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First Edition Cycling News for January 9, 2007

Edited by Anthony Tan, Ben Abrahams & Greg Johnson

The Spanish rumour mill: Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne and T-Mobile

By Susan Westemeyer, Antonio J. Salmerón and Anthony Tan

Is Alejandro Valverde really at the centre of a ProTour tugger war?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Did T-Mobile try to steal ProTour champion Alejandro Valverde away from Caisse d'Epargné, as the Spanish team claims?

Last Sunday, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported T-Mobile team manager Bob Stapleton had negotiated a deal with Caisse d'Epargné to buy out his contract, and that Valverde was expected to sign on the dotted line.

Allegedly offering Valverde three million Euros, most likely his annual salary, Valverde's personal manager Francisco Sánchez Sabater told the paper it was high enough "to wipe all the moral barriers away". However, when contacted by Cyclingnews, T-Mobile deny having any discussion with Valverde since December last year, labelling the rumours as "total nonsense".

"Last year, the team management drafted a list of interesting riders, and we tried to talk with everyone on this list to see if there could be a general fit with our team and its philosophy. A third party informed us of interest from Valverde in joining the T-Mobile Team," explained T-Mobile press officer Stefan Wagner.

"So Bob and Rolf met him in early December in Murcia for the first and only time. They had a discussion with him for a couple of hours to see if there could be a general fit with our team, and more specifically with the team philosophy and our commitment to clean and fair sport. After this meeting, there was a follow-up phone call a few days later and we sent him a proposal with several conditions."

These conditions included DNA testing, a cash-back clause, routine medical checks and blood volume testing - but also confirmation that Valverde has had no contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of Operación Puerto, nor links to the aforementioned investigation. "We haven't heard anything from him or his manager since this phone call. At no time was there direct contact with his team," stated Wagner.

Caisse d'Epargné aren't so sure, issuing a harshly worded press release that denounced the story published in De Telegraaf and the behaviour of T-Mobile.

"We wish to report the fact that the way of acting [...] is an obvious violation of the elementary ethical principles and regulations, which establish the obligations of the UCI ProTour Teams. This behaviour will give rise, immediately, to the denunciation of the facts to the competent authorities of the UCI so that they undertake the necessary actions," read the team statement.

Yesterday, Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears team manager Eusebio Unzúe travelled to Murcia with the firm intention of keeping Valverde and renewing his contract beyond the 2007 season. His team manager Francisco Sánchez Sabater told Cyclingnews "a reasonable delay of 48 hours has requested from us to consult with Caisse d'Epargné, and the intention seems to equal or better the T-Mobile offer".

With T-Mobile dismissing the current transfer rumours as heresay, and Caisse d'Epargné having no intention of letting their star rider go, Caisse d'Epargné is more than likely where Alejandro Valverde will stay.

Pound casts doubt on Landis; Tour winner hits back

Controversial WADA chief speaks about doping cases in sport

By Shane Stokes

Richard Pound has been a controversial WADA chairman
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Applauded by some for his directness, criticised by others for blasting athletes prior to an official guilty judgement, Dick Pound furthered his outspoken and controversial reputation over the weekend. The WADA chairman was quoted extensively in a large feature in the New York Times, and has caused waves with a sceptical - and somewhat unusual - assessment of Floyd Landis's Tour de France ride.

"He was 11 minutes behind or something, and all of the sudden there's this Herculean effort, where he's going up mountains like he's on a goddamn Harley," Pound told journalist Michael Sokolove. "It's a great story. Wonderful. But if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

"I mean, it was 11 to 1!" he continued, referring to the reported testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio in Landis' positive sample. "You'd think he'd be violating every virgin within 100 miles. How does he even get on his bicycle?"

When contacted for a response to the quote, Landis and his defence team blasted the comment and said that it backed up their assertions that Pound is not acting in an impartial manner.

For the full article, including the Tour winner's response to Pound, click here.

Cyclo-cross World Cup heading to US

UCI wants to link the American and European cyclo-cross circuits

By Brecht Decaluwé

It's public knowledge that the UCI wants to take cyclo-cross abroad by organising a world cup event in the US next season. UCI-president Pat McQuaid supports the ideas of his cyclo-cross coordinator Peter Van den Abeele and recently said that the event would take place in October at the Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island - the same course where the US Cyclo-cross Championships were held in 2005 and 2006. "Our president launched this news but it's not definitively sure," Van den Abeele said yesterday.

Two weeks ago, at the world cup in Hofstade, Van den Abeele spoke with Cyclingnews on the subject of US cyclo-cross. "There are about 38 UCI cyclo-cross races there, which is not too bad I think, nevertheless it's a completely separate circuit," he said. "We hope to organise a world cup event abroad in the near future."

Back in November, Van den Abeele and his team had given up their hopes to organise an event in the US, but a meeting with UCI-president McQuaid turned things around. "He saw the statistics about cross' evolution in the US and immediately made a phone call to USA Cycling and that surely got things moving," Van den Abeele explained. "We really hope to organise the world cup event next year when the season starts."

