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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 12, 2008

Edited by Paul Verkuylen & Hedwig Kröner

Asian cycling strengthening with Langkawi success

By Greg Johnson in Banting, Malaysia

The lead group of five riders
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Cycling in Asia reached a milestone at the Tour de Langkawi on Monday when a group of five riders broke away from the peloton and resisted its pursuit to the finish line in Banting. After averaging 44.54 kilometres/hour over the 209.4 kilometre stage, Jae Won Lee (Seoul Cycling) became the first Korean winner in the Malaysian event's 13 year history.

"My manager told me not to look behind, but I couldn't help it," said Lee of the final kilometres to his history-making victory. "I'm very happy to win."

Such is the consistency of the Asian squads at this year's Tour that four of them are placed in the top six on General Classification. While they don't solely field Asian riders, Skil - Shimano, Letua Cycling Team, Meitan Hompo - GDR and Seoul Cycling hold third through to sixth in the standings.

The strength of the Asian squads at this year's Tour shows why it's important for the event to continue to field national outfits, in addition to the professional European teams, according to race director Michael Robb. "It does for sure, today the race was made by the Asian riders," said the Irishman. "They took the chance, they went early on and they managed held on to the very end.

"It was a very well taken win," he added. "Any of the five of them would have been a well deserved winner."

While Lee's victory makes him just the fourth Asian stage winner in Langkawi, the successful all-Asian breakaway also saw Anuar Manan (Letua Cycling Team) become the first Malaysian rider to wear a jersey in their home event, after he took the points classification lead. After winning three stages at last month's Jelajah Malaysia, Manan said he was disappointed with the outcome of today's stage after he finished second to Lee.

Read the full feature on Asian cycling.

Silence-Lotto - New name and a renewed focus

By Paul Verkuylen

Greg Vanavermaet, Leif Hoste, Robbie McEwen, Yaroslav Popovych and Cadel Evans.
Photo ©: Bert Geerts
(Click for larger image)

Last year Predictor Lotto enjoyed one of their best ever seasons. Cadel Evans was second overall in the Tour de France and the team picked up two stage wins along the way courtesy of Robbie McEwen (stage one) and Evans (individual time trial). Evans placed fourth in the Vuelta and sixth in Lombardy before going onto win the overall ProTour title, while Leif Hoste finished second for the third time in Belgium's biggest one day event, the Tour of Flanders. Like last year the team was presented in Hasselt during the Lotto six day track race.

This year the team has changed names - with Predictor's sister company, Silence taking over naming rights - to become Silence-Lotto. The focus of the team has changed somewhat as well. For the first time ever, Cadel Evans will have the entire team dedicated to him during the Tour de France, while McEwen will have to look after himself more in the sprints and the fight for the green jersey.

That's not to say the team is forgetting its roots in the Spring classics. Hoste will once again focus his energies on the early season, with the hope of losing his eternal second label in Flanders.

"Every year we say that we are capable of winning a really big race. But until now it we have been unable to deliver." explained Marc Coucke, CEO of the main sponsor, Omega Pharma to Belgian news website "This year we are going for it, in the classics and the tour. And I promise you that if we win, the Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix, or the Tour de France, we will throw one of the biggest cycling parties Flanders has ever seen."

Read the full feature on Silence-Lotto team launch.

First pro victory for Trofimov

Iouri Trofimov wins the Etoile de Bessèges
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

The year has begun well for Iouri Trofimov, a young Russian who started his first season as a pro bike racer just a few weeks ago. The Bouygues Telecom rider was eager to show his worth in the pro peloton, and didn't lose any time to score his first win by taking the overall victory in the 38th Etoile de Bessèges stage race in France, which finished this Sunday.

The 24 year-old Trofimov, who paved the way for his final victory by winning stage three of the event, already won the amateur Paris-Troyes last year when he was still with Omnibike Dynamo Moscow. He demonstrated a good early 2008 season form by finishing eighth in the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, the French season opener, even if he didn't wear an earpiece. "It didn't make any sense [to give him the means to communicate)," said his directeur sportif Didier Rous to L'Equipe, explaining that Trofimov doesn't speak any French or English yet - he is still learning a basic cycling vocabulary. But this didn't prevent him from going on to shine in the hilly parcours of the Bessèges stage on Friday, especially on the Col de la Baraque.

