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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for January 21, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Elmiger sprints into overall lead at the TDU

By Mark Zalewski in Willunga, South Australia

The field sprint to the line in Willunga
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Dark clouds greeted the riders for the second day in Saturday's penultimate stage of the Tour Down Under, with many expecting today to be a storm of activity in the fight for the overall lead. With second place Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prevoyance) sitting one second behind race leader Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA) it was sure to be an all out battle to the line. At the start Elmiger was all quiet on the race strategy, saying only that he would be watching Menzies. As it turns out, Elmiger was targeting the KOM to make his move, but had to settle for the time bonuses on the finish line, leapfrogging Menzies in the outright standings via the two seconds he earned with a third place sprint finish, behind winner Pieter Ghyllebert (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen).

"It was my goal today to make up some seconds in the mountains but it came down to the final, so I had to sprint," said Elmiger. "We played a good card with Simon Gerrans and Yuriy Krivtsov in the front with me. They were going hard because the [leader's] jersey was behind by thirty seconds after the hill. I was thinking that's it for us, but then they chased hard behind and I had to sprint for third and for the jersey."

See the full report, results and photos from Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under here.

Cycling's oldest rider still motivated at the TDU

By Jean-François Quénet in Willunga

Since Viatcheslav Ekimov's retirement from competitive cycling at the GP Plouay last year, Laurent Brochard, now 39, is the oldest rider of the Pro Tour but none the less motivated. At his first participation in the Tour Down Under, he went on stage again in Willunga for leading the sprint points competition after being active in the daily breakaway. At km 58.8, he came 2nd to Hans Dekkers from Agritubel but when the duo sprinted again at the same windy place of Snapper Point nearby Aldinga Beach 42 kilometers later into the race, the result was the other way round.

Not only does Brochard have kept his dedication to the sport intact but he's still as fast as ten years when he outsprinted Bo Hamburger and Leon van Bon for becoming the world champion close to another beach (la concha) and another ocean (the atlantic) in San Sebastian, Spain.

That year (1997), he started suffering back problems. The following season, he actually suffered more from the infamous Festina affair, but he didn't got operated from his herniated disc. He underwent light therapies and took some rest but still managed to get a win once upon a time: Tour of Poland in 2002, Critérium International in 2003, Etoile de Bessèges in 2004, Paris-Camembert in 2005… but nothing in 2006 when he suffered more. In March last year he had no choice but finally have an operation.

"I came back too quickly, he told Reuters in Adelaide this week. During the first time trial of the Tour de France, the position on the bike affected one of my legs again and I was forced to pull out of the race. My season was over. But I never imagined this could be the end of my career."

At some stage his contract renewal with Bouygues Telecom was questioned but team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau knew that Brochard's well-known professionalism could help his young guns to learn their job under his influence, which is the case for Dimitri Champion at the Tour Down Under. Although the French veteran isn't exactly a hard worker in training and despite his association with his brother who he builds cycling frames with, he stated: "I have worked more than usual during this off-season for regaining the muscles I had lost because of my long break last year."

Brochard turned pro with Castorama 15 years ago and won a stage in the Tour of the Mediterranean straight away but he still doesn't think about retirement. He can easily see himself racing beyond 2007. "I want to win another stage at the Tour de France", he set as a goal for himself.

See all of Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2007 Tour Down Under here.

Landis looks to return to racing with Vaughters' Pro-Conti team

By Gerard Knapp

Floyd Landis (Phonak)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Floyd Landis has had preliminary discussions with team director Jonathan Vaughters about a possible return to racing in his Professional-Continental squad, Team Slipstream Powered by Chipotle. Vaughters confirmed to Cyclingnews that he had spoken with the current Tour de France 2006 champion about a possible return to racing, but said it was still very early days. "We've not even discussed money or contracts or anything like that," Vaughters said.

"I'd spoken to Floyd and he said, 'it'd be a great team to come back [to racing] with' … but if he can't prove his innocence, then it's not really worth discussing any further," Vaughters said.

Landis is still to face hearings at the US Anti-Doping Authority following his alleged positive test for testosterone in a sample provided after his epic win in stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Landis has maintained his innocence throughout and has engaged the services of leading attorney, Howard Jacobs, to prepare his defense.

"I certainly hope he can prove his innocence," Vaughers said. "I still consider him a friend." When asked if he believed Landis was innocent, Vaughters said, "only Floyd knows the answer to that".

