First Edition Cycling News for October 1, 2007
Edited by Sue George
Out of the eye of the storm
Anger spurs Bettini on to second rainbow jersey
By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart
It's been a difficult, demanding week for the entire Squadra Azzura but the Italian riders proved their focus with two big wins at these world road race championships. After Marta Bastianelli's victory in the elite women's road race on Saturday, Paolo Bettini equalled the feat in the men's version one day later and thus defended the rainbow jersey he took in Salzburg a year ago.
The feat is notable for two reasons. The first is the pressure that Bettini has been under, initially over the disclosure that he had refused to sign the full UCI Riders' Committment for a Clean Cycling charter [agreeing to provide DNA but not to pay a year's salary in the event of a failed test], and drawing considerable flak as a result. He then also faced allegations in the German media that Patrik Sinkewitz had named him as a supplier of doping products, something both he and Sinkewitz have vigorously denied.
The second notable factor about his victory is the fact that only four other riders in history had achieved back-to-back championship wins. Belgians Georges Ronsse (1928/1929), Rik Van Steenbergen (1956/1957), Rik Van Looy (1960/1961) and Bettini's fellow Italian Gianni Bugno (1991/1992) are the others in that rare club. Coincidentally, one of Bugno's wins also came in Stuttgart.
Sunday's triumph was built through the efforts of a strong national team, which controlled things during the race and then fired off Davide Rebellin in order to put the pressure on their rivals. After his recapture, Bettini started to turn the screw on the final lap, going clear in a large move and then further thinning this down with several sharp accelerations.
When he crossed the line he made a shooting gesture, and a mix of triumph and rage was clear on his face. "I felt angry, just the same way I did before the start of the race," he told reporters at the post-presentation press conference. "This week some declarations were made against myself so I cannot be happy with that, of course."
Echoing what Bastianelli said yesterday, he stated that the Squadra Azzurra had to regain focus after the high media attention on Bettini and Danilo Di Luca. "Despite all the pressure, we tried during the week to work with tranquility, even if it was not easy. We decided in our team to transform all that happened in a wish to show how you must work in cycling.
"I will not let anybody damage my career, to damage myself, and all the sacrifices that I made until now. We, the cyclists, learned in the last years that those who have made a mistake have to pay for it. It's the same for people [in general]. If people have some proof, they must show it. If not, they will have to pay for that.
"Now I will take my time to think about that with more tranquility, so that I can see what can be done against the people who try to damage my career."
Prior to the press conference UCI President Pat McQuaid said that Bettini was a worth champion, given that he had endured after all the pressure. This was an attempt to diffuse the tension first raised when McQuaid highlighted that Bettini had not signed the agreement; the subsequent handshake between them showed that both were willing to move on.
In truth, the Italian was under fire from several different quarters. The German media wanted him out of the race and so, too, the organisers. Then, earlier this week, the television channel ZDF broadcast the allegations linked to Sinkewitz, since denied by both riders. Bettini is believed to be initiating legal action over the claims.
"So many people shot at me this week that I wanted to do the same when I crossed the line," he said, explaining his gesture. "So I was shooting at everybody. It was not to anyone in particular but if anybody had a feeling that it was directed at himself, maybe he had a reason."
He then clarified further. "It was not directed to Pat McQuaid. When we have things to say, we do that between us. This was something that I did with my own instinct. It was directed to people who made declarations against me but know nothing about cycling. They are appearing sometimes in cycling solely for economical reasons."
It was proposed to him that a gesture would be made if he retired from the sport in protest, taking the rainbow jersey out of the peloton. But he said that this was not an option. "Of course, I am very angry but this week taught me that I have to go on and to fight. So I think that I will still be here for one more year, at least."
Thanks to the team
The Squadra Azzurra has been accused of disharmony or a downright lack of co-operation in the past, but the boys in blue pulled together magnificently in the race. He was keen to highlight the work that was done, stressing that everyone had a share in the win.
"Everybody could see today how strong our team was. For example, we saw Cunego who really sacrificed his own possibilities to work for the team. Rebellin had a positive experience. He tried to go himself but at the same time he worked for the team. Behind myself and Pozatto decided everything we had to do in the race together.
To read the complete feature, click here.
Ballerini praises the work of Team Italy's Bertolini
By Gregor Brown in Stuttgart
The oldest of the nine men that made up Italy's Squadra Azzurra for the Road World Championships proved to be the key to the success of Paolo Bettini. He made one of the key escapes mid-race, and continued his work once the groups rejoined.
