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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, September 21, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

"Kid" Contador becomes "King" Contador

By Susan Westemeyer

Who is Alberto Contador aiming at?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

25-year-old Alberto Contador carved his name into the annals of cycling history by becoming the first Spaniard to win all three Grand Tours on Sunday in his home town of Madrid. The Astana star who had been denied his opportunity to defend his 2007 Tour de France title when the race organiser refused to invite his team had vowed to get revenge at his home Tour, and he succeeded.

Under immense pressure to live up to the title of top favourite, Contador raced a smart first half of the Vuelta, entering into the critical stages just seconds from the overall lead, side by side with teammate Levi Leipheimer.

As an additional burden, Contador had to face the crush of the press as rumors of a return to racing by Lance Armstrong became fact. The possibility that the seven-time Tour champion might join Johan Bruyneel at Astana and relegate Contador back to domestique status seemed to light a fire in the young rider's heart.

In the stages following the second rest day, "Kid" Contador became "King" Contador as he dominated the two mountain stages, including the dreaded Angliru, and entered into the final week with a lead commanding enough to allow his Team Astana to easily control the race, and even let rival Team Caisse d'Epargne take two stages.

Contador made it clear who was the best in the race, and, with the exception of his own teammate Levi Leipheimer who won the penultimate mountain time trial, he dominated his rivals in a fashion which hadn't been seen since – dare we say it – Lance Armstrong last won the Tour de France.

Continue to the full Vuelta wrap-up. Also see the final stage full results, report and photos.

Breschel tunes up for Worlds in Spain

Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Dane Matti Breschel of Team CSC-Saxo Bank topped a rough sprint in Madrid to close out the 63rd Vuelta a España. Breschel finished ahead of Alexandre Usov of Team AG2R La Mondiale and Davide Viganò of Team Quick Step.

"I was extremely focused on starting the sprint at the exact right time, and I did," Breschel said. "I didn't have any doubts that I had to open up early and I managed to take advantage of the fact that no one else seemed to have the same idea."

It was the fifth win of the season for Breschel, who battled back from an early-season knee injury, and one which made up for a disappointing second place in the Vuelta's 17th stage. His form appears to be coming good just in time for next week's World Championships in Italy.

"I've worked really hard to get in the shape I'm in right now and I'm unbelievable happy to get such a fantastic result here. It's been a tough Vuelta but I feel I've come out on the other side strong and my result today confirms that I'm in great shape ahead of the World Championships next week. It's one of those victories that really matter. Now I'll do everything I can to maintain focus and use the fact that both my form and my confidence are at the very top," said Breschel.

Crash mars Vuelta finale

A crash in the final kilometres of the Vuelta a España's last stage in Madrid on Sunday marred an otherwise perfect day of racing in the Spanish capital. Caisse d'Epargne's Joaquin Rodriguez was one of the riders who went down, and was suspected to have a fractured clavicle, which could have ended his participation in next week's World Championships.

EFE reported that Rodriguez received stitches on his left arm, but did not sustain any broken bones. He finished the final stage, and kept his sixth place in the final general classification. He could still be in doubt for the Worlds, in which case his teammate Pablo Lastras or Astana's Jose Luis Rubiera could be called in as a replacement.

Andalucia-Cayasur's Jose Ruiz also finished the race, but was later taken to the hospital with a suspected collarbone fracture.

Pino sees bright Xacobeo Galicia future

By Bjorn Haake in Madrid

Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Alvaro Pino, the directeur sportif for the Xacobeo Galicia team, had a happy summary of the 63rd Vuelta a España. His captain, Ezequiel Mosquera, finished fourth in the end. The sponsor also looks to be staying on for another two years.

Pino summed up the race for the Spanish squad that started as an underdog. "We are very happy to finish fourth and win a stage. We also finished fifth in the teams classification with that we are tremendously satisfied."

There was a bit of sadness, too. "We couldn't win the podium, we knew it would be very difficult. Our adversaries [in the fight for the podium] were very strong, especially Carlos Sastre."

