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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 12, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Valverde says no summons received

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Franklin Tello
(Click for larger image)
Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde denied any notification of a summons from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to appear in Rome regarding alleged ties to the 2006 doping investigation Operación Puerto.

Valverde, now participating in the Challenge de Mallorca, issued a statement addressing what he described as "reports in the Italian media", though, in fact, CONI had also published notice of the summons on its website.

"I can assure you that neither I nor my team has received any notification to appear before the CONI or any other organization," said Valverde. "I reiterate my complete willingness to appear before any organization which requests my presence to collaborate with the aim of clearing up everything connected to doping."

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He expressed surprise and indignation with regard to the alleged causes of his summons and emphasized that any testing from the controls taken in the Prato Nevoso stage of the 2008 Tour de France did not produce abnormal values.

"In the hypothetical and unacceptable case in which the controls to which I was subjected during the Tour [de France] would be used as a basis for charges derived from evidence existing within the framework of the Operación Puerto, I can only repeat one more time that I have said many times that I was ready to let my blood values be compared with the evidence ... provided that the competent authorities request me to do so.

"All who insinuate directly or indirectly my participation in any illicit affair without proof are harming my image and those of my team and its sponsors," said Valverde, who threatened "appropriate legal proceedings" in response.

Tour of Sochi postponed

UCI's long term aim is ProTour events on each continent

By Shane Stokes

Following on from recent reports that the 2009 debut of the Tour of Sochi event was in doubt, the International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed that the ProTour race will be postponed until next season.

The UCI ProTour Council (UPTC) had a meeting on Tuesday at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Attendees discussed the event's situation and issued a press release afterward clarifying the race's standing.

"The Council members were informed that the first edition of the Tour of Sochi (Russia), the date of which had been uncertain, would be rescheduled to 2010," it stated. "This new UCI ProTour race has gained the backing of the Russian government as well as several highly-motivated partners. However, the world economic crisis has led the event organisers to postpone its launch for a year."

The news is a setback for the ProTour series, which has considerably less events than was originally envisaged when it was launched back in 2005. However, the UCI statement referred to the new World Calendar – comprised of ProTour and so-called Historic Events – and said that this showed there exists "a new era of cooperation between the different stakeholders in cycling."

The ProTour Council members agreed on a long-term objective at the meeting to approve at least one ProTour event per continent, citing the globalization of cycling as the motive, and the success of the Tour Down Under as an example of what can be achieved. It also stated the dates for the Australian race: January 19-24, 2010.

The communiqué also welcomed the launch of a new training course for team managers in collaboration with ADISPRO (International Association of Professional Team Managers), the UCI Academy and the University of Manchester. It will encourage an increased professionalism of team managers, including the area of ethical matters.

Evans starts Tour prep this weekend

By Bjorn Haake in Oostende

Cadel Evans
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)
Cadel Evans will start his quest to win the 2009 Tour de France this weekend at the Vuelta a Andalucía, also known as the Ruta del Sol. After three months in Australia, Evans arrived back in Europe for the presentation of his team, Silence-Lotto, in Belgium. Evans detailed his race programme, which will not include the Giro d'Italia.

The race in Spain will give him some early time to get acquainted to his new teammate Thomas Dekker. "I am doing my first race with him, and I am looking forward to getting to know him as a racer. It is good to have the presence of a rider who does win big races."

Evans added that getting to know the Dutch rider's strength and level will be important in light of the team time trial in the Tour. "In that regard Sebastian Lang is also a great acquisition," said Evans, who was giving more thoughts to the strong riders the team gained, rather than the ones they lost, namely Chris Horner and Yaroslav Popovych.

"This came down to reasons beyond my control. That's the way the sport goes." The only bad thing was the loss of Bernhard Kohl before he even joined the team. "This was unlucky, not because of the fact we lost him – everybody would agree that it is good that these people are caught. But the timing was not good, trying to replace a Tour podium finisher in September/October..."

