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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 14, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

The ProTour issue through Unipublic's eyes

Victor Cordero
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After teetering on the brink of implosion the UCI think-tank's ProTour is gradually stepping back from the edge as cycling's governing body and the Grand Tour organisers compromise on a solution to the three year-old battle. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez spoke with Unipublic's Victor Cordero to discuss the needs, problems and possible solutions of the ProTour issue.

As the Vuelta a España's director, Victor Cordero is among the most powerful men in world cycling. While the Spanish tour sits clearly behind the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in status, Unipublic's position in the Grand Tour alliance is unquestionably one of influence.

In February Unipublic stood behind Tour de France organiser ASO in its refusal to allow to compete in its Grand Tour. Just over a month later, the message is still the same, although the line had softened subtly.

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"Unibet is not in our plans, but fortunately, as we are not forced by the rules to give the wildcards on March 1 like last year, we can wait up to three months, until the end of May, begin of June [before we decide. The last word it is not yet said," noted Cordero. "If Unibet has all its legal problems solved, if it improves the performances and conditions of the other six candidates…it is not Unibet alone, we have six candidatures for riding the Vuelta a España. We will make the decision mainly based on sporting criteria. Up to today, I don't see Unibet in the Vuelta."

Cordero went on to outline the outcomes of last week's emergency meeting between the Grand Tour organisers, the UCI and IPCT in Brussels, saying: "What we have decided last Monday is that our 18-team offer, that the 18 teams have accepted, is still valid. Astana as well as Unibet go to the races with wildcards. They are wildcards, race organisers are free to decide about them."

Read the full interview with Victor Cordero.

Pellizotti strikes

Stage and Yellow for The Dauphin

Pellizotti dons his yellow jersey
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Franco Pellizotti caught the sprinters in a moment of weakness and attacked to take stage two and the leader's Maillot Jaune of the 2007 Paris-Nice. As the stage, 177 kilometres from Vatan, came to a close in Limoges, the road kicked upward with a rise of 3% gradient over 2.5 kilometres, and it was here Il Delfino di Bibione (The Dauphin of Bibione) struck Quick-Step's sprint team.

"Behind [the escape group] Quick-Step took the final rise with an impressive velocity," explained the 29 year-old, blonde haired rider from Liquigas to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was too strong. What they did was blow out everyone, including the sprinters and their own Tom Boonen. It was a beginner's error because we would have caught the break anyway."

Thomas Volker and Murilo Fischer, the last of the escapees, were caught in the final kilometre and soon after the play for victory started. Pellizotti noted Quick-Step's errors and the work of his teammate, Luca Paolini. "At 600 metres, Quick-Step setup an opening for [Steven] De Jongh but he did not have great legs. Paolini understood the situation and screamed for me to take off; and to think I was going to take him to the sprint."

The win was similar to his last, in the 2006 Giro d'Italia, where he darted ahead on the riser into Peschici. But Pellizotti's pedigree runs deeper, in 2005 he won the stage and overall of the Coppi & Bartali, proving that he has a chance to take the final Maillot Jaune in The Race to the Sun. He believes he has the winter's base and teammates to help him achieve this goal when the race finishes on the Côte d'Azur, in four days.

"It is thanks to the tremendous work we performed during the winter camps, in which there was created this great team spirit," he continued, Paolini and Patrick Calcagni were both present to help in the finale, and both finished in the top 10, enabling Liquigas to now control the teams' classification.

"For me, it was very useful to race the Tour of California [he finished ninth overall - ed.]. I am in the yellow jersey also thanks to a great prologue. ... Once a week I train specifically on my time trial bike; two hours, at times two and a half. I have had a lot of useful input from [Mario] Scirea, and [Stefano] Zanatta has modified my position. I think I am on the right track.

"I hope that I will arrive in Nice wearing yellow."

Rebellin moving up

By Susan Westemeyer

Italian Davide Rebellin is slowly working his way up in the Paris-Nice. The Gerolsteiner captain moved up to ninth in GC after Tuesday's second stage, only 13 seconds behind leader Franco Pellizotti.

Rebellin and youngster Thomas Fothen finished in the first group, two seconds behind the winner. "That was good today, the team rode really well," said Director Sportif Udo Bölts. "Davide is coming along well. And Thomas was very strong again and supported his captain well in the finale."

Milram & T-Mobile not happy

By Susan Westemeyer

Teams Milram and T-Mobile were not very happy after Tuesday's Paris-Nice stage two. Both had their captains in the leading group which came in two seconds behind winner and new leader Franco Pellizotti, but both wished to have performed better.

