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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 2, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Gerrans targeting small break-aways

By Paul Verkuylen

Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

With just three days remaining before the start of the Tour de France in Brest, Australia's Simon Gerrans is looking forward to his fourth start at the French Grand Tour. Gerrans is just one of an impressive nine Australians taking part in this year's event, with compatriots including team-mate Mark Renshaw and overall favourite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto).

"I am really looking forward to the start," Gerrans told Cyclingnews. "Each year, I feel stronger."

After a somewhat disappointing Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, the 28 year-old went to the Route du Sud with the aim of posting some strong results to justify his place on the Crédit Agricole Tour team. A win in the first stage show Gerrans' form was coming into bloom at the right time.

"I was hoping to do better at the Dauphiné, but in the end I needed it to improve my condition," said Gerrans. "It set me up well for Sud where I won the first stage and rode solidly in the mountains, eventually finishing fourth.

"The pressure was on for results, but it might actually work out in my favour," he added. "My form may be better during the Tour."

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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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Crédit Agricole will be placing its hopes on Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd, who will be aiming for his second green jersey. While Gerrans will ride for Hushovd, he is hoping that an opportunity will present itself for a stage win of his own.

"The first week will be all about Thor, after that there may be an opportunity for a break during the transfer stages," he said. "I hope to land in the right break-away. I haven't studied the route in too much depth yet, as it wouldn't really change my preparation anyway. It just needs to all come together on the day."

Always the team player, Gerrans is willing to sacrifice his own chances of a stage should Hushovd be in a position to win the green jersey. "The real objective is to have Thor in green," said Gerrans. "But there are not many situations where it's not a good idea to have a rider in a break, even if it is just to take points away from the other sprinter."

With Hushovd aiming for the green jersey and the rest of the team more opportunist rather than general classification riders, Gerrans' pick for the overall is Evans. The Silence-Lotto rider finished runner-up at last year's Tour and is widely touted as the man to beat in this year's three-week race.

"I think Cadel will win," he said. "I have ridden in each Tour that Cadel has ridden and each year he has stepped up. His progression has been gradual and this year he will hopefully be standing on the top step.

"His main challengers will come from Denis Menchov," he added. "Rabobank show time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with. Also [Alejandro] Valverde, if he is going as well as recently, he will be very hard to beat."

Dean wants Tour stage wins for Garmin

Julian Dean starts to wind up…
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

New Zealand's Julian Dean is hoping to claim Garmin Chipotle - H30's first Tour de France stage victory this month, and believes the squad has an advantage over its rivals. Dean, the only Kiwi in this year's event, believes his squad won't draw the attention of rival outfits at its Tour debut as it doesn't have a true general classification contender.

"We don't have a serious contender for general classification in our team," admitted Dean. "Our aim is to gain a stage win either through myself on one of the sprint stages or with one of our riders in a breakaway. Without a general classification contender, we won't be targeted by the major teams.

"It means we can just go out there and give it everything," he added. "It's important that we are seen to be active and aggressive throughout, but we don't have the same constraints [as other riders]."

While the American Professional Continental squad has general classification hopes with Christian Vande Velde and Trent Lowe, however it will struggle in its Tour debut to match the likes of Silence-Lotto and Caisse d'Epargne.

This year's event will be Dean's fourth Tour and he will again wear the New Zealand colours as national champion. Dean, who has recovered from a crash at May's Giro d'Italia, and his wife recently had a second boy.

"I've definitely had my ups and downs in the build-up for the Tour," he said. "The crash in the Giro was quite serious but that tour was a key part of my prep for the Tour so I just had to knuckle down and keep riding sore. It was difficult, but that's professional cycling."

Having previously ridden as a helper at Crédit Agricole, this year Dean will be the main man. His move to the Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin Chipotle - H30 squad means Dean will be given the chance to claim the sprint stage victories.

"The heat will go on from the first day because there will be jerseys at stake so it will be quite different," said Dean. "There's not the usual early flat stage for sprinters and the first time trial is on day five."

Dean may have to wait for day three to get a reasonably flat stage for the sprinters to stretch their legs. "The second day is an opportunity also but day three definitely although both are a bit lumpy," he said.

Gerolsteiner Tour roster: Zaugg out, Haussler in

Oliver Zaugg will not be able to ride the Tour de France, team Gerolsteiner has announced, and his place will be taken by Heinrich Haussler. Swiss rider Zaugg came down with a virus during the Tour de Suisse, which caused him to drop out in the final days. The problem settled in his lungs.

"Unfortunately, the examinations on Monday showed that the infection is not fully cured," said team director Christian Henn. "Olli of course followed the urgent recommendation of the team doctor and his own doctor not to take any risks and to pass up the Tour de France."

Haussler had previously expressed his extreme disappointment at not being nominated for the Tour. It will be the Australian-born German's second Tour de France start, having contested last year's event. Haussler has also contested Spain's Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, on two occasions in 2005 and 2006.

