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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, February 17, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Rock Racing ready to roll in Cali, after all

Reported by Kirsten Robbins

Mario Cipollini (front passenger seat) and Tyler Hamilton (rear seat)
Photo ©: Luca Bettini
(Click for larger image)

In a day of high emotion prior to the start of the Tour of California, the emerging USA team Rock Racing has confirmed that it will be racing in the Tour of California, after team owner Michael Ball met with riders in a late afternoon team meeting and agreed to a depleted team entering the race.

Earlier in the day, it appeared that the flamboyant owner of Rock Racing was on a collision course with race owners AEG over the composition of his squad. Ball insisted his full team be allowed to race, while AEG would only allow five of his chosen eight riders.

Ball told Cyclingnews that the five remaining riders in his squad - including the Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini who's come out of retirement to ride for Ball - definitely wanted to race, even though they could not have a full roster of eight, including the riders who were rejected by AEG: namely Santiago Botero, Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla. While Ball was adamant that these three should be allowed to start, their entry was rejected by AEG due to their alleged involvement in the recently re-opened Operación Puerto doping investigation in Spain.

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It's claimed that Ball was one of the signatories on a document that gave AEG the right to refuse entry to the race to any rider it deemed to be under any kind of doping investigation.

Apparently the five remaining riders told Ball they were strongly committed to racing, in what was apparently a "very emotional meeting". However, Ball conceded that if the riders wanted to race, he would support them and agreed to have the team start on Sunday for the opening prologue.

Earlier in the day, Ball had called a press conference and there he lambasted the race owner AEG for blocking the entry of his full team. He said, "I'm steadfast in my guys riding. I'm in a position to give these guys who may or may not have made a mistake a second chance. They're willing to step up for a second chance and I'm willing to give them that chance."

The Rock Racing press conference was followed by the official Tour of California press conference, and here it was the turn of the race owners to hold their line in this controversy.

Andrew Messick from AEG told reporters, "the only (Rock Racing) riders to start are those on the official roster. With the UCI and USA Cycling we bent a few rules to include (Mario) Cipollini. Rock Racing has five riders and five will be able to start."

Ball also said that he would continue to pay for his sponsorship obligations and race entry fee for the team so it can continue to race, however, he added that he "never, ever wants to deal with (race owner) AEG again".

McQuaid: ASO's decision to exclude Astana is a "monumental folly"

By Shane Stokes

Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

The past week has seen two big stories in cycling, namely ASO's rejection of Astana for its races - including the Tour de France - and also the news that the Operación Puerto investigation is to be reopened. As regards the former, UCI president Pat McQuaid has described the decision as 'insular' and 'a decision of monumental folly', while he is cautiously optimistic about the latter.

"Looking at this latest situation with Astana, there is absolutely no justification for the decision that was made," he told Cyclingnews this week. "This was a decision made in France by a French organisation purely for the French public. When you see the reaction in France, the reaction to this decision is positive there. For example, if you look at the Internet sites and the blogs of the French media, you will see that they are largely supportive of the decision. But outside France it is completely the opposite. Outside France, the international cycling public have a completely different view. They cannot understand why Astana should be singled out as the team who did so much damage to the Tour de France...everybody knows that there were four or five other teams who badly damaged the Tour last year."

McQuaid cited the Cyclingnews letters page as an example of this anger with ASO over its decision.

"Why should Astana be singled out?" he continued. "It is completely unjust. It is a collective punishment on riders who have absolutely no involvement in the Astana team of 2006 and the problems of 2006 and 2007. These riders are new to the team, there is a new management, and they have done everything in their power to put the right systems in place to ensure that the team is 100% correct. They are part of the biological passport programme, the same as every other team in these events."

In addition to that, Astana are paying what the team claims is €460,000 to Dr Rasmus Damsgard for him to implement his independent anti-doping programme. It means that this season, it has a stronger anti-doping policy than many other teams in the ProTour. McQuaid said that he has sympathy for the riders concerned, who are missing out on the chance to ride the Tour de France despite not being linked to doping.

"The problem to my mind is that the people who made this decision are not cyclists, they have never been cyclists. They don't understand, for instance, the hours and the work and the dreams of people like Alberto Contador, the amount of effort which he puts into trying to win the Tour de France. They don't understand that Levi Leipheimer, who was on the podium of the Tour de France last year, has probably spent every waking minute thinking of the Tour de France and of getting to a higher point on the podium.

Read the complete news feature.

Leipheimer starts petition to appeal Astana's Tour de France exclusion

Levi Leipheimer
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France contender Levi Leipheimer is stepping up efforts to get his Astana team into the French Grand Tour this summer. Speaking at a press conference the day before the Tour of California prologue, the defending Tour of California champion and 2007 Tour de France third place finisher unveiled, a grassroots campaign to appeal the Amaury Sport Organization's (ASO) recent decision to ban Astana, from participating in this summer's Tour de France or any other race organized by ASO including Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, and Paris-Tours.

