Cyclingnews - the world centre of cycling Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recent News

January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008

2007 & earlier

Recently on

Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, February 28, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Belgian big guns getting ready for Het Volk

By Bjorn Haake

Steegmans is fine physically but isn't sure if it will be enough for Saturday.
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

The Belgian teams Silence-Lotto and Quick Step are getting ready to tackle the classics season. The traditional opener, the semi-classic Omloop Het Volk, will take place this Saturday over a distance of 199 kilometres. Several teams rode parts of the course on Wednesday. The route will start in Gent and the finish line has also returned to Gent, after 13 years.

One man who will have good memories on Gent is last year's Tour de France stage winner Gert Steegmans (Quick Step). "But this time it will be different and I don't expect a big group to arrive at the finish," Steegmans made clear that the 11 hellingen will make the race very hard. As for the favourites, he named several teams, among them Française des Jeux with Philippe Gilbert and Gianni Meersman, Cofidis with Sylvain Chavanel and Silence-Lotto "of course," that will make for a competitive race day.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

WAP-enabled mobile devices:

The only problem for Steegmans is his lack of race kilometres, following a crash in the season opener in Mallorca. Steegmans had been going well, finishing fourth and third before winning the final race. But a crash made him miss valuable time in his spring preparation. He told Cyclingnews that he had only "five days of racing so far." He tried to "simulate race situations in training, but it is just different. We will see on Saturday." Steegmans received stitches to his chin and the scar is still visible, but he has no pain. The only thing that hurts is the lack of competitive race days.

Several riders have had their crashes spoil the season so far. On the wet roads in southern Portugal, Robbie McEwen and Stijn Devolder went down, but reported as being OK for Het Volk. McEwen told Cyclingnews yesterday that "he has been fine training on the cobbles." Neither McEwen nor his team-mate Leif Hoste make Het Volk their absolute priority. Hoste is looking forward to the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Both are happy with the Koppenberg back in the race, albeit for different reasons. Hoste said that "it's good," as there will be more of a selection earlier on. McEwen laughed that "I am going to watch it on TV, so yeah, it's all good that the Koppenberg is back in."

The team's manager, Patrick Lefevere, said that "Devolder crashed in the last stage of the Volta [ao Algarve]. In fact, the whole team went down. Devolder was very bloody," and the Belgian rider suffered problems with his wrist afterwards. But he is OK now, and Steegmans saw Devolder "go very strong this week."

It wasn't quite a crash that took out young neo-pro Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) this week. "It must have been something I ate during the Volta ao Algarve." He started feeling bad over the weekend. "Sunday I didn't eat anything. And I rode 190 kilometres." He was not about to drop out of the race in southern Portugal, given his overall ranking. "I was in sixth place in GC. If I would have been down in the standings there was no way I would have ridden that last stage." He managed to finish the race in sixth and is feeling better now, but not at full strength yet. The team's ride over the Het Volk route on Wednesday didn't pose a problem, though. "We did about 170km, at an average of maybe 32km/h." As for Saturday, "I will just see what the team tells me to do." While this is his first year as a professional rider, he iterated that "I live near Brussels and I know the roads here very well."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Bjorn Haake/

UCI cautions teams over Paris-Nice participation contract

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has sent a letter to the ProTour teams that have voiced their commitment to race Paris-Nice, one of the races owned by Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), the organiser of the Tour de France. On Wednesday, the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) announced that a unanimous decision between the teams had been reached to support participation in Paris-Nice. The decision, another round in the ongoing dispute between the UCI and Grand Tour organisers, comes after the UCI asked all professional teams to boycott this year's event, which is planned to run under sanctioning of the French Cycling Federation instead of the UCI and "under the exclusive jurisdiction of French law."

In the letter to the teams, the UCI president Pat McQuaid cautions the teams over the participation contract they have to sign with ASO in order to race. According to the French press agency AFP, the contract includes a clause which obliges a team to "immediately exclude from the race those who could damage the image of the event or the organiser."

This clause has alerted McQuaid, who wrote in his letter, "A simple doping rumour around a rider or member of staff would be enough for ASO to exclude the person or the entire team: there is no control be a neutral person or instance as there would be under UCI rules. You are being refused this elemental right.

"ASO will determine itself the reasons for exclusion, for which it also holds the determining power: it is judge and party at the same time," the UCI president added.

The AIGCP is holding an executive committee meeting on Friday to examine the participation contract, which has to be signed and returned to ASO until Tuesday next week to be valid. Race director Christian Prudhomme is "personally well aware of the trouble that this situation could cause you," he wrote to the teams when sending them the contract, "but I can assure you that our will is to preserve the reputation of competitions that have made the history of cycling, in the interest of all."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Rojas back in Almeria

By Antonio J. Salmerón

José Joaquín Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) hopes to add more Trophées
Photo ©: Antonio J. Salmerón
(Click for larger image)

Surely the eyes of many fans widened considerably when Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) crashed into the fence during the final sprint of the third day of the Challenge de Mallorca, which he won against the race leader and main rival in the sprint, Belgian Philippe Gilbert.

