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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, December 16, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Les Clarke

Another Tour champ for Tour Down Under

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Oscar Pereiro will join Lance Armstrong on the list of Tour de France champions that will contest the 2009 Tour Down Under in South Australia, Australia. Pereiro, who was handed the Tour win after Floyd Landis had his results annulled, will lead his Caisse d'Epargne squad at the ProTour event while Armstrong is making his return to road racing with Astana.

"The Tour Down Under is honoured to have Pereiro and Armstrong competing at our event," said Mike Turtur, Tour Down Under Race Director. "Spectators in Adelaide will get to see some of the best cycling champions of our time. It's a great coup for the sport in this region and highlights the continued growth of the Tour Down Under."

Pereiro leads a squad which includes 2003 Tour Down Under winner Luis Leon Sanchez and is managed by Australian Neil Stephens. Turtur believes the Caisse d'Epargne team travelling to the 2009 Tour Down Under is a cycling powerhouse, with a strong history of victories and cycling achievements.

"A Tour de France winner, a Tour Down Under winner, and stage winners from the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia are all part of the Caisse d'Epargne team heading here next year," said Turtur. "Australians embraced Luis Leon Sanchez as a crowd favourite when he won the Tour Down Under in 2005, and I think he'll put in a strong performance again in 2009."

The 2008 Tour Down Under Share the Road Young Rider winner, Jose Rojas, will also return to the race.

Caisse d'Epargne for the 2009 Tour Down Under: Oscar Pereiro, Luis Leon Sanchez, Jose Rojas, Pablo Lastras, Nicolas Portal, Imanol Erviti and Mathieu Drujon.

Rock Racing to remain, but feeling the pinch

By Mark Zalewski

Many rumours have been circulating over the past week about the Rock Racing team and its parent designer clothing company Rock & Republic, all stemming from the company's financial position within the worsening global economy. The main rumour that the company will be completely disbanding its cycling team appear to be an exaggeration, though internal company communication has indicated that a downsizing of the parent company's staff overall, including portions of the cycling team's staff, is happening. As such there has been speculation that this could reduce the number of riders on the team.

"Rock Racing will continue to race in 2009," a statement from the team said. "Tyler Hamilton, Rahsaan Bahati and Justin Williams will defend their U.S. national titles. More important information about the team's plans will follow. We appreciate your interest and continued support of Rock Racing."

Martine Charles, a spokesperson with the team, would not elaborate on the status of the team other than to say that it is continuing. When asked if the team will be downsizing, especially considering that not all of the riders would be able to race on the UCI roster, the official answer from Charles was: "As of today the team is going to be the same". However, other sources within the team speculated that downsizing is a likely possibility.

US criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati was snowboarding at Big Bear in California when reached by Cyclingnews. When asked about the rumour he laughed saying, "I hope I still have a job!" Bahati said that he had not heard anything from team owner Michael Ball or the management about the team shutting down.

Michael Ball had indicated for most of the last year that he had planned on taking the team to Pro Continental status for 2009. However, the team withdrew its application to the UCI before the deadline in order to remain a Continental team. Still the team has signed many high-profile talents and was expecting to carry a separate amateur squad consisting of many riders that are currently professionals.

Though not necessarily linked to this recent development, two riders, Ivan Dominguez and William Walker, that had appeared on rosters released by Rock Racing in the past weeks have been removed. Dominguez announced last week that he was only in talks and had never signed a contract with the team. Last week the Fuji-Servetto ProTour team announced they had signed Dominguez, and Walker has also been linked with that team.

Rock Racing's Sean Weide confirmed with Cyclingnews that Dominguez and Walker were no longer on the team's roster, and have been replaced with Spaniard David Martin Velasco and Australian Aaron Marcus Kemps.

Florence 2013 bid launched

Following this year's UCI World Road Championships in Varese, Italy, another Italian city, Florence, has launched its own bid to host the world titles in 2013. 'FI2013' Committee members Eugenio Giani, Michele Bartoli and Gabriele Sola announced their intentions in Dugenta Salone di Palazzo Vecchio, in the heart of Florence.

