First Edition Cycling News for November 6, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen
T-Mobile denies speculation over sponsor's immediate future
By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile Team has denied that its sponsor is planning to cancel its contract with the squad, however reports are rife that the telecommunications company is meeting this week to review its options. It's believed the telecommunications giant could seek an early end to the current agreement, which runs through 2010, following the "new set of facts" about the squad which has surfaced in comments by former rider Patrik Sinkewitz.
"I can in no way confirm the supposition that the sponsor wants out," team spokesman Stefan Wagner told the dpa press agency. "We introduced dramatic changes [at] the end of 2006 and started on a new way, which we will continue to follow."
American Bob Stapleton, who took over the team management in January 2007, has introduced a strict anti-doping program as well as an internal code of conduct. Sergey Honchar was released this summer for violating the code of conduct and both Sinkewitz and Lorenzo Bernucci were fired after testing positive.
Following Sinkewitz' most recent disclosures as to doping during the 2006 Tour de France, it has been rumoured that sponsor T-Mobile would seek an early end to its sponsoring contract which runs through 2010.
According to the dpa, the sponsor will allegedly meet this week to review its options. Stefan Althoff, director of sponsoring for Deutsche Telekom, said that there is "a new set of facts, which we have to deal with". While he emphasized that the company has a valid contract with the team through 2010, he implied that the company could seek to end its involvement and compensate the squad for its early withdrawal. "Contracts can always be cancelled, the question is only what the terms might be," pointed Althoff. "We can't pretend that it could go on like this. Things have happened, that we now realize we misjudged in the past. Who would have thought that such things would happen in Freiburg? Not I."
Althoff also indicated that Rolf Aldag's position as Sport Director must also be reviewed. In May Aldag joined Team Milram's Erik Zabel, a former T-Mobile rider, in confessing to the use of EPO while riding for the squad during the 1990s.
Rabobank confirmed for '08 Tour
Dutch ProTour squad Rabobank is already sure of its spot in the 2008 Tour de France, with team manager Henri van der Aat confirming its participation to De Telegraaf. Van der Aat, who took over the squad's top spot from Theo de Rooy, confirmed that he had been promised a spot by Tour director Christian Prudhomme.
"The Tour considers Rabobank as one of the leading teams in the world and one that belongs at the Tour," Van de Aat said. "That was enough grounds to promise us a spot."
The news is reassuring for Rabobank, with the squad the centre of a massive controversy at this year's Tour. After a week of speculation surrounding Michael Rasmussen failure to follow anti-doping protocol, the Dane spectacularly dumped from the squad while holding the Tour's yellow leader's jersey by a comfortable margin. Just days after calling a press conference on the Tour's second rest day, where it announced its full support of Rasmussen, the Dutch team took him from the team hotel and accommodated him in an unknown location over night while it announced his sacking, then flew him by private charter back to his residence in Italy.
Furthermore every team's participation in the 2008 Tour was thrown into doubt last week when Prudhomme announced that a ProTour licence will not assure a starting position for any team. "No team is sure of a spot on the Tour," the Frenchman said at the 2008 Tour's route launch.
The move comes at the Grand Tour moves to distance itself from the ProTour structure. The actions follow months of disagreements between the UCI and the Grand Tour organizers. "No rider and no team has a guaranteed start at the 2008 Tour de France," added Patrice Clerc, the head of Tour organizer ASO, at the launch. "Only riders with a biological passport will start, that's all I can say. But we don't have any link whatsoever with the ProTour. Nobody will oblige us to line up certain teams."
Varese back on track
The Varese 2008 UCI Road Cycling World Championships are back on track, with an agreement written by the Commissioner of Government Guido Bertolaso being signed by the involved parties to use the Le Bettole race course to host the event. The facility's use had been a key factor in the Italian city's successful bid to host the 2008 world championships, and the news last month that renovation work at Le Bettole would make it unavailable provided a major obstacle for event organizers.
The Mayor of Varese Attilio Fontana, the Managing director of Società Varesina Incremento Corse Cavalli Antonino Giacobbe, and the president of Varese 2008 Amedeo Colombo all met yesterday to ink their signatures on the agreement to use Le Bettole. The venue will house the press room, competitor's village and other UCI delegations in addition to hosting the start and finish of each race.
The UCI delegation is expected to announce a date over the coming days as to when it will come to inspect the venue. The original visit by the world governing body had been scheduled for last month, but was postponed after the availability of Le Bettole came into question.
Botero will say good-bye after Beijing
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Former Time Trial World Champion Santiago Botero has announced he will end his professional career after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Colombian has contested seven Grand Tours, including four appearances at the Vuelta a España. "You have to know when to retire," the 35 year-old told Radio Caracol.
Botero, who made his debut in 1996 in the now-folded Spanish Kelme-Costa Blanca team, explained in the interview that he's training very hard for the Olympics in the hope of taking a medal for Colombia in August 2008.
Botero will race Continental squad UNE next season and if hopeful of winning the Vuelta a Colombia Pilsen, from June 8 - 22, for the second consecutive year. The Colombian rider, who finished 2007 in eighth place in the UCI America standings, has enjoyed some interesting times at European squads however now prefers racing at home.
