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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, April 18, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Amstel heralds Ardennes men's arrival

By Gregor Brown

Scenery along the 43rd Amstel Gold Race – Holland's 257.4-kilometre Classic running Sunday, April 20
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Ardennes Classics gets started this Sunday with the 43rd Amstel Gold race, April 20. The race – in Hollands's Valkenburg zone – runs over 257.4 kilometres and is the precursor to La Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday) and the oldest of them all, Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday).

The race marks the transition from pavé races, like Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, to the ones with rolling asphalt roads through the Ardennes region of Belgium and Holland. The pagan goddess Arduinna will watch down on her land as the skinny little men punch and counter-punch for victory, while the hard-men will likely be at home watching on television.

The Amstel Gold Race is the youngest of the seven major Spring Classics and has gained its popularity over the last 15 years thanks to non-Dutch winners. Recent winners include Germany's Stefan Schumacher, Luxembourg's Fränk Schleck and Italy's Danilo Di Luca and Davide Rebellin, while further down in the annals stars like local hero Jan Raas, Belgium's Eddy Merckx and France's Bernard Hinault appear.

The parcours offers fans plenty of opportunity to see the riders go flying by as it repeats many of the climbs throughout its 257.4-kilometre journey from Maastricht to Valkenburg. The roads twist and turn on themselves and favour a local rider with intimate knowledge of the course, which first rolls north before coming back south towards Valkenburg and the start of the 31 bergs.

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The 184 riders depart from the Grote Markt at 10:21, head north towards the first climb and then make the turn-back in Geleen. The race will turn back south (climbs Adsteeg and Lange Raarberg), east towards Voerendaal and then back west towards Maastricht. Along the way west the riders will face the Cauberg (climb number six, in Valkenburg) for the first of three times – the second as climb number 21 and the last as the finish.

Continue to the full preview.

Gerolsteiner for Amstel: Johannes Fröhlinger, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, Peter Wrolich and Marcus Zberg.

Lampre for Amstel: Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Ballan, Simon Spilak, Francesco Gavazzi, Marco Marzano, Paolo Tiralongo, Paolo Bossoni and Daniele Righi.

AG2R La Mondiale for Amstel: Rinaldo Nocentini, José Luis Arrieta, Martin Elmiger, Renaud Dion, Julien Loubet, Rene Mandri, Yuriy Krivtsov and Alexandr Pliuschin

Milram for Amstel: Andriy Grivko, Christian Knees, Erik Zabel, Martin Velits, Björn Schröder, Enrico Poitschke, Igor Astarloa and Niki Terpstra.

VDB unemployed again

Frank Vandenbroucke (Mitsubishi-Jartazi) looks on
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Mitsubishi-Jartazi team announced on Thursday that it has terminated its contract with Frank Vandenbroucke. The team management and sponsors held a meeting with Vandenbroucke and his manager Paul De Geyter, and came to an accord where both sides agreed to end the contract.

"After a constructive discussion between the two parties, it was jointly decided to accept the termination of the employment of Frank Vandenbroucke," a team press release stated. "The team stresses that this decision was made in consultation with the cyclist and his manager."

Vandenbroucke had been optimistic about returning to racing after his attempted suicide of last June early this year. He started racing again last fall and had his first race this season in the GP Marseillaise, but had to abandon after 50 km. He managed to finish the Etoile de Bessèges the following week, but his fortune would soon take a turn for the worse.

In March, the UCI gave his team a 'wild card' designation which would allow them to ride ProTour events, yet added on the unusual stipulation that they could participate in the events only if Vandenbroucke was not on the start list.

Vandenbroucke threatened to take the UCI to court, while his team gave him up as a sacrifice to ensure the rest of the squad could participate in the high profile events.

'VDB' then skipped the mid-week Nokere Koerse, deciding instead to fly to Italy to visit his daughter. Not long after, the press reported that his name had come up in a cocaine investigation in Flanders, something the rider vehemently denied. However, his team placed him on the 'inactive' list earlier this month after getting confirmation that the Belgian had been named as a customer of gang drug dealers.

This marks the third team in three years for Vandenbroucke, after unremarkable seasons with the and Acqua & Sapone squads. Mitsubishi stepped in last October to give the rider a second chance.

Ullrich Swiss case to be sent up in summer

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich may have settled the Bonn, Germany, investigation that he defrauded his employers by the use of doping, but he is not out of the woods with all his legal problems. He still has to face an investigation by Swiss Olympic – or does he?

