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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, February 19, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

The first golden boy

Fabian Cancellara took the prologue with a time he almost predicted to himself.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC kicked off the Tour of California blasting out of the blocks, taking consecutive stage wins in the Palo Alto prologue and stage one in Santa Rosa. The current world time trial champion from Switzerland, Fabian Cancellara hopes to lead the way into Pasadena in the golden jersey but admitted the possibility that the jersey could change hands over the next several stages. Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins spoke with the man in the rainbow skin suit after he demolished the opening event to find out how he planned to improve on an unbeatable season past.

If there has ever been a rider in the peloton who can predict a time trial effort down to the final second it would have to be the double world champion from CSC, Fabian Cancellara. "I woke up this morning and I said to myself 'I'm going to win the race in 3'50.' – So, to win it in 3'51 is not bad," said the Swiss rider before he stepped onto the podium to temporarily switch out his rainbow jersey for the golden leader's jersey in the Tour of California.

"I'm sure we are going to enjoy the rest of our time here in California," continued Cancellara. "We have a lot of cards to play in this race and we are going to use them because we want to win. We've been working hard for this and I hope we can rock it from today until the end. My impression of the course is that it was great. The Tour of California is beautiful and from what I've seen in the last two years, good things will come."

As stage one would have it, CSC landed top spot on the podium a second time with their Argentinean sprinter JJ Haedo, who acknowledged the effort his team-mate put in for him in the last few kilometers. But according to Cancellara his legs felt like 'two flat tires, full of the lactic acid from the previous day's two-mile effort' and he hoped to be feeling fresh by the morning. "For me, the climb was very hard and before we came to the circuit I felt so bad and my legs were so tight. I still felt the lactic acid from yesterday's effort and even though it was short it was really tough... I hope tomorrow my legs and my feeling in general are going to be better," Cancellara continued, who was happy with his performance in the lead-out because it proved his overall fitness is in tact.

After winning two world time trial championships, it seems tough to accomplish a higher fitness level, but Cancellara acknowledged that his power levels have improved over the previous year as a result of learning how to deal with the pressures of being number one in the world. "My power is very good right now, better than last year," said Cancellara.

The full interview is available here.

South Korea the new task force in Asian cycling

By Jean-François Quénet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Lee Won Jae, the 21 year-old stage winner at the Tour of Langkawi.
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Lee Won Jae, the 21 year-old Korean cyclist who walks around in airports with the fancy jacket of the Bahamas, created some history in Asian cycling when he became only the fourth rider of the continent to win a stage in Le Tour de Langkawi, on day 3 in Banting. Since the race started in 1996, only Kam Po Wong from Hong Kong in 2000 and the Fukushima brothers, in 2005 and 2007, respectively, got to score in Asia's most prestigious stage race, but they were all established riders already, especially Koji and Shinichi in their 30s.

The most interesting is probably to realize that South Korea has a lot to offer to the world of cycling, not only one prospect. Park Sung Baek, 23, has made himself seen a lot in sprints and breakaways. The whole Seoul Cycling team has put its mark on the race when they captured the top three places in the third intermediate sprint of stage 7 in Pekan, with Kim Gu Hyeon, Park Seon Ho and Korea national champion Yoo Ki Hong. Kim, who broke away solo, is only 19 years of age.

"This is just a start for us," Park told Cyclingnews at the end of Le Tour de Langkawi. "We need more experience and training. Step by step, we want to improve and compete in the Tour de France, Giro and Vuelta." Last year, he spent five months at the UCI world cycling center in Aigle, Switzerland. He won't return to Europe since his Seoul Cycling team is now registered as a continental team and can offer him a decent race program. "Until last year, we had to go racing abroad through the Korean cycling federation and that was too complicated, so we decided to set our team ourselves," Park explained.

He shows a strong personality when he talks about his sport. He doesn't have any good word to say about the presence of his supposed-to-be idol Lance Armstrong at the Tour of Korea last year. "He disappointed me," Park said. "He was always late at interviews, he showed up on a mountain bike at a criterium with shorts, a t-shirt and normal shoes. We couldn't get a chance to talk to him, but he received a lot of appearance money. That's not what Korean cycling needed."

