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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, September 8, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Silence-Lotto signs mountain man Kohl

Austria's Bernhard Kohl, third-place finisher and mountains classification winner in this year's Tour de France, will ride for Team Silence-Lotto
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Bernhard Kohl, third-place finisher and mountains classification winner in this year's Tour de France, will ride for Team Silence-Lotto. The Belgian team, home of Cadel Evans, announced Monday morning that it has signed the Austrian to a three-year contract.

Silence-Lotto also signed Kohl's Gerolsteiner team-mate Sebastian Lang and announced a new co-sponsor, Q8.

"With Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto has an absolute leader for the next two years. The team management is certain that Cadel Evans and Bernhard Kohl will be completely complementary with regard on circumstances," the team said. Kohl, 26, turned professional with T-Mobile Team in 2005 and joined Team Gerolsteiner in 2007. Lang, 28, is a time-trial specialist.

In addition to Kohl's talents, his nationality may have played a role in his signing. Omega Pharmaceuticals is introducing its Silence anti-snoring product into Austria this month, "and thus Bernhard Kohl's transfer was ideally timed," the team noted.

The team also announced that it has a new co-sponsor, Q8, also known as Kuwait Petroleum Belgium. It has been a minor sponsor for three years already, but is now increasing its support. It will become the third main sponsor, and its logo will appear on all the equipment and jerseys of not only the professional team but also the junior teams. In addition, Lealemant, a company "active in navigation and international logistics," has signed on a minor co-sponsor.

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In a press statement, Kohl said, "the whole team is strongly focused on the Tour de France as the season's high point. As we saw this year, you need a strong team to really be able to win. That means you must have at least two or three riders who have the class to ride in the top ten. With Cadel Evans and me Silence-Lotto now has two strong riders, who can be at the top of the race. We will have to wait and see which of us will be stronger in the end." (SW)

Olympic bronze medalist Julich retires

USA's Bobby Julich of Team CSC-Saxo Bank has announced the end of his 15-year professional career – "Now is the time to ... move on to the next phase of my life."
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

USA's Bobby Julich of Team CSC-Saxo Bank has announced the end of his 15-year professional career, saying, "Now is the time to make that decision and move on to the next phase of my life."

"I have seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during my career," he said in press release, "but every moment has taught me many things and made me into the person I am today. I hope to stay connected to the world of cycling because it has been my life and passion for 25 years."

CSC-Saxo Bank Team Manager Bjarne Riis praised Julich and said he hopes to continue working with him. "I would be honoured if he would consider being part of the team in another role in the future," he said.

Julich, 36, turned professional in 1992. He had his first major successes while with Team Cofidis in 1997–1999, winning the Tour de l'Ain and the Criterium International and finishing third in the 1998 Tour de France. After seasons at Crédit Agricole and Telekom, he joined CSC in 2004. He won a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, and the Paris-Nice, Critérium International and Eneco Tour in 2005. He has not ridden this season since the Tour de Suisse. (SW)

Romagna Gasparotto's ticket to ride?

By Gregor Brown

Italy's Enrico Gasparotto, 26, after winning Romagna
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian Enrico Gasparotto, 26, won the Giro della Romagna in convincing manner yesterday – attacking on the climb and limiting his opponents for the sprint – and now waits for a World Championship invitation from Franco Ballerini. The Italian national directeur sportif will make the nine-man selection for the race, September 28 in Varese, in five days time.

Last month, Gasparotto explained that his main objective was a win in Giro del Veneto, Coppa Placci or Romagna. "I think I showed to everyone. I did the best I could do to convince Ballerini," said Gasparotto to Cyclingnews Monday morning. "He is the DS and he will decide on the team; in the past years, he has done very well selecting the national team – one Olympic gold and two Worlds – I can't say anything to him."

Ballerini acknowledged after the race that he has one more name added to his list of candidates for Italy's squadra azzurra. He did not speak to Gasparotto after the race, but he took notes. "I think that he prefers to keep to himself," 'Gaspa' observed.

Ballerini travels to the Vuelta a España today to meet with Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Ballan and Paolo Bettini. Spots on the Worlds team are guaranteed to all three riders thanks to their past performances on the national team and their results this year. Gasparotto is still fighting for his first chance to don the team's maglia azzurra.

Luca Paolini, winner of Coppa Placci and training partner of Gasparotto, is also vying for a spot. "It will be an easy day," said Gasparotto of his training plan. "I will call Paolini and ride to have a coffee in Varese."

The duo will likely discuss the recent race results and coming season – Paolini is currently without a contract for 2009.

"We train together every day. I was happy for his Placci win. I won De Panne and Luca was second and then he wins Placci and I finished second. It is normal that I am happy for him; he needs victory for Worlds selection and for his contract."

Gasparotto exploited his training partner's weakness to take the win in Romagna, exactly the needed tactics for a tough Varese parcours. "He knew that he could win yesterday if we arrived in a sprint. I had to try to attack on the climb."

