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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, February 5, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Astana reacts to Giro decision

Johan Bruyneel
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The Astana Cycling Team has responded to the Giro d'Italia's decision not to invite the Luxembourg-registered squad to participate in the famed Grand Tour, saying it regretted the decision of organizer RCS Sport. Astana was one of several ProTour outfits left off the invite list to this year's Giro, after the event was allowed to chose its own teams following a 'special calendar' announced by the UCI last week.

"The Giro direction has the freedom of choice," said team manager Johan Bruyneel. "We regret that. Lodging a complaint will not help us. The coming weeks, we will prove that we still have our place in all big cycling events."

Astana's reaction pointed out that RCS opted against including the Kazakh-backed squad in the Italian race due to the pedigree of the potential roster it submitted to contest the event, not the doping controversies that have dogged the team over the past 12 months. The outfit has been completely rebuilt during the off season, with a new management team appointed following the outfit's dismissal from the Tour de France last season after star rider Alexander Vinokourov tested positive.

"At this moment, the quality of the proposed participating riders for the Giro is not in proportion to the potential of the team," said RCS events director Angelo Zomegnan. "I do not take into consideration what happened with the old Astana in the past. Time probably cures all things."

Bruyneel, the former Discovery Channel team director, said the Kazakh sponsors that fund the outfit have offered their unconditional support to the outfit, despite not being included in the world's second largest stage race.

"Fortunately, my sponsors confirmed today their unconditional support," he said. "With their support, we started building a new team in a clean environment. We will continue on that way. I hope, for cycling in general, that the sponsors of the other non-selected teams react in the same way."

The squad's sports director Alain Gallopin, who worked with Team CSC in 2007, was hoping to return to this year's event with another surprise package as he did last season with Andy Schleck. "We surprised the world with Andy Schleck," he said. "I had the intention to motivate Jani Brajkovic in the same way as I did with Schleck.

"At our training camp in Albuquerque last week, we had the chance to discuss Andreas Klöden's year program," he added. "He liked to participate in the Giro d'Italia. The race fits perfectly in his planning. We never had the chance to discuss it with the organizers."

While Astana was left off the 21 team announcement last week, there is a still remote possibility the outfit could be granted a start for the race. Included in the Giro's initial announcement was that the event's organizer reserves the right to review the invitations at its own discretion.

"If the Giro directors would reconsider their selection, we will be ready for it," said Bruyneel. "Above all, we hope, for the Tour of Italy as well as for cycling in general, that the Giro can go on. All IPCT members decided in their General Assemble of January 17th not to participate in races where Pro Continental teams start if their riders do not have a biological passport. There will be a lot of work to do for some teams."

Pinotti dreaming of Giro start

By Gregor Brown

Italian Marco Pinotti may be in California for Team High Road's training camp, but the rider's dreaming of competing in his home tour, the Giro d'Italia, this May. The 31 year-old wore the Giro's race leader jersey, the maglia rosa, for four days in 2007, and so he was surprised when the Bob Stapleton-owned team was left out of the 2008 selection.

Hearing the news that Team High Road, formerly T-Mobile, had been left off organiser RCS Sport's list of 21 invited teams left the rider a little annoyed, but after some reflection and reading an interview with RCS Sport Events Director Angelo Zomegnan by Corriere della Sera Pinotti has settled down.

"The words were good, but they would be better spent on the whole team," said Pinotti to Cyclingnews. The rider is in Pismo Beach, California, preparing for the upcoming season with his ProTour-ranked team. Over the winter the team went through some drastic changes – reinforcing its strong stance against doping – after T-Mobile withdrew its sponsorship.

After learning that the squad wasn't included in this year's Giro Pinotti didn't have time to contact Zomegnan personally, as he was preparing for his trip across the Atlantic Ocean. "I read later the nice words he said about me in the Corriere della Sera, saying that if he could, he would have let me race as an independent," Pinotti continued.

"It explained that maybe they [RCS Sport] do not really understand how well High Road is working, and there's no reason to leave us out the Giro," added Pinotti. "I am in this team because I believe in its policy and commitment."

