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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, January 2, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Defending champion team returns to Langkawi

By Jean-François Quénet in Kuala Lumpur

Anthony Charteau winning stage three on his way to the overall 2007 Langkawi victory.
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The Crédit Agricole team is set to return to Malaysia to defend its title in Le Tour de Langkawi, but without last year's winner Anthony Charteau. Although French teams have been regular participants in Le Tour de Langkawi since its inception on the world's cycling calendar in 1996, Charteau became the first French winner under the colours of Crédit Agricole in 2007.

The Frenchman was also the first member of a ProTour to take the crown of the Malaysian race, which used to suit South Americans and South Africans better due to the weather conditions and the different scales of motivation among the professional cyclists in the early part of the season.

Having moved to Caisse d'Epargne, Charteau himself will not return to Malaysia next month, neither will his main helper in the mountains last year, Italy's Francesco Bellotti, who finished second in the 2006 Tour de Langkawi and has since signed for Barloworld. However, Crédit Agricole, which has only missed one edition of the race since 2001, will once again approach the Tour de Langkawi (February 9 - 17) with high motivation; its team manager Roger Legeay is a strong supporter of globalisation of cycling. He does not see a problem in sending his team overseas, whether it's in Asia, Oceania (Tour Down Under), America (Tour of California) or Africa (Tour of Gabon).

"It's fabulous to travel the world for cycling and experience new racing conditions," said Nicholas Roche who will discover Malaysia for the first time while starting his fourth professional season.

"I'm very excited about starting my 2008 season with the Tour de Langkawi, although I'm always a bit scared of the first race of the year. This is an event I would have liked to take part in with the Irish national team in the past, but I never had the opportunity to do it. I've heard a lot of anecdotes about Malaysia from other riders. I visited the race web site since our coach Jean-Jacques Henry sent a link to all the Crédit Agricole riders selected for the race."

Nicholas Roche will support Crédit Agricole in Langkawi
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

Besides Roche, the lineup is made of Simon Gerrans from Australia, Great Britain's Jeremy Hunt and Frenchmen Maxime Médérel, Jean-Marc Marino and Sébastien Hinault. The latter is no stranger to the Tour de Langkawi since he won stage eight to Segamat in 2006, by out-sprinting Mark Cavendish.

Hunt also rode the Tour de Langkawi in the past with MrBookmaker.com, and Crédit Agricole will count on its English-speaking contingent for performing this year. This environment has attracted Gerrans after his three successful first professional seasons with Ag2r. The winner of the Tour du Finistère and GP Carnagho in 2005, the 2006 Tour Down Under and the 2007 GP of Plumelec might be the team's most interesting coup on the transfer market. Known for performing well in January and February, as he was second to Filippo Pozzato in the Tour du Haut-Var last year, the Victorian will fly directly from Australia and go for his first attempt in Malaysia.

"Since our team won the GC last year, it'll be difficult for us to do better but we'll have a very competitive team again and I hope that one of us will be able to win a stage or GC," Roche explained. "Personally, winning the Tour de Langkawi is one of my goals, but I know I'm not the only rider in the bunch with this idea in mind, and the grueling stage to Genting Highlands might be a little too difficult for me.

"Shall I be able to win a stage, it would be super. I'll come with a good motivation, but in the end, it'll be the legs to do the talking and decide whether I'll be up for winning something. I want to do well in the early part of the season, then I target a good performance at the Giro [d'Italia] and I dream of starting the Tour de France for the first time, but who wouldn't? There are many good riders at CA though, so I'm not sure if I'll make the team for the Tour. After that, the Olympics would be a wonderful experience."

Bay series ready to rumble

By Malcolm Sawford

While Melbourne Docklands won't be in this year's race, the star-studded field will return
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) The men's field on the startline at Melbourne Docklands awaits the start to the final stage.

Billed as the 'World's Fastest' street race series, the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic (and its erstwhile promoter John Trevorrow) is renowned for attracting a star-studded line up of Australia's leading professional riders all keen to kick off the year with a bang. This year, three of the five stages will be held in Geelong, the city which will host the 2010 World Road Championships.

