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Latest Cycling News, September 9, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Texan cowboy riding back into action?

USA's Lance Armstrong, 36, reportedly might be making a comeback
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Media reports are growing that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong might be making a comeback. No salary, no bonuses, 36 years of age – it seems like a tall story. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes analyses the chances of the Texan's return.

So, could it be true? Initial reports suggested it might be the case, but the team then dismissed the claims. Will Lance Armstrong return to racing with the Astana team, three years after retiring from the sport?

First off, it's worth assessing what he, or Team Astana, would have to gain if the rumours were true. From the team's point of view, there'd be undoubtedly a lot of extra publicity, a lot of extra Astana-issued Treks and team kit sold, and the increased chance that it would get to ride the biggest races.

Going by the whispers, Armstrong's return would see him ride just five events: the Tour of California, Paris-Nice, Tour de Georgia, Dauphiné Libéré and Tour de France. Two of these are based in the USA and would embrace the news.

However two others, Paris-Nice and the Tour de France, are organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who this year blocked the Astana cycling team from taking part. At the time the official reason given was that the team had blackened the reputation of the 2007 Tour due to the positive test of Alexander Vinokourov – and the subsequent positive of Andrey Kashechkin – for blood doping. The fact that it grew out of the ashes of the Liberty Seguros team, heavily involved in Operación Puerto, also did it no favours.

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For many within the sport, though, the blocking of the team was seen as an anti-US Postal/Discovery Channel move. L'Equipe's assertion that Armstrong used EPO in winning the 1999 race, suspicions about the team in subsequent years and its willingness to sign Ivan Basso despite his own obvious involvement in Puerto were all minus points.

Read the full feature.

Fearless Petacchi blocked out in Britain

Alessandro Petacchi, 34, fearless in his return after a doping suspension
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
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Alessandro Petacchi of Team LPR Brakes, winner of stages in all three of cycling's Grand Tours, blasted back in his first race since the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued him a 12-month suspension. The 34 year-old Italian from La Spezia won the Tour of Britain stage one and, despite being blocked out in stage two to Newbury, he remains fearless in the high-speed sprints.

"After five months away from racing I was afraid of losing some feeling. On the contrary, I was able to refind confidence in the group after a few kilometres – with the drafting, placing the wheel and avoiding traffic islands," Petacchi said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

CAS suspended Petacchi from racing though August 31 after an anti-doping control found him positive for excess use of Salbutamol (asthma drug) during the 2007 Giro d'Italia. (For more details of the Petacchi read Innocently Guilty – the Petacchi case.)

Stage two, 145 kilometres from Milton Keynes to Newbury, did not end as smoothly as stage one to London. Australia's Matthew Goss prevailed over Julian Dean and Chris Sutton, with 'Ale-Jet' in sixth.

"It was bad and dangerous," Petacchi said of the finale. "At three kilometres, there was a small road – tight and amongst homes – all in and out. A big road was followed by another small road. Also, there was a crash. The last curve was at 200 metres. When I got there I was in seventh or eighth, and the sprint had already started."

Despite finishing in sixth, Petacchi still holds the leader's yellow jersey. Today, the race continues with a 185-kilometre stage to Burnham-on-Sea.

Larsson leaves CSC for Caisse d'Epargne

Gustav Larsson moves to Team Caisse d'Epargne for 2009
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Gustav Erik Larsson is leaving Team CSC-Saxo Bank for Caisse d'Epargne, announced the Spanish team of its signing. The Swede, who turns 28 years old later this month, finished second in the time trial in the Beijing Olympics.

This season, Larsson won the time trial in the Post Danmark Rundt and finished second overall in the Critérium International, behind team-mate Jens Voigt.

He rode for Fassa Bortolo from 2003 to 2005, before spending a year each at Française des Jeux, and CSC-Saxo Bank. Larsson was Swedish national time trial champion in 2006 and 2007. (SW)

Zaugg looking towards Vuelta's final weeks and new season

Swiss Oliver Zaugg
Photo ©: Robin Haake
(Click for larger image)

Swiss Oliver Zaugg is looking forward to riding out the remaining two weeks of the Vuelta a España and the following season with Team Liquigas. The 27 year-old Ticinese of Team Gerolsteiner, riding in his second Spanish Grand Tour, is currently in the top-20 of the overall classification.

"Last year, I finished 15th overall and this year already in 15th overall," he said to Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake before Monday's stage. He moved down to 18th overall as part of the 12-man escape in stage nine edged into the overall picture.

He happily faces the remaining 12 stages and a chance to ride higher in the rankings. "There are no more flat time trials, which is good for me," Zaugg continued. He will be honing his skills in the high mountain passes for next year when he will ride along side Italian Ivan Basso.

