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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, February 10, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Langkawi stage one winner nets biggest career victory

By Ben Abrahams in Kepala Batas, Malaysia

Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom)
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Frenchman Matthieu Sprick claimed his second and biggest professional victory of his four-year career when he won stage one of the Tour de Langkawi after a bold move near the end of a long day in the lead break, which gained over 20 minutes on the rest of the peloton.

Sprick joined a 19-man breakaway just 15 kilometers into the stage. With three kilometers to go, Sprick escaped off the front of the break in a surprise move that caught the other riders napping. The Frenchman was left with plenty of time to celebrate on the finishing stretch.

"The first ProTour round [referring to the Tour Down Under - ed.] has already taken place," said Sprick after his win, "but the ProTour for me will start a bit later. I want to profit from the good condition I have at the Tour de Langkawi. It's very nice so far." The two-time Tour de France racer added that he was "surprised" by his good condition.

Australian Mitchell Docker (Drapac Porsche) and Best Asian Rider was perennial attacker Shinichi Fukushima (Meitan Hompo - GDR) joined Sprick on the podium after day one.

The substantial time gap achieved by the break on stage one means that probably no more than 19 riders will contest for the GC during the remainder of the race. If there are no other successful extended breakaways, stage eight's summit finish to Bukit Fraser could be the only other stage capable of a major shake up within the general classification.

Familiar face tops GP Costa degli Etruschi podium

Yep, I won it four times already!
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram's Alessandro Petacchi made it four in a row with his win at the GP Costa degli Etruschi on Saturday. The race serves as the Italian season opener. Gabriele Balducci (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo) and Francesco Chicchi (Team Liquigas) finished second and third in the final sprint.

"It's always beautiful to win the debut because it gives you a morale boost and pushes you to work always harder," said Petacchi. "I felt very good. I have worked a lot harder this winter - on the bike, with specific training and activities that did not take my knee awhile to recover." The 34 year-old broke his kneecap during the Giro d'Italia in 2006 and suffered from the after-effects of the injury for a long time.

"Near the end, with about two kilometers remaining, I lost the draft of my team-mates because of the poor riding in front of me - I was afraid of falling. Then in the last curve, I made a big move and got back onto the wheel of my train. In the end I was flying to a good win."

Read more coverage of the GP Costa degli Etruschi.

Tending to cycling's emergencies

By Laura Weislo

Prentice Steffen has a long career in cycling
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Prentice Steffen, MD is back in the business of being team doctor after a controversial comment in 2005 led to his resignation from that role. His anti-doping ethos once earned him plenty of scorn, but now that the rest of the cycling world has caught up, he can get back to ensuring that riders stay healthy and compete clean for Team Slipstream.

Slipstream's team doctor Prentice Steffen received his first race emergency call of the season early this year while at the Tour of Qatar. In the fifth stage, the team's lead-out train went down when Swede Magnus Backstedt clipped a wheel in the final kilometre and fell, taking down his team-mates Chris Sutton and Julian Dean. Steffen, who was in the second caravan car, was on the scene quickly, and was able to make sure the riders received the proper care. With his riders on the tarmac in agony, Steffen swiftly put the skills he's honed during his years of emergency medicine practice.

"In part, it proved why it's good to have a team doctor at the race. If I hadn't been there, he'd have been hauled off to some local hospital and who knows how long it would have been before he was treated," Steffen said. "I checked him over and made sure he didn't have any serious injuries. It was clear he had a clavicle fracture, so we got him on pain medication, put him in the car and took him to the hotel."

However, the size of Backstedt, who is one of the largest riders in the peloton, posed a bit of a problem. "In my medical kit I have a shoulder immobilizer, but it's for a normal sized bike racer. If you've ever seen Magnus, he's certainly not your average sized bike racer! So I fashioned one out of a pillowcase from the hotel in Doha."

