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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for July 12, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson and Laura Weislo

Pozzato eyes Autun stage

By Gregor Brown in Joigny

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Filippo Pozzato, winner of the 2006 Milano-Sanremo and this year's Het Volk, is eyeing Tour de France stage five to Autun, a 182.5-kilometre run that includes eight categorised climbs. The Italian has reason to believe given his condition that has already been shown.

"Up until now it has been going well but seemingly a little slow. We will see how it goes. Tomorrow, will be good for me," he stated to Cyclingnews on Wednesday morning in Villers-Cotterêts. The stage ends with a category three climb at 8.5 kilometres to go.

"I will tell you how it goes tomorrow night. I think it will be a stage to control because everyone will want to go into an escape but we will try to control it so that it arrives in a sprint. A sprint from a small group."

'Pippo' showed his form by his violent acceleration in stage 2 to Gent. He moved up in the last section from tenth to third behind winner Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic). "Right now I am just looking for today and tomorrow, but also stage 12 looks good." Look for Pozzato's victory salute in Autun on Thursday afternoon.

Lefevere will wait to sign UCI charter

Patrick Lefevere
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere won't be the first team manager to sign the UCI antidoping charter, the agreement which UCI president Pat McQuaid asked all ProTour team managers and staff this week. The agreement, which would force signers to forfeit a year's salary if they break the anti-doping pledge, has given Lefevere, who also acts as president of the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP), some pause, and he said he must discuss the document with his lawyer before signing. "I don't do anything without a lawyer," Lefevere told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "I give it to my lawyer and if he says it's OK, it's OK. If he says we have to make some changes, (then) I give it to the lawyer of the AIGCP."

Lefevere's Quickstep riders were among the last to sign the agreement just prior to the start of the Tour de France, but the managers and team staff have until August 1 to sign the document. "I'm not in a hurry. It's the first of August, no?" Lefevere said. "I want to do the Tour de France. It finishes on the 29th (of July), and then we will see."

After the sport spent more than a year simmering over the Operación Puerto doping scandal which felled 2006 Giro winner Ivan Basso and German Jan Ullrich among others, the UCI is stepping up its efforts to repair the broken reputation of the sport. McQuaid asked the riders to sign the antidoping agreement and now he wants the same level of commitment from the staff. "Each manager has to ask themselves what kind of sport do they want to be involved in," McQuaid told the AP.

Tour Down Under announces anniversary route

South Australia's Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith has announced the route for the Tour Down Under. The January 20-27 event will mark a special milestone for the state-funded event as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. "It's our tenth tour and it will be bigger and better than ever," declared Lomax-Smith at today's launch.

"Today's announcement of race tours and event details give even greater opportunities for the public to become involved in and support the Tour Down Under," continued Lomax-Smith. "Cycling fans will have more chances to cheer on the world's best cyclists at next year's Tour Down Under as the event is expanded to include two weekends of elite cycling action with a program of festivities, which includes an extra day of racing action."

Minister Lomax-Smith returned from the Tour de France start in London earlier this week, where she was helping raise the event's international profile ahead of the UCI's September meeting. Cycling's international governing body will decide the outcome of the event's push to achieve Pro Tour status at that meeting.

"Our aim was to reinforce Adelaide as the cycling capital of Australia and a natural cycling location for a Pro Tour event outside of Europe," she said. "Thousands of people have already seen Oppy the Kangaroo promoting our event and our state at this year's Tour de France and today we unveil a new television campaign aimed at enticing more and more visitors to experience our brilliant Tour.

The event will return to Glenelg for the first time in six years, with the Teams Presentation, the finish of the Mutual Community Fun Tour and Mini Tour for kids presented by UniSA all being held at the Bay.

"The first day of the Tour Down Under (Sunday 20th January) at Glenelg will be a great family day with the Down Under Classic, and in an event first, the Team Presentation will be free to the public," explained Lomax-Smith. "I urge everyone to celebrate a decade of premier international cycling in Australia, and be part of cycling's brilliant party next January."

In addition to the 2008 route launch, the event also launched its new website at today's ceremony.

2008 Tour Down Under race route:
January 20: Down Under Classic - Glenelg, 25 laps of 2 km
January 21: Rest day
January 22: Stage 1 - Mawson Lakes - Angaston, 129 km
January 23: Stage 2 - Stirling - Hahndorf, 148 km
January 24: Stage 3 - Unley - Victor Harbor, 139 km
January 25: Stage 4 - Mannum - Strathalbyn, 134 km
January 26: Stage 5 - Willunga - Willunga, 147 km
January 27: Stage 6 - Adelaide Street Race, 16 Laps of 5.5 km
Total Race Distance: 785 km

Crawford aiming for European stars

By Greg Johnson in Sydney, Australia

Jai Crawford (Giant Asia Racing Team)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Jai Crawford is en route to China's Tour of Qinghai Lake were he has two aims - a top ten finish and a European contract for 2008. The Giant Asia rider performed strongly in the build up to the 2.HC event, taking second overall at last week's Tour of East Java in Indonesia.

