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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 26, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner & Steve Medcroft

McQuaid meets with ProTour managers in California

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Santa Clarita, California

Pat McQuaid meets with ProTour managers at the Tour of California
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

"I thought by coming to the western US I would be getting away from Europe!" UCI president Pat McQuaid joked when asked about the latest developments in the rift between the UCI and the ASO. McQuaid arrived in the US on Friday in a visit to the Tour of California. Before the start of stage six in Santa Barbara, McQuaid sat down with all of the ProTour directors present at a park just off of the start line. Immediately following the meeting, neither the directors nor McQuaid would comment about the impromptu talks.

However, later at the press conference following the stage, McQuaid responded to questions, saying, "I had a meeting with the six directors of the ProTour teams here in California this morning. They understand and they are completely behind the position of the UCI and they will accept the decision of the UCI that they cannot take part at the race." This comment comes in response to news reports that some ProTour teams were breaking ranks with the UCI over starting Paris-Nice.

"This is not a situation that has been brought about by the UCI. It's been brought about by the ASO and an organizer who refuses to accept the rules. I had a meeting with ASO this week to try to make a resolution - find common ground and a way forward. That meeting was based on the fact that they must accept the rules and they refuse to do that so the meeting broke down with no progress."

"Once that happened they went ahead to put their race on the National Calendar under their French federation with the assistance of, or actually in collusion with, the French federation. This gave me no alternative but to declare that under the rules of the UCI, ProTour teams cannot take place in race on the national event calendar of a federation. They can only take place in the international calendar. That left me with no alternative but to tell to ProTour teams that they cannot go to Paris-Nice. That is the situation at the moment."

McQuaid was quite clear about his feelings regarding the ASO and his belief that the organization is responsible for the current problems. "As a government of cycling, which we are, as a regulatory authority of cycling we can't accept that people will refuse to obey the rules of the governance. If we do that than we lead to anarchy and a complete breakdown of cycling worldwide. This has been created by ASO and that needs to be remembered."

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

Hincapie to miss out on Classics

By Susan Westemeyer and Laura Weislo

George Hincapie - will he ever make his dream of Paris-Roubaix come true?
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
Click for larger image

George Hincapie finished stage six of the Tour of California with a broken wrist, Team Discovery Channel has announced. He and teammate Tony Cruz crashed early in the stage when Cruz bumped Ivan Basso's wheel, but both finished the stage and defended teammate Levi Leipheimer's overall lead.

After the race, x-rays showed that Hincapie had broken his wrist, "specifically the radius - the bone of the forearm that extends from the outsider (lateral) of the elbow to the thumb side of the wrist", according to the team's website. Hincapie will not be able to ride the race's final stage on Sunday. Instead he had to undergo surgery on Sunday morning, and will miss out on the Spring Classics he had targeted this season.

Cruz suffered scrapes and bruises and was expected to ride again Sunday.

Haedo leads ToC records

JJ Haedo (CSC)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC's Juan José Haedo took his second stage in this year's Tour of California by being fastest in the bunch sprint, which decided Saturday's 170-kilometer sixth stage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. This makes Haedo the rider with most victories in the race, as he also won two stages last year.

Earlier in the stage, it was teammate Stuart O'Grady who attacked in an attempt to take the leader's jersey from Discovery Channel's Levi Leipheimer. O'Grady joined a nine-man breakaway, which was caught with just three kilometers to go.

"We focused 100 percent on keeping Stuart in the decisive break, but when it turned out we couldn't I tried to prepare for a sprint finish," said the Argentinean sprinter after the stage. "I was lucky to catch the right wheel with about 500 meters to go. Obviously I had hoped for another stage win, but it's one thing to hope for it and another to actually pull it off, so it's really big for me to take this victory."