Mosquera's fourth place was no surprise to Pino. "We knew he could potentially get this result. Last year he was fifth. But we knew it would very difficult this year. We started out saying we wanted to try to better the result from last year. With Valverde, Contador, Sastre, Leipheimer we knew it would be very, very difficult."

Pino kept one picture in his mind form this Vuelta that stood out. "For me it was Contador. He was the strongest and always above everyone else." He added that his adversaries like Valverde, Sastre and his own Mosquera had good moments. But Contador was the most consistent. The performance of Levi Leipheimer also did not go unnoticed with Pino. "Yesterday he won the mountain time trial. He was always restricted to second fiddle since they had Contador. But he is very strong and in the time trial he had quite a time gap."

For the team, things are looking much better than earlier in the year, where sponsor Karpin had to back out due to financial problems. But Xacobeo looks to continue for the squad from Galicia. "One year is certain, but it is possible they will extend for two years. Tuesday or Wednesday it might possibly be decided that we will continue until the end of 2010. In difficult times for cycling these are good news."

Sulzberger to turn pro with Française des Jeux

By Jean-François Quenet in Varese, Italy

Wesley Sulzberger was disappointed at the end of the GP Isbergues when the photo finish indicated that Crédit Agricole's William Bonnet had beaten him by a slim margin for the win, but he was soon delighted as Française des Jeux's boss Marc Madiot called him and announced that he had secured a neo-pro contract for the next two years.

"I gave my best and I'm very happy to have a future with FDJ now," said the Tasmanian before heading towards Varese for the world championships. He came second to Peter Velits at last year's U23 world road race championship in Stuttgart and he will ride the road race on Friday with no worries.

In July, the member of Continental team wondered why no professional team was interested in him but Française des Jeux offered him to give a try as a stagiaire. After his first race in August, which was Paris-Correze, some riders from FDJ advised Madiot that Sulzberger should be given a contract. The final words came from Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours winner Frederic Guesdon who mentioned the 21-year-old Australian as a top rider for the future.

"I'm very happy to have a new Australian rider on board," Madiot declared. The FDJ manager has kept found memories of his contingent from Down Under when Bradley McGee, Baden Cooke, Matt Wilson and Mark Renshaw wore the colours of the four leaves clovers. Sulzberger now is his newest prospect.

Varese Worlds course worthy of championship

The Mapei Cycling Stadium provides the start and finish of all six events.
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

The World Championships returns to Varese 57 years after Ferdi Kubler's win over Italian Fiorenzo Magni. It is a challenging parcours that will suit the likes of Samuel Sánchez, Phillip Gilbert and defending champion Paolo Bettini as Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown discovered during a mid-September day.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed the return of the worlds to Varese three years ago in Madrid. The governing body bestowed the hosting honor for the rainbow jersey on the Lombarda città over its southern Toscana rival, Lucca, and The Netherlands' Valkenburg. It is only four years after Italy last hosted the Worlds in 2004 at Verona and five years earlier in the same location, but if any country can get behind the event it is the land of Luciano Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari.

Italy boasts over 18 World Champions on the road, with the last two coming from Bettini. The passion for the sport is so present in the blood of this cycling rich country that Varese has changed its ordinary Le Bettole horse track into the Mapei Cycling Stadium, the host of the start and finish off all six of this year's world title events.

Tom Boonen powered his way to the worlds win three days after the UCI's announcement in 2005. The Madrid parcours suited his 'built for speed' body type, but we learned that this won't be the case for the Varese parcours. It has 237 metres of climbing over the 17.35 kilometres course, with the men facing 3555 metres of climbing over their 15 laps.

The Montello climb greets the riders right after the gun is fired and the start of each circuit. Starting up after just 500 metres of racing this short and steep kilometre-long climb will provide an opportunity for selection as the laps count down. Villa Bernocchi, on the left, starts the climb and Scoula Europea ends it, but in between there are pitches of 10 percent. The climb, last used in the Giro d'Italia's stage 18, is still marked with the name of 2007 Italian champion Giovanni Visconti.

The Montello is a prime spot for an opportunist to form a move and add time on the dive down to Santuario di Sant'Antonio. The gradual descent passes the 15km to go marker before a sharp left. After, it levels out with the first views of Lago di Varese to the right side.