A first examination in a hospital in Inca, Mallorca, revealed cracks in his right shoulder blade, which meant a minimum of four weeks away from competition. But once Rojas was back in Murcia on the continent, he received further treatment which revealed he actually suffered from a luxation. This diagnosis was more to the liking of the young prodigy, who has now taken up his bike again – first on the rollers, and shortly after already on the road.

Rojas is recovering so well that, just yesterday, the 22 year-old rider said to Cyclingnews, "I will race in the Clásica de Almeria (March 2), where I will test my feelings, and then we will decide which option is better for me: Paris-Nice or the Vuelta a Murcia."

The Caisse d'Epargne rider had planned to participate in Paris-Nice before his accident, but thought about the alternative of the Vuelta a Murcia (March 4-8) once he was injured. In last year's Vuelta a Murcia, Rojas won the first stage and wore the leader's jersey until the third day. Caisse d'Epargne will be sending Alejandro Valverde (2007 winner), Francisco Perez, Vladimir Karpets and José Rujano to Murcia as team leaders.

2008 Tour Down Under a record breaker

This year's Tour Down Under – the first UCI ProTour event ever staged outside of Europe – has been a record breaker for South Australia. Preliminary economic impact and research figures received have shown that the 2008 event has provided a major economic boost, with more visitors to the state, greater participation in the support events, more spectators and increased media coverage.

Announcing details in parliament on Thursday, the South Australian Minister for Tourism, Jane Lomax-Smith, said the results were a great reward for everyone involved and vindicated the State Government's efforts to secure ProTour status. "I am delighted to announce that the 2008 Tour Down Under injected $17.3M (a 50.4% increase from 2007) into the State's economy through the direct expenditure of the 15,100 event specific visitors who travelled from interstate and overseas to witness cycling history," Dr Lomax-Smith said.

The increase in visitor nights was also impressive. "Total visitor nights topped an all time high of 195,200. Of this amount 140,500 were contributed by the event specific visitors, meaning a 37.7% increase on event specific visitor nights compared to the 2007 event. The 548,000 spectators who lined the roads to cheer on the best cycling teams in the world made their mark with a 53.5% increase in spectators this year."

But one of the greatest returns of hosting a top-level cycling race is the media coverage and the exposure of the country's tourism attractions. "To date, the dollar value of editorial media coverage generated is $41.7M and we do know that the entire world has been watching with more than 76 hours of broadcast television programming, one long advertising campaign for South Australia," the Minister said.

Examples of where the Tour Down Under had been broadcast included key tourism markets such as UK, Italy, France, Belgium, India and New Zealand. "Staging the first-ever UCI ProTour event outside of Europe with just three months lead time was a challenge, but the hard work and commitment has paid off, with these results demonstrating that the UCI ProTour status does make a difference," the Minister concluded.

Health problems at Mitsubishi

By Susan Westemeyer

The course for this weekend's Omloop Het Volk was full on Wednesday, as the teams took to the road to check it out. But at least one rider was missing: Frank Vandenbroucke of Team Mitsubishi-Jartazi, who is ill and questionable for Saturday's race.

"Frank called me last night and said that he was sick," team manager Jef Braeckevelt told Sporza. "He assured me that he will do everything he can to be at the start on Saturday." Vandenbroucke is not the only one with problems on the team. Igor Abakoumov "isn't quite fit, and will only ride Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Janek Tombak and Hans Dekkers are both sick and won't ride this opening weekend."

Braeckevelt found that the race had changed this year. "A lot of riders will be unhappily surprised to find that the parcours is much more difficult than last year."

Nokere Koerse happy over teams participation

Organisers of the Belgian one-day semi-classic Nokere Koerse have announced a record-breaking field for the event taking place on March 19, starting in Oudenaarde. The UCI cat. 1.1 race will see a total of six ProTour teams lining up: Quick Step-Innergetic, Silence-Lotto, Crédit Agricole, Française des Jeux, Rabobank and Team High Road.

"It's an unbelievable record," said Marc Van Cauwenberghe, chairman of the organising committee. "We already had four, then five ProTour teams at the start, but now six teams of this category will find their way to the small Nokere. For me, this is a real accomplishment; even more so for this small community of only 700 souls. On top of that, six Professional Continental teams have entered the race, for a total of 23 squads on our list of participants."

The 63rd Nokere Koerse will depart on the market place in Oudenaarde. After 49 kilometres, the climb of the Nokereberg will be the centre of a 14.8km-loop, to be raced ten times before the finish. Last year, Dutchman Leon Van Bon (Rabobank) won the event.

