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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, April 18, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

New format for the Vuelta?

Victor Cordero thought about ways to make his race more exciting for the public
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The Vuelta a España may be introducing a radical new format in an attempt to make the race more exciting. Race director Victor Cordero has proposed a first week of "play-offs" for the race sometime in the future.

"We could have a first five or six-day phase with flat stages, mountain stages and a time trial," Cordero said at the "International Forum for the future of Cycling" in Paris on Thursday, according to the Reuters news agency. "We could have team standings to select the 16 teams to continue the race."

After eliminating the first few teams, the remaining squads would have the option of bringing in new rides for the rest of the race. "The riders taking part in the playoffs would not necessarily be the ones participating in the rest of the race," he added.

The move would be aimed at making the first week of the race more entertaining. "Usually, the first week of a Grand Tour is not very interesting," he admitted. The Spaniard further suggested that the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia could eventually also adopt the proposed format.

In any case, the use of the "play-offs" will not be implemented right away. "We have stages planned in the Netherlands in 2009 so it would not possible before 2010," Cordero said. "Moreover, we still need to discuss it further."

Cycling reform: Paris meeting concludes

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Two days of discussions over the reform of pro cycling at the French Olympic Committee in Paris have come to end. Approximately 40 participants, including the head of the International Association of Cycling Race Organisers (AIOCC) Victor Cordero, the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) Eric Boyer, the French Cycling Federation (FFC) President Jean Pitallier and representatives of Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), debated in what they called a "International forum for the future of cycling." The meeting took place on Wednesday and Thursday this week without the participation of the International Cycling Union (UCI), which declined the invitation to the event.

At the end of the discussions, a "declaration for a new start in cycling" was signed, which asks the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as well as the national governments for support. Amongst other points, the participants agreed on the setting up of a new elite cycling calendar in 2009, which would include the "historic" races but be more "open" than the ProTour, as well as the creation of points licence for the teams, which would feature proportional sanctions to every infraction of anti-doping rules.

"We agree on what we want," said teams representative Boyer about the different roles of race organisers, teams and riders. "Now, we have two choices: Either we tell the UCI that it has its place within the framework we conceived or we acknowledge the fact that it did not reply to our extended hand. I prefer the first option."

However, the proposed framework is still "subject to further, more detailed reflection." The concluding document, according to L'Equipe, was sent to the UCI on Friday. "With this forum, we wanted to show that a common conception of cycling is developing, even if we don't consent on everything. Now, we will move forward with or without the UCI, as we did in Paris-Nice," said AIOCC president and Vuelta a España organiser Cordero.

The Spaniard also asked WADA to reconsider its opting out of the so-called biological passport. "WADA needs to be the motor and the driver of this project," added Cordero, who hoped the riders' data would be available in time for the Tour de France this year.

Christophe Blanchard-Dignac, head of the French lottery Française des Jeux, as well as a representative of the Belgian Lotto company, moreover would like to create an association of the team sponsors, and regretted "the absence of a pilot in pro cycling. We don't know what cycling will be on January 1, 2009. We need a precise action plan as soon as possible."

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

High Road youngsters dominating win list

By Susan Westemeyer

The Team High Road men have notched up a total of eight wins since March 30, with six of them going to the team's talented youngsters. Kim Kirchen, at the ripe old age of 29, took two stage wins in the Volta al País Vasco to break the youngsters' streak, but in one of those stages, he pipped 22 year-old team-mate Morris Possoni at the finish line.

Up-and-coming sprinter Mark Cavendish has a bright future ahead of him
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

The dominant rider at the moment is 22 year-old Mark Cavendish, who uses his explosive power and speed to win sprints. After winning gold in the Manchester Track World Championships in the Madison with High Road team-mate Bradley Wiggins, he turned his attention to road racing and promptly won the second stage of the Driedaagse van de Panne, coming out of nowhere to win by two bike lengths. And since that was so good, the "Manx Express" did it again the next morning, once again beating Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) but this time by only a few centimetres.

"Mark is really exceptional," said directeur sportif Alan Peiper. "Nothing seems able to take away his self-confidence. Other sprinters lose their self-belief quickly, but what makes Mark so exceptional is that his morale remains so solid come what may."

