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Dauphiné Libéré
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First Edition Cycling News for January 14, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Vinokourov denies any Fuentes contact

Will share leadership role with Klöden in the Tour

By Shane Stokes

Vinokourov give the thumbs-up
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

2006 Vuelta a Espańa winner Alexandre Vinokourov categorically denied on Friday that he had ever had any dealings with controversial doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The Kazakh rider was speaking at the media day of the Astana team, held at their training camp in Mallorca. He was asked about the recent article by the Spanish newspaper ABC which said that a list of several names was found in Fuentes' wallet the day he was arrested in Madrid. According to the article, the card was from the hotel Silken chain in Madrid and had "Ale," "Manc," "Vino," "Popo" and "Valverde" written on it.

Vinokourov is often referred to as Vino but he played down any suggestions that he was involved in Operación Puerto. "You can find my name on pieces of paper everywhere. Even you [the press], after this interview, you may have a piece of paper with my name on it. So it means nothing. For me, there is nothing to say about this."

When asked if he would clarify on record that he had never worked with Fuentes, his answer was brief and to the point. "I have never even seen the man."

Vinokourov answered questions for approximately 20 minutes and in that time, he covered a number of topics including the question of who would head the Tour de France team. It was previously suggested in the media that Klöden would work as a super-domestique for the 33 year old, but Vinokourov played this down.

Reunited: former T-Mobile team-mates
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

"It won't just be about me. Andreas showed before that he can do very well in the Tour," he stated, referring to the German's second and third places overall in 2004 and 2006 respectively. "There will be two leaders and the team will play it tactically to ensure we do as well as possible. The main objective for us is to win the Tour de France."

He also clarified that he would stake everything on that race, saying that Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge and other events were not targets. "I won't go there aiming to do something. The Tour de France is my main objective for the season. However I will take part in Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge because it's good training for me; I will go there to help Kessler and Kashechkin. I already won this race once so it is not my main objective this year.

"I have already won what I wanted to win in the sport with the exception of the Tour, and that is my big dream. In that respect, is not too risky to stake everything on it, so therefore I will prepare in the best way possible for that race."

2007 T-mobile team launched

By Shane Stokes

The T-mobile men's team
Photo ©: AFP
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Consistency throughout the season and a commitment to team work and clean cycling were some of the goals outlined today at the launch of the 2007 T-Mobile men’s and women’s teams in Mallorca.

A large contingent of international press were present, many of them being flow in by charter flight for the function, as well as Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme and UCI President Pat McQuaid.

New general manager Bob Stapleton was one of the first to speak during the presentation and he set out a strong message of intent. "I am very proud to be here today," he said. "2006 was a challenging year for the sport but I think we have made tremendous progress.

"It was a very tough year for everyone…What we did is we focused on what we could do in our own house. We wanted to make sure we could bring in the best people, best methods and really build the team spirit that we feel is fundamental to doing well."

Last year ago Jan Ullrich was the star of the presentation and there was then a real feeling that 2006 could be his year. As it turned out, Operación Puerto blitzed his career and very nearly led to an end to the team. The sponsors ultimately elected to stay put on the understanding that the T-Mobile squad would make a serious commitment to an anti-doping stance from that point on, leading the way in the fight against the problem.

Sergiy Gonchar
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Stapleton made it clear that this was a genuine goal. "I think we have to go into the season with an optimistic mindset but also with a commitment to doing all that we can [to fight doping]. I think that there are many people in the sport who want to move in a new direction and we want to help to be part of that."

"It is a constant challenge; there is still tremendous uncertainty and it is hard to separate fact from fiction. All we can do is set the bar very high and work together with the teams, the event organizers, the governing bodies and the testing agencies to progress the sport as much as we can.

"I think this is a very pivotal year for the sport. We need to earn the respect and the interest of the general public, and that is going to take a concerted effort from all the members of the community."

For their part, T-Mobile have introduced a battery of anti-doping tests, and have gone to lengths to ensure that all riders understand that there is a zero tolerance policy as regards drug use. Management and riders all spoke about their satisfaction with this, the general feeling being that they were happy to be part of what they hope is a changing culture in the sport.

Michael Rogers gets called out.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Following the departure of Ullrich and Andreas Klöden, team leadership at the Tour de France will transfer to Michael Rogers. The Australian finished 10th in 2006 and said that he was looking forward to the challenge this time round.