Continue to the full feature.

Arndt completes Team Columbia domination

Judith Arndt (Team Columbia)
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Team Columbia has dominated the European women's events this season, and this week's Giro della Toscana - Memorial Michela Fanini was no different. German Judith Arndt, the winner of the UCI World Cup as well as the Tour of Montreal, Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Thüringen Rundfahrt added another title to her palmarés on Sunday.

The final stage, won by Swiss rider Monica Holler (Bigla), was one of just two stages not won by Team Columbia. After winning the team time trial, Columbia yielded to Dutch rider Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) on stage 2a before taking four consecutive stage victories: first with Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, then with diminutive climber Mara Abbott, followed by another Teutenberg win and one by Arndt herself for good measure.

Arndt took home the prize for the overall as well as for the first foreign rider."The last stage went perfectly," said team manager Petra Rossner. "There was a 13 rider break but none of them were dangerous overall, so Judith didn't have to do anything and the rest of the team did everything to bring her to the line. The most dangerous rider overall in the break was five or six minutes back, so we kept things steady and under control."

With the World Championships looming, Rossner admitted that riding the entire Giro della Toscana "may not be ideal for the World Championships time trial, but for the road-race, it's the perfect distance."

Rossner reflected on a highly successful season for Team Columbia, counting out 64 wins in 110 days of racing. "I think what's made the difference is the way we work as a team. Individually we're maybe not so much stronger than any other riders. But the chemistry in this squad, the way we interact and the conditions that we can work in: they are all really something special. It brings us all up to another level."

Zaballa in search of a sponsor

By Brecht Decaluwé

An unexpected rider at the start of the cyclo-cross UCI race in Neerpelt was Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez. The 2005 winner of the Clásica San Sebastián and 2007 winner of the Euskal Bizikleta is currently without a team and he is desperately looking for a sponsor. Zaballa began the season with the Portuguese LA-MSS squad, but a mid-season doping scandal put an end to the team.

Zaballa showed up for the 'cross race in a plain skin suit with a plea for sponsorship emblazoned on his chest.

The 30 year-old did well by winning a small national cross race on Saturday in Knesselare and finishing eighteenth on Sunday in Neerpelt, against the best riders around. Zaballa explained to that he wants to ride in the Superprestige Series and the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy during this cyclo-cross season.

WADA rolls out changes to prohibited list

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced changes to its List of Prohibited Substances and Methods for 2009 this weekend. The new List will be published online by October 1, 2008, and will go into effect on January 1, 2009, but a statement by WADA outlined several changes to the list and to the punishments for athletes found positive for banned substances.

New for 2009 will be more flexible sanctions, rather than a standard two-year ban for athletes who test positive for certain drugs. The change, according to WADA, "is to allow for enhanced sanctions for deliberate doping offenders, and reduced sanctions for inadvertent cheaters or for athletes who can unequivocally establish that the substance involved was not intended to enhance performance."

The new rules allow for longer suspensions, up to four years " in cases of aggravating circumstances" under the revised Code. Athletes who are caught as part of a "large doping scheme", an athlete caught multiple times or with multiple banned substances, or "an athlete engaging in deceptive or obstructing conduct to avoid the detection or adjudication of an anti-doping rule violation" could find themselves with the longer ban. "Aggravating circumstances also include situations in which a normal individual would be likely to benefit from the performance-enhancing effects of the anti-doping rule violation beyond the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility."

WADA will also enhance its support for anti-doping research. "It will commit US$6.5 million. approximately one quarter of its total budget, to research as part of its 2008 research grant program. A record number of proposals (75) were received this year from 24 countries, and 30 were selected for funding by the Executive Committee.

"These projects will help advance anti-doping research in such areas as the detection of blood manipulations, the development of techniques to detect gene manipulation, the development of new global technologies of detection, and the implementation of further means for detecting a number of substances including human growth hormone and various forms of erythropoietin."

The Executive Committee also approved the accreditation of a new laboratory in New Delhi, India.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)