First Edition Cycling News for September 12, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen
Caisse d'Epargne delighted with Efimkin 'discovery'
By Monika Prell
Caisse d'Epargne's team manager Eusebio Unzúe has said the discovery of Vladimir Efimkin in the first 10 days of the Vuelta a Espańa has outweighed hardship the Spanish squad has endured through the first part of the Grand Tour. Efimkin continues to hold second place heading into today's Stage 11, which overshadows the withdrawal of designated team leader and 2006 Tour de France runner-up Oscar Pereiro.
"We've had difficult moments with Oscar Pereiro's abandon," noted Unzúe, talking to the press on the event's first rest day yesterday. "On another side we had very beautiful moments with the discovery of Vladimir Efimkin. So far [Efimkin has] not only brilliantly won the stage of the Lakes of Covadonga, but also defended himself very well with the golden jersey on his shoulders and, having lost it in the time trial of Zaragoza, left the Pyrenees by maintaining the second position on general classification.
"It is a reason for great satisfaction and even if we are still far away from Madrid, we already begin to dream about the possibility to finish on the podium," he added.
Efimkin added that he's pleased with his decision to contest the Grand Tour, after the Russian initially had reservations over contesting the event. "When Eusebio Unzúe called me before the Vuelta to know if I wished to take part I had one moment of doubt because I thought it would be easier for me to get a good result in the Tour of Poland," he confessed. "On another side, I think that it is very important for a rider to acquire experience in the three major tours and thus I chose the Vuelta a Espańa, with the dream of winning a stage."
"Personally, to win the stage of Covadonga has been something wonderful," he added. "That was not easy but on this day I carried out a dream. I will never forget what I felt by crossing the finishing line. I was the happiest man of the world."
The Russian is hopefully of maintaining his podium position through to the event's finale in Madrid on September 23. "Today I occupy the second place on general classification and even if I know that it will not be easy, I hope to be on the podium in Madrid," he concluded.
Cavendish: I let the team down
By Greg Johnson
Manxman Mark Cavendish believes he let his T-Mobile ProTour team-mates down on the Tour of Britain's Stage 2, where the youngster missed a decisive break and lost the event's leader's jersey. The break away, which lacked a single representative from the German squad, dealt a heavy blow to Cavendish's general classification hopes, with the 10.54 minutes lost seeing him plummet from the yellow jersey down into 34th spot.
"It didn't work out for me today and I feel like I let the team down by not getting into the break, but hopefully I can strike back with a stage win tomorrow and then I have a strong chance of winning back the green jersey," a disappointed Cavendish told T-mobile-team.com.
Cavendish had enjoyed a stellar event during the tour's previous two stages, taking both victories which boosted his season wins into double figures. "It was a really hard stage and I spent most of the time struggling at the back of the group," he added. "But I felt good in the last metres and was lucky to avoid the crash."
T-Mobile team manager Allan Peiper was equally disappointed that none of his rider's made it into the decisive break. "It was a bad day for the team today," confessed Peiper. "We knew it would be hard to control the race with just a six-man team, but the riders suffered from the chase work early on and then we lost Linus mid-way through. But I am still disappointed that we had nobody in the main break."
While the T-Mobile camp was left feeling disappointed, the emotion felt over at Tinkoff Credit Systems was one of elation after its Russian rider Nikolai Trusov claimed the stage win and general classification victory. "The team is very happy," said Trusov. "Because we came here to win the yellow jersey and for us it is the maximum. It was a really hard stage."
Rabobank not concerned after losing Poland lead
The Dutch ProTour squad Rabobank has said it's not concerned about loosing the Tour of Poland leader's jersey overnight by a single second, with the team believing the event won't be decided until the closing stage this Saturday. Australian sprinter Graeme Brown wore the yellow jersey on yesterday's Stage 3 after winning the previous day's stage and snatching the lead, however a time bonus for Wouter Weylandt's (Quickstep - Innergetic) third place on the stage placed the Belgian in the leader's jersey a single second ahead of stage winner David Kopp (Gerolsteiner), in second overall, and Brown, who now holds third place.
"Too bad for us, because we controlled the course well all day," said Rabobank team manager Frans Maassen. "William Walker, Jan Boven and Bram de Groot did that excellently. Two cyclists were given a maximum lead of nine minutes. That work comes with the leader's jersey and we did not have to do a whole lot of work."
Maassen believes the close contest for honours in the ProTour event will continue over the next four stages, with the winner likely to not be decided until the event arrives in Karpacz on Saturday afternoon.