Evans was very happy with the line-up for the season and feels that the team is stronger than in years past. "There is also Charly Wegelius, Matthew Lloyd, who keeps getting better and Jurgen Van den Broeck – I am looking forward to [working with] him as well."

After the season opener in Spain, Evans will race Paris-Nice in March and then do the Classics, without any particular ambition. "I don't put pressure on myself. My intention is to ride for Gilbert." He added that his job was to perform at the Tour. "That is what my year is judged by."

Finally a 'no' to the Giro

There was a bit of controversy surrounding a potential start at the Giro d'Italia. Evans admitted that he couldn't really decide himself. He had good memories of the 2002 edition. After the last Tour de France, the idea was brought up by the sports directors.

"I wanted to ride the Giro since my first full year as a professional in 2002. The directors asked me last year if I wanted to ride it.

"It has a lot of merit in the preparation for the Tour, but I was a bit indecisive about it. I wanted to walk away and think about it." He felt there could have been some benefit after sticking with the same programme for four years. "Sometimes a change is all you need."

Eventually he chose to skip the Italian Grand Tour. "I weighed all the pros and cons, taking into account the layout of the Tour. The timing for the Giro is just so difficult with regards to my Tour preparation."

He added that there were only 33 days between the end of the Giro and the beginning of the Tour. "Sometime between February and July I need to have a bit of a break." The Giro falls right in there. The break afterwards would be too close the Tour. "The Tour starts with a very important time trial and you have to be at your best right away."

Agritubel's costly mistake

By Bjorn Haake

Christophe Moreau (Agritubel)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
The Agritubel team admitted to a rather expensive "administrative mistake" that cost the French Professional Continental team the UCI "wild card" designation. The team failed to pay for participation in the UCI's Biological passport program, a requirement for all UCI-designated "wild card" teams. Therefore, Agritubel was left off the final round of "wild card" teams designated by the UCI on Tuesday.

Since then, Agritubel has agreed to participate in the biological passport programme at an additional cost. This leaves the door for the team open to races like Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France. Teams without ProTour or "wild card" status cannot race ProTour events; however they can still race "historical" events like the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia as long as they are participating in the Passport Program.

"Unfortunately we won't be able to get a 'wild card' for this season, but the staff has decided to pay for the biological passport programme," the team told Cyclingnews. The UCI has given the six teams that were denied a "wild card" (Agritubel, LPR, Acqua e Sapone, CSF-Group Navigare, Xacobeo and Amica Chips - ed.) a deadline of March 11 to sign up for the passport programme.

Agritubel agreed without hesitation, despite a steeper price tag. Usually, an entire team has to pay 60,000 euro to participate. Instead, the charge will now be 7,300 euro per rider. Agritubel has 19 riders under contract; hence the team will pay a total of 138,700 euro.

Directeur Sportif Emmanuel Hubert acknowledged the team's administrative mistake but said, "We have the goal of participating in all the big races and also of showing reliability and transparency for cycling."

The team's top riders like Romain Feillu, Christophe Moreau and French champion Nicolas Vogondy will be happy with the news which still keeps them in the running to participate in their respective target races for the 2009 season. However, Moreau will not be able to race the Dauphiné Libéré, a ProTour event, which he won in 2007.

CSF Group-Navigare continues passport participation sans "wild card"

After CSF Group-Navigare was left off the UCI's list of 13 professional "wild card" teams Tuesday, the team remained calm and promised it would continue its participation in anti-doping programs nonetheless.

"For the 2009 season we continue to participate in the UCI's biological passport programme, as last year," said Bruno Reveberi on behalf of the team.

"This programme is essential as it enables us to be allowed to participate in the race we love the most, the Giro d'Italia, and it's a programme that we consider necessary to promote growth in cycling."

"So even if its costs are double what we had thought, it represents an expense that we must and want to spend."

Hat trick for Gavazzi

By Daniel Benson in Melaka, Langkawi

Mattia Gavazzi (Diquigiovanni-Androni)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)
Team Diquigiovanni's Mattia Gavazzi proved to be the king of the Tour of Langkawi when he took his third consecutive stage win in the Malaysian national tour. Gavazzi won the final sprint at the end of the 186km stage three, on a loop encircling the city of Melaka.

