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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, November 27, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Valverde wants a Grand Tour

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) wants that jersey in Paris next year
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde will put his focus on winning a Grand Tour in the next years. The Spaniard has made up his mind for next season's goals, and said he will hold off racing until the month of April in order to be ready for the Tour de France in July.

"I don't know if it's going to be the Vuelta, the Tour or the Giro, but I know I'm capable of winning one of them," Valverde told Spanish AS.com. Looking back on his season, the Caisse d'Epargne leader said that it was "probably his best season ever," pointing at his Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Clásica San Sebastián victories, his wins of stage races like the Dauphiné Libéré and the Vuelta a Murcia as well as his Grand Tour stage victories in the Tour de France (2) and the Vuelta a España (1).

Still, the 2008 ProTour winner and Spanish champion lacked the final touch to make it to the podium of these Grand Tours, where he wore the leader's jersey. Valverde finished 9th in the Tour, and 5th in his home country. "I had a bad day on the Tourmalet, and in the Vuelta an echelon in the stage to Suances cost me a lot. But during the 20 other days, I was on the same level than the best riders," he explained.

For 2009, his primary goal is the Tour de France, and he is willing to give up some hopes in the early Classics races for it. "My idea is to prepare myself especially [for this goal], and not to race before April," Valverde continued. "If I race, I cannot remain calm – I give everything. I would like to come to the start [of the Tour de France] in the same condition as the other contenders, with the same amount of pedalstrokes."

Valverde still needs to talk to his team manager Eusebio Unzué about his ideas, but the manager knows about his difficulty to combine his ambitions in both the one-day races and the Grand Tours. At the end of this year's Tour, Unzué commented to Cyclingnews, "I think that in order to be competitive for a Tour de France victory, Alejandro has to build up to July in a calmer manner. Certainly, you'd sacrifice a lot of other victory opportunities for that. It's very difficult to make that decision."

Armstrong and Contador to train together next week

Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador will be training together for the very first time next week. The two leaders of the Astana team will get together for some pre-season rides at the squad's first training camp on the Spanish island of Tenerife, a Team Astana spokesperson told AFP.

The team gathering will take place from November 30 to December 8. Although the young Spaniard and 2007 Tour de France winner will be recovering from nasal surgery, he will ride alongside the seven times Tour de France winner and the rest of the team.

Contador hopes to be in form again to race in the Vuelta a Valencia next February. Armstrong, on the other hand, will start his 2009 season in the Tour Down Under in Australia in January. The American has the Giro d'Italia on his programme, but is yet to confirm whether he will race in the Tour de France.

Milram sponsor to pull out?

Team manager Gerry van Gerwen, Nordmilch AG's Martin Mischel, and director Jochen Hahn - if this cooperation ends, German pro cycling will face extinction
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

German pro cycling may be facing extinction, as Nordmilch AG may be on the verge of ending its sponsorship of Team Milram, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The dairy company is allegedly ready to pull the plug immediately, but, according to the newspaper, the company managers were "rather upset when the consequences of such an action was made clear: it would be the abrupt end of German cycling."

Team Manager Gerry van Gerwen was surprised by the news, saying, "I haven't heard anything about it."

But Nordmilch AG confirmed on its website on Thursday that its "engagement in professional cycling is currently being examined. We will inform the public on further developments once they become available."

Earlier this month, Nordmilch announced the departure of Martin Mischel, head of sales and marketing, because of "a difference of opinions about the company's further business policy." Mischel was the one who had coordinated the sponsorship of the cycling team.

The reason for the problem is doping. The recent Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl cases "caused us some uncertainty," according to Otto Lattwesen, head of the directors board. The decision by German television ARD and ZDF to stop broadcasting the Tour de France live was a further blow. "We are the only German cycling team, but nobody watches any more," he said.

The firm has a contract with the team through 2010, and Lattwesen said that "all possibilities are being explored. But I would not advise saying immediately, we're getting out of it." (SW)

Some think half of the peloton is on CERA

Bernhard Kohl was caught with CERA
Photo ©: Sonja Csury
(Click for larger image)

In his hearing with the Austrian National Anti-Doping Agency on Monday, Bernhard Kohl has said that he did research about the blood booster CERA on the internet. Many in the peloton had talked about the drug and some thought probably half the peloton is on CERA, according to an article on the wienerzeitung.at. The Gerolsteiner rider who admitted using the performance-enhancing drug for the Tour de France insisted that he cooperated with the authorities and "named names" – but admitted that he did not name the doctor who provided him with the latest generation EPO for which he tested positive.

The former Gerolsteiner rider said that he had first heard of CERA last year, and looked it up on the internet. Upon learning that it was a form of blood-booster EPO, "it was out of the question for me." However, as time went on, the drug was discussed in detail in the peloton, he told the wienerzeitung.at., with the supposition that "probably half the riders were underway with CERA."

