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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 14, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Favorites talk at Tour of California pre-race press conference

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Sacramento, California

Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Leading up to the start of the Tour of California prologue, the official Tour of California pre-race press conference was a site of some non-racing drama. The panel of riders was a cross-section of what is hyped to be the greatest assemblage of cycling talent in North America since the days of the Coors Classic. And the culmination of that was Lance Armstrong, making his return to professional racing in the United States.

The amount of people on the stage, eighteen, was only rivaled by the amount of press (and those merely watching) squeezing into the hotel ballroom in downtown Sacramento. More than twenty television cameras and at least 200 people wanted to catch a glimpse of the pre-race happenings.

Most of the race-specific questions were directed at defending champion Levi Leipheimer, who has an all-star roster riding for him on the Astana team.

"How do I put it? It's a fantastic team!" he said. "A Seven-time Tour de France winner, [Yaroslav] Popovych, Janez Brajkovic, Chris Horner, the legendary [José Luis Rubiera] 'Chechu'... We are really motivated for the race and it deserves our best effort."

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Leipheimer said that being a California native makes this race special for him, and as such he targets his training for it – particularly his off-season training.

"Every time I got on my time trial bike I thought of the time trial in Solvang. I am going to start on Saturday knowing I have done everything like in the past two years and I can win again.

"I've always had that philosophy and I train extremely hard for the race every year."

But even Levi admits this year is special, with the depth of the start list. "You see, little by little, all of the other teams and riders are putting more effort into it. You would be hard pressed to find a better field before July than right here."

Read the complete feature.

Liquigas riding Tour of California for training

Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Team Liquigas will field stars such as Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and Chicchi at the Tour of California starting on Saturday, February 15 with a 3.8km individual time trial prologue in Sacramento, but the team is moderating its expectations about the race.

"We are riding for training," said Directeur Sportif Mario Scirea, "but we know that this race is an important step to prepare for our season's goals. We need to see how our form is."

Serving as captain of the team, Basso will be in his third race of the season, but Scirea said his Italian star is under no pressure. "He will race without thinking of results. He will be free to take the race day by day, and we'll evaluate together if he can do anything else other than just train."

"Here in California, the media pressure is high," said Basso, "but I've only one goal: to train myself for the Giro d'Italia. When I was in Donoratico, I understood that my preparation is proceeding in the best way, and I hope to return from the US feeling even better."

In fact, it is Nibali who will be the team's rider with his eye on the general classification. "He's been working hard, and we believe he can obtain good results in the final ranking," said Scirea, who also marked his other riders, Francesco Chicchi and Jacopo Guarnieri, as the squad's men to watch in the stages that end with sprint finishes. So far this season, Chicchi has one victory and Guarnieri has one second place (behind Alessandro Petacchi in the GP Costa degli Etruschi).

Basso, Nibali, Guarnieri and Chicchi will receive support from the team's other riders throughout the Tour of California: Kjell Carlström, Brian Bach Vandborg, Alessandro Vanotti and Daniel Oss.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour of California.

Garmin learns from team time trial mistakes

By Laura Weislo

The Garmin-Slipstream team
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
The Garmin-Slipstream team has made no secret of the fact that they are gunning to win the opening team time trials of the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this year, but its dress rehearsal at the Tour Méditerranéen on Wednesday did not go to plan. Team manager Jonathan Vaughters was disappointed that the team lost by three seconds to Caisse d'Epargne over 25 kilometres.

"We managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory," Vaughters lamented to Cyclingnews. The team suffered several mishaps which contributed to the loss, but Vaughters was unsympathetic. "It's inexcusable. Sure, it proves that we're strong, but it also proves that even if you're the strongest you can still lose if you don't get the details down."

The squad's first issue cropped up when Mike Friedman decided to change saddles the day before the race, Vaughters explained. Unfortunately, when he put the new seat on his time trial bike, it was too far forward and would not pass the UCI's rules, and the rails were too short to move it back enough to meet the regulations. This meant his only choice was to start the race on his road bike. Without aerodynamic equipment, Friedman was dropped from the team and finished 1:59 down.

The second disaster occurred when Ryder Hesjedal pulled his rear wheel out of the dropouts at the start. He also finished 1:59 down.

"Added to that, Jason Donald was on a horrible day, so we were basically down to five riders after the first kilometre. When you start a time trial like that, everyone panics," said Vaughters.

"It was sad, but everyone learned their lessons. We'll be much more thorough next time. We were just a little lax, maybe over confident, and we paid the price for it."

