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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for January 29, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Basso: "I have nothing to prove"

Ivan Basso exclusive: Discovering the Basso era

Ivan Basso is adjusting to Discovery Channel
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Since leaving Team CSC late last season, as a result of the fallout over the Operación Puerto investigation, 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso has remained focused on training and largely behind closed doors, save for a press conference to announce his signing by the Discovery Channel ProTour team. Now, on the eve of Disco's media day at its Solvang, California training camp, Basso has broken his silence in an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews' Tim Maloney, who spoke to the Italian in a rare one-on-one interview in Milan, Italy prior to his departure for the camp.

In the interview, Basso did not come back on the allegations that he had been in contact with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, currently under investigation by a Madrid court. The Italian had been cleared of suspicion - for the time being - by the Italian Olympic Committee on October 12, before the Italian cycling federation officially shelved the case on October 27, 2006.

When asked if he still wanted to prove his innocence to the public, Basso answered, "I don't have to show anything to anybody. If I want to show something, that would be the first mistake. Who do I have to show something to?"

The now-Discovery Channel rider never stopped training during the time he wasn't allowed to race last year, and thus will make his come-back in very decent form this spring. The 29 year-old is eager to return inside the peloton, but at the same holds his horses. "I'm feeling very balanced," he said. "Because there is no reason to be demotivated, nor to be super-motivated. It's a good thing to be balanced because each side of the scale, the negative and the positive, can cause you to make mistakes. The excessive desire to do something, or less desire... you can be so motivated that you will try to do too much in the early season races and then you will pay for it in the races that count later on."

To read more about Basso's first impressions of his new team, the differences between Johan Bruyneel and Bjarne Riis, and how Lance Armstrong greeted his former Tour de France rival when the two saw each other again for the first time after the 2005 podium in Paris, click here.

German teams happy with Qatar debut

Team Milram performing well in perfect conditions
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The three German teams at the Tour of Qatar were satisfied with their performances on Sunday's first stage, a team time trial along the Corniche in Doha, the capital of the small Middle Eastern Emirate. Team Milram got off to a "strong start" in the time trial, finishing second, five seconds behind the winning team QuickStep. Team Captain and star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi goes into the second stage in sixth place, five seconds behind arch-rival Tom Boonen. A youngster took the team's first success: newcomer Marcel Sieberg finished the stage in 10th place, which will give him the right to start the stage Monday in the jersey of the best young rider.

T-Mobile finished fifth in the stage, 11 seconds down. "It wasn't a bad way to start. Even if I'd hoped for a bit more from some of the riders in the team," said sports director Tristan Hoffman on the team's website, Partly to blame was the wind, he said. "All the teams were more or less riding at the same tempo. The last couple of kilometres were into a headwind, though, and we lost a bit of time there," added Hoffman.

Gerolsteiner DS Raimund Dietzen was happy with his youthful squad, half of which is 22 years or younger, and includes all three of the team's neo-pros. Although Gerolsteiner finished 12th, it was still only 18 seconds down. "That looked pretty good, especially when you consider we have to many youngsters here," Dietzen said.

While Milram is hoping for a mass sprint finish Monday, which it naturally expects Petacchi to win, T-Mobile will do its best to prevent that from happening. "QuickStep will be too strong for us, as we can only work for Bernhard Eisel. For that reason we will be trying to get people like Servais Knaven into breakaway groups. Our riders all have good legs, and we have a great spirit in the camp," Hoffman said.

Meanwhile, Gerolsteiner's Sven Krauss is happy that the race is finally underway. "The first few days in the desert were pretty awful. Three to four hours training in the desert, not a single village or tree anywhere to be seen." Even though the team finished 12th, he was proud of their performance. "The eight of us rode well together and stayed together, which even the eventual winner QuickStep couldn't do," he noted on his personal website.

Selle Italia fire up the engine for Langkawi

José Serpa
Photo ©: J.-F. Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Having won three stages in the Vuelta Tachira in Venezuela prior to their departure for the 12th edition of the Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) which begins this Friday, Selle Italia-Seramenti Diquigiovanni will be one of the teams to watch out for. Already the most successful team in the race, touted as Asias biggest cycling event, the Venezuelan-registered team managed by the charismatic Italian Gianni Savio will be firing on all cylinders in LTdL.

A change has been made to their initial squad and former LTdL winner Gabriele Missaglia, who finished third in last year's race, will be missing. He is replaced by another Italian climber, Wladimir Belli. Belli has finished sixth in the Giro d'Italia and ninth in the Tour de France in one year, in 2001, and will this year continue with Selle Italia as one of their team leaders.

Savio, however, said their main general classification rider will again be Jose Serpa, winner of the Genting Highlands stage last year. The Colombian will return with a target of taking the overall win. "He won two stages in LTdL last year and he also won the Pan American Championships. He also won a stage and the overall classification in last year's Vuelta a Venezuela, so we have big hopes for him," said Savio.

Completing Selle Italia's cast are 2005 Colombian national champion Walter Pedraza, another promising Colombian climber, Fabio Duarte and two sprinters - the experienced Italian Alberto Loddo and young Venezuelan Anthony Brea, who enters the LTdL having won the sprints classification in the Vuelta Tachira.

"But whether Brea makes the team for LTdL depends on whether he can get his passport in time. If he can't make it, we will replace him with Sergio Barbero," said Savio. "We'll be racing against five ProTour teams in LTdL, but I don't see a problem here. We've raced against 20 ProTour teams in the Giro d'Italia and still managed to produce some good results."