Wood takes lead in New Zealand

By Susan Westemeyer

Oenone Wood won the second stage of the Tour of New Zealand Thursday to take the leader's jersey in the race. After 94 kilometres from Martinborough to Masterton, the Australian champion out-sprinted Lorian Graham (Vrienden Van Het Platteland) and Miho Oki (Menikini - Selle Italia). In Wednesday's first stage, Wood finished second behind Equipe Nürnberger's Suzanne de Goede.

The Tour of New Zealand has six stages and ends with a 40 km-criterium in Wellington on Sunday, but the race is expected to be decided by Saturday's time trial of seven kilometres, also in Wellington.

Milram, Gerolsteiner and Astana announce line-ups for upcoming races

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Gerolsteiner is taking on the cobblestones and hellingen in the Omloop Het Volk on Saturday. German-Australian rider Heinrich Haussler will look to take a sprint after conquering the 11 hellingen – short but steep climbs. His teammates Stephan Schreck, Sven Krauss and Tom Stamsnijder could also put in a surprise on the 199 km around Gent.

On Sunday, another group of Gerolsteiner riders will ride the Gran Premio di Lugano in Switzerland. The team there will be led by Davide Rebellin, who is fresh off a victory in the Tour de Haut Var. He will again be supported by his countryman Andrea Moletta, who helped him set up the win in France. Stefan Schumacher is also on the squad, as is local rider Oliver Zaugg.

U23 World Champion Peter Velits will lead Team Milram in the GP Lugano. The Slovakian youngster was looking forward to the "challenging" race, saying, "looking at the profile, I would say this is a good race for me." The GP Lugano consists of five laps of a 35,7 km course, for a total of 178,5 km.

Team Astana is sending the same squad to Omloop Het Volk on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday. The team also announced its line-up for the upcoming Vuelta a Murcia, led by Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.

Gerolsteiner for Omloop Het Volk: Thomas Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Stephan Schreck, Tom Stamsnijder, and Carlo Westphal.

Gerolsteiner for GP Lugano: Francesco De Bonis, Mathias Frank, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, and Oliver Zaugg.

Milram for GP Lugano: Andrey Grivko, Brett Lancaster, Elia Rigotto, Luca Barla, Matej Jurco, Peter Velits, Sebastian Schwager, and Sergio Ghisalberti.

Astana for Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Koen de Kort, Sergei Ivanov, Benoit Joachim, Aaron Kemps, Dmitriy Muravjev, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär and Tomas Vaitkus.

Astana for the Vuelta a Murcia: Jani Brajkovic, Antonio Colom, Alberto Contador, Maxim Iglinskiy, Daniel Navarro, Benjamin Noval, Sergio Paulinho, and José Luis Rubiera.

MTB league bans caffeine for High School athletes

The NorCal High School Mountain Bike League, which recently released a new rule book for its 2008 racing season, is banning the consumption of caffeine at their competitions. The stance is motivated by concerns for high school athletes' health, as well as in response to a tremendous surge of new caffeinated energy products and related marketing seen thus far in the 2000's.

Over the past few years, the League has seen an increase in caffeine usage amongst its athletes; some even strategising with timed consumption of caffeinated products on the final lap of a race. This is a "performance-enhancement-based mentality" the League would like to nip in the bud.

There are also health-related concerns associated with teenagers' caffeine consumption. Dr. Richard Stein, director of preventative cardiology at New York's Beth Israel Medical Center and a representative for the American Heart Association said, "What five years ago was considered outrageous doses of caffeine is now well within the range of expected doses. We will soon find out the effects of prolonged usage in high doses starting at an early age. In the past, that's always been a formula for poor health and mental outcomes." The bottom line is that research has yet to demonstrate that a high amount of caffeine intake is safe for young people.

For Matt Fritzinger, League founder and director, "the conversation began when I was approached for the second time by 'Brand X'. ‘Brand X' said themselves that youth, originally, were not in their marketing plan – but that 'Brand Y' (a leading coffee shop franchise) changed their minds. The marketing representative made it clear, they wanted 'product in hand.' I realized this is a lot like the cigarette industry was; they get the free samples out there, and then they can count on a percentage of life-long addicts. Though less harmful than cigarettes, the strategy is the same."

Fritzinger' concerns were fuelled by a changing attitude within the racing scene. "Over the next couple years I spoke with many high school athletes and coaches," he continued. "Some athletes admitted they were already 'addicted' to certain energy drinks, and I found that coaches were supportive of the ban."

Although there cannot be a test for caffeine consumption in races, Fritzinger trusts the proper guidance of the athletes will ultimately bear fruit. "There have been questions about enforcement. It's true that we do not have a test, but nor can we afford a test for steroids or EPO. However, we have a 3-to-1 ratio of dedicated adults working with the athletes, and with good coaching and education kids usually make the right decisions. On the other hand, those who try to get a boost, might get penalized if we find the wrong products during our random pocket-checks."

Guarana Root, Taurine and Creatine have also been banned. The text of the entire rule book is available at

Previous News    Next News

(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)