this has to be done whilst respecting the law of the country. That is precisely our case." Whilst the FFC received the backing of the French sports ministry for this latest turn of events, it also again appealed to both conflicting parties - ASO and UCI - that "a realistic and constructive solution be found to come out of this distressing dead end, which threatens the continuation of the season and the future of competitive cycling."

Raisin Hope at the Tour of California

By Kirsten Robbins

Saul Raisin pre-peloton
Photo ©: Russ & Nancy Wright
(Click for larger image)

24 year-old Saul Raisin from Dalton, Georgia, is competing in is own Tour of California this week on a quest to raise support for his Raisin Hope foundation. He is racing each stage ahead of the peloton in preparation for the Raisin Hope ride on March 31, 2007, in his hometown of Dalton. He crossed the finish line of stage two in Sacramento thirty minutes ahead of the peloton's scheduled arrival and talked to Cyclingnews about his recovery after coming out of a coma just eleven months ago.

"When I was in the hospital bed I told my mom that if I ever ride a bike again I want to help the people that helped me," Raisin said. "I honestly feel that you can do anything that you set your mind too. I feel like I have been given another chance at life. Riding here and completing each stage of the Tour of California is used to show people that you can do anything."

Raisin was one of America's brightest talents in road cycling riding for France-based team Crédit Agricole in 2005 and 2006. The team noticed him while racing in several European events for the under 23 national team in 2004. After spending one year with their espoir program, Raisin joined their professional ranks and had a successful spring until Circuit de la Sarthe held in April of last year.

Raisin was involved in a crash during the Circuit de la Sarthe that resulted in a hematoma on the right side of his brain. He was rushed to the hospital and remained in a coma for over one week and paralyzed on the left side of his body. "I had a hematoma the size of a lemon in my brain because my head hit the ground so hard that it split my helmet and lacerated the top of my head," Raisin said. "I have seven staples in the top of my head; if it wasn't for wearing my helmet the doctors said that my brain would have been lying on the concrete."

In the hospital
Photo ©: Saul Raisin
(Click for larger image)

The young talent was transferred from a French hospital to Atlanta Georgia while still in a coma state where he woke remembering nothing of the bike accident. "Other guys in the race that day told me that I slipped on a patch of gravel," Raisin said. "I remember flashes when I was in the hospital and in a coma. It was like someone had their hands over my eyes and would take them away for a second to see my mom's face or a friend's face and then cover them back up. They were like little flashes of memories."

Not only did he suffer from head trauma but he also had a broken scapula and collar bone of which he was unaware due to the paralysis the left side of his body. "When I woke up in Atlanta, Georgia I didn't realize I was injured because I didn't have any pain," Raisin continued. "I didn't know that I had broken bones because I was paralyzed and the injuries had healed before I could move again. My brain trauma was on the right side and caused my to be paralyzed on the left."

To read the complete feature, click here.

Steegmans out to beat Petacchi

Rolling out from the start
Photo ©: João Dias
(Click for larger image)

Gert Steegmans, one of the best bunch sprint lead-out men in the world, wanted to beat top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, which started on Wednesday. Quick-Step racer Steegmans, who last year won two stages and also almost won the overall classification at the event, again leads the overall classification after stage 1.

"I want to beat Alessandro Petacchi in the sprint," the Belgian boldly announced to Sportwereld one day prior to the race. "That would be beautiful. And why should it not happen? I saw how easily Boonen beat him in Qatar, and I've been faster than Boonen before, so..."

Indeed, Steegmans won the first bunch sprint in the South of Portugal Wednesday, but only after race commissaires decided to relegate Petacchi to fourth place for irregular sprinting.

After winning Wednesday, Steegmans said, "It's a strange way to win a race, but I am really happy. I lost a few places due to a fall at the final corner. That said, I was still able to make them up and get hot on Petacchi's heels. At that point he moved slightly, and I had to stop pedalling. After the race, when we were already on the bus, the organisers of the race called me to take part in the prize-giving ceremony as winner of the race! I'd like to specify that it was the jury's decision, I didn't lodge a complaint."

