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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, September 2, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Katusha aims big for 2009

Stefano Feltrin, Andre Tchmil and Oleg Tinkov (l-r) at the Katusha launch
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

With a budget of over €15 million per annum, the new Katusha team looks set to be a big presence in world cycling. Some big-name signatures have already been secured, and the team is now looking for a Tour de France contender. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes gets more details.

Building considerably on the nucleus of the existing Tinkoff Credit Systems squad, a number of important signings show that the Katusha team intends to become a major player from 2009 onwards. On September 1st the Russian outfit announced that a number of big guns would don its colours, including multiple Tour de France stage winner and maillot vert Robbie McEwen, Classic specialist Filippo Pozzato, Gert Steegmans and the Russians Vladimir Karpets and Alexandre Botcharov. Other signings include Kenny Dehaes, Stijn Vandenbergh, Antonio Colom and Joan Horrach.

Importantly, the team is also chasing a Tour de France contender and, according to its president Oleg Tinkov, they are going for the number one. "We are still talking to [Tour de France winner Carlos] Sastre; I hope we can persuade him to be a member of our team," Tinkov told Cyclingnews on Monday. "Budget? We have the budget to sign two riders like Sastre."

In a time when sponsors such as Crédit Agricole, Gerolsteiner, Barloworld and Saunier Duval are pulling out of the sport, the development of the high-budget Russian team shows that things are not all bad for the economics of cycling.

Details of the project were first revealed on the first rest day of this year's Tour de France. Under the plan three sponsors – namely Gazprom, Itera and Rostechnologii – will between them provide €30 million per annum for the new Russian Global Cycling Project foundation. Of this total, over half will go to the professional team, while the remainder will fund elements such as the new top-ranked Tour of Sochi, the activities of the Russian Cycling Federation plus a social and talent-developing project dedicated to working with schools and young athletes.

Read the full feature.

Contador survives hot Vuelta day

Spain's Alberto Contador, 25, looks ahead to the time trial
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Giro d'Italia winner Alberto Contador survived a 36°C day in the Vuelta a España yesterday to continue his aim at a third Grand Tour title. Team Astana's Contador, 25, is eyeing the time trial on Wednesday as the first true test of the three-week Spanish race.

"The heat was noticed well on these roads. I don't know how many degrees it was, but you already began to feel the heat on your feet a little and the having a dry mouth. It has been a hard, although relatively comfortable day," Contador said in a press release.

The 168.6-kilometre stage three to Córdoba was marked with an escape by Manuel Ortega of Team Andalucía-Cajasur. A fight for sprint victory took over after Ortega's capture. Contador remained well protected thanks to the work of his team.

"There were pressing moments and the team had to control with [Sergio] Paulinho, who did his work very well." Belgian's Tom Boonen captured the stage over Italy's Daniele Bennati.

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Contador, winner of this year's Giro and the 2007 Tour de France, is looking for his third Grand Tour victory with the Vuelta. Major splits will appear in the classification – now led by Bennati – for the first time tomorrow. The riders will tackle the 42.5-kilometre time trial around Ciudad Real.

"I continue with good feelings and the legs respond very well. I am gaining more competition rhythm and, although I won't arrive at the time trial one-hundred percent, I will already be at a good level."

Sastre takes small step towards Tour-Vuelta double

Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, 33, at the Vuelta a España
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre took another small step towards the Tour de France-Vuelta a España double with a safe ride into Spain's southern city of Córdoba, the end of a 168.3-kilometre stage three. The 33 year-old Team CSC-Saxo Bank rider claimed the French Grand Tour earlier this year and has his sights on conquering the Vuelta.

"The stage was warm, as was predicted. It was a day marked with the escape of the Andalucía rider, and from behind, we rolled with relative tranquillity to kilometre 50. From there, a constant rhythm was kept practically until the outskirts of Córdoba and the ascent of San Jerónimo, where there was been attacks in order to up the chase and to eliminate the sprinters' teams," said Sastre in a press note.

The day came down to a bunch gallop, topped by Tom Boonen of Team Quick Step. "... A mass sprint in which us general classification riders also tried to be there as to not lose our options, but without spending too much energy."

Sastre will need to make a mark tomorrow, the 42.5-kilometre time trial in Ciudad Real, to bolster his chance at the Tour-Vuelta double. Only two riders have completed such a feat – both French, Bernard Hinault, 1978, and Jacques Anquetil, 1963.

"I believe all is going well. ... I am covered by my team-mates and I have taken another small step towards this Vuelta a España," added Sastre. He finished second twice before – last year and 2005 – both times behind Russia's Denis Menchov, who is not racing this year.

Bettini tries to shake Beijing memories

Italy's Paolo Bettini looking for redemption
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Two years after his stage win in the same city, World Champion Paolo Bettini tried again yesterday as the Vuelta a España stage three neared its finale in Córdoba. His attacked, partly to shake the memories of the Olympics, was nullified by the sprinters' teams with only 13 kilometres remaining to the Roman city.

