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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 14, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Uni SA allowed in Tour Down Under

Oppy the Tour Down Under mascot
Photo ©: Rachel Burke
(Click for larger image)

The UCI has amended its race regulations for its newest ProTour event, the Tour Down Under, in order to allow the Australian national team, known as UniSA, to compete in the event, the race promoter announced Thursday. At the request of the Tour organisers, the sport's governing body relaxed the regulation which usually restricts ProTour races to UCI ProTour or Professional Continental teams to allow UniSA to compete as it has since the Tour's inception.

The move makes the Australian squad the first national team to participate in a ProTour event at the first ProTour race ever held outside of Europe.

Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith touted the news as a great honour for the UniSA team, which attracts a huge local following. "The UniSA team has been a much-loved part of the Tour Down Under for many years and I'm absolutely delighted that they can continue to race in 2008," Lomax-Smith said.

"We have been lobbying the UCI since learning of the Tour Down Under's status elevation and it's great that they have responded so positively to our historic request."

National selectors are expected to name the riders for the UniSA's Tour Down Under team next week. The Tour Down Under begins January 22, 2008.

Successful start for Scotty's Race

By Greg Johnson

Organisers of Scotty's Race, an Australian event dedicated to the memory of the late Scott Peoples, are determined to make the race an annual event following its successful first running at the weekend. The 126 kilometre race in Shepparton, Victoria attracted some of Australia's top domestic riders including race winner David Pell (Savings & Loans), reigning Australian road champion Darren Lapthorn (Drapac-Porsche) and Rabobank's William Walker.

"We were rapt with the event this year," said event director Adam Furphy. "We put a huge amount of effort into making this a great event and it seems from the feedback that it worked."

Peoples, a promising young cyclist from the regional Victorian city, was tragically killed in December 2006 after being struck from behind by a Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive while training on the Maroondah Highway in Merton, Victoria. The 19 year-old had just returned from New Zealand's Tour of Southland, where he claimed two stage victories, and was believed to be on the verge of signing a contract to race in Europe this season.

"We really wanted to create an event that put a regional cycling event right in the middle of town to get maximum exposure," said Furphy. "At the same time we wanted a very safe event and one that was great from a rider's perspective.

"I guess as people who follow cycling we are a bit tired of hearing a ball by ball description of a second rate cricket match when at the same time there are some great cycling events," he continued. "You can't change the world in one go but Scotty was really frustrated at times at the lack of recognition the sport received."

The event's success follows on from the successful running of a fundraising dinner for the Scott Peoples Foundation last month, which was attended by Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto). Evans joined fellow Australian Tour riders Simon Gerrans and Brett Lancaster in donating jerseys for auctioning off on the night.

"One of the things that helped make our race a success was the support from Cadel Evans," said Furphy. "We raised $20,000 that night and much of it was due to his generosity with his time - awesome bloke."

The team behind Scotty's Race is now hoping to continue the momentum it's gathered to make the event an annual race. "We will definitely be trying to make this an annual event," said Furphy. "We want it to be one of the premier races in the country and we have had a really good start."

In Flanders fields: How to watch cyclo-cross

Hold on to yourselves ladies!
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Despite becoming an increasingly global sport with major events happening throughout the rest of Europe and all over the world, Cyclo-cross has its roots firmly embedded in northern Belgium. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins went undercover for the day at round four of the cyclo-cross World Cup in Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen to find out what makes racing in this part of the world so special.

In most countries, cycle racing outdoors is a summer activity, in the winter there's either recovery from the last season and preparation for the next, or for those with energy to spare there's the track. In this part of the world though, there are some riders who do things the other way around, focusing the peak of their season on racing in the cold, wet weather of the dead of winter.

Cyclo-cross, or Veldrijden as they call it round here, races are generally run in a closed venue, so like criteriums and kermesses - and unlike normal road races - they can charge people to watch. This extra income means that - again like criteriums and kermesses - organisers can afford to pay the top riders appearance money. Top riders like Sven Nys and Bart Wellens, who really draw the crowds, can command as much as €5000 a race before they've even turned a pedal.

The venue of this particular race, Koksijde, sits right next to De Panne (as in the Three Days of) on the North Sea coast. It's just over the border from France and a short hop from southern England. This proximity, and the fact that it's held on the same weekend as the finale of the Gent Six-Days, means that many Brits come over to catch the two events. Consequently, this particular race has a slightly more international crowd than at some events.

