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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, January 5, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Rogers lines up in Aussie Champs

Michael Rogers (Australia)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Three-time World Champion Michael Rogers will return to Australia next Tuesday to contest the Scody Australian Open Road Championships being held in Ballarat from the January 9-13. Rogers last raced the event in 2003, when he was the silver medallist behind Queensland's Ben Day in the time trial and eighth in the road race won by Stuart O'Grady.

This time, his preparation has been in a northern Italian winter where the mercury has struggled to stay above zero degrees Celsius, but he says he's looking forward to challenging for the coveted green and gold jersey of Australian Champion.

"Not having raced since September 2007, I can only go on training performance which I'm confident is at a good level," said Rogers from his Italian home. "I haven't been able to ride the Nationals in the past few years due to team commitments, so I'm very excited to have the chance to be able compete for the green and gold jersey.

"I'm sure it will be a hotly contested race as the reward means a lot in modern day cycling," the Team High Road rider added. "Mind you, coming from the European winter I hope the weather isn't as hot as the competition."

Indeed, the 2008 Championships have attracted the stars of Australian cycling. The men's road race will feature the likes of Graeme Brown, Allan Davis, Simon Gerrans, Matt Goss, Adam Hansen, Matt Hayman, Trent Lowe, Stuart O'Grady, Luke Roberts, Henk Vogels, Will Walker and Matt Wilson, not to mention defending champion Darren Lapthorne.

No time trial for the three-time champ

Rogers, whose meticulous preparation and talent saw him win the time trial at the World Championships for three years straight from 2003 to 2005, won't contest his pet event in Ballarat, focusing instead on Sunday's elite men's road race. "After the 2007 season I stayed in Europe for the whole time, which meant preparing for 2008 in the cold European winter," he explained. "That wasn't a completely new experience for me but it presented challenges in terms of trying to do time trial-based work."

Moreover, Rogers has an even bigger goal in mind for 2008. "I will concentrate all of my energy on the time trial event in Beijing, because after being fourth in Athens I'm very motivated to get the one prize that I'm missing," he said, hoping to gain selection in both the time trial and road race for the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Olympics will be raced two weeks after the Tour de France, with the men's road race on August 9 and the time trial four days later. "The two events being so close together is actually quite an advantage," said Rogers. "Hopefully I can perform very well at the Tour de France, have a little rest and then put the final touches on preparation for the Olympic Games time trial."

Rogers also hopes that starting his 2008 season in Ballarat will prove to be a good omen, as the last time he raced there in 2003 marked the start of his most successful season so far. That year, apart from being crowned World Champion, he also claimed overall victory in the Tours of Belgium and Germany and the French Route de Sud.

But, "first and foremost, the aim for 2008 is no more big crashes," said Rogers, who last year crashed out of the Tour de France during stage eight, at a time when he was the virtual race leader on the road. The accident dislocated his right shoulder. "I had enough bad luck last year to last me for a long while but, on the other hand, not completing what I set out to achieve in 2007 has made me very hungry for success this year."

While 2007 might have presented challenges on the bike, the Canberra professional was celebrating away from cycling in September when his Italian wife Alessia gave birth to twin girls, Sofia and Matilde. "Having twins certainly changes your life and your whole outlook on life and what you do in your day to day activities," he added. "Sometimes I feel I need 25 hours in the day to finish all my various commitments! But I definitely prefer my life right now than before they arrived and I feel more happy and complete."

The 'Bruyneel philosophy'

Bruyneel, former Discovery Channel DS, looks to the future
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

The new Astana team is "not a copy of Discovery Channel," said the new General Manager of the squad, Johan Bruyneel. "The general situation of the sport does not allow this." Moreover, the Belgian is not afraid of ghosts from the Kazakh team's past. "I have certain written guarantees. I will do it my way. If I don't succeed, then I will make the decision to leave. I don't think it will come to that. This must be a team with the 'Johan Bruyneel' philosophy."

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper Sportwereld, Bruyneel said that although he had made his decision to retire after announcing the end of the Discovery Channel team, "after three weeks I had had enough." He is not the kind of person "to just sit at home," he explained. "I have already retired twice. The first time was in August 1998, as a pro rider. Three weeks later, Lance Armstrong called me. Now two weeks later I got a phone call from Ekimov about Astana."

Signing Ivan Basso to a contract with Discovery Channel "was a mistake," admitted Johan Bruyneel. At the time, the Italian had been cleared by the Italian Olympic Committee even though he later admitted his work with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the central figure of the Operación Puerto doping scandal. Bruyneel recruited the controversial rider under the encouragement of then-Discovery Channel President Billy Campbell, who was a supporter of Basso's. Campbell was fired by Discovery Channel days before the company announced in February that it was ending its sponsorship.