Stage 1 kicks off in Williamstown on Wednesday, with the tortuous Port Arlington circuit on Thursday, before the final three stages in Geelong. Stage 3 is a twilight hot dog circuit on the waterfront, while Stage 4 is a new circuit to the Classic. The course is entirely within Eastern Park, around the Botanical Gardens, and at two kilometers in length with long straights it should allow strong riders a chance to shine.

The final stage also covers roads within Eastern Park, but is much shorter and features two technical corners and a nasty climb to the finish line outside the entrance to the Botanical Gardens.

Melbourne's weather is predicted to be fine throughout. A near perfect 25 degrees for Stage 1, but steadily increasing to the high of 37 on Saturday before a cooler day for the thousands of recreational riders who are expected to join the professionals for Amy's Ride, the Amy Gillett Memorial ride, which proceeds the final stage.

Read the full preview here.

Riccò aims for Ardennes Classics and Giro

By Gregor Brown

One of Riccò's finest 2007 moments
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

It is hard to believe that the Saunier Duval rider who rocked Tirreno-Adriatico, struck fear in the finale of Milano-Sanremo, conquered Tre Cime di Lavaredo and nearly won the Giro di Lombardia was only in his second year as a professional, but that was the case for 24 year-old Ricardo Riccò. The Italian from Sassuolo (Modena) made himself known in his debut year in 2006 by taking his debut win against none other than Paolo Bettini in Coppi e Bartali, and for his third season, Riccò is looking to top his stellar 2007 season.

"It's a big challenge, but I like to have certain challenges," said the rider known as 'The Cobra' to Tuttosport as year 2007 ended. In his second year under the direction of Pietro Algeri at Saunier Duval, he scored five victories, and in 2008, even more eyes will be on the uncaged, outspoken rider.

"It is clear that confirmation will not be easy, because in 2007 I went strong, very strong and I confirmed this from Sanremo to the Giro di Lombardia. It will be hard; however, I am able to say to those that like me, those who appreciate me, those who count on me, that I will try with all of my force to repeat certain results."

His name was beamed into homes around the world with the broadcast of the epic, seldom-used climb of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the 15th stage of the Giro d'Italia. Backed by Gilberto Simoni and Leonardo Piepoli, he was able to take one of the race's highlight stages, a climb that has only been conquered by a select few – like Eddy Merckx and Luis Herrera.

"It was an extraordinary moment," he recalled of that day in May. "It was stuff of dreams, but the most impressive Riccò, the strongest, was not the rider on Tre Cime but the one at Tirreno-Adriatico." In the middle of March, he had won two stages by dropping everyone on the climbs – well-known riders. "In those days, I was going really strong – stronger than Tre Cime, Sanremo and Giro di Lombardia."

Riccò hopes for the same type of form this spring, and even more, so that he can conquer the Ardennes Classics and the overall of the Giro d'Italia. (Last season he finished fifth in Flèche Wallonne, 17th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and sixth overall in his home tour.)

"Between April and May, I will think of Flèche Wallonne, of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then of the Giro d'Italia – to win them," he stated. "To wear the maglia rosa in the last week, and take it all the way until the end. I don't want to boaster, but it is useless to be modest. I would like to win the 2008 Giro d'Italia. I will benefit from the work that I did in the last Giro, benefit from the alliance with a strong and honest rider like Piepoli, that will yet again be by my side.

"It is useless to say where, the last week will be all mountains," he noted of his 2008 Giro plan. "It depends on my form at that moment – mine and my adversaries."

Riccò plans to end his season with the World Championships or Olympics, and would prefer to take part and win the former. "If I had to select it would be Varese. For various reasons: you can wear the rainbow jersey all year, it is an amazing parcours... However, it depends on my programme, and the condition I have... I hope I will be in form to merit the maglia azzurra [a spot on the Italian team - ed.]."

New Grupo Nicolas Mateos-Murcia presented

By Antonio J. Salmerón

2008 Grupo Nicolas Mateos-Murcia
Photo ©: Antonio J. Salmerón
(Click for larger image)

The new Spanish Professional Continental team, Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia was presented to the public in Murcia, Spain, December 27, with the assistance of the city major, Miguel Ángel Cámara, the Sport Council of the Region of Murcia, Antonio Peñalver, and Luis Nicolás Mateos. The goal of the team, as stated during its presentation, will be to make its mark on the first part of the Spanish season to earn a spot in the 2008 Vuelta a España.

