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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, July 4, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Hushovd: Gunning for another green

Norwegian Thor Hushovd, 30, takes his fifth career win in the Tour de France
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

A winner of the points competition in the Tour de France three years ago, Thor Hushovd appears on top of the list of the favourites for the green jersey this year. But he told Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet that the competition between the sprinters shouldn't be underestimated.

Norwegian pride in the history of cycling got a huge boost when Thor Hushovd won the stage to Quimper in 2004 with the jersey of national champion on his shoulders. The then 26 year-old stormed to the line and celebrated with his hands on the red and blue cross jersey.

Four years on from that epic victory, Hushovd flew from his home base in Switzerland to contest the national championship in Bergen. However he never made it to the start in the Hanseatic town on the west coast of the North Sea. "The first morning I woke up at home in Grimstad, I felt tired and I had a cold," he explained with regret. "I was in good form and very lean, that's probably why I was so susceptible to illness. So I decided it was a better choice not to compete at the nationals and preserve my health and my chances for the Tour de France."

He flew back to Switzerland on Sunday morning, June 29, while hearing the news that in Bergen CSC rider Kurt-Asle Arvesen won the national title once again. "The weather was crazy," Hushovd explained. "It was a very hard course and the race became harder and harder, to such a point that only eight riders finished without being lapped. When I heard about the conditions of racing up there, I had no regret that I missed it."

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He had to cancel a press conference scheduled with Norwegian media in Bergen and opted for a telephone conference in which he repeated that his goal for this year's Tour de France is to get the points leader's maillot vert again. He responded to a different variation of the same question he often hears; this time regarding the absence of sprint rival Daniele Bennati, who joined Tom Boonen – albeit for different reasons – in the ranks of the non starters.

"I don't think the absence of riders like Boonen and Bennati increases my chances of winning the green jersey," Hushovd explained. "I prefer to compete against the best riders.

Click here to read the full feature.

Columbia dreams of two stages and a Top 5 in Paris

By Brecht Decaluwé in Brest

Team Columbia presented
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

On Friday morning, the new Columbia team was presented to the press in Brest where the riders are gathering for the Tour de France start tomorrow. The American team's presentation was led by TV commentator Phill Liggett and he introduced Bob Stapleton as the man who rescued the team after it was almost went up the spout after the Telekom doping problems. The team's owner pointed out that he was most happy about the way the team has been successful in recent times.

"We brought together 17 different nationalities and it works out that they get along very well together. With 15 riders being 25 or younger, we have a very young squad as well," Stapleton said. The multimillionaire then introduced his new partner, Christian Ferrell from Columbia, the sports clothing company. He pointed out why Columbia opted for cycling and the High Road team to start their first sport sponsorship engagement.

"We choose them because it is a young international team, they have been very successful overall and they also still have a strong potential. Also, the fairness in the team convinced us to work with this team," Ferrell said. There were three other reasons why Columbia decided to get into the sport, Ferrell explained. "A recent study in the US showed that 65 percent of cyclists are also doing other sports like hiking, running and skiing. We have the technology that protects riders – like the omnishade UV protection – which is part of the new team kit. And also the exposure, since the Tour de France is the third biggest sporting event after the Olympic Games and the World Cup soccer."

Presenter Phill Liggett then introduced the nine Columbia riders for the Tour de France. In this line-up, there are two clear team leaders, being Kim Kirchen for the general classification and Mark Cavendish for the sprints. Bernard Eisel, Gerald Ciolek, Markus Burghardt, Adam Hansen, Lövkvist and Siutsou are the guys who stand beside them, and of course there is George Hincapie as the team captain.

USA's George Hincapie (Columbia) looks ready
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

The American will start in his 13th Tour on Saturday which gets him into the Top 10 of all time. "I'd love to win another stage," Hincapie said to Cyclingnews. "I hope the form is good enough for that. There's not really a strong team to control the race, so especially in the mountainous stages there's a chance."

The team's sports manager Rolf Aldag pointed out that he dreamed of finishing in Paris with two stage wins and a Top 5 in the general classification for his team. Look out for the blue Columbia riders, and forget about the white kits they used to wear recently. The new team kit consists of a blue shirt with black shorts of which Kim Kirchen said, "everybody looks awesome."


