Latest Cycling News for January 30, 2007
Edited by Gregor Brown
Rough times in Qatar desert
By Susan Westemeyer
Steels vs. Brown
The finish of stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar was a horrifying picture; Graeme Brown swerved in the sprint finish, taking out Predictor-Lotto's Tom Steels who sprawled full-length on the Doha street in the middle of the whole onrushing peloton. Miraculously all riders were all able to avoid him, but the damage was already done. He was able to get back on his bike and ride to the team bus, with unbelievable quantities of blood streaming down his face.
The Belgian emerged later from the Doha hospital to report a broken collarbone, six stitches in his head and any amount of skin scraped off. At that time, he didn't blame Brown for what happened. "That's the way it is in the sprint, these things happen," he was quoted as saying.
But by the time he got back to the team hotel, things had changed. All of the teams are staying at the same hotel and eating together in the same restaurant. According to Robert Förster of Gerolsteiner, Steels went up to Brown, showed him his broken collarbone and spoke his mind, calling the Australian, among other things "a Kamikaze." According to Sportwereld.be, Steels yelled at him, "You f**king idiot! It's always the same with you!"
"Brown didn't react," Förster wrote on his website, robert-foerster.de. "Steels was shouting as loud as he could, 'Go home!' At the same time another rider stood up, clapped and yelled, too, 'Go home!' Then the room went crazy, everybody stood up and yelled 'Go home!'"
Steels, at least, will be heading home early, to have the broken collarbone operated on. His mechanic reported that the head wound had been caused by the helmet, which broke into eight pieces.
"This is enormously frustrating," Steels summarized. He hopes to be back in the saddle training in five days.
Förster: A "nervous" day
"I actually didn't want to make any comment about the first day of racing today, but the way things turned out, I had to write something," the Gerolsteiner sprinter noted on robert-foerster.de. "The day was pretty nervous from the beginning."
And that nervous beginning included the ride to the race start. The traffic in the opposite direction had come to a stop because of police blockades, and the riders watched as a truck smashed into the waiting cars without braking. "It wasn't a good thing to see," Förster said.
The wind wasn't as bad as expected, but the day was full of crashes and mechanicals. His "locomotive" Sven Krauss, had a flat tire 20 km before the finish, and was unable to get back up to the leading group.
"The last five kilometres were pretty hard. A crash on the left, something on the right, everybody's screaming." On his own, Förster managed a 10th placed finish. On his way in, he saw Steels go down. "Not something you like to see, when someone going 60 km an hour slides across the street in front of you."
Krauss: The fateful flat tire
Sven Krauss got caught behind a crash early in the race and had to fight his way back to the peloton, and felt well enough to stay in the front part of the peloton in order to avoid crashes. But in the end a flat front tire with 20 km to go did not allow him to do his job. He was back on the bike quickly, but in that time, the leading group had picked up its speed. He had to work his way through the team autos to join a 20-man group which came in eight minutes down.
The "biggest surprise" was still to come, though. According to sven-krauss.de, at dinner he received the news that the jury had ruled he had spent too much time riding behind the cars and had let himself be helped too much. The result was a 10 seconds penalty and an 80 Swiss franc fine.
Two of the three Austrians in the race shared in the day's bad luck, according to sportpress.at. Only Gerolsteiner's Paco Wrolich stayed lucky, although he called the day "brutal". Astana's Rene Haselbacher hopes to be in on the sprint finish were dashed by a flat tire two kilometres before the finish, while T-Mobile's sprinter, Bernhard Eisel, also punctured three kilometres before the finish line.
There was bad luck for two of Eisel's T-Mobile teammates, non-Austrians, who hit the ground during the race. Lead-out man Eric Baumann went down in the middle of the stage and Kim Kirchen lost a lot of skin in a crash at the finish.
Stressful start for Petacchi
For the first time in his twelve years as a professional, Alessandro Petacchi made his debut in the Tour of Qatar. Monday's stage 2 was the first sprint of the season for him and his key rival, Tom Boonen. The two used their sprint men, battling to the line, where Boonen came out on top; making the score Boonen 1 to Petacchi 0.
"Disappointed? No, not really. I have not done a sprint in a long time [September 10, 2006 - ed.]," said the 33 year-old from La Spezia to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "But I had the confirmation that the condition is good, and at a certain point I had believed I would win."
It was Steven De Jongh who launched his Quick-Step teammate to victory, while the Milram train worked to set up their leader. "Maybe the train departed too soon, and stayed on too long, but overall I am content, also with the movements of the team [in the train].
"I have to say I was hoping for a softer start to the season. This is a course that really takes a lot from you and is stressful; because of the wind and also some are taking absurd risks. But I think it will serve me in the future. Overall, I am ready to retry again. Right away."
Prudhomme: "Basso racing the Tour de France?"
Christian Prudhomme is in Doha for the sixth Tour of Qatar, an ASO organized event, the same company who owns and organizes cycling's big one, the Tour de France. The Frenchman is taking over as Director from Jean-Marie Leblanc and has his thoughts on the turbulent 2006 season and whether or not certain riders, namely Ivan Basso, will ride in the 2007 edition of the Tour.
