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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 6, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

New year, new site. (Well, almost)

Last year we surveyed our readers and asked what they wanted to see on Cyclingnews. You replied in your thousands and along with fantastic editorial ideas, two areas you wanted to see improved were the usability and design of the website. We spent the subsequent months working on a strategy to make those dreams a reality.

In the coming weeks and months you'll see the website undergo two phases of changes. The first – a small and temporary refresh – you can already see the start of, and we'll make a few subsequent tweaks in the coming days. For now, all we've done is cut down on the amount of adverts and moved remaining ones to the right. While the adverts that remain are bigger in dimensions than their predecessors, the total amount of ad space is just the same as before. But don't worry, we're not finished yet.

What's next? Well this is where it gets exciting. You can expect some vast improvements to the look and feel of the pages as well as some new features that will make the site even better than ever – a new and improved search engine, up to the minute news stories, teams' and riders' databases, RSS feeds, newsletters, substantially more video content and of course forums. 2009 promises to be an exciting year.

All that we ask is that you bear with us as we strive for these improvements. We'll try and bring you sneak previews along the way but rest assured that at each stage of development we'll remember the website's roots and where it came from and of course what matters most, you the readers.

Here's to a happy New Year,

Daniel Benson and the Cyclingnews team

Court to rule on Boonen drug charges

Tom Boonen will have to wait another month for the verdict
Photo ©: Tim Van Wichelen
(Click for larger image)

A court in Turnhout, Belgium, has postponed until February 3 its ruling as to whether Tom Boonen will face drug charges for the use of cocaine and ecstasy. Boonen and his lawyers met with the court today.

According to the Gazet van Antwerpen, the court can take several possible actions: it can dismiss the charges, or, if it finds the evidence to be strong enough, it can send the case to another court for prosecution. However, it has a third option: it can find that the facts have been proved, but that a prosecution would not serve to help Boonen's "resocialization". It can then place him on suspension and order him to pay the court costs.

Sportwereld reported that at Tuesday morning's hearing, prosecutors asked that the case be pursued. Boonen's lawyer, Johnny Maeschalck is said to have asked for the final option, that his client be found guilty but not sentenced. Boonen called his court appearance "a strange experience."

The Team Quick Step sprinter tested positive last spring and was excluded from the Tour de France. He has denied using the drugs, saying that someone must have spiked his drink at an outdoor cafe. However, it was later reported that hair tests showed that Boonen had used cocaine often over a period of months and also that he had tested positive for the party drug Ecstasy.(SW)

Nuyens looking to Ronde van Vlaanderen

Nick Nuyens wants to shine in Flanders
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)

Nick Nuyens is setting his aim on the Ronde van Vlaanderen, saying that was his main reason to join his new team Rabobank this year. "They want to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen and I do, too."

The Belgian finished second in the race last year, as he also did in the Omloop Het Volk.

Nuyens said that he had a good off-season. "I relaxed as much as possible and started training again at just the right time." He admitted it was good he was able to relax earlier, because the next few months will be stressful, not just on the bike, but personally, too. He and his wife are expecting their first child in mid-February.

The 28-year-old is hoping the child will come earlier, in between the dad-to-be's appointments at the Tour of Qatar (February 1-6) and the Ruta del Sol (February 15-19).(SW)

Germans take lead in Netherlands

Robert Bartko is smiling again in Rotterdam, after a not-so good end to the year
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

The German Six-Day duo Andreas Beikirch and Robert Bartko took the lead in the fourth night of the Zesdaagse in Rotterdam. The duo gained one lap over the German/Swiss combination of Leif Lampater and Franco Marvulli. Lampater/Marvulli have almost 100 points more than the Germans (242 versus 158 points), but will have to make up a lap in the final two nights if they want to have a chance of victory.

Two more teams are also one lap behind, with crowd favourite Peter Schep (Netherlands) and Beijing Olympic champion Juan Llaneras (Spain) in third (176 points). In fourth place is Swiss Six-Day specialist Bruno Risi, with his Dutch partner Danny Stam (136 points).

Beikirch and Bartko gained the crucial lap in the team Madison event. Leon Van Bon and Danny de Ketele also gained a lap, which leaves the Dutch/Belgian duo in fifth place, down two laps and with a tally of 183 points.

Bartko is having a bad spell in a year that started pretty well for him. He and his permanent partner Iljo Keisse won the Six Days in Munich and Gent. But at the Gent event Keisse tested positive.

That left Bartko without a partner. He wanted to fully concentrate on the World Championships, but he had to cancel his qualification race in Cali, Colombia, due to illness.

The Rotterdam standings after night four.

No mountaintop finish in Vuelta a Murcia

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Vuelta a Murcia (March 4 to 8) is still a few months away and little is known about the route or the potential participants, but a few details have emerged. Riders who raced in 2008 include Alejandro Valverde, Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador. None of those are expected to take to the start, which appears to lack a mountain top finish in 2009.

Igor Antón of Euskaltel-Euskadi has shown interest in racing. Also expected are José A. Redondo (Andalucia) and the local team Contentpolis AMPO, headed by Aitor Pérez and Manuel Vázquez.

The traditional mountain top finish at the Collado Bermejo seems to be out of the 2009 edition. Nonetheless, a difficult and mountainous queen stage is expected as part of the five-day event.

The time trial will be flat, rather than last year's uphill parcours.

The race will kick off in the city of San Pedro del Pinatar.

Hansen checking the stars

Adam Hansen gets ready for the Championships
Photo ©: Team High Road
(Click for larger image)

Team Columbia's Adam Hansen isn't leaving anything to chance in his quest to win both Australian national championship titles . He is even looking to the stars, not that they are being a very good help.

