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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 28, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson and Bjorn Haake

McGee: Tour start a long shot

Brad McGee (Team CSC) broke his collarbone in the Giro, but is already back on the bike
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The likelihood of Bradley McGee starting this year's Tour de France is a long shot, the Team CSC rider believes. The injured McGee told fans on he would be ready if the team called on him, but that he's realistic about his chances.

"It's not out-of-the-question, but realistically a long shot," said the Australian. "Look at the list of amazing riders CSC can choose from. One thing for sure is that if called for I will be ready to deliver all that I have."

McGee started this month's Giro d'Italia with Team CSC but had to abandon the race during its first week with a broken collarbone. McGee was caught in a mass pileup on stage 3, the same accident which claimed team-mate Stuart O'Grady, who also suffered a broken collarbone.

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"The injury is going well - as good as can be expected," he said. "I get a lot of weird sensations through the bone - too many screws I think! But my home trainer sessions have been great."

"I'm getting in two sessions a day," he added. "One to two hours a piece, plus some extra rehab work on the shoulder. I do my second session in view of the [Giro on] television. Pushing out my efforts seems much more pain free when watching the stages."

McGee joined Team CSC at the start of 2008 after leaving French squad Française des Jeux. The 32 year-old left Française des Jeux when the pair came to a mutual agreement to part ways, after McGee struggled with lower back pain, which prevented him from season-long competition for a number of years.

Major financial boost for Tour Down Under

Racing booms in Australia and the Tour Down Under becomes even bigger
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

South Australia's Tour Down Under, which last year became the first ProTour race to be held outside of Europe, will receive a major injection of funds in the 2008-09 State Budget. Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith today announced an extra AUD$14.6 million would be provided over the next four years to increase the tourism benefits of the race.

The budget, to be handed down next week, also includes an extra AUD$3.1 million over four years to attract more events to South Australia, particularly outside the popular January to March period. The funding injection was announced to coincide with the registration opening for the 2009 Skoda Breakaway Series' Mutual Community Challenge Tour. Lomax-Smith also announced a new start town for next year's race – Burnside will host the start of the stage 4 route to Angaston for the first time. Other routes will be announced in July.

Lomax-Smith said the Tour Down Under has grown to become the nation's most significant cycling race. "This year's Tour Down Under achieved amazing results, attracting more tourists, bigger crowds of spectators, more world media coverage and a larger economic impact than ever before. We believe there is scope to increase the tourism benefits and further boost South Australia's profile in the all-important European market – the source for the largest number of visitors to our State."

The minister added, "This funding injection will allow organisers to promote the race more heavily in key European markets where cycling is big business and attracts a huge following."

According to Lomax-Smith, the 2008 Tour Down Under added an estimated AUD$17.3 million to the State's economy – a 50.4% increase from 2007. "More than 15,000 people travelled from interstate and overseas specifically for the event and if we can boost that number in the future, the economic benefits will be even greater. Achieving ProTour status was a significant moment in the Tour Down Under's 10-year history and we want to be able to capitalise on that milestone as much as possible.

"Events such as this pump money into our shops, restaurants, pubs and tourism operators. [These] events are an essential part of the Rann Government's push to make tourism a AUD$6.3 billion industry by 2014."

Mutual Community Challenge Tour

Registration for the 2009 Mutual Community Challenge Tour is now open. The event will be held on January 23, 2009, coinciding with stage 4 of the Tour Down Under. There are three riding options. The long version goes from Burnside Village to Angaston over 143 kilometres, with an early 6:30 start. The second option is a 97-kilometre run from Mt Pleasant to Angaston, with a send-off at 7:30. The final option is a leisurely 32-kilometre route from Angaston back to Angaston. It starts at noon.

People can register for the Breakaway Series at the race website. In 2008, more than 3400 riders signed up for the Mutual Community Challenge Tour (see report) and in 2009 sights have been set high on a target cap of 5,000 riders. An 'early bird' offer is available until 31 July 2008, allowing people to register at 2008 prices.

Full 2009 Tour Down Under stage details and race routes will be announced on July 4, 2008.

Gilbert shuns Olympic team opening

Gilbert will skip the Olympics due to the course not made for him
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Philippe Gilbert has decided to skip August's Olympic Games in Beijing, China to prepare for the UCI World Road Championships in Varese, Italy. The Française des Jeux leader feels that the course of the road race will be too difficult for him to play a role.

"I have decided not to accept my position on the team for Beijing," the Belgian told Sporza. "This decision was not easy, but I thought about it for a long time and spoke with the national coach for a half hour [about it]."

The Belgian's decision will free up the final half of 2008, allowing him to focus on his main goals for the season. Gilbert hopes to do well at the Tour de France and will also contest the Vuelta a España.

"Now I can go to the Tour de France with ambitions of doing well, recuperate in August, go to the Vuelta and then the Worlds."

