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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, September 21, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Contador set to make history

By Bjorn Haake in Navacerrada

Alberto Contador (Astana) grimaces
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Just one day separates Spaniard Alberto Contador from his third Grand Tour victory in 14 months, but on Saturday's uphill time trial to Navacerrada, the 25-year-old showed uncharacteristic frailty. Trailing teammate and stage winner Levi Leipheimer by 31 seconds at the top of the 17.1km climb, his face twisted in pain, Contador earned his likely Vuelta a España win the hard way.

He now leads the race by 46 seconds over Leipheimer, and is poised to become only the fifth rider in history to win all three Grand Tours. The race concludes Sunday in Madrid.

Despite his young age, Contador showed his experience when put to the test. Because his legs weren't the best, he decided to change his strategy. "I went a bit more steadily," he said, and thereby missed out on the chance to score his third stage victory in this year's race, but ensured he wouldn't be toppled by Leipheimer.

Contador learned his lesson from two experiences. One was the last-minute invite to the Giro d'Italia, which he received while sitting at the beach. Despite the difficult task without proper preparation, he suffered through to take overall win. He also may have remembered his Olympic time trial, where stormed off the start ramp like a man possessed, but later suffered and faded to just outside the medal spots.

The Spaniard admitted there was a lot of pressure on him. "I was considered the favourite number one." But he drew strength from his form. "When I was training in July and August I sensed that I could win the Vuelta."

Of his three Grand Tour victories he has great memories of all of them and it was difficult to pick the importance of one win over another. "It's true that the Tour de France victory impacted me and probably brought me the most joy. After all, it changed my life." But number two and three are not far behind. "In the Giro, I will never forget the tifosi."

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Then there is racing at home in the Vuelta a España, which is also something special. "There were so many fans here this year, it was really special." It gave Contador additional pressure to perform well under the watchful eye of his people, but it also had some advantages. "Racing at home is very nice. You feel a little bit more balanced. You are used to everything. It feels like home."

Contador compared the three races to each other. "The Vuelta has steeper climbs compared to the Tour. There was a lot of spectacle this year." As for the Giro it wasn't so much the parcours that stood out for him. "It was really, really cold this year in Italy."

Contador hadn't given much thought of entering the history books. "I am still young, I want to win races, but I am not thinking about creating a legacy."

Equally, he didn't know yet what was next on his wish list. He felt that he had already achieved a lot. "For a rider of my characteristics, I have won the three Grand Tours. For now I will just enjoy that victory." After he won the Tour de France last year, he was facing similar questions. He had just achieved his three goals. He wanted to become a professional. Then he wanted to race the Tour and finally he wanted to win it. After that was achieved, people asked him what was next. "Then came the Giro d'Italia win and now the Vuelta."

Contador doesn't think too much about the future and will just enjoy his latest win. Of course, some celebrations are on order as well. "My teammate will await me at the hotel and we will have a special dinner, not just the usual pasta and fish..."

Leipheimer gets stage win number two

By Bjorn Haake in Navacerrada

Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Levi Leipheimer won his second Vuelta a España stage win when he controlled all his rivals in the second time trial, up to the Alto de Navacerrada, and pulled himself to within 46 seconds of toppling fellow Astana rider Alberto Contador's overall lead in the race. But ever the loyal teammate, Leipheimer said that there was no question he could win the race outright. "Alberto performed where he needed to. On the Angliru he showed he was the best."

Leipheimer said team was strong and showed it could handle the pressure. "We have controlled the race from day one very intelligently. Everybody was expecting us to control the race." Having two riders up front is a luxury, but also an obligation.

Leipheimer praised the team for shouldering the added work load of supporting two protected riders. "I am also a leader, which puts more work on the other guys. But that's what we came here for, to show we are the best team in the World."

Despite his co-leadership role, Leipheimer did his fair share of work, especially up to the Angliru when team manager Johan Bruyneel had asked him to support Contador.

His reward was a chance to win the stage on Saturday. "I thought that was possible. The best reference was Alberto. I had his splits – obviously a little delayed as he was riding behind me." That combined with Contador's not so great legs helped Leipheimer secure the stage win. But he never once thought about winning the entire race. "I think I trailed by 1'17. Alberto really deserves this win."

Leipheimer also clarified that there was never a problem with who is number one. In the stage to Fuentes de Invierno, it was clear that Contador would jump. "He had the yellow jersey, he needed those extra bonus seconds for the win."

Leipheimer was playing second fiddle in the Vuelta, but he is now heading to the World Championships with one goal in mind. "I want to win the time trial."

ProTour is a wrap, and Valverde wins in absentia

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

The UCI's embattled ProTour wrapped up in the icy conditions at the Tour of Poland in Sunday. The overall victory by German Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank) did not threaten the lead in the series of Alejandro Valverde. The Caisse d'Epargne rider, currently racing in the much more temperate Tour of Spain was happy to have repeated his overall ProTour win for the second year in a row.

