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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 8, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Stapleton optimistic on cycling's political future

By Shane Stokes in Nantes, France

Bob Stapleton, owner of Team Columbia
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

It seems to many that the political situation within cycling is at perhaps an all-time low, with Tour organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) running this year's race outside any control of the UCI, and thus squaring off directly with the sport's governing body. There is also a lack of agreement on the biological passport after the former failed to pay its contribution to that programme.

However Team Columbia's Bob Stapleton doesn't see things as totally lost. He spoke to Cyclingnews in recent days and remains hopefully that things could be resolved.

"I think it is possible to sort it out, I personally believe that it is," he said. "I think people need to set aside historic differences, their political differences, their personal differences, and focus on one or two important things.

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"One is on keeping the passport moving forward and really being progressive on anti-doping," he said. "The second is putting a structure in the sport that is logical and consistent, that sponsors can rely on, that fans have interest in and which creates a stability in the sport that is missing right now."

The obvious question is what will force that to happen, given that until now no lasting compromise has been found? He feels that common sense must ultimately prevail.

"I think the key is in realising that the common interest in sport should overpower these differences," he answered. "I think that is the key message and I think people understand that and are generally working in there right direction.

"I am optimistic, very much so," he added. "I don't think it needs an external mediator. I think the issues are down to very small ones and that someone, something, has to give."

Bettini claims Austrian win

Reigning UCI Road World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) has claimed his first victory of 2008, at the Tour of Austria. The Italian is contesting the event in preparation for his Olympic Games road title defence this August in Beijing, China.

"The decision to take part in the Tour of Austria has proved to be a good one," said Bettini. "My objective was to use this race to prepare myself in the best way possible ready for the Olympics - on top of this I've also gained my first victory of the season which is great news."

With the Tour of Austria's prologue cancelled after a violent thunderstorm made conditions in Chiusa too dangerous for it to continue, Bettini now holds the event's general classification lead. Shortly after Bettini's team-mate Tom Boonen had completed the 1.5 kilometre course, the UCI race jury decided to cancel the stage and neutralise all classifications.

"This result give me serenity and moral for my Olympic journey," he added.

The race continues tomorrow with a 169.6 kilometre stage from Toblach - Kitzbüheler Horn/Alpenhaus.

Teutenberg takes another Giro win

Ina-Yoko Teutenberg makes it two in a row
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Team Columbia sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg has claimed her second consecutive stage victory at the Giro d'Italia Femminile. Teutenberg continues to hold the race leader's Maglia Rosa jersey heading into tomorrow's Stage 4.

"I'm psyched to win the pink jersey and be able to ride with it another day," said Teutenberg. "We couldn't have had a better start in the giro and hopefully we can keep playing a big role in the race."

Teutenberg leads the event having also won the previous day's Stage 1. The German rider has enjoyed a strong campaign at the event, finishing eighth in the opening Prologue, which was won by Mirjam Melchers Van Poppel (Team Flexpoint)

"The girls brought me safely to where the sprint started," explained Teutenberg. "[Kirsten] Wild and [Giorgia] Bronzini jumped early with 250m to go but I could get on their wheel and come around Wild in the last 100m."

The flat Stage 2 from Ca' Tiepolo Porto Tolle - Rosolina Mare was hot and relatively fast with cross winds in the last ten kilometers. Team Columbia started the lead out for Teutenberg with three kilometers remaining in the race.

"It is excellent to win two stages in a row in such a prestigious women stage race," team director Ronny Lauke said. "Now we are even more motivated to go for more victories. The girls are confidence and the pressure is not as high."

The Giro is the squad's first stage race riding under the Team Columbia name, which recently replaced the High Road branding. The Bob Stapleton-owned outfit's men's squad has also made headlines this week, with its rider Kim Kirchen coming close to a Tour de France stage win on two occasions.

Cooke wants chance to impress again

By Shane Stokes in Nantes, France

Baden Cooke took a Tour de France stage win and claimed the green jersey as best sprinter back in 2003, but since then he has had to watch other Australian riders have the limelight. He is now back and hungry for success after a two year absence, losing out when the Unibet team he rode for in 2006 and 2007 was not selected by ASO.

