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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 9, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown and Greg Johnson

Gilbert to start Down Under

Enjoying sunnier times at the Volta ao Algarve.
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Heading into his sixth season with Française des Jeux, Philippe Gilbert has lost none of the rapid-fire pedaling style that propelled him to victory at the 2006 Het Volk. And while last year's results were disappointing in comparison, he's ready to kick off again at the 2008 Tour Down Under, as Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet found out.

Saint-Quentin, in the Picardy region of northern France: Not quite the paradisiacal destination that professional athletes dream about in December, with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius. However, this has never bothered the man from Remouchamps, Belgium who has always been seen riding his bike in the Belgian Ardennes since his days in the under 16 ranks, no matter what the weather was like.

So while most teams head south at this time of year, the team backed by the French national lottery remain in Saint-Quentin – home to assistant manager Martial Gayant and a passionate fan base nurtured by the team since its inception 12 years ago.

Thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom up north, as the pre-Christmas training camp always begins with a party. "Cycling is a popular sport and I insist on the possibility for any fan to be able to have a drink with his favourite champion once a year," says team boss Marc Madiot. During his career as a rider, the double Paris-Roubaix winner was famous for his loyal following, coloured in the black and yellow of his Renault-Gitane team – a tradition continued with the four leafed clover symbol of Française des Jeux.

Eighteen hundred fans are registered with the team's fan club, and Madiot invited a special one – Lucian, an 82 year-old Belgian who's often seen at the roadside handing up water to riders – to the 11th century Abbey of Vaucelles for the team's party. "I'll do it as long as I'll be alive and healthy," Lucien tells the crowd, adding that Gilbert is one of his favourites being so readily approachable.

"We, the professional cyclists, we aren't demigods, we must stay close to our public," is how Gilbert sees it. He's always been just as eager to please his supporters as his pay agent when it comes to winning races. But after the high of beating then world champion Tom Boonen at Het Volk in 2006 followed by stage wins at the Dauphiné Libéré and Tour of Benelux, last year was a disappointment for Gilbert, who only secured one victory – Stage 1 of the Tour of Limousin.

"I don't look at last season with regrets because I did everything right," he insists. "I had an operation in January and a few more worries later in the year, always when I was ready to perform. But I've been frustrated of course and it gives me a lot of motivation to produce good results in 2008."

Read the full interview with Gilbert.

Quick Step training in Spain

By Susan Westemeyer

2008 Team Quick Step
Photo ©: QS
(Click for larger image)

Team Quick Step has opened its 2008 training camp in Benicassim, Spain. The team will stay there until January 17.

Teams typically go south for warmth and sunshine, but the Belgian team didn't find those weather conditions on its first day of training. The temperatures weren't too bad (about 16°C) but the sky was grey. The riders were still able to get out for some four and a half hours.

"The riders are divided into two groups according to their fitness level," sporting director Wilfried Peeters said on the team's website, www.quickstepcycling.com. "Obviously, the athletes who need to be in top shape from the get-go are undergoing a series of specific workouts different than those undergone by the athletes who will be required to defend the team colours further on in the season."

Tom Boonen did a series of special sprint simulations, and the tireless World Champion Paolo Bettini rode an extra half hour. Milder workouts were held for Sébastien Rosseler, who has a knee problem, and Carlos Barredo, who is recovering from bronchitis.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by QS/www.tdwsport.com.

Dekker aiming for the white jersey

By Susan Westemeyer

At the tender age of 23, Thomas Dekker is one of the captains of Team Rabobank, and is looking forward to the challenge. "I have high expectations and this year want to establish myself in the top rang. At the Tour [de France] I will want a good classification and a try at the white jersey [of best young rider]," said the Dutchman on HLN.be.

Speaking at the team's presentation earlier this week, Dekker said that he will have a quiet spring building up to the spring classics and the Tour. He is especially looking at Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. First, though, he will start with the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, and this year he will skip Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice.

His team-mate and co-captain, Denis Menchov, announced he will ride the Giro d'Italia as preparation for the Tour, which Dekker will not do. "Everyone has different methods of preparation," said the young rider. "I think I will someday ride the combination of Giro and Tour."

Beltrán will ride Tour and Vuelta

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Spanish Liquigas climber, Manuel Beltrán, will confront the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España in 2008. Since his debut in the professional cycling in 1995, the 36 year-old Beltrán has competed twenty-three times amongst the Tour, Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta. His best performance in this last Spanish race was in 2003, when he finished in sixth place, whereas in 1999 was seventh.

Beltrán has also taken part in eight Tour de France editions, and his best ranking was in 2000 – eleventh overall. He achieved fourteenth in 1997, while in 2007 he was eighteenth. Furthermore, he has only competed four times in the Giro.

Serramenti PVC launch 2008

Serramenti PVC team management and the riders
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Gianni Savio's Italian Professional Continental squad has held its 2008 launch at the headquarters of its title sponsor. The outfit has undergone some changes since last year, with several new signings replacing outgoing riders.