How did the mistake happen? "I didn't know Basso," Bruyneel said. "That can happen with new people. As I also do not know Andreas Klöden." Basso resigned from the team on May 1, 2007, and was given a suspension which runs through October 2008.

The Belgian, who has eight Tour de France victories on his palmarčs as directeur sportif, is confident that he won't be equally fooled by Andreas Klöden, despite rumours that the German's T-Mobile Team may have been involved in blood-doping during the 2006 Tour de France. "Klöden told me that he had nothing to do with it. As far as I know he has never been involved in a doping affair," stated Bruyneel, who was required by the UCI to take over all existing Astana contracts when he took over the team. "We are heavily armed against possible matters from the past. If it appears that Klöden was involved in something, then we will react appropriately."

Slippens and Beikirch out of Rotterdam Six Day

Robert Slippens tried his best to overcome his pain and ride the Rotterdam Six Day, but he was forced to pull out. The Dutch rider had been suffering from a saddle sore which had caused him to also drop out of the Zürich Six Day, but he had hoped to be fit again for his "home" race.

However, after suffering through the first night, he went to the hospital Friday morning for an examination and was discovered to have serious bruises to his tailbone, which will force him to drop out. "That is too bad, of course," he said. "I thought that I was well enough to ride again. Rotterdam is really my favourite Six Day and I hate to miss it twice in a row. To let things heal, I will also skip Bremen next week."

He wasn't the only one forced out of the race. Germany's Andreas Beikirch gave in to knee problems, saying, "With an eye to the upcoming German Six Day races, which are of course very important to me, I have decided to give my knee a rest."

The race is not over for their riding partners, who have now joined forces. Danny Stam, who rode with Slippens, and Leif Lampater, Beikirch's partner, will now ride together, going into Friday night's race in fifth place, two rounds down with 31 points.

No Bartko for Berlin Six Day

Robert Bartko
Photo ©: Birke Ulrich
(Click for larger image)

Robert Bartko will definitely not appear at the 97th Berlin Six Day scheduled to take place from January 24-29. The German World and Olympic champion had announced early in December that he would not appear, because he was offered too little money. Attempts to negotiate a compromise deal have now fallen through according to the German cycling federation, Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR).

The BDR reported that the race organiser indicated that Bartko decided not to participate in his "home race" as his demands for payment and for Iljo Keisse as a partner were not met. Bartko and Keisse have already won Six Day races in Amsterdam and Gent this season, and finished second in the last race in Zürich. They are currently riding in Rotterdam.

Extremadura becomes Pro Conti

By Antonio J. Salmerón

On Thursday evening, the Extremadura cycling team directed by Alfonso Rodríguez received a fax from the UCI confirming its inclusion in the list of Professional Continental squads for 2008. Rodríguez had struggled as co-sponsor Grupo Alfonso Gallardo bailed out of the project and he had to ask the regional government of Extremadura for an additional economic contribution in order to obtain the minimum cover required by the UCI. Finally, all of its 16 riders will be able to continue their careers as professional cyclists.

The new Extremadura Professional Continental squad, which had been European Continental in 2007, will be led by local Rodrigo García (ex-Fuerteventura) and include other important riders such as track cyclists Carlos Torrent and Jaume Rovira. Its major goal will be to debut in the Vuelta a Espańa. The team will continue to be supported by Spiuk for bikes and clothing.

Sinkewitz denies Franke's team doping claims

Former T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz has rejected doping allegations made against the whole team.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Patrik Sinkewitz has denied claims made by German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke that the entire T-Mobile Team went to the Freiburg University Clinic for blood-doping after the first stage of the Tour de France in 2006. "There were no other riders in my car to Freiburg," the suspended rider said in an interview with the dpa press agency, refuting Franke's claims that "whole team" was involved in the excursion.

Franke had claimed to know that all seven riders had gone for blood transfusions after the initial stage held in Strasbourg, close to the German border. The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said that the riders drove to nearby Freiburg in two cars - one with German riders and one with foreign riders.

Franke, Sinkewitz said, "was never there when I testified. Just because he assumes something, doesn't mean he can claim it as true."

The former pro rider tested positive for testosterone in an out-of-competition control in June 2007 and was immediately suspended by his team T-Mobile, which subsequently fired him. He was given a one-year suspension for the violation after collaborating extensively with anti-doping authorities.

