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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, February 16, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

A cobbled transition for Hushovd

Thor Hushovd wants to win Paris-Roubaix
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Thor Hushovd is getting his season underway this week in the Tour of California. The 31-year-old Norwegian has won Tour stages, the maillot vert and Gent-Wevelgem, but in 2009 he has another big goal. He tells Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes that becoming Paris-Roubaix champion is on top of his wish-list.

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Professionals such as Sean Kelly, Eric Vanderaerden, Eddy Planckaert and Johan Museeuw became well known thanks to stage wins in the Tour de France, but then went on to become big Classic winners a little later in their careers. With time and physical maturity came increased strength, and this saw each of them eventually topping the podium in Paris-Roubaix.

New Cervélo signing Thor Hushovd hopes to join this group in 2009. When asked if he'd rather win a Classic or take another Tour de France maillot vert, he opts for one-day success, pointing out that he's won the green jersey before. And of those Classics, Paris-Roubaix is the most important prize.

"I have been third in Milano-Sanremo, and ninth is my best in Roubaix," he tells Cyclingnews, referring to the 2005 editions of both events. "In Flanders I have taken 14th in the past. Of those races, Roubaix is something special... I'd love to win there."

Read on about Hushovd's thoughts of the Queen of Classics.

Zomegnan backs Italy's case against Valverde

Giro director Angelo Zomegnan says same rules for everyone
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Angelo Zomegnan, director of the Giro d'Italia, backs the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in its pursuit of those tied to Operación Puerto. The Italian spoke Thursday in Madrid about the summons of Alejandro Valverde.

"Ethics are without frontiers. One can't be guilty in Italy and innocent in Switzerland. This is the consequence of an extreme situation and may be used to reach our objectives: cycling needs transparency," Zomegnan said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ettore Torri, head anti-doping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee, summonsed Valverde last week to appear in Rome today for his possible ties to the 2006 doping investigation Operación Puerto. At the request of Valverde, it re-scheduled the hearing for Wednesday at 12:00.

Zomegnan and the directors of the other two Grand Tours – Christian Prudhomme (Tour de France) and Javiér Guillen (Vuelta a Espańa) – met at a forum hosted by Spanish newspaper Marca on Thursday. Organisers scheduled the meeting a few months ago, but the subject of Valverde's case came up nonetheless.

Zomegnan responded to Valverde's remarks in a press release that it is unethical to use blood obtained during an anti-doping control (2008 Tour de France, Cuneo rest day) for DNA tests and comparison to the blood bags obtained in the Operación Puerto raids of May 2006.

The Italian Olympic Committee readied itself when the Operación Puerto case was re-opened January 12. It sought the services of a legal studio in Barcelona. (GB)

Gil retires

Koldo Gil surrenders and retired from professional bike racing
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Koldo Gil retired from professional bike racing, after he was unable to find a team for 2009. The 31-year-old has ridden for the teams Banesto, ONCE, Liberty Seguros, Saunier Duval and last year with the Portuguese team Liberty Seguros.

He was initially linked to Operación Puerto in 2006. "It is illogical. My name appeared in a list and since that moment I have been condemned," Gil said to "Of course I did not like this fact but I especially do not understand what happened afterwards."

Gil blamed the UCI for playing with the fear of the sports directors, which makes it hard to find a team. "I can understand a sports director who has to guard the salaries of many people," Gil said.

The Spaniard always denied having been in contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor in the centre of the Puerto affair, and that any of the blood bags belong to him. He sent a letter to Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI). Gil offered to give a DNA sample and to show his innocence this way. "The UCI did not answer me," Gil said.

"Taking the decision to retire was not difficult, even if it seems very radical. The problem was not the physical fatigue: in the last four years I only competed 30 days per year. But I was exhausted mentally."

Gil added that he was unable to concentrate on his work. " It also affected my everyday life. I had no force to go on, for this I retire now."

