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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, February 22, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Astana gets first stage victory and yellow jersey

Leipheimer comments on his team's exclusions

By Kirsten Robbins in San Jose, California

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) on his way to the Tour of California yellow jersey
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Astana is living up to Levi Leipheimer's promise to respond in a sporting way to recent snubs from Grand Tour organizers. The team boasted its first stage victory and yellow jersey for the 2008 season and thereby presented a case on their bikes as to why they should be included in the French organization ASO's Tour de France and Paris-Nice and the Italian organization RCS's Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo.

In the Volta ao Algarve, Tomas Vaitkus won the second stage from Lagoa to Lagos. Vaitkus, who finished second in stage one on Wednesday, was the fastest man in stage two's group sprint Thursday. He was faster than Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner), Björn Schröder (Team Milram), Javier Benitez (Benfica), Kenny Dehaes (Topsport Vlaanderen), Bernhard Eisel (High Road) and Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto). It was the Lithuanian's and the team's first victory of the season.

After crossing the line, Vaitkus was very emotional. "The team worked so hard for me. I couldn't believe that they had so much confidence in me. I really could cry now. This is extra special after all we've been through the past few weeks." Astana was not invited to compete in either the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France in recent weeks despite having the 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and third placed rider Leipheimer on its squad.

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Sports Director Alexander Shefer was very proud of Astana's effort in the Algarve. "Our riders did a great job. Together with Cofidis and Gerolsteiner, they had to work so long to close an 11 minute gap. Four riders (two Belgian and two Portuguese riders) were in the front. The last man, Preben Vanhecke, was only caught in the last 500 meters. It is a pity that Tomas lost one second yesterday [Wednesday - ed.], otherwise we would have had two yellow jerseys in one day."

Meanwhile in the Tour of California, Leipheimer started stage four from Seaside to San Luis Obispo clad in yellow after a strong stage three, the queen stage with five climbs, in which he broke away with Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and finished second after the Dutch rider.

Leipheimer commented on his team being excluded from the world-class events as being vague and disappointing. "I think it's the same as always," said Leipheimer to Cyclingnews. "We are really frustrated as a team because they have given us no explanation. I think that the arguments that the two organizations [ASO and RCS] have given to exclude us are very vague and weak and inconsistent and we left to wonder and try to come to a conclusion. It's really difficult to be in that position."

ASO's decision to not invite Astana ruled out hopes of Contador defending his title both the Tour de France and Paris-Nice. Furthermore, the decision affected Johan Bruyneel's hopes of winning the team competition in a similar fashion as his former Discovery Channel team did.

RCS's recent decision to exclude Astana from Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo puts a stop to Andreas Klöden's chances of defending his 2007 title in the later event. Although Leipheimer has not spoken with his Klöden, who was in the midst of a heavy training block preparing for Tirreno-Adriatico, he knows his team-mate is disappointed in RCS's exclusion.

"Kloden won the race last year and he was really looking forward to defending his title in Terrino, he had prepared all winter for it," said Leipheimer. "To have it taken away for an unexplainable reason is really frustrating. I know he feels the same as Alberto does, who is the defending champion of Paris Nice and defending champion of the Tour de France and he can't even go there an defend his title. These are two races that they were targeting all year long and so the three of us feel the same."

Leipheimer reiterated that the only real way to fight the organizations is to prove to the organizers their worthiness by using their legs to win races against other world-class teams and riders and in other world-class events. "We are just trying to keep our heads up and we've come out here with something to prove, especially today," said Leipheimer after taking control of the golden jersey in the Tour of California.

"I think that's the best thing we can do is to try to race our bikes as best as we can and fight back in that way," he said. "Were just hoping that the fans will speak up and they will let the organizers know that the races won't be the same without us. Whoever were to win this year's Tour, without us, it can't feel that great and they can't feel like they were the best rider in the world."

Petacchi makes it three in a row

Petacchi at the GP Costa degli Etruschi
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Milram's team captain Alessandro Petacchi proved unstoppable Thurdsay as he took his third consecutive stage win on the final day of racing at the Vuelta a Andalucía. Petacchi finished in front of Frenchman Denis Flahaut (Saunier Duval) and German Sebastian Siedler (Skil Shimano).

"I'm overjoyed," said Italian sprint star Petacchi. "I want to say special thanks to my team, who did such an excellent job for me. I hope that I will be able to get into even better shape in order to be successful in the first really big race of the season for me, which is of course Milano-San Remo."

Spaniard Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) was able to secure the final GC win. After thanking his team and his manager José Luis Jaimerena for their support, Lastras said, "Cordoba is a city that really looks nice to me. It is here indeed that I won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2002. Now I will focus on my next goals, which are Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo."

