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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for June 27, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson and Paul Verkuylen

Riders flock to sign UCI charter as Tour nears

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The stream of riders rushing to sign the UCI's new anti-doping charter continues to flow with the addition of Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval), and Rubén Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne) to the list. The pair are the latest individuals to sign the charter, in which riders pledge to pay a full year's salary and serve a two year suspension if found to have doped, while T-Mobile has become the latest of the 21 ProTour teams to have its entire roster sign the charter.

"I think it is a step in the right direction," declared T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann. "What the cycling world needs is to have more trust. At the T-Mobile Team we stand for anti-doping, so there was never any doubt that we would all sign it." T-Mobile youngster Mark Cavendish, along with Française des Jeux's Sandy Casar, were the first riders to sign the agreement at its unveiling in Switzerland last week.

Saunier Duval announced overnight in a brief statement to the media that Ricco had joined his Italian teammate Gilberto Simoni to become the squad's second rider to sign the agreement. Meanwhile Plaza, who was implicated by Spanish authorities in the Operación Puerto investigation, is the first from Spain's Caisse d'Epargne team to sign the agreement. In doing so, Plaza, like all other signatories, has pledged a DNA sample to the Spanish authorities for cross referencing with Puerto evidence, with the agreement stating: "I declare to the Spanish Law, that my DNA is at its disposal, so that it can be compared with the blood samples seized in the Puerto affair. I appeal to the Spanish Law to organize this tests as soon as possible or allow the UCI to organize it."

Despite the rush by some squads to have its riders sign the agreement, some teams, including Quickstep-Innergetic, Rabobank, Astana and Lampre-Fondital to name a few, are yet to have any riders sign the agreement. That, however, is expected to change over the coming days, with each squad's nine Tour de France riders required to have inked the charter in order to contest the event.

"We will oppose the presence at the start of the Tour of any rider who will not have signed the International Cycling Union's anti-doping charter," outlined Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme to The Guardian.

While French teams Crédit Agricole and Agritubel, like T-Mobile, have had their full rosters sign the agreement, Cofidis and Bouygues Telecom have only had their nine Tour riders sign the agreement to date. Despite the fact that the UCI cannot legally force riders to sign its new charter, the amount of athletes to sign shows the political and peer pressure, in the form of publishing the list online, has paid dividends for the sport's governing body.

Boonen could skip Beijing Olympics

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Quickstep's Tom Boonen has said he's 'inclined to say that I won't go' to next year's Olympic Games in Beijing, China due to the event's timing. The former world champion is concerned the Games' timing will mean sacrificing either his Olympic or ProTour potential.

"I would really like to go to the games," Boonen explained to "But I am afraid that Peking is not going to be possible."

The Belgian Olympic committee has sent its star rider a letter confirming its pre-selection for the event, but Boonen has reservations over his inclusion.

"Firstly, just like Sven Nys, I lose a deal of my ability when it is so hot and humid, and secondly the course is extremely difficult," added Boonen.

The Olympic road race will take place on August 10, 2008 just 10 days after the Tour de France's finish. "It means that we will have to leave for China right after the Tour," he said, before indicating his decision wasn't yet final. "I would like to experience the unique atmosphere of the Olympics. But still I am inclined to say that I won't go. But I sometimes change my mind."

Bettini may work for teammates

Paolo Bettini
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italy's world and Olympic champion Paolo Bettini will line up this weekend to defend his 'other' jersey, that of the Italian national champion, but has warned he may instead ride for his teammates. The Quickstep rider doesn't have high hopes of keeping the tri-coloured jersey though, having spent time away from the bike since the Giro d'Italia.

"It is going to be difficult to defend my title, after the Giro I haven't spent a great deal of time on the bike," he admitted.

Bettini sees himself as a helper to his other teammates taking part in the event, a role he has played many times in the past, albeit it more in the start of his career. "I have spent the last 10 days riding easier, and luckily it is starting to go better now," he added. "I will, as always, do my best this weekend, but don't be surprised if you see me working for my younger teammates Giovanni Visconti and Alessandro Proni, who have over the past few weeks shown good form."

