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First Edition Cycling News for January 1, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

3rd Oscar Gazzetta to Bettini

By Gregor Brown

Bettini relaxed and ready
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Click for larger image

Il Grillo, Paolo Bettini, has claimed the prestigious end-of-year Oscar Gazzetta. Italy's leading sport's paper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, honored the 32 year-old Italian for his year long achievements, including winning the World Championships and the Giro di Lombardia.

The Italian newspaper collected 37 votes from ProTour team representatives, Grand Tour organizers and former cycling legends and Bettini was the clear winner (107 points); in front of Alejandro Valverde (48), Ivan Basso (25), Tom Boonen (21) and Erik Zabel (10).

"He is in the front row," said former DS of the Italian national squad, Alfredo Martini, to La Gazzetta dello Sport about Bettini's caliber as a racer. "And don't forget that he still has two or three years ahead of him. ... He is able to win Flanders, try in Roubaix, and it would not be out of the question for him to take Paris-Tours. There does not exist a bad parcours for him."

"The last rider like him was [Claudio] Chiappucci," said Felice Gimondi of Bettini's attacking style and seven major one-day wins. Francesco Moser, on par with Bettini in major one day wins at 11 is amazed with Bettini's build and talents. "There are very few like him, with this physical structure, that have won the big classics," he explained. "He looks like a climber but he can can sprint, so he can win regardless. He seems a bit like [Giuseppe] Saronni, even if Beppe has one the Giro. He still misses a classic on the pavé; this will be hard for him, but he still has two years. He will be able to pass me and the others [in terms of major one-day wins - ed.]."

One of Bettini's old teammates, Michele Bartoli, also had kind words. "I'm happy if I have contributed a little to his growth," he said, referencing back to the days when the two rode on MG-Technogym and Asics. "He never gives in for the win, like at the Worlds against Zabel. What does he miss? Nothing. A Flanders [win] would really not change much to his overall dimension. Maybe a Tour [de France], like [Bernard] Hinault and the greats of the past. But either way, Paolo is a legend."

Past winners of the 3rd Oscar Gazzetta (or 10th Premio Coppi-Bici d'Oro): Jan Ullrich (1997), Marco Pantani (1998), Lance Armstrong (1999, 2000), Gilberto Simoni (2001) Mario Cipollini (2002), Paolo Bettini (2003), Damiano Cunego (2004) and Tom Boonen (2005).

The greats in the major one day races

Paolo Bettini shows the way
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Click for larger image

By winning the World Championships and Giro DI Lombardia this year, Paolo Bettini's list of major one-day wins is up to 11 (including the Olympic win); an accomplishment that rivals any other active rider (the closest being Erik Zabel at eight Classics). Bettini's biggest wins? the 2000 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 2001 Züri Metzgete, 2002 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 2003 Milano-Sanremo, HEW-Cyclassics, and Clásica San Sebastián, 2004 Olympic Champion, 2005 Züri Metzgete and Giro DI Lombardia and 2006 World Championship and Giro DI Lombardia.

In Italy, IL Grillo is tied for most one-day wins with Fausto Coppi and Francesco Moser. In the world, he is in sixth behind Eddy Merckx, who earned an amazing 31 major one-day wins, Rik Van Looy (18 wins), Roger De Vlaeminck (14), Jan Raas (14) and Johan Museeuw (12). There are four others with 11 wins: Rik Van Steenbergen, Coppi, Moser and Sean Kelly.

Basso snubbed in the voting

Ivan Basso, winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia, finished in third in the 2006 Oscar Gazzetta. The Italian would have probably won the award if he was not stopped for the latter half of the 2006 season by his team due to his alleged links to Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

Of the 20 ProTour team representatives who voted in the Oscar Gazzetta only one cast a vote for Basso; Herminio Díaz Zabala of Astana. Zabala selected Basso first, then Spaniards Valverde and Samuel Sánchez. Basso's former boss, Bjarne Riis of CSC, did not cast a vote in favour of the Italian, nor did Basso's current team manager, Johann Bruyneel of Discovery Channel.

The grand tour organizers voted accordingly: Giro d'Italia (Angelo Zomegnan): 1. Carlos Sastre, 2. Bettini, 3. Basso; Tour de France (Christian Prudhomme): 1. Bettini, 2. Valverde, 3. Boonen; Vuelta a España (Victor Cordero): 1. Bettini, 2. Valverde, 3. Alexander Vinokourov.

17 former cycling legends were polled for the award, and only one out of the six non-Italians voted for Basso. Eddy Merckx voted for Bettini, Basso and Boonen, respectively. One of these 17 judges voted for Floyd Landis, who tested positive for testosterone in this year's Tour de France. Italian Ercole Baldini, winner of the 1958 World Championships and Giro, voted for Basso, Landis and Bettini, respectively.

