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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 25, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Time trialists cut short

Le Tour 2008
Photo: © ASO
Click for larger image

In a change from last year's success story of the London prologue, the 2008 Tour de France will kick off without its usual short time trial to establish a first distinct general classification. Instead, the riders will head from Brest over 195 kilometres to Plumelec, in Brittany. Time trial specialists will be disappointed to find the first contre-la-montre short, with only 29 kilometres. The second time trial, on the penultimate day of the race, is 53 kilometres long. No team time trial will be part of the route, but the monument of Alpe d'Huez is back in the mix. Climbers will be elated that four mountain top finishes are featuring in the 2008 version.

Le Grand Départ returns to Brest after 34 years. Brittany will see an extended Tour this year, with several hundred kilometres spent in the Northwestern part of the country. After the time trial in Cholet on stage four it is off to the first mountain top in Super Besse, on stage 6. After a few more southbound transitional stages the peloton will hit the mountains.

Read the full news flash here.


Tour 2008 - French riders happy with the course

By Jean-François Quénet in Paris

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom)
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

In between the end of his career as a professional cyclist in 1994 and the beginning of his second real job as a directeur sportif for Française des Jeux in 1997, Marc Madiot was a consultant for radio Europe 1 alongside a young journalist called… Christian Prudhomme. "After some times commentating the races with him, I know what kind of cycling he enjoys, he likes to be enthusiastic about the race and I can see he has put his personal mark on the course of the 2008 Tour de France", Madiot explained at the launch. "It's a really good course. It opens the debate. The difficulties are spread all the way and we'll go mostly on local roads, no more on national roads, which should suit the escapees. With no more [time] bonuses, there isn't as much space for sprinters as before. There is a new dynamics in cycling that has to be worked on. Shall the ear pieces be forbidden – that would be perfect."

His Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert shared the same enthusiasm when he watched the course. "In 2007, there were four or five stages that I could target for wins, in 2008, there will be almost ten of them!" the Wallonian commented. "It's really special to have no prologue and no bonus. It's great. It opens more opportunities for riders like me, who like to take risks. It's more similar to the style of the Giro, which is always a very beautiful race with many things happening. There should be more spectacle with many more actors and that will begin with stage 1."

The uphill finish of Plumelec also inspires Thomas Voeckler who won 'A Travers le Morbihan' at the exact same place in 2004, one month before his fantastic ten days in the yellow jersey. "A course with no prologue seems strange but it's exciting," the Bouygues Telecom rider said. "Short stages are usually nicer than long ones and the cancellation of the time bonuses is better for the beauty of the sport. Cadel Evans would have liked that this year, I suppose! When I heard Christian Prudhomme talking about no [time] bonuses, I thought it was for mountain stages only but I understood it's for all the stages, which is even better. Teams and riders used to calculate their efforts too much in relation with the bonus. Now in breakaways, it will be more a question of gaining time for GC. Somebody who will finish seventh in Plumelec might become the yellow jersey the next day. After such a short time trial in Cholet, there might be a successful breakaway the next day because it will be tight."

Cyril Dessel, another Frenchman who has experienced the life in yellow in 2006, added: "It's a very well balanced course. We know by now that long mountain stages with five big climbs aren't exciting from start to finish. It's a Tour for attackers. Not all breakaways will get caught by the bunch. It'll be a race with movement all the way. It's a very good course for the spectacle."

First reactions to the Tour route

Kim Andersen, the directeur sportif of CSC said that "It is definitely a good route for us. It's going to be a very open race, even though we would have liked to have a team time trial and a prologue. But I am sure that the route gives us very good opportunities."

Andersen added that "We are going to have an extremely good team, and we are going to have a number of different cards to play in the overall classification... and because the route also offers a number of semi-tough stages which are perfect for breakaways. We are also sure to have the chance of a stage win in the course of the race."

Andersen concluded on the team's web site, that "One thing's for sure: It's going to be an extremely fascinating race for the public, and I guarantee that we are going to be at the start line with a team that will be up to the competition."

Rolf Aldag of T-Mobile also commented on the route via the team's web site, and said that "Without a prologue, the sprinters will have a chance to challenge for the yellow jersey right away. Many mountain stages are relatively short, but they get straight down to business with early climbs. This could cause problems for riders to get home within the time limit. But the GC riders will have to be ready to race right from the start. That will definitely mean that we will need carefully lay plans in terms of nutrition and tactics for each individual stage." He also noted, "The lack of time bonuses will make the first week less nervous," and that "The absence of transfers is a big relief for everybody."

Hans-Michael Holczer, manager of Gerolsteiner, was content with the route. "This helps to take out the spice of the route. That was an idea from the teams. Shorter stages, shorter transfers. That is very pleasant."

