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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for January 25, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Giro open to 18 ProTour teams and four wildcards

Tinkoff aims for a starting spot

Tinkov and Zomegnan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Talking about the upcoming team selection for the Giro d'Italia, Director Angelo Zomegnan told Cyclingnews Wednesday, "We will have 18 ProTour teams and four wild cards." This means that two ProTour teams may be left at home, while opening the doors for more pro-continental teams that have a strong desire to race the Giro.

One such team that may walk through the open door is Tinkoff Credit Systems. The team is a professional continental team and will have to rely on wild card invitations to the big races. Furthermore, Zomegnan made his remarks at the team's presentation in Rome. He is the likely key to the team's entry into the Giro, so his presence at the race is a good sign for Tinkoff's chances.

"This is the only presentation I will attend this year," Zomegnan said after traveling from Milan to attend the event, where he admired the squad's owner. "Look at Oleg Tinkov. He is a very smart man. He has made all the right moves, signing on one of the greatest Italian bike companies, holding the presentation in such a fancy venue, the best team cars and even the good taste in clothing he is wearing [Colnago team bikes, German Mercedes team cars and Italian suits for the evening. There was plenty of caviar personally imported by the team from Russia, accompanying a delicious dinner - ed.]."

The rift between grand tour organizers and the ProTour will also help Tinkoff's chances in the Giro. Zomegnan noted his differences with UCI president Pat McQuaid and said the two were definitely not talking after recent "Mafia" comments by the Irishman. "You could really see his soul with those remarks."

Zomegnan told Cyclingnews about the upcoming Giro team selection, "We will announce the teams three months prior [February 12]."

The team presented eighteen riders for 2007. One of the team's biggest signings during the off-season was American Tyler Hamilton. "It is exciting to start with such a group of young riders [the majority of the Russians - ed.] that are eager to learn," explained Hamilton, who, along with Danilo Hondo and Salvatore Commesso, will be one of the team's experienced rider and will act as a guide for the younger members.

To read the complete feature on the Tinkoff presentation, click here.

A full listing of the team's roster can be found on the Cyclingnews teams database.

Van Mol, Lefevere, Boonen react to anonymous rider doping comments

Johan Museeuw was pushed to publicly confess to 'dishonesty' when Het Laatste Nieuws said that it would publish an email from 2005 in which Museeuw confessed drug use to his occasional training partner Wouter Vandenhaute. The article released today also included quotes from an anonymous rider who is still active in the Quick Step organisation. The source described the procedures within the team, "You have the riders who must work only 100 km, who take nothing. Then there are the domestiques who must go longer, they regularly get something extra. Finally, you have the top riders who get the big resources." According to the source, the riders make a yearly payment to the team doctor Yvan Van Mol and receive recommendations to use certain products. "If someone was caught, then they knew nothing."

Van Mol responded to the story on Sporza radio. "It is difficult to react to anonymous charges," but gave some facts refuting the article. "In the article, it said that our riders had hematocrit levels during Gent-Wevelgem of between 49.6 and 49.7, but from my data, which I got from the UCI, the values that appear never exceeded 45..."

"We must be honest," said Van Mol. "We know that in the period between 1995 and 1998 there were riders who doped themselves, and that is now also still the case," but he went on to defend Patrick Lefevere, saying "Patrick then put in a structure to reduce as much as possible doping practices... . That tale in the newspaper is a hallucination, which I find really unfortunate that trees must become cut down and ink wasted to publish such nonsense."

Tom Boonen
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image) Tom Boonen walks on stage, resplendent in his World Champion's kit

Lefevere spoke to Sporza about the alleged comments of the anonymous rider. "Pure rumor. Give me just one day and I will refute everything. I will firstly wait for the full story to appear in that particular paper. I will discuss with my lawyer about the legal side of it. I won't say how I will combat the rumors. I will not yet show my legal weapons. But I have definite proof, among other things, of libel."

Tom Boonen focussed on his positive relationship with Lefevere and the team. "I really don't know where these stories have come from. Patrick Lefevere is one of the most serious people I have ever worked with. He has always emphasized doing things cleanly; he hammers that home to us. He has never incited me to do something." Boonen questioned the validity of the supposed teammate to Sporza. "I don't even believe that this person exists... . Pretty much everything is lies, save for the fact that Van Mol is our doctor and Lefevere our manager." Boonen also told the VRT network, "We are one of the cleanest teams around. There is no organized doping."

The team's two sponsors Quick.Step and Innergetic have declined to take action in response to the claims thus far. They intend to discuss with all involved parties prior to taking a stand.

