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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 11, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Australian U23 and Women's Champs wide open

By Paul Verkuylen

Will Stuttgart runner-up Wesley Sulzberger defend his Australian title?
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

It's anyone's race as the Women and Under 23 men line up for Australian title. Those who believe that interest is waning for cycling, need only look at the number of participants who have entered the National Championships in Australia on Saturday to stand corrected. Almost ninety women have entered the event, with the number of Under 23 men being almost identical.

With one of the biggest fields ever assembled for the women's race, the outcome is far from certain.

"This year is going to be different to any other year, simply because of the numbers that are lining up. I think with that depth, it is going to create different dynamics throughout the race, compared to what we have seen in the past," 2004 Olympic champion Sara Carrigan explained.

With so many women taking part, picking a possible winner has become a hard task, with even the best in the world struggling to narrow it down to just a handful of riders. When asked to name who she thought will be one to watch, Carrigan was unable to come up with any riders who stood out in her mind, amplifying the strength in depth that Australian women's cycling is enjoying at the moment.

One rider who may be on everyone's lips as a possible candidate for the title, Oenone Wood, played down her own chances, using her time trial performance as a possible indicator. Yet, going on past performances, she is definitely not one to discard as a possible winner.

"I didn't have a fantastic time trial, but I have done some good preparation. December was a little bit disjointed because of what happened with T-Mobile, which for me personally had a few implications," Oenone Wood commented.

"Hopefully tomorrow I will be recovered enough and have good legs," she added, before going on to explain that the race was not as important as the World Cup rounds, later in the season, were for her preparations towards gaining selection for the Olympics.

The Under 23 men's race which features last year's champion and runner-up at the Worlds in Germany last year, Wes Sulzberger will be equally hard to predict, with so many talented young rider in the field. Sulzberger is the obvious choice to defend his title, but with riders the caliber of Ben King targeting the victory, the result is anything but decided.

Riders to watch, such as Travis Meyer, Matt Goss and Zak Dempster, have all shown their class on many occasions on courses much like this, and will face some tough competition from newcomers to the category, Joe Lewis and Angus Morton. Both of whom have shown their class before, with Lewis finishing fourth in Wednesday's time trail, sandwiched between four South riders.

A "good day" for Hansen

Adam Hansen (Team High Road) powering towards his goal, trying not to lose his rhythm
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

Adam Hansen wasn't expecting much from the Australian National time trial championship, except "an hour of pain, er, fun." But in the end, the fun outweighed the pain, as he won the title by 52 seconds over Rory Sutherland, in what he told Cyclingnews was "a good day".

The 39 km course was hilly and windy, he said on his website. He started off hard and his first target was the rider who had started one minute before him. "At the top of the hill I was pretty close to him already. But I backed off a little between the two hills just to save myself for the next. Each hill I rode with a super high cadence, always sitting down in the seat with an aero position trying to save as much energy as possible and not over-cooking myself." Overheating was a definite problem, with the Australian summer temperatures soaring to the 40° Celsius mark.

Once the first rider was caught, the next one came in sight, and the next one, too. The rider who had started two minutes earlier was overtaken before Hansen hit the long straight section. "It was different compared to the times I rode before the race. We had a massive headwind. I could see my third rider in sight and slowly pulled him in. I must admit, I wasn't feeling so good on the flat section but kept at it while trying to pass the third."

At that point things started going poorly, the 26 year-old said. "I had problems sitting on my seat and kept having to shift myself and losing my rhythm, I was starting to lose it but soon as the hills came up I was back in focus and dropped a few gears down, kept in the aero position and stayed focused. I made up lots of time for sure in the last eight kilometres. I was pacing myself really well."

Finally it was all over. "I crossed the line with the fastest time and it was a waiting game to see if Cameron or Mr Day was quicker, the wait felt pretty long and I couldn't believe that my time stood and I became the Australian Champion."

Moncoutié looks forward to new season

David Moncoutié (Cofidis) wearing the polka-dot jersey in Paris-Nice
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

After having been ill-fortuned these past few years with two injuries which made him miss out on much of the seasons' racing, French David Moncoutié is back in the peloton this year, and hopes to have luck on his side once again. The Cofidis rider, who won two Tour de France stages in 2004 and 2005, has travelled to Australia this week to take part in the first 2008 ProTour race, the Tour Down Under.

"I wanted to return to racing as soon as possible," Moncoutié told L'Equipe, explaining his early start. "Also, it's a different way of approaching the season, after 12 years as a pro. And then, it might be a way of not putting too much pressure on myself for now, on the other side of the world..."

Last summer, the gifted climber even had thoughts of quitting the sport altogether because of his broken left femur, a consequence of a crash in the Tour de Romandie. But in September, Moncoutié re-signed for anther year with his Cofidis team, and now looks forward to re-gaining his former level of performance.

"I don't give myself any margin for my come-back," he continued. "If I'm not competitive within three or four months, then I'll never be again. But I'm approaching this season as the others before, so I don't see what could prevent me from returning to my former level. Now, I feel even better than before my crash in Romandie last year. I think this experience has strengthened me."

As for his objectives this year, the Cofidis rider targets first and foremost another stage win at the Tour de France, but "any race victory would be a reward after what I've been through."

Pedaltech confirms UCI action

After first media reports on Thursday, Team Pedaltech-Cyclingnews-Jako has confirmed that the UCI has not granted it a Professional Continental license for 2008. "The reason for this decision by the UCI will be delivered to us in the course of the month of January," the team said in a press release.

That leaves the team with Continental status. "In the coming days, the management will take the necessary initiatives to reform things so that an interesting calendar can be made up for the coming season, for a team of quality riders and partners." It expects to issue another statement next week concerning the team, its partners and the riders, some of which could decide to leave the outfit.

Olympic shadow squad gets measured up

By Paul Verkuylen

Rochelle Gilmore is measured
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The Australian road and time trial candidates came one step closer to realising their Olympic dreams today, as they were each measured up and fitted for clothing, asked all the important questions like what their favorite colours are and the music that they most listen too, for their athlete bio, of course.

Each rider was fitted for casual, formal and competitive wear, but the actual designs were no where to be seen as they tried on Adidas clothing adorned with the British national squads design. All the necessary paper work was completed and signed, while they watched a DVD of the course profile.

Although none of the riders are assured a place on the squad, and indeed more riders can be added if they meet the selection criteria and are considered a chance by selectors, each has a realistic chance of making the team. The next six months are all important as the Olympics squad will be selected by the July 4.

In total, there are five places available for the men's road race and three for the women, meaning that places on the squad will be hard fought and should see Australia line up with one of the strongest road teams yet.

Shayne Bannan, Australia's head coach, believes that the course for the Games plays into the strengths of the Australian squad and seemed confident of a strong performance. "If the course was similar to the Sydney Olympics, we would struggle to field a competitive team, but I think that the type of course that is in Beijing we will be around the mark," he said.

Aussie cycling star Cadel Evans
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The riders also benefited from medical testing as well as a briefing relating to the particular challenges involved in competing in the Beijing summer. "There is no doubt our cyclists in Beijing will face challenges as far as air quality, heat and humidity and general traveller's health," said Cycling Australia Team Doctor, Mark Fisher. "We don't want to alarm the athletes but we strongly believe the more prepared they are for the challenges, the better they will perform. We also want to ensure we identify well in advance any respiratory problems that might be aggravated by the air quality in Beijing so we can provide the appropriate support."

Tour de France runner-up and 2007 ProTour Champion, Cadel Evans, has already experienced racing in Beijing in August after winning the time trial at last year's test event.

"There is really not much you can do to combat the heat and humidity but we will be preparing in the European summer so that will help," said Evans, who will race the Tour de France that finishes two weeks before the first Olympic Games road cycling event. "It's a case of being cautious to make sure you don't get sick and to look after yourself in terms of the way you train and how you recover in the hot, humid conditions."

The shadow squad for the Beijing Olympics include: Alan Davis (Unattached), Ben Day (Toyota-United), Matt Lloyd (Silenc-Lotto), Michael Rogers (Team High Road), Adam Hansen(Team High Road), William Walker (Rabobank), Matt Hayman (Rabobank), Baden Cooke (Barloworld), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricol), Oenone Wood (Team High Road), Sara Carrigan (Lotto-Belisol), Olivia Gollan (Menikini Gysko), Bridie O'Donnell (Unattached) and Rochelle Gilmore (Menikini Gysko).


