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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, August 7, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Olympic Games leave US national championships wide open

By Kirsten Robbins

Mara Abbott (Columbia) is a favorite for the women's time trial at US Nationals
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Having the Olympic Games just around the corner has left the US women's individual time trial wide open and a new champion difficult to predict. The 33-kilometre event will kick off the US national championship weeklong event on Wednesday August 6 in Irvine, California.

Three of America's top time trialists, three-time national champion Kristin Armstrong, Christine Thorburn and Amber Neben will not be competing in their specialty event at the national championships. Their pursuit of gold in Beijing, has left the event open for a new successor.

The stars and stripes skin suit could fall on the back of any number of strong time trialists including Katheryn Curi-Mattis (Webcor), Mara Abbott (Columbia), Katharine Carroll (Aaron's), Alison Powers (Colavita-Sutter Home)

The time trial will be contested on an out and back course totalling 33-kilometres. Riders will stage at Aliso Creek bike way and follow the bike path to Santiago Canyon Road. The undulating terrain has 1287 feet of climbing with the majority leading to the turn-around point.

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According to USA Cycling officials, "The road surface is in excellent condition with a wide and well defined bike lane on both sides of the Santiago Canyon roadway that riders are expected to stay on."

For the men, the professionals will have their own championships at the end of August, so the amateur elites will battle it out for the stars and stripes without being crushed by the big names not heading to Beijing. Instead, last year's winner, Karl Bordine, will have to contend with a strong group of competitors which includes Garmin-Chipotle trackie Colby Pearce and cyclo-cross star Andy Jacques-Maynes.

Saturday's 123-kilometre road race will see some one hundred elite women from around the country lined up in pursuit of the prestigious championship title. Last year Mara Abbott won the stars and stripes jersey out of a two-woman breakaway against Armstrong. The youngster out sprinted the veteran on a decisive climbing circuit.

Abbott will no doubt be looking to win the championships for a second time but must contend with multiple other riders in good form. Key riders to look out for in the road race include Meredith Miller and Kristin Sanders (Aaron's), Katheryn Curi-Mattis and Janel Holcomb (Webcor), Kori Seehafer (Menikini), Stacy Marple (Cheerwine) and Alison Powers (Colavita-Sutter Home).

This year the championship could also land on the back of a sprinter given the course is significantly flatter quality. The 31-kilometre, four-lap course will suits riders like Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home), Brooke Miller (Tibco), Laura Van Gilder and Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine), Jen McRae (Advil-ChapStick) and Rebecca Larson (Aaron's). The course offers 1050 feet of climbing per lap. USA Cycling officials consider this a very fast course that incorporates two steady and gradual climbs per lap plus a short one kilometer climb to the finish line.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the US National Championships.

CONI calls Sella

Emanuele Sella at the Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) indicated Wednesday that it has summoned Italian cyclist Emanuele Sella, who tested positive for the banned performance enhancing substance EPO-CERA. Sella, the winner of three stages of the 2008 Giro d'Italia, will appear before CONI headquarters in Rome on Friday according to organization's website.

Sella tested positive in one of the UCI's out of competition tests on July 23. Although the test was during the time of the Tour de France, his CSF Navigare Team was not racing in the French Grand Tour.

Sella is CSF Navigare's second rider to test positive this year. Ariel Maximiliano Richeze failed a doping test for the steroid stanazol during the final stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe in April.

Absalon heads south to prepare for Beijing

Julien Absalon (Orbea), still clean at the start of the Bromont World Cup
Photo ©: FJ Hughes
(Click for larger image)

French National Champion Julien Absalon (Team Orbea) has made up his mind about his final preparations for the Olympic mountain bike race coming up on August 23.

Absalon, who won gold in the cross country mountain bike race at the Olympics in Athens in 2004, will head to the south of France. He will contest the first two stages of L'Hexagonale VTT, August 8 in Vittel and August 11 in Ferté-Gaucher, as well as a road race in La Motte next Sunday according to AFP.

Absalon told Cyclingnews on Sunday at the UCI World Cup in Bromont that he would decide between staying home in the north of France or heading south. "I think it will be important to train in high temperatures," he had said. "It could be really hot in Beijing."

Absalon is coming off two confidence-building victories at the World Cups in Mont-Sainte-Anne and Bromont, Quebec, Canada.

American cyclists apologize for wearing masks

After four American track cyclists arrived at the airport in Beijing Tuesday wearing masks over their noses and mouths to protect themselves from pollution, they apologized for any offense that they might have caused the host nation China.

