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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, February 7, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Paris Roubaix winner Backstedt bows out

Magnus Backstedt racing in the colors of Swedish Champion at the Amstel Gold Race in 2008
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Magnus Backstedt ended his elite-level racing career after 13 years as a professional, but he will stay involved with the sport of cycling. Going forward, the 34-year-old Swede will apply his knowledge and talent to help the next generation of riders work their way up the ranks. In his new roles, he will serve a consultant and mentor for Garmin's young riders and work with his own development squad.

Backstedt's retirement comes after a recent career-threatening knee injury, melanoma, a separated shoulder and a broken collarbone.

"Taking a step down from the highest level of the sport I love and from a team I love is the hardest decision I have ever made, but at the same time I am excited for the new challenges ahead," said Backstedt. "At some point you have to realize that the daily punishment you are forcing your body to go through is taking its toll. I've fought my way back many times since winning Paris Roubaix in 2004, but my new fight will be to focus my energy on my own development team."

In addition to his win at Paris-Roubaix, Backstedt also finished second at the Gent-Wevelgem and the CSC Classic that same year. During his career, he earned three Swedish national titles (2002, 2003 and 2007). Prior to Garmin-Slipstream, he rode for Collstrop-Palmans, Crédit Agricole, Team Fakta, Alessio-Bianchi and Liquigas.

"I have had a fantastic career. I turned pro at 21; I have raced with some of the best riders and teams in the World. I've won a stage of the Tour de France and the biggest one-day Classic in the World, among others. I can take a step down from the highest level of the sport with my head held high."

Backstedt is pleased with his efforts to bring about change in the sport through his involvement with Garmin-Slipstream, which will continue into retirement.

"We will miss Magnus this year. He's been a tremendous leader and an inspired mentor for the younger athletes," said Jonathan Vaughters, CEO and director sportif of Team Garmin-Slipstream. "But we are happy that Magnus will stay on to play a consulting role with us. We wish him the best of luck with his new team."

That new team is, a Swedish-registered continental team for which Backstedt will serve as a rider, director and sponsor. He co-founded the team with business partner Martin McCrossan and founder Dennis Nystrand.

Backstedt thanked his family, friends and "all the people who have helped me through the years", including his fans.

"As they say, as one door closes, another one opens," he said. "New beginnings with no regrets. I'm still going to ride my bike, wind down and bring on the future champions."

Cavendish confident for California following Qatar performances

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar

Mark Cavendish on the podium in Qatar
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mark Cavendish came to Qatar this week and conquered via two stage wins against some of the world's best sprinters. The Columbia-High Road rider leaves the Tour of Qatar and readies for the next objective, the Tour of California.

"I know I am strong and I know my team is strong. The problem is there are not many sprint stages in the Tour of California. But we will have a massively strong GC team there and we will fight for the GC as well," Cavendish said to Cyclingnews Friday in Doha.

The 23-year-old Briton from the Isle of Man came to the Tour of Qatar, February 1 to 6, to prepare for the Tour of California. The trip paid off via two stage wins up against some of the same rivals he will face all year, like Tom Boonen and Danilo Napolitano.

"I came here and I knew I had good form. It was a case of getting experience and more results and I was able to do that, which it is good."

The team will chance slightly for California; the team will build his lead-out train with fresh riders. The success in the final stage of Qatar will encourage Cavendish on to more wins.

"We are really happy with it. ... We were the first guys to put riders on the front, and they stayed on the front right from the beginning to the end – it was perfect."

Cavendish and Michael Barry will join their six other teammates in California. During the stage race, February 15 to 22, he will rely on riders like Mark Renshaw and Adam Hanson for the sprint work.

Boonen takes a bittersweet third Qatar victory

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar

Boonen won the Qatar race again
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen is the king of Qatar thanks to his three overall wins and 15 stage wins in the history of the nation's stage race, the Tour of Qatar. However, Friday's classification victory was bittersweet for the Belgian Quick Step rider due to the death of Frederiek Nolf the day before.

"My goal was to win the overall classification, I won it. Today, we had to do it, but otherwise, it was difficult," said Boonen to Cyclingnews.

Nolf, 21, passed away early Thursday morning in Doha, Qatar, of a suspected heart attack. Organiser Amaury Sport Organisation annulled the day's stage out of respect for the rider.

Boonen considered returning home to Belgium along with Nolf's Team Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator.

"It was a pretty bad atmosphere, but today was already slightly better. We talked a little bit and we smiled a little bit, but it is not 100 percent.

"We had to continue because we have the leader's jersey. ... I dedicate this to Frederiek."

Boonen looks forward to his next race and the Spring Classics. He will face sprint rival Mark Cavendish again in the Tour of California, February 14 to 22.

"He is already a good sprinter, but we will see in the races to come. To win the sprints are good, but my first objectives are the Classics."

Boonen won stage two of the Tour of California in 2008. He finished 50th overall behind overall winner Levi Leipheimer.

Basso making Italian racing comeback

Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Hitoshi Omae (Jpn) / PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

The 14th edition of the GP Costa degli Etruschi in Italy on Saturday will mark the return of Ivan Basso to professional racing in Italy. Basso resumed racing late last fall in Japan after completing his suspension for attempted doping in conjunction with Operación Puerto. The race will start in San Vincenzo and end 193km later in Donoratico.

"I am happy to be reunited with the Italian fans," said Basso. "I cannot deny that some emotion is there."

Basso predicted his Liquigas team would work for Jacopo Guarnieri if the race were to come down to a final sprint.

