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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 15, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Conditions on High Road's Giro entry

By Gregor Brown

RCS Sport Events Director Angelo Zomegnan indicated that Team High Road will race the 91st Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

RCS Sport Events Director Angelo Zomegnan confirmed the Team High Road's Friday press release, indicating that the newly-minted American ProTour team will be able to race the 2008 Giro d'Italia, but said the team's invitation was subject to certain conditions, just as all the teams that have been invited are. The team was initially left off of the list of invited teams.

The change of heart gives High Road a pass to all of the RCS Sport events. "I invited High Road to Eroica yesterday, so you can say there will also be High Road at Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia," Zomegnan said to Cyclingnews late Friday evening in Italy. All three races are part of RCS Sport's prestigious calendar for 2008. "You can say that this [the Monte Paschi Eroica invitation - ed.] is an indication."

When asked for clarification that the USA-based team will in fact take part in the 91st edition of the Corsa Rosa when it departs on May 10 from Palermo, Zomegnan noted that its participation is conditional, like all teams that have been invited to this point.

"Only if it is in a good position then it can be invited," stated the Italian from Erba. "I don't think thing High Road will have any problems, and like all the teams, it would be invited under conditions. ... I am able to change everything, even on the day the Giro departs – nothing is guaranteed."

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Zomegnan indicated that the team, which lost its title sponsor at end of the 2007 season, was under verification during the winter, and it still was not approved when he listed the 21 participation teams on February 1.

"They were in the process of being verified like some other teams."

The possible addition of the team run by Bob Stapleton makes 22 teams that will participate in the Italian Grand Tour... assuming nothing goes away. "If High Road is invited then it becomes 22. There are 21 teams up until now that the Giro has invited. If we invite High Road there will be 22. High Road would be the 22nd [team], so we would be at the maximum."

Medalist expects ProTour caliber racing in California

By Steve Medcroft

Chris Aronhalt (Medalist sports)
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
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Medalist Sports, the U.S. race logistics company behind the Tour of California, says that even though the Amgen Tour of California has yet to step up to ProTour status, it expects to give a racing and spectating experience on par with higher-profile international events.

Speaking two days before Sundays prologue in Palo Alto, California, Medalist Managing Partner Chris Aronhalt says "there's no question that the event is ProTour quality and we operate to the same standards (as ProTour events). When you look at the operation, the teams, the significance of the event around the world, we feel that it is a ProTour level event already."

Currently classified as 2.HC (hors catégorie - the highest non-ProTour UCI sanction for a stage race), the Tour of California could take the jump into the ProTour as early as the 2009 season. "AEG still has to decide and evaluate the importance of that classification, and in a ProTour race, and with ProTour status, there would be changes to the types of teams (that ride)," Aronhalt said. "But we're always looking how we can grow. "

Growth for Medalist and growth for the Tour of California are not necessarily the same thing, however. The Tour of California is the first of a five-event season for Aronhalt and partner Jim Birrel; the company manages the six-year old Tour de Georgia, the USA Cycling PRO championships, the relatively new Tour of Missouri and a brand-new three-day stage race in Colorado (to be held August 22-24). "These events take a lot of mental and physical energy and we don't know how many we could do in one season but we're constantly in discussion with new properties and new interests, which is exciting for us in the terms of a report card for the sport - we feel it's very healthy. We have a great base of staff and a pretty good blueprint (for managing events) to start from. We are always trying to grow the profile of the existing events but we're sure that new opportunities will come along."

As for the 2008 Tour of California, Aronhalt says that the race staff is ready to make the event roll smoothly. "We have over 450 staff that come in from around the world. They all have very specific roles," he explained.

And with the logistics worked out to the ProTour level, all that's left is the racing. "California is a great blend of weather, terrain and community," Aronhalt said. "The drama and anticipation of this race may not be over until the final miles into Pasadena, which has to be exciting for the spectators. We know Levi is coming to defend the jersey. And to have riders like Bettini and Boonen here - how can it not be competitive?"

