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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, September 24, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson and Bjorn Haake

Armstrong joins Astana, Lefevere too late

Quick Step Team Manager Patrick Lefevere would have liked to get Lance Armstrong
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong will announce his racing plans later today, but according to several sources, he is set to go to Astana. USA Today and AFP both report that Armstrong will join his former boss Johan Bruyneel on the Kazakhstan-supported team. This cut short efforts by Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere to secure the service of Armstrong.

The official announcement will be made in New York today where Armstrong is due to speak regarding his cancer-awareness agenda at the Clinton Global Initiatives conference. Armstrong is making his comeback to the sport in order to spread the message of his cancer foundation.

USA Today quoted Armstrong's agent Mark Higgins, "His first race in the comeback will be the Tour of Australia with the season ending goal of the Tour de France. More races will be announced in the coming weeks.

Armstrong is expected to announce more details on his 2009 return, aimed at raising cancer awareness through his Livestrong charity, today. The influential sports figure will announce his plans at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, USA, where world leaders are also gathered this week for the United Nations General Assembly.

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Kazakhstan officials had thrown further weight behind a possible Armstrong-Astana hook-up. Defence Minister Danial Akhmetov, who is also the nation's cycling federation chief, gave his stamp of approval to Armstrong as a possible signing to the squad. "He is a great cyclist and he is also a great humanitarian and that makes him a perfect fit for our team," Akhmetov told Reuters.

Higgins also revealed that Armstrong has plans to create a development team. "In addition Lance will be announcing the creation of an under 23 team sponsored by Trek that will include young cycling star Taylor Phinney."

Phinney will be at the press conference as well as anti-doping expert Don Catlin, who will oversee the testing programme.

Lefevere loses out

Lefevere had started an effort to woo Lance Armstrong to the Belgian squad. Quick Step is losing star rider Paolo Bettini for next season, as it's unable to afford the Italian UCI World Road Champion, but Lefevere's sponsors have apparently said they would have been happy to foot the bill from Armstrong.

Lefevere already knew he was up against a difficult task. "It seems unrealistic, but it's worth a try," Lefevere he had told "There are still no concrete talks, but I have contacted the office of Bill Stapleton [Armstrong's adviser]."

"My two main sponsors, Quick Step and bicycle manufacturer Specialized, are in American hands," he added. "For them, Armstrong is very attractive. Even if he doesn't win the Tour, it would still have gigantic advertising return."

While sponsors might be happy to come up with the cash to employ Armstrong, the main stumbling block for Lefevere's bid is in fact his sponsor Specialized. The seven time Tour de France champion has a life-long deal with its rival American manufacturer Trek Bicycles.

The Trek connection already indicated that Armstrong would re-unite with team director Johan Bruyneel. The Astana boss has gone on record saying he can't imagine Armstrong riding with any other team.

Stetina develops into overall contender

By Gregor Brown in Varese

Peter Stetina (VMG/Felt/RGM) showed that he could ride
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Already strong in the mountains, USA's Peter Stetina proved he is developing as an overall contender with his sixth place in yesterday's Under-23 World Championships time trial. Stetina, 21, posted a time of 43:00 to finish a mere 20 seconds out of medal contention.

"I did not know what to expect today. I never have been a time trial specialist until this year," said Stetina to Cyclingnews. The Boulder, Colorado, native finished the 33.55-kilometre test one minute and 24 seconds back from gold medallist, Italian Adriano Malori.

"We changed my position when I started working with Allen Lim. He believed in me. He told me I could get a podium back in February, but I just sort of laughed at him."

Stetina rides for the trade VMG/Felt during the year, which is a development team of top-flight Garmin Chipotle - H30. He benefits from Lim's input, the same team physiologist that riders like David Millar and David Zabriskie use.

The result is more impressive considering that Stetina is a lightweight climber. It shows that he has the potential to develop as an overall rider in stage races, maybe perhaps one day challenging for the Tour de France's maillot jaune.

The rise of Stetina to sixth in the Worlds was steady. He won the Under-23 national title in August. Riding for USA National Development team he also placed ninth in the espoirs' Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a tenth overall the prestigious Tour de l'Avenir after leading the race overall.

"Everyone has been real supportive. To come away with a top ten – I am happy. I would have been happy if I was third, but also if I was 15th," he continued.

