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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 2, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Bugno respects Bettini's courage

Paolo Bettini 15 years after Gianni Bugno
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Gianni Bugno was the last rider to win back-to-back World Championships, and the 43 year-old from Monza has nothing but respect for Paolo Bettini, who repeated his feat on Sunday in Stuttgart. The challenge for the 33 year-old returning champion was increased due to polemics with the city of Stuttgart Sporting Council and the International Cycling Union (UCI). Bettini rose to the challenge and defended his title, something that only four riders had done before him.

"I would have done the same gesture that Paolo did when he crossed the line," said Bugno to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Italian won his first of two titles in Stuttgart, in 1991. Bettini crossed the line with guns firing – figuratively. The rider from La California (Tuscany) fired an imaginary rifle as part of his victory celebrations.

"So many people shot at me this week, so I wanted to do the same when I crossed the line," said Bettini is a post-race press conference. "The gun was not fired at someone in particular. If someone felt it, then, they know who they are." He further clarified, "It was directed at those outside of cycling, who makes statements and know nothing about cycling. They make their statements for economical reasons."

"His race was the best response after a week of being tormented," Bugno continued. "I appreciate it because he not only won, but for how he battled through a difficult situation."

Organisers had a clear message for Eddy Merckx, that he wasn't welcome,
Photo ©: PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Bettini refused to sign the UCI's riders' commitment even though he had agreed to a similar contract he drafted in July. The issue, combined with unfounded accusations from former team-mate Patrik Sinkewitz, put pressure on the race's organizer. Stuttgart Administrator for Culture, Education and Sport Doctor Susanne Eisenmann had tried to force the UCI to prevent Bettini from racing.

The organizers also insisted that Bugno, along with Eddy Merckx and Rudi Altig, not attend the race. "Instead I was there for the presentation of the 2008 Worlds in Varese. I don't need an invitation from the German organizers. I don't have any disagreements with the words of Merckx, who had called [the organizers] 'idiots.' To be at the side of Merckx is a lot better than being at the side of the gentlemen of Stuttgart."

Bugno went on to express his respect of the rider who matched his record 15 years later. "He is the greatest champion of his era. I don't like to make comparisons because I consider them useless, but Bettini has made history. Not only is he a great rider in the Classics. And don't forget that he won the [2004] Olympics."

Bouyer hopes for come-back

By Hedwig Kröner

Franck Bouyer in 2004
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Former Bouygues Telecom rider Franck Bouyer has started training again with the perspective of a possible return to competition. The Frenchman is suffering from narcolepsy, an illness resulting in uncontrollable sleep attacks, and has to take a medication to treat his condition – unfortunately, this medication (modafinil) is on the list of banned, performance-enhancing substances, which is why he was prohibited from racing by the UCI in March 2004 and subsequently dismissed by his team at the end of 2006.

In early 2007, Bouyer resorted to a French court in his pledge to obtain a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) and return to racing, and has now won his appeal against the UCI in front of the civil court in Bobigny. "Finally, someone agrees with me and considers me ill," the 33 year-old told L'Equipe on Friday last week. Bouyer has always maintained that the doses of modafinil he has to take in order not to fall asleep uncontrollably do not enhance his performance in any way, and that there are ways to make sure he does not exceed the necessary amounts. "But I've had so many setbacks until now, so I won't get too excited about it. Now I have to submit my dossier to an expert doctor named by the court, who will examine the case. If he renders a favourable verdict, his decision would overthrow the UCI's and WADA's."

Still, Bouyer does not know if or when he could come back to his profession – in which case Bouygues Telecom manager Jean-René Bernaudeau would be ready to take him back right away. Even though the former pro hasn't touched a bike since the beginning of the year, this latest turn of events has given him hope, and moreover revived his will to be up front about his case. "To me, it's a question of principle," he added. "I don't want to disappear from the scene as if I had the plague."

New Grupo Nicolás Mateos is close to reality

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Sources consulted by Cyclingnews have indicated that, in the following days, a new Spanish Professional Continental squad could become reality. Grupo Nicolás Mateos, which already existed in 2006 as a Continental team, is likely to have its sponsorship from the Murcia-based real estate company renewed, and increased, for four more years.

It will be directed by José Luis de Santos, with support from Ginés García (formerly with team 3 Molinos Resort). Its new management will meet this week with the local government of Murcia. The meeting will help determine the degree of involvement by the local government, which in the past lent its support to the 3 Molinos Resort Professional Continental team by means of its local tourist slogan 'Murcia Turística.'

The new Grupo Nicolás Mateos team is interested in signing local cyclists without contractual agreement for the next year, such as Francisco Pérez (currently with Caisse d'Epargne), Claudio Casas (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Jesús Buendía (Barbot-Halcon). These riders are not the only ones, the new Spanish Professional Continental team could be also thinking of Roberto Heras and Santos González, among others.

Kohl's "upsetting" Worlds race

Austria's Bernhard Kohl may not have expected to finish up on the podium in the men's road race last weekend in the World Championships, but he also didn't expect to end up sick as a dog.

"The first nine rounds went very well, actually, and I felt relatively good. The race was going perfectly and I could stay with the others," he wrote on his website, "From the beginning my stomach felt a little funny, but I didn't pay much attention to it."

