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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, January 8, 2009

Edited by Gregor Brown

Gilbert sets major targets

By Shane Stokes

Philippe Gilbert wins the 102nd Paris-Tours in 2008 for Team Française des Jeux
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Philippe Gilbert had an excellent season in 2008, winning Het Volk, Paris-Tours, the Vuelta a Mallorca, Le Samyn and taking third in Milan-Sanremo. He reports he is satisfied with his fitness as he approaches the start of his first season with the Silence-Lotto team.

"I had my first training camp in December in Spain," he said to Cyclingnews. "I saw my new teammates for the first time and we did four hours every day on the bikes. The weather was perfect and my condition is now okay.

"I am ready for the second training camp, running from the 10th to the 20th in Portugal, and there we will ride a lot. Every day it will be between four and six hours."

The 26-year-old turned pro in 2003 with La Française des Jeux, but Silence-Lotto snapped him up to bolster its Classics campaign. His early impressions of the team are favourable ones.

"It is very professional. We have very good bikes – they are light and nice - and the training is very good. The staff is good, the riders are good – it is a very strong team. I think we can win a lot of races on every terrain – stage races, one-day races."

The French-speaking Belgian will get his season underway at the Grand Prix Marseillaise on February 1. He will then ride the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, Het Volk, Le Samyn - Feyt la Franc, Paris-Nice, Milan-Sanremo and Flèche Brabançonne.

Although the Tour of Flanders is a major target for most Belgians, Gilbert is likely to miss it, doing the Vuelta al País Vasco instead in preparation for Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Depending on how things go, the Giro d'Italia is also a possibility.

The amicable rider is clear about the races he wants to do well in. "I hope to perform strongly in Het Volk and Sanremo," he stated. "Then I'll target Amstel, Flèche and Liège. That is the most important week."

Also read Gilbert aims for more one-day wins.

Wegmann fights doping with Milram

By Susan Westemeyer in Dortmund, Germany

German Champion Fabian Wegmann
Photo ©: Patrick Reed
(Click for larger image)

Fabian Wegmann faces the challenge of a new team after seven years with Team Gerolsteiner. Now with Team Milram, the 28-year-old knows all too well that the doping scandals that affected his previous team continue to affect German cycling.

His Gerolsteiner teammates Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl both tested positive for blood booster Erythropoietin derivative CERA during the 2008 Tour de France.

At the Team Milram presentation in Dortmund, Germany, on Wednesday, Wegmann said that the shock of those doping cases has left open wounds. "It was a very hard blow. You ride for these people and you trust them. You are together with them day and night when you are away. It just takes a while to come to grips with all of what happened."

He hopes that German cycling has reached a new beginning. "There is only one way to go, and that is the clean way. It has to be that way. We are doing everything we can; we are even paying for our own doping controls. There is not much more that we can do and now it is up to us to offer good sport and earn back the trust of the fans and the media."

Wegmann noted that he would be the team captain for the 2009 Spring Classics. Those are his important races, along with the World Championships and the Giro di Lombardia.

The German Champion is also looking forward to the Tour de France, especially since he had to abandon the race this year after missing the time limit in the 19th stage.

Ciolek eager for captain role

By Susan Westemeyer in Dortmund, Germany

Gerald Ciolek presented with Team Milram, Wednesday, January 7
Photo ©: Patrick Reed
(Click for larger image)

Gerald Ciolek is looking forward to being the number one sprinter at Team Milram, instead of one of several, as he was at Team Columbia.

His decision to change teams was "a combination of things," he said at the Milram team presentation in Dortmund, Germany.

"At Columbia I was just one of many sprinters, with very strong competition within the team. There were many riders who could win."

Two of his in-team sprinting rivals were Mark Cavendish, who had 17 wins, and André Greipel, with 14 wins. Ciolek took three wins in 2008.

At Milram, Ciolek vaulted to the position of team captain, a lofty position for a rider only 22 years old. "Here I will get more attention. It does bring more pressure, but it was a question of whether I wanted to take on the responsibility."

