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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 15, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo and Sue George

Third Tour of California combines 'old' with 'new

Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Palo Alto

Stage four will twist along the coast
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Three years may not seem very 'old' for a cycling race, especially when Paris-Roubaix and the Tour have run 105 and 94 editions of their races, respectively. But in North America, where the half-life of major races is in question every year, three years of a race can make it look like a grizzled veteran. And with the third Tour of California bringing out some significant parcours changes, the comparison of 'old routes' versus 'new routes' seems justified; with all due respect to the spring classics, of course.

The new stages are the biggest news for this year's race, with a new prologue, a tough stage three course over Mt. Hamilton and the conversion of the final stage from a parade-like circuit race to a normal point-to-point stage. These more difficult routes, combined with the 'old standards' such as the run down the Pacific Coast Highway from Seaside to San Luis Obispo, will hopefully make for more exciting racing along California's beautiful coast - possibly resulting in more solo stage finishes to counterbalance the usual field sprints.

Cast of characters

Returning to defend his title, the first time this will be possible, is the current U.S. road champion Levi Leipheimer. And for the third time he comes with a new team, Astana. But the team may not be as new after first glance, as the team is made up of about half of the old Discovery Channel team, with Johan Bruyneel running the show. Leipheimer will have a strong supporting cast with him, including former Discovery riders Janez Brajkovic, Vladimir Goussev, José Luis Rubiera, as well as new team-mate Chris Horner.

"The Tour of California has grown exponentially in the first two years, probably setting an unprecedented rate of growth than any race in the world," Leipheimer told Cyclingnews at the team's training camp last month. "I've seen the affect it has had on my community, and it was a dream for me to win it last year. The only thing that could be as satisfying for me is to see a team-mate win. Astana is definitely sending a very strong team, and I've some hard training this year to be able to repeat, so we are ready."

Continue to the full preview.

More California squads announced

Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

With the Tour of California days away, more teams are releasing their final rosters for the race. The Bissell Pro Cycling team will be led by two riders, Tom Zirbel and Ben Jacques-Maynes – while the Slipstream-Chipotle-H30 team will be bringing a strong American contingent.

Jacques-Maynes started off strong last year finishing third in the prologue when the team was known as the Priority Health team. Director sportif Glen Mitchell said that new additions to the team this year made for a more challenging selection process. “While selection is always a tough process, the depth and determination of this squad made that process all the more difficult,” said Mitchell. “We have a unique and talented group that work incredibly well together who are all able to contribute to a race of this caliber, but we have some specific riders whose peak form is targeted down the road.”

One of the big additions is Aaron Olson who rode the past years in Europe on ProTour squads, racing the Giro d'Italia and finishing third overall at the Tour of Ireland.

While the Slipstream-Chipotle-H30 team added a lot of European firepower to its roster, only one of them will be riding on the eight-man team in California. David Millar, who will be looking to see how his time trial position has progressed from wind tunnel training will be joined be a lot of potential GC contenders. Tom Danielson, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde all have ridden in the main role in their careers.

Looking for individual stage wins and supporting the likely leaders are sprinter Tyler Farrar and time trialist Danny Pate.

Bissell Pro Cycling
Ben Jacques-Maynes
Tom Zirbel
Aaron Olson
Burke Swindlehurst
Richard England
Scott Zwizanski
Garrett Peltonen
Teddy King

Tom Danielson
Tom Peterson
Steven Cozza
David Millar
David Zabriskie
Tyler Farrar
Danny Pate
Christian Vande Velde

Klöden sticks with Astana

By Susan Westemeyer

Andreas Klöden, a two-time podium finisher in the Tour de France, does not plan to leave Team Astana to find another team with which to race the event, his manager Tony Rominger said Thursday. The ASO announced Wednesday that it would not invite Team Astana this year to any of the races it organizes, including the Tour de France. While riding for T-Mobile Team, Klöden finished second in the Tour in 2004 and third in 2006.