Pinotti understands that RCS Sport was free to choose the teams of its choice for the Corsa Rosa, backed by the International Cycling Union (UCI) after its meeting with the country's national federation in Treviso, Italy. The UCI and representatives of the national federations came to a 'special calendar' agreement where only the Tour de France was obliged to invite all 18 ProTour teams, leaving the other races, like the Giro, free to choose from ProTour and Professional Continental teams.

Pinotti's preparations are progressing well in California, despite the fact the Italian rider – along with team-mates Kanstantsin Siutsou and Morris Possoni – is still waiting on the airline delivering their bikes.

Meares returns to the bike

By Greg Johnson

Always smiling: Anna Meares is rushed to hospital in America
(Click for larger image)

Australian star track cyclist Anna Meares has returned to training on a bicycle for the first time since her life threatening accident at January's Track World Cup in Los Angeles. Meares, who is still aiming at contesting August's Beijing Olympics, has returned to small sessions on an indoor trainer with the assistance of a clothes rack to ensure her neck receives the support it needs.

In addition to the heavy skin grazing, torn tendons and muscle tissue sustained from the accident, Meares dislocated the AC joint in her right shoulder and sustained a hairline fracture to her C2 vertebra. Meares, who held a press conference in Adelaide last week after returning to Australia from the United States of America, is now out of the wheelchair she had been stricken to and is able to walk unaided.

"Two weeks after the crash and I am able to now walk unaided and move my arm," Meares told Cyclingnews, in response to a reader's letter wishing her well last week. "My burns have all but healed. On Friday I started my first little bit of rehab and that is getting back on the bike.

A bit of Australian ingenuity has Meares back
(Click for larger image)

"My coach and mechanic made me a little rig where I can sit upright on a stationary ergo so as not to put much pressure on my neck," she added. "How simple an idea – a portable clothes rack. The first go at it I could only do one-two minutes before I got dizzy and had to stop. Later that day I did two lots of five minutes just fine and today I easily did 15 minutes. I have to say as sad as it may sound it was very exciting for me to even do the one-two minutes first up.

The accident in Los Angeles has a very real impact on Meares' Beijing Olympic Games bid. While Meares is currently ranked fourth in the qualification standings for August's games, the four to six weeks she's expected to spend out of competition will force her to miss the final two qualification events – the Copenhagen Track World Cup round and the Manchester World Track Championships.

With just 12 spots open for the Olympic Games – three of which places go to the reigning World Cup, World Champion and B World Champions – Meares' Olympic hopes lay completely in the hands of others. While she believes she will be ready for August's event, Meares is relying on either not being knocked out of the top nine riders following the upcoming qualification rounds or being awarded a wildcard.

The flesh wounds to Meares' face have
(Click for larger image)

The International Cycling Union (UCI) can award wildcards of sorts to riders, but only if a pre-qualified cyclist withdraws from the Olympics.

"Funnily enough after the first day of movement of riding I stiffened up a lot the next day but that eased the more I moved," said Meares. "I have also started physio and that is going very well. He believes my arm should be almost back to normal in just over another week. On Monday I am off for my two week check-up cat scan on my neck to check progress on the crack. I am still having to wear the neck brace for the next few weeks but the sling isn't worn unless my arm gets tired."

Meares has remained in high spirits despite the possible implications of the accident and thanked everyone for their support over recent weeks.

"I want to say a very big thank you to everyone who has sent get well cards, flowers and messages to me," she said. "They really have made a very big impact on me and kept me smiling and positive knowing so many people are behind me."

Anyone wishing to send their well wishes to Meares as she recovers and prepares for a possible Australian Olympic Games team berth should direct their letters to


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Anna Meares

Duclos-Lassalle opens palmarès

Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis) was happy and relieved to score his first victory as a professional in Sunday's GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise. The son of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle hadn't won a race in four years – ever since he signed for the Cofidis Elite squad, coming out of the team's Espoir programme.

