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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, March 29, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Contador takes Castilla, dispels transfer rumours

Contador crushed his rivals
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Astana's Alberto Contador successfully defended his overall title at the 23rd Vuelta a Castilla y León on Friday, cruising to the win behind the final stage's bunch sprint finish, which was won by Koldo Fernandez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). The 2007 Tour de France champion never once relinquished the leader's jersey after taking the opening time trial on Monday by four seconds over team-mate Levi Leipheimer, then extending his lead on the penultimate stage's mountain top finish.

Contador took the time to dispel any rumours that he might move to another team to participate in the Tour de France, giving thanks to his Astana team and pledging his loyalty. "Without them, it would have been impossible," Contador remarked of this week's victory. "I may have been the best in the time trial and in the queen stage, [but] without the support of my team, it would have been impossible to control the race.

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"It must be clear: I will not ride the Tour the France in another team than this one," Contador insisted. "I hope there comes an end now to all speculations and rumours that I will go to another team in order to participate to the Tour the France. I will stay with my friends and sponsors who have stood behind me. This week, we proved again that Astana Cycling Team is not only a strong team, but a group of friends as well."

Meares qualifies for Olympic Games

World and Olympic 500 metre Time Trial Champion Anna Meares
(Click for larger image)

Australian Anna Meares can breathe a sigh of relief now that the two women who could have pushed her out of an Olympic Games berth were eliminated from the competition in the early rounds of the UCI Track World Championships on Friday.

Meares was afraid her dream of returning to the Olympic Games had vanished when she crashed at the Los Angeles World Cup and left the venue in a stretcher. The gold medallist in the 500m time trial in Athens, Meares suffered a fractured vertebrae, dislocated shoulder and other soft tissue injuries in a crash during the keirin in January.

She was forced to stay home from the World Championships in Manchester and watch as her berth for this year's Olympic Games was threatened in the women's sprint competition.

Only Russian Svetlana Grankowskaja and China's Lulu Zheng could have pushed the Australian far enough down in the UCI rankings to knock her off the list of qualifiers for Beijing, and Meares was up late into the Australian night watching the race action anxiously.

"I've been up all night – I couldn't sleep anyway so I thought I may as well sit up and watch and wait," Meares said. "'Grannie' [Svetlana Grankowskaja] rode a 10.2, and I thought 'she's on form and I'm in trouble', but then she got put out in the first round and I was thanking my lucky stars."

Grankowskaja was eliminated in the first round by German Christin Muche. Meares had to wait through two more heats before watching Zheng move onto the next round by eliminating Lyubov Shulika (Ukraine), and then endure the nervous wait for the next round to begin.

Zheng fell to her compatriot Shuang Guo in the second round, but could still advance to the finals in the consolation heat, but this did not come to pass. "After LuLu was beaten in the second round, I thought great that's one race down – and then in repechage (Christin) Muche was my favourite," Meares explained, "but then when they started riding two abreast pretty quick from the get go. I thought Yvonne (Hijgenaar) 'what are you doing?' I just wanted to close my eyes and not watch but watch at the same time. That last lap when Yvonne pulled out a little bit extra to hold off LuLu – I felt so happy."

Interviewed just after the end of the qualifying session, Meares was ecstatic after a tense evening. "I can't stop shaking!" she exclaimed. "Mark [her husband -ed.] stayed up for first round but he has to go work today so I'm going to go wake him up now and tell him. I held back from screaming but the tears have been flowing.

"It's been a really hard week, lack of sleep, stress to the point where my hair's falling out and I'm constantly in Manchester mentally thinking this is what they're doing at this minute, this is how we're preparing for this race...

"But now I can concentrate on preparing for the Olympics – it's fantastic news."

With reporting by Gennie Sheer

Cavendish targets worlds medals

By Shane Stokes in Manchester

Cavendish flew the Isle of Man flag
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish will get his world championship campaign underway on Friday evening when he competes in the men's points race. The 22-year-old is now best known as a road rider, having had an excellent season with T-Mobile in 2007, but his background is in track racing. He was world Madison champion with Rob Hayles in 2005 and took the European points race title that same year; he also triumphed in the 2006 Commonwealth Games scratch race. Earlier this month he won the British Madison title with Peter Kennaugh.