"He has a valid contract [with Astana] through the end of the year," Rominger told the German news agency dpa. "We will first meet and come up with an alternative race schedule. A change is not a theme with us."

Even if he wanted to change, it would be difficult. "The teams have all already signed the riders they want. It is very hard for me to imagine that they might change their strategy," Rominger said, according to the sid press agency. "We can't panic, but must see how we go on."

Klöden did not comment Thursday on that decision, although quotes under his name were published by certain German sources. "Andreas Klöden prefers not to react as everything has been said already by the team management. He is surprised to read interviews with him in the German press, since he did not speak with any journalist," Astana press spokesman Philippe Maertens said. Klöden indicated that he would issue a statement within the next few days.

Langkawi gets astronaut visit

By Greg Johnson in Kuala Rompin, Malaysia

The Tour de Langkawi had a visitor from out of this world at yesterday's finish in Kuala Rompin, with the nation's first astronaut one of the special guests. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor attended the event's 13th edition dressed in a blue spacesuit with the Malaysian national flag on one side, while wearing polished black dress shoes.

"I have always enjoyed bicycle racing and this is the first time I've seen the Le Tour de Langkawi, even though it's been there for 13 years," he told Cyclingnews. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to come and watch for myself how great it is."

Shukor became Malaysia's first astronaut in October last year when he went on a 12 day trip to study the affects of microgravity and space radiation on cells and microbes. The Malaysian, who was accompanied by American Peggy Whitson and Russian Yuri Malenchenko on the mission, also carried out experiments with proteins for a potential HIV vaccine.

Shukor said that while he's always loved cycling, he is also passionate about other sports. "I'm more into swimming, I'm a national swimmer for 10 years [and] I love sky diving and horse riding," he said.

The rocket used last October was adorned with a Malaysian flag and coat of arms, and his patriotism has flowed through to the peloton of the Asian nation with hundreds of children vying for Shukor’s signature yesterday. Last year's mission, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, saw another first when Whitson became the first woman to command the international space station.

While the people of Kuala Rompin only have to wait for Friday's Stage 7 start in the town to see another bike race, it will be another two years before they get to watch one of their nationals enter space again. Captain Doctor Faiz Khaleed, a dentist, will be the second Malaysian to enter space in 2010.

Premier Targets for Sigma Sport - Specialized - Sportful

By Ben Atkins, UK Editor

The 2008 Sigma Sport - Specialized - Sportful Team
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

The Sigma Sport - Specialized - Sportful Team was presented today by Eurosport's cycling commentator David Harmon at the Hampton Court Palace Golf Club - just a stone's throw away from King Henry VIII's great palace on the banks of the River Thames. The addition of US bike and equipment makers Specialized and Italian clothing specialists Sportful to the existing team that has been sponsored by Sigma Sport, one of the south west London area's leading bike shops, means a great increase in budget and the opportunity to build a team to support its leading riders.

The team will be led by long-term Sigma Sport rider, former double British national champion Matt Stephens, who recently turned 38 but claims he feels as strong as ever, and 2005 Premier Calendar overall winner Rob Sharman, signed from KFS Special Vehicles. Stephens has often in the past appeared to be riding alone against the superior strength of other teams, but from this year the two captains will be ably supported by a mostly new line-up of Alex Wise, Dan Duguid, Mike Harrison, James Williamson and Neil Swithenbank. Major targets for the team will be the individual Premier Calendar races as well as the overall competition for Sharman, as well as the National Criterium Series and National Championships.

In addition to name sponsorship, Specialized will be providing the team with S-Works Tarmac SL frames - with Roval wheels and Red groupsets provided by SRAM - as well as helmets, eyewear and shoes. Italian clothing specialists Sportful will be providing race and casual clothing.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Ben Atkins / Cyclingnews

Soler to sit out Giro della Provincia di Grosseto

After abandoning the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria, Mauricio Soler will be sitting out the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto.

