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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 12, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Vande Velde finishes domestique duties

Vande Velde's daughter Uma hangs out with her dad.
Photo ©: Jason Sumner
(Click for larger image)

In the world of professional cycling the transition from domestique to team leader is difficult and rare. For every rider that makes the jump, there are dozens who try and fail - or simply never try at all. Garmin-Slipstream's Christian Vande Velde emerged as a leader after years of service to others. Procycling's Jason Sumner caught up with Vande Velde at his Chicago home to find out what made the difference.

Until 2008, Christian Vande Velde lived the life of a cycling domestique. Sure, he had occasional breakout performances - a win at the 2006 Tour of Luxembourg, second overall at the 2007 Tour de Georgia. But more often than not, the 32-year-old American was content in his supporting rider role, breaking the wind and fetching bottles for the likes of Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre.

All that changed a year ago when Vande Velde left the comforts of CSC and signed on with the then-fledgling Slipstream team. At the time the Boulder, Colorado-based squad had no title sponsor and no guarantee that it would be invited to the sport's biggest races. But everything fell into place in 2008. GPS-maker Garmin stepped into the title sponsor role, and the newly named Garmin-Chipotle team earned a coveted invite to the Tour de France.

Vande Velde took over from there, announcing himself as a rider to be reckoned with. The Chicago native finished fifth overall - or fourth if you remove the subsequently suspended Bernhard Kohl. And he was tops among GC contenders in the Tour's final time trial, finishing fourth - or third if you remove Stefan Schumacher, who also tested positive for CERA.

Those results, plus a win at the season-ending Tour of Missouri, gave Vande Velde a huge boost of confidence, and earned him top honours in the Cyclingnews most improved rider reader poll.

Read the entire interview.

Greipel finds form in Australia

Andre Greipel (Team High Road) wins his fourth stage of the Tour
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

André Greipel of Team Columbia is eager to repeat his amazing success from last year, when he won the Tour Down Under in dominating fashion. In 2008 he had four stage wins and added the Glenelg circuit, which didn't count to the overall, to his tally.

Greipel arrived in Australia a few days ago after a strenous 34-hour journey. "It was worth it. I can fine tune my form under ideal conditions," he said. "The weather in Australia is great and I practically had no jetlag." Greipel is training together with teammate Bernhard Eisel, who will be a crucial rider in preparing the sprints during the Tour Down Under.

Morale and mood are good for the duo, who will be joined by the other Columbia teammates on January 12. Greipel is already excited about the race's start on January 18. "I am quite curious to see if I can repeat my performance from last year. Together with my teammates I definitely want to fight as hard as I can."

Hansen changes sights to Tour Down Under

By Susan Westemeyer

Adam Hansen (Columbia) climbs the hill and showed good form
Photo ©: Brenton Logan
(Click for larger image)

Adam Hansen had hoped to come away with two Australian national titles but instead had to settle for one third place. Still, the Columbia rider wasn't too unhappy, and was already turning his sights toward the upcoming Tour Down Under.

For the road race, "I felt really good and it's easy for me to come there with good fitness, as I have no problems with distractions of races and can focus on training," he told Cyclingnews.

He caught Columbia teammate Michael Rogers and eventual winner Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche) "with two kilometres to go and went straight past and was clear. Peter got me with one kilometre to go and Michael [Rogers] was on his wheel. He made his final move a little after. It wasn't a sprint finish. I would have liked it to be, but it didn't end up that way.

"So that all aside," he said, "I felt great and happy with my performance. I just wish Rogers or I could have walked away with the jersey. That would have been perfect."

The Tour Down Under "should be an exciting one," the 27-year-old said. His team hope to repeat its win from last year, when sprinter André Greipel won four stages on his way to the overall title.

This year, however, Michael Rogers and George Hincapie will be going for the win. Mark Renshaw, Greg Henderson and Bernhard Eisel will help prepare the sprints for Greipel.

"I hope to also play a good support role. I enjoyed helping Greipel last year and I hope to be a part of something special this year too," Hansen said.

