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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for October 4, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Stuart O'Grady saddles up for return to racing

Stuart O'Grady in good spirits
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Australian cycling superstar Stuart O'Grady will make his return to cycling at next week's Jayco Herald Sun Tour. O'Grady will take to the saddle for the first time in three months following his horrific fall on a descent in stage eight of this year's Tour de France.

The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour begins in Bendigo on Sunday 14 October with the Jayco Classic, and concludes at the Kings Domain in Melbourne on Sunday 21 October.

The 34-year-old suffered a broken shoulder, fractured eight ribs, a collarbone, three vertebrae and also punctured a lung, resulting in a blood clot on the brain in the accident that ended his Tour and threatened his career. He talked to Cyclingnews last month at Eurobike about how things went so far.

He will race in the Jayco Australian team, in his first appearance in the event for a decade. In his only previous appearance in Australia's oldest stage race, in 1997, he claimed the opening stage before going on to score two more stage victories. The Olympic, world and Commonwealth Games champion said there will be some trepidation before his return to competitive racing.

"I'm sure I'll be pretty nervous," he said. "I'm not expecting miracles and I know I'm going to suffer. But I've got to look at the bigger picture and 2008 is going to be a big year. I've made it very, very clear that I'll be in no shape to contest the overall victory or even a stage win. I'm hoping that I'll be able to last the distance. I've only done about ten half-decent training rides but I've got to get through and get some kilometres into the legs," O'Grady played down his ambitions.

He added that "We don't get the chance to do these races very often. It's giving something back to cycling here and I'm hoping I can be of value to the event." The South Australian has amassed an unsurpassed record of achievements in Australian cycling since his Olympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, when he was part of the silver medal winning pursuit team.

O'Grady, who races for Team CSC in Europe, reached the summit of his career by winning this year's Paris-Roubaix classic, becoming the first Australian to win the race known as the "Hell of the North". Other highlights include Olympic gold in the Madison on the track with Graeme Brown in Athens in 2004 and two stage wins in the Tour de France.

O'Grady has twice worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, in 1998 when he held the lead for three days, and in 2001 when he held the lead for five days. His trophy cabinet also includes a world championship gold and three Commonwealth Games gold medals.

O'Grady arrived home in Adelaide on the weekend just in time to watch the demise of his beloved Port Power in Saturday's AFL grand final. He has been recovering at his home in Monaco since the crash, returning to the saddle seven weeks after the accident. Initially he was not going to race until next year, but the tough Aussie changed his plans; however, it has only been in the last few weeks that he has been able to commence a heavier training load in preparation for 2008.

The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Australia's oldest stage race, is now in its 56th year and is one of Australia's heritage sporting events, supported and revered by generations of Victorians and created by Australia's largest daily newspaper, the Herald Sun.

A rolling festival of community events reaching across Victoria, the tour is a superb showcase for the state. The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour begins in Bendigo and travels to Nagambie, Mitchelton Winery, Mansfield, Beechworth, Falls Creek, Mount Beauty and Wangaratta before returning to Melbourne for the individual time trial and the final stage celebrations as part of the Melbourne Cycling Festival.

Ullrich back on the bike

Ullrich smiles for good cause.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jan Ullrich has been out of competition for some 15 months, but decided to get back to 'racing' on October 3, the German national holiday. The race was for a good cause, all the money raised went to disabled children, and Ullrich pitched in an extra 5,000 euro. Ullrich was part of a team that included former racer Gregor Braun and former ski star Frank Wörndl.

Before the race Ullrich joked that "if I can get together an average of 33 [km/h] I'll start racing again." Clad in a black jersey with grey sleeves, Ullrich ended up as one of the last finishers and his team's two and a half hours for 60 kilometres ended all speculation about a return to the professional peloton. Of course, that was not the goal of the day and Ullrich commented after the race about the other factors that were important. "That's what it's all about. Many people rode hard, they have done something for their health and at the same time they did something for a good cause."

