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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, February 21, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

BMC shows off for home crowds

By Laura Weislo in San Jose

Scott Nydam (BMC) spent a junk of time ahead of everyone else.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The BMC Racing Team has been off the front of this year's Tour of California more than any other team. In stage one, Jackson Stewart spent much of the day off the front solo, taking out the mountains and points leader's jersey at the end of the day. The next day, his team-mate Scott Nydam went on an equally epic journey in the miserably cold and rainy stage from Santa Rosa to Sacramento. Nydam mopped up mountains points up front while Stewart took a few behind, securing the mountains jersey for a second day as Nydam earned the most aggressive rider award.

On stage three, they were at it again, and when two riders attacked 12 kilometres into the stage, Nydam was the one to bridge across and spend another two hours in the breakaway. The team hasn't yet won a stage, but director John Lelangue told Cyclingnews that the riders are just racing according to plan.

"When you have a team first of all, an American team, and a California-based team, and when you have young riders and you don't really have a leader like Levi [Leipheimer] or Bobby [Julich] or [George] Hincapie, and you don't have a pure sprinter – you have one which is a whiz but is a young one, you need to be aggressive," Lelangue explained. "That's the only way you can learn cycling. It was the case in Qatar, and that's the way it will be all season."

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The Belgian thinks the aggressive style of riding is good for the team to improve their racing and also to boost morale. "I think that they like it, they are taking confidence in themselves. You've seen Jackson the past two days, yesterday we had the top two of the KOM places."

Lelangue explained that Nydam's breakaway on stage two was designed to take some points and preserve Stewart's hold on the mountains jersey, but today, the plan was for him to take over the lead in that classification. "The plan today was for Nydam to try to take some points if he was recovering well from the previous day, and to place one of two riders, Tolleson or Nydam, in the break. That was the plan."

The team's leaders for the overall classification were to have come from three names after the prologue: Alexander Moos, Jeff Louder and Darren Lill, but after stage three, only Moos is in contention, 29 seconds behind the new leader, Levi Leipheimer (Astana). "For the rest of the group, Cruz, Wyss, Tolleson and Jackson - fighting for 20 seconds on Sierra Grade is not the best case. So I told them to try to find a good gruppetto and to get inside the time cut because we'll need them tomorrow."

Perhaps one of the most important reasons why this team has been seen off the front of the race so much is that they are based in Santa Rosa, and are keen to show their local fans some exciting racing. "It was the same as when I was with Phonak and we were riding in the Tour of Romandie or the Tour de Suisse," Lelangue recalled. "The local team always has to be there. It's the same for the Belgian teams when we are in Belgium. I think it's part of the job as a California team - we have to show everyone that we are here. It will be the case also in Missouri and Georgia, but even more so in California."

"That's why we were in those breakaways. It wasn't planned [in stage two] to be a solo breakaway, but once you're in the breakaway, why not? Let's go? Why not, have fun, try to take points, try to get the jersey like we did with the most aggressive one, and you never know, one day it may be successful for us."

For the rest of the Tour, BMC plans to be active at the front, but still being mindful of protecting Moos and his top ten position in the overall classification. "Tomorrow is another day. I know this day will be a big fight. We can play with the stage victory with Danilo Wyss tomorrow. We will try to have a good lead out for him [in San Luis Obispo]. He was top ten yesterday: he's a young sprinter but he has to learn and he's getting better every day."

The early part of the stage contains two sprints and three categorized climbs, and it will be important for the team to be in the move to protect Nydam's eight point lead in that classification. "If there is a big move, we want to be in the breakaway. If there is a big move with the GC contenders, we will protect Moos. But we will also try to have the jersey back one more day for the king of the mountains."

Looking forward to the following stages, Lelangue is not intimidated by the strength of the time trialists in the peloton. His team leader will be up against the best in the world, but the team is hoping Moos can hold his own. "Alex is normally a really good time trialist and we'll try to enter [into the stage] with him in a good position. If we can succeed in finishing the Tour of California in the top ten it will be good for us."

Lacombe takes a trip through CSC car

By Laura Weislo in San Jose, California

The CSC team car sans rear window.
Photo ©: Emory Ball
(Click for larger image)

The Kelly Benefit Strategy-Medifast team got a scare when its rider, Canadian Kevin Lacombe, was chasing back on through the following cars on stage three and wound up smashing through the back window of the CSC team car. The 22 year-old was the victim of a sudden stop in the caravan, but luckily escaped with just scrapes and bruises.

Cyclingnews spoke with team director Jonas Carney, who was arranging to pick the rider up from the local hospital, where he had been transported for X-rays. "I didn't see what happened. I know that Kevin, he must have come back to use the bathroom or something, and was probably just closing back on the field.

