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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 15, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

McEwen wants more protection

Robbie McEwen (Predictor Lotto)
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Robbie McEwen will once again ask for more protection for the sprinters from preventable accidents. He almost crashed in yesterday's Paris-Tours, unclipping his foot close to the line and bumping into Oscar Freire. Both being skilled sprinters, they stayed upright, but it wasn't a technical malfunction that caused the Australian to unclip his foot in an untimely moment.

McEwen told Cyclingnews that "I was hit on the head by a spectator about 100 metres to go which caused me to almost crash, foot out of pedal.... The impact nearly knocked me straight off."

This is not the first time such an incident has happened in the final metres, when the bunch comes flying down at 60 or 70 kilometres an hour. Thor Hushovd cut open his arm in last year's Tour de France, when he was close to the barriers and hit one of the green PMU cardboard hands that were given out to spectators. The cardboard hands have not been given out this year, but clearly that has not been the solution to the problem.

Gerald Ciolek had two encounters with spectators this year. In the Deutschland Tour, coming too close to the public in the sprint merely cost him the win, but in Poland he hit the deck after a similar incident.

McEwen cited these accidents when he declared that "I'm going to write to the UCI and ASO to ask them once again to consider using a double line of barriers in the final 250 metres of races." The Aussie could also imagine that the "the two-metre high barriers like they use at the Giro" could work. Either way, the sprinter who beats men and horses said that "There does need to be a buffer between the riders and public."

First time spectators who are unaware of the speeds, are a major contributor to problems at cycling races. A spectator at this year's Tour of California told Cyclingnews that "We have been to parades before," only to complain about the motorbikes ahead of the race. "Why are they going so fast?" The motorbikes were of course just going as fast as the peloton, which can exceed 60 kilometres an hour in the closing phases of the race, with the final speed often more than 70 kilometres an hour.

Not all accidents can be prevented. Some want a close up shot of their heroes, something that one spectator was really successful in doing in 1999, taking out Italian Giuseppe Guerini just before the finish in Alpe d'Huez. Fortunately Guerini was quickly up again and still won the stage.

Lance Armstrong also fell in 2003 on the way up to Luz-Ardiden. His handle bar got tangled up in a cloth bag from a spectator. At the time the Texan admitted to riding too close to the spectators. It's impossible to close of the entire road, but definitely for the final metres in a bunch sprint something needs to be done.

No doping controls in Tours

By Hedwig Kröner

An embarrassing mishap for the French anti-doping movement occurred yesterday at the finish of the penultimate ProTour race this season, Paris-Tours. After Alessandro Petacchi sprinted to the victory and gave his TV interviews, he was not asked to the doping controls that usually involve the winner of an event, as well as other, randomly chosen riders.

"The doctor that had been commissioned by the AFLD [the French Anti-Doping Agency] was late," explained ASO press officer Mathieu Desplats to Cyclingnews. "He arrived only 15 minutes after the riders. Normally, this person needs to be at the finish two hours before in order to prepare everything."

The organiser of the event, in this case ASO, is not involved in the process of doping controls at the finish. "We only provide the equipment and materials for the doping control to take place," continued Desplats. "The van in which it will be carried out for example, and the water for the riders - things like that. But we are not in charge of the actual taking of the urine sample."

It is the UCI that delegates this responsibility to the national anti-doping agencies, in this case the AFLD. No explanation for this disaster has yet been given, as the persons in charge could not be reached.

Di Luca on track for second ProTour win

By Hedwig Kröner

Di Luca
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

After the penultimate ProTour race this season, Paris-Tours, Italian rider Danilo Di Luca is still leading the overall classification. The Liquigas pro, who won the series last year, has 17 points advantage over Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor). Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) sit in third and fourth position, 51 and 52 points back of the Italian.

At the last ProTour race, the Giro di Lombardia, 50 points will again be awarded to the winner - so theoretically, Di Luca's only rival is Evans. The Australian will honour the competition in Italy and try to aim for a top placing ahead of Di Luca, but he is unsure of his form this late in the season.

"I'm running on empty, to be honest, but I'll see what I can do," Evans said after the World Championships in Stuttgart. "I'll have a bit of a rest and do what I can." If Di Luca has an off-day, a sixth position in Lombardy would be sufficient to dethrone the Italian, but that is unlikely to happen.

