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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 29, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Tosatto replaces Di Luca in Italy's Squadra Azzurra

By Gregor Brown in Stuttgart

Ballerini listens intently
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)
Matteo Tosatto will replace Danilo Di Luca in Italy's Squadra Azzurra for the World Championships this Sunday. The 33 year-old Italian was given the official nomination for the nine-man team Friday afternoon by Directeur Sportif Franco Ballerini. Tosatto replaces Di Luca who withdrew under pressure from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

The team could be even stronger without Di Luca. Tosatto serves as Paolo Bettini's trusted lieutenant all year on trade team Quick.Step - Innergetic. While Bettini was building his form in the Vuelta a España, Tosatto raced in the Tour of Poland as did Di Luca.

Had the Giro d'Italia winner taken part it would have made a team with too many captains; the team will now have 2006 World Champ Bettini, Filippo Pozzato, Davide Rebellin and Alessandro Ballan as potential leaders.

"We are a compact team, united and irritated," said Ballerini. "With all that has been going on in these last two days I have not even had time to talk about the definitive roles with the riders. In fact, tonight [Friday], will be the first technical meeting. We will expect to have Tosatto with us on Sunday."

Bettini confirmed the selection of Tosatto and the continued presence of Di Luca. "I would be happy, naturally, to win another Worlds," said the rider who won in Salzburg last year. "We truly have had some evilness. We will welcome Matteo Tosatto, who will join us tonight [when he arrives from Italy]. We are content to have the experience of Di Luca, who remains with us because his experience will be useful."

"The maglia azzurra [team jersey - ed.] will remain in a special spot in my home even though I will not be racing in it," Di Luca noted. The rider from Pescara accompanied the Squadra Azzurra on a training ride of three hours around the Stuttgart parcours.

Big name signings raise Rock & Republic's status

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Las Vegas, Nevada

Victor Hugo Peña, Freddie Rodriguez and more on board

Ball has big plans for the team
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The Rock Racing outfit has had a successful inaugural year, taking out a couple of key major wins with the CSC Invitational and Manhattan Beach GP. But 2008 should be a breakthrough year, at least it looks that way on paper, with the big name signings the team has made. Title sponsor Rock & Republic's CEO Michael Ball told Cyclingnews that his plans for the team are the same he has for any business -- win big and keep going.

"At the end of the day we are here to push our product," he said. "I want these guys to go out on the weekend, stomp on everyone so that come Monday, people are buying up all our merchandise. It's the Ferrari business model."

Ball was on hand at Interbike to announce the launch of a new product line of activewear and as the sponsor of the USA Crit series finale. And his product requires a certain kind of look to go along with it, which is why he hired the riders he did in 2007. "Who wants these bunch of misfits?" he laughed. "No straight-laced company wants these guys representing them. But that's what works for us. Rahsaan [Bahati] and Kayle [Leo Grande] really complement each other."

Ball casually listed off an impressive list of names that he has secured for next season, showing what his long-term intentions are."We are really building in 2008 to go to Europe in 2009," he said. "We have Freddie [Rodriguez], Victor Hugo Peña, Cesar Grajales, Doug Ollerenshaw, Michael Creed and another possible rider signing later today." Ball confirmed that the other rider he was hoping to sign was in fact the much rumored Chris Horner. The additions of Peña, Horner and Grajales will elevate the team to contend in races other than criteriums, which is necessary to gain entry into the biggest races, both here and eventually abroad.

Will the US peloton see more of Horner?
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)
Ball said that the plan is to dominate the North American scene next year so as to establish their name before crossing to Europe. "We have a great relationship with AEG so we will be a part of California next year. We don't want to go to Europe without killing it over here first. Slipstream is backing in, what is that? I mean, all due respect, but that's not how I do things. We want to come in with guns blazing."

Ball's management style is quite evident just by speaking to him. "I told these guys you have to win," he said. "I said to Rahsaan half way through the season, 'I'm not paying you for second or third place. You either win or you're fired.' Same for the rest of them."

One casualty of this style was Sebastian Haedo, younger brother of sprinter J.J. Haedo. Sebastian raced for the team up until August and with good success, but a disagreement over where he would ride in 2008 resulted in Ball sacking him before the USPRO criterium championship. "He was immature," Ball said. "He wanted to be with his friends [next year] so I fired him and told him to go home. I run this as I run my business, simple as that."

