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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for January 6, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Laura Weislo

Ullrich to Acqua & Sapone?

By Gregor Brown

Ullrich wants to race again
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)
Could German Jan Ullrich be riding in the colours of Acqua & Sapone for 2007? It is an idea that has been batted about between team manager Palmiro Masciarelli and the 1997 Tour de France champion, but Ullrich's legal woes and need for an entourage could hold him back from signing.

"It is true that Jan and I have talked, also in a manner very determined and positive, but the things to assess are still many," said the manager of the Italy-based team to tuttobiciweb.com.

"To begin with, it is not only signing Jan but another three riders that he would like to come along," he continued. Ullrich is likely to want Spaniard Oscar Sevilla, but both of the riders are considered damaged goods after being linked to Spanish investigation Operación Puerto. This last July the investigation started and ever since then Ullrich's time has been occupied with legal issues. Ulle's implication in the investigation seemingly prohibiting him from signing with a ProTour team, but not Acqua & Sapone, which is Professional Continental.

"I have to talk with the boys on the team, starting with Stefano Garzelli. In our team there has been created a great environment that I don't want to disturb in any way. Then there is the sponsor, we need to all sit down together at a table. We have informally done this already and the feedback was positive but it justified to do so again to study every detail."

The details could be about which races the team may or may not get invited to if they were to sign the 33 year-old German. Some organizers, like the Deutschland Tour, have made it clear that they don't want anything to do with teams that sign riders implicated in Operación Puerto or who are involved with Eufemiano Fuentes.

"I want to talk to the organizers ..." confirmed Masciarelli. "And, finally, we have to wait for the decision from the Swiss Federation. A few weeks ago the president [of the Swiss federation] announced that the case is heading towards being shelved, but at the moment there is not any kind of official decision.

"All in all, project of Ullrich is fascinating and ambitious, we are busy working but the road is still long and in this moment it is not possible to see where it will take us."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

ProTour proposes eight-man grand tour teams

Adorni (2nd from R)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

President of the UCI ProTour Council (UPTC), Vittorio Adorni, responded to the grand tour organizers statement issued on December 12, 2006, where they had called for a reduction in the number of teams automatically qualifying for entry into their races; the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España. Adorni suggested a reduction in the number of riders to accommodate wild card, or non-ProTour, teams.

"I propose to the teams that they come up with eight-man teams for the grand tours instead of the nine allowed, to let the organizers have space for more wild card teams," said Vittorio Adorni, President of the UCI ProTour Council (UPTC), according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"With the reduction, the 20 ProTour teams, which have the right to race in all three grand tours [Giro, Tour and Vuelta], could make extra space for a maximum of five wild card teams, more than the two wild cards now. This is not an easy solution but one that is not impossible to realize."

Angelo Zomegnan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Angelo Zomegnan, director of the Giro d'Italia, was not pleased with the idea proposed by Adorni and took time to reiterate that the organizers of the grand tours were developing other plans.

"The idea was proposed three years ago but then the UCI rejected this proposal," said Zomegnan to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The key point remains that the ProTour does not have to be a closed system, for this we have proposed 18 teams in 2007 and 16 starting in 2008. 25 teams, also for reasons of security, are too much. I believe in cycling for elite, not for elitists."

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

Astarloa looks for redemption

In September Italian-based Milram signed 2003 World Champion, Igor Astarloa. The 30 year-old Basque, formerly with Claudio Corti's Barloworld, signed a contract for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

The suited Astarloa well, allowing him to compete in cycling's big races. In early 2006 he won the Milano-Torino, showing the same class that garnered him the World Championships and Flèche Wallonne in 2003.

"I expect to have a competitive spring," Astarloa explained to tuttobiciweb.com. "It is a benefit to be in a ProTour team and it is important to have the guarantee of participation in the most prestigious races."

Astarloa noted his form is ready for a grand 2007, "After many years of difficulties, this winter's training has been the best."

Belgian worlds team grows

No less than eight allowed to start in Hooglede-Gits

By Brecht Decaluwé

Wellens and Vervecken top 2006 podium
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The Belgian team for the cyclo-cross world championships will have a three-man advantage over most other countries, giving them an even stronger bid for the title than their top-heavy team already had. Normally, one country is allowed to start with five riders at the world championships, but due to the fact that the Belgians have the UCI-leader in their ranks - Sven Nys (Rabobank) - they receive an additional starting spot in Hooglede-Gits this month.