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Shane Goss/

Kessler given two-year ban

Matthias Kessler, formerly of Team Astana, has been given a two-year suspension for testosterone doping, the Disciplinary Committee of the Swiss Olympic Committee announced on Friday.

Kessler tested positive for testosterone in a surprise doping control on April 24 before the Flèche Wallonne, in which he finished fourth. He was suspended when the result of the A sample was announced the end of June, and fired when the B sample confirmed the findings.

The 28 year-old German, who lives in Switzerland, was also ordered to pay the court costs of 5000 Swiss Francs. "Matthias Kessler swears that he did not use testosterone," his attorney, Michael Lehner, told the German press agency dpa.

Contador and Valverde called to testify

Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde are among the 50 riders who will be called to testify before the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) about their possible involvement with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport. The CONI prosecutor's office has already received the dossier on Operación Puerto from the Spanish Guardia Civil, and has announced it will call about 50 cyclists to testify, as well as the five principal actors: Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, Manolo Saiz, Merino Batres and Alberto Leon. The questioning is expected to take place in early February.

The new Italian anti-doping law allows actions against non-citizens, but the sanctions could only affect their actions in Italy. For example, riders could be prohibited from entering such races as the Giro d'Italia or Milano-Sanremo, or the 2008 World Championships in Varese. It could even affect the Tour de France, which this year has a stage finish in Patonevoso, Italy.

Leukemans trusted team doctor

Björn Leukemans has had his day in court on doping accusations, and his attorney is confident that his client will be cleared of the charges. "An athlete is and remains responsible for his own health, and must watch out that no prohibited substances come into his body, which is correct," attorney Johnny Maeschalk said. "But it is not possible that you cannot trust your own team doctor."

The Belgian rider tested positive for testosterone in an unannounced test shortly before the World Championships last year. He claimed that the positive test was due to a product prescribed by team doctor Sam Vermeire. The product was Prasteron, which contains the steroid DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), which is on the forbidden list. Both Leukemans and the doctor were fired by Team Predictor-Lotto, now Team Silence-Lotto.

"My client followed the correct procedures and did the right thing," Maeschalk said according to the Belga press agency. "He didn't go to his personal doctor and did not buy the Prasteron through the internet, for example. He clearly asked team doctor Vermeire if he could use Prasteron. Leukemans acted according to his contract and trusted his team doctor."

However, no explanation was given for the finding of synthetic testosterone in Leukemans' urine. Dr. Vermeire has denied that the product could have caused the positive test, saying "what I gave him could not have resulted in a positive test for synthetic testosterone." Other authorities had previously said that Leukemans' claim that he was having sex when the controllers arrived could also not account for the presence of synthetic testosterone.

In addition, he claimed that Prasteron itself was not on the forbidden list, and that the packaging does not mention that it contains DHEA. Leukemans had saved the packaging from the product and produced it at the hearing. The disciplinary commission is expected to announce its decision on January 24.

Great River Energy Festival donates record amount to Children's Hospitals

The Great River Energy Bicycle Festival announced that it has raised $30,000 for Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in 2007, double its largest contribution to date. The Festival, which includes the Nature Valley Grand Prix professional bike race, has partnered with the Children's Association of Minneapolis to support Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota since 2003, raising more than $90,000.

Funds from the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival are directed to the Pediatric Hospice and Palliative Care Department at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the only programme of its kind in the state. Members of this department form an interdisciplinary team providing long-term, coordinated, holistic care for both the child and family. Their team includes the child's physician, family, specially trained physicians, nurses, social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, and volunteers., working together in the hospital or at home to relieve the suffering of the child and family.

Cyclingnews reader poll: Rider of the Year

The time has come to announce the winner of the Rider of the Year category of our Reader's Poll, where one athlete stood out as being the most consistent throughout the season, taking several Top 10 - if not podium - placings in the most important stage races of the ProTour. Have you guessed who?

Thanks again to all who voted, and look for the winner of the Zipp carbon fibre goodies: the 570g VumaQuad crankset, the SLC2 handlebars and Zipp's 145 stem, to be announced in the next edition of News.

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