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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 25, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

TDU throws rider off tour

Another left with fractured collarbone

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) went to the ground after getting a head-but from Elia Rigotto (Team Milram)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Tour Down Under organisers have taken an unprecedented step in throwing Italian Elia Rigotto (Team Milram) off the tour after an altercation - that officials have described as "very vicious" - which left Australia's Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) with a fractured left collarbone. While riders have been excluded from stages in the past nine editions, Rigotto is the first rider to ever be disqualified from the entire race.

"Hayman was at the front, looked over his right shoulder to see if [Graeme] Brown was there," explained race commissaire Michael Robb. "He didn't deviate from his line and number 41 [Elia Rigotto] passed on his left hand side and as he came level with him he very viciously struck him on his upper arm and shoulder with his head.

"Very, very vicious and of course Hayman then went down," reiterated Robb.

Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) had a broken collarbone
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Hayman underwent surgery on Friday evening after the brutal fall in the final 300 metres of today's Tour Down Under stage four. "Surgeons will insert a plate and screws to stabilise the break and facilitate a faster recovery," read an event release. "Tour Down Under Race Doctor Peter Barnes says he expects it will be four or five days before Hayman is able to resume riding." The surgery was reported a success.

The injury is another disappointing setback for Hayman, who suffered a broken elbow in April's Gent Wevelgem last season. The Australian rider also crashed in the lead up to the 2004 Paris-Roubaix, damaging his hip and upper leg.

"It was as vicious a headbutt as I've seen in a long time," reported Robb, who has been an international commissaire since 1991. "A very severe headbutt, a very serious incident."

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Robb added that the traditional method of sprinters leaning their heads against one another - similar to Robbie McEwen and Mark Renshaw's clash at the Tour Down Under's final stage last year - was very different to Rigotto's actions in today's sprint. "Guys will just put their heads together to get a little space, but this was very different," he said.

Rigotto was fined 200 Swiss Francs under UCI Article 10.1 for "deviating from selected lane endangering other riders".

Franzoi: Back on track for the Worlds

Franzoi enjoys a promising early season victory
Photo ©: Niels De Wit
(Click for larger image)

An untimely ankle injury in November forced Italian cyclo-cross specialist Enrico Franzoi off the winter World Cup circuit and he was unable to defend his national title in his home city of Venice. Healed of all injuries and with the World Championships just days away, Franzoi spoke with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins about the prospect of racing in front of 20,000 screaming fans in Treviso.

Recognised as the next generation of Italian cyclo-cross in his junior years, Enrico Franzoi found himself on the podium in nearly every international race he entered. But his career reached new heights when he beat former world 'cross champion Daniele Pontoni and Superprestige winner Luca Bramati to win his first elite national championship in 2003 whilst still under 23 years of age. That same year, Franzoi took the under 23 world championship title in Monopoli, Italy.

"I was considered the next generation after I started to win races against our country's best cyclo-cross riders," remembered Franzoi. "But, on the road I was a good rider too. I joined the national team to do the 2002 world championships in Zolder for the time trial on the road. I was a reserve on the 2004 Verona world championships on the road and also won four or five road races each year, along with my successes in cyclo-cross, these things are what helped me to turn professional and sign a contract for both disciplines."

It's hard to believe that the now 25 year-old has been involved in competitive cycling for 19 years; with two years as a junior, four years as an under 23 and an additional four years as an elite professional. "After I won the under 23 world championship in Monopoli, I started to have my first contact with a professional team," said Franzoi of his early contract with the former Saeco turned Lampre squad. "But the definitive contact to be professional was after I won the 2003 cyclo-cross national championships in Rovato. I had a verbal agreement that I would sign with Saeco in October of 2004 when I finished my under 23 years."

Click here to read the full interview with Enrico Franzoi.