The 27 year-old took the victory in Marseille in front of Frederik Veuchelen (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Ryder Hesjedal (Slipstream) in a three-man sprint, while a group of chasers including Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) was just metres away on the finishing straight. "In the finale, I knew that Hesjedal isn't very fast but I was anxious about Veuchelen, who's quite strong," Duclos-Lassalle told L'Equipe after the race. "Still, I didn't panic. With 1.5km to go, I stopped taking turns as I knew that if I continued my efforts, I'd be done. I took the risk [of being caught by the chasers - ed.], and it worked. Three years ago, I would have been more nervous."

The Cofidis rider was a surprise winner in the event, as even his squad had team-mate Samuel Dumoulin down as captain. "We had planned the team to ride for Samuel, and even more so when Samuel and Hervé were in the right escape," the squad's directeur sportif, Francis Van Londersele, explained. "He deserved [the victory] – he was the one to close all the gaps. Hervé might not have the class of his dad, but he's making a name for himself right now."

Speaking of his father, the young Duclos-Lassalle found it hard to develop his own strengths when he was in the junior ranks. "They said that I was strong because my name was Duclos-Lassalle," he recalled. "It was difficult to live with. But for it to change, I would have to win Paris-Roubaix three times – that would be even more difficult," he added, on a less serious note.

Koppenberg back in Ronde van Vlaanderen

The Koppenberg climb has been reinstated in the route of the 2008 Ronde van Vlaanderen, according to the Gazet van Antwerpen. Last year the Koppenberg was swapped for the Kortekeer, due to the poor state of Melden hill.

Over the course of the past year, the city of Oudenaarde has renovated the climb completely in order for the race organisers to reconsider the climb in the race.

"There where deals made between the various institutions," explained race organiser Wim Van Herreweghe. "We are going to make sure that during the Ronde van Vlaanderen the Koppenberg will be in good condition. This hill is a monument that has a lot of nostalgia attached to it, in the monument that the Ronde van Vlaanderen is.

"Riders old and new, such as, Scott Sunderland, Serge Baguet, Kevin Hulsmans en Kevin Van Impe have looked at the renovated Koppenberg a short time ago and have given the thumbs up," he added. "All the holes have been fixed also the descent is under control. The public will be allowed on the climb, but with the necessary safety regulations. The climb needs to remain competitive. On top of that we have implemented measures so that we can continue to use the climb in the future."

The Koppenberg is the seventh of 17 hills. It comes after 195 km of racing and with 69 km to the finish in Ninove. It comes after the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg and is followed by the Steenbeekdries and the Taaienberg. The Kortekeer, the Koppenberg's replacement last year, has been scrapped from the route of the 92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Claudio Corti : Father and son reunion

Son Marco will follow Claudio
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Twice Italian Champion (in 1985 and 1986), Claudio Corti has been directing teams since shortly after his retirement, beginning in 1990 with Chateau d'Ax. He was there with Bugno's famous wins in the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Tour of Flanders, and later, as a team manager, he saw to Simoni's year 2000 Giro d'Italia win and some of Cipollini's most spectacular victories when in Saeco red. During those years his second youngest son, Marco, was watching at home, following with hid dad in the team car and even taking to the bike, aspiring to one day be a professional.

"I have there children: one girl who is 27, Marco who will be 22 this year and a small boy who is seven years old," stated a proud Claudio while Marco quietly sat beside him.

"I started young, when I was seven years old," the neo-professional added in a hushed voice. Marco is at his first camp as a top-level rider, amongst the likes of Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke and Enrico Gasparotto, and, yes, his dad. "One of the early memories of him was when he was already a directeur, and there were cyclists, like Gianni Bugno. I remember Bugno would pass by the house and I had a chance to know him."

Claudio reflected of those days, "Bugno would pass by the house before long training rides, when I would follow him up to six to seven hours. Marco would accompany me in the car sometimes." Claudio also took Marco along to the races, where his boy became fascinated with the world of cycling. "I went along in the team car in some stages of the Giro d'Italia and also a few times at the Giro di Lombardia," he recalled. "I remember being in the long line of team cars, and the inner workings. Watching him handing the water bottles, changing tires and the attention he gave to the race. I was there taking it all in."

