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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 21, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson and Paul Verkuylen

O'Bee's second stars and stripes earned the hard way

By Mark Zalewski North American Editor in Downers Grove, Illinois

It was anyone's guess on the line but Martin Gilbert (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Health Net-Maxxis' Kirk O'Bee pulled on his second stars and stripes jersey over the weekend as the national criterium champion. With the win he joins Kevin Monahan as a two-time crit champ, but it did not come easy as buckets of rain poured over the course all weekend, making the usually simple tasks like turning into a delicate operation.

"It definitely added another element," O'Bee said regarding the rain. "I've never done that course with so much rain."

O'Bee's first win in 2001 came during a tough year for the American. Not long after winning in Downers Grove it was revealed that his testosterone/epitestosterone level at the USPRO road championships was elevated. Though no exogenous testosterone was found in his system, he accepted a one year ban in 2002 and his result at the road championships was erased. However, this did not affect his criterium title, and since then he returned to racing with many top results, including second place and the KOM title at the 2005 Ronde van Drenthe.

With a team stacked with sprinters, both American and foreign, Health Net had a lot of cards to play. Frank Pipp won here as a amateur three years ago and recently won the Charlotte Invitational criterium. Karl Menzies has been flying since his overall and three stage wins at the Tour de Toona. However, O'Bee exuded confidence and his team matched it.

"The plan to start off was to race for me and to race for win," he said. "I was confident and the team was confident. Later in the race our game plan was the same. It was more important to be at the front in the final few laps to stay out of trouble - evident by all the crashes that happened."

The only downside to the win was that it was a few millimeters short of being an outright win. As was the case in 2001, O'Bee was not the first rider across the line, but the first American. "I was upset I lost the race overall and it overshadowed winning the jersey," he admitted. "I wanted to improve upon the last time. It was Harm Jansen last time - he attacked with a couple to go and there were a lot of Americans in the break and we all looked at each other. It almost worked out this time."

But the rain played a significant factor in the decision calculus late in the race. "For me it's how it played out. I knew with Gilbert sprinting it was better to play it safe. I would have done it differently had I been going up against another American."

The situation might be different in the future with the often rumored switch to an American-only format. But O'Bee feels that would take away from the racing. "I think it's fine the way it is. If you take out the international factor it will take away from the race. It has such a long history and it's only a big deal in the States.

Looking to the future, O'Bee said that he has not yet signed with a team in 2008, hoping that this jersey will open up the contract doors. "Hopefully, but we'll see," he said. "I'm trying to figure something out. But the table is completely open!"

Vos crosses to track this winter

Marianne Vos has decided not to race the upcoming cyclo-cross season, instead choosing to concentrate on the track. The current women's world road champion hopes her appearance at the Track World Cups will allow her to measure herself against other competitors, giving her an idea of which discipline she should contest at the Olympic Games - track of road.

Vos decision to focus on track during this European winter has prompted her sponsor DSB Bank to set up a team around the 20 year-old, so that she is assured a start place in the Peking, Los Angeles and Copenhagen rounds of the 07-08 Track World Cup.

The Dutchwoman, who was the 2006 cyclo-cross world champion, decided to not concentrate on the discipline where she has won a European title, at least for the time being. "Last winter's cyclo-cross season was draining for me," she told "By racing the track I hope to come into next year's road season fresher, so that I can have a good start on the route that will hopefully end with the Olympics in Peking."

Vos will start the track season with ambitions in the individual pursuit. "I still have everything to prove on the track, but the tests from last year showed me that there is a chance there for me," she said. "The World Cups will show if I can gain a spot on the world's team. Only then will we be able to decide which discipline I may have a chance to be competitive in at the Olympics."

CSC announce Vuelta squad

Carlos Sastre
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Danish ProTour squad Team CSC has announced its squad for September's Vuelta a Espa˝a Grand Tour. Carlos Sastre will lead the CSC men in 2007's final Grand Tour, which commences on September 1, by the Atlantic Ocean in Vigo.

A notable absents from the squad is Danish rider Nicki S°rensen, who had been building for the event as well as the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. S°rensen's season came to an end overnight with Team CSC announcing the rider has broken three bones in his foot in an "unfortunate accident" (see separate news item).