Lee and Park stated that they usually don't race in July because they are busy watching the Tour de France. "Every day we download the videos from the internet and my favourite rider is Michael Rasmussen," Lee explained. "It gives us the ambition to join the Europe Tour and win races over there. Cycling is our job, my hobby is watching movies and play games." While Lee is a country boy from Ga-pyeong, a one-hour drive away from Seoul, Park defines himself as "a fan of city lifestyle". His girlfriend Diani Lee is a Malaysian equestrian athlete. "We met at the Asian Games in Doha in December 2006", he said. "She couldn't speak Korean yet and my English isn't good but we understood each other with body language."

Park also explained: "Cycling isn't very famous in Korea yet but we have a strong keirin circuit, just like in Japan with people betting. We aren't used to do more than 15 races per year, but we try our best every time we get a chance to compete." There is more to be seen from Park, Lee and Co at the Tour of Taiwan (starts March 9), the Tour of Korea and the Tour of East Java in the coming weeks for the next appointments of the Asia Tour, where cycling is really booming as a new sport.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jean-Francois Quénet

Gerolsteiner happy with Haussler, impressed by Cipo

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Gerolsteiner is enjoying its time in California, especially after Heinrich Haussler's third place finish in the first stage Monday.

At first the 23 year-old didn't think he was up to the day's sprint. "Heinrich at first had the feeling that he didn't have the best legs, and didn't want to take on the responsibility," said Directeur Sportif Michael Rich. "But fortunately he changed his mind. It's always good to get on the podium."

Team-mate Paco Wrolich set up the sprint for Haussler, but he admitted to having been very impressed by another sprinter, Mario Cipollini. "His comeback is more than perfect. Despite stars like Bettini, Boonen, Leipheimer or Hincapie, he is the absolute hero of this Tour. I take my hat off to him for his performance, that he can still ride like this at age 41. Nobody would ever have believed it! He is a star, which cycling very much needs right now."

It was that "star allure" which most impressed Austrian Bernhard Kohl. "The entrance of his Rock & Republic Racing Team was really very cool. The team arrived in Rolls Royces, and were accompanied by a lot of promotion girls. 'Super Mario' appeared at the start with four bodyguards, all in black."

The rain in Spain brings pain

By Susan Westemeyer

Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) is done celebrating for a little bit.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The name of the race is the Ruta del Sol, but this year it is more rainy than sunny. It was a tough day Monday at the Spanish race, also called the Vuelta a Andalucia. 12 riders dropped out during the stage, including five of seven riders from the Russian Continental team Katyusha.

Gert Steegmans of Team Quick-Step fell during a descent, right after catching up with the big group. His front wheel slipped away on the wet and slippery pavement. "It was raining terribly," team doctor Toon Cruyt told the Belgian news site The 27 year-old landed on his chin, "with a large gaping wound on his jaw", which required seven stitches. He also complained of giddiness. "He had a lot of pain in his head and really couldn't continue."

"I have prescribed him five days worth of antibiotics," Cruyt continued. "He must rest a day or two, that should be enough." The rider will remain in Spain for 24 hours for observation. There should be no major lasting effects, though. "Perhaps a small scar on his chin, but nothing else."

Quick-Step also lost Addy Engels, who was suffering from back and left knee pains after a crash in the first stage.

Team Rabobank was also unlucky, losing two riders, sprinter Graeme Brown and Sébastian Langeveld. Brown was involved in a crash and complained of hip pains. "Brown had a lot of trouble with his hip, which meant that he would have to get off his bike. I don't think it's really serious," team manager Adri van Houwelingen said on the team's website, "The injury of Langeveld seems worse. He is being examined by the team's doctor, so I can't make hasty assumptions. But the problems in his knee, which seemed to have gone away last week, unfortunately came back today."

Pozzato thanks team for Grossetto win

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) wins the final overall in Grosseto.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Filippo Pozzato, the Italian who started things for his team Liquigas well this season by winning the first stage in Grossetto, getting third in the last stage and taking the overall win, attributed his success to his team-mates. "It was due to the team that I won; we get on very well together. My team-mates don't need directions, [they] move from memory. Again, in this case they were impeccable. It's an easy job if you've a team like this," Pozzato was elated to have good comrades.