Schumacher keeps Varese in focus

By Bjorn Haake in Pla de Beret

German Stefan Schumacher keeps Varese in focus
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

German Stefan Schumacher of Team Gerolsteiner has one last goal this season, the World Championships in Varese. Like last year, when he finished third at the road race in Stuttgart, he uses the Vuelta a España as his build-up race. The relaxed atmosphere has an added advantage, but a busy season is showing its sign.

His racing schedule left him a bit frazzled. "I don't know how many riders there are who did the Classics, the Tour and the Olympics," he said to Cyclingnews. Then he spotted a rider who had a similar programme. "Maybe this gentleman over there," he added with a smile. He pointed to Alejandro Valverde, who arrived at the start line.

Schumacher was quick to add that he wouldn't trade the Olympic experience for a better race schedule. "It is the dream of every athlete to be at the Olympics. It was great to be in the Olympic Village and see some other faces, too."

His racing didn't go to well in Beijing, with the climate one reason he under-performed. The Olympic experience made up for his performance. "With the exception of those two cycling races the Olympic experience was great," he laughed.

One of the problems was that he never had any rest. "After the Tour it is usually a time to relax a bit. But this year it was just immediate stress again, with preparing for Beijing."

It is reason enough for him to take some active rest in Spain. "It really doesn't matter where I finish here. In the stage to La Naturlandia I immediately went into the gruppetto. Maybe there will be a chance to get into a break, but it would be one day that I specifically target." Otherwise, he is more concerned of getting the kilometres in and hammer out one more terrific ride this season in Varese.

Columbia dominates Deutschland Tour

Team Columbia dominates Deutschland Tour
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team Columbia did in its first year what Team Telekom/T-Mobile was able to do only once – it dominated the Deutschland Tour with stage wins, general classification and leaders' jerseys. This year, the USA-based team won four of the eight stages, finished first and second in the overall rankings, and took two special jerseys. In 2001, the team's predecessor, Team Telekom won five of eight stages, finished one-two and took the sprinter's jersey.

In the recently concluded nine-day race, Linus Gerdemann won the first stage, which was also the queen stage, with team-mate Thomas Lövkvist finishing second. The stage catapulted the two into the race lead, positions which they were able to hold all the way to the finish. In the fourth stage, sprinter André Greipel took his 12th win of the season in a mass sprint. Gerald Ciolek's third win of the season, an uphill sprint to Winterberg, followed immediately.

The team topped it off with a one-two punch in the closing time trial. First year-professional Tony Martin was the only rider to go under the 40-minute mark on the 34-kilometre course, and German time trial champion Bert Grabsch was only 34 seconds behind him.

Gerdemann took the overall title and Lövkvist placed second. The Swede also took the jersey for best young rider and the points jersey.

This dominance of the race repeats the success of Team Telekom in 2001. That year Erik Zabel won three stages, with Alexander Vinokourov and Rolf Aldag taking one each. Vinokourov and Aldag finished one-two overall, and Zabel took the points trikot.

The two German ProTour teams in this year's race, Milram and Gerolsteiner, didn't do as well. The newer team Milram was better of the two, with Brett Lancaster winning the prologue and being the first to wear the leader's trikot. The team was happy with its results, according to manager Gerry van Gerwen, who said "We got our desired stage win in the prologue and even had the yellow jersey in the team. Plus we were in escape groups in three stages and so met another goal. All in all we can be satisfied with the Deutschland Tour."

Not so satisfied was the soon-to-end Team Gerolsteiner. The Tour de France exertions left Bernhard Kohl worn out and he lost over nine minutes on the first moutain stage. The team brought in five top-ten stage finishes, but that was all – a scant harvest for riders who are looking for new employers. "You could tell that it was hard for the riders to bring their full performance under these circumstances," Directeur Sportif Christian Henn told the dpa press agency. (SW)

Gerolsteiner employees looking for jobs

By Bjorn Haake in Pla de Beret

Team Gerolsteiner riders are not the only ones looking for jobs with departure of the sponsor at season-end. There are many other staff members looking for employment, one of them is bus driver Andreas Meyer.

Like the riders, Meyer is busy talking with potential employers. "I have already made some inquiries and also gotten some answers back. But I will really look at it after the Vuelta." He revealed he may have found a potential – non-cycling – team.

Meyer has been with Gerolsteiner for as long as the team has been around, although only the last three years "as a full time job." Before, it was more of a hobby.

Meyer is confident that many of the riders would find a new job, especially those that rode the Tour de France. He didn't think Gerolsteiner's departure had anything to do with the team's performance this season. "I don't think anybody would have guessed that. The riders always have to perform well and present themselves."

Meyer looked at the end of his assignment with mixed feelings. "It was definitely a great time that I wouldn't want to miss it, but it is also nice to do something new."

For now, Meyer is enjoying the Vuelta's golden days. "Last year, I would have said the Vuelta was more relaxed. But this year our Tour was incredibly relaxed." He agreed that the Vuelta is quieter and it also very well organised. From the bus driver's view, the lack of transfers is a plus. There was only one major transfer thus far. "And what are 600 kilometres? The drive to the start was 2,500 kilometres!"

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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