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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 14, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

ASO races become state affair

2008 Tour de France a national event?

By Hedwig Kröner in Althen-des-Paluds

France's Secretary of State for Sport, Bernard Laporte, re-iterated the government's support for the race organiser and the French Cycling Federation yesterday
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Those who still doubted that the ongoing battle between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and French race organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) has become an affair of national amplitude, had to realise the scope of the dispute when France's Secretary of State for Sport, Bernard Laporte, visited the Paris-Nice stage race yesterday on its road atop the Mont Ventoux in Provence.

With his presence, he re-iterated the government's support for the race organiser and the French Cycling Federation (FFC), which is letting the race take place under its rule book after the rift between UCI and ASO definitely became too wide in the weeks leading up to the event. On Sunday, all the invited teams and riders were at the start line even though the UCI president Pat McQuaid had threatened them with heavy sanctions if they raced.

Speaking to Cyclingnews after the podium presentation at the finish of stage four, Laporte, the former head coach of the France national rugby team and an outspoken man, described the current situation from his point of view: "Quite simply, the sport has taken his rights back," he said. "I was a rugby player, and I wouldn't have liked it if somebody had prevented me from playing on Sundays. It's the same with the riders: they want to race the competitions that are part of their heritage. Paris-Nice is a renowned competition, and always has been – the riders wanted to ride it, and they came."

Laporte said that he did not have any news from the UCI at this point, even though he had offered his mediation in the conflict. But he insisted the organiser and the French federation only played by the national rules, which allowed them to hold a race outside of the UCI framework. "I only protect the rights of the French cycling federation, which applied its rules," he continued. "I'm ready to be a mediator in the ongoing discord, but under one condition: that the two parties both listen to each other, that we discuss it and find an agreement everybody can adhere to. But the UCI cannot say 'this is how it's going to be and not otherwise' – that's not mediation."

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The politician was not afraid to see the ASO and the FFC repeat the same scenario in the short-term future, for races like Paris-Roubaix and even the Tour de France. "I'm ready to protect the riders, the federation and support its president, Jean Pitallier. We only apply our rules, and I don't see what should be wrong with that," he replied when asked whether his stance would be the same further in the season. "There is a law for sports in France, and the federation sticks to it, which is why I support it. If this wasn't the case, believe me, I would insist that they do!"

Laporte also discarded any doubts on French cyclists of all disciplines possibly not taking part in their respective World Championships and Olympic events. "Why should that be so?" he asked in return, confronted with the possibility of the UCI suspending the whole French federation and its riders. "If the French federation made a mistake, then you suspend it. But this is not the case. If there's going to be a disciplinary procedure, it will end in a dismissal, because the federation has not committed an error," he concluded.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Riccò misses and relaunches

'The Cobra' Riccardo Riccò, 24, flings his bike after crossing the line – frustrated with a mechanical in the final metres after bumping Linus Gerdemann
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Riccardo Riccò missed out on the win in Tirreno-Adriatico's stage two but that did not stop him from relaunching in the metres following the finishing line and creating a show of his own. 'The Cobra' from Formigine (Modena) tossed his bike in the air after walking the final portion of the 203-kilometre stage that ended in the Umbrian city of Gubbio.

The 24 year-old of Saunier Duval, winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia's stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, was part of the six-man winning move with team-mate Eros Capecchi, Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld), Raffaele Illiano and Niklas Axelsson (both of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) and Linus Gerdemann (High Road), which had worked its way clear on the day's final climb of Belvedere. Illiano fired away for the eventual win at 200 metres to go with Gasparotto, while Riccò hesitated, re-accelerated and then bumped into German Gerdemann.

The altercation – the left side of Riccò's rear touched with Gerdemann's front wheel – caused a few broken spokes and forced 'The Cobra' to walk across the line (fifth) while Capecchi was right behind (sixth), trying to comfort his captain. Riccò immediately tossed his Scott bike in the air and let it crash down while pointing ahead to Gerdemann.

"I was raising the speed and taking off for the sprint when Gerdemann touched me from behind. He did not do it on purpose, because he was tired and could no longer see. But I would have won on my legs alone. The thing that bothers me the most is throwing away a guaranteed win," he recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Riccò upset after crossing the line in Gubbio, Italy.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Riccò near-miss and subsequent show – good or bad – drew more attention than Illiano's win. It came from the same rider who after winning two stages in last year's race (three and four), said "There are some riders who say things to journalists and then they hide out in the group. We call them 'vegetables.' Luckily there are also those who do what they say." (Read Riccardo Riccò gains exposure.) It is this the kind of spark and panache that excites the fans and will surely see them tuning into today's stage to see what 'The Cobra' will do.

Today, the riders face a wall at the end of today's 195-kilometre run into Le Marche: The Montelupone, 1.78 kilometres long, 216 metres of climbing and a maximum gradient of 20 percent (12% average). "I am upset, so I will give it all," said Riccò of the third stage. "If I have the same legs, I will try to arrive solo. At least this way there will not be any problems during the sprint."

Riccò, who last year held the overall leader's jersey and won the points classification, currently holds the maglia bianca for best young rider.

Following Tirreno, 'The Cobra' will strike again in the Milano-Sanremo. Last year, he forced a move on the race's final climb, the Poggio, with Phil Gilbert. "This year I hope that on the Poggio we are in [a group] of five," he noted, while referring to Danilo Di Luca, who's form looks on target.