"Maybe I had to liberate myself from the blocking tactics that made me so upset at the Olympics," stated Paolo Bettini of Team Quick Step to La Gazzetta dello Sport. He won the 2004 Olympics, but was caught out in 2008 by a move that contained team-mate Italian Davide Rebellin.

Yesterday, 168.6 kilometres from Jaén to Córdoba, he tried his luck at kilometre 133 – 35 kilometres from the finish. He overtook earlier escapee Manuel Ortega of Team Andalucía-Cajasur, but was unable to defend himself from the work of teams Liquigas and Caisse d'Epargne.

"My move brought about nothing. ... A few years ago, to make your move you had to take off with 50 kilometres remaining. Today this has changed, but I wanted to try anyway."

Bettini's team-mate, Tom Boonen, benefited from the other teams' work to position himself for the eventual sprint and stage win. "It was already decided Boonen would do the sprint anyway, so... Compliments to him, he was great."

Haselbacher sorry with Gerolsteiner's end

By Susan Westemeyer

Austrian René Haselbacher, who spent his first eight years of his career racing with Team Gerolsteiner, is sorry to see the German team leaving the sport. The team will discontinue in 2009 after managers were unable to find a new sponsor to replace the out-going water company.

"It is not good for Germany and it is not good for cycling to lose another team," he told Cyclingnews yesterday evening. "It was a well-organised team and it is unbelievable that [Team Manager] Hans-Michael Holczer searched a year for a sponsor and couldn't find one."

Haselbacher, 30, turned professional with Gerolsteiner in 1999, and stayed with it until joining Team Astana in 2007. "I signed in 1998, so 1999 was my first year. It was actually a very small team," he said with fond memories. "We had terrible problems with the first kits, the printing ran the wrong way and you couldn't read 'Gerolsteiner' on the sides. In the first two months we had no sponsor stickers for the car."

Things improved, though. "Three or four years later we rode the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France – we became a big, big team, from such a small team."

Haselbacher will see another team change for the 2009 season after two years with Team Astana. "I am looking for a new team because I don't think I will sign again with Astana."

Milram takes shape for 2009

Team Milram announced its three signings for the coming season, including two riders from the soon-to-end Team Gerolsteiner. Johannes Fröhlinger and Matthias Russ are coming from Gerolsteiner, while Thomas Rohregger is leaving Team Elk Haus for the German team. In addition, Milram has extended its contract with captain Christian Knees.

Knees, 27, took over as team captain after the departure of Alessandro Petacchi. He won the Bayerrn Rundfahrt in June and finished 29th overall in the Tour de France. "With Christian Knees we have been able to hold on to one of the important pillars of our team," said Team Manager Gerry van Gerwen.

Rohregger will provide the team with much needed help in the mountains. The 25 year-old Austrian won the Österreich Rundfahrt this year. He turned professional in 2006 and in the same year won the mountain jerseys in both the Österreich Rundfahrt and the Tour of Luxembourg.

Fröhlinger and Russ are both young riders who will provide support in stage races. Fröhlinger, 23 years old and a second-year professional, finished second in Giro d'Italia stage five this year after being part of a long-lasting breakaway group. The native of Gerolstein, Germany, was in a five-hour long escape with his future captain Knees in Monday's third stage of the Deutschland Tour.

Russ, 24, turned professional with Gerolsteiner in 2005. He has started in the Vuelta a España once and the Giro d'Italia three times. In this year's Giro, he missed out on the leader's pink jersey by hundredths of a second when in the sixth stage, from Potenza to Peschici, he was part of a 12-rider escape group that finished more than eleven and a half minutes ahead of the peloton. (SW)

Equipe looking to build on success

Equipe Nürnberger is sending a strong team to the Holland Ladies Tour – running today through September 7 – for wins as well as solid training for the upcoming final World Cup race. The team will feature Trixi Worrack and Charlotte Becker, who just won titles in the German national track championships, former World Champion Regina Schleicher and Suzanne de Goede, who led the World Cup series earlier in the year.

"Last year we won a stage in the Ladies Tour and that is also our minimum goal again this year," said Directeur Sportif Jens Zemke. "The focus in Holland will also be on the selection of our line-up for the Nürnberger Altstadtrennen."

The team is coming off a very successful weekend in the national track championships. Charlotte Becker won the 3000-metre individual pursuit title, with her sister Christine taking bronze. Trixi Worrack took first place in the points race ahead of Charlotte Becker. "Two titles and a total of four medals are super results," Zemke said. "The championships went optimally for us."

The women were also successful on the road over the weekend. At the Radsporttrilogie in Paderborn, Germany, the Equipe dominated two of the three races, taking all three podium places. On Saturday, Marie Lindberg won ahead of Larissa Kleinmann and Eva Lutz. The top two exchanged positions on Sunday, with Kleinmann winning ahead of Lindberg and Lutz.

Equipe for the Holland Ladies Tour: Charlotte Becker, Christine Becker, Trixi Worrack, Marie Lindberg, Regina Schleicher and Suzanne de Goede (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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