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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, January 12, 2009

Edited by Laura Weislo

Tour champions arrive in Australia

Lance Armstrong
Photo ©: Pete Goding Photography
(Click for larger image)

Two Tour de France champions who are competing in the upcoming Tour Down Under arrived in Sydney this weekend: the first, seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, who has dominated the headlines with his return to the sport after a three-year hiatus. The other? 2006 Tour de France champion Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, who quietly arrived in Australia with his Caisse d'Epargne teammate Luis Leon Sanchez.

Race organisers were asked to keep Armstrong's travel plans quiet to prevent a mob scene at the airport, but fans and the media still greeted the Texan at the Sydney airport. He commented on the day via his "Twitter" feed [an internet service that allows users to post brief messages from their mobile devices]. "So much for sneaking into old journo buddy Rupert Guinness says since I didn't Twitter for 10 hours, it tipped them off. Haha."

His entrance into the country garnered quite a bit more attention than that of his Astana teammates, who flew in earlier in the day minus Jose Luis Rubiera and Jesus Hernandez, who were delayed due to bad weather in Europe. They eventually arrived half a day after the rest of the team.

Aside from keeping Armstrong's movements a secret, Adelaide Now reported that organisers have arranged to have Armstrong protected by a security team which will follow him throughout his stay in Australia. Armstrong was escorted to Adelaide, where the Tour Down Under will start on January 20. He is reportedly staying at the Hilton Hotel in Victoria Square.

Armstrong made some brief comments about his debut race, where sprinters rather than a rider of his characteristics are more likely to battle for the overall classification. "I don't have any illusions of grandeur," he said. "I hope I get in the race and get re-acclimated to the tempo and the speed and what it is like to be around 200 guys in a fast-moving group."

A clear trophy with a clear message: Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

The arrival of the other Tour champion, Oscar Pereiro, was barely given a mention in the Australian press. The Spaniard is competing in his first race since his horrific tumble down a steep embankment in the 2008 Tour de France left him with a broken arm which required surgery. "We're not expecting too much from Pereiro in South Australia," team manager Neil Stephens told The Australian last month. "Just having him back on the bike in such a short time is fantastic news."

Pereiro was awarded the victory in the 2006 Tour after Floyd Landis was disqualified for doping.

Stephens commented on the presence of Armstrong in this year's event to ABC News. "He's a hero. I reckon he's fantastic but he's another competitor," he said. "Once we get on the start line, you've got to admire Lance for what he's done. He's a fantastic character; fantastic sportsman; but once the flag drops he's just another rider."

Sastre to race in California

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team)
Photo ©: Cervelo TestTeam
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre will race the Tour of California, according to a schedule posted on his personal web site. The race organisation has yet to announce his Cervélo team on the list of invited squads, but presumably his status as the current Tour de France champion would warrant an invitation. Sastre told that he is not yet sure if he would participate in the Giro d'Italia.

"I will start in the Tour of California, then I will race the Castilla y Leon, Pais Vasco and two classics La Flèche Wallonne and Liège[-Bastogne-Liège]."

Sastre is unsure if he would join the ever growing list of top names, including Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, Denis Menchov, Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni, who will contest the 100th anniversary edition of the Giro d'Italia.

"If I go to Italy it will not be to take pictures, I'm going to try to fight for the victory. What motivates me most is that it is the only one of the three Grand Tours in which I have not yet risen to the podium. If my preparation at that time can guarantee that I can achieve this goal, I will participate." If not, Sastre said he would race the Vuelta a España. "I want to race two Grand Tours this year."

But without a doubt, he clarified, his main objective is to defend his title at the Tour de France.

Nys continues domination in cyclo-cross

By Brecht Decaluwé in Ruddervoorde, Belgium

Nys enjoys taking his second consecutive title
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Sven Nys won the Belgian cyclo-cross championships for the sixth time on Sunday, holding off a last-lap charge from young rider Niels Albert by mere metres in Ruddervoorde where temperatures barely climbed over 0° Celsius. The new 'tricolore' jersey will now be added to his 2008-2009 accomplishments which to date include leads in the UCI, World Cup, Gazet van Antwerpen and Superprestige rankings.

