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First Edition Cycling News for December 25, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

2006 - was it the beginning of a new era, or more of the same?

Click for larger image

First off, to all of our readers and sponsors, the staff of wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We have enjoyed your support for another year and benefited from your insights, observations and comments.

And this year, there has been much to comment on. Many in the bike industry entered 2006 not really knowing what to expect; they all knew that road cycling was becoming increasingly popular - 'cycling is the new golf' became the catchphrase - but did this growth come from idolisation of one influential figure and would it last, or were these people genuinely in love with the sport; would they continue to be interested in the sport?

Well, after a tumultuous 2006, it would have to be the latter, even if the performance of Lance Armstrong may have put cycling on many a 'options-for-improving-my-fitness' radar. I think we've all seen enough this year to challenge even the most committed partner, if you get my drift.

But platitudes about the selfless nature of love aside, the sport still did deliver in 2006. There were many great performances, exciting races, records broken but still too many headlines we didn't want to report on. And it is this latter point that has to be mentioned - if the authorities who are responsible for managing this sport don't do more work to clean it up, this new-found growth may not last. It is also an issue that the pro riders themselves have to address, too.

It's not just the doping headlines that can make us stop and think, it's also the cyclists who continue to die while out doing what they love to do - whether they are commuting or training, whether they are elite-level or weekend-warriors; there are just too many riders being struck down by careless motorists. What can we do to stop that? It may seem helpless and inevitable, that as more people cycle on roads, then the statistics are against us. I have no magic cure, that's for sure; I can only try to show respect to other road users, and accept that carelessness may not be driven by intent; will abusing a motorist change his or her mind? Probably not. But above all, we should all continue to support efforts to improve the rights and conditions for road cyclists.

So what do our readers think? Well, at this time of year we will also be announcing the results of our global Reader Poll, and it' still not too late to cast your vote. Already the entries this year are huge, and thanks to all of you who've voted, so there may be some surprises in store.

Last year, I closed off our Christmas 'thank you' to our readers and sponsors with a mention of the events of July 18, 2005, in Germany. Well, I'll head into 2007 thinking of a very happy rider who'd just won a criterium this month in pure attacking style. The rider, AIS cyclist Kate Nichols, still showed the scars of that horrid accident in Germany that took the life of her team-mate Amy Gillett, but the spirit and heart were strong. The courage to attack was there - she displayed everything that can be so inspiring about cycling.

A big thank you as well to our diarists and the numerous contributors from around the world who help extend the reach of our staff, already spread across three continents. This year we saw some changes on Cyclingnews and the addition of some great new reporters and editors, who are doing excellent work and making the site even more inclusive and comprehensive. I'd also like to thank and acknowledge the staff who've moved on to new ventures for their great contributions over the years, too.

Cyclingnews was also proud to support four teams racing on three continents this year - a big congratulations to the riders and staff on the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS/Cyclingnews) team in Australia, to Jonathan Vaughters' TIAA-CREF squad in the USA, to Kevin Tabotta and Shayne Bannan and the South - AIS squad, and of course, Team, based in Belgium and preparing to take on the big guns in Europe.

Safe riding, and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2007.

Gerard Knapp, Publisher

Landis wants to win Tour again

Floyd Landis wearing yellow at Paris-Nice this year
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

Floyd Landis, who is slowly recovering from hip surgery, will spend the Christmas holidays with his wife Amber and daughter Ryan at his home in Murrieta, Southern California. The Tour de France winner, discredited because of a positive doping test result for testosterone, hopes that the end of this rather turbulent year will bring him and his family some strength, in order to tackle the difficult months ahead. His hearing in front of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is expected to take place in early 2007, possibly in March.

"Amber and I live from day to day now," said Landis in an interview with Sportwereld, published on Sunday. "We make the best of it. It's never going to be as it was before; the last few months have been a turning point in my life. The holidays will serve as mental rest."

Even though Landis told Belgian media recently that he didn't see himself as a bike racer any more, he has set his eyes on a possible come-back. "I want to be a professional cyclist again," he admitted. "I don't know when - next season or the year after. That goal keeps me sane. I hope that I will be called before the USADA in March, to prove to the world that this never happened. After that, I want to win the Tour again, so that I can get a real party."

The 31 year-old may be a long way away from doing just that, but his physical condition is improving together with his morale. "Each week, it gets batter," he continued. "I've been riding a bit more the last two weeks. Last week I rode during six hours to see how my hip would react. It was perfect. Mentally, it doesn't cost me a lot of energy anymore to step on the bike."