"Oh well, the general classification here will decided at the very last moment anyway," he said. "There will be many mass sprints before that."
Domestics challenge international camp in Missouri
By Kirsten Robbins in Kansas City, Missouri
The inaugural Tour of Missouri is one of a handful of American races that serves as a stage for domestic teams to showcase their abilities against the respected European squads. That's exactly what Toyota-United's Ivan Dominguez did on Stage 1's 137 kilometre trip around Kansas City. Race director Jim Birrell is pleased to be bringing successful North American teams like Toyota-United, Symmetrics and Navigators the opportunity to compete against the world's best, having watched the teams' progression over the years.
"Being able to create more platform for these team to accelerate against the world's best teams and riders is always rewarding," Birrell said. "Being able to help the American program excel on the streets here in the US is incredible. It creates more household names for these guys. Our media attention is brought to us by attracting some of the ProTour teams and to be able to have domestic racers like Ivan Dominguez win is going to help our sport blossom into the level that we want it to."
Toyota-United's stage winner Dominguez, who also won a stage at February's Tour of California, had no doubts that the American peloton would pull through for an impressive start to the race. "I definitely believed that our riders would be on the podium today and be leading a race of this caliber," said Dominguez. "I went into this race expecting to see teams from the US and Canada on the podium and today and I know this isn't the last time. I think that our riders will be on the podium for the whole tour."
Some riders may seem overly optimistic, given that the Tour de France winning team is on hand with its Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador, but sometimes confidence does breed success. Kyle Wamsley (Navigators Insurance), who finished third on the opening stage, is one person in the optimistic camp. "It shows that the domestic teams are on par with the international team here and we can race in any races they can race in," said Wamsley. "If we scare them it will make them think twice about coming over and trying to show how strong they are. But it's great right now because there are a couple of teams that will not be here next year so it is really good for the sport right now and cycling in the US."
Coming out of Canada, the Symmetrics team likely received an invitation to the Tour of Missouri based in part on their lead in the UCI America Tour. The team's sprinter Zach Bell placed second to Dominguez on the opening stage and regarded the event's flatter stages as an added opportunity for teams to be more involved in the bike race. "I think our role in a race like this, being one of the smaller teams, is to go for stage wins or stage podiums," said Bell. "With the stages being flatter we can have a bigger part in the race. We are going to take the opportunities as they present themselves. As the week goes on we will formulate a strategy and I think that is what a lot of other teams are waiting for as well."
Van Petegem, Baguet retire amid cheers and tears
By Bjorn Haake
Quick.Step-Innergetic's Peter van Petegem and Serge Baguet have contested their last race as professionals at the annual Kermis race in Desselgem, Belgium, retiring from illustrious careers that included Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Belgian championship victories. The race of choice was the GP Briek Schotte, a 155 kilometre race in Desselgem. The nine-kilometre course was lapped so quick on each of the 17 laps that spectators barely had time to venture off and get a braadworst (sausage) or a waffle.
Some decided to wait it out with some beer on bar tables especially set up on the side walks so people could watch the racers whiz by. The rain had stopped when the race started and later the sun even came out. So conditions for a good race and consuming good food and beer were perfect.
The race had Quick.Step-Innergetic written all over it, but it was Steven De Jongh who took the win and not the guests of honour. Both Baguet and van Petegem were 'stuck' in the peloton with the front group dominated by three guys from the Belgian team.
Fittingly, after the race the ceremony for De Jongh was brief, with the spectators shouting "Merci, Peter" and eventually the two newly retired racers came onto the podium. Van Petegem brought his son and wife, who was in tears as she threw a bouquet that her husband had given to her into the audience. The wild fight over the souvenir ended up smashing the flowers.
But things didn't stop there, as more items came flying into the audience. A pair of sun glasses, arm warmers, hats and eventually a jersey. Van Petegem started to remove his shorts, too, but quickly thought better of it. As the audience kept singing and van Petegem kept playing the conductor, Baguet had quietly left.
Former Paris-Roubaix winner van Petegem stayed around to shake hands and pose for photographs, before using his bike a final time to ride from the podium to the car. Both van Petegem and Baguet have been featured in the past on Cyclingnews.com.
African victory at L'Avenir
By Hedwig Kröner
For the first time in its history, an African has won a stage in the Tour de l'Avenir. 21 year-old Rafaa Chtioui from Tunisia was the fastest man in the race's time trial in Sassay on Monday, and surprised even himself: "When I was young, I dreamed about winning time trials," he told L'Equipe. "But during the last two years, I didn't think I was capable of it. But like they say - inshallah!"