What also sets this particular race apart from others is that this is the Vlaamse duinencross (Flemish Dune-Cross), so rather than the ankle-deep mud usually associated with this part of the world, most of the cours

Read the full feature here.

Lars Boom sticks with Rabobank

Cyclo-cross stand-out Lars Boom has extended his contract with the Rabobank team for two years, and will now stick with the Dutch team through 2010. The U23 world champion in cyclo-cross and the road time trial has more than lived up to the promise which got him his first contract with the team in 2002.

Boom last extended his contract through the end of the 2007-2008 season in January, 2006, and will now tackle his budding career in the elite category with the team for another two years.

"I am awfully happy with that," Boom said of his contract, "it is enormously good for my morale. In the coming years I want to become part of the cyclo-cross elite. The 2009 World Championships in Hoogerheide will be my top goal. After that, we'll look further. With this team, I also have ProTour possibilities."

China's hope for gold lies on the track

Women 500m
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The host country of the 2008 Olympic Games is working diligently to assure that its own national anthem will be played in the Laoshan velodrome at least once during the Games' track cycling events, but the challenge for the Chinese team started two years ago, when the UCI decided to slash the women's 500m time trial from the Olympic schedule.

The Chinese women have been the country's best hope to challenge the world's best on the track, specifically in the sprint and 500. Jiang Jonghua provided the country's only cycling medal in Athens when she took silver in the 500. These women now have just one chance to achieve Olympic gold after the time trial's demise.

The China Daily recently spotlighted a few of the country's contenders for medals in 2008, with sprinter Shuang Guo as the main focus of attention for the Games. "My goal with Guo is to win the gold medal in women's sprint at the Beijing Games," said Chinese track cycling coach Daniel Morelon, the Frenchman who was hired to build the Chinese team up to medal contenders. "I am sure she is one of the top five riders in the world, so at least she has to win a medal."

Guo, a 20-year-old from Inner Mongolia is one of the few Chinese cyclists to have trained outside of Asia, having gone to the UCI's World Cycling Training Center in 2002 to train with another French coach, Sebastien Dulcus. "I won't stop at where I am, I always need to become stronger," said Guo. "I am very lucky compared with other team-mates because I have the chance to go to Europe and feel the environment there.

Guo showed her mettle at the 2006 World Championships in Bordeaux, where she took the bronze medal, beating French woman Clara Sanchez, and went on to win two golds in the Doha Asian Games. She went even better in the 2007 Championships in Mallorca, taking silver in the sprint and the keirin.

With qualifications for the Olympics tied to the World Cup rounds, Guo has her sights set on racking up points to ensure that she will be chosen for the Chinese team. "Now I am not thinking about a gold medal or any distant target like that. I just want to collect as many Olympic points as possible and make sure I can compete in the Olympic velodrome."

Guo is not the country's only hope, as its women's team sprint squad took bronze in the Beijing World Cup, showing its depth of talent with Lulu Zheng.

"For the position they are in, China is doing well," Morelon said. "China has no national structure below the senior level, which is totally different from that of France where the best riders are selected when they are in their early teens and sent to compete in the World Junior Championships.

Sevilla's career in jeopardy

Oscar Sevilla, overall winner
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Despite the case against him being shelved, Spanish cyclist Oscar Sevilla is still suffering under the effects of the Operación Puerto doping scandal. Sevilla spent the 2007 season in relative anonymity while racing for the Relax-GAM team, and is unsure of his future with the team after it failed to gain renewal of its UCI Professional Continental license for 2008.

While waiting for Relax-GAM to try to meet the UCI's requirements for its license, which will be decided by the world body on Friday, Sevilla has had talks with the Portuguese Benfica team, but feels that his opportunities for being hired have been ruined by his alleged connection to the clinic of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, his former team doctor from his Kelme days. "I talked to the Portuguese team Benfica, but they are afraid to risk not being invited to the Vuelta. It seems that I have leprosy and which I will spread."

If Relax-GAM does not get its license renewed, his options are few. "I am on the dole," Sevilla said, if he the team goes under. "I am not sanctioned but I am not free to compete - these accusations are blocking my ability to work, I am guilty before being charged."

Sevilla, who won the white jersey of best young rider in the 2001 Tour de France and was twice runner-up in the Vuelta a España (2001, 2002) rode for the Phonak and T-Mobile squads after leaving Kelme in 2003, but was sacked from T-Mobile when the Operación Puerto was opened after a blood bag labeled 'Sevillian' was uncovered. He said that there are ProTour teams who have expressed interest in hiring him, but are fearful that the Operación Puerto case may once again rear its head and cause problems for their team.