Gil had no regrets. "I am not angry. I love cycling, I will go on cycling in my free time and I will go to see races, but I wanted to do other things."(MP)

Good week for Barloworld

Robert Hunter scored a victory for Barloworld in France
Photo ©: Barloworld
(Click for larger image)

Barloworld hopes it has set the precedence for a successful season with the races last week, where the team claimed several good results. Robert Hunter notably had several placing and won a stage in the Tour Méditerranéen. In that same race Barloworld also finished third in the team time trial, just four seconds behind Caisse d'Epargne.

On the final day, which finished on the difficult Mont Faron climb above Toulon, Mauricio Soler and Chris Froome finished second and third. Before the stage race in France, Robert Hunter finished third in the GP degli Etruschi.

Team Manager Claudio Corti was content. "We're still hungry for success but we're obviously very satisfied with our start to the season," Corti said. "Our results confirm that this team deserves to take part in all the major international races on the calendar, both stage races and one-day Classics."

Corti specifically mentioned the young riders, with neo-pro Michele Merlo took third place in the stage one sprint of the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto. "What makes me especially happy is our decision to give our talented young riders the possibility to show what they can do," Corti said.

But Corti also praised the experienced riders for showing their form early in the season. "Mauricio Soler's return to form is also very pleasing; when he's going well he can rival anyone in the mountains."

Corti was especially happy that adverse circumstances did not affect the team. "Not even the theft of the bikes during the training camp in Tuscany dented our morale and that was a very encouraging sign," Corti said.

Nolf buried in Kuurne

Frederiek Nolf was burried in Kuurne over the weekend
Photo ©: / Topsport Vlaanderen
(Click for larger image)

A thousand people attended Frederiek Nolf's funeral over the weekend. The young Belgian died in his sleep during the Tour of Qatar.

"Frederiek was one of the nicest riders on the team and also a very talented rider," Team Topsport Vlaanderen Directeur Sportif Walter Planckaert said, according to "That he left us in this way, there are no words for it. This is a very sad job.

"All the riders are here, the complete team is in mourning. We will never forget Frederiek."

Nolf's casket was in the community house in Kuurne for an hour Saturday morning, allowing mourners to pay their respects. About 500 people attended the service at the Michielskerk. Among those present were former Belgian premier Yves Leterme, Sport Minister Bert Anciaux, Stijn Devolder of Team Quick Step and Topsport Vlaanderen Team Manager Christophe Sercu, as well as the entire team.

Meanwhile, the team has started to look to the future. "We start again in the Volta ao Algarve (February 18) and Laigueglia (February 22)," Planckaert said. "We will ride these races with Frederiek in our thoughts."(SW)

Sentjens jailed briefly on Mallorca

By Bjorn Haake and Susan Westemeyer

Roy Sentjens (Silence-Lotto) encountered reality of Spanish traffic laws
Photo ©: Nicolas Götz
(Click for larger image)

Roy Sentjens of Team Silence-Lotto spent a few hours in a Spanish jail cell Friday, after being arrested by police for riding through a closed-off road construction zone. He was released after posting bond.

Sentjens told that he and two young Spanish riders had been on a five-hour training ride on Mallorca before they arrived at the construction zone. "It did not look like we would bother them with our bikes, so we carefully rode through. But they didn't like that. They became very aggressive and demanded that we immediately pay a fine of 10,000 euro."

Thinking that the workers were after money, the riders put up a"violent protest," which resulted in the police being called. "The officers put our bikes and us in their station waggon and brought us to the police station."

Team manager Marc Sergeant confirmed the story, and said that the riders were held for four to five hours. The judge who heard the charges "got a good laugh out of it" before releasing the riders on bail, Sergeant told Cyclingnews..

Sentjens, 28, will not face any punishment from the team for his traffic violations. "No, we are not police," Sergeant said. "We instruct them to follow the traffic rules, and if they do something wrong and get caught and fined, then that's enough punishment."