Liquigas for GP Costa degli Etruschi: Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali, Kjell Carlström, Jacopo Guarnieri and Alessandro Vanotti.

CSF Group-Navigare for GP Costa degli Etruschi: Giuseppe Lanzoni, Mauro Abel Richeze, Marco Frapporti, Pavarin, Bisolti, Stortoni, Gaia, Marangoni, and Mauro Finetto

Lampre-NGC for GP Costa degli Etruschi: Mauro Abel Richeze, Marco Frapporti, Michele Gaia, Enrico Zen, Marcello Pavarin, Mauro Finetto, Alan Marangoni, Alessandro Bisolti

CSF Group-Navigare and Lampre-NGC sign more riders

Two teams, CSF Group-Navigare and Lampre - NGC, made last minute additions to their rosters on Friday.

CSF Group-Navigare signed its final rider when Umberto Nardecchia penned his name on a one-year contract. The 28-year-old Nardecchia makes the move from Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce.

"I am a climber of 177cm in height and 67kgs in weight, and I hope that 2009 will be my first real season as a professional rider," said Nardecchia, who explained further, "In 2007 I worked as a baker for eight months, and I thought that I would never be back on a bike. So, I am very happy to obtain this new chance with CSF Group-Navigare."

Lampre - NGC was also busy adding to its roster. Tuscan-born Francesco Tomei, Francesco Tomei, 24, will join the team after inking a one-year contract. It will be his third year in the pro peloton after he made his debut in 2007.

Teams for Mallorca

Quick Step, Caisse d'Epargne and Katusha announced their line-ups for the Challenge of Mallorca running February 8 through February 12. Trofeo Mallorca Challenge is the first Spanish professional race on the calendar. It will include five one-day races of UCI category 1.1: Trofeo Mallorca (116 km), Trofeo Cala Millor (176.5 km), Trofeo Inca (182.6 km), Trofeo Bunyola (143.3 km) and Trofeo Calvia (147.6 km).

Quick Step for Challenge Mallorca: Dario Cataldo, Sylvain Chavanel, Dominique Cornu, Dries Devenys, Stijn Devolder, Mauro Facci, Kurt Hovelijnck, Davide Malacarne, Jerome Pineau, Hubert Schwab, Matteo Tosatto.

Caisse d'Epargne for Challenge Mallorca: Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde will start day one along with others TBD from the team's training camp on the island. The team plans to rotate its riders throughout the event.

Katusha for Challenge Mallorca: Alexander Botcharov, Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Karpets, Sergey Klimov, Nikolay Trusov, Antonio Colom, Juan Horrach Ripoll, Robbie McEwen, Christian Pfannberger, Kenni Dehaes, Gert Steegmans, and Stijn Vandenberg.

Gutierrez excited to return to competition

Quique Gutierrez is set to make his return to the peloton with Rock Racing after a year off due to not having a contract. In just eight days, the Valencian will race the Tour of California from February 14 - 22.

"I am very excited to return to compete again and feel like a professional," said Gutierrez, who will turn 35 years old in June. "Thanks to my contacts with Oscar Sevilla, I have a place on this team and a new opportunity in my career. I've already done 8,000km of training."

Gutierrez thinks his new team's chances are good in California. "I think we have a team capable of doing things on the calendar in the US and Europe because there is an interesting mix of experienced and young riders."

In the meantime, he has been enjoying quiet roads, warm temperatures and plenty of training time in California with his team, but he is antsy to race. "What I really want is to return to the heart of the competition."

Tour of California women's crit to kick of American racing season

Brooke Miller (Team Tibco) will defend in California
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

The Tour of California Women's Criterium, set for February 15, will draw some of the top pros to compete in the NRC season-opening event. The second-year event will include defending champion and 2008 US National Criterium and Road Champion Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO).

"The 2009 race will bring together some of the finest competitors in women's professional cycling. That, combined with the men's field, will make this an epic day of bike racing," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG sports, which is promoting the event.

The women's criterium will be limited to pro/1/2 category riders on teams of eight. They will race in the early afternoon on portions of the men's Tour of California stage one finishing circuit in Santa Rosa.

Specific riders already registered are former national champion Mara Abbott, Ina Teutenberg, Kim Anderson Swedish National Champion Emilia Fahlin and Canadian National Road Champion Alex Wrubleski (Team Columbia-Highroad); Katheryn Curi-Mattis, Erinne Willock and Gina Grain (Webcor Builders); Shelley Olds (Proman); and Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light)

Boise Development Team sends U23s to Europe

The Boise Development (BODE) Cycling Team will send four young cyclists to France this June to compete in amateur competitions under the guidance of a local and nationally recognized coach.

Taylor Benz, Dylan Jones, Chase Pinkham, and Marcel DeLisser have been selected by coach Corey Hart to represent BODE in this first-year program that provides an opportunity for racers under 23 years of age to experience European competition. The cyclists will race as team members of VC Vernon, a regional club team located in the region of Normandy in France.

In June of 2008 Mike Cooley, BODE president and owner of Georges Cycles, met with Hart and presented the idea sending a group of U23 riders to race in Europe. He wanted to provide a scholarship for an up and coming Idaho riders to experience European competition, and Hart suggested the partnership with the VC Vernon.

Cooley explained his motivation for the program, "Ever since I was exposed to the sport of cycling, I wanted to and wished I had made the trek across the pond. I did not have a program to help with this dream. Boise Development Cycling and a number of local partners will make this a reality for four young men. We hope to make this and annual trip and grow our talent."

The BODE U23 program will offer a scholarship to one of the Idaho residents in the program based on the rate of improvement in competitions and development this spring.

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