Spanish government supports Contador, Puerto

Spanish sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Jaime Lissavetzky, Spanish Secretary of State for Sport, said he tried to stop the Tour de France organisers from barring Alberto Contador from the Tour de France, Marca reported Friday. Lissavetzky was working with Vuelta director Victor Cordero, to ensure Contador could defend his 2007 title, but the Tour organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), announced Wednesday that Astana was not invited.

Lissavetzky revealed that the decision was contrary to messages he had been receiving from the ASO. "They spoke of the 'new cycling', so I wonder why they have made the decision not to invite Contador's team. They said that the problem is not the rider, but the team, and what I say in these cases is that you must have very clear and transparent rules for cycling going forward," he explained.

"My relationship with the Tour have always been wonderful, but we need to clarify what the rules are. If Contador can ride the Vuelta and not the Tour, then something is amiss. If the UCI thinks the team is good but the Tour does not, then something is wrong," he continued. "As Secretary of State, any Spanish athlete has my support and Alberto Contador has it because he has won the Tour in good stead." he added.

Lissavetzky also added his backing to the re-opening of the Operación Puerto case by the Spanish courts, even if it is limited to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and his associates' handling of the blood bags found in the Madrid clinic.

Cunego to tackle Paris-Nice

Italian Damiano Cunego will participate with his Lampre team in the upcoming Paris-Nice, from March 9 - 16, the team announced on Friday. The two-time Tour of Lombardy winner will use the event as preparation for the Spring Classics. "Paris-Nice is sensible preparation for the Ardennes classics," said team manager Giuseppe Saronni.

Cunego will take part first in the Trofeo Laigueglia in Italy, and then the Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana in Spain before heading to Paris. "The invitation to Paris-Nice leads us to believe the ASO (organiser of the Paris-Nice and Tour de France) will probably receive confirmation of selection for the Tour. This is an important step in the season's programme of our riders," said Saronni.

Klöden "disappointed" by Tour exclusion

Andreas Klöden
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Team Astana's Andreas Klöden expressed his disappointment that his team was not invited to any of the ASO's events, including the Tour de France. Writing on his personal website, the German said, "Of course I am disappointed not to be able to start in the Tour de France, and it is hard for me to understand the ASO management's reasoning."

The 32 year-old, who finished second in the Tour in 2004 and third in 2006 , noted that the team's new management "did everything possible in the last few weeks to restore the team's credibility. [...] I understand that the Tour wants to do all it can to prevent another catastrophe like in the previous year. But I find it really too bad that the current team, which has nothing in common with last year's team, must now pay for it."

He was determined, however, to look positively toward the upcoming season. "There are certainly a lot of other good races for which it is worthwhile to go to the start in good condition. My team and I are working hard to keep on fighting and, despite everything, to work for a clean future in cycling. No matter what."

Gerolsteiner hits the top ten

Team Gerolsteiner had good news from the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto on Friday. It not only had two riders finishing in the lead group, all of the riders were able to ride their original bikes. Five of the riders from the German team flew into Italy from Mallorca, but their bikes and baggage didn't make the connecting flight from Madrid to Pisa. The equipment wasn't expected to arrive until mid-day Friday, but it came in late Thursday evening. Team mechanics put in some extra hours to pick the bikes up and assemble them in time for Friday's opening stage of the new race.

The peloton split with about 30 km to go in the stage, with 36 riders gaining a 44-second advantage which they held to the end. This leading group contained Gerolsteiner team captain Davide Rebellin and his team-mate Andrea Moletta, who finished seventh on the day. The team had actually been hoping to set up a sprint for Robert Förster, but he didn't make the split. Directeur sportif Christian Henn described the split, saying "everything fell apart, but we could react. Andrea and Davide showed their class and were in the front."

Förster was not able to participate in the final sprint, but at least he was able to complete the stage on his own bike.

CONI appeal against Petacchi set

The appeal of the acquittal of doping charges against Milram sprinter Alessandro Petacchi has been set for April 2, at 09:00 at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland. The Anti-doping Office of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are appealing the acquittal of Petacchi made by the Italian Cycling Federation.