One of the quirks of the ProTour is that the the series has several weekends of conflicting races, so the man who sealed the overall win was not present at the final podium ceremony. Valverde, however, gave his statement in a press release from Spain.

"I feel very proud for having won that classification for the second time," he said. "Maybe this time it does not have the same importance as the first one because many great events were no longer making part of this classification and that lessened its value, but regardless, to win it is proof of my consistency during the season and something important in a rider's career."

The ProTour, conceived by the UCI's former president Hein Verbruggen in 2004 faced a near death this year when opposition by the Grand Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), RCS Sport and Unipublic refused to have most of their events as part of the ProTour. They objected to the rules imposed by the UCI that all ProTour teams must be invited to events in the series.

The conflict led the ASO to not only pull out of the ProTour but to hold the its season opener Paris-Nice and the Tour outside the sanction of the UCI. The UCI responded by suspending the French Federation and threatening to fine or sanction teams and riders who took part in the Tour. The teams put their collective feet down and decided to pull out of the ProTour for 2009 if the conflict could not be resolved.

Several teams declined to renew their ProTour licenses, but most of the current teams have licenses which run through the 2009 season.

New team for Bettini and Rebellin?

Thirsty Paolo? World road champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Another new European team may be in the works with the main title sponsors TelTeck and the International H2O Society, a humanitarian association based in Montreal, Canada. The team will be announced next week during the cycling world championships in Varese, Italy. The main objective of the program is a project for humanity, and the highlight of the story is the pending signing of reigning world champion Paolo Bettini, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

TelTeck CEO Michel Vezina is also the founder of the International H2O Society, whose primary objective is to bring drinkable water to the countries that have been hit by catastrophe or famine.

The program is under the direction of ex-professional cyclist Francesco Frattini, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The team has been in discussion for several months, but the project's official beginning is about to set sail next week. The TelTech sponsor is ready to enter into the cycling world with a large budget of more than six-million euro. Although the sponsors are from North America, the team will be licensed under the UCI as a France based team from Cote d'Azur. TelTeck H2O will commit to the program for three years with an option of an additional three years.

They are said to be in the advanced stages of signing contracts with Italians Paolo Bettini and the Beijing Olympic silver medallist Davide Rebellin. The team's roster will be approximately 25 riders in total of different nationalities. The team's objective is to race the most important events world-wide beginning with the Tour of California in February and continuing on to the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. Although the team is focused on road racing there will be a portion of the budget that will fund a full time mountain bike program.

Kreuziger eyes Italian World's with nostalgia at... 22

By Jean-François Quénet in Pilsen, Czech Republic

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger is looking forward to next week's World Championships with a touch of nostalgia. He went back to his parents' place in Pilsen, Czech Republic, where he usually only spends the month of October, after the Tour of Missouri where he finished 7th overall. He has called the shores of the Lago di Garda in Northern Italy home since he won the Junior world championships in Verona in 2004. He has almost never left Italy except to race since taking up residence there in Bardolino.

"Italy is my second home, so a World championship in Italy is different from any other one for me," he said after completing the Czech classic Karlovy-Praha in 11th place under the colours of his national team. "My feelings are very high for a world title in Italy. Since I won it last time, I want to do well again."

A winner of the Tour of Switzerland, second in the Tour of Romandie, 13th and second best young rider at the Tour de France, Kreuziger doesn't express too big ambitions in Varese though. "I haven't raced the Tre Valli Varesine nor the Giro d'Italia which had one stage finishing there, so I don't know the course," he said. "And I don't have the same good legs as at the Tour de France anymore. So I'll go without precise goals. Imagine if I said I'd go for a ten, the media would 'eat' if I had to pull out! I am motivated, there's no doubt about that, but I'm not sure I can produce the result I'd like to."

The Czech Republic will only line up three riders: Kreuziger, Frantisek Rabon and Martin Mares. "It's going to be an interesting battle between Italians and Spaniards," Kreuziger added. "Italians have to win at home but Oscar Freire will be very close to where he lives as well. Fabian Cancellara might give them a hard time. He's always dangerous and they will not drop him off on such a course."

Although his friend and teammate Vincenzo Nibali urges him to come and give a hand at the Tour of Lombardy, Kreuziger's end of the season is unsure. The world championship might be the last race of the 22-year-old despite his undisputed passion for racing.

Chadwick wins Vuelta Mexico

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Chadwick and Aldape
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team Type 1's Glen Chadwick won the overall at the Vuelta Mexico after leading since the second stage, a 118-mile (190 km) race from San Luís Potosí-León. Wearing the race leader's jersey and winning the overall are even more of an accomplishment for Chadwick when considering he was hospitalised in March with the life-threatening Epstein-Barr spinal virus.