"I am aiming at a top ten GC result, I feel that will be satisfactory and give the European teams confirmation of my ability," explained Crawford. "I have taken results from every international stage race I have ridden this year.

"I am confident I can go to another level given the opportunity," declared the youngster from Tasmania. "I want to ride in Europe again, this time with good health and a competent team."

Crawford, who currently rides for his Asian team in return for airfares and a bike, told Cyclingnews earlier this season that he was targeting the July 14 - 22 Qinghai Lake race to secure the chance to return to Europe. Since then, the 23 year-old has spent three months training in Tasmania.

"My condition is as good as I can make given my limited racing program, so I am satisfied," he said. "The unknown is how my body will cope with the high altitude of the Qinghai Lake region. Right now in training it feels fine but I am not racing yet."

Crawford's dream of performing at cycling's Elite level in Europe suffered some setbacks over the past two seasons. In 2005, Crawford and then teammate Luke Bettany both resigned from their startup squad, citing teething problems within the team as the reason for leaving. Last year Crawford was dealt another blow when a serious bout of glandular fever kept him sidelined for most of the season.

With the dramas of the past two season behind him, Crawford has performed strongly in the few races he's contested. After taking overall victory at January's Tour of Siam, he finished fifth on general classification in February's Tour de Langkawi, after storming up the gruelling climb to Genting Highlands in fifth place, behind names like David George, José Rujano and stage winner Jose Serpa.

"Java was exceptionally hot coming straight from winter in Tassie, but my body coped pretty well and the second day I produced the form I hoped I was building in my three months training at home," he explained of his most recent success. "I finished second that day to Borjn Glassner but for me it was more about testing my legs on the two categorised climbs in the last 50 kilometres. The test showed promising results and I expect to step up now before Qinghai Lake."

Read more about Jai Crawford in this interview.

Popovych focused on Tour, then contract

By Gregor Brown in Joigny

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Yaroslav Popovych is in his final year of his contract with Discovery Channel team, and after a difficult Giro d'Italia, he is ready to prove himself in the Tour in order to secure a new contract. The 27 year-old winner of the Tour's young rider competition in 2005 joined the American team to learn and work for Lance Armstrong, but now he is in a position to lead in his own right.

"I feel good, every day I feel better and better compared to the first days," he told Cyclingnews Wednesday morning in Villers-Cotterêts. "We will see how my legs go once we reach the mountains. After the Giro, with the crash, I did not race for about one mouth and for this reason it will be a little difficult in the first days but I hope to continue get better."

Tinkoff team owner, Oleg Tinkov, has indicated desires to work with the Ukrainian but 'Popo' played-down any such deal. "No, no. We have talked as friends but not on a basis of being a rider [for Tinkoff]."

Popovych indicated his unsatisfactory Giro delayed his negotiations, which are ongoing. "I am still talking," he said. "Before the Giro I was talking but then I did not do so well at the Giro and I stopped talking up to now. I hope for a good Tour to have a good contract. There is a ninety percent chance I will remain here with Discovery." The pressure will be on 'Popo' to perform when the Tour hits the big mountains of the Alps and Pyrénées.

Super-domestique Barredo

By Gregor Brown in Joigny

Carlos Barredo in Italy
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Click for larger image

When a Tour de France jersey passes into the hands of a team, there has to be strong support riders to help that jersey holder maintain his lead. For the Quickstep team of Maillot Vert Tom Boonen, one of these men is Carlos Barredo. The 26 year-old Spaniard has been working tirelessly for Quickstep-Innergetic teammates Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans, putting in strong pulls on the front, some of which paid off with a team one-two when Steegmans led his Belgian compatriot Boonen for a home win in Gent.

Barredo joined the team to learn about riding in the cobble-Classics from the very best, and now finds himself working for the Tour's points leader. "Now I am feeling good with my work for the team," he said to Cyclingnews Wednesday morning. "I think that my work will be more important in the next week with the mountains. Now I am working a little bit but not a lot.

"I will be working for [Juan Manuel] Gárate and I think that he has a chance at a good [general] classification," Barredo continued of his teammate, who won the mountain top finish to Passo di San Pellegrino in the 2006 Giro d'Italia. "For him it is important to have help in the climbs. Right now, I have good condition and I can go with him."

Barredo's teamwork does not go unnoticed. "They always say thanks for my work; they are great guys, and it is always 'Thanks, thanks,'" he noted of his Belgian teammates Steegmans and Boonen.

"Yesterday, Gert crashed with me. [He points down to his right leg to prove that he did crash - ed.] I stopped hard and then Gert hit me hard from behind. 'Bam!' [Laughs. - ed.] Gert is a little too heavy for me. He is strong and with tremendous force. I think that the people never saw the work of [Steven] De Jongh on the stage to Gent. It was incredible what those guys did. De Jongh worked up to the last 190 metres and after it was Gert."

