Latest Cycling News for August 9, 2007
Edited by Bjorn Haake
T-Mobile to continue sponsorship through 2010
By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile will continue its sponsorship of its ProTour cycling team, it announced today at a press conference in Saarbrücken, Germany, before the start tomorrow of the Deutschland Tour. "We want to prove a point through consistency and reliability which this sport is in great need of," said Hamid Akhavan, Chairman of the Board of T-Mobile International and a board member of the mother company, Deutsche Telekom. "We want to accompany cycling and support it in its effort to become a cleaner sport."
Christian Frommert, director of sponsoring-communication for Deutsche Telekom, presented a three-pronged agreement reached between the team and the sponsor. In the first point, "For the first time in the history of the sport, the athletes and team management will make a personal financial contribution to tackle doping. Cyclists and management in the T-Mobile Team will contribute a certain percentage of their salary. T-Mobile International will then top up this total to one million euro and make it available for the fight against doping."
In addition, the team "will directly support expanded testing and better test methods, as has been done with both DNA and blood volume testing in 2007," and thirdly, the sponsor Deutsche Telekom AG "reserves the right to immediately terminate the commitment in the event of further doping cases."
Frommert emphasized that the company continues to trust general manager Bob Stapleton, who took over the team last fall. "Otherwise the endeavours of the recent past would have been pointless."
Noting that "the challenges have been even bigger than I ever possibly imagined," Stapleton said, that "we are pleased that T-Mobile is remaining as our committed partner. We share the same goals and we are all redoubling our efforts." He noted that all team members will now be "putting our money where our mouth is, by helping to pay for the antidoping fight."
T-Mobile's sponsorship contract runs through 2010.
CSC ready for Deutschland
Team CSC is sending defending champion Jens Voigt to the Deutschland Tour, but in case he should show any weaknesses, his teammates will be ready to take up the slack and climb on the podium in his place.
Voigt won the race last year with three stage wins, but has said this year it will be more difficult, mainly because of the mountaintop finish on the dreaded Rettenbachferner. "They've included this gigantic mountain - the toughest climb in the entire ProTour calendar – so unfortunately I've gotta say that my chances are somewhat limited," he said on the team's website, team-csc.com.
But, the team noted optimistically, the German rider is always modest and is coming off the Tour de France with outstanding form, "so it is not entirely unthinkable that we will be able to find him among the main contenders for the yellow jersey again."
Ready and willing to hold the CSC colours high are Bobby Julich and Andy Schleck, who both "might be able to mingle in the battle for a podium spot." Volodymir Gustov and Chris Anker Sørensen showed in the Dauphiné Libéré what they are capable of, and Alexandr Kolobnev finished fifth overall in last month's Tour de la Région Wallonne.
And to complete the rundown of potential winners, there's Fabian Cancellara. "Well, what can you say about this guy -- he is capable of anything and you never quite know what he will come up with," raved the team.
The team considers itself the favourite for the team time trial, which could be one of the the keys for the whole race. "We have a very strong line-up and we've got high expectations for the team time trial. We're hoping it will give Jens a good set-off for the rest of the race. And then we'll have to wait and see in the fifth stage, when we reach that dreaded mountain, but Jens has come out of the Tour in fantastic shape and he did well in many of the mountains during the Tour so maybe he'll be able to make a repeat performance, who knows?" said sports director Kim Andersen.
History of the Deutschland Tour
The Tour of Germany is almost as old as the Tour de France, with the first race held in 1911. But only the 31st edition will be tackled by the riders starting this Saturday, as it struggled to get some kind of consistency over the years. In 1911 the race ran over 1,500 kilometres and was called "Quer durch Deutschland" or "Across Germany."
After several races doing a real Tour of Germany, the "Deutschland-Fahrt" in 1931 was the first one with international participation and there were a few editions just before the war that were hard-fought and well organized.
Shortly after the war there were races again, with a white leader's jersey, nicknamed "shroud." In 1948 Herrmann Schwartz organized an eight-stage race, with the winner receiving 600 German mark. In 1950 Harry Saager came close to defend his title, but the 10-minute (!!) penalty proved to be too much.
The death of Herrmann Schwartz in 1953 was also the death of the race, but there were several attempts to revive it until the mid-60's, though they ended up being short-lived.
