First Edition Cycling News, June 20, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen
Armstrong: Tour wide open
Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong believes this year's Tour is wide open for anyone to win, following some disappointing performances from favourites in the lead up to the July 7 start. The American, who will be at the start in London, had named Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov as a likely victor earlier in the season, but feels the Kazak hasn't shown the required form in the event's lead up.
"Before last week the odds were that Vinokourov would be the winner. I think he had the best chances, but he didn't perform well in the high mountains, in the Dauphine," Armstrong told AP. "I think as far as the race goes that it's wide open. It's really anybody's guess."
While Armstrong believes his Discovery Channel team's Levi Leipheimer is a definite chance for the yellow jersey, he confessed that the American squad wasn't 'particularly that great' at the Dauphine either.
"I don't think our guys were particularly that great there, either," he added, "but I think they're on a good path to be in top form for the race."
Armstrong will return to the United States shortly after the first stage in London to appear at a celebrity golf match in Lake Tahoe. The now retired Armstrong may return to France for the remainder of the Tour, but that will depend on how the boys in blue are performing.
"We'll see how the race plays out, and whether or not we go back to Paris, I don't know," he said.
Di Luca wants Emirates gold
After winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career this year, Danilo Di Luca is now aiming to continue his winning form all the way to November. The Italian, who has had a stellar season to date, is aiming to take out the world's richest bike race in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi, largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, is busily planning the event - a three stage race that will cover just 212 km - organised by Unipublic. The prestigious event, where only six teams can qualify and a further six will receive wild cards, is being heralded as 'the race of champions'.
The six teams that will receive invites will be that of the individual Grand Tour winners, as well as the teams that win the team's classification of the three Grand Tours. Liquigas and Di Luca are the first combination to book a place in the $1 million dollar race, where the winner will take home more than the prize money of all three Grand Tours combined, having won the Giro.
"This was my first Giro victory, but I want to continue winning to make 2007 the best season of my career, and this would obviously end with triumph in November's Abu Dhabi Cycling Race of Champions," said Di Luca. "The whole cycling world is talking about this fantastic event."
Tarek Al Kays, CEO of Kenzay Abu Dhabi, said that there has been a massive amount of interest in the race. "We are receiving calls daily from companies and professional teams in the UAE and places as far as Australia, South Africa and Switzerland who want to enter the race," said Al Kays.
As part of the 10-day cycling festival there will be a pro-am event, gala dinners and two public concerts with local and international performers.
Jaksche to keep riding despite team boss
By Susan Westemeyer
Team owner Oleg Tinkov doesn't want him on the team, but Jörg Jaksche is still riding for Tinkoff Credit Systems and plans to contest the Österreich Rundfahrt starting July 9. "That is my next big goal," he told the dpa press agency. Jaksche said that he assumed he would fulfill his contract with the team, which runs through the end of the year.
Tinkov made headlines when he signed Jaksche, Tyler Hamilton and Danilo Hondo to his Professional Continental team this year, saying they all deserved a second chance. However, the Russian has had a change of heart, telling Cyclingnews last week: "I don't want to see Hondo, Jaksche and Tyler anymore in my team. That is it."
Hamilton and Jaksche were removed from Tinkoff's Giro d'Italia squad at the last minute. While Hamilton has not since raced, Jaksche has appeared in several races since then, winning the Circuit de Lorraine and most recently finishing second in the Euskal Bizikleta.
"It is a management decision," explained Tinkov. "I don't want to see Hamilton, Jaksche, [Danilo] Hondo, or any guys with doping issues mentioned next to my name. However, the management sometimes does its own stuff. I was surprised to see Jaksche racing. According to the UCI contract we can't fire him."
Jaksche, a German who lives in Kitzbühel, Austria, says he will not join the ranks of riders who have confessed to being involved in the Telekom 1990s doping scandal or Operación Puerto, in which his name had arisen. "I have nothing to confess," he said.
Schumacher prepares for Tour
By Shane Stokes in Nauders, Switzerland
Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher will start his first Tour de France in less than three weeks time. The Amstel Gold winner is determined to have a good showing, and told Cyclingnews that the Tour de Suisse is primarily about building form.
"This will be my first Tour, so I am motivated for that," he confessed, prior to Monday's Stage 3 start. "This race is preparation for that race and as a result, I won't try to be in the front for the GC. Okay, if I fly today maybe I will try do to something overall, but we will see day by day."
As things turned out, he finished 5'21 back in 82nd place. He had seemed a little unsure of his form beforehand.
"I didn't feel really good yesterday [stage two - ed.]. I don't know why. Maybe it was an unusual kind of stage because we were riding it so slow and then there was a steep mountain. A lot of riders didn't feel good, and me also."
Rabobank's Eltink impresses as riders ease off in Suisse
With their eye on the Tour de France, starting in a little over two weeks, Rabobank's riders at the Tour de Suisse were ordered to take it easy on Stage 4's final climb. Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd both held themselves to the agreement, coming in with the 'bus' according to the Dutch team's official website.
Theo Eltink on the other hand, decided he would go a bit harder on the climb, where he finished 40th around six minutes down as the best placed Rabobank rider. Eltink, who was forced to pull out of the Dauphiné last week due to illness, wants to show the team that he deserves his place on the Tour squad.
