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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, August 20, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

No Vuelta defence for Menchov

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is not defending his Vuelta title
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

As expected, Denis Menchov will be missing from the Rabobank team as it lines up for the start of the 63rd Vuelta a España on Sunday, August 30. Menchov has won the 2007 race and was later declared the winner of the 2005 Vuelta as well. Noting that racing the Tour always left him in good form for the Vuelta, Menchov rode the Giro this year. He was hoping to be in top form for his main objective, the Tour de France. He ended the race in a respectable fourth place. But having already ridden two Grand Tours this year left him too tired to not be tackling a third.

The team will instead be led by 22 year-old Dutch sensation Robert Gesink, who will be looking to establish his own Grand Tour credentials after fourth places at Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré this year.

Tour de France green jersey winner Oscar Freire will be on the on the hunt for stage victories, as well as using the race to hone his World Championships form; the Spanish sprinter will be bidding for an unprecedented fourth rainbow jersey in Varese this September.

The full Rabobank team for the 63rd Vuelta will consist of Robert Gesink, Oscar Freire, Pedro Horrillo, Juan Antonio Flecha, Mauricio Ardila, Grischa Niermann, Marc de Maar, Theo Eltink and Dmitriy Kozontchuck.(BA)

Roche gets big win in Limousin

By Gerard Cromwell

Nicolas Roche scored the biggest win of his career in France
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Ireland's Nicolas Roche took the biggest win of his professional career yesterday when he held off a fast finishing peloton and soloed to victory on stage one of the four-day Tour du Limousin stage race in France.

Roche was part of a three-man breakaway group including Geoffrey Lequatre (Agritubel) and Hannes Blank (Differdange Apiflo Vacances) that went clear after 50 kilometres of the 170-kilometre opening stage from Limoges to Gueret. This trio built up a maximum lead of five minutes over the peloton, but with the sprinters' teams massing at the front, the gap was whittled down to just half a minute with ten kilometres remaining.

"I went off on a climb after 50 kilometres, with Geoffrey Lequatre and a German rider," said an ecstatic Roche afterwards. "I know Geoffrey pretty well and we worked well together and the German helped out, too. We opened up a gap of five minutes with 80 kilometres to go, but it came down to three minutes with 50 kilometres left and then it kept coming down slowly and with ten kilometres to go, we were just hovering in the front."

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On the final climb of the day, Roche attacked his companions and dropped them. The 24 year-old Crédit Agricole pro built up a lead of 20 seconds on the four-kilometre incline and a flat out descent saw him enter the final kilometres with just a 10-second advantage over a marauding peloton. Roche, who was riding his first race since the Olympic road race in Beijing, kept his head down and used up all his reserves to hold off the sprinters by a mere three seconds for stage glory and the overall race lead.

"With about ten kilometres to go, we had about 30 seconds and I just attacked on the last climb. I knew the climb was five kilometres long and there was a five-kilometre descent after the hill and that my effort would have to be flat out all the way over the top and down to the finish. When you have the whole peloton chasing you, it's very hard to stay away. I did the last five kilometres with maybe 12 seconds, so I must have been going really well, but I was so determined today, I just had to win, and I managed to hold on by three seconds."

With his French ProTour team due to fold at the end of the season the result has come at a good time for the Dubliner. "It's fantastic. I was really determined today. I've been very frustrated recently and put all my anger into today. When I got off the bike, the tears came and I could barely walk. It took me 15 minutes to get my breath back. This is definitely the biggest win of my career. I don't know if we will defend the jersey tomorrow. Winning this race overall would be fantastic, but it's not going to be an easy ride. We will have a meeting with the manager tonight or in the morning. Today I was away for 120 kilometres and at the finish I just gave it everything, so it depends how well I recover too."

Roche now leads the race by 11 seconds from Steve Chainel (Auber 93) and Lequatre, thanks to time bonuses earned in two second places in intermediate sprints along the way yesterday. He also leads in the best young rider competition, and the combination classification. The race finishes on Friday in Limoges.

