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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, September 10, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Peloton's players mull Armstrong comeback

By Daniel Benson, managing editor Cyclingnews and Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Lance Armstrong intends on contesting the Tour de France one more time
Photo: © Jeff Tse/Cyclingnews

Lance Armstrong announced Tuesday that he intends to not only come back to the sport which earned him fame and fortune, but that he will do so to win his eighth Tour de France. While he hasn't yet announced which team he will be a part of, speculation that he would join the Astana squad with his former director Johan Bruyneel has been rife, even if the team has officially denied the rumours.

Armstrong insists that his motive is to step up cancer awareness world wide, but made it clear that he is taking his return seriously. His would-be competitors have expressed disbelief, skepticism, and in some cases, overwhelming enthusiasm for the return of the seven-time Tour champion. Even critics of Armstrong cannot discount the fact that he's an incredibly strong presence, and will draw crowds and money into the sport.

Bob Stapleton – owner of Team Columbia

"I'm waiting to see what the facts and circumstances are. But the question for me is what is it all about? Is it about winning an 8th Tour, about progressing the sport, about something good to help the fight against cancer... but what's the greater mission? If this is just about a return to glory that would be disappointing for me.

"I don't know how you can go back and rewrite the history. He is a true American hero, there is no doubt about that. And he could come back and win, I would never underestimate him. Personally the story so far doesn't do it for me. But maybe it is about something bigger. He is passionate about cancer and probably concerned about the situation of the sport.

"I think Lance is going to pick and hire the team he wants – not the other way around! Being anything other than Johan or Astana is very unlikely. It doesn't make any sense otherwise. It is much easier to go back and put together what he had.

Jonathan Vaughters – Former teammate of Lance Armstrong at US Postal and now Manager of the Garmin-Chipotle team.

"I'm not surprised to be honest. I mean he's always been keeping fit and in shape. You could see that from the results he's had recently. If anything I'm just curious as to how he'll do and what level he can come back to. That's the big question for me. Assuming he rides, I don't think anyone can say how he'll get on in the Tour next year. There will be barometers along the way with the smaller races that he'll ride like Paris - Nice and the Dauphiné but one thing I'd bet on is that he certainly won't suck during the Tour.

"There was a rumour that I was going to come back to the sport and race a while ago but if I wanted to come back I'd have to cut my wine intake by around 98 per cent. I'm happy not coming back."

Tom Danielson – former teammate at Discovery

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"This is such good news for the sport and especially for cycling in the US. I rode the Tour of California and the Tour of Georgia with Lance in 2005 and the crowds that guy brings in are just incredible. So if he comes back and races Georgia and California again then it will be fantastic. It's going to inspire so many people out there to get into the sport of cycling for the first time and to get back out on their bike like he has.

"Lance never did anything half-assed so if he's going to come back you can bet that he's going to aim for the very top. When I was racing with him he was just awesome. Still, the guy has nothing to prove, especially in my eyes. I don't think there will be any problem with Contador and Armstrong on the same team. Those guys at Astana are just so professional, so I'm sure that they'll settle everything. If anything if could just make them even stronger, with Lance, Contador and Levi all able to go for the overall.

George Hincapie – Long time teammate on US Postal/Discovery Channel and friend of Armstrong

"If coming back to racing is something Lance wanted to do than it is something I would of course embrace. He's done so much for this sport and there are so many teams here that wouldn't even be here with out him. I think everyone should embrace the idea of him coming back. He's done so much for us and if he wants to come back I think that it's a good thing."

"I think anything Lance does is going to attract a lot of attention from media. But I think that is a normal reaction on the part of the media regarding rumours of his comeback."

Mark Cavendish – Team Columbia

"I hardly ever get star struck but I think if I saw Lance back in the bunch it may be one of the few times that I would be. I think having him back is big news for the older guys on the team. But, for me, I've never had the opportunity to race with Lance and I have no idea how good it would be to race with him. Obviously for some one like me, I was growing up in my cycling career just as he was starting to win the Tour de France. So yes, it is quite a special thing. I know that some of the other guys like George Hincapie are very excited about this.