Despite the arrival of several good young riders, the 32 year-old continues to dominate the European cyclo-cross circuit, despite switching over to MTB after last year's cyclo-cross season. "Six times is impressive. There were few occasions that I was truly defeated. When I didn't win it was because I crashed and when Wellens won it was more of a running race," Nys said.

"We expected that I would have some sort of collapse after my Olympic campaign but it didn't happen. I was more selective in terms of participating in cyclo-cross races and it paid off. I've made it through the Christmas weeks fresher than ever."

In front of 15,000 fans, Nys attacked from the gun to form an early selection. Only three riders were able to follow: Sven Vanthourenhout, Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout. Last year's under 23 champion, Niels Albert suffered a mechanical at the start and was forced to chase after taking a fresh bike.

"Niels Albert was coming back when Klaas was leading the group, but as soon as I put down the hammer the gap to Niels increased again. I wasn't looking at anybody as I figured nobody was comfortably on my wheel. Nobody could complete those laps faster than I did," Nys claimed.

On the seventh out of ten laps, Vantornout crashed, disrupting the lead group and giving Nys the sole leader's position. Albert waged a strong comeback to get within shouting distance of Nys on the last lap, but the latter dug deep to hold on to the victory. "I would never have forgiven myself if I would have given away the victory," Nys said.

Kirchen building form

By Shane Stokes in Majorca

Kim Kirchen is honing his form
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Kim Kirchen is undoubtedly one of the big leaders at Columbia – High Road, having last season taken wins in Flèche Wallone, two stages of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco plus eighth on GC in the Tour de France. He is one of the many riders who is attending the team launch and training camp in Majorca, and told Cyclingnews that he is satisfied with his condition at this point of the year.

"I think my fitness is the same as it was this time last year," he stated. "I am not in a hurry. I train when I think I need to train and I also watch the weather a lot. The first thing is not to fall sick, and the weight is okay. I am also a rider who rediscovers the rhythm of the race quite quickly.

"My form is the same as last year, it is nothing special right now."

Kirchen will follow a tried and trusted formula, targeting some big performances in April before peaking again for July. "First sure the first target will be the Classics, once again. I want to be competitive as I was in 2007, straight away from the start. I think that Milan-Sanremo is important....I want to be good there, I want to ride with the first riders. That would give me such a morale for the training later on for the Classics. I will need this physical confirmation.

"I hope to follow a very similar calendar than last year," he continued. "We will go ahead towards the Tour with what I hope will be a very similar programme, doing races like Bayern. I am still considering the Tour de Suisse and the Dauphine, so it is still a question as to which of those two is best to do. That depends on how the shape will be at that time."

The Luxembourg rider held both the yellow and green jerseys in the 2008 Tour de France. While he faded on a couple of the tougher mountain stages, he eventually finished inside the top ten. He said that there is room for improvement. "I can do more work on my climbing," he said. "Also, I and the team used a lot of energy in defending the jersey. That was important, but it did cost us later in the race." He feels that a podium place is possible, and will work towards that target.

A full interview with Kim Kirchen will appear soon on Cyclingnews.

Italian track rider positive

Italy's Annalisa Cucinotta
Photo ©: Johnny Ortiz
(Click for larger image)

Annalisa Cucinotta has become the second female on the Italian National Team to test positive in the past year. The 22-year-old track racer won the scratch race at the Cali World Cup in Colombia in December, but was informed that she had tested positive after the race for the anabolic steroid boldenone. Boldenone is a veterinary steroid which has a very long half-life and can show up on doping controls for more than a year after administration.

2007 World Champion Marta Bastianelli tested positive for a banned appetite stimulant in the Italian championships last year.

Confirmation of the positive test was given to by national track coach Dino Salvoldi. "I am embarrassed.. Annalisa says it is not possible. We will ask for a counter-analysis," Salvoldi said.