León Sánchez thinks of Paris-Nice

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Luis León Sánchez
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

On a six-hour, intensive training ride Wednesday, Luis León Sánchez got to thinking about Paris-Nice, which is less than a month away. He recently returned from the Mediterranean Tour, where he told Cyclingnews he "felt very well", and on his most recent ride he was accompanied by the man who introduced him to cycling, his dad, in a car. The 24 year-old was motorpacing in order to improve his time trialling ability.

Referring to the 4.6km prologue set for March 9, he said, "I hope it will be good for me to get a good position to go for the general classification." Paris-Nice is one of the first big tests on the international calendar, and it's organized by the ASO, who has omitted the Astana team from its selection. That means no Alberto Contador, last year's defending champion.

"I am very sad about that decision because as people know, Contador is my friend and my old team-mate. In addition, I was on the podium with him last year," said León Sánchez.

The 2008 Paris-Nice will again climb the legendary Mont Ventoux, which it last visited in 1987, when Irishman Sean Kelly won the race. "I am not afraid. I know this climb from last year in the Dauphiné Libèré, and the truth is that it impresses me, but it is suited to my characteristics in terms of its length and strength required," said the young Caisse d'Epargne rider.

This 66th edition of the race has a first stage conducive to those with sprinting skills. Its second day will include a few second and third category climbs, as well as the first category Col de la Croix de Chaubouret over 18.5 miles. The peloton will face more selective slopes on March 13 and the fourth stage, 176km, will rise to four third category climbs before reading the Col de la Madeleine with its 14 miles at an average gradient of seven percent - en route to the Station Mont Serein Mont Ventoux.

The final stage will depart from Nice on March 16 and will ascend the Col de la Porte, La Turbie and Col d'Eze before returning to the city for the finish after 119 miles.

Galician team-mate Oscar Pereiro will be the only Tour de France winner to participate in Paris-Nice this year, but he'll be joined by last year's second place in the Tour de France, Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). Others on the roster are Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych (Silence - Lotto), the Italian Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), brothers Frank and Andy Schleck (Team CSC) and Italian climber Damiano Cunego (Lampre).

Pozzato and Nibali ready for Italian appointment

Team Liquigas riders Filippo Pozzato and Vincenzo Nibali will be at the start of 45th edition of the Trofeo Laigueglia on Saturday, February 23, for their first great appointment of the Italian season. Pippo, winner of one stage and final ranking at the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, has already demonstrated his good form. With him, there will be, Nibali, a young rider from Sicily and one of the team's aces for the upcoming stage races. On Sunday, another group of the team's riders, led by Michael Albasini, will race in France at the Tour du Haut Var.

Team Liquigas for Trofeo Laigueglia: Filippo Pozzato, Vincenzo Nibali, Valerio Agnoli, Leonardo Bertagnolli, Murilo Fischer, Enrico Franzoi, Andrea Noè and Roberto Petito under Team manager Mario Scirea.

Team Liquigas for Tour du Haut Var: Michael Albasini, Maciej Bodnar, Kjell Carlström, Roman Kreuziger, Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Matej Mugerli, Ivan Santaromita and Charles Wegelius under Team manager Mario Chiesa.

Madison time trial to highlight Revolution Finale in Manchester

Chris Hoy (GBr) at the 2007 World Championships
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

The Manchester Velodrome is expecting another full house for the final event of the Revolution Series on Saturday February 23. With the UCI Track World Championships taking place at the Manchester Velodrome between the March 26 and 30, the Revolution event will provide the final opportunity for competition before the riders fight it out for world titles.

With this in mind a number of international teams are using the Revolution event to test their top riders against the powerful British squad. The main event will be a clash between the British and French Team Sprint squads with the British team looking for revenge against the French who beat them to the world title in 2007.

Other highlights will include the return of Victoria Pendleton in the elite women's sprinting, the culmination of the DHL Future Stars competition, the Isaac Galvez Memorial Madison and Geoff Thomas and Martin Johnson riding an Italian Pursuit in the Geoff Thomas Challenge.

Another highlight which will be a one off event will be the one kilometer Madison time trial with Chris Hoy and Arnaud Tournant joining forces to go for a new race record. Tournant smashed the record at Revolution 16 riding with Craig MacLean to clock a time of 55.164 but the world kilo record holder will now join forces with the Olympic kilo champion creating the ultimate kilo tag team.

Arnaud Tournant (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)
"I am a bit apprehensive," said Hoy. "But with a clean changeover we'll be fine. We've got the horse power, the speed so if we can get the sling done smoothly and not make any mistakes then we've good a good chance at breaking the record."

"I've never done a handsling so I'm hoping to get Rob Hayles down to the track on Friday to practise. It's very technical but if we can get through the handsling ok, we'll be on to break the record."