Gabriele Sola, director general of the Varese 2008 worlds and the man responsible for marketing and communications at the 2004 event in Verona, has grand visions of Florence as the epicentre of cycling for a week in 2013. "The cycling world championship is, after the Tour de France, the most popular cycling event in the world," said Sola. "The television broadcast of the event reaches over 100 countries to an estimated audience of 450 million.

"Imagine Piazza della Signoria, the beating heart of social life [in Florence] and the town hall with the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, the ideal location for the opening ceremony that week," he added.

Former professional Michele Bartoli will act as technical director, a role he's well qualified for. Bartoli provided a few insights into what could be expected from the course. "Florence and Fiesole possess ideal environments to host an event such as this," he said. "If we look at the time trial route, we can see that it has been designed with Paoli Avenue as the departure and arrival point.

"This will be case for all the races, held on a challenging and spectacular circuit that alternates between extensive technical sections with corners with steep slopes that exceed 10 per cent," he added. "It's an interesting track on a tactical level."

Having heard from his two fellow committee members, Giani's message was simple. "Today we present a team that has all the credentials to bring to Florence a great sporting event, which is missing from our city for too many years."

The launch of Florence's bid for the 2013 event has been anticipated for a number of months. The group behind the event told Cyclingnews in September it was interested in bringing the event to Florence in the future.

V Australia/Virgin Blue target Aussie titles

By Greg Johnson

Peter McDonald and Bernard Sulzberger broke away
Photo ©: Dave Bateman Photography
(Click for larger image)

Australian Continental team V Australia/Virgin Blue presented by Successful Living Foundation will target next month's Australian Open Road Championship crowns, having wrapped up the criterium title last weekend. The team's Bernard Sulzberger claimed the national criterium title at Cronulla in Sydney on Sunday, after out-sprinting Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche).

Team manager Chris White said Sulzberger's victory is the first success to come from its "operation green and gold" and hopes that more fruit will come at next month's road titles. "We've been running operation green and gold internally for six months," said White of the team's focus on the national jerseys.

V Australia/Virgin Blue presented by Successful Living Foundation will send a number of riders to the national titles, with last year's Under 23 Time Trial Championship runner-up Ben King likely to be one of its contenders. "We are going to put a team of riders in that race which are capable of taking that jersey away," said White.

Sulzberger is also hoping to get in on the action in Ballarat next month. "It would be awesome to be able to have both the national criterium and road jerseys in the closet at the same time – I think the green and gold stripes look pretty good on me," he laughed.

After putting its toe in the American cycling waters this year, contesting Superweek, V Australia/Virgin Blue will further push into the market in 2009. Having teamed up with the Successful Living squad, V Australia/Virgin Blue presented by Successful Living Foundation is hoping to get an invite to the Tour of California.

"2009 will be big year for our team," said Sulzberger. "We are on the way up – we have a great program, a great bunch of guys and we will be doing a lot of criteriums. It will be fantastic to be able to race in the national champion's jersey."

V Australia/Virgin Blue presented by Successful Living Foundation's 2009 roster will include Bernard Sulzberger, David Kemp, Alessandro Bazzana, Hayden Brooks, Ben Day, Ben King and Jonathan Cantwell. The team is expected to release another four signings later this week.

White reflects on stellar '08

By Les Clarke

It's 12 months since Matt White's last race as a professional
Photo ©: Brad Hooker
(Click for larger image)

A new team, new job and new challenges awaited Matt White this year. After a riding career that included stints at Cofidis and US Postal, the respected Australian stayed within the fold as a directeur sportif for the Garmin-Chipotle squad.

His season boasted a host of highlights, with the team time trial win in the Giro, Christian Vande Velde's stirling performance in the Tour de France and the announcement that the outfit would be part of the ProTour in 2009 just a few of the achievements that White had a hand in.

Cyclingnews spoke to White after the Cronulla International GP (Australian Criterium Championships) last weekend, a race he won last year as a swan song to life on the bike. "It's been a big year for the team and for myself," he began. "We went to the Tour de France, and I was the only member of the staff [for that race] who had been to the Tour before."