Stetina shifts his focus to Friday's road race. He will form part of a strong team that also includes Tejay Van Garderen.

"Friday is the last race and then it is off-season time. We have a strong team for the road race. Tejay and I were both top ten in L'Avenir. He won a stage and I was in the yellow jersey until I cracked.

"I think we have one of the strongest teams. We were only one of two teams to finish with all six guys at the L'Avenir race. We can put guys in breaks, and Tejay and I can make the moves in the final."

Stetina plans to continue his development through 2009 and make the big step in 2010. "I was pro in 2007, and then I went with VMG/Felt this year. I think I will stay with them again this year to allow myself to develop. Then, I can always go and get bottles for the big boys in 2010."

Squadra azzurra ready to defend title

Damiano Cunego leads the Italian
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italy's squadra azzurra, or national team, was busy practicing on the UCI World Road Championships course yesterday, in preparation for Sunday's road race. The Italian squad will enter the weekend's road race with the weight of a nation on its shoulders.

In addition to racing on home soil in Varese, Italy, the squad has the added pressure of expectation. While the team couldn't defend Paolo Bettini's Olympic Games title in Beijing, China last month, it will go all out to ensure a squadra azzurra rider takes gold in Sunday's event.

Bettini enters the event once more as defending champion, having won the last two world titles.

Italian fans have already had much to cheer about just one day into the Worlds. Adriano Malori, at just 20 years of age, stood atop the podium in Varese and listened to the Italian national anthem after claiming the Under 23 UCI World Time Trial Championship.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Dietziker gets special honour to make Worlds team

Swiss rider Andreas Dietziker was nominated to his country's World Championships team, following the cancellations of Fabian Cancellara and Michael Albasini.

Dietziker was very happy to receive the late invite. "This is a dream come true. It is the most important one-day race for the elite. To be able to start here is a special honour."

Dietziker will of course be a domestique in the race for the Swiss team, a role he is more than happy with. "I will support my teammates as much as I can."

Dietziker rides for the Austrian Volksbank team. He is the third rider of the squad to be nominated. His compatriot Elias Schmäh will also tackle the 260-kilometre road race. Christoph Sokoll will race for the Austrian team.

Zabel to announce future plans on Friday

Erik Zabel will announce his future on Friday
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Erik Zabel has decided what his future plans are and will announce them to the world at a press conference Friday in Varese, Italy. It is expected that the 38 year-old will announce his retirement from riding.

"The decision was already made after the Tour de France," Zabel told the sid news agency. "How it will go, I can't and won't say yet. I agreed to that with Team Milram."

According to the dpa agency, Martin Mischel, head of sponsoring and marketing for sponsor Nordmilch, will fly in to attend the press conference, giving credence to speculation that Zabel will continue to work for the team. He has in the past said that he would like to work with young German sprinter Gerald Ciolek, who is leaving Team Columbia and reported to be signing with Milram.

Zabel turned pro with Team Telekom in 1993, and remained with the team through the 2005 season. In 2006 he moved to the newly-formed Team Milram. He is credited with 201 career wins, making him the most successful active pro rider. He won the sprinter's green jersey in the Tour de France six times, and won 12 stages in the race. Zabel won the sprinter's jersey in the Vuelta a España three times, and has won eight stages there. He won his favourite race, Milano-Sanremo, four times, and was twice German national road champion. (SW)

Knaven to Milram

Servais Knaven has signed with Team Milram for a year, the German team announced Wednesday. The 37-year-old Classics specialist is leaving Team Columbia, and is Milram's ninth new signing for the coming season.

"Servais is noted for his experience and his in-depth knowledge of almost every one-day Classic in Europe," said Milram manager Gerry van Gerwen. "Especially in the Spring races, he will help us bring our top riders into the right position at the right time."

Knaven was Dutch national champion in 1995 and won Paris-Roubaix in 2001. He has ridden the Tour de France nine times and the Vuelta a España four times.(SW)

Track event Trofeo Internacional to take place in Barcelona

By Antonio J. Salmerón

This weekend, on September 27 and 28, the second edition of the "Trofeo Internacional Ciudad de Barcelona de Pista" will take place in Barcelona, Spain. The track event will be held on the Olympic cycling track that was used during the 1992 Olympic Games. Events include omnium and sprint events. A big emphasis will be on the youth categories. There will also be racers from the Paralympics as well as the Catalonian ONCE tandem Championships.

