Latest Cycling News, November 21, 2008
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Giro helps Armstrong's cancer fight
By Gregor Brown
The 2009 Giro d'Italia will have a heightened awareness of the fight against cancer thanks to the presence of American Lance Armstrong. Race organiser RCS Sport is working on plans to highlight the battle during the race which will cover the majority of Italy when it runs May 9 to 31.
Lance Armstrong's participation "brings more attention to the race. There are a lot of initiatives in favour of his fight against cancer. It has not been determined if this will be advertisement at the start and end of the stages; we are still working on it," said race director Angelo Zomegnan to Cyclingnews.
RCS Sport announced Armstrong's decision to race in the 2009 event in October. The idea came about via e-mails between Zomegnan and Armstrong, and the rider's desire to fight cancer worldwide as part of his comeback.
Zomegnan explained the inclusion of Armstrong and the growing list of top-name contenders adds greater substance to an already important race. Current Tour champion Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego and Danilo Di Luca are due to take part in the centenarian Giro. Australian Cadel Evans, second at the Tour, is said to be considering participation.
RCS Sport will announce the full 2009 parcours on December 13 in Venice. The city will host the start of the race with a team time trial and Rome is the likely finishing point of the tour.
Froome taking great strides
By Gregor Brown
Chris Froome took one big step forward when he signed for Claudio Corti's Team Barloworld for 2008 and 2009. The Kenya-born rider went from riding for a continental team to participating in the sport's pinnacle – the Tour de France.
"I saw him last year in some races and I could tell he was a good racer," said Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti to Cyclingnews on the 23-year-old. After testing him out in such prestigious one-day races as the Critérium International, Gent-Wevelgem, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Corti decided to let Froome be the first Kenyan rider to line up in the Grande Boucle.
"I was told at the beginning of the year that riding the Tour was possible – it was not one-hundred percent," commented Froome. "I went well in the beginning of the season and I showed potential. I only really knew a couple of weeks before, there were a few of us up for the two spots."
Corti didn't regret his choice. "This year, he had his ups and downs, but when he was good he was flying. I remember the moment he was there at the base of the [Tour's] Alpe d'Huez with the favourites – he did a great ride," he said.
The Italian also remarked on Froome's maturity. "He is a serious rider and he has clear ideas. I can tell he wants to stay and live here in Italy – he rented a home, registered with the government and has a girlfriend."
The team manager looks forward to seeing his young talent develop. "He is strong in the time trial and on the climbs, in theory he is suited for stage races. He still has to improve; he is young." Froome agreed with his team manager's assessment: "The two strengths that I have are time trialling and climbing, and I prefer longer events – Grand Tours make sense. I obviously have a lot of work to do on my time trialling and climbing to reach that point."
Froome and Corti explained to Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview how the 2008 season went and what they expect in the years beyond. Read Froome takes cycling's big step.
Piepoli B sample positive, too
The French laboratory of Châtenay-Malabry confirmed yesterday the initial positive finding for Leonardo Piepoli during the Tour de France. The rider's counter-analysis for third-generation EPO, CERA, also returned a positive.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) will likely call for another meeting with Piepoli in the coming weeks, where he could decide to collaborate. Piepoli skipped its last meeting, October 22.
Professional Cyclists Association announces retreat
By Gregor Brown
The Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) will host a retreat this December 18 and 19 in Barcelona for 60 ProTour and Professional Continental cyclists. It aims to have open discussions with cyclists outside of their working environment and to study the profession.
"Most of the time the riders meet during the season when they are at war with each other's teams or they are in the hotel – massage and dinner – with their mind on racing. ... If you have a drink with another rider you can get to know him better. This type of meeting can resolve a lot of problems that exist in cycling," said Frenchman Cedric Vasseur, president of the association, to Cyclingnews.
The CPA, established in 1999, acts in defence of pro cyclists and aims at improving their working conditions. Vasseur remains in contact with the riders throughout the season via phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face meetings at races. The association holds its main meeting with its 20-member Riders' Council annually in Liège, Belgium, between the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège races.
"My aim was to have a meeting with the riders away from competition, when their minds are not 100 percent concentrated on the race. ... We tried to find a date that worked best for the riders, this comes after most teams have their first training camps and before Christmas, when most guys are at home. I think Barcelona gives a little bit more of an attractive aspect then Brussels, Paris or Geneva.
"We will talk about what is and what is not going well in cycling. It will allow me to say to the riders what the CPA can and cannot do. They don't know what they can expect [from us] and what they have to look for from their lawyers or [personal] managers."
