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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 25, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Teams deny Paris-Nice participation

The three non-French ProTour teams who reportedly said they intended to ride Paris-Nice in spite of a UCI ban, have all subsequently denied a report published yesterday claiming they would participate.

"This release (...) is not true as far as the Rabobank Cycling Team is concerned," team spokesman Jacob Bergsma told Cyclingnews. Matthias Wieland, Gerolsteiner spokesman, also indicated to Cyclingnews that no decision would be made before the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) meeting on March 2.

Meanwhile, the Rabobank team director at the Tour of California, Erik Breukink, spoke in a heated manner about the issue to Cyclingnews. "Rabobank is 100% behind the UCI, and we don't agree with ASO. I believe most ProTour teams are behind the UCI."

T-Mobile's team manager Bob Stapleton took a conciliatory approach: "We want to work with all parties toward a fair resolution. It is essential that the events, teams, athletes, and governing bodies of the sport work together to improve and grow the sport." In California, T-Mobile team director Brian Holmes told Cyclingnews, "It's too early to decide anything. There was a meeting last night with (UCI president) Pat McQuaid, but we didn't go over Paris-Nice. T-Mobile hasn't made any decisions yet. We want ASO and the UCI to come to a resolution first."

The directors of the ProTour teams present at the Tour of California met with the UCI president before the start of stage six on Friday night, but the head of the world governing body of cycling did not want to comment on the talks afterward. A few of the ProTour team directors also met before the start of Saturday morning's stage.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Petacchi disagrees with teams

By Jean-François Quénet in Loulé

Alessandro Petacchi
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Some teams might be willing to follow the UCI orders to not participate to Paris-Nice but they will face their riders' rebellion, according to Alessandro Petacchi, whose Milram team has been the first to speak out in favour of the boycott.

"It's a big problem for the teams," the Italian said after winning stage three in the Tour of Algarve. "This is a very delicate moment of the cycling season. Taking part in Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico is crucial for a rider who has ambitions in the Spring classics. Without doing one of the two, it's very difficult to be competitive in the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. And the teams want their riders to be competitive. It's the story of a dog who bites his own tail. For once the riders aren't guilty of anything; it's unfair to prevent us from racing."

Valverde "not obsessed" with Tour, targeting Amstel

By Antonio Salmeron Ato

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Many cycling hopes in Spain lie on Alejandro Valverde these days, who may be the most gifted rider to win the Tour de France since Miguel Indurain. But the Caisse d'Epargne cyclist himself plays it low at the moment, preferring to let the first great races of the season be raced before talking about his further objectives.

The French Grand Tour is always present in the Spaniard's thoughts, but without being an obsession. He has also let himself be seduced by the Spring Classics, where he has already tasted victories in the past. Valverde has been targeting the month of April for a first peak of form. "The Challenge a Mallorca was hard for me," he told Cyclingnews about his restrained preparation and his eagerness to win. "I hope to be polishing my form in the Vuelta a Valencia, and will help my teammate Luis Leon Sanchez to reach the victory. Until now, I used to arrive tired at the great races, but I won't let it happen again."

In order to peak twice, or even three times during the season, Valverde needs to have a perfectly laid-out schedule throughout the year. "My training plan has been adapted according to my objectives," he explained. "There is sufficient time between the block of classics races and the Tour, for example, so there is no problem for me. I have already won two important Classics, but now I would like to add Amstel Gold Race to my palmarès."

As for his objectives at the Tour de France, the 27 year-old humbly prefers to play his chances down. "The Tour does not obsess me," he continued. "I'm very young and I still have to finish it before anything else [Valverde had to abandon twice because of injuries - ed.]. Oscar Pereiro already knows what it represents to win it (sic), so I must learn of him and be more close to him. That doesn't mean that I don't want to assume my responsibilities and the pressure put on me - neither scare me - but that is what corresponds to Pereiro. I'm not either going to deny that, for my future in the Tour, it is important to finish ahead of him.

"I know the Tour route, and I don't mind that the Alps will be before the Pyrenees. It doesn't matter to me. That's where the Tour will be decided, although there also are two long time trial stages."

After the highlight of the season, there's always the Vuelta for Valverde to come home to. But the Spaniard has said that he might not include it in his program this season - more out of superstition than anything else: "It brings me bad luck to say that I will race in the Vuelta if I do not finish the Tour satisfactorily," he added.

As for another one of his dreams, which he has missed out on by a hair several times now, Valverde again points at one of his colleagues to be more suited for the job than himself. "Neither Samuel Sanchez nor myself should be the national team leader if Oscar Freire can finally race again," he said. "We have to help him get the victory."

Spanish anti-doping law takes effect

By Hernan Alvarez

Since Friday, February 23, 2007, doping practices are considered crimes all over Spanish territory as the ley antidopaje, the new anti-doping law voted for in Spring, has been put to practise. From now on, the persons who encourage the use of doping substances or deal with them in any sports discipline will be punished with prison sentences.