Aside from chasing world championship medals in the points race and Madison, there are two big motivations for Cavendish here. The first is competing on home soil; although he's from the Isle of Man, he's spent a lot of time in Manchester and will enjoy the full support of the local fans. The second is because he has targeted the Olympic Games track races as a major target this season. Riding well this week will advance things towards that goal.

"The plan here is to do the points race and the Madison," he told Cyclingnews. "I feel okay. I haven't done much track preparation so I won't know until the day itself. But I've got confidence that my form is good. I just have to put it to use now.

"Being in Manchester does not add pressure, it just makes it more enjoyable. The fact that this is a world championship means there is going to be pressure anyway, but being in Manchester is a boost. It gives a definite advantage because there is a great motivation to ride well here."

After Friday's points race, Cavendish will join up with Bradley Wiggins for Saturday's Madison. The two competed together in some six days over the winter and after an uncertain start, their pairing improved. He feels that there's still some work to be done, but the potential is there. "We still haven't got things fine-tuned," he admitted. "But we'll just have to see how it goes. We are both physically capable, so we'll just see how it works out technically."

Cavendish has had a solid season thus far, but has yet to clock up an international victory. He's gone close on a number of occasions, including crossing the line first on stage six of the Tour of California but then being relegated due to pacing after a crash. His form is good, though, and he feels it is only a matter of time.

"I think there should have been three wins on the cards already, but they haven't happened due to various causes," he said. "My form is good, I've got a decent form. My sprinting is good. I worked on it over the winter, I don't know why… I didn't think I needed to, but it has actually paid off. I don't think I'm [just] a top sprinter now, I think that I am one of the best."

His post-worlds schedule will depend on how he fares here. "Depending on how things go, I will see how much track preparation I need to do," he explained. "If I don't come out of this very well I will probably spend about a month on the track before the Olympics. But if it is okay, I will see if I can get on the Tour team again.

After the Worlds wrap up, Cavendish will have little time to recover before heading back out on the road next week. "My next race is De Panne, then I will do the Giro. We will see how that race goes…I'm definitely doing the Giro, we will see how it goes and decide about the Tour."

Whatever he does, his competitive nature means he will be chasing big wins, both on road and on the track.

German rider fined for "advertising"

Dana Glöss and Miriam Welte
Photo ©: Nick Rosenthal
(Click for larger image)

Germany's Miriam Welte has been ordered by the UCI to pay a 2000 Swiss Franc fine for "illegal advertising" during the medal awards ceremony after the women's team sprint event at the World Championships in Manchester. The 21-year-old sports solider wore a pin from the Bundeswehr (German army) on her trikot when she received her bronze medal alongside team-mate Dana Glöss.

2000 Swiss francs is the equivalent of 1275 Euro, and Welte earns only 1000 Euro monthly as a soldier.

"I don't see that this fine is justified, because it is not advertising in the literal sense, but just a 'Bundeswehr' sign, that is equivalent to an Adidas patch, for example," Burckhard Bremer, Sport director for the German federation, the Bund Deutsche Radfahrer, told the dpa. "We will clear this up with the UCI's legal department."

Voigt prepares for Criterium International record

By Hedwig Kröner

German Jens Voigt has the opportunity to win a fourth edition of the French Criterium International stage race this year
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Germany's Jens Voigt has the opportunity to win a fourth edition of the French Criterium International stage race this year and get once step closer to matching the record of Raymond Poulidor, who won the event five times.

The 77th edition of the two-day, three-stage event will once again see the riders tackle the hilly countryside of France's northeast, towards the Belgian border. "I really like Critérium International, it's short but sharp, exactly my kind of thing," the CSC rider told Cyclingnews at Paris-Nice, where he tested his form in a breakaway towards the famous Mont Ventoux.

The 2007 winner of the event will thus be the man to beat in the hills north of Charleville-Mézières, where the second stage will take place on Sunday morning, and at the race's final time trial on Sunday afternoon. Traditionally, the first stage on Saturday is decided in a bunch sprint, and the general classification players take over the action on the second day of the race.

Continue to the rest of the preview.

CSC fine-tunes for Flanders

Sanremo wasn't enough for Cancellara
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The CSC team will head into this weekend's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl with one thing in mind: honing its form and tactics for next weekend's Ronde Van Vlaanderen. With Milano-Sanremo winner Fabian Cancellara setting a high priority on Flanders and Paris-Roubaix the following week, he and his team will use the semi-classics as a dress rehearsal.

