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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, February 14, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Prudhomme: "No more mistakes allowed"

Christian Prudhomme is set to defend the Tour de France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

One day after the controversial announcement of not inviting team Astana to any of the races owned by French company ASO, including the Tour de France, race director Christian Prudhomme explained the decision to news agency AFP. The Frenchman regretted that the 2007 winner of the event, Astana's Alberto Contador, may not be able to defend his title if he remains with the outfit, but said that the decision was taken to protect the Tour de France from being discredited once again.

"We cannot wipe away what happened these last two years," Prudhomme explained. "We don't have the right to have a short memory. In 2006, a team came out of the ashes of Liberty Seguros. Within this team, half of the riders were linked to Operación Puerto and cannot take the start of the Tour. The next year, they explain to us that it's a new team, a new management, that everything about it is new. We trust them and invite them to the Tour. But we made a mistake to take them – and we don't want to make that mistake once again."

The Tour de France director made it clear that the "new" Astana managed by Johan Bruyneel had prove its good faith first before getting an entry into ASO's races again. "This year, it's a 'new' team for the second time, and they tell us the same as last year: 'We don't have anything to do with the past'. Which is true... but you can't erase the past like this. Everything they announced for 2008, the new (anti-doping) measures, the internal controls, etc. – that's very good. We want these measures to work, too. If they do, we will see the team in our competitions again a bit later. But not this season."

Speaking to L'Equipe, he added that "the idea (behind this decision) is not 'Never again Astana', it is 'Never again 2007!"

Asked why ASO decided to exclude the Kazakh-sponsored squad, but not the team High Road (former T-Mobile), which also harmed the Tour de France last year with Patrik Sinkewitz' positive doping test for testosterone, Prudhomme replied, "That is not the same situation. The Sinkewitz affair was before the Tour [the rider was found positive at a team training camp on June 8 - ed.]. If everybody would have wanted to protect the Tour, then we would have known his test result before the start of the race. With the AFLD (French anti-doping agency), we would have known the results in time and Sinkewitz would not have started. We paid dearly for something that happened before the Tour. The fault lies within those six weeks, where we don't know (what happened)."

French team Cofidis also had a doping case during the last Tour de France with Cristian Moreni. "That's true," Prudhomme commented, "but Cofidis left (the Tour) straight away, without us asking them to do so."

Speaking to Dutch AD, Prudhomme added that ASO had also pondered the exclusion of Rabobank, which made headlines last July with overall leader Michael Rasmussen being withdrawn from the race for having lied about his whereabouts and missed doping controls. "We hesitated, but came to the conclusion that it was Rasmussen and his boss [Theo De Rooy - ed.] that harmed the Tour, and not the sponsor," he said. "They made the decision to pull him out of the race a bit late, but they did. The sponsor made that gesture even if there wasn't a positive control. Today, Rasmussen is suing them for having been sacked without a reason."

Prudhomme added that the final team selection for the 2008 Tour de France was yet to come, and that ASO was determined to file a clean field in the race this year. "The Tour selection will be announced towards the end of this month. But it will be 'same cause, same effect'. If ever a team makes a mistake, the sanction will be the same. There is no margin for mistakes anymore."

Di Rocco supports ASO's Astana decision

"I think this is the right road for cycling"

By Gregor Brown

Italian federation president Renato Di Rocco
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image) Renato Di Rocco

The Italian cycling federation (FCI) President Renato Di Rocco gave his support for ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) decision not to invite Team Astana to its races, including the Tour de France. The 2007 French Grand Tour was won by Alberto Contador while racing for Johan Bruyneel at Discovery Channel; however, the two now are associated with Team Astana, which had its share of trouble in 2007.

"I think this is the right road for cycling," said Di Rocco to Cyclingnews. "It is not right to continue with a cycling where the teams are selected in base of [ProTour] licenses, and, above all, you have to show that the criteria to give licenses are the wrong criteria."

Team Astana is one of 18 teams with a ProTour license, which Bruyneel took advantage of when Discovery Channel decided to stop sponsoring. He brought his staff over to the Kazakhstan-sponsored, Luxembourg-licensed team, which was enough to convince the International Cycling Union (UCI) last December to allow the Astana-named team to keep is license despite the 2007-related doping cases and the problems of 2006 with Liberty Seguros-Würth – the forerunner for Team Astana.

"The ProTour sells these licenses to race in the ProTour races, and this criterion is not correct. Astana should have already been suspended last year," reckoned Di Rocco while at home in Rome. He then alluded to possible problems for other teams. "Astana had cases of doping, but there are other teams that will not make it to the end of the year – I think."