Garzelli for Gent-Wevelgem

Stefano Garzelli will race the Gent-Wevelgem with his team, Acqua & Sapone. Though not being able to race Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia after his team was not invited by organiser RCS Sport, the 34 year-old Italian has vowed to continue competing. The Belgian Classic, first held in 1934, takes place April 9.

Top sprinters to Rund um Köln

By Susan Westemeyer

Rund um Köln is looking to the sprinters this year, and is expecting the cream of the crop. It looks like the German race on Easter Monday will feature Erik Zabel, Alessandro Petacchi, Gerald Ciolek, André Greipel, Robert Förster and David Kopp.

"Cycling fans can look forward to an outstanding line-up," said Alexander Donike, the race's technical director. "The elite of German sprinters, including Erik Zabel and Gerald Ciolek, will be at the start in Leverkusen." He added, "We are especially happy from the response of our German teams, who are all coming with their top stars."

"The teams and the riders too are aware of the importance of Rund um Köln," said Artur Tabat, who has organised the race for 36 years. "No race means no work. The cycling elite finally seems to have realised that no more races should be allowed to be cancelled. The support of the teams, who are not asking for high appearance fees, gives us motivation for next year." The race is, as so many are, having financial problems.

The race course will be changed this year, and may offer a chance for "escape artists" like Jens Voigt of CSC. "The finish line this year is closer to the last climb. In the last few years the escapees would always be overtaken on the final city course. This will be a hard piece of work for the sprinters' teams," Donike prophesied.

The race will truly feature the sprinting elite. The German ProTour Team Milram will send Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel, who won the race in 1996 and 2004. Gerolsteiner will send Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España stage winner Robert Förster, while Team High Road will feature two natives of the area, Gerald Ciolek and André Greipel, who was the first leader in the ProTour rankings with his four stage wins and overall win in the Tour Down Under.

Tour Down Under confirms 2009 dates

The 2008 Tour Down Under enjoyed its first year as a 'ProTour' race
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

The Tour Down Under organiser, Events South Australia, has had the dates of the 2009 stage race confirmed as January 18 to 25 by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The Australian stage race will continue as ProTour-ranked race in 2009 after it made history this year when it became the first cycling event outside of Europe to be included in the UCI's ProTour circuit. "We want next year's event to be even bigger and better than the record results we achieved in 2008," Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith explained.

She noted that the race is establishing itself in the ProTour calendar. "The announcement of the event dates for 2009 is further endorsement from the UCI that the Tour Down Under is now a regular feature on the UCI ProTour programme."

Benefit to State economy

Preliminary results from the 2008 Tour Down Under revealed a AUD$17.3 million boost to the State's economy - a 50.4% increase from 2007. In addition, there were 15,100 event-specific visitors from interstate and overseas - a 37.7% increase from 2007. Events SA estimated that some 548,000 spectators lined the roads - a 53.5% increase on last year. Further, analysis shows there was some AUD$41.7 million in media coverage to date and more than 76 hours of broadcast television programming in Australia and around the world.

"The announcement of the event dates for 2009 is further endorsement from the UCI that the Tour Down Under is now a regular feature on the UCI ProTour program. "We will start spreading the world now to maximise opportunities to target the international cycling market and travel package operators," she said.

Full stage details are expected in the coming months.

Equipe Nürnberger for Omloop Het Volk

By Susan Westemeyer

Suzanne de Goede and Trixi Worrack will lead Equipe Nürnberger in the women's Omloop Het Volk this Sunday. De Goede, who hopes to meet the Dutch Olympic qualifications, won the first stage of the Women's Tour of New Zealand last month. Worrack finished fourth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen last year.

"We are taking a very strong team to Belgium," said Directeur Sportif Dennis Sandig. "With Trixi Worrack and Suzanne de Goede we have two riders at the start who are capable of achieving something in the coming spring races."

This is the third Het Volk for women, running 126 kilometres from Deerlijk to Deinze, with cobblestone passages and the typical Belgian hillingen (Flemish for 'climbs'). Last year, only half of the riders finished the race, which was marked by typical Belgian wind, rain and cold.

De Goede and Worrack will be supported by Christina Becker, Eva Lutz, Claudia Häusler, Marlen Jöhrend and Marie Lindberg.

24 hours of Dubai cancelled after rider's death

By Susan Westemeyer

The 24 Hours of Dubai mountain bike race was been cut short after a fatal accident. "We ended the race, after a rider died," said Stephan Salscheider, race organiser. "We are shocked and stunned by the death. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends. In consultation with the other participants, we have decided to end the race immediately out of respect for him and his family."

The 45 year-old rider, whose name was not immediately available, was found laying unconscious on the ground not quite two hours after the race had started. Medical personnel were rushed to the scene but were unable to help. There were no witness as to what happened. The official cause of death is not yet known. Organizers said after the accident that the crash may not have caused the rider's death.

Further examinations are planned, and the bike will also be checked for possible defects. has since identified the rider as Thomas Graessler and reported that he fell while negotiating steps into the amphitheatre section, sustaining "severe neck injuries".

The 24-hour race was the first mountain bike race in the United Arab Emirates.

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