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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, January 28, 2009

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Zabel ends career with win

Erik Zabel has ended his long career with a win at home
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image) Erik Zabel is happy whenever he's on his bike

Erik Zabel has ended his professional cycling career after 17 seasons with a win at the Six Day race in Berlin, the town he was born in. Zabel and partner Robert Bartko won the event 14 points ahead of Swiss riders Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli. Zabel has ended his career on the road already in October, at Paris-Tours.

The final night in Berlin offered exciting races, with four teams equal on laps and only separated by 30 points. The showdown came in the final Madison and Risi/Marvulli tried their best to win against the Germans. But Zabel and Bartko were up for the challenge and Zabel won the final sprint of the night against Risi.

Despite hailing from Berlin, it was Zabel's first start at the Six Day race in Germany's capital. His road commitments prevented him from racing at home in the past.

Zabel has over 200 career victories, including 12 stage wins at the Tour de France. He won the Tour's green sprinter's jersey six times between 1996 and 2001. Zabel showed his versatility by taking the World Cup in 2000. He won the spring and fall Classics Milano-Sanremo (four times) and Paris-Tours (three times). Twice he was German champion (1998 and 2003).

Zabel was known to race from the beginning of the season until the end, but even in the winter he would not stop competing. He routinely raced in the Six Day races and won a dozen of them. Most of his track wins (six) came in Dortmund, which is very close to where he lives now.

Zabel will stay close to cycling, as he is now an advisor for Columbia-High Road's sprinting talents.

Armstrong worried about German cycling

Lance Armstrong is worried about the state of German cycling. "I hope that the opinion in Germany is not hostile," he said.

He continued, "It is interesting to see how certain lands and cultures are against my comeback. But in France things have changed in an important place. [Tour organiser] ASO president Patrice Clerc had to leave. He believed that the Tour alone was the star, not the athletes. But that's not the way it is in sports."

The seven-time Tour de France winner acknowledged that some people will never believe that he rides clean. "The skeptics and critics want to hear from me: 'Yes, I cheated.' But why should I lie? I have never doped and I wouldn't lie, just to satisfy these people." (SW)

Greipel's surgery successful

By Susan Westemeyer

André Greipel had a good Tour Down Under until he crashed out of it
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

André Greipel didn't just dislocate his shoulder, he tore a tendon and chipped a bone when he crashed into a motorcycle in the third stage of the Tour Down Under last week.

The Team Columbia sprinter underwent surgery on Monday in Hamburg, Germany. The tendon was repaired, a piece of bone was reattached and other damage repaired.

"I have already dislocated this shoulder 15 times," Greipel told Cyclingnews. "Three years ago I had an operation on it and everything was fine until now."

The 26-year-old expects to leave the hospital Thursday and will start rehabilitation after a short break. Greipel was not sure when he could start training again.

Cavendish to challenge Boonen in Qatar

Tom Boonen has been the dominating rider in the Tour of Qatar in the last few years. But this year his domination could be less stellar, as he will face Mark Cavendish, the new young sprinter from Team Columbia-High Road. Cavendish won four stages at the Tour de France in 2008, which was only his second year in the big races.

Boonen managed to win at least one stage in Qatar in every edition he entered since 2004. He won the overall on two occasions, in 2006 and 2008. In 2006 and 2007 he won all but one of the stages (counting the team time trial victory with his Quick Step team in 2007).

Other sprinters will hope to weigh in as well, with Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas), Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) or Robert Förster (Milram) trying to surprise the two top sprinters.

The 17 teams in Qatar: Milram, Quick Step, Silence - Lotto, TopSport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Drapac – Porsche Cycling, BMC Racing Team, Garmin-Slipstream, Team Columbia-High Road, AG2R La Mondiale, Lampre-N.G.C., Liquigas, Meitan Hompo-GDR, Rabobank, Skil-Shimano, Doha Team, Team Katusha, Cervélo TestTeam

Saxo Bank upset at Damsgaard criticism

By Susan Westemeyer

Team spokesperson Brian Nygaard (r) defends the strong anti-doping programme at Saxo Bank.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

Team Saxo Bank is upset at the criticism of Rasmus Damsgaard, who runs the team's internal anti-doping programme, and what it sees as the implied criticism of the UCI's biological passport programme.

