First Edition Cycling News, January 28, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo
Rumpf: UCI announcement good news
By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf has labeled the UCI's announcement on Sunday that the Grand Tours and four, possibly five, monuments will form a new series of equal stature to the ProTour as "good news". The UCI had issued six European national federations with a threat to exclude the nation's riders from the World Championships if they sanctioned the events to run in their respective regions, however the parties have now come to an agreement on moving forward.
"What is important is that the UCI wants to work in good cooperation with all of the stakeholders in the sport," said Rumpf, who was in Australia observing the first non-European round of the ProTour.
While the proposed second calendar is yet to be presented to Grand Tour organizers – ASO, RCS and Unipublic – Rumpf believes it's a significant step forward. The meeting between the national federations was held at the World Cyclo-cross Championships in Treviso, where the federations came to an agreement in principal.
"In future we will have the ProTour on the one hand and races like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France on another calendar of the same level," he said. "I think that's good, you know, the ProTour will in the future be the calendar of the globalisation of innovation and we will have the monuments of sorts on another calendar. We have the support of the teams and I think that's very good news."
While the weekend's meeting in Italy marked a step in the right direction for the UCI ProTour versus Grand Tour organizers battle – the proposed answer is some way from becoming a reality. Rumpf expects that there could still be more talks regarding a future union of the two series.
"Well we will see for the future I guess, I guess there will be talks to re-unite the whole thing but it's too early to comment until we have some fresh decisions," he concluded.
High Road happy with season opening
By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Team High Road is delighted with the opening to its season at the Tour Down Under, with German sprinter Andre Greipel claiming four stage victories, the overall classification and subsequently the ProTour lead at the series opening Tour Down Under. After taking a surprise victory in the pre-tour Down Under Classic last Sunday evening, Greipel stormed to his first ProTour stage win on Wednesday, and then added another three stage wins and an overall ProTour round win to his palmares by week's end with the help of his team-mates.
The win means that Greipel will wear the white ProTour leader's jersey in the next round in Belgium in April. "It's more than I can say," said a stumped team director Alan Peiper. "Leader in the ProTour, first race [victory], Tour of Flanders first car, it can't be any better."
The German outfit, owned by American businessman Bob Stapleton, is hopeful its early season success will not only continue, but will also lead to the prompt signing of a new title sponsor. The outfit lost its title sponsor, T-Mobile, at the end of 2007 after the German telecommunications company chose to withdraw its involvement with the sport.
"I don't know [what impact the victories will have], those decisions aren't made over night," said Peiper. "But we won five stages in seven days and first ProTour stage race of the year, ProTour lead, we've got a presentation in a couple of weeks in California. It's all good."
Greipel added that he believes victory is the best way for the squad to prove its worth to potential new sponsors. "Yeah, it's the best way, it's the best answer to win races," he said. "I hope we find a sponsor soon."
Peiper's response to his men's success in Australia was reflected in the comments of an equally enthused Stapleton. "The team is blessed with extraordinary young talent," he said. "It's rewarding to see them grow, improve and taste success based on intense focus, teamwork and exceptional effort. Our young riders were exceptional last year and have the potential to do more this season."
While Greipel admitted he never thought overall victory possible, he was nonetheless delighted over his successful week in Australia. "My sport director told me before the race, ‘you don't have to think about the jersey, just try to do your own sprint and win'," said Greipel of the final day. "I'm really proud of it, my team is proud of me, everyone trusted me, I'm happy to be in Australia for the first time and win my first ProTour race."
Greipel upset over first sprint
While Sunday's final Tour Down Under stage saw Germany's Andre Greipel (Team High Road) cap-off a successful week in a stylish fashion, the 25 year-old was upset over the day's first sprint. With just seven seconds separating Greipel and Allan Davis (UniSA-Australian National Team), the 16 seconds of time bonuses on offer during the final stage were crucial to the event's outcome.
Greipel claimed that, despite agreeing to race fair, one of Davis' UniSA-Australian National Team team-mates unfairly blocked him in the day's first sprint, which was won by Davis. The German rider refused to name which rider he was referring to, however race footage shows that the third party was last year's Tour Down Under runner-up Karl Menzies.
"I was disappointed about the team member of Alan Davis, it was not fair," claimed Greipel. "We said before the race we wanted to have a fair race and that first sprint was not fair. After we decided to do our own lead-outs and this was the best chance to win the Tour Down Under.