Expect to see the likable Spaniard moving his Gárate to the front on Thursday's stage to Autun when the race takes in eight categorized climbs. For more on Barredo ready Cyclingnews' interview.

Broken Elbow for Di Grégorio

French climber Rémy Di Grégorio (Française des Jeux) has broken his elbow in a fall during the fourth stage of the Tour de France, which has led to him abandoning the event. Di Grégorio finished the stage some eight minutes behind the peloton on Stage 4, and was taken directly to the hospital in Joigny for further tests.

The 21 year-old was the king of the mountains at the Dauphiné Libéré held in France last month and was taking part in his first Tour. He was involved in the same fall after 63km as Spaniard Xabier Zandio, who abandoned with a broken collar bone. Four other riders, Geraint Thomas, Inigo Landaluze Intxaurraga, Jorge Azanza Soto, and Martin Elmiger, were also involved in the crash but were able to continue, eventually returning to the peloton. Di Grégorio hit his right knee and elbow and was unable to sustain the pace of the peloton due to the pain.

Sweet deal to end between Sercu and Chocolade Jacques

Chocolade Jacques has decided to end its sponsorship with Christophe Sercu's squad at the ends of this year, but that doesn't mean the end of the team according to the team manager.

"We regret the decision of Chocolade Jacques of course, but would like to formally thank them for their support of the team over the course of the last four years," Sercu told Sports Wereld. "Thanks to their help we have been able to bring the team up to their current level and the results that brings."

"Thanks to the continued trust and engagement of our head sponsor Topsport Vlaanderen, our bike sponsor Eddy Merckx and our other partners for the team, we can guarantee even now that the team will continue next year as a professional continental team," he added. "The objective of the team will be the same" to give the chance to young talented rider to develop in the perfect manner before they make the step up to the ProTour ranks."

The committee of Eddy Merckxvrienden, who are responsible for the financial side of the team, will now concentrate fully on acquiring one or more new sponsors for the team. "Even though the current climate of cycling is not at its optimum, we are confident that we will be able find a sponsor to invest in our project."

Merckx to ride Best Buddies Challenge

Olympic medalist Axel Merckx, the son of the legendary Eddy Merckx, will wrap up his season at the fourth Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle on September 8, where he'll be joined by T-Mobile teammates. The 34 year-old Belgian, who is currently competing in his ninth Tour de France, is the reigning Olympic Bronze medalist and winner of a stage in the 2000 Giro d'Italia.

Joining Merckx at the event will be American teammates Aaron Olson and Mari Holden, Kimberly Baldwin and Kim Anderson from T-Mobile's women's team.

The Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle is a charity cycling event that supports Best Buddies, an international nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

Jan Ullrich to talk soon

Former T-Mobile leader Jan Ullrich, who was implicated in the Spanish Operacion Peurto affair, will soon be holding a conference where he will talk in detail about "the events of the last few years", according to Sports Wereld.

"I will talk, and I will give my detailed opinion regarding the events of the last few years," the now retired rider said. "But I will do that at the moment that I feel is the right moment."

"I am, at the moment, looking for the right medium, so that my version of events is presented without being misunderstood," explained the German 1997 Tour de France winner. Ullrich, who has always denied his involvement with doping, didn't give any further details other than he would not talk during the Tour de France.

Easy money for Landis?

Former Phonak rider Floyd Landis has made it no secret that he's nearing bankruptcy, due to the ongoing court costs as he battles to defend his 2006 Tour de France victory, but now he has a chance to make some easy money to the tune of $100,000. The catch? The American will have to sit through a lie detector test.

The offer comes from the American multi millionaire Michael Robertson. Robertson, a cycling fanatic who says he can't believe that Landis doped in last year's Tour de France, would like to see the rider prove via a lie detector test that he didn't use any performance enhancing drugs. Landis has never accepted the now year-old offer.

Carswell gets top NZ track job

BikeNZ has announced Tim Carswell as the new head coach for the New Zealand track program. Carswell represented New Zealand at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games as part of the teams pursuit team and was a double medallist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

"I am really excited about the position and the challenges ahead," said Carswell. "My first priority will be to ensure communication channels between riders and their support staff are strong so the high performance team can maximise the time between now and the World Championships and Beijing Olympics."

Carswell, who will soon more to Invercargill to fulfil his new position, was the sprint coach at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He has spent the past three years as New Zealand's National under 19 track programme head coach.

"Having Tim on board as National track coach is exciting for the sport in New Zealand," said BikeNZ Performance Director Mark Elliott. "He has a strong background in the sport and is respected by his peers and by the athletes he works with. Most importantly Tim has the attributes we are looking for to develop a High Performance programme for BikeNZ between now and the 2012 London Olympics."

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