Quick Step drops Van Impe for Tour

Kevin Van Impe
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Belgian super team Quick Step has changed its Tour de France line-up at the eleventh hour. Kevin Van Impe, who was to make his Tour debut this weekend, has been removed from the squad while Italian Mauro Facci has been drafted into the squad as his replacement.

"It was a technical decision," sports director Wilfried Peeters told Sporza. "Facci has been really impressive in recent times.

"This is unfortunate for Kevin, but the season is still long and I am sure that he will still show us what he is capable of," he added.

This decision brings the number of Belgians down from 13 to 12. Quick Step has Belgians Stijn Devolder, Sébastien Rosseler, Gert Steegmans and Jurgen Van de Walle, while Silence-Lotto has Mario Aerts, Christophe Brandt, Leif Hoste, Wim Vansevenant and Johan Van Summeren. Française des Jeux has Philippe Gilbert, Cofidis Maxime Monfort and Liquigas Frederik Willems.

Lucky escape for Volksbank sprinters

Team Volksbank's Olaf Pollack and Andre Korff had a narrow escape on Monday when they were hit by a car while training in Badenweiler, Germany, near Freiburg. Despite both bikes being completely wrecked, neither rider was injured in the accident.

"We came away with only a scare – it could have been a lot worse," Pollack told DPA. "But both bikes are totally destroyed."

The two German sprinters for the Austrian Professional team are training for the Österreich Rundfahrt. Pollack will also ride on the track in this August's Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Plug pulled on Colorado stage race

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The Vail Valley Foundation, promoters of the new Colorado Stage Race, announced Tuesday that the race will not happen for 2008. The Foundation's president Ceil Folz told Cyclingnews that the main reason was a lack of sponsors available for a new race in a down economy.

This is the third time a race here has been planned and cancelled in the last five years. Not directly related, a similar mountain bike event was planned and subsequently cancelled for 2008, likely leaving fans in Colorado to wonder why their cycling-saturated state cannot seem to have a major event.

"I don't want this to become a death knell for cycling, but it's a tough economy," Folz added. "And for a new event it's even more difficult to come up with new money. I think corporations are supportive of their current sponsorships and are trying to honour those."

Medalist Sports, promoters of races such as the Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri, were part of the Colorado race, but only in a logistics capacity and not part of securing sponsorship dollars. "We brought them on to help us learn the sport," said Folz. "The foundation has its own marketing, we do that internally."

"For us it really was the size and scope being very large," Folz added. "Had we been willing or able to scale it down to less than what we would have been happy put it on, but we have a certain standard." A statement released by the VVF indicated the budget size for the race was $2 million USD.

Folz said that the VVF is committed to having the event, though could not say when that will actually happen. "We'll regroup, but whether we'll be back in 2009 or 2010, we've communicated to both the UCI and USA Cycling our intent to have the race," he said.

Superweek races no longer in question

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Andy Crater (Wheel & Sprocket) at last year's event
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

The 40th anniversary of the longest-running multi-category cycling event in the USA was in question in many minds until recently, with USA Cycling permits on hold for various reasons, including two lawsuits and lack of payment. As well one race was listed as TBA until last week. However, enough of the issues seem to have been put to rest, as well as the announcement of the last new race to be held in Richton Park outside Chicago, for the event to go ahead.

A lot of the issues stem from financial areas. USA Cycling said it had not been paid for the 2007 race series as of mid-June, despite the race collecting pre-registration fees from racers for this year. Larry Martin, the North-Central Regional Coordinator for USAC, told Cyclingnews that the hold on issuing permits was based on the payment for 2007.

"They hadn't paid us for last year and we were waiting," he said. "We were waiting for them to submit the permits, and the permits were filed [recently.]"

Co-owners of the race series, brothers Michael and Andy Garrison, said that the lack of payment was a result of miscommunication between the USAC officials and them. "The chief had not sent in the paperwork from last year and once we found out we paid them immediately," said Michael Garrison.

"The chief referee had asked us for payment right after the race," said Andy Garrison. "We said we would issue a check once everything is in the account. For some reason it fell through the cracks and she never talked to us again. She never sent the paperwork in. I called her numerous times and she eventually told me I could go online and do it. I tried and then called numerous times and Beth [Vialpando (USA Cycling Membership Coordinator)] said we didn't have the paperwork from the chief referee."

That issue aside, the race is also currently involved with two separate lawsuits – another nonpayment claim made by a local county and a wrongful death case from three years ago when a rider collided with a truck during the Alpine Valley road race. While the wrongful death case is being settled between the various insurance companies, and not affecting the series, the lawsuit by Walworth Country in Wisconsin means one less road race for 2008 – bringing the total amount of road races down to just two out of seventeen total races.

According to Michael Cotter, deputy corporation counsel of Walworth County, the dispute is over a bill of around $4,000 USD for sheriff's deputies to marshal the MGA Proving Grounds road race course.

