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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for October 7, 2006

Edited by Laura Weislo and Jeff Jones

Merckx believes Landis

Photo ©: Emory Ball
(Click for larger image)

Eddy Merckx, who has long kept silent on the matter of 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis' positive drugs test, has told Het Laatste Nieuws that he feels the matter is a mistake. Because his son Axel was part of the now defunct Phonak squad with Landis, Merckx was frequently questioned about the issue, but refused to comment until now. He told the Belgian newspaper, "I don't believe that he took anything illegal. Landis did only what he had to. I don't know for sure, of course, because I wasn't there. But for me it [the affair] remains a mistake."

Merckx feels that cycling takes an unfairly large burden when it comes to the anti-doping cause. "There are many more controls in cycling than in all other sports. No wonder that there are people caught. The doping controls are the strictest and most frequent in the world. But one thing must be certain: you can't be a great athlete if you use dope. " He went on to express his optimism for the future of the sport, saying "Cycling is a sport of the people. As long as we keep using the bicycle - and tell me, who doesn't do that? - the sport will continue to exist."

Saunier Duval for Paris-Tours

Saunier Duval-Prodir will divide up their squad to enter two major races this weekend. The Pro Tour team lining up for Paris-Tours on Sunday will be sprinter Francisco Ventoso, Juan Jose Cobo, Peter Mazur, Javier Mejías, Alberto Fernández, David Cañada, Luciano Pagliarini and Carlos Zárate. Starting Italy's Giro dell´Emilia are Manuele Mori, Ricardo Riccò, Marco Pinotti, Nicolas Fritsch, Rubens Bertogliati, Guido Trentin, Christophe Rinero and Oliver Zaugg.

Gerolsteiner confident in Rebellin

A week before the Tour of Lombardy, Team Gerolsteiner will head to two races in Italy. On Saturday, the team will start the 89th Giro dell'Emilia, and on Sunday the GP Beghelli. Heading into these two races, director sportif Christian Wegmann expressed his confidence in the team, saying, "We're very well prepared. If everything goes well, we should have at least one rider on the podium".

Wegmann will be counting on his brother Fabian as well as Davide Rebellin to lead the team. In both races, it will be important for them to ride near the front, "We need to be safe going into Lombardy, but if either Fabian or David find themselves on a good wheel, they will try for a good result. Both are in good form, and both courses are particularly good for them."

The two Gerolsteiner riders proved their form to be good on a similar course in the Züri Metzgete earlier this month, where Rebellin was third and Wegmann eleventh. They've also shown that the courses in Italy suit their abilities. Rebellin was fourth at last year's Giro dell'Emilia, and Wegmann fourth at the 2005 GP Beghelli. Rebellin and Wegmann will be supported by Torsten Hiekmann, Andrea Moletta, Matthias Russ, Georg Totschnig, Beat Zberg and stagiaire Johannes Fröhlinger.

Gerrans rates McCann for Herald-Sun Tour

- McEwen and Vogels to arrive at start in helicopter

Simon Gerrans is hoping to become just the fourth man to defend his title of Jayco Herald-Sun Tour champion in the Australian stage race that starts this Sunday in Melbourne.

2005 Tour winner Simon Gerrans (centre) chats with Hilton Clarke (L)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

But after arriving in the Victorian capital to a blustery 30-degree day on Wednesday, he tested his legs up one of the decisive climbs of the race, Lake Mountain, and experienced vastly different conditions.

"It was pretty cold up there, I was quite surprised, I got snowed on and there was hail, all sorts of weather so it was a bit of a shock."

The Victorian rider, who was part of the AG2r Prévoyance squad at this year's Tour de France, will be the leader of a composite Australian team that also features ProTour team riders such as Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and Trent Lowe (Discovery).

Gerrans, who also won the 2006 Tour Down Under held in Adelaide last January, goes into the race as favourite but rates Irishman David McCann, who will ride with the Giant Asia Racing team, as one of the biggest threats. "I watched him ride at the World Championships a couple of weeks ago and he was really strong and has a really good team, so I rate him highly."

McCann arrived in Melbourne early to prepare for the race and after finishing third last year his expectations are high. "Obviously I want to go one or even two spots better than last year but there is a lot of competition. There's Robbie and Simon but there are any number of potential winners, it's a smaller field than last year but the quality is probably higher than ever," McCann said.