McQuaid assesses Armstrong return

By Shane Stokes

UCI President Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong's return to competitive cycling will guarantee many varied responses within the sport. Few would have predicted the Texan to come back over three years after he retired, and the big question is how successful he can be at 37 years of age?

"There's nothing to stop him coming back – there is no administrative, legal or sporting issue to stop him," Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Tuesday. "From the UCI's point of view, he's free to race. He can come back but the question is if he can return to the same level; maybe he doesn't know that himself, maybe he just wants to see what he can do.

"He's been a superb athlete, both in coming back from cancer and in winning seven Tours."

Armstrong has said that he will compete in a completely transparent manner, undergoing regular anti-doping tests and releasing the results for scrutiny. McQuaid thinks this is a good idea. "He'll probably never shut up the no-gooders but it might give him the opportunity to prove he can do it clean."

The news only became official on Tuesday but McQuaid said that the planning had been going on before that. "His management contacted the UCI three or four months ago to request that he be put into the [testing] system. He's already been on it a couple of months so if he starts racing in February, he'll be in the system for the required six months.

"We really believe that the biological passport system is the way forward and if he came into that system and did the same [winning the Tour], it would show he is an incredible athlete."

McQuaid added that there was no point in looking back at past seasons, and wondering if performances were clean or not. "We have to move forward," he said.

Hushovd signs with Cervélo for two years

By Jean-François Quénet with additional reporting from Ben Atkins

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) during his winning ride of the opening Paris-Nice day.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After Carlos Sastre, Thor Hushovd is the second big name of the Tour de France signed by the newly born Cervélo Test team. The Norwegian has signed a two-years contract with the Swiss-based organisation set to be directed on the road by Scott Sunderland and Jean-Paul van Poppel.

Hushovd, one of the fastest and most consistent sprinters in the sport has won six stages of the Tour de France, including the prologue of the 2006 race and stage 2 this year. He also won the green jersey in the 2005 race. The three-time Norwegian champion has ridden for the Credit Agricole team since turning professional with them in 2001. Unable to secure a sponsor to replace the French bank which ends its support at the season's end, the team was forced to allow its riders to seek contracts elsewhere.

"I've had long discussions with the board and although it's a new team, I've had a very good feeling about it," Hushovd told Cyclingnews from his home in Switzerland. "They want to run this team in a new way. They'll focus on the results but also on the material. We'll try all the equipment. I will also have the best support for the Classics and the sprints in the Tour de France."

After nine seasons at Crédit Agricole, a team he intended to never leave until it failed to find a new sponsor, the winner of the Tour de France says he's "ready for the big adventure". "I want to thank Roger Legeay for all the great years I've had with him," he added. "I really appreciate the way he runs a team and his drugs free policy."

Although the season is not yet over for the French team, the Norwegian will not get another chance to wear the green and white in competition again. Advised by Crédit Agricole team doctor Joël Ménard, he decided to call it a season after receiving the results of the blood test he underwent last week following his abandon in stage 4 of the Deutschland Tour.

"It showed that I hadn't recovered from the Tour de France yet," he lamented. "It's a pity because I know that the course of the world championship suits me this year. I wanted to give Crédit Agricole one more win before leaving. I even thought of riding the Chrono des Nations at the very end of the season, but I promise my fans to come back even stronger next year with the goals of winning a big classic and the green jersey of the Tour de France again."

"We are very pleased that Thor has decided to join Cervélo TestTeam. With him we have another leadership figure on our team," said Thomas Campana, General Manager of the new Cervélo TestTeam. "With his outstanding skills, Thor will be a key rider for us, not only in competition but also in product development for Cervélo, Zipp, Speedplay, Vittoria, 3T and the other industry partners that will join us in the next few weeks. On top of that, he is a very likeable person and our customers and clients will be excited to spend time with him."

Hinault updates resume in team search

By Bjorn Haake in Zaragoza

Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Sébastien Hinault of Crédit Agricole upgraded his resume with a strong sprint win in stage ten of the Vuelta a España. Hinault took the stage over Lloyd Mondory (AG2R) and Greg Van Avermaet (Silence - Lotto), with the sprint favourites Oscar Freire and Tom Boonen managing only fourth and fifth.