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Brecht Decaluwé/

Anderson on Evans: "I'm backing him"

By Gerard Knapp

Australian cyclist Phil Anderson
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

The Australian who's likely to lose his mantle as the country's greatest living road cyclist – should Cadel Evans move one step up the podium when the Tour de France finishes in Paris on July 27 – has given his total support to the Silence-Lotto rider. Speaking in Sydney at the launch of the Malvern Star 'Legend' series of bicycles, Phil Anderson said of Evans, "I think he can win it... well, I'm backing him.

"He's going to have some very stiff competition, and he won't want to take the lead in the first few days. It's probably best to wait until the final week," he said.

Anderson predicted the individual time trial on stage four will be the first real test, and then stage six from Aigurande to Super-Besse, a 195.5km stage that includes two serious climbs, could cause the first real shake-out of the Tour.

"That stage is really different to other years," said the 13-time rider of the Tour. He said to have a mountain-top finish in the first week – when it's previously been the domain of the sprinters – could really do some damage as it comes relatively early in the race when no riders have really had a chance to test their climbing legs and find their rhythm in the smaller gears.

"All the major contenders will have to stay within striking distance of each other," he said, "because if they don't, it will really put them in a difficult position."

The other decisive stage that could blow the race apart is stage 17on Wednesday, July 23, the 210.5 km trundle from Embrun to L'Alpe d'Huez, taking in the Galibier, the Col du Croix de Fer and finally the 21 hairpin-turn monster up to the ski resort of L'Alpe d'Huez. Anderson predicted the mountain top finish on what is the final serious climbing stage of the 2008 Tour will be decisive.

Evans had as his trump card is his ability against the clock. "I was really surprised by his time-trialling last year (in the Tour)," Anderson said, "and who knows, it could also come down to the final TT this year, too."

Indeed, the whole peloton will be trying to deliver the "rhythm" that Tour Director Christian Prudhomme was after when designing the 2008 parcours. "We wanted a first week of racing with much more rhythm," Prudhomme explained at the launch last November. "With no prologue, an uphill finish that will suit different types of sprinters at the end of stage one, with a short time trial on stage four and the first mountain [Super-Besse] only 48 hours later, we have decided to change the scenario."

(Look for an upcoming feature on the launch of the new Malvern Star 'Legend Series' of bicycles coming soon on Cyclingnews.)

McEwen vs. Cavendish: great battles ahead

Mark Cavendish (Columbia): the next Robbie McEwen?
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

The sprint finishes at the upcoming Tour de France will, as ever, be highly contested. The last kilometres to the line have always been dramatic moments when the peloton arrived groupé at the Grand Tour, but this year it seems spectators may see more chaotic finishes than in the past, as big lead-out trains like the ones for Alessandro Petacchi, Tom Boonen or Daniele Bennati will be missing. Instead, it would seem fast and sneaky men like Robbie McEwen and Mark Cavendish could have an advantage as both are known for their suppleness in hopping from one wheel to the next until their final effort to the finish line.

"Mark reminds me of myself," said the Davitamon-Lotto sprint veteran McEwen about his younger rival according to Sportwereld. "There is one difference between us and the other sprinters: We see the holes, and the rest sees the other riders. You need some nerve to go for the holes... but most riders are fair enough to let the [gap] open."

The Australian continued to praise the Columbia rider, while at the same time promising a hardliner's fight for the stage wins. "Cavendish is not the man of the future, he is already the man of the present," he said. "When you see how he let his team-mate Greipel win at the Giro... classy. But I've still got it in me, too. In the smaller races, I do avoid the dangers. But in July, I don't think of my life anymore, my family or any injuries. I put my body at risk for one stage victory at the Tour."

Cavendish, meanwhile, didn't think he could do without any help at all in the sprint finales, and admitted the sprint finishes made him nervous. "Without a team, you never win in the Tour," he said. "I need at least one man at my service. The stage finishes are so hectic. I may be the fastest man in the last 200 metres, but I still have to get there in the first place. I got a lesson last year in the first week of the Tour. In Canterbury, I was so mad that I started to cry."

Still, the young Columbia rider has come a long way since last year. "The two sprint victories in the Giro had quite an effect," he continued. "I feel that they have respect for me at last. Now, they're fighting for my wheel – it's ironic!"

Team CSC publishes anti-doping program results

For the second time in its history, Team CSC-Saxo Bank has made public the results from their anti-doping program, which is carried out in cooperation with Rasmus Damsgaard and Bispebjerg University Hospital.

Since the launch of the program in December 2006 until April 2008, a total of 941 anti-doping tests have been collected and analysed. All tests conducted under the WADA code have been declared negative. 80 percent of the tests were collected out-of-competition, with 9 and 11 percent collected pre- and in-competition, respectively.