After a disappointing Gent-Wevelgem, "Cav" blasted back in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, pipping a very surprised Tom Boonen on the finish line. "It was a super sprint. He was a little bit too far back but did two sprints: One to get up to Erik Zabel and then another to beat Boonen. He was clearly the fastest in the final metres," according to directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman.

Cavendish himself noted that "some people sprint until 300 metres to go ... I had to get around them; it was like dodging traffic islands out there."

Adam Hansen and Tony Martin "fought like animals" for the victory
Photo ©: Dion Kerckhoffs
(Click for larger image)

Another 22 year-old recorded his first pro win this season. Tony Martin won the Hel van het Mergelland in a long breakaway with Adam Hansen. "It's a really exceptional victory after an exceptional race. They fought like animals to get their break away. First they only had a minute, then 90 seconds but they kept going until the bunch split into four," Hoffman said. "I'm very pleased for the team, but I'm also pleased because it's good to see when two riders - any riders - are so aggressive in a race and they get the right reward: a great win."

The first and last of the wins in the streak have come from the youngest on the team, Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, who is just 20 years old. Despite his tender age, he is reigning national time trial champion, and showed why, when he won the third stage time trial in the Criterium International, finishing the technical 8.3 km course seven seconds ahead of team-mate Martin.

"Edvald did a classy ride, he made no mistakes and calculated his strength perfectly," said directeur sportif Valerio Piva. "At the half-way time check he was one second down on Tony, and then he turned up the throttle to finish seven seconds ahead. That shows real control and power." He lauded the youngster's first win for High Road, saying, "For a 20 year-old, it's an amazing achievement, and one which really bodes well for the future."

But the talented Norwegian showed that he can do more than time trial. On Thursday, he scored the sprint out of a four-man group to win the GP de Denain, only 24 hours after Cavendish won the Scheldeprijs. He was part of a breakaway of 15 riders which got away early, and helped to whittle the group down to six.

"He jumped away with five other guys on the second to last lap at a danger point where there was a bit of a climb and a cross-wind and I'd warned them attacks could go." Hoffman said. "[French sprinter] Jimmy Casper was still in that move, so Edvald tried again and wore the rest out with another attack." This reduced the lead group even further, to just four. "Then in the finish he went again and this time the other guys were too tired to respond."

Boasson Hagen won by several lengths. "Edvald sprinted so strongly for the line that there wasn't anybody else in the finishing photo," according to Hoffman. "It was a really classy charge for the line."

Hoffman, as well as the rest of the team, was pleased with the results the team has brought in. "The great thing is that it's not just one of them, either. Mark, Edvald, Tony Martin: they are all winning," he said, adding that the string of victories "shows how well the team's focus on new talent is working."

Xavier Florencio: Ready for Amstel, Flèche and Liège

Spaniard Xavier Florencio, 28, is looking forward his Ardennes Classics target
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Ardennes Classics are coming and Spain's Xavier Florencio, winner of the 2006 Clásica San Sebastián, is ready to show his ability to be among the top contenders. Like countrymen Juan Antonio Flecha and Oscar Freire, the 28 year-old of Team Bouygues Telecom is a Classics specialist riding for a non-Spanish team. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez spoke with the well-mannered rider while he was in his hometown Tarragona, Spain.

After starting his year in Australia's Tour Down Under and Spain's Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana - where he finished third overall - a crash spoiled Xavier Florencio's ride in the Paris-Nice. "I didn't do very well because of a crash I had the previous week [in the Clasica de Almeria]," said Florencio with complete honesty, explaining his performance in the prestigious French race. "I hurt my hands because I wasn't using gloves, and with the temperature we had those days, I had my hands and my knees infected. I didn't feel good until the last two days [of Paris-Nice].

Xavier Florencio feels at home in the French ProTour Team, Bouygues Telecom, that he joined with the beginning of the 2006 season. "I get along well with everyone" - noted the fast-finisher - "directors, assistants, riders. There is a good environment.

"First, I thought it would be difficult to be part of a French team considering I am Spanish. Little by little, I adapted myself to the whole group and everything goes fine now."