Cooke was in a relaxed mood at the start of stage three, and said that he was hoping for a good showing. "The legs are feeling pretty good," he told Cyclingnews. "The racing is fairly nervous, as always in the first few days. Hopefully the wind can actually break it up today - the last few days it has threatened to do that but nothing has really happened.

"I think it would make it more interesting for me if the field splinters a bit, and there is a bit more of a fight," he said.

The 29 year-old is now competing with the Barloworld Professional Continental squad, which has earned a wild-card invite for two years running. He's happy with the move, even if it is a smaller setup.

"Obviously our team is the opposite of Unibet…Unibet had the bigger team and the bigger budget but wasn't getting any starts," he said. "This team is smaller but is quite well respected and getting all the starts.

"Obviously it is good to be back in the Tour, I just hope I can pull off a result this week," added Cooke. "My form is good, I feel strong, I feel as ready as I could be. I think I am getting through it fairly well, each day I am feeling better."

Cooke has a clear goal laid out and while he finished back in 57th place at the finish in Nantes, he will try again on every day that suits him. "I would like to come away with a stage win, that is my main objective," he said. "I start every Tour with that objective."

Barloworld will also be keen to achieve that with Cooke or another rider, especially after the squad did so well in 2007. It won stages with Robert Hunter and Mauricio Soler last year, the latter also taking first in the King of the Mountains classification, second in the best young rider ranking and 11th place overall. Hunter was second to Tom Boonen (Quick Step) in the points ranking in 2007.

Soler came to the race aiming for another strong performance, but things got off to a bad start when he fell heavily on the first stage. Soler was lying last overall in the general classification heading into day three and once again lost time, finishing 4'55 behind the day's winner Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) in 172nd place.

Prior to the start of the stage, Cooke said that the Colombian's morale was low. "He seems a bit down, I haven't really spoken to him that much," he stated. "He is suffering like a dog but the team is pretty keen for him to stay on, right or wrong. I think he is just going to keep battling on, but I wouldn't be surprised if."

Cooke didn't finish the sentence but, reading between the lines, it seems less than certain that Soler will keep riding if his injury and low morale persist. "I think there is a bit of pressure on him, he has never experienced that before as he has always been an unknown quantity," the Australian continued. "The pressure is probably mounting on his shoulders a fair bit and now that he has crashed, it makes it all worse. But he is soldiering on for the moment."

Schlecks enjoying relaxed Tour départ

By Gregor Brown in Nantes, France

Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Outside Tour de France favourite Andy Schleck (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) passed a relatively stress-free start to his first Tour de France. The 23 year-old is one of the Team CSC-Saxo Bank co-captains, along with Carlos Sastre and older brother Fränk.

"There is not too much stress so far," the 23 year-old said. "Of course, in the race it is nervous and you have to keep your concentration high. However, I have always been at the front."

The time he lost at the end of Stage 1 was due to being caught on the wrong side of the road, according to Schleck.

The race is only Schleck's second Grand Tour after making his debut in the 2006 Giro d'Italia. He impressed pundits with consist performance that garnered him the maglia bianca of best young rider. Other race favourites are keeping an eye on Schleck, despite Sastre and Fränk Schleck having more experience.

Schleck's youthful enthusiasm could play into his favour. "This first Tour de France is great, especially here in Brittany - it's cycling mad," he said.

Backstedt biding his time

By Shane Stokes in Nantes, France

Magnus Backstedt (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) has had a tough run-up to the Tour de France, experiencing some sickness and thus being at a lower level of form than he would have wished to have been. The former Paris-Roubaix winner's plan is to hold back until after the stage four time trial, then start hunting for a stage victory on the flatter stages between there and Paris.

"I have been having a bit of a rough start, coming off the Giro and then being sick and everything," the big Swede told Cyclingnews. "I have been told to take it easy in the beginning here, but I will start to open it up a little more after the time trial. So far it has just been a case of trying to find my legs, find the rhythm a bit. Just ease myself into it."