"We read the race well. It was a difficult course," said Franco Ballerini. "Alessandro Bertolini was supreme like Cunego, like [Davide] Rebellin in the finale with the others. I am happy for Alessandro, he showed his maturity and raised a level as a professional. He gave me his heart."
Overall Ballerini was pleased with the day that brought him his third World tile. "We were at a level to benefit from our talents while putting our rivals in difficulties. We were great."
Evans has ProTour Series in sights
By Gennie Sheer
After finishing fifth in the elite men's road race at the 2007 UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Tour de France runner up Cadel Evans will now set his sights back on the ProTour.
Evans came to the World Championships a week after finishing fourth overall in the Tour of Spain, and his next focus is the Tour of Lombardy, set for October 20. He is currently only 15 points off the ProTour Series lead and a finish of sixth or better in Lombardy would see him claim the series for 2007.
"I think I've done six or seven ProTour races for GC (overall placing) this year and my worst was tenth so I'm pretty tired now," said Evans. "I haven't had time to comprehend it yet but for me to be there today [at Worlds on Sunday] playing for the win was good.
"Lombardy is one of the best one day races of the year for me, it's my wife's (Chiara) home race and as I'm second in the ProTour rankings I'm obligated to go there," he laughed. "I'll have a bit of a rest and do what I can. I'm running on empty to be honest but I'll see what I can do."
Evans was happy with his race in Stuttgart and optimistic for Australia's cycling future.
"We went into the race with two leaders, me and Alby (Allan Davis) and as the race turned out, I was the leader there when that group went away," explained Evans who realised that with Bettini, a noted sprinter, in the group, he had to act before the finish line was in sight. "I had to go earlier and I gave everything with one kilometre to go but they closed me in and that was really my chance for a medal.
"That (effort) stuffed me for the finish and then I was too tired to do a good sprint."
"Overall it's the best I've ever seen our team ride at the worlds," said Evans. "I didn't race Zolder (2002) where Robbie (McEwen) was second but since then, it's the best I've seen us ride.
"There was a group away at the start which was risky but we sat calm and saved it for when it mattered and as a team we can be really proud of what we did," said Evans. "I was especially impressed with the younger riders on the team who rode far beyond what was expected of them.
"Me at 30 (years of age) I'm the oldest here so the future looks really promising for Australia," said Evans. "I think the best is yet to come."
Cycling Australia Professional Rider Liaison, Neil Stephens, agreed. "The thing that really helped us today was some of our younger riders who were going to do the early work really excelled which meant we had a lot stronger team later in the race," said Stephens. "We didn't have to pull out the big guns till late in the race which helped us overall and meant we were up there with a chance of a medal.
"You can't be disappointed because we were there right to the finishing line and everybody gave their best," finished Stephens.
Italy tops Worlds medal count
Overall at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Italy topped the medal table with two gold medals and a bronze medal ahead of the Netherlands which earned one gold, one silver and one bronze medal each. In total, 13 different nations claimed medals in six events contested during five days of the championships.
A year after heart condition found, Roulston impresses
New Zealand's Hayden Roulston showed he is back with a strong performance in the elite men's road race at the UCI World Road Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Just over a year ago, Roulston was forced out of the sport after being diagnosed with a heart condition. Now he has his condition under control so well that he was picked to fill a spot on the New Zealand team after injuries to injuries to national champion Julian Dean, Tim Gudsell and Greg Henderson forced them out of consideration.
Former Team Discovery Channel racer Roulston and European-based Kiwi professionals Glen Chadwick and Jeremy Vennell were among the 131 riders who were lapped in the 247km race on the hilly course in Stuttgart. The trio made it 200km, but failed to hold on when the pace went up a notch with 50 km to go. All three officially did not finish.
"It was a tall order to pick someone out of a New Zealand domestic winter to compete at this level," said Bike NZ road coach Jacques Landry of Roulston's late selection.
"Hayden has not ridden in this sort of company for nearly two years and while he could not stay with the pace in those final three laps, he positioned himself in the bunch well and showed his potential at this level. Let's hope he did enough to be noticed here and can pick up a professional contract again to ride fulltime in Europe.
"He is a phenomenon," said Landry. "If Hayden can pick up a fulltime professional tour contract in Europe then our chances in Beijing definitely increase.
The race was one of attrition, with only 72 riders finishing out of 203 starters. The demanding course took its toll with two climbs on each of 14 laps in the 247km race, although Elliott said it will be no easier for the New Zealanders next year with the course in Beijing even tougher.
Landry was ok with the performances of Roulston's team-mates. "Glen and Jeremy rode well to that 200km mark and they don't get to ride this distance at this level. Overall I am not too disappointed because they all rode well until the point they got spat out of the main group. It is a good indication of where they are at."
Hincapie finishes Worlds as top American
George Hincapie was the best American finisher in the 267km elite men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Hincapie made the 35-man group that finished 49 seconds off the pace of winner and defending champion Paolo Bettini of Italy. Hincapie was 23rd. Christian Vande Velde finished in the same group in 36th place.
Hincapie, the team's designated leader, admitted afterwards he didn't have the form on Sunday to contend for a spot on the podium. "My legs were not good," he said. "I could feel it about halfway that I was not having a super day, so I told the guys if they were good they can go and I would just try to follow wheels. Once we hit 200 kilometers, I just didn't have the legs."
On the opening lap of the 14-lap race, Tyler Farrar initiated an early but short-lived breakaway that contained four other riders. In 2006, Farrar rode in an early 12-man breakaway for nearly 140 kilometers, but this year, his early breakaway attempt was caught by the end of the first 19-kilometer circuit.
At the 100-kilometer mark, with a three-man breakaway already off the front, the remainder of the 198-rider peloton was split into two main groups with Julich initially making the first 40-rider split. Hincapie also made it into the front group, but believed the effort may have sacrificed his chances later.
"I saw it go and I had to bridge up to it, maybe like 5km by myself, and that might have taken a little bit of steam out of me. But you know it was 40 guys and I figured two was better than one up there."
Once the lead group of roughly 40 riders was established, another split resulted in a 30-rider front group in which only Julich was present. For the next 50 kilometers Julich helped push the pace of the lead group, but thanks primarily to a hard-chasing Dutch squad, the two main groups reconnected for the beginning of the final three laps. Once the peloton was back together, only about 60 riders remained in contention including Hincapie, Julich, Vande Velde and Jason McCartney, who were all still in the main group with three laps to go.
The race of attrition continued as a break containing Italian Davide Rebellin and Russian Alexandr Kolobnev pushed the pace off the front on the penultimate lap while Spanish riders chased.
"I couldn't react, I was just empty there," Hincapie recalled of the decisive split. "All day we were going because we were chasing something down. It wasn't a typical world championships. It was fast. Some days you just don't have it. There was a lot of climbing today and obviously I just wasn't at my best. If you're not at your best on this course there's not much you can do."
The last time the US won a medal in an elite men's World Championship Road Race was when Lance Armstrong won gold in 1993. Greg LeMond is the only other American to stand on the podium (1982-83, 1985, 1989).
David Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar, Bobby Julich, Jason McCartney and John Devine did not finish the race.
Gerrit Glomser of Austria had high hopes going into the men's road race Sunday at the World Championships, but they were dashed by a broken chain and a lack of assistance. It was the eighth lap and he was going up the Birkenkopf when the "bitter and unexpected" happened.
"Suddenly something went 'crack' and I shot backwards," Glomser said. "The WM neutral assistance autos drove right by me, as though I were invisible. At some point it was all over, I had no chance any more, and so I made myself necklace out of my chain."
AIOCC: UCI's 2008 calendar "unacceptable"
The AIOCC (association of race organisers) proclaimed the UCI's calendar modifications for 2008 to be "unacceptable" according to a press release issued Saturday following a meeting Friday of the AIOCC's Management Committee in Stuttgart.
The AIOCC pointed especially to the new hierarchy of races. "This calendar denies the historical rights of the 'monuments' of cycling and does not bring any solution to the difficulties of the other races which as a result are devalued. The AIOCC is turning to the National Federations so that they will intervene with the UCI to encourage the restoration of a single calendar and comprehensible rules of participation by all to reflect the world's cycling heritage."
McGee to CSC
Bradley McGee will leave la Française des Jeux and move to Team CSC according to Cyclismag. The 31 year-old Australian rides road and track, and is an accomplished time trialist. He has won stages in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Tour of Switzerland, Tour of Romandie, Critérium of Dauphiné, GP du Midi Libre and the Route du Sud. He was also on the gold-medal winning Australian team pursuit team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. At the same Games, he also won a silver medal in the 4,000m individual pursuit.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)