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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 10, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Vuelta stage 14 wrap-up

It's Millar time again!

Comeback almost complete
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Saunier Duval's David Millar today finally achieved what he has been hoping since he came back into the pro ranks after his two-year-ban: a complete come-back with a ProTour victory in his specialty, the time trial. In an exciting and tight race today in Cuenca, Millar beat Fabian Cancellara (CSC) by a hair, with Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) taking third place five seconds down.

"I'm very happy! I’ve been feeling better and better over the past two weeks, and I’m much more confident now," said Millar. "Today’s course was quite taxing and in the last part it was all extremely tight, that is where I could do the difference."

As for Cancellara, the disappointment ran deep. "I'm really upset - I wanted to win down here so badly," the Swiss champion said after the race. "For a long time I actually thought my time was good enough to do it. As the time trial went on and more and more riders finished, I became more and more sure, and I even had a better time than Millar at the time check at the top of the climb, but when you start so much later like David did today, you have the advantage that you already know the fastest time, so you aim to beat it. In that case you're often able to dig that much deeper in the end."

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Cancellara explained further that he is not expecting to go all the way to Madrid, as he wants to prepare for the World Championships as much as possible, where the time trial is his main priority.

In the overall classification, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) defended his #1 position against Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), with the Kazakhstani actually losing another 7 seconds on the Spaniard. Carlos Sastre (CSC) also lost some time today, but he retained his third placing. Vinokourov is now fourth, at 1.38 of Valverde.

"It's not a surprise to me," declared Valverde after he crossed the finish line. "This year, I had already shown that I had improved considerably in the time trials. I still had to prove it in a really important one. I started very quickly, but it is in the Alto del Castillo, as well as in the descent that I really gave it all.

"My good result of today is another step towards the final victory. Yesterday, I was the one who won 8 seconds on Vinokourov thanks to the time bonuses and today the Kazakh won those seconds back. On the whole, I believe that the balance is in my favour because many people, and Vinokourov included, thought that I was going to concede much more time in the time trial. I believe to have realized an excellent result and all that I hope for now, it is to continue in the same way until the end of Vuelta."

Click here for the Full results, report & photos and live report.

33 magic number for Gerolsteiner

Things may not be going Gerolsteiner's way in the Vuelta a Espana, but they sure are in the Tour of Poland. Stefan Schumacher won Saturday's queen stage for the team's 33rd victory this year, a team record. Teammate Fabian Wegmann got in second, as Schumacher also took over the leader's jersey.

"It really couldn't have gone better, that was perfect," said directeur sportif Christian Wegmann. "Schumi noticed early in the stage how strong he was today. And he was able to use his strength. No question, he is super satisfied."

Schumacher carries a 10 second lead into Sunday's final stage, which ends with a mountain-top finish. "We will do everything we can to secure the overall win," Wegmann said.

An interview with Gordon Fraser: Turning a new (maple) leaf

Gord Fraser (Health Net)
Photo ©: Matthew Moses
(Click for larger image)

Health Net-Maxxis is just one of the teams that Gord Fraser has raced for during his long career - a career that has been spent racing in both North America and Europe. After twelve years of racing as a professional, Fraser realises that the time is right to move on to the next chapter. He spoke with Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski while he was racing the last NRC race of his career.

Gord Fraser is ending his career as a pro in North America, finishing it in the sunny waters of the Bermuda Grand Prix. But his last NRC race was the criterium nationals in Downers Grove, a race that has a larger emotional meaning to him. "That race marks the passing of my father five years ago," said Fraser. "My mother was there [this year,] so there were a lot of things going on for me. Bermuda is going to be a fun race, but Downers Grove is definitely all business. There were a lot of emotions going on for sure."

Fraser decided during the off-season that this year would be his last. "The winter was tough for me," he said. "It made my decision a lot easier. The training I usually do seemed to be a lot harder for me, both mentally and physically. It reinforced the thinking that this could be my final year. I wanted to get everything out of it I could. Nine years have really flown by, but it is time to move on to other things. I can feel that it

would be really hard for me to maintain the level I expect out of myself. I don't know if I am willing to put in that type of work to keep at an acceptable level. That is a sign to switch to something new."

Click here for the full interview.

Eisel confirmed with T-Mobile

Bernhard Eisel will be riding for Team T-Mobile next year, incoming sport director Rolf Aldag has confirmed. The team "is very happy that we could secure the services of this promising Austrian rider."

Eisel said, "I look forward to the challenge of starting for one of the best and most professional cycling teams in the world. It is also very important to me that the T-Mobile team very openly and consequently treats the doping problem under which our sport suffers - that is very important in times like this."

