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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 10, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Cadel Evans starts Paris-Nice in support of Popovych

By Jean-François Quénet in Amilly

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) after his first win of the season, the second stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Cadel Evans – second in the 2007 Tour de France – clocked the 36th best time in the Paris-Nice prologue, the 4.6-kilometre wet and slippery run for which he chose to avoid any risk.

"I came here firstly for preparation for further races and secondly to test myself," he explained prior to the 'Race to the Sun.' "It will also be good to see how the team is going in the top level competition."

Silence-Lotto attracted Yaroslav Popovych from Discovery Channel in support of the Australian at the Tour de France, for which last year's runner-up can reasonably target the win in the absence of Astana's Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer, who accompanied him on the podium in 2007. The core of the Belgian ProTour team for the July campaign is already in action together on the roads of Paris-Nice with Dario Cioni, Mario Aerts and Johan Van Summeren, who already backed Evans when he scored his first win of the year at the Ruta del Sol last month.

"This year with the Tour and my requests in mind, we are keeping the core Tour guys together," Evans explained. "It certainly doesn't hurt winning early in the season. I see my win in Spain as a confirmation of the good work that the team and I have done so far."

He didn't worry himself much about the time lost during the prologue because he knows the classification will be decided later on with the Mont Ventoux coming up on Thursday. "Everything depends on how cold it will be at the top and how quickly I can ride up it!

"Paris-Nice is a race I like a lot," he added. Three years ago, he finished eighth, just 58 seconds behind eventual winner Bobby Julich; the win might have been in his grasp had he not lost exactly 58 seconds because of a split in the bunch at the end of stage one. With the Mont Ventoux and a lot of other climbs, Evans is a clear favourite for Paris-Nice this year. "But being so early in the season I don't like to focus on it too much," he stated. "I'd like to think that I will be a good helper to Popovych."

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That's how the roles are spread inside the Silence-Lotto team: in March, Evans is supposed to help the Ukrainian, who has also proven to be a good rider for Paris-Nice when he won the stage to Manosque in an impressive manner last year. Since there's no extra pressure right now in the Belgian squad, Popovych, who rode the prologue on wet roads, took even less risks than Evans and scored the 93rd best time 29 seconds slower than Thor Hushovd.

Evans reckons he might be at 75 percent of his best condition right now. "Ask me again after the stage up the Ventoux," he said. So this is really a pre-Tour de France test for him. Even without pressure he might give it a go. The past two winners of Paris-Nice, Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador have finished in yellow on the Champs-Élysées after that... with different fortunes later on.

David Millar: Leading by example

David Millar wasn't able to win the time trial
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Despite landing second overall in the Tour of California, David Millar's early season list of targets had actually pinpointed Paris-Nice as his first big objective of the year. The Scottish rider is aiming for a top three place in the French event and, as he tells Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes, he hopes it will set things up for a very strong season for both him and his new team.

This is an important year for David Millar. Since the start of the season he's officially one of the leaders of the Slipstream Chipotle/H3O team, a squad aiming to become a major player in world cycling while also working to a strict anti-doping ethos. Millar's personal history is well known to all, and since his return from a doping ban he has been one of the most outspoken about the need to change the sport and remove the shadier cultures within.

Apart from riding for the Pro Continental outfit, Millar is now a part owner of the team and - in addition to that - became a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Athlete Committee at the end of 2007. Those things considered, it's clear that he's representing the push for a new sport; the Scot is hoping a strong season will show what is possible.

Millar began the Paris-Nice on Sunday with two clear objectives in mind. "The goal is to be on the podium on GC and win the prologue," he said in the lead up to the race. While the second of those targets didn't work out, with the rider finishing 12th in the time trial in Amilly, he was relatively positive about his ride afterwards.

"There are few things worse than having a chrono performance compromised because of the weather," he said on the Slipstream team website, referring to the day's rain. "Considering I was one of the last to go before it started drying out more, I'm satisfied with my result. Trent [Lowe] and Danny [Pate] did great rides and Trent put considerable time on the other climbers."

Read the full interview.

Rain, rain go away

By Susan Westemeyer

'Tintin' Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) rides in the wet prologue.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The riders' comments from Sunday's Paris-Nice prologue almost all mentioned their confusion about the conflict between the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and International Cycling Union (UCI), but the predominant theme was something more basic: the rain.

"This back-and-forth between the UCI, ASO and the teams over the last few weeks, really got on my nerves," said Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl on his personal website. "When you have prepared over months for this first big season highlight, then you want to be able to go to the start." He did start, but not at a good time. "Just as I got to the start, the rain came down even harder and there was a strong wind." He was nevertheless satisfied with his time, finishing 66th and 24 seconds down.

His team-mate, Oliver Zaugg, admitted, "Actually I like this kind of prologue. Not because I can win one, but because the day isn't so strenuous, you're back to the hotel early and have time to relax." He, too, had bad luck with the weather. "The road was very wet, but fortunately it wasn't a technical course," Zaugg said on "My front wheel did slide away on one curve, but with luck and skill I was able to prevent a crash." The Swiss rider finished 149th, 48 seconds behind the leader.

Team High Road's Servais Knaven was coming off a hectic week. His racing program was changed, he celebrated his birthday and his grandmother's funeral was held on Saturday. The thought of a possible six-month suspension didn't help much either. As to the prologue, he said on his website "I rode on wet roads and finished 77th. I can't really say much more."

Christian Knees of Team Milram had "like many others, bad luck with the weather. ... Naturally you can't ride the curves so well on a wet road. That contorted the competition a bit." He said that his results were "totally ok," especially considering it didn't go so well for him. He was 25 seconds down in 71st place.