"It looks like we will send the dossier to the disciplinary committee of Swiss Olympic in early summer (June or July) for them to act on," Bernhard Welten, head of the Swiss Olympic anti-doping committee told Cyclingnews. He noted that if Ullrich is convicted, this would be his second offense and he would therefore be subject to a lifetime ban. The German rider, who lives in Switzerland, has retired from racing, but such a ban would prevent him from becoming a trainer, for example.

Ullrich was suspended for six months in 2002 for the so-called "party pill affair." He tested positive for amphetamines during rehabilitation after knee surgery. He claimed to have taken a couple of pills from an unnamed person while at a disco the night before the out-of-competition drug test. At the time, amphetamines were on the forbidden list, but the rules were changed in 2004.

However, Roland Richner, the technical director of Swiss Cycling, the national cycling federation, indicated that nothing may happen. "We can't and won't undertake anything," he told the German web site

Azevedo to retire after national Tour

By Jean-François Quénet in Ölüdeniz

José Azevedo (Benfica)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

On the start line of stage four in the Presidential Tour of Turkey, two experienced riders shook hands like old brothers in arms, Luxembourg champion Benoît Joachim of Astana and José Azevedo from Benfica. In a fraction of a second, they remembered their old good time together at US Postal (2004) and Discovery Channel (2005 and 2006). It might be the last Tour that the pair ride together, as Azevedo announced he would end his career later this season.

The 34-year-old former lieutenant of Lance Armstrong has decided to race up until the Volta a Portugal in mid-August, but will go out with plenty of fond memories of the sport. "I have a lot to remember but the 2004 Tour de France definitely remains my best memory in cycling," Azevedo said. "I helped Lance break the record with six wins and I got my best personal placing in fifth as well." The Portuguese also came in sixth in the 2002 Tour de France and fifth in the 2001 Giro d'Italia when he raced for ONCE.

His cycling career started in 1994 with Boavista. It will come to an end when he turns 35 in September this year. "It's a definite decision," he explained. "I still had one year left in my contract with Discovery Channel for 2007, but I asked Johan Bruyneel to free me because I felt that I needed a change, and I wanted to finish my career in my country after so many years racing out of Portugal.

"There was the new ambitious project of Benfica as a Pro Continental team. I'm glad I was given the opportunity to be part of it. I don't regret what I've done because we get a lot of support back home being a cycling team of a famous football club."

Something special attracted Azevedo back to Portugal: "I want to win the Tour of Portugal before I quit." Since he finished his national tour in sixth position last year, he only has one opportunity left for reaching his goal and it's this August.

He's no longer on an agenda that includes the Grand Tours but he seemed happy to take part in the Presidential Tour of Turkey. "On the second day I made the breakaway and I thought the final winner would one of us," he said. "But another move went yesterday and five riders were the same. That included my team-mate Danail Petrov, so I put myself at his service." Back in a local team, Portugal's most famous cyclist from the past ten years still has the instinct to work for the others as he did for Joseba Beloki at ONCE and Lance Armstrong at USPS and Discovery Channel.

"There is a future for cycling in a country like Turkey," he discovered. "It's a good race. The roads aren't too bad. The organization has to improve a little bit but there aren't big things to change, mostly the timing because we race quite late here." Towards the end of his career, Azevedo is in a rush to finish.

World hour record holder to re-start from scratch

By Jean-François Quénet in Marmaris

Ondrej Sosenka
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

It's been almost three years since Ondrej Sosenka became the world hour record holder with 49.700 kilometres covered on the Krylatskoye velodrome of Moscow (July 19, 2005) but he disappeared from the scene after winning the Chrono des Nations in France just one second ahead of world champion Michael Rogers in October that same year.

"Professionally and personally I've had a lot of hard times," Sosenka explained on the start line of stage three in the Presidential Tour of Turkey in Bodrum. A chaotic road season in 2007 led him to a split with his Polish team Intel-Action that he had rejoined after the end of his three years of romance with Aqua e Sapone in Italy. "I almost didn't race last year and I finished the season in an amateur club in the Czech Republic."

The 32-year-old from Prague returned to the Pro Continental outfit from his country, PSK Whirlpool, a team he already rode for in 2000. "With PSK Unit Expert, I won my first stage in the Peace Race," Sosenka recalled. PSK are the initials of the police sports club.

Since the Czech team registered only in March, the Presidential Tour of Turkey is Sosenka's first race this year. "But we have had a three-week training camp in Mallorca, and I added a personal training camp in the Canarias," he explained. "Usually in the spring I don't go well, but now I feel better than ever for this time of the year. I almost made the breakaway in stage two. I'm very happy with my condition. Now I hope to do well in the Szlekiem Grodow Piatskokich, a Polish race that includes a time trial."

