First Edition Cycling News, May 3, 2009
Edited by Laura Weislo
Armstrong relaxes in Gila
By Kirsten Robbins in Silver City, New Mexico
Lance Armstrong has taken a decidedly low-key approach to preparing for his first Grand Tour in nearly four years. Instead of heading to Europe to prepare for the Giro d'Italia, he's racing the Tour of the Gila with teammates Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer.
"I think it's good to be here for the first race back," Armstrong said. "The stages are short and I don't have to handle the logistics. We finish the races at noon and then sit around for the rest of the day. I almost don't know what to do with myself. I never get to take a nap during races, except for this one."
Racing under the guise of Armstrong's bike shop "Mellow Johnny's", the trio has dominated the popular domestic race and gotten worldwide attention for an event which faced cancellation just a few months ago.
Armstrong's last race was the first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León, where he crashed and broke his collarbone. He is using the Tour of the Gila as a relaxed way to get back into the rhythm of racing before heading to the Giro d'Italia.
He is currently sitting in fourth place in the overall classification, three minutes behind his teammate Levi Leipheimer, the overall leader. According to the Texan, he did not come to the five-day stage race with high personal expectations. "I feel good for the Giro," Armstrong said. "Step by step it's a good first race back and I can't complain."
The pro men's peloton will resume racing at stage four's Silver City downtown criterium. Armstrong admitted that after recently suffering from a broken collarbone, the idea of competing in a technical criterium is slightly nerve-racking.
"Obviously that style of racing is a lot faster and more aggressive," Armstrong said. "It typically would have more mishaps so I will try to stay out of trouble. We are in the lead so we can ride up front and people will hopefully give us a little more space."
Team Astana riders Armstrong, Leipheimer and Chris Horner are competing in the Tour of the Gila under the team name Mellow Johnny's.
Read Cyclingnews' full interview with Armstrong.
Kreuziger climbs to the top
Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger pulled into the overall lead of the Tour de Romandie with in a dominant performance on the mountainous stage to Sainte-Croix. The Czech rider was part of a four-man group which escaped from a greatly reduced peloton on the final climb. He powered away from Estonian Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) in the final kilometres to take his first win of the season.
Kreuziger made his move on the final climb with 15km to go, but Taaramae, Karpets and Frederik Kessiakoff (Fuji-Servetto) rejoined him after the descent. As the road kicked up again with a few kilometres to go, Kreuziger put in another dig and opened a gap, but was afraid the Estonian was bluffing.
"I gave everything to avoid being caught by Taaramae. I am happy for this victory, the first of 2009, mainly because it came on a tough stage and against major opponents," said Kreuziger.
"Tomorrow the final hard work awaits us, and we will have to be attentive to the attacks. The small time gaps will not allow distractions."
Taaramae made a late charge to reach the wheel of the flying Kreuziger, but could not come around before the line. Karpets rolled in for third, while Frederik Kessiakoff (Fuji-Servetto) came in fourth having been dropped from the trio after overshooting a bend on an earlier descent.
"Today Kreuziger was stronger than me, but I’m happy with my conditions above all because I look at the Tour de France, my seasonal goal, with more confidence," said Karpets.
Kreuziger's efforts earned him the lead in the overall classification, where he now sits 18 seconds ahead of Karpets, and 25 ahead of Taaramae.
Ceramica Flaminia appeals to UCI
The manager of the Ceramica Flaminia team, Roberto Marrone, appealed to UCI president Pat McQuaid over his team's exclusion from the Giro d'Italia. The Giro organiser RCS Sport invited the Fuji-Servetto team to fill the final spot last week, leaving the Ceramica squad of Italian champion Filippo Simeoni out.
Marrone, manager of the Professional Continental team, complained in a letter to McQuaid that selection to the Grand Tours and other important races are supposed to be by regulation, "based on pure merit and ethical sport".
Marrone also pointed out that, while his team earned the UCI's "wild card" designation, there are several teams which have not and which have been invited to the Giro d'Italia over them.
"It is unacceptable that, despite being among the top 10 teams in the ranking of Europe Continental Tour and [having] received the Wild Card Label, our team is systematically excluded from most major competitions for the benefit of other teams that will not be more competitive than us."
Acqua e Sapone, LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini and Xacobeo-Galicia are the three non-wild card teams which will take part in the Giro. Wild card status is not required for Grand Tours, but participation in the UCI's biological passport program is.
"Why is it important to get this recognition if it is ignored by the organizers?" Marrone asked of the wild card status. "When a team works in a serious and correct manner and is supported by reliable sponsor, it must have the opportunity to compete in the most prestigious competitions."
American cyclist seriously injured in Overijssel
American rider Wade Wolfenbarger of the Cinelli-Down Under team was seriously injured in a crash during the Ronde van Overijssel in the Netherlands on Saturday. He was involved in a massive crash with 30km to go, and was airlifted from the scene. He was taken to a hospital in Enschede.
According to Dutch press agency ANP, Wolfenbarger, of Lubbock, Texas, was in a coma following a serious head injury.