"The lack of respect and credit given to his work for us, and the lack of credit for the UCI is disturbing," team spokesman Brian Nygaard told Cyclingnews. "I am astonished that the UCI hasn't gotten more credit for the work it has done."

Nygaard noted that the team and Damsgaard started their programme before the introduction of the biological passport, and he considers the team programme a forerunner of it. "Their programme is similar to ours."

"A lot of people haven't realised how extreme this programme is. It could be described as a revolution," he said. "We helped to start it. We worked with the UCI to make the project better."

He continued, "The project is so special, and I see the harm being done to our sport by the unfounded criticism of this project and the biological passport. I hope that someday people will realise how radical the biological passport project is."

Nygaard also explained how the team came to give the researcher a team bike, an act which Damsgaard's former partner at Bispebjerg Hospital, Bo Belhage, considered violation of ethical standards and which compromised Damsgaard's objectivity. It was separate from the team's internal programme, Nygaard said.

"He did some extra work that was not part of the programme. He checked out some potential riders and went through their blood values. We actually ended up not signing some riders based on his work." The bike was payment for this additional work.

Australia with strong team to Tour de Langkawi

Shanye Bannan is the technical director
Photo ©: Cycling Australia
(Click for larger image)

The Australian national team is fielding a strong squad for the upcoming Tour de Langkawi, Malaysia (February 9-15). The changed format of a shorter race should suit the team well.

For a few years, the team did not participate. "The 12-day race was too long for our young riders," national road coach Brian Stephens explained. "We came back in 2007 with our trade team and now the seven-day format suits our program to perfection."

The Australian national squad never did win a stage or the general classification, although some Australians were successful. At the inaugural event in 1996, the late Damian McDonald won under the colours of trade team Giant-Australia.

The Australians had to field two races. "Our group of three selectors looked at who would be the best riders for the Tour Down Under and those for Le Tour de Langkawi", explained the technical director of Cycling Australia, Shayne Bannan.

Richie Porte was selected for Langkawi, despite finishing ninth last year in the Tour Down Under. The Tasmanian rider is again in good shape and he claimed the bronze medal at the Australian national time trial Championship behind three-time world champion Michael Rogers and Cameron Meyer. Meyer will also take part in Langkawi, with ProTour outfit Garmin-Slipstream. Cameron Wurf finished fourth at the time trial Championships and is also part of the Australian national team.

Wurf was set to race in Europe as a professional this year. "I was offered a contract with Silence-Lotto and I only found out in December that it wouldn't happen," said the former member of the Austrian team Volksbank. He makes his first appearance at the Asian season opener. "I'm delighted that at least I can use Le Tour de Langkawi to show the Pro Tour teams that I'm able to ride for them as I'm looking for a contract," Wurf said.

The 2009 Le Tour de Langkawi will feature 20 teams. The race starts in Putrajaya, the home of Malaysian government, and finishes in the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur, with the traditional criterium at Dataran Merdeka.

The Tour is organised by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) with the support of the Malaysian Government via the Ministry of Youth and Sports and sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC).

The Australian national team for Le Tour de Langkawi is Gene Bates, Jai Crawford, Richie Porte, Tim Roe, Adam Semple and Cameron Wurf.

No live Tour on German TV?

Germany says no to Doping and no to the Tour
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

The German TV broadcaster ARD has apparently decided against any live coverage of the Tour de France this summer.

"We have reached the decision that there will be no comprehensive live reporting of the Tour de France," said ARD programme director Volker Herres to

The broadcaster will continue to cover the Tour in its daily news broadcast. He also seemed to leave some possibilities open, saying, "We are currently holding discussions with the EBU [European Broadcasting Union] and the cycling federations about what form our reports on the Tour de France this summer should take."

The two German broadcasters ARD and ZDF have always broadcast the Tour jointly on alternating days. They stopped showing the Tour in 2007, after Patrik Sinkewitz' positive doping control. They broadcast the Tour in 2008, but after the Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl doping cases, cancelled plans for 2009.