"I think this is one of the biggest wins of my career, and it's extra special because we had a very good ProTour team throwing everything at us to try to unseat us," Chadwick said regarding the Scott-American Beef team. "I'm pretty sure I saw the infamous kitchen sink at least once this week."

"I did not have big personal expectations coming to the Vuelta," he said. "This is Moises' [Aldape] national tour and I knew we had a strong team here to help him, so on the first stage I just took a chance and really went into the break to protect our team ambitions. It turned out to be the decisive move of the week, and Moises became my undying lieutenant. Sometimes you have to accept a little good luck."

"This more than makes up for everything that Chady and his family have had to go through this year," said Team Type 1's director Ed Beamon.

The racing in Mexico has been a challenge, with rough roads made even more treacherous by heavy rains. Chadwick described the racing in his Cyclingnews diary. "You couldn't see much and when you came across a massive puddle... you just had to hang on tight, grit your teeth and hope there wasn't a crater lurking somewhere in the puddles. The best way to describe the closing kilometres in the rain would be 'Like a battalion of soldiers running into battle with a sniper picking them off one by one.'"

"Defending the jersey for seven days was a big accomplishment for Team Type 1," said Chadwick. "It was not such hard work for me, because the team was so strong and worked so hard for me. It was certainly a difficult week for them."

Second-annual 'Raisin Hope' weekend set

Raisin focusing on new forms of racing

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Saul Raisin (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: Jonathan Devich
(Click for larger image)

American cyclist Saul Raisin, who suffered life-threatening injuries from a crash more than two years ago, is continuing his recovery and quest to raise awareness and money for brain injury research, with the second Raisin Hope weekend on October 4-6. The event offerings have expanded from last year to include a benefit ride, 5km fun run/walk, evening reception, auction and a pro/1/2 criterium in his hometown of Dalton, Georgia.

"Last year we had 1000 riders and raised $40,000," said Raisin. "We added the auction, 5km fun run/walk and a pro/1/2 criterium to do even more."

The proceeds from the events will go to his charity Raisin Hope, which is dedicated to helping people with brain injuries similar to his own. Raisin, who was one of American cycling's most promising young talents, has had a extraordinary recovery since his crash at the 2006 Circuit de la Sarthe racing for the French team Credit Agricole. Swelling of the brain put him into a coma from which some doctors thought he would not recover. However he did awaken, and four months after the crash Raisin was back on his bike, determined to ride again.

While many were skeptical of his ability to come back, his Credit Agricole team stood by him – and in 2007 he competed again, racing the time trial of the US professional championships. Though he finished last it was only nine seconds behind the next rider, and for someone who was never expected to walk again, racing alone was a win.

Though his return to road racing in the peloton was not possible, Raisin is still moving forward with other racing plans. He told Cyclingnews that one of the reasons for having a 5km run/walk is because he is training for the New York City Marathon, which is part of a larger plan to compete in Ironman triathlons.

"Right now I am just riding a lot and running a lot, but I just want to complete the Ironman next year," he said. "I can swim two miles and ride a 100 no problem, but the running is going to be the hardest part for me. When I started it took me 30 minutes to do a mile and now I can do at seven minute mile."

"But there is no reason that I can't do a marathon too!"

Many notable names and companies have donated items for the auction, including a Tour of California yellow jersey signed by Levi Leipheimer. As well, many guests will be on hand for the events, including Garmin-Chipotle's Timmy Duggan, who himself had a head-injury scare at the Tour de Georgia in April and made his return to racing at the US professional time trial championship.

More information about the charity and events, as well as information about brain injury recovery, can be found at:

Vanderkitten to Sharpen Its Claws for 2009

U.S. clothing manufacturer Vanderkitten announced its intention to continue to build its women's racing program in 2009 under the direction of Robin Zellner, who has committed to take an active role in building the team and grassroots marketing efforts of the brand. Vanderkitten Racing will build on its core group of 2008 elite team members and is actively seeking across the board sponsorship from inside and outside of the industry.

"From the beginning we've pledged to support women's cycling from the industry outward. We have a vested interest in the growth and success of women's competitive cycling as we unveil our new cycling wear line at Interbike," said Dave Verrecchia, creator and designer for Vanderkitten.

Expanding on its successful inaugural year, Vanderkitten has plans to add a riding and racing club, and offer its Ride A Bike, Better(TM) clinics to it growing dealer network in conjunction with stops along the NRC and USA CRITS calendars.

"Most cyclists may never race, but knowing they have the support of those at the top of the sport is a unique and important feeling. We need to create a strong fan base of women for women's racing to grow and succeed, rather than being an 'also ran' to men's racing" adds Verrecchia.

Vanderkitten is currently leading the USA CRITS team championship and is looking to seal up the title on Thursday night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

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