Vaughters believes that whatever the outcome of the hearings (still to be announced), it's unlikely that Landis will be free to race in 2007. He expects that even if Landis wins his case, then it's likely to be subject to an appeal, and similarly if Landis loses, it's expected he would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"It's going to be the same thing as what happened with Tyler [Hamilton]," Vaughters said of the protracted legal proceedings surrounding the American cyclist who is making a return to racing this year for Russian-backed Pro-Conti team, Tinkoff Credit Systems. Hamilton similarly protested his innocence and mounted a legal challenge, but the decision was upheld and he spent two years out of pro racing.

Jon Vaughters
Photo ©: Beth Seliga
(Click for larger image)

Vaughters was keen to stress he did not want his team to be seen as being tolerant towards doping. "Unless there was a full exoneration of Floyd, we wouldn't be interested" in any further discussions, he added.

Vaughters accepted that rumours had spread like wildfire about a possible link between the two. Both rode for the US Postal Service team of Lance Armstrong (though not at the same time) but Vaughters left to join the French squad, Credit Agricole. Since retiring, Vaughters has put his energy into a development squad for American cyclists that was known as TIAA-CREF from 2004 to 2006.

In 2007, it has changed name to Team Slipstream Powered by Chipotle (see teams database) and has also acquired Professional-Continental status, one level below that of being a ProTour team. Vaughters has also secured the support of a wealthy American businessman, Doug Ellis and has plans to take his team to the highest level of the sport.

But throughout his role as team director/owner, Vaughters has been an outspoken critic of the 'win at all costs' culture that can lead to doping.

In a recent interview on Cyclingnews, Vaughters said, "We [me, directors, sponsors, management] have to start treating this as a sport, not just a business. We have to start treating the athletes as humans, not expendable fodder. If you say to an athlete, 'you must win today or else', the clever cyclist will make sure he wins, but the way it's done may not be so healthy for the sport or his body."

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

Beloki considers retirement

by Laura Weislo

Beloki in 2003
Photo: © Jonathan Devich
Click for larger image

Basque cycling star Joseba Beloki, a three time podium finisher in the Tour de France, has fallen on bad times. Once, a major protagonist in the grand tours, Beloki has not found a team for 2007 and is contemplating retirement.

The turning point of his career could probably be pinned down to a single day: July 14, 2003. Riding on the form of his life and sitting second to Lance Armstrong on the GC in the 2003 Tour de France, Beloki crashed on the ninth stage into Gap when his wheels slid on the melting pavement. A broken femur ended his 2003 season, and his form has never come back to the level it was before the crash.

In 2004, Beloki had a dismal year, skipping the Tour due to a contractual dispute with his Brioches la Boulangère team, and then moving over to Saunier Duval for the rest of the season. He then went back to Saiz, signing with the Liberty-Wurth squad. After a mediocre 2005, Beloki's 2006 season was cut short when the Operacion Puerto investigation led to his team's exclusion from the Tour de France. After a summer spent asserting his innocence, Beloki was cleared of involvement, but was left tied down to a contract with a team that had disintegrated.

Now, after more than three years of struggling on the come-back trail, the 33 year-old Beloki, is pessimistic about the future of his career. In an interview earlier this month in the Basque newspaper Gara, Beloki said that between Operacion Puerto and the contract dispute with Manolo Saiz and Active Bay, he still hasn't found a team for 2007, and might have to simply retire.

"It's likely that in coming days I'll have to announce that I won't continue racing. I want to race if there is a possibility, but I'm getting the feeling that it won't be possible." In the interview, Beloki suggested that a decision would be made in mid-January. "I cannot wait for long time to decide if I am going to race or not."

Hammer sets US record as Meares takes Gold in L.A.

Anna Meares (AUS)
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Queensland's Anna Meares, 23, fought back from a low qualifying position to claim the gold medal in the sprint on the opening day of the Los Angeles Track Cycling World Cup.

Meares rode 11.716sec for the flying 200 metres to qualify tenth fastest and setting up a tough battle to get through to the finals. "It wasn't a bad time just not the ideal qualifying position for sprint rounds," said Meares. "I set myself up for one of the hardest runs but I was just getting the legs into gear after stepping off the plane and getting my head into gear. Once I got into the sprinting I snapped myself into it and got in the mood." she said.

Meares found her form to win through to a semi-final match up with German rider Jane Gerisch. "It was a very hard semi final because it ended up being a best of four heats," explained Meares. "We dead heated the first one, I lost the second and then I won the last two.

Despite the additional efforts required in the semi final Meares backed up strongly for the gold medal final against Frenchwoman and second seed Clara Sanchez. "In the first heat of the final I went running at her from the back [Meares won - ed.] and the second one was going too slow for me so coming into the bell I jumped and gave it everything I had and won by a fair bit," she said describing her win in two straight heats in the best of three races.

