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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for April 3, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams

Llaneras to retire after Beijing

By Monika Prell

A happy Joan Llaneras
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

After picking up a fourth world points race title on home soil in Majorca last Saturday, Spanish track rider Joan Llaneras has announced his intention to retire from competitive cycling after the Beijing Olympic Games next year. "I am 37 years old, I soon will be 38. I do not see anybody over 40 who is riding at a high level," Llaneras told todociclismo.

"The races I compete in are really exhausting, like every sport. I can arrive in Beijing in good condition, but after the Olympic Games I will end my career. You have to say 'basta' (enough) in a determined moment."

For Llaneras, the gold medal meant something very special, mainly for the memory of his friend Issac Gálvez who died in a crash at the Gent Six Day in November. The pair won the world Madison title together in Bordeaux last year. "These are little intimate things, you keep them inside and remember them in a very special way," he said.

Aside from Llaneras' points race gold, the Spanish team claimed just one other medal in Majorca, Sergei Escobar taking bronze in the individual pursuit. However, the Majorcan insisted the team were satisfied with their performance. "We knew that we had four or five chances to win a medal and when you reach two, good, and when you reach all five, you could jump for joy," said Llaneras. "I think that what we got was within our expectations."

Escobar back on the road

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Spanish track rider Sergi Escobar is hoping to re-launch his road career after winning bronze in the individual pursuit at the World Track Championships in Majorca. Escobar, who rides for Spanish Continental team Grupo Nicolás Mateos, has found renewed motivation after a bleak 2006 where he missed out on a world championship medal in Bordeaux.

"In the last few years I have always made the podium at the World Championships and also the Olympic Games," said Escobar. "But in 2006 I failed and that always generates doubts. This season I felt very good and have conquered my seventh medal in big competitions. This is an injection of moral before the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, but I do not think about that now. Now, I am focused on the road."

The 32 year-old's first race will be the Klasika Primavera in Spain on April 15, but further down the line Escobar hopes to be on song for the Clásica de Alcobendas and Vuelta a Madrid. "I have in mind the time trial stage of the Clásica de Alcobendas because it suits my characteristics very well," he said. "There are a lot of competitions, let's hope I can take advantage of some of these opportunities."

Hammond and Cavendish spear-head T-Mobile at De Panne

The T-Mobile Team's countdown to the Tour of Flanders moves into its final phase this week with the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne) which starts on Tuesday. The event, which is one of the highlights of Flemish Cycling Week and the final build-up race before Sunday's Ronde, sees both of T-Mobile's British riders - Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish - included in the starting roster.

"The Spring Classics are upon us and everything is now geared towards bringing the Team into this weekend's Tour of Flanders and next weekend's Paris-Roubaix in the best condition possible," said 21 year-old Cavendish. "The Three Days of De Panne are a hugely important part of our preparation and I hope I can play my part in a successful race for the Team."

Hammond spear-heads the eight man roster alongside sprinter Bernhard Eisel, who won a stage and finished runner-up overall in last year's edition.

The magenta sprint department will be out in force in Flanders as Eisel is joined by Eric Baumann, Gerald Ciolek, André Greipel and Brit, Mark Cavendish. The famous-five's focus will be quite clearly on controlling the stages and delivering one of their riders to the front in the event of bunch finish. The vastly experienced classics specialist Servais Knaven rounds out the roster at the three-day, four-stage race.

The race, which is held over a well-established parcours in East and West Flanders, features its fair share of cobbled sections and 'bergs', such as Berendries, Stuivenberg and Eikenberg. The proximity of the race route to the North Seas coastline means that crosswinds are also likely to play a role, warns T-Mobile Sporting Director Tristan Hoffman: "The strong winds will splinter the pack for sure. If you don't get into the rights group you can fall out of contention very quickly."

T-Mobile's Driedaagse van De Panna-Koksijde roster: Eric Baumann, Mark Cavendish, Gerald Ciolek, Bernhard Eisel, André Greipel, Roger Hammond, Andreas Klier, and Servais Knaven.