The lack of time bonuses is good, according to Holczer. "It will be less likely that breakaways will be riding ten minutes ahead of the peloton for four hours."

T-Mobile concludes first team meeting

By Susan Westemeyer

The T-Mobile Team for 2008 has ended its first team meeting. The 29 riders and staff met in Cologne, Germany, for two days earlier this week. "It's been a successful camp with everything geared around getting the team off to a great start to the new season," said the team's general manager, Bob Stapleton.

One point of the camp was to introduce everyone to each other, since there are 11 new riders and 18 returning riders. "The camp was a chance to welcome the new faces and we added some fun group interaction exercises to help build team spirit," said Stapleton on the team's website,

As usual, there were many individual and group meetings. "We set clear individual goals for the riders and we set clear team goals," Stapleton indicated. "Each rider knows their key objectives for the first half of 2008." The riders also underwent the usual medical monitoring and doping testing.

The team will gather again on Mallorca for a training camp on January 5. The team's first race follows shortly thereafter with the Tour Down Under, which is now a ProTour race and starts on January 14.

Sinkewitz testimony against team doctors?

Patrik Sinkewitz
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Patrik Sinkewitz has provided the German cycling federation with information about "the art and manner that doctors and team doctors provided doping products," said Peter Barth, head of the federation's disciplinary committee, according to press agency dpa. "The Sinkewitz testimony concerned his time at Quick.Step-Innergetic from 2003 to 2005 as well as his time at T-Mobile in the year 2006."

Sinkewitz appeared before the panel this week because of a positive control for testosterone. He hopes to have his suspension reduced by cooperating and providing information.

T-Mobile spokesman Stefan Wagner told Cyclingnews, "I can't comment on this information because we don't know what he has said and what happened in the team in 2006. The new management took over the team on request of T-Mobile at the end of the 2006 season. Since then we have made significant changes which continue."

More Discovery riders to Astana

The mass migration from Discovery Channel to Team Astana is continuing. Yesterday the American team, which is ending at the end of the year, confirmed that Janez Brajkovic, Benjamin Noval, Sergio Paulinho and Tomas Vaitkus will all be joining the Kazakh team. Brajkovic was initially confirmed to be joining the T-Mobile squad, but the Slovenian changed his mind.

The four riders will again encounter former team-mates Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer, as well as Team Manager Johan Bruyneel and Directeur Sportif Sean Yates.

The goal is clear. Kazakhstan hopes that by acquiring Discovery Channel to win next year's Tour de France, Danial Akhmetov, the head of the Kazakh Cycling Federation said on Wednesday. "We, the Astana team, must win the Tour de France next year. We will win. It's our main goal," Akhmetov told press agency Reuters. Akhmetov added that "I am convinced that certain difficulties that have emerged within the team are already behind us. The best managers, the best athletes believe in Astana's future."

Akhmetov made clear that "We believe in the anti-doping charter and will abide by it strictly. Any athlete caught doping should be punished. This is what stands behind the integrity of this sport."

L'Etape du Tour asks for prayers

Le grand depart
Photo ©: Mark Sharon
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L'Etape du Tour, an event now in its 16th year to give recreational riders the chance to experience a full Tour de France stage, will hit the pilgrimage place of Lourdes-Hautacam. On July 6, 2008, around 9,000 riders will follow the course of stage 10 of the 2008 Tour, taking in the climb of the Tourmalet via La Mongie side before entering Lourdes. But instead of heading to the holy waters that are said to have cured many, L'Etape du Tour riders will have to tackle the final climb up to Hautacam. Shorter than the 2007 epic ride from Foix to Loudenvielle-Le Louron, this year's l'Etape will cover 154 kilometres. After two uncategorized climbs the Tourmalet will offer some challenge, with 17.7 kilometres at an 7.5% average gradient.

Those who can make it to the bottom of the final ascent will face 14 kilometres of uphill at an average gradient of 7.2 percent. The climb first featured in the 1994 Tour, when Miguel Indurain proved he could actually drop the climbers. Emerging out of the fog he and Frenchman Luc Leblanc caught and dropped Marco Pantani, with Leblanc taking the stage and Indurain consolidating his overall lead. The climb featured twice more, the second time in 1996 when Denmark's Bjarne Riis dropped to the back of the lead group and checked out his competitors before flying off to a solo victory in an incredible display of power on the way to taking overall victory in Paris (he has since admitted using illegal performance enhancing drugs during that Tour and has surrendered his yellow jersey). The last stage to Hautacam was won by Spain's Javier Otxoa in 2000, who held out against a fast finishing Lance Armstrong, en route to his second Tour win.

