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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for July 4, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Valverde signs riders' agreement and reviews Tour's parcours

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde overviews Tour's parcours
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde yesterday signed the UCI riders' anti-doping agreement before taking a flight from San Javier (Murcia) to London, and the Tour de France, at half past three.

Preparing his luggage at home, the 27 year-old Spaniard left some time to analyze the Tour parcours with Cyclingnews. It will start with a prologue time trial in London, "in which it is convenient to pay attention because the first differences will already be established there, and it is important not to lose too much time from the beginning."

The first serious mountain stage is waiting for the riders on the eighth day of competition, between Bourg-en-Bresse and Le Grand-Bornand. It is nearly 200 kilometres, which includes the mythical Col of the Colombière, located less than 15 kilometres from the finish line. "The first days in the high mountains are always very hard, mainly because there are [bad] surprises, and I hope that I am not one of them," Valverde commented, smiling.

However, when we sighted the profile of the following day, which will finish on the top of Tignes climb he changed his expression. "Uh! That is very hard. The Cormet de Roselend climb and then the Montée Tignes climb, both of them of the first category, but without forgetting the climb to Montée de Hauteville... it will be another demanding stage," Valverde valued.

Stage nine will confront the always-exciting end in Briançon. "This is another hard stage, a very hard one, where it will be needed to pay more attention on the long descent once over the Galibier, but without forgetting the Col de l'Iseran. Also, before the Col du Galibier, we find another important climb, the Télégraphe."

After the Alpine summits there is the time trial in Albi of 54 kilometres. "I have been working thoroughly on this speciality, but the Tour is the Tour, and we are talking about so many kilometres. We need to be very concentrated during all the stage. It is also very important to know how to dose your efforts because you can pay a lot at the end for previous big efforts. For me it is better after confronting the Alps because the strengths among the riders will be more on par."

The Pyrénées will present the riders with another three challenging stages. "They seem to be harder than the Alps. Its climbs are shorter but steeper. I do not know the Larraut of stage 16, when the Tour is in Navarra [Spain], and it will be very hard. When we were recently training in the Pyrénées, we were not able to completely ride this stage ... because it would have taken us more than 7 hours."

There is one final long time trial stage before Le Tour finishes, the penultimate stage. "It has a strategic location and length [55 kilometres]. The weakened legs will allow us to fight on the same level, and I think that the differences among us [GC men] will not be much," Valverde concluded.

Italians in France - Savoldelli's fever

Paolo Savoldelli
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Many of cycling's heroes are travelling to London today for the start of the 94th Tour de France, July 7 to 29. Of the riders heading towards the Grand Départ there will be 17 Italians, which is the lowest since 1989 (15) but not as low as 1980 and 1981 (0).

Paolo Savoldelli, 2005 stage 17 winner, is also on his way but 'Il Falco' is not feeling 100 percent due to a fever. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he has missed a week of training, including reconnaissance in the Alps with Vinokourov, and he is expected to be a little weakened at the start from the antibiotics.

There will be seven Italian riders from Lampre with Alessandro Ballan, Daniele Bennati, Paolo Bossoni, Marzio Bruseghin, Claudio Corioni, Danilo Napolitano and Daniele Righi. Also at the start will be Alberto Ongarato and Fabio Sacchi from Milram, Manuel Quinziato and Filippo Pozzato from Liquigas, Dario Cioni of Predictor-Lotto, Matteo Tosatto of Quickstep-Innergetic, Paolo Longo Borghini, Giampaolo Cheula and Enrico Degano from Barloworld.

Bennati wants a Petacchi-Milram train

Italian Daniele Bennati is surprisingly disappointed that his compatriot and rival, Alessandro Petacchi, may not be lining up for the Tour de France when it starts this Saturday in London. The Lampre sprinter enjoys the high and smooth pace of Petacchi's team Milram lead-out train but he may have to go without it as Petacchi is currently under investigation that prohibits him from racing.