Botero may retire

Colombian Santiago Botero may retire from the sport after failing to find a team for the 2009 season. The 2002 world time trial champion was reportedly in negotiations with Colombia es Pasion after refusing to extend his contract with the American Rock Racing team..

The 36-year-old told Caracol Radio, "I love sport, but this year there is nothing, no contract, no timetable."

Botero was highly successful in the European peloton during his career with first Kelme, then Team Telekom, and then Phonak. In addition to his world championship, he won three stages of the Tour de France (2000, 2002) one stage in the Vuelta a España (2002) and the Tour of Romandy before being fired by Phonak in 2006 when he was named in the doping scandal Operacion Puerto. He was later cleared, but never returned to race in Europe.

Wilson completes UniSA lineup for TDU

Matt Wilson was been selected as the final rider for the UniSa-Australia team to contest this year's Tour Down Under, the race organisation announced Sunday.

Wilson, a former winner of the Herald Sun Tour, placed fifth in the elite men's road race at the Scody Australian Open Road Championships in Buninyong to earn the call up for the ProTour event.

"I'm very happy because I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I wasn't selected in the first place, but I spoke to selectors and they assured me that if I put in a good ride at the nationals I'd be in with a chance," said Wilson who rides with the US-based Team Type 1.

"My pro team will be pretty pleased too because we're starting Tour of California soon after Tour Down Under and that's a big race for us so it means I'll be going in with some great race form from Adelaide," he said.

Wilson joins 2003 Tour de France sprint champion Baden Cooke, Aaron Kemps and Scott Davis along with local hero Jack Bobridge who this week claimed gold medals in both the time trial and road race in the U23 men's division at the Championships. Another U23 star, Travis Meyer, who was the silver medalist in the U23 time trial this week will also line up as will Simon Clarke who finished eighth in today's elite men's road race.

The winner of today's road race, Peter McDonald (Drapac-Porsche) was offered the start in the Tour Down Under but his team advised Cycling Australia selectors they were unable to release him as they did not have a replacement rider available to cover their existing commitments to the Tour of Wellington, which McDonald is slated to contest, and the Tour of Qatar for which their other riders are entered.

UniSA-Australia team: Baden Cooke, Aaron Kemps, Scott Davis, Travis Meyer, Jack Bobridge, Simon Clarke, Matthew Wilson.

Liquigas heads for Southern Hemisphere

The Liquigas team sent two separate squads to sunnier climes to compete in the first races of the 2009 season on Sunday. The team's new leader, Ivan Basso, headed to Argentina for the Tour de San Luis, while another squad led by Francesco Chicchi headed to Australia for the Tour Down Under.

Basso said he was heading to Buenos Aires, "to work hard and come back in better form. January is a good month for training and not to seek a good result."

Vincenzo Nibali joined Basso along with Kjell Carlström, Murilo Antonio Fischer, the new hired Brian Bach Vandborg and Alessandro Vanotti. The group, led by DS Mario Scirea, will adjust to the warm weather and new time zone for a week before the race commences on January 19.

Six riders headed to Australia with Chicchi: Neoprofessionals Gianni Da Ros and Jacopo Guarnieri, Maciej Bodnar, Claudio Corioni, Aliaksandr Kuchynski and Frederik Willems. The group will be led by DS Dario Mariuzzo. 

Enter the new Cyclingnews contest: Win an autographed Team CSC jersey

Team CSC jersey
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Enter Cyclingnews' contest to win a piece of recent cycling history - a Spring 2008 team-issue Team CSC jersey signed by all eight team members from the squad's 2008 Ronde van Vlaanderen lineup.

Victory eluded the team on this day, but CSC played an important role in the race with Karsten Kroon positioning himself in a threatening five-man break which was caught with only 25 kilometers to go. Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Allan Johansen both finished the Ronde in the top-ten, crossing the line in seventh and tenth respectively.

The contest's winner will be selected at random from all correct answers to a Team CSC trivia question received through next Wednesday, January 14. To find out more about the jersey and its signers and to enter, click here.

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