"Basso racing in the Tour de France," Prudhomme questioned to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I know that all Italians are interested in this. It is a valid question but now I am not able to respond. We will see."
The Italian was not allowed to start the 2006 edition due to his alleged involvement in Operación Puerto but has since been cleared by his national federation, the FCI, and signed by Discovery Channel, whom he is currently training with in California. "Operación Puerto is not closed. I don't have the pieces to confirm it, but I have the feeling that there will more revelations."
Prudhomme heads the race that still does not have a clear winner after six months time, resulting from Floyd Landis' positive result for testosterone. "It is very difficult, and I hope before the Grand Départ in London, July 7, that we will know something," he continued. "I believe we will be forced to leave a blank for 2006 in the official  guide."
There were also recent problems for the runner-up, Oscar Pereiro. Recently it was suggested that his documents were not in order for the use of the asthma drug salbutamol. Prudhomme believes that this issue blown out of proportion, especially since the Spaniard was cleared by French anti-doping authorities. "At maximum they deserve a slap on the wrist for not having their documents in order. We and the UCI are in agreement. They have made this an exaggerated case."
McQuaid to visit Malaysia and discuss Langkawi payments
By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid is to visit the Tour de Langkawi this weekend and will use some of that time to talk to the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) and other parties about the monies owed by the event.
The 2005 and 2006 editions of the race saw a large debt accumulated and some creditors are still awaiting payment of what is owed to them. Reports from Malaysia this week said that previous organisers First Cartel had been served with a winding up order, and that considerable debts remain.
"I am heading out to Malaysia at the weekend," McQuaid confirmed to Cyclingnews on Tuesday morning. "The MNCF have invited me out to the race so I'm going out there for two days. I will be looking at the financial end of things; I and the UCI have been given commitments by them in relation to the financial aspects of the race, relating to the past two years, and I will be discussing that with them and ensuring that commitments given are met."
Following government action and a commitment of funding to help secure the future of the event, the MNCF have taken over from First Cartel as organisers of the 2.HC ranked race. However this has meant that they have also become liable to repay some – but not all - of the creditors. "They will be dealing with the race-related debts only," he confirmed. "This includes things like television coverage. Any of the race-related debts would be covered under the UCI rules, but we wouldn't have authority over some of the broader stuff that is owed. It depends on what creditors they are and it depends on who exactly is covered under the UCI rules and who wouldn't be."
According to an article in the New Straits Times printed this week, Malaysian law states that upon the winding up of the company, all its affairs including creditors are taken over by an appointed liquidator. In this case the newspaper says the Official Receiver of Malaysia is the relevant party.
McQuaid says that the UCI is currently determining who exactly is responsible for what. "Our lawyers are checking it out as to the exact authority, whether it is the UCI or the national authority which takes precedence there. That is something that I will know before I go out.
"Part of the trip is to deal with all that stuff. I want to sit down with them and ensure that, hopefully, the race can have a solid future and that the MNCF are determined to develop the event and to continue it. It is a very important race on the Asian calendar."
Tour Down Under confirmed as ProTour contender
By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid spoke to Cyclingnews about the Tour Down Under, and appeared to confirm that Australia's flagship event is moving closer to a possible upgrade to the ProTour calendar. He stated that the UCI are considering this possibility as part of their development of the series.
"The Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, is very, very keen that the Tour Down Under can be considered a ProTour event. He is prepared to make whatever investment is necessary to ensure that it goes in that direction.
"The ProTour council is strongly considering the globalisation of the ProTour at the moment, and expanding it to some other markets. We are looking at it [the Tour Down Under] positively, but you have to take a lot of things into consideration in order to bring such an event onto the calendar. It is not a decision that is going to be taken overnight, but it is something that we are looking at positively in the near future rather than the long-term future," he stated.
Ullrich asks Swiss court to prevent DNA hand over
By Susan Westemeyer
Jan Ullrich is going to court to prevent a DNA test of blood found in the offices of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes last year. According to the dpa, his attorneys have asked a Swiss court to prevent Swiss authorities from turning over to German investigators a sample of Ullrich's DNA.
Bonn, Germany, prosecutor Fred Apostel confirmed the action. "Now the Swiss court will decide how we will proceed. If the decision is made to let us have the sample, then the Ullrich attorneys would have the right to appeal that decision." The process is expected to take up to a year and a half.
Apostel announced last month that it would make the DNA comparison. The Swiss investigators took a saliva DNA sample from Ullrich last fall. Ullrich has been accused of fraud against his T-Mobile team in front of the Bonn court, which is now investigating the case.
"He is within his rights to try to prevent the turn over. Everyone is free to make up their own mind as to why he doesn't allow the comparison," Apostel finalized.
United in their goals; Toyota United for 2007
By Steve Medcroft in Thousand Oaks, California
The Toyota United Pro Cycling team stretched its legs in Thousand Oaks, California this week as seventeen riders and a team of directors, mechanics, support staff and sponsors gathered for a week of riding, meetings and equipment hand-outs.