Sports director Kim Andersen was also satisfied by the team's efforts to get the yellow jersey of leading rider - even if this didn't work out, plan B for Haedo to take the stage win was successful. "We went on the attack right from the start," he commented. "We'd agreed to do everything to try and take the overall victory and not just sit back and watch. It's a shame Stuart wasn't able to make it all the way, cause he's been on really good form and has also worked really hard for his teammates in this race. He did a fantastic stage and tried to get away about 10 times before making the big, nine-man break. And of course it's great that we have a guy like Haedo, who retaliated by winning the stage in the end."

Petacchi confident in his plan for Milan-Sanremo

By Jean-François Quénet in Portimão

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

Most of the riders fly home quickly after a stage race - Philippe Gilbert had left Portimão already so his team-mate Carlos Da Cruz collected the jersey of the combined classification - but Alessandro Petacchi went for a 900-kilometer bus tour across Spain to the Vuelta Valenciana after winning the Tour of Algarve in the extreme south of Portugal. The Spanish race is set to begin on Tuesday.

He noticed that the calendar being slightly different this year, his win in the Tour of Algarve occurred at exactly the same time away from Milan-Sanremo as his overall win in the Vuelta Valenciana two years when he made his dream come true on the Via Roma of Sanremo.

"I'll have to recover from all of these races after starting in Qatar but it should be all right, Petacchi explained. I'm not only a sprinter and I'm happy to have won here on a demanding course. It means I have worked really well during the winter. I had to because I couldn't be satisfied with my season last year after the crash in the Tour of Italy."

His knee is fine now but he's still afraid of crashing again. Sprinting is a dangerous exercise. "I've really enjoyed the race in Algarve and I'd be happy to come back but I'd advise the finishes to be organized better. Every of them were too dangerous."

At the same time he was winning his third stage in Portugal, his old rival Filippo Pozzato was doing the same in France at the Tour of Haut-Var. The past two winners of Milan-Sanremo seem to be both on the right ramp again. "The Haut-Var is a difficult race, Petacchi commented. It means he is in a great shape and for sure he'll be a client not to underestimate for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo. He must have prepared these races at 100%."

Plans are on their way. "It's a bit early though to figure out what Milan-Sanremo will be like this year, Petacchi continued. The favorites will be divided in two: those who will attack on the Poggio, like Pozzato, Rebellin and Bettini, and those who will wait for the sprint, Freire, Boonen, McEwen… But we don't know yet who is in which condition exactly."

He doesn't make a mystery of his: "I have the same sensations as when I won the Vuelta Valenciana just before winning Milan-Sanremo two years ago. In the Tour of Qatar I was struggling a bit but now I know myself very well. I'm not too far from my weight two years, between 73 and 73.5kg. I'm convinced I've made the right choice for my preparation to Sanremo."

Förster and Rodriguez in each other's way in Cali

Forster unclips
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Team Gerolsteiner led the charge the last kilometre in the penultimate stage of the Tour of California, trying to set up the sprint for Robert Förster, but a collision with Predictor-Lotto's Fred Rodriguez dropped him back to a sixth place finish on the stage. "The preparation in the last kilometres was actually perfect," Förster said, "but I was a little too early in the wind."

Then he made contact with Rodriguez, "whose foot somehow got caught in my front wheel." If that wasn't enough of a handicap, Förster's feet clipped out of the pedals, and he could only watch as CSC's J.J. Haedo fly by to take the win.

"The team worked really well," said team manager Hans-Michael Holczer. "That was a very fast stage in which we were very active at the end."

Landis "wiki defense" criticised

Floyd Landis at the center of attention.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

USADA general counsel Travis Tygart recently commented about the defense strategy of cyclists accused of doping such as Floyd Landis, who asked that his disciplinary hearing scheduled on May 14 at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California be made public, a right never before exercised by any US athlete. Moerover, Landis put the details of his defense arguments on a special website: hundreds of pages of technical and legal documents related to his test results were displayed, triggering intense debate within the cycling community. The approach was tabbed the "wiki defense" by Landis' associates, who said the feedback even provided some leads in preparing the case.