Boonen visited by police, training partner Vannoppen investigated

By Susan Westemeyer

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

WAP-enabled mobile devices:

Tom Boonen was visited by the Belgian police at his parents' house on Wednesday in connection with a drug investigation of Belgian cyclo-cross rider Tom Vannoppen. According to the Gazet van Antwerpen, Vannoppen has been connected with the use of cocaine, and following a search of his house last week, he mentioned Boonen's name under questioning.

At a press conference Friday midday, Hasselt, Belgium, prosecutor Marc Rubens said that Boonen "had been tipped as Vannoppen's drug dealer," which is why his parents' house was searched. Rubens emphasized that nothing was found and said that he was disappointed that the information had been made public. "This way the image of the rider has been damaged, perhaps undeservedly so."

Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere confirmed: "On Wednesday, investigators rang at the house of Tom Boonen's parents. It was not a real search, they have simply been let in and put a couple of questions to Tom [Boonen]. The reason for this was a declaration from Tom Vannoppen. First they wanted to know if Tom [Boonen] lived there. He does not, but of course Tom told them that he visits there regularly."

Boonen "had a satisfactory answer to all the questions which were put to him. The complete matter lasted not longer than half an hour," Lefevere said. "They have nothing on him."

The investigators, who were sent by a court in Hasselt, Belgium, refused to comment on the matter. They conducted a search of Vannoppen's home last week, taking a laptop computer and a mobile phone into custody. There was no public explanation given for the search, but Het Laatste Nieuws reported Friday morning that Vannoppen tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition control this winter.

Vannoppen did not deny the search but said that he had no idea what they were looking for. "They took my mobile phone and my laptop. They also asked which vitamins I had in the house," he said.

The 29 year-old cyclo-crosser was dismissed by Team Sunweb-Projob last month and since then has ridden as an "elite without contract" for AVB, the second team of Fidea manager Hans Van Kasteren. The team also knew nothing about the purpose of the search, but "if suspected products were found, it is all over for Tom," said Van Kasteren.

"There have been rumours for a long time that Vannoppen suffers from depression," Lefevere told Sporza. "He used to be a training partner of Tom's, nothing more."

Quick Step said that it considered the matter to be Boonen's private business. "As a team we want to distance ourselves from this."

Boonen is currently in the Middle East to ride the Tour of Qatar, which starts on Sunday.

Greipel one of many at High Road

By Paul Verkuylen in Adelaide, Australia

Stage winner Andre Greipel (Team High Road)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Andre Greipel has only ridden five races so far this season, but his form has so far dictated that he will be a man to watch in the early part of the season when it comes down to a bunch gallop. Winning his first race of the season on Sunday, the Down Under Classic in Glenelg, he has gone on to take two stages of the Tour Down Under against some of the best sprinters in the world.

Team High Road have a number of already high-profile sprinters in their ranks, including Mark Cavendish, Gerald Ciolek and new signing Edvald Boasson Hagen, meaning they have a luxury problem of sorts. However, Greipel remains calm about the possible conflict of interest amongst these riders, expecting team management to take control of the situation.

"I think that there are a lot of races and I think that every sprinter can win races," he explained. "It is up to the sport directors to say who will get the support of the team."

The German is racing in Australia with the aim of gaining the confidence of the High Road management in order to lead the team in some of the big events on the calendar. "Here at the Tour Down Under I will try and win whatever possible. The best answer is to win races for me," he said.

But the German is not getting too carried away, showing that he is as calculated as he is strong at the moment. "It's still early in the season, I don't know how my shape will be in the next month," he added.

Next up on the German's itinerary is a stop in California where he will attend the team's training camp before heading back to Europe for Paris-Nice.

Rabobank up-and-down Down Under

By Paul Verkuylen in Adelaide, Australia

Their brash Aussie sprinter was king for a day, but then their quiet Aussie super-domestique was taken out in a hectic bunch gallop - such are the fortunes of Rabobank in Australia in the 2008 Tour Down Under.

On Wednesday, Rabobank's Graeme Brown became the second Australian race leader in as many days at the Tour Down Under, the first round of the 2008 ProTour. After placing second in stage two and third in the opening stage, he took the jersey away from then race leader Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) on a countback.