When the peloton split with two kilometres left, Milram captain Igor Astarloa was in a good position. "When we got to the last 300 meters, I was in the leading group," he said on the team's website, "But on the final run-in to the finish line, we had a headwind and I didn't have good legs." The Spaniard finished 13th on the stage and is also 13th overall.

T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz was also in the leading group at the finish. He finished 22d on the day, and is now 19th overall, 19 seconds down. But that was the only good news of the day for the German team.

"It was just not our day," said Director Sportif Brian Holm on "When 17 riders escaped in the beginning, we didn't have a rider among them. Together with Rabobank and CSC we led the chase in the earliest parts of the race. Maybe our rider used up too much strength to be able to do something in the difficult finish."

Criminal doping charges against VDB dismissed

By Susan Westemeyer

The court of appeals in Brussels, Belgium, dismissed doping possession charges against Frank Vandenbroucke Wednesday morning, noting that he had already served a six-month suspension for the charges.

In February 2002, police found EPO and clenbuterol in Vandenbroucke's home. He allegedly claimed the drugs were for his dog. His team at the time, Domo-Farm Frites fired him and he subsequently served a six-month suspension.

The court noted that the Belgian cycling federation had imposed a sentence on VDB, who now rides for Acqua & Sapone, and that, under Belgian law, an athlete cannot be punished both by a sports federation and a criminal court. His attorney, Luc Deleu, said that the ruling could also have an effect on the upcoming trial of Johan Museeuw.

Museeuw was charged with possessing illegal doping products following a search of his house in 2003. He retired a year later and was subsequently banned for two years by the Belgian federation. His trial is scheduled to start April 2.

2003 winner Pozzato ready for Tirreno

Pozatto wins Omloop Het Volk
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

It is hard to think that the same Filippo Pozzato that won the 2006 Milano-Sanremo and this year's Omloop Het-Volk also won the Tirreno-Adriatico four years ago. In 2003, riding for Fassa Bortolo, the then 21 year-old triumphed in Tarquinia, taking the stage and overall lead, which he held to the end. The Corsa dei Due Mari put his name in the press but his subsequent wins over the last years confirmed his depth.

"I remember the emotions of Tarquinia, when I arrived ahead of Bettini and Vainsteins," he recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of the 2007 edition. "Still, to this day, it remains one of my most important career successes. Above all, for the first time I was in a team that was all riding for me. There is where I started to learn the techniques of leadership."

Now, after racing side-by-side with Paolo Bettini for 2005 and 2006, the 25 year-old from Veneto is once again up against the great champion. "It will be the first time, since my coming over to Liquigas, that we will race against each other. But we still have a great relationship and it was Bettini who was the first to congratulate me after Het Volk. Certainly, to battle and win against the World Champion would be a dream."

'Pippo' wants to keep modest objectives for the race across Italy. He would like to win a stage but is not considering the overall win. "Above all a stage win," he quipped. "I will not start with the intentions of the overall classification. If I am able to ride a good time trial... but I think that the mountain top finish the day after will be particularly hard."

His goals are set high, including three Classics. Shortly after Tirreno will be Pippo's first of four goals, Milano-Sanremo, March 24, a race he won last year. "Liquigas are going very strong," he continued, noting the win of teammate Franco Pellizotti in Paris-Nice. "In the Belgium races, at the start of the month we were up at the same level as Bettini and Boonen's Quick-Step. For this reason, I am thinking of Sanremo, Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Roubaix; the four appointments that I have marked. I have made big plans."

Freire and Gutiérrez: protagonists for Tirreno-Adriatico

By Monika Prell

Oscar Freire and Iván Gutiérrez are two of the favourites of the second ProTour race, Tirreno-Adriatico, according to Spanish daily AS. For Freire, three-time World Champion, it's both a preparation race for Milano-Sanremo, March 24, and one in which he hopes to add more stage wins to his palmarès. The Rabobank rider has eight stage wins in six starts, winning the overall in 2005 and finishing two times on the podium.

The Cantabrian has a good form, after the Clásica de Almería he stayed in Denia (Alicante) where he was able to train hard thanks to the good weather. The only bad thing are his backaches that have not totally disappeared.

Freire will have strong rivals for the sprints, there are Alessandro Petacchi, Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd, Stuart O'Grady, Danilo Napolitano, Gerald Ciolek and Bernhard Eisel. Then, for stages three and four, where the day finishes on an uphill stretch, he will face riders like Paolo Bettini.

But this year neither Freire nor the other sprinters are poised to win the general classification because of the time trial and following day's mountain top finish. The race will likely suit riders like fellow Cantabrian, Iván Gutiérrez of Caisse d'Epargne, winner of the Tour Méditerranéen.