In a carbon-copy of stages one and two, Gavazzi and his Diquigiovanni-Androni squad allowed a small group to escape in the opening kilometers, only for the bunch to regroup and the race leader to leave his rivals a clean pair of heels at the finish.

"This is my team's victory not just mine. We worked from start to finish and I wouldn't have been on the podium today without them," Gavazzi said at the finish. The sprinter is the first rider to win three stages in a row at Langkawi since Alberto Loddo in 2007.

Gavazzi out-sprinted Chris Sutton (Garmin) and Aurélien Clerc (Ag2r), His efforts have put him in the lead of the general classification. Sutton now sits in second overall at 18 seconds, and Nolan Hoffman (South African National Team) is third at 20 seconds.

The race will continue for four more stages, ending on February 15.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour of Langkawi.

Duggan not feeling the heat in Malaysia

By Greg Johnson in Melaka, Malaysia

American climber Timothy Duggan (Garmin-Slipstream) says the heat at the Tour de Langkawi isn't impacting him as much, thanks to a block of racing and training in Australia. Duggan spent a week at teammate Chris Sutton's house in Sydney, New South Wales, after contesting the Tour Down Under ProTour race last month.

"It was good, I mean this year is obviously hot, but I've felt really comfortable," said Duggan. "Last time I did this race, I came straight from a training camp in the mountains in California, and before that Colorado. I had to get over about 50 degrees [Fahrenheit of change in temperature], so coming straight here is a little more of a shock. But now it feels normal and I'm kind of more in that mode."

While Duggan finished in the top 20 during his last visit to Malaysia, the rider is cautious of making any predictions for this year's race. He is making a comeback to the sport after a terrible crash at last year's Tour of Georgia.

"I'm still testing my form having come back from my injury," said Duggan. "It's been a month since I did a 20-kilometer climb back at home in Colorado, so we'll see how my body reacts to the racing from the last couple of weeks.

"We'll see how it goes, but we've got a number of good climbers on this team, so I think between us we'll have a good race up the hill," he added. Genting is... that's the hardest climb I've ever raced up. I was completely floored at the top [in 2007]."

Duggan seemed pleased with the progress he's made since returning to racing at last month's Tour Down Under in Adelaide, South Australia. "I'm good – about as expected," he said. "Not surprisingly, amazingly peaking form or anything, but just a steady upward trajectory, and I'm happy. It's going well."

Rojas withdraws prior to final stage in Mallorca

José Joaquín Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne),
Photo ©: Franklin Tello
(Click for larger image)
Jose Joaquin Rojas, Caisse d'Epargne's team leader, will not start the final stage of the Vuelta a Mallorca Challenge on Thursday after two crashes left him injured.

Rojas was involved in a fall with Vicente Reynes at kilometer nine of the race's queen stage. He suffered a heavy blow to his knee, which has subsequently limited his ability to pedal throughout the stage.

"I was about to get off the bike because I hurt, but the doctor gave me something to calm the pain," said Rojas. "Little by little, I was back to motivating my teammates for the rest of the stage, but before the first ascent of the Coll de Sóller, I fell again, this time hitting my other knee."

Rojas still wanted to finish the stage if for no other reasons than "personal pride" and wanting to reciprocate the work of his teammates. However, the pain in his knees and the pace imposed by eventual stage winner Antonio Colom (Team Katusha) caused him to decide on the second ascent of the Coll de Sóller to withdraw after the end of the stage, in which he finished 19th.

"I tried to pick up my pace, but I was afraid for my body. And on top of that, my radio got caught in my front wheel, causing it to wobble side to side for the last 10km," said Rojas, who was 12th overall when he withdrew.

"My knee is very inflamed, and it's more important to recover now."