The team gets a seventh spot for having the defending world champion, Erwin Vervecken (Fidea), and an eighth spot because Belgium is ranked in the top three of the UCI's cyclo-cross rankings. Belgium leads those rankings ahead of the Czech Republic and The Netherlands.

Last year, Belgium was started with seven riders because Nys was both UCI leader and reigning world champion. The world championships are held on January 28th.

Heart condition claims life of Australian cyclist

Daniel Bennett
Photo ©: Michael Marston
Click for larger image

23 year-old Daniel Bennett was training early morning, January 5, on the Gold Coast of Australia when he suffered an apparent heart attack. Despite efforts to resuscitate him he did not recover consciousness and was pronounced dead the Gold Coast Hospital at 8AM.

"I've been coaching him for four or five years now and he was so passionate about his bike riding and one of nature's gentlemen," said Coach and close friend Mark Brady. "It's not something you can say about everyone but in Daniel's case I've never heard anyone say a bad word about him."

"There were around 20 guys in the regular training bunch this morning," continued Brady. "Daniel stopped to have a drink and just slumped over his handlebars from what they believe was a heart attack brought on by an unforeseen and undiagnosed heart condition."

The board and members of Cycling Australia extended their sympathy to the family and friends of Queensland cyclist, Bennett. "The family of cycling is grieving the loss of a talented, popular young man who loved life and his sport," said Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks. "We offer our sincerest condolences to Daniel's parents, Stephen and Deborah, and all his family and friends at this tragic time."

Born in Zimbabwe, Bennett emigrated to Australia's Gold Coast with his family a decade ago and for the past two years has ridden in Europe with French amateur team Charvieu-Chavagneux based in Lyon. He was due to return to the team next month for the 2007 European season.

Australian road championships return to Ballarat

By Ben Abrahams

The lion down under
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

After a two-year hiatus, the cream of Australian cycling will once again descend on Ballarat, Victoria next week for the Australian Open Road Championships based around the very selective 'Buninyong' circuit. "It's so tough and unforgiving, the best rider always wins," said race organiser John Craven. "If anyone's underdone they're not going to win the Australian Championship."

Widely regarded as the most fiercely contested one-day race in Australia, the 2007 open men's event will feature a host of top European pros including 2006 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans plus Unibet.com pairing Baden Cooke and Matt Wilson - winner of the green and gold jersey on the Buninyong course in 2004. "It would be a huge honour to be crowned the Australian Champion," said Gerrans. "I truly believe I am capable of winning - it's always at the back of my mind."

Following last year's men's race, where under 23 star William Walker beat all the seniors, Cycling Australia has decided to hold separate events for the open and under 23 categories. "It's a decision I don't necessarily agree with," said Craven. "You've got top class bike riders in the under 23s like Wesley Sulzberger from Tasmania - there's heaps of them that are capable of winning the open."

The first senior rider home last year was South Australia's Russell Van Hout, who actually finished in third place behind Walker and Tasmanian U23 rider, Wes Sulzberger. It was a genuine race of attrition in 2006, with only 26 finishers out of 180 starters - the only factor reducing the field was the speed of the leading riders. It was also the race that brought Australian cycling's 'Crocodile Man', Adam Hanson, into focus. The Queenslander and two-time winner of the brutal Crocodile Trophy MTB stage race showed he was a very accomplished road cyclist. Hanson animated the final few laps of a very select group and finished fourth overall, ahead of riders such as Henk Vogels. This year Hanson will ride for German's T-Mobile.

While Van Hout was entitled to wear the national champion's jersey in 2006, Walker was contracted to ride with Dutch ProTour team Rabobank, but couldn't wear his national champion's jersey. Later in 2006 he was finally permitted to wear the 'green and gold' in European competition, such as the Vuelta Espana.

Last year showed that the race has become one for the younger riders. Despite the prestige and financial rewards which accompany a national champion's jersey - riders can earn personal bonuses of several thousand euros from their teams - some seasoned European-based Australians professionals are unwilling to reach peak form early in the season for fear of jeopardizing their chances in later races. Also, they would line up against a clutch of promising riders - eager to impress selectors and professional teams - who've trained almost specifically for the event.

It's a similar situation among the elite women, however, the proximity of the first round of the women's World Cup in Geelong means the leading women are likely to be closer to full race fitness. Among the star names expected to compete in women's event are Olympic road race champion Sara Carrigan and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Natalie Bates.