Lance Armstrong's return will help make the race an exciting one. "It's very special what he is doing. In a sense, he is risking everything for his 'Livestrong Foundation', which shows how important and serious he is about fighting cancer. That's impressive."

Boom, van Poppel defend titles in Netherlands

World champion Lars Boom added another Dutch champ jersey to his wardrobe
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

The Dutch cyclo-cross championships were highly successful for Team Rabobank as it took both the men's elite and U23 titles. Lars Boom won the men's elite title for the third time in a row, and Boy van Poppel took the U23 title, which Boom had also won three times.

Boom's participation was questionable for a while, as he had to be hospitalised briefly last weekend after injuring his elbow. However, he immediately got into the lead group, and rode away from it in the second lap for a solo win. His next goal is now the World Championships in three weeks, where he will also look to defend his title.

Van Poppel, who turns 21 later this month, also defended his U23 title. He himself was surprised by the win since he was recovering from an intestinal influenza and had barely slept the last two nights. His Rabobank teammate Ramon Sinkeldam finished third, to give the team a total of three medals on the weekend.(SW)

Presslauer takes his ninth

Peter Presslauer won his ninth Austrian national cyclo-cross championship on Sunday in Vienna, finishing nearly a minute and a half ahead of his nearest competitor.

Presslauer had no problem on the frozen course at minus 8 degrees celsius. Only Harald Starzengruber was able to stay with him in the early part of the race. About halfway through, Presslauer took advantage of a technical mistake by his rival to attack successfully.

"I knew that as defending champion I would have to shape the race myself," the 30-year-old winner said. "That's why I rode a very direct line and waited until Starzengruber slipped. Then I could get away and continue to build my lead up to the end."

Starzengruber ended up third, behind Hannes Metzler.(SW)

Worlds View Challenge postponed for 2009

There will be no celebration of a win for South Africa's Robert Hunter in the 2009 Worlds View Challenge
Photo ©: Barloworld
(Click for larger image)

The 2009 Worlds View Challenge in South Africa has been postponed. Originally scheduled for February 13 - 15, 2009, the organisers fell victim to the current financial crisis and were not able to secure a budget to hold the event. The event attracted a strong field last year and many European pros travelled to the Southern Hemisphere so they could do their first races in a warm climate.

Event Director Alec Lenferna was disappointed with the postponement but stated he had no choice. "We cannot be assured of all finances required to stage the 2009 Worlds View Challenge and to make it the best event possible. Therefore it will be better to take this event off the CSA [South African cycling federation] and UCI [Union Cycliste International] calendars for the 2009 season."

Lenferna added that they fought very hard to secure the event, but had to announce the cancellation a month before the planned races. "We do not want to create any problems for the leading world teams that had already committed to the event in their preparations for the season ahead. We want to give them as much time as possible to make alternative arrangements."

Lenferna emphasised that it won't be the end of the event just yet. "We do however remain committed to staging a top quality road event in the future, and we will continue working towards this goal – hopefully as early as February 2010 again."

In the end Lenferna addressed a well-known problem in professional cycling. "It is our understanding that many other leading events around the world are also experiencing similar problems. Once things have 'returned to normal' in the world, we look forward to welcoming top road teams to South Africa again."

Xacobeo-Galicia wants Giro and Vuelta invite

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Xacobeo-Galicia is banking on Ezequiel Mosquera for the Grand Tours
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Spanish Professional Continental team Xacobeo-Galicia is hoping for invites from two Grand Tours this year - the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España. The team is pulling out all the stops to achieve this ambitious goal and is staging a third training camp, which will run from January 12 to 22, in Pontevedra, Galicia, in north-western Spain. The first hard training session is scheduled for January 13 at 10:30.

The undisputed team leader will be Ezequiel Mosquera, who had great results in the last two Vueltas. He finished fifth in 2007 and fourth in 2008. Mosquera wants to go for a stage win in the mountains, his preferred battle ground. Last year, he put up a great battle against Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer in the stage to the ski station of Fuentes de Invierno.