"The one who encourages or supplies doping (substances) can end up in jail," said Spanish State Sporting secretary Jaime Lissavetzky to Madrid's newspaper As. He stated that this procedure had the objective of defending the athletes, whilst at the same time assuring that no sportsman will be incarcerated because of doping. "The law goes against the ones who earn money with doping," explained Lissavetzky.

Referring to the now notoriously famous Operación Puerto and a productive end of this affair, the state man commented: "There are few things I can say about this. I just hope that justice goes on its way and that it goes fast, if possible, in order not to harm the athletes."

The mentioned law was published three months ago in the Spanish official State bulletin and established jail charges from six months to two years long to non-athletes involved in doping affaires. The law also assigns sporting punishments and fines for sportsmen who break the rules.

Peña back in Europe

After some administrative problems, Colombian rider Victor Hugo Peña is back in Europe. He was finally issued a Visa to relocate for the season, in which he will be riding for team Since the presentation of their new team in January, Victor Peña and Rigoberto Uran were back in Colombia to apply for a working Visa, but not without difficulty. Finally, the Belgian government accepted to give a Visa to the rider and his family after he had produced all the legal documentation.

"For me and other Colombian riders, every year can be like a training ride out on the bike to climb a big mountain to find a visa to race in Europe," Peña said. "The governments need more and more requirements and the Colombia sports institutions only give us a certification to present in the consulates, then we wait two or three weeks for an appointment. I hope that the European governments understand that athletes are persons with the same rights to receive a Visa and let us do our jobs."

Da Cruz doubtful over cycling future

By Jean-François Quénet in Loulé

Carlos Da Cruz
Photo ©: Giorgio Masnikosa
(Click for larger image)

If he had been born a pure Frenchman, Carlos Da Cruz would have been named something like "Charles Delacroix" but the Française des Jeux rider is the second son of Manuel and Maria Da Cruz, hailing from Boliqueime in Algarve, Portugal. Taking part in the Tour of Algarve means returning to his origins and the place where he used to spend one month holiday every year. At the time, he had to stay for two and half days on his father's knees sitting in a bus from Paris to the south of Portugal before highways were built all over Europe.

"I get automatically selected for the Tour of Algarve, like the Australians of the team were when we used to race the Tour Down Under," Da Cruz commented. But there is another reason: the staff of FDJ also knows that bringing Da Cruz to Portugal gives them access to the best local cuisine, the number one dish being the cataplana, a fabulous mix of meet and seafood...

"I like the mentality here, it's always sunny and it reminds me my childhood. One year I came for racing in August in the Under 17 category, I won two out of four races and I was quickly marked as ‘the Frenchman'. In France, I was ‘the Portuguese'. As children of immigrants, we are foreigners everywhere."

Da Cruz's parents escaped the military dictature of Portugal 40 years ago to work in car factories near Paris. Carlos was a Portuguese indeed and an illegal member of the French national team until he claimed his French passport aged 18. "Now I regret that I didn't know about the possibility of having two passports," he said. "I chose France for the national track team before turning pro but I could have represented Portugal in world championships and the Olympics on the road."

As he speaks both languages, the 32 year-old is often asked if he'd be keen to join a Portuguese team, as José Azevedo moved from Discovery Channel to Benfica this year. "Let's say the future of cycling isn't in Portugal," he answered with diplomatic words but he quickly pointed out the two riders (Daniel Petrov and Samuel Caldeira, both from Duja Tavira) who were declared unfit to race in stage three after a blood test.

Da Cruz stands as a leader for a clean-up in cycling. He had a long argument with riders' association CPA president Francesco Moser during last year's Tour de France. "I denied him the right to speak in the name of the riders because he has never been elected by us. He has been appointed by the UCI and he made comments for legalizing doping! It's a shame. Now we have representatives but I spoke with some of them and they told me that nothing happens at the CPA. The UCI wants to prevent us from riding Paris-Nice? Personally, I'm fully behind ASO. Who saved Paris-Nice when Laurent Fignon failed organising it? Not the UCI for sure! ASO did. I don't know where this sport is going..."

Da Cruz doesn't see much future for cycling in Portugal but he also has some doubts about the future of cycling in general.

T-Mobile's Ruta del Sol

T-Mobile Team can look back at the Ruta del Sol with satisfaction, even if it didn't bring in a stage win. On the last day, the team finished with five riders in the 40-man leading group, taking the best team honours for the day. And the German ProTour team had two riders in the final GC top ten, with Roger Hammond finishing in seventh overall, and young talent Linus Gerdemann ninth.

"We pulled off a great team performance here," said directeur sportif Valerio Piva on the team's website, "It was hard work particularly under the heavy rain, especially in the finale."

In addition, the team's Marcus Burghardt took home the jersey for the intermediate sprints, or Metas Volentes. "Marcus really impressed with his super fitness. He's riding in a form that I last saw at the Paris-Roubaix race two years ago," said Piva.

Rabobank: time after time

The officials at the Tour of California seem to mean well to Rabobank, giving the riders good times and finishes - even if they weren't earned. Thursday, all eight riders from the Dutch team were initially ranked within the Top 21 after a mass sprint, although only two of them were actually in the pack.