Disagree with his style if you want, but the team has posted some impressive results this year and some equally impressive signings for next. Ball noted that the additions to the team are just that, with almost all of the current riders staying with the team. "CSC was huge for us, it really put us on the map," he said. "But any of these guys can win a stage at the Tour de France, or even the points jersey.

Leipheimer to Astana

American Levi Leipheimer is the next in a long line of Discovery Channel outcasts to have found a position for next season, the Deseret Morning News reported. In an interview with the Utah newspaper, Leipheimer hinted that he'd found a team, saying, "We just can't say anything yet, but I'm not really on the market anymore."

The newspaper quoted Leipheimer's coach, Dr. Max Testa, as confirming that the third place finisher of this year's Tour de France will accompany Johan Bruyneel and Alberto Contador for the 2008 season. "They just need to make sure everything is just right before they make it official," said Testa.

France hopes for cleaner World's

By Jean-François Quénet in Stuttgart

The French team
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The French national team isn't exactly mentioned among the favourites prior to the World championships in Stuttgart. "We are ranked 10th I think," national coach Frédéric Moncassin noticed. In fact, France was on the edge of being able to line up only six riders. The top 10 nations on the Pro Tour ranking are awarded nine starters. The French champion Christophe Moreau brought the most number of points to his country thanks to his victory at the Dauphiné, but Moreau isn't a part of the roster in Stuttgart since he never found the condition he had in June again. Therefore, the captains will be Sylvain Chavanel, Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrigo who has made an exception to his habit to focus on hunting at this time of the cycling season.

"Should it be a bunch sprint finish with 70 riders, we might have selected the wrong Chavanel," Voeckler joked in a press conference, referring to Sylvain's brother Sébastien who is one of France's best sprinters. The fastest of the selected French riders is Romain Feillu, a rookie who was second at the World's last year in the U23 category. Anyway, Moncassin has advised his boys to "anticipate a possible bunch sprint". Voeckler successfully surprised the sprinters three kilometres before the finish of the UCI Pro Tour GP Plouay on September 2nd, but he reckoned they should be in action before the final lap.

"Fortunately for us, in cycling not always the strongest wins," Voeckler stated. "If we are the smartest it should be all right," Stéphane Augé added. "In the previous years, the sprinters were able to get over the climbs on the World's courses," Chavanel noted. "Hopefully it'll be different on Sunday."

French riders are clearly hoping for something new in cycling. "Should one of us produce a good result, it would have a different impact in today's context," Voeckler explained. "We are happy that there will be fewer cheats on the start line, although the necessary clean up brings a lot of bad publicity along and tarnishes the image of cycling. But if the first of us comes 15th, it won't mean that there will be 14 dopers in front of him. Not only French cyclists are clean. There are many more."

Veteran Stéphane Goubert returned from the Vuelta with a positive impression. Four French riders made the top 20. "I've noticed that even in Spain, cycling was cleaner than before. I hope it's a good start. If the world championships are a little easier than usual, the better for us."

Voeckler also said: "It's a pleasure to come and ride the World's in a country that has launched a huge clean up campaign one year ago, even if Germany has done it with more publicity than France a few years ago. We don't know if there'll be some cheats on the start line, we'll have to deal with it anyway. I haven't taken part in many races where it was possible to guarantee that there was zero doper in the bunch."

French trade teams have done pretty well at the time trial with Credit Agricole's Laszlo Bodrogi second and Bouygues Telecom's Stef Clement third. Now it's up to French riders to take their chance as well. Anthony Geslin came third two years ago in Madrid where the French team also adopted a low profile prior to the event.

Irish hoping for good performance

By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart

Irishman Daniel Martin will go pro in 2008
Photo ©: Pierre Carrey/VC La Pomme Marseille
(Click for larger image)

Irish climber Daniel Martin has had a strong season with the VC La Pomme team and is hoping to complete his final amateur season with a strong ride in Saturday's Under 23 road race in Stuttgart.

The 21 year old has had a number of strong results this season, including the final stage and the overall classification in the Tour de Pays de Savoie. He also won the mountains jersey in the Ronde de l'Isard, plus took a stage, the points classification and fifth overall in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc.

Team manager Kurt Bogaerts said that he is hoping for a good result from Martin or compatriot Mark Cassidy, who was 2nd in the GP Dourges and 14th place in the European road championships this season.

"Daniel is a climber and he thinks is a really good course for him," said the Belgian, who runs the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group/M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team. "There is a hard climb, then the second climb is pretty long. He is really looking forward to it. If Mark is on a good day, he will like the course too.

