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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 3, 2008

Edited by Les Clarke and Peter Hymas

Team Columbia meets in Mallorca

By Daniel Benson in Mallorca

George Hincapie discusses Team Columbia's
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

The new season has already started for Team Columbia, which is holding its annual training camp in Mallorca, Spain, this week. Under manager Bob Stapleton, the men's and women's teams will meet for the first time, and the team's aims, technologies and practices will be set out for the coming year.

"The goals were two-fold. Firstly we wanted to celebrate the success we've had so far and secondly we wanted to start our riders off on the right foot for next year," Stapleton said to Cyclingnews.

"We have in place the best organisation and practices of any team and with 20 different nationalities, and riders aged between 22 and 42, this is a chance to bring all that together."

The training camp is also an opportunity for new signings Mark Renshaw, Michael Albasini, and Maxime Monfort to meet their new teammates.

Over the coming days cycling's winningest squad of 2008 will take part in training rides, meet for one-on-one talks with the team's management, and get kitted-out with their new Scott Addict bikes.

"It's not just about doing miles on the bike. Of course the hard work gets done, but there's so much to do of it," said George Hincapie.

"I had a long meeting where we went over my season in detail. We then planned out a schedule and training that would fit with the other riders. It was pretty intense, kind of like a job interview, but I know it will pay off. I've also been doing core exercises and new post-training techniques."

Last night the riders held court with Stapleton for a closed-door anti-doping meeting. Tonight Anne Gripper will be talking to the riders on anti-doping and the UCI's passport programme.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for coverage from the training camp.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Daniel Benson/Cyclingnews

Beginning of battle for Riis

IT Factory jumped ship before 2009 even began
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team presentations normally represent the renewal of a squad heading into the new season. For Saxo Bank however, it signifies the beginning of a new challenge before competition has even begun. As Susanne Horsdal discovered, the Danish town of Vedbæk was a quiet setting for the start of Bjarne Riis' latest battle.

Outside hotel Marina in Vedbæk – about 25 kilometres from Copenhagen – flags with the names Saxo Bank and IT Factory were waving slowly in the wind. Inside, everything from back walls to the riders' t-shirts said the same. It was exactly as it was supposed to be for a team presentation.

One thing was wrong, however. On Monday morning news broke that the company IT Factory had gone bankrupt, with the immediate effect that Bjarne Riis is left with only one main sponsor about a month before the new season opens... talk about bad timing.

"Obviously this was supposed to have been a different press conference," began team manager Bjarne Riis, who had been informed of IT Factory's collapse on Sunday evening. "This is also news to us, but the team continues. We'll work it out and that's the message everybody has been given."

Despite this major blow, which leaves the team at least four million Euros short of its annual budget, Riis insisted that the ambition is still to be the world's best cycling team.

"Like any other company we'll take a close look at our budgets but we still have a fantastic product. We have the best cycling team in the world and the rider's salaries won't be touched. It's important that they can all keep motivated and focus on their job. Luckily the team wasn't completely full and I did have a few riders in my sight but now that's out of the question," explained Riis.

Read the full news feature on Saxo Bank's predicament on Cyclingnews.

Renshaw to make mark at Columbia

By Daniel Benson in Mallorca

Mark Renshaw joins Team Columbia
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
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Mark Renshaw is settling in with his new Columbia teammates as their training camp reaches its fifth day in Majorca. The Australian sprinter signed for the American outfit after his previous team – Crédit Agricole – folded at the end of the season, but he hasn't wasted any time in making use of his new surroundings or setting out his aims for 2009.

"Coming from a French team, I've found this a huge culture shift. But Columbia cover every angle and these guys are 10 steps ahead as far as organisation and race strategy are concerned. At Crédit Agricole we never had camps like this, and since I've been here I have had briefings on my equipment, race schedule and training. This is so, so different from before," said Renshaw.

Renshaw has joined forces with Mark Cavendish, his former teammate at La Française de Jeux Bernhard Eisel, Kim Kirchen and George Hincapie.

"I'm a sprinter, so of course the team wants me to win races, but I'm also here to help Mark and be part of his lead-out train. I'll be heading to the Tour Down Under and then to the Tour of California. Those are two of the team's biggest objectives."

The young Australian was also glad to join a team that, like Crédit Agricole, has a clear anti-doping philosophy. "It's good for me and I'm really happy. I don't want someone jeopardising our team because they make a mistake. The team could fold and that's 70 riders and 70 families."

Last year Renshaw won a stage of Tour Down Under and wore the leader's jersey for a day. The team will be hoping to utilise his sprinting prowess to help fill the void left by Gerard Ciolek. The German was an integral part of the team and won seven races before signing for Milram in the Autumn.

