Latest Edition Cycling News for December 19, 2006
Edited by Laura Weislo
Former Astana riders find teams
By Monika Prell and Antonio J. Salmerón
After a year spent under the scrutiny of the Operación Puerto investigation, and the cancellation of the ProTour licence of Active Bay last Friday, many of the young riders from Manolo Saiz' team are still without contracts. Some, like Alberto Contador, Carlos Barredo, Luis León Sánchez and José Joaquín Rojas are reported to be in negotiations with ProTour teams. But there are still many young cyclists who don't have a contract, such as Carlos Abellán, José Antonio Redondo, Eladio Sánchez (all neo-pros in 2006) as well as Daniel Navarro and Iván Santos (second year pro's).
The signing of Contador to the Discovery Channel seems to be definitive - in Johan Bruyneel's words, "Alberto Contador is lucky because he has got a team for the next season." Carlos Barredo owes his contract with Quick Step to his good results in the spring classics like the Tour of Flanders and Milano-San Remo. Contador and Barredo reportedly signed pre-contracts while waiting for formal dissolution of their contract with Manolo Sáiz and Active Bay.
The situation is not quite as certain for Luis León Sánchez and José Joaquín Rojas. Rojas made his debut last January in the Tour Down Under, where he contributed to the second place reached by his teammate and countryman Luis León Sánchez. The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears manager, Jose Miguel Echávarri, has contacted both riders, but there are other ProTour squads that desire to draft these riders. T-Mobile, Discovery Channel, and Marc Biver's Astana team were all reportedly in contact with the two riders. Astana and Discovery Channel's inquiries didn't go far. "At the moment, [Astana] has not got a Pro Tour licence", Rojas told Cyclingnews. Discovery Channel did not make any further discussions.
The T-Mobile team, who most likely has the best financial resources to take the riders on, and had also tried previously to reach an agreement of with Active Bay to sign Contador, Rojas and Sánchez, but due to contract issues, it was impossible at the time. "Now, I have to also listen to T-Mobile's offer, and then, if there aren't any others, I will decide which one seems more interesting for my future", José Joaquín Rojas told Cyclingnews.
Ale-Jet keeps a positive outlook
Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) had a bad 2006 season. He had 'only' 13 wins - ten of them stage wins, including all five stages of Oddset Rundfahrt and the overall GC. For most riders, this would be the ride of a lifetime, but for a sprinter who took stage wins in all three Grand Tours in 2005, not getting a single tour stage was a big disappointment. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez talked to the dapper Italian to find out how he plans to overcome the setbacks of 2006.
Alessandro 'Ale-Jet' Petacchi started out the season on a good note by continuing his winning form from 2005. He came out flying, winning the GP Costa degli Etruschi , and taking two stages at Vuelta a Andalucia in a 'clash of the titans' against Tom Boonen. Petacchi followed this by bagging two stages at the Comunidad Valenciana Tour, then went on to win the Giro della Provincia di Lucca, one stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, before going on to simply demolished the competition by winning all stages and the overall at the Oddset Rundfahrt. But things quickly went south in Petacchi's first major goal of the season, the Giro d’Italia.
Early in the tour, on stage three in Namur, Belgium, a multi-rider crash occurred, sending one rider sliding into Petacchi, hooking his handlebars. Ale-Jet felt over on his left side and hit his left knee hard. Remarkably, Petacchi finished the stage, but an x-ray later that evening showed that he had broken his kneecap. He had to leave the race before it even touched Italian soil. The break required surgery, and the long recovery meant that he also had to miss the Tour de France.
Petacchi was back on the bike in time for the Vuelta a España, and this tour was supposed to be his revenge. But luck wasn’t on his side once again, as he didn’t manage to win a single stage for two reasons: he wasn’t in perfect condition due to his recovery process from surgery for the first two weeks, and then a fit of anger ended his season on stage 15. On the flat stage to Almussafes, Ale-Jet was ready to fly to victory, but once again fate had other plans.
Click here to read the full feature.