"It will be worse," responded 'Benna' in a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding if Petacchi's absence would help him win his first Tour sprint. "With his team making the lead-out, the sprint becomes simpler, more regulated, cleaner. A speed of 60 to 65 kilometres per hour is ideal for me. Without Petacchi I will have to make my own arrangements."

Bennati will count on teammate and friend Alessandro Ballan. "If it lets off there is Ballan that who is able to lead-out, and there is [Claudio] Corioni that is able to work well in the finale. I will improvise."

The team also has another sprinter in the form of up-and-comer Danilo Napolitano. Bennati sees the winner of the Giro stage to Lido di Camaiore as second card of play for Team Lampre. "We have different characteristics but the stages suit us the same. It would be ridiculous for each one of us to do our own sprint."

Bennati has ambitions for the Maillot Jaune. "If I don't lose much time in the prologue then I have to have the opportunity for the first sprint. Anyway, the problem [of two sprinters] is not mine but the directeurs."

For more on sprinter 'Benna' read Cyclingnews' interview Gunning for green.

Marzoli and Di Luca face CONI

Ruggero Marzoli
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Ruggero Marzoli (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) will face Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri to answer questions stemming from the 2004 investigation Oil for Drugs. The former will meet with CONI today at 10:00 while the 2007 Giro d'Italia winner will have his hearing next Saturday, July 14.

The riders, both from Abruzzo, have been linked with Doctor Carlo Santuccione. Marzoli, suspended from his team, is suspected of using EPO, Human growth hormones (hGH) and testosterone. In 1999 he was suspended for four months for drug trafficking. Di Luca was further linked to Santuccione via documents supplied by Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) and recently published in the Italian press.

Skil-Shimano is ready for the future

Portable power tools manufacturer Skil Europe B.V. and the leading cycle component manufacturer Shimano Inc. will continue to be the main sponsors of the Skil-Shimano Professional Continental team through the 2008 season. The team made its debut in the international professional cycling peloton in 2006.

Skil has also expressed its intention to continue its links with the team after 2008. The increased commitment of both main sponsors is underlined by their involvement in renewing the structure of the team, making it ready for the future in organizational terms.

From 2008, the team will operate under a new and transparent business structure. This will provide the basis for achieving the strategic goals of the team (further internationalization of activities, talent development and strict observation of ethical principles), through which the team and its sponsors intend to make a positive contribution to the future of cycle racing. The team announced that Iwan Spekenbrink will step-up to take the lead role as Managing Director starting in 2008.

After decades in cycle racing as manager and team leader, Arend Scheppink decided a number of years ago to gradually phase-out his activities in the team to spend more time with his family, as well as on travelling and hobbies. In view of the new organizational structure, Scheppink has stated his willingness to continue his involvement with the Skil-Shimano team in 2008. He will support the team management as member of a supervisory and advisory board that also consists of Gerhard Kobesen, president of Skil Europe B.V., and Marc van Rooy, managing director of Shimano Europe Holding B.V.

The team's sporting policy will continue to focus in the coming seasons on investing in cycling talent and strengthening its international positioning, while at the same time observing the strictest ethical principles. The team will consist of a mix of talent and experience, presenting itself in Europe as an international team but with specific attention for further development of its activities in France. Completing the team in Europe will be a number of promising Chinese and Japanese riders. Rudie Kemna, Piet Hoekstra and Hisafumi Imanishi will again be the directeur sportifs.

The team stated that this extended commitment represents "the continuation of an excellent and ambitious strategy," and it has expressed its "fullest confidence in the personnel who will be involved in its implementation."

Beauce hosts Canadian Champs

More than 700 participants are expected to invade St-Georges-de-Beauce, Quebec, for the 2007 Canadian National Championships. The competition, July 5 to 11, will feature a return of Lyne Bessette and a separate U23 race.

Lyne Bessette will return to the road scene in the time trial. "I'm pleased to see her make a comeback," noted Kris Westwood, high performance director for the Canadian Cycling Association. "She is one of the few athletes to have challenged for a world title and it's a good decision for her to start her comeback in the time trial." Alex Wrubleski of Saskatchewan is the defending champion. (2006 Canadian championships.)