Petacchi tested 'non-negative' for the asthma medication Salbutamol during the 2007 Giro d'Italia. The Italian possessed the necessary exemption to use the drug, but had levels above the legal limit in his urine following stage 11 last May.

CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri has asked for Petacchi to be suspended for one year. Arbiters selected for the case are Peter Leaver (UK), Michele Bernasconi (Switzerland, appointed by the athlete) and Ulrich Haas (Germany, appointed by the Anti-doping office).

Wegmann to lead Gerolsteiner in California

German national champion Fabian Wegmann will be leading Team Gerolsteiner in the Tour of California starting this weekend. He will be joined by stage race experts and climbers Bernhard Kohl and Oliver Zaugg. Young Swiss rider Mathias Frank will make his pro debut in the race.

Gerolsteiner for Tour of California: Mathias Frank, Johannes Fröhlinger, Heinrich Haussler, Bernhard Kohl, Fabian Wegmann, Peter Wrolich, Oliver Zaugg and Markus Zberg.

Stewart warmed up for California

BMC Racing Team's Jackson Stewart surprised himself with good form this week, turning out a win in the Cherry Pie Criterium in Napa, California last Sunday, giving a strong indication of his form in the lead up to the Tour of California. The 27-year-old from Los Gatos surprised himself with the win, saying he doubted his form following the Tour of Qatar.

"I didn't feel one hundred percent, but I felt alright," he said on the team's website. Stewart made the winning breakaway, and then was able to take the sprint. "After getting home from Qatar, I was having problems with my training. The racing there was very intense and I had crashed in Qatar. I think the long flight home was the nail in the coffin as far as how resilient my body felt. And the week leading up to the Cherry Pie Crit I had been getting massages and seeing the chiropractor, but I was still frustrated with how my body was reacting."

Stewart received encouragement from his coach, Charlie Livermore, and help fine-tuning his position before the race. "I think that helped me mentally know that nothing really was wrong, and my body was just a bit tired," Stewart explained. He and team-mates Alex Moss and Mike Sayers went into the race attentive, covering every move. "I think Alex went first and then Mike, but both their breaks were pulled back. It just happened that it was my turn to follow a break and that was the one that stayed away. Luckily I was racing with Alex and Mike since they are both big experienced guys and they were able to help control the race behind our break."

The win gave both Stewart and his team confidence going into the much bigger Tour of California. "Even though it was only a local race, there were a lot of guys racing it that will also be at California too, so it is a good confidence booster," said Stewart. "Any win is always a bonus."

Stewart guessed the same approach would be used to some extent in the Tour of California, where he took most aggressive rider on stage four last year. "I'm sure we will race opportunistically. [Alexander] Moos is definitely a guy we can shoot for getting high on the GC, and Darren Lill has a lot of potential in that vein too.

"[Jeff] Louder and [Scott] Nydam are always threats, even if Scott has recently felt as beat up as I do. And the rest of the guys like Taylor Tolleson, Tony Cruz, Danilo Wyss and myself will hopefully be strong in the flatter finishes."

Stewart mused that staying away in a break might be a bit harder than it was in the Cherry Hill criterium in the Tour of California. "The circuit finishes don't really give the US racers an advantage, but they do generally ensure that breakaways will have a hard time staying away until the finish. But we'll always be in the action of the race. Success in the classifications will fall into place when we do that well."

THF Realty announces roster

A new cycling team has been formed to compete in races across the United States. Sponsors THF Realty, Ghisallo Sports, Midwest Testing, Brinkmann Constructors and Long John Silvers will support a mix of young athletes like Nolan Froese and Austin Allison, as well as National Race Calendar veterans Pete Lopinto and Stefano Barberi. The THF Realty Cycling Team will be racing at regional events in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions as well as select events on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar. Along with racing you will find the team working at various charitable events and in schools teaching the importance of helmets and bicycle safety.

The 2008 THF Realty Cycling Team: Austin Allison, Brian Alfermann, Brent Hanlin, Brian Dziewa, Nolan Froese, Pete Lopinto, Stefano Barberi, Terry Kennan, Tim Kakouris, Zak Grabowski.

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