Latest Cycling News, September 26, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Will Contador leave Astana prematurely?
Alberto Contador may change his mind about the return of Lance Armstrong. Initially, Contador said he would open the doors for Armstrong. Contador now may realise that Armstrong as co-captain would be bad for another bid at the Tour de France. The Spaniard was already prevented from riding the Tour de France this year. He may not like to let another opportunity slip by.
Contador told Spanish sports paper Marca he wants it to be clear who is in charge. "The team has given me guarantees on who is the leader, but I would like the maximum guarantee possible. I was told that they want to [support] me, but I have to see how it develops."
Contador emphasised that for now there is not a problem. "As of today, I see no problem to be with Armstrong." But Contador clarified that for the moment not everything is clear for the Astana future. "We have to wait and see what the objectives of Armstrong are ... and if Bruyneel counts on him for the Tour. If I am not content, I will leave."
Contador had some doubts if the two strong riders could really co-exist. "Everybody knows that Lance has a lot of character and controls everything. I do not want to see my objectives slowed down by his [Armstrong's] arrival. If I don't have the security that the team will pull for me, I will leave."
Contador added that finding a new team will be no problem for him. "I have many offers of ProTour teams."
Stay tuned for more as Cyclingnews will have an exclusive interview with Contador soon.
Zabel announces retirement
Erik Zabel has announced that he will retire at the end of this season, as expected. "I had a lot of fun riding this year and could keep up with my international rivals. I don't know if I could do that for another season and think that this is the right moment to stop," he said in a press release.
The 38-year-old will ride the Worlds road race Sunday. His last race for Milram will be the Sparkasse Münsterland Giro on October 3.
"With Erik Zabel's retirement, not only Milram but also the whole sporting world is losing an important athlete. We thank him for the great work of the last three years," said Gerry van Gerwen, Milram's general manager.
Zabel's future plans were not announced, but van Gerwen indicated that he would not stay with the team, saying "we wish Erik an equally exciting and successful career after this career, and hope that he stays involved with cycling, in whatever way."
Zabel turned pro in 1993 with Team Telekom, leaving the team only in 2006 to join the newly-formed Team Milram. He has over 200 career wins, making him the most successful pro German rider ever. Among his honours are 12 Tour de France stage wins in 14 starts and six green jerseys for the best sprinter. He won eight stages in the Vuelta a España and won the points jersey three times. This year he rode the Giro d'Italia for the first time and, also for the first time, rode all three Grand Tours in one year.
He also won Milano-Sanremo four times and Paris-Tours three times. Other wins include Amstel Gold Race, Rund um den Henninger Turm, Rund um Köln and the HEW Cyclassics.(SW)
Wood quits on top
Oenone Wood took the peloton by storm with two consecutive World Cup titles in 2004 and 2005. Despite this, the popular Aussie has decided to call an early end to her professional career to return home and restart her career as an electrical engineer. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins looks back at the career of probably the most mispronounced rider in cycling.
There will be a number of high-profile retirements from the women's peloton this year, most of whom will be of an age where one might expect it, but there is one notable exception. Australian rider Oenone Wood turned just 28 years old this week – an age where most cyclists are entering the prime of their physical condition – but has decided to call an early end to her highly successful career.
"The main reason is family," explains Wood. "I have spent most of the last seven years overseas, so I don't see my husband, friends or family anywhere near often enough. That is not something I would choose to do forever. I am also quite keen to start my career in engineering."
That big reason for her retirement is the factor that most riders from the southern hemisphere have to deal with when forging a career in Europe. Spending several months at a time several thousand miles away from everybody you know can make things much tougher for them. "I think being so far from home does add an extra challenge to the sport," she agreed. "I think that's probably why the Aussie team is a fairly tight knit group."
The inequalities of the two gender sides of the sport really make themselves known in this area. Men, who can earn many times more than even the best paid woman cyclist, can generally afford to have their wife or partner join them in Europe; women on the other hand have to leave them behind. "It certainly is made easier if you can move your family with you to Europe," Wood added.
Oenone Wood's career in Europe began with meteoric success. Riding as a member of the Australian National Team – in her national champion's jersey – in 2004 she took the first round of the World Cup in Geelong. She had a series of podium finishes in a number of the other races that won her the season-long competition at the age of just 23. Her presence in the favourites group in the Olympic road race in Athens allowed teammate Sara Carrigan the luxury of sitting on breakaway companion Judith Arndt of Germany. Carrigan won the gold medal but Wood just missed out on a medal, ending in fourth behind Russia's Olga Slyusareva.
This highly successful season earned the young Aussie a contract with the German Nürnberger Versicherung team for the next two years.
The 2005 season began in an almost perfect fashion with Wood winning the Australian time trial championships and then the Geelong Tour a month later. Second place in the Geelong World Cup, followed by third in the now defunct Primavera Rosa gave her the lead in the competition once again. She became the first woman ever to successfully defend the title. Three stage wins in the Tour de l'Aude were followed by two stages and the overall in Le Tour du Grand Montréal. It showed that there was more to Wood than just a single day racer.