Brown only kept the jersey for a day, as he was curiously absent in the finale of stage three, although his Rabobank team-mate, Mathew Hayman, fought hard to come third. "I started sprinting too far back when we were coming into Victor Harbor, I was back in around 50th, I sprinted OK, I think I ended up around 19th." Brown explained that he was on Hayman's wheel at the time, but going through the last corners he messed up and ended up too far back.

Graeme Brown (Rabobank) escorts team mate Matthew Hayman over the finish line
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Hayman was once again in the thick of it in Friday's stage four, except he was the apparent victim of some rough-house riding and crashed heavily, 200 metres from the line, losing a lot of skin and breaking his collarbone. Immediately after the sprint, Brown turned and rode back to help him back on to his bike, and Hayman did indeed finish the stage, albeit in some pain and his TDU certainly over for 2008.

Sprinting is a dangerous game and in the past, Brown himself has been known for playing it fairly loose in the finale. But no longer. He explained that he has changed his style of sprinting over the past year, not using anger as a means of motivating himself as a sprint approaches. "I used to (use anger as motivation) and I used to get disqualified a lot," he explained. "Now I try to keep as calm as I can, a lot of people don't think that I am that calm when it comes to a finish but the last year I have tried to be really as relaxed as I can at the finish and I find it much more beneficial."

Although recognising the importance of securing the leader's Ochre jersey, Brown was still disappointed with his second place on the day he secured it. He clearly preferred a stage win over the jersey. "I am pretty happy; leading a ProTour event is a pretty big thing. I would have preferred to win, but this is not a bad consolation," Brown said after stepping down off the podium in his new jersey on Wednesday afternoon.

Podium kisses for Brown on Wednesday
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The rider he took it from, Mark Renshaw, hails from not only the same country, but also the same State and career paths. Both are accomplished track cyclists, as Brown secured two gold medals on the boards in Athens 2004 and Renshaw was a member of that same Olympics track squad. Brown said while he and Renshaw are good mates off the bike, on the bike they are rivals. "I don't care who I take the jersey from," Brown said. "As long as I have it is good. I don't really like losing that much, I know it is ProTour ... but losing really does suck."

There was slight mix-up during the presentation of the race leader last Wednesday, that simply highlighted the closeness of the first ProTour event for the year. The assembled media was presented with Renshaw as the leader of the Tour and interviews had already taken place, but then it was discovered that Renshaw's seventh place on the stage was not enough to retain the jersey. Brown, in fact, was the new leader of the tour on countback.

With three riders all on the same time, UCI regulations stipulate that if multiple riders all on the same aggregate time - as was the case on Wednesday - a countback is required to determine the leader, based on their finishing positions in the stages. Brown had been the most consistent thus far, and was given the lead.

Into tomorrow's stage, Brown was confident that he can ride well, even though the terrain is not his forte. "I have been climbing well this week so I think that it should go alright," he explained. "There is 20 kilometres from the top to the finish so it could all come back together, but it will be an all out effort for about eight minutes [the climb], so we will see."

Flahaut, the new French sprinting bomb

By Jean-François Quénet in Strathalbyn, Australia

Denis Flahaut laughing with reporters
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

The sun of South Australia makes all the riders happy but it's a natural attitude for Saunier Duval's new signing Denis Flahaut, who was laughing with reporters prior to the start of stage four in Manum. And he was still smiling after crossing the finishing line in Strathalbyn in fifth position. "I was following the train but I got boxed in and I couldn't pass through," the Frenchman said with a slight hint of regret, although he was mostly delighted to have sprinted with the fastest men at the end of an extremely hard day for him. He suffered a lot during the two first hours of racing, and was close to getting dropped off a few times.