"With I'm not disputing the ASO's right to decide which teams it invites to the Tour and which teams it doesn't," said Leipheimer. "I'm drawing attention to the fact that this decision by the ASO is completely arbitrary and unjust. I had nothing to do with Astana prior to joining the team this year. There are many other teams with tainted pasts that haven't changed management or structure like the new Astana has, yet Astana is singled out and excluded."

"Where's the consistency?" asked Leipheimer. "By taking action now it looks political. It looks like the ASO has a grudge against a team that can win its races. My hope is that this campaign will encourage the ASO to reconsider its decision."

ASO cited doping scandals from last two years and commented on the "damages that this [Astana] team has done to the Tour de France and to cycling in general."

"That the happenings of last year…prompted the Tour organizers to leave Astana out of the season's most important race sounds understandable," said Team Director Johan Bruyneel. "However, Astana Cycling Team 2008 has nothing to do with the team of last year. We have done everything to change the dynamics of the team. New management, new riders, new philosophy. Only the name of the sponsor remained."

Although the ASO said earlier this week that it had recognized changes in management, it said only that it would follow Astana's efforts to stay free of negative affairs in 2008 before considering it again for inclusion in future editions of ASO races.

"I've trained my whole life to race the Tour," said a disappointed Leipheimer. "It's my dream to win the Tour de France; it's my life long goal."

Visitors to have an opportunity to pledge their support for Leipheimer and add their name to a petition directed at the ASO.

Cruz recovers from illness

Antonio Cruz used to ride for Discovery Channel, but is now with BMC
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Tony Cruz is recovering from a nasty sinus infection after the Tour of Qatar as he readies for the Tour of California.

"I'm actually feeling a lot better," said Cruz on the BMC website "I saw a doctor on Monday who gave me some antibiotics. They said it was a sinus infection, but it has really affected everything else, so it has been chest congestion along with the head cold symptoms. I have been really fatigued too. Maybe that's the worst thing, especially when you are trying to train for an event. But I have ridden the past two days and am feeling a lot better."

Cruz, who made the move from Team Discovery Channel last year, will be aiming for a stage win. "There are two or three really good opportunities for sprinters," he said. "We could look to the Santa Rosa finish, or Sacramento, and to win in Pasadena would of course be great. And I like climbing a lot, so even the stages that have hard climbs I can hope to place well in. I have won a lot of races by being one of the strong sprinters who makes it over the hills in the first group."

The team will be working for Alex Moos in the general classification. "He is climbing really well and has been reconnoitring the stages these past several weeks," said Cruz. "I think the key stage for the GC will come on the run into San José, so we will certainly be working to keep Alex in position on that day."

Contract issues influence final weekend of cyclo-cross season

By Brecht Decaluwé

Niels Albert (Palmans - Cras)
Photo ©: Isosport
(Click for larger image)

This weekend marks the final weekend of the cyclo-cross season. Saturday, racers competed in Vorselaar, which doubled as the final in the Superprestige Series. On Sunday, 'crossers will have their last race, to determined the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy, in Oostmalle.

On Saturday Bart Wellens, team-mate Zdenek Stybar, and perhaps young Niels Albert will battle it out of the second place in the GC of the Superprestige Series behind Sven Nys who has built an unassailable lead in the competition and is assured his eighth series win. They can expect tough competition from new world champion, Lars Boom as well as Nys who will be both keen to cap off a tough season before heading off for a deserved break.

Sunday sees the usual cast of characters lining up for the traditional season finale and final round of the Gazet van Antwerpen series in Oostmalle. With Nys also having wrapped up this series, his fifth, Stybar and team-mate Wellens will have to fight it out for the runner-up position, with only five points are separating the two. Dutchmen Richard Groenendaal and Boom have an outside chance of upsetting things, but they will have their work cut out for them.

U23 world champion Niels Albert dominated the big races two weeks ago and may again be showing his competitors only a view of him from behind. Fans will have to wait and see whether he can recover from his win Saturday.

Last weekend, neither the race in Eeklo nor Heerlen counted toward the regularity competitions, but that didn't stop Klaas Vantornout, who was in a row with the organizers of the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy, from winning. Organizers accused the Belgian of faking illness and injuries to avoid participating in their events, after not being granted a contract for the complete series at the beginning of the season. In the end, both parties came to an agreement and with no injury or illness the blond Belgian should line up in Oostmalle.

Vantornout wasn't the only one who had a row with the organizers. American Jonathan Page, who finished on the podium last year, wasn't granted a contract for Oostmalle.

"I'm pissed off that Oostmalle doesn't give me a contract despite finishing on the podium last year," said Page. "Everybody's talking about making this an international sport – and it's true that this season wasn't my best - but these Series virtually didn't do anything for me this year."