Selle Italia are the most successful team in LTdL history as far as overall wins are concerned, having won it in 2002 through Hernan Dario Munoz and in 2004, through Freddy Gonzalez.

Team CSC headed to California

Following the big team training camp in South Africa, where the entire Riis Cycling/Team CSC organisation participated, the Danish team is leaving Europe again to fly to its first intensive training camp in California, which will last for two weeks from January 31.

"It is a unique couple of weeks, because the training is very systematic and incredibly tough," said Michael Blaudzun, now in his ninth season with the team. "A lot of the riders leave this camp totally worn out. It will be two grueling weeks, but at the same time it's nicer and more fun to train all of us together. I don't think that many teams train this way, where it's that intense and with the entire team all at once, like Bjarne [Riis] started doing when he took over. We've each had to stick to specific training programs ahead of the camp so that everyone is in shape and once we're out there on the roads there's always a bit of a competition going on - it's only natural, when we've all got a winning instinct I guess."

For Blaudzun and several other riders on the team, this way of training has come to be a habit, but of course this is not the case for the new riders. Argentinean sprinter Juan José Haedo has lived in California for a few years, while riding for American teams. But contrary to the geographical familiarity "JJ" is far from familiar with this particular method.

"I'm really looking forward to going back to California, but it's not exactly a picnic," he commented. "I've been told by some of the others that Team CSC training camps are extremely tough and that some riders actually fear them, so I'm a bit apprehensive myself now." Nevertheless, Haedo is looking forward to seeing his teammates again. "My first time with the team at the training camp in South Africa was a very positive experience, and when you've had a good time with people you look forward to hanging out with them again."

World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara, in his second season with CSC, confirmed that the training methods were different from what was practiced within other squads. "This is a different way of training compared to what I've seen on other teams. We train together all of us for this period of time - never alone - and the way it works is, that all the stuff we learned in South Africa we put into practice here. It's a long camp, but even though it's tougher than our usual training it's still so much more fun and over that much quicker as well," explained Cancellara, who moreover will be missing his little baby girl.

"I had a daughter a couple of months back and it was really hard to be away from her for a week and a half, when we were in South Africa, so of course it'll be even harder this time, where I'm gone almost the whole of February. But I'll just have to work that much harder in order to distract myself," he concluded. The riders chosen to start the season at the Tour of California from February 18-25 will of course stay in the region after the camp.

US team for Manchester Track World Cup

USA Cycling has announced the seven athletes that will represent the United States at the final round of the 2006-07 UCI Track World Cup Classics in Manchester, England, from February 23-25. After Team USA collected five medals at the Los Angeles World Cup earlier this month, the U.S. squad named for Manchester will feature several young or otherwise inexperienced competitors at the international level.

First-time World Cup entrants, Kele Murdin (Kenmore, Wash.) and Christen King (Huntington Beach, Calif./South Bay Wheelmen) have been named to the squad as have Liz Reap (Jim Thorpe, Pa./East Coast Velo) and Neva Day (Manhattan Beach, Calif./South Bay Wheelmen), who made their World Cup debuts in Los Angeles just a week ago. They will join two-time World Cup medalist this season, Jennie Reed (Kirkland, Wash.), on the women's team.

The men's squad will consist only of a pair of young endurance riders, Bobby Lea (Mertztown, Pa./Toyota-United) and Brad Huff (Fair Grove, Mo./Slipstream-Chipotle).

The Manchester round of the World Cup series will be the final major international race before the UCI Track World Championships in Mallorca, Spain March 28-April 1.

Less racing in Austria in 2007

Fügen, Austria, was hoping to host the arrival of a stage of the 2007 Deutschland Tour, but the town got turned down. "The Tour organiser told us no. The reason is the way the route is being planned," said Werner Kostenzer, head of the tourism agency of Hochfügen (TVB).

The TVB had already budgeted 70,000 Euros for the stage finish and was arranging hotel rooms for 600 people. "Now we're on the starting ramp for 2008. That looks better," Kostenzer said.

In addition, the area also lost a post-Tour de France criterium. The fourth Europa-Radkriterium had been scheduled for August 3, but the tourism agency of Mayrhofen-Hippach now cancelled its sponsorship. "The requested sponsorship payment of some 200,000 Euros was just too much if we won't have Tour stars like Jan Ullrich or Georg Totschnig," said spokesman Andreas Hundsbichler.

Nevertheless, Hundsbichler is not giving up on cycling. "We would rather invest that money in the infrastructure so that we can come back big on the cycling scene in 2008," Hundsbichler said. "We want to hire Georg Totschnig as our spokesman for the summer of 2008." Totschnig, a native of the area, retired at the end of last season.

Joseph Sunde Memorial Crits raise $5000 for children's cancer research

By John Sunde*

A very successful day of cycling, fundraising and general Australia Day enjoyment was celebrated on Friday, January 26, at the 14th Joseph Sunde Memorial Criteriums on Friday at Sydney's Heffron Park.

Fundraising for the day topped $5,000 which is donated to the Childrens Cancer Institute of Australia to support their valuable research into childhood cancer - if you didn't get a chance to support the raffle and would still like to make a donation, click here.

The elite men's race was taken out by South - AIS rider, Shaun Higgerson (see full race report) in a high-quality field.

Our thanks to the 130 cyclists who competed on the day, everyone who donated so generously, the event sponsors and the Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club for organising another memorable event.

(*John Sunde is the race promoter of this annual event, held as a memorial to his son, Joseph, who lost his life to leukaemia aged four.)

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