The most notable of its new signings is Gilberto Simoni, who joins the outfit from ProTour Team Saunier Duval-Prodir, and German Danilo Hondo, from rival Italian Professional Continental outfit Tinkoff Credit Systems.

In addition to these signings the outfit has also taken on Amore & Vita-McDonald's Ruslan Ivanov, Team LPR's Daniele Nardello and four neo-professionals.

For more information on this or any other team, see our 2008 teams database.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Androni Giocattoli 2008 roster: Santo Anzà (Ita), Niklas Axelsson (Swe), Manuel Belletti (Ita), Alessandro Bertolini (Ita), Denis Bertolini (Ita), Roberto Cobo González (Spa), Emiliano Donadello (Ita), Francesco Ginanni (Ita), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Ruslan Ivanov (Mda), Gabriele Missaglia (Ita), Leonardo Moser (Ita), Daniele Nardello (Ita), Richard Ochoa (Ven), Carlos José Ochoa (Ven), Jackson Rodriguez (Ven), José Serpa (Col) and Gilberto Simoni (Ita),

Vos looks to Olympic time trial

By Susan Westemeyer

Marianne Vos is aiming for the Olympic time trial this summer – in addition to the road race and track events, of course. There is plenty of time between the other events for her to ride the time trial, she has said.

The Netherlands can nominate two women for the time trial, and one place has already been given to Mirjam Melchers, who finished 11th in the Worlds time trial. National coach Johan Lammerts said that he was glad to hear of Vos' interest and would meet with her as soon as possible to discuss it.

National team leader Thijs Rondhuis said that the time trial course would suit the 2006 Road World Champion. "The main goal will still be the road race, but the parcours of the time trial is one that could be good for Vos," he said on the Netherlands cycling federation website. "There is a long climb with a high gradient which will be possible for Marianne, and an important descent has also been put in there. And she can do that like no one else."

Dean chases special national jersey

Tour de France cyclist Julian Dean (Team Slipstream) wants desperately to keep his black and white New Zealand championship jersey. The Rotorua rider will defend his title at the BikeNZ National Road Championships in Hawkes Bay this weekend.

Dean, recovering from off-season surgery, knows it will be a tough assignment. "I really want to win the title again so I can wear the New Zealand jersey in Europe. It's great for me, for our sport and our country," he said.

"I think everyone really benefits and another year with it will really solidify us as a cycling nation in Europe," he added. "It is so distinctive and so many people in Europe know and identify with New Zealand. It was absolutely amazing. I am just a rider in a team but when I wore the New Zealand jersey as the national champion so many people commented or came up and spoke to me."

Dean will move from his Crédit Agricole team to his new squad Team Slipstream this year, an American Professional Continental racing in Europe, where he is expected to be the number one sprinter. Dean knows he is not in his best form for the 182-kilometre, seven-lap race to be held on the Appleby Road circuit, west of Taradale on Sunday. He underwent surgery on his ACL joint in September and only got back on his bike in late November.

Dean comes up against the best in the country, including several other European based professionals including Waikato's Tim Gudsell who rides for Française des Jeux and Belgium-based Glen Chadwick who is with USA team Team Type 1. Athens Olympian's Robin Reid (Marlborough) and Heath Blackgrove (Canterbury) will add to the mix along with former world junior champion Jeremy Yates (Hawke Bay), who took out the national club title and recently won the Tour de Vineyards in Nelson.

Other prominent Kiwi riders include Jeremy Vennell, who rides for USA Team Bissell, Gordon McCauley (Auckland), Aaron Strong (Auckland) and former national mountain bike national champion Stuart Houltham (Wellington). "It's a really strong field," Dean said. "And as a one-off race it is difficult and you cannot always control the outcomes. All I can hope for is to do a good race and hope it's good enough."

The full preview for the New Zealand National Championships.

Team LPR signs Marinangeli

Team LPR, the new team of Giro d'Italia champions Danilo Di Luca and Paolo Savoldelli, have signed Sergio Marinangeli for 2008 according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 27 year-old from Gualdo Tadino, Italy, rode for Aurum Hotels in 2007.

Marinangeli, professional since 2003, finished second in a stage one of the Giro d'Abruzzo last year, the same race where he was stopped due to an elevated hematocrit reading revealed in a pre-race anti-doping control. It was not the first time for LPR's new recruit, winner of the 2006 GP Beghelli, had returned a high hematocrit reading; in March 2005, the then Naturino rider was stopped from competing in the Coppi e Bartali.

New Zealand announces national Langkawi team

The New Zealand federation (BikeNZ) has announced the riders it will send to next month's Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, with Jeremy Yates to lead the Pacific nation's efforts. The squad will also include Scott Lyttle and Ashley Whitehead. Justin Kerr and Matt Sillars have been named as the squad's reserve riders for the event.

The Malaysian stage race gets underway on February 9 and runs through to the 17th.

New Zealand National team for Tour de Langkawi: Joseph Chapman, Logan Hutchings, Scott Lyttle, Robin Reid, Ashley Whitehead and Jeremy Yates.

