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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, November 17, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Old-fashioned 'cross tests riders in Gavere

By Brecht Decaluwé in Gavere, Belgium

Belgian Champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

A week of rain combined with a devious course design translated into a classic cyclo-cross mud bath at the third round of the Superprestige in Gavere, Belgium on Sunday. No artificial barriers were necessary as the numerous muddy climbs and treacherous slippery, rutted descents proved sufficiently challenging and at times dangerous to even the sport's top racers.

Belgian champion Sven Nys took his fifth consecutive victory in the Superprestige at Asper-Gavere in an elite men's race which saw the young guns fall victim to the highly technical course and the old guard rise to the top.

Nys was challenged by former world champion Bart Wellens (Fidea) and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Projob), but a bobble by Wellens on the final half lap gave Nys the opportunity he needed to secure the win. Wellens' teammate Erwin Vervecken came in fourth.

"This was old-fashioned cyclo-cross," Nys said after grabbing his seventh win of the season in Gavere. "This was one of the races I really wanted to win so I'm very happy to achieve that since the last few weeks showed that winning isn't simple anymore."

In the women's race, American Katie Compton powered away from Dutch rider Daphny Van den Brandt to take the win by more than a minute, while the 18-year-old Belgian Sanne Cant took her first elite podium place in third.

The espoirs race was a battle of two riders: Germany's Philipp Walsleben (Palmans-Cras) and Belgium' Tom Meeusen (Fidea). Walsleben had a small gap over Meeusen for most of the race but during the last lap Meeusen managed to bridge back up to the German to sprint for the victory in Gavere.

The Belgian champion thought he had it won and raised his hand in the air to celebrate the victory, but failed to take into in account that Walsleben wasn't giving in, and the German threw his wheel ahead of his Belgian rival's at the finish line.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Superprestige round three.

Albert injured in Superprestige warm-up

By Bjorn Haake and Brecht Decaluwé in Gavere

Niels Albert in last week's race (Palmans-Cras)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Niels Albert was not able to defend his lead in the Superprestige standings in Gavere after he crashed during the warm-up for the men's elite race and was taken from the course on a stretcher with severe abdominal pain. He was transferred to the university hospital in Gent, where he was diagnosed with a torn spleen.

According to sporza.be, Albert is in intensive care as a precaution, and will undergo further tests. If the bleeding does not stop on its own, Albert may need surgery. He could be in the hospital for five days and then out of competition for two to three weeks in the worst-case scenario.

Albert, like most of the elite men, used the break between other races to warm-up and get familiar with the course. Relentless rain had made the course muddy and the descents tricky. Previous races and the other pros warming up had caused deep ruts to be formed in the mud.

Albert reportedly crashed and fell chest-first onto his handlebars. When he was carried off on a stretcher by the ambulance, he complained of having trouble breathing.

Armstrong to meet with ASO

Lance Armstrong
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong will meet with the Tour de France organisers before making his decision whether or not to race the 2009 edition, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Sunday. Johan Bruyneel, the manager of the Armstrong's Astana team told the Italian newspaper that the two have requested a meeting with the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), presumably with Tour director, Christian Prudhomme.

When Armstrong announced his return to the sport in September, he made it clear that he would seek an eighth Tour title, but resistance to his appearance at the Tour surfaced not long after. The ASO's new chief Jean-Etienne Amaury evoked a stinging response from Armstrong's camp when he blurted the double-negative insult, "We can't say that he has not embarrassed the Tour de France" while trying to assure that he would continue the Tour's anti-doping efforts.

Prudhomme, who kept the Astana team out of this year's Tour de France despite the presence of the defending champion, Alberto Contador, on the squad, was more diplomatic. He welcomed Armstrong's return, "in principle", but acknowledged that "Armstrong's victories have been tarnished by [doping] suspicions since 1999."

Armstrong also faced criticism from the French anti-doping chief Pierre Bordry, who challenged the American to allow his agency to re-test all of his old Tour urine samples – Armstrong refused.

The seven-time champion put his participation in the 2009 Tour de France in doubt when he announced in October that he would race the Giro d'Italia in May. Few racers are able to contest both Grand Tours, which are a little more than one month apart, but Armstrong could use the Italian tour as preparation for the July Grand Tour.

After the 2009 Tour route was announced, Armstrong said the course was "innovative and interesting", but was still uncommitted on whether he would race.