Petacchi was disappointed with the relegation. "I won, but the jury decided that my sprint wasn't correct," he said. "Yes, it's true, I moved from the right to left site of the street. But I didn't obstruct anybody and I didn't want anybody to have a crash. I have won about 120 races and I was never unfair."

In any case, Steegmans is ready to continue the enormous progress he started in 2006, and happy to have changed teams. "Because I ride with Quick-Step now, my chances of winning races automatically increased," said the former Davitamon-Lotto man, who used to lead out many victorious sprints for Robbie McEwen. "If I had stayed with Lotto, I would have been in a team full of underdogs again. Now, I'm with the team to beat. At Lotto, they count on the mistakes of others, while at Quick-Step the basis is proper strength."

To read the complete race report, click here.

Boonen makes it two in one day for Quick-Step

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

While his Quick-Step teammate Gert Steegmans was winning in Portugal, Tom Boonen was making his fifth trip to the top step of the podium this year - this time at Stage 4 of the Vuelta Andalucia. Boonen beat out Italian Danilo Napolitano of the Lampre Team and Spaniard Oscar Freire of the Rabobank Team at the end of a 179.5 km day.

"This is the first sprint that I have taken part in this week and I won it," Boonen said. "Over the past days, a few things stopped me taking part in the final sprints--first of all due to a puncture during the final, then a few stomach problems during yesterday's stage. It appears that the small problem with my back is getting better. Normally I'm not that fond of low-speed sprints like today's. I prefer faster sprints. Winning a sprint with the characteristics of today's confirms that I am in excellent form.

"Napolitano launched the sprint and Freire and I followed closely. I caught-up with and overtook him going on to win the race. I am very pleased."

The 53rd Vuelta Andalucia finishes Thursday with the fifth stage from Ecija to Antequera. To see full results from Wednesday's stage, click here.

No luck for the first Malaysian pro in Europe

By Jean-François Quénet in Faro

Ng Yong Li
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Vitoria ASC's new signing Ng Yong Li is introduced by his Portuguese staff as "Mister Crash Man" for his European debut at the Volta ao Algarve. The first Malaysian pro cyclist impressed his new employers enough at the Tour de Langkawi to be selected for Portugal's main cycling event in the early part of the year.

In the mountain stage of the Cameron Highlands, he was seventh in the first King of the Mountains classification although there were four men away from the bunch including eventual winner Anthony Charteau. Yong Li was climbing with the likes of José Serpa and Thomas Voeckler, but he crashed with two kilometers to go to the finishing line in Brinchang. The three kilometer rule didn't apply that day. He still finished 31st on GC while the second best Malaysian was 75th. He also had a decent ride in Genting Highlands where he climbed alongside Sandy Casar. The 21-year-old from Batu Pahat near Johor Bahru is a true climber, although he has yet has to show those talents while injury-free.

Last Sunday, he made his debut in Europe with Vitoria ASC in the Portuguese opening race called Trofeu Abertura RDP held in Faro, where stage 1 of the Tour of Algarve also finished. Unfortunately, he crashed again. "It was a big pile up implicating many riders, and I just couldn't avoid it", the Malaysian explained. Since then, he has suffered pain in his left hip.

He wasn't sure he would be able to ride the Tour of Algarve beforehand, but he finished stage 1 just 5:39 behind the bunch. "I could follow until 10km to go, he said. But I had a lot of pain all day, and I couldn't race hard. I feel sorry about that."

Ng Yong Li is a dedicated cyclist who doesn't want to disappoint his new team. "We are determined to develop him and we'll be patient", his directeur sportif José Silva said, even after the cyclist's crashes and injuries.

Simoni to switch to mountain biking

Gilberto Simoni has confirmed his participation in the mountain bike World Cup on Spanish island Gran Canaria in Maspalomas on March 17. The two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia moreover contemplates a complete switch to the discipline of mountain biking after the Italian Grand Tour.