Sarah Hammer
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif./Ouch Pro Cycling) broke her own national record in the women's three-kilometer individual pursuit . Hammer clocked a time of 3:32.058 to also record a new personal best and set an ADT Event Center velodrome record in the event. Hammer first eclipsed the 11-year-old mark in October of 2006 at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships, clocking a time of 3:32.865 to shatter the previous record of 3:36.080 set by Rebecca Twigg in 1995.

At the Los Angeles World Cup a year ago, Hammer turned in a time of 3:37.799 in her qualifying round before capturing the gold medal. Sarah Ulmer of New Zealand currently holds the world record in 3:24.537 - a mark she set at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Hammer will race for the gold medal in Saturday night's final against Verena Joos of Germany.

See results from the morning and evening sessions of day one here.

Sastre speaks out about Puerto and stakes claim to Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

CSC team leader, the Spaniard Carlos Sastre, spoke out about Operacion Puerto on Friday, saying "many ciclists has been condemned by the Operacion Puerto; an alleged doping plot discovered by the Spanish Civil Guard, that appeared like an enormous scandal, but has finished in nothing. I do not know what have finally happened with all this, but only that has been very bad for cycling". One of the most famously implicated riders is Sastra's was Sastre's former teammate at CSC, Ivan Basso. Sastre says he maintains contact with Basso, who has now signed with the Discovery Channel for 2007.

"Basso deserves my innocence presumption,” Sastre said to the daily news BT. “I know very well how hard he worked and what he has suffered. I do not know if he [has done what he was accused of], but I want to see the tests before it changes my opinion on him”.

Switching to his 2007 season goals, Sastre then said, “I am going to try to win the Tour; all my training and all my calendar are planned to arrive to the Tour in the best form possible. I have confidence in my abilities and I am motivated; I know what I am able to do, and, in this sense, I am prepared to assume responsibility.”

See also: Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

MacPherson takes third straight UniSA Women's Crit Series

By Ben Abrahams in Aldinga Beach

An elated and exhausted Jenny MacPherson
Photo ©: Rachel Burke
(Click for larger image)

After one victory apiece in the opening rounds, the battle between Belinda Goss and two-time champion Jenny MacPherson came right down to the wire, with MacPherson mastering the blustery conditions to claim her second win of the series and third straight overall title.

Once all team tactics had played out, a straight-up sprint decided the series winner. MacPherson crossing the line on Aldinga Beach's Esplanande over a bike length clear of Goss to draw level on points and steal the overall victory on countback.

"Bloody fantastic!" beamed the 29 year-old Victorian. "The girls worked really well today, we were out there to be aggressive and make Belinda chase everything down and she did to her credit. It came down to a sprint anyway and I just managed to find extra legs at the end knowing there was a jersey up for grabs for the third time."

Goss' Hitatchi racing team mates did everything to set up their leader for a bunch sprint, dragging back multiple attacks from MacPherson's AIS squad. "It was a long hard day out there today," said Goss. "The AIS girls did everything. They had girls going down the road pretty much every lap so it was a really hard day."

Crossing the line behind Goss was 18 year-old Victorian Peta Mullens. The youngster also claiming third overall after placing fifth and second in the opening two races. "I've only been back on the bike for a short time and I've been working on my sprint," said a delighted Mullens, barely old enough to enjoy the bottle of vintage Shiraz presented to her by race commentator Stewart Doyle. "I was suffering a bit today with all the attacks going on but I'm glad it came down to a bunch sprint."

For a full report, results and photos from Stage 3 of the UniSA Women's Criterium Series here.

Indonesian all-stars rev up for Langkawi

After placing well in almost all Indonesian races, the Polygon-Sweet Nice team has announced it will debut in international cometition at Asia's biggest road race - Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) in Malaysia February 2 to 11. Polygon will replace the folded Wismilak as the lone Indonesian outfit in the 12th edition of the LTdL.

Mainly the squad that has five-time Kazakh national mountain bike champion Yevgeniy Yakovlev as their leader, the team is owned by cycling mad businessman-cum-directeur sportif Harijanto Tjondro. Based in Surabaya, home of the Tour of East Java, which is also organised by Harijanto, continental team Polygon have enjoyed a meteoric rise, mainly due to the presence of their two versatile Kazakh riders Yakovlev and Vyacheslav Dyadichkin, who last year finished fifth in the Asian classification of LTdL, riding for composite team Equipe Asia.