Landis has just accepted an invitation to race at the Leadville Trail, a mountainbike competition in Colorado on August 11, 2007. "I started my cycling career on mountainbike in 1993. I'm eager to go back to my roots. Training for Leadville will be an excellent preparation for a come-back at the Tour de France," he stated in a press release.

Philippe Gilbert: Coming out of Boonen's shadow

With characteristics akin to Paolo Bettini, Philippe Gilbert is Belgium's biggest young gun behind superstar Tom Boonen. Growing in stature and palmarès each year, he'll attempt to ride the fiercest classic of all in 2007, as Jean-François Quénet discovered at the Française des Jeux training camp.

Philippe Gilbert (L) and Tom Boonen
Photo ©: Andrea Hübner
(Click for larger image)

Watching the sea isn't a part of the everyday life of a citizen of the Belgian Ardennes but Philippe Gilbert had an opportunity to breathe the fresh air of the Atlantic Ocean during the five days training camp in the marine centre of Pen Bron near Nantes last week.

It followed the usual annual party of the Française des Jeux team fan club that saw 1,500 members attend. On Saturday, December 9, team manager Marc Madiot announced the winners of the series he personally organises for under-17 cyclists. He also introduced five newcomers: Thierry Marichal (ex-Cofidis), Sébastien Chavanel (ex-Bouygues Telecom), neo-pros Johan Lindgren from Sweden and Tim Gudsell from New Zealand - who enchanted his team-mates with a spectacular demonstration of the haka - as well as future pro Mikaël Chérel, who will be joining the team on August 1.

"It's always exciting to get to know our new team-mates," said 24 year-old Gilbert from their pre-season training camp in the west of France, an FDJ rider since 2003. After introducing Christophe Detilloux to Madiot last year, he is now able to bring compatriot Marichal along, perhaps best known for his service to top team leaders such as Andreï Tchmil at Lotto. "It's important to create a core," said Gilbert.

"Human resources are the key to success in cycling. When I prolonged my contract with Marc Madiot, we agreed on signing one or two Belgian riders. Maybe there'll be another one next year. Marichal is a specialist for the classics. He's one of the best domestiques in cycling. In this sport, as far as I know, rarely does a rider win alone without help."

To read the full interview with Philippe Gilbert, click here.

Sosenka to improve hour record

Czech rider Ondrej Sosenka has already made his New Year's wish for 2007: he wants to improve his own hour record next year, with the objective of reaching 50 km/h. During the record established in Moscow in July 2005, the Acqua&Sapone rider achieved 49,700 km after one hour of track racing.

The time and setting of his new record attempt will be decided in January, with a track in Italy being a possible option. Sosenka is also expected to announce his 2007 team in the coming days.

Hincapie to focus on Classics again

With the departure of Leif Hoste, Roger Hammond, Max van Heeswijk and Vjatcheslav Ekimov, American team Discovery Channel has lost some of its assets for a successful pre-Tour de France Classics season in 2007. "We are weakened for the Classics," admitted directeur sportif Dirk Demol to Dutch Wielrensite. Still, the team has retained George Hincapie, Vladimir Gusev and Stijn Devolder for the spring in Belgium and Northern France.

"With Hincapie, we have a deal that he will going after the Classics again this year," added Demol. "In 2006, Hincapie focused on the Tour, which didn't work out. He was disillusioned with his performance and put aside his Tour plans again."

Eisel Austrian cyclist of the year

Francaise des Jeux rider Bernhard Eisel, who moves to T-Mobile as of next year, has been elected Austrian cyclist of the year by the Austrian cycling federation. The so-called Gestetner Trophy was awarded to Eisel on Friday. Fellow Austrians Bernhard Kohl and René Haselbacher got second and third respectively. Haselbacher had earned the honour in 1998.

Eisel won stages at the Tour of Qatar, the Volta ao Algarve and the Driedaagse van De Panne this year. He also placed fifth in Paris-Roubaix, eleventh at the World Championships in Salzburg and achieved seven top ten placings at the Tour de France.

Historic agreement in Northern Ireland

By Shane Stokes

A long-running political split has come to an end with the announcement that the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation (NICF) will amalgamate with Cycling Ulster in 2007, this affiliating them to the UCI.

NICF clubs recently voted in support of the change in direction, which took place after long negotiations to overcome the political hurdles.