Botero was well known in 2000, when won two stages in the Tour de France, and also claimed the mountains jersey. The following year, Botero claimed two stage wins at the Vuelta a España and the bronze medal at the TT Championships in Portugal. Botero has also won two stages in the Dauphine Libéré and another one in the Tour de Romandie during his European quest which included stints at Team Telekom and Phonak.
Recently, Botero claimed the gold medal at the Pan American Games and won the Vuelta a Colombia in 2007.
Boonen finishes year with 'toughest race'
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Innergetic) said goodbye to the 2007 season at the exotic location of Curaçao over the past weekend, an event he described as the "hardest race of the year". Tornado Tom was one of 10 top professionals who were invited to the Netherlands Antilles Island to take part in the 6th Amstel Curaçao.
For the locals and the other islanders the small 75 km race was the race of the year, yet for Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), along with Andy Schleck (Team CSC), Gerald Ciolek (T-Mobile), Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) and Boonen, the race was the only mandatory part of their week-long trip that they received from Leo van Vliet, Amstel Gold race director, in exchange for riding the race.
"Actually this is the hardest race of the year," Boonen explained. "Not only is it much too hot to race, we have also not touched our bikes for a few weeks. We are also up against the local riders who have been preparing for this race all year long especially to put the top guys in the hurt box."
For Boonen and company the trip to the island was more about the swimming, beach, tennis, water polo and deep-sea diving than it was about the racing, however, once they pinned a number to their backs, all of them switched from holiday mode to race mode, albeit only for a couple of hours in order to give the island's cycling fans what they came to see. Contador, racing for the final time in Discovery livery, took the top spot on the podium ahead of Dekker and Fränk Schleck (Team CSC).
Burghardt: "Only thing that counts is the team's success"
Marcus Burghardt was at the end of his two-year contract in the fall of 2006, recovering from knee surgery and desperately hoping to be offered another chance in the form of a contract with the "new" T-Mobile Team under the leadership of incoming General Manager Bob Stapleton. Now, he is assured not only of a place on the team for next year but also a leadership role in the Spring Classics. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer checked in with him about the changes that 2007 brought and found that while he enjoys his personal successes, he always thinks first on the team.
At the team's presentation on Mallorca last January, Burghardt was cautiously optimistic about the coming season. The 24 year-old German needn't have been cautious because the optimism turned out to be on target: his healed knee and matured self-confidence catapulted him onto the podium at two spring races.
It started with a third-place finish behind superstar sprinters Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. He gained confidence not only from his performance in that race, but also from a compliment from Boonen, who said, "I have to admit the young German was unbelievably strong on the hills."
Only a few weeks later, he took his first professional win in "the biggest moment of my career," Gent-Wevelgem, with teammate Roger Hammond finishing second. With a kilometre to go, he attacked out of a six-man strong group and powered his way to the line first.
The win was the highlight of his season. "It was the greatest personal success in my career, and also a great team performance, which was crowned by Roger Hammond's second place."
Where did this success come from? What did he change, to make it happen? "I was good in the spring in previous years, too," he noted. "This year everything just came together: my preparations went perfectly, I had my freedom in the races, our tactics worked out well, and naturally at the deciding moment I had the legs and the mental strength."
The second highlight of the year for him was his first Tour de France. "I have never experienced anything like that. There were masses of people on the mountains, who enthusiastically cheered on even those who were the last – a group I always belonged to on the hard mountain stages. I will surely never forget that."
If those were his highlights, then the season's low point was equally obvious to him. "The doping cases." T-Mobile got hit twice by doping cases this season, with Patrik Sinkewitz's positive for testosterone which was made public during the Tour de France and Lorenzo Bernucci testing positive for an appetite suppressant during the Deutschland Tour.
To read the full interview with Marcus Burghardt, click here.
Glomser stays with Volksbank
Gerrit Glomser has signed with Team Volksbank for another season, the team announced Monday. He joined the Austrian Professional Continental team in 2006. "I feel very well here and appreciate the trust that they show in me," the 32 year-old said. "It was clear to me that I would stay here, as long as they need me."
Team manager Thomas Kofler explained that the rider is a key part of the squad's plans for 2008. "Gerrit is an important part of our plans and will help us to make another big step ahead in the next season," said Kofler. "He has not yet reached his peak."
This year Glomser finished second in a stage of the Tour de Suisse, before going on to finish eighth on general classification. He also won a stage in the Tour of Austria.
Colavita/Sutter Home signs Argentinean talent
America's Colavita/Sutter Home has announced the signing of Argentinean cyclist Alejandro Borrajo to its men's squad's roster in 2008. The South American strong man has made a mark on the North American scene, taking more than 20 podium appearances at major United States races like the Tour of Virginia, the US Open, and the Commerce Bank Triple Crown. Borrajo rode with Rite Aid Pro Cycling in 2007.
The team has also announced the re-signing of Davide Frattini and climbing talent Anthony Colby to the men's squad, while Tina Pic, Dotsie Bausch, and Alison Powers will again head the women's team in 2008.
Former downhill skier Alison Powers, who claimed the 2007 Pan American Time Trial championship, will also stay with the Colavita/Sutter Home women's squad in 2008. The full rosters for both the men's and women's outfits will be announced shortly.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)