"They are both two different riders but on this circuit, Mark's chances are equal, I think. If it was a real climbing race then Daniel would be better. But on this circuit I think that it is good that we have two guys who will help each other. We also have Isaac Speirs there – he is young and lacks experience at this level, but he will be there to help them and to be ready if somebody punctures."

Martin was approached by Team Slipstream last season but decided to remain another year in the amateur ranks before turning pro. His strong performances this summer led to another offer from the team and he will line out in the distinctive Argyle colours next season. Cassidy currently races for the Continental Murphy and Gunn team.

Bogaerts is hoping one or both will show well. "I think it is possible for the team to get a top ten place, and quietly I hope one of the two can be top five. I would rather get one good result if they can work for each other, like if one is in the front the other then just sits on and use his brains. I think they will ride intelligently because they are very professional."

The under 23 road race will see the riders complete nine laps, for a total distance of 171.9 kilometres. Ireland will also have an entrant in the seven lap, 133.7 kilometre elite women's race. Siobhan Dervan will line out there and is hoping for a solid ride in what is her second time taking part in the worlds.

Stapleton happy with 2007, looking forward to next season

By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart

Bob Stapleton (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The T-Mobile team was completely restructured this season but nevertheless had a very successful time, taking 35 wins and placing in the top four in terms of the number of victories by ProTour teams. On Thursday the roster was announced for the 2008 season and general manager Bob Stapleton said that he was optimistic that the magenta squad could continue to build its strength.

"We made some big changes this year and for next year will have even more," he said. "We have got ten new riders coming in this year and I really look forward to them adding to the success the team has had this season."

As reported earlier on Cyclingnews, the new riders are Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Maxbo Bianchi), John Devine and George Hincapie of Discovery Channel, Craig Lewis (Team Slipstream), Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux), Tony Martin (Energie Thüringer), Morris Possoni (Lampre-Fondital), Vicente Reynes (Caisse d'Epargne), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Barloworld) and Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis).

"As you know, the sport has lost a focus on results and racing and athletics, but if you look at the results our team has got this year, it has really exceeded our expectations," said Stapleton. "We had great success through good team-work, with a good group of guys working really well together. Our young talent was particularly successful this season. We won 35 races, with twelve different guys taking victories. I am very proud of the results of the team. I am very optimistic about 2008."

The T-Mobile squad has a very strict anti-doping policy and all the new riders will have been left under no doubts as to the seriousness of this. Riders are required to sign a strict ethics code and to undergo regular testing, which will be ramped up again in 2008 thanks to a €1 million anti-doping budget.

As part of their wish to build towards a cleaner future for the sport, the squad is made up largely of young riders. These will be guided by more experiences professionals. "The roster next year will be quite a young team, maybe the youngest team in the ProTour. We will have twelve riders who are 25 or younger and we have also got guys like Kim Kirchen who, at 29, is one of our aged veterans!

"I think the key to really developing this young talent is not only a good environment with good tools and support, but also having good, experienced leadership in the races and team-mates that the they can be inspired and learn from on how to be a professional. How to survive a difficult sport, a long season, how to stay healthy and most important, how to win races on the bike.

"As you know a lot of key decisions are made in the race and we are very happy to welcome George [Hincapie] and Bradley [Wiggins] to our experienced core."

Stapleton said that this year saw a very strong example of how this kind of guidance can work out. "We have seen this kind of mentoring and leadership with Roger [Hammond] and Mark [Cavendish]. That is probably one of our finest examples. Roger's work was key to a number of the team's victories this season, so we really look to create that situation again next season. We have maybe the top young international talent in the sport and some really good leadership and good team-mates to model behaviour around."

British Cycling to build pro team

Two British World Champions
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

British Cycling has endorsed a plan to set up a professional team for both men and women which will be run by the organisation, and announced that the organisation's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, will stay on in that capacity until after the 2012 Olympics. Under Brailsford, British Cycling enjoyed unprecedented success in track, BMX and mountain biking and British cyclists are beginning to make waves on the road scene as well.

Brailsford called the professional team concept "a natural and eagerly awaited progression of our Olympic Programmes to create a top flight professional road team of British riders". After a successful start to the Tour de France in London, the British have embraced cycling, and Brailsford is keen to give them a home team to cheer for. "The opportunity to running a team based on the same performance principles as we currently employ is very exciting and one which I would like to make a reality. GB cycling fans are fantastic and I am sure that they would really get behind a British team competing in the major tours."

