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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 30, 2009

Edited by Gregor Brown

Tour winner Sastre likes Giro route

Carlos Sastre in his new Cervélo Test Team colours
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre believes that the 100th anniversary of the Giro d'Italia this May will be one for the record books due to its route design and participants.

"I like it, and a lot. It is modern, tense, hard," Spain's Sastre of Cervélo Test Team said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The Giro is my first objective, the principle objective is the Tour, the Worlds is the final objective."

Sastre, 33, won the Tour of France last July for the first time in his career. He left Team CSC-Saxo Bank at the end of the year to join new formation Cervélo Test Team. Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport invited the Switzerland-based team to compete on Wednesday as part of a 20-team list.

The race, first run in 1909, has one of its richest lists of competitors in recent years. Top riders scheduled to race include Lance Armstrong, Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso, Danilo Di Luca, Gilberto Simoni and Denis Menchov.

"I am not worried about him," said Sastre of Armstrong at the Giro d'Italia. "They will all be on him: the riders, fans, journalist. He will take a lot of pressure off me."

The race starts in Venice with a team time trial on May 9. It consists of 21 stages, with the final day being an individual time trial in Rome.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Sastre rode the Giro d'Italia in 2006 in support of eventual winner Basso. That year he rode all three Grand Tours.

Belhage saw "too many uncertainties" with Damsgaard

By Susan Westemeyer

Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard
Photo ©: Sabine Sunderland/Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Doctor Bo Belhage of the Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, said that he did not renew his contract with Rasmus Damsgaard to conduct team-internal doping controls because of too many uncertainties about the "actions, premises and intentions" of the programmes.

Belhage recently criticised Damsgaard and questioned his ethics and independence in running the anti-doping control programmes for Teams Saxo Bank and Astana. Belhage is the chief of medicine at the Bispebjerg Hospital.

"Anti-doping programmes need to be transparent to the public, especially when the programme originates in a public hospital," he said to Cyclingnews. "This means that closedness and uncertainties about the actions, premises and intentions of the programme are no-go's. I didn't feel these pivotal points were taken care of properly."

Belhage indicated that Damsgaard's acceptance of a bicycle from Saxo Bank in return for extra work done for them, as well as that extra work itself, were ethical violations. "There can be no money or gifts – call it whatever you like – between the policemen and the potential offenders."

Belhage spoke of Lance Armstrong because he believes the media improperly translated and quoted his previous comments. He said that he commented early last fall and that it was in response to a question regarding the possibility of conducting a testing programme for Team Astana, including Armstrong.

"The essence of the statement was, 'If we were to keep testing Astana including Armstrong, he would have to be tested like any other rider on Astana. No special treatment for Armstrong.'"

Earlier reports indicated that Belhage said that he was concerned that Armstrong would not participate in the programme. Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews earlier this week that Armstrong was participating in Damsgaard’s programme.

Piva centres Columbia's Qatar team on Cavendish

Mark Cavendish at the 2009 Columbia team launch
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Valerio Piva has the entire Columbia-Highroad team centred on Mark Cavendish for the Tour of Qatar, February 1 to 6. The Italian directeur sportif will manage the USA team in Cavendish's first race of the season.

"Qatar offers an almost unique chance for the sprinters to shine because it's the only stage race in the entire calendar where there are no climbs at all. It's only natural that we should build everything around Mark," said Piva.

The eighth edition of the race fields 17 teams of eight riders. Team Columbia will send a sprinters' team for Cavendish: Michael Barry, Marcus Burghardt, Bert Grabsch, Gregory Henderson, Frantisek Rabon, Vicente Reynes and Marcel Sieberg

"Everybody's feeling very keen, everyone's fresh, and they all want to get a good result as soon as possible."

The six-stage race opens with a team time trial of six kilometres. Organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) limits teams to using standard road bikes for the first stage.

"That rule was brought in because of the complicated logistics in getting time trial bikes to Qatar and it evens things out between each team. The course itself isn't that complicated; there are just two big corners at the end of a broad highway – the time differences likely to be small. We're sure to have a fast, exciting race, with minimal differences between the top names all the way to the finish line."

Team Columbia will also have a team in the women's race. It is the first year for the women's stage race, February 8 to 10.

Tour of California to have the "greatest" line-up ever

Levi Leipheimer, r, at the 2008 Tour of California
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Tour of California organiser AEG Sports believes it has the "greatest field ever assembled" in the USA for the running of the fourth edition of its stage race, February 14 to 22.