The agreement unites a sport that has been divided for three decades. As a result, NICF member clubs will switch affiliation from British Cycling to Cycling Ireland. The members will still be able to opt for their preferred nationality code, thus preserving their political and cultural identities.

A spokesman for Cycling Ulster said, "This is an historic occasion and will see the Ulster region become the strongest of the four provincial federations. Relationships between the two groups have been harmonious for the past number of years and this coming together can only benefit cycling in the long term."

Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals: a gift to the track cycling world

By Greg Johnson

Matt Goss (TIS/ wins at Latrobe last year
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Matt Goss (TIS/  salutes the crowd and takes out the 2005 Latrobe Wheelrace.

Tasmania's month-long National Grid Christmas Carnival Series gets underway on December 23, 2006 at Rosebery's athletic carnival, with the post-Christmas cycling action commencing on Boxing Day, December 26, with Latrobe's two-day carnival.

"It's going to be fantastic," said president of the Sports Carnival Association of Tasmania (SCAT), Grant Atkins. "I think in total the riders, right across the board, are up on last year slightly, so that's good.

"We've been pushing a policy of trying to let the rest of Australia, out in those big cities, know it's a great series down here and I think that's starting to work."

The Christmas Carnivals' reputation has spread throughout the world of track cycling, and the races have featured riders and training squads from the USA, UK, many European nations and also Japan.

The annual event's growth is reflected in the corporate support from local and multinational businesses - including that of title sponsor National Grid. The United States-based firm, which has interests in mainland-based utilities, provides the island state with electricity from the mainland and has increased its ongoing support of the Christmas Carnival Series. "[They are] the third biggest utility provider in the United States - they've got a annual budget of US$64 billion, I understand," said Atkins. "We're very fortunate to have them; the sponsorship we've picked up this year is good."

To learn more about the 2007 Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals, click here.

Boost for Irish women cyclists

By Shane Stokes

Cycling Ireland’s women’s commission announced this week that the coaching company will combine with the Global Racing Team in Belgium to offer important opportunities for Ireland’s female cyclists.

The sponsorship agreement has come about following talks between the team and former Irish international Scott McDonald of WinningSolutions. The deal means that the Global Racing Team, formerly Team FBUK, will take on an Irish rider of their choice to compete as a professional for the duration of the 2007 season.

In addition, it will work with Cycling Ireland’s Women's Commission in order to look after as many guest riders as possible throughout the year. This will have a clear role in helping to develop riders at the top international level. "We believe it is a fantastic development, and a first for Women's Cycling in Ireland," said Valerie Considine, Chair of the Women's Commission.

McDonald is happy to be involved. "After a few months of discussions and negotiations, I'm thrilled to announce a sponsorship deal with Global Racing Team in Belgium," he stated. It is hoped that the deal will continue beyond 2007, helping to further the growth in standard of Irish women’s racing.

Lines still open... It's time to vote!

Win the latest set of HED wheels

Tom Boonen: Cyclingnews 2005 rider of the year
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Each year, Cyclingnews gives its readers the chance to select the riders, teams, races, moments, equipment and photos that have really stood out from the pack in the last 12 months or so.

From male and female cyclo-crosser and mountain biker of the year, to best product, best team bike, most improved rider, best one-day and stage race, male and female track and road riders, best moment, legend of cycling - soon you'll discover who each of these winners are. But what many of us are really itching to find out is our 'Big Daddy' award: Cyclingnews' 2006 Rider of the Year.

In 2005, then newly-crowned world champion and winner of 14 races, Tom Boonen, ran home a winner with almost 50 percent of the votes, while runner-up Lance Armstrong could only muster the hearts of a mere 20 percent of our readers. This time round, Boonen lost his rainbow stripes to the ever-consistent 'Il Grillo' Paolo Bettini in Salzburg, but the popular boy from Balen won seven more races than he did last year. Has Tommeke done enough to pull it off again?

Win a set of HED's Kermesse road wheels

Bettini's not the only guy he's up against, though - the names of Valverde, Zabriskie, Zabel, Cancellara, Landis, Ullrich, Voigt, Leipheimer, Vos, Pereiro, Bettini, McEwen and Ekimov are also in the mix - and this year's race to become Cyclingnews' Rider of the Year is set to be the closest ever.

And just to keep things interesting, we'll be giving away a set of the latest Kermesse road wheels from HED to one lucky entrant.

The survey should take you less than 10 minutes to complete - you'd be mad not to participate!

Click here to cast your vote in Cyclingnews' 2006 readers' poll.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)

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