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Latest Cycling News, January 21, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

TDU: All the way to the top

The colourful spectacle of the European peloton
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

The clock is ticking down and after months of preparation Australia's Tour Down Under is ready for its debut as a round of the ProTour. On the eve of its 10th Anniversary event the race is ready to hit the world stage as Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson discovered.

As 133 riders take to the Tour Down Under's Stage 1 start line at South Australia's Mawson Lakes tomorrow morning each of the athletes will be claiming their own part of cycling history as they become a part of the day the ProTour goes global. While the term globalisation is one firmly implanted in the business plans of any would-be multi national corporation and many big-dollar sports around the world, it's taken a little longer for the top echelons of cycling to embrace its own popularity around the world and include a non-European race in the ProTour.

After initially bidding for a 2009 ProTour slot, Australia's Tour Down Under has been awarded not only the right, but more importantly the honour, of hosting the first non-European round. The announcement of its ProTour status in late 2007 was a massive boost for the already successful Tour Down Under.

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"The organization is very proud of the fact that the first venture outside of Europe is here in Adelaide," said a delighted event director Mike Turtur. "I think it's an important step for cycling as a whole, I think it's the start of a new era and we're very excited by ProTour.

"We believe in the concept, we believe it's the way to go," he added. "I also have a strong commitment to globalisation. I think every aspect of what we're trying to achieve with the UCI and the race here will be bigger and better for everyone in the future."

To read the full feature on the Tour Down Under, click here.

Elmiger ready for title defence

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

2007 Tour Down Under winner Martin Elmiger (Ag2r Prévoyance)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Reigning Tour Down Under champion Martin Elmiger (Ag2r) is ready to defend his title at the 2008 event, but the Swiss rider has admitted it won't be an easy task. The South Australian race has had a boost in profile this year with it becoming the first event outside of European boarders to receive ProTour status.

"For sure it’s the first ProTour event - it’s important for the whole team, especially for me because last year I won," he said. "I feel good here. It will be hard the first stage, because nobody knows what’s happened [during the off season].

The Swiss rider emphasized how important it is for himself and his European counterparts to spend a decent block of training in Australia prior to the event due to the difference in temperatures. Elmiger has been training Down Under with his French ProTour squad for the past ten days and believed they are ready for this year’s race, which starts tomorrow.

"For sure it is hot, I was at home where it was minus 2° Celsius, I come here and it was plus 41 - so that's a big change," he explained. "A few hours a day here to train in these conditions and you feel okay."

Elmiger claimed last year’s race in a thrilling battle with Tasmanian Karl Menzies, which saw the Australian lose out to the Swiss rider by a single second. Elmiger’s title defence won't be easy, however, with some strong riders lining up in this year’s race - including new Australian Road Champion Matt Lloyd (Silence-Lotto).

"We trained well here, the whole team has been here for ten days, so we're in good shape and hopefully good enough to make some victories," the Ag2r leader added.

Rabo's Brown "cool" Down Under

By Susan Westemeyer

Rabobank led the peloton out of the home straight
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Team Rabobank did everything it could to control the Classic Down Under Sunday evening in Glenelg, Australia, in order to set up a win for Australian sprinter Graeme Brown, only to see it all fall apart on the final corner. Brown ended up finishing 17th, while his lead-out man Mat Hayman was eighth. The victory went to Team High Road's André Greipel.

It failed "because of a miscalculation by the Rabo-tandem Brown-Hayman," according to the team's website. "I do not know who committed that mistake, but they let themselves get pushed to the side in the final corner, which then forced them to hit the brakes," said directeur sportif Erik Dekker.

But neither Dekker nor Brown was really disappointed with the race. "The guys did very well," Dekker said, pointing to first Bram de Groot's long attack and then the way the team dominated the race. "We basically rode a seven-man time trial. It is a very promising sign for next week." The Tour Down Under starts on Tuesday.

"Maybe it was a little bit too much (effort), but it was also a good hitout for the week," Brown told Australian newspaper The Age. "The guys weren't overly concerned about it, the result wasn't as good as we would expect, but it's better to make mistakes yesterday than tomorrow. We tried to take control of the race, it didn't work out, sprints are always a bit different."

