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First Edition Cycling News for January 12, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Valverde sticks with Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
The high stakes negotiations between 2006 UCI ProTour winner Alejandro Valverde and his Caisse d'Epargne team are one step closer to resolution. It appears that Valverde will not be leaving his Spanish squad, despite the rumours that circulated earlier this week. Valverde's manager, Francisco Sánchez, told Cyclingnews today that, "Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears has accepted the conditions proposed by Valverde last Monday in Murcia".

Valverde's current contract with the team runs through the end of 2007, but team manager Eusebio Unzúe was in Murcia this week to negotiate an extension to his contract. The pressure, whether real or imagined, from the more financially expansive T-mobile team had Unzúe and team manager José Miguel Echavarri up against a wall - either sign their star rider to more years at a higher salary and stretch their monetary resources, or let him go and give away their highest hope for a grand tour win.

It appears that Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears chose the former option, and are closer to having Valverde sign on to a multi-year deal, adding another three years to his current contract. "The Spanish rider will take part next Tuesday in París in the Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears official presentation, and after that, we will negotiate some important aspects of the renewed contract, that will be for the next four seasons: More that nine million euros in total", Sánchez explained to Cyclingnews. This sum was sufficient to sway Valverde to stay with his current team, keeping him in the familiar surroundings of his native country.

The signing of Valverde could hold big risks for the Spanish team, since the Spanish media continue to report on a suspected link between the rider the Operación Puerto investigation despite the fact that the Guardia Civil, the Superior Council of Deportes and the Real Spanish Federation of Cycling have denied that Valverde has been implicated.

IPCT offers up riders' DNA, re-admits Discovery

The organisation of the International Professional Cycling Teams has announced that all its member teams will cooperate with the Operación Puerto investigation by providing DNA samples to the Spanish investigators, including the Discovery Channel team of Ivan Basso. "All the teams concerned, including Discovery Channel, will make available DNA samples of riders named in the Operación Puerto file to the Spanish prosecutor," the statement said.

The IPCT, which last month threatened to exclude the Discovery Channel team based on its hiring of Basso, has backed down from its stand in a meeting in Bruxelles today. "After a long discussion, the general assembly decided not to exclude Tailwind Sports (Discovery Channel) from the IPCT because of the hiring of Ivan Basso," read the statement.

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

Million dollar, baby!

There was a full table of dignitaries at the launch.
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Vuelta a España organisers Unipublic and United Arab Emirates-based company Kenzay took the covers off an event which could change the future of cycling. Huge prize money, an exotic location, big incentives for teams and the guarantee of the sport's Grand Tour champions scrapping it out are all highly promising. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes was at the launch in Madrid.

Talk about creating a splash. €450,000 for the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, €333,446 for the Giro d'Italia and €106,144 for the best rider in the Vuelta. These are three of the biggest races in cycling, but that prize list has been completely dwarfed by what will be on offer to the winner of the new Abu Dhabi Cycling Race of Champions, which was launched on Wednesday at a glitzy function in Madrid.

Minor details have been circulating for the past few weeks but today's meeting between press, race backers, organisers and riders at the Hotel Ritz showed just how groundbreaking the new event will be. A first prize of one million dollars (€772,414) is up for grabs at the end of the three stage, four day race, ensuring a hugely competitive showdown between riders despite what is a late season date of November 6-9.

Under the details announced, the winners of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España are expected to line out with their teams, and so too the three squads which come out best in the teams classification of each Grand Tour. There will also be three wildcard invites and, with a squad of eight riders each, this will total a field of 72 competitors.

Read the full story here.

Roche happy in green

By Shane Stokes

Nicolas Roche
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
(Click for larger image)

Nicolas Roche switched colours from Cofidis to Credit Agricole during the off season. The Cote d’Azur based Irish rider says he is impressed with things thus far, and has some clear goals laid out for the year. “The team is brilliant, I am pretty happy with it,” he told Cyclingnews in recent days. “I have made some good first contacts there. I am pretty motivated as a result – I have a new team, things are going well for me, we have talked about the programme for the season and everything is a very coherent.”

The 22 year-old was with Cofidis for his first two seasons as a professional and with them, he won a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir in September and finished tenth overall. Does he see much of a change in setups? “They are different in their own ways. There are a couple of similarities too. It is a bit too early to judge it because I am only there officially a few days,” he explained, earlier this month.

“I have only done two two-day training camps. We haven't had a proper cycling training camp yet - it was about getting together to have meetings. I don't know all the staff yet… I have met all the riders but it was pretty brief.” In addition to that good ride in l’Avenir – where he was also seventh on the mountainous eighth stage - he fared well in several other races. These included fourth on stage one and the same finishing position overall in Paris – Corrèze, fourth in the Irish road race championships, eighth in the Polynormande and tenth in Paris – Camenbert.

For this season, he wants to continue to gain strength and experience, and has laid out some targets. “First of all I would really like to be at top form for the Tour of the Med as it is close to home and it is something I always liked to watch on TV,” he said. “So it is a race that I would like to do well in. Then hopefully I can go well in Paris-Nice and then all the French Cups in April. The Cup races are one of my goals now, this year I would like to perform well there. Of course, I will hopefully do the Giro, although I am not sure yet. But if I am on the team there I would like to perform pretty well. Of course, I am not taking about going for GC, but I would like to show that I am there and also do some good work for the team.”

Willett to direct United Pro

Kirk Willett, a former professional cyclist and well-known US team director, has been appointed as director of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team. Willett, who fills the slot left open after former director Frankie Andreu was fired, will join Harm Jansen on the frontlines to handle team logistics, day-to-day operations, race strategy, and overall management of team personnel.

Willett, who retired from racing in 2000, rode for the Mercury professional team before moving on to a director's position with the Prime Alliance cycling team, where he led the team for three seasons.

