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Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for December 25, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Seasons greetings from

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At the end of another fantastic year of racing from around the globe, the entire staff wishes our readers all the best for the holiday season. We've enjoyed another season of continued growth and exciting race coverage, and extend our thanks to you for your support and thanks to our advertisers for their support, without which the site could not continue to grow as it has.

A big thank you as well to the numerous contributors from around the world who help extend the reach of our staff, already spread across three continents.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2004.

Cyclingnews reader poll

Today we begin the unveiling of the winners of the Cyclingnews year end survey. As the American cyclo-cross season comes to a close and the European season continues to charge towards the World Championships at the end of January, what better way to kick off the awards than with the male cyclo-cross and female cyclo-cross racers of the year?

Each day a new category and its winner will be announced, culminating in the Rider of the Year award on January 1, 2004, just in time for a new year to begin and new favourites to emerge. Votes have been tallied for best riders in cycling's various disciplines, the best new products, best bikes, favourite moments of the 2003 season, legends of cycling, and more.

Cyclingnews thanks all (and there were many) who took the time to complete this year's survey.

Beltran targets Tour and Vuelta

"To repeat 2003 will be difficult," Spain's Manuel Beltran commented this week, referring to his solid season during which he helped US Postal Service leader Lance Armstrong to victory in the Tour de France, Roberto Heras to victory in the Vuelta a España, and Igor Astarloa and Alejandro Valverde to gold and silver in the World Championships road race in Canada.

Nonetheless, the experienced Beltran is eager to tackle another full season with US Postal in 2004 and once more ride the Tour and Vuelta.

Beltran left the failing Team Coast this spring, courted by Armstrong and US Postal as a key lieutenant for the Tour. He joined US Postal prior to the Dauphiné Libéré and quickly proved his worth in the mountains, earning selection for the team's Tour squad. Beltran also was among the leaders in the first half of this year's Vuelta, and could assume more of a leadership role following Heras' move to Liberty Seguros.

Fassa Bortolo approved

The UCI announced Wednesday that the Fassa Bortolo team has presented the required documentation to maintain its place in the Division I ranks for 2004. With 25 teams now confirmed for Division I, five remain in 'pending' status, with a deadline of January 8, 2004 for the submission of the necessary documents. The five teams as yet unconfirmed for Division I are Alessio-Bianchi, Domina Vacanze, Kelme-Costa Blanca, Milaneza-MSS, and US Postal Service.

Café Baque looks for additional sponsor

The Spanish Division II Café Baque team has confirmed 17 riders for its 2004 roster, but remains in search of an additional sponsor to solidify its finances for the coming season. Team management confirmed the 17 man roster in Durango, Spain this week, noting that the 2004 season is assured but additional funding would help secure the team's position in the longer term.

"At the moment we have a guaranteed team for 2004 with Café Baque, which will be the primary sponsor for the team," said team manager Erkaitz Elkoroiribe, adding that former title sponsor Labarca 2 would continue its support but in a diminished capacity relative to the previous season.

Telecommunications company Orbitel, sponsor of the 05 Orbitel team in Colombia, has joined Café Baque for the coming season, in a sense following its star Félix Cardenas, who left 05 Orbitel mid-season to join Café Baque in time to ride the Vuelta a España.

Debut for Division III Brazilian team

A new Division III team from Brazil will make its debut in 2004. Boasting an international roster of mostly first year professionals, the planned 11 man team thus far has confirmed eight riders for the coming season. Led by directors Waldecir Alves de Oliveira from Brazil and Jacques Jolidon of Switzerland, the JaJo-Santa Catarina team has signed the following riders:

Troy Glennan (Australia)
Reginaldo Grellmann (Brazil)
Ron Hudson (USA)
Leandro Lutz (Brazil)
Sacha Maillard (France)
Jason Ozenberger (USA)
Jake Rytlewski (USA)
Anderson Zolmer (Brazil)

Santa Cruz launches its Syndicate

Santa Cruz Bicycles has announced the formation of Santa Cruz Syndicate, a mountain bike team comprised of top athletes in gravity racing, street, urban, free ride and ultra-marathon. The team's goal was to transcend the usual idea of a factory team and have athletes represent the bicycle manufacturer across the globe.

