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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for December 30, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

An interview with Jason McCartney

Good things come to those who win

Jason McCartney
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

American Jason McCartney turned in a remarkable season last year, winning a stage and riding well at the Tour de Georgia, winning the new Olympic Trials for a ticket to Athens and nearly capturing a win in San Francisco. Because of his consistent performance, Santa Claus decided to bring McCartney a special present this year - a spot on Lance Armstrong's new Discovery Channel Pro Tour team. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski caught up with the Coralville, Iowa resident to see how his preparations for the "big show" were going and to reflect on the past season.

Cyclingnews: There are more than a few big changes coming up for you this next year. How are you feeling?

Jason McCartney: A little excited, a little nervous. It's all new so I'm excited for that since I've been doing the same thing for like six years - now I get a chance to try something new.

CN: What do your old friends from the U.S. peloton think of your move?

JM: Everyone on HealthNet was pretty happy. I'm definitely going to miss the convenience of being here - it's pretty easy to live here and race.

CN: What are the first things you are going to do with the team?

JM: The first thing is the team presentation, so that will be the first real thing. Then training camp near Santa Barbara. I went to the one in Austin recently - there were like twelve of us there. It was pretty fun, a lot more low key than I thought it would be. It was a nice introduction to the team - a different level from what I am used to.

Click here to read the full interview

De Clercq announces retirement again

Mario de Clercq will ride his last cyclo-cross race on December 30 in Surhuisterveen, the Netherlands, after making a surprise announcement today that he is retiring from the sport. De Clercq made a similar decision at this time last year, but opted to continue racing as it involved less time away from his family than a job as a directeur sportif with But this time, the 38 year old seems to have made a firm decision.

"On Thursday, I will put a line under my career as a rider," said De Clercq, who will take up a job as a teacher at the cycling school in Ronse. "Physically, I am not empty, but mentally the last few weeks were very hard - training in bad weather, parcourses that didn't really suit me...I'm happy that on Thursday it will all be over."

De Clercq said that he has no regrets about stopping. "When I saw my father become World Champion, I dreamed of becoming Belgian champion one time. I became World Champion three times. Beautiful. And I'll soon be 39. I think that there aren't so many who have had such a long career." De Clercq started his career in 1991 with Buckler, and followed a full road racing program for many years. He rode for Lotto between 1993 and 1995, then changed to Palmans in 1996, where he has more or less been ever since, save for a brief period with Domo-Farm Frites in 2001. In 2002, he finished 5th in the Belgian road championships, and he also has a 14th in Paris-Roubaix, 4th in Het Volk, 3rd in Flèche Brabanconne and 3rd in Grand Prix de Wallonie on his road palmares.

In cyclo-cross, De Clercq is considered one of the best ever, with victories in the World Championships (1998, 1999 and 2002), Belgian Championships (2001, 2002), World Cup (1999 + four race wins), and six Superprestige race wins. His last win came on Monday in the Sylvester Cyclo-cross in Veldegem.

De Clercq's final year has not been without problems, as he was one of the four professional riders named in the Landuyt doping affair, which broke late in 2003. However, unlike Museeuw, Peers and Planckaert, De Clercq has not been given a sanction by the Belgian cycling federation as his case has been postponed until next year.

Vanthourenhout to Rabobank

As of January 1, 2005, Sven Vanthourenhout will join Rabobank's Continental Team. The 23 year-old cyclo-cross rider will sign a two year deal Rabobank, joining Sven Nys, Richard Groenendaal and Bart Aernouts in the team.

"We are well disposed towards cyclo-cross and Vanthourenhout is a very talented rider," said Rabobank team CEO Theo de Rooij. "Of his level, I don't see any possible additions to our team in the Netherlands. That's why we love to have Sven Vanthourenhout on our team...We won't exclude a career in road racing for Vanthourenhout on beforehand, but at the moment that's out of the question."

Vanthourenhout leaves Quick Step-Davitamon after reaching an agreement with Patrick Lefevere to break his contract, which still had two years to run. De Rooij said that his team had not been involved in the completion of that agreement. "I'm attached to a fraternal and respectful contact with other teams," he said. "And that's what we've signed for as a ProTour organization. Sven came to us. Continuously we have made clear that we first wanted him to finalise his business with his current team in a proper way. But after a divorce no one can forbid you a second marriage."

In 2001 Sven Vanthourenhout was crowned U23 World Champion in Tabor, Czech Republic. During the last World Championships in Pontchâteau, France, he finished third in the professionals. Vanthourenhout has also won three national titles in cyclo-cross: in 1997 he was Belgian national champion in the novices category, and won the junior title in 1998 and 1999.