"All I saw was their rear window totally smashed and the rear view mirror missing. I don't know the details of it, but according to everyone we've talked to Kevin is doing really well, and they're skeptical that he's broken anything. He has good range of motion in his shoulder. We were worried it was broken because he was in a lot of pain on the side of the road and couldn't continue. "

This isn't the first time a rider has smashed through a team car window. Jan Ullrich famously crashed through his own team's car while training prior to the 2005 Tour de France, and last year two separate riders smashed through windows during the Tour de France. In 1988 American Davis Phinney (riding for 7-11 at the time) crashed through the windshield of a car in the caravan when he was chasing back after delayed by a previous crash. But Carney doesn't blame the drivers for the accident.

"This caravan's pretty safe. Everyone's pretty experienced and I think these things just happen. The caravan's a dangerous place, a scary place. There's a lot of risk involved there. Fortunately here everyone is being pretty professional - at some of the domestic race people can drive like idiots."

The team will miss Lacombe, who pulled out of the race after the crash, but was later found to have no broken bones, although he suffered soft tissue damage in his shoulder. "The guys like Kevin so much – he's got this great personality, and brings a lot of positivity to the team," explained Carney. "The kid is really aggressive the way he races, and he inspires everyone on the team to race hard. It can affect team morale when someone like Kevin gets hurt, but everyone's happy to hear he's OK. When you hit the back of a car, all kinds of really terrible things can happen."

"It's a bummer he's not going to be around for tomorrow, because we're shooting for a bunch sprint with Alex Candelario and Kevin's really been coming around. But there's plenty more racing in the year," Carney said.

The KBS team may be last in the teams classification, and come in all in the gruppetto on Wednesday's stage, but Carney is still satisfied with the riders' performance. "We didn't come here to climb with the leaders, we came to go for stages, or to pick up jerseys or get in the early break. We were hoping to be in the early break that went today, but we didn't make it. Sierra Grade wasn't really a goal we set for the race."

Carney thinks that just being in the race is worthwhile, as it will help the team raise its level of fitness for the early domestic season. "Just being able to get into this race and get the guys the experience is huge. Also, being able to do an eight-day race where you do this mileage against this competition – in March and April guys are going to be flying coming off of this. You can't get this kind of racing [on the domestic circuit] in America. You can't get that kind of form when you're doing little two and three day stage races all year. It's great for us to be here."

Kohl shows his climbing ability

After having Heinrich Haussler show his sprinting capabilities, it was the turn of the climbers on stage 3 of the Tour of California, to show what they are made of. Gerolsteiner was happy to see their Austrian Bernhard Kohl in the main group that reached the finish in San Jose 19 seconds after the leading duo of Robert Gesink and Levi Leipheimer.

DS Michael Rich was once again satisfied with the team. "I am very happy with Bernhard's performance." There was a bit of confusion, as the time keepers confused Kohl with team-mate Oliver Zaugg of Switzerland. "Olli is placed ahead of Kohl in the rankings, but I will get that resolved," Rich continued. Zaugg actually was 4'20" behind the winner, in 19th place. "Also a good result. Oliver actually went better than expected," Rich confirmed. "With Bernhard we had a man up front that we wanted to have up front."

Less good news came from some of his other riders. Green jersey wearer Heinrich Haussler, Fabian Wegmann and Johannes Fröhlinger are suffering from stomach problems. Rich added that "it seems to be a virus that is going through the peloton. For example, yellow jersey Tyler Farrar had to abandon on the third stage. But I hope time is playing for us and we can get a grip on it."

Sprinters continue domination of Algarve

Robert Förster in yellow after taking a convincing sprint win.
Photo ©: Joăo Dias
(Click for larger image)

Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) won the first stage of the Volta ao Algarve, in Portugal. The race is known for not having too many hills and last year Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) even won the overall classification. The only difficulty for the non specialists will be the time trial on stage

Förster won on the slightly uphill finishing straight in convincing style. There was enough space between him and second-placed Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) that a one-second difference was awarded between Förster and the rest of the field. Erik Zabel, Petacchi's team-mate, finished third. This year, Petacchi is racing in the Vuelta a Andalucía in neighbouring Spain, so he won't be able to defend his title in Portugal.

Deutschland Tour ready for Astana

Astana won't be able to do too many races this year, following their exclusion from ASO and RCS races. One unlikely place where they will be welcomed is the Deutschland Tour, which did not care for them last year. Tour organiser Kai Rapp explained in an interview to that the times have changed. He is ready to invite all 18 ProTour teams. "Last year they followed the rules by stopping their competition. At the time we had the team in high regards for doing such a step, which juristically was not required." Rapp added that in 2008 there is a new situation that has to be evaluated. "We discussed Astana with the UCI in October. Later, the team management was substituted. And the whole team is doing a self-financed anti-doping programme....Astana is under strong surveillance and there are no more 'Men in Black' riding."