He read his horoscope on his way to Ballarat Monday. "The first newspaper pretty much said that my goals are out of reach – thanks! That's a nice kick in the face. Why didn't I read that before I even booked my ticket down?"

But Hansen's birthday is May 11, which makes him Taurus, the bull, and he proved himself bull-headed, as in, if you don't like the first opinion, keep looking until you find one you do like. "On the next flight I got a different newspaper and my star signs in that one stated I will get what I have been aiming for." No question as to which one he hopes is right.

More practically, Hansen said he has already checked out the time trial course, noting that "It looks like none of the roads have moved and the course is the same as last year..... funny that."(SW)

Team Budget Forklifts launch

By Malcolm Sawford

The Budget Forklifts team for 2009
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Team Budget Forklifts , Australia's newest UCI Continental team, was officially launched on Monday night at the Sofitel Werribee Mansion last night.

Founded in August 2008 by team manager and former successful Australian professional, Jeremy Betts, and Budget Forklifts owner Tim Leunig, the team tasted immediate success at their debut race, winning two stages and claiming the KOM jersey at the Tour of the Murray National Road Series event, and also did well at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

Twelve riders have signed on for the 2009 season, and Betts described the squad as having a "core group of young riders bolstered by seasoned riders with many years of overseas experience." The team's philosophy is to "develop our young riders into tomorrow's champions" and by following this philosophy they aim to become the best UCI team in Australia.

Budget Forklifts is a 40-year-old family company which began in Western Australia and now operates Australia wide. Leunig said the family ethos has always been "to support our people, and really look after them: from that we get great results. In our business we have always trained a lot of apprentices, and that's how I see this team; a development team where we will really look after these young guys. We have an exciting year ahead!"

Among the special guests at the launch was the 'voice of cycling', Phil Liggett, who was flown by helicopter to and from the Sofitel by Leunig to allow him to honour a dinner engagement with Jayco Caravan's owner, Jerry Ryan. Liggett helped introduce the riders, and also commented that the last team launch he had attended was for Pro Tour squad Columbia in 2008. Columbia went on to record the highest number of wins in 2008, which Liggett hoped was a good omen for Team Budget Forklifts prospects in 2009.

The team will contest all NRS events and other major races in Australia, and hopes for invitations to some major tours in Asia. Such is the quality of racing now available in Australia, and the package presented by Betts and Leunig, that riders of the calibre of Cameron Jennings, Cameron Hughes and Cody Stevenson have chosen to sign with Team Budget Forklifts rather than return to Europe or the USA. Both Jennings and Stevenson are Cyclingnews diarists. Five of the riders are currently competing in the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic; all will tackle the Australian Open Road Championships in Buninyong later this week.

"It's a great team," concluded Betts. "A great mix of young guys and older guys. We've got great sprinters and great climbers – we'll have a great year!"

The roster includes U23 riders Jack Anderson, Darcy Rosenlund, Malcolm Rudolph and Blair Windsor. The experienced part of the squad is made up by Michael England, Cameron Hughes, Grant Irwin, Cameron Jennings, Peter Ladd, Abram Manion, Craig McCartney and Cody Stevenson.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by CJ Farquharson/

Wilson's busy end of the year

Cyclingnews diarist Trent Wilson didn't have a relaxed off-season so far, jetting from race to race. In his final diary entry he describes how he spent the last days of 2008.

Well, it's been a very busy time of the year. Between the usual social commitments of the 'offy', the pre-season crits, pre-season training, catching up with mates and trying to organise what I am doing in 2009, it's been a flat out few months.

When I got home from the States, it was only a few days at home and I was off to the Sun tour in Melbourne. It was a weird feeling being in Melbs at the same time as the Sunnie and not racing it, after riding it eight years in a row. At the final criterium in Lygon Street I hardly watched a lap; I just wanted to be out of there.

Read the full entry.

Thüringer Energie prepares in snow

John Degenkolb (r) made it onto the Worlds podium, but for now studying for exams is more important
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
(Click for larger image)

German Continental team Thüringer Energie has started its 2009 campaign with two training camps. The first one before Christmas was in the moderate climate of Mallorca. But due to some unusual weather it prepared the group well for the second one, which starts Saturday in the altitude of Livigno, Italy. Besides the thin air, the team will also confront some snow.

Even in Mallorca, the peaks were covered in snow, something that Jens Lang, the team's director, has not seen yet. Lang has plenty of Mallorca experience, as he has been visiting the Spanish island at least twice a year since 1994. The team still could pedal in the flatlands and covered 1300 kilometres in 11 days.

After the initial good weather in Mallorca, heavy rains moved in and it started snowing in higher altitudes. "The road to Puig Major, the highest mountain on Mallorca, was closed," Lang said. The weather forced some out of the order weight training on the team. "This was the first time we had to use a gym for our power workouts. In the past, we interrupted our weight training while staying on Mallorca."

The camp was also important to build team spirit and get used to each other. Newcomer Bastian Bürgel was with the squad for the first time and the 20-year-old integrated well into the team. Bürgel usually trains after work, so the camp was a nice change. "He really enjoyed to be able to concentrate fully on the sport," Lang said.

There were three high-level professionals, who used to ride for the Thüringer Energie team, on Mallorca at the same time. Tony Martin, Markus Fothen and André Greipel conversed with the youngsters after the daily workouts.

The only rider missing in Livigno will be John Degenkolb. The bronze medal winner of the U23 road race in the 2008 World Championships has to take some exams.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer)

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