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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, October 27, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Albert rallies back to first World Cup win

By Brecht Decaluwé

Niels Albert (Palmans-Cras) gets his first elite World Cup
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Niels Albert pulled off a dramatic come from behind victory in the second World Cup race of the season in Tabor, Czech Republic on Sunday. It was the first World Cup victory out of two tries of the 22 year-old Belgian's career. Thanks to his second place in Kalmthout last week, Albert takes over the World Cup leader's jersey from compatriot Sven Nys who finished fourth in Tabor.

Albert was delayed by a crash at the start, and had to fight his way up to the lead group over the first six laps. After some time to rest, Albert went on the attack just as World Cup leader Sven Nys crashed.

Albert pulled out no more than a fifteen second lead on a chasing group with Czech champion Zdenek Stybar, his compatriot Martin Bina and Nys. Nevertheless, Albert held his lead to win solo with Stybar grabbing the second place before an impressive Bina, who pulled off his first ever podium result in a World Cup race. Nys was fourth ahead of the Fidea duo Bart Wellens and Kevin Pauwels.

"I'm super happy," said Albert, who was denied his first World Cup win in a tight spring against Nys in last week's World Cup. "This is the confirmation from my performance in Kalmthout." Albert, the 2008 under-23 world champion, is in his first year racing as an elite at the World Cup level.

His race in Tabor was nearly ruined after he was caught up in a crash at the start. He patiently worked his way up through the field, and regained his composure. "I started to get into the rhythm with three laps to go after encountering bad luck in the first lap. I attacked very fast and created a gap. Once I had more than ten seconds I knew the others wouldn't be coming back, not on this course," Albert said.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tabor World Cup.

Kohl explains drug use

Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Disgraced Austrian cyclist Bernhard Kohl blamed his use of a banned drug on the pressure to win in an interview this weekend. After testing positive for, then admitting the use of the new blood boosting drug Mircera, Kohl blamed his cheating on desperation to get results in an interview with German news magazine Focus.

"I was in good form after the Dauphiné [Libéré], but didn't have any results," he said. "During the time trial of this tour, I was so over-motivated that I crashed on the wet road. I was badly injured and lost a lot of blood." With most contract dealings happening during the Tour de France, Kohl saw his chances at getting signed slipping away. "Gerolsteiner's future was in doubt – the Tour de France was my last chance."

He said it was at this point he acquired and used CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator, the generic term for the drug Mircera), but said that he would wait and disclose those details when he testifies before the Austrian Anti-Doping Agency.

Kohl said he stopped using the long-acting form of EPO by the time the Tour had started, and did not have any more drugs with him in France. Went into the race hoping that the drug had cleared his system. "I hoped that I wouldn't be one of those who got caught."

The Austrian then complained about the press blaming riders for their actions. "Everything is blamed on us. If the [drug] companies would cooperate with the World Anti-Doping Agency from the beginning and put markers in the medication, then nobody would be so stupid as to use such a medication. In some cases it is practically an advertisement for the pharmaceutical companies."

Kohl also apologized to Team Gerolsteiner manager Hans-Michael Holczer, saying, "I am aware of how greatly I disappointed him. I am really very sorry." (SW)

Gerolsteiner rummage sale draws crowds

A large crowd stormed the Team Gerolsteiner warehouse in Herrenberg, Germany, in search of bargains and souvenirs on Saturday, when the team held a sale of all its remaining assets. Everything from bikes to energy bars were on offer, and while the crowd was enthusiastic, reactions from team riders, staff and management were less festive.

Team manager Hans-Michael Holczer watched the proceedings from a distance. "I have had time to get used to the idea," he told the dpa press agency. Reflecting on his time in the sport, he said, "I have failed in my goal, there is no way around that. I now know that in these ten years I was just made a fool of."

Soigneurs and mechanics helped the crowd to make their selections of components, clothing or even one of the 120 bikes. "There is a lot of regret, that we have to get rid of all this," said soigneur Peter Raffeiner.

At least one rider was on hand, Holczer's son-in-law, Ronny Scholz, who has not yet announced his future plans. "There are a lot of memories here. I haven't really accepted it." Concerning his teammates Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl, who both tested positive for CERA during the Tour de France, Scholz said, "They spoiled everything, because they thought only of themselves. I don't want anything to do with either of them."

Basso returns, Italians dominate in Japan

Ivan Basso returns to racing after his doping suspension.
Photo ©: Hitoshi Omae (Jpn) / PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso finished third in his first race back after his doping suspension, the Japan Cup in Utsonomiya, Japan on Sunday. The Liquigas rider was part of an all-Italian breakaway along with race winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and second placed Giovanni Visconti which finished over a minute ahead of the peloton in the 151-kilometre race.

The race was Basso's first competition after his 16-month suspension for his involvement with the Operación Puerto doping scandal. Basso admitted to banking blood at the clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes, which was raided by Spanish police in 2006, but denied having re-infused the blood for performance enhancement.

Basso was able to force a selection after his team drove the pace coming into the difficult climb on the penultimate lap. Only Cunego, the winner of this month's Giro di Lombardia Classic, Visconti and Basso's teammate Valerio Agnoli remained. Basso tried to anticipate the sprint, but was passed by Cunego and Visconti.

"Third place in principle is not usually satisfying, but this is different after nearly two years away," Basso said, according to the Associated Press. "On the hilly sections I showed I was at the same level as the winner of the Giro di Lombardia. Now, I can look forward with confidence to next season."

