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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, September 19, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Moncoutié virtually secures climber's prize

By Bjorn Haake in Las Rozas

Mountains leader David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

French rider David Moncoutié (Cofidis) has secured the mountains jersey in the Vuelta a España, provided he makes it in one piece to the Madrid finish line. He holds a commanding 53-point lead. With three more category one climbs in the remaining three days, the most points one rider could gain is 48.

Moncoutié was already optimistic before the start of Thursday's stage 18, although even then he cautioned the deal wasn't sealed just yet. "Mathematically it is still possible that if the second or third-placed riders take all the points today and win the time trial I will lose the jersey."

But that would have been a scenario where Moncoutié would have gotten no points at all. "My legs are good, but it is the third week," said the red jersey holder. He was indicating he wouldn't be giving up without a fight. As it turned, neither Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole) nor Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step) were in the break and could close in on Moncoutié.

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Before the start of the stage, Moncoutié had said that it may be sealed today. Afterwards, it was a fact, although Moncoutié remained vigilant. "I wait for Madrid and concentrate on the race." He knew that anything could happen, such as a simple crash taking him out of the event.

But the Cofidis rider admitted to Cyclingnews the importance of it. "It is nice to have best climber in a Grand Tour on the palmarès." Yet, he would give the edge to a stage win in the Tour de France, of which he has two. "I think that would be slightly more important," Moncoutié added.

Despite having reached this success, Moncoutié is not interested in just rolling into Madrid. "Now I want to do a good time trial so I can place in the top 10 in the general classification." He currently lies in ninth and is set to reach both goals on Sunday.

Roche gets ever so close

By Bjorn Haake in Las Rozas and Shane Stokes

Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole) posted one of his best results in his young pro career when he ended the Vuelta a España stage 18 in second place, only centimetres behind winner Imanol Erviti (Caisse d'Epargne). In fact, it was the best Irish Grand Tour stage result since his father Stephen won a stage of the Tour de France in 1992.

An exhausted Roche stood at the finish, huffing and puffing. Some people were still suggesting he may have won the race, but eventually the news was broken to him that he finished second in the close sprint against Erviti. Roche's head dropped and he looked very disappointed, having come so close to a major victory. "I am frustrated, it's a pity," Roche said. "You only get a few opportunities like that, they don't come along too often."

But soon his smile came back, as he was explaining his finish to Cyclingnews. "There was a sharp corner 500 metres from the line," he said. "I was hoping the sprint would go from a long way but they stalled after the corner and started looking at each other. The other riders who were behind were getting closer to us, so it was a risk."

Asked if he went too early, he agreed. "I did, but the rider from Caisse d'Epargne was very strong. He did a lot of riding in the final bits. On the corner I was a bit behind. He went strong at the bottom, so I thought if they'd slow two seconds I could go a bit early."

As it turned out it was too early, as Erviti was firmly attached to Roche's back wheel as they struggled up the final hill. Erviti then came past Roche and looked like the easy winner. But Roche was not giving up just yet. "I sprinted again to try to get back to him. But he was very strong and a good winner." No sooner had he said that, the winner of the day rolled by and the two shook hands, with mutual admiration for each other's efforts.

Roche was overall pleased with his Vuelta. "I am happy. The goal was to get into the break and maybe get a bit of time in the GC. I came here saying the most important was going for stages, but the way things went I was well placed in GC. Today and tomorrow were the last two chances. Today was definitely my better chance than tomorrow."

The game plan for Friday's stage 19 was clear. "I will just try to hang in... It is a tough day, with two first category climbs. I have no idea how it will go. It is pretty tight on GC behind me, only four seconds back to the next rider, but I will hopefully keep my place. Okay, there is not much difference between thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, but I'll keep pushing. It all depends on how I recover, then I'll try to do my best in the time trial."

While a high stage placing was always possible, few would have expected him to be so high up in GC at this point. Roche is himself surprised, although he said that he had intended trying to do well in the overall classification, 13th at the moment.

"I have always shown good qualities in stage races," he stated. "That said, I didn't see myself up in thirteenth overall. When I spoke to the team manager before the Vuelta, we said we'd see how it went. The plan was to try to be in around 25th or 30th place, then maybe get into a ten minute break in the final week. However I wasn't expecting to be up in seventeenth and to go to thirteenth overall."

