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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, February 5, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Cavendish thanks Boonen for Qatar win

By Gregor Brown in Madinat Al Shamal, Qatar

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish, multiple stage winner in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 2008, recorded his first win of the new year in the Tour of Qatar's fourth stage to Madinat Al Shamal. The Briton of Team Columbia-High Road thanked the man he beat - one of his top rivals, Tom Boonen.

"I want to thank Tom for opening the door again for me; it could have ended quite grimly. It was not like 'Cavendish one up on Boonen' because he could have easily had one up on me," Cavendish told Cyclingnews.

Columbia's sprint leader acknowledged that Boonen could have moved just slightly more to the right in the finish and left him with no space to pass; instead, Boonen kept his line straight down the road along the Gulf of Bahrain waterfront and finished the day in third, behind Cavendish and Heinrich Haussler.

The win was especially satisfying after a puncture less than 1,200m from the finish on Tuesday wrecked Cavendish's chances to contend the day's final sprint.

After finishing his successful 2008 season with the Tour of Missouri in September, Cavendish chose to race for the first time in Qatar as preparation for the Tour of California. This latest win should help in that preparation as his team faces a stern task on home soil later this month. After the Tour of Qatar, Cavendish will head directly to California to join his team in a training camp.

"It is brilliant after the bad luck of the last couple of days. I was lucky today, and I think I got my extra luck from Tom. He at least kept the gold and I won it [the stage]."

The Tour of Qatar started on Sunday with a team time trial, but every stage since has been flat and characterised by high winds. Wednesday's stage was no different, and despite the strong crosswinds Cavendish's teammates closed on the lead group in the final five kilometres of the 141km gallop from Doha.

"It started off with five, then it came down to four, and then in the last couple of k's there were only three of us left," explained Cavendish. "All of them did a perfect job. They gave me a lead out to the corner, where the crosswind ended."

The eighth edition of the stage race, February 1 to 6, continues Thursday with a 147.5km stage from Al Kharaib's camel race track to Doha. It's another flat parcours suited to another Cavendish and Boonen showdown.

Astana continues to work with Damsgaard

By Laura Weislo

The Astana team confirmed Wednesday that it, like Saxo Bank, continues to work with anti-doping researcher Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard to examine the results of blood controls, but is only using him to analyze the UCI's passport data rather than to execute additional testing. Team spokesman Philippe Maertens explained that the situation changed when the UCI stepped up its number of controls as part of the biological passport program.

"This year the UCI almost doubled the number of controls," Maertens said. "Last year [in December] at the team camp the UCI arrived to do the controls and on the same day, the PWC came to collect for Damsgaard. So like [Saxo Bank spokesman] Brian Nygaard said, it is senseless to do double the number of tests."

"Damsgaard never did the controls - not with Astana. It was a company from Germany, PWC, who collected the samples. Damsgaard only analyzed the data," Maertens explained. The same company is still responsible for collecting samples from the riders out of competition, but is now employed by the UCI rather than Damsgaard.

The Astana team used Damsgaard last season to order extra samples and to create blood profiles on all of its riders. That relationship bore fruit when the Dane picked up suspect values in the results from Vladimir Gusev. "The UCI has their parameters, but Damsgaard is more severe - if he sees something that is not good - this is what happened with Gusev. We saw something that was suspect, and there is a contract with the riders that this can be a reason to terminate the contract."

Essentially, the amount of testing for the team will remain the same as last year, but the controls will be conducted by the UCI. Once the blood values have been measured by the laboratories, Damsgaard then has access to the data and, as he does for Saxo Bank, scrutinizes it for the team.

Merckx supports Armstrong's hour record: "Why not?"

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar

Could Armtrong try to break the hour record on this bike?
Photo ©: Lance Armstrong
(Click for larger image)

Eddy Merckx has echoed Lance Armstrong's sentiments regarding the possibility that the seven-time Tour de France winner might attempt to break the current hour record on the velodrome. "Why not? If he is convinced he can do it, he has to do it," Merckx told Cyclingnews.

The American posted an entry on his personal website blog with the same imperative and a photo of a suitable track bike.

"It's a good thing if Lance Armstrong can beat the hour record," added Merckx. The Belgian legend set a record mark of 49.431km on October 25, 1972, which was broken by Ondrej Sosenka in July 2005 with a distance of 49.7km.

"The hour record will always exist. I feel that it is something special I did in my career. You have nothing to win, but all to lose."

The hour record is established by riding the furthest distance on a track in a time of 60 minutes. The International Cycling Union created limits in 2000 on the use of special equipment. It disallowed aero helmets, wheels and frames.

The last time Armstrong talked about the record was during his preparations for the 2005 Tour de France, and this recent photo on his blog indicates the interest may well be there again.

"You want to be on top of your condition for suffering for one hour like that. For sure it will be the hardest of his career," explained Merckx.