Ciolek, known as a sprinter, said in a 2006 interview that he didn't want to limit himself to that role. "I am not a sprinter who can only win on the flat stages; I can also win when it is a bit more difficult." He pointed out his mountaintop sprint victory in the fifth stage of the 2008 Deutschland Tour.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Patrick Reed/

Murcia attracts Zabriskie, Kirchen and Menchov

Alejandro Valverde after winning the 2008 Vuelta a Murcia
Photo ©: Susanne Goetze
(Click for larger image)

The Vuelta a Murcia will have some of cycling's top riders for the 29th edition, March 4 to 8. The organiser announced that USA's David Zabriskie, Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, Russian Denis Menchov and Italian Stefano Garzelli will race the Spanish stage race.

Organiser Francisco Gúzman unveiled the route and the teams for 2009 yesterday in Las Torres de Cotillas, Spain. There will be a maximum of 11 teams participating. Confirmed are ProTour teams Caisse d'Epargne, Rabobank, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia-High Road, and Professional Continental teams Andalucía Cajasur, Contentpolis AMPO and Xacobeo Galicia.

The first stage of the five-day race will start in San Pedro del Pinatar, where ocean winds could be a factor. Gúzman explained to Cyclingnews that the second stage from Torres de Cotillas appears to be the hardest mountain stage, or the queen stage, but it is the fourth stage. There will be a time trial in Pedro del Pinatar on the third stage. The fifth stage will finish in the region's capital city of Murcia.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, from the region, won the 2008 edition of the race. It was his third win and added to victories in 2007 and 2004. (AS)

Keisse confirms positive B samples

Belgian Six Day rider Iljo Keisse confirmed reports that his B sample tested positive for cathine and hydrochlorothiazide (HCT). He tested positive in November after winning the Gent Six Day race.

Keisse attended the testing of the sample, accompanied by his attorney and a scientific expert. "Everything there went according to the procedures," the 25-year-old told "The findings of the first analysis were confirmed."

Both he and his team, Topsport Vlaanderen, must now consider the next step. The team suspended Keisse after the first positive analysis. Team manager Christophe Sercu said that he would wait for the official report on the B sample, which he expected to receive shortly, before meeting with team lawyers to consider the next step. (SW)

GP Rennes cancelled

The 31st edition of the GP Rennes, scheduled for April 5, will not take place due to lack of funds, according to L'Equipe. The organiser did not receive sufficient support from the city of Rennes and decided not to hold the one-day race.

The race was won in 2008 by Ukrainian Mikhaylo Khalilov of Team Ceramica Flaminia. Other past winners include USA's Kirk O'Bee and France's Eric Boyer.

State of the federation - Part II

Sarah Hammer has been flying the flag
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

In part one of Cyclingnews' interview with Steve Johnson, USA Cycling's CEO outlined the growth in performance and membership of the national federation plus the organisational activities and challenges he has encountered during his tenure. In part two he evaluates the overall effectiveness of the various programs run by USA Cycling and the implications of this in the future.

Steve Johnson points to this past season as an indication that the overall performance of American cycling has been steadily increasing. "If you look back at the year and think about superlatives, there are a lot of them - the most medals won by this country in cycling in a non-boycotted Olympics," he begins. "We had four world titles: Amber [Neben] in the time trial, Jennie [Reed] in the Keirin, Melissa Buhl in the four-cross and Taylor Phinney in the individual pursuit - the first American athlete to win a junior medal in both road and track.

"The women's program continues to set records in terms of performances, and we have a lot of young women in the program. It was also great to see Zabriskie back on top; he had a tough year, but finished it out nicely with the bronze at worlds. And Peter Stetina was the first American to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de l'Avenir since Floyd [Landis] did it."

Johnson says that progression plans include revising these programs to ensure continued success. "That's all good stuff and we are here for the long haul. We are rewriting our high-performance plan for the next quad, looking at what worked and what didn't."

Read the rest of the feature: part one and part two.

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

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