Backstedt convoluted preparation was due to an internal problem. "I got a stomach illness in the Giro and then found out that I had elevated PH levels - basically my body was just full of acid and got really inflamed," he said. "I had to go on a pretty strict diet and try to sort myself out, getting my acid levels back down.

"It has taken quite a lot out of me to get to this point but I feel okay now," he added. "My legs are starting to respond and get better and better every day. I will be okay."

Indeed Backstedt did show signs of better form on Stage 3, finishing one place behind Slipstream Chipotle team-mate David Millar in 26th. They were part of the main bunch of riders which came in 2'03" behind the winner Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis).

From Wednesday onwards, the push for a result will commence. "As soon as we are over and done with in the time trial tomorrow, I will start looking at a few stages," said Backstedt. "I will see if I can get in some breakaways and maybe win a stage at some point.

"The mood in the team is great," he added. "The guys are all going well and with a new sponsor as well, life is good."

Sørensen okay after scare

Team CSC-Saxo Bank's Nicki Sørensen has been cleared on any injury following a crash on Stage 3 at the Tour de France. The Danish rider took a bad fall on the stage, which left his ability to continue the French Grand Tour in question.

"Nicki hurt his hand quite badly so we're gonna swing by the ER to have it checked out - just to make sure there's no fractures," said team doctor Piet De Moor after the stage. "He was a bit shook up afterwards because it was quite a bad crash, but I believe it's only flesh wounds and of course a bit of a mental blow as well - considering he also had a bad crash earlier in the year in California."

Sørensen was taken to a nearby hospital after finishing the stage for further examination. There he was cleared of any broken bones in his hand and leg, and has since returned to the squad's team hotel.

The rider, who is the current Danish Road Champion, will continue at the Tour in today's time trial. Sørensen earned his place in the team's Tour roster after a strong start to 2008.

Leipheimer, Horner to headline Cascade

Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Astana team-mates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner will join the likes of Santiago Botero, Tom Danielson and Cesar Grajales for five-day 29th annual Cascade Cycling Classic stage race. Leipheimer, who finished third at last year's Tour de France, and Horner have joined the line-up for Cascade, on July 9-13, as their ProTour team wasn't invited to contest this year's Tour de France.

"The Cascade Cycling Classic is considered one of the country's premier stage races, with past champions including Lance Armstrong who won the event in 1998 during his recovery from cancer," said Doug LaPlaca, president and CEO of Visit Bend. "The terrain, scenery, quality of the field, and the hospitality and support of the Bend community make this race one that most riders have had on their calendars since the dates were first announced."

A field of 148 other pro riders to round out the 150-rider NRC Pro 1 Men's field. The Cascade Cycling Classic is expected to attract more than 550 riders competing in the NRC Pro 1 Men's, NRC Pro 1/2 Women's, OBRA Masters Men, OBRA Cat 2, and OBRA Cat 3/4 fields.

"As the Cascade Cycling Classic has grown in size and popularity over the years, we've been fortunate to host some of the biggest names in the sport before they went on to fame," said Chuck Kenlan, executive director of MBSEF. "These athletes are great role models for the youth that MBSEF serves, and they are the reason we go to great lengths to involve the community with the cyclists and vice versa during the week."

Stages for the 2008 Cascade Cycling Classic include:
Stage 1, July 9: Prineville Road Race (83.2 miles)
Stage 2, July 10: Three Creeks Road Race (78.5 miles)
Stage 3, July 11: Skyliners Time Trial (15 miles)
Stage 4, July 11: Downtown Twilight Criterium
Stage 5, July 12: Cascade Lakes Road Race (83 miles)
Stage 6, July 13: Awbrey Butte Circuit Race

Even more Tour: Video highlights and podcasts

Just can't get enough of the Tour? Well fear not because Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you video highlights of every stage plus daily podcasts courtesy of and Procycling magazine. Our video comes directly from Tour de France owners Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and will be online shortly after the finish of each stage. We've also got highlights from classic Tours of the past so click here to see the full archive.

Check out the podcasts page in our Tour de France section for a full round-up of news and views from the Tour. In Sunday's podcast, Procycling's Ellis Bacon and Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins discuss the latest bikes on display this year, providing a glimpse of what's to come in our tech section in the coming days.

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