Gerolsteiner for the Tour

German squad Gerolsteiner has announced four riders that will take to the start of the Tour on July 7, in support of its GC hopes Markus Fothen and Bernhard Kohl. Alongside the two leaders, the squad will send stage victory hopes Fabian Wegmann and Stefan Schumacher, as well as Dauphiné Libéré stage winner Heinrich Haussler, and fellow sprinter Robert Förster.

The final three places for the squad are expected to be announced after the weekend's national title road race.

Euskaltel announce final Tour roster

By Monika Prell

Euskaltel-Euskadi has announced its final Tour de France team, comprising of the Basque squad's strongest riders. The team's directors expect Haimar Zubeldia will be named as the squad's captain when it's officially unveiled on Monday. Zubeldia will be helped by Mikel Astarloza, a strong time trialist, veterans Iñigo Landaluze and Gorka Verdugo, young hopes Igor Antón, winner of a stage of last year's Vuelta a España, Rubén Pérez, Amets Txurruka and Jorge Azana and veteran sprinter Iñaki Isasi.

A ceremony will be held near the squad's Bilbao headquarters on Monday, where the team will be formerly announced before departing for a Tuesday arrival in London.

Di Luca readies for catwalk debut

Danilo Di Luca will don the threads of Italian designer Byblos at 11:30 today when he takes to the catwalk as a star model on the closing day of the spring/summer 2008 Fashion Week in Milan. The Italian, whose favourite clothing item is believed to be the Maglia Rosa by Gazzetta Dello Sport, signed a one-off deal with the Versace-inspired designer to appear at today's event.

"The key of this agreement, singular but funny for me, stays in the common denominator - the passion for the modern art," explained Di Luca. "I like Byblos collection because its lively and sprightly spirit, inspired by art and sport. The perfect alliance."

Cavendish joins Boonen for post-Tour crit

Organizers of the post-Tour de France criterium in Belgium's Broker have announced that British T-Mobile rider Mark Cavendish will line up with the already announced Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) at the July 31 event. The latest sprinting sensation on the ProTour circuit, 22 year-old Cavendish has already won six races in his first season as a professional - including the Scheldeprijs where he beat Australian Robbie McEwen.

BMC riders help Navigator soigneur apprehend thief

By Kirsten Robbins

BMC and Navigators Insurance riders work together at last week's race
Photo ©: Matthew Moses
(Click for larger image)

Shortly after Mike Sayers of the BMC team won the most aggressive rider's jersey in Stage 4 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix on June 22, the team drove off to fight unexpected crime in the parking lot of the hotel being used by most of the teams and organisation. Arriving at the hotel, the squad came to the assistance of Navigators soigneur, Janis Burns, who was involved in an altercation with a man reportedly seen breaking into her room.

"It is very scary but it is also good to see that no matter what team we all work for, our little family of the cycling community will have each other's back when it really comes down to it," commented Burns.

Burns chased a large man wearing a suit, unaffiliated with the race, down into the hotel parking lot after Navigator's rider, Matt Cooke, called to notify her that a strange man had exited her room. "I chased him because I didn't know why he was there or if he had stolen any valuables," said Burns, still shaken several days after the incident.

"As I went to call the police he punched me in the chest," Burns explained. "At that point I ran after him kicking and screaming and got a couple of punches in myself."

The BMC team drove into the parking lot when they noticed the altercation. "I could hear Dan Schmatz jump out of the car and come up from behind yelling 'stop or I'll shoot'," she added, "which was actually a smart thing to do because it worked and the man stopped."

Schmatz, who saw the two running across the parking lot, ran after them in an attempt to catch the perpetrator. "We hit the ground and once we got up more of the guys came over to help," Schmatz said. "At that time I still didn't know what was going on but I knew Janis must have had a good reason to be chasing him and something must be wrong."

Four BMC riders jumped out of the team van to provide Schmatz with assistance to corral the 250bs man closer toward the hotel. "Dan Schmatz body-slammed him and his teammates held him down until the police cruisers arrived," Burns said.