It is Brown's first Tour Down Under since 2005, and he is happy to be back. "It's ProTour, so it means a lot, and it means a lot to me mainly because it's in Australia," he said. "I'd race this Tour Down Under just as hard if it was ProTour or not a ProTour race."

Brown had only one complaint, and one in which the European riders surely won't join him. "Now it's a bit 'cool' (27° Celsius), I'd like it 10° warmer," he noted. "That makes it really hard, especially for the Euros - for Willunga (on the second-last day) I hope it's 45°, it might slow them down a little bit."

Slipstream gets Giro invite

The Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O professional cycling team has announced its invitation to contest the 91st edition of the Giro d'Italia. As indicated to Cyclingnews by team director Jonathan Vaughters at the 2008 Tour de France presentation in Paris last October, the Professional Continental team owned by Doug Ellis will be participating in the next Italian Grand Tour, scheduled from May 10-June 1.

"We couldn't be more excited about the invitation. It demonstrates that [Giro organiser - ed.] RCS - a pillar of the sport - supports our team and has confidence in our young organisation. We will return the favour by bringing our best game to the event," commented Ellis.

His sentiments were echoed by Vaughters, who said, "This invitation is an honour for us. Beyond showing that our efforts to create a solid programme are recognized on a Grand Tour scale, it is an outstanding opportunity for our team to showcase our talented roster and capable staff."

This year's edition of the Giro includes 21 days of racing covering 3,423.8 kilometres from Palermo to Milan. Additionally, with it's four time trials, "the race provides Slipstream an excellent opportunity to display its powerful time trialling ability", according to the team. The opening day of the 'Corsa Rosa' is a 28.5 kilometre team time trial in Palermo. With riders such as David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, and Christian Vande Velde on the tentative roster, Slipstream will aim for a strong performance right from the start of the race. The team also named Julian Dean to participate in the event, focusing on the early mass sprint stages, as well as Tom Danielson to contest the mountain stages as well as General Classification.

RCS Sport is expected to announce further wild card entries to the race in the next weeks.

UCI vice-president supports Davis' team search

Davis last raised his hands on European soil in the 2007 Volta a Catalunya
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Former Discovery Channel rider Allan Davis is reported to be getting high-ranked support out of the International Cycling Union (UCI) in his search for a new team. Davis, who got caught up in the Operación Puerto scandal in 2006, was cleared of any charges before signing with the American team for the 2007 season. Despite good racing results last year, the Australian sprinter has nevertheless not been able to find a new squad for 2008, as his reputation is heavily tainted since his name was mentioned in the Spanish doping affair.

According to Australian newspaper The Age, Ray Godkin, a former Cycling Australia president and now UCI vice-president said he was "convinced" Davis had not violated anti-doping regulations, and will be helping him to find a team for the coming European season.

"I'm very sympathetic to his cause and how the hell he got caught up in this, I don't know," Godkin said. "I'm convinced in my mind that Allan Davis is not mixed up in any of this business. He's done everything he could possibly do - (offered) to supply DNA, he's prepared to do anything that's wanted to clear himself."

After meeting with Davis and UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf on Sunday morning, Godkin will return to Europe this week and plans to push Davis' case when he meets with UCI president Pat McQuaid. "I will pursue this and it has to be dealt with in some way, that he can get clearance from the UCI that he is free to negotiate (with teams)," he said. "A lot of teams are interested in him, but they are a little bit nervous because nobody knows what's going on, it's ridiculous."

Davis is currently racing for the composite Australian national team at the Tour Down Under. "To hear that from Ray himself, it's relieving, it makes the light at the end of the tunnel bigger, I suppose," Davis commented.

2008 Victorian Senior track team announced

CycleSport Victoria has announced the 2008 Victorian track cycling team what will contest the 2008 Australian Track Cycling Championships in Sydney from February 4-10. The 31-member team was presented at the conclusion of the 2008 Victorian Track Championships held at the Darebin International Sports Centre on the weekend.

The Elite field will be headlined by former Pursuit World Champion Katie Mactier (Carnegie-Caulfield CC), sprint stars Mark French (St Kilda CC) and Shane Perkins (Carnegie-Caulfield CC), multiple former World Champion Shane Kelly, 2007 Junior Track World Champions Glenn O'Shea (Bendigo & District CC) and Leigh Howard, Commonwealth Games Points gold medallist Sean Finning (Castlemaine CC) as well as rising star Tess Downing (Carnegie-Caulfield CC).