Gilbert started his season at Australia's Tour Down Under, where he claimed the event's first King of the Mountains jersey as a ProTour event. From there the Belgian has continued his form to claim victory at the Vuelta a Mallorca, including two stage wins, Omloop Het Volk and Le Samyn while he also claimed podium finishes at Milano-Sanremo and Brabantse Pijl.

Turtur opposed to Olympic ride-off

Olympic Games gold medallist Mike Turtur disagrees with the move to put Australian Beijing Olympic hopefuls Ben Kersten and Shane Kelly head-to-head for the national team's final spot. The 1984 Los Angeles medalist says the high-pressure situation could be avoided.

"I understand that these are two athletes who are used to performing under extreme pressure. But by doing this, they are being placed under unnecessary pressure," Turtur told "We should be letting the selectors and the head coach do their jobs."

The ride-off between the duo - which would see them timed over 300 metres from a standing start - has been delayed until next month while the pair recover from injuries in separate incidents. Kelly dislocated his shoulder earlier this month while days later Kersten was one of 50 riders taken down in a training incident.

"As far back as I can remember, the coach makes the call and you live or die by that decision," he added. "I'm not backing one athlete over the other one and I'm not going to make a public statement on who deserves selection. The reality is that the selection process is being taken away from the people we appoint to be selectors and coaches."

Turtur is currently the race director of Australia's Tour Down Under, the first ProTour race outside of Europe. Kelly has contested every Olympic Games since Barcelona in 1992. He claimed silver at the '92 event and bronze medals at the last two Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens.

Induráin sees advantage for Contador

Five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Induráin, who also won the Giro d'Italia in 1992 and 1993, believes that his compatriot Alberto Contador has the best chances to win the Giro. "He has distanced almost all his rivals and the race is now in his favour," Induráin said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

But the Spaniard cautioned that it won't be easy. "The last few days will be scorching hot and all his Italian rivals will be out to push him from first place."

The Italian rivals did indeed confirm their intentions, with Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) stating that "I still believe I can win. I believe it with all my heart but also with my head." Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) still believes in victory, confirming that "It's not over. I will attack."

The two remaining mountain stages are Friday and Saturday, with a final flat time trial concluding the race on Sunday.

Pfannberger crashes out of Giro

Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld) in his first Giro d'Italia.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Barloworld's Christian Pfannberger went into the Giro d'Italia hoping for a stage win. But he ended his Giro during the 15th stage, suffering from bronchitis and the multiple scrape wounds from his multiple crashes. Instead of the desired stage win, he could point back to three accidents.

"After the first crash, I was angry, because I was going for the win," he told "The second one was a real cracker, at 60km/h. That was pretty big, but I'm sure I would have gotten good 'artistic' scores," the Austrian said, proving he hadn't lost his sense of humour. "After the third one, it was over."

The Giro has been a disappointment for his team. Both he and co-captain Juan Mauricio Soler had to drop out during the race. "It has been a race for nothing so far. Our Giro brought us so much bad luck, it is hard to believe."

It was his first Grand Tour, but, he hoped, not his last. He thinks he can do well in such a long race. "From the beginning, I have always been one to train longer and harder than the others. So I really belive that I can stand up to the problems in the third week. But now I am at home in the third week..."

Pfannberger's plans for the immediate future are first of all to recover, "and then I will clear up my further race planning with the team. I will probably take a longer break from racing." (SW)

The cheekiest Tour stage win

The 1960 Tour came to a halt for Charles de Gaulle.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

We've all known the feeling. The race is coming to an end and you sense that, even if you're not going to win, something's going to go right for you. And then you feel your rim bumping along the road. You know that sensation? Well, this is a story to bring you fresh heart when it happens to you... Cyclingnews' Les Woodland recounts how one rider's misfortune turned lucky.

We have to go back to the start of the Swinging Sixties, literally the start because this is the Tour de France of 1960. Sharpeville is a town the world suddenly knows because South African troops have fired on an African gathering; an American spy plane has been shot down over the Soviet Union and the world Summit is off; Britain has just made its last steam engine... and the Tour is making its last run with national teams.

In France Charles De Gaulle was the epitome of French hautocracy, a giant president blessed with a wonderfully large nose with which to look down at the rest of the world. A patriot, a pragmatist and a bit of a bike fan, the general. When someone asked what he thought of news that perhaps Jacques Anquetil took dope to help him win the Tour, he answered with words to the effect of: "And what does that matter if it makes the world watch the French flag flying?"

Charles de Gaulle spent his working week in the Élysée in Paris and his spare time in a village called Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where he lived with his dowdy wife and drove her crazy by playing military music on the record player all day.

On Saturday, July 16, 1960, two days after Bastille day, Colombey-les-Deux-Églises was on the route of the Tour as it headed from Besançon to Troyes. To the French in and around the race, it could only be that the choice was deliberate. Nobody much else knew or cared, as we'll see.

Read the full feature.