"My whole career has been based on steady improvements and finishing inside the top ten last year while doing domestique duties was pretty satisfying," he stated. "If I can get into the same shape again I hope to go better, perhaps top five is possible. I’ve worked hard this winter, doing a lot of mountain biking, and feel like I am in good shape. Things are great with the team this year, there is a really good atmosphere."

The squad has a total of 28 other riders, including talented up-and-coming Germans Patrik Sinkewitz and Linus Gerdemann, Tour de France stage winners Sergiy Gonchar and Giuseppe Guerini, new signings Axel Merckx, Michael Barry and Roger Hammond plus promising young sprinters Mark Cavendish and world under 23 champion Gerald Ciolek.

Judith Arndt with the mic
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

An impressive T-Mobile women’s team was also launched, led by former world champion Judith Arndt, double world cup winner Oenone Wood and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. The gifted young riders include Danish road and time trial champion Linda Villumsen, former junior world champion Suzanne de Goede and former junior world pursuit champion Alex Rhodes.

"We are going to try to have as good a year as in 2006," said Arndt. "Last year we won three world cup placings, I was on the top step of the podium several times and I think we made €50,000 for Unicef [the team supports its Schools for Africa campaign]. We were always at the forefront of races and this year, I think a lot of different team members will win races. I believe we can achieve a lot of goals."

More from the T-Mobile launch will follow soon on Cyclingnews. For the full roster and transfer information, visit our 2007 teams database.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP

Valverde inks deal through 2010

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears has announced that Alejandro Valverde has agreed to a contract with that will keep the ProTour winner with the team until 2010, and is set to ink the deal later today. This ends all speculation that the talented Spaniard will move to the T-mobile team. The rumors may have even been part of a campaign by Valverde's agent to get the rider a better contract. The rider's manager told Cyclingnews earlier this week that the contract will be worth more than 9 million euros.

According to T-mobile's Bob Stapleton, the team did have some discussions with Valverde, but they were short lived. "Valverde came to us through a third party and we had the opportunity to meet shortly after one of our camps in Lanzarote. We had a direct discussion with him about our approach to cycling and the need to share our commitment to clean sport."

"I think we have learned after the last six months is that it is one thing to say something, but then the next logical step is to put it down in writing and make sure that we all understand each other. Different cultures, different languages. So we had a single meeting with him, his wife and his agent, who comes from the sport of football. We then had a follow-up conversation back in December, but never heard back from him after that."

"We viewed this as something that was in the rear view mirror… I was thus quite surprised when I saw reports in the Spanish press that we were supposed to be meeting with him in Madrid and there was all this intrigue. It was quite clear what happened…Alejandro or, most likely his agent, used that offer to negotiate a much better deal from his current employer. And apparently they were quite clever at it and, I guess, quite successful!"

Astana meet the press

By Shane Stokes

2007 Astana
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

With their scheduled start of the season at the Tour of Qatar now just two weeks away, the Astana squad are having a final tune-up at their training camp on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Friday was the official media day and members of the print, TV and photo press made their way to the rendezvous at the team hotel near Montuiri in order to meet the riders.

Although the squad won the Vuelta a Espańa just over three months ago, management were keen to stress that this is a completely new squad. In recent weeks they were granted a ProTour license by the UCI and with previous Liberty Seguros team owner Manolo Saiz losing his own, riders such as Vuelta winner Alexandre Vinokourov and third-placed Andrej Kashechkin were officially free of their previous contracts.

They were joined today by several new riders, including double Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli and double Tour podium place-getter Andreas Klöden. Both expressed their satisfaction with things thus far, as did General Manager Marc Biver.

"Generally, so far, it is going pretty well," the Luxembourger told Cyclingnews. "Especially if we look back to November 2, when we hadn't anything set up. No bikes, no equipment, no cars - actually, nothing except some offices. But a few months later we can proudly show that the structure has been set up in a very, very short time."

"I must be thankful to all the people who have invested so much time in the organisation. I remember when I asked Walter Godefroot to be the consultant of the team for this year, he told me that he wasn't sure that we would be able to set up as structure in such a short time. So it is quite a satisfaction, now!"

Marc Biver,
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Biver previously worked as the general manager of IMG Switzerland and helped run the Tour de Suisse for several years. In addition, the IMG post saw him act as manager to a number of big name riders, including Tony Rominger and Vinokourov. When the latter was trying to set up a new team, he suggested Biver for the position and after a trip to Kazakhstan to meet the Prime Minister and sponsors there, things became official.