The next team time trial is the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia - a 20.5-kilometre test in Venezia. Last year Christian Vande Velde took the first pink jersey when the team bested Teams CSC to win the 23.5km race in Sicily.

Garmin's second appointment will be the Tour de France opening stage - a technical 15km route in Monaco.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Tour Méditerranéen.

Bennati wins his Italian debut

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Daniele Bennati took his second victory in four days at the opening stage of the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto. Just three days after a win in Mallorca, Bennati was revisiting the top step of the podium.

"I can't ask for better beginning to the season than this," said Bennati. "Today I won thanks to the great work done by the team in a difficult situation with strong wind." He commended Maciej Bodnar and Valerio Agnoli for chasing down the break and Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Murilo Antonio Fischer and Claudio Corioni for driving the pace near the end, and Sabatini for a lead out.

"We all worked together just like in an example in a cycling text book."

The stage was marred by news of Alessandro Petacchi's crash. "I'm sorry for Alessandro," said Bennati, "and I really hope that he has no serious injuries. It would have been great to race against him on the final straight. For us riders, challenges are an important motivator."

Petacchi was heavily bruised when he crashed, but he suffered no broken bones according to

See Cyclingnews' coverage of the Giro della Provincia  di Grosseto.

Roberts out with broken hip

By Bjorn Haake

Luke Roberts broke his hip while training
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Luke Roberts fractured his hip just before getting ready for the Challenge de Mallorca. He sustained the injury during a training ride after his arrival on the Spanish island. Roberts had surgery on Monday in Palma de Mallorca and has started physical therapy. He will be out for several months but is in good spirits for a comeback in the second half of the season.

Roberts arrived on Mallorca last Saturday and went out for a short ride with a teammate. "At an intersection there was some confusion between us on the direction we had to take – unfortunately we had opposing thoughts." The two got tangled up together and fell. Roberts sustained the worst injury in the low-speed crash, breaking his hip.

Roberts contacted Cyclingnews from the hospital in Palma, where doctors performed the surgery. "They put three screws in the head of the femur."

On Wednesday, Roberts started with his rehabilitation programme. "I can now stand up and walk slowly with the help of crutches. However, it could take about two months until I am walking normally." Roberts is aware that it will be a long road to recovery, but the Australian is "determined to be fit for the second half of the season."

Roberts renewed his contract with German team Kuota-Indeland in December.

Portion of cobbles removed from Paris-Roubaix

The next edition of the Paris-Roubaix will include 52.6km of cobblestones, out of a total distance of 259km. The Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), organizers of the Classic, announced on Friday a few changes to the route resulting in a slightly shorter total distance of cobblestones.

According to the AFP, the main difference for the 107th edition of the race, set for April 12, is the removal of a 1600m section of pavé in Wallers à Helesmes because its condition has degraded too much. Another part connecting Auchy-les-Orchies to Bersée was also shortened relative to previous years.

Last year's race featured 52.8km of cobblestones.

Phinney shatters US pursuit record

US National Team member Taylor Phinney shattered the American national record in the men's 4,000m individual pursuit on Friday at the UCI Track World Cup in Denmark.  Phinney, clocked a time of 4:15.223 in the qualifying round, surpassing the previous mark of 4:19.800 set by Mariano Friedick in 1996.

Entering Friday's competition, Phinney's personal best was a mark of 4:22.358, recorded at the 2008 UCI Track World Championships in Manchester, Great Britain, last March.

Currently, the Olympic record stands at 4:15.031, set by Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins last year in Beijing, while the world record is 4:11.114 – a mark set by Great Britain's Chris Boardman in 1996 using an aerodynamic position now banned by the UCI.

In Friday's evening session, Phinney turned in a time of 4:19.119 in the finals to beat Ireland's David O'Loughlin and register his first World Cup victory this season.

CONI postpones Valverde's hearing

The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) announced on Friday that it was postponing the hearing of Alejandro Valverde by two days. The delay came in response to a request from his Caisse d'Epargne team. Valverde will appear before CONI on February 18 at noon.

CONI summonsed Spanish Champion Alejandro Valverde earlier this week to appear in Rome for possible ties to the 2006 doping investigation Operación Puerto.

Pevenage must testify in Ullrich-Franke case

Rudy Pevenage must appear in a German court in May to testify in a trial between Jan Ullrich and German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke.

Ullrich has been challenging Franke's claim that the Tour de France winner paid 35,000 euros to Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. DNA tests tied the Tour de France winner to blood bags found in Fuentes's office. In December, Pevenage said that there had been meetings between Ullrich and Fuentes, but only for the development of health and training plans.