His third place in the final stage, that gave him the overall victory, was hard-fought for. When the breakaways were swallowed, Liquigas riders forced the pace in view of the final sprint. Manuel Quinziato and Claudio Corioni escorted their captain until 500 metres to go and he fulfilled the expectations, beaten only by Danilo Napolitano (Lampre)and Mattia Gavazzi (Preti Mangimi).

Next up for Pozzato are Laigueglia, Volta Valenciana and Tirreno-Adriatico. "They are three fundamental races to be in the perfect condition at Sanremo," said the 26 year-old from Veneto. "I'm not at my maximum yet, so I really count on these races... and upon the team."

Astana to West-Vlaanderen

By Susan Westemeyer

Eight ProTour teams will take part in the Dreidaagse van West-Vlaanderen the beginning of March, or the "Johan Museeuw Classic", as it is now called. The three-stage race runs from March 7-9, and will feature Quick Step, Silence-Lotto, High Road, Astana, Ag2r-La Mondiale, Française des Jeux, Bouygues Telecom and Milram.

"We are profiting from the brawl between the organizers of the Grand Tours and the UCI," race organizer Bert Pattyn told Belgian "This way, we got a question from Astana as to whether they could ride with us. Why not? We are glad to have Astana. The other teams will also come with their best riders to West Flanders. Robbie McEwen, for example, should among others use the race to lay a foundation for Milano-San Remo."

"I am proud to have given my name to this race," said Johan Museeuw, who retired in 2004. "The big names will come, but above all the young riders who are on the verge of breaking through will be there."

Contador misses out on Laureus prize

Alberto Contador would love to defend his Tour title.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Contador traveled all the way to St. Petersburg in Russia for the Laureus awards, but got beaten by Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton in the breakthrough category. The Laureus awards is an award honouring "the very best in sports."

But the talk for Contador was less about the (missed) award. The Astana rider confirmed once again that he has no intention to change teams, following the exclusion of Astana from the Tour de France. But he was not happy about the situation, telling todociclismo that it's a "sport without rules...and incomprehensible decisions and clear explanations." Despite the fact the whole team changed and has virtually nothing to do with the 2007 line-up, Contador seems to be resigned to the fact that he won't be able to defend his Tour title, although he is still hoping that maybe there will be some help from politics "with the means they have available."

Contador couldn't really think of who would be the strongest favourite for the next Tour and wasn't sure if he'd really follow it, stating that he will likely feel incredibly helpless "of not being able to race there." Contador will come up with a program for 2008 in the next few weeks, but his likely main targets will be the Olympic Games and the Vuelta a España.

Nürnberger for Geelong

By Susan Westemeyer

Worrack (Nürnberger) enjoys her win.
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Equipe Nürnberger is ready to open its season this week in the Tour of Geelong in Australia, to be followed by the Geelong Women's World Cup on Sunday. Trixi Worrack and Regina Schleicher will lead the German team in the two races.

"We are looking forward to our first races and the road season," said team manager Jens Zemke. "The riders are happy that it is finally starting." The team will use the two-day, three-stage Tour as preparation for the first World Cup race of the year. "So far we have adapted well here," Zemke noted. "We'll have to see how the first race kilometres go. The Australians are already riding at a very high level and will present themselves in their homeland at this time of year very strongly, as usual. But we are happy to accept the challenge and will try our best."

The team will send Trixi Worrack, Regina Schleicher, Charlotte Becker, Eva Lutz, Edita Pucinskaite and Suzanne de Goede to the two races.

More overseas teams announced for NZCT women's tour

The list of world class riders entered for next week's NZCT Women's Tour of New Zealand continues to grow. Besides the top ranked team of the USA, Webcor Builders Cycling pro team, there will be national teams from China, Japan, South Africa, Ukraine and the USA. Webcor's line-up includes Canada's reigning road and time trial champion, Gina Grain, 2006 dual Canadian Champion Alex Wrubleski and 2006 World Championships bronze medallist and Tour of Montreal overall champion, American Christine Thorburn.