Chtioui, a Muslim, trained at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland since 2004. After winning the Silver medal at the Junior World's in Verona, he joined the Espoir team of AG2R in Chambéry in 2006, but that experience turned sour. "It was horrible," he said about his difficult integration into the squad. "I was young and lonely, so after a few months I just wanted to go home."
Now that he has returned to Aigle, his talent pays off. While Michel Thčze of the Cycling Centre assures that his physical abilities are "enormous", Chtioui isn't sure of which cycling specialty he will yet have to develop if he wants to become a pro. "I don't know if I'm a sprinter, a time triallist, a climber or a finisher - I would need more references to make that out," he continued.
And isn't afraid of setting his goals as high as possible: "I just like to win, everywhere. I even think of the World's in Stuttgart - why not?"
Chtioui is happy with his multi-cultured team at the Tour de l'Avenir, which also counts an Algerian, a Chinese and three Colombian riders. "We're like a gang of friends, there is a lot of respect," he explained. "We help each other as if we were from the same country. I feel great in this team."
As for his immediate future, Chtioui doesn't know yet if he will accept the proposals he received to become a neo-pro next season. "I haven't decided yet, I'll see. If it has to happen, then it will - destiny will decide," he concluded.
Quick.Step-Innergetic firm 2008 plans
Patrick Lefevere's ProTour squad Quick.Step-Innergetic has announced the re-signing of Andrea Tonti and Juan Manuel Gárate, further firming the squad's lineup for the 2008 season. Both Tonti and Garate have signed one year extensions with the Belgian squad, while Garate's contract includes options for further seasons.
"During the past few days at the Vuelta España," Lefevere said. "We have prolonged the contracts of Andrea Tonti and Juan Manuel Garate. Our team is already strong, but we are still moving there on the market to complete our roster."
Lefevere also confirmed the signing of Belgian Stijn Devolder and Italian Matteo Carrara for 2008. Devolder will return to a Belgian squad after his Discovery Channel squad shuts its doors at season's end, while 28 year-old Carrara will join the team from the Unibet.com team, which has been left to find a new sponsor for 2008 following the announcement Unibet.com will withdraw from cycling at season's end.
"We are satisfied with these two new arrivals," added Lefevere. "Both, Stijn and Matteo are entering in their sporting maturity. Their arrival strengthens and subsequently completes the team especially for the stages races."
The new signings takes the squad's 2008 roster to 24 riders, however Lefevere indicated that the team is not year finished shopping in the rider market.
Quick.Step-Innergetic's 2008 roster to date: Carlos Barredo, Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Addy Engels, Mauro Facci, Juan Manuel Gárate, Dmitry Grabovskyy, Kevin Hulsmans, Alessandro Proni, Sébastien Rosseler, Leonardo Scarselli, Hubert Schwab, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Gert Steegmans, Matteo Tosatto, Andrea Tonti, Jurgen Van de Walle, Kevin Van Impe, Davide Viganò, Giovanni Visconti, Wouter Weylandt and Maarten Wynants.
Questions raised in Dutch women's peloton
Women's cycling in the Netherlands has been turned on its head after the newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad revealed that a female cyclist was in fact born as a man 32 years ago. The rider debuted this year in the women's field and immediately the rumour mills began questioning her sexuality as a result of her performance and visual characteristics.
After a few podium places and a win in a regional race, a fellow cyclist questioned the rider on the topic, which lead to the paper running the story. The Dutch cyclist has refused to comment on the matter, but a spokesperson from her club spoke with the paper. "If there are people who have a problem with [the rider's] trans-sexuality then they should take it up with the cycle federation," the source said. "She received a valid licence from them."
The Dutch cycling federation, KNWU, doesn't see a problem with the situation. "[The rider] under went a medical examination and her passport states that she is a women," a KNWU spokesperson told the paper. "We understand that there are some people questioning this but everything is in order."
"We are still asking ourselves if it is a fair," confessed Sissy van Alebeek, a fellow competitor in the women's peloton. "Okay she received a licence, but it is all very unclear. [The rider] can ride very hard; a lot of riders are asking if she really is all women, if everything was taken off."
Discussions on a women's cycling website in Holland also began posing the same questions as that of Van Alebeek's, which prompted the webmaster to close the forum, stating that: "all the anonymous curses getting out of line."
In 2002 a Canadian transgender competitor was selected for the national mountainbike team to contest the World Championships that year, which lead to resistance from some team members.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)