Freire third in "chaotic" sprint finish

By Susan Westemeyer

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Team Rabobank had several chances to win Paris-Tours on Sunday, but none of them worked out. Juan Antonio Flecha went the wrong way in his escape attempt and an accident meant Oscar Freire was only third over the line.

Flecha, along with Fabian Cancellara, took off after an escape group with about four kilometres to go, but the Swiss rider went the wrong way on a roundabout and the duo lost its chance. "Juan also indicated that he had used up most of his energy after such a long season," said Directeur Sportif Adri van Houwelingen on the team's website, "But, if you can show this in the finale of such a race, I really cannot share that opinion."

Therefore, within the last kilometre it came down to the expected mass finish, with Freire near the front. But he had to hold back twice and just as he was making his move to the front for the win with a hundred metres to go, Predictor Lotto's Robbie McEwen slipped out of his pedals and nudged Freire, who lost his momentum and finished third. However, "Looking at Petacchi's margin, I still do not believe Oscar would have been able to come out victorious," van Houwelingen said.

The directeur sportif was satisfied with the stage, saying, "Winning is obviously the main priority, but you know that everything must go well and that was certainly not the case in this bunch sprint. Oscar certainly could not claim second place, but he is not really too concerned about that."

In the ProTour standings the Spaniard moved up to fifth.

Mancebo victorious in Chihuahua

Event winner Francisco Mancebo (Relax-Gam)
Photo ©: Monika Prell
(Click for larger image)

Spanish pro Francisco 'Paco' Mancebo (Relax-Gam) has won the overall classification of the Vuelta a Chihuahua in Mexico this week-end. The rider, who was dismissed by ProTour team Ag2R last year because of his presumed involvement in the Operación Puerto doping case just prior to the Tour de France, won his first stage race since 2003, ahead of Canadian Christian Meier (Symmetrics) and Mexican Antonio Aldape (Canels).

"I'm very happy for this win," said Mancebo, who will probably be part of the peloton next season, too. "I want to continue racing, but not at any price as I'm only 31 years old," he added to Spanish news outlet AS. "In any case, I have an agreement of principle to renew my contract with Relax."

The Spanish Pro Continental squad also includes Ángel Vicioso, Óscar Sevilla, Jan Hruska, Jesús Hernández and Santiago Pérez this season, who were also linked to the blood doping ring of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.

Gerolsteiner's "second" weekend

By Susan Westemeyer

Wegmann, Cunego
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Two races, two second places -- that was Gerolsteiner's weekend in Italy. "But second place is also a good result," said Directeur Sportif Christian Wegmann.

It started Saturday in the Giro dell'Emilia, a race which Davide Rebellin won last year. He was in a 12-man escape group and close to the one-kilometre mark up the final climb of San Luca broke away with CSC's Fränk Schleck, who ended up beating the Italian by one second. "The team worked well and Davide brought in a top result," Wegmann said on the team's website, "Davide rode very well. He was the only one who could go, when Schleck attacked on the last climb. Of course we hoped that he would win again, but Schleck proved to be a tick stronger in the end."

Things worked out similarly the next day for the directeur sportif's brother, Fabian, who was second in a photo finish in the Gran Premio Beghelli. "That was a damned close thing," said older brother Christian. Oliver Zaugg was in an escape group that was caught only on the last lap of the circuit course. A 16-strong group formed and headed to the sprint in front of the peloton. Wegmann lunged for the line, but Lampre's Damiano Cunego proved to be faster and crossed the line in first. "We rode a really good race," Christian Wegmann said, and looked optimistically to the upcoming Giro di Lombardia. "That gives us hope."

King aims for record at Master's Track Worlds

Australian Michelle King is aiming high for the 13th UCI World Masters Track Cycling Championships, which start tomorrow in Sydney. They will be held from October 16 to 21 at the Dunc Gray Velodrome.

King, who won the silver medal in the time trial last year, is hoping to do one better. But even with last year's winner, American Elizabeth Reap, not in attendance, she will have a challenge. For her, only the world record counts. "I am out for that world record. If I win gold, but don't get the world record, yes, I will be disappointed," she stated. "It's about a test of how fast I can go, not about who I can beat at these championships," she added. "I want that record."

