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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, March 8, 2009

Edited by Peter Hymas

Paris-Nice marks Contador's return to France

By Jean-François Quénet in Amilly

Contador won the final stage and GC at the 2007 Paris-Nice
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Since he won the Tour de France in July 2007, Alberto Contador only returned to France for functions, mostly the launches of the Tour de France. Paris-Nice marks his first race back on French territory. "It's another symbol to me because I won it two years ago," the Spaniard explained at his hotel in Ferrières-en-Gâtinais. "I was frustrated last year when I was not able to defend my title and I'm happy to be back, I like this race."

Astana is no longer banned by the ASO. The "race to the sun" is the start of a new relationship between the world's current best cyclist and the world's most powerful race organiser. Having won the Volta ao Algarve, the only event he's competed in so far this year, the winner of last year's Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España is a natural favourite for Paris-Nice. "After the operation I had to my nose during the winter, I didn't expect to be in good form so early," he said. "I've started training a bit later than usual.

"I don't have an obsession to win Paris-Nice, but I'll race for the win," Contador continued. "This race is courted by many riders so it won't be easy. I cannot control it from start to finish. The last three days suit me but there are dangerous stages before that. I've seen the course of Sunday's time trial, it's dead flat and not technical at all. There aren't changes of rhythm. I'll start strongly and try to lose the minimum of time compared to the other candidates for the final, overall win."

This year, Contador has decided to not take part in any race for the purpose of training. Only if he's got a chance to win will he line up. "Paris-Nice is a very important race, it justifies the first part of the season," he commented. "Shall I win it again, it would for sure give me the confidence for the Tour de France. In any case I won't draw any conclusion and I'll avoid comparisons with 2007."

It was a surprise for him when his teammate Lance Armstrong announced his participation alongside him for the Vuelta a Castilla y León at the end of March. "I haven't insisted for him to come," Contador stated. "This came from some confusion in the media. I think it's good for us to do one race together prior to the Tour de France. Lance gives confidence to the team and the staff. I don't have anything to prove to him. I'll race flat out at the next two races without anything at the back of my mind. I have no doubt about Lance's loyalty during the Tour de France. I'm sure he'll help me if the circumstances of the racing dictate so."

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After the Tour of the Basque country, Contador will decide whether or not he'll compete in the Flèche Wallone or Liège-Bastogne-Liège, or both.

Tirreno-Adriatico kicks off Italy's grand races

By Gregor Brown

Fabian Cancellara won the 2007 Tirreno - Adriatico
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Tirreno-Adriatico will kick off the run to the Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia when it starts Wednesday from Italy's Tuscan seaside town of Cecina. The 44th edition of the prestigious stage race, March 11 to 17, offers demanding mountains and sprint finishes in its eastward journey that will prepare the participants for some of cycling's grand events.

RCS Sport disclosed the 2009 route February 23 in Florence. For the first time in Tirreno-Adriatico's history it will start in Tuscany.

The Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of the two seas') departs on March 11 in Cecina and ends on Tuesday, March 17, with the traditional San Benedetto del Tronto circuit. It will consist of one time trial and two serious mountain stages.

The race, starting in the west along the Mar Tirreno, visits two other regions in its eastward journey to the Mar Adriatico. The first three stages all in Tuscany – Capannori, Marina di Carrara and Santa Croce sull'Arno – should suit the sprinters.

Foreign sprinters will have a hard time beating the Italians on their home roads. The fastest ones are in fact from the region of Tuscany: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), Francesco Ginanni (Diquigiovanni-Androni) and nearby Ligurian Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini). They will cross swords with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream), Robbie McEwen (Katusha), Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) and Baden Cooke (Vacansoleil).

The sprint outcomes will be important indicators for RCS Sport's Milano-Sanremo one-day race. The Classic comes only four days after the final sprint in San Benedetto del Tronto. Whoever dominates the sprints in Tirreno will be the number one sprint favourite for Sanremo.

Continue to the full Tirreno-Adriatico preview

Columbia-Highroad gives Monfort his chance in Paris-Nice

Maxime Monfort has plenty of experience racing in France
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Columbia-Highroad's Maxime Monfort is poised to be one of the team's main challengers for the overall classification of Paris-Nice, which starts March 8.

"The last part of the course, being so hilly, suits an Ardennes Classics specialist like Maxime well," said Brian Holm, Columbia-Highroad's sports director, in a press release. "On top of that he's raced a lot in France with his former team, Cofidis, so he knows how to tackle the big races in that country, like Paris-Nice.

"I've followed Maxime's progress ever since he won the Tour of Luxemburg when he started out as a pro," continued Holm. "I think he's capable of some great riding, but first he has to convince himself that he is up to the task."

Holm commented on the depth of the team supporting Monfort.

"In any case, our Paris-Nice squad has a lot of strength. In all my time as a directeur sportif, I can honestly say I don't think I've ever raced with such a great line-up. Before it's always been a little bit like I was taking the B-squad! Marcus [Burghardt] is going well, too, and I know that Michael Barry is in really good shape."

The opening nine kilometre time trial could favour Tony Martin, according to Holm.