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com

Nys captures 150th career win

By Brecht Decaluwé in Diegem

150 wins
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Sven Nys overcame an early-race deficit and the flu for his 150th career win in Diegem on Sunday. Nys had to chase countryman Bart Wellens for much of the race to get himself in position for the historic victory but says that the remarkable career-win record wasn't on his mind; he only thought about the overall rankings in the Superprestige competition and the double points at stake in Diegem. “Even when I was alone in front, I was afraid that the bunch would come back and overtake me, which could mean a loss of ten points. Now I pulled off a great deal as the gap (in points) with Wellens is very big now,” Nys said. In fact Nys’ advantage is so big that he can afford himself to skip a race if he would want to do so.

For a full report and results from Superprestige #6 in Diegem, click here.

Back to back wins for Sulzberger in Burnie

By John Flynn in Burnie

Two in a row
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

The Burnie Criteriums are a brief but high-paced street-racing interlude in the track cycling-based week of racing in northern Tasmania, called the 'Christmas Carnivals'. The Burnie Criteriums are not officially part of the Christmas Carnivals, but feature many of the riders who attend the track series, as well as road-oriented cyclists from the 'Apple Isle' who are contracted to major professional teams, such as Health Net's Tassie devil, Karl Menzies.

One of the pro road riders who took to the streets - while not participating in the Carnivals - is Tasmanian Wes Sulzberger, who rides for the Australian UCI-registered Continental squad, South Australia.com - AIS.

In fact, Sulzberger successfully defended his Burnie Criterium crown. It took just a handful of laps for a long distance breakaway to evolve and there were no surprises at the composition; triple junior world champion Cameron Meyer went up the road and Sulzberger wasn't about to let him disappear from view.

"I knew that one of the Meyer boys would definitely get up the road again, they're both aggressive riders and really strong," Sulzberger said. "It was good to get away with someone that could work well, it was certainly pretty windy and sharing the workload definitely helped."

In second place was fellow Tasmanian, Sean Sullivan. The Australian said he was eager to send a message to his Toyota United team-mates in the US, that his form heading into 2007 is right on the mark. "Happy new year lads," Sullivan remarked. "I talk to them [team] all the time, they know that I'm training and we all want to have a good season."

For a complete report, photos and results from the Burnie Criteriums, click here. The Tasmanian Christmas Canrivals continue today with the Burnie Carnival.

Irish track team targets Worlds

The newly established Irish track cycling team are heading to Manchester for the final round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup February 23rd to 25th as part of their new campaign which targets qualification for the world championships.

David O’Loughlin has already given Ireland’s track cycling team the best possible start when he produced a qualifying time of 4 min 32.206 seconds in the men’s 4,000 metres individual pursuit in Moscow in December to finish in 8th place in the UCI Track Cycling World Cup race.

O’Loughlin is the first Irish competitor to ride the four-event series as part of the ambitious plan by Cycling Ireland which includes qualification for the world championships in Palma, Mallorca in March next year. “It’s a decent start to my international track career,” said O’Loughlin: “Especially in the middle of winter as I’m not 100% fit at the moment and there’s lots of room for improvement.”

“It’s very encouraging,” continued the 28-year-old from Cong, Co Mayo: “I was only about five seconds off qualifying for the bronze medal ride-off. That’s not so far away. Prior to Moscow I didn’t do any specific training but I will have more specific work done before the next world cup in Los Angeles in January. There are no indoor tracks in Ireland so I will be training at home using the special trainers that the Australian’s have developed. I will also be able to get over to the tracks in Belgium and Newport. I have 100 UCI points already from Moscow and I hope that I can qualify for the world championships in the individual pursuit.”

O’Loughlin is currently under contract with the US Navigators team based in New Jersey with compatriot Ciarán Power who is also part of a larger Irish team scheduled to ride in Los Angeles.

Cycling Ireland’s High Performance Director Frank Campbell is delighted with the results of the fledgling project so far. “We are holding another training session in Gent in January and from there we go straight to Los Angeles. If things go to plan we would like to have a good run at the men’s team pursuit in Manchester but Los Angeles could be a bit early for us.”

“Mark Scanlon and Ciarán Power will be riding the bunch races for us in Los Angeles as well,” continued Campbell: “They both ride for American teams and they have to be over there for their early season training camps and early racing. Things are coming on lot quicker than we could ever have hoped for. The plan is to have a big squad at Manchester and we would love one of the guys to qualify for the world championships.”

Canadian 'cross team seeking support

Friends of Canadian Cyclo-cross Racers, an organization of supporters of the Canadian National Cyclocross Team, are soliciting assistance in sending the Canadian team to Worlds in January. Mike Garrigan, Kyle Douglas, Tara Ross and Greg Reain have all qualified and are planning on attending the Cyclocross World Championships in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium on January 27-28, 2007 but as the Canadian Cycling Association doesn't provide any funding for the National Cyclocross Team, riders must cover their own airfare, accommodations, meals, equipment expenses and even their national team jerseys.

Support, in the form or donations, can be made at the group's Web site: http://www.cyclocrossontario.com/fccr. The group says that no administrative costs will be taken from donated funds.

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