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Latest Cycling News for September 6, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rumours true says Bruyneel: "I am talking to Astana"

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Bruyneel confirms rumours
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Rumours about Discovery Cycling Team Sports Manager Johan Bruyneel's future have been swirling about recently. Cyclingnews spoke to the Belgian at his home in Madrid to clear up the confusion. The Discovery Channel manager, who had just returned from the Vuelta a España and was preparing to go to a race in the USA, explained that "Yes, there have been many rumours around that Astana has contacted me; saying that I was seen flying back and forth to Kazakhstan. That is not true, but I have been contacted directly by the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation, and we are currently talking about [Team] Astana. The Kazakhstan Cycling Federation contacted me last year as well regarding the Astana team but of course I was with Discovery at the time."

Bruyneel confirmed that "After the Tour De France this year, I got a phone call from [Kazakhstan Defence Minister and President of Kazakhstan Cycling Federation] Danial Akhmetov who told me that they want to continue with the [Astana] team and approached me to see if I was interested in restructuring and rebuilding the team. So for the moment I am considering this offer... It's a change of approach for me because I have just announced my retirement from active cycling, at least as a team director. In my mind, I am prepared for that, so this Astana offer is a little bit of a change."

Bruyneel admitted to Cyclingnews that "I'm a bit confused about what to do right now. But at the same time, it is nice to see that there is interest in working with me from the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation regarding Astana, and it is good to have different options. So, I have to see how my mind goes and what I decide down the line. I have to talk with my family and with some other people about this, but right now, I am considering this potential collaboration."

Regarding the rumour that he would bring 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador with him to Astana, Bruyneel explained "As for riders, it is way too premature to say anything now. I still have to decide what I am going to do, and then of course, if it's a 'yes,' I would start to talk to riders, but at the same time, it's getting late in the season. A lot of people are getting offers and there is always a demand for top riders, even if the market is a little soft this year.

"Right now, it's an open question if I work with Astana." Although Bruyneel couldn't give Cyclingnews a firm date for his decision, the Belgian will likely make up his mind before the end of September if he'll take early retirement or get back in the team car with Astana for 2008.

Team Astana announced that it was "business as usual" yesterday, and that team General Manager Marc Biver is bound to the team through 2010. How the presence of Biver will affect the possibility of bring on board Bruyneel remains to be seen.

Valverde: UCI notes whereabouts error and RFEC sends Puerto letter

By Antonio J. Salmerón and Monika Prell

The Green Bullet -- Valverde
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Caisse d'Epargne Directeur Sportif Eusebio Unzúe explained on Wednesday afternoon to Cyclingnews that he had phoned to the UCI with the purpose of resolving the Alejandro Valverde disagreement. At issue is the e-mail received by Valverde last Sunday, in which he had been demanded to justify his absence when UCI anti-doping inspectors visited his home in Murcia on June 23.

"The UCI recognized to us that there had been an error," Unzúe said. "At the same time that we indicated to them, the UCI, that we had sent a fax [June 12 - ed.] in which we announced that Valverde was going to be racing in Eindhoven."

No new Puerto evidence

The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) is expected to send a letter to the UCI regarding Valverde's position in Operación Puerto. The UCI had demanded that there be an investigation of the 27 year-old Spaniard, and that he is to not allowed to ride the World Championships. According to AS, RFEC will likely communicate that there was nothing new that links Valverde with Operación Puerto. Therefore, the RFEC won't open any disciplinary proceedings against Valverde.

The RFEC has studied, together with Valverde's and Caisse d'Epargne's attorneys, the documentation that the UCI sent them over a period of two days. All parties were convinced that there is nothing new.

Alejandro Valverde's manager, Sánchez Sabater, announced that they are willing to take an action against the UCI "if it impedes Valverde for the World Championships without any legal backing," and also against "everybody who links him to the Operación Puerto without citing any evidence." He admitted that "until now, we have been prudent; we did not want cause any more stink."

Ballan likely to remain in casa Lampre

Ballan likely to stay with Lampre
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

There has been news circulating that Alessandro Ballan could sign for Liquigas or Quick.Step-Innergetic, however it is likely that he will remain in casa Lampre. The market value for the winner of Ronde van Vlaanderen and Hamburg Cyclassics has gone up, but a signature with the team of Giuseppe Saronni is expected this week.