King, like many masters, feels the added stress of doing the rigorous workouts -- two 5 hour DISC velodrome sessions, a Carnegie velodrome session, 3 gym workouts and a Pilates session per week during the last six months -- while raising a family. King has two children younger than 18 and therefore may take a step back after the Worlds. "Look, at this stage, I am not sure, but its hard with two young kids at 14 and 17, as they are at an age that they need their mother around more and with all the training and cycling in my life of late, it's just hard for me to be there," she recognized the difficulty of combining cycling and family life. "I guess we will wait and see whether I have that world record in my pocket," she added, making clear what her main goal is.

The reason King is so confident stems from the fact that she came so agonizingly close to the World Record in the time trial, setting a time of 37"272, just 0"275 seconds outside the world record. That sparked the intensive training sessions, which would bring most of her cycling peers half her age to their knees.

Another reason for confidence are VIS coach Hilton Clarke and husband Darren. "I am a very different cyclist to Darren, in that I find it hard to be openly confident, and he has helped me to become more positive," she said. "I know that I have put in the work here at DISC, which is easily the fastest track I have ridden on, and to have someone such as Hilton Clarke behind you is great" she said.

After last year's disappointment with silver Michelle bounced back at the 2007 Victorian Championships with three golds and an Australian record in the time trial. And just for good measure, she did that all again at the Australian Masters Championships, held in Melbourne, where she took out the Female Champion of Champions title after her three golds -- time trial, sprint and scratch race, plus two Australian records in the time trial and the 200 metres with flying start. Michelle then topped off her great season by winning the Victorian Masters Female Cyclist of the Year at the CSV Awards Dinner in July.

Her date with destiny in the Time Trial will be on Tuesday, October 16, in the late afternoon.

Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner heads to final race of season

Belgian team Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner will end the season with the Nationale Sluitingprijs - Putte-Kapellen on Tuesday, a 1.1 race in the UCI calendar.

Andy Capelle, who got third last year, will head the team. He will be getting assistance from Nico Sijmens, Sjef De Wilde, Jan Kuyckx, Frédéric Amorison, Steven Kleynen, James Vanlandschoot and Kevin Neirynck. Gino Verhasselt will be the sports director.

Capelle would love to repeat last year's great result, so he can head down the aisle on Saturday truly satisfied.

David McPartland has retired

David McPartland
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) David McPartland (Portfolio Partners) was the fourth rider  to go on the attack and form a quartet at the front of the race.

On October 6 David McPartland has retired from professional cycling. His last race was the Memorial Cimurri, held in the in Emilia region in Italy. McPartland was previously riding for Tenax and spent this season with Hadimec Cycling Team, which offered him a contract extension. He also had offers from German, Austrian and Italian professional teams. McPartland has had a good season, winning two races, including a stage in the Tour d'Alsace, France. He also cracked the top ten 16 times in 2007.

Nonetheless, the Australian cited that "In a professional field of work like cycling, job security is almost a factor unheard of," and decided instead to retire from racing, as he was offered another job. The new line of work was offered by the Australian Institute of Sport(AIS)/Cycling Australia(CA) High Performance Program and is "longer one in duration terms."

Having been a full time scholarship holder of this program in 2002 before becoming professional, McPartland feels "I have a good understanding of how the program runs." Since he experienced the help first hand, he declared that "I hold the AIS/CA High Performance Program is very high esteem." Because of the quality of the program as well as the adopted "zero tolerance to doping," McPartland feels that the program is well respected in Europe and ProTour teams are well aware of the riders going through it.

McPartland is excited about the new opportunity and even though he leaves professional cycling after only five years, with good success in the end, the Australian stated that "Where one 'nice' door closes another 'nice' door opens for me in this case!"

McPartland's past successes include the win of the Australian Criterium Champion title ahead of none other than Robbie McEwen and David McKenzie, a stage win and the leader's jersey in the Tour down Under and helping Stuart O'Grady and Allan Davis to fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the 2004 Worlds in Verona. He also participated in prestigious races like the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the Giro di Lombardia.

McPartland, who is still in Italy, will return to Australia on November 16.

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