Zubeldia thanks team and fans

Haimar Zubeldia will switch from Euskaltel Euskadi to Astana
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Haimar Zubeldia signed a two-year contract with Astana, after having spent 11 years with Basque outfit Euskaltel-Euskadi. The 31 year-old has no regrets about his time with Euskaltel. "I was privileged to have been able to contribute a little piece to this project, which allowed me to be a professional rider and to reach the top."

Writing on his website,, he appreciated all that the orange team had done for him. "I only have words of thanks for the people I knew in all those eleven years. Starting with my team-mates, the helpers, the sponsors, the fans and, first and foremost, for Miguel Madariaga, the person who gave me the possibility to be professional."

Zubeldia especially acknowledged his fans. "Thanks a lot to all of you who supported me. I hope to carry on giving you reasons to support me."

Zubeldia, who is Basque, was able to finish in the top 10 of the Tour de France three times. His reasons for the move were simple. "After all those years I believe that for me as well as for the team this is the right decision. At my age I believe that I should search for new stimulation."

Zubeldia is now looking forward to new goals. "My next destination is Team Astana. I await this challenge with a lot of anticipation. I just hope to be able to return the confidence that they place in me. I will give my best in the races."(MP)

Sastre focused on tasks ahead

Carlos Sastre has recently been rumoured to be looking for a new team. However Sastre has released a statement denying this. He is currently busy preparing for the Vuelta a España, where he’ll be aiming to take his second Grand Tour win of the season, after winning the Tour de France.

"I want to reiterate that I have a contract with CSC-Saxo Bank until December 31, 2008. I am currently concentrating on my second big objective for the season, the Vuelta a España. There will be a moment when a decision will come. Then I will inform everyone via a press release."

Until then Sastre hopes that people will respect his desire to prepare for his next sporting goal without any interruption in his concentration.

Duggan back on the road

Tim Duggan is on the road to recovery and will ride the natiuonal TT championships
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Timothy Duggan (Garmin Chipotle - H30) is back riding after having missed most of the season due to a bad crash in the Tour of Georgia. While together with doctors he decided it is better to skip all racing for the remainder of the season, Duggan will appear at the national time trial championships. The race will be held on August 30 in Greenville, South Carolina.

Duggan was happy with the compromise, he stated on his website, "Having nationals as a goal is a good way to keep me sane for now while I am training to return to competition." Duggan was realistic with his current conditioning, which will make a time trial the better choice for his racing anyway. "Lately I have been able to do short hard rides, and long easy rides, but long *and* hard rides are still a little much for me, as it takes days to recover."

Overall, Duggan is happy with the healing process. A CAT can revealed some scar tissue, but nothing to be worried about. Duggan's decision to skip all the races was a reasonable choice, even if it left him antsy. "I'm really looking forward to pinning on a number again soon."

Weylandt hit by car in Spain

Wouter Weylandt of Team Quick Step was hit by a car while training in Denia, Spain. The 23 year-old was hit hard enough to throw him into the car's windshield. He needed 15 stitches to his arm and elbow, and also suffered two bruised ribs. His participation in the Vuelta a España is now in question.

It was by no means his first crash of the season. "Every time I start to ride well, I go down," he wryly told A crash in the Volta a Algarve wiped out much of his spring. He suffered a concussion when he crashed in a derny criterium near his home in Gent, and also crashed in the closing sprint of the Belgian national championship. "It can stop now!" he concluded.(SW)

Regio Tour with another wet presentation

By Bjorn Haake in Teningen, Germany

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) didn't enjoy the weather so much
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Just like last year the team presentation of the Regio Tour was marred by rain. But also like 2007, the rain clouds moved away by the end of the event. If 2007 serves as template, the five-day race will have five sunny days ahead of it.

Eighteen teams were introduced to the crowd of several hundred people who came out despite the weather. The three ProTour teams, Rabobank, Milram and Gerolsteiner, received the biggest cheers of the audience.

Rabobank starts the race with two Germans. One of them is Paul Martens, who lives in Masstricht. The other is Grischa Niermann, overall winner in 1999. He knows that repeating a victory would be tough. "I am 32 and in the best cycling race age. I will give it my best. But the parcours is very tough and it won't be easy. We will see after stage one who can lead the team."