Friday, things didn't change. Bram de Groot was ranked 10th for a long time with a time of 30:43 in the time trial. "This, however, turned out to be incorrect," the team noted. Erik Breukink, team manager, said "Place ten would have been great, but it is absolutely incorrect. Robert Gesink was our best man. Bram rode a good race, but it was unfortunately not enough for a Top 10 position."

De Groot actually finished 50th...

Four medals for Australia at the Manchester World Cup

Cosy in the pits
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Victorian Shane Perkins claimed the World Cup Series crown for the keirin after victory on day one of competition in the fourth and final round in Manchester, England, being raced from February 23- 25.

The 20 year-old, riding in the colours, won the gold medal ahead of China's Qi Tang and Spain's Hodei Mazquiaran Uria in a final marred by a serious crash.

"Four of the six finalists crashed with 100 metres to go," said Australian Track Cycling Head Coach, Martin Barras. "The rider in front of Shane swung up the track and Shane executed a sharp race move to slot into the sprinter's lane but then the guy swung back down and created a wave that bowled over four riders.

"The officials looked at the video and ruled Shane was not at fault and his win was valid," added Barras, who rushed to the aid of Australian team member Joel Leonard who was caught up in the crash. "I pulled a nice splinter out of his back and then got him on his bike so he could walk across the line and post a result (5th)."

Perkins win added 12 points to the eight points he scored for third place in Los Angeles last month to give him a World Cup keirin tally of 20 points, six clear of his nearest rival.

In the women's sprint, Queensland's Anna Meares, 23, posted a personal best time of 11.161sec to qualify second fastest behind eventual winner Victoria Pendleton of Great Britain. In her semi-final against China's Shuang Guo, Meares claimed the first race of the best of three but her rival fought back to win the next two and a berth in the gold medal final. Meares went on to secure bronze in two straight heats against Britain's Anna Blyth.

"I'm extremely pleased with what was a fantastic qualifying time and her bronze is a good solid result for match sprinting," said Barras. "After her semi-final we clearly identified one area of racing in which she still has some work to but the good news is she did that in the bronze medal ride off."

Bradley McGee (Australia)
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

Olympic medallist, Brad McGee, began his bid for selection for the Beijing Olympic Games collecting bronze in the individual pursuit.

Tasmanian Belinda Goss clinched silver in the women's 20km points race, sprinting home first on the final sprint to amass a total of nine points, four behind race winner Yoanka Gonzalez Peres of Cuba.

"In the qualifying and in the final she was very impressive," said Barras. "Belinda wasn't afraid to get in there and mix it up with the best and she's demonstrated significant improvement since last season."

Barras was also impressed with the efforts of Victorian junior cyclist Leigh Howard, who placed fourth in the men's 15km scratch race.

"Leigh wasn't afraid to put it on the line and create opportunities for himself," said Barras of Howard, who earlier this month was named Champion of Champions at the Australian Titles. "The efforts he put in the final laps gave him the opportunity to win but he wasn't quite strong enough.

"I have no doubt that will come and I'm very pleased with his lack of fear and 'have a go' attitude in the event."

German track rider unfit to start

Sebastian Frey, German points race champion, was declared unfit to start in the Track World Cup in Manchester, England, on Saturday, after blood tests showed that he had an elevated hematocrit level. The 22 year-old will not be able to race for two weeks.

The UCI carried out blood tests on 36 riders on Saturday morning, testing riders from the Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Greece.

Equipe Nürnberger goes Down Under

German women's cycling team Equipe Nürnberger is starting the season in the Geelong Tour in Australia this coming Tuesday. The team will be led by World's runner-up Trixi Worrack.

"We're looking forward to the race," said Jens Zemke, the squad's sport director. "All the riders are happy that it is finally time to race. The preparations went well and everyone is excited to see how our first race goes."

The riders will use the stage race as preparation for the first UCI World Cup race in Geelong on Saturday, March 3.

Worrack will be leading a powerful team in the races. The other riders are Charlotte Becker, German time trial champion; Andrea Graus, who finished 10th in the World's; Eva Lutz, who won the German Cup overall title; Edita Pucinskaite, winner of the Giro d'Italia; and former world champion Regina Schleicher.

Milram for next races

Italian team Milram has announced its rider rosters for the next European pro cycling events. At the Vuelta Valenciana from February 27-March 3, Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel, Brett Lancaster, Mirko Celestino, Christian Knees, Volodymyr Dyudya, Enrico Poitschke and Marco Velo will be going for stage wins with its top sprinters.

At the Omloop Het Volk on March 3 in Belgium, as well as in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on the next day, Team Milram will be represented by: Alessandro Cortinovis, Fabio Sabatini, Carlo Scognamiglio, Ralf Grabsch, Marcel Sieberg, Martin Müller, Sebastian Siedler and Niki Terpstra.

A second contingent will be racing in Italy that week-end, at the GP Chiasso and the GP Lugano: Igor Astarloa, Andry Grivko, Matej Jurco, Mirco Lorenzetto, Alberto Ongarato, Björn Schröder and Sebastian Schwager.

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