Traralgon to host Herald Sun Tour start

The Jayco Sun Herald Tour will start at Traralgon
Photo ©: JHST
(Click for larger image)

The 2008 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will kick off in Traralgon for the first time in the event's 57-year history and return for a finale in Lygon Street in Melbourne. Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation, James Merlino, today released the route for 2008, announcing Traralgon, Inverloch, Warragul, Alexandra, Marysville, Mt Buller, the Yarra Valley and Melbourne will all host stages, which will run from October 12 to 18.

The 57th edition of Australia's oldest stage race will continue the growth of an iconic Victorian sporting event and will, for the first time, be based predominantly in Gippsland and eastern Victoria. The 2008 Tour will host 14 teams of seven riders making up the 98 rider field.

"A new tour route is devised every year, ensuring that as many Victorians as possible can experience this wonderful international sporting event - and this year Gippsland will be in the spotlight," Merlino said. "The towns, vineyards and landscapes of Gippsland will be showcased through local and international coverage of the event, as well as the many thousands of visitors who will cheer on their favourite competitors along the way."

Merlino said the Tour, combined with the recently announced UCI Track World Cup in Melbourne and the 2010 UCI Road World Championships to be held in Melbourne and Geelong, would enhance Victoria's reputation as a centre for world-renowned international cycling events.

"Victoria can now lay claim to a series of cycling events equal to any city in the world, consolidating our position as the epicentre of cycling in the region," he said.

Last year, Hodgkin's disease survivor Matthew Wilson won the "greatest prize of his career" in front of an adoring home crowd. The 30 year-old Victorian, who now rides for the United States of America-based Team Type 1, produced seven outstanding rides in seven days to take out the 56th edition of the prestigious race.

Wilson said he was hopeful of a return to defend his title. "At this stage I would love to come back to defend the title but as always with cycling it depends on my program and how it would work in with everything," he said. "But if it does work in well, and I hope it does, I will be coming and it will be a big objective for my end of season."

Tour director Michael Hands, who is currently at the Giro d'Italia building support from international teams for the race, said this year's route had been carefully constructed with the riders in mind, whilst retaining the key climbing and time trial stages that have become a feature of the event in recent years.

"We recognise that after a long year, the world's best cyclists don't want to face a torture test," said Hands. "However they still want a challenge and this year they will face a tough climb to Mt Buller and then a spectacular individual time trial in the Yarra Valley.

"We also return to Lygon St in Melbourne for the final stage," he added. "The finish there in 2006 was nothing short of sensational, with Robbie McEwen winning the stage and Simon Gerrans claiming his second consecutive Tour win. We will be in a position to begin naming the international teams after the Tour de France in July."

Tuft to contest Westside Classic

Former Canadian National Champion Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) has been confirmed as a starter for this weekend's Westside Classic in Vancouver, British Columbia. Tuft, the current UCI Americas Tour Champion will contest Sunday's race as a lead in to the Tour of Beauce, where he finished runner up in 2007.

"I love racing in my hometown as I don't get the opportunity very often," he said. "The Westside Classic is a great race on a spectacular course and I can't wait to compete. The organization has put on a race we all should be proud of. Coupled with the chartable work for cancer, I am looking forward to a very special race this Sunday."

The Langley, British Colombia rider will use the event to prepare for Beauce, which runs from June 10 - 15. The reigning US Open Champion will be hoping to go one better at the race, where Ben Day (Navigators Insurance) claimed a 40 second victory.

AVC offers $10,000USD prize purse

A prize purse of some $10,000 USD will make next month's American Velodrome Challenge one of the highest paying track races in America this season. The event, held at Hellyer Park Velodrome in San Jose, California, will run from June 20-21.

Organisers have announced Giddeon Massie and Adam Duvendeck will both compete at this year's event. The United States of America team sprint members for this year's Olympic Games will participating in several events, ranging from flying lap record attempt to sprints.

"The idea is to bring more fans and families to the velodrome, encouraging more growth at the track which has experienced tremendous boost in poularity for the past two years," said series co-promoter Robin Horwitz. "By securing several stars, we've made the event attractive for the riders and fans."

During the weekend, American Velodrome Challenge will offer free drinks, food and DJ/Music for all fans and participants.

Tour of America offers new proposed course

The Tour of America is continuing to try and present a workable race for 2009. Its latest proposal has 21 stages and runs 2205 miles/3555 kilometres from Somerville, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California. The planned dates are September 5 to 27, 2009.

The proposal features one team time trial of 16 miles/26 km in Morgantown, West Virgina, and an individual time trial of 12 miles/19 km in Vail, Colorado – both of which may or may not involve climbing. The final time trial would be 35 miles/57 km in Sacramento, Calif., in the 19th stage.

The race would be run with two rest days, both of which involve air transfers. The first nine stages run from Somerville, New Jersey, to Indianapolis, Indiana. Stage 10 starts in Boulder, Colorado, where stage 15 also ends. In between there are four mountain stages, plus the time trial.

After another flight on a rest day, the action continues in Reno, Nevada, and three mountain stages followed by the longer time trial, before ending in San Francisco.(SW)

(Additional research and assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer).

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