Eisel has ridden professionally since 2001 and is currently under contract at Francaise des Jeux. The 25 year-old has 14 pro victories, including a stage win in the 2005 Tour de Suisse. He has been nominated for the Austrian team for the upcoming World's in Salzburg.

Aldag building "a team of character"

Rolf Aldag at Paris-Tours 2005
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
Click for larger image

Rolf Aldag, former T-Mobile rider, will take over the position of sports director for the team this fall. He and the new management are full of big plans for changing the team - both its makeup and its philosophy. Aldag revealed a few details of these changes in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau.

The team management is willing to wait for the future "We feel no pressure and don't need to win every race in 2007 We can live fine with that. I put more value on building a team with perspective. That requires strength and time. We have both," he explained.

In addition, "We need a team of character. It's not a secret that our team spirit wasn't always the best the last few years." Specifically, he said, there must be "respect and acceptance of one another's work." For example, "We have someone working on an equal level with a colleague who earns only a small percentage of what a highly-paid pro receives. His job might be to wash bikes when it is 4° and raining. This colleague gets his motivation from the riders. But when a rider shows up at the start wearing four rain jackets and says 'I'm only riding for training today, I don't care,' then that's a catastrophe."

The team's anti-doping policy is being made clear to the riders from the very first talks. "We present our concept and our rules to every rider who rides for us now or wants to come to us. I want to hear a clear 'yes' before I start to speak with his manager about finances. We don't accept a 'yes, but...." Not that he heard it that often. "Most of them didn't say directly to my face that they wouldn't agree to the anti-doping program. Instead they would say they had a better offer from another team."

The team will introduce blood volume tests, and "we plan to make a DNA test for every rider. Our lawyers still have to approve that, though," he noted. In addition, riders will not have their choice of outside doctors. "We will allow only the use of the University Clinic in Freiburg. It was never clear to me why a rider would pay an outside doctor ten percent of his salary, when a university clinic can do everything that is allowed, without requiring the rider to pay a single cent."

The T-Mobile team of the future will be a young one, but the Old Guard will still be around to help the youngsters. "We have experienced riders like Giuseppe Guerini who will stay with us. It is my idea to have these experience people at the side of the young riders. In the sprint department, for example, I can see André Korff in this role, as someone who has a lot of experience and is in the position to pass it on to newcomer Gerald Ciolek."

There will not only be new faces mixed with familiar ones among the riders, but also among the sports directors. "Not all of them will go. Brian Holm and Valerio Piva are definitely staying," Aldag added.

The tall German also confirmed the team's interest in Jens Voigt, but doubts that he will ride for them in 2007. Whether Voigt will come after that is also not clear: "We must first wait and see what his plans for the future are next year." However, Aldag could well imagine Voigt in a management role at the team. "I made that clear to him. As a German rider on a German team with a German sponsor, you have a lot more possibilities for the time after the active career."

Looking at two big names who have left the team for Astana, Andreas Klöden and Matthias Kessler, Aldag noted that the team had not made Kessler an offer. "I told Andreas that he is capable of winning the Tour de France in the next few years - and not just once." He even asked Klöden if he wanted specific personnel, either in team management, as riders, a masseur or mechanic. But in the end, Klöden left the team. Apparently not due to money, as "his manager publicly said that the offers were pretty much the same. He would have earned well with us and had a lot of responsibility - as the leading figure in a team that is being newly built. Obviously Andreas didn't want to accept this responsibility. He chose the role of a helper at Astana."

McEwen to World's

Australia's Robbie McEwen has made up his mind about his participation to the World Championships. After winning Paris-Brussels for the third time, the Davitamn-Lotto sprinter is sure that his form is good enough to have a shot at the Salzburg honours. "I'm getting there again," he told Belgian media after beating Tom Boonen in Brussels. "On Friday I decided that I will ride the World's. After the Tour, I played it low for a couple of weeks, but now my form is good again. I sent the Australian coach an SMS to let him know - and of course, this victory is a brilliant preparation for the World's."

Bayley at Sydney Thousand

Ryan Bayley, dual Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, arrived back in Australia this week after competing successfully in USA, Europe and Japan.

Bayley will open his Australian track season at the Sydney Thousand, Canterbury Velodrome, Tempe, on Sunday, October 29. In Japan, Bayley raced on 333m concrete tracks similar to Tempe: "I'm looking forward to racing the Thousand on the big straights of Tempe Velodrome," he told the organiser of the event this week.

Ben Kersten, meanwhile, is back on his bike following major surgery to remove scar tissue from his back in July. He is involved in extensive physio treatment under the supervision at the NSW Institute of Sport. Kersten is doing everything possible to be back on the track soon and race in the Sydney Thousand again, go one better than last year when he was runner-up by a centimetre's margin.

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