IOC, WADA view Musseuw's confession positively

Representatives of both the IOC and WADA viewed Johan Musseuw's recent doping confession in a positive light.

WADA chief Dick Pound called Musseuw's admission of doping at the end of his career a wise thing to do. "It is pretty standard," Pound told the Associated Press. "They deny, deny, deny. But look at the good thing. Here is somebody who is a national figure, an international figure. And finally for whatever reason, he says, 'You know, I did take it.' It is helpful to come out and say for people to understand there really is a problem. You just cannot take a denial at face value."

IOC president Jacques Rogge had a similar reaction. "If he admits, that is an intelligent thing to do and definitely that is a wise thing that he has done," he said to the Associated Press.

Pound asks AFLD to delay Landis investigation

Richard Pound
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

WADA president Dick Pound asked the French anti-doping agency AFLD "to suspend its investigation into Floyd Landis until the end of the American procedure," according to L'Equipe. Pound said he submitted his request to the agency in December.

However, AFLD indicated that it planned to discuss the Landis' case on February 8. AFLD has the authority to decide whether to prohibit Landis from racing in France, which could impact Landis' ability to compete in the Tour de France come July.

Reportedly, Landis' first hearing before American authorities is scheduled in March--he faces a suspension of up to two years if found guilty. Any appeals would ultimately end up before the American Arbitration Association.

Landis is the subject of anti-doping proceedings following his allegedly positive test for testosterone following his Stage 17 victory in the 2006 Tour de France.

World championships coming home

Best rider of the year wants to become champion of the day

By Brecht Decaluwé

Cyclo-cross is alive and kicking ... in Belgium. A quick glance at the country rankings shows that Belgium has almost double the points of the number two, neighbouring country The Netherlands. Knowing this, it isn't difficult for Belgians to believe that the world championships are coming home. The organizers in Hooglede-Gits expect massive crowds all weekend long; two weeks before the championships, almost 10,000 tickets were sold.

The race organizer works with a budget of 1.2 million euro. "There's a gap left of 250,000 euro in our budget, this means we need to sell 20,000 tickets to reach a break even," Rik Debeaussart said. Prices for the elite races on Sunday are 25 euro, a realistic price according to Debeaussart. The organizers did everything to comfort the visitors, their biggest effort was ensuring a railway station was right next to the course.

The men's UCI-rankings makes it clear who's the big favourite for the elite men's win on Sunday. Sven 'cannibal' Nys (Rabobank) missed out on victory only eight times this season, finishing always in the top five and is – on paper – the man to beat. However, the UCI-leader drags along a miserable history at (world) championships. Despite being undoubtedly the best cyclo-cross rider around, he has repeatedly failed to show that at championships.

With three Belgian titles and only one title at the worlds in 2005, he appears vulnerable. "I'm looking forward to the champ's. I feel that I am the champion of the year, now I only need to become the champion of one day," Nys said to Cyclingnews last weekend after his win at this season's last World Cup race in Hoogerheide.

There's no Nys-like dominance in women's cyclo-cross, since there are more than five women who have a realistic chance on gold. Under normal tough conditions the big favourite will be German champion and UCI-leader Hanka Kupfernagel (Worlds sport star). She won the most recent World Cup race in Hoogerheide and has shown consistency in her results this season. "Hopefully it won't be too muddy, because that's not what I like about cyclo-cross," the 32 year-old said to Cyclingnews.

To read the complete preview, click here.

UPTC met in Geneva

The UCI ProTour Council (UPTC) met January 22 in Geneva, Switzerland, during an annual conference for UCI ProTour teams and organisers. They looked at the 2008 calendar, which will be affected by the Beijing Olympic Games in August and adjusted the dates of three events. The GP Ouest France-Plouay will happen August 15, 2008; the Deutschland Tour shifts to run from August 30 to September 7; and the Tour de Pologne will happen September: 15-21, 2008.

A press release from the UCI suggested changes to the license awarding procedure were forthcoming, but announced no details. It also took a stronger stand on the admission of ProTour teams to ProTour races saying "Following the announcement made by ASO, organiser of Paris-Nice, stating that the Swedish UCI ProTour team, would not be invited to this race, the UPTC has reaffirmed that the setting of participation conditions for UCI ProTour calendar races is its exclusive responsibility and cannot be decided by the organisers. The UPTC does not tolerate such an infringement to the rules." However, no specific consequences for breaking the rules were described.