"It makes more sense for us to have athletes that will race in the top events in the world and participate in street and free-ride events, festivals and contests", said Rob Roskopp, owner of Santa Cruz Bicycles. "We feel this format is better for us than a standard factory race team, with X number of downhill and cross-country racers."

Riders will be allowed to sign individual sponsors for personal items, such as clothing, goggles, helmets and shoes. Riders with individual clothing sponsors will be flying them in Syndicate colours, and have all Syndicate sponsors on their jerseys. The equipment package will be provided by Santa Cruz Syndicate, and will be identical for all riders.

Leading the Santa Cruz Syndicate is current World Cup Downhill Champion Nathan Rennie from Australia, whose main goals are to repeat as World Cup Champion and win a World Championship. Joining Rennie is American Kirt Vories, who will be racing all major gravity events and still continuing with his successful All Ride program.

Young Americans Cameron Zink and Henry O'Donnell, both 17 years old, are waiting in the wings and eager to move to the senior ranks. Zink (whose free-riding was for the Santa Cruz backed Superheroes team in 2003) will be splitting time between the two disciplines, allowing him to develop his racing and free-riding skills, the latter of which will still be in conjunction with the Superheroes Team. O'Donnell is the reigning Junior National Downhill Champion.

Marathon rider Mark Hendershot will be competing in various ultra-distance events, including Sea Otter, National Series, and the 24-hour solo World Championships in Whistler, Canada, while 2003 team member Johnny Waddel, who will be sitting out the 2004 racing season, will travel with the team and assist in operations relating to racing and technical expertise.

Boulder Stage Race highlights new series

Clark Sheehan Productions (CSP) is building on the success of their eight race Wednesday Worlds series, held at INVESCO Field at Mile High during the summer of 2003. A bigger and better Wednesday Worlds will return for 2004, along with a new stage race, a new race series and the revival of a Colorado classic, all brought to you by CSP. All of the races are set to take place in and around Boulder, more than doubling the number of races held in the bike-friendly town for 2004.

The Front Range racing season will begin with four races at Stazio Field in Boulder, taking place each Sunday during the month of March. The Excel Sports Boulder Stage Race, presented by The Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, starts with an individual time trial on the infamous Morgul-Bismark circuit, followed by a circuit race using a course north of Boulder, and wrapping up with a brutal mass start hill climb up Sunshine Canyon. The race fits nicely into the 2004 ACA racing calendar, taking place May 7-9. Racing will take place in all categories, with juniors racing for free.

The closest thing to a Colorado Classic, the Boulder Roubaix, will be back on the original course, with all categories racing April 4th, 2004. Wednesday Worlds rolls out the first race on June 2nd, with eight Wednesdays of racing wrapping up on July 21.

Ban on Flanders flags?

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The Flemish flag, yellow with the black lion of Flanders, has long been a symbol of the cycling-mad Flanders region of Belgium and the cycling-mad locals who live there. A sea of yellow greets the riders in events throughout Belgium, whether it be on the road or in the dirt of cyclo-cross. Even in the high mountains of the Tour de France the flags will fly, despite the Belgians' usual preference for the tough northern classics over the climbs of the grand tours.

Ironic then that a Belgian should become the victim of his own fans. At the recent Vlaamse Industrieprijs Bosduin cyclo-cross race in Kalmthout, Ben Berden suffered a broken nose after being smacked by a Flemish flag wielded by a young fan eager on getting his own TV time that day. The incident, which was serious for Berden but not so serious as to provoke any legal action against the fan, still prompted race organisers to consider the draconian measure of banning them altogether at future events. Berden still managed fifth place in the race behind winner Bart Wellens.

Aside from similar safety issues, sponsors have also lodged their own complaints that the flags obscure their advertisements during television broadcasts. In response, the Belgian cycling federation has announced that the flags could be banned from the roadside (or along the course in cyclo-cross), difficult for some to imagine.

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