"He did a lead out for Allan and he saw me on the back wheel and I wanted to sprint over to the finish line," explained Greipel. "He saw me and rolled before my bike and yeah, it was not fair."
Greipel was upset with the incident and had words with Davis before the next sprint, where a well organized Team High Road saw Greipel take out the bonus. Davis said after the event that he wasn't aware of any un-sportsmanlike behaviour by his team-mates.
"I didn't know what he was on about – I sprinted to my straight line and everything," said Davis. "I don't know what happened actually, so I just worried about the next sprint – didn't take in too much – I think he did too, he came out and did it on the next sprint."
While the outcome of the first sprint had little bearing on the general classification, with Greipel sealing his overall win by winning the 10 second stage win bonus, race commissaires evaluated the footage after the race. The event's chief commissaries told Cyclingnews after the race that he was perfectly happy with the first sprint and that no action could or would be taken – clearing Menzies of any wrongdoing.
Davis: I couldn't have done anything more
By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia
Allan Davis (UniSA-Australian National Team) was philosophical after coming within seconds of winning the 10th Anniversary Tour Down Under, and thanked his squad for their support throughout the close-fought race. Davis staged an epic battle with Team High Road's Andre Greipel, which saw the Australian lose out to the German revelation by 15 seconds.
"I couldn't have done anything more," said Davis at the finish. "I went out there and, as I said before, I gave it everything I've got. I felt quite good in the second sprint, I felt quite good enough to actually roll him so I was hoping everything was going well for the last sprint.
"He was too good again," added Davis. "But I crossed the line knowing I couldn't have done one more centimeter harder than what I did."
Davis' second place was a major accomplishment for the composite outfit, which was granted a last-minute start by the UCI. National outfits have never before been allowed to enter a ProTour event, however the UCI granted organizers an exemption to allow UniSA-Australian National Team to line up alongside the ProTour outfits.
"To the UniSA guys, everyone of them, I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's been an honour and a privilege riding with you boys this week," said Davis. "You've worked so well, Dave Sanders, the staff, the mechanics, we've been put together in a top of the class world cycling event and we nearly pulled it off.
"It's been so professional so I'd like the thank them guys from the bottom of my heart," he said.
Davis, who is currently out of contract following the disbanding of Discovery Channel at the end of 2007, also paid tribute to his event rival Greipel. The Queenslander believes the German, who has affectionately been labeled 'Andre the Giant', will be one of the world's top sprinters in years to come.
"It was great tactics from themselves and Alan Peiper; they deserve the victory – four stages plus the win in the classic," he said. "He's the in-form sprinter – not only here, but in the world. In years to come you can remember that name, that's for sure."
The former Discovery Channel rider also thanked Australia's state and national sports institutes for their contribution to developing cycling.
"I'd like to thank the state institutions since I have this opportunity – it shows the talent of young riders coming through," he said. "I'm moving on now, but the young guys coming through now, there's more of them and a better caliber out of everyone of them.
"A big thanks to the institutes, the AIS and the Tour Down Under for having such an event that can show the Australian breed of cyclists to the world," he added.
Davis also added that he and brother Scott would sit down and have a beer together, after the pair went head-to-head on the final stage with Scott riding for Team High Road team-mate Greipel. He explained that the pair have never been competitive with one another and hadn't placed any bets on who would win the epic decider.
Boom upstages cyclo-cross' elders
By Gregor Brown in Treviso
Lars Boom completed a rare triple crown in cyclo-cross racing by winning the elite men's World Championship race in Treviso on Sunday. The 22 year-old Dutchman added the gold medal to the 2003 Junior and 2007 Under-23 titles, and on top of the rainbow jersey he won in the Under-23 time trial at the Road World Championships this last fall in Stuttgart.
After one hour and five minutes of racing, the Dutch rider won by just six seconds over Czech Zdenek Stybar and Belgian 'cross star Sven Nys on a dry and fast course of La Bandie. "In 2007, I already made a goal for this, and I am very pleased," he reflected on his win.
Boom led a strong Dutch team in his first year in the elite ranks, and while the six-strong group of men in orange did not discuss the strategy during the race, Boom had reached an accord with his compatriots. "Richard [Groenendaal] and I spoke the night before the race, and said we would help each other if we could. He did what he could, and I am pleased with that."