Kohl wants to protect his supplying doctor, saying "He gave it to me at my insistence. He has nothing to do with sport or doping. If I would give his name, his existence would be destroyed," according to the wienerzeitung.at. The 26-year-old further said that "It had nothing to do with a doping network."

The former pro has also testified before the World Anti-Doping Agency and the German federal police Bundeskrimnalamt, which is investigating the former T-Mobile Team for which Kohl rode from 2005-2006. "And I definitely named names there."

Rudolf Massak, general secretary of the Austrian Cycling Federation ÖRF attended Kohl's hearing on Monday and said that he had apparently tried to argue that the difficulties between the UCI and the ASO made a difference in the case. But, as Massak told laola1.at, "it can't be the point of this hearing that you have to discuss whether the positive controls came about at a ProTour race or not." He added, "It is not written anywhere that you can only be tested in races which have been approved by the international federation."

Kohl is facing yet another investigation. Prosecutors in his hometown of Klagenfurt are investigating him for fraud, according to diepresse.com. Doping itself is not a criminal act in Austria, but the investigation is looking at whether he defrauded sponsors, rivals and others. It carries a penalty of up to six months imprisonment. (SW)

Gent the sports capital of Vlaanderen

By Bjorn Haake in Gent

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) raised his arms in Gent at the Tour's stage two in 2007
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The city of Gent is the official capital of Oost Vlaanderen, but it is striving to become more – the (unofficial) sports capital of the entire Vlaanderen region, if not Belgium. Sports enthusiast Christopher Peeters is a driving force behind the efforts. Peeters heads the department of finances, facilities and sports in the city of Gent.

Peeters talked to Cyclingnews during the Gent Six Days, so it was fitting he emphasised the efforts by the city made towards cycling. "We had the Tour de France stage here last year."

It proved successful and Peeters wants more. "At this very moment I am trying to get the Giro to Gent in 2010." The Italian stage race will start out in the Netherlands in two years. "They start in Amsterdam and they are supposed to do four days in Holland, so perhaps the last [of the four] days could start in Holland and arrive here in Gent."

The Belgian city is putting every effort in to make it happen. "In December some members of my team are going to Venice where the presentation will be held for the 2009 Giro. Our delegation will talk to the organisers and we'll see what we get. But we have good hopes that we can get the Giro in 2010 here to Gent."

It is not just cycling that is big on Gent's agenda. "Belgium together with the Netherlands is a candidate for the football World Cup in 2018. If we get the World Cup then Gent will be one of the cities," Peeters said.

Gent is not only putting efforts but also money into the project. "We are now constructing a whole new stadium for our local club [KAA Gent aka the Buffaloes - ed.] It will seat 20,000 people, but is expandable to 30,000 – in case we gain the World Cup in 2018." Peeters added that a higher capacity stadium does not make sense for this size city, with a population about 240,000. "We couldn't fill it up all the time."

Gent has already reaped in one prize. "Gent is the official sports capital of Vlaanderen in 2011." It is the first time such a title is awarded and it was promptly won by Gent. Peeters emphasised the city's goal to build the infrastructure, but also to have the atmosphere.

Het Kuipke, where the Six Days are held, stood as a reminder of what new sports facilities have to live up to. "As you can see here at the Six Days – it is sold out. I think we are succeeding in making Gent a sports city."

Ironically, Peeters has very little time to do sports himself. "We have over 500 sports clubs, so going to games of every one of them is a full time job." When he goes on vacation, he does a bit of diving and skiing. And his job gives him some exercise, too. "I live nearby city hall, so I walk to work and I walk a lot in the city. But when I am in a hurry I will use a bike."

Dempster to Belgium

SA.com-AIS Continental team rider, Australian Zakkari Dempster graduating from the Australian Institute of Sport's High Performance Unit programme, is signing with Belgian-based Bulgarian UCI Continental team Professional Cycling Club Bourgas.

The signing with PCC Bourgas follows on from a strong year for Dempster who won stage one of the Tour of Japan and Australia's oldest classic, the Melbourne to Warrnambool. He also had notable results at the Tour de Langkawi, Tour of Ireland, Tour of Britain and Circuito Montanes.

PCC Bourgas will be managed by Franky Van Haesebrouke, a former professional rider and directeur sportif of US Continental team Navigators in 2004. Van Haesebrouke also has an Australian connection being previously involved with Iteam-NOVA, a former Australian professional team involving Giro d'Italia stage winner, David McKenzie.

PCC Bourgas will have a Belgium base which will suit Dempster. "I am looking forward to riding with the team and welcome the test. The Belgian style of racing with short climbs and fast stages suit me. I want to add to the experience I have gained whilst riding with SA.com-AIS and take that next professional step in European racing. I want to establish myself as a strong team rider and am eager to set up results early in the season," Dempster said.