Team Rabobank on its website noted that the prologue was held early because of the afternoon's live broadcast of the France-Italy rugby match. Team manager Erik Dekker wasn't sure what to make of the day's results. "Today's story is a bit unclear. The first 35 guys ride dry, than a hundred men soaking wet, and the rest on a drying course again. This does not help you get a clear picture."

USA Team Slipstream knew exactly who to blame for the day: "Mother Nature ruled the result of today's prologue," according to the team's website. David Millar had hoped to win the prologue but was satisfied with his 12th place, 11 seconds down. "There are few things worse than having a crono performance compromised because of the weather. Considering I was one of the last to go before it started drying out more, I'm satisfied with my result," he said. His team-mate Tyler Farrar was a victim of the weather, crashing on a corner and finishing dead last, at 3'13".

Bradley McGee of Team CSC was luckier. "I didn't get any rain, but the roads were wet and I think it was the same for everyone," he said on the team's website. "These short prologues are always weird because they end up so close with tiny margins deciding the outcome. But I actually felt really good out there so I'm very satisfied with today's result." He finished fourth, with only five seconds separating him from the winner.

Rabobank's van der Aat expects no suspensions

By Susan Westemeyer

Henri van der Aat, former interim manager at Team Rabobank and now Manager International Affairs, does not believe that the International Cycling Union (UCI) will actually suspend the riders participating Paris-Nice. "They have said that they could suspend them. I think they will issue fines. We as a team will take care of those," he told the Dutch website

Rabobank sent top riders such as Robert Gesink and Juan Antonio Flecha to the 'Race to the Sun.' "If you start, then you must also do well. I found it dishonest to withdraw certain riders to try and protect them, but be willing to sacrifice others."

Van der Aat hoped for an agreement between the UCI and Paris-Nice organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), concerning a new structure for cycling. "We want a qualification system with objective criteria," he said. "Then we will know exactly where and when we can ride."

Van der Aat served as interim team manager following the resignation of Theo de Rooij. On March 1, Harold Knebel, formerly director of private banking for Rabobank Nederland, took over as team manager.

Di Luca clarifies Zoncolan evening

Danilo Di Luca, 32, competed earlier thise season in the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto but is currently waiting for his date with CONI
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian Danilo Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, is facing a suspension of two years if the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has its way. Head anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri is asking for the 32 year-old of LPR Brakes to be barred form cycling based on doping controls taken following the Giro stage to Monte Zoncolan, May 30; however, Di Luca insists there was no foul play that night.

"I have said many times to Torri that I did not make that injection, also if I would have done it the doctor would have declared it, and then there would not have been the time to do it," he said during an interview on Italy's LA7.

CONI suspects that the then Liquigas rider was subjected to injections that altered his hormone level in the time between the International Cycling Union (UCI) anti-doping control following the stage (he finished fourth - ed.) and the surprise – and controversial – control by CONI later on that same evening.

"The day after I had a flat stage, so an injection would have been useless," Di Luca continued.

He has not raced since the initial CONI announcement on February 27, and in general, is not pleased with his treatment. "We cyclists are like criminals under house arrest. Just like criminals we are made to sign all of our papers for accountability, we no longer have a private life."

Di Luca recently asked for his April 1 hearing date with CONI to be moved up, and had continued to remain confident in vindication.

Garzelli races on despite missing Tirreno

RCS Sport named the invited teams for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, and, as it did for the Giro d'Italia, it left off the list Acqua & Sapone. The leader of the Italian Professional Continental team, Stefano Garzelli, has vowed to continue racing.

"I will try to restrict my anger when I see Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo on the television in the coming week; they are two races in which I have battled with the best, but the incomprehensible decision [by the race organiser] had left me out," noted the winner of the 2000 Giro and two stages of last year's Giro to Agr.

Though the 34 year-old Italian recently noted that he felt "burned" by the decision, he has vowed to continue on racing. "I will start up again with the Settimana Coppi e Bartali on March 25; taking the most that I can from the race. I decided to go on – no one can put an end to the cycling career that I have dedicated most of my life to."

UCI won't challenge Jaksche's one-year ban

By Susan Westemeyer

The International Cycling Union (UCI) will not appeal Jörg Jaksche's one-year suspension for his doping confession, the German rider, who lives in Austria, said on Sunday. He will now be eligible to ride again as of June 30.

"UCI boss Pat McQuaid called me on the weekend and personally told me of the decision," Jaksche, 33, told the German press agency sid. "A stone fell from my heart. Now the hard times are finally over, I can start making plans again."

He added that a cooperative witness like himself "no longer needs to pay for his openness. They have finally realised that doping is an octopus with many arms. It is a system which is carried out by team managers, soigneurs, doctors and athletes." He said that he assumed that now the UCI would take actions against those he named in his confession.

The Austrian Cycling Federation (Österreichischer Radsport Verein, ÖRV) suspended him in September; he received a reduced sentence because he cooperated with investigators.

He added that he would be eligible to ride for a ProTour team, and will increase his efforts to sign with one. "I am optimistic and have very good form," said Jaksche, who on Sunday trained for five hours in Tuscany.

17 year-old rider placed in coma following crash

A 17 year-old Spanish junior rider has been placed in an induced coma following a crash Saturday in the Trofeo Foundation Caja Rioja. According to, Iker Tejada of Team Aranako hit the road with his face. He was taken to the hospital San Pedro de Logrono, where he was diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and head injuries, as well as rib injuries.

During the night he was transferred to another hospital, where he was placed in the coma, in hopes of improving his condition over the next few days.

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