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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, December 12, 2008

Edited by Peter Hymas

Evans a 'no go' for Giro

By Ben Bulmer

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Cadel Evans will not ride the Giro d'Italia and has accused race organisers RCS Sport of falsely using his name to promote its event.

On Wednesday it was announced that Evans would ride the three-week Italian stage race, adding his name to a list of overall favourites that includes Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre. Evans, who is currently in Australia preparing another assault on the Tour de France, denied the claims.

"I didn't announce I would be riding the Giro, the organisers did. I am not riding the Giro next year, my focus will be on winning the Tour de France in July," Evans said. "They announced I would be riding because they want publicity for their race. I have never said I would ride the Giro."

Evans said the Giro d'Italia has been the furthest thing from his mind since returning to the saddle two weeks ago. After a short off-season lay off, the runner-up in the past two editions of the Tour has been solely focused on preparing his body for July.

He listed Alberto Contador, ahead of Armstrong, as the biggest obstacle between himself and overall victory at the Tour next year, and said combating a star-studded Astana team would be difficult.

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He was disappointed with a lack of off-season signings for his own Silence-Lotto squad, following the termination of new signing Bernard Kohl's contract after he tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug CERA and the loss of team-mate Yaroslav Popovych. He said there is still the potential for one or two more signings, but is not overly optimistic.

"Most of the top riders have signed contracts by now, which makes it hard, but we will be looking to get a couple more signings before the season starts," he said.

Andy Schleck says 'no' to Giro, focuses on Tour

By Gregor Brown

Andy Schleck at the 2008 Tour
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Andy Schleck has excluded himself as one of the big names to race the 2009 Giro d'Italia. The Saxo Bank rider, winner of the 2007 Giro's young rider competition, will focus on the 2009 Tour de France.

"I am too young to do the Giro and the Tour. My main goal is the Tour next year, I want to concentrate 100 percent on it," Schleck said to Cyclingnews.

The 23-year-old Luxemburger challenged for the overall win in 2007, his first three-week race. He eventually finished 1:55 down on Danilo Di Luca, but he walked away with the maglia bianca of best young rider.

He skipped the Giro this year to focus on the Tour de France. He helped his teammate and brother, Fränk, take the yellow jersey and teammate Carlos Sastre onto the final overall victory. Like in the Giro of 2007, he came away with the white jersey of best young rider.

The 2009 Giro d'Italia will be one of the most closely watched races in recent history thanks to the participation of American Lance Armstrong. He joins a list of favorites that include Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Ivan Basso and Gilberto Simoni.

"The Giro is not an easier race, maybe it is even harder than the Tour, but the Tour is the Tour. It is great for Carlos and the rest, but for me it is too much to focus on both of the races."

Schleck, who leaves this weekend for a ski holiday in Austria, will dedicate the first part of his season to the Ardennes Classics. Similar to 2008, he will target Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"Last year [2008] I was good and this year [2009] I want to be better. Maybe I can have a victory in one of the three. ... It will be the first goal of the year."

He will race the Paris-Nice in preparation for the Ardennes Classics. His brother will race Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico, which runs nearly parallel to the French race.

Sastre targets Giro as first 2009 goal

Sastre on his Tour victory lap
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre, winner of the Tour de France, confirmed earlier statements that he will compete in the 2009 Giro d'Italia. "The Giro has always occupied a special place in my life," Sastre said. "It represents my first major goal of the season. The Giro also is the only Grand Tour in which I haven't finished on the podium, and this is an even greater motivation for me. "

Angelo Zomegnan, the organizer of the Giro, was pleased with Sastre's and Cervélo Test Team's request to race the Giro. "Carlos Sastre has honored the Giro in 1999, 2002 and 2006, albeit in the role of lieutenant and not a leader," said Zomegnan. "His presence will help to further enrich the scope of the Giro del Centenario, which will result in the participation of riders who have finished on all three steps of the podium of the last two editions of the Tour – Sastre, Evans, Leipheimer and Klöden."

Race organiser RCS Sport will present the official route of the 92nd Giro d'Italia on Saturday, in Venice.

Page on the hunt for the title

By Kirsten Robbins

Jonathan Page (Planet Bike )
Photo ©: Isosport
(Click for larger image)

American cyclo-cross talent Jonathan Page has returned to his country, pegged as a favorite to win the 2008 US national cyclo-cross championships held in Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday. The multi-time national champion is best known for being the first North American to stand on the elite world championships podium, claiming the silver medal in 2007. According to Page, his 'cross form has arrived – at just the right time.

He arrives at the championship event fresh off of a respectable 13th place in the fifth round of the World Cup held in Igorre, Spain last weekend. "I didn't have a good start there but I came through the group well," Page said, who has typically been known to pick up good form in the December and January months. "It was a very hard race. I haven't been too happy with the season so far. The last four weeks have been difficult, either being sick or having bad luck. But, I feel good now. I'm just starting my season."

Last year's race came down to a dramatic showdown between Page and Tim Johnson. A bobble on the last lap gave Johnson the slim advantage he needed to claim the prestigious stars and stripes jersey. According to Page, who races 'cross full time on the European circuit, the only person he is worried about this year is his himself.

"I don't study the American results when I'm over in Belgium," said Page, whose full-time overseas schedule leaves him little chance to compete on the US circuit. "But from what I've been hearing, there have been different people winning all year. I never know what to expect when I come back for nationals, I just have to worry about me. But I think the course will dictate the selection of riders right away."