In January, Di Rocco and other countries' representatives met with the UCI in Treviso, Italy, to discuss a new 'special calendar' for all races owned by the Grand Tours (Tour, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España). Part of the outcome of this meeting was that none of these 'special calendar' races, except for the Tour, would be obliged to invite all 18 ProTour teams.

"The Vuelta and Giro were already free to select [how they wish], but the UCI said that the Tour and all of the ProTour races had to select the 18 ProTour teams. The Tour was obliged to select 18 teams, but instead they are not taking Astana," honestly noted Di Rocco.

It appears that the 2008 Tour, like the 2007 Giro, will be run without its defending champion, and from Di Rocco's viewpoint this is fine since he believes the issue at stake is more of team licensing. "It happened in the past at the Tour as well," he said when it was pointed out that the 2007 Giro lacked defending champion Ivan Basso. The Italian was forbidden to race due to a doping suspension, but in this case ASO chose not to select the team of the defending champion for the Tour. "And it was a good choice in my opinion."

RCS Sport announces teams for Monte Paschi Eroica

By Gregor Brown

Alexandr Kolobnev (Team CSC) riding in the 1st Monte Paschi Eroica
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

RCS Sport has announced the 16 teams for the second running of the Monte Paschi Eroica – a 181-kilometre race held on Le strade bianche of Siena March 8. The organiser decided to invite Team High Road to its first race of the season despite not doing so for its showcase event, the Giro d'Italia.

The organiser announced the teams for the second edition, won last year by Alexandr Kolobnev of Team CSC, based on pre-selection by the team managers. Amongst the possible star riders likely to race are Magnus Backstedt, Alessandro Ballan, Paolo Bettini, Danilo Di Luca, Enrico Franzoi, Riccardo Riccò, Alessandro Petacchi, Filippo Pozzato and Erik Zabel.

The 16 teams are Ag2r-La Mondiale, Barloworld, Cofidis, CSF Group Navigare, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, Gerolsteiner, High Road, Lampre, Liquigas, LPR Brakes Cycling Team, Quick Step, Saunier Duval-Scott, Slipstream Chipotle - H30, Team CSC, Team Milram and Tinkoff Credit Systems.

Organiser RCS Sport was inspired by races like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen as well as the long running cyclo-tourist event held on the same strade bianche ('white gravel roads') when it decided to stage the first running last fall. The race – now held in the spring – starts in Gaiole and will include seven sectors of sterrati ('gravel roads') before it ends in Siena's medieval Piazza del Campo.

Sectors and length:
1: km 35.0 at 13.5km
2: km 53.9 at 5.5km
3: km 82.3 at 11.9km
4: km 95.2 at 8.0km
5: km 132.4 at 11.5km
6: km 163.7 at 3.3km
7: km 170.4 at 2.4km

The last sector leaves the riders with eight kilometres of racing, and could be an ideal launch pad for the win.

The Monte Paschi Eroica is the first of RCS Sport's races for 2008 – a calendar which includes Tirreno-Adriatico (March 12-18), Milano-Sanremo (March 22), Giro d'Italia (May 10 - June 1), Giro del Lazio (August 9), Milano-Torino (October 16) and Giro di Lombardia (October 18).

Horner happy with new home

Chris Horner is happy to ride in support for others.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Six months ago, Chris Horner was between a 'rock' and a hard place. He had come to a contract impasse with his current team and was in on/off negotiations with the continental Rock Racing team, with neither team able to meet his terms. His future was uncertain, until an unlikely call from Johan Bruyneel and his new Astana team. Suddenly, Horner had everything he wanted in terms of a contract and on a ProTour team. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski was on hand for the team's North American training camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and spoke with Horner about his new home.

When we spoke last with Chris Horner, his professional world was full of uncertainty. His team Predictor-Lotto, with which he had planned on re-signing for the next two seasons after a very strong showing at the Tour de France, working tirelessly for team-mate Cadel Evans and still managing fifteenth place overall. But when contract negotiations came around, Predictor-Lotto came up short, at least to what Horner thought he was worth.

"I honestly thought I was signing with Lotto," said Horner. "I wasn't asking for much more money and it was still at the low point of my worth, so I wasn't looking for other teams. But when I realized we weren't going to come to terms it was pretty late in the year! Then Rock called me; and talking with Michael Ball, if the deal had come through it would have been a really great contract."

But being so late in the season, Horner's options were limited. He did come close to signing with the Rock Racing team, as his Predictor-Lotto team-mate Freddie Rodriguez had done. However, Horner said he was never able to lock the terms he wanted with Rock Racing's owner Michael Ball.