The Under 19 team features some of the most talented young cyclists in Australia in Trevor Griffiths (Shepparton CC), Ben Sanders (Carnegie-Caulfield CC), Jamie Crass (Bendigo & District CC) and Toby Dite (Hawthorn CC), whilst the Junior women's field will be lead by multiple Victorian champions Laine Hammond (Northcote CC) and Carly McCoombe (Bendigo & District CC).

At the 2007 National Championships also held in Sydney, Victoria won 36 medals including 16 Gold. They also claimed most of the silverware including The Robina Joy Trophy - the best performed state in the Elite Men’s events, The Southcott Cup - for winning the Open Teams Pursuit, The Bill Young Trophy - for winning the Men Under 19 Teams Pursuit.

Leigh Howard also received the ultimate accolade by being crowned the 2007 Champion of Champions after winning five Gold medals and Michael Gallagher was awarded the 'AWD Ride of the Series' for his outstanding ride in the LC 1 4000mt Individual Pursuit shattering his previous World Record with a time of 4.40.378.

Team Manager Ian Maher believed that if the high quality racing seen at the recent Victorian Track Championships is anything to go by, the Sydney crowd will be in for a treat when the Victorian's hit the Dunc Grey boards. "This is a very strong team we have picked for the nationals and I expect it to be as good as, if not better than our strong performance last year," Maher stated.

The team will finalise its preparations with training sessions at the indoor velodrome at DISC in Thornbury before heading to Sydney in two weeks.

2008 Official Team:

Elite Men: Zak Dempster, Sean Finning, Mark French, Leigh Howard, Shane Kelly, James Langedyk, Joel Leonard, Jason Niblett, Glenn O'Shea, Shane Perkins, Steven Sansonetti. Adrian Sansonetti

Elite Women: Jessica Berry, Tess Downing, Lisa Friend, Helen Kelly, Katie Mactier, Esther Pugh-Uren.

Men Under 19: Jamie Crass, Toby Dite, Silas Fisher, Lewis Fulcher, Trevor Griffiths, Daniel Mcintyre, Ben Sanders.

Women Under 19: Laine Hammond, Kendelle Hodges, Carly Mccoombe, Naomi Pinto.

AWD: Michael Eaddy, Michael Gallagher.

Song for Amy Gillett Foundation

Morning Grass Productions will be launching the song 'Wings to Ride' at the Art of Cycling Exhibition at the Unley Gourmet Street party as a part of the 2008 Tour Down Under celebrations. On Wednesday, January 23 at 7.30pm, the song will be released officially at the Art Room Gallery in Adelaide, Australia.

'Wings to Ride' has been written in dedication to the late Amy Gillett by songwriters Nisa Schebella and Carl Pink and Mark Meyer from the band 'The Fallen Saints'. Accomplished singer in her own right and backing vocalist with the Fallen Saints, Louise Messenger lent her voice to the lead vocal on this song with Carl Pink on guitar and backing vocals.

All mechanical and digital sales of this song will go to The Amy Gillett Foundation.

Cyclingnews reader poll: We have a winner!

This year's winner: Scott Sonneman from Australia
Photo ©: Scott Sonneman
(Click for larger image)

The votes have been cast, the categories announced, and all that remains is for Cyclingnews to reveal the lucky winner of our 2007 reader poll prize giveaway: Scott Sonneman will be tearing up the streets of windy Wellington, New Zealand on some shiny carbon fibre goodies, courtesy of our sponsor Zipp. Congratulations Scott!

Born and bred in Australia, Scott raced with the Warrangul Cycling Club in Victoria where his father Brian (a self-confessed '60s gun racer on the road and track) still helps out. Scott says: "I enjoyed a particularly unremarkable racing career highlighted by a few victories in lower grade club races and plenty of chin surfing. Like most cyclists, the longer I am retired the better I was!"

Now that fatherhood has temporarily put Scott's racing career on ice, he rides to work each day and enjoys the occasional weekend bunch ride with mates.

Cyclingnews would like to thank everyone who voted this year and made our reader poll another roaring success. Safe riding for the 2008 season...

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