The 2004 event attracted strong crowds from nearby Melbourne. Bright sunshine and warm temperatures aside, the Lion of Flanders flags and Australia's own version of Didi the devil creating an amazing spectacle not unlike a Belgian Classic.

Full schedule for the 2007 Australian Open Road Championships:
Thursday, January 11: Under 23 men's time trial (39km), Women's time trial (28km)
Friday, January 12: Men's time trial (39km)
Saturday, January 13: Under 23 men's road race (122.4km), Women's road race (102km)
Sunday, January 14: Men's road race (163.2km)

Cyclingnews will be providing full coverage of the Australian Open Road Championships. For further details from the official website, click here.

Le Tour de Langkawi will go beyond 2007

By Jean-François Quénet

In a press conference held on Wednesday, January 3, in Kuala Lumpur for launching the race website www.ltdl.com.my, tourism Minister Datuk Sri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor certified that Le Tour de Langkawi (H.C.) will continue after the 12th edition due to take place in Malaysia between February 2-11, 2007.

"We're able to hold and run world class events in Malaysia and we're looking beyond 2007," the Minister said

This year, Le Tour de Langkawi is organized by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) and fully supported by the government as the race is a part of the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 program put in place for celebrating 50 years of nationhood. The target of attracting 29 million visitors by the year 2010 includes the promotion of the country.

"Cycling shows that Malaysia is a safe and nice place with modern infrastructures and a lot of sightseeing. It is unique because it is not based in just one location, unlike other sports. Due to the nature of the race which moves from venue to venue everyday, TV viewers around the world will have the opportunity to see the various parts of the country, from our most modern cities with its breathtaking skylines to the smaller towns and pristine rain forests and sandy beaches. Viewers will also be able to see our rich culture and heritage," the Minister said, adding that the government is prepared to support the race for another two or three years before the private sector comes in.

Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga to Spiuk

Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga, ex-cyclist of Kaiku, has signed a contract with the team Spiuk. The Basque cyclo-cross champion is very satisfied about signing with the team from Llodio. "I'm very happy about what I reached and I hope that I can satisfy the expectations of my new team", said Ruiz according to the Spanish newspaper Diario Vasco.

With the 27 year old, team Spiuk signed a hope for the national championship in Alcobendas next week and the World championship in Belgium end of January. After the championships Spiuk will decide whether they will extend his contract also for the mountain-bike season.

Health Net to 2007 Tour of California

The Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis will again be one of the professional cycling teams racing in the Tour of California, an eight-day road race starting February 18. Health Net is also set to sponsor a daily side festival during the race.

As a founding partner of the Tour of California, Health Net will present the daily Lifestyle Festival, as well as be the overall sponsor of stage 6, in which the peloton races from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, February 24.

This year Team Health Net, based in Oakland, California, stepped up to UCI Continental Professional status and after having made its first foray into European racing in 2006. For the 2007 Tour of California team will be led by crowd favourite Nathan O'Neill (Aus), who finished 5th overall in 2006. Newcomers Ryder Hesjedal (Can) and Rory Sutherland (Aus) are also confirmed for the team.

Symmetrics Pro Cycling announces 2007 women's team roster

Symmetrics Cycling team from Vancouver, Canada will keep their same winning combination for 2007.

Returning once again is World Championship medallist Mandy Poitras, who had a good year, including a great win at British Columbia (BC) Superweek despite a nagging illness. Another rider looking to make a strong comeback is up-and-comer Noe Cooper, sister of Symmetrics' men's team member Marsh.

Leah Goldstein, winner of the 2006 the Mount Hood Stage Race, the BC Criterium Provincials, BC Road Provincials and the BC TT Provincials, and Marni Hambleton, the BC Female Road Cyclist of the year and BC Cup Road Series winner, also return to the team.

To see the full roster, click here.

Terry Precision seeks riders

The Terry Precision Women's Cycling Team is accepting race resumes for the 2007 season. Team Terry is based in Rochester, NY and is currently expanding its roster. The team will be attending national and international races in the north-eastern US and Canada, and are looking for enthusiastic women who want to be part of a fun, hardworking team atmosphere. Resumes can be sent to rosie@terrybicycles.com.

Cyclingnews readers' poll: Best photo and most improved rider

Cyclingnews has tallied up all 11,532 votes in the 2006 readers' poll, our biggest ever poll. Today, we have announced the winners of the best photo and most improved rider categories. Please have a look at the total results so far.

The winner of the HED Kermesse road wheels will be announced later in the week. Thanks to everyone who voted.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)

Recently on Cyclingnews.com


Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini