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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, January 20, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Riders battle illness and injury in pursuit of victory

By Laura Weislo in Los Angeles

Natallia Tsylinskaya atop the women's sprint podium.
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

The top track racers who have their sights set on the World Championships and Olympic Games this year face the challenge of staying fit and healthy through the entire World Cup season. Beginning in November in Sydney and ending at the worlds in Manchester at the end of March, this means riders must log thousands of miles in travel, crossing time zone after time zone, all while trying to avoid the inevitable airline bug or injury from the strain of competition or from crashes.

For some who fall ill or are hurt, skipping a race is not an option, and they are forced to push through the pain while competing at the highest level of the sport. In Los Angeles, two such determined riders were Belarus' Natalia Tsylinskaya and American Sarah Hammer.

Sprinter Tsylinskaya gave no indication that she was suffering from a severe bout of food poisoning. She went undefeated from the 1/8 final in the morning all the way through the final against American Jennie Reed at 10:00 pm local time. Speaking through a translator, she said, "I was alternately shivering and hot, sometimes dizzy. I would just lie on my back on the floor of the infield until it was time for me to race."

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Once on her bike, the World Cup leader hid her illness well. Her head down, serious expression could have easily been mistaken for the face of a woman deep in concentration rather than someone who was just hoping to stay upright and get through the round. "When I got on the track, I was just racing from pure instinct. I barely remember anything from the races."

American Sarah Hammer, twice a World Champion in the individual pursuit and one of the country's top contenders for Olympic gold in Beijing has raced every World Cup, struggling to regain her top speed in the face of a nagging back injury which was made worse this summer.

"It's been something that's been bothering me for about a year and a half, it was nothing, really. But I entered a men's road race this summer and totally tweaked it." While the injury is relatively minor, it doesn't mean that she isn't in pain. "I have a tear and a small bulge [in a disk], but it's not anything that I need surgery for. The frustrating part of it is it's not something they can just say 'I know why you're hurting so bad'."

However, the ever optimistic Hammer has chosen to see as much positive in the situation as she can, even if missing out on the gold medal final on Friday was hard on her psyche. "It's kind of a learning experience," she explained. "In Sydney and Beijing, I went in just to get points; I knew my form wasn't there. I took what I could from there. Here, I wanted to win."

Sarah Hammer
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

"I learned a little from it - what my body needs. I might have just been a little stale, and I think the hard effort in the morning was what I needed. Since I've had the back injury, we've had to adjust my training. Now I think I've learned that I need that effort. I went from a [4 minute] 41 [second time in the qualifier] to a 4'38 - it's a decent chunk."

Hammer is confident that she can work around the injury and get back to the form which propelled her to two consecutive world championships. "I have a good team behind me helping me through this. I've been lucky I haven't had a lot of obstacles like that in my last two years, and it's really grounded me and made me realize how much I enjoy the moment... the ability to dig in and attack."

"It's not an easy road for anybody, getting to the Olympics, and this is something I need to overcome. We couldn't be doing anything better than we are."

Read in depth coverage of the World Cup from Los Angeles.

Russian & Korean teams angry over team sprint crash

By Laura Weislo

The result of the crash
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Two teams lined up on either side of the Home Depot center velodrome on Friday morning, three men on each squad solely focused on one thing: getting quickly up to top speed and putting in a fast time in hopes of qualifying for the team sprint final that evening. What they did not expect that a sequence of events would unfold to create disaster.

Russians Sergey Borisov, Sergey Kucherov and Sergey Polynskiy were on the front straight, and the Korean team of Dong Jin Kang, Myeong Hyeon Lee and Su Hyun Park was on the back side awaiting the countdown. The clocked clicked down: three, two, one. The Russian team exited the starting blocks, and under the power of Borisov's lead, quickly gained speed into turn one, then continued to accelerate into turn two. What they didn't know was that the Korean team's starting gate malfunctioned and Park was trapped in the blocks as the Russian train barrelled toward him at 50 kph.

The referee managed to get one warning shot off as the Russians exited turn two, and at the last moment Borisov swung up, and Kucherov followed, but Polynskiy, with his head down, had no time to react and no idea that there was a machine in his path. The Russian plowed straight into the gate, throwing Park from his machine and flying through the air and down hard onto the wooden track floor.

The result was a broken wrist and forearm for Polynskiy, while Park was stunned for a while, but was able to recover and race the event once the officials re-started them. The incident, however, left both teams seething in anger for what they viewed as a lapse of attention on the part of the official in charge of firing the warning shot.

Yung Choi, a Korean who resides in the USA and acts as an assistant to the Korean national team placed the blame squarely on the referee who he feels should have seen the problem and immediately fired the warning shot to stop the Russians from riding. "I've seen this same official at Junior nationals and at Masters nationals asleep at the wheel. If he cannot pay attention, he should not be officiating. This is an important race, a qualifier for the Olympics. This kind of incident should never happen."

The head commissaire, Alexander Donike, dispelled any blame, saying that the coincidence of the malfunctioning gate and the gun failing to fire was simply an unfortunate combination of events. "We had a failure of the starting block in the first race, and we sent a technician over to check the block, and he did, and it was OK. And we had a second start, and the second start failed again, and the starter was unable to stop the Russian team because of a misfiring of the gun, and there was no way to stop the team. We tried whistling and waving flags."

Donike would not place blame on the officials, saying that the referees are frequently the target of teams' anger when things go wrong, but that neither the official with the gun nor the gates, which were provided by the organizer, would be removed from the event.

"We had no problems with the starting gate so far, we had some start failures, but not every failed start means the gate is wrong, it could be the rider is wobbling in the gate, or pulls out too soon."

"They checked the gates overnight, and they said the gates are OK, so we will use them for the events today. Hopefully everything will go alright."

That is little consolation for Polynskiy, who faces two separate surgeries to repair his broken bones. For Park, the incident meant a premature end to his time in Los Angeles. He chose to skip the second session and stay in the hotel, and then head back to his home country earlier than expected.

Donike regretted the incident, but was relieved that the riders were not more seriously injured.

Cipollini postpones contract with Rock Racing

By Gregor Brown

Mario Cipollini in Las Vegas in September
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Mario Cipollini, winner of 42 Giro d'Italia stages and the 2002 Milano-Sanremo, is biding his time to sign with Mike Ball's Rock Racing team. The 40 year-old Italian who retired in 2005 is pondering a dual-pronged comeback with the USA Continental team – both as a rider and as a team manager. However, he said to the Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport that "if they don't give me a straight response I will return home."

The ex-cyclist, known as "Super Mario" for his sprinting prowess in the nineties and early 2000s, is in Santa Monica, California, to meet with the prospective team and its staff. As previously reported, the idea was that Cipollini could return as a cyclist in the Tour of California next month, however an agreement has not been made between the outspoken executive behind the fashion label Rock & Republic and the charismatic Lucchese.

"You don't have an idea in what kind of conditions I find myself. The project, the programmes, the structure: all of it was shared together with Mike Ball. And now I see there are problems, the scenario is different, his collaborators are bucking," stated Cipollini, who last raced as a professional at the Milano-Sanremo with Team Liquigas-Bianchi in 2005.

"It is better that I vent a little bit on the bicycle before I go and meet them. I have asked for a face-to-face meeting to reach a definitive answer. Either there is a contract, or there is a return home."

Cipollini and Ball first met at the trade show in Las Vegas where the idea of cooperation evolved. With the awareness of the former sprinter in Italy, the team would have better chances of receiving wildcard invites to races like Tirreno-Adriatico, Sanremo or even the Giro d'Italia. However, the team is only registered for 2008 as a Continental team, which prohibits its participation at least for the duration of this year.

The former racer envisions a larger-scaled project (rumoured names include the Schleck brothers and Basso - ed.) that could see Ball's team on top of the world in five years, however he wants to have his way with the team on the other side of the Atlantic. "I have been here since Monday," continued Cipollini, who arrived to the USA with his lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone.

"We have had meetings after meetings. The problem is not Ball, not my money, the use of my image, or investments, but it is the men that are around [Ball] and who are afraid to lose out on this proposed structure in Europe that I would manage. I came here in October, and I started to explain some things about cycling, like how the Giro d'Italia will celebrate 100 years in 2009, and they looked at me with mouths wide open.

"Ball came from nothing in his life. It was him who wanted to know me in Las Vegas. ... The project we created together. I asked for and obtained a carte blanche – not to have intermediaries – and he gave it to me."

Ball has made controversial contracts with riders involved in past doping scandal. Maybe Cipollini, like Frankie Andreu before him, is finding the waters to be rocky. "I was clear with him on [Oscar] Sevilla, [Santiago] Botero and [Tyler] Hamilton, who he has already signed. I said to Ball that it is not the right way to interpret cycling, that these riders would never be able to race in a European team. He gave me his reasoning, that they would only race in America. However, they take from the staff new requests, like 'Cipollini has to be a manager also in the USA, he has to transfer here for some time.' For this reason I no longer understand any of it."

Meetings were expected for later on Saturday. Depending on the outcome Cipollini will either be spreading his wings to fly home for good from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) or to take on the final kilometres of the Tour of California's sprint stages coming up in February.

UCI announces remaining MTB qualifying places for Olympics

Christoph Sauser (Specialized) won the men's Olympic Test event last fall
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

80 mountain bikers, including 50 men and 30 women, will represent 35 total nations in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games in August after the UCI announced the final national spots per Criterion 2, based on the 2007 Continental Championships, of its selection procedure. Choices in accordance with Criterion 1, based upon UCI rankings from 2006 and 2007, were announced earlier this month.

32 nations will be represented in the men's race while 22 nations will appear in the elite women's race. Considering Criterion 1 alone, the number of qualified countries jumped from 22 to 24 for the men and from 14 to 18 for the women when comparing the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The increase is due to efforts to modify the qualifying system to encourage greater international participation.

The additions per Criterion 2 include Namibia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Costa Rica, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Hungary and Turkey for the men and South Africa, Chile, Japan and Australia for the women.

By June 20, all national Olympic Committees are expected to have confirmed the filling of their places. A commission including representatives of the IOC, ANOC, and UCI would meet to award any unclaimed places.

On Friday, the UCI also released on its website a map and profile of the 4.190km course (with 224m of elevation change) as well as 30 photographs.

Men: France, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Germany (sending three riders each); United States, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Great Britain (sending two riders each); Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, Russia, Colombia, Ukraine, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Ireland, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Costa Rica, China, Hong Kong, Hungary, Turkey (sending one rider each).

Women: China, Germany, United States, Canada, Norway, Poland, Russia, Switzerland (sending two riders each); France, Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, Netherlands, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, Chile, Japan, Australia (sending one rider each).

O'Grady to join strong peloton at Tour Down Under

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) goes for a bidon at the 2007 Tour Down Under
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The Tour Down Under will welcome the return of two-time former winner Stuart O'Grady, who suffered a bad crash in the Tour de France last summer. The 1999 and 2001 Tour Down Under winner broke his ribs, collarbone and shoulder blade and punctured a lung in France. The Australian isn't holding onto high hopes for another win for himself, but he wasn't ruling out a chance to make some breakaways.

"[Winning] would mean absolutely everything had to work out perfectly for me," said O'Grady on the team's website "It would almost take a miracle really, because I'm not far enough in my training after my accident to be among the favorites this year. I'll do what I can to get a good result of course, but don't expect too much from me yet." O'Grady said his main focus on the Spring Classics.

That doesn't mean his team won't be trying for a win. The three-time ProTour winning squad's manager, Bjarne Riis, said he knows it's early in the season, but "We'd never pass up the chance to win a race."

Regardless of his past injuries, O'Grady will be watched closely by the riders from all 19 teams entered once the race starts Tuesday. He will be among 29 total racers who also participated in the Tour de France last summer according to the Australian Associated Press.