He might have done better to listen to his stomach. "Then, at the start of the tenth round, it was suddenly as if I had lost all my strength. I couldn't keep up with the field even on the flat. That is really brutal, when you can't do anything from one minute to the next," the Gerolsteiner rider continued.

"Five minutes later I knew what was wrong with me. My stomach just went totally crazy. I threw up a number of times and had diarrhoea, too." That was the end of his race, needless to say. And if that wasn't enough, "I developed a fever later in the afternoon. Now I am laying in bed and still can't eat anything. When I try to eat something, it just comes right back up."

Konyshev and Rovny comment on Russia's Worlds

Kolobnev on the podium
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Dimitri Konyshev was the only Russian in the history of the World Championships to make the elite men's podium until last Sunday, when Alexandr Kolobnev of Team Russia was out-sprinted for the rainbow jersey by Italy's Paolo Bettini. Guiding the team as directeur sportif that day was Konyshev himself.

"For me it was the first time that I drove the team car in the Worlds," said Konyshev to Tinkoff's Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov. "No wonder that I liked the experience with the result that followed. Russia is back to the podium after my bronze in Benidorm [Spain], and fifteen years is a long gap. Alexandr Kolobnev was born in the same region of Russia as me, so his success is twice a pleasure."

The team was behind the 26 year-old rider 100 percent. "During the team meeting on Saturday evening the team unanimously voted for Kolobnev to be leader. He found excellent form at the Vuelta a España, and finished it relatively fresh, so for him there was no problem recuperating in a week's time. If it came down to a bunch sprint, Alexandr would be our best chance as well."

Kolobnev made the escape on the penultimate lap with Italy's Davide Rebellin, and then he chased back on with Evans to the final winning move of Bettini, Schleck and Schumacher. "I won't single out [team rider], they gave their all, and there is nothing to add. To control what remained of the pack when Kolobnev made the decisive breakaway was as difficult as riding in the escape."

Dimitri Konyshev also commented on the performance of the young riders who fought to the end in the under-23 road race. "Thumbs up to them, they did what they were supposed to do. The only thing that went missing was luck. Ivan Rovny is not a sprinter, and he chose the right moment to attack. ... Ivan just didn't happen to find good partners, and the bunch was impossible to control with line-ups that small. All in all, Rovny is an amazingly good tactician for his age, but sometimes it's just impossible to stave off the pack."

Rovny had worked with Julien Simon of France in the final circuit in a failed breakaway attempt.

"When a race develops like that on the last laps, the main thing you need is pure luck," said the 20 year-old Rovny. "I attacked at the right time and place, but a strong break didn't form. The final stretch was set against the wind, which naturally didn't help me at all. The chasing group remained rather big and well-focused, there were too many strong contenders eager to win."

He worked well with his Russian Tinkoff team-mates, Mikhail Ignatiev and Nikolai Trusov. "Frankly speaking, although some TV viewers spotted some indications of team tactics, there were actually none, in contrast to the top pro's race on Sunday. Each of us went for glory of his own; there was some cohesion between me, Ignatiev and Trusov – but only because we normally ride for the same pro squad."

There are two races for me left at the beginning of October – and then I'll take this long-awaited rest. No, I won't go to the sea, I'll spend the off-season at home in St Petersburg, that's the best way for me to recuperate. No cycling, just some MTB and jogging. I won't go to the gym either."

Hometown race for the Wegmanns

Hometown boys and brothers Fabian and Christian Wegmann will lead Team Gerolsteiner in tomorrow's Münsterland Giro, with rider Fabian on his bike and Directeur Sportif Christian in the team car. The younger brother will hope to capitalize on the good form which brought him the ninth place in the World Championships in Stuttgart on Sunday. Robert Förster will also be there, in case it comes down to a sprint.

Another local boy, Linus Gerdemann, will be captain of the T-Mobile team for the race. "I used to do my training rides here so I know the roads very well, and having skipped the Worlds I will go to the start line with fresh legs," he said on the team's website, Gerald Ciolek will represent the team if it comes to a mass sprint.

Gerolsteiner for Münsterland: Robert Förster, Thomas Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, Sven Krauss, Thomas Wagner (stagiaire), Fabian Wegmann and Peter Wrolich.

T-Mobile: Eric Baumann, Gerald Ciolek, Linus Gerdemann, Bert Grabsch, André Greipel, André Korff, Stephan Schreck, and Thomas Ziegler.

Zabel donates to youth cycling

Erik Zabel has donated a five-figure sum of money to the Berlin cycling federation, to be used for youth cycling. The payment arises out of an agreement he reached in June as "atonement" for his confession that he used EPO in the 1996 Tour de France.

Zabel had agreed to donate a total of 100,000 euro to youth cycling. A German television program reported on Monday that no money had yet changed hands. His manager and wife, Cordula Zabel, and the president of the Berlin federation, Wolfgang Scheibner, have now confirmed that the donation has been made.

Heppner takes a tumble

Team Wiesenhof Sport Director Jens Heppner had a near-miss over the weekend, when he fell down the basement stairs at his home in Belgium. He ended up with various broken bones in his face as well as the sixth cervical vertebra and a bone in his right hand. "The doctors told me that I was lucky to have survived," he told the BILD tabloid.

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