Time trial is still what Sosenka is the best at. A six-time national champion, he'll try to win the Czech title again but the Olympics aren't in the picture for him because the Czech Republic hasn't qualified any rider for the time trial in Beijing. "I'll focus on the world championship and the Chrono des Nations again at the end of the season," he said.

"Only in 2009 I want to go for the hour record again. For now, I have to re-build myself as a rider. If everything goes well again, I'll go back to a big team and try to cover more than the mythical barrier of 50 kilometres in one hour."

ProTour leader skips Amstel for Georgia

André Greipel took the ProTour jersey in the Tour Down Under
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road will be splitting the squad into two in order to send riders to the Ardennes Classics as well as the Tour de Georgia, which begins Monday, April 21. ProTour leader André Greipel will not be taking part in the Amstel Gold Race after missing out on Gent-Wevelgem because of illness. High Road's sprinter will be heading for the Tour of Georgia instead. "There were some confusing internet reports about André but he is back and in good shape," Rolf Aldag stated.

Aldag explained that despite wearing the ProTour jersey, Greipel isn't obligated to participate in the next round at the Amstel Gold Race. "UCI regulations allow that ProTour leaders don't have to show up for every ProTour race and we're taking advantage of that," he explained. "The only thing is that Amstel really doesn't suit André. He's a pure sprinter, not made for climbs like in Amstel."

Instead, the key rider for the Classic will be Luxemburger Kim Kirchen. Fresh from two stage wins in the Vualta al País Vasco, Kirchen has proven his worth for the title of team leader, noted manager Rolf Aldag of Kirchen.

"He's our man for Amstel." Aldag said. "Edvald Boasson Hagen, Morris [Possoni], Adam [Hansen] and Tony [Martin] have amply proved in this past month that they are up to the job of handling the breaks beforehand. But when it comes to the final, our real card to play will be Kim. He did a brilliant performance in the Tour of the Basque Country, and deserves some good support in Holland."

High Road for Amstel Gold: Michael Barry (Can); Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor); Gerald Ciolek (Ger); Adam Hansen (Aus); Kim Kirchen (Lux); Andreas Klier (Ger); Tony Martin (Ger); Morris Possoni (Ita).

For Georgia, director Allan Peiper will field a versatile squad which can handle the team time trial and mountain stages as well as contesting the furious bunch sprints which are expected on the first few stages. "The route structure will make for a complex and interesting race, tactically," Peiper explained. "If the climb came early on in the race and the team time trial second, it would be possible to try to ensure things stayed together on Brasstown and then aim to take control of the GC at the time trial. But that won't be possible. Having Brasstown so late on, effectively freezes everything up beforehand."

The team will have the speedy kiwi Greg Henderson and Greipel for the sprints, but will likely be called upon to control the race for its GC hopefuls. "I'm not sure how many other top sprinters will be there. So that probably means we will be working with other GC teams to keep things under control in the flatter stages, too, to try and ensure a bunch sprint where we can," said Peiper.

For the overall, High Road will be looking to Thomas Lövkvist and Kanstantsin Siutsou to make their mark on the Brasstown Bald stage. "They're both good climbers. Craig Lewis could well be a key player on that stage, too."

High Road for Tour of Georgia: John Devine (USA); Bert Grabsch (Ger); André Greipel (Ger); Greg Henderson (NZL); George Hincapie (USA); Craig Lewis (USA); Thomas Lövkvist (Swe); Kanstantsin Siutsou (Byl).

Marco Polo takes on Georgia

The Marco Polo Cycling Team is gearing up to take on the Tour de Georgia with additional sponsor GE next week, and in preparation for the race they surprised a few local elite riders by showing up at a Greenville, South Carolina race last weekend.

The Chinese-based squad has raced in most parts of the globe, but never before in America. When they arrived in Atlanta last Thursday, they decided to take in some racing to shake the jet lag out of their legs.

The team headed up to Greenville for the races put on by the Freewheelers of Spartanburg at the Donaldson Center – a circuit well-familiar to regional racers who use the seven mile flat course for early season training races. Marco Polo's Rhys Pollock took third.

Sunday's Walnut Grove road race featured a more selective course, and after a day's racing to warm up the legs, the squad took control. After an attack of Xing Yan Dong of China, Australian Jai Crawford launched the counter-attack and rode over 30 kilometres solo to victory. Once Crawford's gap was large enough, Pollock went away with 12 kilometres to go to take second after dropping his breakaway companion, veteran Pat Raines (TIME Pro Cycling), while Sergey Kudentsov cleaned up in the bunch sprint with fourth.