"We didn't realise the impact that wearing the masks would have," cyclist Bobby Lea said according to Reuters. "From our standpoint, it was to take care of a perceived health risk. In reality it came across as offensive. We don't want to insult BOCOG (Beijing Olympic Committee) or the Chinese public."

Lea was joined by fellow cyclists Mike Friedman, Sarah Hammer and Jennie Reed. Two of them wore the masks on the flight, while the other two put them on before exiting the plane.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had distributed the masks to the cyclists, leaving it up to them to decide if, when and where to don them.

Britain and New Zealand outfit Olympians with new aero gear

British racer Chris Hoy will be looking to go fast on the track
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Competition at the Olympics isn't just about the athletes, but also their gear. Both Great Britain and New Zealand have plans to outfit their racers with high-tech equipment an attempt to give them an aerodynamic advantage - especially in events where thousandths of a second can separate finishers.

Britain's new skinsuit will be seen on the first day of racing in Beijing on Saturday. According to the UK's Telegraph, the top secret suit is known only to former Olympic champion and British Cycling's director of research and development Chris Boardman and a few of his colleauges.

Track sprinters and pursuiters will also race in custom shoes and on bikes, estimated at £10,000 each, that have been given a design overhaul since the 2004 Olympic Games. The design has evolved with the expert input of BAE Systems's aerospace engineers.

The riders have trained in secret with the equipment a few times, but the Olympics will be the first race were all the new gear is used in competition simultaneously. To ensure compliance with the UCI's strict technical rules, the new items have been tested and raced one at a time in competition during the past two years.

"We've analysed and improved every single square centimetre of the riders and their bikes and improved everything we legally can," said team representative Jonathan O'Neil to the Telegraph. "But we are a competitive team and are constantly looking for a competitive edge and we don't ever discuss details of the innovations in our bikes and clothes."

New Zealand's High Performance Manager Mark Elliot said his squad will also race in a specially developed skinsuit. "We are doing something similar (to the British), but I am not going to tell you what," he said to Fairfax media.

The suits, made by an un-named manufacturer, are under test by racers like Hayden Roulston, and a final decision about whether they are faster and will be used at the Olympics is expected soon.

"We don't yet know whether they are better than what we have got," Elliot said.

In response to the news of the British suits, Elliot said, "They (the British) can show up with whatever they want. It comes down to how well the athletes are prepared. We know the British have got huge resources. We would expect nothing less. What we are focusing on is giving our athletes the best preparation we can."

Beijing Olympics: The road to success

By Tom Greer

The Great Wall of China provides a scenic backdrop
Photo ©: Tom Greer
(Click for larger image)

With the Beijing Games fast approaching, cycling fans are pinning their hopes on the Olympic Road Race to revive the sport's fortunes in China.

The Olympic Road Race on August 9 will be a landmark in the history of the sport in China. Already billed as one of the Olympics' most challenging and spectacular circuits, cycling's governing bodies eagerly await the impact of the event on this untapped market.

Optimism abounds, but many significant obstacles will not be overcome so easily. China's lack of exposure to world-class cycling events and an institutional bias towards specific Olympic disciplines still hamper the growth of the sport. Though renowned as the land of the bicycle, it could take some time before Chinese cycling establishes its credibility within the professional peloton.

The spectacular outline of the Olympic circuit belies its erratic development. Initially, the Chinese Cycling Association (CCA) had no real idea where to hold the road race events.

Back in 2002, the CCA's initial proposal was to hold the road race along Beijing's uninspiring fourth ring highway. This huge, eight-lane motorway encircles the city – and is completely flat. Worse still, it's utterly uneventful.

The climb is 11km long and gradual,
Photo ©: Tom Greer
(Click for larger image)

Insiders claim the presentation of the circuit to the International Cycling Union (UCI) consisted of little more than a photocopied map with a yellow marker tracing the loop. This was a first indication that the CCA did not have the understanding of professional cycling required to draw up a truly Olympic course. In 2005, the UCI flew to Beijing to discuss alternatives, convincing the CCA that cycling was used in Europe to showcase nature as well as national monuments.

Eventually, the idea caught on that cycling could be used to showcase the beauty of Beijing. The CCA settled on a mass start near Tiananmen Square before heading out north-west to the famous Ba Da Ling Great Wall. Built to keep out the fierce Mongols of Genghis Khan, this walled fortress adds a spectacular backdrop to the event. The race itself has all the ingredients needed to live up to its hype.