"We have a great line-up in these guys," said a confident sports director Kim Andersen. "I'd really hoped to have Nicki S°rensen along as well, because I think he'd been an important part of the puzzle, but he's out with a broken foot. We're aiming to support Carlos Sastre 100 percent - he's top motivated to do well and he'll have the entire team at his disposal."

Team CSC Vuelta a Espa˝a roster: Carlos Sastre, Alexandr Kolobnev, Christian Vande Velde, Chris Anker S°rensen, Inigo Cuesta, Karsten Kroon, Marcus Ljungqvist, Michael Blaudzun and Volodymir Gustov.
Reserves: Lars Bak and Luke Roberts.

Sørensen's season ceases

Nicki Sorensen (CSC)
Photo ©: Unipublic
Click for larger image

Team CSC's Nicki Sørensen will miss a big month of racing in September after breaking three bones in his foot. While the Danish rider's injuries won't require surgery, his foot will be in a cast for at least five weeks and he isn't expected to return to riding until season's end.

"He's really upset, because he' been looking forward to doing Tour of Ireland, Vuelta a España and of course the World Championships," said a disappointed sports director Kim Andersen. "He's been training towards these races for ages now and I think he's proven that he's on top form in Sachsen Tour and Tour of Denmark - better than ever actually. So it was a tough blow. His performance in Tour of Denmark was impressive and I believe he would've been even stronger for the Vuelta."

No details were released by the Danish ProTour squad on how Sørensen sustained the injuries, describing the event as an "unfortunate accident".

Aussies claim two records at IPC Worlds

Australia's A With a Disability team enjoyed a successful opening to the IPC World Championships in Bordeaux, France, claiming eight medals and two world records during the opening two days. Victorian Michael Gallagher demolished his opponent in the final of the LC1 men's 4km individual pursuit to claim gold after smashing his own world record in Sunday's qualifying round.

The 28 year-old rode a time of 4.37.706s, almost three seconds faster than the previous mark of 4.40.378s he set at the Australian Championships in February, to go into the gold medal ride as the top qualifier. "That was the schedule we were riding to and in training I was on an even faster schedule but the weather was a bit better than it was yesterday," said Gallagher. "I probably went out a bit fast but I ended up with the same time overall."

In the final, a rerun of the 2006 race, he caught Austrian rival Wolfgang Eibeck after just six laps of the 16 lap event. "I think he was trying to ride to my schedule and it didn't really suit him because he was on the other side of the track for four or five laps and then suddenly he was in the same straight," said Gallagher. "The good thing about it for me is that I can tell the training's paying off because my times keep coming down.

"It's probably only one more step now for me to confirm my spot for the Paralympic Games in Beijing," explained Gallagher who aims to better the mark at the Australian Championships in February next year. "This is good but a world record at Nationals would put it (selection) beyond doubt and pretty much guarantee my spot."

Gallagher tomorrow will try to defend his kilometre time trial crown but is expecting a tough event. "There are a few guys who are specialising in the 'kilo' and they could break my World Record but I won't be handing over my (world champion) jersey without a fight," he said.

New South Wales teenager Jayme Paris finished fifth in the LC3-4/CP3 500m time trial but set a CP3 women's World Record with her time of 46.918s. The 18 year-old knocked three seconds off the previous mark of 49.916 set by American Barbara Buchanan at the 2006 World Championships in Switzerland.

Clarke brothers to Toyota for 2008

The 2006 USPRO criterium champion Hilton Clarke (Navigators Insurance) was not feeling 100 percent in his title defense, as a rotated pelvis sidelined him for the most of July and into August. However, Clarke's strong performances before that has netted him a contract with Toyota-United for 2008. On top of that, his little brother Jonathan is also signing for the team, after riding in Europe and the US this year.

"Toyota decided to sign me and my younger brother," Clarke told Cyclingnews before the criterium nationals. When asked if bringing him and his brother together was his idea or the team's, he said, "It was a bit of both, but the deal for me and him is a great one and I'm really excited!"

The younger Clarke has been riding for the Colavita-Sutter Home team in the States for the second part of the season, after starting his year in Europe. "He's had an up-and-down year. He had a great start in Europe but then struggled a bit, so I got him onto Colavita here this year and he's had some great opportunities there. He did Altoona and all these crits and straight away he was picked up by Toyota."