Climbing is the crucial question for Flahaut. If he overcomes the hills, then he's a pure explosive sprinter. He couldn't find his place in the French amateur ranks where very few races actually finish in bunch sprints. Fortunately, in 2006 he was given a chance in Belgium when Ronny Assez from the Continental team Flanders hired him. There, the young Frenchman caught the attention of experienced directeur sportif Jos Braeckevelt who signed him at Jartazi, for which he won seven races last year including the Tour of the Brown Coal (Rund um die Braunkohle) in Germany and the Tour of Midden-Zealand in the Netherlands.

"I have beaten Alessandro Petacchi and Robbie McEwen in bunch sprints," he recalled. Ag2r knew about that but it was Mauro Gianetti from Saunier Duval who gave him his first pro contract at the highest level starting in 2008. "For us, it doesn't matter if he's already 29 years old," said his directeur sportif at the Tour Down Under, Joxean 'Matxin' Fernandez. "Only his sprinting abilities count. In Belgium, he's called 'the bomb', that means a lot. We needed French riders and sprinters, we have found one who is both of that. We know his weaknesses but we'll work on the qualities he's got."

Flahaut certainly appreciates the new-found support. "Never before I've been given a lead-out and now I have Spanish team-mates who bring me back up to the front of the bunch when I need it, without telling them to do it," he explained. "I still have to work a lot, but the race programme I was given will help me to improve."

The Northerner from Valenciennes on the course of Paris-Roubaix is scheduled for Paris-Nice, the Classics, the Dauphiné and the Tour de France. "I'm going to do races that I believed were impossible for me to take part in very few time ago," he said.

2008 Karpin-Galicia presented: younger than ever

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The 2008 Karpin-Galicia squad has been presented to the public on Thursday. The press event of the Pro-Continental team was held in the Plaza del Obradoiro, in Santiago de Compostela (La Coruña-Galicia), where the Santiago Apostol Cathedral is located.

Team director Alvaro Pino regretted the loss of the veteran Marcos Serrano, Eladio Jimenez and Isidro Nozal, but was delighted to announce the hiring of Russian Vladimir Isaychev, former Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Ibán Mayoz, former Saunier-Duval rider Alberto Fernandez, as well as the new professionals Alejandro Paleo, Delio Fernandez and Xesús Cobelo. Furthermore, the 2008 roster includes David Abal Diego, Gustavo Cesar Veloso, Gustavo Dominguez Lemos, David Garcia, David Herrero, Serafin Martinez, Ezequiel Mosquera, Juan Francisco Mourón, Carlos Baker, Serafin Rabuñal, Ramon Troncoso and Eduardo Vorganov.

The Karpin-Galicia director stated that his cycling team has begun to consolidate, and that the squad would soon travel to Mallorca and Malaysia with the aim to confirm that consolidation. Pino also pointed at the fifth place reached by the local Ezequiel Mosquera in the 2007 Vuelta a España. "The 2008 season will be difficult, but our aim is to look up and try to overcome the results reached in 2007. The Vuelta a España will be again our main objective," he said.

The team manager, Russian former soccer player Valery Karpín, also gave a short statement in which he called for support of the team, "because we must be united in order to give continuity to Karpin-Galicia". 2006 Tour de France winner, Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro, also attended the event.

Check out the team's complete roster in Cyclingnews' 2008 teams database.

Chain Reaction Challenge for children's charity

The second annual Chain Reaction Challenge will get under way in Australia, from Canberra to Melbourne from March 8-14, 2008. The six-day event will see 36 senior executives ride 1000km for children's charities.

The inaugural Chain Reaction Challenge was held in March 2007, where 32 executives raised $475,000 for the Starlight Children's Foundation and the Newborn Emergency Transport Service. The 2008 ride aims to raise in excess of $500,000 for the same charities.

Six corporate branded teams are in full training for this challenge and were recently joined by Tour de France rider and Herald Sun Tour winner Matt Wilson for a training camp at Mt Buller, which will be part of the 2008 itinerary.

The Chain Reaction Challenge welcomes donations to ensure that the 2008 event helps as many children as possible. If you would like to make a donation please go to the website and click on Sponsor a Rider.

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