The course his held in Kansas City for the second year running, but it was taken to a new location, now held at the Tiffany Springs Park. According to Page the new course offers a dramatic difference compared to last year. It takes the riders up one side of a slope and down the other. "I rode on it today and I found it really hard," Page said. "I do believe that the best rider will win. I know the course will make the selection and then I can make my own tactics from there."

Page jumped over to full-time European 'cross in 2005 competing in the World Cup and Super Prestige series'. After a turbulent 2007 season with the Belgium-based Sunweb team, Page made the decision to sever ties one year in advance, signing with the American-based team Planet Bike in 2008.

"The Planet Bike people are just really good people," said Page, who hopes to perform well in front of an ever-strong cheering section of family and sponsors this weekend. "I've been very lucky to have this sponsor and I can't say enough about how helpful they've been. It's easy to ride for such nice people. I hope I can pull off a victory to give something back to him."

Victory at last

By Kirsten Robbins

USGP series winner Tim Johnson ( Cannondale)
Photo ©: Tim Gasperak
(Click for larger image)

Reigning US national cyclo-cross champion Tim Johnson made a most unexpected comeback victory when he won his first US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross (USGP) title after suffering an acute knee injury just two weeks ago. Now, the hunt is on for the US national championship held in Kansas City.

He had a mantel piece full of USGP silver second placed medals and just when the gold seemed to be slipping away from him mid-season, he clawed his way back into the USGP series leading position during the final round held in Portland. The victory did not come without a struggle to gain points ahead a stellar group of riders like defending champion Ryan Trebon, Todd Wells and his teammate Jeremy Powers, who were all within reach of the honorary title.

After a two week injury setback, Johnson won the series' round five, pulling himself back into the leading role. His third place finish in round six the next day was enough to solidify his first USGP victory. The gold medal has taken the spot light on the mantel amongst the hard earned memories of silver disappointments. This time around, the typical turbulence of cyclo-cross did not put a damper on Johnson's end of season success.

"I didn't think I was going to have a chance at USGP because of what happened to my knee and missing one race," said Johnson who was pleased to capture the overall in front of his good friend and USGP organizer, Bruce Fina. Fina watched him take runner up in prior years. "I went into the last round with no expectations. It was a huge surprise for me, shocking. Winning the first day in Portland was the best case scenario for me, and it happened."

Continue to the complete interview

Haussler ready to put difficult year behind him

By Susan Westemeyer

Haussler took a big win in the Dauphine Libere
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Heinrich Haussler says that 2008 was "a very bad year for German cycling" and at times he thought the sport wouldn't survive. The two doping cases at Team Gerolsteiner made it difficult for their German teammates to find new teams.

"Most of the other teams don't want anything to do with German riders, because of the German media," he told Cyclingnews. "There were times after the Tour when I thought that within two or three years there won't be any place for German cyclists, and I would have to look for a new line of work."

The 24-year-old told Cyclingnews he was surprised when team manager Hans-Michael Holczer was unable to find a new sponsor, but added, "It's probably good that it happened, because of the two doping riders on the team. If Holczer had found a sponsor, the sponsor probably would have quit anyway."

Those "two doping riders", Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl, tested positive for CERA at the Tour de France. Haussler said that he didn't want to address them specifically, but said, "I don't know how riders can still be that stupid as to be using dope, especially in Germany."

"Cycling is finished there, races are being cancelled, sponsors aren't there any more. It is lucky that Milram is still there. If Milram leaves, there is nothing," he noted.

Despite the bitter end for the team, Haussler found his time with Gerolsteiner to have been good. It was especially "perfect when I came up to the team, perfect for a young rider to work his way up in to the pros, to slowly work your way up."

Haussler turned pro with the German ProTour team in 2005 at the age of 20. Having dual citizenship, he had moved from Australia to Germany at the age of 15 to pursue his dream of becoming a pro cyclist. While at Gerolsteiner he brought in a number of wins, including a stage in the Vuelta a España in 2005.

The German-Australian is one of the last of the Gerolsteiner riders to announce his new team. The contract has long since been signed, he said, and the announcement should be made any day now.

At the moment Haussler is in St. Moritz, Switzerland, doing some cross-country skiing. He will stay there until Christmas before returning to his home in Freiburg, Germany, to start his road training. He will not be flying home to Australia this year. "I would have liked to have gone to my parents for Christmas, but for only three weeks it is too difficult, with the time change and the weather difference and the loss of training."

Team Astana members travel to Kazakhstan

Alberto Contador, Johan Bruyneel, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden and Assan Bazayev have traveled to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, for a weekend visit in which they are scheduled to meet with the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had extended the invitation.

The Astana members wanted to take advantage of this time, prior to the start of the season, to give thanks for the support received this season and to dedicate their 2008 victories to Team Astana's sponsors in their own country, despite the harsh winter weather conditions with temperatures of 20 degrees below zero in Astana.

Kazakh team member Assan Bazayev will act as host and guide for his teammates for their official visit to the Kazakh president.

Another broken collarbone for Van Den Broeck

The last quarter-year has not been good to Jurgen Van Den Broeck and his collarbones. This week he crashed while at the Team Silence-Lotto training camp in Spain and broke his left collarbone.

That gives the 25-year-old a matched set, as he had broken his right collarbone in a crash in the team time trial at the Tour of Poland in September.

The rider returned to Belgium directly and is expected to undergo surgery Friday in Herentals. If it is not a compound fracture and there are no complications, he is expected to return to his bike soon.

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