White admitted that he had learnt as much as the young riders he was in charge of, and after the many highs of this season, he knows that the next 12 months may not be as meteoric but rewarding nevertheless. "I've learnt a lot. There are always some problems with teams – a few hiccups – and pro cycling is a very dynamic job," he explained. "Put it this way – 12 months ago we were a very young team without that much experience, and so a year down the track it's going to be a lot easier.

"We had a super year, and it's going to be hard for us to improve on it in a lot of ways," he continued. "There are only three spots to go up in the Tour, and there are a few big players coming back into the game, with Contador, Leipheimer, and obviously Lance Armstrong." White was team-mates with all three before retiring, and now faces them as a rival directeur sportif, although given the affable nature that made him a favourite with riders and fans during his career, there'll be no hard feelings from either corner.

"Our big goal – and we make no secret of it – is the team time trial," he said. "If we can pop that win, then whatever Christian does is going to be a bonus."

Although the Grand Tours will be a focus, he was quick to point out the importance of season-long success. "It's going to be hard to improve on our result at the Tour, but there are 150-200 race days where we can win races," he said.

Martyn Maaskant has been one of the team's revelations in 2008, after a stellar showing at Paris-Roubaix. "He [Maaskant] did well this year, and he and Trent [Lowe] will be our guys for the Ardennes," said White. "Neither of them have had much experience in the Ardennes, but they're certainly the men for those races. Then we'll take Trent to the Tour de France."

Yet another pairing that may bear fruit in '09 is Cameron Meyer and Chris Sutton. Both enjoy a track background, and combined well to take second in the Madison at last month's track world cup in Melbourne [/track/2008/worldcup0809/melbourne08/?id=results/melbourne086]. Given their form in this event, the prospect of them hitting the road together is exciting. "At the moment they'll both be at Down Under and Langkawi, and then after April Cam will head back to the track to concentrate on the World Championships in April before we use them together in the Sun Tour near the end of the year," he said.

Albert may return in 2008

Niels Albert may return to racing this year, only six weeks after a crash while warming up put him in intensive care. The 22 year-old crashed on November 16, suffering a ruptured spleen. He
started riding on the road again only last week.

"Six weeks later, there are no more medical reservations," his manager Christophe Roodhooft told Albert will most likely ride the race in Loenohut on December 30, but the final decision won't be made "until he can train in the field".

Xacobeo-Galicia faces storm en route to Santiago

The team was looking forward to the breaks and some hot tea
Photo ©: Xacobeo Galicia
(Click for larger image)

The riders of Xacobeo Galicia probably would not have imagined that the training camp on the Camino de Santiago would be so tough. From the start, the Spaniards encountered wind, rain and even snow.

When the racers left Burgos to set out for their nine-day trip, snowflakes came down. On the fourth day, the weather was again extremely bad, with wind and rain accompanying the squad. The 82 kilometres between Cid and Carrión de los Condes en Palenciafor were miserable, with temperatures between zero and five degrees centigrade.

Delio Fernández and Serafín Martínez were excused as a precaution in those conditions, as both are suffering from knee problems. Fernández may return when the weather gets better, but Martínez has an inflammation in one of his knees after falling during the first day.

Ten riders took the journey on day four, accompanied by directeur sportif Jesús Blanco Villar. The riders improvised in a shop in Burgos, getting clothing that looked appropriate for fishermen than for cyclists. But health goes first and the clothing helped the riders to stay as warm as possible.

After 15 kilometres the group split in two. One part of the team decided to leave the trail and continue on the paved road.

The fifth day was even shorter, 71 kilometres, but once again the temperatures were horrible between Carrión de los Condes and Mansilla de las Mulas. (BH)


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Xacobeo Galicia

Now online: 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll closing soon!

(Click for larger image)

It's that time of year again... the 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll is now online. The poll will close this Friday, December 19, at midnight GMT. So hurry up and make your choices. The deadline of Friday, December 19, midnight GMT equals Friday, December 19, 19:00 on USA's east coast. If you are in Australia, it will be December 20, 11:00.

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 like Fabian Cancellara this Christmas, let us know your thoughts on the rider of the year!

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer and Bjorn Haake.)

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