Finally, the UPTC announced a plan to study the centralization of the management of TV rights and another to strengthen the fight against doping by allowing fraudulent practices to be more easily detected, cheats to be discouraged, and the encouragement of clean riders. Along with the program details still to be announced, will come an increase in the budget to combat doping.

The UPTC's next meeting will be held in Bruges, Belgium, during the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 7. This race will host the official launch of the 2007 UCI ProTour.

Mountain biker dies in auto crash

German mountain biker Sandra Weber died in an auto accident Tuesday in Germany. She rode for the Rothaus Team and was also on the German National team. According to police, her auto slid off a snow-covered road in the Black Forest region, went down an embankment, and landed upside-down in a stream.

The staff at Cyclingnews offers its condolences to Weber's family and friends.

Pinotti: Trust is important

By Shane Stokes

Marco Pinotti
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)
New T-Mobile signing Marco Pinotti has expressed his satisfaction with the management and setup there, saying that he believes it is the way forward for cycling.

"I'm very happy with this team," he told Cyclingnews at the recent training camp in Mallorca. "I like the fact that the management does not come from traditional cycling. They do not have the closed point of view of the sport, but are rather open-minded. I think they give us the same open-minded view. I like this. It is a new structure and you can see it, you can feel it."

Pinotti was referring to the strong anti-doping ethos of the team. Following Jan Ullrich's exclusion from the Tour de France there were question marks over the continued sponsorship of the squad, but T-Mobile finally decided to remain involved when it became clear that the team would introduce serious anti-doping measures. These include a new blood volume test which can pick up on previously undetectable autologous blood transfusions, as well as strong deterrents built into riders' contracts. For example, if a rider is found to be doping, he [or she] is required to refund the salary paid by the team.

When asked if he thought that it is important that cycling teams are run in this way after the events of 2006, he agreed. "Yes, of course. We [T-Mobile] should be...we are, I think, the leader of the change in cycling and we should help to rebuild the trust of the people in cycling because that is the most important thing. They should have somebody they can trust and we want to be that team. We want that people trust us."

He said that this new policy also helps improve the mood within the team. "It makes a big difference, because you trust your teammate and you trust the manager and the director. You know clearly that everybody has the same view of this kind of thing.

"You know that we are all in the same boat and we will follow the same path. Because of that, there is more trustful relationship between the riders and the directors."

Pinotti said that his big goal for the season is a strong ride in the Tour of Italy. "The goal is to arrive at the Giro with my best fitness level and to use this level, this form, to win a stage if it is possible. I also want to ride every race in the front, because I feel more responsibility this year with his jersey. I don't want to go to race just to do my job, but rather to do my job really well. I want to be an example for the others."

He will begin his season with the Etoile de Bessèges and then the Ruta del Sol.

T-Mobile to Qatar with newcomers

2007 men line-up
Photo ©: Photosport International
(Click for larger image)

Team T-Mobile is taking four team newcomers to the Tour of Qatar this coming weekend, and they will be led by new Directeur Sportif Tristan Hoffman. One of them, Servais Knaven, will be the team captain, serving as Hoffman's "extended arm" and directing things on the road. "Knaven is the 'Boss'," Sporting Director Rolf Aldag said in the team's press release.

The team will be looking to newcomer Bernhard Eisel in the sprints. Eisel won a stage in Qatar last year, the only stage that Tom Boonen did not win. His principal lead-out man will be newcomer Greg Henderson. "Depending on the race situation, we may also ride for Greg," Hoffman noted.

The other newcomer on the squad is Bert Grabsch.

T-Mobile for Qatar: Eric Baumann, Marcus Burghardt, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Greg Henderson, Kim Kirchen, Andreas Klier, and Servais Knaven.

Quick Step-Innergetic to Qatar, too

Led by director sportif Wilfried Peeters, Team Quick-Step-Innergetic announced they will be taking their star rider Tom Boonen to the Tour of Qatar along with Steven De Jongh, Wilfried Cretskens, Sebastien Rosseler, Gert Stegmans, Matteo Tosatto, Kevin Van Impe, and Davide Viganò.

Voigt not optimistic

Voigt winning Tour de France Stage 13
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Jens Voigt isn't terribly optimistic about cycling and doping. "Anyone who asks whether 2007 will be better is doing a lot of hoping," he said in an interview with the German press agency dpa. "Whoever didn't get the wake-up call after everything that happened last year is probably not capable of being helped."

Because of the general suspicions of riders who do well, he did not even really celebrate his victory in the Deutschland Tour last year. "Instead of saying, I am the best," he celebrated quietly.