Van Avermaet controversial winner of award

Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Silence-Lotto's Greg Van Avermaet was awarded the title of best Belgian cyclists this weekend in Gent, Belgium, but his being named to the honour came with a bit of controversy. Van Avermaet, who took home the points jersey from the Vuelta a España this year beat out Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder for the Flandriens trophy.

"I am very pleased with this award," Van Avermaet said. "I am enormously pleased when I hear what people think of me."

Some people were quick to come out with complaints that Van Avermaet wasn't the deserving winner of the prize, however. Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere was surprised by the outcome. "I think Stijn Devolder should have won," Lefevere said to "There are five monuments in cycling and Devolder won one of them. Tom Boonen won one, too."

"Boonen also won 15 races in the season," said Lefevere, but quickly added that he had great respect for Van Avermaet, and considered him a rider for the future. "But I do not think he deserved to be winner of the Flandriens."

Van Avermaet had four wins in 2008 – stages of the Tour of Belgium, Tour de Wallonie, Tour de l'Ain and the Vuelta a España. Devolder had six wins, including the Ronde van Vlaanderen – the main Classic of Flanders, as well as the Belgian time trial title, the overall win and a stage of the Tour of Belgium and the overall and a stage of the Volta ao Algarve.

Boonen, the winner of Paris-Roubaix won two stages of the Tour of Spain and numerous other races, but his season was marred by a positive out-of-competition doping control for cocaine, which kept him out of the Tour de France.

Other awards were given for "Internationale Flandrien" to Fabian Cancellara, the Olympic time trial champion and Milan-Sanremo winner; Flandrienne, Grace Verbeke; under-23 rider Jan Bakelants; Junior Nicolas Vereecken and beginner Jasper Stuyven.

Basque squad finalises 2009 plans

By Monika Prell

Euskaltel-Euskadi rode impressively
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The team Euskaltel-Euskadi announced this week a 22-man team for 2009. The Basque squad will retain Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, and signed just two new riders: Mikel Nieve from the feeder team Orbea Oreka and Pablo Urtasun, who rode the last two years for the Portuguese team Liberty Seguros.

The team will lose six members, most importantly one of its stage race contenders, Haimar Zubeldia, who will join Astana. Antton Luengo will retire from cycling for personal reasons,which kept him off the bike for five months. Lander Aperribay will take a job in the commercial department of Euskaltel's clothing apparel-supplier Etxe-Ondo and is also holding spinning-classes at two different gyms. Beñat Albizuri, Jon Bru and Dioni Galparsoro are the other three riders who did not prolong their contracts, but they are looking for a team to join. Bru and Galparsoro are hoping that Oscar Guerrero, their former sports director at Kaiku, will be able to find a sponsor to build a new team.

That leaves twenty riders who will stay in the team: Josu Agirre, Igor Antón, Javier Aramendia, Mikel Astarloza, Jorge Azanza, Koldo Fernández de Larrea, Aitor Galdos, Aitor Hernández, Markel Irizar, Iñaki Isasi, Andoni Lafuente, Iñigo Landaluze, Egoi Martínez, Juanjo Oroz, Alan Pérez, Rubén Pérez, Samuel Sánchez, Amets Txurruka, Ivan Velasco and Gorka Verdugo.

Even if the prolongation of Sánchez' contract caused some financial problems and some rumours existed about a possible departure of the Olympic champion for the team Cervélo, the team's direction and the Asturian came to an agreement that was acceptable for both parties, and Sánchez will stay with the Basque team until at least 2010.

There are also some changes in the staff. Directeur sportif Jon Odriozola will leave, while Igor González de Galdeano, until now the technical secretary, and Gorka Gerrikagoitia will be the primary directors, joined by Xabier Carbayeda, Josu Larzabal and Alex Díaz.

According to Diario Vasco, the team won't participate in the 2009 Tour Down Under, Giro d'Italia, Tour de Pologne and Deutschland Tour, as with only 22 riders, a full ProTour calendar is difficult to fulfil.

Six Day season opens with Dutch victory

Stam paired with Peter Schep while Slippens was recuperating.
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The rejuvenated Dutch duo of Robert Slippens and Danny Stam took the overall victory of the Amsterdam Six Day on Saturday night. The duo had trailed last year's winners Iljo Keisse and Robert Bartko by one lap after four nights, but were able to get a lap up and take over the lead on night five, with only Erik Zabel and partner Leif Lampater ahead on points.

On the final night, Slippens and Stam defended their position on the lead lap, and Slippens was just fast enough to slip ahead of Zabel in the sprint to take the overall victory by three slim points. Keisse and Bartko failed to regain their lost lap and finished in third.

The result was a triumph for Slippens, who was severely injured in a crash in August 2006, and had difficulty finding his top form in the 2007-2008 season.

In the Grenoble Six Day, Danes Michael Mørkøv and Alex Rasmussen lead Germans Roger Kluge and Olaf Pollack after three nights.

Bettini, Pozzato to Milan Six Day

Paolo Bettini may not have translated his pairing with fellow Olympic gold medallist Joan Llaneras to a win in the Amsterdam Six Day, but he and Llaneras will be back together on the boards in the Milan Six Day, which runs in conjunction with the Milan trade show EICMA from November 4-9.

Also appearing on the start list is Milan-Sanremo runner-up Filippo Pozzato, who will pair with Australian Luke Roberts. Olympic gold medallist Walter Perez of Argentina, Yaroslav Popovych and Leon van Bon are also amongst the starters.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)