Backstedt was in surgery in London within 24 hours of crashing in Qatar, which was probably a record according to Steffen. "We got him on a 2:00 am flight from Doha to London, and then he had his appointment at the orthopaedist at 1:00 pm. I'm pleased it went so well. If Johnny Weltz and I hadn't been there, it could have dragged on for days. At this point in the season, it's important for him to get healed as quickly as possible."

For their efforts, the team received a public thank-you from Backstedt. For Steffen, it was further confirmation that all the hard work they'd put into building a professional organization had paid off - not only in the medical care, but in the riders' performances - including the team's second place in the opening team time trial. "I was pleased to see all the work people in Slipstream had done came through with real on the road results and not just a lot of talk."

The Slipstream team has made a name for itself with a vocal anti-doping stance, and in the past few years, speaking out against doping has become downright fashionable. But not more than three years ago, Steffen earned himself a place on Lance Armstrong's black list when he named the American in statements made to L'Equipe, saying that he felt many of the riders in the peloton were doping, possibly even the American heroes Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton. He later was forced to retract those statements, but they revealed a strong sense of pessimism about the state of the sport.

"I've said a few times that I was an anti-doper before it was cool, but I did it at peril to my career," he admitted to Cyclingnews in January, "but it was the right thing to do from a sporting perspective."

Read the complete feature.

Two riders claim their third gold medals of the week at Australian Championship

The podium of the U19 women's Keirin
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

Two Australian riders, Mark French and Annette Edmondson, claimed their third gold medals of the national track championships at the Dunc Grey Velodrome on Saturday evening.

Earlier this week, French won both the individual and team sprint races. The Victorian's third medal came with an emphatic win in the keirin when he finished ahead of a world-class field including dual Olympic Champion Ryan Bayley, four-time World Champion Shane Kelly, 2004 junior World Champion Shane Perkins, 2006 junior World Champion Scott Sunderland, 2006 junior World Championship medallist Daniel Ellis and French, himself a four-time junior World Champion.

Two and a half laps from the finish Sunderland was the first to make his move hoping his recent top form in the kilometre time trial might see him through but he was swamped by the speed of the pure sprinters who overtook him. In the back straight on the final lap French turned on the afterburners and surged clear leaving his rivals to fight it out for silver and bronze. Kelly, who at 36 years-old is at least ten years more senior than anyone else in the race, saw a gap emerge and dived into it to claim the silver medal while Canberra's Ellis pipped Perkins in a photo finish for third place.

"I am very happy," said French. "It has been a big day and big week.

"I knew I could win, it was a matter of being patient as I am a shorter rather than longer sprinter and I knew all the riders were going to go fast on the last two and a half laps," French said. "I was going to go with one lap to go, but reconsidered at that point (and) I just waited and waited then put the gas down and (it) all worked and I was in the clear."

Feeling the effects of a long week of intense competition French retreated to the velodrome access tunnel prior to the final where he found himself slapping his face and splashing himself with water to fire himself up.

"I was considering if I should even be riding the keirin as I just didn't feel sharp, not bad, (but) just couldn't switch on," the 24 year-old said. "I have been really working on one thing at a time, not worrying about races I haven't even got to, everything is starting to come together for me."

In the U19 women's racing, South Australia's Annette Edmondson claimed her third gold medal of the championships with a dominant performance in the U19 women's keirin. The 16 year-old, who earlier this week won the 500m time trial and individual sprint, led out and rode a controlled race to stay in front until the end with West Australia's Melissa Hoskins collecting silver and Edmondson's team-mate Stephanie Morton the bronze medal.

"I was lucky enough to draw number one and as the race went on it all started going to plan and everything seemed to work out all right," said Edmondson.

See full coverage of the Australian National Track Championships.

Some Tour de France prize moneys to be paid

By Susan Westemeyer

The French cycling federation (FFC) has said that part of the outstanding prize money from the 2007 Tour De France will probably be paid in the next few weeks. The money for the overall placements should be paid, according to Jean Pitallier, the FFC's president. There are "too many unknowns" at this time to pay out the money for the points and climber's jerseys, he told the French press agency AFP.

The final payments have not yet been made because of outstanding doping cases which have not yet been finalized.