Valverde not sure about Vuelta
Alejandro Valverde told the Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo that he is not sure if he will participate at the Vuelta a España 2007. It will depend on his performance at the Tour de France and he will decide after the Tour whether he will ride the Vuelta. "This year I had not thought in riding the Vuelta, and after my abandon of the Tour, caused by my fall, everything had to be re-organized, so it is still very early to say if I'll be at the start of the Vuelta", confirmed the cyclist.
Valverde said that he feels content about his results this year, because "I was the first in the UCI- ProTour and, in addition I won really prestigious competitions." He wishes 2007 to "be a good season and that cycling will not be polluted by scandals like the Operación Puerto".
García Quesada's struggle with Unibet
By Monika Prell
All cyclists involved in the Operación Puerto are living through a hard time, but Carlos García Quesada seems to be having an even harder one. The 28 year old turned pro in 2002 with the Kelme team, and in 2006 rode for Unibet.com. Because of his implication in the scandal, the Spanish rider was suspended on June 30, but the suspension was lifted only two weeks later, because the team had no official information that their cyclist was really involved in the case. So García Quesada, who this year won the Vuelta a Andalucia and one stage of the Vuelta a Murcia, completed his season like any other cyclist. However, according to the Spanish newspaper El País, he has not received any pay since August 1.
In September he wrote a letter of complaint to the team and indicated his willingness to undergo a DNA test to prove his innocence. The team's answer was short and hard: According to El País they did not pay him since August with the objective of forcing an end of the contract.
In October, the team invented a new strategy - they made Garcia Quesada, whose contract runs through 2007, undergo not only a series of medical analyses, but also psychological tests. They said they would evaluate the results and use it to further process of the selection, which, according to El País, means that they intend to use it as a basis to cancel the contract.
However, the rider is fighting back. Unless García Quesada can come to an agreement with the team, he intends to sue the squad in a court in Granada, and request that it freeze the team's guarantees with the UCI, a total of 532,000 Euros. Unibet, who only last week received its ProTour license, which is only granted to teams that "have a clean record concerning ethical, economical and social aspects", is seeking to distance themselves from the long-running Operación Puerto investigation to ensure their participation in the ProTour.
Dajka convicted, but wants to compete
2002 world keirin champion Jobie Dajka was convicted this week of assaulting the Australian cycling coach Martin Barras, but escaped any jail time after being charged with thirteen separate offenses, including assault, theft, and driving while disqualified. Dajka pled guilty and was given a three-month suspended jail term, fined over $2600 and was ordered to write a letter to Barras expressing his remorse.
Dajka's troubles began when he was implicated in a 2003 Australian doping scandal along with teammate Mark French, which led to his expulsion from the 2004 Athens Olympic team. The scandal led only to Dajka being found guilty of lying about injecting himself with legal vitamin supplements. Dajka was attempting to re-start his career in June of 2005 when Barras informed him he was being kicked off the AIS team for 'discipline problems'. An angered Dajka grabbed Barras by the throat and threw him to the ground.
After this incident, Dajka crashed his car three times while driving disqualified, leaving the scene and failing to report the incidents within 24 hours, stole cigarettes and violated terms of his bail by leaving South Australia. Dajka expressed frustration last year after the assault, calling the sport "corrupt and drug ridden" and threatening to quit altogether.
In 2005, Dajka was handed a three-year suspension for the assault by Cycling Australia, which Dajka blames on problems with alcohol. "I was going through a tough period in my life and every bad thing that I have done in the last two years has been due to being intoxicated, so taking care of that has basically been the turning point in my life," Dajka said outside court, according to The Australian.
Especially disturbing, in light of the recent death of elite cyclist Scott Peoples on Australian roads, is Dajka's driving offences. The Magistrate in the case, Jonathan Harry, had harsh words on this subject for Dajka. "It's hard to imagine greater defiance of a court order than driving disqualified three times and causing damage to other road users," he said. "Your overall conduct was disgraceful."
Dajka is hopeful that his problems are behind him, and that he can return to competition soon. He has appealed to Cycling Australia to have his license reinstated, but as yet, he is not clear to compete. "As long as I stay straight, put my head down and bum up, I will be back there ... I will be there for sure," he said.
