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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for February 21, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams

ASO: Paris-Nice to go ahead, regardless of the UCI

Patrice Clerc, President of ASO, speaks
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

ASO has confirmed overnight that its Paris-Nice race on March 11-18 will go ahead, despite any actions that may be taken by the UCI as the stand-off between cycling's world governing body and major event organisers continues. The world's largest cycling organiser issued the release in retaliation to that sent out by the UCI yesterday entitled 'ASO's Stance Blocks Any Discussion With The UCI', following a break down in discussions between the pair the previous day.

"The president of the UCI said that if the race continues to not follow the framework of the UCI, by refusing participation of all ProTour teams to compete, the UCI will cut it from the ProTour circuit, just like the organizers of the Giro and Vuelta, who have refused to take park since the start," the communication posted on France's Yahoo! read.

The latest in the UCI vs. ProTour organisers battle comes after ASO, who also runs the Tour de France, announced ProTour team would not be invited to contest the Paris-Nice, the opening round of the ProTour. UCI president Pat McQuaid and ProTour manager Alain Rumpf met with ASO representatives Gilbert Ysern and president Patrice Clerc on Monday in order to find a resolution to the matter, but the meeting failed to produce a solution.

"In these exceptional circumstances, ASO is anxious to guarantee the integrity and credibility of the competition," said Clerc. "ASO indicated that it would organise the race conforming to the French law, and per the rules and regulations of the French Cycling Federation."

While the UCI has previously threatened the GrandTour ogranisers with action against their events should they fail to meet its demands, ASO has declared it has a responsibility to uphold the tradition of its events and will go ahead with the Paris-Nice with, or without, the UCI's blessing.

"The position of the UCI is to stand by threats it made to race organizers, ASO is supposed to include all ProTour teams," continued ASO's announcement. "Despite all the threats made, ASO's obligation is to preserve a race that occupies an important place in cycling tradition and confirms the Paris-Nice will continue like announced on March 11-18, 2007."

The Sweden-registered ProTour team Unibet has become a pawn in the power play between the major players in world cycling. In addition to the snub by ASO, the outfit has also been given a frosty welcome to the ProTour by RCS, with the company revealing last week it wouldn't allow Unibet to take part in its ProTour rounds Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro d'Italia.

ASO has also asked: "that a meeting between all the parties of pro cycling be organised. In our eyes, it is the only means of getting past the current crisis, which is born of bad reforms the UCI wanted to impose without necessary consensus."

"ASO regrets this request was rejected by the president of the UCI, who makes out as if ASO is solely responsible for the current crisis, while back in June 2006, the UCI had reduced to nothing the efforts of a working group, which had reached unanimous agreement."

Petacchi tries to organise his train in Algarve

By Jean-François Quénet in Albufeira, Portugal

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Last year there were a few direct oppositions between Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen prior to their first common goal, which is always Milan-San Remo. After losing every single sprint against his Belgian rival in Qatar, the Italian has chosen a different road on his lead up to La Classicissima and it's in Portugal for the Tour of Algarve, starting today.

"It's been a team choice to make me race here," he said, after getting a warm welcome by race organisers in South Portugal. "It's the same for me. In any race I go, I try to win at least a bunch sprint."

There might be more than one during the five days race that hasn't featured many difficulties this year. Petacchi will face the opposition of T-Mobile's new signing Bernhard Eisel who was used to win stages here with Française des Jeux in the past few years.

"I'm going to concentrate on organising my train," he explained. "The sprint I won in Donoratico was a bit of a mess. One of my new lead out men Brett Lancaster got boxed in and we haven't done the sprint we had to do."

Lancaster isn't present in Portugal but Petacchi's old train is. It includes the famous trio formed of Marco Velo, Alberto Ongarato and Fabio Sacchi. "They have the experience of more than 100 winning sprints," Petacchi recalled. "We have also added some new ones."

Lancaster is the equivalent of the reinforcement of Boonen's train with Gert Steegmans at Quick Step. "We have seen at last year's Tour de France that Steegmans is a great rider but I'm not worried," Petacchi added. "I'm confident in my train as well. It might take 10 to 15 sprints before we do it perfectly but it's just a matter of putting everything right together. I'm a different sprinter than Boonen anyway, I've always done my sprints with accelerations while Boonen is more explosive. In Qatar, I was missing the explosivity. I hope to regain the little explosivity I've got."

With one win this year, he's far from the most successful Italian sprinter Alberto Loddo who has won one stage in the Vuelta Tachira and five in Le Tour de Langkawi. "I don't want to underestimate what Loddo has done but I'm old enough to put some criticisms. I saw him at a criterium in Sardegna in 2000 and he was flying as an amateur, then he won straight away in Qatar when he turned pro but he jeopardized his career coming to the races with five extra kilos. Now with Gianni Savio at Selle Italia, he might have lived the life of a bike rider."

"It's hard to win anywhere in the world but he yet has to confirm his wins in Europe and it will increase the value of his wins outside Europe," added Petacchi. "I know Malaysia, that's where I got my first pro win. I have a great memory of this country."