Tournant is nursing a sore shoulder; an injury he sustained before the Copenhagen World Cup so the riders will wait until Saturday to decide how to approach the Madison handsling,

"Arnaud has hurt his shoulder so hopefully he will be able to ride," Hoy said. "He's fine seated on the bike but struggles with starting and the handsling would probably not be very good for it!" With Tournant set to retire after the Olympics this year this race will provide a unique opportunity to see two of the kilo greats working together.

Meirhaeghe down with flu

After contracting influenza, mountain biker Filip Meirhaeghe declined to travel with his Belgian national mountain bike team to Cyprus for a training camp. However, he is hoping to recover in time to be fit for the opening round of the UCI cross country World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, on April 19-20.

Sørensen improving

Team CSC's Nicki Sørensen is well on the way to recovery after his crash at a training camp in California earlier in the month. According to team-csc.com, the Danish rider has returned to training.

The 32 year-old suffered facial injuries and a deep cut on his forehead. He underwent surgery before returning to Europe.

Teams for Trofeo Laigueglia and Tour du Haut Var

Team CSF Group-Navigare will take the start of the 45th Trofeo Laigueglia on Saturday with the same line-up for the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto. Emanuele Sella will be the leader of the team, but expectations are high for Andrea Pagoto and Mauro Finetto, who showed themselves strong so far this season.

"We'd have liked to bring Filippo Savini, too, for Laigueglia," said DS Roberto Reverberi, "because he was riding so well in the last stages of the Tour de Langkawi. However, we flew back from Malaysia only Tuesday morning, too late for Filippo to recover well."

Happy with its winning experience in the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, Team Lampre will also take part in the Trofeo Laigueglia, a race won in 2006 by Alessandro Ballan, the team's Italian star. This year, Ballan will be leader with Damiano Cunego.

Tinkoff will head to the race with defending champion Mikhail Ignatiev, who is returning from racing in France. Team director Orlando Maini is expecting a great team. "I hope in one great collective performance," said an optimistic Maini.

CSF Group-Navigare for Trofeo Laigueglia: Emanuele Sella, Federico Canuti, Maximiliano Richeze, Andrea Pagoto, Mauro Finetto, Marco Frapporti, Tiziano Dall'Antonia, Luis Felipe Laverde Jiménez under DS Roberto Reverberi

Team Lampre for Trofeo Laigueglia: Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Marco Bandiera, Francesco Gavazzi, Mirco Lorenzetto, Marco Marzano, Daniele Righi and Mauro Santambrogio under DS Piovani.

Landbouwkrediet-Tonissteiner Team for Trofeo di Laigueglia: Nico Sijmens, Steven Kleynen, Bert Scheirlinckx, Bert De Waele, Andy Cappelle, Kevin Neirynck, Benjamin Gourgue, and Frédéric Amorison under DS Marco Saligari

Landbouwkrediet-Tonissteiner Team for Tour Du Haut Var: Nico Sijmens, Steven Kleynen, Bert Scheirlinckx, Bert De Waele, Andy Cappelle, Kevin Neirynck, Benjamin Gourgue, Frédéric Amorison under DS Claude Vancoillie

Tinkoff for Trofeo di Laigueglia: Mikhail Ignatiev, Luca Mazzanti, Daniele Contrini, Ricardo Serrano, Vasil Kiryenka, Nikita Eskov, Pavel Brutt, Ivan Rovny.

US team to provide own meat at Olympics

Amid concerns about quality and safety, the US Olympic Team is planning to bring its own meat to the Olympic Games in Beijing. According to the New York Times, the Americans will haul 25,000 pounds to China to protect athletes from possible effects of veterinary drugs and insecticides that may contaminate the foreign meat. Some are concerned that meat with antibiotics and growth stimulants could also cause positive doping tests.

A Chinese official expressed regret at the news and said the host nation had received no formal notification of the decision. "At present, globally, there have been no scientific reports that show drug tests will yield positive results after athletes or people eat certain types of meat," said Lu Yong, director of the Beijing Municipal Food Safety Monitoring Centre according to Reuters. "China has very strict rules. Forbidden drugs cannot be used in breeding, so we can guarantee safety," he said.

Food brought by the US for the Olympic Games will be subject to international import rules and regulations.

Vegan team rides plant-based bikes

A bike by Craig Calfee
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Organic Athlete, the first vegan cycling team, is partnering with Calfee Design to ride, co-promote and help develop their bamboo bikes. The team's message of personal health and social change now manifests in the form of a green, renewable bicycle. The elite team, started in 2007, consists of athletes who focus their diets on whole, plant foods and eschew animal products.

Craig Calfee designs his bikes with finely mitered bamboo tubing and binds the frame together with a special hemp-finer wrap for a different kind of natural carbon fiber bike.

In addition to adopting a sustainable plan for their diets and bikes, the Organic Athlete team will also ensure all paper use and carbon emissions are offset by their 100% Replanted program.

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