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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News, February 18, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rock Racing banned trio in special kits

By Kirsten Robbins in Palo Alto, California

Rock Racing's owner Michael Ball comment's on his 'crucified' trio
Photo ©: Emory Ball
(Click for larger image)

Rock Racing issued a visual statement at the start of the Tour of California prologue, sporting the overnight manufactured 'crucifixion' kits designed to counter AEG Sports' exclusion of its three riders: Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla and Tyler Hamilton.

Team owner Michael Ball commented on the barbed wire design rendition of the original 2008 kit -- coloured black and red -- in honour of its three riders not being permitted to start due to their reported involvement in Operación Puerto investigation. "Tyler, Santiago and Oscar are wearing these kits today [Sunday - ed.] because of what has happened to status with in this race," said Ball. "We had them printed up for the whole team to wear in support of its team-mates who are not able to race this week."

According to Ball his 'crucified' trio will continue its training regimen in the mornings and visit the expo events at the stage finishes to meet the public. "They are still a part of the team here this week," said Ball. "We keep our heads up high and focus on our training for the next race. Unfortunately, it's not the way we wanted to start the season."

Cipollini blasts back after three years

Mario Cipollini (Rock Racing) in his first professional race after three years
Photo ©: Luca Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Mario Cipollini is back after three years of retirement – the 40 year-old Italian left cycling after the 2005 Milano-Sanremo, but showed he still has a kick when he returned to professional racing yesterday in the 3.4-kilometre prologue of Tour of California. While Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) won the day, 'Super Mario' finished 44th, six seconds faster than World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and eight seconds faster than Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

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"The size of the crowd was amazing and caught me off guard," Cipollini said. "It was great to hear so many people cheering my name and shouting encouragement. I was very pleased with my form today."

The rider from Lucca (Toscana) will face his first sprint in years today with the 156-kilometre run from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. Cipollini will be up against the likes of Freire, Bettini and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), and it remains to be seen if 'Super Mario' has that same sprinters' lust that he once possessed.

"I can't wait to feel the competitive spirit," he confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna. "It is important to me to give my maximum no matter what. I have nothing to prove, this return is only the beginning, to be able to build a future in my team. I have the curiosity to refind the atmosphere of the gruppo."

Any sort of lead-out train like the days of old will be limited because Team Rock Racing only started with five riders. The team was not able to start with Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla or Santiago Botero due to their links with cycling's Operación Puerto.

"I had said to [Team Owner Michael] Ball there months ago that cycling has taken a new direction," Cipollini continued on the exiled riders. "Now, he has the proof. He is a young go-getter that would like to turn the world upside down. ... You are not able to put yourself against the UCI [International Cycling Union] and the rules. I can say that I agree with the fact that those who make a mistake deserve a second chance, but the reality is this."

For the sprint Cipollini will be able to rely on Fred Rodriguez, a stage winner in the 2004 Giro d'Italia.

Boasson Hagen: A new Viking warrior emerges

By Gerard Knapp in Palo Alto, California

Norwegian Champion Edvald Boassen Hagen pulling the throttle in the Tour of California prologue
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

One of the most far-sighted signings by High Road manager Bob Stapleton in 2007 was that of the emerging super-talent, 20 year-old Norwegian Time Trial Champion Edvald Boasson Hagen. It's perhaps unfair to use the 'Viking warrior' stereotype, given his shy and polite demeanour off the bike. But on the bike, he is a demon and yesterday he showed a glimpse of much more to come with an impressive fifth place in the opening prologue of the Tour of California.

Boasson Hagen is one of several national TT champions in High Road, and he could be seen in the prologue wearing the distinctive national strip of Norway. Last year, the young rider had a stellar season, racking up so many professional race wins he ended up second only to Alessandro Petacchi.

Hailing from the Lillehammer region of Norway, Boasson Hagen showed promise as a cross-country skier before concentrating on cycling when 15 years old, and from that point on, he's continued to impress coaches and team managers. (Read Cruising Norwegian style.) He already taken out stage wins against some very fast company and is seen as the country's most promising talent since Tour de France green jersey winner, Thor Hushovd.

"It's his first year and first race in a major ProTour team," explained High Road's Kristy Scrymgeour. "The fact that he's in this team shows how much we think of him. It's pretty much the A team here for this race."

After so much upheaval and instability over the past few months, it's clear the High Road team is ready to race, as it ended the day with three riders in the top 10, and this follows a highly successful start to the season with its German powerhouse, André Greipel, taking out the Tour Down Under, the first ProTour event of the season.

Hayman back and racing after an unscheduled break

By Gerard Knapp in Palo Alto, California

Rabobank's Matt Hayman was back on his bike after the Tour Down Under
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

"It was either a very clean break or a very good surgeon," said Rabobank's Mathew Hayman as he approached the opening prologue of the Tour of California in Palo Alto on Sunday. The Australian rider was able to demonstrate easy upper-body mobility and was even wearing a backpack over a collarbone that had been badly broken in a dramatic and ugly fall in stage four of the Tour Down Under in Australia less than one month earlier.