Zabriskie disappointed with ToC end

A massive pileup with two laps still to go.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC's David Zabriskie has expressed his disappointment in the premature end to his Tour of California campaign, after he was forced to withdraw following a crash on the first stage, but has vowed to move on. The United States Time Trial Champion left yesterday's stage with a concussion but was cleared of feared damage to his wrist following an xray.

"Of course I'm real disappointed in having to go out this way, because I'd been looking forward to racing here in California," he explained. "But at the same time I'm pleased that I wasn't badly hurt, because it was quite a bad crash. It comes with the territory that once in awhile you have to eat dirt, and now I'll just have to shake it off and start preparing for my next race instead"

Zabriskie's teammate Karsten Kroon was also caught up in the accident, which caused chaos in the peloton and saw the closing stages neutralized. Kroon underwent x-rays but was cleared to race, and took part in Stage 2.

Ullrich to announce plans

By Susan Westemeyer

Will Jan Ullrich be announcing his new team or his retirement? That question will be answered on Monday morning at his press conference in Hamburg, Germany. The 'Jan Ullrich Team' announced the press conference on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the cyclist "will discuss the past and will give the good news about his professional future."

Reporters shouldn't expect too much, though: "Please be aware that Jan Ullrich will not answer any questions."

Sastre optimistic

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Team CSC leader Carlos Sastre expects this season to be "the most important one in [his] cycling career," and will again structure his season around the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. "I hope to confront them in the best condition possible, especially the Tour," said Sastre at a press conference in Spain. "I have arrived at a point of professional maturity in which I feel capable of contesting this race. After assuming the responsibility of the team in 2006, I have the mental strength necessary to win the Tour and the Vuelta".

Sastre recently returned from Team CSC's training camp in California which included fine tuning his time trial position in the San Diego wind tunnel. "There have been three weeks of intense work, in between trips and training we have practically not had a single day of rest," said Sastre. "We have carried out training at different intensities - between three and six hours each time. Altogether about 2,700 kilometers."

The Spaniard is hoping for a marked improvement against the clock after slipping off the Tour de France podium last year following the stage 19 time trial. "I have corrected the position of the handlebars and we have verified that we can improve in the race against the clock," explained Sastre. "I hope that all these changes are translated soon on the road and they allow me to yield less time with respect to the specialists."

Sastre's first competitive outing will be the Clasica de Almeria one day race on March 4 followed by the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia from March 7-11.

Hansen: Relaxed approach to ToC

The man who won the Crocodile Trophy can also conquer the hills of San Francisco. Adam Hansen celebrated his T-Mobile debut with a surprising sixth place in the prologue of the Tour of California on Sunday. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with him.

Hansen is known for his love of technology and how it can help him become a better cyclist but did without all those special aids on Sunday afternoon, deciding not to use a time trial bike. "I just used my normal road bike with shallow spoke wheels. So it was no disc, no aero-bars, no front aero wheels, nothing," he noted. "I went with a pretty relaxed view into the race as it was my first one."

It helped, too, that sport director Ralf Aldag and team manager Bob Stapleton supported an 'easy does it' approach to California for the 25 year-old. "With having Ralf and Bob there to tell me there was no pressure, it was a very relaxing feeling," described Hansen of the pair's support.

On Sunday, Hansen was the 17th rider to roll off the ramp and by the end of the 3.1 kilometre stage, the Cairns-born Australian had posted a time good enough to claim sixth position in the final wash up.

Even in such a short prologue, pacing oneself is of ultimate importance, especially when it features such a nasty climb to the finish line. As a former triathlete Hansen is well accustomed to pacing himself over a distance and it was this experience that he feels brought him home as the top T-Mobile rider on the stage.

For the full Tour of California feature, click here.

Astana for Algarve

Andreas Klöden and Matthias Kessler will make their debuts for Team Astana this week in the Volta ao Algarve. The race starts today in Albufeira and runs for five stages.

The full lineup is as follows: Antonio Colom, René Haselbacher, Sergeï Ivanov, Benoît Joachim, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Klöden, Gennady Mikhailov and Gregory Rast.

Race etiquette in California

With this year's Tour of California attracting massive crowds - an estimated 280,000 fans lined the streets of San Francisco for Sunday's prologue - the race organisers are reminding spectators of the need for "race etiquette and conscientious behaviour" whilst visiting the event.

"We are guests in the communities we race through and are only borrowing the road," said Assistant Technical Director, Chuck Hodge. "If our race entourage and the race spectators show courtesy and enthusiasm along the route, it will go a long way towards helping the sport of cycling become even more accepted."

Aside from the obvious need to keep off the course while 144 cyclists come hurtling past, the organisers are asking that fans use "sidewalk chalk" instead of paint to write messages on the road and also keep dogs and small children firmly leashed and under control.

Last year an estimated 1.3 million spectators came out to watch the race and organisers are expecting even larger crowds this time round with 12 cities hosting the race along a 650 mile route.

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