First Edition Cycling News for January 2, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams
Thomas Voeckler will start in Langkawi
By Jean-François Quénet
Thomas Voeckler was one of the last winners of the 2006 season, when he claimed a solo victory at the French cup final Paris-Bourges in October. Having taken a rest on the island of Martinique, where he spend his childhood, Voeckler has now set his mind on the upcomiong season. For the first time the 2004 Tour de France hero - where he wore the yellow jersey for ten days - will double at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. In the meantime, Voeckler is preparing his return to competition in 2007 where he started his pro career: in Malaysia for Le Tour de Langkawi, from February 2 to 11.
"This race has a special place in my heart because Malaysia is where my pro career began," Voeckler said. "I had done Paris-Bourges as a stagiaire with team Bonjour but that was just a try. In February 2001, I really became a professional cyclist when I started in Le Tour de Langkawi. It was a good way to discover my new world. I was impressed by the speed. I thought the bunch was going extremely fast. Then I found out that it's the same all year, so I had to get used to this level of cycling."
"I rode Le Tour de Langkawi twice. I did it also in 2002 and I've always enjoyed it because there was no stress for us compared to the other races in Europe. The team didn't put a lot of pressure on us. It was a good way to begin a season," Voeckler added. Now riding for Bouygues-Telecom, there might be higher ambitions in Malaysia for the Frenchman.
The 27-year-old charismatic rider is adamant: "Laurent Lefèvre made a top 10 last year. He's determined to ride Le Tour de Langkawi for the win in 2007. Him and Didier Rous who have stopped their 2006 season earlier than me should have more training and a better condition than me in February. I'll be there to help and try and go in breakaways."
Voeckler believes the Giro will help him gear up for this year's Tour de France as he knows from experience that no other bike race in the world can impact on a rider's career in the way the Tour does.
"I prefer to start racing under the sun. I finished my 2006 season quite late with a win in Paris-Bourges and a participation to the Tour of Lombardy and the Chrono des Nations in October. In 2007 I will try to have a good early season, then a break, then I will double Tour of Italy and Tour de France," he explained. "After the 2004 Tour de France, many race organizers asked for me to attend. This kind of pressure has cooled down a bit now, so I'm able to make my own choices for my race program. As a start of a season, I've done Le Tour de Langkawi twice, the Tour of Qatar three times and the Etoile de Bessèges once. Now I feel like Langkawi is the best for me this year. I have asked my team to line me up there."
Voeckler has never made a mystery that he thought he'd never be able to repeat his 2004 Tour de France fairytale, but he keeps winning races regularly. Last year he was the first Frenchman to claim a Pro Tour success with a stage win in the Tour of the Basque country, then he won the Route du Sud plus a stage and Paris-Bourges at the end of the year.
Bouygues-Telecom was one of 21 teams announced to compete in this year's tour last week.
Bouygues-Telecom's Le Tour de Langkawi lineup:
Ludewig introduces Wiesenhof kit
By Susan Westemeyer
Joerg Ludewig is looking forward to returning to the peloton and was happy to introduce Wiesenhof-Felt's new jersey for 2007. "It's really bright colored and in design a bit extravagant even," he said. "It's supposed to polarise and it will do that."
Ludewig was under contract to Team T-Mobile in 2006, but did not ride the second half of the season. He noted that he has been training diligently over the holidays. "I obediently put in my rounds either before or after all the family activities, in spite of the cold, wet, unfriendly weather."
He has big plans for the coming season. He noted that he wants to: "not just serve as a water carrier, but also land a big one for my team: Joerg Ludewig will win races again in 2007!"
The German is also looking forward to the national and world championships. "It would be super if I would do well at the German championships and even land on the podium, and then be able to start in the World's in my own land."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Wiesenhof-Felt
Classical flavour again for Quick.Step
During their mid-December rendezvous in the rolling hills of Tuscany, the new look Quick.Step team were snapped on a training ride by Cyclingnews photographer Roberto Bettini testing new equipment from bike supplier Specialized. However, due to contractual agreements with outgoing sponsors, the pictures were not available for release until the new year.