The win should help the Crédit Agricole rider find a new contract. The team is not continuing its sponsorship and no one else has stepped in to take over the French team. Hinault knows that time is running out to find a home for 2009. "I don't have a team yet for next year, but I hope this [win] will help," he said. Hinault described the sprint victory as his biggest career win on an individual level. "In terms of the team, winning the team time trial in the 2001 Tour was the best," he added.

This statement showed how close-knit the Crédit Agricole team is these days in spite of its impending demise. "The team just wants to close out the season well. We are very motivated at the Vuelta and everybody wants to go on the attack. Today it was me who won, but the whole team is motivated."

Hinault doesn't want to leave it at that. "Yes, I definitely would like to win another stage, be it in a sprint or in a break." Hinault has the ingredients to shine in either type of finish.

For him the end of the French squad is a sad affair. "It's a real pity that a team like ours has to stop. I was hoping until the end that Roger [Legeay] would find a new sponsor."

Hinault is closing in to match his years as a professional with the number of wins. In his 12th season as a pro, the Vuelta win was his 11th victory. More importantly, his latest victory was taken over big names like Freire and Boonen, but it was not the first time he beat a big sprinter. "At the Tour of Germany I already won a bunch sprint with Tom Boonen being there." Additionally, he beat Mark Cavendish in the Tour de Langkawi two years ago.

As for who was the better sprinter, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) or Oscar Freire (Rabobank), it was a tough question to answer for Hinault. "They are both great sprinters, it depends a bit on how the sprint unfolds. Freire is faster in the last few metres, Boonen is better in a longer sprint."

A slow build up

The sprint into Zaragoza started out a tad slow. The last ten kilometres were not as fast as Hinault would have expected it to be. "It didn't start to accelerate until Pozzato from Liquigas attacked." Initially there was a bit of chaos in the peloton. "The teams didn't manage to organise themselves."

That only happened when Quick Step took over. The experienced Belgian squad took matter in its hands, but vanished surprisingly early from the front. Wisely, Hinault had chosen a different rider to mark. "With 300m to go I was on the wheel of Greg van Avermaet, who won yesterday. Then I launched my sprint."

Hinault's win was a tight one, but after the crossed the line he pulled out all stops in his winning celebration. He punched the air, a big grin on his face.

The win is unlikely to increase his chances to be selected to the French National team for the World Championships in Varese, Italy, from September 23-28. "The national coach hasn't called me yet, so I don't think I will be at the Worlds."

This may well be the worst piece of news for Hinault lately. With his sprint win and his other career wins in his resume, he should at least be able to find a new team for 2009, which is more important than a participation in the World Championships.

Dietzen weighing options

By Bjorn Haake in Zaragoza

Reimund Dietzen, a Gerolsteiner Directeur Sportif knows his employment situation is uncertain, but the German hasn't started his job search yet. He had been holding out for the team to find a new sponsor and continue with the same organisation. "I was waiting until the end," he said. I was really hoping that we would find a sponsor."

New offers haven't been hard to come by, and Dietzen is keeping his options open. "I have already been approached by a few people. I will check it out and see if there is anything interesting. Then I would like to stay involved in cycling."

But if it doesn't work out, Dietzen will have a plan, too. "Otherwise, I have more time for my family." He also has a second business option. "I am running cycling tours five kilometres from where I live." This would indicate that Dietzen could spend more time in his adopted home in Tarragona, Spain. Located south of Barcelona near the coast, it is a great way of combining cycling with some relaxing at the beach.

He won't have to miss contact with his compatriots, either. "Most of the people who sign up for the tours are Germans. They want to go enjoy the sun in Spain... And it is a really beautiful area." He sought the area even when he was a professional cyclist. "It is one of the best country side for cycling in my opinion."

Dietzen was always drawn to Spain, and his best wins came here. He won several stages in the Vuelta a España and finished second in the overall classification in 1987 and 1988.