Women with Engines programme pays off

By Paul Verkuylen in Ballarat, Victoria

Over one year ago, an initiative by Australian women's cycling coach Warren McDonald, aimed at finding "Women with big engines," was announced at the UCI World Road Championships in Austria. The programme focussed on finding women suited to time trialling, with the aim being to build them up as medal contenders for the Beijing Olympics time trial event.

McDonald began the programme after seeing the huge step forward that other nations had taken in women's time trialling. "There are a number of sports that have shown they have been successful... triathlon and rowing are a couple of big engine sports," McDonald said at the time.

Fast forward to the Australian Championships and the fruits of his labour are for all to see. Bridie O'Donnell of Victoria answered an ad about the programme after spending years competing in other sports, now she is the Australian National time trial champion just eight months out from the Beijing Olympics.

"I was a rower for six years and then I did the Hawaii Ironman and a couple of Ironman triathlons in 2006 before answering this call for a talent identification programme at the end of 2006," she explained.

McDonalds model for the optimum time trialist was thus correct and now with just eight months remaining until the Olympics Australia may very well have a potential contender for the title. O'Donnell was keen to show the selectors her capacity late last year when she paid her own way to France to compete in two important time trials on the women's circuit.

Her results there, seventh at the Chrono Champenois as well as second at the prestigious Chrono des Nations surely had the Olympic selector taking notice. Now, with a national championship gold to add to her growing collection of good results in time trials, she should well and truly be on the radar.

The 33 year-old doesn't see her age as a barrier to success, using her old rowing coach and Barcelona Olympian Peter Antonie as inspiration. Antonie along with Stephen Hawkins won a gold medal in the men's double sculls at the 1992 games at the age of 34.

"He was a really great role model for me and inspiring. Someone who showed that you can get stronger and smarter as an athlete as you get older," she explained.

Cheatley recovering from surgery

Top New Zealand women's cyclist Catherine Cheatley is to begin her recovery process after undergoing a vein enlargement operation. The Cheerwine rider underwent the surgery on her left thigh in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Monday to help the rider return to her full potential after doing damage to the vein in a crash while riding in the United States of America last season.

"What they did was to take a vein out of [her] ankle, and attach it to the main artery – which comes out of the stomach – supplying blood to her leg," Catherine's husband and coach Dayle Cheatley told NZPA. "They are expecting a pretty quick recovery from her because she's nice and fit and healthy."

In order to aid her recovery process, which is hoped to see the rider back in form for August's Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Cheatley completed a solid block of training leading into the operation.
"She's done a huge base [of riding] before the operation," said Dayle. "She came into it very, very fit. And because of the training she needed a couple of weeks off the bike anyway. This was done on purpose because we knew what was coming up."

The potentially career-threatening injury was discovered just before the rider's return home at the end of last season, and forced her to withdraw from the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Without the surgery the future for Cheatley as a professional racer looked grim, however with the surgery out of the way Cheatley is focused on recovering to her former glory, which would likely see her contest the Manchester Track World Championships before returning to the USA for another season with the Cheerwine squad.

"Bike NZ has given her a free run, to get her fit and hopefully right for the worlds and Olympics," Dayle Cheatley said. "And if she gets through these okay, it's all go [for a second season] with Cheerwine."

The rider will undergo rehabilitation in Invercargill on New Zealand's south island.

Cronulla winnings donated to Prostate Cancer Institute

Matt White and his colleagues have donated their prize money to charity
Photo ©: Brad Hooker
(Click for larger image)

Professional cyclists involved in the Cronulla Grand Prix December 16 have donated their prize money to the Prostate Cancer Institute. The top four riders – Matt White (Discovery Channel), Graeme Brown (Rabobank), Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole) and Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) – donated their combined prize money of $3600AUD to the Institute, which is being established at St George Cancer Care Centre in New South Wales, Australia.

"The event was a great promotion for the sport of cycling and it is the least professional stars can do when racing in Australia; to make the contribution of prize money to such a worthy charity," said White, who retired after the event and will be directing the USA-based Team Slipstream outfit this season.

It is the very first Prostate Cancer Institute in Australia and will have all of the treatment options available under the one roof. The Cancer Centre, headed by Professor John Kearsley, is expanding in size and will have also a Research centre attached to the facility.

It has been a two million dollar project undertaken by a community group and the funds have been well received by the committee. Professor Kearsley, who was present at the Cronulla Grand Prix said "It was a great day for everyone – great action, good sponsorship support from NSW Health and others, and now the donation from the race winners.

"The community has now committed more than one million dollars and this is the first occasion that a sporting event and competitors have contributed to the construction of the Prostate Cancer Institute, that will commence building works in February this year," added Kearsley.

The Prostate Cancer Institute also benefited from the race entries of the 1500-metre athletic event staged on the day.

"All the invited professionals prior to the start of the race agreed to donate the money to the Prostate Cancer Institute and I am very proud that in my last race we could give back to the community," concluded White.

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