Following the departures of Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Guido Trenti (Liquigas), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and Servais Knaven (T-Mobile), the 2007 line-up has been bolstered by two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Peter Van Petegem and compatriot Gert Steegmans - both riders making the switch from arch rivals Davitamon-Lotto (now Predictor-Lotto). After serving as Robbie McEwen's lead-out man during the Tour de France, Steegmans will no doubt add valuable horsepower to the Quick.Step train that delivered Tom Boonen to 21 victories in 2006.
It remains to be seen whether the team can accommodate the aspirations of Boonen, Van Petegem and world champion Paolo Bettini in the spring classics; Bettini has already stated his desire to win the Ronde and the next two world road race championships before a possible retirement at the end of 2008.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Carlos Barredo: Moving to the classics team
Young Spaniard Carlos Barredo had the weight of the ProTour on his mind in late 2006, although he would have preferred to focus instead on his upcoming spring campaign with the leading classics' team, Quick.Step. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown spoke with him in southern Italy during the team's first training camp for 2007.
Barredo, 25, is unassuming and he could easily be mislabelled in a squad mostly consisting of Belgians and Italians. He is a Spaniard who is not of the typical mould but one who loves the cobbles of the north; a perfect fit for Quick.Step. He and Juan Manuel Garate are the only two Spaniards on the Belgium-based team for 2007, a team that is better suited for Barredo's talents.
But Barredo had some problems joining the team. He had spent the later half of his 2006 searching for a new team but he was still listed as a rider for Active Bay, the management company of Manolo Saiz's defunct Liberty Seguros-Würth team. When I met Barredo in December he did not want to talk publicly because he was still concerned about Active Bay, and if it would keep its ProTour license.
"I want to wait until tomorrow [December 14] to talk more, and then we will know for sure about Active Bay's license. I am not tied to Marc Biver [new Astana team - ed.] but to Active Bay. ... I don't talk to Saiz, he sent me a text message two weeks ago but we are not really talking.
Click here for the full Calos Barredo interview.
Yong Li signs with Vitoria-ASC
By Greg Johnson
Malaysian rider Ng Yong Li will ride with newly-established continental team Vitoria-ASC in 2007, making him the first Malaysian professional rider. The 21-year-old rider will make his debut with the new Portuguese outfit on home soil at February's Le Tour de Langkawi.
"It always has been my dream to compete for a professional outfit team and my dream has come true. I am happy to be the first Malaysian road cyclist to turn pro,'' Yong Li told the Malaysian Star. "Riding with the Portugal outfit will definitely will push me to my limits.''
Yong Li has contested "Langkawi" on two previous occasions - with Proton T-Bikes in 2005, where he crashed on the ninth stage and in 2006 for Equipe-Asia, where a knee injury prevented the Batu Pahat rider from performing. He believes the injury has been completely healed now and is looking forward to this year's event.
"Although I have not trained with the team, I promise to give it my best shot and hope to finish in a creditable position," said Yong Li. "I have been unlucky in the last two Tours - once because of a crash and then because of a knee injury. I hope my performance this year will be better. My target is to finish among the top five in the Asian category."
The Vitoria-ASC outfit will be lead by Angel Edo, who took victory in the opening stage of Vuelta a Castilla y Leon last year.
California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized for 2007
The California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized team has announced its line-up for the new season where it plans to compete in all west coast National Race Calendar events and selected NRC/UCI races in other parts of the United States.
The majority of the team will be returning from last season including longtime veterans Patrick Briggs, John Hunt, James Mattis, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Patrick Dunaway, two-time Olympian and current Southern California District Road race Champion Dirk Copeland, top U.S triathlete Chris Lieto, Mike Telega, Salvador Borrego-Crum and Max Jenkins.
"We are extremely proud of the members of the Cal Giant cycling team. They all serve as excellent role models in educating adults and children about the importance of health & nutrition. We strongly support cycling as a sport and lifestyle for every age," commented Bill Moncovich, owner of California Giant Berry Farms.
Click here for the full team roster.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)