Dempster will head off to Europe in January 2009 but first he will look to repeat his 2007 U23 time trial title at the Australian Nationals.

Contador and Chavanel named Vélo d'Or 2008

By Jean-François Quénet

For the second year in a row, Alberto Contador has been named "Vélo d'Or" by an international panel of expert journalists selected by French monthly Vélo Magazine. The Spaniard took the honours with a comfortable margin over time trial Olympic champion and Milano-Sanremo winner Fabian Cancellara despite not taking part in the Tour de France.

A winner of both Tthe Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España, the Astana rider has collected exactly twice as more points as Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre. "In my mind, the Vélo d'Or is the world's best award since it comes from all the specialized cycling media," Contador commented. One year ago, Contador also preceded Cancellara but only by one point (49-48), now he seems to have convinced the observers much more significantly (72-47).

World's Vélo d'Or ranking:

1. Alberto Contador, 72 points
2. Fabian Cancellara, 47
3. Carlos Sastre, 36
4. Alejandro Valverde, 34
5. Mark Cavendish, 31
6. Alessandro Ballan, 21
7. Chris Hoy, 11
8. Damiano Cunego, 8
9. Tom Boonen, 6
10. Philippe Gilbert, 4

The French Vélo d'Or has seen Sylvain Chavanel beating by one point (100-99) Olympic mountainbike champion Julien Absalon, who had won the challenge for the past four years. Tour de France stage winner Cyril Dessel took third place.

Chavanel's seven wins in 2008 and his race aggressiveness caught the attention of the French press. "I believe my win at the Flèche Brabançonne was the most beautiful of them because I attacked alone from afar," Chavanel said. It has given him the ambition to target the Belgian Classics at the age of 30 with the Quick Step team he joins for the 2009 season.

French Vélo d'Or ranking:

1. Sylvain Chavanel, 100 points
2. Julien Absalon, 99
3. Cyril Dessel, 51
4. Mickaël Bourgain, 28
5. David Moncoutié, 20
6. Pierrick Fédrigo, 11
Jérôme Pineau, 11
8. Nicolas Vogondy, 6
9. Stéphane Augé, 5
10. Benoît Vaugrenard, 4

Six-Day: De Fauw injured

Dmitri De Fauw crashed heavily at the Zesdaagse van het Noorden's first night of competition and was unable to start on the second evening of racing. De Fauw was transferred to a hospital in Groningen complaining of a headache and sore neck and was diagnosed with a concussion and compressed vertebrae as reported by Sportwereld.be.

De Fauw's partner, Jeff Vermeulen, does not have a replacement for De Fauw and will continue the Zesdaagse van het Noorden in the individual events. American Colby Pearce was also involved in the crash which injured De Fauw but has been able to continue racing with partner Dan Holloway.

Now online: 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll

(Click for larger image)

It's that time of year again... the 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll is now online. Each year, we give you the chance to select the riders, teams, races, moments, equipment and photos that have really stood out from the pack in the last 12 months or so. To keep things simple, we'll be asking you to vote from a fixed selection in each category, as well as some 'free text' fields, so the survey should take you less than 10 minutes to complete.

As an incentive, we'll be giving away a pair of Zipp's 81mm deep 808 tubular wheels on the new 88/188 hub to one lucky entrant... So if you want to fly Fabian Cancellara this Christmas, let us know your thoughts on the rider of the year!

Tim De Waele presents his best pictures of 2008

Widely regarded as the best photographer working in professional cycling, Procycling snapper Tim De Waele has selected his favourite images of the 2008 season in Procycling's Review of the Year issue (December), which is in the shops now. Featuring among the gallery of Tim's best of 2008 are spectacular shots from the Giro, Carlos Sastre's Tour-winning ride on Alpe d'Huez and more offbeat images, including Tom Boonen and his Quick Step team-mates refusing to let Tim take their pictures mid-training ride and Fabian Cancellara sticking his tongue out and clowning as Tim gets a shot of CSC doing some pace-setting at the front of the bunch.

All of Tim's top shots of 2008 can seen and bought at the recently opened Procycling picture gallery (www.bikeradarstore.com), which also offers a huge range of Tim's other pics from this and previous seasons. Find your own favourites within the galleries covering this year's Giro, Tour and Vuelta, the Classics and Beijing Olympics, Lance Armstrong's incredible career and the stunning freezeframe images that appear at the front of every issue of Procycling.

The Procycling gallery is easy to use and provides a host of buying options if you're looking for the perfect Christmas for yourself or another cycling fan, ranging from postcard-size prints right up to A1-sized framed prints that would any cycling fan would relish hanging on their wall. To view the range of pictures available to buy and see Tim De Waele's pick of 2008 go to www.bikeradarstore.com.

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