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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, January 4, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Cooke to sue Rock Racing

Says riders offered only six month guarantees

By Shane Stokes

Baden Cooke (Barloworld) leads a chase at the Bendigo Bank Twilight Criterium
Photo ©: Veeral Patel
(Click for larger image)

Australian sprinter Baden Cooke blasted Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball, stating that he is planning on suing the businessman for breach of contract and that the other riders on the team have been left with very uncertain futures.

According to Cooke, a former winner of the Tour de France's green jersey, Ball has told riders that he will guarantee payment of their contracts for the next six months only, and that if replacement sponsors are not found in that time, the team will fold. They also face a greatly reduced racing programme, with previous plans to race in Europe now almost totally replaced by a US-based schedule.

"I'm really unhappy about what happened," Cooke told Cyclingnews. "In mid-November I was given a two-year contract by Rock for decent money. I signed it, sent it back, and for the next five or six weeks I constantly asked for them to send me a signed copy back.

"I was told [by team managers], 'Your money is guaranteed, don't worry about the contract, the project is fine, everything is good.' This went on for five weeks. I didn't have my contract and didn't know what to do. I finally asked to have direct contact with Michael Ball. I sent him a message asking what was going on, and the next day he rang me and said that there is no budget, no team, no bikes…nothing.

"He said that 'the team is done, but I am going to personally put in enough money for the team to go forward for six months. In this time we hope to find a sponsor. So, what I guarantee you is six months of your contract, six months racing, and if we get a sponsor, I will pay you all of it [the two year deal]. If we don't, you have nothing.'"

Cooke heard that a few days before Christmas and said the news hit him hard. "Obviously I was devastated. I went from good money for two years to a six month contract. When I first talked to them, the team was going to do the Giro, were going to do the Classics, they were going to do everything. Then later they were already saying that they will give me my money but they might only be doing a couple of races in Europe, and the rest might be in America. That is obviously a big step down from the Tour de France."

Rock Racing originally planned to apply for a Professional Continental licence, but ultimately stayed at the Continental level. The team claimed that it withdrew the application in order to have greater flexibility, but Cooke now questions if it was already in financial trouble at that point. "Looking back now, obviously they knew things were going pear shaped when they didn't apply for the pro continental licence. They didn't tell us then…why didn't they tell us?

"Michael Ball is making out that he is the greatest guy, he is going to pay out of his own pocket. Look, I don't care whose pocket it is coming out of, I just want the contract promised me. If he knew there is no team, how can he send me a contract for two years and then not sign it? The words on the contract were the words that he wrote, they were not my words."

29-year-old Cooke has since inked a deal with the Vacansoleil team, and plans to target the Classics plus the Giro d'Italia. He hopes that the Dutch squad is selected for the latter, as well as Tirreno-Adriatico.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for an in-depth interview with Cooke coming soon.

Gelfi commits suicide

Former professional cyclist Luca Gelfi was found dead and is believed to have committed suicide according to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday. The 42-year-old Gelfi, who began his professional career in 1988 and retired in 1998, raced for Del Tongo as well as the Eldor-Viner, Brescialat and Ros Mary-Amica Chips teams.

The Italian road racer won two stages in the Giro d'Italia in 1990 and finished second at the Milano-Sanremo in 1993. Gelfi reportedly suffered from depression prior to his death. He leaves behind a wife and five-year-old son.

We at Cyclingnews extend our condolences to the friends and family of Luca Gelfi.

World Champ Ballan focused on Flanders

By Gregor Brown

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Ballan of Team Lampre-NGC put a stop to the appointments and presentations that filled his time since becoming World Champion last September 28. The Italian is training and focused on winning the Tour of Flanders in the rainbow jersey.

"I have had to say 'stop' to some of the appointments because it was becoming too much. I have a few things left to do, but they are only in the evening, and I always find time to train in the mornings," said Ballan to Cyclingnews.

Ballan lit up the finale of the World Championships with a successful solo attack at three kilometres remaining. It was a move made possible with Italian teammates Damiano Cunego and Davide Rebellin in the following group.

