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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 2, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rubiera hopes for team unity

By Shane Stokes

Photo ©: Kirsten Robbins
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel rider José Luis Rubiera has said that he hopes that the teams stand united and force ASO and the other race organisers to remain part of the ProTour. Speaking in advance of today's International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) meeting in Brussels, the deputy spokesman for the Professional Riders' Association (CPA) told the Basque website Urtekaria that together, the teams have a lot of strength. However, if they don't act as a single group, it could be disastrous for the ProTour and cycling in general.

"We do not know what is going to happen," he stated. "I hope that the teams are united so that they can demand that the Tour de France and its organization observes the rules of the UCI ProTour.

"I hope that an agreement is reached because the image which we are projecting world-wide is disastrous. The fans and sponsors could even become distrustful of a world of cycling that is divided. If they sit down and negotiate then they must come away with something. The solution is that ASO complies with the rules of the UCI ProTour."

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Rubiera said that the system is not perfect and work still needs to be done to develop the ProTour. "We know that this category can be improved and the way to improve things is to propose changes and to look for solutions to the problems. It is the organizers of the races who must yield, but it is possible that the teams will not make a joint decision and some take part in the Tour, causing a fatal blow to the category [the ProTour]."

Insiders' views on the UCI-ASO fight

By Susan Westemeyer

The stuggle between the UCI ProTour and the ASO are causing confusion in the German-speaking cycling world. The team leaders are looking for diplomatic solutions, with T-Mobile Team Manager Bob Stapleton saying, "We want a fair solution for everyone, in the interests of cycling." While Gerolsteiner's Hans-Michael Holczer noted, "If there is no agreement, then everyone loses."

The riders see it from a slightly different, and more practical, angle. Gerolsteiner's Peter Wrolich simply wants to know where he will be racing. "The question right now is which race I will be sent to next," he said on "It just keeps getting more complicated because of the difficult situation between the UCI and the major race organizers. The fight between the various parties is being carried out at the expense of the teams."

Rabobank's Grischa Niermann has yet another reason for wanting a solution to the problem. "I really hope that the fight between the UCI and the major race organizers will be settled soon, because if Paris-Nice really can't be ridden, then Tirreno[-Adriatico] won't happen either and my next race would be the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco in April. And I really don't have any interest at all to train for a whole month here at home in Hannover in the rain," he wrote on

Caisse d'Epargne: Spanish team with French sponsor

By Monika Prell

Photo ©: Daniel Schamps
(Click for larger image) Team manager Jose Miguel Echavarri

The ProTour teams are pondering a very important question; will they be on the side of the UCI or on the side of the organisers of the three Grand Tours (ASO, Unipublic and RCS Sport)?

The UCI is steadfast that the ProTour teams do to participate in Paris-Nice, but the ASO, organiser of this race and also of the Tour de France, announced that teams that do not participate in Paris - Nice might also not be allowed to participate in La Grand Boucle.

Today, the teams, as part of the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT), have a meeting in Paris to decide what they will do. All French ProTour teams are willing to compete Paris-Nice, and some teams are pressured by its sponsors to ride the Tour de France, like the Belgian team Predictor-Lotto.

The situation is also very complicated for José Miguel Echávarri, who has a Spanish team with a French sponsor, Caisse d'Epargne. According to the Spanish newspaper AS he declared, "I've got the impression that we, the teams, are like a tennis ball in a match of strength between the UCI and the Tour. I've got my opinion but I'll reserve it for the meeting."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Bennati takes on Petacchi

Bennati with good 2007 start
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"I feel like he must have felt when battling Cipollini," quipped 26 year-old Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) after winning stage three of the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, and taking the overall lead back from his race rival Alessandro Petacchi (Milram). Petacchi, now 33 years-old, is up against a younger sprinter, much like when he first went head to head with the Lion King, Mario Cipollini.

