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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for January 22, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Aust ProTour team finds foundation supporter

By Gerard Knapp

The pace was on in Adelaide at the 2007 TDU
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

The Australian businessman Tony Smith has announced his intention to provide the seed capital for the establishment of an Australian-registered ProTour team, providing further evidence of growing momentum for cycling in the sports-mad country.

Smith was at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, along with his CEO of ProTour Cycling, Dr Paul Varcoe, for further meetings with officials from Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). They were also there to follow the race. Both Smith and Varcoe are keen cyclists, but it's not just their interest in the sport that drives this plan - it's also about developing a sound marketing vehicle for other Australian businesses.

Dr Varcoe told Cyclingnews, "I would say it represents good value for money. It depends on the product and service you've got to deliver and if that (cycling) is appropriate".

"At the moment we're preparing sponsorship documents to take to corporate Australia," he said. It's understood that Smith will commit up to 2 million Euros towards a ProTour team's annual budget, estimated of anything from six to 15 million Euros, depending on the size of the team and its race program.

Dr Varcoe said they will target those companies that have "interests here (Australia) and in Europe". At the same time, "we've already been approached by European companies with interests in Australia". The search for a co-sponsor may need to head offshore, largely because the marketing return-on-investment could be more suited to European or American interests.

Dr Varcoe said that ProTour licences become available at the end of 2008 and that suits their timing, as many of the possible Australian riders are also contracted for the next two years.

"It's also nice to be coming into the sport with it a little bit more settled," he said, a reference to the doping issues that have plagued road cycling. Then there is the concurrent issue of the UCI versus the Grand Tour organisers, but the latter is not perceived as a major issue. The Australian said, "the events won't die (if not part of the ProTour)" and if there is a definite split between the major events owned by the 'big three' (ASO, RCS, and Unipublic), "in some ways that's not a bad way to go. You might end up with more French teams in the Tour de France, but that's to be expected".

Robbie McEwen's Belgian team Predictor-Lotto was headed by two Australians at the 2006 Tour de France
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Dr Varcoe believed an Australian-registered team would still be likely to receive invitations to the major cycling events, regardless of the ProTour or not, due to the quality of the riders and the nation's sporting reputation.

Australia's male road cyclists are collectively ranked fifth in the world, but almost all are locked into multi-year deals with the world's leading teams. The country's best young riders are now being signed to the world's top European squads as teenagers, as the sport starts to take on aspects of Premier League football, where talent scouts travel the world looking for the best youngsters to sign up in the hope they turn into the next Harry Kewell.

The country's coaches and major sports institute have responded by forming the South - AIS squad, which has already produced two ProTour-level riders in Matt Goss (CSC) and Matt Lloyd (Predictor-Lotto).

An Australian-registered team would not want for riders. At the upcoming Tour de France, it's likely that two of Europe's top squads, Belgium's Predictor-Lotto and Germany's T-Mobile, will be led by Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers, respectively, while Robbie McEwen will aim to secure his fourth sprinter's jersey in the TdF, and he is Evans' teammate. At last year's UCI Road World Championships in Salzburg, the Australian team was seen as one of the favourites.

Varcoe doesn't expect the team will be on the road until 2009 at the earliest, given the amount of time it will take to not only finalise the sponsorship and infrastructure, but also wait for some of Australia's top cyclists to become available.

There has been talk of an Australian-registered (and funded) team competing at the sport's highest level for years, but the emergence of Smith has many in the sport believing it will genuinely happen.

Neil Stephens
Photo ©: Karen Forman
(Click for larger image)

The former Australian pro cyclist Neil Stephens, now a professional cycling coordinator for Cycling Australia, said in an interview late last year, "If you can try to associate the business world with nationalistic pride, it is big step for the world of cycling. Unofficially, Discovery is counted as the American team. T-Mobile, up until now, has been seen as the German team. Astana is going to be, really, the Kazakh team. That is fantastic. So why can't we have the Australian team? There have been several attempts in the past, but I think we should all sit back now, have a good think about it and try to work something out."

The financial pledge from a successful businessman is indicative of the new money coming into cycling Down Under. In 2004, there were few Australian professional teams, and none registered with the UCI. Now there are four, including one Professional-Continental team, and it could be argued these teams are in need of a stronger Oceania competition base to generate the exposure and return to sponsors. Earlier this month, the country's first Professional-Continental team dominated its national championships, accounting for a smattering of ProTour-team riders. It has to be said that the ProTour riders are at different phase of their training, but the performance of the Drapac-Porsche team did not go unnoticed.