Boom, who jettisoned both defending champion Erwin Vervecken and his own trade team-mate Nys on the final lap, clarified that he had no such arrangement with Nys. For his part, however, Nys considered the bond between the two when choosing his own final-lap tactic. "I didn't jump after Lars since he's a team-mate," Nys explained, "but I was on my limit anyway."
Now, as dual World Champion in both the time trial and cyclo-cross, Boom clearly has the talent to succeed on the road, but said he will focus on the 'cross discipline through next year's world championship which will be held in his home country. "I will stay focused until 2009, it is important for Dutch cyclo-cross. The Worlds in your own country is even more special. In the years after that I will still race cyclo-cross – I feel good in this environment."
He will race only a few more races after returning home from Treviso before focusing on on some road races. "I will rest after my last ride, and then I will see which [road] races I will do. The next cyclo-cross season is important, and that is what I will attend to in the next couple of years, even if I will do some races on the road."
Olympic dreams for Kupfernagel and Vos
By Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso
After taking the gold and silver Sunday, 33-year-old Kupfernagel and 20-year-old Vos will now take a break and then start building up towards the Olympic Games, not just in the road race and the time trial, but other cycling disciplines as well. While Kupfernagel is focusing on the time trial and a possible bid for a position on the German mountain bike team, Vos will give priority to the road race and potentially try her hand on the track
"I'm trying to get qualified for the points race on the track and although I like cyclo-cross a lot, it's hard to combine it with the track," Vos explained of her Olympic ambitions.
During the track World Cup meeting in Beijing, back in December, Vos won both the scratch and the points race; however, her most recent appearance in the Los Angeles World Cup last week didn't go as well. The Dutch woman might have had her thoughts on Treviso already, as she had ridden the cyclo-cross national championships shortly before the track World Cup in the USA.
After the world championships in Italy, the young Dutch woman compared the mud of Treviso with the wood of the track. "Treviso was a good course for me, although a track is not quite as slippery as the mud in Treviso," Vos joked.
Kupfernagel from her part is still debating if she should have a go for the mountain bike race. "I heard it would be a cyclo-cross-like course and we're going to take a look at it ourselves soon," Kupfernagel commented.
The German ran into an old acquaintance while accepting her gold medal. "Back in the nineties, the national coach Jan Ramsauer forced me into the national training camps although I knew I didn't need such a preparation. I cancelled my participation and despite winning every race in Germany I wasn't selected for the world championships. Today he happened to be the man who handed me the golden medal," Kupfernagel sighed. "I bet he didn't even remember what happened in the past," said Kupfernagel's coach Mike Kluge.
New 'cross World Cup calendar puts accent on France and Italy
By Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso
The UCI World Cup released the calendar for the 2008-2009 cyclo-cross season this weekend, detailing some changes which favour this year's 'cross World Championships host country of Italy. The Milan round will now become the finale of the series, while France was granted an additional event. The Netherlands lost an event, but is hosting the world championships, while the expected absence of an American World Cup was confirmed.
The first five World Cup events are to remain the same, with Kalmthout (Belgium) opening the season on October 19. Together with Tabor (Czech Republic), Pijnacker (Netherlands), Koksijde (Belgium) and Igorre (Spain) the races comprise the first half of the calendar.
Two weeks after Igorre there will be the first French World Cup in Nommay (France), which sat out hosting an event this year, while Liévin, which organized a World Cup this season, will now be hosting the European Championships. Liévin is also one of the four candidates to host the 2012 world championships, together with Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
After Nommay – the traditional holiday round in Hofstade precedes a new World Cup event in Roubaix (France) which will take place on and around the legendary track which hosts the finish of Paris-Roubaix. The World Cup will wrap up in Milan despite the elite men's race there having been cancelled in the 2007-2008 season. One week later Hoogerheide (Netherlands) will host the world championships.
UCI cyclo-cross coordinator Peter Van Den Abeele expounded on the decisions of the cycling federation to favour the Italian and French organizations. "We granted the finale to Italy because it is better for the sport. They couldn't organize the elite men's event last year, but there is more in 'cross than elite races. It is better to have something than nothing at all," Van Den Abeele said.