Zanini hopes Bettini will follow

By Kirsten Robbins

Stefano Zanini (r) with Paralympian Fabrizio Macchi
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Stefano Zanini confirmed his career side-step from directing Silence-Lotto to directing Team Fuji-Servetto in 2009. According to Zanini, he hopes that his former Quick Step team-mate, Paolo Bettini, will join the management staff and confirmed that negotiations between the two-time world champion and the team are progressing well.

"Yes, they are still talking about it and negotiating," Zanini told Cyclingnews. "It will be something that, to me, is a pleasure because the name of Bettini speaks for itself. He has an incredible character. He will bring a big name and a big image for our team. I don't know what kind of role he will have but having him a part of the team will be very, very beautiful."

Team Fuji-Servetto, formerly known as Saunier Duval-Scott, which became Scott-American Beef mid-season in 2008, underwent a series of sponsorship changes when marquee riders Ricardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli tested positive for the use of CERA during the 2008 Tour de France. "The basis of the team is to form a new project that is based on cleaning up the sport after this year," said Zanini, who joined the squad inspired by the management's focus on creating a new and clean image. "This is a project that attracted me in different ways. It's a new project for a team that wants to clean up and change from what it was before."

According to Zanini, the team is starting from the beginning, with a new direction to offer a refreshing dynamic to the peloton in 2009. "Fuji-Servetto is a completely new project that is very motivating for me," Zanini said. "As in Silence-Lotto, I will have an important role in the team as a directeur sportif. It will have a lot of 'Italy' in the team. I like it because it is new. It is a team that will change a lot and will need to be rediscovered."

Zanini joins the team along side existing directors Joxean Matixin and Sabino Angoitia. "[Alvaro] Crespi contacted me when he learned that I was free," said Zanini regarding the team's general manager, Alvaro Crespi. "We've already worked together in the past with Mapei. I will be in charge of all the Italian races on the calendar," Zanini said. "I will assist the other two directors during the stage races outside of Italy. I don't think it is a problem between directors, it's enough that you know each other really well for the program to be a success."

Basso chooses mountains over surfing

By Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso showed he's no snow bunny
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso took to the snow of Passo San Pellegrino while his 2009 Giro d'Italia rival, Lance Armstrong, was on a surfing adventure with his Astana teammates. The Italian from Varese is with his Liquigas teammates in northern Italy for a five-day training camp that ends December 5.

"This year it is fine like this. Maybe next year Liquigas will go to the ocean, who knows," said Basso to Cyclingnews in reference to Armstrong surfing the Spanish waves.

His former Tour de France rival is with his team on the Spanish island of Tenerife for the first of its training camps in preparation for the new year. Team Liquigas decided to host its first camp within the borders of its home country. It is a two part camp, the first in Bibione and the second on San Pellegrino, near the climb Basso covered on the way to his 2006 Giro d'Italia victory.

"In this period of November and December it is right to do these types of things. For example, today [December 2] I was on the snow riding a specially equipped mountain bike. It was beautiful and we had fun. We also had a 10-kilometre hike in the mountains -- the day passed nicely."

Last weekend was the first time for Basso to meet all of his future teammates. The team spent Saturday and Sunday in Tuscany's seaside town of Bibione to bond and go over the 2009 programme.

"Immediately were able to find a harmony amongst us and it was very relaxed. It started with the sensation of like having tail wind."

Basso and Armstrong will face each other in the 2009 Giro d'Italia, May 9 through May 31. It will be their head-to-head in a Grand Tour since the 2005 Tour de France. Basso recently finished a two-year suspension for doping and the American is coming back from retirement.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/

Sella unsatisfied despite shortened ban

By Gregor Brown

Despite Italy's anti-doping tribunal issuing him a relatively short suspension, Emanuele Sella remains a disappointed young man. It banned the Italian for one year as a result of the positive control for blood booster CERA this last July.

"I can't be happy or content. ... It is not satisfaction, because I have disappointed a lot of people and my morale is down," Sella told Cyclingnews.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) focused on Sella using its blood passport programme. Its representatives visited his home in Vicenza for an out-of-competition control July 23 and the results found him positive for the third generation EPO, CERA. Because of the cooperation with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) prosecutor, it reduced his sentence from the now-standard two-year ban, which fellow Italian Riccardo Riccò received.

"It is written in the WADA [World Anti-doping Agency] code and I had the possibility and I found it correct to cooperate."

Sella came to prominence thanks to three stage wins – Alpe di Pampeago, Passo Fedaia and Tirano – and the climber's jersey of this year's Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1. The positive control came over one month later and casts doubt on his Giro performance. "Everyone asks this question [of the Giro] and I tell them the results are there. The investigation was done and, certainly, it has not been easy."