As for the sport's new investor, Tony Smith, 42, is a former 'Aussie Rules' player who moved to Queensland in the late '80s and acquired his wealth via strategic investments in the tourism industry. In fact, one of his first successes was to offer holiday and accommodation packages to high school-leavers who would hit the holiday strip at Surfers Paradise on the Queensland coast, to let their collective hair down. This became known as "Schoolies Week", and now attracts tens of thousands of school-leavers each year.

VDB publisher denies EPO-admitting quote

It appears that the quote released yesterday in Belgian media, according to which Frank Vandenbroucke admitted to have used performance-enhancing substance EPO during his career, was a wrongly attributed.

The quote "EPO? Everyone did it. Me too." came from a marketing brochure of VDB's new autobiography, "I am not God", due to go on sale in Belgium on February 5. The Acqua & Sapone rider's publisher, Borgerhoff&Lamberigts issued a statement on Sunday evening saying that the quote did "not belong to Frank Vandenbroucke," and that "all of this was based on a misunderstanding."

Belgium's enfant terrible VDB has made headlines with regards to doping use in the past, especially when he claimed that the drugs seized in his home on February 27, 2002, (EPO, morphine and clenbuterol) were intended for his dog. The Belgian's both psychological and physical instability has led to his latest team Landbouwkrediet-Colnago sacking him last year, before VDB found new backers in Italy.

CPA Riders Council to meet

The Council of Riders of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), created in October 2006, will meet for the first time in Brussels, Belgium on January 29, 2007. Composed of 16 representatives belonging to UCI ProTour teams and continental professional teams, the Council of Riders is intended to be a "credible and authorized interlocutor" in the various debates currently challenging the sport, for example the fight against doping or the conflict opposing the UCI to the organisers of the Grand Tours.

"The Council of Riders is ready to contribute in a constructive way to all the debates," said the CPA in a press release issued on Monday, January 22. "At the same time, however, this new organization within the CPA intends to assert, compared with all the other parts implicated in the management of professional cycling, the attention and the respect which are unquestionably due to the riders who, so far, have not always received the consideration they deserve, when some fundamental aspects concerning the professional activity of all its members were approached."

The Council of Riders is composed of Jens Voigt, José Luis Rubiera, Matthias Kessler, Michael Rogers, Philippe Gilbert, Iñigo Cuesta, Cédric Vasseur, Thomas Dekker, Georges Hincapie, Filippo Pozzato, Fabian Cancellara, Roger Hammond, Denis Menchov, Thor Hushovd, José Azevedo (who represents the continental professional teams) and Dario Cioni (deputy member).

A UCI delegation headed by President Pat McQuaid, which will be accompanied by Vice-president Hein Verbruggen, ProTour manager Alain Rumpf, and Anne Gripper, Manager of the anti-doping service of the UCI, will take part in the inaugural meeting of the Council of Riders.

BDR president named to ProTour Council

By Susan Westemeyer

Rudolf Scharping, head of the German cycling federation Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR) has been named to the UCI ProTour Council, the BDR announced on Sunday. "I hope to be able to help solve conflicts between the UCI and certain organisers," the former German defense minister said.

Scharping is the third German member of the Council. Team CSC rider Jens Voigt is the cyclists' representative, and the other German is Michael Hinz, the organiser of the Vattenfall Cyclassics ProTour race in Hamburg. "This is a recognition of German cycling," Scharping noted.

A step back for Pollack

By Susan Westemeyer

Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile) takes his second consecutive victory at the 2006 ToC
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Olaf Pollack calls himself "the most underestimated sprinter in Germany." He never dreamed that T-Mobile would not renew his contract for this season, and that he would be riding for Continental Professional Team Wiesenhof-Felt instead. "That was a step back," he told the Esslinger Zeitung.

"I never thought that they would let me go," he said bitterly. "At the beginning of the year I brought in the first wins, so that the team could be happy. That performance was not honoured." Pollack won the last two stages in the 2006 Tour of California.

"Sometimes I just lacked that last bit of luck," the 33 year-old noted. "Maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time too often." Pollack rode as second sprinter behind Danilo Hondo at Gerolsteiner before transferring to T-Mobile, where he rode his first season as second sprinter behind Erik Zabel, for whom he had no good words. "Erik only took, he never gave," according to Pollack, before concluding, "I have to be satisfied with it the way it was."