The next serious attempt was in 1979, with millions of spectators and a popular winner in Didi Thurau. Despite some more good results of Germans (Gregor Braun won in 1980, Klaus-Peter Thaler got sixth in 1981 and fifth in 1982) the financial burden was too much and it wasn't until 1998 when the German federation and Upsolut, who also is overseeing the Hamburg Cyclassics, tried it again.
So far so good, the Tour of Germany has been popular in the last few years. Now it remains to be seen if the sponsors stay on board, despite the recent doping scandals. T-Mobile is likely to announce its future plans at a press conference today.
Milram motivated for D-land Tour
Erik Zabel can look back at the Deutschland Tour 2006 with mixed feelings. He not only won the sprinter's jersey, he even wore the leader's jersey for a day. But he didn't win a single stage -- something which he intends to change this year. And of course he has his eye on the red sprinter's jersey again.
The whole team is looking forward to the race. "It's clear that we are excited about the race. After the Tour de France, this is the most important race for us, and it is certainly the biggest race in Germany," said Ralf Grabsch on the team's website, team-milram.de. Grabsch rode the Tour de France, but says the short time between the two big races is ok. "That shouldn't be a problem. I rested well after the Tour and think that I will ride a strong race in the Deutschland Tour. The race is my absolute high point of the season, so it's clear that I am extra motivated."
The team also announced a last-minute change to its line-up, with Enrico Poitschke taking the place of Elio Rigotto.
Valjavec to Ag2r Prévoyance
Tadej Valjavec of Lampre has confirmed that he is switching to French team Ag2r Prévoyance next season. The current Slovenian champion signed a two-year contract with the ProTour team. In a statement Valjavec declared that following the health check he expects that "everything is clear." He was happy about the switch as "The team is one of the best French teams and they are well organized. They offered me better conditions than my previous team, Lampre – Fondital so I couldn't refuse."
The rider also stated that he enjoys wearing the Slovenian championships jersey, which he will be able to do with the new sponsor next year at least until nationals are held a week before the Tour de France.
Valjavec is currently 32nd in the UCI ranking, with his new captain, Christophe Moreau, in tenth place.
More pictures of the Slovenian champ in today's gallery.
Bruyneel looks back at the Tour
How does Johan Bruyneel feel about having won the Tour de France again? "I'm very happy! We have exceeded all of our best scenario results," he said in an interview on his website, johanbruyneel.com. "Before we went into the Tour we had some realistic goals: Levi on the final podium, a stage win, and the white jersey. And we did a lot more than that. Of course some things happened to our advantage, but at the end of the day we had our best Tour de France ever - and we did it as a team. And for me personally, to win a Tour without Lance, that was definitely a big accomplishment, too."
The various doping problems and the removal of Rasmussen from the race made things "difficult," he said. "I think the event was very tense and there was a lot of bad news. It really made it difficult at times to stay focused."
He was pleased to have riders finish first and third in the race, even if first place finisher Alberto Contador was a surprise, even to him. "I think we all knew that he is one of the best climbers in the world, and I had no doubt that he could win the white jersey because he was the best young rider. But did I think he could win the Tour de France? I expected him to be with the best for the first 10 days. And then I expected him to fade a bit as things progressed, but that didn't happen."
The Belgian praised third place finisher Levi Leipheimer for working to support Contador. "With Levi we knew he was not the race favourite so we had to play it conservatively. Get through the Alps without losing too much time - and he did that perfectly - and then in the last part of the race we have to see him improve and be at the front of the race when critical things happen. Alberto had shown he was the strongest man at the Tour and so we had plans to attack Rasmussen at the Col de Aubisque and Levi was the start of that attack for the team. He simply didn't think about himself anymore."
In fact, all of the riders did outstanding jobs, Bruyneel noted. "Popovych was amazing. He was the best teammate and usually the first guy at the bottom of every critical climb, and yet he still managed to finish eighth overall. But every single guy on the team came together. Gusev rode very well, but you know, Benjamin Noval was probably the unknown hero of the Tour de France. He had a big crash at the beginning and was almost knocked out of the race, he had a big wound on his arm and stitches in his chin, but then he fought through that and became the guardian angel of Contador. He was always with him, on and off the bike, always protecting him. For me he's the Tour de France hero."
The team is losing its sponsor at the end of the year, and there has still been no announcement as to the team's future. But Bruyneel laughingly denied rumours that he would become general manager of the Dutch Rabobank team. "The Dutch journalist who wrote that knew that in 2003 they had contacted me for that position. So I guess they just assumed that since they asked in 2003, I would be the first candidate now."