2009 Tour to include Ventoux time trial?

The Mont Ventoux from the valley
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

The latest speculation about the 2009 Tour de France route comes from French newspaper La Provence. In its Thursday, September 18 edition, the paper claims that next year's Grande Boucle will include the famous Mont Ventoux.

"It is probable and it would be a time trial," reportedly said local politician Jean-Michel Ferrand. Indeed, Tour organiser ASO has a contract with the General Council of the region Provence to hold one passage of one of its races through the region each year. ASO event Paris-Nice regularly has one of its stages climbing the Ventoux, as it was done this spring to the Mont Serein ski station. But the mountain was last raced in the Grand Tour in 2002, which makes an inclusion in of the next French Grand Tours likely.

Next year, the Tour de France will start in Monaco, so much is already official. From there, it will probably wind its way through the South of France westwards, visiting Spain's Barcelona before or after tackling the Pyrenees. Still, La Provence speculates that a time trial up the mythical 'bald mountain' would not come during the first week - even if the route could allow it - but on the penultimate day of the race, as a location for the final time trial before Paris on Saturday, July 25. Wine village Rasteau would host the start for a 21.5km stage via Bedoin.

Other stage host towns are rumoured to be Pinerolo on the outskirts of Torino, Italy, Sisteron, Aubenas, La Grande-Motte, Montpellier, Sète (for a possible first time trial) and Andorra.

ASO will announce the parcours in late October.

Great Britain wants 2010 Tour team

Great Britain wants to have a team of its own in the Tour de France in 2010, and wants to win the race by 2015. Following up on the British success in the Olympic track events, British Cycling president Brian Cookson said a road team is his next objective.

"It's not a done deal yet, but we want a fully professional team by 2010 competing at the highest level, he told the BBC. "I've said before we'd have a Tour winner within 25 years, now I say 10 and we'll have a contender in five.

"We are ranked the number one nation in cycling because of all the Olympic success but we will never be truly number one until we have cracked road racing as well," Cookson continued, noting, "There is a real will to get this off the ground."

The current economic situation could make things more difficult, he admitted. "Although we are in troubled times and it may not be as easy as it would have been a year ago, on the back of the Olympic success I think we have a good chance of pulling this off."

Another difficulty might lie in signing riders. The best current British rider is Mark Cavendish, who races for Team Columbia. "It's complex because people like Mark are already performing at the very highest level and are under contract with existing teams," Cookson said. "Until we have a team we don't know what we can offer him. But the main thing is we want a structure where talented road cyclists can compete in the highest level tours and the most difficult road races."

Wesemann takes his leave

During his career, Steffen Wesemann finished second and third in Paris-Roubaix
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Steffen Wesemann is leaving pro cycling, saying goodbye with a farewell race in his former German home of Wolmirstadt on Saturday, October 4. The 37 year-old has been a pro since 1992.

Wesemann turned professional that year with Team Telekom, and he stayed with the squad through the 2006 season. He rode for Team Wiesenhof-Felt for a year, and this year was with Cycle Collstrop, but has not ridden any races since the Ster Elektrotoer in June. In his career, he won the Peace Race overall title five times and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2005, and can point to a number of other top five finishes in the Spring Classics. In 2005 he took on Swiss citizenship, after living in Switzerland for a number of years.

"In the spring I noticed that for the first time in my career I just wasn't interested in racing any more," he told Radsport News. "Every rider has that now and then, but for me it just wouldn't go away."

He is planning an elaborate farewell, on a day which starts with a U13 race and ends with an "everyman" race which will include many current and former pros, including his former teammate Jan Ullrich.

In the future, Wesemann plans to continue his work as a rider manager, working with Tony Rominger.

Gerrans to Cervélo

Australian Simon Gerrans is reported to race for the new Cervélo TestTeam as of next season. According to L'Equipe, the Crédit Agricole rider has signed a two-year deal with the team, which will also include Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole). Gerrans' current squad will fold at the end of the season.

The 28 year-old became a pro in 2005 with AG2R-Prévoyance. He won the Herald Sun Tour in 2006 and a stage at the Tour de France this year.

Rubiera stays on

José Luis Rubiera (Astana) is currently racing the Vuelta
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

José Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera, a twenty-time Grand Tour finisher, has re-signed a one-year agreement with his Astana team. Rubiera, who planned to retire after this season, reconsidered his decision.