Not too many spectators had come out, but most that did were in support of Ullrich. "Innocent until proven guilty," was a common statement heard from people in the crowd. Ullrich made clear that the most important was to help the kids. "Today I cannot disturb or harm anybody," Ullrich made clear that the focus should be on the charity. He added with a smile that "if someone can find a bad word today, they better come talk to me directly."

Other prominent members in the race were Stefan Schumacher, who won the bronze medal on Sunday in the World Championships in nearby Stuttgart and time trial gold medalist Hanka Kupfernagel. Also among the riders were Jens Voigt, Steffen Wesemann and Andreas Klöden Unlike his retired colleague, Schumacher opted for the 100 kilometre race, which came down to five laps on the 20-kilometre long circuit.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

Steels ends career with Landbouwkrediet

Belgian Tom Steels (Predictor Lotto) will move to Landbouwkrediet for his final year in the sport. His goal is the Olympic Games in Beijing, where he wants to race on the track, according to Sporza. "Together with Steve Schets, Dominique Cornu and Bert Roesems I want to do the pursuit, but first we'll have to qualify," cautioned Steels that the way to China is still long.

His desire to return to Landbouwkrediet came from the fact that he rode for them in 2003 and 2004. "The last six months, which I want to ride full gas, should be in a familiar environment," the quadruple Belgian champion mentioned. After his career, "we will see. I am in talks about accompanying the young track riders."

With his new pursuit team, he will ride all the World Cup events, acknowledging that it's no mean feat. "We aren't used to each other yet. The chances that we can qualify for the Games, I'll put them at 50 percent." Team coach Michael Vaarten however said that "Tom has a lot of experience on the track," and rated the chances pretty good for the four riders to actually make it to Beijing.

The American Revolution

Chris Hoy
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

More international riders are now confirmed for the opening Revolution of the season, with USA Cycling sending a team to challenge the British at the Manchester Velodrome on October 20th. It will be the first time American riders will have raced at the Revolution and the reputation of the event has clearly made its way across the Atlantic.

"I first heard about the Revolution from a good friend Peter Jacques who I coached at one time when he was one of the best," said USA National Team Coach Des Dickie. "Also Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean said it was one of the best events on the track programme so we wanted to experience it for ourselves". Dickie will bring a squad including Michael Blatchford, Colby Pearce, Mike Friedman and Christen King using Revolution as crucial preparation for the upcoming World Cup events.

"USA Cycling thinks this is a good event to get our top athletes ready for the World Cup events," he confirmed. "Of course everyone is getting ready for the Olympic Games and we know the British are strong and will prove a good test for our athletes. The event programme will also provide a good challenge so we are excited to be invited and the riders are looking forward to the racing."

Pearce is one of the more experienced of the Americans, having won the overall in the UCI World Cup Points competition in 2002 and sprinter Blatchford is no stranger to the podium at World Cup events. Slipstream professional Friedman and up and coming female rider King will also be dangerous and in good form following the US National Track Championships, which kick off today.

With the British Track Championships also taking place this week riders from both sides of the Atlantic will be well prepared for the action on October 20th.

AA Cycling Team announces 2008 line-up

Theresa Senff back drinking AA
Photo ©: Dick Soepenberg
(Click for larger image)

Dutch women's team AA Cycling, sponsored by the popular sports drink of the same name, has finalized its roster for the 2008 season. Manager Michael Zijlaard reached agreements with the last three racers he was still in negotiations with this week. Belgian sports director Heidi van de Vijver will be especially happy to see the return of German Theresa Senff, who comes back to the team after spending one year with Team Hoffman in her native country. The climber will be reunited with coach Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, with whom she worked together successfully in 2006.

New in the green and blue team will be 24 year-old Emma Johannson from Sweden, who finished sixth in the road race in the World Championships in Stuttgart. Also added was 26 year-old Belgian talent, Laure Werner.