After the descent, Trofimov soloed to victory even though the bunch was chasing him hard. "To resist the peloton like he did in the finale, he really did something impressive - chapeau!" said Agritubel's Christophe Moreau, who has the experience to judge the Russian's feat.

It is not the first 2008 win for his Bouygues Telecom team, directed by Jean-René Bernaudeau - the young Rony Martias won twice in Gabon in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, and his team-mate Matthieu Sprick was first to the line in stage one of the Tour de Langkawi and is currently wearing the leader's jersey of the event.

Gilbert: on time

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) wins the 2006 Omloop Het Volk
Photo ©: Ulrik Møberg
(Click for larger image)

It seems that preparing the European road season in Australia is not a bad idea at all. Belgian Philippe Gilbert came back from the Tour Down Under recently and immediately opened his 2008 palmarès by taking the first of the five races of the Mallorca Challenge on the Balearic island.

A few days before the event started, Gilbert was already in Mallorca to escape the Northern Europe winter temperatures, cope with his jet lag, train some more and reckon the roads of the Challenge, on which he had set some objectives. "I'm one of those riders who don't race much, so I want to win every time," he told French velo101. "It's not good to have too much form too soon, but what you score, is achieved."

The 25 year-old is happy with his current fitness. "I'm in good shape, compared to last year when I had the surgery on my leg [doctors removed a melanoma, which caused him to postpone his season start - ed.]. Now, I'm right on time," said Gilbert, who is hoping this will help him achieve his goals in 2008.

"My first objectives are a stage win in Paris-Nice," he continued. "I won't think of the overall, as I'll have Milano-Sanremo on my mind, where I hope to win. I have the capacities to do it. After that, I will do all the Classics except Paris-Roubaix, then the Tour de France, the Olympics, the Vuelta and the Worlds. For the two Grand Tours, my objective will be to win a stage and to prepare for the Worlds and the Olympics. After the Worlds, there will be Paris-Tours, always with the same longing..."

The 2006 Het Volk winner would love to add a Belgian Classic to his palmarès ("Any one of them would do"), but also has the Olympic road race on his to-do list this year. "Event-wise, the Olympics are ranked higher than the Worlds, even if the Worlds are more important within cycling," the Française des Jeux rider continued. "The Olympic champion doesn't have a jersey to wear. One thing's for sure: if I'm lucky enough to become Olympic champion, I'd wear a jersey to show it, even if I have to pay a fine at each race start!"

Also see: An interview with Philippe Gilbert in Australia, January 9, 2008.

Nys weighing up his options

By Susan Westemeyer

Sven Nys (Belgium)
Photo ©: John Pierce/PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Sven Nys has nearly 11 months to go on his current contract with Team Rabobank, but he is already exploring the market for the coming season. It is too early to tell whether he will leave the team or not, but he wants to know what is out there.

Meanwhile, he enjoyed his first weekend off in months, and enjoyed even more the news that blood tests have shown no reason for his "empty" feeling. "No mononucleosis, no cytomegalovirus, Epstien-Barr virus nor Hepatitis A or C," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "I am relieved. I am just sitting here with an empty battery."

After a short break in Jamaica, Nys will turn his focus to mountain biking. His goals include the Benelux Cup in Ronse, the European championships in Sankt Wendel and ultimately the the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.

After those games, the question of where he will ride in 2009 will become more pressing. He turned pro with Rabobank in 1998, and seems to find it hard to imagine being with another team. "We aren't that far yet. My manager will soon sit down with the Dutch team managers to discuss how they see the future of their 'cross team, both financially and athletically. I started as a pro [with Rabobank] in September 1998 and have become somewhat of a fixture there. I have had a lot of respect from Rabobank the last few years. My current employer gets the preference, but I want to know what else is out there."

It may be hard imagine himself with another team, but not impossible. "My manager Bob Verbeeck is already busy negotiating. Fedea is interested. I also already talked with Sunweb-Projob manager Jurgen Mettepenningen. I had a good discussion with him. Another point would be to go to a team with my neighbour Niels Albert. Palmans-Cras wants to evolve into another team. That is a realistic possibility which I have nothing against. But it is not so sure."