British Cycling's President Brian Cookson praised Brailsford for his achievements. "The confidence we had in appointing Dave to this role back in 2002 has been totally vindicated," Cookson said. "Dave has been a key factor in the unprecedented levels of success that we have enjoyed in recent years, and we were very keen to secure his services right through to the biggest objective ever for British sport, namely the London Olympics."

British track cyclists have had international success in both endurance and sprint events on the men's and women's side, demonstrating a vast depth of talent in recent years. Noted champions include Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins, Shanaze Reade, Jamie Staff. Reade is also BMX world champion.

French cyclists protest against potential Olympic exclusion

By Jean-François Quénet in Stuttgart

Following UCI president Pat McQuaid's announcement that France could face penalties up to a ban from taking part in the Olympic Games in Beijing next year if the French cycling federation steps in to sanction the Tour de France rather than the UCI, French riders selected for the World's in Stuttgart protested firmly. "Is the UCI saying that mountain biker Julien Absalon or our track riders would be excluded from the Olympics because of their fight with ASO? It's a total nonsense," Thomas Voeckler stated.

"As bike riders, we are totally helpless in front of all these political controversies," the winner of GP Plouay added. "I don't have in mind an episode when bike riders have been questioned or associated with the debate over the conflict between ASO and the UCI. We don't want to say who is right and who isn't. We just want to be able to take part in the best races. We want to go to the Tour Down Under in Australia, we also want to go to Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, no matter who organizes these beautiful races."

The president of the French cycling federation Jean Pitallier confirmed that "a split is in the making" with the other powerful national federations in Europe. "These problems occur because [former UCI president] Hein Verbruggen is pulling the strings," he told the French radio reporters.

In the face of these protests, McQuaid backed down from the threat to ban the French cyclists from the Olympics. "It's a complicated question," he said. "If the French federation goes against the UCI rules, we'll have to take action but I can't tell you what kind of action. I'm not a lawyer and we have to speak with our lawyers to figure out how far we can go."

Tour of America goes under the microscope

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dr. Frank Arokiasamy
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The management behind the recently announced Tour of America, a proposed four-week, 27 stage and 7,000-plus kilometer race in September of 2008 from New York to San Francisco for $11 million in prize money, held a press conference at the Interbike trade show on Thursday to discuss the details of the race. While the main protagonist behind the race idea, Dr. Frank Arokiasamy, Ph.D., exuded confidence throughout the presentation, the assembled media and other interested parties took turns shooting gaping holes through the loosely gathered plans, and coming away with more questions than when they entered.

Upon entering the room, the press corps was handed a three-page information packet with mostly vague details about the race organization, but shockingly detailed information about the entire 27 stages of the race, including both start and finish cities along with dates.

An announcer introduced Arokiasamy, a former economics professor and corporate consultant, as the Tour Director, as well as Richard Dunn and David Mayer-Oakes as race directors. Both Dunn and Mayer-Oakes are former US national team members, with Mayer-Oakes a former junior world champion. After a short opening statement by Arokiasamy, the floor was opened to questions -- of which there were many.

Read the full feature here.

Tour de Langkawi goes on

Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) will go on as planned in 2008, but with a reduced budget. This comes despite news that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) of Malaysia has opened an investigation into financial 'irregularities' in the race organisation. According to reports from the New Strait Times, the continuation of the Malaysian race was given in a statement by Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said on Thursday. The race is scheduled to run January 25-February 3.

The statement indicated that the event would be managed by an organising committee under the Sports Ministry to be chaired by Sports Advisory Panel (SAP) chairman Datuk Nik Mahmud Nik Yusof, who this year acted as steering committee chairman, while Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad will return to act as the race's chief operating officer.

"Right now, it is already a bit late to start the organisation of next year's event, so we have to get moving. We will begin by appointing the relevant consultants and contractors after we set up the organising committee," said Mahmud.

Jeanson details EPO abuse

In the second part of an interview with Radio-Canada, former cyclist Genevieve Jeanson detailed the scope of her abuse of EPO during her career. In the first part of the interview last week, Jeanson admitted to using EPO throughout her career. In the second part, she went into greater detail about beginning to use the drug at the age of 16 with the assistance of Dr. Maurice Duquette and in company of her father and her coach André Aubut.

Jeanson went on to describe living in constant fear of dying in her sleep because of her high hematocrit, which was measured at 57% when she was excluded from the World Championships in Hamilton in 2003. She went on to describe how she wanted to quit cycling after the incident, but kept going out of fear of disappointing her coach, family and sponsors.

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