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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for September 19, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Greg Johnson

UCI steps up anti-doping measures for Worlds

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the UCI unveiled a series of new anti-doping measures for the upcoming World Road Championships in Stuttgart, including increased tests both in and out of competition and storage of blood samples for retrospective testing of growth hormone.

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Over the eight weeks preceding the championships, which the UCI considers to be a rider's preparation period, the governing body says it will carry out 120 unannounced out-of-competition tests (compared to 27 last year) among riders competing at the Worlds, and 400 tests during competitions on the same riders.

During the championships themselves, the number of controls will be increased by 25 percent, with the first four riders in each event to be tested, along with four additional riders. These may be selected at random or based on the UCI's list of targeted riders - those suspected of using performance enhancing substances or methods.

Perhaps the most significant measure, however, is the storage of blood for growth hormone testing, when such a test becomes available. This, according to the UCI, is likely to be the end of 2007. Growth hormone has long been known as a drug used by cyclists, although its true performance enhancing effects (maintaining muscle mass and therefore increasing strength) have often been called into question scientifically. Still, the UCI will be hoping its latest measure acts as a deterrent while the test is being finalised.

Finally, the UCI will also conduct around 100 early morning blood tests before events, making it possible to prohibit riders from starting or improve the targeting of post-race testing.

Bettini and Pozzato lead Italian Worlds charge

Bettini is expected to quit the Vuelta after Stage 18.
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

The Italian Worlds team was announced on Tuesday in Varese by national coach Franco Ballerini, with defending champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) designated as co-captains. "What counts in a world championship is the final result, and we have the men and spirit to realize the top goal," Ballerini told AP.

Backing the two leaders will be some serious firepower in the form of Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Damiano Cunego (Lampre - Fondital), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre - Fondital), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre - Fondital), Andrea Tonti (Quick.Step - Innergetic), Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Selle Italia), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step - Innergetic).

Following his non-negative test for Salbutamol at the Giro d'Italia, Alessandro Petacchi has been left off the team, although Ballerini is one of several national coaches who thinks a bunch sprint unlikely on the Stuttgart circuit. It's for this reason, he says, that Daniele Bennati has also been omitted from the squad.

"I know that many people have criticized the exclusion of Bennati," Ballerini said. "From the start I've stated very clearly that Stuttgart is not a circuit for sprinters. Also, Pozzato, Bettini and Di Luca have shown constant growth lately and Cunego's improvement at the Vuelta took care of the rest."

Nibali will also ride the time trial, as will T-Mobile's Marco Pinotti.

Millar to lead Great Britain at Worlds

By Ben Atkins, UK Editor

David Millar (Saunier Duval - Prodir)
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

British national road and time trial champion David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) will lead the Great Britain team on both fronts at the World Road Championships in Stuttgart this month. Millar will be joined in the race against the clock by Olympic and World Pursuit Champion Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) who has a point to prove after being forced to miss the Tour de France's final time trial after the withdrawal of his team due to the positive doping test returned by Christian Moreni.

As stated in an interview with Cyclingnews last month, Millar believes he has what it takes to do well in the road race as well as the time trial. Assisting in the Scot's bid to swap his newly acquired red, white and blue stripes for rainbow ones, will be T-Mobile pair Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish. Both riders are coming to the race off the back of strong performances in the Tour of Britain - Cavendish picking up the prologue, one stage and the points jersey.

The obvious name missing from the women's team is national champion and last year's bronze medallist Nicole Cooke (Raleigh-Lifeforce-Creation). As reported this week, Cooke has been forced to cut her season short due to the knee injury that prevented her from contesting the sprint at last weekend's Rund um die Nürnberger Altstadt. The injury requires surgery and means a premature end to the Welsh woman's season, and also denies the women's race of one of its outstanding favourites.

In Cooke's absence, Team GB are still able to field a strong squad, led by national silver and bronze medallists Rachel Heal (Webcor Builders) and Helen Wyman (Global RT). Specialized Designs for Women rider Emma Pooley could be a dark horse for a medal on a testing course after several good results this season. The road race team of six will be completed by Cooke's Raleigh teammate Tanja Slater, Rapha-Condor rider Catherine Hare, and Wyman's Global RT teammate Lizzie Armitstead. In the time trial, Emma Pooley will join national champion Wendy Houvenhagel (Science-in-Sport).

In the men's under-23 race, Team GB's one road race qualification place will be taken by Barloworld stagiaire Ben Swift, while T-Mobile stagiaire Ian Stannard will look to use his pursuiting abilities in the time trial. Like Hammond and Cavendish, both under-23 riders are coming off good performances in their home tour where Swift took the mountains jersey.