Meanwhile, organisers have revealed that McEwen will make his grand entrance just hours before the start of the first stage of the Sun Tour in Shepparton this Sunday. The three-time Tour de France sprint champion will fly from his home on the Gold Coast in Queensland, over 2000kms north of Melbourne, early on Sunday morning, before boarding a helicopter at Tullamarine airport that will take him and teammate Henk Vogels, plus their bikes, to Shepparton for the opening stage criterium.

As expected, McEwen will be favourite for Sunday's opening stage and Gerrans believes that McEwen could dominate the race, at least until the climb up Lake Mountain on Thursday. "He could win five of the seven stages, but I'm not sure how he'll go up the climb. He's in great form and is such a great rider, but I don't think he'll go up that mountain as well as some of us."

Other sprinters not so keen to have TdF star

Victorian Hilton Clarke, from the US-based Navigators Insurance squad, won the final stage in Lygon Street, Melbourne, last year, overhauling Baden Cooke to take the overall sprinters title. Clarke has been in excellent form while racing in the highly competitive USA criterium circuit.

"I'm in good form and I won a few races in the US this year. I was relaxed and was really looking forward to the race, but then I heard that Robbie was racing and I've been nervous and on edge ever since," Clarke told reporters. "It's always exciting to have another go at Robbie on home turf so now I'm looking forward to it. I'm one of the few to get the better of him on home soil so I'm up for the challenge.

Hilton Clarke of the Navigators team will be looking
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

"I wasn't too excited when I heard he was arriving, but it's made me focus a bit more and I'm always up for a challenge. I was hoping that I'd be the measuring stick this year, but now I don't have to beat the best in Australia, I have the beat the best in the world."

All riders agree that the climb to Lake Mountain and the time trial in Kew will be pivotal to their overall Tour aspirations; however, there is another element that weighs heavily on the minds of all the leading protagonists - the weather. "The wind on the flats stages can be even more decisive," said McCann.

Clarke added, "Everyone's talking about Lake Mountain and the climb but before then the ride from Shepparton to Bendigo is so open that guys like Robbie and maybe myself can really tear it apart if it's windy. That may sort out the top ten riders and then it will be out of that ten to see who gets up Lake Mountain first."

Gerrans is anxious for the Tour to begin: "I've never gone into a stage race as the defending champion before, so it's a whole new experience so it will be good to see how I handle the pressure.

"It's my home-town race so it is really important to me so I'll be doing everything I can to try and win."

Ninety-eight riders, representing 14 teams and 13 countries will compete over seven days, seven stages and 820km in this year's Tour. The line-up contains the defending champion, along with riders who have amassed impressive titles - including three Olympic gold medallists, four world champions, eight Olympians and ten former stage winners in what is one of the strongest fields in the history of the event (see race section for stages and details).

Share the road, say cycling groups

Cyclists are asking motorists and cyclists alike to share the road better after a spate of cyclist deaths and injuries. National cycling organisation BikeNZ today called for nationwide campaigns to educate motorists and cyclists on how to co-exist safely on the road. BikeNZ Chief Executive Rodger Thompson said, "These recent crashes don't tell us that cycling is necessarily unsafe, but they do show an urgent need for changes in driver and cyclist behaviour."

BikeNZ's member organisations also want to see action. Mark Ireland, President of road and track body Cycling NZ, said, "I am very concerned with the current behaviour of some of the general public and motorists towards cyclists and with daylight saving having arrived, there are many more cyclists out on the road and greater potential for unpleasant incidents."

Recent incidents involving competitive cyclists have included a group of riders in Te Awamutu being hit from behind, and Tauranga cyclists being threatened with a baseball bat and assaulted. The chairperson of the Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN), Robert Ibell, said that very few motorists actually deliberately set out to harm cyclists. "Many motorists are unsure about how they should behave around cyclists. CAN is concerned that driver training and licensing doesn't deal with this."

With increasing numbers of commuter, recreational and competitive cyclists, BikeNZ is calling for the Government to fund and co-ordinate a nationwide Share the Road campaign, including television advertising. It also wants to see all New Zealand children receiving cycling skills training at school.

Mark French to SHM roller derby at the Bicycling Australia show

Four-time Junior World Champion Mark French will be competing in the SHM Roller Derby at the Cyclecover Insurance Bicycling Australia Show in Melbourne on Sunday October 15.

A showdown between French and former Australian Keirin and Team Sprint Champion, Joel Leonard, could be on tap should they both make it through to the finals. Also in the mix will be Malaysian Olympian Josiah Ng.

Junior competitors include Victorian representatives at the 2006 Australian Track Championships Jake King, Pete Johnstone and Ben Sanders.


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