Last weekend Page had no contract to start Eeklo, but in Heerlen, he showed his late season form with a strong fourth place. "Next year, I hope to do the Superprestige Series and that's all for this country," Page said to Cyclingnews.

Race organizer Louis Van Den Eynde said that budget and Page's form were the reasons for his non-selection. "Page didn't have a contract for the Series and had to negotiate for every race. We made a budget at the beginning of the season and we noticed that he wasn't going well, so we didn't plan to get him in our race. We don't look at last year's results," the said the organizer. "If you know how much the top riders ask to start and how expensive foreigners are, then this is the logical result," Van Den Eynde said to Cyclingnews.

Prior to the event, Page had told Cyclingnews that he was keen on showing organizers from Oostmalle what he's made off with a strong performance in the Superprestige race at Vorselaar on Saturday. Last year Page finished ninth in the Belgian cyclo-cross race, but after a rough start, Page finished only 15th.

On the other hand, UCI leader Sven Nys got an expensive contract to line up in Oostmalle. The Belgian took a break last weekend and warned his rivals that he saved his energy to shine one last time in the cyclo-cross field this season. The 'Cannibal' won both races in Vorselaar and Oostmalle last year. After seventh place in Vorselaar, he has one more shot to close the season with a win Sunday.

See full coverage of the Superprestige finale in Vorselaar.

Silence-Lotto bikes stolen in Italy

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Silence-Lotto was not at the start of Saturday's second stage of the Giro della Provinicia di Grosseto in Italy, having had 16 team bikes stolen overnight.

According to the team, an "organized gang" broke the windows of a team car and pushed it away, giving them access to the team truck. They then took eight racing bikes, eight reserve bikes and a number of spare tires.

The team is insured against the loss, but had no possibility to ride on Saturday. Chauffeur Jo Plankaert was on his way to the team with spare bikes so they could train for the upcoming Trofeo Laigueglia.

Llaneras hired to direct Palma Arena

By Monika Prell

Joan Llaneras Rosello
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

The Mallorcan track rider Joan Llaneras, ex-madison partner of the deceased Isaac Gálvez, signed a contract Saturday with the Balearic government. He will be the technical director of the velodrome "Palma Arena," if he retires from professional cycling after the Olympic games, like he announced.

According to Todociclismo, the signing was celebrated in the guildhall of Porreres, the birth location of Llaneras. His position will take effect in January of 2009 at the Palma de Mallorca facility. The government will pay over 100,000 euro, with 30% depending on Llaneras' results during the season.

Not that those results should be a problem. Llaneras, who has been professional for 17 years, is one of the most celebrated cyclists in the history of Spanish cycling. His most important results have been a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Sidney (2000) a silver medal in Athens (2004), and seven world championships.

Orbetello stage annulled

By Gregor Brown

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) talks with the Adriano Amici,
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The second stage of the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto was annulled by the race jury following protest by the riders, who claimed the final kilometres too unsafe. The peloton approached the final kilometre together and did not contest the sprint.

The riders viewed the curves and narrow roads in the final kilometre as too dangerous, although the president of the organising group, Adriano Amici, disagreed. "The finale was the same that was proposed to the Italian cycling federation technical commission for approval," said Amici. "There were no variations ... The presence of dangerous curves in the final kilometre of this stage were communicated to the teams during the pre-race meeting on Thursday."

Georgia announces first teams

By Susan Westemeyer

The Tour de Georgia has announced the first teams that have been invited to this year's six-day, 660 mile race to be held April 21 -27. The list includes four ProTour team, two Professional Continental teams and two Continental teams. The remaining seven teams will be announced after the Tour of California.

The four ProTour teams are Astana, CSC, Gerolsteiner and High Road. It will be a debut in the American race for Astana and High Road (formerly T-Mobile Team). The Professional Continental teams, both from the US, are Team Slipstream/Chipotle and BMC Racing. Also from the US are the two Continental teams, Bissell Pro Cycling Team (formerly Priority Health) and Georgia-based Jittery Joe's Professional Cycling Team, the only team to have raced in every Tour de Georgia.

Two Stanford riders to take on pros

In addition to the cycling's professionals, two up and coming Stanford University riders will be waiting for their chance to test the 2.3km prologue course at the Tour of California. Members of Stanford's national-champion cycling team Arwen Bradley and Evan Pickett will be riding the course just before the pros kick off on Sunday afternoon.

Bradley, a junior math major from Hawaii, is one of the school's best women in time trials and hilly road races. She has already won three of her first four races this season, including a 54 second win in a 20km time trial at UCLA last weekend. "I love time trials. You just ride as hard as you can. I don't know if I can go as fast as Boonen, but I will try to get close," joked Bradley.

