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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 23, 2007

First Edition Cycling News for September 24, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo, with assistance from Bjorn Haake

Menchov: maybe I can crack the Tour de France

Menchov in the white combination classification jersey
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

It was a fine moment for Russia's Denis Menchov to at last be able to ride into Madrid wearing the leader's golden jersey and to enjoy the accolades that are afforded to a Grand Tour winner. It's the second time he's won the Vuelta a España, but the first win didn't come until five months after the race had finished. In 2005, Menchov was second to Spaniard Roberto Heras, but when Heras tested positive for EPO and was sanctioned, the award was handed down to the Russian.

Now, the Russian can truly savour the hard-earned victory, and the taste of it has given him increased confidence. "It makes all the difference in the world to win it like this," Menchov said of his outright win. "I wanted a solid win in the Tour of Spain, it was important for my career," he continued, "and now maybe I can crack the Tour de France too."

Menchov's ride in this year's Vuelta was nothing less than dominant - he had more than three minutes over second placed Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who took third. The Rabobank rider also won the mountains classification and the 'combination' classifications, and held the overall lead in the race from stage nine to the finish in Madrid on Sunday.

His victory was a relief and a confirmation of the 29 year-old's promise for future Grand Tours, but it was also a catharsis for his Rabobank squad. The team spent days defending the yellow jersey of Michael Rasmussen during the Tour de France, only to have him withdraw from the race while still in the lead after being fired by the Rabobank team over missed drug tests. "We are getting experienced in defending the leader's jersey," said team manager Erik Breukink.

Who will lead, Schumacher or Zabel?

An exhausting effort
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Each year the World Championships presents a puzzle for the national team directors: who to designate as team captain. It's fortunate for Germany that they have a strong, punchy climber like Stefan Schumacher and one of the world's fastest sprinters in Erik Zabel, but the decision as to who to designate as captain for the World Road Race Championships in Stuttgart, is even more critical now that the race is on the team's home soil.

This question is about as easy to settle as it is for the Italian team to find an undisputed captain each year. Schumacher indicated that the course is good for him and that he wants to take responsibility. Schumacher told German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,"I am seeing myself as the captain. But I think Zabel will not just play second fiddle."

The issue surrounding Erik Zabel as team captain isn't just limited to whether the Stuttgart parcours will be selective enough to avoid a field sprint or not. It also is complicated by his having admitted to taken EPO in the 90's. After many discussions it was decided that either no rider who had admitted to using doping substances in the past should go to the Worlds, or everybody should be allowed. The decision ended up being the latter, but it was not executed to perfection. Erik Zabel was included, but Christian Henn, the directeur sportif of Gerolsteiner, whom Schumacher desperately wanted at the Worlds, was declared a persona non-grata and not invited to the German team.

Gerolsteiner's manager Hans-Michael Holczer is puzzled. "I can't follow the logic," said Holczer, who will now guide the German team together with T-Mobile's Jan Schaffrath. Holczer was quick to say that he didn't want this to come across as criticism. He just couldn't make sense of the double standard and added, "It was discussed differently."

There is good news for Schumacher nonetheless. The federation gave in to his biggest wish and nominated his Gerolsteiner team-mate David Kopp. Schumacher gets along well with Kopp and thinks that the other Gerolsteiner rider can help him. After all, Schumacher still assumes that he'll have the biggest chance for winning the rainbow jersey on the tough Stuttgart circuit, and will be even more motivated to win in a city so close to his home town.

The only German who ever won the World Championship was Rudi Altig, who took the home soil win in 1961. He won on the Formula One race track of the Nürburgring. He has clashed with the organizing committee and was removed from his post as ambassador to the Worlds. Altig sided with Zabel, and couldn't understand why he should be allowed to race all international races but not the Worlds. Altig, who attends most races and often works with the German TV stations as well, said he will not attend any activities at the Worlds. Instead he'll watch the race at home on television, "unless I am at the grape harvest."

Zabel to T-Mobile?

Erik Zabel is rumoured to be going back to his roots and returning to T-Mobile team, where he started his career in 1994. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that it is almost a done deal. Zabel has shown great respect for Gerald Ciolek in the past and was hoping Milram could sign Ciolek last year, but T-Mobile had more money to offer.

Rolf Aldag, directeur sportif of T-Mobile, hinted that "Gerald could really profit from Erik's experience." Now it is possible that Zabel will become the teacher of Ciolek, a rider he has tipped to be the next German to win the green jersey in the Tour de France.

Transfer news: Bileka, Gardeyn find home at Predictor-Lotto, Saunier Duval signs Passeron

Gorik Gardeyn (
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Ukrainian Volodymyr Bileka (Discovery Channel) and Belgian Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet) are the latest riders to find a team after their teams folded and left them on the job market. Both will join Predictor-Lotto, the team announced Sunday. 28 year-old Bileka will have a common language with his compatriot and Discovery Channel team-mate Yaroslav Popovych who signed with the team earlier this month.

27 year-old Gardeyn comes from the embattled team as a winner of a stage of the Tour of Belgium.

Aurélien Passeron has signed a three year contract with the Saunier Duval team, the squad announced on Sunday. The U23 French Champion began his professional career with Acqua & Sapone this year, and scored two victories: the GP Industria & Commercio Artigianato-Carnaghese and stage three of the Vuelta a Burgos.

Passeron joins other young riders on the 2008 team, including neo-pros Héctor González and Ermanno Capelli, Beñat Intxausti (Grupo Nicolás Mateos), and fellow Frenchman Denis Flahaut (Jartazi-Promo Fashion). Additionally, Ángel "Litu" Gómez and David de la Fuente have renewed their contracts for one and two seasons, respectively.