"I was very fit and had been excited to start Paris-Nice. I couldn't finish the job in Vuelta a Valencia; I couldn't win one stage to finish the job. I took third place in the general [classification], second in one stage, two third places and the regularity classification, which makes me happy. The next day, in the Clasica de Almeria, I crashed and I lost hope for Paris-Nice. My goal and the team goal was Paris-Nice, and I think in Vuelta a Valencia I showed I had very good condition."

The one-day competition in Andalucía wasn't a good step for the Bouygues Telecom rider. "I couldn't finish Clasica de Almeria," he continued. "We rode Clasica de Almeria just to make the numbers - to gain some kilometres - and I was involved in a crash. It was a pity that I had to stay off the bike for four or five days. I went to Paris-Nice thinking that I would recover the good sensations and my hands would get better, but things went upside down. I didn't recover completely due to the rain and the bad weather there."

To read the full interview with Florencio, click here.

More team line-ups for the Ardennes Classics

Spanish teams Caisse d'Epargne and Saunier Duval have announced their respective rider line-ups for the upcoming Ardennes Classics in Southern Belgium and the Netherlands. Starting this Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race, followed by the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and La Doyenne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège the following Sunday, Caisse d'Epargne's line-up will be the same for all three races.

Team captain Alejandro Valverde will be joined by José Vicente Garcia, David López García, Alberto Losada, Oscar Pereiro, Joaquím Rodríguez, José Joaquín Rojas and Luis León Sánchez in his attempt to renew his 2006 victories of Flèche and Liège.

Saunier Duval, on the other hand, opted for three different team compositions. The Amstel Gold Race, to be held Sunday, will see Riccardo Riccò, Eros Capecchi, Jesús Del Nero, David De La Fuente, Josep Jufré, Rubén Lobato, Aurélien Passeron and Alberto Fernández De La Puebla at the start line in Maastricht. On Wednesday, in Flèche Wallonne, Jesús Del Nero, Aurélien Passeron and Alberto Fernández will be replaced by Gómez Marchante, Rubens Bertogliati and Leonardo Piepoli. The same men, except for Bertogliati, who will again be replaced by Del Nero, will be in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, April 27.

South African team Barloworld also communicated its rider selection for the Amstel Gold Race this Sunday. Team manager Claudio Corti's line-up for the event will be based around Moisés Dueñas, who showed signs of improvement in two recent stage races, Christian Pfannberger, who won the Giro del Capo, and Hugo Sabido. Also riding are John-Lee Augustyn, Giampaolo Cheula, Marco Corti, Christopher Froome and Carlo Scognamiglio.

Tinkoff return to Italy for Trentino

On Sunday, April 20, the Tinkoff Credit Systems squad will be returning to race in Italy. The team is ambitious to support Luca Mazzanti in another bid to repeat his 2005 winning performance. Supporting Mazzanti are Daniele Contrini, Alexander Khatuntsev, Walter Pedraza, Evgeni Petrov, Ivan Rovny, Yauhen Sobal and Nikolai Trusov.

On the following Tuesday, April 22, the team will also participate in the Giro del Trentino starting in Arco di Trento and concluding on April 25 in Peio Terme. The President of Tinkoff Credit Systems, Oleg Tinkov will be on-site to watch the team after a brief appearance at Paris-Roubaix. The Trentino squad will be directed by Dimitri Konishev and Claudio Cozzi with Mazzanti being replaced by Ilya Chernetsky for the Giro del Trentino, as Mazzanti is expected to participate in the Belgian Classics, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"The team has very high expectations of the riders," sports director Dimitri Konishev explained, "as we now participate in monumental events in many countries, asserting every effort to breakaway. Our riders are in good condition, and we are confident that they can hold their own against the best."

Wheel & Sprocket looking for riders for Nature Valley

The Wheel & Sprocket Pro Development Team has been invited by the organisers of the 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix to bring a men's Midwest regional development team to this year's race, held every June in Minnesota, United States. Wheel & Sprocket Pro Development was selected because of its mission to provide developing racers the opportunity to compete at the highest level of the sport. The team is looking for four U25, category 1 cyclists to complete its roster for this year's event.

To learn more about this opportunity or to apply to join the team, please visit All applications must be submitted by May 2, 2008.

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