Niermann talked cautiously about the difficulty of the 1,100-metre high Blauen on stage one. Should he be unable to stay with the front, Rabobank can also look to Martens or 2005 Tour de France stage winner Pieter Weening.

Milram arrived with its Tour de France participant Björn Schröder. The youngster came very close to take the polka dot jersey on stage one of the Tour de France this year. But the team will have three stagiaires (Arne Hassink, Mitja Schulter and Simon Geschke). That will leave Milram with less options for the overall victory, as the trio is expected to be on the learning curve.

Another notable name on the start line in Schliengen is that of Thurau. Björn Thurau, riding for the Elk Haus-Simplon team, is the son of Didi Thurau, who wore the yellow jersey in the 1977 Tour de France for 15 days. Having a famous last name doesn't always make things easier. "Yes, sometimes it is a burden. My father is very well known for his successes and people expect the same from me. But I am Björn Thurau and I need to go my own way."

He is doing well using his own advise, turning pro in 2007 at the tender age of 18. Thurau just celebrated his 20th birthday last month. His first year with the big guns was marked by only one desire. "I want to learn as much as I can."

Björn Thurau has a famous father, but can handle his own career well
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

The Norwegian Team Joker was introduced by one of its own riders, Frederik Willmann. Willmann is the only rider on the team who speaks German. "I lived in Frankfurt for 10 years. My family is still there. Our goal here is to win a stage. A top 10 would be an added bonus."

The German U23 was received with a big applause. It always has potential pros in it. Last year, a rider named Dominik Roels was riding for them. This year, Roels received a contract by Milram. Getting a high overall finish for any of the U23 racers would be a big surprise, though. For some, it was even a surprise to be at the start. "Until Sunday I had no clue I was going to be riding here," said Phillip Ries.

He was looking forward to the race and expected the tactics a bit more predetermined than in the amateur races he is used top race. But he wasn't able to make a prediction for himself. "I can't estimate myself amongst the pros here."

Each rider was given a present by one of the sponsors. Invariably, it looked those who were given the wine looked the happiest. But Kuota Senges received the most practical gift of the day. Umbrellas were definitely in high demand that evening.

Rich prefers car

By Bjorn Haake in Teningen, Germany

Michael Rich was one of the most successful riders of the Gerolsteiner team. He retired in 2006. Rich won the German national time trial championships several times, including when it was held in his hometown of Reute in 2003. He also won the Bayern Rundfahrt three times, the last time in 2005.

Now, he is the directeur sportif for Gerolsteiner. At the team presentation he acknowledged that in a way being a director is easier. "If I look at the weather I think I prefer sitting in the car during the race," Rich smiled.

But it is not entirely easy following the racers behind. "When I sit in the car for so long I sometimes feel it in my back. Being in the same position for so long is a bit tough."

Olympic heroes to appear at Salford Nocturne

Chris Hoy heads to the Salford Nocturne with three gold medals around his neck
Photo ©: Casey Gibson
(Click for larger image)

Great Britain's triple Olympic hero Chris Hoy will be making a guest appearance at the Salford nocturne on the August 30. The Scottish sprinter, who recently became the first Briton to win three Olympic gold medals in a single Games since 1908, won't be riding the Nocturne itself but taking part in a pro-celebrity roller challenge featuring the likes of ex-England footballer Geoff Thomas.

"The Salford Nocturne is shaping up to be an exciting event," said Hoy, who is a Salford resident. "It's great that a new major cycling event is taking place right on my doorstep, it should be a lot of fun and a good opportunity to celebrate the success of the team following Beijing."

Other Great Britain Olympic champions present will be team pursuit members Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy, who were part of the victorious team that twice smashed the World record in Beijing. Thomas also won the previous round of the Nocturne series in London's Smithfield area.

Since the Great Britain team is based in Manchester other Olympic stars are expected to be present as VIP guests at the event, which is based on a circuit around Salford Quays' Lowry Centre, not far from the Manchester United football stadium.

Councillor Barry Warner, lead member for culture and sport at Salford City Council added: "It's very exciting for us to be able to host an event like this in Salford and as well as attracting top athletes to the city, it's a chance for local people to be part of a national event right on their doorsteps."(BA)

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Ben Atkins, Monika Prell and Susan Westemeyer.)

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