Following the race, which was won by Dutch rider Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano), representatives from the race organization went to the hospital to learn the situation of the rider.
Casinos bail out Philly race
Sugarhouse Casino and Foxwoods Casino are the two sponsors which helped to save the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, the race organisers announced Friday. The casinos have stepped up with $100,000 each in sponsorship which kept the June 7 event on the schedule.
Race organizers emphasized that there is still a significant budget gap to close, but said the additional funds gave them enough momentum to go forward with the 25th year of the event.
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, who helped to secure the deals, were on hand for the announcement.
"This is one of the most important and exciting annual sporting events in the Commonwealth and nation, as well as a unique Philadelphia treasure," said Governor Rendell.
Bob Sheldon, president and COO of Sugarhouse Casino, said the sponsorship was an example of good corporate citizenship. "We understand how important this race is for the City of Philadelphia and to all of the athletes who have competed here over the years."
Congressman Brady added that the race was too much of a Philadelphia tradition to let slip away. "I'm extremely happy that we got a chance to save this great institution for the city, and I want to thank Sugarhouse and Foxwoods for their help. I must emphasize though that we cannot get to this point again next year. We need people and companies to start talking now about how to keep this important Philadelphia event rolling for many years to come," he said.
"We are grateful to our sponsors, fans, racers and volunteers for truly embracing the race," said David Chauner, president of Pro Cycling Tour.
"I especially want to thank our title sponsor TD Bank for hanging in there with us and also recognize one of our newest sponsors, MINI Cooper as the official vehicle of the race. Although we still need more funding to close the gap in our budget, we are on our way to hosting another exciting race this year," he said.
PCT's "Embrace the Race" campaign has raised $85,000 so far, bringing the budget shortfall down to just over $200,000. VIP ticket purchases and donations to the Embrace the Race campaign can be made online at www.procyclingtour.com.
Tour de Rwanda added to UCI calendar
The Tour de Rwanda has been added to the UCI's Africas Tour, AllAfrica.com reported Saturday. The Rawandan cycling federation president said he hoped the race would attract the sport's biggest stars, including Lance Armstrong.
"Our ultimate target has always been to internationalise 'tour of Rwanda' and show that cycling is more than just a simple means of transport," said Aimable Bayingana
The event is scheduled for November 23 - 1 December, and will cover a total distance of 1069km in eight stages.
Atherton to undergo surgery, miss World Cups
Downhill World Champion Rachel Atherton will miss the better part of the season in order to have surgery to correct nerve damage to her left shoulder, the Animal Commencal team director Dan Brown confirmed Saturday.
"The nerve in Rachel's shoulder has seen little improvement over the past four weeks so the surgeon has taken the decision to operate. We're hoping Rachel will be back in training in around three to four months so there's still a chance she will compete at the World Championships in August," said Brown.
Atherton damaged the shoulder in a crash while training in California earlier this year. She is expected to be out of action for the next three to four months.
Atherton will continue to travel with the Animal Commencal team as a temporary race commentator for the Nissan UCI World Cup Series online coverage.
Stars of the road for British national championships
Some of road racing's top stars have confirmed their places at the British National Championships in Abergavenny in June.
Mark Cavendish, winner of four Tour de France stages last summer, is planning to attend, along with at least nine other members of the new Great Britain team.
With the national men's under-23 team also confirming their entries, and containing an Olympic bronze medalist in their squad, plus the cream of Britain's other senior road teams and riders getting on the start line, the title is wide open.
National endurance coach Rod Ellingworth said: "One of my roles is putting the team together for the professional road race World Championships in September and the main objective is to be winning the World Championships in three or four years. This year's nationals is the first opportunity for us to come together.
"Of course, all the riders will be going into the race to try and win it, but our aim is to try to get some understanding of what the British professional team will be all about."
The National Road Race Championships/Robert Price Grand Prix of Wales takes place on June 28, during the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling.
In addition to Isle of Man star Cavendish, the proposed GB squad includes three ex-national champions and three Tour de France riders:
* Geraint Thomas: Welshman who completed Le Tour at his first attempt in 2007
The GB under-23 side, which will run under the team name of 100% ME, contains Cavendish's Isle of Man colleague Peter Kennaugh, himself achieving terrific things on a bike now, plus Steven Burke, who won bronze in the Individual Pursuit at the Beijing Olympics.
Double Beijing gold medalist Bradley Wiggins has already confirmed his entry to the nationals, and Olympic road race gold medalist and reigning world champion Nicole Cooke will be riding in the women's event on June 27.
Festival organiser Bill Owen said: "With the Junior National Championships also taking place in Abergavenny on the same weekend – that will be all three happening in the same town for the first time – it really is an incredible prospect.
"To have so many riders who could win the men's race all going for the biggest title in the country at the same time gives us, I believe, the best road race field the National Championships has ever had.
"This just goes to prove that road racing is catching up rapidly on the track dominance and we can't predict which one of Mark Cavendish, Roger Hammond, Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Froome or anyone else, like Russell Downing, Rob Hayles or even one of the youngsters, will cross the line first. We can't wait."
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