Eltink's ride on the tough mountain impressed his director. "When you know that just a week ago Theo was extremely sick, his result today is really not bad at all," said Ardri van Houwelingen. "Fortieth today is not a bad result, but most of all the improvement from Monday is impressive."
The climb to Triesenberg- Malbun is 13 kilometers long with an average gradient of 9.7 percent, which makes it a tougher climb than many in the up coming Tour. "[It's] even harder than the Alpe d'Huez," was Van Houwelingen impression.
It seems that Eltink's ride today has left a positive impression on Van Houwelingen, after the director commented yesterday that he thought the Tour may be to difficult for the young rider from Brabant in Holland's South. "We hope Theo can continue to build his form," he said. "It is looking good."
Cannonball Cavendish's dream debut
He's already taken world, European and Commonwealth Games championship medals on the track and now, in his first pro year, T-Mobile's young sprinter Mark Cavendish has developed into one of the fastest road sprinters on the circuit. What's more, on Tuesday he became one of the first riders to sign the UCI's new anti-doping charter, pledging to win clean. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes recently spoke to the Manxman about his five victories this season, the atmosphere on the German team and about his chances of starting the Tour de France on home soil.
This year has seen a dream professional debut for Mark Cavendish. The T-Mobile rider may be just 22 years of age, the season may be just five months old, but he has already landed five victories and snagged the green jersey of points winner in the Four Days of Dunkirk. That means he has netted the highest total of individual wins for the [men's] team thus far in 2007.
After finishing second on the opening stage of the Etoile de Bessèges, the Manxman lost some time due to illness. He bounced back with a sprint victory in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen on April 18, beating riders of the calibre of Robbie McEwen (Predictor Lotto), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), and Erik Zabel (Milram).
Cavendish was 11th in the following day's Grand Prix de Denain and then lined out in the Four Days of Dunkirk on May 8. He finished third on Stage 2, winning the bunch sprint, and then galloped in first on Stages 3 and 6, netting the points jersey in the process. More was to follow: he snagged his first ProTour victory on stage two of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on May 21, then followed that up with another win on stage six.
It's been a great start, to say the least. "I knew I was capable of that but given that my season started off quite badly due to me being sick, it has worked out well," he said. "Once I got that initial victory in the Scheldeprijs I showed I could do it, and was just a case of getting more wins after that.
To read the full interview with Mark Cavendish, click here.
Riders gather for Smithfield Nocturne launch
By Ben Atkins in London, England
Riders from the various categories gathered for a photo opportunity at Smithfield Market this afternoon. Three riders representing the elite, courier and the commuters' folding bike races were joined by a Smithfield butcher - on a traditional delivery bike - to publicise the race that will take place on the streets around the famous meat market this Saturday evening.
Event highlights will include a the Dahon Folding Bike Race featuring 'commuters' dressed in jackets and ties will start Le Mans style, 10 metres from their folded bikes and build them as quickly as possible before racing five laps of the 900m course.
The main event of the evening will be the elite criterium, featuring the cream of the British road scene, including Premier Calendar leader Dean Downing and current national criterium series leader Rob Hayles. Joining the domestic riders will be Australian Team CSC rider Matt Goss, but sadly not Saunier Duval's David Millar, who does not want to take any risks so close to the start of the Tour de France. Millar will nevertheless be present at the event to show his support and sign autographs, before flying off to join his team for the Eindhoven team time trial.
All races are free to the public and the action starts at 5pm this Saturday, June 23. For more information go to www.smithfieldnocturne.com.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com
Brownsville launch 'slim' bid for USA Cycling headquarters
Brownsville, Pennsylvania, a borough some 35 miles South of Pittsburgh, has sent a letter to USA cycling urging the national governing body to relocate its headquarters, according The Gazette. The request for USAC to move from its Colorado Springs base is centered around ambitious plans to build a climate controlled wooden velodrome as a part of a 125 million dollar re-development plan for the town.
While USAC spokesperson Andy Lee dubbed the chances of a move as "very, very slim", a Los Angeles-based real estate firm is pushing ahead with a feasibility study, at an expense of $277,400 USD, to determine whether the town could accommodate both the velodrome and USAC.
USA Cycling currently occupies about 25,000 square feet in an aging building at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs that may be demolished in 2008, according to Darryl Seibel, chief communications officer for the US Olympic Committee. Other locations within Colorado have been investigated as a possible new home for the governing body.
Ray Koffler, director of the Greater Brownsville Area Chamber of Commerce, described Brownsville as a war zone, saying: "the town looks like downtown Baghdad. It looks like they just dropped a bomb. Roofs have fallen in. Walls have deteriorated. Buildings are in bad, bad shape."
Koffler, however, sees this as an advantage for the town. "We have a lot to offer them. We have a whole town to offer them!"
But despite Brownsville's attempts, it's unlikely USAC will be leaving Colorado Springs anytime soon. "There are a couple communities out there that have discussed the possibilities of us moving our offices," Lee said. "Those tend to happen pretty frequently, and nothing has materialized. We're not actively looking to relocate our offices outside of Colorado Springs."
While the nation's governing body may not be moving to the area, with 15 million USD in state funding, its possible the proposed velodrome, which would be only the second indoor venue to meet UCI standards in North America, will get the green light. The only other indoor velodrome in North America that meets international standards is the ADT Event Center in Carson, California.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)