Jonathan even bested his brother in the USPRO criterium championship, taking 26th place when finishing at all was a triumph. But Hilton had a reason for his early withdrawal from the race he won last year. "I've had some issues this past month so I missed a lot of training," he said. "I flew to Belgium last month to sort my body out and it's alright now. It was a rotated pelvis from a crash in Basking Ridge [New Jersey] right before Philly. I won Bike Jam and Somerville, then I crashed."

"But I don't want that to be why I am signing for a different team - I've had such a great year, and three good years on Navigators. I want to finish strong for [Navigators.]" MZ

Astana makes further plans

Team Astana has started planning its race schedule for when the Kazakh-backed squad returns from a self-imposed one-month racing break. The team will ride the Grand Prix of Plouay on September 2. "It is still to early to give the list of the riders," the team noted. "It is obvious that all of them in the team are thirsty for kilometers and efforts after one month of suspension."

In addition, the team said that its management is taking steps to ensure a rapid implementation of an external anti-doping program. "Astana Cycling Team's management continues its concrete steps with Swiss Olympic in order to quickly set up a system of independent and external anti-doping controls for the team, with consequence ensuring a clean and irreproachable sport discipline," concluded the squad.

Elk Haus Deutschland start upheld

A German court has upheld the decision to allow the Austrian Team Elk Haus-Simplon to start in the recently-ended Deutschland Tour. The race management revoked its wild-card invitation to the Professional Continental team only days before the race started.

The team received a preliminary injunction allowing it to start. The race appealed that decision, and the injunction was upheld by the Landgericht in Hamburg on Monday.

Viva (Selle) Italia

Gianni Savio
Photo ©: Steve Thomas
(Click for larger image)

Following a very winning start to the season, Gianni Savio's Serramenti Diquigiovanni Selle Italia team were promptly excluded from the Giro d'Italia, a move that has caused some major stirs. The team has prepared to ensure its invitation for next year by signing a former Giro winner, as Cyclingnews' Steve Thomas finds out.

It was a sunny afternoon in China, and the Serramenti Selle Italia team had just taken both the overall and KOM titles in the Tour of Qinghai Lake, thanks to their veteran Italian duo of Gabrielle Misseglia and Sergio Barbero, both seasoned and well accomplished campaigners who've had their share of the limelight over the years. But that was not the team's big news of the week.

Rumours had been circulating for a while about the team signing Italian hero Gilberto Simoni; we asked team DS Giovanni Ellena what the juice was? "Yes we've signed Simoni, and we're also looking to sign at least one, maybe more riders to support him." Signing someone of Simoni's stature is not typical of the team, who are well known for finding and breeding new talent. "It was a big blow to us not getting into the Giro last year. It was very bad for the team and our sponsors, as the Giro is our biggest race of the year. Gianni (Savio) is determined not to let it happen again, which is the main reason for signing Simoni."

Taking on a star at the end of his career like Simoni and a small support entourage is definitely a good way of waving the flag to the Giro selectors, but it's a huge financial commitment too. "We should have a major increase in the teams standing and budget in the pipeline," said Ellena. "I think it could be from a Swedish company, but that cannot be confirmed yet."

This big increase could put the Professional Continental team into a different league - something that hadn't really been considered before. "I'm not really sure, who knows in the future ľ we will have 20 riders, so that we can split teams to ride in Europe and the rest of the world."

For team director Gianni Savio, his riders and sponsors, being snubbed by the Giro organisers was a huge blow, and somewhat unjust. The team kicked off the year with three stage wins by three different riders at the Vuelta Tachira in Venezuela. Alberto Loddo opened the team's account on stage one, and his work was followed by wins from Jose Serpa on stage five and Walter Pedraza on stage ten.

To read the full feature on Serramenti Diquigiovanni Selle Italia, click here.

Carrara to Quick Step

Matteo Carrara will become Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini's team-mate next year at Quick.Step Innergetic, according to Patrick Lefevere has reportedly reached a verbal agreement with the 28 year-old Italian, whose current team,, will be ending its sponsorship at the end of this season.

