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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, March 11, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

ASO, UCI quiet as riders go racing

By Greg Johnson

Politics put aside, as the riders race
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After a week of heavy-handed words and threats of sanctioning riders if they start Paris-Nice, both the race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and the sport's international governing body UCI have gone silent following the start of the race. Neither party is talking about what happens next in the ongoing UCI Vs. Grand Tour Organisers dispute, despite UCI president Pat McQuaid's threat last week to sanction any rider that took part in the French stage race.

Cyclingnews' attempted to find out what action the UCI would take now, however Irishman McQuaid said the UCI wasn't prepared to comment for the time being. An ASO spokesperson said it had no comment on the situation either, instead preferring that the focus this week be on the riders racing at its event.

The lack of action from the UCI leaves the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the teams' and riders' heads, not knowing what will result of their revolt against the governing body's request to boycott the event. Teams were threatened with the suspension of their UCI registration, a fine of up to 10,000 Swiss francs and withdrawal of the UCI ProTour licence or Wild Card label if they started the race.

The only party that has spoken out on the issue since Paris-Nice's opening Prologue is the Cyclists Professional Association (CPA). CPA has once again called on the involved parties to meet and resolve the issues at hand after Paric-Nice.

"The context in which the race Paris-Nice started gives way to many uncertainties as for the disciplinary sanctions the riders could receive as well today as in the next races," read a CPA release. "However, the riders have the right to exercise their job in a clear and serene context. This is why the CPA requires a meeting to be held urgently, in the presence of its Riders' Council, with the President of the UCI as soon as Paris-Nice is finished."

The dispute between the two organisations flared again in late February, when ASO announced on February 26, 2008 that it would hold Paris-Nice outside the aegis of the UCI and had recruited the French Cycling Federation (FFC) to sanction the event. ASO then appointed the French anti-doping agency, AFLD, to be in charge of the doping controls for the event.

Despite calls for the rouge event to return to the UCI's governance, ASO instead came to an agreement on individual contracts to race at its event with the teams.

Paris Nice stage shortened by bad weather

By Jeff Quenet

The race was a little wet
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The 184.5 km first stage of Paris - Nice was shortened to just 93.5km, after driving rain and strong winds forced the organisers to relocate the start. Initially they rescheduled the race to start in Sancerre, after the category three côte de Venoize which would have made the stage less than 80 kilometres. Ultimately they decided to launch the day's stage from the feedzone town, La Chapelotte, shortening the day from 184.5 kilometres to just 93.5 kilometres, but making it possible to allocate the king of the mountain price with only one climb situated after 15km of racing. Euskaltel's Dionisio Galparsoro came over the top first and took the polka dot jersey.

The wet and windy conditions were perfectly suited to the strong Belgian Gert Steegmans and his Quick Step team, who showed that they were the strongest on the day. Steegmans began the sprint from a relatively long way out and with 50 meters to go, he was fading, fully expecting Hushovd to pass him, but he looked back and realized the size of the gap between him and the others. "It was a nice feeling," he said. "There is no more pressure on my shoulders in Paris-Nice since Tom Boonen has decided to race Tirreno-Adriatico instead, but there's always a little bit of pressure at Quick Step because the team wants to win as many races as possible."

As a winner of stage two of the 2007 Tour de France to Ghent, Steegmans is known as a specialist for uphill bunch sprint finishes. He showed it once again by winning the stage into Nevers ahead of Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) and overnight leader Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole). The shortened stage was contested at very high speeds after Steegmans' team-mates from Quick Step decided to put the hammer down in the cross wind.

Under the rain, the Belgian squad looked as comfortable as if it was racing in its own backyard, unlike the diminutive Spaniards from Euskaltel who were daunted by the high winds. "Kevin Hulsmans and myself, we looked at them and we laughed, they were scared," Steegmans testified. But he understood the situation of climbers who aren't used to this kind of racing. "I have the same feeling when I look at the Mont Ventoux, I'm scared as well," the Belgian said.

Eisel satisfied, but wanted more

Bernhard Eisel (High Road)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Bernhard Eisel (Team High Road) joined an early escape group in the first stage of Paris-Nice with a certain goal in mind, a goal he discovered he couldn't attain. Despite being disappointed with his efforts, the Austrian sprinter finished the shortened Paris-Nice stage in eighth position.

"For the first time in my career, I wanted to win the mountain jersey," Eisel noted on "Instead, I won the recognition that mountains just aren't my strength."

The stage which was shortened to 90 kilometres, because of the bad weather. The Austrian joined an early escape group which eventually came down to him and two Milram riders, Niki Terpstra and Peter Velits. The trio built up a lead of five minutes, but they were unable to stay away until the end and were reabsorbed into a following group with about 10 km to go.

Eisel was able to stay with the group, though, and hoped help a team-mate in the final. But with 300 metres to go he got cramps and that was the end of his hopes.

"Actually I wanted to set things up for a team colleague, but he wasn't feeling any better," noted Eisel. "So I rode for myself and was still able to beat Davide Rebellin - which isn't bad. It was too bad I got the cramps, otherwise I could have sprinted onto the podium."