Bruyneel said Armstrong's final decision would be made after the meeting with the ASO.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback

January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
January 8, 2009 - Armstrong impresses Carmichael prior to Tour Down Under
January 7, 2009 - Armstrong believes Team Astana can dominate Tour
December 10, 2008 - Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro
December 8, 2008 - Armstrong climbs Teide
December 6, 2008 - Rast on life with Armstrong
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong: Contador is the best
December 4, 2008 - Horner unites with Armstrong despite past differences
December 3, 2008 - Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong surfs with Astana
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong plans to race Tour
December 1, 2008 - Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending
November 23, 2008 - Media out of love with Armstrong?
November 22, 2008 - Andreu caught up in Armstrong fight again
November 19, 2008 - Armstrong concerned about Tour safety
November 17, 2008 - Armstrong to meet with ASO
November 9, 2008 - Armstrong racing in Texas again
November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
November 7, 2008 - Lance Armstrong speaks at Web 2.0 conference
November 6, 2008 - Carmichael dials in Armstrong's comeback training
November 5, 2008 - Armstrong looking for balance
November 5, 2008 - Photos from Armstrong's wind tunnel test
November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback

Pevenage confirms Ullrich-Fuentes meetings

Former Jan Ullrich mentor Rudy Pevenage has confirmed meetings between the retired rider and Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, according to the German news magazine Focus. Bonn, Germany, prosecutor Fred Apostel confirmed Pevenage's statements to the magazine.

Pevenage was questioned by the German Bundeskriminalamt (federal police) last month, and Focus reported that the Belgian said that he made multiple trips with Ullrich to Fuentes in Madrid. However, he clamed that Ullrich and Fuentes only developed health and training plans, and that he was not present at their conversations. According to the report, the prosecutors do not believe these claims.

The magazine further said that prosecutors are prepared to settle their investigation of Pevenage if he pays a fine in settlement, similar to the way the case against Ullrich was settled last April. The amount that Pevenage, who claims to be nearly broke, has not been settled.

Last week Ullrich testified in Dsseldorf, Germany, in another matter, that he had no contact with Fuentes between January 1 and March 30, 2003. Focus did not say what time period of contact Pevenage's statements covered. (SW)

Unlucky Page confident he can be on the podium again

By Brecht Decaluwé and Bjorn Haake in Gavere

Jonathan Page (Planet Bike)
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Jonathan Page had an unlucky day in the Superprestige 'cross in Gavere and finished in 16th place. His whole day was marked by mechanicals and crashes, which made a better result impossible, but the American is confident that better days will come again.

The misery in Gavere started in lap one which the American entered in about 12th position. But in one of the many deep-mud sections, his handlebar got turned sideward and he crashed. Others crashed on top of Page and eventually there was a bit of a traffic jam in the mud near the Gavere castle. "I wasn't bad," said Page, "but you've got to have a good start here and of course luck needs to be on your side as well."

Luck was clearly not on Page's side and things got even worse after that first lap. "I then broke my derailleur." On a gray day, Page wasn't finished with all the problems a racer can have. "I punctured as well." Despite relatively quick changes on both mechanicals, the day was over for the Planet Bike rider.

A muddy Page came to the finish almost five minutes behind the winner, but left with a promise to Cyclingnews. "I am sure someday I will be on the podium again."

Vigan's future in flux

Former Quick Step rider Davide Viganò still does not know which team he will ride for in 2009. The 24-year-old turned pro with the Belgian squad in 2005, and may either remain in Belgium on the rival Silence-Lotto team or join the Barloworld team.

According to tuttobiciweb.it, Viganò should know the answer in a few days.

McCann's plans for 2009 uncertain

By Shane Stokes

Although keeping in touch with the leaders all tour
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Currently lying fourth overall in the 2.1-ranked Tour of Hainan in China, a position matching his final GC placing in the Tour of Qinghai Lake earlier this year, Irish professional David McCann is still deciding his plans for 2009.

The Belfast rider has the option of staying with Giant Asia but told Cyclingnews that he would consider other offers, including those from British teams.

"I'll maybe stay in Giant since it means I can get into races with some serious climbing like Langkawi and Qinghai Lake," he stated. "That said, I have always valued a bit of variety of experience and I am certainly interested in pursuing other avenues or younger teams. I'm doing more coaching when I can fit it in and I'm enjoying showing others how to get the best out of themselves."

McCann considers 2008 to be one of his best seasons to date. Fourth overall, second in the prologue and two other top-ten placings in Qinghai are undoubtedly the highlights, but he has taken several other solid results as well as helping Giant Asia riders to their own victories.

His performances include second on the Genting Highlands stage and tenth overall in the 2.2-ranked Jelajah Malaysia, a stage win and second in the KOM classification in the Tour of Korea, plus a stage win, yellow jersey tenure and second on a stage in the FBD Insurance Rás.

The former Irish time trial champion was more recently sixth in the French Chrono Champenois TT, despite his tyre rubbing during the race against the clock.

The glory days of the Centenary Tour

By Gerard Knapp

Brad McGee
Photo ©: Jeff Tse
(Click for larger image)

Bradley McGee's recent retirement could mark the beginning of the end of an era of Australian prominence on both the road and track, notwithstanding the efforts of Cadel Evans, who is also part of that same generation of cyclists. His efforts could be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. A recent charity ride to honour McGee brought many of this generation together – the class of the 2003 Tour de France.