In 2008, Mosquera finished in the top 10 in many races, including the Vuelta a España, Vuelta al País Vasco, Vuelta a Murcia, Vuelta a Burgos, Vuelta a Mallorca, Giro de Trentino, Vuelta a Castilla y León, Vuelta a Andalucía and the Volta a Portugal.

Mosquera has good team support from riders such as David García, David Herrero, Gustavo César Veloso and Carlos Castaño. García won the Presidential Cycling Tour in Turkey and took a stage in the 2008 Vuelta a España). Herrero won a stage in the 2008 Vuelta al País Vasco, César Veloso took the overall of the Vuelta a Cataluña last year and Castaño won stages in the Vuelta a Cataluña and in the Vuelta a Burgos.

But others also ride their hearts out for Mosquera, such as Gustavo Domínguez, Iban Mayoz, Gonzalo Rabuñal, Serafín Martínez, Juan Mourón and Eduard Vorganov.

Iván Raña, who is the triathlon World Champion, joins the team for 2009 to try his luck in road racing. The roster is completed by Alejandro Paleo, Alberto Fernández and the young hopes Delio Fernández, Vladimir Isaychev, Pedro Fernández, Marcos García and Héctor Espasandín.

Top Australian Professional teams for Wellington

After Travis Meyer in 2008 will it be another Aussie in New Zealand?
Photo ©: Bruce Pool
(Click for larger image)

Four Australian professional teams have entered the January 21-25 Trust House Cycle Classic in Wellington New Zealand. They are looking to bring the title again to Australia, like Travis Meyer did last year.

UCI Continental teams Savings and Loan, Team Budget Forklifts—Australia, and Queensland squad QSM Racing have joined the previously announced Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team, which makes it likely the final field will number around 100 riders.

It looks to have justified race director Jorge Sandoval's decision to run the classic about the same time as Australia's Tour Down Under. "When I planned the 2009 tour I decided to go head on with the Tour Down Under because I thought it very unlikely that any of the Oceania UCI Continental Teams would receive invitations to compete in the top tier ProTour event," Sandoval said.

"I've been proved right. For the first time in the 22 years of the Trust House Classic we will have four Australian professional teams competing. This, plus another 10 Australians who have entered individually, will give them a powerful group of 30 riders."

The Budget Forklifts team is led by Cameron Jennings, who brings considerable experience and knowledge with six seasons of racing in some of the most demanding races around the world. Fellow team member Cody Stevenson made his North American debut with professional team Jittery Joe's two years ago. He has a reputation as a crafty sprinter, hiding in the field before launching himself as the riders dash for the finish line. Their teammates Jack Anderson, Michael England and Craig McCartney have a wealth of experience.

"Cameron Jennings is a big name in cycling. I'd expect him to be prominent going up the key Admiral Hill climb on day three," Sandoval said.

The Savings and Loan team is one of Australia's most successful Continental teams. It is returning for a third time, and previously its members have won stages, and the king of the mountains and sprint competitions, and twice finished third overall. Team member Joel Pearson showed impressive form in winning the Bay City Criterium in Australia earlier in the month.

"Joel was competing against some of the best sprinters in the world, and he'll be one of the favourites to win the tour," Sandoval said. "He has ridden in Europe for the last four years, which includes five race wins in France in 2007. He has a reputation as a true sprinter but is still a more than capable climber."

Another team member is David Pell, third overall in the classic two years ago and the king of the mountains victor, and an Australian representative on numerous occasions. Jai Crawford, Tim Roe and Will Dickeson complete the Savings and Loan line up. Team manager Stephen Cunningham said his riders would come well prepared with plenty of recent racing across the Tasman.

The QSM Racing Team will field a capable lineup of Gavin Nicholls, Brady Cummings, Kyle Bateson, Scott Kilmartin and Gilbert Gutowski.

"Securing four top Australian teams is very encouraging for the tour, and cycling in New Zealand," Sandoval said. "The field is already better than last year's. The New Zealanders are going to face some formidable opposition."

Other riders have entered from Spain, Canada, and Croatia.

The tour starts on Wednesday January 21 in Lower Hutt, and concludes on the afternoon of January 25 with a criterium on a circuit on Wellington's Lambton Quay.

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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