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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 5, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Quick Step season begins in Spain

The Quick Step team rides in sunny Spain again for training
Photo ©: Takashi Nakazawa
(Click for larger image)

Belgian team Quick Step will once again start its season in Spain, with a training camp from January 12 to 21, 2009. The squad of Patrick Lefevere will gather in Benicassim, on the eastern coast north of Valencia. This allows the team to escape the cold temperatures in its home base of Belgium.

Luca Guercilena, the team's trainer, talked about the camp's focus. "We'll be doing different types of workouts. We're breaking the [group] up into two: one for the first part of the season and the other to work on follow-up conditioning. Our aim for the first group is to give the finishing touch to the work begun in December, working mainly on tactical line-ups for sprints. The second group will concentrate on 'volume' by starting to work on long climbs."

The traditional winter training camp will be missing certain athletes and staff from the team who will be taking part in the Tour Down Under from January 20 to 25.

Directeur Sportif Rik Van Slycke is responsible for the squad in the first ProTour stage race of the year. "We leave from Amsterdam for Australia on January 13. We arrive in Adelaide on January 14 and will take a few days to adjust to the jet lag and time difference. On the 18th there will be a circuit race in the centre of Adelaide. Then, starting on the 20th we'll be competing in the Tour Down Under."

The team includes Allan Davis, who has always participated in this race – starting from its first edition in 1999. The newcomers Dries Devenyns, Kurt Hovelijnck and Francesco Reda will get their first race for Quick Step. The team is completed by Davide Malacarne, Hubert Schwab as well as experienced rider Matteo Tosatto.

More honours for Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto has been awarded the Sprint d'Or, for Belgian rider of the year, by the Belgian television sender RTBF. He was selected ahead of Tom Boonen by a jury of former riders, led by Eddy Merckx.

Gilbert, who rode for Française des Jeux from 2003 to 2008, won, among others, the Omloop Het Volk and Paris-Tours last year. The 26-year-old also won the Kristallen Viets as best Belgian cyclist last month.

Boonen had won the award from 2004 to 2006. It was not awarded last year in protest against the many doping cases over the season.(SW)

Steegmans enjoying new team

Gert Steegmans gets used to Russia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Gert Steegmans said in his introduction to his new Russian team, Katusha "turned out well." The Belgian rider said he would make his season debut later this month at the Tour Down Under.

"The new team pleases me," he told "I know the backers already and those Russian racers are really sympathetic."

Things have started out hectic for the 28-year-old. After a training camp in Italy, the team had its presentation in Moscow, with Steegmans then traveling to France, Belgium and Monaco. He leaves next week for the race in Australia.

Steegmans said that he overtrained in December, but made up for it by doing nearly nothing for a week while he was home in Belgium. "I feel good. I have not been sick and have no injuries."

He doesn't look to make headlines in the Tour Down Under. "It would not be good if I was already super in Australia," Steegmans said. "I especially want to help our team leader Robbie McEwen win and to work on my form."(SW)

Boom out of hospital

World cyclo-cross champion Lars Boom of Team Rabobank has left the hospital after two days of treatment for his injured elbow, the team has announced. The 23-year-old went to the hospital on Friday after his left elbow became infected.

Boom received the injury in a race at Loenhout on December 30. After the injury flared up, he spent two nights in the hospital in Amersfoort, where it was cleaned and he underwent an antibiotics treatment before being released Sunday.

He can start training again "carefully" on the roller on Monday, and can return to his bike "possibly" on Tuesday, the team said on its website, It will be decided later in the week whether he can participate in the Dutch 'cross championships on Sunday, January 11.(SW)

Leukemans questions cause of positive test

Björn Leukemans is still mad about his case
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

Björn Leukemans said that his positive control for testosterone may have been caused by a conspiracy by two team doctors against a third doctor.

Leukemans said that he found the circumstances of his positive test suspicious, even suggesting that he was "sacrificed" because of jealousies amongst the team doctors. According to him, team captain Cadel Evans wanted doctor Sam Vermeire, who prescribed Leukemans the product," to work at the Tour de France. "That did not please the other two doctors."

He noted that "I have written everything down. Perhaps a book will come of it."

The 31-year-old tested positive in October 2007, while with Team Predictor-Lotto, which then fired him. He claimed that the positive test stemmed from a product prescribed by a team doctor. He was given a two-year suspension, which was overruled by a Belgian court.

The case took its next strange turn in August 2008, when Leukemans was given a final sentence of a six-month ban from November 21, 2007 until May 21, 2008, and a fine of 1,800 euro. He has signed with the new Dutch Professional Continental Team Vacansoleil this season.

The Belgian rider said that he would not pay the fine, and in fact had not the money for it. "Fortunately I can pay my lawyer," he told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. He claimed to have lost between 150,000 and 250,000 Euro. Leukemans said that he has sued Silence-Lotto for his salary, plus interest, for the 2008 season.(SW)

Voss gives Milram first season win

Paul Voss gives Milram the first win of 2009
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram had its first win of the year on Sunday, as newcomer Paul Voss won a cyclo-cross race in Vechta, Germany. The 22-year-old won solo after an early attack.

Voss, silver medalist in the U-23 European road championships, joined Milram as of January 1, coming from the German Continental team 3C-Gruppe. He won Sunday's race by about 30 seconds ahead of Christoph Pfingsten (KED Bianchi Team Berlin), with former German 'cross champion Johannes Sickmüller (Stevens) coming in third.

