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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 4, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Giro invites ripple through ProTour

Danilo Di Luca and Paolo Savoldelli now on LPR
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Friday's announcement from RCS Sport list the teams which have been invited to the Giro d'Italia has caused a stir in the world of cycling. Four ProTour teams, Astana, High Road, Crédit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom were left off the list, as was the Professional Continental teams Acqua & Sapone of former Giro champion Stefano Garzelli.

While some invited Pro Continental teams were logical choices, like the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli team of two-time winner Gilberto Simoni, inclusion of the little known team NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte at the expense of the ProTour squads has left many wondering what the motivation behind the invitations could have been.

Angelo Zomegnan, the head of Giro organizer RCS Sport, said that the decision was not simple. "There were many requests and too many problems weighing on the past histories major teams related to doping," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "This has not been an easy decision, and we have had to leave out large teams like Astana and the illustrious Italians Stefano Garzelli [Acqua & Sapone], Marco Pinotti [Team High Road] and Pietro Caucchioli [Crédit Agricole]."

Pinotti was upset that he wouldn't be able to compete for the Maglia Rosa which he wore in last year's Giro d'Italia. "The first reaction is, we are back to where we were four years ago, without the ProTour, where selections were not clear and probably driven by political and economic issues," Pinotti expressed on his personal website.

"I mean, that at least with the ProTour a team could buy a license. Now a team 'buys' a participation and there is war between several teams and unions. The ProTour system has some problems, but it was better than this one."

Leaving out teams like Astana and High Road who are trying desperately to revive reputations tarnished by doping in 2007 was not entirely because of the doping issue, Zomegnan said, but because some teams do not seriously target the Giro. "Contador [Astana] has always said that all he is interested in is the Tour de France, and for [Levi] Leipheimer, the Giro has always been about trying to prepare for the Tour. If our race is not part of their plans, then we just won't invite them."

Angelo Zomegnan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Zomegnan admitted that the doping problems of last year did contribute to the decision, however, saying, "Astana weren't exactly flawless last year. Okay, they have changed philosophy and their management, but we have to wait and see. You don't just wake up in the morning a changed person."

Despite using this logic on Astana and High Road, Zomegnan saw fit to invite the LPR Brakes team of defending Giro winner Danilo Di Luca, who was removed from the Italian World Championships team in Stuttgart in September, and then served a three-month suspension over the 'Oil for Drugs' affair.

Zomegnan declared that the teams invited to the Giro d'Italia would have to abide by the UCI's new 'biological passport' program, which applies to ProTour teams and Pro Continental teams which have applied for a 'wild card' designation from the UCI. While invited Pro Continental teams Barloworld, CSF Group Navigare, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, NGC Medical-OTC, Slipstream Chipotle and Tinkoff Credit Systems carry the special designation, Team LPR Brakes does not.

Lotto looks to continue sponsorship

The Belgian National Lottery is bucking the trend of sponsors leaving the peloton, indicating it would continue to support cycling. While the discussion between the lottery and the team are ongoing, the lottery's marketing director, Marc Frederix, expressed his desire to stay with the team.

"Lotto and cycling are a successful combination," said Frederix. "For this reason we want to strive for a long partnership."

Frederix noted that they are negotiating a contract for a three-year deal through 2011. Co-sponsor Omega Pharm had already decided to stay through 2011.

Lotto has been present in the peloton for 24 years. "In that period we have acquired an excellent reputation," said the Belgian. "It is the ideal sport to impress our customers."

Two second-places for Milram's Grivko

Andrey Grivko (Milram) in last year's Dauphiné
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Milram's Andrey Grivko has finished second in the first two races of the Intaka World's View Challenge series in South Africa. In the first race on Saturday, he finished behind Manuel Quinziato of Liquigas and in Sunday's second race, the winner was Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas). Milram' neo-pro Christian Kux finished sixth on Sunday.

"That was a great appearance by our young team, with good results," said Jochen Hahn, Milram Directeur Sportif. "We did well, despite the 40° C temperatures, and had Andrey Grivko and Christian Kux in the escape group until the end. Of course it's too bad that Andrey Grivko just missed the win for the second day in a row. But here in South Africa we are showing a a good team performance and everyone is working well together, so I am very satisfied with that."

Grivko was also in a successful escape group in the first stage, and won the group sprint after Quinziato had escaped to take the win.

Rojas ready to bloom in spring

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse D'Epargne) took out the Share the Road
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The promising young sprinter Jose Joaquin Rojas returned to Spain from the Tour Down Under this week after being surpassed only by the likes of German André Griepel and locals Graeme Brown and Allan Davis in the inaugural ProTour race's furious bunch sprints.

The 22-year-old took two podium finishes and third overall in Australia, but still felt he could have done better had the native riders not had the edge of training on him. "In Australia it is summer now, and at that stage, they had put in more miles of training and competition that I had."

Back in Spain, Rojas found the spring-like weather favourable to blowing the cobwebs of jet-lag out of his legs with a six hour training ride. "I arrived on Wednesday and I am still immersed in a phase of acclimatization. I was training with my Caisse d'Epargne colleagues [Alejandro] Valverde, Luis Leon [Sanchez] and Fran Perez, but I completed the rest of the training session alone because my goals are different from those of them."