"What Roubaix concerns; if you can organize a ProTour event, then it shouldn't be a problem to host a World Cup race. The organizers listened to our advice and changed what we wanted to change. Veterans like Erwin Vervecken and Richard Groenendaal reported on what they saw, and we'll bring over our comments to the organizers," the former Belgian champion said to Cyclingnews.
When asked about a possible American World Cup event, the UCI-coordinator played down the expectations. "Now it's up to them to come with guarantees, and if we didn't hear from them before March, then there will be no World Cup. Actually, as it is now they are still a C2 race since every race remained on their same level in the USA. Next year the US organizers will have to live up to the same demands as we have for the European organizers, so I expect there will be a lot of changes there."
Simms "happy" with seventh spot
By Gregor Brown in Treviso
Canadian Wendy Simms' hard preparation for the World Championships paid dividends with a seventh place result on Sunday in Italy, up five spots from here finish three years ago in St. Wendel, Germany. The three-time Canadian Cyclo-cross champion arrived in Europe on December 18, and felt that all her training and racing to prepare for the day's event in Treviso was worthwhile.
The 35 year-old started the race strong and then managed her resources. "I had a good start, I was in the lead for a bit," commented Simms from Treviso, where the snowcapped Alps provided a majestic backdrop to the day's racing.
"You fade and it always feels like crap," she continued. At one point Simms looked in contention for a podium spot. "Of course I am disappointed, but those are pretty lofty goals with everyone running so strong," she noted on the medal hunt. "I went for it, but I could not stick with Hanka [Kupfernagel] and the rest so I had to let off and recuperate before coming back strong. ... I was there in the front, I put the hammer down and tried, but I was not strong enough to hold it.
Simms was pleased with the progress she's made this season. "It is a big jump from the last couple of years. Seventh definitely makes me happy. It is better than all my others."
The French team put in a particularly good performance, Simms said, taking third through fifth places, and made the racing hard. "The French were so strong in the long mud sections. I would try to ride steady and they would just attack. There were just like two or three of them – one after another. I was fading a bit on the hills but then I would do really well on the mud sections, where I kept it steady. It was really on this side [right after the start finish] where I had to work harder."
Simms will return to Vancouver Island for a slight vacation before starting the mountain bike season. "I get a bit of a break and then I roll right onto mountain bike. I will eat lots a junk, go skiing and snow boarding – playing at home – then get back on the mountain bike."
For more on Simms read Gaining experience on European ground.
Niedersachsen Rundfahrt cancelled
The Niedersachsen Rundfahrt will not be held in 2008, it was announced Sunday afternoon, but the organizers are already making plans for some kind of a race in 2009. The Verein Internationale Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt said that after a one year break it definitely hoped to hold a race again the next year, but on a smaller scale - perhaps a 2.2 race (instead of the former 2.1) or an under-23 race.
"We regret this development very much," said race director Otto Pätzold. "But despite intensive work and lots of discussions with sponsors, stage start and finish towns, and political representatives the last few weeks, we have been unable to come up with the missing 100,000 Euros that we need."
The race had been scheduled to run from April 23 - 27, and was the oldest German stage race. Team Milram's Alessandro Petacchi has dominated the race in recent years, winning three stages and the overall title in 2007, and taking all five stages on his way to the overall victory the year before.
Rabobank not happy Down Under
Team Rabobank went into the Tour Down Under with high hopes and it looked they would come true when sprinter Graeme Brown took over the leader's jersey after the second stage. But at the end of the sixth and final stage, the Dutch team could look back to only one day in the jersey, one second place finish and three thirds, plus two serious injuries.
Mathew Haymen left with a broken collarbone after being taken out by Milram's Elia Rigotto in the end sprint of the fourth stage. Bram de Groot crashed in the fifth stage, and managed to cross the finish line, but a possible broken right hand kept him from starting the final stage.
According to the team's website, rabobank.nl, the tour doctor's examination did not find a fracture, but he continued to have strong pain. Directeur Sportif Erik Dekker said, "We are having x-rays taken before we leave on Monday. It did not look serious at first but his hand remains swollen and sore. I am not a medical expert, but it is a little alarming."
Brown ended the final stage in third place, and Dekker noted that with four podium places, "you cannot label it a failed tour. But we are still a little disappointed that we did not win a stage, because that is what we came for. On top of that, we have lost two important people to fractures for some time. That is also a dark cloud."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)