Pickett, a materials science graduate student from Pennsylvania, is also motivated for the event. "I ride down Palm Drive every day going to school. To compete against the world's best on our own campus is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Pickett is coming off win in the UC San Diego road race, where he went on a 100km escape.

Stanford won the USA Cycling Collegiate National Road Championships in 2007.

BikeNZ team to contest women's Tour of Geelong

BikeNZ has named a six-woman contingent for week's two-day Tour of Geelong on Thursday and Friday and the UCI Women's World Cup, also in Geelong next Sunday.

Wanganui's Cathy Cheatley and an in-form Aucklander Marina Duvnjak will lead the team, which also will include Toni Bradshaw (Auckland), Brei Gudsell (Wanganui), Serena Sheridan )Nelson) and Clarissa Wilkes (Rotorua).

Cheatley, who rides for Cheerwine in the US, has returned to full training after leg surgery and is building towards the world track championships in Manchester where she hopes to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. She enjoyed an outstanding 2007 season including fourth in the Oceania Championships, fourth in the national championships, sixth in the Tour of Wellington, eighth in the Tour of Montreal and 11th in the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic in Philadelphia.

Duvnjak is the fourth ranked Kiwi on the UCI rankings and last year won a stage of the Tour of Bretagne on the way to seventh overall and was fourth in the time trial in the Tour of Prince Edward Island in Canada, finishing fifth overall. The Swift Racing Team rider also impressed in last month's national championships.

Last year's winner Nicole Cooke will miss the event, but her powerful Cervélo Lifeforce team will be back, along with Team High Road, who will feature three-time winner Oenone Wood and 2006 World Cup winner Ina Teutenberg.

BikeNZ team for Geelong Women's Tour and World Cup: Toni Bradshaw, Catherine Cheatley, Marina Duvnjak, Serena Sheridan, Brei Gudsell and Carissa Wilkes.

Contentpolis-Murcia presents team and early season plans

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Thanks to one million euro, Contentpolis is getting behind a UCI Professional Continental team based in Murcia, Spain. Contentpolis, the "City of Digital Content" is a combination of theme park and real estate business venture focussing on the audio-visual world. Its 210 hectare facility is scheduled to begin operation in 2010.

According to the president of the Murcia region, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, who has shown a keen interest in taking on a professional cycling project, Contentpolis is aiming to yield 3% of the output and audiovisual services throughout Spain within five years. The business park will house more than 200 companies, including some multi-national corporations that address production, creativity and entertainment.

The Murcia region is pouring in a quarter of the 1,528 million euro to launch Contentpolis. José Antonio de Heras, speaking for the local government, announced the sponsorship. "The local government will contribute 700,000 euro, while the municipality of Murcia will give 300,000 euro." Heras believes in the chances for the team to participate in the Vuelta a España based on the quality of its riders, including Adrian Palomares, Manuel Vázquez, Jose Miguel Elias and Julian Sánchez Pimienta.

At age 31, Palomares is in his eighth season as a pro, and in 2007, he achieved two stage victories in the Regio Tour in Germany and at the Tour of Great Britain, which he also led at one point. Elias made his pro debut in 2003 with Relax-Fuenlabrada and has won a stage in the Vuelta a Portugal although his is currently recovering from a fracture of the ulna and radius which he sustained in November. Pimienta made the move from Fassa Bortolo and is known for finishing third in the Challenge de Mallorca in 2006. Vázquez won the Tour Alentejo in Portugal, and won the mountains classification in the Vuelta a Murcia in 2007.

Team Contentpolis-Murcia will make its debut in the Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana on February 14.

Former inline speedskating world champion collects World Cup medals

After earning her first career World Cup medal on Friday, former inline speedskating world champion Theresa Cliff-Ryan added a second bronze medal to her collection on Saturday with a third-place finish in the women's 20-kilometre points race. The 29 year-old American was one of six riders to lap the main field - a move that earned her 20 points - before finishing with 22 points. Hong Kong's Wong Wan Yiu claimed the gold medal with 27 points and Denmark's Trine Schmidt was second with 23 points.

After tying for third with Russian Anastasiay Chilkova in the scratch race Friday, Cliff-Ryan's second bronze medal of the weekend came on the heels of another close finish. Her 22 points equalled the amount scored by German Elke Gebhart, but a higher placing in the final sprint gave the American the advantage. Cliff-Ryan scored an additional two points with a third-place finish in the race's third intermediate sprint.

Karpin Galicia for Vuelta a Andalucía

Karpin Galicia announced its team for the Vuelta a Andalucía over five stages from February 17 to 21. It will be Carlos Castaño, Jesús Cobelo, Gustavo Domínguez, David Herrero, Eduard Vorganov, David Abal, and Iban Mayoz under the direction of Jesús Blanco Villar.

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