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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, March 1, 2009

Edited by Laura Weislo

Cervélo ends any doubts

Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Cervélo TestTeam ended any doubts as to whether this new squad would be able to pull off big wins, delivering Thor Hushovd to the victory in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. Not only did Hushovd win, but the team had three riders in the small front group - all of whom finished inside the top ten. Only the Rabobank team had more riders in the group with five, but could only manage third place with Juan Antonio Flecha.

The race saw another strong performance from Heinrich Haussler, who already scored two victories this season in the Volta ao Algarve. Haussler went away with Rabobank's Sebastian Langveld after the final climb, and was only caught in the final 300 meters when his teammate Andreas Klier had no choice but to start the lead-out for Hushovd.

"Today it was a great win, in my eyes it was a team win," said Hushovd. "We were always up there during the race, and when Haussler attacked with maybe 40km to go, me and Klier could just sit back and we did not have to work. That was perfect - it was bad for him he got caught with only 300 meters to go, but in the last 100m, Klier told me 'Thor take my wheel' and he had a perfect leadout for me. So this was a great win for me and the Cervélo TestTeam."

Klier and Haussler held on to finish 7th and 8th, respectively.

Directeur sportif Jean-Paul Van Poppel was pleased to chalk up the fifth win of the season. "We had an excellent race starting with all the guys in the front breakaway group, controlling as necessary."

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The win was the second for Hushovd, who also scored a stage victory at the Tour of California last week. Along with Haussler's two stages, the team also scored a win in the Ladies' Tour of Qatar with Kristen Wild taking the overall title.

Leipheimer among Astana injured, out of Paris-Nice

Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

American Levi Leipheimer successfully defended his title in the Tour of California last week, but did so while quietly suffering from a fractured sacrum, his team announced Saturday. The "undisplaced" break in his lower spine was revealed by a MRI scan on Friday.

The break occured when Leipheimer crashed on stage three of the Tour of California, causing him to ride the rest of the event, including the stage six time trial which he won by eight seconds over David Zabriskie, in pain.

Because of his injury Leipheimer will not start in Paris-Nice. The Vuelta a Castilla y León will be his first race after his recovery period.

The news was just the start of the injury reports for Team Astana. In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tomas Vaitkus and Valeriy Dmitriyev both crashed. Vaikus was taken down in the sprint along with Katusha's Filippo Pozzato and suffered an undisplaced fracture of his right radius near the elbow.

"Gent never brings me luck, I always crash here," Vaitkus said, according to the team's web site. "This was a perfect race for Tomas," said directeur sportif Dirk Demol. "He had slipped into the right group and we knew the two [breakaway riders] would be caught. Victory would have been difficult but a top five was possible. The podium would have been fantastic."

Valeriy Dmitriyev was the victim of an earlier crash, where he hit a car. He suffered a hematoma to his left thigh and an injury to his right calf, and will not be able to start the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday. He will be out for a minimum of two weeks.

Astana's Press Officer Philippe Maertens was not in good spirits after he received the news. "Maybe we will have to start Kuurne with five guys," he said. Gregory Rast did not travel to Belgium due to a thigh injury, leaving the team down three riders for the race on Sunday.

De Goede takes tough sprint win

By Bjorn Haake in Gent

Cantele, De Goede and Druyt (l-r)
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Suzanne de Goede of Nürnberger Versicherung won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for women in the tough uphill finish on the Charles de Kerchovelaan boulevard in a sprint. Out of the 32-women front group De Goede was fastest, beating Noemi Cantele (Bigla Cycling Team) and Kelly Druyts (Topsport Vlaanderen Thompson Ladies Team).

The 128-kilometre race was decided by the climbs, which decimated the field down to the small peloton. The tough Molenberg was the final climb of the day, but despite things falling apart, the group of 32 managed to get back together after the climb.

Cantele had to settle for second in the sprint, but tried to get away for the win after the climb. "I tried to attack with two other riders after the Molenberg but behind they chased us. The finish is hard so I decided to wait - I was the only one from my team in the break, so I couldn't do anything in the last 20 km."

Cantele came up short, but was not too disappointed. "Maybe I needed 50 metres more..." She still enjoyed the sunny day. "I really like this race – the cobble stones and the little climbs. I also like the sun!" That sounded like a perfect day for Cantele, who said the "sectors after kilometre 75 were really hard."

Continue to the full report.

Passport cases around the corner?

The UCI's biological passport programme has yet to produce any doping sanctions, but according to a recent article in the New York Times, action could come soon. UCI president Pat McQuaid said that cases would be pursued in "the coming days and weeks," but did not reveal how many riders are suspected of doping. He hinted that it would be between one and six riders.