The win added to his list of palmarès that includes the 2007 Tour of Flanders. However, Ballan knows if he has any chance to get back on the top of the podium in Belgium he has to train. Following a break, he returned to regular training November 22 on home roads in Northeast Italy's Veneto region.

"I rode on Christmas Day with Matteo Tosatto and Marco Bandiera. I wanted to ride New Years Day, but, unfortunately, there was snow New Year's Eve. The next day the roads were impassable with snow and ice and I was unable to go. Anyway, I went the next day."

Ballan will start his season in Tuscany at either the GP Etruschi in Donoratico or the Giro di Grosseto. He wants to be on form for the Ronde van Vlaanderen – Flanders – and Paris-Roubaix, where he finished third last season.

"I am thinking mainly of Flanders and Roubaix, but Milano-Sanremo is 10 days earlier so I will give it a go."

Trek and Volkswagen end 13-year cycling partnership

By Sue George

Trek / VW's Jeff Schalk won the men's NUE series in 2008
Photo ©: Chris Scott
(Click for larger image)

Trek Bicycle confirmed reports of the demise of its Trek / VW Factory Mountain Bike Team with an announcement that the company had ended its 13-year partnership with Volkswagen of America effective with the close of the 2008 calendar year. The collaboration was one of the longest running and most successful in mountain biking and cycling in general. For mountain bike racers, the team's cessation marks the end of an era in which the predominantly red, black and white colors of Trek / VW were seen nearly every weekend at local, regional and national off-road races in the US.

"This has been a great alliance since its inception in 1995," Trek's Director of Marketing Dean Gore said. "Volkswagen has been a great partner not only to Trek, but also to the sport of mountain biking and cycling in general. Staying with one program for over 13 years is relatively unheard of in the fast-paced world of auto marketing. And even though they have decided not to continue with Trek in 2009, we still feel indebted to VW for their loyalty and support over the years. Volkswagen vehicles took us to a lot of races over the years and allowed Trek athletes to chase a lot of dreams."

Former US national short track champion Sue Haywood, current US marathon and short track national champion Jeremiah Bishop, current US National 24 hour solo champion Chris Eatough, National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) series champions Jeff Schalk and Cheryl Sornson, Ross Schnell and Lea Davison are just some of the many names of riders who grew their careers with the Trek / VW regional and national level mountain bike squads.

What started with the 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek, a limited-edition Jetta outfitted with a roof rack and special-edition Trek mountain bike, and a four-man professional mountain bike team, grew into a fulll strength men's and women's professional and amateur team that racked up a total of 10 World Championships in cross country, dual slalom, all mountain, and 24-hour solo events.

In addition to the teams, the partnership also backed the Ride the Best Demo Tour and the Fit For Women Tour, two programs which offered bicycle test rides at cycling and automotive events throughout the US. Trek will continue to operate both programs without Volkswagen. It will also continue sponsorship of a racing team, one with an emphasis on World Cup and other international mountain bike events. The names on the new World Cup team's roster differ from the now-defunct factory team.

Tracy Moseley and Liam Killeen of Great Britain, Justin Leov of New Zealand, Andrew Neethling of South Africa and Swiss brothers Lukas Flueckiger and Matthias Flueckiger will comprise the new World Cup team. Eatough previously told Cyclingnews that he has one year left on his contract and will be racing for Trek in 2009.

"While the end of Trek/VW stirs up many emotions," said Michael Browne, Trek's Global MTB Brand Manager, "Trek is committed to racing. As sad as we are to see the VW team end, we're really excited to usher in a new era with the new Trek World Cup Racing program, operated by 23 Degrees Sports Management. The World Cup program is global in scope and is the first World Cup team in years to combine highly competitive cross country and downhill racing into the same program."

Pinotti faces first at Paris-Nice

By Gregor Brown

Marco Pinotti at the Tour of Ireland
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

Marco Pinotti will follow up one of his most successful seasons with a start in the 2009 Paris-Nice. It will be the first time for the Italian from Bergamo to line up in the Race to the Sun, scheduled for March 8 to 15.

"I usually don't go well already in the month of March, but I will try, it's prestigious. I will race the Critérium International the week after. The team decided on this schedule and I was more than happy to oblige," Pinotti said to Cyclingnews.