Svein Tuft: From survivorman to cyclist

Tuft scored points in Missouri
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

He's wrapped up the UCI America Tour even before the season's end, and now, current Canadian time trial champion Svein Tuft is on his way to the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany with a three year contract with his Symmetrics team in hand. Tuft spoke with Cyclingnews' reporter Kirsten Robbins in a first time interview that reveals a hearty outdoorsman who spent time surviving in the Canadian wilderness underneath the skin of a successful professional cyclist.

Svein Tuft didn't come to the world of road cycling through the traditional route - nor has his life been even remotely what one would consider 'traditional'. The Langley, British Columbia native wandered away from a typical lifestyle in his mid-teens and into a more than three year journey of train-hopping, outdoor survival and long-distance travels that taught him more about life's serenities than most people could learn in a lifetime. But it was also a journey that provided him the mental toughness and endurance which are key to life as a professional cyclist.

Attracted to the outdoors, it was mountaineering that grabbed his attention and he ventured off the beaten path for more than three years away from home, headed through the coastal range and the Rocky Mountains. "I got into bike touring because I was into mountaineering first," Tuft explained as he sat back and waited to board his flight to Germany. "I didn't have a lot of money, I was living here and there and I was traveling around climbing, doing different trips. Biking seemed to be the cheapest way of doing that. I would ride up into central BC, the coastal range and base myself out of there in the back country where I ran into a lot of bad weather; rain or snow. But, I made my own trailer and I would load it up with my dog and do long trips out there."

At twenty years old, Tuft was hooked on traveling by bicycle and realized the bike could take him a lot further than just the next mountain to climb. "I went up to Alaska and for two years I was living on the road, traveling down to Mexico and back up to Alaska again," said Tuft. "I never owned anything or had any type of savings in the bank. I relied on meeting people along the way and I'd work in one place for a short while until I had enough money to move on. I never mapped out anything or went on a time line."

The rugged outdoorsman soon found tranquility in jumping cargo trains across Canada, with no intention on where he was headed. "I was kind of just hobo'in around," said Tuft. "But, jumping the trains brought me one of the best moments in my life, on a train to Northern Alberta. My friend, Ivan Drury and I hopped on a grain car, which were the best cars because there was a top on them to keep the grain dry. We were rolling through the last little bit of the Rocky's and the northern lights lit up the sky. To be able to see the entire Rocky skyline on a warm night was amazing."

"We never cared where the trains went, it was all about where ever they ended up," added Tuft. "You have no control over the trains, they just end up where they end up. If you have plans, you shouldn't hop a train."

Tuft got his hands on his first road bike after coming home from a long trip. He was hired at a local bike shop to repair bikes based on the knowledge he gained over his years of traveling with a worn out hunk of metal. "The bike I toured around on was a used bike from Value Village," recalled Tuft. "By the time I got back it had a complete knew set of parts because everything broke on it, part by part.

To read the full interview, click here.

WADA approves 2008 prohibited list

The policy-making arm of the World Antidoping Agency (WADA), the Executive Committee, approved the 2008 'List of Prohibited Substances and Methods' on Sunday, offering up several additions to the list. New for 2008 will be "new classes of substances such as selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), a family of nonsteroidal molecules that has the same effect as anabolic steroids, and agents modifying myostatin functions including but not limited to myostatin inhibitors" the organisation announced.

The committee also approved the prohibition of intravenous infusions unless they are used to treat an acute medical condition. The new list will be published online by October 1, 2007, and will go into effect on January 1, 2008.

The Executive Committee was also consulted on the third working draft revision of the World Anti-Doping Code - the framework of the world-wide antidoping battle, the final draft of which will be published on October 15, 2007 and approved at the organisation's world conference in November. WADA President Richard Pound said, "We have been engaged in a thorough and extensive process that will result in the strengthening of the global fight against doping in sport by making enhancements and practical improvements to the Code."

The organisation put forth its 2008 annual budget, which increased by just four percent to US $26.5 million, for approval by WADA's Foundation Board at its November meeting. WADA will dedicate US $5.6 million to scientific research in 2007, funding 33 proposals to advance research in such areas as the detection of blood manipulations, genomic techniques to detect gene manipulation, the detection of hormones (e.g. insulin), as well as increase knowledge on known doping substances.

Tour Down Under bids for ProTour

Tour Down Under promoters are hoping that the UCI's push to expand the ProTour outside of the European continent could mean that its race will bring the world's highest profile racing to South Australia. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will decide in Germany next week whether to expand its ProTour series to include the Tour Down Under in 2009.

Premier Mike Rann says that ProTour status would put South Australia on the world cycling map. "The Tour Down Under is already the highest ranked cycling road race in the southern hemisphere and we want to take it to even greater heights in the future," Rann said.

The already popular race would gain higher international status with a ProTour bid. "UCI ProTour status would take our much-loved race to a new level of world significance, making it part of the highest-level international circuit in cycling," Rann continued. "We have been working for more than 12 months to position the Tour Down Under for ProTour status if the UCI decides to expand the series beyond Europe for the first time.

Not just backing the race with political gesturing, the state is prepared to provide the financial means to pull off a cycling coup. "The 2006-07 State Budget provided an extra $2 million over four years to expand the number of teams and increase the race's profile internationally."

The gamble is worth a predicted 60% increase in tourism and more than the estimated $11.5m the State generated from this year's event.

South Australia's Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith traveled to London in July to promote the race's bid for ProTour status, says joining the ProTour circuit would cement South Australia’s reputation as the cycling capital of Australia. "Achieving ProTour status will put us among the A-list of international cycling and lead to further growth and achievement in the sport here in South Australia.

"The fact that we are being considered for a race series that counts toward international ranking for cyclists is a huge sign of confidence in the State's ability to host an international standard race."

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