However, Tygart pointed out that the USADA did not have the right to publicly comment on pending cases, and that this put the institutions accusing the athlete in a difficult situation. Remembering past doping arbitrations, such as those involving cyclist Tyler Hamilton and sprinter Tim Montgomery, Tygart told, "We were painted as the bad guy by a one-sided PR campaign. Our rules don't allow us to comment, and we follow those rules. As a result, we're erroneously perceived. The reality is that we simply have the integrity to do our jobs and follow the evidence where it leads."

This imbalance may soon be over, as one of the proposed revisions in the World Anti-Doping Agency code, which will be considered at WADA's meeting in Madrid in November this year, would allow anti-doping officials to respond to negative statements about the arbitration process that are "directly attributable" to accused athletes.

The 2006 Tour de France winner, who tested positive for banned hormone testosterone during the race, even created a fund to raise money for his fight against a two-year suspension: the Floyd Fairness Fund. In the evening of the start of the Tour of California in San Francisco last Sunday, he auctioned autographed memorabilia such as a bottle of whisky, or a book written by WADA chief Richard Pound, saying that "the UCI and WADA are absolutely incompetent," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gusev ready for the classics

By Jean-François Quénet in Portimăo

Vladimir Gusev
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Apart from Alessandro Petacchi, Vladimir Gusev, Davide Rebellin and Philippe Gilbert are clearly the classics contenders who have shown during the Tour of Algarve how ready they are for their one-day goals. The Russian from Discovery Channel is probably the most silent of them when it comes to interviews but his legs do the talking.

In Portugal, he launched a few significant attacks, one of them being with 5km to go into stage 4, which was the hardest one. "I was away for only one and half kilometer," a humble Gusev explained. "There wasn't much to do against Petacchi and his team. At least I've tried. I'm happy with my condition. Now we'll see in Belgium how it goes."

Gusev will line up in the Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne before riding Tirreno-Adriatico and all the classics. Since he rode for CSC and made a top 10 in Gent-Wevelgem as a first year pro (8th in 2004), he's known for competing up front in whatever classic. It doesn't matter if they are flat or hilly, with or without cobblestones. His 2005 results say a lot about his versatility: 8th in Hamburg, 10th in the Tour of Flanders, 12th in Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours, 16th in the Tour of Lombardy, 19th in Gent-Wevelgem, 26th in Milan-Sanremo.

His most impressive ride so far was probably last year's Paris-Roubaix where he ran 3rd before being disqualified because of the famous train barrier incident. He's so strong that Italians have nicknamed him "la roccia umana", the human rock. Gusev might be silent in public and secret about his exact goals, but for whoever knows him, he is actually a very friendly companion with a lot of skills apart from cycling. He was a dancer before racing, and now sings and plays guitar under the lessons of his personal agent Raimondo Scimone.

The 24 year-old from Nijni-Novgorod, the same town as Dimitri Konyshev previously known as Gorki and forbidden to the foreigners during the Soviet regime, is also determined to make his debut in the Tour de France this year.

Haselbacher overjoyed with second

By Susan Westemeyer

The final podium with René Haselbacher
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Astana's René Haselbacher avoided a crash five kilometres before the finish of the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve and was able to preserve his second-place in the overall classification. "I am overjoyed to finish so well in this race and to play a leading role in the team," he said. "It's a great feeling when stars like Andreas Klöden ride one hundred percent for you.

And finishing second behind Alessandro Petacchi, one of the top sprinters in the scene, is nothing to be ashamed of. I can live with that!", he added.

The Austrian finished the final stage as 12th, saying he didn't want to take any risks. "Five kilometres before the finish I thought, that's it. There was a mass crash right in front of me, which I was barely able to avoid. Then it was very dangerous in the last kilometres with traffic islands and roundabouts. 500 meters before the finish was the biggest surprise: The route book showed a light left-right-left curve. Instead, we went around a 90-degree corner. Bernhard Eisel was riding next to me and we both had to fully brake. I didn't participate in the final sprint because I just wanted to come safely over the finish line."

Haselbacher will train this coming week from his home in Vienna, and is looking at an adjusted schedule. "I will leave out planned starts at Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. I want to concentrate on my preparations for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo."