Pinotti, three-time Italian time trial champion, might have opportunities if the race features a long time trial. He won the final time trial of the 2008 Giro d'Italia and surprised many with his overall win in the Tour of Ireland last fall.

The 32-year-old is training to prepare for the upcoming Team Columbia training camp in Palma, Spain, and the 2009 season. He was unable to ride New Year's Day due to bad temperatures, but went out on January 3 for four hours with a small group of amateurs and local professionals.

He will start his season at the Challenge Mallorca, February 8 to 12, after the team camp.

"The team will start in Australia [Tour Down Under] and Qatar because it wants to have the men to make a good showing at the Tour of California. The rest of us will start in Mallorca."

Pinotti will race his home tour, the Giro d'Italia, again this year. He will support Mark Cavendish for the sprints and make sure the team has a successful start with the 20.5-kilometre team time trial on the shores of Venice.

Zabel to test for Canyon Bicycles

A smiling Erik Zabel rides in his blue outfit
Photo ©: Daniel Benson
(Click for larger image)

Erik Zabel, who retired as a rider at the end of 2008, is now a test rider for Canyon Bicycles GmbH, of Koblenz, Germany. He will also serve as a mentor to young riders under a company-sponsored program.

Zabel will help the firm's engineers and designers to develop new models. "With his technical know-how, he will help bring new innovative products to the market and continue to build up the technological advantage," the firm said.

The 38-year-old will be mentor for the "Canyon Young Heroes", an initiative to promote youth cycling, a subject dear to his heart. "After all, it was my son Rick who brought me to Canyon. Along with 15 other youngsters from all over Europe, he rides his races as a 'Young Hero' on a Canyon bike for a year now," Zabel said.

Zabel will also work with Team Columbia this year, as an advisor to the team's sprinters. Mark Cavendish has said that Zabel will work with him at the Tour of Qatar in February and help him prepare for Milano-Sanremo.

The sprinter retired after 16 years and more than 200 wins, including four victories in Milano-Sanremo and six consecutive green jerseys at the Tour de France. He was recently selected by Cyclingnews' readers as the 2008 "Legend of Cycling".

Fuji-Servetto sets up internal anti-doping program

The Fuji-Servetto team, directed by Alvaro Crespi, reached an agreement with the Mapei Sport Centre, which has taken charge of the team's internal, out-of-competition, anti-doping program for all of its riders. After the Italian-based sports center took initial samples from the riders in mid-December, it will continue to control them again throughout the season. In addition, the Sport Centre will supervise the training and assessment of the team's riders.

The team will make its racing debut on Australia soil with the Cancer Council Classic on January 18 followed by the Tour Down Under. It will also race the Tour de San Luis from January 19-25 in Argentina.

Keisse not optimistic

Ikjo Keisse is not looking forward to hearing the results of the test of his B sample, after his positive test for an unnamed substance last month in his A sample. The results are to be announced on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old expected the B sample to be positive as well. "It is the same urine and I do not think the laboratories make many mistakes," he told

Keisse tested positive for an unnamed substance at the Gent Six Day race, which he won. Belgian media sources said that the product was cathine, an appetite suppressant, decongestant and amphetamine.

Portugal and Spain to coordinate calendars

Spanish and Portuguese cycling will share a calendar of racing in the near future with the creation of the Copa Ibérica. In Lisbon on Friday afternoon, the Federations of both countries reached an agreement during a working meeting including Portuguese Federation (FPC) President Artur Lopes and the Spanish Federation (RFEC) President Juan Carlos Castaño according to Jornal Ciclismo.

The calendar will involve professional, Under 23 and juniors in both road and mountain bike events. Professional road teams will travel across the border to race events in both countries while the Iberian Cup for mountain biking will include both cross country and marathon events. The federations will jointly apply to host the UCI marathon world championships in 2012.

Officials are expected to adjust the dates of various events in both disciplines to foster cooperation beginning in 2009.

Cyclingnews reader poll: Best male & female road racers

We've been tallying our 2008 reader poll, and today, we announce the Best Female and Best Male Road Riders for 2008.

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.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer and Antonio J. Salmerón.)

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