Neither Benna or Ale-Jet have the class and palmarès of Cipollini but nonetheless their sprint rivalry is producing some exciting racing that is sure reappear in the Milano-Sanremo, March 24. Benna took stage one and the overall lead, only to lose it in stage two, when the older of the two got the win. Yesterday, Thursday, they locked horns again, this time it was Benna, making it 2 to 1, and taking the maillot amarillo.

"It still has not registered that I have beaten Petacchi two times," said the rider from Tuscany after the stage to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "They [the wins] were made in a short time but will remain special. I think I must feel like him, when he battled Cipollini. I was convinced that I had also made a special sprint on Tuesday [stage one], but this confirms what was wanted. I have shown that I can also be supreme in a 'regular' sprint."

Today is the decisive stage that will help form the final general classification and likely put both the Italian fast men out of overall contention. The riders tackle 162 kilometres, starting from Albaida and finishing on the Alt del Campello.

After the Spanish race, Bennati, who lives in Rigutino with his wife, will not see Petacchi again until Milano-Sanremo. Reflecting on the upcoming Sanremo, Benna added, "I will not try for victory at all costs. In the middle there is Paris-Nice and I would like to also battle [Tom] Boonen."

Semi-Classic opens spring campaigns

2006 Winner Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux)
Photo ©: Ulrik Møberg
(Click for larger image)

For many cycling enthusiasts, the season starts in Belgium with the running of the Omloop Het Volk. Though there have been races already held in Australia, USA, Italy, and France, it is the semi-classic, this year celebrating its 62nd edition, that really gets the season rolling. Following the Belgian hard-man's race there is Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, and then the big spring Classics, like the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

The parcours are straight forward and favor a strong sprinter, one who can stand up to the elements that Omloop Het Volk often throw into the mix. The race starts in Gent and ends 200 kilometres later in Lokeren, which is only about 30 kilometres to the east of the start. The parcours, however, offers enough in the form of bergs and cobbled sections to shake loose the weak riders and test the legs of the strong as it winds its way south and back north.

Departing from Gent, the race follows the river Schelde until it hits its first of ten bergs for the day, the Kluisberg. The dangerous sections come after Brakel, with climbs number 7 and 10, the Eikenberg and Molenberg. These sharp affairs are both cobbled and are succeeded by other cobbled sections; so any weak riders that barely make it over the climbs will be faced with a rattling experience trying to keep a hold on the leaders.

Read the complete Omloop Het Volk Preview; plus Map and Past winners.

Gilbert in form to repeat

By Susan Westemeyer

Philippe Gilbert is optimistic about his chances of repeating his win in Omloop Het Volk this Saturday. "I am in form and I feel good," the 24 year-old Française des Jeux rider said to Sporza.

He reviewed the parcours on Wednesday, and noted that "it is almost the same as last year. I looked for obstacles, turns, and the direction of the wind."

Who does he see as his biggest rival in the race? "The danger can come from all sides," he is aware. "It was a mild autumn, so may Belgians and Dutch are in good shape. The danger on Saturday can come from anywhere, for example from lesser-known riders."

Rabobank for Het Volk

By Susan Westemeyer

If the Belgian weather does its usual thing, then Team Rabobank will be ready for Omloop Het Volk. "We rode the final 120 kilometres" earlier this week, said Director Sportif Frans Maasen. "The guys were a little numb, but of course we have to practice. Additionally, the weather conditions might be similar on the day of the race. If that is the case, I do not foresee a bunch sprint at the end."

Rabobank is bringing a team "that has potential," with Max Van Heeswijk, Leon Van Bon, Sebastian Langeveld and Juan Antonio Flecha all having chances, according to Maasen.

Rabobank for Omloop Het Volk: Leon Van Bon, Juan Antonio Flecha, Sebastian Langeveld, Jan Boven, Gerben Löwik, Mathew Hayman, Max Van Heeswijk, and Pedro Horrillo.

Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo in Switzerland and Belgium

It will be an intense weekend for Italian Pro-Conti team Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo. The red team from Le Marche, Italy, will send a group to Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and another group to race in the Clasica de Almeria (Sunday) and then the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia (March 7 - 11).