"I am very proud of my first win in my first race for Team Milram," Voss said. He added that he attacked in the third of ten laps, just "to test my form. When I noticed that after my attack my lead was big enough, I just rode my own tempo and I could take the win."(SW)

Contentpolis AMPO targets Vuelta a España in 2009

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Manuel Vazquez is the stage race hope of Contentpolis AMPO
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Manuel López, the directeur sportif for Contentpolis AMPO in 2009, hopes for a similarly successful year as 2008 turned out to be. He will share his work with Oscar Guerrero, who fits perfectly into the team, taking into account his background with the Kaiku and Fuerteventura squads.

"Fighting has been our style and identity, which many organisers [recognised] and therefore invited us to their races. They even welcomed us, as in the Regio Tour. That's why we focus on continuity, but also make necessary improvements. Maintaining the internal cohesion is very important for us, because it has also been one of our keys to success in 2008," López said to Cyclingnews.

The team expanded its roster to be able to tackle the full 2009 schedule. "For the Contentpolis AMPO team it is very important to be invited by the Tour of Qatar, but also to the Tour of Turkey and the Vuelta a Mexico, for example. But the race we really look forward to in 2009 is the Vuelta a España. Our schedule will be determined largely by this event, since we must first earn the trust of [Vuelta organiser] Unipublic-ASO, and then we want to take part with the most competitive riders."

Contentpolis AMPO renewed contracts with its cornerstones of 2008, such as Manuel Vazquez, Adrian Palomares and Julián Sánchez Pimienta. It added new riders Aitor Perez (Extremadura), Francisco Pacheco (Barbot), Javier Benitez (Benfica) and Dioni Galpasoro (Euskaltel), among others. "We've covered our presence in the sprint with Benitez, Gaztañaga, Pacheco and Galpasoro, but we also keep our options alive in the mountain with Palomares, José Herrada, Oscar Garcia Casarubios and Claudio Casas. We have young people for disputing the short time-trial stages with Chuzhda Oleg, Eloy Teruel and Rafael Serrano. But the most important thing is to reinforce our candidacy for fighting for the overall classification with Aitor Perez and Manuel Vazquez."

López hoped to adapt the new riders rapidly. "Most of them have more experience and quality, so that it should be easier. They know our work philosophy. I do not think they have problems – on the contrary, it must be very motivating for them to be here."

The team will have its first race at the Challenge de Mallorca, unless they get an invite to an earlier race. Before that, Contentpolis AMPO will have a training camp from January 19 to 25. The camp takes place in Murcia, in the Centro de Alto Rendimiento Infanta Cristina, in Los Alcázares. The team will have Ridley Excalibur and Noah Red bikes, Catlike Vacuum helmets and Inverse clothing in 2009.

New professional team for Australia

Australia has a new professional team for 2009, sponsored by Fly V Australia presented by Successful Living Foundation. Like its major sponsor, the team will have a trans-Pacific focus in 2009, running a comprehensive program that will take in races in the United States, Australia and Asia. In confirming the team's two-pronged racing program for 2009, team Director Chris White spoke about the team's prospects as it builds a roster of talent from Australia and North America.

"The program we're running in 2009 is ... multi-faceted and allows us to run a full-time talent development program in Australia in parallel with a US-based professional cycling team that will compete in the marquee events of the North American cycling calendar," said White. "I'm not aware of any other cycling team that's running a program like ours. The benefits are enormous – we're able to provide a nursery environment to nurture young talent and then provide a pathway to allow them to step fully into the pro ranks. This approach will give us tremendous growth potential and flexibility, as well as being a great environment for the riders."

White will be announcing the team roster in the coming days. "We've managed to pull together some pretty big names, some big horsepower guys! This is a world class team we're putting together, and we have the strength, depth, tenacity and experience to be in the mix in any race we enter in 2009."

White was also grateful for the support by the sponsors and particularly praised V Australia and the Successful Living Foundation. "We know that in international professional sport, cycling outperforms any other sport in terms of return on investment for sponsors."

The team made its debut at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic in Melbourne, Australia, which ends tomorrow. "With Bernie Sulzberger's win in Race 4 at Port Arlington and Jono Cantwell's fifth place we'll be one of the teams to look out for — at the Bay series and throughout 2009."

Vuelta a Tachira begins Tuesday

On Tuesday, January 6, 2009, the 44th edition of the Vuelta a Tachira, Venezuela, will kick off. The race kicks off in the city of San Cristóbal and after almost 1400 kilometres will arrive back in the same place, almost two weeks later.

One of the teams with the biggest hopes to win the overall title is Carabobo. Marcos Ortega, director of the team, confirmed the ambitions. "We have great options and the dream of winning the Vuelta [a Tachira]. Considering that we have a group that mixed youth with experience, we have guys who can also be on the podium."

One rider who should be able to help the team accomplish the goal of winning is Carlos Maya. He has won the race in 1995 and finished in second place four times. Even if he can't win himself, his experience will be invaluable to the team when the race heats up.

Read the full preview.

Cyclingnews reader poll: Best Moment and Rider of the Year

More than 11,000 of you voted in our 2008 reader poll. Today, we announce the final categories, the Best Moment of 2008 and of course the long awaited Rider of the Year award.

Cyclingnews reader poll: The lucky winner

The votes have been cast, the categories announced, and all that remains is for Cyclingnews to reveal the lucky winner of our 2008 reader poll prize giveaway: Timothy Collins from Brooklyn, New York, will be receiving a snazzy pair of 2009 Zipp 808 wheels with the smooth rolling 88/188 hubs. Congratulations Timothy!

"Well this is great news, I can't believe it. My wife and I were just trying to figure out who was going to get new wheels for the upcoming season, and now I guess we both can!" Cyclingnews would like to thank everyone who voted this year and made our reader poll another roaring success. Safe riding for the 2009 season...

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer)

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