The 2003 Centenary Tour de France was a milestone in professional cycling. While firmly establishing France's Grand Tour as a global sporting phenomenon, the early days of the 2003 TdF also saw the brash emergence of Australian cycling, as a band of talented and fiercely determined young riders took on the world.

It was led out by Brad McGee's stunning victory in the prologue, and continued as a pair of feisty Australian sprinters, Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen, made the points competition an all-Australian affair. At one stage, of the four major rider classifications in the 2003 TdF, three of those leader's jerseys were worn by Australians, and two were in the same team.

As a gobsmacked French journalist wrote after the first few days of the 2003 Tour, "Rolling on Champagne's roads towards the Ardennes, the Centenary peloton found its new lords yesterday. They come from the very end of the world and are Australians, something the creators of the race certainly never imagined."

"I look back at those days (in Fdjeux.com, as it was then known) and they really were the best times," said Matt Wilson of racing and regularly winning while with fellow Aussies McGee and Cooke in the French professional team.

After his early success with the prologue, McGee and Wilson knuckled down to became part of a powerhouse lead-out train that helped Cooke snare the green jersey. The Aussie trio went on to record many more victories while with FDJ, but the 2003 TdF remains as a highlight not just for their own careers, but Australian cycling in general.

Read Gerard Knapp's account of Brad McGee's recent retirement ride.

Drake takes over as British Cycling chief

British Cycling announced Saturday that chief executive Peter King will step down at the end of the year and be replaced by the current deputy chief executive Ian Drake.

The news was revealed at British Cycling's annual National Council meeting on 15 November, where President Brian Cookson announced the board's appointment of Ian Drake as chief executive from January 1, 2009. King will continue to work with British Cycling as an executive director.

Cookson thanked King for his 12 years of service. "It is no exaggeration to say that he has been pivotal in transforming British Cycling from near-bankruptcy to a world-leading governing body with a reputation for consistently delivering on its objectives," he said.

Ian Drake has worked with British Cycling since 1996, when he worked as a consultant on the development of young people's programs in schools and clubs.

Drake's later work led to the creation of British Cycling's renowned talent identification and development programs.

In 2000, Ian was appointed as national talent coordinator and implemented the Talent Team programme. This has nurtured the likes of Beijing medallists Ed Clancy and Steven Burke along with riders such as Lizzie Armitstead, David Daniell and Anna Blythe who are now emerging as athletes with the potential to win medals at London 2012.

"I am both delighted and proud to step up into the role of chief executive of British Cycling and lead the organisation into its next phase of expansion and growth through to and beyond London 2012," Drake said. "Peter has made a unique contribution to British Sport in his tenure as CEO of British Cycling, which is a hard act to follow, and I'm looking forward to continue to work with him in his new role."

King said that he was pleased the board took his recommendation to appoint Clarke. "He has been my deputy for more than a year, during which time he has demonstrated that he is the right man to lead British Cycling in delivering the next four year plan which he has himself masterminded.

"When I wrote my survival plan for British Cycling in 1997 I started with my own personal mission statement. This was to be able to hand over, to the right person and at the right time, the best run governing body in British sport. In my assessment we are now the best run governing body in British sport, the time is right to hand over the helm and I am able to do so now to the right person."

Metro Volkswagen expands in 2009

In its second year with title sponsor Metro Volkswagen, the FCS Cycling Team is progressing toward its goal of becoming one of the top teams in the US.

The women's program for 2009 will include talented U23 Women as well as junior rider Coryn Rivera (who has won 20 Junior National titles). The Metro women will be working closely with Jim Miller and USA Cycling's Women's development program in Europe. In conjunction with USA Cycling, Metro will be sending riders to race in Europe at the highest level of competition, in hopes of developing future World and Olympic Champions.

On the Men's side, the team will be headed-up by Christian Helmg, winner of Hotter then Hell 100. Also added to the program for 2009 will be Switzerland's Benjamin Baumgartner, who is currently competing in Tour of Hainan, and Brad Armstrong who in 2007 rode for Orbea Spain, and in 2008 rode in Europe with the US National Development Team.

Women: Ashley Anderson, Casey Gale, Kim Geist (Current individual and team pursuit national champion), Natalie Klemko (Current Collegiate National Crit champion), Shannon Koch, Sinead Miller (Two-time Junior National Crit Champion and Current Collegiate National Champion), Lisa Oliver, Coryn Rivera (Current junior road race, criterium and track national champion), Whitny Shults, Andrea Wilson

Men: Joe Miller, Brad Armstrong, Benjamin Baumgartner (3rd place U23 European Championships), Evan Bybee, Peter Carey, Andrew Dahleim, Andrew Gonzales, Christian Helmig, William Rader (two-time Junior National Champion MTB), Corey Ray, Austin Robinson, Will Snodgrass, Phill Snodgrass, Leo Frayre

Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer (SW)

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