Grupo Nicolas Mateos-Murcia's major events this spring include the Challenge a Mallorca, Vuelta a Andalucia, Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana and Vuelta a Murcia. The team, directed by Gines Garcia, also announced that it will be present in the Portuguese calendar.

The 16-man squad will be led by the ex-Relax riders, Julián Sánchez and José Miguel Elías, the veteran Adrián Palomares (Fuerteventura) and the climber Manuel Váquez (Andalucía-Cajasur). It will also count on four local riders: Eloy Teruel, Jesús Buendía (Barbot-Halcon), Sergio Dominguez and José Carlos Lopez (Soctec U-23).

Ridley will supply the bikes, clothing from Inverse and helmets from Catlike.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Antonio J. Salmerón

Adam Hansen looking to nationals

By Susan Westemeyer

Adam Hansen of Team High Road won't be flying back to Europe for the team's training camp but will stay in his native Australia to ride the Tour Down Under. And while the 26-year-old is there, he will take part in the national championships.

"I will be doing both the time trial and the road race," he wrote on his web site, adamhansen.com. "While the road bike training is going close to perfect, my time trial training is not so good. In fact, it is shocking! So my goal of doing well at nationals in that [event] is fading away."

He will continue to concentrate on his preparations for the coming season. "As my main priority is base work, trying to fit in time trial training was not such an easy task," he continued. It was not easy to combine the two, and "something had to give, and my base work is pretty important to me, since my season depends on it. So my goal will shift from the time trial to the road race at the nationals. I will still enter the time trial, for experience, and there's nothing like an hour of pain, er, fun."

World Champions to Revolution

Hoy is currently undefeated in the Keirin
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

World Sprint Champion Theo Bos will face up to the World Keirin Champion Chris Hoy in a head-to-head battle at Manchester's next Revolution event on January 12. The pair will be put to the test in a gruelling sprint omnium contest featuring a 200m TT, Match Sprint, Team Sprint and Keirin finale.

Hoy has proved himself the man to defeat in the Keirin with an unbeaten record since he took the title at the World Championships in 2007. The Olympic Kilo Champion was forced to shift his focus onto the Keirin discipline following the removal of the Kilo from the Olympic programme and the transition has been hugely successful. Hoy scored wins in both the Sydney and Beijing World Cup rounds this season

The Scottish star now has his sights set on Keirin glory at the Beijing Olympics but recognises that the competition will be intense especially from the likes of Bos. "The Keirin is quite an unpredictable event and there are a lot of guys out there capable of winning," Hoy acknowledged. "Bos is one of the best and will definitely be one of the main contenders at the Worlds and Olympics."

Indeed, Bos sealed his reputation as one of the world's best with his explosive victory to take the Keirin title at the 2006 World Championships. He also took the sprint world title in the same year, a feat he repeated at the last World Championships in Mallorca. At 24, the Dutch sprinter's consistency is impressive and makes him a definite medal contender and Hoy's strongest rival.

Tough opposition will also come from Bos's Dutch team mates Tuen Mulder and Tim Veldt as well as British sprint stars Craig MacLean, Jamie Staff and Ross Edgar, setting the scene for an awesome night of sprinting.

"Revolution 19 is set to be our big sprint event," commented promoter James Pope. "We have all the Keirin world champions from the last four years with Hoy, Bos, Mulder and Staff in the line up."

"The quality is superb," he continued. "The Dutch sprinters won the Team Sprint at the Beijing World Cup and will be coming off the back of their National Track Championships, so they will be in great form. We're also looking forward to having Chris Hoy back at the event, particularly now that he will race against Bos."

Revolution will also provide a crucial opportunity to race for the riders who aren't going to the LA World Cup a week later.

"A lot of these riders aren't going to the LA World Cup including Bos and Hoy," said Pope. "With the Worlds in Manchester at the end of March tensions are rising ,so Revolution will provide a crucial opportunity to race in front of the Manchester crowds."

Tickets are on sale at www.cyclingrevolution.com or by calling 0845 686 0105 or 0161 223 2244. 

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