Team T-Mobile has now become Team High Road, and team owner Bob Stapleton has introduced a strict anti-doping policy. Stapleton was not formally associated with the team during the 2006 season.

The 27-year-old Sinkewitz looked back at 2007 sorrowfully. "I have certainly made a lot of mistakes in 2007. I will probably never be able to forgive myself," he said. "One of those mistakes may have been in confessing," he added. It didn't help him "in any way. It actually hurt me." Sinkewitz is banned from racing until July 17, 2008, and must pay a fine of 40,000 Euro.

The German said that there was nothing new on his search for a new team. He claimed to be surprised by statements from his attorney Michael Lehner in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the UCI was putting pressure on teams not to sign him or Jörg Jaksche. "That is totally new to me," Sinkewitz said. "But if it is true, then the whole anti-doping fight would be proved to be nothing more than a show."

He concluded, "If Jaksche and I don't get contracts, then nobody will ever open up again."

USA Cycling Professional Tour announced for 2008

USA Cycling published the calendar of races for its second-ever Professional Tour. Last year's inaugural edition was won by the now-defunct Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. With 16 races, the calendar grows by three events, including two new events.

The major multi-day stage races are the Tours of California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Missouri. In addition, road cyclists will get to compete in up to 10 single-day events, including seven road races, one circuit race, one criterium and one time trial. One omnium-style event completes the round-up for 44 race days. There were just 32 in 2007.

"This season's Pro Tour calendar epitomizes the continued growth of professional cycling in America," commented Sean Petty, USA Cycling Chief Operating Officer. "After a record number of internationally-sanctioned events in the United States last season, the expansion in 2008 in terms of events and race days provide affirmation that world-class cycling is continuing to make significant strides in this country."

The calendar kicks off with the Tour of California, an eight-day stage race on February 17-24 and ends with the Tour of Missouri on September 8-14.

The single-day circuit race formerly known as the Crystal City Classic got a new name - the US Air Force Cycling Classic. A new event, the American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania from June 24-29 in Pennsylvania, will cater to U25 riders. The Rochester Omnium (formerly the Rochester Twilight Criterium), in early August, is growing from one to three days and adopting an omnium format, and a three-day Colorado Stage Race will bring Pro Tour racing to the Rocky Mountains and the Vail Valley area on August 22-24.

Last year's tour was won by Levi Leipheimer and his Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team for individual and overall team titles respectively. Team-mate George Hincapie, Germany's Bernard Eisel, Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina and Slovenia's Janez Brajkovic rounded out the top five. Team CSC, Team Slipstream-Chipotle, T-Mobile and the defunct Navigator's Insurance finished off the list of top finishing teams.

2008 USA Cycling Professional Tour
February 17-24: Amgen Tour of California
April 13: U.S. Cycling Open - Richmond, Virginia*
April 21-27: Tour de Georgia
May 4: U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic - Virginia
May 24: Tour de Leelanau - Traverse City, Mich.
June 3: Commerce Bank Allentown Classic - Pennsylvania
June 5: Commerce Bank Reading Classic - Pennsylvania
June 8: Commerce Bank International Championship - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 24-29: American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania
August 8-10: Rochester Omnium - New York
Aug. 17: USA Cycling Professional Criterium Championships - Downers Grove, Illinois
August 22-24: The Colorado Stage Race
August 30: USA Cycling Professional Time Trial National Championships - Greenville, South Carolina
August 31: USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships - Greenville, South Carolina
September 6: Univest Grand Prix - Souderton, Pennsylvania
September 8-14: Tour of Missouri

*Date Tentative, Subject to Change

Velits Slovak Cyclist of the year

22-year-old Peter Velits, the 2007 U23 world champion, was named Cyclist of the Year 2007 in Slovakia. Velits, who rode in 2007 for Team Wiesenhof Felt, will join the ProTour outfit Milram along with his brother Martin and fellow Slovak Matej Jurco for the upcoming season. In second place was the young road rider Juraj Sagan, and on third place was mountain biker Filip Polc, who placed fourth overall in the UCI World Cup in four-cross.

Ludovit Lucanic contributed this report.

Valverde a double dad

2008 starts well for Alejandro Valverde, who became a father for the very first time. This Friday, January 4, his wife Ángela gave birth to twins at the clinic Virgen de la Vega in Murcia, Spain. Iván (2530 g), was born at 10.40 am, and Alejandro (2830 g), just five minutes later. The mother and both new-born babies are well. Congratulations on behalf of the Cyclingnews staff!

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