Also in the squad is Russian teenager Artemiy Timofeev. Eyes will also be out for the 21-year old Hari Fitrianto, who many tout as the next big climber out of that country, who has enjoyed a steady rise. Completing Polygon-Sweet Nice's line-up are domestiques Budi Santoso and Jaya Herwin, with the promising sprinter Robert Wijaya only being named as a reserve.

Yakovlev, who has many friends in Malaysia and often uses the country as a short training stop, said he will be all out to prove his worth in the LTdL this time around. "I'm 27-years old this year and this is when I expect my form to start being what it should be. Many people said that I showed a lot of promise when I was a junior, but still I haven't realised that potential. Polygon, gives me the opportunity to prove myself and try to improve my palmares at a decent level with races like LTdL," said Yakovlev, the polka dot jersey winner in the 2005 tour of Indonesia.

Hari, who many would like to see challenging the big guns in the mountain stages, doesn't want himself to be projected out of context. "I only can try my best. Don't go around telling people I will win this and win that," joked Hari, during the Jelajah Malaysia recently. "Of course, everybody, especially us Asians, will want to do well in this race because it is a big thing in our continent. But I think if I keep on improving, I will get somewhere sooner or later. So, that is what I will be aiming to do. Time is on my side," said Hari.

See also: 2006 Tour de Langkawi

Japanese cycling stars line up for big money Manchester race

Japan's Kazunari Watanabe
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Five specialist Keirin racing stars from Japan will be amongst the contestants in the JKA (Japanese Keirin Association) Invitation Keirin race in Manchester on Sunday February 25th. Kazuya Narita, Masaki Inoue, Kazunari Watanabe, Shinichi Ota and Keiichiro Yaguchi all travel from Japan where the event is watched by millions of fans. The spectacular JKA Keirin at the Manchester Velodrome will be the last event on the final day of the World Cup 23rd – 25th February which also determines the overall champion nation.

Watanabe is the inform rider following his victory in the team sprint event at the Asia Games in December. Inoe has taken an incredible 108 victories from racing on the busy Keirin circuit in Japan and has finished in the top three in nearly 60% of all his races. Ota is the most experienced rider who won the Keirin Grand Prix in Japan and the men’s kilometre time trial at the Asian games in 1999. The 31-year-old has amazingly ridden in 926 Keirin races at home and finished in the top three in over half of those.

The five Japanese sprinters will battle for the first prize of £15,000 euros against an international field that will be selected after the Track World Cup in Los Angeles over the weekend of 20th to 22nd January.

For full details of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Manchester, visit the promoter's Web site at www.worldtrackcycling.com.

Vancouver to host Bike Expo

The Vancouver Bike Expo returns to BC Place on February 17th. and 18th. In its third year, the consumer show will feature 2007 road, BMX and mountain biking products and companies as well as a public bike and parts swap

New for the 2007 show is Dangerous Dan's World Famous Flow Show; a North Shore-style mountain-bike skills exhibition that includes teeter-tooters, skinnies and several ramps (ncluding a 20 foot final drop)

For general show information, visit the event Web site at http://www.outdooradventureshow.ca/vancouver/themes_zones/bike_expo.html.

Tour of California gets educational

In preparation for the 2007 Amgen Tour of California February 18-25, 2007, a specially developed classroom curriculum has been distributed to fourth- through sixth-grade instructors and students in the 650-mile race's twelve California host cities.

Through interactive lessons, the curriculum educates students about the history of cycling, and includes bike safety and maintenance tips. Provided to more than 200 schools, the booklet also provides information about the state of California, including targeted lesson plans that use cycling as a means to teach core subjects such as math, science and geography.

"Few childhood activities are as enjoyable and invigorating as riding a bicycle, and we want to use cycling as a platform for introducing the joys of outdoor recreation to young Californians," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “This informative handbook can help make our kids safer, smarter and healthier."

"We saw such an enthusiastic response from the communities we visited during last year's Amgen Tour of California, particularly from the young people in the community," said Shawn Hunter, president, AEG Sports, presenters of the race. "Through this curriculum, we hope to engage young Californians and get them excited about cycling in an effort to educate them about the benefits of an active lifestyle, and ensure they have the necessary tools to develop healthy habits at a young age."

The informative lessons about team sports, the history of cycling and the geography of California, coupled with fun activities such as weather charting, crossword puzzles and word searches, allow educators to reach students with engaging materials developed specifically for their age group.

Some host cities are creating additional activities to augment the curriculum, including drawing, coloring and essay contests, as well as spirit and participation contests among local schools.

Host cities for the eight stages include: San Francisco, Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose, Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and Long Beach.

Cyclingnews will cover the Tour of California with daily race reports, photography, features and live Web and mobile Web text coverage.

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