The court in Hamburg, Germany, invited Pevenage to appear on May 22. Franke's attorney, Michael Lehner, said that he would ask to have the Belgian testify under oath.

Teams for Vuelta a Andalucía

Katusha and Xacobeo Galicia announced rosters for the Vuelta a Andalucia running February 15-19. Its riders will challenge the race's favorites including Samuel Sanchez, Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov.

David Garcia, winner of stage 15 of the Vuelta a España and the Tour of Turkey in 2008, will lead Xacobeo Galicia for his 2009 season racing debut. At his side will be in the round Andalusian Gustavo Domínguez, Eduard Vorganov, Pedro Fernandez, Iban Mayoz, Delio Fernandez and Serafin Martinez.

Team Katusha will be sending Alexander Botcharov, Nikita Escov, Danilo Napolitano, Christian Pfannberger, Filippo Pozzato, Ivan Rovny and Gert Steegmans.

British women's team heads for Africa

A British women's cycling team, HotChillee Challenge, will compete for the first time in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour on March 8 in Cape Town, South Africa. The team will be led by Great Britain's Emma Davies, a former professional who has competed in two Olympic Games.

"I spent 12 years as a pro-cyclist and I miss having something to focus on.  Leading the HotChillee Challenge Team is the perfect solution – I can keep fit and enjoy competitive cycling. I can never say 'no' to a challenge," said Davies, who fought her way back to winning a Commonwealth bronze medal in 2006, after breaking her back in a hit and run accident. She will be joined by ex-international triathlete, Tanja Slater; 19-year-old Alice Monger-Godfrey and Colorado-based professional, Joanne Kiesanowski and Penny Krohn, a Cape Town cycling personality. 

Scott Sunderland, a former Team CSC - Saxo Bank team director, is acting as the team's 'manager' but said it was only for fun. "It's a non-paid favour I'm doing the women. They will be handing over a cheque to the great charity initiative there," Sunderland said. His main focus in South Africa will be riding the event himself.

While in South Africa, the team will deliver a cheque for 18,000 British pounds (260,000 South African Rand) to the Christel House charity in Cape Town which works to empower children through education.   The money was raised by riders in last year's London-Paris Cycle Tour, an event staged by the HotChillee sports events company.

Sunderland, who also survived a horrific cycling accident, said, "It's fantastic to see a British women's team taking on the Cycle Tour, and I hope the women will be an inspiration to the country's cyclists.  Women's cycling is booming, and the team is proud to fly the flag for Britain."

Team Ultralink for 2009

Following its successful 2008 season Team Ultralink will field a CCA women's trade team as well as a master men's team. The women's team will focus on the Canada's most significant cycling events, from UCI races to the Tour de PEI and BC Superweek while the men's team will participate in regional events such as the Ontario and Quebec Cups and the North American Masters Championships. Both teams will also target the Canadian National Championships.

"Building a winning program year after year is a challenge," said Allen Sung, President of Ultralink Products, "but we're sure our teams are capable of continuing the winning tradition established over the previous two seasons. These young riders show a talent and dedication to excellence that our company is delighted to be a part of."

In addition to racing, the team will organize the 2009 Ultralink Ontario Cup on April 19 at the Calabogie Motorsports Track, about 30 minutes Southwest of Ottawa.  For more information, visit

Team Ultralink for 2009
Pro Women: Julia Farell, Allison Lampi, Chloe St-Arnaud Watt, Carrie Cartmill, Krystal Jeffs, Shanie Bergeron, Emma Peterson
Master Men: Tom Stevens, Ian Fraser, Mark Roundell, Dan Coldrey, Andrew Lees, David Gazsi, Andrew Kruger, Paul Chedore, Alistair Scott

Bushfire tragedy postpones area events

After the devastation of the towns and areas surrounding Marysville and Whittlesea during recent bushfires, CycleSport Victoria announced the postponement of two cycling events: the Lake Mountain Challenge, the Marysville Twilight Criterium and the Murrindindi Road Classic on May 2-3.

"We will liaise with the Murrindindi Shire Council and the Marysville community in the coming weeks with the aim of continuing with plans to hold the event," read a statement by Cyclesport Victoria. "We believe that events such as this play an integral to the rebuilding of communities and we will investigate the use of this event as a fundraiser for the victims of the bushfires."

In addition, many towns that served as part of the Whittlesea Challenge, including Kinglake West, Flowerdale and Wandong have also been badly affected by the bushfires.  This year's event will likely act as a fundraiser for victims of these communities.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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