Liquigas, home of Filippo Pozzato, already signed Daniele Bennati, and it could make sense that Ballan would switch teams to be at the side of his friend. Quick.Step already has the presence of a strong Classics rider in the form of Tom Boonen and it has contracted Stijn Devolder (from Discovery Channel) for 2008.

Cyclingnews spoke with the De Ronde winner last weekend as he was travelling to his next race, and he confirmed nothing has been signed. "There is no new news," said the Italian. "Monday I will know more from Lampre regarding my contract [renewal]."

His agent, Mauro Battaglini, confirmed that a signature with Lampre could arrive as early as tomorrow. "Friday could be the day of 'yes,'" he said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Saronni is in talks with companies that could take the place of sponsor Fondital, which will leave at the end of 2007. He will want to keep a tight grip on his star riders, like Ballan and Damiano Cunego, to attract companies' interest.

Rabobank more than satisfied

Rabobank Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink was delighted Wednesday evening, after Oscar Freire won his second stage at the Vuelta a España and Denis Menchov successfully defended his second position overall. "There is probably going to be champagne on the table again tonight," he said.

On the team's website,, Breukink said, "When you start this tour with a sprinter like Oscar and with the objective to win at least one stage, and you already win two after five days of racing, and you also ride around in the leader's jersey for a couple of days, I think a substantial number of your goals have been accomplished."

He is also pleased with Menchov's performance, as well as that of the whole team, saying "Denis is doing really well. Additionally the team is also making a very strong impression. That gives a lot of confidence. Also because of Oscar's victories; that also takes some pressure off this team."

The team's priority remains the overall classification. "First and foremost, we must protect Denis Menchov until the time trial in Zaragoza. And, if Oscar can find a way to claim another success that would just be a great extra prize."

Meanwhile, Freire seems to be turning into a mountain-climbing sprinter. "Oscar showed more signs of fear for the second-category climbs, than for that final first-category ascent. 'If I can conquer those, I will have a chance to win,' he said. And those words proved prophetic. Nevertheless, the team still had to work hard in order to hunt down Karsten Kroon, because he was riding a very strong finale. Oscar kept saying that the gap with the escapees had to be minimized to less than two minutes on the top of the final climb. We were able to do that."

Tour de l'Avenir back to the roots

By Hedwig Kröner

The 44th Tour de l'Avenir, an Espoir stage race starting off today in Belle-Île-en-Mer, Bretagne, has returned to its former concept of national teams. Up until 1980, the event solely featured national squads instead of the mix with trade teams of recent years, but French organiser ASO has changed the formula for this year. Moreover, the maximum age for participating riders has been downgraded to 23 instead of the former 25.

The race, held from September 6 to 15, will see 20 nations battle it out over a total distance of 1435 kilometres, divided into 10 stages. The peloton will consist of 21 teams of six riders each, with France sending two groups to the event. This year's Tour de l'Avenir will also be the last race in the newly-introduced UCI Nations Cup, which includes the GP Portugal, La Côte Picarde, Under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Giro delle Regioni and the GP Tell.

The stages:
1 - September 6: Belle-Île-en-Mer, 148.5 km
2 - September 7: Quiberon - Saint-Jean-la-Poterie, 164.5 km
3 - September 8: Pipriac - Cholet, 138 km
4 - September 9: Cholet - Contres, 211.5 km
5 - September 10: Sassay - Sassay, 24 km
6 - September 11: Contres - Saint-Amand-Montrond, 143.5 km
7 - September 12: Cérilly - Super-Besse, 175 km
8 - September 13: Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise - Brioude, 134 km
9 - September 14: Chomelix - Craponne-sur-Arzon, 148 km
10 - September 15: Craponne-sur-Arzon - Saint-Flour, 148 km

The participating teams are Slovenia, France A, Denmark, Portugal, Russia, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Spain, Switzerland, Lithuania, the United States, Poland, Canada, Ukraine, France B, a mixed team and Norway. Favourite riders, amongst others, are Norwegian Edvald Boassen-Hagen and Dutchman Lars Boom, who will be targeting the title taken last year by Spaniard Moises Dueñas.

Javier Aramendia about the Tour de l'Avenir

By Monika Prell

Javier Aramendia Lorente (Orbea-Laukiz F.T.) will compete the Tour de l'Avenir with the Spanish Under 23 Team. The 20 year-old will ride next year for Euskaltel-Euskadi.