The season ended with her sitting at the top of the UCI rankings, and with a bronze medal from the World championship road race behind her German Nürnberger Versicherung teammate Regina Schleicher.
Such success would be hard to repeat in subsequent seasons, however. While the 2006 season began with another victory in the Geelong Tour and featured more stages in the Tour de l'Aude and the Giro d'Italia, she finished sixth in the World Cup and slipped to ninth in the World rankings.
Read the full interview.
New Zealand's Dean hopeful
Julian Dean has high hopes of a strong showing in this weekend's UCI World Road Race Championships. BikeNZ road coach Jacques Landry believes the lumpy course could suit the Garmin-Chipotle sprinter in the 260km race on Sunday.
The 15-lap course has two long climbs and Landry reckons it is likely to be too tough for the pure sprinters but not demanding enough to suit the climbers and therefore ideal for the power sprinters like Dean. The New Zealand champion competes on the back of some outstanding form in the Tour of Britain where he enjoyed five top-five finishes to place second overall in the points classification, behind Australian Matthew Goss.
Dean will be supported by US-based Glenn Chadwick, who comes off an overall win at the Vuelta Mexico. Fellow Olympian track rider Greg Henderson withdrew earlier today, not recovered from illness following the Tour of Britain.
Landry is hoping that France-based Tim Gudsell will be able to fill in the gap.
"Tim is keen to ride and has talked to Julian who told him his No 1 priority is to secure a pro team for next year. If he can tie up those negotiations in the next day, then he will head up here. It's only a one hour flight and he knows this area well."
Not for pure sprinters
The strong Italian and Spanish teams have not gone unnoticed by Landry. "They will be the two toughest teams and the riders that everyone will be watching. But there are 15 or 20 riders capable of winning this race."
Landry expects the first two hours to be relatively quiet before someone looks to break clear mid-race but the serious charge will come in the final one to two hours.
"There are two power climbs each lap and so I expect that the pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish will get dropped when the pace gets serious. Our hope is that Julian can hang in there up the climbs. If he does, then I am sure he can figure in this finish, along with the likes of Bettini and Freire."
Landry said he is not too concerned if the kiwis end up as a two-man team.
"The main job for Glenn is to support Julian over the first four hours of the race, and ensure he gets all the drinks and nutrition he needs. He did that job fantastically well in Beijing. From that point if he lasts then great but Julian is quite capable of looking after himself from there."
Women also looking strong
Landry also believes the women's team of Joanne Kiesanowski and mountain bikers Rosara Joseph and Kaytee Boyd are poised to do well, while the under-23 men's combination of Michael Torckler, Clinton Avery and Alex Meenhorst should acquit themselves well in today's race.
Joseph comes into the race after two outstanding finishes in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, finishing second in Canberra and sixth in Austria, while Boyd (Auckland) has raced well for the New Zealand road squad in France.
"Jo is even more suited to this course than Beijing, and both Rosara and Kaytee will do well here. I think there might be 15 to 20 riders in the bunch going into the last lap, and I see no reason why all three of our team should not be there. It is our strongest group of females for several years."
Key figures include Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, 2004 winner Judith Arndt, time trial winner Amber Neben and 2006 champion Marianne Vos.
Team Volksbank looking for new name sponsor
By Susan Westemeyer
Team Volksbank-Corratec is looking for a new name sponsor. The Austrian bank group Volksbank has announced that it will no longer be the team's main sponsor after 10 years, and will concentrate on the country's ski-jumping team.
"Volksbank is withdrawing as our main sponsor, but will continue to support the team in a smaller way," team spokesman Michael Fruhmann told Cyclingnews. "Our budget for 2009 is more or less secured. The team will continue to exist – but the place next to Corratec is available..."
Thomas Kofler, team manager of the Austrian Professional Continental team, was optimistic and told the Austrian TV sender ÖRF, "New doors are opening, there is no panic. I think that next year we will continue to ride at a high level."
Corractec, a German bike manufacturer, signed on as co-sponsor the end of August.
Rabobank and Veneberg reach agreement
Team Rabobank and Thorwald Veneberg have reached an agreement to end the rider's suit against the team, ending a year of legal battles. Rabobank did not offer him a new contract for this season, and he took them to court, claiming that under Netherlands law that, since he had a contract with the team since January 1, 2001, he should be considered under contract for an indefinite period of time.
Last December a judge ruled that this employment law did not apply to professional athletes. This ruling was overturned when a higher court ruled that the earlier court did not have jurisdiction. No details of the agreement were released.
Veneberg told sportwereld.nl, "I am glad that it has been possible to wind things up." He is currently receiving training as a helicopter pilot, with the goal of flying a television helicopter at races.
Rabobank spokesman Luuc Eisenga confirmed the agreement to Cyclingnews, noting that it was reached "some time ago".(SW)
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)