Brajkovic to Discovery

Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia)
Photo ©: AFP
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U23 World time trial champion Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia has signed for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, the team announced today. Brajkovic becomes the 28th member of the team and will join his new teammates at the team's annual winter training camp in California on January 11. Following the camp, Brajkovic will return to his current team, Krka Novo Mesto, and rejoin the Discovery Channel team upon turning professional on July 31, 2005.

The team's sports manager, Johan Bruyneel, was pleased to add Brajkovic to the team's roster. "We were looking to make another addition to the team and thought about taking a young rider," said Bruyneel. "I saw Brajkovic's results in the time trial at the World's and thought it was very impressive, as he beat the race favourite (Thomas Dekker) who seemed, at least on paper, almost unbeatable. We did some research on him and talked with some other people and then saw his test results, and found them to be very promising. He then came to Belgium today and we tested him ourselves and saw the same results.

"I have a really good feeling about (signing Brajkovic). Today confirmed that I think he can become a good bike rider."

In 2004, Brajkovic won a stage and finished second overall at the GP Tell, won the Trofeo Banca Popolare Piva and finished second in the U23 European time trial prior to winning gold at the World's.

Beltrán to do Tour/Vuelta double

Manuel Beltrán, one of the top tour riders in the Discovery Channel team, will compete in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España next season, as he has done for the last few years. Beltrán described the races as "the two most important races in the world where there are the best riders on the planet."

"The Tour is unsurpassed. It is a race that captures the interest of all the fans and I dream a lot of riding it. The Vuelta is the most important race in Spain and I hope that I can make the jiennenses [Beltrán's local fans] as happy as I did this year by wearing the gold jersey for three days."

12 foreign teams for Algarve

The Volta ao Algarve, which takes place in Portugal between February 16-20, will see at least 12 foreign teams on the start line. It's expected that no less than five of these will be ProTour teams, including Discovery Channel, Davitamon-Lotto and Cofidis. But one of Portugal's best known riders, Jose Azevedo (Discovery Channel), is not expected to take part.

Di Luca and Marzoli meet blues artist Matt Leddy

Di Luca and Leddy
Photo ©: Meat Cutters
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Danilo Di Luca (Bianchi-Liquigas) and Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffe' Mokambo) recently took time from their busy training schedules to visit Texas blues artist and guitar slinger, Matt Leddy, who has been on tour in Europe during the month of December, at The Grand Canyon in nearby Pescara.

Leddy, a former Category I road and track cyclist from Houston, retired from racing in 1996 following the U.S. Olympic trials. Leddy is still a cycling fanatic, and keeps one of his bikes at the Cicli Alpina shop in Umbertide, Italy. He also regularly attends the Tour De France and Giro d'Italia, and rides 200 miles (320 km) a week to stay fit.

Leddy was reportedly very excited to meet the two professional cyclists. "This is a special moment for me," he said. "While I am a diehard Lance Armstrong fan, I am also a great fan of both Danilo and Ruggero. They are both great cyclists and gentlemen."

After their initial meeting, Leddy posed for pictures with both cyclists, and presented each with CD's. Following an interview with Di Luca on national Italian television, the Texas blues musician then presented Di Luca (who also plays drums) with a pair of drum sticks, which were signed by each member of his touring band, Italy's Rico Blues Combo.

Hegg directs for Team Seasilver

US based Team Seasilver has announced that Olympic gold medalist Steve Hegg will be its new Team Director Adjoint. "Steve has always carried with him the highest level of integrity and winning determination that has become his trademark," said Team Director/Manager Greg Bourque. "He will be a very valuable asset to our team at the big races.

Hegg represented the USA twice at the Olympic Games, winning a gold and silver medal on the track at the Los Angeles Games in 1984. He also won gold in the Goodwill Games and two gold medals in the Pan American games. In 1996, he rode in the road race at the Atlanta Games.

Before he took up cycling, Hegg, aged 17, was the youngest downhill skier to be ranked number one in the world. He won four U.S. National titles in skiing before converting to cycling. He has also completed the New York Marathon and the 2000 Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. He holds the World Record for speed in Human Powered Boats and a golf handicap of between 6 and 7.

Outside of sport, Hegg has contributed to many community programs such as the Drug Use is Life Abuse, Tour de Palm Springs Charity ride, and as a speaker for the Los Angeles Sheriff's department. He is recognized for his ability to commentate during cycling events.

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