Jaksche hasn't "done anything illegal"

By Susan Westemeyer

"I haven't done anything illegal," Jörg Jaksche told regarding his alleged involvement in Operación Puerto. "I knew Dr. Fuentes, but that had nothing to do with sport. That was purely a personal matter."

In order to demonstrate his innocence, Jaksche said that he had offered a DNA sample to the UCI, and gave them permission to re-test all his urine samples from the last five years, "also for substances that they weren't able to look for five years ago." But he has never received an answer from the UCI, he noted.

All the while Jaksche tried to keep himself fit. "But there have been times when it was mentally tough. I trained a lot in Italy with friends who are enthusiastic about cycling. I could talk a lot with them about the problem. That was very important, because it can just eat you up when you don't know what's going to happen."

The German, who lives in Austria, said that he has spoken with several teams, including Tinkoff Credit Systems. "But nothing that is ready for a signature has emerged."

Relax-GAM roster for Vuelta Por un Chile Líder

By Monika Prell

Relax-GAM will again participate in a South American race. After the Tour de San Luis (Argentina) earlier this year, they are set to compete in the Vuelta Por un Chile Líder in Chile, March 15 - 25.

The team, directed by Jesús Suárez Cueva, will be led by Francisco Mancebo. It will intend to improve on its good beginnings, including a stage victory by Daniel Moreno and the final team general classification in Argentina.

The race consists of a prologue time trial of 4.4 kilometres, a team time trial and an individual time trial of ten kilometres. Two stages will be run in the high mountains; Friday, 23 (Curico to Maitenes) and Saturday, 24 (Santiago Valle Nevado).

The team will consist of six men: Francisco Mancebo, Daniel Moreno, José Miguel Elías, Nacor Burgos, Francisco José Terciado and Jorge García.

Barloworld and Gerolsteiner to Portugal

Markus Fothen will make his season debut starting Thursday in the Volta Santarem, Team Gerolsteiner has announced. He will lead a mostly-young team in the four-stage race in Portugal.

Gerolsteiner for Santarem: Markus Fothen, Johannes Frohlinger, Oscar Gatto, Torsten Hiekmann, Tom Stamsnijder, Carlo Westphal, and Beat Zberg.

Barloworld for Santarem: Giosuè Bonomi, Giampaolo Cheula, Enrico Degano, Félix Rafael Cárdenas, Robert Hunter, Paolo Longo Borghini, Hugo Sabido, and Kanstantsin Siutsou

Niedersachsen Rundfahrt finds money to continue

By Susan Westemeyer

Organizers of the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt have come up with enough sponsor money to stage the race again this year. "The race can take place," said Race Director Otto Pätzold. "We are speaking with various sponsors and can promise that the race will happen. But I can't say any more at the moment."

Last week, Pätzold commented that the race may have to be cancelled because it was still €30,000 short.

Speaking to, he noted that sponsorship still was missing for three of the special jerseys. "But we are holding discussions," he said, adding that these missing sponsorships were not important enough to endanger the race.

23rd Redlands Bicycle Classic with strong North American field

23rd Annual Redlands Bicycle Classic boasts one of the strongest fields in North American cycling, with all events featuring prominent teams on the National Racing Calendar (NCR).

"I am very excited that both defending champions are back with a full field of 25 teams on the men's side, with 18 of those teams licensed to race internationally through their UCI designation," says Brian King, race director. "This could be Redlands' strongest field ever as we also have the top women's teams in North America."

Health Net, presented by Maxxis, is back to defend its team title with defending men's champion Nathan O'Neil, who is backed by his teammate and fellow top five NRC finalist Karl Menzies. Toyota-United, Colavita, Navigators Insurance, Jelly Belly, and Slipstream will all return with their top riders. In addition, a Southern California-based Team 5 Star Fish, led by SoCal Cup champion Karl Bordine, Paul Che, Peter Anderson, Chris DeMarchi, Dan Vinson, and other top SoCal Cup finishers will join the field.

The women's field is also one of the biggest ever with 18 teams representing the best in women's bicycle racing. Defending champion, Amber Neben returns with her Stahl/SC Velo team. National champion and Olympian Christine Thorburn also coasts back to Redlands with her Webcor teammates, ready to test the competition. T-Mobile, led by sprint star Ina Yoko-Teutenberg and Kim Anderson return, elevating the competitive edge for Cheerwine, TEAm Lipton, Colavita-Sutter Home, and Bicycle Johns.

Classic spectators will have several opportunities to view a sea of jerseys flying by in the hills of Redlands as well as at the Citrus Ave. Start/Finish Line. There will be a festival with live entertainment, food and beverages, as well as a beer garden.

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