In the men's time trial, Westwood doesn't predict any upsets. "Sven Tuft, Ryder Hesjedal and Eric Wohlberg are dominant right now."

This year the under-23 riders will have their own road race. "This is the first time we've split the men's race," Westwood pointed out. "It will allow those riders to standout in a less aggressive setting and one not so dominated by the team tactics found in an elite race."

Westwood believes Symmetrics will control the elite pack but that won't necessarily guarantee a victory. "There is an opportunity at mid-point to capitalize on a breakaway. Last year the riders' strategies evolved around the Symmetrics and they were caught off guard by Dominique Rollin. That probably won't happen again this year."

The men's elite race will conclude the national championships on July 11.

"The Canadian championships are an opportunity to evaluate the progress of our riders," continued Westwood. "It is often our first opportunity to meet some young riders. For them, the nationals are a stepping-stone towards a berth on the national team."

The Canadian championships are also an important selection process for the world championships. The national time trial champions receive an automatic berth (providing they attain the minimal qualifying speed), while others will battle hard to fill in the remaining spots.

Cyclingnews moves into the Future

Future Publishing announced to the London Stock Exchange yesterday that it had completed the successful acquisition of Cyclingnews from the privately-held Australian media company, Knapp Communications Pty Limited, for £2.2m (AUS$5.25M).

Future is a publicly-listed special-interest media company based in Bath, UK, that publishes over 100 special interest magazines and 60 websites, with operations extending to France and the USA. The acquisition of Cyclingnews is a strategic move to build its online presence and consolidate its position in the cycling market.

Cyclingnews was launched in Australia in 1995 by Professor Bill Mitchell and subsequently acquired by Knapp Communications in September, 1999. It has grown to become the world's largest cycling website and also sponsors four cycling teams in three continents. The site has editorial and advertising operations in Australia, the USA and Europe.

Future's announcement to the LSE quoted audited traffic and readership statistics to June 30, 2006, of 30 million page impressions per month, representing an average of 500,000 unique users per month. The majority of Cyclingnews' revenues are generated from advertising and for the year ended June 30, 2006 revenues were AUS$1.5m and EBITDA was A$0.4m.

Cyclingnews publisher, Gerard Knapp, said new traffic and audience figures soon to be released to the market will show strong traffic growth for the site over the past 12 months, stretching its leadership in the cycling space. Knapp said he was delighted that as part of the acquisition, the existing staff and contributors will remain in place and continue to produce the website content. Knapp himself will continue as a fulltime consultant, advising on editorial direction and business development.

The acquisition of Cyclingnews coincides with the launch of Future's new website, BikeRadar, a new portal that will combine content from cycling journalists as well as reviews and features from the company's existing portfolio of cycling magazines, unifying their existing web presence. It will also feature Future's recently purchased online route planner, – which enables cyclists to share their cycling routes across the globe. Bikely already has in excess of 23,000 comprehensive routes and bike trails, and continues to grow.

Simon Wear, chief operating officer for Future UK, said: "The acquisition of Cyclingnews and the launch of go hand-in-hand, giving Future immediate access to a large, engaged global audience of enthusiasts. Together, the sites significantly advance our online plans for cycling. We have a great opportunity to lead the market across all platforms in this sector," he said.

(Read the background to this development from Cyclingnews' publisher, Gerard Knapp.)

New Australian women's cycling team debuts

A new Australian women's road cycling development team and innovative training program will be officially launched by Cycling Australia in Canberra tomorrow, July 5. The development team's new Australian jersey will also be unveiled at a media conference from 11:00 at Stromlo Forest Park, Australia's newest purpose-built cycling facility featuring an excellent criterium cycling circuit and dedicated mountain bike tracks.

Women's cycling is experiencing widespread growth and the new development program will support Australia's most promising female road cyclists and provide international racing experience underlining the existing Cycling Australia/AIS High Performance Program.

More information on the team and its members is expected soon.

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