Last week the Association of Professional Cyclists complained that the prize moneys had not been paid in a timely fashion.

Tour and Vuelta organizers in talks

Spanish sports paper Marca reported continued rounds of talks between Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) and Unipublic, the respective organizers of the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

"Rumours of an agreement between ASO and Unipublic have been circling for about a year," Marca reported. According to the French AFP may involve ASO taking over the running of the Vuelta a España, the third Grand Tour, now held annually in September.

The third Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, is run by the Italian RCS Sports every year in May.

Drapac's Docker chases Langkawi points prize

By Greg Johnson in Kepala Batas, Malaysia

Australian Mitchell Docker (Drapac Porsche)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Drapac-Porsche's Mitchell Docker is hoping to claim the Tour de Langkawi's points classification jersey this week after the young Australian enjoyed a stellar opening to the event on yesterday's Stage 1. Despite being just 21 years of age, Docker made the stage, and possibly race, defining break that saw 19 riders claim 21.48 minutes over the remainder of the peloton.

After starting the day on a high note by making the break, Docker pressed on to take second place in the day's second hot spot sprint. Docker, who resides in the Victoria suburb of Rosanna, was also charging at the finish leading the first bunch across the line as it desperately attempted to chase down stage winner Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), after the Frenchman broke away in the closing kilometres.

The Drapac-Porsche rider credited last week's Tour of Qatar as being a good lead in event to the Langkawi race, where the Oceania Continental squad is racing for the first time.

"Last week were racing in Qatar so I knew it'd be great preparation for the racing here since it was more of a flat circuit," he said. "I enjoyed the circuit today, it was very picturesque and the weather was beautiful, just like back home in Australia."

Despite his opening day success, Docker said that any talk of being in overall classification contention hadn't yet crossed his mind. Instead the Melbourne-base team is eager on first defending the sprint jersey.

"I know there's a bit of a climb towards the end of the week," said Docker, noting it as a potential issue in any general classification bid. "I definitely hadn't thought about the overall. Everyone in the team will be on the attack so I guess we'll have to sit down tonight and yeah, I did feel strong in the sprint at the end which I was really pleased about.

"I guess I'll have a look at the points and first of all focus on this jersey and we'll see what happens tomorrow," he added. "But I'm sure it'll be a very aggressive race again so anything could happen."

Docker, who won Stage 3 of the Tour of Hokkaido with Drapac-Porsche last season, said he was pleased with the composition of stage one's break. The Victorian had five compatriots and a New Zealand rider in the 19-strong break away with him, meaning the rider had prior knowledge of how at least a quarter of the group would race the stage.

Read the complete feature.

Team CSC training in California

In the midst of their annual training camp, which runs until February 15 in California, Team CSC is getting ready for the upcoming Tour of California and the rest of the season.

"It looks like the entire team is in pretty fair shape," said Jens Voigt according to "We've had a good camp so far with lots of training – tough training that is."

"I think I've gotten through the winter break ok," said the rider who kept himself busy looking after his second child, born during the winter. "I'm looking forward to doing Tour of California – this race means a lot to all of us it being this close to our American sponsor's head offices. I hope to do my bit to land us another victory again this year. Last year we won three stages in this race."

Riders not staying in the US for the Tour of California will head to Europe for the Trofeo Laigueglia in Italy on February 23, the Tour du Haut Var in France on February 24, and Het Volk in Belgium on March 1.

Fans to meet stars at pre-Tour of California benefit

Fans of Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner and Viatcheslav Ekimov will have a chance to meet their heros on February 14 in Palo Alto, California, just days before the 2008 Tour of California kicks off.. Starting at 5:00 pm local time at the Crowne Plaza Cabaña Palo Alto, Mediterranean Ballroom, the three riders will give a short presentation and then answer questions from the audience.

At 6:00 pm, select celebrity riders will be available for autograph signing and photos. The US$25 admission fee includes light refreshments. All profits will go to the League of American Cyclists and Palo Alto Recreation Foundation on behalf of the Tour of California.

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