Discovery is looking to end the season as strongly as possible. " We still have the Tour of Spain and we have some very motivated riders there. Now I am not expecting to win this race, but I definitely expect to see a good performing team there," he said. "But you know this will be kind of difficult. When you win the Tour de France it's tough to stay focused, it's not easy." The team will send three leaders, to the race: Janez Brajkovic, Stijn Devolder and Tom Danielson.
Ekimov heads women's team in Route de France
Former Discovery Channel pro rider Viatcheslav Ekimov, who is still involved with the team, will be directeur sportif for the women's team USC Chirio Forno Asolo in the upcoming La Route de France Féminine. The second edition of this race starts this Saturday, August 11, and runs through the 18th.
The prologue on Saturday kicks the week long race off with 2.2 mostly flat kilometres. After a few rolling stages that aren't particularly flat but also don't have climbs reaching too high, the end of next week will likely see the overall decided with stages in the Vosges mountain range in the Alsace offering something for the mountain goats.
Fabiana Luperini, winner of multiple Giri d'Italia and Tours de France for women, will be riding the event. In order to beat the Italian superstar, the Americans are sending a strong team around Amber Neben.
Other national teams include the squads of Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine and of course the host, France.
Ekimov's job will be to lead the Lithuanian twins, Rasa and Jolanta Polikeviciute, to overall victory on the French roads.
Vuelta to decide on Astana Monday
Only six days ago the Vuelta a España assured Team Astana that it would be welcome, despite the positive doping tests of Alexander Vinokourov and Matthias Kessler. Allowing the team to participate would support Astana's efforts to achieve a doping-free team, the race organizers said. But yesterday's news of yet another positive may be too much for the Spaniards.
It was announced Wednesday that Andrej Kashechkin had tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion in an unannounced test on August 1.
"This affects Astana's participation in the Vuelta," race director Victor Cordero said on Efe Radio. "We have spoken with the team leaders and they have told us they will take measures. We decided to analyse matters and make a decision on Monday, which at the moment would not appear to be in favour of the presence of this team in the race. We will wait for the data."
Lamb said that the many recent positive tests have hurt the sport. "These cases affect its credibility with the millions of fans who follow the sport. We must fight to guarantee that credibility, and therefore we have announced our antidoping plan."
No time trial nationals for Dekker
Rabobank's Thomas Dekker will not ride in the Netherlands national time trial championships next Wednesday in Zaltbommel. He had planned to participate, but while training on the time trial bike, he suffered again from hip problems that have plagued him for a long time. He will therefore skip the race, he said on his website, tdmagazine.nl.
Dekker is still scheduled to ride the Vattenfalls Cyclassics in Hamburg on August 19, and the Eneco Tour the following week. His hip problems arise only when he rides the time trial bike, because of the different position compared to the regular racing bike.
Dekker had won the national time trial title in 2005 and was a favourite in the race this year.
Missouri to host at least three ProTour teams
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Though the organisers have been unusually quiet, the first Tour of Missouri is still a go for September -- and promoters Medalist Sports have finally released the details on the race, including course descriptions and a partial list of teams accepting invitations.
It was recently announced that Discovery Channel would be one of the teams, and having won the two other major stage races in America plus a certain race in France, its presence will certainly help get the race off the ground . Medalist's Chris Aronhalt told Cyclingnews that two other ProTour teams, Saunier Duval-Prodir and Predictor-Lotto, have also accepted invitations. " We are also working on one or two more ProTour teams," he added.
The overall parcours is a natural progression across the state, linking the two biggest cities from Kansas City to St. Louis, while traveling to important places such as Springfield, Columbia and Branson -- the third largest city, home of the state university and a country music mecca, respectively. "Certainly starting out, the governor's office's goal was to create a stage race like the Tour of California and Georgia," said Aronhalt. "Missouri is a very cycling-friendly state so the learning curve was not steep at all."
In the heart of the midwest, Missouri is not exactly known for its mountains -- though that might fool some racers into a false sense of flatness. "We do have a KOM category because there are some elevation gains, some will catch the riders by surprise," said Aronhalt. "We know it is September and the end of the season. While the terrain is not as mountainous as Georgia, it is still rolling. And we put a lot of emphasis on the TT course to make it decisive, so there will be a lot of competition still."