Virus sidelines Rogers

Australia's Michael Rogers (Team High Road) has been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr-Virus, that will see the rider out of competition for at least eight weeks. The diagnosis, which will see the rider rest for at least four weeks, was confirmed by his American ProTour team's physicians as well as the rider's own independent physicians.

"Having expedited the same virus in 2001, I have the necessary knowledge of what required of me to get my health back to a level that will allow me to train and race at full intensity," said Rogers. "In the meantime I will rest as much as possible to give myself a fast turnaround."

Roger's agent, Paul DeGuyter, explained that they suspected something was wrong, after Rogers experienced trouble with training and racing. "Michael has not felt strong on the bike since last fall and has been struggling to train consistently with intensity," said DeGuyter. "While he is disappointed to not be racing, he is pleased that there is a confirmed and treatable medical reason for his difficulties.

"Michael can now focus on a speedy and complete recovery," he added. "He looks forward to regaining his competitive status and rejoining his team as soon as possible."

High Road Sport's owner Bob Stapleton was disappointed to hear of the diagnosis, but added that he'd glad his rider will be able to treat the problem and make a speedy return. "While we regret the loss of Michael from the team at the start of our European season, we are thankful that Michael's condition has been diagnosed and he can start on the road to recovery," said Stapleton. "We look forward to his return as soon as his health and fitness allow."

The 2005 Individual Time Trial World Champion's last victory was on the Rothaus Regio Tour's Stage 3 in 2006 while riding for T-Mobile. The 28 year-old was the virtual leader of last year's Tour de France before his Grand Tour campaign was brought to a close following a large crash.

Police vehicle hits cyclists in California, kills two

Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Kristy Gough (Third Pillar Racing) after winning
Photo ©: Larry Rosa
(Click for larger image)

Three cyclists descending down a winding road on a training ride Sunday morning near Cupertino, California were struck by a Santa Clara County sheriff's patrol vehicle that had crossed the centreline while travelling in the opposite direction. Two of the cyclists, identified as Matt Peterson, 30, of San Francisco, and Kristy Gough, 31, of Oakland, died from their injuries - Peterson on the scene and Gough hours later after being airlifted to Stanford University Medical Center.

Two other cyclists were riding with Peterson and Gough at the time of the accident. Reports said Christopher Knapp of Germany was also seriously injured, while the fourth was not hurt and not identified. Knapp was most recently listed in stable condition.

The two riders who were killed had just seen success on the California road racing circuit, most recently at the Merco Cycling Classic. Kristy Gough (Third Pillar Racing) won the category 3/4 women's road race and Matt Peterson (Roaring Mouse Cycles) won the men's category four criterium and wore the race leader's jersey during the category 4 road race.

Gough was new to racing on the road but not new to cycling by any means. She was an accomplished triathlete, including a third place finish at the 2006 UK Ironman. Jon Orban of her Third Pillar Racing team said she was a unique combination of utter talent and pure selflessness. "She was always giving to other people, but would absolutely crush everyone on the bike," Orban told Cyclingnews. "In the Snelling Road Race, she had gone out solo and had a huge gap after the first lap but felt bad about the other girls so slowed up and only won by like 12 minutes!"

"I have never, ever seen any woman have her ability. And she was just getting started in road racing three months ago! We were climbing a well-known climb out here, Old La Honda, and she was doing it faster than the elite guys on the Safeway team! Kristy was a world-class athlete but had no ego whatsoever. She was literally so strong that all the other female teams had literally coordinated an attempt to beat her! It made her feel a little bad because she didn't want to have people riding against her, but I just told her that is racing."

"She just got her upgrade to category one after winning last weekend," Orban added. "There is only one race she didn't win this year. She was a machine but was always smiling."

To read the full news item, click here.

Glomser recovered and ready to go

Gerrit Glomser (Team Volksbank) has recovered from the virus that kept him out of the Omloop Het Volk, allowing the rider to prepare for his next races. Meanwhile, he is also venting his spleen on the Austrian Olympic qualification standards.

"The qualification guidelines are to me not understandable," he said. "I have only a few chances left [to qualify]."

According to the Team Volksbank rider, the Austrian cycling federation has forgotten that cycling is a team sport. "We ride for the rider who is best in form," he said. "That doesn't have to be me."

The 32 year-old was not especially worried as to whether he makes the Beijing Olympic Games team or not. "Either I will meet the qualification or I won't," he said. "I'm not going to kill myself for the federation."

"Team Volksbank, which is my employer, has absolute priority and future, which the Austrian cycling federation doesn't," he added, explaining his approach to the situation.

Glomser had been laid low with a virus and fever. Despite not having completely recovered, the rider has returned to training with the worst now behind him. "The pause that I had to make shouldn't have any negative effects on my season," he said.

Glomser's next races are the Coppi Bartali (March 25-29), Settimana Lombardi (April 1-4), Sarthe (Apirl 8-11) and the Giro del Trentino (April 22-25).

Rabobank names Tirreno-Adriatico roster

Dutch ProTour team Rabobank will be relying on Spaniard Oscar Freire to deliver stage wins and a possible overall win in the upcoming Tirreno - Adriatico. The seven day race begins on Wednesday, has been won twice in the last three years by the top Dutch squad. In 2005 Freire took the overall classification, while in 2006, Thomas Dekker took the race win, placing himself in the spotlight for future greatness in the process.