The team's riders underwent a total of 441 urine tests for steroids (223) and EPO (218), as well as 450 blood screenings. Three blood screenings were exceeding the limits of either haemoglobin or reticulocytes but could be fully explained by physiological reasons i.e. pre-season haemo-concentrations and medical conditions. In addition, 38 tests for homologous blood transfusions were conducted and nine samples for Human Growth hormone were stored for later analyses.

"With the combination of very specific blood profiles based on unannounced tests throughout the entire year and the hundreds of follow-up tests, we have the most extensive and thorough anti-doping program in existence," commented Rasmus Damsgaard, who is responsible for the program at Bispebjerg University Hospital. "We have launched an extremely ambitious project and in reality all the riders at Team CSC-Saxo Bank have had a valid Biological Passport for the last year. In this way the team and its riders have played a very important part in paving the way for the future fight against doping."

Also see: An interview with Rasmus Damsgaard, January 7, 2008.

Riis reinstated as Tour winner

Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The Tour de France organisers have apparently reinstated the Team CSC-Saxo Bank director Bjarne Riis as the official winner of the 1996 Tour de France, after having stricken his name from the books last year.

"We cannot rewrite history. Therefore we recognise Bjarne Riis as the winner of the 1996 Tour de France. But with an asterisk," said Philippe Sudres, media director for the Tour de France to Danish magazine Politiken. The Dane once more will be listed in the official media guide to the cycling classic, after his name and picture had been previously removed.

There was significant confusion after his doping confession in May 2007, and as part of the backlash, Riis was unwelcome at last year's edition of the Tour. "Last year, we removed Riis from the guide because it was so close to the start when he stood up and admitted that he had doped in connection with his victory in the Tour de France," added Sudres.

"Now he appears again in his earlier spot, but not exactly the same as the other winners. Immediately under his name we have written that he has admitted to doping during the Tour in 1996, but that the admission came so late, that according to the rules it cannot influence the result. Thus, on these grounds we have reinstated him as winner.

Riis was never stripped off his title officially by the International Cycling Union, as a ten-year period of limitation set by UCI rules had passed when the Dane made his confession.

"So maybe I have won after all," reacted Riis with a wry tone over the telephone to the magazine. "I have heard nothing about the organisers changing their minds, and I have in no way requested anything in this regard. I think I had a reasonable discussion with the French after last year's painful situation, but it had nothing to do with the question at hand. Of course I am happy, but now my attention is focused now supporting my team as best I can."

Tour Down Under 2009 "toughest yet"

By Khairunnisa Schebella in Adelaide

Oppy, the Tour Down Under mascot, will ride again next year
Photo ©: Rachel Burke
(Click for larger image)

Tour Down Under Race director Mike Turtur announced today at the launch of the 11th edition of the race, that 2009 will be toughest yet for riders. South Australian Premier Mike Rann launched the race to the public at the award-winning Hawke Centre at the University of South Australia.

After a race stacked with bunch finishes in 2008, riders were consulted on how to make the race better. They requested more climbs – and they got what they asked for. Competitors will now tackle extra King of the Mountain finishes on three race days and will have to climb Willunga Hill, south of Adelaide, twice during the popular beach side stage five. This in itself could change the 804km race outcome.

Old favourite climbs such as Menglers and Checkers will be revisited as well as Gould Creek, Fox Creek Road and Wickam Hills Road inland from McLaren Flat. The magnificent ocean views from Crows Nest Road, Port Elliot will also give riders with climbing legs plenty to be happy about.

"I think it's the hardest race on paper but it's also still considering and making sure that you don't go over the top for January and remembering that we're the first race of the season, so the balance in terms of distance, terrain and difficulty is always a consideration," Turtur said.

The Adelaide suburbs of Norwood and Unley are back on route, as are 20 laps up Montefiore Hill in the city for the final street circuit on Sunday, January 25. The East End Classic, to kick the whole event off on the Sunday before, will lose the U-turn to keep the race at high speed and riders will traverse the Rymill Park circuit 30 times.

New to the schedule in 2009 is another eastern suburbs start from the Burnside Shopping Centre as well as a start at Snapper Point, Aldinga. This allows for an extra 20kms to the Willunga stage.

Mawson Lakes will see a stage finish, whilst the race returns to Victor Harbor, Angaston and Willunga for finishes on stages three, four and five respectively. Also in reverse next year will be the Hahndorf to Sterling stage two with the riders having to face the arduous climb into Sterling three times.