Americans put down the Hammer in LA

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

Americans won three more medals on the final day of the Los Angeles Track World Cup as Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif./Ouch Pro Cycling) and Becky Quinn (Carlsbad, Calif.) took gold and silver in the women's 10-kilometer scratch race and Jennie Reed (Kirkland, Wash.) sprinted to a bronze in the women's keirin.

The victory was Hammer's third of the weekend after winning the points race on Friday and the individual pursuit on Saturday, giving her a clean sweep of the women's endurance events. Americans concluded the event with five medals - three gold, one silver and one bronze.

In a carbon copy of last year's race in which Hammer and Quinn swept the top two spots, Hammer again took control in the race's closing laps as she led out the sprint with Quinn on her wheel. After riding conservatively for the majority of the 40-lap contest, Hammer moved to the front of the 24-rider field with three laps remaining. One lap later, Quinn managed to position herself on Hammer's wheel and stayed there until the finish.

"My game plan was to just ride the race and see what happens, then if Sarah came to the front it was my job to fight for her wheel," explained Quinn of her tactics. "The point of the race was obviously to win, and she went to the front with three to go and I had about a lap and a half to get on her wheel, and if I want the wheel, I'm going to get it one way or the other."

Given last year's success, the win was even more impressive since Hammer and Quinn were both marked women and their tactics were exposed.

"People most likely knew what was going to happen, said Quinn. "I think we were a little incognito last year, but people know how strong Sarah is and that she likes to lead it out and that it was going to be a fight for her wheel."

Said Hammer of her teammate, "The best thing about Becky is you don't mess with her when she's fighting for a wheel. When it's crunch time, Becky can get anything she wants. We had no plan going into it, but it's kind of that unspoken thing where she knows what I'm going to do and I know what she's going to do, and so we're a pretty dangerous duo, I think."

Following the scratch race, Reed gave the U.S. its fifth and final medal of the three-day competition when she sprinted to a third-place finish in the keirin final.

Team announced

A little more than one week before the team's official presentation in Portland, Oregon, pro women's cycling Team has released its 2007 roster. This season, the team will be racing in more than one hundred events and travelling to twelve countries.

The elite squad, who is also aiming towards the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is:

Gina Grain, Silver Medalist at the 2006 Track World Champion
Jessica Phillips, Former US National Champion
Anne Samplonius, Current Canadian National Criterium Champion and former Silver Medalist in the ITT World Championships
Meshy Holt, New Zealand National Team Member
Erinne Willock, Canadian National Team Member
Audrey Lemieux, Canadian National Team Member

The development team consists of:

Joelle Numainville, Canadian National Team Member
Stephanie Bourbeau, Quebec Time Trial Provincial Champion 2005 and 2006
Amanda Shaw, Ontario Cyclocross Champion 2004
Jennifer Magur, Bronze Medalist at the Empire State Games ( US) 2003
Alison Testroete, Canadian National Development Team Member

New race series to celebrate Irish unification

Cycling Ulster have just announced a high profile Ulster Classic League to celebrate last December's unification of Cycling Ulster and the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation after almost 50 years. West Belfast cycle shop owner Paul Slane has stepped in as the main sponsor and the series will be known as the Slane Cycles-Ulster Classic League.

Slane is no stranger to the cycling world. At just 18 years of age he became the youngest ever winner of the Irish National Road Race Championship and went on to race professionally in Spain. He also represented Ireland at the Olympic Games and still turns up at the odd race to give some of the younger competitors a 'run for their money'.

The seven races selected for the series are all acknowledged classics. In March, the 70-mile Wallace Caldwell Memorial promoted by Ballymena Road Club will kick off the series followed by the Tour of the Ards at the end of the month. The other races throughout the season are the Tommy Givan Memorial, The Noel Teggart Memorial, The Red Hand Trophy, Four Masters Classic and the Tour of Armagh.

The prize fund is expected to exceed £1,500 and will be spread amongst the various categories. A special leaders jersey will be awarded after each event. Speaking at the launch of the series, Slane said, "I am delighted to be involved in such a prestigious series of road races. The joining of forces between Cycling Ulster and the NICF is to be applauded and it is the cyclists who are the real winners in this historic agreement."

Tommy Lamb, Chairman of Cycling Ulster, said, "Paul Slane has always supported any cycling initiative which would increase participation in our sport. His sponsorship of this Classic League will undoubtedly lead to a top quality series of races and all cyclists in our province owe him a debt of gratitude." Entries are expected from throughout the whole of Ireland with some of the top southern riders already targeting it as their aim for the year.

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