Cantele looks towards London and retirement

By Gregor Brown in Al Khor, Qatar

Noemi Cantele (Bigla Cycling Team)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Noemi Cantele looks forward to the next four years leading to the 2012 Olympics. The Italian of Team Bigla explained Tuesday at the Tour of Qatar that retirement could come immediately after the Games in London.

"I think for a woman who wants to have a family, it is better to not go too far beyond a certain age. The age of 31 or 32 would be great," Cantele, 27, said to Cyclingnews.

Cantele had a competitive 2008 season that included a win in the GP Costa Etrusca (Castellina) and the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen. However, several key races ended in near misses, like the Trophée d'Or Féminin and the GP Brissago Lago Maggiore.

"I changed a few things this winter. I changed my personal trainer; plus, I am more relaxed now. I needed to change after the Olympic year; to close a period of four years and to begin a new four years."

Cantele finished 15th in the Olympic road race. Briton Nicole Cooke won and Italian teammate Tatiana Guderzo took bronze.

"My first goals of the new season will be in the World Cups – Cittiglio, Flanders and Flèche Wallonne. It would be great to win the Tour of Flanders; it is a race that really intrigues me. Then, the final big goal is the Worlds in Mendrisio [Switzerland], which is near my home in Varese."

Cantele finished 10th overall in her first race of the year, the Tour of Qatar. Her teammate, Veronica Andreasson, place second on stage two to Al Shahaniyah.

Broun and teammates represent Australia fire victims in Qatar

By Gregor Brown in Al Khor, Qatar

Kirsty Broun (Australia)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)
Kirsty Broun raced with her Australian teammates in the Tour of Qatar Tuesday in support of their family and friends at home affected by the bush fires.

"We are racing with black armbands for Australia. The country has been devastated and around 200 people have lost their lives. People have lost their houses – it is devastating," said Broun to Cyclingnews.

Australia's southern state of Victoria continues to deal with the fires that police believe arsonists caused.

"Some of my friends have lost their houses and one of my teammate's sisters has lost her house. We are here to race for them today."

Broun finished ninth in stage three, 109 kilometers from Al Shahaniyah to Al Khor. She placed third overall in the inaugural Ladies' Tour of Qatar.

"The Qatar people have really put on a good show for use and they have treated us like royalty. Out in some of the desert areas of Australia it is similar to here, with the dryness."

Broun, from the city of Brisbane, will return to Australia on Wednesday. She will race Oceania in Geelong and then travel to New Zealand for the Tour of Wellington.

Teams for Giro della Provincia di Grosseto

Several teams announced their line-ups for the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, a category 2.1 race which will run from February 13-15 in Italy.

At Liquigas, all eyes will be on Daniele Bennati, the team's best bet for saving energy to power through the final kilometers. "We have selected a team able to support him, but we know it is premature to expect everyone to be in top condition. Some have already trained many kilometers, but at this point in the season, we've done little racing," said Directeur Sportif Dario Mariuzzo.

"We will try to take advantage of all opportunities over the three days. For example, a climber like Valerio Agnoli, will let us play a role on the ascents."

Team CSF Group-Navigare will head directly from its training camp in Massa Marittima to the start of the race. The team's duo of Mauro Finetto and Marco Frapporti has great ambitions for the race.

"I'm training well," said Frapporti, "and I hope to obtain some good results. Only the last stage will be little bit hard, and maybe Finetto will be able to ride better than me."

Liquigas for Giro della Provincia di Grosseto: Daniele Bennati, Valerio Agnoli, Maciej Bodnar, Claudio Corioni, Murilo Fischer, Aleksandr Kuschynski and Fabio Sabatini.

Katusha for Giro della Provincia di Grosseto: Pavel Brutt, Mikhail Ignatiev, Denis Galimzyanov, Evgeni Petrov, Alexander Serov, Luca Mazzanti, Ben Swift and Maxime Vantomme.

CSF Group-Navigare for Giro della Provincia di Grosseto: Mauro Finetto, Marco Frapporti, Filippo Savini, Mauro Abel Richeze, Enrico Zen, Marcello Pavarin, Simone Stortoni, Alessandro Bisolti

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