The majority of his training group in Murcia live in the capital or in its environs. "I usually pick up them because I live forty-five kilometres from there (Murcia). Where I live can also be an interesting environment for my training sessions; I am happy here (in Cieza), with my family and friends", Rojas expressed to Cyclingnews.

Neither Rojas nor Luis Leon Sanchez will participate in the Caisse d'Epargne's training camp in Majorca. "Having competed and trained in Australia, we will join the team later, shortly before the start of the Challenge de Mallorca," which will take place February 10-14. "There I will try to maximize the good legs that surprised me in the Tour Down Under, but I am also thinking of Paris-Nice and the Classics."

Rojas' second place in the current UCI ProTour standings will be a prime motivator, but he will have to wait until April's Ronde van Vlaanderen to contest the next race in the series now that Paris-Nice is no longer on the calendar. However, Rojas is looking forward to the non-ProTour Classics, beginning with Milan-Sanremo on March 24. "The Italian race is not good for me, because it usually ends with a mass sprint; I prefer other more selective ones, such as the Flèche Brabançonne, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, to give a few examples."

The latter is also the object of desire for Rojas. "Last year I finished the twenty-sixth, and so that very convinced me of my chances in this race, to get ahead for much of it, so I will go there very motivated and willing to continue adding experience."

Extremadura loses sponsor, rebounds with grassroots effort

The Spanish Professional Continental team Extremadura-Spiuk could have easily gone under when it lost its co-title sponsor, but instead, the riders and staff banded together to keep the team going by forming a cooperative to tide the squad over until a replacement sponsor could be found.

The Zafra-based team will ride with a new logo on their jerseys, Ciclismo Solidario, which translates as "Solidarity-based cycling", the name the cooperative. The 16 riders, two directors, mechanics, physiotherapists and doctor have together put up around 200,000 €. Marca Extremadura is contributing a further 600,000 €.

"There was no other option. It looked as if we would be out of work," explained rider Israel Pérez. "So when the possibility of forming an association arose, we reached an agreement without so much as a formal meeting."

Team director Alfonso Rodríguez has been approached by other cyclists who have been left jobless after a winter of unrest in the sport, offering to join the squad, but the Spaniard declined. "At this stage of the game our plans have been laid, and it is hard to change them. Besides, a bigger team means more expenses and we have tried to minimise outlay so that if a second sponsor fails to turn up the cost of the squad is as low as possible."

The Extremadura – Ciclismo Solidario team will also offer fans the possibility of contributing to the team's budget. Spiuk will continue as technical sponsor, providing equipment and support in the field of communication. Having made all these financial and organisational efforts, the Extremadura team must now turn to the easiest part of the project: actually racing. "If we put as much effort into winning races as we have into keeping the team going we'll be unbeatable," joked Rodríguez.

Van Heeswijk: Rabo riders knew Rasmussen wasn't in Mexico

Former Rabobank rider Max van Heeswijk claims that the riders on the team knew that Michael Rasmussen was not in Mexico training for the Tour de France in June of last year. Van Heeswijk made the statements on a show broadcast Sunday night on Netherlands 2 television. "It was no news to us that Rasmussen was not in Mexico," said Van Heeswijk. "Around the sixth of July I heard that when I was in a training camp with a large group of non-Tour riders."

Rasmussen was famously kicked off the Rabobank team and sent home while wearing the yellow jersey and being on the verge of winning the Tour de France. Rasmussen had filed his whereabouts to the UCI, saying he was training in Mexico at the same time he was seen training in the Dolomites in Italy by television commentator Davide Cassani. When Cassani made this knowledge public, it led to the Dane's removal from the Tour. Rasmussen later admitted to lying, but said it was for personal reasons.

On the same program where Van Heeswijk made his claims, Rasmussen met Cassani again for the first time since last year's fallout. Cassani expressed his remorse for revealing Rasmussen's lie to the public, "I cried that evening that they sent you home. I felt terrible. I felt as if I had stabbed you in the back," the Italian said. Rasmussen didn't blame him, saying, "I know who sent me home. You told your story in good faith."

According to, the UCI closed its investigation of Rasmussen and sent it off to the Monaco cycling federation on January 10. It is said to claim that Rasmussen lied about his whereabouts and received three recorded warnings, which would give him a suspension of three to 12 months. On Thursday, the Monaco federation told Danish television that it had still not received the UCI report.

Pound nominated to head CAS

Dick Pound, former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has been nominated to be the new head of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Canadian Globe and Mail has reported. The International Olympic Committee submitted his name and that of Swiss lawyer Robert Briner. A date for a vote has not yet been set, according to CAS spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau.

The CAS is the highest court for Olympic and amateur sport, where decisions by national and international federations can be appealed. The president of the Court has the power to appoint arbitrators who rule on disputes.

Pound, 65, represented Canada in the 1960 summer Olympics. He ultimately became President of the Canadian Olympic Committee and in 1978 was named to the International Olympic Committee. He ran for the IOC presidency in 2001, and became head of the WADA after losing that race.

Briner is Chairman of the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, is with the law firm Lenz & Staehelin in Geneva, and is former President of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, among other things. He has extensive background in the arbitration field.

The CAS had previously been led by Keba Mbaye of Senegal, who was the court's only president since its creation in 1984, until his death in 2007.

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