Race Director Jorge Sandoval is thrilled with the news that more and more national teams are making their way to Wellington every year.

"We want overseas teams to come to New Zealand and participate in our event. The Chinese, Japanese and South African teams have not been accepted in the Women's tour or World Cup in Geelong a few days earlier and they are coming directly to Wellington. What this means to me is that all the hard work that we have done over the last few years to make sure that we run a great event is paying off."

Sandoval feels that word of mouth has been working well for the event. "Riders who come here go home speaking really well about our event and organisation and this encourages more overseas teams to come here." He added that "The Japanese team has been in a training camp for the last two weeks in Adelaide preparing for our tour," indicating that foreign teams do take the event very serious.

With the Beijing Olympic Games less than six months away, local cycling supporters will also get the opportunity to gauge the quality of Chinese riders with the inclusion of the Chinese national women's team. The Chinese team includes the 2007 Asia Championships Road Race champion, Lang Meng. She also got fourth place in stage 7 of the Route de France Féminine last year. In addition, there will be Yong Li Liu, 2007 Tour of Chongming Island ITT-champion and Xiao Mei Huang, the UCI World B Championship Road Race champion of 2007. The team is completed by Min Gao, Li Chen and Fei Wang.

Sandoval concluded that "The NZCT Tour is already looking like being bigger and better than last year, and that's fantastic for everyone involved." He thinks that all those teams racing "will be formidable opposition to the top Europeans teams as well as our own top New Zealand National team."

French cycling federation FFC still in financial trouble

Jean Pitallier, the president of the French cycling federation (FFC), announced that FFC is looking at a deficit of 1.3 million euro, following the affair of Patrice Sulpice. FFC was ordered to pay 1.35 million euro to Sulpice, following his crash at the Worlds in Colombia.

Pitallier told AFP that "if that amount wouldn't have to be paid, we would be in a reasonable position." FFC has already paid some money to Sulpice. The court will be announcing on March 12 the remaining amount to be paid.

Pitallier is worried about all the disciplines under the FFC. "There are impacts for all the domains, because we have to calculate. We will try to get away with the smallest consequences possible for the national teams, but there could some grouping and training camps that have to fall on the way side.

Quick Step for Volta ao Algarve

Quick Step announced its roster for the Volta ao Algarve, which is held in southern Portugal between February 20 and 24. The eight-man team will consist of Matteo Carrara, Wilfried Cretskens, Stijn Devolder, Mauro Facci, Alessandro Proni, Kevin Van Impe, Davide Viganò and Wouter Weylandt. The directeur sportifs for the race are Rik Van Slycke and Dirk Demol.

Ray-Glow elite cycling team seeks riders

Cat 1 riders in the United States, who are still looking for a team, could apply for Ray-Glow cycling, a newly formed amateur team based out of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. The team is looking for two top elite Cat 1 cyclists for 2008. The new squad will be focusing on the eastern NRC calendar. Team director Steven Blakely said "the team is looking to make a serious impact this season with hopes of moving into a UCI Continental status by 2009. We are looking for guys that want to win, point blank." Ray-Glow is a privately funded team that is on a mission for 2008.

Currently, the team has six riders, including Juan Reig Conergero, a former member of Spanish professional Vitalicio Seguros. Conergero has competed in various professional events throughout Spain. The team is also looking for sprinter Chad Bain to cause some waves on the circuit as well. Bain is a former collegiate wrestler who first turned to track cycling before becoming a road racer. According to Blakely, Bain has the aggressiveness of a wrestler, with the finesse of a road sprinter. Joining Bain and Conergero will be Justin Wilks (winner of the Hufftown Stage Race), David Morris, time trial specialist Tomas Valez and current Tennesse state champion Jonathon Hokes.

The team will be outfitted with Jamis Xenith Pro carbon bikes, Louis Garneau clothing and two Volvo team wagons, courtesy of Spinkly Motors, a current sponsor of the team. According to Blakely, the team has hired Burt Hoovis as assistant director/ and mechanic. Hoovis was the head mechanic for the Alfa Lum professional cycling team from 1988 to 1990.

Interested riders should forward their resume to:

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