Spaniards finalise men's Worlds team

Valverde is determined to compete at the Worlds.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Spanish national selector Francisco Antequera has named Caisse d'Epargne rider Joaquím Rodríguez as the ninth member of Spain's elite men's road race squad for the World Road Championships. Rodríguez is part of a star-studded lineup which still includes the name of teammate Alejandro Valverde, despite UCI assurances that the Murcian cannot compete due to alleged links to the ongoing Operación Puerto saga.

At present, the Spanish lineup is named as Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Óscar Freire (Rabobank), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom), Carlos Barredo (Quick.Step - Innergetic), Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank).

Perhaps making some concession that Valverde will not be riding, Antequera has said that José Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) would be drafted in as a replacement for both the road race and time trial, should the UCI have its way. "I would like Alejandro [Valverde] to be with us," Antequera told Marca. "But if it is not possible, Iván [Gutiérrez] will be a good rider to work for the team."

The Spanish Cycling Federation has already announced that it plans to take Valverde's case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and also the courts of Switzerland where the UCI is based. Federation president Fulgencio Sánchez said on Tuesday that there was still time for a court ruling, but denied Spain would withdraw from the championships altogether. "We're going to participate and to win," he told AP. "And if it's with Valverde, all the better."

Courtesy of Monika Prell

U.S. announces strong Worlds selection

Described by USA Cycling as one of the strongest squads assembled in recent years, the eight-strong elite men's squad - all of whom will contest the 267 kilometre road race - features seven ProTour riders, namely George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), David Zabriskie (Team CSC), Bobby Julich (Team CSC), Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC), Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel), John Devine (Discovery Channel) and Tyler Farrar (Cofidis), and one domestic-based professional in Danny Pate (Slipstream-Chipotle).

Both Hincapie and Pate have recently shown good form at the Tour of Missouri, where Hincapie took the overall win and Pate a solo victory on Stage 5. Hincapie's teammate McCartney, also a name to watch after his gutsy victory on Stage 14 of the Vuelta, will ride the time trial alongside last year's silver medallist Zabriskie.

Representing the elite women's team in the 172 kilometre road race will be Kristin Armstrong (Team Lipton), Amber Neben (Flexpoint), Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders), Mara Abbott (Webcor Builders), Tina Pic (Colavita-Sutter Home-Cooking Light), Lauren Franges (Team Lipton) and Katheryn Curi (Webcor Builders).

For the time trial, the US has defending champion Armstrong, plus Neben, Thorburn and Pan American champion Alison Powers (Colavita-Sutter Home-Cooking Light).

In the Under 23 category, the five riders named for the road race are Peter Stetina (Slipstream-Chipotle), Craig Lewis (Slipstream-Chipotle), Tejay Van Garderen (VMG Racing), Max Jenkins (California Giant) and Tom Peterson (Slipstream-Chipotle).

Van Garderen and US national U23 time trial champion Nick Frey (HART) will contest the Under 23 time trial.

Picking the ProTour apart

Golden glory: Italian Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is sitting pretty in the title hunt,
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The UCI ProTour is drawing to a close, with only the points from the Vuelta a España and the fall Classics Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia left to provide any opportunity for advancement. Danilo Di Luca has led the series since he won the Giro d'Italia, but he has by no means sewn things up. Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo breaks down the ProTour standings past, present and future.

With all of the arguments between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers over the UCI's ProTour series, it's easy to forget that there's a title at stake that the riders actually care about. Money, respect and the chance to wear a shiny white jersey in the series' races is on the line, and even if some of the organisers refuse to hold the ProTour jersey ceremony, it's still a hotly contested series.

Current ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca is fond of that white series leader jersey, having won the inaugural ProTour in 2005. That year he bested Tom Boonen and Davide Rebellin with strong performances throughout the season. None of these three factored into the ProTour equation in 2006, as Alejandro Valverde stormed through the Ardennes Classics, taking home titles in La Flèche Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège, and then proceeding straight on through to the Vuelta a España where he took second overall.

This year, it was Di Luca's turn to dominate in the spring, and his strategy of lying low until late April and then hitting a massive peak through the Ardennes Classics and Giro d'Italia has paid off in spades. The Liquigas rider leads the ProTour standings by 51 points over his nearest competitor, Tour de France and Paris-Nice winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel). Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) is right on Contador's heels, just one point back after a solid early season.

To read the complete ProTour feature, click here.

Health Net-Maxxis rules NRC

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Missouri

Health Net blitzing the TTT at 'Toona.
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

After winning the team NRC championship for three years in a row, the Health Net-Maxxis juggernaut decided to add the individual title along with a fourth team title in 2007. Rory Sutherland's placing at the US 10K Classic in Atlanta over Labour Day weekend clinched the individual title and added space between them and Toyota-United for the team NRC win.

"Being the number one team in the US is always a goal," said directeur sportif Jeff Corbett. "We were maybe a little mistaken at the beginning of the year that the USA Cycling 'professional tour' was really going to be the yardstick that teams were measured. As the season started progressing and events on that started getting cancelled, we realized that it wasn't going to be the true measure."