He talked to Gara about the race, for which he has not set himself any target. "I think that I am well prepared and I want to give the best I can. If it's possible, of course, I will try something. Whatever will come will be welcome. I am keen to compete... I also want to learn," confirmed Aramendia about the race that starts today in Belle-Île-en-Mer, and finishes on September 15 in Saint-Flour.

Aramendia explained that "the first stages are flat, the last four are mountain stages. There does not seem to be long ascents... but there will surely be [unpredictable] attacks." For this reason, the young rider is a bit insecure "whether we will ride well or not."

Riding for the Under 23 selection seems to him an award for the work he accomplished during the season. "This means that I did something well, it's like compensation. Furthermore, that way the season is extended, because in the month when the most races are held, in May, I broke my collarbone, and later on, I had an accident with a tractor. Now is the moment when I am best in form."

Reus speaks about accident

Kai Reus in 2006
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

On July 12, 22 year-old Kai Reus of Team Rabobank left the team's training camp in France for a solo training ride, and forgot to put on his helmet – a move which had nearly fatal consequences for the young man. He crashed and then spent 11 days in an induced coma. Reus has now spoken about his experiences for the first time, looking back to what happened and looking optimistically to the future.

"When I woke up, it was just like I had ended up in a horror movie," Reuss said on the team's website, He can still remember many details of the day of his crash. "I forgot to put my helmet on but I did not find that out until I was already cycling. The Iséran is a nice climb. I enjoyed the spectators who had already lined up alongside the road for the Tour de France. And some people were lighting candles for their families on top of the mountain. A few Italians recognized me so I chatted with them for a minute. Then I started my descent. The rest is only a black image, which is a good thing I think."

On the descent, he tried to pass a car when his chain broke and down he went. He suffered three broken ribs and a broken collarbone as well as a brain haemorrhage, which was serious enough for doctors to place him in the induced coma.

Reus also has memories from the coma. "You cannot describe it, a long time. I had many coma dreams. My parents, girlfriend, and the team that was supporting me were all in it. That really helped me. And I dreamt that a team-mate aborted a morning stage in Spain only to come to me. We were aiming for a good autumn anyway, he told me. He got me a bike and we went for a ride together. And yet another time I was climbing to the Iséran and fans were cheering me on."

When he was finally slowly brought out of the coma, the medication he was taking caused some temporary personality changes. "I was not the Kai from before the accident. I was aggressive, a side-effect from the medication. That is not fun, but it was obviously necessary." That is one of the reasons he was tied to his bed. "Naturally, I wanted to be released. And after five days I wanted to do things one my own, like wash myself and walk a little. But everyone kept telling me to take it easy, that I had to realize that what I had been through was very serious. At the time I was planning to ride in the fall, but now I know that at that time it was already impossible."

The young Dutchman has a long ways to go but he has one less worry, in that he knows that he has a contract for the coming year. He said he knew "that I am riding for a really beautiful cycling team. I do not know if things would have went the way they did if I had been on another team. The management explicitly said that I will get all the time I need to recover and that I will be on the team next year, even though my contract is expiring. That is quite a relief. I will definitely return to the pack, and I am not worried about getting back to my old level."

Right now, he is mainly continuing to rest, but he has already returned to riding. "I ride a few kilometres every other day. After all, I have to move on."

Reus is enjoying seeing his teammates Oscar Freire and Denis Menchov doing so well in the Vuelta a España, but admitted that watching racing on TV was not always so easy. "The Tour of Germany, especially Uran's crash, and the Eneco Tour were really hard to watch, but I am over that now."

Sicknesses at Steenbergen

The Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen ended up having fewer participants than planned as sickness swept through the peloton, according to Sporza.

The most prominent victim was Robbie McEwen of Predictor-Lotto, who ended up spending the day in bed with a sore throat and fever. The team decided it was better to hold him out of this race to recover, so that the rest of the season would not be jeopardized.

The entire Navigators team was affected, and did not start. Team Manager Erick Van Lancker registered the team on Tuesday evening with the minimum six required riders, but after flu symptoms appeared overnight, the entire team was struck from the race.

Milram to Coppa Placci

Milram will be riding the Coppa Placci on Saturday, a one-day race which starts in Imola and ends in San Marino. The team is sending three veterans and its three stagiaire Italians.

Milram for Coppa Placci: Dennis Haueisen, Ralf Grabsch, Andriy Grivko, Luca Barla, Luca Orlandi and Efrem Salvi

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