"It was crazy with the contracts," laughed Horner. "A lot of stuff was getting printed that I had signed with Rock Racing, and it had never actually happened. I had to call a lot of the media to say I hadn't yet!"

However, Horner said that he had planned to sign a contract with the team. "I had flown over after the Tour of Spain to sign a contract with Rock Racing but it fell apart," said Horner. "I got the first version and it was wrong; version two was wrong; I couldn't ever get it written the way I needed it. The end result, from day one I said these certain things were not negotiable and I sat through twelve weeks of talks to get it to say that way."

For the full feature on Chris Horner, click here.

Amstel Gold hand out wildcards

Organisers of the Dutch Classic Amstel Gold Race have announced two wildcard invitations for this year's event, scheduled April 20. Race director Leo van Vliet chose Professional Continental teams Skil-Shimano and Topsport Vlaanderen to compete with the 18 ProTour teams automatically included in the race.

On Wednesday, Van Vliet announced that he will invite two or three more teams out of the pool of 15 teams which have been awarded wildcard status by the UCI. A maximum of 25 teams are allowed to start in the Limburg Classic, but Van Vliet told ANP that he wanted no more than 23 outfits to be at the start for safety reasons.

Cipo to ride in California?

By Susan Westemeyer

Will Mario Cipollini celebrate his return to the pro peloton with Team Rock Racing after all? Sportwereld has reported that the sprint star and former world champion is expected to be at the start of the Tour of California's prologue on Sunday.

According to the Belgian website, he received his license from the Monaco cycling federation Wednesday evening and was to fly to California Thursday, where he is expected to sign a contract with the American Continental team, owned by the controversial Michael Ball.

Under the contract, "The Lion King" would ride about 15 races in the US this year for the team, and then serve as team manager for an additional four years, according to Sportwereld.

It was announced last month that the 40 year-old would sign with Rock Racing, but difficulties later cropped up, throwing the plan into doubt.

Boogerd's marathon plans in question

By Susan Westemeyer

Michael Boogerd had surgery this week in Antwerp, Belgium, on an arm injury he suffered in a skiing accident. The injury will likely put an end to his plans to run in the Rotterdam Marathon in April. The Belga news agency reported that the former Rabobank rider, who retired at the end of the 2007 season, may still try to run the CPD-Loop, a half-marathon in Den Haag, next month. His wife, Nerena, said, "He is in good shape. He might be able to do that, but a full marathon would be difficult."

New sponsor for Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Grupo Nicolás Mateos has decided to stop sponsoring the Pro Continental squad of the same name, but the local government will take over the charge of the team's budget, as announced today at a news conference in the capital city of Murcia, Spain. The Spanish squad, until now named Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia, will count on the full economic support of Murcian government, although it negotiates the incorporation of other sponsors, such as Rudy Project. They will have Ridley bikes and Inverse wear.

Among its sixteen riders, Adrián Palomares (Fuerteventura-Canarias), Manuel Vázquez (Andalucía-Cajasur), Julián Sánchez Pimienta and José Miguel Elías (Relax) stand out, under orders of Ginés García. In addition to the professional team, there are two other more in the Junior and U23 categories.

To gain a wildcard for the Vuelta a España will continue being the team's main goal in 2008. The Clásica de Almeria, Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana and Vuelta a la Region de Murcia will be its next races.

Rebellin leads Gerolsteiner in Italian race

By Susan Westemeyer

Davide Rebellin will make his season debut this weekend at the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto. He will be accompanied by two of the team's other Italians, Oscar Gatto and Andrea Moletta. In addition to Rebellin, the team will look for results from sprinter Robert Förster. The race runs over 519 km in three stages.

Gerolsteiner for Grosseto: Robert Förster, Thomas Fothen, Oscar Gatto, Andrea Moletta, Volker Ordowski, Davide Rebellin, Matthias Russ, and Carlo Westphal.

Team Successful Living for 2008

On Tuesday this week, U.S. pro cycling team Successful Living announced their roster for 2008. Last season, the squad's successes included five National Racing Calendar (NRC) victories. The team planned to continue their momentum with the addition of Canadian Criterium Champion, Charles Dionne and looked to aim for the NRC title within the next two seasons.

The team will be working on planned goal setting at the training camps starting this month. "First step is to take inventory of all the goals we want to achieve as a team and as individuals and physically write them down," said director Steve Hegg. "It's important that everyone knows each other's goals to create accountability, camaraderie, and focus throughout the season."

The management is confident this will be a key factor in the achievements of the cycling team this season and beyond. "Reflecting on the success of 2007, the goals for next season are definitely attainable," stated manager Ryan Yee.