Of its two previous winners, only Freire is racing this year's edition while Dekker is taking a break from competition after completing the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia on Saturday.

Rabobank for Tirreno-Adriatico: Oscar Freire (Spa), Joost Posthuma (Ned), Theo Eltink (Ned), Pedro Horrillo (Spa), Sébastian Langeveld (Ned), Gerben Löwik (Ned), Paul Martens (Ger) and Grischa Niermann (Ger). The team will be lead by Erik Breukink.

Gerolsteiner for Tirenno-Adriatico

Markus Fothen will lead Team Gerolsteiner in Tirenno-Adriatico, which starts Wednesday, but the team will also look to time trial specialist Sebastian Lang and to the climbing abilities of German champion Fabian Wegmann. The five-day race runs 1,122 kilometres from Cavitavecchi to San Benedetto del Tronto, where it ends on Sunday.

Gerolsteiner for Tirreno-Adriatico: Markus Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Ronny Scholz, Stephan Schreck and Fabian Wegmann.

Traksel snatches Driedaagse from Eechout

Dutchman Bobbie Traksel (P3 Transfer-Batavus) snatched the overall classification in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen from Niko Eeckhout (Topsport Vlaanderen) with a victory on the final stage. Traksel and Eeckhout were seven and nine seconds down on leader Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux) after the penultimate stage, but the tough final stage saw the race fall to pieces. Hutarovich ultimately finished more than 11 minutes down on the winner, in 23rd overall.

"This is a big deal for a small team like ours," 26 year-old Traksel told Belgian news website Sport Wereld. "Before the start I promised a stage win and the overall classification. Promises create debt. When an elite group of riders containing Eeckhout, (Wouter) Weylandt, (Janek) Tombak and (Roger) Hammond rode away in the hills, the team worked brilliantly.

"In the final I made the jump to the leaders, I came up to them quickly and saw that it wasn't going so well for Ivanov and Eeckhout," he added. "In the sprint Niko, who was sprinting in the 11, had no chance. I was riding a much smaller gear. Thanks has to go to Patrick Sercu, who helped me do a lot of work on the track over the winter."

The Dutch rider's rivals were impressed with his efforts. "I never saw Traksel coming," a surprised Eeckhout said. "Of course it hurts to miss out on a second overall classification."

"My condition is coming to a peak, so I am happy about that," he added. "I was sick at Het Volk, which ruined a good opening Flemish weekend. In these three days I achieved the level I wanted."

Kenny De Haes (Topsport Vlaanderen) took the sprints classification, making sure that Belgium was not left with nothing, in a race that was otherwise dominated by foreigners.

Geelong likely to receive funding for cycling

A cycling hub is expected to be approved at the 2010 Road World Championships site by the City of Greater Geelong, in Victoria Australia, according to the Geelong Advertiser. A AUS$4 million complex, including a $2 million velodrome, was initially pitched to the council but is expected to be declined.

Instead, the council is expected to approve a $180,000 upgrade to Geelong's existing bike racing track at West Oval, according to the report due before the council today.

"Geelong has a long and distinguished history in cycling," the report stated. "Some of the first bicycles in the world were developed in Geelong.

"In the 1970s and 1980s the Geelong bike plan was the first Australian initiative aimed at improving cycling conditions in a major established city," it continued. "This has resulted in a sound base level of infrastructure and the development of a number of strong and active bicycle groups and clubs within the municipality."

A feasibility study indicated that Geelong, using the 2010 World Championships as a catalyst to showcase the city as wheel-friendly destination, should establish a cycle hub and begin working towards a $2.9 million centre at Belmont Common to include:

A criterium circuit and bicycle education training area at Belmont Island;
A mountain bike trail around the Mackay Fields area;
Possible club facilities at Barwon Valley Activity Centre; and
BMX catered for in the cycling precinct at the existing BMX track behind South Barwon Reserve.

Leelanau gets new date

Organisers of the Tour de Leelanau have announced a date change for this year's event, with the Michigan-based race to take place on Sunday, May 25. The event's date has been shifted from its late September slot from 2007, with organisers hoping to attract a larger and better motivated field.

"We have moved the event forward on the racing calendar in order to capitalize on the teams' enthusiasm for racing in early summer compared to the end of the season" said race director Steve Brown. "It has meant a short 'off-season' for our organizing committee but everything is on-track for a great race in May."

The Memorial Day Weekend date for the UCI 2.1 ranked event should also provide a boost in spectator numbers for this year's fourth edition. Both the men's and women's courses will include varying twists, climbs, and descents before finishing uphill at Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown.

"We selected the May 25th date to correspond with the upcoming major events in both the men's and women's pro cycling calendar," added Brown. "For the men, the challenging nature of the race course will serve as perfect preparation for the Philly Week Commerce Bank Classic races that take place in early June. For the women, the Tour De Leelanau will be a great way to tune their legs before the Montreal World Cup and Le Tour du Grand Montréal."

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