Casper shows early-season speed

Jimmy Casper starts his season off with a trophy.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Frenchman Jimmy Casper won a close sprint on Wednesday in the opening stage of the 39th Etoile de Bessèges, giving his Besson Chaussures-Sojasun team its first win of the season in Le Grau du Roi. Casper bested Sébastien Chavanel (Française des Jeux) and Klaas Lodewyck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) in the photo finish on the 128km stage from Bellegarde.

The day was marked by a breakaway of three men who escaped 40 km into the stage: Frenchman Jonathan Thira (Auber 93) and Belgians Tom Stubbe (Silence Lotto) and Jef Peeters (An Post - Sean Kelly Team). The trio gained a maximum advantage of 7:25 on the field, but was brought back into the fold on the closing circuits with less than 10km to go. In the bunch sprint, Casper managed to win by millimetres, taking the overall lead by four seconds ahead of Chavanel on time bonuses.

Casper earned his turn in the spotlight last season after he became the fifth rider to test positive during the Tour de France. He was one of seven riders to be found with glucocorticoids in his system, but the only one who did not carry a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the drug.

Casper, then riding for Agritubel, blamed an error in his paperwork for the problem, and said he did not use the drug for performance enhancement, but to treat his asthma. The French cycling federation's disciplinary commission later exonerated him.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Etoile de Bessèges.

Big expectations follow Arashiro to Le Tour de Langkawi

By Jean-François Quénet in Kuala Lumpur

Yukiya Arashiro (Nippo-Meitan-EquipeAsada)
Photo ©: Makoto Ayano
(Click for larger image)

In Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, just a few days prior to the next Monday's start of the 14th Le Tour de Langkawi, Yukiya Arashiro found himself impatient to meet his new partners from the Bbox Bouygues Telecom team. They are expected to check in at the Palace of the Golden Horses in the south of the Malaysian capital on Friday.

Frenchmen Giovanni Bernaudeau, Yohann Gène, Arnaud Labbe, Guillaume Le Floc'h and Johann Tschopp will ride alongside their new Japanese recruit in the seven-day Malaysian race. The 24-year-old from Okinawa seduced team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau with his aggressive racing style. He proved to be efficient, too, as he won stage two in the 2008 Tour du Limousin, a race in which he finished third overall in 2006. Consistency on French soil has earned him his dream, a pro contract, after he moved to Normandy in 2004 and rode for small club EC Aumale upon the completion of his studies and giving up his aims of becoming a professional handball player.

Arashiro's attacks were noticed by the staff of Bouygues Telecom at Le Tour de Langkawi, in which he competed the past two years. He proved to be a decent sprinter as he came seventh in stage four from Gua Musang to Kota Bahru in 2007. "We have different approaches of the sport of cycling, and we are very interested to discover his," Bernaudeau said.

"I hope to win races for Bbox-Bouygues Telecom, including a stage at the Tour de France," Arashiro said. "I also want to grab the Japanese national title again. I went to France in December for the Bbox Bouygues Telecom training camp. I've had the impression this team is a real family. It's also very open in terms of tactics. There's no designated captain. Any team member is likely to try and win and to get a chance to participate to the Tour de France. At Le Tour de Langkawi, I'll first do my best to gain the confidence of my teammates, I'll also try and win stages and GC."

Tschopp will lead the French team in Malaysia. "Considering his power-to-weight ratio, the climb of Genting Highlands will suit him more than Fraser's Hill last year," coach Philippe Mauduit presumed. The Swiss climber was on his way to contest the stage win up to Fraser's Hill in 2008, but he lost all his hopes due to a flat tyre with 2km to go.

Arashiro's debut with Bbox Bouygues Telecom has attracted huge media attention from Japan in Malaysia with the national TV channel NHK notably planning to report on Le Tour de Langkawi.

Wagner breaks wrist

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar, and Susan Westemeyer

Robert Wagner (Skil-Shimano) crashed.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar came to a quick end for Robert Wagner of Team Skil-Shimano. The German crashed on a traffic circle within the first kilometre of the day while still in the neutralised zone.

"I crashed before the start, at kilometre zero and I broke the radius bone," said Wagner. "I am waiting for a Qatar doctor to give me the okay so I can fly home."

The 25-year-old German expected his wrist to require surgery, and he was not sure how long he would be out of racing.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour of Qatar.


Marchante on the road to Malaysia

José Angel Gomez Marchante last season
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Jose Angel Gomez Marchante departed Tuesday afternoon from Barajas airport for Frankfurt, where he was to join his fellow teammates for an overnight stay before heading to Malaysia with the intention of contesting the Tour de Langkawi.

His Cervélo Team was scheduled to arrive three days prior to the start of the Tour de Langkawi, so that Gomez Marchante could adapt six-hour time difference from his home in Spain.

"I really want to start [racing] competitively although the team has given me some peace of mind by telling me to go accrue miles and days of competition," he said. "Anyway, I'd like to try in the fifth stage to see about my current fitness so that I can refine my preparations to face my most important objectives."

The fifth stage is the only non-flat stage in the race.