He noted that he hast already been tested twice this year, both times a combined blood and urine test. Once was at the team's training camp in South Africa, the other time at his home in Berlin. "Anything that leads to an improvement of our image is good. We have to be ready to go a step further than other sports -- even if it were better, when we didn't have a reason to."

Voigt doesn't think that fellow German rider Jan Ullrich has good chances for a comeback. "That will be hard for Ulle. He has no license, no team and -- as far as I know -- two non-sports-related investigations of him."

Simoni, Mayo, and Freire for Andalucía

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Gilberto Simoni
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Vuelta a Andalucía organizer has announced that Ibán Mayo and the Italian Gilberto Simoni will lead their Saunier Duval-Prodir team in the race, which will be contested from February 18-22 over a route of 823 kilometres.

The Basque Ibán Mayo was the star signing for the Spaniard Pro Tour squad for 2007. The team will take on the Vuelta a Andalucía as preparation for the Giro de Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España. Simoni and Mayo are the team's weapons for the Giro and the Tour respectively.

The Vuelta a Andalucía will field 15 cycling teams with seven cyclists each for a total of 105 racers. The first stage will start in Otura (Granada). This year's edition's longest stage is 179km, and the race features eleven category 3 climbs.

The Vuelta a Andalucía organizer also expects the attendance of some of the top sprinters of the world, such as Oscar Freire, Max van Heeswijk (Rabobank), Tom Boonen (Quick Steep) and Robbie McEwen (Predicting).

Skoda prolongs as Gerolsteiner sponsor

Team Gerolsteiner 2007
Photo ©: Patrick Reed
(Click for larger image)

Skoda Auto Deutschland has prolonged their commitment as a sponsor by Team Gerolsteiner, the auto company announced. Director Alfred E. Rieck thanked (sponsor) Gerolsteiner Director Jörg Croseck and team manager Hans-Micheal Holczer for the "outstanding cooperation in 2006" and said that the company would remain the exclusive supplier of autos to the team through the 2008 season. "That was a great thing for Rieck and Skoda to do," said Croseck. ""There's no better way to express satisfaction and to show the mutual trust between two strong partners."

Tour of Virginia announces stage details

The 2007 Tour of Virginia bicycle stage race is set to run from April 24-29. Now in its fifth year, the Tour of Virginia, formerly Tour of Shenandoah, continues to draw up-and-coming pro and elite amateur cyclists. The new name and larger geographic footprint reflect the growing national importance of the race. The six day race will journey through the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia.

Matt Butterman, Director, commented on the race's appeal to developing riders. "We style our race after international events like the Tour de l’Avenir in France, and the Peace Race in eastern Europe; races in which the young riders have their chance to shine."

The race starts with a five mile individual time trial in Natural Bridge. That evening, racers will tackled a Stage 2 criterium through the revitalized waterfront section of downtown Lynchburg.

Stage 3 is the first of three consecutive long, scenic, and hilly road races. Leaving from the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, the course meanders through rolling farmlands and along the James River and near Lexington before climbing up Warm Springs Mountain, just outside of Clifton Forge. After seven miles up a Category 1 rated climb, the racers will descend into the new venue city of Covington.

Riders will face the most hills on Stage 4 leaving from Hot Springs, in the shadow of the Homestead Resort and passing through the Maury River Gorge before tackling the Blue Ridge twice: first at the Category 1 climb of Montebello, then the viciously steep east slope of Reed’s Gap, made famous in the Tour DuPont race of the 1990s. It wraps up in Waynesboro.

A 99-mile route sampling the rolling hills of the central Shenandoah Valley between Waynesboro and Staunton awaits racers on Stage 5. A succession of short, steep climbs will take their toll. The Stage 6 criterium in Harrisonburg is followed by the final stage which starts and finishes in Charlottesville, a new venue for the race. A 100 mile road race will wind throughout Albemarle county and finish downtown.

The Stages:
April 24: Stage 1 - Natural Bridge Time Trial, 5 miles& Stage 2 - Lynchburg Criterium 5 miles, 25 miles
April 25: Stage 3 - Bedford to Covington Road Race, 108 miles
April 26: Stage 4 - Hot Springs to Waynesboro Road Race, 107 miles
April 27: Stage 5 - Waynesboro to Staunton Road Race, 99 miles
April 28: Stage 6 - Harrisonburg Criterium, 35 miles Sunday
April 29: Stage 7 - Charlottesville/Albemarle Road Race, 100 miles

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