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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, January 1, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Giro di Sardegna returns

Astana speeds past in stage one of the Giro D'Italia held on Sardinia in 2007
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Giro di Sardegna is due to return in 2009 after an absence of 12 years. The stage race will take place on the Italian island of Sardinia from February 24 to 28.

Race organisers are working on the exact stage details this week, according to Tuttosport. The stage race will attract top contenders due the region's favourable weather and the possible cancellation of the Vuelta a Valenciana. Triple Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador may include it as part of his early season preparation.

The race used to occupy a key spot in the early season calendar from 1958 to 1983. Cycling legend Eddy Merckx won the race four times. It was re-introduced briefly, 1996 and 1997. The last winner was Roberto Petito.

The Italian season will open with the Giro di Sicilia, January 30 to February 1. The GP Etruschi in Donoratico is the unofficial start of the Italian season on February 7. (GB)

Big teams for Le Tour de Langkawi

By Jean-François Quénet in Kuala Lumpur

AG2R La Mondiale and Serramenti PVC riders at the 2008 Tour de Langkawi
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The start list for the 2009 Le Tour de Langkawi will feature 20 teams. The February 9-15 race will start in Putrajaya, the home of the Malaysian Government, and finish in the country's capital of Kuala Lumpur with the traditional criterium at Dataran Merdeka.

Teams from five continents will be competing for honours in Asia's biggest stage race, including ProTour squads Garmin-Chipotle, AG2R, Bouygues Telecom, Fuji-Servetto and Cervélo. Perennial attendee Diquigiovanni will return, while CSF, Vorarlberg-Corratec, ISD and national teams from Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, China, Iran and Kazakhstan will provide the big guns with very strong opposition.

"The selection of the teams has been the hardest ever," said Chief Operating Officer for the event, Datuk Naim Mohamad. "We have received almost 50 bids from different teams from all over the world. It means the seven-day race format suits more teams than before. With a more compact field, we expect an even more challenging race."

"As we are aware of the importance of the Hors-Category status of our event, we have composed a balanced field with the priority being given to most competitive teams from Europe and America," Naim said. "Although we are geographically far from the heart of cycling in Europe, we believe in the anti-doping policy put together by the UCI, the professional teams and the race organisers. We support the initiative of the biological passport. Therefore we have selected nine teams that adhere to the biological passport program and are eligible for the Grand Tours."

"We are very happy to welcome newly born and extremely promising teams like Cervélo and ISD," said Naim. "Two years ago we were the first organisers to invite Slipstream to an HC event because we thought this team had a fantastic future, and we are delighted to see them coming back as Garmin-Chipotle, with the prestige of being now one of the world's most competitive teams for the Tour de France and the big classics."

The race will mark the first appearance of the Doha Team from Qatar. Each team's line-up should be known by mid-January.

Teams for Le Tour de Langkawi: The 20 participating teams: Garmin-Chipotle, Ag2r, Bouygues Telecom, Fuji-Servetto, Diquigiovanni, CSF, Vorarlberg-Corratec, ISD, Cervélo, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, MCF, LeTua, Meitan-GDR, Seoul Cycling, Doha Team.

World champions bound for Buninyong

German Judith Arndt at the Internationale Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)
Three-time time trial world champion Michael Rogers and accomplished German rider Judith Arndt will spearhead record fields at the Scody Australian Open Road Cycling Championships, January 7-11. The six-event championships on the acclaimed Buninyong circuits near Ballarat have attracted 400 entries across the board, and race director John Craven described the entry response as overwhelming.

"The championships are packed with class," said Craven. "Buninyong is poised to host a feast of world-class cycling. To have riders of the calibre of Michael Rogers and Judith Arndt contesting the titles is a terrific vote of confidence in the City of Ballarat's promotion of the event."

Rogers, who was leading the 2007 Tour de France before crashing heavily, made a spectacular comeback from illness to line up at the Beijing Olympic Games where he was sixth in the road race and eighth in the time trial.

He will contest the 39km Mars time trial on Thursday, January 8, and the 163km road race on Sunday, January 11. The latter has drawn a record 126 riders, including other Tour de France stars Baden Cooke, Trent Lowe, Mark Renshaw, Adam Hansen, Matt Wilson and Allan Davis.

Beijing Olympian and reigning road race champion Matt Lloyd will endeavor to retain his title, while 2007 winner Darren Lapthorne will try to regain the green and gold jersey, and 2006 Commonwealth Games Champion, Matthew Hayman, from Canberra, is seeking to claim his first elite Australian Championship.

Craven said that Arndt was arguably the world's best female road rider of the past decade, having won the road race at the 2004 World Championships and taken a silver medal at the Athens Olympic Games. She was also the individual pursuit world champion in 1997.

Last year, an estimated 17,000 spectators lined the route for the elite men's road race. "The 10.2km Buninyong circuit helps create a Tour de France-style atmosphere and spectators love it," he added.