The Saunier Duval rider and current marathon mountain bike Italian Champion wants to participate in all the events of the World Cup this season. "The mountain bike motivates me a lot, and taking part in the Marathon World Cup is a challenge," Simoni said. In fact, it seems probable that the 35 year-old Italian will be trading his slicks for knobbies for good after the 2007 Giro.

At the moment, Simoni is training hard in a bid to renew his victories at this year's Giro de Italia - the hard 90km marathon event in Maspalomas will be another milestone in his preparation for the month of May and also another step in the transition from road to mountain biking.

Queally out for World Cup & Worlds

Jason Queally (England)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jason Queally will race at neither the world cup this weekend in Manchester nor the world championships in Mallorca at the end of the month after he contracted a case of chickenpox. Olympic kilo champion Chris Hoy will replace Queally in the team sprint at both races.

"It is a setback, but we have every confidence he will be back," Dave Brailsford, Performance Director for British Cycling said to the UK Guardian.

Christchurch duo looks toward Manchester World Cup

New Zealand will send Jocelyn Rastrick and Fiona Carswell to the upcoming World Cup track final in Manchester. The pair is looking for success in the women's 500m team sprint, new to track racing events for this year. According to the New Zealand Herald, they were timed at 35 seconds at the Invercargill indoor velodrome in recent weeks.

"That was better than the bronze medal time at the Los Angeles World Cup round last month so we decided to bring them to Manchester and see how they go," said Coach Terry Guide.

If the pair makes the podium at the World Cup, they may earn a trip to the Worlds in Spain at the end of March where they would take on powerful sister act Anna and Kerrie Meares, Australian favorites for the 500m team event. Anna is the defending Olympic champion in the individual 500m time trial.

After the world cup, most of the New Zealand track team will spend time training in Valencia, Spain prior to the world championships.

Australian team for junior track worlds

Cycling Australia has announced the Australian team to contest the 2007 UCI Junior Track World Championships being raced in Aguascalientes, Mexico from August 6-12. The selected riders are:

Jack Bobridge, Josephine Butler, Byron Davis, Philippa Hindmarsh, Jason Holloway, Leigh Howard, Sarah Kent, James Langedyk, Travis Meyer, Glenn O'Shea, Thomas Palmer and Josephine Tomic.

Five Boros tour to mark 30th anniversary

The Five Boros will celebrate its 30th anniversary on May 6 as it winds its way through the five boroughs of New York City along 42 traffic-free miles. More than 30,000 people are expected to participate.

The Tour will start in Lower Manhattan, go north through Central Park and then continue on to historic Harlem and the Bronx before returning south along the East River on the FDR Drive. From there, riders will visit Queens and Brooklyn, and cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to finish at Staten Island.

The non-profit Bike New York runs the event for the benefit of Bicycle Education Program which offers free classes and workshops for adults, children, and families, and custom programs for groups. The organization has partnered with new title sponsor Commerce Bank for this year's edition of the tour.

"This top-level sponsor commitment ensures that the experience of cycling traffic-free through New York City will be available to new generations of riders," said Bike New York's Executive Director Pam Tice. Visit for more information.

Ultralink announces 2007 roster

Team Ultralink boasts a mix of promising young talent and race-hardened talent. The team is a registered Canadian Cycling Association Trade Team. The roster includes both English and French speakers who balance elite level racing with professional careers and studies.

The team includes Kele Murdin, Jennifer Stephenson, Genevieve Gagnon, Shontelle Gauthier, Denise Ramsden, and Julia Farrell.

Murdin, 2007 US national track team member is a powerful time trialist and pursuiter. She hails from Seattle, Washington, and transfers from the Ford-Basis women's team. Stephenson is an all around rider and was Ontario Provincial Champion in 2006. She joins the squad from Biovail. Farell will head the team as captain while Junior rider Ramsden will likely represent Canada at junior worlds in 2007 and learn from her older teammates. Gagnon adds to the team's time trialing skills, and Gauthier brings her sprinting prowess to the mix.

Ultralink is a manufacturer of audio/video cabling and connectivity products. The team is managed by Director Sportif Amy Moore and will race Cervelo bikes. It will kick off its season with an intense training camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains in March.

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