The blood passport system, which examines a series of blood values from each individual rider over time, can detect the evidence of doping in the absence of an analytical positive test for a certain drug. The scheme has yet to stand up to the legal system, and the UCI has been careful to make sure all of the details are covered before going forward with seeking sanctions against riders.

According to the latest report, the UCI has taken an average of 10 samples from some 800 riders, both in and out of competition under the passport testing regime.

David Howman, the World Anti-Doping Agency's director general, is busy preparing a manual for athlete passports to standardize the process, and said the UCI has followed all of the rules.

"Everyone is scared of that first case because they don't want it to bomb on them," Howman said. "We are very anxious to ensure that this is a successful project because the sooner we have a successful case, the better it will be for future cases. This will be a significant step forward in protecting clean athletes."

Running train barrier causes quartet's disqualification

By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium

Björn Thurau was quite disappointed with his disqualification
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Trains have often been a problem in the Classics, and Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was no exception. Four riders were in pursuit of the break of the day, and were unable to stop in time for a level crossing which had just begun to close. Steven Caethoven (Agritubel), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) and Björn Thurau (Elk Haus) were disqualified by the jury.

Thurau explained that their speed was simply too high. "The lights had just started blinking. In this short period it was impossible to stop, so we decided to keep going."

The jury immediately told the four riders they were out of the race. "I kept going because I couldn't believe it," said Thurau. "I came back to the next bigger group and rolled along until I had a flat tyre." That's when he realised he really was out of the race. "The neutral support car didn't give me a wheel. They told me I was disqualified..."

Thurau was quite disappointed. "You train hard and do everything to be in top form and then in one second everything is destroyed." He added that stopping would have probably ended their break. "I doubt the jury would have stopped the field and let us keep our 1:20. Plus once you have to stop, your legs are shot and it is all over."

Thurau thought the composition of the teams may have had to do with the jury's decision. "Maybe if Boonen would have been in the break, they would have said 'Race on'. But oh well, I can't change it."

Tjallingii was also eliminated, which triggered an immediate reaction by Rabobank. "That screwed up their tactics, too," Thurau said.

Cofidis ends Omloop with mixed feelings

By Bjorn Haake in Gent

Alexandre Blain crashed in his Omloop debut race
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Two of the young guns of the Cofidis team had an Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with a very different outcome. Neo-pro Guillaume Blot spent the first part of the race in the break of the day, while second-year professional Alexandre Blain crashed out of the race.

Blot looked tired at the finish, but happy. "This course is beautiful," he said. "Being in the break was great, I am feeling at a good level." He admitted that he has not the experience and the physique yet. "It is a pity I bonked, but it was still a great day." Blot added that he enjoyed the experience. "I was riding at the front and that is how I can progress."

Blot said the finish was very tough, for the uphill stretch. "But also there was a headwind." The Frenchman said he didn't know the route beforehand. "It is superb, I really enjoyed it!"

His teammate Blain was less happy at the finish, marked with a bandage on his left elbow, blood on his knees and a jersey that showed signs of falling on his left shoulder. His teammates immediately asked how he was doing, having heard the news over the race radio.

"Yes, yes, ça va," he responded to his Cofidis pals. The crash happened on the last cobble stone section, the infamous Paddestraat. Blain admitted that he was in a group that was beaten. "But it is still a pity, I think we were racing for maybe 15th place."

Blain was riding without a problem on the Paddestraat. "There was a group of riders to my right, riding in the gutter. One of them came came out of the gutter and clipped my front wheel."

Blain had some regrets. "Until then it was going well. I am now a bit of a protected rider, as we don't have a clear leader for the Classics anymore."

Blain felt things were going his way. "This was my first Het Volk and I wasn't that far off when the moves came in the end. So it is really disappointing I couldn't finish."

Blain said that having the protected status is motivational. "But it also a little bit of stress for me." He was hoping to be able to race in Kuurne the next day, but had to see how his injuries would heal up over night.

No Vuelta a Aragon in 2009

By Antonio J. Salmerón

According to Saturday's edition of El Periodico de Aragon, the Vuelta a Aragon's organizer, Iberia Cycling Club, has received a negative answer from the regional government regarding sponsorship, and as consequence, the Spanish race will not take place in 2009.

Ibera Cycling Club president José Miguel Romeo has worked hard in recent months to recover the race that was last organized in 2005, but ultimately failed to secure the funding. "We've tried, but the bad economic situation we are experiencing in general has meant that the government of Aragon declined to invest the resources necessary for the Vuelta a Aragon to go forward on April 17."