More than 140 riders from 10 nations are expected to participate. During the presentation, the director of the organisers, Eduard Esteban, indicated the participation if well-known riders. "There will be Olympians and World Champions at the start," he said. Esteban indicated that Barcelona is putting great hopes into hosting the European track championships in 2009 and 2010.

Carme Mas, president of the Catalonian cycling federation, used the current bad weather to emphasise the need of a roof over the Horta velodrome. The request was supported by Jordi Sans, sports director of the UFEC (Unión de Federaciones Deportivas de Catalunya, Union of the Catalonian sports federations).

On the sporting side some of the racers that will participate include the Pan-American champion Michael Bratchfort and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Josep Antoni Escuredo. Junior rider Juan Peralta recently won a bronze medal at the European track championships.

Two Beijing medalists are also among the participants. Toni Tauler received silver in the Madison, with Russian Alexey Markov getting bronze in the same event. French Madison champion Damien Gaudin will add to a competitive field.

The women's field include local hero Helena Casas. The Catalan rider will compete against Frenchwomen Laurie Berthon and Camile Lenoble, Scottish Charlene Joiner, Dutchwoman Ilona Meiring and Swiss Andrea Wolfer.

Vogels to lead Toyota-United in Australia

West Australia's Henk Vogels will lead his Toyota-United squad at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne, Australia, next month. The 35-year-old will lead a predominately Australian squad at the event.

"All the guys on the team are super-psyched for this as we are coming home with five of us Australians and a couple of adopted ones (a New Zealander and a Canadian)," said Hilton Clarke. "I know for us it basically feels like we are coming home as a national team.

"It is such an advantage to know a lot of the roads in country Victoria - that local knowledge should be a big help," he added.

Clarke's brother Johnny will also contest the event, as will former Commonwealth Games medallist Ben Day. Canada's Dominique Rollin will also make the trip as well as New Zealand's Heath Blackgrove and Tasmanian Caleb Manion.

"To come home and get my head in the paper for my friends and family to see is always fun," said Clarke. "I can prove to my mates I am not just on a vacation surfing at Santa Monica beach all year."

The Tour will be the squad's final multi-stage race under the Toyota-United name. The sponsor has withdrawn its support by season's end, leaving the outfit to either find a new title sponsor or disbanding.

Time for a name change

Time Pro Cycling will be re-named as Premier Sports Partners for 2009, but will remain a Continental team. The outfit has also signed six new riders, including Mark Hekman, for the season and brought in former Masters National and World Champion Jason Snow to direct the outfit.

"There were not many guys out there with our mindset looking to be directors," said team owner Erik Saunders. "Finding Jason was a relief to us all. Snow is going to help us stay with that Old School Fury that small teams tend to lose as they grow.

"We started this as a no money, six rider U23 team and we want to stay close to what it means to be young privateers," he added.

For the time being, Time Pro Cycling enters the USA Crits Finals tomorrow evening in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA in second place. Adam Myerson sits in second place 38 points adrift, while the team also holds second in the team standings behind Toshiba-Santo.

2009 Premier Sports Partners roster: Andy Baker, Jackie Simes, Eric Barlevav, David Guttenplan, Mike Stoop, Tom Soladay, Daniel Ramsey, Jon Hamblen, Adam Myerson and new additions Mark Hekman, Phillip Gaimon, Logan Loader, Will Hoffarth, Spencer Beamer, and Issac Howe.

California opens volunteer registration

Tour of California organisers have started the hunt for volunteers for the fourth edition of its event on February 14-22 next year. The organiser is in need of people interested in providing assistance with course marshal, security, media relations and medical controls.

"Volunteers are essential to the success of the Amgen Tour of California," said AEG Sports' Andrew Messick. "The support of the communities we travel through has been vital in making the Amgen Tour of California the most successful cycling race in the United States, and with the expanded route in 2009, volunteers will be more important than ever. It is a great way to take part in an event that will capture the attention of local communities and the world."

Those interested in lending their time to the Tour of California can check out more details and register online at

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