Sporting director: Tristan Hoffman

Landuyt-Museeuw trial delayed

The ongoing doping trial against Belgian veterinarian José Landuyt and former riders Johan Museeuw, Mario De Clercq, Jo Planckaert and Chris Pears has been postponed until June 25 after a request from Museeuw's lawyer Jozef Lievens, currently busy with another court case in Belgium. According to Sportwereld, the trial was initially re-scheduled for June 19 but had to be delayed further because Landuyt's lawyer Jef Vermassen was not available over this period. None of the accused were present at the court in Kortrijk, Belgium on Monday.

The case dates back to 2003 when doping products Aranesp, EPO and Dexomethasone were allegedly found by police after a raid on Museeuw's home. Further evidence came from the well publicised SMS conversations between Museeuw and Landuyt which appeared to discuss doping products, methods of use and ways to circumvent controls. The other riders are also accused of possessing EPO and other banned substances.

Smart speed vs absolute speed

Photo ©: VMG Racing
(Click for larger image)

The VMG Racing Team appeared in the 2007 Redlands Bicycle Classic in its debut in the NRC. The U23 trade team is in its second year under the sponsorship of VMG with eighteen riders that share their season's schedule between VMG Racing and the US national under-23 team. VMG stands for Velocity Made Good, a mathematical equation behind the company that suggests 'smart speed' is more important than 'absolute speed'. Cyclingnews' reporter Kirsten Robbins spoke with directeur sportif Chann McRae after the race to find out how fast the riders are progressing.

VMG is the sponsor of both the VMG Racing Team and the USA Cycling National Development Team. The two teams are separate entities that provide development opportunities for young aspiring cyclists in the US. One of VMG Racing's (Bahamas) company objectives listed in their mission statement is to, "support and build on the aspirations and talents of promising athletes and compete successfully at the highest level of competition."

Mark Holowesko, Chairman and CEO of VMG, is an avid cyclist and triathlete who began sponsoring and managing athletes and teams in a variety of sports in 2004. By 2006, his VMG Racing had become as one of world's youngest Continental teams; taking on American riders between the ages of 18 and 23. For 2007 though, VMG decided to remain an amateur team and focus its goals on helping young riders develop to the level of receiving ProTour contracts by the age of 24.

For the full VMG Racing Team feature, click here.

Fuerteventura - Canarias gets Spanish starts

Spanish Professional Continental squad Fuerteventura - Canarias has announced its been ask to contest at all three of its home nation's ProTour events. The team has received invitations to contest the April's Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, May's Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and August's Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian - San Sebastian.

"From the commercial point of view and, of course, sporting, these three races are fundamental for us," noted director Oscar Guerrero. "For that reason and in spite of being our first season in the professional field, at the beginning of year we put ourselves in contact with the organizers with the hope of which a [start in the events] could do for us, something that does not happen with all the Spanish professional teams."

"In the end the organizers have delivered support to us," added a delighted Guerrero.

The director hopes the squad will soon be invited by organisers of French events, but insisted the races on home soil are of great importance to the outfit.

Lucky Willemse Jnr to miss South African championships

Team CSC/Marcello's Chris Willemse Jnr will miss the South African National Championships in Durban this month, after suffering serious injuries at the Tour of Libya last month.

"While Chris is lucky to have escaped permanent head and spinal injury following his crash in the Tour of Libya, he is disappointed that he will not be able to defend his three national titles at the SA Championships in Durban in April," said the riders father and manager Chris Willemse Snr.

Willemse Jnr, who has been given doctors' orders to rest for the next two months, has three fractured spinal vertebrae and as a result will be unable to defend his team sprint, team pursuit and madison titles in Durban.

"We are however hoping the national selectors will consider Chris Jnr for the Olympic-qualifying UCI 'B' World Championships event, which takes place at the end of June," added Willemse Snr, "particularly since a wrist injury in 2005 ruled him out of participation in the 2006 Commonwealth Games."

While luck may not have been on the young Willemse's side, it appears it does favour the national CSC/Marcello team. The squad has received an invitation to participate in the UCI-sanctioned Tour de East Java in Indonesia, which will be held from July 4-8.

"This is exciting news for our team, which has shown great form this season having won several podium places, and we look forward to competing against teams from Iran, Qatar, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, China and Australia, amongst others," Willemse Snr said.

Toyota-United looking for 10th win at US Open

Dominant force: Ivan Dominguez and Ivan Stevic of Toyota-United
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

UCI America Tour squad Toyota United Pro Cycling Team is looking to continue its early season success at this weekend's first US Cycling Open. The squad, which has claimed an impressive nine victories including four National Racing Calendar wins to date this season, will unleash its 'one-day hit squad' for Saturday's 179 kilometre race from Williamsburg to Richmond.