"As of a year ago [the race] had not paid for 2006 and we said we were going to cancel the race in 2007," said Cotter. "[Michael Garrison] asked us not to cancel it since he had all these riders coming from all over the world that had booked travel. We said we wanted a bond of $10,000 for 2007. He said he couldn't do it but he said 'I will pay you for 2006 and then pay you for 2007 by August'. Naively I agreed with him because I felt badly for the riders who had booked travel to come to the race.

"He did pay for 2006 immediately before the 2007 event because we had an agreement that if he did not cut the check we would pull the event," he added. "He agreed and so we had deputies out there for 2007. We sent him an invoice in July for a little more than $4,000 and never heard from him. We called him numerous times and threatened the lawsuit, and still heard nothing. We filed the lawsuit and now he is fighting it."

Andy Garrison responded by saying the county had changed their policies at the eleventh hour due to complaints from local citizens about non-police personnel directing traffic. "Walworth told us at the last minute that we needed deputies at every single intersection," he said. "The captain suggested we use his own private security – we said we would use ours, but he said we couldn't and essentially held a gun to our head. So we disputed the bill."

Cotter said that this issue is only with Superweek and that the county enjoys working with a number of bike races throughout the year. "We have other bike races in the county and they have been great to work with," he said. "They meet with our law enforcement folks and it's never a problem. They provide all the insurance, pay their bills, meet ahead of time and make sure everything works perfect. I never should have let him get off without a bond, it's not that I cared about him but cared about the people coming in for the event."

Since the race is not attempting to have the road race at MGA, the series will continue. In its place are a number of new criteriums. According to Andy Garrison, one of the intents was to link the first six races together in the Chicago area to reduce the driving burden, particularly in light of high fuel prices.

Another highlight of the race is the infamous Downer Avenue bike race, which is considered by many professionals to be a top criterium win. In previous years the non-pro categories raced a road course near the lakefront. But with that roadway under construction, the organizers decided to have an entire day of racing on the Downer Avenue.

"There is going to be an all-Belgian beer fest. that day, so we decided Downer Avenue will be an all-category race," he said.

ARC launches Aussie domestic squad

Members of the ARC domestic squad:
Photo ©: ARC
(Click for larger image)

Australian Road Cycling has launched a new Australian domestic squad which has big aspirations. ARC director Benjamin Fitzmaurice plans on registering the outfit as a Continental squad for 2009, with the aim of forming the base for a ProTour outfit further down the track.

"The squad is the first team to be released by Australian Road Cycling and is the first phase of its cycling program and evolution," said Fitzmaurice.

The team's launch was attended by some high-profile guests, including Australian sports minister Kate Ellis and Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredricks. The squad also had some words of support from Slipstream Sports CEO Doug Ellis, who Cyclingnews revealed as the secret backer behind the Jonathan Vaughters-run Professional Continental squad in 2006.

"We are thrilled to see the progress our friends at Australian Road Cycling have made with their program," said Ellis. "At Slipstream Sports we understand the value of establishing a solid and ethical base for a young cycling program. Today ARC is putting just such a base in place. We look forward to watching their success and welcome the opportunity to partner with them in the future."

ARC announced the seven riders which will make up its domestic squad this year ahead of its planned graduation to a continental team in 2009. Australian Institute of Sport head coach Shayne Bannan spoke enthusiastically of the team's formation and its ambitions for the future.

"An Australian professional cycling team will be the next big thing in sport," said Bannan. "ARC has the organisation and structure to make the first Australian pro team a reality. I congratulate ARC on the launch of the ARC Domestic Squad. I am sure that this will be the first phase of a successful and sustainable cycling program."

Like Ellis' Slipstream squad, ARC's outfit is dedicated to ensuring it has a credible and clean approach to racing. With this in mind it has become the only sporting team in the world with its own ethics committee, which will be chaired by former Supreme Court Justice, Bill Gillard QC.

Australian Road Cycling Domestic Squad riders: Andrew Stalder, Calvin Watson, Nick Aitken, Stuart Smith, Rick Sanders, Peter Johnstone and Patrick Lane.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by ARC

McMurdo suspended for steroid use

Australian domestic cyclist Hilton McMurdo has been handed a two-year sanction by Cycling Australia (CA) for his use of anabolic steroids. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) yesterday acknowledged CA's decision to sanction McMurdo for the doping violation.

"This doping offence was detected as a direct result of ASADA's expanded application of sophisticated isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) technology to detect synthetic testosterone," ASADA Chairman Richard Ings said.

McMurdo tested positive for the synthetic anabolic steroid testosterone during an in-competition sample collected at the Cycling National Roads Series Tour de Perth event, held in Western Australia on May 26, 2007. McMurdo, who waived his right to a hearing, has had all results between 26 May and November 18, 2007 disqualified – including his 3000 metre individual pursuit gold medal won at the 2007 UCI World Track Cycling Masters Championships.

The sanction, which was backdated to the day the athlete last competed, means McMurdo will not be eligible to compete until November 18, 2009.

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