The team's director for Tour de Georgia, Michael Carter, was pleased with the squad's performance. "It's actually a great segue because these guys were able to ride yesterday and loosen their legs up a little bit, and today it looks like they are really coming into some good form," Carter told

"This week, they'll just rest, recuperate a little bit, get used to the time zone again, and they ought to be in good shape."

The team used the rest of the week for sponsor activities and a preview of the Brasstown Bald climb before traveling to Tybee Island for the race start on Friday.

Chinese star Fuyu Li competed Thursday in the Asian Championships in Japan, and then headed to the US for the Tour de Georgia.

Finding stability in retirement

Back in 2000
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

It's with mixed feelings that most professional riders choose to end their cycling careers. Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner talked to retired French pro Christophe Agnolutto on choosing the right moment, switching back into family mode and staying involved in cycling.

Looking at his palmarès, Frenchman Christophe Agnolutto achieved some beautiful victories, including the overall Tour de Suisse in 1997 and a stage at the Tour de France in 2000. But the former AG2R rider also knew how to be a no-less-important team-mate, helping his team leaders to glory during the last years of his active career.

Agnolutto only started cycling with ambition in his early twenties, and turned pro at the age of 25, in 1996, with Petit Casino. He remained true to the squad directed by Vincent Lavenu, which became Casino and later AG2R, until 2005, when Agritubel offered him a veteran position to finish his career in style.

Agnolutto was 37 years old in 2006 when he decided it was time to leave. "I would have wanted to do one last Tour de France in 2006, but Agritubel didn't select me for its roster," he recalled. "So I preferred to quit."

At first, it was "weird" for Agnolutto to stay at home, especially the first winter. "I did some jogging, I never completely stopped the sport," he said. "But I was 37, I have a wife and three children – it would have been more difficult if I had been 27. Moreover, I had been the one to decide to quit. Of course, I could have found another contract for one more year – but it might have been the year too much, if you know what I mean. It was the right moment to stop."

The Frenchman, who worked in publicity before becoming a pro cyclist, also had some professional plans to keep him busy. "I think retirement is worse when you don't have anything to do, no project. But I was about to create my own business, so I had no time to dwell on myself," he explained.

"Moreover, I keep close ties with the pros as I act as a vice-president of the French pro cyclists union (UNCP) – so I have to go to some races and events to stay informed. But I don't miss being gone in hotel rooms for half of the year at all!"

Continue to the full feature.

Jittery Joe's for Tour de Georgia

The Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team announced its roster for the AT&T Tour de Georgia on Wednesday. Team captains Trent Wilson and Neil Shirley will head up the 'bean team', which is sponsored by a regional coffee roaster.

They'll be joined by Aussies Cody Stevenson, Jonathan Cantwell and Ryan Sullivan, as well as Evan Elken and fellow Americans Matt Shriver and Jared Barrilleaux.

"I think this year's Jittery Joe's team is the strongest in our history," said team manager Micah Rice. "All of these riders are capable of doing very well at the Tour de Georgia. Anyone who wants to meet the team can come enjoy a cup of coffee with us at the new Jittery Joe's cafe in Savannah from 3pm to 4pm this coming Sunday before the race."

Top teams to Air Force Classic

Promoters of the May 4 US Air Force Cycling Classic in Arlington, Virginia have announced a competitive field of 14 teams for the event. 2007 Crystal City Classic winner Kyle Wamsley will return with his Colavita Sutter Home team, as will the 2007 UCI Americas Tour winner Svein Tuft (Symmetrics).

Other professional teams include the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast team, Ride Aid p/b Shebell & Shebell, Team Type I, Time Pro Cycling, Successful Living, Toshiba-Santo p/b Herbalife as well as the DLP Racing team, Team R.A.C.E., Team Inferno, Richmond Pro Cycling.

Local elite amateur squad Battley Harley Davidson and the U.S. Armed Services Cycling Team will round out the field.

The Men's Pro/Am field will depart from the U.S. Air Force Memorial at 11:45am, as they make their way into Crystal City to then begin their 12 laps of racing on the 12.5 mile circuit. The complete roster is located on the website at

Cycling enthusiast of all abilities will be able to participate in the Crystal Ride event, held prior to the Men's Pro/Am race. The ride will begin and end at the U.S. Air Force Memorial, and participants will be able to ride on the 12.5-kilometre circuit through Crystal City that will challenge them to complete up to 100km. Following the ride, the three Service Academies will compete in a Team Time Trial format on the same circuit.

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