Liquigas Team Manager Roberto Amadio confirmed Zaugg would ride for the team in 2009 last month. Basso will use Zaugg's abilities gained as a professional with Saunier Duval – three years – and Gerolsteiner – the last two years.

"I will be going there," said Zaugg of his new team. "I have not signed the contract yet ... I will ride for Liquigas; the contract will likely be signed next week."

Schröder stays another year with Milram

By Susan Westemeyer

Björn Schröder extends with Team Milram
Photo ©: Robin Haake
(Click for larger image)

Björn Schröder has extended his contract with Team Milram for one year. As Cyclingnews previously reported, he signed the deal right after the Vattenfall Cyclassics race in Hamburg on Sunday.

Schröder, 27, last month won the Rothaus Regio Tour, which was, he says, the final impetus for the signing. The win "showed that the team management can count on me. I am very happy that I can wear the Milram colours again in the coming year and will pay back the trust that has been shown in me with a good performance."

Schröder rode for Team Wiesenhof from 2003 to 2005 before joining Milram in 2006. He won stages in the Sachsen Tour in 2004 and 2005, and a stage in the Bayern Tour in 2006. After riding the Tour de France this year for the second time, he used top five finishes in every stage of the Rothaus Regio Tour to take the overall title without a stage win.

Lotz facing prison

Belgian Marc Lotz faces up to six months in prison and a 17,000 euro fine for possessing and trading in anabolic steroids. At a hearing last week, the former Quick Step rider admitted to owning the EPO (Erythropoietin) that was found in his home and asked that the punishment be delayed. The judge will issue the sentence on October 3.

Lotz resigned from Quick Step in June 2005 after admitting the use of EPO. He was suspended for two years by the Belgian cycling federation.

During his suspension, Lotz worked as a math teacher. He tried to return to professional cycling when his suspension ended, but was unable to get a contract and returned to teaching.

"I find that I have paid enough already, also on the financial side," he told the court, according to Belga. (SW)

Venezuela Worlds team takes shape

Team Directeur Sportif Gianni Savio selected the six-man Venezuelan team that will contest the World Championships, September 28 in Varese, Italy. Savio, who also manages professional team Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, named Franklin Chacón, Richard Ochoa, Carlos Ochoa, Jackson Rodríguez, Manuel Medina and José Rujano.

The Under-23 and Women's teams were also selected. José Alarcón, Yonathan Monsalve, Carlos Galviz and Jimmi Briceño for the Under-23 race and Daniely García, María Briceño and Adriana Lovera for the women's race. (TN)

CSF Group-Navigare signs Pavarin

CSF Group Navigare signed Marcello Pavarin, 21, for its 2009 team. He will join Simone Stortoni and Enrico Zen at CSF Group in 2009 – all three making their professional debut.

"My characteristics... I am a strong and fast rider – a passista veloce. I have the ability to sprint from a gruppetto more so than a large bunch."

Pavarin, third in GP Liberazione and seventh in Giro del Cigno, signed a two-year contract.

Vuelta a España A-Z

The maillot oro worn by Daniele Bennati.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Vuelta a España is the third and final major tour of the season. Although not rated as highly as those of France and Italy, this year's Vuelta brings together some of the world's best riders, including this year's Giro d'Italia and last year's Tour de France champion Alberto Contador. Procycling's Peter Cossins focuses on the ins and outs of the Spanish grand tour with an A-Z of the Vuelta's key historical players and places


The maillot ORO (gold jersey) is the jersey worn by the race leader at the Vuelta. The leader's jersey has been both red and yellow in the past. The points and mountains jerseys have also changed colour with a degree of frequency. Last year a magenta jersey was awarded to points winner Daniele Bennati, while mountains victor Denis Menchov claimed a white, blue and grey tunic that was not dissimilar to the white jersey he also picked up for the combined prize awarded to the rider ranked highest in all three jersey competitions. The Vuelta does not offer a prize for the best young rider.


The Vuelta doesn't visit the PYRENEES every year. It does return regularly, though, usually lured in by cash offered by the owners of ski stations hoping to give their resorts a promotional boost. What is probably this year's toughest stage takes the riders 224km from Barbastro to the wonderfully named Naturlandia resort in Andorra. The stage concludes with a loop over the Alto de la Rabassa; on the second passing, the riders continue on for another 4km to Naturlandia, which is promoting itself as a year-round mountain resort. The following day brings another summit finish, this one at the favourite resort of the Spanish royal family, Pla de Beret. The resort hosted a finish of the 2006 Tour won by Denis Menchov.

Read the full feature, part one and part two.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer and Tomas Nilsson)

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