Team High Road for New Zealand

Team High Road has announced its roster for the New Zealand Community Trust Women's Tour, February 27-March 2.

The team will be headed by defending champion Judith Arndt form Germany. Arndt, 32, was the 2004 road world champion and has a formidable palmarès including overall and stage wins in the Tour de l'Aude, Grand Boucle Féminine and numerous World Cup races.

Arndt will be supported by High Road's formidable sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, 33. The hugely experienced German added three stages of the 2007 Women's Tour of New Zealand to her list of World Cup and major race stage wins. She is likely to be a force to be reckoned with in the stage finishes.

High Road will also field another World Cup star in Australian Oenone Wood, 27. The reigning Australian champion and two-time World Cup series winner is a rider to watch on short, steep climbs where she has a habit of tearing apart the peloton.

The team is rounded out by Alex Rhodes (23, Australia), Linda Villumsen (22, Denmark), and Chantal Beltman (31, Netherlands).

The women's division of Team High Road has had a good 2008 so far, team manager Kristy Scrymgeour told Cyclingnews.

"We're very happy with the excellent start we had to the season with Alex taking a win at Bay Series and a bronze in the [Australian] National Time Trial Championships and Oenone winning the road title," said Scrymgeour. "The rest of the team is excited to start racing and looking forward to continuing the success."

For now, Scrymgeour said the team's immediate focus is on the World Cup round in Geelong, Australia, February 24. But she has no doubt High Road will dominate in New Zealand. "All of them are fit and I think they're ready to kick some arse," she said.

Txurruka leaves Challenge de Mallorca

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Spanish Euskaltel Euskadi rider Amets Txurruka has left the Challenge de Mallorca after breaking his collarbone as a result of a fall during the first kilometres of the second stage, between Cala Millor and Son Servera.

Txurruka, the most aggressive rider from the 2007 Tour de France, attempted to continue the stage, but was unable due to the intense pain. He was taken to hospital immediately, where he was diagnosed with a fracture in his right clavicle.

The news was came as a blow to his team, who were fighting for victory in the teams classification.

Livingstone plans to transform London Cycling

By Ben Atkins, UK Editor

London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone has unveiled plans to transform cycling and walking in Britain’s capital. Measures will include a network of routes for cyclists and pedestrians and "change the profile of walking and cycling on London’s streets". On top of this, a planned bike hire scheme will provide 6,000 bikes, positioned every 300 metres, inspired by a similar and successful programme in the French capital, Paris.

The major part of the initiative will create "around a dozen radial cycling corridors". The aim will be to have one in ten journeys in London to be made by bike, and to save around 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

According to Livingstone: "The aim of this programme is nothing short of a cycling and walking transformation in London. We will spend something like £500 million over the next decade on cycling - the biggest investment in cycling in London's history, which will mean that thousands more Londoners can cycle in confidence, on routes that take them quickly and safely to where they want to go."

Further to the increase in cycling, the aim is to encourage visitors to London to walk what can often be short distances between landmarks and attractions rather than using the underground. Livingstone continued: "Over 50 per cent of tube journeys in central London are quicker on foot. The new Legible London signage system will help people use their feet to get around and see more of London at the same time."

High Road supports Right To Play

Team High Road has formed a partnership with Right To Play, a charity that aims to improve the lives of children and communities affected by war, poverty and disease through sport and play programs.

To help raise funds for the charity, High Road has given Right To Play a prime location on its team jerseys, and team riders will take part in events and promotional activities throughout 2008.

"We will designate race particular race days throughout the season as "Right To Play" days and we'll have special promotions to go along with them," team manager Kristy Scrymgeour told Cyclingnews.

For team owner Bob Stapleton, it's a natural partnership. "Right To Play's values and mission align with those of High Road," said Stapleton.

"They develop the values and benefit of sport and play in society. Team High Road focuses on clean and fair sport and upon success won by fair means. We believe in the global work of Right To Play and hope that we can help."

Right to Play uses specially designed sport and play programs to improve health, build life skills, and foster peace for children and communities affected by war, poverty and disease. It has projects in more than 23 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East with focus in four strategic areas: basic education and child development; health promotion and disease prevention, conflict resolution and peace education; and community development and participation. In 2007, some 8,000 Right To Play coaches engaged more than 400,000 children in regular activities weekly.

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