"The silly thing is that I have my professional cycling license. This is a real injustice," Sevilla continued. While other riders who have had alleged connections to the case, like Alejandro Valverde, who shared the distinction with Sevilla of having blood bags with EPO in them connected to him, continue to race and have lucrative careers, Sevilla continues to train without any assurance that he will have a job in 2008. "I am training as always. I feel very well. I do not understand why I have to leave professional cycling. But, obviously, if I see that I have no choice."

The 31 year-old has suffered from the frustrations, sometimes breaking down from the stress. "I cried a lot from the feeling of impotence, because I did not stop fighting for what I want. It is hard to feel marginalized, but I make any attempt to bring the best possible."

Abbott, Sears receive USA collegiate scholarships

Mara Abbott
Photo ©: Whitman College
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling announced the recipients of the 2007 John Stenner Collegiate Cycling Scholarships on Thursday. Mara Abbott (Whitman College) and Jason Sears (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) were each granted $2,500 scholarships based on academic achievements, athletic accomplishments and service to the community with an emphasis on collegiate team involvement and leadership.

Abbott, a senior economics major, carries a 3.70 GPA in the classroom and is arguably the most successful collegiate cyclist in the US. At the 2007 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, Abbott brought home three gold medals with an overall Division II championship, a victory in the road race and as part of the winning Whitman College team time trial squad.

Abbott's accomplishments extended to cycling's highest level, seeing the 22 year-old finish second in the Montreal Women's World Cup, a stage win and the mountains classification as well as second overall in the Redlands Classic, as well as the US Elite National road championship and the U23 time trial title.

Abbott, who signed a professional contract with Team High Road for the 2008 season, also sits on the National Collegiate Cycling Association's Board of Trustees.

Jason Sears
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

The men's recipient of the 2007 John Stenner Collegiate Cycling Scholarship, Sears is a graduate student at MIT where he is a research assistant at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center and secretary of the MIT Cycling Team. He currently carries a 4.70 GPA with a double major in electrical engineering and computer science and minor in mathematics.

On the bike, Sears captured an overall national title at the 2007 USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships and finished seventh in the criterium at the collegiate road national championships. Throughout the season, Sears also claimed eight top-five finishes in various regional and collegiate events throughout the U.S.

Sears is the secretary of MIT cycling, and has made numerous strides in improving the cycling programs at MIT and assisting other institutions with starting collegiate cycling programs.

"The contributions of both Mara and Jason to collegiate cycling throughout the 2007 academic year have been tremendous," commented Steve McCauley, USA Cycling Director of Development. "Their success in the classroom, on the bike and in the community is unparalleled and their contributions define them as the best all-around collegiate cyclists in the U.S. this year. On behalf of USA Cycling, I'd like to thank and congratulate them for a phenomenal year."

UK votes back cycling facilities

United Kingdom cyclists are set to benefit from a vote which won a £50 millon lottery grant for the UK Sustrans Connect 2 project. The project, which aims to improve cycling and walking facilities in 79 communities across the UK took home 42% of the total ballots cast, making it the biggest publicly decided award in UK history.

Sustrans is a sustainable transportation non-profit which plans to spend some £140 millon over the next five years on the project, which could benefit as many as six million people who live within one mile of the proposed routes. "The hard work starts now to build those bridges, tunnels, crossings and networks of paths," Sustrans CEO and founder John Grimshaw said. "There are 79 towns and settlements which are just going to be changed, I think, out of all recognition."

Some cycling projects, however, will suffer from the Sustrans project's victory. A project to improving 250 km of mountain bike trails and paths through the Sherwood Forest lost out, as did the Eden Project in Cornwall, which wanted to create a new building, and the Black Country Urban Park, which would have landscaped green spaces to link industrialised and deprived areas in the Midlands.

Newcastle riders to remember Mason

The Newcastle, Australia cycling community is banding together to promote road safety awareness with the announcement riders will gather for a tribute ride to the late Dominic Mason this Sunday. Mason, who was married and a father to two children, was tragically killed earlier this week after being clipped by a semi-trailer while on a bunch ride with 19 fellow cyclists just before 7 AM.

Local cyclists are planning on meeting at 9 AM this Sunday, December 16 for a memorial ride around the Broadmeadow racetrack, and have called for anyone interested in taking part in the ride to show up on the day.

Organisers are hoping to attract over 300 local cyclists with the aim of making a statement about road safety to the wider community.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)