"The promoter of this race (John Eustice) really likes to look out for European-style courses and this one is no exception," Toyota-United team director Harm Jansen said.

Leading Jansen's 'hit squad' will be Tour of California stage winner Ivan Dominguez and Henk Vogels.

"I will probably designate some of our guys to do a job early on - riders who have a lesser chance of making it happen," Jansen said. "They're there to cover breaks. That's one thing we can control: being represented in every break that goes up the road. If we don't like the representation of the break, we will chase it down immediately."

Cuba's Dominguez, who won last weekend's Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix in California, believes this weekend's event will be a tough race, particularly given that he's not yet in his top form.

"Everybody is going there to win," he said. "I've got my fingers crossed."

Teams contesting the first US Cycling Open:
Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team (USA)
Navigators Insurance (USA)
Health Net presented by Maxxis (USA)
Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle (USA)?
Tecos de la Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara (Mex)
Symmetrics (Can)
Colavita-Sutter Home-Cooking Light (USA)
AEG-Toshiba-JetNetwork (USA)
BMC Racing (USA)
Calyon-Litespeed (Can)
╔quipe Volkswagen-Trek (Can)
Equipe Vallee de L'Aluminium de Vinci (Can)
Jelly Belly (USA)
Jittery Joe's (USA)
Team Nerac (USA)
Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada (USA)
Priority Health-Bissell (USA)
Rite Aid (USA)
Team Successful Living (USA)
Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast (USA)
USA Cycling National Development Team (USA)

Wheaties to sponsor Nature Valley Grand Prix

The Nature Valley Grand Prix has announced Wheaties will sponsor the 2007 edition of the Minnesota five-day stage race. One of the most easily recognized names in US' sports, the 'Breakfast of Champions' will focus attention on three new initiatives as apart of the sponsorship arrangement.

"In pro cycling racing, there's so much that you just don't notice," says David LaPorte, director for the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival, of which the race is a big part. "Riders come round the corners inches apart at 40 miles an hour and whoosh by. That's exciting, but we also want anyone interested enough to watch to understand more about the teams, their riders, and who to watch for. This year's race includes some close rivalries."

The breakfast cereal company will construct a Wheaties Fan Zone website, where spectators can access information on the US National Racing Calendar event. Additionally the company's Wheaties Pro Sprints and Wheaties Cyber Sprints will see the leader at the end of each stage battle it out with fans on Kurt Kinetic trainers.

"Our number one goal is to enhance the spectator experience," added LaPorte. "Emotional involvement is the hallmark of all successful sports and the Wheaties Fan Zone will be go a long way to making that happen."

Sparks nominated for USOC award

USA Cycling-licensed and certified coach Andy Sparks is one of five finalists in the United States Olympic Committee's National Coach of the Year recognition program, the USOC has announced. The winner will be announced May 3 at the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports award luncheon in Washington, DC.

Sparks, a former elite track cyclist, guided Sarah Hammer through her comeback to the sport of cycling and coached her to a world title in the individual pursuit last year in Bordeaux, France, becoming the first elite women's world champion on the track in 11 years. In addition, Hammer won three national titles at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships, set a new national record and recorded five victories at UCI Track World Cup events.

"It's always awesome to be recognized for your accomplishments, especially when you pour your heart and soul into it like Sarah and I do on a daily basis," said Sparks after learning of his status as a finalist during this weekend's world championships where he coached Hammer to her second-consecutive world title. "Things couldn't have worked out better during the last 12 to 18 months. Everything has literally been perfect with an unprecedented level of success and consistency.

"It's never a focus to get that recognition for myself, but it just comes with the territory when Sarah achieves that level of success," added Sparks. "Anytime you get recognized for that level of commitment is always a bonus."

Following this year's world championships, Sparks will turn his attention to the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games as he makes preparations for his ultimate goal - a gold medal for Hammer.

"I'll be meeting with USA Cycling and some other people in Colorado to see what we can improve over the next 12 months to try and assemble the best group of experts we can get together and assign everyone very specific research and determine what the absolute best and most ideal situation is in every category, training, nutrition, equipment, everything," he concluded.

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