Team for Belgium: Gabriele Balducci, Branislau Samoilau, Alessandro Donati, Andrei Kunitski, Simone Masciarelli, Aurélien Passeron, Andrea Rossi and DS Franco Gini.

Team for Spain: Michele Scarponi (waiting for OK to race by the UCI), Dario Andriotto, Marco Cavallari, Massimo Codol, Stefano Garzelli, Andrea Masciarelli, Giuseppe Muraglia, Giuseppe Palumbo and DS Bruno Cenghialta.

Scrymgeour: The key is chemistry

Oenone Wood helps Teutenberg celebrate her victory.
Photo ©: John Flynn
(Click for larger image)

Following on from its success in the Geelong Women's Tour earlier this week the T-Mobile Women's team is again angling for success at this weekend's World Cup round. Team manager Kristy Scrymgeour took time out to talk with Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer.

The T-Mobile women's team has gotten off to a good start in the new season, with two stage wins in the Geelong Tour in Australia this week. Ina-Yoko Teutenberg brought in both of those victories, but according to team manager Kristy Scrymgeour, it is not so important which rider actually wins, as long as the team wins.

"The aim will always be for the team to pick up as many victories as possible," she said. "We believe all of our riders are capable of winning races if we work as a single unit."

Scrymgeour was named team manager this season, replacing Bob Stapleton, who moved over to take charges of the men's team. She knows what women's cycling is all about, having ridden professionally herself. Her credentials include the Australian time trial title.

Just like with the men's team, the whole management of the women's team is new. Scrymgeour brought in Petra Rossner as trainer and Anna Wilson as directeur sportif. It is Scrymgeour's first experience in team management, but she is relying on her long-time friends.

Read the entire interview with Kristy Scrymgeour.

Volksbank for the Swiss races

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Volksbank will be heading to the GP Chiasso and the GP di Lugano this weekend, calling them "exactly the right challenge."

"We want to be active," said Director Sportif Lukas Zumsteg. "If a group gets away at the beginning, we want to be part of it. But first we have to see how things develop."

The Austrian Professional Continental team did not say whether its newly-signed advisor Jan Ullrich would be in attendance.

Volksbank for GP Chiasso and GP di Lugano: Pascal Hungerbühler, Christian Lener, Andreas Matzbacher, Harald Morscher, Christian Pömer, Patrick Redesser, Florian Stalder and René Weissinger

Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada completes high desert camp

The Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team Presented by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. completed its winter 2007 training camp in California's high desert. The team trained for the week at elevation and was based out of Xantusia, a training facility operated by time trial positioning guru Dan Empfield and tri-sports legend Mark Montgomery.

Surrounded by snow capped peaks, riders soaked up the desert sun on rides varying from long stretches of wind blown flats to epic climbs through Angeles National Forest. Climbing specialist Ben Raby appreciated the sometimes cold and blustery conditions, "I love the windy days – they toughen us up. This has been an excellent camp."

Patrice Lemieux, President of team bike sponsor Kuota, travelled to the camp to work with Dan Empfield on refining the riders' aerodynamic positions on their new time trial bikes. Several riders came away with dramatically improved positions, cutting a smaller hole through the wind while significantly increasing their power outputs.

Michael Zellmann of SRAM also travelled to the camp and spent time talking with riders and gathering feedback on SRAM's newly introduced Force components.

In reflecting on the training camp, team owner and General Manager, Robin Zellner said, "I was really impressed with how well our guys worked and road together this week. Our climbers showed excellent early season form and everyone is healthy. I am very pleased with what we've seen from our guys this week. I can't wait to get racing!"

Canadian National Road Champion Dominique Rollin added, "I was glad to see how many of our guys are riding at roughly the same level. We all got along very well and are looking forward to our first races together as a team. This time at altitude was very good for us."

The team will be racing together for the first time this weekend at the NRC MERCO Grand Prix and Road Race in Merced, California. Today, Friday, several team riders will be making appearances at Merced area elementary schools to discuss bicycle safety with the students.

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