After further medical controls with team doctor, the Columbian is still suffering knee swelling due to trauma from his crash at the GP Costa degli Etruschi. Soler has no ligament damage, but has been prescribed absolute rest. Stephen Cummings will take his place in the Giro della Porvincia di Grosseto.

Fire at Titus factory

Titus factory fire in Tempe
Photo ©: Clayton Goldsmith
(Click for larger image)

A fire broke out mid-day Wednesday at the Titus Factory in Tempe, Arizona. According to Chris Davidson, who was in the factory at the time assembling bikes for the Kenda / Titus / Hayes Pro mountain bike team, the building was evacuated, but no one was injured. Two service bays were welding and finishing take place were damaged. Welding of Titanium bikes is expected to be halted for a short period of time.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Clayton Goldsmith / Hayes Brakes

Things looking up for Gerolsteiner

By Susan Westemeyer

Things seem to be looking up for Team Gerolsteiner in its search for a new sponsor. Both the management firm that is conducting a search and team manager/owner Hans Michael Holczer are having luck, Holczer told the German news agency SID.

"I have information from SportFive in Hamburg that the first discussions that held have gone well," Holczer said. "Parallel to that, I have had further interesting contacts. We will just have to wait and see how what develops."

"For a few weeks now the closest contact has been with an investor who is interested in buying the majority of my company, including me as manager," the 54 year-old said. "These discussions are in an advanced but by no means final stage."

Gerolsteiner riders arrive without bikes and bags

By Susan Westemeyer

Five Gerolsteiner riders flew from Mallorca to Madrid to Pisa on Thursday – but their luggage and bikes didn't. "We had to change plans in Madrid. And everything that was on the plane from Palm somehow got left in Madrid," according to sprinter Robert Förster. He, Thomas Fothen, Matthias Russ, Volker Ordeowski and Carlo Westphal will have to make do Thursday night with what they had in their carry-on baggage.

The situation was actually more critical for Förster than for the other four. "I was named to the race only at the last minute, so the mechanics will first have to put a bike together for me. The others have their reserve bikes already here in Italy." He added with a grin, "That just means they can pick up a toothbrush and toothpaste for me when they make their training ride this afternoon."

The lost bags and bikes are expected to arrive in Italy around mid-day Friday.

Revolution to help decide British selections for Worlds

The Manchester track series Revolution will host a special event to help British Cycling decide which rider to put first in the men's team sprint at the Track Cycling World Championships. Organisers have agreed to host a 500m standing start time trial in the February 23rd event to test the three contenders for the crucial lead-out position. Held on the same track as the worlds, the event is designed to simulate the race conditions of the first lap of the team sprint.

Craig MacLean led the team to silver at the 2007 World Championships, but Jamie Staff has always been snapping at his heels and now emerging star Jason Kenny is proving a serious threat to the lead out position.

Kenny stormed to victory in the sprint omnium at Revolution 19, beating World Sprint Champion Theo Bos and clocking a remarkable 10.178 time in the 200m time trial.

"The event will have a massive impact on who will be first man at the World Championships," commented British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton. "It is being done at Revolution specifically to simulate the competition environment."

"We will have riders running behind the lead out men to really simulate the team sprint," he continued. "This is crucial as it will give an edge to it and really test how the riders peform under pressure."

The riders are under no illusions on how important their performances will be with Olympic selection potentially on the line. "This is serious head to head stuff and the cold face for selection for the Worlds," confirmed Sutton. "The rider who rides the worlds will definitely have a head start on Olympic selection, so the riders know how important it is."

The time trial is scheduled to take place at the beginning of the Revolution programme. Jason Kenny will be riding with Matt Crampton, Jamie Staff with Ross Edgar and Craig MacLean with Jason Queally.

More Team Sprint action will follow later in the programme with the French squad of Arnaud Tournant, Gregory Bauge and Mickael d'Almeida taking on the team of MacLean, Edgar and Hoy, who the French beat by two hundredths of a second at the Worlds in 2007.

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