"So we decided to go back to what we've been doing the last three years which is to focus on the NRC. I think we realised when Utah and Austin were gone; we were counting on Utah to be of big importance for us. We thought it was a race that suited us and that we could do well at."

The team's performance at the Tour de 'Toona was a turning point, as the team time trial win, overall win by Karl Menzies and other placing by Rory Sutherland combined to vault them over the then leading Toyota-United team.

Sutherland said that the NRC team title, as well as his individual title, are a product of the team doing one simple thing: winning races. "That's what we've been doing all year," he said. "The main emphasis of the entire NRC idea was we don't race for it, we just race to win races."

After 'Toona, the team only needed to keep its first place protected at the final races in August, culminating with the 10K Classic. At this race it seemed that the team classification had all but been decided with Health Net-Maxxis enjoying a 237 point lead over Toyota-United, with Navigators Insurance a distant third. This was when the possibility of going for the individual win became a thought, let alone a reality.

Menzies caps off a perfect week in 'Toona
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

"We never go for the individual!" stressed Corbett. "The only thing we did this entire year towards the individual was at Atlanta last week, having Rory sit on Karl to follow him in the sprint instead of having Rory lead Karl out. So, basically the last 500 metres of the last NRC race we let Rory focus on the individual... a little!"

"Karl led me out - I hadn't had that all year!" joked Sutherland about the finish of the 10K Classic. "But seriously, the guy sacrificed his chances to win the race and it's a pretty nice thing to have. The whole idea of having to lead Karl out and then keep sprinting an extra 300 meters after sprinting for 300 meters isn't that realistic. But if we managed to win the NRC individual it would be an extra bonus at the end, and pretty lucky too - it's just a bonus we are happy to have."

Sutherland's first year racing in America has definitely turned out well, especially with the chance Health Net-Maxxis took in signing him. Given his recent history when he was suspended for 15 months for a positive drug test under questionable circumstances, he felt the need to contribute even more, and the individual title, which comes with no trophy, prize money or physical notoriety, is his way of showing his gratitude. "The chance I was given to race by these guys - I have paid that back this year with my results."

"It's definitely different racing over here, and to be honest I didn't think about the [individual NRC] all year. There is no prize money or leader's jersey - nobody really talks about it at all. But at the end of it, it does create more promotion for the team and the sponsors are all happy. With this day and age in cycling, with all that has happened, the more we can give the sponsors the better."

And so is Sutherland looking to re-negotiate his contract with the team next year? "Not a chance," he said, thankful to even have a spot when so many other teams are disappearing. "It's already signed in ink, early enough before everything fell to shit everywhere! This is where I want to be at the moment and I love the guys that are supporting me, and that I support."

Van Gilder takes women's NRC, Webcor crowned team champions

The women's National Race Calendar series (NRC) wrapped up at the Tour de Leelanau on Saturday where Cheerwine's pocket-rocket sprinter Laura Van Gilder placed second to defending champion Tina Pic (Colavita-Sutter Home-Cooking Light), enough to give the Pennsylvania native back the NRC title she last won in 2002. Mara Abbot (Webcor Builders) claimed second overall while World TT Champion Kristen Armstrong was third.

Van Gilder has maintained a steady flow of victories throughout the 37-race series, taking her first at the Garret Lemire Memorial Grand Prix in April and most recent on stage 7 of the International Tour de 'Toona. Other victories included stages 6 and 7 of the USA Crits SE Series, stage 2 of the Joe Martin Stage Race, the Raleigh Criterium, the Kelly Cup, the CSC Invitational, the Crystal City Classic and stage 4 of the Tour de 'Toona.

In the team standings, Webcor Builders came out victorious thanks to NRC wins from Mara Abbot, Amber Rais, Katheryn Curi and Rachel Heal. Abbot claimed national titles in the elite women's road race and the U23 time trial at the USAC National Festival at Seven Springs, won a stage of the Redlands Classic and a stage and the overall classification at the Tour of the Gila. Rais, meanwhile, took the Tri-Peaks Challenge with three stage wins and the overall title, plus the Cougar Mountain Classic Circuit Race.

Second in the team standings were Cheerwine, followed by Aaron's, Team Lipton and Colavita-Sutter Home-Cooking Light.

Women's individual standings

1 Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine)                      1,614 pts
2 Mara Abbott (Webcor Builders)                     1,267
3 Kristin Armstrong (Team Lipton)                   1,143
4 Felicia Gomez (Aaron's)                             999
5 Katharine Carroll (Aaron's)                         964

Women's team standings

1 Webcor Builders                                   4,468 pts
2 Cheerwine                                         3,870
3 Aaron's Professional Women's Cycling Team         3,120
4 Team Lipton                                       2,757
5 Colavita/Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light   2,599

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