Aronhalt said that the timing of the event is designed to benefit the USPRO road and time trial championships, and vice-versa -- particularly since the race runs up against the Vuelta a España, Tour of Poland and Tour of Britain.
The race itself begins with a flat out-and-back, lollipop-shaped road race in Kansas City that dips across the river into the state of Kansas for a loop before returning into the city for three finish circuits. The second stage, from Clinton to Springfield, features a steady uphill false flat with plenty of rolling hills to frustrate the sprinters. As promised, the time trial in Branson features some of the toughest climbing in the whole race, likely the decision maker of the entire race.
Stage four, from Lebanon to Columbia, features a bit more climbing and a fun finish in the university town and with school in session, additional crowds are expected. But there will be no time for fraternity parties as stage five should be a fast run to St. Louis, followed by stage six, a flat downtown circuit that should result in another fast field sprint.
The circuit race feature will be similar to the finish stages of both California and Georgia this year. "We have a great circuit race right in down," said Aronhalt. "It is pretty congested so it is easier to keep it in the confines. There is also a home Cardinals versus Cubs [baseball] game and a home Rams [American football] game, so there should be big crowds. The city is really excited."
Teutenberg, Wichmann, and Kupfernagel consider track racing
However, T-Mobile Team Manager Kristy Scrymgeour confirmed to Cyclingnews that while Teutenberg and Wichmann did consider riding track nationals earlier in the year, "This has not been their plan for some months now, and they will not race."
Radsport-aktiv.de reported that the triple Worlds cyclo-cross champion Hanka Kupfernagel is also thinking about a comeback on the track, but hasn't confirmed yet for the German championships.
National coach Jochen Dornbusch indicated that he would welcome it "if Hanka returns to the track. The German championships are mandatory on the way to Beijing, to see who of the road riders even have an interest on the track and how their form is."
Nürnberger to Holland Hills
The Equipe Nürnberger Versicherungsgruppe will take a mixed team of veterans and amateurs to the "Holland Hills Classics" this Sunday in southern Holland. The race covers part of the Amstel Gold Race route as it goes 127.5 km with start and finish in Gulpen.
"On this very demanding course with its many nasty climbs, we will try to bring one of our riders in the top ten," said directeur sportif Jens Zemke. "Andrea Graus and Eva Lutz are in the position of bringing in good results in light of their good performances in the last few weeks."
The team will send the four professional riders Eva Lutz, Andrea Graus, Claudia Stumpf and Marie Lndberg as well as the amateurs Denise Zuckermandel, Corinna Thumm and Romy Kasper.
Inaugural Marco Pantani Camp a success that opens the future
Tonina and Paolo Pantani, parents of Marco Pantani, who died in 2004, had the hope of opening a cycling school for children and now the first Marco Pantani camp has taken place.
Paolo said that "I always liked the 'ciclismo giovanile' (youth cycling), even before my son started. Today, to lend a hand or be part of a school to teach the first steps in this sport, symbolizes me."
The mother of the former Tour de France winner added that "the spirit of the school, with its diversions and playing [attitude] symbolizes the aspect of this experience, which really enriched me. Those kids entered in me. Now that they returned home I am strongly feeling their absence."
The camp was attended by 60 kids aged six to twelve. The bambini were from four different regions in Italy and the camp was held in Cesenatico, Pantani's hometown on the Adriatic coast. Technical instructions including positioning and how to ride in a group were part of the camp as well as basics in nutrition and training techniques.
Roberto Conti, former teammate of Pantani, visited the camp on Saturday.
The big finale was the "Gimkana Sprint" in the centre of town, in which all sixty kids from the camp, plus another dozen local boys participated.
Photos from the event are in the picture gallery.
Gran Premio di Camaiore
Several top riders have signed up for this race in Italy. The Liquigas formation includes names such as Danilo Di Luca, Vincenzo Nibali, Filippo Pozzato, Enrico Gasparotto, Andrea Noè and Luca Paolini. Milram's big name is Alessandro Petacchi, who is trying to leave the doping talk behind him.
Tinkoff will send a strong team with Pavel Brutt looking for escapes and Mikhail Ignatiev, Evgeni Petrov and Salvatore Commesso also looking for glory.
The domestic teams such as Team L.P.R or Tenax will of course try to steal the glory from the big ProTour names.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)