In the current race, Dietzen has one rider placed in a good position, even though things didn't start ideal. "Oliver Zaugg weighs only 56 kilograms and in the flat time trial he lost a lot of time." But now things start to look good for Zaugg, who is currently 15th in the overall. "There is no more flat time trial and I think he will move up some more. He is feeling well."

Dietzen expects next weekend and even the final days before Madrid to be decisive. "There will be some changes in the overall in Asturias and also in the Sierra de Madrid. Oliver can only move up..."

Astana amidst complicated race

By Bjorn Haake in Vielha

Astana's Levi Leipheimer first gained, then lost the golden jersey in the Vuelta a España before the race's first rest day, and then regained and re-lost the jersey as the race headed into the mountains. With a strong team performance on stage eight, he ascended back onto the top of the leader board, but on a day that started with a climb and sparked attacks from the end of the neutral zone, he lost the lead to Egoi Martinez (Eustaltel-Euskadi), his former teammate.

Before the start of stage 9, General Manager Johan Bruyneel gave his point of view about the one-two positions that Leipheimer and Alberto Contador occupied, now second and third after the takeover by Martinez. "It's good, but the real serious work still has to start. In Asturias the two stages next weekend are very, very hard, a lot harder than these ones."

Bruyneel was cautiously optimistic about the team's race so far. "We are happy with the situation, but we have the favourite and it is not easy to control the race. We will see what happens."

The team order is strictly put in place, though. "Alberto is the leader of the team. If the logic is respected, he is the best climber. The Angliru is very steep, in theory it should be good for him. But it's always good to have a second guy up there."

Bruyneel explained the team's stranglehold on the race very simply. "This was our main goal of the season, once we knew the Tour didn't want us."

The team has turned the page on the exclusion. Bruyneel didn't see any point in keeping complaining about it. He did however acknowledge that "I won't forget about it. I didn't a clear explanation of why we were excluded; the explanations that have been given, aren't good enough for me."

Bruyneel was adamant in the fact that "the team had been reorganised completely, even though some people didn't want to see it [that way]." In his opinion the ASO-UCI struggle has been terrible for the sport. "It was worse than any doping scandal!"

He was also displeased with the uncertainty with regards to the ProTour or its successor, the newly proposed world calendar. "As of today, nobody knows what next year is going to be like. In professional sport that is not acceptable."

Cancellara may not defend title

Reigning world and olympic champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC Saxo Bank) might not start in the upcoming World Championships in Varese, Italy.

"Physically it's no problem but I am not sure if I have the will and the motivation to start. And if I'm not completely motivated, I don't want to start," Cancellara told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick.

"During the Olympics I was in seventh heaven but it did not last long," said Cancellara, who feels he may need a break after such a busy season. "I'm just a human being, not a machine," he said.

Father versus son in Denmark

Sunday's finale in the national Danish racing series Post Cup will feature two generations of the family Guldhammer. While Rasmus Guldhammer is riding Tour de l'Avenir not just his older brother Thomas (Team Designa Křkken) but also his father Michael will take the start in Odder Sunday, the Danish web site cyclingworld.dk reported.

Michael Guldhammer won the Danish Championships in 1989 and the Danish road series, called Tuborg Cup, in 1990. He picked up his cycling career a while ago, and now at 46 he has once again reached the top elite level, class A. Sunday's race in Odder will go more or less on the same roads as where Michael Guldhammer won his national champion's jersey, the Dannebrogen, in 1989.

Metro Volkswagen needs riders

The Metro Volkswagen Cycling Team is looking to expand its programs for 2009. Metro Volkswagen, managed by team director Nathan Rogut, is looking to grow both its men's and women's programs for 2009. The women's program will be the primary focus moving into 2009 season, with hopes to continue its strong performances both nationally and regionally from 2008.

The program will focus on NRC events and is also in the works with possible international racing. On the men's side, the program will focus on the U25 riders and will do a strong regional and NRC program. Female riders interested should be Cat 1, 2 and Men should be Cat 1 and U25.

If interested please e-mail Nathan Rogut at fcscycling@sbcglobal.net

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Tomas Nilsson.)

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