The idea for the off-season meeting existed for sometime, but funding it was a problem. Vasseur found a solution though the ASSER international in the Netherlands. Representatives of the sports law centre will be in Barcelona to research the cyclists and their activities.
"We needed the budget for it and we had a talk after the Tour de France this year with representatives from the European Commission, who are working on putting cycling in the social dialogue. They have done studies on football, basketball and they want to do it in cycling.
"[ASSER researchers] would like to explain to the riders that they are researching cycling. To know how long you can expect to be a bike rider, how the riders negotiate contracts with the teams, what percentage of riders have a personal manager and lots of other items like that. Right now we can not give concrete answers, and so they will be working on the ground."
The riders' association will meet twice in four-hour meetings. Vasseur confirmed 35 riders to date, including Philippe Gilbert, David Millar and Juan Antonio Flecha. He wants a representative from the USA, but admitted it is hard because most are in America for the holiday period.
Vasseur responds to Albert
Vasseur also responded to Niels Albert's recent comments on road cycling. Last week, the cyclo-crosser said that a Grand Tour could not be won "without the use of prohibited substances."
The CPA president clearly refuted this. "He is judging something that he does not know," he said to velo-club.net. "At 22 years of age, one is not very mature yet, ... but if you have a little bit of intelligence, you don't go off launching declarations like this one. If he has capacities in his discipline, he should recognise that other athletes have capacities in other areas. I never shined in a cyclo-cross but I competed and finished the Tour de France ten times. He should concentrate on his job rather than talking rubbish."
Albert is currently out of competition after crashing during a race warm-up and tearing his spleen. His 2008/09 cyclo-cross season is "not entirely over, but almost," according to Albert's manager Christoph Roodhooft.
Matxin has new sponsor for Scott-American Beef
Joxean Fernández Matxin, former Scott-American Beef sports director, has found a new sponsor and announced yesterday that "the team is already registered [as a ProTour team] with the UCI." According to Diario Vasco, the team is currently labelled GM Bike, but the Basque did not reveal the real backer of the squad.
"The sponsor is still negotiating about the brand that will sponsor the team and we have of course to respect this wish," Matxin said.
Recent speculations located a possible sponsor first in Italy, later in Mexico and finally in Austria. Matxin now revealed that the team will have a Spanish license and that its headquarters will be in Cantabria, Spain.
After three months of searching for a sponsorship, Matxin said, "I feel like having lost three years of my life. I am very tired and stressed. Until now, I have not begun to think about the squad. Give me time, let's go step by step. The most important thing was that the project continued."
As to the team roster, he only announced that "for the moment we will keep the squad of the last season, as we have a lot of riders who still have contracts." To be exact, there are twelve: Arkaitz Durán, Beñat Albizuri, David Cañada, Javier Mejías, Eros Capecchi, Ermanno Capelli, David de la Fuente, Jesús del Nero, Josep Jufre, José Ángel Gómez Marchante, Héctor González and Alberto Fernández de la Puebla.
Since the team will be a ProTour team, more riders will have to join it according to International Cycling Union (UCI) rules. Three of them could be Iker Camaño, who finished his season winning the Vuelta a Chihuahua time trial, Juan José Cobo and José Alberto Benítez.
According to biciciclismo.com, another rider signed a one-year contract yesterday: Riccardo Serrano. The 30-year-old became professional in 2003 and rode for Cafés Baque, Kaiku and since 2007 for team Tinkoff. As he did not get any extension with Katusha, the continuation of Tinkoff, he decided to sign with Matxin's new team. But this signing is still to be confirmed. (MP)
Greipel to defend Down Under title
André Greipel of Team Columbia will defend his 2008 Tour Down Under victory, race organisers announced Friday. The event, to be held January 18-25, 2009, will also feature Lance Armstrong's return the peloton.
Greipel had the third-most wins on the 2008 season and finished fifth in the UCI ProTour rider rankings for the year. It was the best season of his career, "all set on a solid foundation of victory at the 2008 Tour Down Under," said race director Mike Turtur.
In 2008, the German won four stages on his way to the overall title.
Greipel will be supported by a strong team, including American George Hincapie. "The inclusion of an experienced rider such as Hincapie, who is such a reliable and solid competitor, will really add to our world-class cycling spectacle," said Turtur.
For the first time, Hincapie will face his former teammate Armstrong in a race on an opposing team.
Team Columbia will feature Australians Adam Hansen and Michael Rogers. Rogers won the race in 2002 but hasn't participated in it since 2005. Another Australian, Alan Peiper, will serve as directeur sportif.