Biver said that the team has several goals for the season, but that July is the overriding target. "Obviously the big goal is the Tour de France because the Tour is what gives cycling such a high popularity. But the first objective that we have in the season is certainly Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge with Kashechkin and Kessler. The Tour of Romandy is also a goal, and obviously the Giro d'Italia with Savoldelli is something we will try to do well in. Even if we think it is going to be difficult for him to win. Then all the effort and energy is going to be put into the Tour de France, where Vinokourov and Klöden will be joint leaders."

More from the Astana training camp will appear soon on Cyclingnews. For the full roster and transfer information, visit our 2007 teams database.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews.com

Images by AFP Photo

León Sánchez aims at Paris-Nice

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Luis Leon Sanchez
Photo ©: CN
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The year 2006 was difficult in many ways for 23 year old Luis León Sanchez, but that page has been turned, and now he will start the new year with a new team and new goals. “I usually begin the season in very good state of competitive form, so for 2007 that won't be different. And, in this sense, it's a time for getting an important stage victory such as one in Paris-Nice”, Sanchez said in an interview published by the local daily newspaper El Faro de Murcia.

The young and promising Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears rider will have a calendar similar to that of 2006, but will have to make a difficult choice for his first major stage race of the year between Paris-Nice and Vuelta a Murcia which overlap by one day. "I have been in Paris-Nice twice before, and I felt good sensations. But, at the same time, the Vuelta a Murcia will take place in my region - I don't know what I'll do. I would like to win a stage in Paris-Nice, but as well as in Murcia".

León Sánchez will then move on to the spring classics, such as Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge, the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche-Wallone. "They will allow me to arrive at the Tour of France with guarantees to confront the long stages of the first week. I do not think of getting any victories in them at the moment", León Sánchez commented.

It is clear that León Sánchez will compete in the next Tour of France. "I participated in the Tour of France 2005, and now I will return to help Valverde or Pereiro to win it", he said. León Sánchez is set to begin the new season with the Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears team in the Challenge de Mallorca, at the beginning of February.

Deadline for Canadian 'cross donations extended

The Canadian cyclo-cross team has extended the deadline for donations to help their team pay for the trip to the 'cross world championships in Belgium to January 22nd. While the team has raised $2600 to date, they are still far short of their goal of $4,000 (or $500 per rider).

Most of the Canadian team, consisting of Mike Garrigan, Kyle Douglas, Tara Ross, Greg Reain, Aaron Schooler, Shaun Adamson, Spencer Smitheman and Brian Robinson are already in Belgium, but have had to dip into their personal funds to pay for the trip, since the Canadian Cycling Association did not provide financial support for cyclo-cross. The team has arranged for affordable housing at the Cycling Center in Belgium for Worlds at the end of the month, but still must pay for their own airfare, food, lodging and even their team jerseys.

If you would like to contribute, please visit http://www.cyclocrossontario.com/fccr

Cummings awarded life membership

One of the Discovery Channel ProTour team's newest signings, Steve Cummings, has been awarded a lifetime membership by his home town club. The 25 year old Cummings began his cycling career with the Birkenhead North End cycling club at the age of 14. Encouraged by many club members, especially Jack MacAlister and Keith Boardman, Steve progressed rapidly.

Cummings began his professional career with the Landbouwkrediet - Colnago team in 2005, but prior to that he was part of the national team pursuit squad which took silver at the 2004 Olympics, and gold at the 2005 world championships. Despite this impressive record, Steve remains a modest young man and the club considered him to be a worthy recipient of life membership.

Team Cycleworks 2007

Team Cycleworks presented by Lowe’s Mortgage amateur cycling team has announced their 2007 roster. The team will continue its development of an elite women’s squad, supporting climber Lee Farabaugh and Cat 2 racer Kristin Keim. The team is also fielding competitive squads in Men’s Cat 3, 4 as well as Men’s Masters categories.

Team Cycleworks presented by Lowe’s Mortgage will be focusing on the Georgia Cup series as well as other one day events in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Alabama. The team, a division of the North Georgia Cycling Association, is sponsored by Cycleworks Inc. and Lowe’s Mortgage.

To view the entire roster, click here.

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