After an inaugural season where Toyota United scored 55 first-placed victories (including two stages of the Tour of California) and ranked second in the NRC standings, the team is again stacked with talent for 2007. Along with most of the 2006 team, team captain Chris Wherry, USPRO Time Trial Champion Chris Baldwin and star sprinter Ivan Domingiez are all back for 2007.
New to the team is an interesting mix of veteran and promising up-and-coming domestic and international talent. A former pro with the Mercury racing team, Henk Vogels returns to the country where he "did the best racing of my life." Vogels is joined by Irish National and World Junior road-race champion Mark Scanlon, Utah-based climber Burke Swindlehurst and Aussie Caleb Manion.
Read the full Toyota United news feature.
Lombardi directs Argentinean track team
Retired cyclist Giovanni Lombardi will become a director sportif for Argentina. After a recent trip to Argentina for the Vuelta a San Luis, a deal was finalized between the 37 year-old Italian and President of the Argentinean Federation Gabriel Curuchet. Lombardi will direct the track team for the points, Madison and scratch races.
Lombardi, who owns a home in home Argentina and bases himself in Madrid, has the experience for the role. As an amateur he conquered gold at the Olympics on the track and then, in his 14 years as a professional, he racked up many wins, including four stages at the Giro d'Italia and eight victories in Six Day racing.
"It will be great to go to the worlds in Palma di Majorca, from March 29 to April 1. From here on, we will go hard for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing," explained Lombardi, who also acts as an agent for such cyclists such as Ivan Basso and Fränk Schleck, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It is a prestigious role and I am very grateful for this proposition. I hope to make an important contribution to a country that has a strong tradition on the track and that has, in general, a great passion for cycling.
"For me it is a new experience but I am approaching it with grand enthusiasm. And it will not impede my activities acting as an agent."
Curuchet backed up his new hire; he added, "Giovanni has extraordinary palmarčs, huge experience in all disciplines of cycling and an unequivocal charisma... Now we have built the base with which to deliver the best results - it was important to make an investment like this because the Olympics will be in one and a half years."
Will Botero be back?
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Colombian Santiago Botero (ex T-Mobile) admitted that he longed to have been able to participate in the 2006 Tour de France, adding at the same time that the conflicts of interests that exist in cycling could spell its death. Botero will not race in Europe due to his new squad, Colombian Continental UNE-Orbitel's inability to participate in the Tour de France or the Vuelta a Espańa. Nevertheless, he's not worried over being in a non-ProTour squad.
Botero indicated to the local press that he will study whether or not he can return to the European peloton at the end of this season. "Only if there are possibilities and interesting proposals to return," he noted. "What I know clearly is that I will race in the Olympic Games in Beijing."
His main goals for 2007 are centred on the Vuelta a Colombia, the national championships and the World Championships. Botero continues training hard to successfully confront the abrupt changes of the local races after such a long time competing in Europe.
Birthday boy Casar will look for presents in Langkawi
Although they are only now making their debut in the Tour de Langkawi, Française des Jeux are the most popular French team in all the surveys conducted in their country, even if they didn't have a good Tour de France last year because mostly top rider Bradley McGee didn't race due to a back injury and Sandy Casar wasn't at his best.
The team has competed the past ten Tours de France, and had their highest point when McGee won the prologue and wore yellow jersey in the centennial Tour in 2003. They remain highly popular mostly because of the charisma of their team manager Marc Madiot, a former Paris-Roubaix winner. Madiot could not come to Malaysia this year, but promised that he'll pay a visit to Malaysia in the future if, as expected, the members of his team fall in love with Langkawi.
The inclusion of FdJ for the first time also serves as a big improvement for the race this year. The Tour de Langkawi now brings five ProTour teams to the line, up from three in 2006.
The start of FdJ's debut race in Langkawi on Friday also marks the 28th birthday of team leader Casar, who will also be riding in Malaysia for the first time since he turned professional in 1999. Having finished sixth in the Giro d'Italia last year, Casar starts the 2007 season knowing that he has what it takes to cut it at the very top of the pro peloton, and thus has decided to get the best preparation he can get in Langkawi.
"I want to start racing in a hot country," Casar explained. "In France, we have early season races that I don't really like, and I know that 1,300 kilometres of cycling in Malaysia is a better way to gear up for the new season. In March, I want to be just as good in Paris-Nice as in 2002 when I finished 2nd. I heard Le Tour de Langkawi is a very well organised race, and the stages aren't flat, which is good for me."
Being a winner of the Route du Sud in the Pyrenees in 2005, Casar is known as a climber, and he should enjoy stage three in the Cameron Highlands. The stage race might not be his main goal for the 2007 season, but he's not the kind of rider who shows up at races for training. He has the old-school mentality and that has cost him good condition at the 2006 Tour de France after he spent too much energy in the Giro d'Italia. For this reason, he plans to skip the Giro and focus on the Tour de France in 2007 after a competitive early season that includes Langkawi and Paris-Nice.
The Française des Jeux line up for Le Tour de Langkawi will be: Sandy Casar (Fra), Tim Gudsell (NZl), Lilian Jégou (Fra), Johan Lindgren (Swe), Ian McLeod (RSA) and Fabien Patanchon (Fra).
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)