The Columbia squad for the Tour Down Under will be André Greipel, George Hincapie, Michael Rogers, Bernhard Eisel, Mark Renshaw, Greg Henderson and Adam Hansen. (SW)
Six Day racers Down Under
By Les Clarke in Melbourne
Alexei Markov, Karl-Christian König plus local boys Glenn O'Shea and Leigh Howard have all travelled to Australia to ride the track World Cup in Melbourne after taking part in several of this season's Six Day races in Europe.
O'Shea, Markov and König rode the men's 30km points race on the opening night of competition, with the Australian taking out the exciting 120-lap event. Later in the evening, the Russian rode the individual pursuit final against Australia's Jack Bobridge, although he failed to overcome the young South Australian.
Australian duo Glenn O'Shea and Leigh Howard have been competing on the Six Day circuit, taking part in the UIV series for U23 riders, held in conjunction with the senior events.
Following an Australian domestic road season, the pair competed in the Amsterdam and Munich Six Days, and the Manchester round of the World Cup squeezed in between. O'Shea said, "In the first one [Amsterdam] I found it a little bit harder to back up, and as we went on to Manchester and Munich I didn't have any problems at all."
One of the features of Six Day racing is the smaller track that events are held on, and this slightly changed O'Shea's riding style. "I rode a smaller gear, which saves the legs a bit; in Amsterdam I found it a little bit difficult, but after Munich I was fine."
Another potential problem for Six Day racers is the possibility of saddle sores, due to the high cadence riding and extended periods in the saddle. O'Shea didn't have such issues, although preventing it was part of the learning experience.
"You've got to make sure you look after yourself and hope stuff like that doesn't happen."
Speaking before his gold medal ride in the points race, O'Shea wasn't sure if the different preparation – riding Six Day races – would stand him in better stead to do well over the season. "We've had a pretty good preparation, done a lot of Madison riding and a lot of bunch racing. It was a little bit difficult there [in Europe] because we didn't have our road bikes and we were probably a little bit underdone in terms of kilometres.
"Leigh and I had a big road season [in Australia] and so we've done the miles in the last six months."
O'Shea gave us an indication of what to expect on Saturday night when he and Leigh Howard sling each other around the Hisense Arena during the Madison. "We've done quite a few Madisons now, and we tend to lean on each other a little bit. We know each other's strengths because we've been racing against each other since we were 10 years old. We know when one or the other's having a bad day and we can read each other pretty well. It's good."
North Carolina hosts weekend of UCI cyclo-cross
By Peter Hymas
UCI cyclo-cross returns to western North Carolina for the fourth consecutive year at the North Carolina Grand Prix in Hendersonville on Saturday and Sunday, November 22 to 23. UCI C2 events for elite men and women on both days highlight a full schedule of racing at the Jackson Park venue.
Race Director Tim Hopkin, who conveniently also oversees Jackson Park through his employment at the Henderson County Parks and Recreation Department, is looking forward to the crown jewel of the North Carolina Cyclo-cross Series. "There's some big talent coming in this weekend," said Hopkin to Cyclingnews. "Steve Tilford is coming back, there's Jeremiah Bishop plus some riders from Washington, Utah and Colorado. We'll get to see how [local rider] Will Black fairs versus the influx from out-of-state. I'm always impressed how the homegrown riders handle the competition."
In addition to Tilford and Bishop, some cyclo-cross strongmen from the western part of the United States – including Bart Gillespie, Russell Stevenson, Jonathan Baker and Jake Wells – have opted to duel for UCI points in North Carolina instead of at the country's only other UCI races being held further north in Southampton, New York.
While the North Carolina Grand Prix has always had other UCI events on the calendar to potentially draw riders away, Hopkin has been pleased with his event's attendance over the years. "In 2005 there were only competitors within driving distance, but in the last three years we've had riders flying here. Riders have enjoyed the course, have enjoyed coming to the mountains and have spread the word to their friends."
For more information on the North Carolina Grand Prix visit www.nccyclocross.com
Geargrinder offers eco-friendly gift ideas
Milwaukee-based active apparel company Geargrinder, a major sponsor of Team Geargrinder, Wisconsin's road, mountain bike and triathlon teams, launched an e-commerce site to buy its eco-friendly clothing and accessories.
Using both natural and recycled fibres, the garments are chemical and additive-free made from renewable resources and recycled fibres like coconut shells and bamboo. Accessories like wallets, belts and messenger bags are made from recycled bike tubes.
Geargrinder also donates a portion of the proceeds from each online www.gear-grinder.com sale to a cycling-related organisation, which customers select out of a list.
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer and Monika Prell.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)