Sella explained he will use the time between now and when the suspension ends – August 18, 2009 – to reflect and think about the events in the past years. He turned professional with Ceramica Panaria – now known as CSF Group – in 2004 and remained with the team though this year, when it terminated his contract.

"I am convinced that I can return in the best way, how I have always done in these years. Like this year, someone believed in me, maybe they made a mistake but I hope to have another chance to do my work in the best way possible. ... It's my passion."

The UCI reviewed Sella's case before the antidoping tribunal gave its session to Sella. There are very strict rules to have a reduction and one can assumed CONI gained valid information from Sella for its ongoing investigations. Sella could not comment on the exact details.

Racing changes for Tour of California

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The three-day women's stage race originally planned to run concurrent with the men's race at the Tour of California has been scrubbed, with two of the cities, San Jose and Sacramento, dropped from the plans. Only Santa Rosa remains – it will now host a scaled-back women's criterium on the men's 0.7-mile finish circuit on February 15, similar to last year's event. Additionally, the original out-and-back opening stage for the men in Sacramento has been changed to a prologue time trial.

The cited a report in the local Santa Rosa newspaper on Monday, with local officials excited that they were now hosting the 'first stage finish' of the race, and of Lance Armstrong's American return. "This will be Lance’s first stage finish in America since he retired three years ago," Raissa de la Rosa of the city’s economic development and housing department told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. "And it will be in Santa Rosa. Given his stature in cycling and that cycling is an international event, this is huge."

The reasons why the women's stage race, listed on the 2009 UCI calendar as a three-day event, was cut-back to just a criterium were not immediately known. However, the money and logistics involved in closing down roads on top of the men's race would have been significant and likely result in much longer road closures for the communities.

Representatives from AEG, owners of the race, did not return calls for comment regarding the reported changes.

Down Under debutantes announce lineups

Making their ProTour debut at the 2009 Tour Down Under, Garmin Slipstream and Team Katusha have announced who will travel to Australia in January.

After signing for the Russian outfit this season, Robbie McEwen will return to a happy hunting ground with former Predictor-Lotto teammate Gert Steegmans. The Belgian has also signed for Katusha, and the pair will be reunited in their first race together since the 2006 season.

Matt White also returns to competition in Australia's biggest race, albeit as a directeur sportif for the Garmin squad. White enjoyed his first season in the position this year and with the likes of Julian Dean, Trent Lowe and Chris Sutton at his disposal, the American team will surely be at the pointy end of the results.

Tour Down Under Race Director Mike Turtur said of the latest announements, "It's great to see two new teams joining the UCI ProTour. And I am pleased that Team Katusha is being spearheaded by Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen." He added that, "It will be great to see Matt [White] back at the event, now on the other side of the competition."

Team Katusha for Tour Down Under: Robbie McEwen (Aus), Geert Steegmans (Bel), Kenny De Haes (Bel), Juan Horrach (Esp), Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel), Sergey Klimov (Rus) and Nikolay Trusov (Rus). DS: Dmitri Konyshev (Rus)

Garmin Slipstream for Tour Down Under: Julian Dean (NZl), Trent Lowe (Aus), Timmy Duggan (USA), Chris Sutton (Aus), Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Cameron Meyer (Aus) and Christian Meier (Can). DS: Matthew White (Aus)

Hammer headlines Hawk Relay

Dual world champion Sarah Hammer has signed for new UCI professional team Hawk Relay Cycling. As a result she will race in domestic competitions, the Pan-American Championships, world cups and world championship events for the squad.

The 25-year-old California native has won two world titles in the 3km pursuit and is a seven-time world cup gold medalist. She'll be joined by 2008 Olympian Adam Duvendeck, three-time US national champion Jimmy Watkins and Canadian Commonwealth Games silver medalist, Travis Smith.

"This is a great day for the Hawk Relay Cycling Team," said team director Robin Horwitz. "Sarah brings tremendous value to the team. Sponsors and fans like her a lot and she's shown tremendous results in the past with a history of winning at the international level. I know with the private sector sponsorship and a superior support system for the next four years, she'll be standing on the top of the podium at the London Olympics."

Follow the fortunes of Hawk Relay Cycling with the team's diary on Cyclingnews.

Now online: 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll

(Click for larger image)

It's that time of year again... the 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll is now online. Each year, we give you the chance to select the riders, teams, races, moments, equipment and photos that have really stood out from the pack in the last 12 months or so. To keep things simple, we'll be asking you to vote from a fixed selection in each category, as well as some 'free text' fields, so the survey should take you less than 10 minutes to complete.

As an incentive, we'll be giving away a pair of Zipp's 81mm deep 808 tubular wheels on the new 88/188 hub to one lucky entrant... So if you want to fly Fabian Cancellara this Christmas, let us know your thoughts on the rider of the year!

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