The fall on January 25 resulted in officials taking the unprecedented step of throwing Italian Elia Rigotto (Team Milram) off the Tour Down Under after the altercation that led to Hayman's spectacular fall. Chief Commissar Michael Robb described it "as vicious a head-butt as I've seen in a long time." Robb, who has been an international commissar since 1991, said it was a "very severe head-butt, a very serious incident" that Rigotto put into Hayman as he was speeding towards the line with his team-mate, sprinter Graeme Brown, in tow in the finale of the stage into Strathalbyn.

After the accident, Hayman was rushed into surgery and a plate inserted into his shattered collarbone. While he still has the metal support in place, he said there was little discomfort and he was able to ride in any position, including hunched over his time-trial set-up. So what had looked like a season-ruining fall has not had too great an impact, and the Australian believes his preparation for the Spring Classics in Europe is back on track.

At first, Hayman thought it was yet another accident that would hamper his favourite part of the season. He suffered a broken elbow in April's Gent Wevelgem last season and also crashed in the lead up to the 2004 Paris-Roubaix, damaging his hip and upper leg.

But Hayman has been seen on the velodrome over the Australian summer prior to the Tour Down Under, and on Sunday he completed the 3.4-kilometre prologue in 4'11", in 59th place, some 20 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara. It was his first serious run since that crash-marred stage less than one month earlier.

Happily back on the bike, his focus is back to northern Europe in the next few months, where he's certain to play a key role in Rabobank's spring campaign.

Schumacher debuts, apologises

By Susan Westemeyer

Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher will make his 2008 season debut at the Volta ao Algarve this week. The five-stage race starts Wednesday in Albufeira and ends Sunday in Portimao. "The stages aren't too hard and offer lots of chances to test oneself," said Directeur Sportif Reimund Dietzen.

The 26 year-old Schumacher will be looking to make sporting headlines again and put his recent troubles behind him. After returning questionable blood values before the World Championships, he was involved in a hit-and-run auto accident while driving under the influence. At the beginning of January, it was disclosed that a blood sample taken at the time of the accident showed traces of amphetamines.

"I know that I am not living up to my position as a role model," he said. "That was not good." As redress, Schumacher contributed a "significant amount" to the German Continental Team Ista, run by his trainer Hartmut Täumler.

Gerolsteiner for Algarve will be Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Ronny Scholz, Stephan Schreck, Stefan Schumacher and Tom Stamsnijder.

Hondo happy with return to racing

By Susan Westemeyer

Danilo Hondo (Serramenti PVC) happy with his return to racing
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Hondo is satisfied with his successful return to racing in the Tour of Langkawi. "I reached my goal of winning a stage and the SRM data gives me hope for more." He added, "Our team can of course be more than satisfied with two stages wins, the overall win for Ruslan Ivanov and the overall team ranking – you can't expect more than that."

Not everything went as planned, though. In the final sprint of the seventh stage, he went down shortly before the finish line, right in front of the onrushing peloton. "I was just sprinting by [Maximiliano] Richeze and [Alberto] Loddo when Richeze swerved from the right to the left, so that Loddo went directly down and took me down with him," Hondo told Cyclingnews. The incident "cost a lot of energy, sleep and skin, plus the possible chance of another stage win," the 34 year-old continued on his website,

His next race was to be the Giro di Sardegna, but its cancellation means that Hondo will now join his team for a week-long training camp near Rome, after a few days at home. Racing will begin again with the GP Lugano, followed by a number of Italian races, ending up with Milano-Sanremo.

More names mentioned in Wiener Blut affair

By Susan Westemeyer

The Austrian Bundeskriminalamt (federal police) is investigating a list of the names of 31 athletes who are alleged to have been customers of a Viennese blood clinic. The list includes current and former riders Georg Totschnig (retired from Team Gerolsteiner) and Michael Rasmussen, Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd, Joost Posthuma and Peter Weening, all associated with Team Rabobank. The list was turned in to the police from an anonymous source.

The names of the first four riders had previously been mentioned in association with the blood clinic Human Plasma. Weening and Posthuma were informed of their inclusion on the list by acting Rabobank's team manager Henry van der Aart on Saturday. "The last time I was in Austria was for a training camp," Posthuma said, according to the Dutch news site "That applies to me, too," said Weening, who is currently in Italy doing light training after a knee injury.

Posthuma, 26, added, "The journalists say they have to be careful what they write, because it is only based on an anonymous tip. But they still go ahead and publish the names of athletes."

For more read Wiener Blut – blood bank causes stir.

Sutherland offers freebies in return for best Aussie slang

By Gerard Knapp in Palo Alto, California

Rory Sutherland (Health Net) – all warmed up and ready to go.
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

One of Team Health Net's Australian contingent – and Cyclingnews diarist – Rory Sutherland, is really into the northern California scene, and being in such a giving mood, he's thrown out the offer for visitors to the race to drop by the team's car and hurl their best Aussie slang at him.

"The deal is: Come up with the best 'Australian quote,' yell it at me (or Karl Menzies for that matter) and for the best one of the day, I will personally send you a gift packet. Wow, that is a deal and a half isn't it? Maybe if any of our awesome sponsors are reading this and want to come to the party to give back to the consumers, we can get them involved too!"

In his latest diary entry, Sutherland provides examples of some famous slang that he believes may result in a prize. The Australian has become a star recruit of the leading domestic USA team, and last year, he finished on top of the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) rankings.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gerard Knapp/

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