One problem for the German broadcasters may be a contract between the EBU and Tour organiser ASO, which calls for the Tour to be broadcast through 2011. The ARD claims not to be part of the contract, while the ZDF acknowledges its participation.

Under that contract, the two German broadcasters would be required to show the Tour on alternating days, as in the past. The ZDF has said that it cannot broadcast the Tour alone. "If the ARD climbs out, then we must climb out too, on financial, programme and production-technical grounds," said ZDF Chief Editor Nikolaus Brender. (SW)

Sports facility Carlos Sastre opens on Friday

A multisports facility will open on Friday, January 30, in Ávila, Spain, and it will be named Carlos Sastre. Sastre will be present for the ceremony, which will include demonstrations of several sports, including a friendly basketball game.

The facility will open for the public on February 14. There is space for almost 1,400 spectators and the main field of almost 2,000 square metres can be divided into three distinct smaller fields with automatic dividers.

Sastre was satisfied with the new sports place. "This will give the youth the opportunity to do sports." He was thankful for the help of the authorities and that "they have given my name to the facility. It is a great honour for me."

Eneco Tour to start a day earlier

The UCI ProTour Council (UPTC) has approved a request by the organisers of the Eneco Tour to bring their event forward to August 18-25, 2009 (from August 19-26, 2009).

The Council members considered that the amended dates offered certain advantages, such as the reduction of time between the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg on August 16 and the Eneco Tour, which will help teams to cut down on accommodation expenses.

The extra day between the end of the Eneco Tour and the start of the Vuelta a España will give riders competing in both events more time to rest ahead of the Spanish Grand Tour.

Barloworld has new co-sponsor

Barloworld has added Italian food company Pezziol as a supporting sponsor for the team managed by Claudio Corti. The name will be added to the 2009 jersey.

Pezziol makes a wide range of food products including sauces and balsamic vinegar. The agreement is a way for Pezziol to promote its brand via professional cycling.

The Pezziol company was created in 1840. It strives to combine quality and experience with modern methods of working. They feel Barloworld is a good fit, where the experience of Claudio Corti and the directeurs sportifs combine with talented young riders to help create a successful team.

Reckless driver tries to defend himself

Kevin and Kate Nichols, together with Ben Kersten (r) after the accident
Photo ©: Greg Johnson
(Click for larger image)

Hassan Bakr, the driver accused of causing a crash involving a 60-rider group of cyclists in Sydney, Australia, last year, says it was the riders' fault for being in his lane.

Representing himself, the 34-year-old cross-examined his alleged victims at Downing Centre Local Court Wednesday morning, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Kate Nichols, one of the riders who crashed when Bakr allegedly stopped suddenly in front of the group on May 8, 2008, told the court that Bakr was about half a metre away from the riders when he veered into their lane as he drove by.

"Next thing I heard [was] a lot of shouting and everyone crashing, and I saw the car right in front of me, and I fell over other riders that had crashed," said Nichols, a survivor of the 2005 crash in Germany that killed Amy Gillett and seriously injured five members of the Australian team.

"While I was still in shock someone called out to get the number plate and at that stage I looked up and the car was 50 metres in front and drove off. It was too far away from me to get the number plate."

Bakr suggested that Nichols had been in the wrong by riding in the left lane. "By law it's not your lane, your lane is the emergency lane," he said. Magistrate Chris Clisdell pointed out that cyclists were allowed to use traffic lanes by law.

The riders were heading south, away from the city, at about 6.45am on Southern Cross Drive, one of the major routes into Sydney when Bakr allegedly swerved in front of the group and stopped suddenly.

Mr Bakr has admitted driving the car, but claimed that it backfired, forcing him to stop in the left lane. He has been charged with cutting in front of a vehicle, travelling in a transit lane, negligent driving and not supplying particulars.

Nichols and her father, Kevin Nichols, said they had not heard the car misfire, according to The Australian.

Kevin Nichols managed to avoid the crash, but said he heard his fellow cyclists hitting the back of the car. When he went to the car to question the driver, he was surprised at Bakr's reaction. "I did not see a person who was angry and enraged, I saw a guy who thought it was a bit of a joke," said Nichols.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer)

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