Cancellara took second place in last year's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, but the squad has other riders with a strong chance at overthrowing E3 Prijs four-time champion Tom Boonen or three-time Brabantse Pijl winner Oscar Freire. Allan Johansen and Stuart O'Grady finished in the top ten in the 2007 E3 Prijs, while Karsten Kroon took a fifth place in the Brabantse Pijl.

"A lot of our guys and also riders from the other teams have Ronde van Vlaanderen as one of their major goals for the season, but of course we'll try for the best possible results this weekend also," said team director Scott Sunderland.

The team has been putting in some special training on the Ronde van Vlaanderen route this week in. "We did the final 100 kilometers of the route to prepare ourselves properly," said Sunderland. "It was about five or six degrees with both wind and rain so I guess we're prepared for the worst now. It went really well and the riders know what to expect next Sunday," he mused.

CSC for E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl: Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Lars Bak, Matti Breschel, Fabian Cancellara, Allan Johansen, Marcus Ljungqvist, Anders Lund, Stuart O'Grady

Mitsubishi team clarifies Jartazi sponsorship

Comments made by Mitsubishi-Jartazi team manager Patrick Stallaert this week were widely interpreted to mean that Jartazi would be ending its role as secondary title sponsor, but Stallaert clarified on Friday that this is not the case. "It is not Jartazi's intention to disappear from the team," Stallaert told "They will surely continue as clothing sponsor and if we can't find another second sponsor, then they will continue."

Stallaert hopes to establish a good financial situation. "We especially want to make the way free for a company with more financial support. The second name of the team will be free and perhaps we can work next year with a larger budget," he explained.

The team has been hampered by the UCI's restrictions on its wild card status and the lack of invitations for the Spring Classics. "Although we were not invited to start this year in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Amstel Gold Race, I have decided to seek more financial scope for next season. Thus we can try to take the team one step higher and not have these disappointments again."

South Africans top Cape Epic prologue

South African riders became the first ever participants from the home country of the Cape Epic to wear the race leaders' jerseys when Kevin Evans and David George took victory in the prologue on Friday. The pair, riding as Team MTN Energade 1 scorched the 17 kilometre prologue course in Knysna, setting a 31'04" mark nearly one minute faster than the runner-up Cannondale Vredestein team of Roel Paulissen and Jakob Fuglsang. Defending champions, Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt were third.

"We did a good job today," said the typically modest Evans, struggling to contain a virtually permanent grin. "We came to this race hoping to win a stage and maybe wear the leader's jersey and we've accomplished that on the first day."

Evans says that thanks to the meticulous preparation of George, a five-time South African time trial champion and former Under-23 world championships bronze medallist, the pair were already at an advantage even before the start.

"Dave insisted we wear skinsuits and that we warm up on stationary rollers. It's small details like this that we've been incorporating into our training over the past four months that have got us to the top of the podium today."

"Some of the guys looked a bit surprised to see us catch them, but we had a faultless ride and are in the best shape of our lives," beamed Evans, who admitted that he and George would start Saturday's second stage with the pressure of defending the lead, but said it wasn't a bad thing.

"To beat us, the other teams have to ride away from us. And having placed all our training emphasis on endurance and climbing, rather than the high intensity required on the prologue stage, we feel confident we can stay with them."

In the women's race, Cyclingnews diarists, Team Trek – VW WSD's Susan Haywood and Jennifer Smith were first to go off, and set a time of 42'51", and no other team could match the American/Kiwi pair. "This prologue was a great way to start the stage race," said Haywood. "It felt good to work our legs after the long trip to South Africa. Since we are used to cross country races, the short and intense racing today was something that suited us, especially since we could race in a safe environment with few riders around us. We are more worried about what’s laying ahead."

The second place team Rocky Mountain were 38.5 seconds back, with Canadian Alison Sydor and Finland's Pia Sundstedt suffering from bad luck with a flat tyre in the first few kilometres. "We learned our first lesson today," said Sydor. "Two hands are faster fixing a tyre than four. In fact, we really learned a lot about each other and the prologue was a great way of getting used to your partner and working in a team rather than alone. The flat tyre gave us confidence, because we learned that we can work well together under pressure."

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