Zijlaard was able to renegotiate all the contracts with the core of the Dutch/Belgian outfit. From the Netherlands there are dutch national road champion Marlijn Binnendijk, Irene van den Broek and Kirsten Wild. The Belgian side consists of Inge van den Broeck en Latoya Bruleé. 18 year-old talent Chantal Blaak also forms part of the 2008 team. The Dutch youngster won the national time trial championships in the junior ranks two years in a row, in 2006 and 2007.

The other rider that saw her contract extended was Pauline Brzezna (Poland). Earlier, AA Cycling team had already secured the services of Belgian road champion Ludivine Henrion, who moves over from the DSB Bank team.

Riders who will leave the team are Josephine Groenveld, Roxane Knetemann, Italian Tatiana Guderzo and Belgians Kathleen Sterckx, Karen Steurs and An van Rie.

Doping in Costa Rica

Doping is a problem in cycling, but not only in Europe. Several cases of doping have surfaced in Costa Rica, according the country's largest newspaper, Nacion. And while cycling is the most controlled sport even in Central America, the complaint is that the focus is biased to the Vuelta a Costa Rica in December, with the rest of the year being handled not as stringent. And some are only found because they tested outside the country, like Juan Carlos Rojas. He got suspended for two years, following a positive test in El Salvador.

In addition to the 12 positive test cases found during the last decade, there are also riders and team managers speaking out about the illegal performance enhancing substances. Héctor Campos, former president of the national cycling federation (Fecoci), emphasized that "Hearing some of the things that are said within the peloton is alarming."

A rider of the first division in Costa Rica, who wished to stay anonymous assured that many riders take illegal substances. He said that there is a network reaching into the national health organization and its doctors.

Benjamín Mejía, the coordinator of the anti-doping program at Fecoci, clarified that "it seems like a world of magic and people think that one can become a champion overnight. In reality, what those that do start doping are doing is they damage their organs." The toxicologist studied in Spain and he maintained that there, we used to have a saying. "What nature hasn't given you, doping won't lend you."

In Costa Rica, a program has started to monitor the riders throughout the year. Representatives of the major teams admitted that the many exams do not give a guarantee of a clean peloton.

Several managers of teams commented on the current situation. Albin Brenes (BCR-Pizza Hut) said that "it seems to be mostly the veterans. In my team we emphasize education. If the riders receive good values they are less likely to get tempted by doping."

Andrés Brenes (IBP Pensiones) said that "cycling is the most rigorously tested sport, yet there are people who are trying to use illegal substances. But yes, it is possible to be clean and be successful, simply when a rider has enough strengths."

Mauricio Quirós (Dos Pinos-Coopenae) similarly mentioned that "Cycling has more exams than any other sport." But he emphasized that "even though, we need to do even more controls, especially in race throughout the year, not just in the Vuelta [a Costa Rica]. We need to address the problem, but we can't do a general prosecution."

Boston Bike Film Festival starts October 18

The third annual Boston Bike Film Festival is set to start on Thursday October 18. The festival has grown since its start and has moved to the larger venue of the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square. Organizers have planned three nights of premier cycling-related films.

On opening night "Caravan/Prague" will be shown at the Lucy Parsons Center, located on Columbus Avenue in the South End, followed by an informal gathering at the Other Side Café on Newbury Street. The film will begin at 19:15 EDT. Then on Friday and Saturday, October 19th and 20th, the festival will move to the Brattle Theater. Doors open at 19:00 EDT.

Each night will be anchored by the showing of a feature length film. "24 Solo" from Gripped Films Productions will be the feature for Friday; "The Flying Scotsman" from MGM will be the feature for Saturday. "The Flying Scotsman" is about the live of Graeme Obree, who broke the Hour record twice in his career.

Proceeds of the festival will go to MassBike, a statewide bicycle advocacy group, with more than 3,200 members.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)