He is vowing to race again as soon as the Tasmanian Christmas Carnival, and wants to clear things up with Barras so that he can compete in the Olympics in Beijing. "I'd rather have a bit of contact with him and get things over and done with now so we can plan on working together later on and avoid any trouble later on," he said, according to The Daily Telegraph. "Because at the end of the day, I will be there in 2008 at the Olympics and he'll be there too, he'll be the coach, so we have got to work together."
Successful Living for 2007
Successful Living pro cycling team announced the roster for their second season under that title. The team is directed by Olympic gold medallist Steve Hegg and Gianluca Caliari. Caliari selected Alessandro Bazzana from Team Zalf Desirè Fior, a leading amateur team in Italy which has groomed Pro Tour talents such as Damiano Cunego, Paolo Savoldelli and Ivan Basso. Also selected are Argentinean Ricardo Escuela, who will be the team’s main sprinter. Escuela has over forty victories in his career, including stage seven in the 'Baby Giro'. Serbian National team member Dusan Ganic will offer his strong solo and time trial skills. "Only a few racers in the US will recognize these names at first but by the end of the season, these guys will be the ones to keep an eye on" said co-director Gianluca Caliari.
Returning riders include Curtis Gunn who earned his first NRC win in the last stage of Tour de Nez in 2006. Alexi Martinez returns stronger than ever in his sophomore year with European racing experience this past summer in the Cycling Center program based in Belgium. Daniel Ramsey earned an impressive tenth place finish at Nationals Championships in the individual time trial and will be instrumental in all the major stage races. Ryan Yee, also serving as 'rider manager', will bring his leadership skills and riding talent to every major race in the US.
For the full roster, click here.
Champion returns to defend title
Three of the biggest names in New Zealand cycling have today been confirmed for next month’s Tryst House Cycle Classic around Wellington and the Wairarapa. Commonwealth Games medallists Hayden Roulston and Gordon McCauley and legendary coach Ron Cheatley have all announced they will be involved with the Trek-Zookeepers Café Team for the event.
Roulston, who won the 2006 event before going on to grab a silver medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March is sure to be one of the front runners for the 2007 event, but he is bound to be pushed all the way by McCauley, who won a bronze medal in Melbourne. Cheatley, who has overseen many New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games cycling campaigns will manage the team.
Roulston defied his doctors to win the New Zealand road title two months ago after being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition. The 25-year-old claimed he was "100 percent cured" but refused to reveal details of his treatment. Roulston was told by his cardiologist to quit riding after he was diagnosed with the incurable heart disease arhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.
"I wanted to prove a point and show everyone that I was back," Roulston said after the race.
McCauley, who is a four times New Zealand road champion and current UCI Oceania Champion will be looking to win the tour for the first time. He will also have a point to prove to New Zealand selectors for leaving him out of the Kiwi team to compete in next month’s Tour Down Under in Australia.
McCauley, whose goal is to ride at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, has a long list of wins in his cycling career, in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA. Known for his aggressive racing style McCauley has always been regarded as a battler but his competitors know "if you give him an inch he’ll take a mile".
Other members of the Trek-Zookeepers Café Team include Marc Ryan. Ryan is a member of the New Zealand track cycling squad and represented his country in the Teams Pursuit event at this year’s World Championships and the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He’s now made his mark on the road racing scene winning this year’s Individual Time Trial and the national Criterium Championship.
19 year old Sam Bewley from Rotorua is another who has made his name on the track. Bewley won Gold at the 2005 World Junior Championships and Silver in the Individual Pursuit. He bases himself in Europe with the New Zealand under 23 team. The final member of the team is 20 year old Matthew Haydock, another excellent track rider in the New Zealand under 23 squad.
Race Director Jorge Sandoval says they'll be the team to watch at criteriums and for the general classification
"With Hayden and Gordon in the team, they have two potential tour winners. Having the top riders of the New Zealand track team to pace them during the stages is a big plus and coupled with their experience they are certain to be dangerous opposition." Sandoval said.
The tour starts on Wednesday January 24th with a Teams Time Trial around Fraser Park in Lower Hutt and finish with the traditional Petone circuit on Sunday 28th at 2pm.
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