Facing a distance of 245km, the riders in the men's race will start off with 80 flat kilometres from downtown to the foot of the key climb. Once there, seven loops of 23.8km will separate the hopefuls from the true contenders. The climb is approximately 11km long, averaging less than four per cent, and even includes some short descents. However, it does feature abrupt changes of gradients of up to 10 per cent.

Belgian team coach Carlo Bomans regards the course as excessively tough, comparing the climb to an extended Poggio, the final climb in the Milan-Sanremo one-day Classic. Australian rider Michael Rogers, who previewed the circuit last August, described it as "a little bit harder than I'd expected. It's not super-steep but it's quite constant and there is no actual recovery."

Read the complete feature.

British Cycling director optimistic in doping fight

British Cycling's director Dave Brailsford was optimistic about cycling's fight against doping in a press conference on Tuesday.

"There is a younger generation who doesn't want to dope. There has been a shift and a change of culture," Brailsford told a news conference according to Reuters. "One difference is that the riders are starting to self-police and it is becoming unacceptable, they are starting to point the finger at people. That is quite a change from decades ago when doping was almost the norm."

Brailsford noted the impact of recent doping scandals involving riders at the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, but said he thought the increased testing was helping.

"Our sport has its issues and we can't get away from that, so the more tests we can do for cyclists and the more people who are caught, the better," said Brailsford.

Tour of Ireland selects final three teams

The Tour of Ireland organisers have confirmed the final three teams for the forthcoming Tour of Ireland on August 27-31: Rabobank Continental, TopSport - Vlaanderen and Pinarello - CandiTV.

Rabobank Continental will bring 20 year-old Boy Van Poppel, son of Jean Paul van Poppel and 2006 junior world cyclo-cross champion and Thomas Berkhout, 23, who came close to a stage win last year when he finished second in Dublin. Van Poppel also finished fourth on the final stage into Dublin last year. In addition, Thomas Rabou, will join the team with the advantage of having won stage one of the Rás Mumhan into Killarney in 2006.

TopSport – Vlaanderen is sending a talented team from Belgium including Kenny Dehaes, Nikolas Maes and Frederiek Nolf, who are certain to look for stage wins.

Russell Downing will lead the UK's Pinarello - CandiTV team. The former British road race champion will arrive in Dublin Docklands for the start in Grand Canal Square alongside veteran professional Malcolm Elliott who returns to Ireland 20 years after winning two stages of the Nissan Classic (Boyle and Limerick) in 1988. He also finished second that year in the general classification one place behind Rolf Golz and one place ahead of legendary sprinter Sean Kelly. Elliott, a 47 year-old from Sheffield, also won a stage of the Vuelta España that year and finished fourth on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in the final stage of the Tour de France. The rest of the team list is likely to include former Irish international Andrew Roche and promising youngsters Freddie Johansson, Peter Williams and Thomas Murray.

"Obviously it is 20 years since I last raced there and it is going to be extremely tough this time round. I am definitely under no illusions. It will be great if we can capture some of that atmosphere again," said Elliott.

South Carolina velodrome plans up for review

Talk in Rock Hill, South Carolina, continues about the possibility of an indoor velodrome according to WBTV. Five years after the idea was proposed, the Rock Hill City council will meet in three weeks to make a decision about whether to take the next step, a formal agreement with the Carolina Velodrome Association (CVA), which would head the project at the abandoned Celanese Plant.

Should the council decide in favor, the CVA would have the fall and winter for financing the required US$4 million. An anonymous donor has already promised a half-million dollars and local developers have agreed to contribute the velodrome's land.

Organizers are touting the recently developed US National Whitewater Center, now a training center for Olympians, in West Mecklenburg County as an example project.

BMC Team for upcoming races

Team BMC announced its rosters for three upcoming events: The Rochester Omnium on August 8-10, the Tour of Utah on August 13-18 and Downer's Grove on August 16-17. The riders will race under DS Gavin Chilcott for each event.

BMC Racing Team for Rochester Omnium: Michael Sayers, Tony Cruz, Nathan Miller, Martin Kohler, Danilo Wyss, Jackson Stewart

BMC Racing Team for Tour of Utah: Darren Lill, Jeff Louder, Scott Nydam, Brent Bookwalter, Ian McKissick, Steve Bovay, Jonathan Garcia

BMC Racing Team for Downers Grove: Michael Sayers, Tony Cruz, Taylor Tolleson, Jackson Stewart

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