Hoy crashes in preparation for Worlds

Chris Hoy (Great Britain) will be handicapped going into the World Championships. But will it stop him?
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Sir Chris Hoy will be going into the World Track Championships next month (March 25-29 in Pruskow, Poland) at less than full strength, following a crash this weekend in the keirin finals of the World Cup track meet in Copenhagen.

On Saturday evening, Hoy touched wheels with French rider Kevin Sireau, and went down. He suffered bruising on his shoulder and side and a bruised hip, but X-rays showed no fractures.

The 32-year-old flew home and was able to walk without the crutches the hospital had given him.

"He's still feeling pretty sore but not too stiff which is a good sign," a British cycling spokesman told

Hoy is looking to defend his two world titles in the keirin and the sprint. He also won three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, in the sprint, team sprint and keirin events.(SW)

Milram send sprinters to Portugal

Gerald Ciolek is looking forward to some bunch sprints in Portugal
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram sends a team built around its young sprint star, Gerald Ciolek, to the Volta ao Algarve (February 18-22). Sprinters are looking forward to the parcours made for bunch sprints. This year the five stages, including an individual time trial of 33.7 kilometres, covers a total of 735 kilometres through southwestern Europe.

"This is a stage race made for the fast racers," said captain Ciolek. "We are going to the race with a strong team aimed at the sprint finishes. The Mallorca Challenge was a good opener for the season, for us to get the team feeling back again after the long break. When we can work together here in Portugal as well as we did there in Spain, then we will surely play a role in the race."

Ciolek will have support from Robert Förster, who can also go for the stage wins himself, depending on the race situation. "I think that Qatar was a good race for me," said Förster, who last year won two stages in Algarve and finished second in another stage. "I could see how I was doing. I hope that we can keep on improving in Portugal. I am looking forward to Algarve."

The Milram team for the Volta ao Algarve: Gerald Ciolek, Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Thomas Fothen, Artur Gajek, Björn Schröder, Niki Terpstra and Peter Wrolich. Directeur Sportif is Christian Henn.

CAS confirms two-year suspension for Ascani

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne has upheld the two-year suspension against Italian Luca Ascani. It did accept parts of the appeal filed by Ascani against his ban. The start date of his doping suspension was retro-actively moved up to August 4, 2007. The initial sentence was to start on February 27, 2008. Ascani had filed the appeal with CAS after CONI's appeals body for doping matters came to a different conclusion.

Ascani tested positive for recombinant EPO following the time trial of the Italian road cycling championships on 26 June 2007; a race that he won, before being disqualified.

It is the second time in a short period of time that CAS has allowed an appeal, after Spaniard José Antonio Pecharromán's sanction was lowered.

ELK Haus didn't want wild card status

Team ELK Haus did not receive UCI wild card status for the simple reason that it did not apply for it, the Austrian Professional Continental team has said.

"After the cancellation of the Deutschland Tour, the wild card doesn't interest us at the moment," team manager Bernhard Rassinger said in a team statement. "Even without participating in the ProTour competitions, we still have a very attractive and full racing calendar."

In addition, Rassinger noted, having the wild card status does not guarantee an invitation to any ProTour races. "Besides, the financial aspects are out of proportion to any benefit to the team."(SW)

GP Pino Cerami cancelled

The GP Pino Cerami will not be held this year, as the organisers have been unable to find enough helpers.

The UCI-ranked 1.1 race, held in the Wallonian section of Belgium, was scheduled for April 9.

The organisers planned to inform the UCI today that they would have to cancel the race. According to, the race finances were in order but there were too few workers available to put on a race at the required level. They hope to hold the race in 2010.

The GP Pino Cerami has been held annually since 1964, and was won in 2008 by Patrick Calcagni of Team Barloworld.

Guiseppe "Pino" Cerami was an Italian rider who took on Belgian citizenship. In 1960, he won Paris-Roubaix and La Flčche Wallonne, and finished third in the World Championships. In 1963, he won a stage of the Tour de France, becoming the oldest Tour stage winner at age 41.(SW)

(Additional editorial assistance from Susan Westemeyer, Monika Prell and Gregor Brown)

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