"It is clear that this year's Amgen Tour of California has the greatest field ever assembled in our country," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. "We have legendary champions like Lance Armstrong, ... the best professional cyclists riding today and many of the most talented young riders in the world."

Armstrong will race with Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer, who is the 2008 and 2007 winner. Other participants include Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso, Olympic gold medallist Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Oscar Freire, Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, 2006 winner Floyd Landis and best young rider at the Tour de France Andy Schleck.

"The level of competition, the challenge of the course and the highly professional atmosphere makes it the ideal situation for me to continue my training," said Armstrong. "I have also chosen the Amgen Tour of California because of the race's record of supporting cancer awareness and research ... and its commitment to partner with our Lance Armstrong Foundation."

There are 17 teams that will compete in the 2009 races. The teams announced to participate are AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Garmin-Slipstream, Liquigas, Quick Step, Rabobank, Columbia-High Road, Saxo Bank, BMC Racing Team, Cervélo Test Team, Bissell, Colavita - Sutter Home, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly, Ouch-Maxxis, Rock Racing and Team Type 1.

The nine-day race consists of 750 miles. It starts with a prologue time trial in Sacramento in northern California. It ends with a stage to Escondido.

Record 35 nations compete in Langkawi

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The Tour de Langkawi will host the most internationally-diverse peloton ever in its 14th edition, February 9 to 15. There are 35 different nations represented in the 20 teams that will start the stage race.

"Our team invitation committee has looked closely at all the applications we received for making our colourful event the most international possible," said the chief operating officer, Datuk Naim Mohamad.

The race will feature teams that range from Continental to ProTour level. The 2008 edition was won by a Moldavian Ruslan Ivanov of Venezuelan team Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli.

"We are very pleased to welcome cyclists from all over the world. It shows that our sport becomes more and more worldwide thanks to the efforts of the UCI [International Cycling Union - ed.]. Malaysia definitely wants to play its part in the globalisation of cycling."

Besides 15 riders from host country Malaysia, Italy will feature a contingent of 11 riders, followed by Australia (9), France (8), South Africa, Kazakhstan, Iran, China and Korea (6), Spain, Switzerland and Japan (5), Ukraine (3), USA, Germany, Austria, Venezuela, Tunisia, Algeria and Indonesia (2), Belgium, New Zealand, Canada, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Poland, Ireland, Sweden, Great Britain, Moldavia, Colombia, Argentina, Mongolia, Syria and Qatar (1).

The 2009 race will feature seven stages, including the return of the climb of Genting Highlands on the second to last day. The other stage finishes are in Senawang, Melaka, Bangi, Shah Alam and the nation's capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The race is 1,029.9 kilometres long. The longest day is stage four, 222.2 kilometres from Melaka to Bangi.

Elk Haus to Mallorca for training and racing

Team Elk Haus is heading to Mallorca, Spain, for a training camp and the Mallorca Challenge. The Austrian Professional Continental team said that it has a smaller squad and budget than last year, but equally high expectations.

The team will take on its first race of the year – the Mallorca Challenge, February 8 to 12 – after a nine-day training camp. "The guys should gather some hard racing kilometres there," said team manager Bernhard Rassinger. "As in the past years, we will try to use our chances."

Rassinger named German sprinter Steffen Radochla as one to watch. "He has trained very well and I assume that he will be in on the sprints."

The race is unique in cycling in that it allows for teams to switch out riders from day to day.

"We can start ten men each day, and I will always mix up the team. In the beginning it is flatter, and I will use the sprinters. After that the climbers will have a chance."

The 20 teams that will contest the Mallorca Challenge are Quick Step, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Fuji-Servetto, Cofidis, Milram, Liquigas, Rabobank, Columbia, Katusha, Xacobeo Galicia, Contentpolis-AMPO, Andalucía Cajasur, Elk Haus, Plowman Craven, Van Vliet, Sparkasse, Burgos Monumental, Kuota and Orbea.

Team Elk Haus for 2009: Stefan Denifl, Markus Eibegger, Clemens Frankhauser, Georg Lauscha, Wolfgang Murer, Steffen Radochla, Stefan Rucker, Daniel Schorn, Harald Starzengruber, Jochen Summer, Björn Thurau, Harald Totschnig, Gerhard Trampusch, Jan Valach, Matthias Brändle and Martin Schöffman. (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)

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