Rapp could understand why the Giro and the Tour do not want Astana to ride. "Anybody who is aware of the fight between the UCI and the organisers of the Grand Tours does understand. It is obvious that the non-invite cannot be explained with the experiences from last year alone. Otherwise, there would be very different consequences, especially by the Giro." Rapp is not afraid of political pressure, even though the French company that bought the Deutschland Tour last year has some stakes in ASO as well.

Rapp clarified that there was no general feeling of not wanting the Elk Haus Simplon team last year. "They just didn't fulfil some of the criteria that other teams did fulfil." Rapp pointed out that this year things are more organised and the UCI has put some firm requirements in place. One of them is the biological passport programme. "As far as I know Elk Haus wants to participate in that programme. That is a welcome learning process."

Rapp added that just like last year, only riders and teams will be allowed to race in the 2008 edition that do "not damage the image of the race and the interests of the sponsors," as well as the image of the stage towns and the broadcasting TV channels. As for how to do that he did not want to reveal too much, in order to not damage the programme.

Right now, there are applications from ten teams for this year's race. How many there will be in the end will be depending on the wild card system through the UCI. The route will be announced end of March. The only thing Rapp revealed is that Neuss will be a stage town and also the name of the anti-doping measures to catch cheaters, the so-called "Neusser Modell." Details on that program, which was developed through feedback from fans, sponsors, anti-doping experts and others, will be revealed later.

Team Barloworld ready to defend Giro del Capo Crown

Daryl Impey on the left in last year's Tour de Langkawi.
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

After a strong start to the 2008 season, Team Barloworld is heading to Cape Town to defend this year's Giro Del Capo and Cape Argus crown. The races will be taking place from the March 4-9.

There has been a careful team selection as to get the optimal result. "When choosing the ideal team to race in the 'Mother City', there were six cyclists that stood out as ideally suited to the Giro del Capo. They are the fast paced Robert Hunter, versatile Christian Pfannberger, 2007 podium placed Hugo Sabido, 2007 stage winner Daryl Impey, climber Christopher Froome and 2007 stage winner Felix Cárdenas, who together make a formidable team," said Chris Fisher, head of Corporate Marketing at Barloworld.

· Christian Pfannberger (28) is the Austrian national champion and has been a professional cyclist since 2006. He'll play a vital supporting role for Mauricio Soler in the future. Pfannberger recently took a podium finish and points jersey at this year's inaugural World View Challenge in February.

· Robert Hunter (31), Team Barloworld's captain, is a South African sprinter and classic cyclist and has been competing professionally since 1998. Hunter, who has a wealth of racing experience for the team to draw upon, including nine participations in the Tour de France, has 33 victories to his name, the most recent two sprint finishes at the World's View Challenge.

· Daryl Impey (22), the young South African who joined Team Barloworld from MTN Microsoft, was impressive in the 2007 Giro del Capo, after winning the prologue and a stage and is one to look out for in this year's race.

· Christopher Froome (22), a talented climber from Kenya, won the Tour De Maurice in 2006, a stage in the 2007 Giro delle Regioni, a prestigious stage race in Italy, a stage at the Tour of Japan and a silver medal at the 'B' World Championships time trials. Froome had a strong start to the 2008 season by winning the King of the Mountains jersey on the third day of the World's View Challenge

· Hugo Sabido (29) is from Portugal and has been cycling professionally since 2001. Sabido has four victories to his name, including a podium finish at the 2007 Giro del Capo.

· Columbian cyclist Félix Rafael Cárdenas (35) has been a professional since 2000 and has 21 victories to his name, including winning stage one at the 2007 Giro del Capo.

"By living Team Barloworld's culture of teamwork and individual excellence and competing in world class races, these cyclists are on their way to being recognised as some of the best in the world. We look forward to experiencing the passion, excitement and endurance during this year's Giro de Capo and Cape Argus," concluded Fisher.

Carlos Sastre hands out prize

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) was handing out the Spanish award called the "Aula Ciclista" in Huesca yesterday. Former professional Sergio Pérez is managing this award in collaboration with the Spanish Professional riders association (Asociación de Ciclistas Profesionales)

After the ceremony, which was attended by politicians, media and other professional cyclists, Sastre signed autographs at the college San Viator de Huesca. The young students bombarded the Spanish rider with questions. But Sastre doesn't mind these detractions from his training too much. "Having to get there early and the journey were worth the effort. The work that Sergio and the ACP are doing is very interesting. The contact with the kids was very gratifying. Through their questions I could tell they are following cycling and they are extremely well informed with everything that goes on in our sport," Sastre commented on his experience

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