“Kirk is a natural competitor,” said team owner Sean Tucker. “He brings global experience, managerial and tactical skill, plus a core competence in sports science to our team. His in-depth knowledge of the sport, his ability to motivate and direct comprehensive racing operations make him a fantastic asset to Toyota-United. We are pleased to have him on board.”

Willett will have to balance his role of team director with his education - he plans to graduate from medical school in 2011.

Boost to grass-roots track racing in Sydney, while elite riders prepare for annual events

$40,000 later
Photo ©: Greg Johnson
(Click for larger image)
Possibly due to Australia's ever popular road scene, track racing at grass roots level has suffered a decline in recent years but may soon be back in focus with a 14 week-long series being held every Thursday at Sydney's Canterbury Velodrome.

"It's a bit of a tradition, track racing is pretty big in Australia and has kind of gone by the way side in terms of day to day competition," says Chris Reynolds of event sponsors, Excelpro. "With the Sydney Thousand and some other events it's starting to get back on the map; it's one of those sports where you don't need to have thousands of dollars to ride"

The outdoor 333 metre track recently underwent a AUD$40,000 makeover prior to the Sydney Thousand, including cleaning and smoothing of the existing surface, new grandstand seats, safety rails and repair of a collapsed pier underneath the track's eastern end. The aim of the events is to make track racing more accessible to the growing number of road cyclists in Australia's largest city.

Across the city at Dunc Gray Velodrome, venue for the 2000 Olympics and round of the UCI's Track World Cup, the four-day Australian Youth Olympic Festival will kick off on January 17. The following week will see both the Orbea Australia Sydney Cup on Wheels and the New South Wales Junior Championships on the baltic pine boards.

The 25th Anniversary Clarence St Cyclery Cup will take place on February 3 and should attract some of the high-calibre field that will be making its way to Sydney for the Australian National Track Championships which begin three days later.

Saunier Duval in Africa

Pat McQuaid announced a few weeks ago that the ProTour might undergo globalisation, but the ProTour team Saunier Duval-Prodir may have beaten him to the punch. The team traveled to the Western African country of Mali as part of a humanitarian project, and while they were there, they participated in a 'race' with around twenty Malian cyclists.

The riders and their manager, Mauro Gianetti also planted trees as part of the "100 years for a million trees" project which is one of the many charitable endeavors that the team is engaged in.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Saunier Duval team

Team Dilà Guerciotti Cogeas

A new women's Elite team has been created in Italy, enriching the peloton with an international mix of riders. Stefano Della Santa of Lucca, previously a director sportif with other teams, will direct a squadra of 12 women. Della Santa will receive managerial assistance from Lombardia duo Massimiliano Bonanomi and Ruben Contreras, who have talents in directing teams in every type of race.

The team's two top-guns, Spaniard Marta Vilajosana Andreu and American Aimee Vasse, will be flanked by a hard-hitting talented crew of riders, like Danes Maya Adamsen and Mette Fischer Andreasen, all-round Russian Oxana Kostenko, Italian Emanuela Azzini and Salvadoran Evelyn Garcia. But there will also be two neo-pros on the team who will learn from the elders; Dane Maria Helena Bornak and Italian Alice Colombo.

Dilà Guerciotti Cogeas will have its calendar based around world cup races; the most important events being European stage races and the all major Italian races.

To see the roster, click here.

USA cycling sponsorships awarded

Rebecca Larson and Todd Dowling are the recipients of the 2006 John Stenner Collegiate Scholarships, USA Cycling announced today. Each recipient will receive a cash award made possible by donations to the USA Cycling Development Foundation in memory of John Stenner.

Stenner, a former U.S. National Team and Olympian, one of the founding fathers of organized collegiate cycling, died at 29 when he was struck by a pick-up truck in 1994. Following his death, a fund was established in his name, The John Stenner Collegiate Cycling Scholarship and this fund continues to be supported by the members/donors of the USA Cycling Development Foundation.

Both Larson and Dowling were recognized for their leadership in their respective cycling communities and their major accomplishments during their student-athlete careers. Larson is currently an Exercise Physiology graduate student in Gainesville, Florida, conducting research on exercise interventions for subjects with Multiple Sclerosis. She has been a team leader for the University of Florida Cycling Team for several years and recently stepped up to the head coach position. Larson has served as a mentor to new members through the creation of skills clinics while still maintaining her role as a successful competitive cyclist.

Dowling is deeply involved in both the Bucknell University Cycling Team and the cycling community in general. His contributions to the squad include recruitment efforts that grew the team from six riders to 27, and sponsorship sales that resulted in thousands of dollars of support.

Besides Dowling’s involvement in competitive cycling, he is a well-rounded student with a 3.6 GPA as a senior Biology major. Dowling is also heavily involved with university clubs and honors societies and tutoring efforts. He also works to promote cycling in local media publications.

Despite his many activities off the bike, Dowling has managed to mold himself from a beginner cyclist to a strong finisher in the men’s ‘A’ category of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC).

Indiana gets Midwest regionals

The 2007 Midwest collegiate regionals cycling championships will take place on April 28 and 29 at Butler University in Indiana. The races will take place on some of Indiana's most challenging courses, with the road race in Morgan-Monroe State Forest having a 14 miles lap with two significant climbs with grades up to 12%.

"Butler is excited to be a part of this marquee event." said Scott Peden, Director of Recreation. "We have a strong commitment to academics and athletics. Any time we can combine the two, we are happy to do so." Helping to manage the event is the Indiana Race Series Director, Dan Daly. "I think the racers will enjoy the venues and the challenges they bring. I hope to make it a beautiful and memorable weekend of racing for the racers. I am honored to be a part of this prestigious event and welcome the challenge that a championship like this will present."

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