This also means that only two stages have relatively long distances for the riders to return to the hotel post race, which will provide for better recovery conditions.

All the familiar side events are happening with the Skoda Breakaway Series including the Mutual Community Challenge Tour and the Mini Tour for Kids. The Legends dinner will be held at the Convention Centre on the River Torrens allowing for easy walking or tram catching back to the Adelaide Hilton Hotel. Race organisers will announce shortly who will be the special guest legends for 2009.

"I think there's enough there for everyone," added Turtur. "Going back to locations like Norwood I think is great for the race, and a finish at Mawson Lakes is going to be terrific and popular. Then, we have a suburban start at Burnside Village, so I think we've found enough new stuff for next year's race to make it really interesting."

South Australian Minister for Tourism & Education Dr Lomax-Smith is keen for the race to keep growing in stature and outcomes. "We want next year's event to be even bigger and better than the record results we achieved in 2008" she said.

The 2009 Tour Down Under route lists as follows:

Sunday, January 18 - Down Under Classic: Rymill Park, Adelaide, 51 km Tuesday, January 20 - Stage 1: Norwood - Mawson Lakes, 140 km Wednesday, January 21 - Stage 1: Hahndorf - Stirling, 145 km Thursday, January 22 - Stage 1: Unley - Victor Harbor, 136 km Friday, January 23 - Stage 1: Burnside Village - Angaston, 143 km Saturday, January 24- Stage 1: Snapper Point - Willunga, 148 km Sunday, January 25 - Stage 1: Adelaide City Council Street Circuit, 90 km

For more information, visit the official website at

Savoldelli to retire

Paolo Savoldelli, winner of the 2002 and 2005 Giro d'Italia, has decided to put an end to his career after this season. The Gazzetta dello Sport broke the news on Friday. The 35 year-old explained that he wanted to retire because "I started riding at 8 years old, and racing at 14, and I continued going, having fun, and suffering as well – but being satisfied with the suffering. As if the suffering was a rule. However, today I do all of this with some thoughts in mind. And the those thoughts weigh heavily, above all when I'm on the bike."

The climber and awesome descender nicknamed "Il Falco" ("The Falcon") also won stage at the Tour de France, in 2005, while he was racing for Discovery Channel. Savoldelli is currently with Italian team LPR Brakes, and will ride the Tour of Austria next. "I hope for a beautiful end of season," he added. "Maybe with the time trial Worlds, which I have never done. It could be nice to end my career as a debutant."

Dekker to fall out with Rabobank?

Rumour coming out of the Netherlands has it that stage race hopeful Thomas Dekker, who is not participating at the Tour this year, could end his contract with Team Rabobank prematurely. Media coverage suggests that Dekker is unhappy with the team management and currently communicating with the team only via his lawyers. This deteriorating relationship may also be the reason why Dekker had not been selected for the Tour de France.

More rumours and Tour gossip, but also some hard facts and sharp analyses can be listened to on the BikeRadar podcasts, brought to you daily from the greatest bike race on earth.

Quickstep and Tinkoff to Tour of Austria

The Österreich-Rundfahrt (Tour of Austria) will start off this Sunday. Belgian ProTour team Quick Step has announced two top stars of cycling to participate: World Champion Paolo Bettini and sprinter Tom Boonen. They will be supported on the mountainous course by Alexander Efimkin, Dmytro Grabowskyy, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Andrea Tonti, Davide Viganò and Maarten Wynants.

Professional Continental team Tinkoff has also made known its roster for the week-long stage race: Pavel Brutt, Nikita Eskov, Alexander Khatuntsev, Alexander Serov, Ricardo Serrano, Alexander Gottfried, Walter Pedraza and Yuahen Sobal will be at the start line in Klausen, South Tyrol.

More greatest moments of previous Tours de France

Following on from yesterday's first batch of clips, today on Cyclingnews we present another three great highlights clips from previous Tours de France.

Cyclingnews will be presenting video highlights of every stage just after the stage finish. The video clips are being sourced from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the owners of the Tour de France, using footage provided by the host broadcaster. But before the 2008 Tour rolls out tomorrow, here are another three clips from the vault

The first clip shows highlights of the dramatic Centenary Tour in 2003, while in the next clip we present some of the heart-stopping crashes of the Tour in recent years.

The third new clip for today takes you behind the scenes of the village depart, the bustling centre that is part bike race, part exhibition space and full-time meeting place.

Stay tuned for more clips to be available as he head into the start of this year's Tour de France.

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