After the Ariège, the Haute Garonne and the Hautes-Pyrénées departments on the 2007 Etape du Tour, next year the riders will pass through the Pyrénées Atlantiques and the Hautes-Pyrénées. The start town of Pau is – after Paris and Bordeaux – the third most visited town by the Tour de France, and is also popular with l'Etape, having most recently hosted a start in 2003 and a finish in 2005. The finish in Hautacam is also known for its skiing in the winter and offers extraordinary views of the Pic du Midi and the Val d'Azum.

As usual, the Host Village will be open for two days before the event: on Friday the 4th and Saturday the 5th of July, in Pau. And for the first time this Village will be set up on the Pau racecourse in order to welcome all participants. Bib numbers and all necessary race information may be collected here.

An entry form will appear in the February edition of the French Velo magazine, but riders from outside France will be given the chance to enter via various approved agencies and travel companies.

Milram vacations

By Susan Westemeyer

Marcel Sieberg
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The ProTour season is over, and Team Milram's riders are all celebrating the off-season in different ways. While Erik Zabel and Niki Terpstra are continuing to ride at the Amsterdam Six-Days, most of their team-mates are heading off on vacation.

Marcel Sieberg is traveling to Egypt and the Red Sea, while Björn Schroeder and family are off to Gran Canaria. Ralf Grabsch is going to Teneriffa, with his wife but without his bike. Martin Müller isn't going abroad, but will visit with family and friends in Cottbus, Germany. Traveling furthest is Sebastian Schweiger, who with bride Marina is honeymooning in Singapore and Thailand.

Christian Knees won't have more than a few days to recover before he starts training again. He has just moved into a new house with his wife Nathalie and infant daughter Fenja. "That was a lot of work. I did a lot ot it myself, painting and so on. And the move and putting everything away," he said on the team's website, "It was a lot of fun. But I will be happy when it is all finished and I can rest for a few days before I have to start riding again. That will be my vacation."

Basso working on comeback already

Basso was last riding for Discovery Channel
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Ivan Basso may still be suspended for another year, but the Italian is keeping in shape, actively preparing for his comeback which realistically can be only in the 2009 season. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Basso has done 30,000 training kilometres this year, compared to 35,000 two years ago.

Basso was often training with his neighbours, Daniele Nardello and Stefano Zanini. It has helped the rider from the Lombardy region to keep close to his race weight of 70 kilograms. The big unknown will be which team is ready to sign him when he is making it back to the peloton. He will be prevented from signing for a ProTour team before 2010. Rumours connect him with Barloworld and Italian team LPR so far.

Another traffic death of a cyclist

After yesterday's news about the death of Lee Ann Barry, founder of the B.I.G. ride, another traffic tragedy has struck in the US. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) announced the death of Brett Jarolimek, who died on Monday afternoon. Jarolimek was a gifted cyclist who loved racing and excelled at the technically challenging sport of cyclo-cross. Jarolimek was an artist and an employee of the Bike Gallery in Portland.

Because of the extreme disparity between weight, power and the level of protection that exists between motor vehicles and bikes, it is imperative that both motorists and cyclists be fully aware of each other's presence and operate their respective vehicles in an appropriate and defensive manner. While the number of deaths of cyclists is only a fraction compared to motorists, many of those accidents are preventable.

Foremost is the need to educate motorists, cyclists and pedestrians about proper behaviour, the laws, safety and civility. In the US, the League of American Bicyclists educates both motorists and cyclists to share the road safely. Many of the League's activists also work together with local law enforcement as well as on a state wide level, pushing for needed changes in the traffic codes.

Gerolsteiner to Japan Cup

Team Gerolsteiner has one more race before it ends its season. After having opened the year with a race in the desert of Qatar, the team will close the year with a race in the far east. Fabian Wegmann will lead the team in the Japan Cup, a 151.3-kilometre 1.1 race this coming Sunday in Utsunomiya. He will be accompanied by Heinrich Haussler, Bernhard Kohl, Ronny Scholz, and Peter Wrolich.

PowerBar's prototype sampling

PowerBar, the maker of the popular energy bars and official partner of the Tour de France, Ironman and the Vasaloppet, is months away from launching its new product. It will give away 10,000 prototypes ahead of the launch. The C2MAX series is supposed to help the body absorb the carbohydrates quicker.

PowerBar claims that scientific studies have shown "a significant increase in performance." Good news for current PowerBar eaters like the T-Mobile team, mountain biker Gunn-Rita Dahle or marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie.

Athletes in Europe can request one of the 10,000 samples that will be given away, starting November 15. The official product launch is scheduled for mid-February.

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