Lappartient elected new president of French federation

By Jean-François Quénet in Paris

David Lappartient, 35, is the new president of the French cycling federation winning an election over Michel Callot by 347 votes to 265 this week. The third candidate, French cycling legend Cyrille Guimard, didn't even collect 1% of the votes. "Guimard's bid has helped the campaign to be very constructive," Lappartient emphasized. Outgoing boss Jean Pitallier, 76, didn't go for a third term and was warmly applauded by the delegates although it was unanimously time for a change at the head of the FFC.

Strangely, in the 130 years of history of the French cycling federation, Lappartient is the first president hailing from Brittany, the hot bed of French cycling, where he organises the professional GP Plumelec every year at the end of May. He's also the youngest president of an Olympic federation in France, following the paths of Daniel Baal who was also elected at the age of 35 in 1993. Together with swimming, cycling was the most successful of the French sports with six medals at last year's Olympics in Beijing.

But Lappartient wants more. "I want France to become again the most successful country in terms of medals at the Olympics in 2012 or at the latest in 2016." A new national centre of cycling will open with an indoor velodrome and a BMX track in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in the western outskirts of Paris in July 2012 and that will also be the headquarters of the FFC.

Already a board member of the UCI, Lappartient wants to restore good relationships between the national and international governing bodies. The previous rift between the UCI and the FFC under Petallier hurt the French by preventing them from bidding on any championships. "We want France to organise world championships again but we couldn't place any bid in 2008 because we were suspended," he recalled.

"Our first goal will be for the cyclo-cross in 2013 and we'll bid for the road as well from 2014 onwards, although we know it'll be difficult to collect the 10 million euros necessary to organise them," he added. In the past 20 years, the road World's have been held only once in France, in Plouay 2000 with an enormous popular success, while Italy held the race four times during the same period and has more plans for Florence in the future.

Lappartient will also ask strongly for the ban of the radio communication between team cars and riders, a subject he has worked on inside the UCI in the past two years already. "If I'm not mistaken, during the 2008 Tour de France the FFC has showed its authority on the national territory," he warned about a race that was organised and controlled without the participation of the UCI.

Said otherwise, French cycling might again go for its own way, should the UCI fail to make any decision on that matter. "But I'm not a man of conflicts," Lappartient said. He has plans to enlarge the numbers of members of the FFC which is now over 103,071. He also wants to give part of the power back to local clubs with a new electoral system including a possibility of referendum on an exceptional subject.

Back surgery for Muche

Christin Muche won the keirin title in 2006
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Former Keirin world champion Christin Muche is recovering from back surgery to repair a herniated disc. The German's surgery was reportedly a success, but the rider will not recover in time to contest the Track World Championships in Pruszkow, Poland at the end of March.

The 25-year-old will undergo rehabilitation, which will take six to eight weeks, according to dpa. When she can ride again is uncertain.

OUCH heads south of the border

The OUCH Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis will look to continue the momentum built during the Amgen Tour of California as it travels south of the border to contest la Vuelta Mexico, March 1-8.

The team will be led by Floyd Landis, who made his return to racing at the Amgen Tour.

"This race is a good opportunity to get Floyd and the rest of the guys ready for the first part of the U.S. season," said team Directeur Sportif Mike Tamayo. "After a two-and-a-half year layoff, Floyd is still looking for his race legs. He showed some signs of it the last couple days of California, but this is a good race to continue his progress. The field is full of quality riders, and the race is done entirely at altitude, including some climbs that approach 12,000 feet."

The team brings a mix of stage racers and sprinters for the Vuelta, including Landis' lieutenant Pat McCarty, as well as Cam Evans and Roman Kilun to help with the climbs. For sprints and breaks, the team will look to Karl Menzies, John Murphy, Andrew Pinfold and Bradley White.

"California was a hard race to start off the season," McCarty said, "but the guys came together really well and we all came out of it stronger than we went into it. I think we're going into Mexico with a lot of good momentum after California."

OUCH Presented by Maxxis will face stiff competition in Mexico, including two of its primary rivals on the U.S. domestic scene: Team Type 1 and Rock Racing. The Rock squad will be led by last year's Vuelta Mexico champion Glen Chadwick, as well as U.S. national champion Tyler Hamilton.

They will also have to contend with Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti-Diquigiovanni), who will be using the Vuelta Mexico as part of his preparation for an assault on yet another Giro d'Italia overall title.

"There should be a lot of hard racing this week," McCarty added. "This race will set us up really well for San Dimas and then the start of the NRC series in Redlands at the end of March."

OUCH Presented by Maxxis for La Vuelta Mexico: Cameron Evans, Roman Kilun, Floyd Landis, Pat McCarty, Karl Menzies, John Murphy, Andrew Pinfold, Bradley White.

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