The US event could replace the world cup held in Aigle, near the UCI headquarters. "Aigle is far from certain as there wasn't much interest for the race... in Switzerland you need to organize races near Wetzikon where cross is still alive and kicking," Van den Abeele concluded.

McEwen aims for Australian Open Road Championships

Robbie McEwen (Volvo) at the Jayco Bay Classic
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Robbie McEwen (Volvo) leads series leader Mark Renshaw (Skilled) up the home straight in the Geelong Botanical Gardens.

Despite withdrawing from the final round of the Jayco Bay Classic criterium series with a touch of bronchitis, Robbie McEwen is hoping to line up for the Australian Open Road Championship at Buninyong near Ballarat, Victoria this coming Sunday. "The course is a bit selective and is always hard in January," said McEwen, who claimed his first Australian title on the tough Buninyong circuit in 2002. "At least you get a worthy champion - the best rider will always win."

The three-time Tour de France green jersey winner could be up against a high class field featuring several European-based professionals including Simon Gerrans, Baden Cooke and Allan Davis plus previous winners Henk Vogels and Matt Wilson. As reported by Cyclingnews on Saturday, some riders elect to miss the championships preferring to concentrate on higher profile European races later in the season. "My training is structured around Milan-San Remo," admitted McEwen. "It's something I really want to aim at."

For 2007, the men's championship has been reduced from 18 to 16 laps, leaving a total race distance of 163.2km. McEwen was instrumental in having the distance cut after he advised championships director John Craven of his views some weeks ago. "You will still get the same result," McEwen said. "This Buninyong course is so hard you won't miss a couple of laps."

A total of 301 riders will contest the six championships held over four days - a record since the open championship concept was introduced into Australian cycling in 1999.

The titles will kick off on Thursday with the men's under 23 and women's time trials, both over 28 kilometres. The open men's 39km time trial is on Friday, followed on Saturday by the men's under 23 road race (122kms) and women's road race (102kms).

Preparations begin for 2007 Tour Down Under

Mike Turtur is happy with preparations for this year's TDU
Photo ©: Khairunnisa Schebella
(Click for larger image)

Road cyclists have begun boarding planes and travelling across the globe as the first major road race of year, the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, prepares to get the 2007 road season rolling. The stage race will see teams from all parts of the globe begin their respective seasons with the big trek 'down under' to the South Australian capital city.Last weekend saw an 'invasion' marked the beginning of the invasion of world class international cyclists to Adelaide for the upcoming Tour Down Under.

One hundred and twelve cyclists representing 20 countries will contest the 2007 Tour Down Under. The countries represented are Australia, Belgium, Belarus, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and the USA. The Belgian registered Chocolades Jacques team was the first to arrive in Adelaide, followed AG2R Prevoyance, Predictor-Lotto and Credit Agricole.

"Everything is in place for the arrival of the teams," said race director, Mike Turtur. "The Tour Village setup is complete, all the race staff and volunteers are briefed and standing by and we're all looking forward to welcoming this year's contenders."

On Wednesday the US Navigators Insurance team will arrive while Barloworld and CSC's international riders will land in Adelaide the following day. Milram will fly in on January 13, one day later and the final international team, New Zealand, will make the trip across the Tasman on the 15th, in time for the official teams presentation that night.

The Tour field has grown to 14 teams in 2007 with action kicking off with the Down Under Classic at Adelaide's East End on Tuesday night January 16, before the peloton lines up for the five-stage Tour Down Under on the 17th.

Of the 112 strong field, 20 competed at the 2006 Tour de France including Australians Stuart O'Grady, Robbie McEwen and Simon Gerrans, who is the defending Tour Down Under champion.

The start list also includes 2006 Tour de France stage ten winner Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel); Cyril Dessel of AG2R-Prevoyance, who wore the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey for a day and finished seventh overall, and the winner of the 2006 Tour de France green sprinter's jersey, Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto).

The 2007 Tour Down Under will cover 667 kilometres and offer the more than 400,000 estimated spectators some ideal vantage points from which to view the action as it races through some of South Australia's most spectacular landscapes including the Barossa Valley, Fluerieu Peninsula and Adelaide Hills.

For further information see Tour Down Under's website.

Big changes in 2007 for Colavita-Sutter Home

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The Colavita-Sutter Home men's team will enter the 2007 season with a lot of changes in personnel - both in terms of riders and the leadership. Only a few riders from the 2006 team will return this season; most notably not among them is veteran captain Mark McCormack; along with his brother and director sportif Frank McCormack. Tom Schuler told Cyclingnews that he will take over directing duties full-time, at least for the first half of the season. "I am going to direct at California," Schuler said. "Somewhere through the year we are going to get some help. But I am jumping in with both feet!"

Cyclingnews reported last August, team owner John Profaci contracted with Tom Schuler's company Team Sports to manage the men's team. At the time, Profaci countered rumors that director sportif Frank McCormack's contract would not be renewed. "Frankie is so important to the team and Tom has a lot of respect for him," Profaci said.

However, since that time a lot of changes in the management structure of the team took place. "It's always been me, at my desk," said Profaci about running the team while working for Colavita full-time. "I juggle the business, with sales and marketing, and then the two teams - or ten teams, if you include the regional teams! It was just too much for me." Profaci decided to take a step back after five years. "it slipped a little in 2006 - I don't know if it was a morale or motivational thing, but I needed to take myself out."