Helping to lead the charge will be Canadian Charles Dionne, two-time San Francisco Grand Prix winner and former member of the ProTour team Saunier-Duval. Dionne already set some solid objectives for this season including earning a spot to represent Canada in the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, China, and retain his Canadian National Criterium Champion title.

Ricardo Escuela will return as the team's sprint-ace, even though ironically his most notable victory was at the top of Pilot Butte in the first stage of Cascade Cycling Classic against the best climbers in the nation. He has demonstrated to be a strong overall racer and will be a marked man at the start line in 2008.

Alessandro Bazzana returns as an overall performer in the NRC circuit. The 23 year-old from Bergamo, Italy was first recognized last season in the inaugural US Open in Virginia. Bazzana's hard work paid off when he won two NRC races later, back-to-back at the Cougar Mountain Classic in Sonoma, California.

"Last year was a learning year for our new foreign riders," said Steve Hegg. "Now that they know the style of racing here in the US and the competition, you will definitely see more of these guys on the podium."

The team has made some key up-and-coming acquisitions to round out the roster including Brad White from Discovery Channel/Marco Polo and Brian Jensen from HRCC/Trek. White, who will enter his full season as a professional was instrumental in helping Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie earn their podium spots at Pro road national last year in South Carolina. "We have some great talent on our team and each rider will be given an opportunity to shine through out the season," commented Steve Hegg. Jensen returns to pro cycling after taking a hiatus to complete his college degree. "We've had an eye on Brian all last season," said Ryan Yee. "He was a full-time student last year but earned some impressive results racing as an amateur."

The team also added two U23 young guns, Cody O'Reilly (20) and Eric Bennett (22). O'Reilly demonstrated his abilities with Kodak-Sierra Nevada last season as a first year professional. Bennett, a former multi-time National BMX champion will bring his talents and to the squad as a neo-pro, coming from the Time Development Team under the direction of pro-veteran Eric Saunders.

The team has organised three training camps between now and April to prepare for the launch of the 2008 NRC season in Redlands, California. First camp will begin this week in Ventura.

2008 Team Successful Living Pro Cycling

New for 2008:

Charles Dionne (Canada - Colavita/Sutter Home)
Eric Bennett (USA - Time Factory Development Team)
Brad White (USA - Discovery Channel/Marco Polo)
Brian Jensen (USA - HRCC/Trek)
Cody O'Reilly (USA - Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada)


Alessandro Bazzana (Italy)
Chuck Coyle (USA)
Ricardo Escuela (Argentina)
JR Grabinger (USA)
Curtis Gunn (USA)
Alexi Martinez (USA)
Christian Valenzuela (Mexico)

Team H&R Block announces squad

Entering its third season of competition, Canadian Team H&R Block has announced its team for the 2008 season. The Calgary-based team enjoyed considerable success in 2007, capturing the team classification of the Alberta Road Cup, a National Master's Time Trial title, both men's and women's Alberta Provincial Road Championships, and placing two junior riders on the National Road Team.

The focus of Team H&R Block for the 2008 season is to continue to build and support a strong Elite team to be a dominant force in Alberta road, track, and cyclo-cross racing, and to establish a presence at select National and regional events. Targeted races beyond Alberta include the Tour of Walla Walla (Washington state), B.C. SuperWeek, and National Championships in both road and track.

Key additions to the team for 2008 include National Track Team member Ryan McKenzie, National Track Championships medalist Mark MacDonald, first-year Elite Aaron Schooler, twice a member of the National Cyclo-cross team, and Christiaan DeVries, a former National-caliber Espoir rider. McKenzie brings a wealth of big-race experience to the team, while Schooler and McDonald represent tremendous potential coupled with an ability to be immediately competitive at a National level.

Finally, the team is pleased to add a Sport Director to oversee the Elite team this season: Andy Holmwood, former Technical Director of the Alberta Bicycle Association, will direct the Elite Team at all major events.

Team H&R Block

2008 Espoir/Elite Roster:

Jeff Bolstad, Chris DeVries, Cyrus Kangarloo, Mark MacDonald, Ryan McKenzie, Chris McNeil, Aaron Schooler, Anthony Steenburgen (Alberta Provincial Road Champion)

2008 Women's Roster:

Carrie Tuck (Alberta Provincial Road Champion), Skye Mitchell, Megan Rathwell, Melanie Zinck

2008 Regional Roster:

Dallas Morris, Gideon Kristalka, Adam Boyko, Steve Shiers, Mike Wrubleski, Peter Lawrence, Phil McDonald, Trevor Gunderson, Shawn Taylor, Mark Foster, Robin Baillie, Harley Borlee, Stuart Hughes, Dave Jetz, Zane Westerbeek.

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