Australian Open Road Championships
Wednesday, January 7: Men's Under 23 time trial (28km) and Women's time trial (28km)
Thursday, January 8: Men's time trial (39km)
Friday, January 9: Rest day
Saturday, January 10: Men's Under 23 road race (122.4km) and Women's road race (102km)
Sunday, January 11: Men's road race (163.2km)

Tour and Vuelta for Valverde

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

In 2009, Caisse d'Epargne's ProTour squad will continue to be led by Oscar Pereiro, Xabier Zandio, David Arroyo, García Acosta, David López and Luis León Sánchez, who will also support the team's star rider Alejandro Valverde. Team Director Eusebio Unzúe predicted plenty more racing for Valverde, whom he described as "a rider unable to compete at a high level without a lot of competition".

Look for Valverde at the three Ardennes classics: Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and beyond. "Valverde is a rider of sufficient quality to make the Tour de France podium," said a confident Unzúe.

The director called 2008 a "very satisfactory" season for the team, which, along with Valverde, took the top spot in the UCI ProTour team and individual rankings. The team enjoyed victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and spent time in the lead at races like Dauphiné Libéré, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

Those performances more than satisfied title sponsor Caisse d'Epargne, which promised to continue its sponsorship despite tough economic times that have shaken the company.

The team will sit out the usual early season races like Challenge de Mallorca and Vuelta a Murcia, but will race the Classics in April and the Volta a Catalunya in May. Valverde has also pledged his presence at both the 2009 Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. The later should be well suited to him with plenty of climbing in the mountains and limited time trialing.

Euskaltel-Euskadi leaders set for season's start

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Euskaltel - Euskadi) interviewed at the Vuelta al País Vasco
Photo ©: Monika Prell
(Click for larger image)

Three Euskaltel-Euskadi racers announced their intentions for kicking off the 2009 road racing season.

Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez will start his season with the Challenge de Mallorca from February 8 to 12. Given the cancellation of the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, Sanchez will take part next in the Vuelta a Andalucía from February 19 to 15. There he is expected to do battle with Australian Cadel Evans. His main goal of the first part of the season, however, will be the Vuelta al País Vasco before he switches his concentration to preparations for the Vuelta a España.

Another of Euskaltel-Euskadi's leaders who will compete in the Challenge de Mallorca is Mikel Astarloza, who is taking a more relaxed approach to preparing for his season. Astarloza is aiming to reach peak form in June and July, when he hopes to lead his team to success in the Tour de France.

Finally, Igor Antón will debut in the Vuelta a Murcia from March 8 to 14. Anton is continuing to recover from hip and left shoulder injuries, which he sustained in the 13th stage of the Vuelta a España. Antón is back to training, although he is taking a measured approach to his return.

No Boom for Grote Prijs Sven Nys

Lars Boom will sit out the Grote Prijs Sven Nys on New Year's day. The Dutch World Champion was injured Tuesday in the Azencross Loenhout according to the Gazet van Antwerpen. He was taken to the hospital, where he received 12 stitches in his elbow. His injury is not serious; however, he will take it easy for the next few days.

Colnago and Landbouwkrediet sign three-year agreement

The Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner team and Italian bicycle manufacturer Colnago signed a three-year sponsorship agreement that takes effect January 1. Colnago's logo will be prominently displayed on the jerseys of Belgian cyclo-cross stars Sven Nys and Rob Peeters in the Grote Prijs Sven Nys happening in Baal, Belgium on Thursday. Cibel oranges and clementines will also sponsor the team.

Richardson honored by the Queen

After earning two Paralympic gold medals and one silver in 2008, British cyclist Simon Richardson was selected for another honor, this time from the Queen of England. He was awarded an MBE as part of the New Year list along with many of his fellow medal-winning Olympians. The MBE is membership status in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

"Beijing for me was an incredible experience and taking the medals was a great reward for the hard work by both me, my family and my support team," said Richardson. "To be awarded an MBE as well, really is the crowning glory of a successful year."

Richardson was seriously injured in an accident in 2001, when he was struck from behind by a car doing 60 mph. Richardson shattered his leg and broke his back in two places and has a metal ratchet support system in his spine that bends to allow him to get into a racing position.

In Beijing, he was part of the highly successful Great Britain Paralympic team The British team recently carried off the prestigious BBC sports personality of the year awards in Team and Coach categories. Star Chris Hoy also took the individual award.

Cyclingnews reader poll: Best track racers & celebrating a year in photos

The British continued their track success of this year with strong performances in the Cyclingnews annual reader poll. Today, we announce the Best Male and Female track racers of 2008.

Due to a technical glitch, the votes for best photo of the year were not tallied by our computer system. So, instead of our normal photo of the year category, we bring to you a collection of photos from throughout the 2008 season by Roberto Bettini.

Thank you to all who voted, and look for the winner of the 2009 Zipp 808 wheel set with the new 88/188 hub to be announced on January 5.

All of us at Cyclingnews wish you a Happy New Year!

Andre Greipel (High Road) celebrates his win in the Tour Down Under. He also took the first ProTour jersey by winning the race ahead of Allan Davis. January 27, 2008.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

(Additional editorial assistance by Gregor Brown.)

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