Former Tour de France stage winner and Caisse d'Epargne manager Neil Stephens commented on the depth of this year's field to the AAP. "There's probably no better riders than have come here before, but there's more of them," the Australian said. "Within every team there's a couple of riders who could well take out the overall classification."

"The Tour Down Under has always been important because it's great to start the season well, a win is always good, but now being a ProTour event, it's essential," added Stephens making an observation on the elevated status of the Tour Down Under as the first ProTour event outside of Europe.

Meanwhile, Team Lampre is gearing up for its first race in 2008, the Tour Down Under Classic, a 50km circuit race that on Sunday precedes the Tour Down Under. Seven Lampre riders will race under sport director Vicino. The team arrived in Adelaide last Tuesday to train and acclimate to the weather and time zone.

"In Australia is summer, so the weather is beautiful: this allowed the cyclists to train in a very good way," said sport director Bruno Vicino.

Last year's event was won by the Swiss Martin Elmiger riding for Ag2r Prévoyance ahead of Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA) and Lars Bak (Team CSC). O'Grady finished 18th. Read the race preview.

Team CSC for Tour Down Under: Kurt Asle Arvensen, Lars Bak, Matthew Goss, Allan Johansen, Kasper Klostergaard, Stuart O'Grady and Nicki Sørensen in the line-up.

Lampre for Tour Down Under Classic: Fabio Baldato, Emanuele Bindi, Paolo Fornaciari, Francesco Gavazzi, Mirco Lorenzetto, Massimiliano Mori and Christain Murro.

Injured Hondo delays return

By Susan Westemeyer

Sprinter Danilo Hondo has been forced to postpone his long-awaited return to the peloton. An injury will stop him from starting to race with his new team Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Androni Giocattoli in the Vuelta San Luis in Argentina next week.

During training, Hondo had been bothered by extreme muscle pain in his right thigh, according to his website. After medical examinations, it was decided that he should have one week of total rest.

No new team for Kashechkin

By Susan Westemeyer

The Kakakh Continental Team Ulan has denied signing Andrey Kashechkin. His name appeared on the team's roster on the UCI website, but the team said that this information was not accurate. "No, no, that isn't so," a team spokesman told

Kashechkin was fired by team Astana after testing positive for blood-doping in an unannounced out-of-competition control in August.

Russell Mockridge – An Australian pioneer

By Les Woodland

Riders start the 1955 Tour de France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

For a country with such a small population – more people commute into London every day – Australia has turned out no small number of champions. Almost all of them with Irish names – Stuart O'Grady, Robbie McEwen and so on. However, they all owe much to a man with a more English name, the man who pioneered European ventures from Australia after the war: Russell Mockridge, who would have been 80 year-old in 2008.

I don't remember Russell Mockridge who passed away 50 years ago. I do remember his determination, though. He wrote a book about his racing experiences, and explained how determined he was to establish himself not just in French racing but also in France. He said he would study French until he could understand every word of horse-race commentaries on the radio. And he did. If you can do that in another language, you can truthfully say you're fluent.

His fellow citizen and Tour de France rider Sir Hubert Opperman described him as "the most versatile cyclist Australia had produced ... no other cyclist in his experience had been gifted with such a level of overall cycling talent."

On September 13, 1958, Mockridge had just started the Tour of Gippsland. It was a 225-kilometre race beginning in Melbourne. Like most Australian races of the time, it was a handicap. Mockridge, the greatest rider in the country, was in the last group to leave. He was notoriously shortsighted but it's hard to imagine he didn't see the bus coming towards him. He had covered less than four kilometres. Mockridge died at just 30 years old.

A strange man, Mockridge. He was not your usual rider. He went to the elite Geelong College, and he was torn between becoming a journalist or a priest. His accent, his education and the distracted way he peered through thick glasses led others to call him Little Lord Fauntleroy. Not that he needed to worry too much about them because he bowled through the field to win the first race he ever rode.

Read the complete feature.

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