"It's a little bit like last year's prologue, partly technical and partly flatter. For Tony, that's ideal."

For the early sprints, Mark Renshaw will have an opportunity to break out of his usual role as lead-out man for Mark Cavendish.

"We always say the day you stop wanting to win bike races is the day you should quit the sport, and de-motivated team workers never make for good racers," said Holm. "Paris-Nice will be one of those chances for Mark Renshaw to show us what he can do in his own right as well."

Schumacher reacts to suspension

Stefan Schumacher during stage 20 of the 2008 Tour
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Stefan Schumacher said that he was "stunned" to hear from the International Cycling Union that it had confirmed his two-year suspension on doping charges.

The UCI on March 6 confirmed the ban handed down by the French anti-doping agency AFLD the end of February. Schumacher tested positive for CERA during last year's Tour de France.

Schumacher said that the UCI issued its decision "without checking the documents. Without explaining the irregularities. Without a hearing. And without listening to me at all." The 27-year-old said that he would appeal this "scandal" to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In a statement published on his website,, he continued to insist, "I did not dope and I have nothing to hide."

To support his claims, he published a number of documents from the AFLD on his website, including two which refer to him as "Michael" Schumacher. The cyclist is not related to the former Formula One champion.

Pevenage pays fine to settle charges

Rudy Pevenage has settled an investigation by Bonn, Germany, prosecutors by paying a fine said to be 25,000 euro. The investigation was looking into charges of fraud and violation of prescription drug laws while Pevenage worked for the T-Mobile Team.

It is a similar settlement to that announced last April with Jan Ullrich, who is said to have made a "six-digit" payment.

Pevenage, 55, is now working as directeur sportif for the US-based Continental Team Rock Racing.

Merino breaks leg during Vuelta a Murcia

Jesus Merino of the Spanish National Team crashed during the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Murcia and has been diagnosed with a fracture of the femur in his right leg after being transported to a hospital. Merino will undergo surgery and will miss the upcoming Grand Prix du Portugal, for which he had been selected.

"He was descending when he crashed," said José Luis Santos, Merino's team director. "It was bad luck that he's fallen and broken his femur. He's currently under observation in the hospital without any complications, waiting for the doctors to operate."

Vorarlberg-Corratec to Ronde van Vlaanderen

Team Vorarlberg-Corratec will be the first Austrian team to ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Professional Continental team received a 'wild card' invitation to ride the Classic race next month.

Team manager Thomas Kofler said that he had not expected the 'wild card'. "The Ronde is not just any race, this is the Mount Olympus of cycling," he said. The Austrian noted that the invitation made up for the difficulties the team had gone through to secure its future. "The belief and commitment to cycling can move mountains, maybe even also the hellingen in Flanders."

The team has already selected three riders to send to the race, René Haselbacher, René Weissinger and Belgian newcomer Wim Van Huffel.

Arndt out with broken collarbone

Judith Arndt
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
(Click for larger image)

Judith Arndt of Team Columbia-Highroad broke her collarbone in a training accident near Melbourne, Australia, last Monday, the team has announced. No surgery is necessary and she hopes to be racing again within six weeks.

The team said that Arndt hit a car door which opened unexpectedly in front of her and which she was unable to avoid.

Rais makes radio appearance

Amber Rais of the TIBCO Women’s Pro Cycling Team will appear on FM 100.1 KTHX in her hometown of Reno, Nevada Monday, March 9 at approximately 9:15am PST.

Rais will appear with show host Don Darue to talk about her journey from Reno to the pro peloton as well as Team TIBCO's upcoming appearance in the Tour de Nez, Nevada's longest running road race, this June. She'll appear with the race's founder and director, Tim Helion.

For those outside the Reno broadcast area, the broadcast can be heard on the web at

Gadret sidelined with knee injury

AG2R La Mondiale professional John Gadret was forced to abandon the Tour of California's third stage due to tendonitis in his left knee and returned to France for further tests.

Examinations have since revealed a cyst and inflammation in the right meniscus which required surgery. Gadret has undergone an operation to remove the cyst and is currently resting to recover from his injury. The date of Gadret's return to racing has not yet been determined.

GWR launches team

The Swindon-based GWR Cycling Team launched their 2009 campaign with a presentation at the De Vere Hotel, in Swindon, England. The eight-man squad hopes to build on a successful 2008 season, which saw 14 victories and a further 200 top-five placings.

Continuing its focus on developing Under 23 and Junior riders, the GWR Cycling Team has retained key members Dan Smith, Peter Kench, Nic Tilling, Sam Redding and Llewellyn Kinch from 2008 and have added three new riders, Neil Coleman, David Sinclair and Connor Ryan, for 2009.

The presentation was hosted by Eurosport commentator David Harmon for the unveiling of their new team kit, provided by Spiuk, and the team's Giant TCR Advanced 2 bikes.

Additionally, there was a short video presentation of GWR's achievements since its inception in 2006. The GWR team’s primary goal for 2009 is to retain the South Divisional Championships for road and criterium racing and to have a strong showing at the U23 national championships in June.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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