"After 14 years as a professional rider, I thought that 2008 would be my last year, especially with poor performances in 2007," explained Rubiera. "After a successful season with Team Astana, I have decided to continue racing for another season. What convinced me as well was the support I got from the fans the last months. It is incredible how they seem to like me."

Another factor in Rubiera's decision was the comeback announcement of Lance Armstrong. "I enjoyed the best years of my career with Armstrong and if he’s coming back, I might want to be around to see that," he said one week ago.

Rubiera was Armstrong's mountain lieutenant for five Tour de France victories, but has also achieved individual success with two stage victories in the Giro d'Italia, two top ten finishes in the Giro, as well as the Vuelta and rode six times the Tour the France.

"I am very glad that Chechu decided to continue," commented team manager Johan Bruyneel. "Chechu proved this year that he is important for the team. In Murcia he even won a stage. Chechu is not used. On the contrary. We need him as a team captain. His role is to guide the team on the road and to share his experience with all young riders of our team."

To date, the members of the 2009 Astana squad are:

Assan Bazayev, Jani Brajkovic, Alberto Contador, Chris Horner, Maxim Iglinskiy, Roman Kireyev, Andreas Klöden, Berik Kupeshov, Levi Leipheimer, Steve Morabito, Dmitriy Muravyev, Daniel Navarro, Benjamín Noval, Sérgio Paulinho, Gregory Rast, José Luis Rubiera, Michael Schär, Tomas Vaitkus, Andrey Zeits and Haimar Zubeldia.

Swiss complete Worlds line-up, Danish team ready

Swiss Cycling has announced its women's and U23 teams for the World Championships next week in Varese, Italy. Mirjam Hauser-Senn, Jennifer Hohl, Patricia Schwager, Karin Thürig, and Sereina Trachsel will ride the road race, with Pascale Schnider as substitute. Karin Thürig and Schnider will ride the time trial.

For the U-23 road race, the team will have Laurent Beuret, Tobias Eggli, Elias Schmäh, Julien Taramarcaz and Marcel Wyss. Nicolas Schnyder and Wyss will ride the time trial.

The Danish team has also been announced. National coach Lars Bonde has selected the following riders for the World Championship in Varese:

Road race: Matti Breschel, Chris Anker Sørensen, Lars Bak and Anders Lund (Team CSC Saxo Bank), Frank Høj (Cofidis) and Jakob Fuglsang (Team Designa Køkken).

Time trial: Lars Bak and Michael Blaudzun (Team CSC Saxo Bank).

Former Australian pro suspended

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has suspended a rider for two years for having used prohibited substances in 2003 and 2004, although he never returned a positive test. Mark Roland accepted the ban and will be eligible to ride again in April 2010.

Roland, 30, was a stagiaire with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago in 2001 and Palmans-Collstrop in 2002, before riding for the Giant Asia Racing Team in 2003. He was found to have used human growth hormone on two occasions in 2003 and the anabolic steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) twice in 2003 and once in 2004. The violations fall within the World Anti-Doping Agency's eight years statute of limitations.

"This sanction clearly illustrates that athletes do not need to return a positive test to be found to have violated anti-doping rules," ASADA Chairman Richard Ings said. "In this case ASADA investigators, working in partnership with other government agencies, identified and prosecuted a serious doping violation that could not have been detected through normal testing procedures."

Roland continued to ride for local Australian teams and clubs through April of this year. He has been ordered to forfeit all competitions from August 27, 2003, when he first used the human growth hormone, through his last competition on April 25 of this year. He will be eligible to start competing again on April 24, 2010.

Bay area team seeks Cat 3 riders

The San Francisco peninsula-based team Third Pillar is looking for Cat 3 riders for next season. On top of a free Louis Garneau clothing kit, riders receive incentives like subsidized winter training camps and free race entries for all participants in a race if any team member reaches the podium. The team practices almost weekly in the off-season to apply professional level tactics to amateur racing.

Third Pillar is limited to about 15 members, almost exclusively Cat 4 elites and masters. Despite its small size, it had 11 wins and 30 podium finishes last year.

Two of its riders will be racing in Cat 3 next year, which is why the team has 2-4 open slots for interested racers of that category.

Please contact for further information.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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