Arndt extends with T-Mobile

Staying with the team: former world champion Judith Arndt
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Judith Arndt has extended her contract with the T-Mobile women's team for another year, through the 2008 season. "I extended because I think the current team structure is very solid and promises success," she said on the team's website, "Plus I'm sure that with T-Mobile, I've found the proper environment to perfectly prepare myself for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing."

Team Manager Kristy Scrymgeour commented, "We are very happy that Judith decided to extend through the end of 2008. She is without doubt one of the best female riders in the world, as well as a very committed team player."

Sevilla returns at Vuelta Valenciana

Spanish cyclist Oscar Sevilla will make his 2007 racing debut at the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, his new team, Relax-GAM Fuenlabrada announced. The 65th edition of the stage race will start on Tuesday, February 27 in Alzira.

A total of 18 teams, 10 of which ProTour, will participate in the five-day event, laid out on 771 kilometres and involving 13 categorized climbs, of which seven will have to mastere in the fourth stage to the mountain finish of El Campello.

Team director Suárez Cueva counts on eight riders at the race: Óscar Sevilla, Ángel Vicioso, Daniel Moreno, José Miguel Elías, José Rafael Martínez, Jesús Hernández, Ángel Vallejo and Raúl García.

2007 Vuelta a la Comunidad:

Stage 1 - Tuesday, February 27: Alzira - Alzira (162,7 km)
Stage 2 - Wednesday, February 28: Calp - Calp (148,2 km)
Stage 3 - Thursday, February 1: Vila-Real - Vila-Real (151,8 km)
Stage 4 - Friday, February 2: Albaida - Vallada (Alto del Campello) (162 km)
Stage 5 - Saturday, February 3: Valencia - Valencia (149,4 km)

LPR to Switzerland and Spain

Swiss team LPR is dividing its rider contingent between Switzerland and Spain next week. From February 27 to March 3, part of the team will be participating in the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana and the subsequent Clasica de Almeria on March 4, while another rider roster will remain in Switzerland for the GP Chiasso and GP Lugano scheduled on March 3 and 4 respectively.

The riders dpearting to Spain are: Luca Solari, Luca Celli, Marco Marcato, Borut Bozic, Roberto Traficante, Daniele Nardello, Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna and Ignacio Gutierrez Cataluna.

At the GP Chiasso, LPR will count on the following riders: Raffaele Ferrara, Paolo Bailetti, Riccardo Chiarini, Alessandro Maserati, Alberto Tiberio, Andreas Dietziker, Roger Beuchat and Nazareno Rossi. On the next day, Maurizio Bellin will replace Alberto Tiberio and Walter Proch will be racing for Alessandro Maserati.

"Departing for Spain, we have the objective of doing well in the stages' finales more than in the overall classification," directeur sportif Mario Manzoni said. "I'm sure that some parts of this race could be suited for us, and we'll count on Bozic, Traficante and Marcato to give their best. Solari, Celli, Nardello and the Gutierrez brothers, for which the race takes place in their backyard, will be there to put their mark on the race. As for the Swiss events, we will also try to be protagonists there with a young team led by Ferrara."

Sponsors confirm British Cyclosportive involvement

With just days to go until entries open for the British Cyclosportive, British Cycling has confirmed the support of three leading cycling brands as sponsors of the event. Taking place one week before stage one of the Tour de France, 5000 people will have the opportunity to take part in the 117-mile route from London to Canterbury on July 1.

Simon Lillistone, Marketing and Commercial Manager of British Cycling announced the support of Sports Tours as the official travel partner, CycleSurgery for mechanical assistance, and Science in Sport to assure nutrition and catering at the race. "We are delighted to have been able to attract brands that are so well known within cycling and will add tremendous value to the event," he said.

Entries will go live on at noon on March 1, and cost Ł40, including a Ł2 voluntary donation to the Geoff Thomas Foundation. Transport back to the start is available at a cost of Ł12.

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