Sinkewitz comeback postponed

Patrik Sinkewitz
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Patrik Sinkewitz had hoped to return to racing at the Mallorca Challenge next week, but now has to postpone his return until the end of the month. Although Sinkewitz is eager to return to racing after the end of his doping suspension, his team will not be participating in the Mallorca race series.

"I would have liked to ride the Mallorca tour, but it didn't work out," the 28-year-old told the dpa press agency. He will make his debut with Team PSK Whirlpool in a one-day race near Lugano, Switzerland, at the end of February, before his first stage race, the Vuelta a Murcia from March 4-8.

"I have trained a long time and feel fit, I am hot and want to know where I stand," Sinkewitz said.

Sinkewitz tested positive for testosterone before the Tour de France 2007, and since he cooperated with authorities, received only a one-year ban, which ended July 17, 2008.

Snow doesn't deter Basso from training

Poor weather conditions did not deter Ivan Basso from training. On Wednesday, heavy snow fell upon northern Italy and ruined any plans he might have had to spend some time training on his road bike. The Italian was struck by the contrast between the climates in which he has been training and racing recently. Just two weeks ago, he was racing in hot conditions in Argentina at the Tour of San Luis.

"I have to train on my mountain bike again," said Basso to Gazzetta dello Sport. He was planning to ride outdoors in the company of his cousin Mauro, an amateur Gran Fondo rider as well as log some training sessions indoors on his home trainer.

Nuyens leads Rabobank on Mallorca

Team Rabobank is sending 14 riders to the Mallorca Challenge, starting on Sunday, February 8. The race will see the debut of Nick Nuyens for the Dutch ProTour team.

Nuyens had been scheduled to start the Tour of Qatar, but flew home before the first stage in order to be home for the birth of his son Sterre.

Although Kai Reuss is on the starting list, he has the flu and it is not known whether he will be able to ride.

Rabobank for Mallorca Challenge: Graeme Brown, Matthew Hayman, Bram de Groot, Jos van Emden, Rick Flens, Kai Reus, Tom Leezer, Laurens ten Dam, Juan Manuel Garate, Dmitry Kozontchuk, Paul Martens, Koos Moerenhout, Nick Nuyens and Tom Stamsnijder.

Bend to host US National Road Championships

USA Cycling awarded the city of Bend in Oregon the rights to host its second US national championship event: the Junior, U23 & Elite Road National Championships for both 2009 and 2010. The announcement came on Wednesday, six weeks after the cycling-friendly community was also awarded the next two editions of the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships. It will be the event's first visit to the Pacific Northwest since the junior, elite and U23 fields were combined into one national road championship event in 2005.

Previous hosts include Park City, Utah (2005), Seven Springs Resort in Champion, Pennsylvania (2006-07) and Anaheim, California (2008).

"Bend is a destination for both recreational and competitive cycling, and we're excited to bring another national championship to Oregon," said USA Cycling Chief Executive Officer Steve Johnson. "Bend's long tradition of community-wide support and passion for cycling convinced us to award them two national championships in the same year."

Chad Sperry, longtime race director for national-caliber races such as the Cascade Cycling Classic, the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and the Tour of Utah, will serve as race director for the national championships. For the elite men and women, the race follows shortly after the 2009 Cascade Cycling Classic, also occurring in Bend from July 22 to 26.

The Junior, U23 & Elite Road National Championships will be held July 28 - August 2. One thousand competitive cyclists are expected to race for time trial, road and criterium national titles. The Cyclo-cross National Championships will be held December 10-13.

Valley of the Sun to draw thousands

The 17th Annual Valley of the Sun John Earley Memorial Stage Race, presented by Landis Cyclery and Trek, will be held from February 13 to 15 in the greater Phoenix area. More than 5,000 participants and spectators are expected.

In 2008, almost 900 cyclists competed in front of thousands of enthusiastic spectators. The 2009 race, hosted by the White Mountain Road Club, will award over US$10,000 in cash and prizes and will attract some of the top professional cycling teams like Bissell Pro Cycling, to be led by Frank Pipp.

The three-day event offers men and women, both amateur and professional road racing cyclists of all levels, the opportunity to compete for cash and prizes. Pro/am events include an individual time trial, a road race and a criterium while others may enjoy a bike rodeo, fitting clinic and kids' race.

Valley of the Sun 2009
February 13: Stage 1 - Town of Buckeye Individual Time Trial, 14 miles
February 14: Stage 2 - Landis Cyclery Road Race, 50 to 100 miles
February 15: Stage 3 - Verrado Criterium, 30 to 70 minutes

For information visit

Sea Otter adds criterium

The Sea Otter Classic added a fourth day of road racing to its schedule. A new criterium will be held on Thursday, April 16 for nearly all amateur and professional categories.

"The additional race makes the Sea Otter Classic an even better value for road cyclists, who now have the opportunity to compete in three different events – road racing, circuit racing, and crit racing," said Jeff Frost, Director of Athlete Services. "We expect this event to be very popular."

The race will be held on the Laguna Seca raceway, with an uphill turn and technical turn-arounds at each end of the one-mile, hotdog-shaped course. Each race will last 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the category.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer)

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