Profaci turned to Schuler who the year before had taken over managing the women's team when his Quark sponsorship ran out. "I met Tom and he presented something to me when Quark went away to run our women's team," said Profaci. "It worked out great. I said, 'Can you take the men and do the same job?' I wanted Tom to build a nice legacy like Saturn. But early on I said I don't want a lot of change, I like Frank McCormack and I want consistancy. But Team Sports is going to have to make money now - the team has to bring additional sponsors in."

With that need for additional funding, it appears that the contract negotiations did not produce amicable terms for everyone. "We couldn't come to an agreement on compensation," said Schuler regarding Mark McCormack. "He has two kids so he would probably ride if he got paid enough and not if he didn't."

Mark confirmed this, saying he decided to retire from road racing altogether to pursue other opportunities. "Weighing money with family life and other opportunities made me think about things more. I wasn't willing to go backwards in my earnings, especially to the level that teams were proposing. It was a difficult decision but in reality - I have a family to look after."

Frank McCormack said the fact that Mark was not going to be resigned contributed to his decision. "It was based upon Mark not renewing, for me," he said. "It was an awesome last two-and-a-half years with John [Profaci] and Mark. It was a great experience for me. I'll just keep on with my carpentry work I suppose. I have made a couple of phone calls, and would like to stay in the sport. I love the sport and still have a great passion for it. But at this point I don't have anything organized."

Schuler is definitely not a novice in the role of team director, having successfully managed and occasionally directed the Saturn team as it dominated the US domestic calendar for many years. Schuler was most recently involved with managing the Colavita-Cooking Light women's team and the TargeTraining men's team last year, which called for some directing duties. "I always drive the car a couple times a year, and I directed the guys last year at racesd like crit nats and Elk Grove. I always like to direct a race or two a year since I retired fifteen years ago. I've always enjoyed it."

Look for a full interview with Mark McCormack on Cyclingnews, looking back at his racing career and his plans for the future.

Dutch selection for the cyclo-cross world championships

Johan Lammerts names six riders for Hooglede-Gits

By Brecht Decaluwé

Dutch national cyclo-cross coach Johan Lammerts has already appointed his six names for the cyclo-cross world championships in Hooglede-Gits on January, the 28th, reports. No real surprises were spotted in the selection so the names are: Richard groenendaal (Rabobank), Gerben De Knegt (Rabobank), Thijs Al (Bejan), Wilant Van Gils (ZZPR), Maarten Nijland (Ruiter Dakkapellen) and Camiel Van den Bergh (Stevens Racing Team).

National champion Lars Boom (Rabobank) is not competing in the elite category at the world championships; he wants to battle for the rainbow jersey with the U23 boys, like Niels Albert (Palmans) and Zdenek Stybar (Fidea).

Dutch sprinters line up for Revolution

Tuen Mulder
Photo ©: Mike Gladu
Click for larger image

Top Dutch sprinters Tuen Mulder and Tim Veldt are the latest riders to be confirmed for the next Revolution track event on January 20.

The Dutch duo have been in good form this season with Mulder placed fourth and seventh in the keirin and sprint world cup standings and the Dutch team placed second behind the Brits in the team sprint standings. The pair will add some serious competition to the line up, which also features sprint number one Craig MacLean and French star Arnaud Tournant.

"We will have the best sprint line up for this season of Revolution," said organiser James Pope. "Tournant has been eager to come back to the Revolution so we have created an extreme programme to make the most out of these guys. There will be plenty of young British talent in the line up too, so the racing will be intense."

Heading the local talent will be junior team sprint world champions Dave Daniell and Christian Lyte, who are relishing the opportunity to take on legends like Tournant. "It's amazing to ride against the big names," said Lyte. "It provides real racing in a top level environment, which is a rare opportunity for riders our age."

"The experience is invaluable," Lyte continued. "It has definitely helped me and the squad progress and is one of the reasons we did so well at the junior world championships. This season the racing has been better than ever so we're all looking forward to the last event."

Lyte will be joined by UK Olympic Development riders Steve Hill, Tim Buck, Pete Mitchell and Josh Hargreaves. These riders will race across a series of sprint events with some feature races to be confirmed.

Saunier Duval-Prodir in Mali

Seven of Saunier Duval-Prodir riders, including Arkaitz Durán Aroca, Carlos Zárate Fernández, Ruben Lobato Elvira, Christophe Rinero and Guido Trentin, will take part in a race in the Republic of Mali's port of Mopti. The ProTour riders will visit the region, along with manager Mauro Gianetti and coach Joxean Fernández, to race against local cyclist and promote awareness of its tree-planting operations in the region.

The team's humanitarian project in the region is aimed at planting one tree for each kilometre covered in 2007 - with the aim set at one million trees and kilometres.

Cyclingnews reader poll: Best Moment & Legend of Cycling

Cyclingnews has tallied up all 11,532 votes in the 2006 readers' poll, our biggest ever survey, and is proud to announce the winners of the Best Moment and Legend of Cycling 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)

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