Local Minneapolis police arrived and took the man to the local station where they learned of a history of criminal conduct and convictions. "I spoke with the detective last night and as it turns out he is a registered multiple sex offender," Burns said. Though his name has not been revealed, his form includes a long list of sex offences and burglary. "The detectives told me that he had a magnetic unlocking device that enabled him to get into any hotel room," she added. "They also said he was focused on one of the women's soigneurs and it happened to be me."

Discovery to hit Missouri

America's only ProTour team, Discovery Channel, has announced its participation in September's Tour of Missouri. The all-new tour, from September 11-16, will start in Kansas City and conclude in St. Louis.

"Our Team has always had great success racing in the U.S., and we are looking forward to another solid performance in Missouri," said Discovery Channel sports director Johan Bruyneel. "Our success started with Lance and has continued on with guys like Tom (Danielson), Levi (Leipheimer) and more recently (Janez) Brajkovic at the Tour de Georgia. I don't know who will make up our roster just yet, but it will definitely be strong and have some of the Americans."

The Discovery Channel team is led by top Americans Levi Leipheimer, a podium contender in this year's Tour de France, 2006 U.S. National Champion George Hincapie, and 2005 Tour de Georgia winner Tom Danielson.

"We're extremely proud to announce the Discovery Channel team as the first team participant of the inaugural Tour of Missouri," said race director Jim Birrell. "Our goal is to attract top European and North American-based professional teams to this world-class race, and this is a great start."

Event organisers are hoping its season ending date will help attract some large local and European teams. The 600 mile event is made up of six stages - four road race stages with one criterium and a time trial.

Drapac-Porsche reaches European milestone

By Paul Verkuylen

Drapac Porsche will reach a significant milestone today when the Australian pro continental squad contests its first UCI sanctioned race in Europe - the 60th edition of Halle-Ingooigem in Belgium. The UCI 1.1 race, which was won last year by Australia's Baden Cooke, is being used by many ProTour riders as preparation for this weekend's national titles as well as July's Tour de France.

Drapac Porsche has only been in Belgium for a few days, arriving last Friday, but has already shown that its not there to make up the numbers. Competing in a 170 km non-UCI race on Sunday, Rob McLachlan, who represented Australia in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, spent most of the day off the front before going on to finish fourth.

The Melbourne-based squad, which includes current Australian champion Darren Lapthorne, is looking forward to lining up against some of the world's best riders, including 2005 world champion Tom Boonen and Tour de France green jersey winner, Robbie McEwen.

Team manager Scott McGrory, an Olympic gold medalist from Sydney 2000 in the Madison and experienced campaigner in Europe, has organised a Belgian-based European program for the team which includes the upcoming Tour of Austria and the Brixia Tour.

McGrory believes that this is a very exciting time for Australian cycling in general, with the development of the team's format for the first time in Australia leading to more young Australian riders being nurtured by the increasing number of Australian based teams.

The Oceania team's race program has been somewhat subdued over the past few weeks, due to end of semester exams. The squad emphasises on a balanced approach to its riders' lives, with each rider required to either work part-time or study, so as to prepare them for a life after cycling, as well as make them more rounded riders, both on and off the bike.

Drapac Porsche Halle-Ingooigem roster: Darren Lapthorne, Mitchell Docker, Casey Munro, Robbie Williams, Robert McLachlan, Stuart Shaw and Dean Windsor

Team CSC/Marcello prepare for Indonesian debut

Team CSC/Marcello is readying for its Indonesian debut at the Tour of East Java. The South African squad will send three of its regular riders and two temporary riders to make up its five man squad in the July 4-8 event.

The squad, which will be lead by the son of Chris Willemse Snr, Chris Willemse Jnr, will complete a block of race in Asia starting with East Java. The riders will then contest a tour in Hong Kong before retuning for the Tour of Indonesia in August before wrapping up its two month journey with an event in Korea.

"There is growing interest in cycling which is both encouraging for the sport as a whole, and for South African - and African - cyclists whose participation in these events is being welcomed by the organizers," Willemse Snr said. "Our team is currently in top form and I am particularly confident of a strong showing by [Jeremy] Maartens and Willemse Jnr."

Team CSC/Marcello Tour of East Java roster: Garth Thomas, Chris Willemse Jnr, Jeremy Maartens, Jamie Ball and Michael Pepper.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)