Carrara has shown this season that he can hold his own with some of the best climbers in the peloton. He was fourth in the Tour of Switzerland as well as third in both the Brixia Tour and the Euskal Bizikleta.

Lefevere also dismissed rumours that Christophe Moreau, who has not come to an agreement with his French AG2R ProTour squad, and Dutchman Laurens ten Dam would also sign for Quick.Step. "There is no truth in that," according to Lefevere. "I don't want to be involved in this game using the managers to drive up the price of a rider. Ten Dam is going to Rabobank."

ProTour squads roster on for Eneco

Italian Alessandro Ballan will lead his Lampre-Fondital squad at this week's Eneco Tour, after taking victory at the weekend's Vattenfall Cyclassics ProTour event in Germany. The Eneco-Tour starts Wednesday in Hasselt, Belgium, and ends a week later in Sittard, Netherlands.

"Ballan will be our main cyclist, considering also his beautiful victory in Vattenfall Cyclassic," Lampre-Fondital team manager Fabrizio Bontempi explained. "The rest of the team has great quality and skill on Northern roads".

German ProTour squad T-Mobile will be lead by Kim Kirchen, who won the event in 2002. The Luxembourger will be supported by two 'locals' - Dutchman Servais Kaven and Briton Roger Hammond, who resides in Belgium. T-Mobile is also taking its young British sprint sensation Mark Cavendish, who will be looking to further increase his total of sprint wins this season.

Team rosters for Eneco Tour:
Alessandro Ballan, Fabio Baldato, Paolo Bossoni, Paolo Fornaciari, Enrico Franzoi, Roberto Longo, and Daniele Righi.

Gerolsteiner: Oscar Gatto, Heinrich Haussler, David Kopp, Sven Kraus, Sebastian Lang, Marcel Strauss, Carlo Westphal and Markus Zberg.

Quick.Step-Innergetic: Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Mauro Facci, Dmitry Grabovskyy, Sebastien Rosseler, Bram Tankink, Peter Van Petegem, and Wouter Weylandt.

T-Mobile: Kim Kirchen, Servais Kaven, Roger Hammond, Mark Cavendish, Greg Henderson, Jakob Piil, Adam Hansen, and Scott Davis.

Rasmussen to Bavikhove

Unemployed Danish rider Michael Rasmussen will contest another post Tour criterium on September 2 in the Belgian town of Bavikhove, West Flanders. Last Saturday in Pijnaker, Much like in Copenhagen a few weeks earlier, Michael Rasmussen was seen riding in an all yellow as though he was the winner of the Tour de France at a post-Tour crit. On both occasions he was well received by the crowd, who clapped and cheered his name each time he came past.

Surrounded by body guards the Dane enjoyed the attention the public gave him and reported that he is prepared to fully co-operate during the internal investigation that Rabobank is undertaking. The investigation, being headed up by Peter Vogelzang, must deliver clarification surrounding the alleged lies over Rasmussen's whereabouts in the lead up to the Tour de France this year, which lead to his eventual sacking from the team while leading the worlds biggest cycle race.

The Dutch cycling federation (KNWU) was against the participation of Rasmussen on Saturday in Pijnaker. "Whoever let this happen must have tonnes of butter in his head," a KNWU spokesperson told "A criterium is in the first place a cycling festival where the public can see their Tour de France heroes. It is damaging for the sport when such a guy is offered the stage in a Dutch criterium."

Yet the organiser of the criterium, Maarten Welling, had a different view of the situation. "We see Rasmussen as a victim," he said.

Rasmussen, who was dumped by his Rabobank squad while leading the Tour de France, felt his invitation was justified. "For sure, when 30,000 people spontaneously applause you, you know you are welcome," he said.

Rasmussen will appear in Bavikhove alongside Robbie McEwen and Vladimir Gusev.

Vanendert chooses Franšaise over Rabobank

Jelle Vanendert will ride for French ProTour team La Franšaise des Jeux in 2008. The 22 year-old, currently riding for the Belgian Professional Continental Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen team, decided not to accept an offer from the Dutch Rabobank team.

Vanendert was worried that if he rode for Rabobank he would be riding in the shadow of Thomas Dekker and Robert Gesink, according to The Belgian rider is hoping he'll be afforded more freedom at La Franšaise des Jeux.

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