Marco 'took it all in' because he knew that one day he would be there racing. "I always had the idea of wanting to become a professional. While at secondary school I studied languages – English, Spanish and German." The languages paid off, and now he find himself in an international team, here even his papà has to learn a new language. Claudio interjected, "I started studying English when I started with Barloworld, and I can carry on simple conversations. Unfortunately, I had only previously known French and Spanish. There are twenty cyclists, and with six of them I am obliged to talk in English."

To read the full interview with Claudio Corti, click here.

Elk Haus opens season in France

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Elk Haus Simplon is opening its 2008 season with two races in France, the Etoile de Bessèges and the Tour Méditerranéen. After those races, the team will take on the Omloop Het Volk and the 3 Daagse West-Vlaanderen. In addition, the Austrian Professional Continental team has hopes for an invite to the Giro d'Italia Grand Tour.

"There is a meeting with the Giro organisers on February 12," said team manager Bernhard Rassinger. "We still hope for an invitation."

In the Etoile de Bessèges, the team will look to its sprinters, Jochen Summer and newcomer Steffen Radchola. The Tour Méditerranéen will see Gerhard Trampusch make his team debut.

Elk Haus for Etoile de Bessèges: Markus Eibegger, Stefan Rucker, Jochen Summer, Robert Lauscha, Jan Valach, Björn Thurau, Daniel Schorn and Steffen Radochla.

Elk Haus for the Tour Méditerranéen: Gerhard Trampusch, Harald Totschnig, Clemens Fankhauser, Markus Eibegger, Stefan Rucker, Jochen Summer, Jan Valach, and Robert Lauscha

Women's Prestige gets new finale

Organizers of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series in the United States of America have announced that the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational in Charlottte, North Carolina, will join the series and will serve as the grand finale in 2008. The event's addition will mark the first time the series' five-year history that a one-day race has been included in a schedule that previously included all stage races.

"We're thrilled to be part of the Series", said Presbyterian Hospital Invitational director Thad Fischer. "Women's racing is a priority of our event and being the grand finale of the country's only national women's-only series has long been a goal for us. We're going to work hard to create the grand finale that's worthy of this important series".

As the grand finale, the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational will be the deciding factor in a series that also includes the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Nature Valley Grand Prix and the International Tour de 'Toona.

"Adding a big one-day criterium balances out the Series", said Carmen D'Aluisio, manager of the Aaron's Cycling Team. "Stage race specialists may well take the lead early in the Series, but the tables will be turned in the finale. This gives crit specialists a shot at the individual, best young rider and team titles and could make for a dramatic finish to the Series."

As the only criterium ranked at 1.1 on the USA Cycling National Race Calendar, the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational is the most important criterium on that national calendar. Unlike the three stage races that precede it on the Series schedule, this is a true sprinters' race.

Women's Prestige Cycling Series 2008 calendar:
Redlands Bicycle Classic (April 3-6)
Nature Valley Grand Prix (June 11-15)
Tour de 'Toona (July 21-27)
Presbyterian Hospital Invitational (August 2)

MTN sponsors Giro del Capo

MTN will sponsor the South African stage race Giro del Capo in 2008. The March stage race is held on the Western Cape of the nation, and will consist of five road stages.

"With our sponsorship of the top South African professional team, MTN Energade, it is important for MTN to ensure that the country's premier stage race, the Giro del Capo, is also given the support it needs to grow," said Anthony Garstang, MTN SA Senior Manager.

"MTN is fully committed to the growth of cycling and our sponsorship of the sport is multi-dimensional reaching all the disciplines, road cycling, mountain biking and BMX," added Garstang. "The Giro del Capo is a high-profile race that's got local, African and international significance and we want to ensure this event improves each year."

The event holds UCI 2.2 ranking and has been staged since 1992. The event has been won on three occasions by local hero David George.

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