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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, February 24, 2008

Edited by Sue George and Greg Johnson with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Cipollini on American future

By Kirsten Robbins and Davide Frattani in California, USA

Mario Cipollini (Rock Racing)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Former world champion Mario Cipollini returned to the peloton in the Tour of California after negotiating a lengthy contract to race with the American based team Rock Racing. While the Tuscan sprinter has no plans of relocating from his Monaco home to the USA, he confirmed that his commitment to Rock Racing is long term.

"I hope to visit for some weekends or weeks in the USA," said Cipollini regarding the Rock Racing headquarters in Los Angeles, California. "Malibu is not bad and California is an incredibly beautiful place."

Though it is unclear of the number of years Cipollini is obliged to the American squad based on his contract, he confirmed that his role on the team will start out in competition and progress onward to directing and management in the future. "To be riding now is all based around being a manager and director," said Cipollini. "The reason I am a cyclist now is also for launching the Rock and Republic brand/sponsor in a very particular way - through bike racing."

Cipollini retired from professional bike racing in 2005 prior to the Giro d' Italia and surprised the cycling world when he signed contract with the American team. The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was the first time Cipollini raced on US soil, with the Italian national team. As a professional rider for Domina Vacanze, Cipollini competed in the 2004 Tour de Georgia. After the Tour of California, the patriarch sprinter has agreed to compete in the Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri along with 14 one day races and criteriums throughout the USA racing calendar.

"The rest of the races in my contract are very flexible and they are all one day races," confirmed Cipollini on his negotiated calendar with Rock Racing. "The reason I am only doing 14 races is because I still having some problems with my knee injury I got form hitting a tree in a ski accident."

While Cipollini's race palmers tallies up to nearly 200 career wins including over 50 victories in the Giro d' Italia, he acknowledged that criteirum racing in America is a whole different ball game and one that his is up for the challenge. "The criteriums are very difficult and risky and something that American's are very good at," said Cipollini, who experienced his first American criterium in the 2007 US criteirum finals held in Las Vegas. "The other side is that for me they are fun. It's a different style of racing that requires a different style of sprinter. It should be very fun to try this style of racing, but I'm sure it will also be risky too."

According to Cipollini the future of bike racing is in America, where the passion for cycling is growing strong. "When I raced in Georgia in 2004, I saw how much passion there was for cycling and I think that the future of cycling is right here," said Cipollini. "I like it a lot and I can see there are very good organizations with the budget they have and they can only grow bigger. It is wonderful, the Tour of California, because the rider travel along some spectacular country side, mountains and the ocean so it is very stunning and cycling here can only grow."

Female inspector watches Quick Step riders shower

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step) was selected for a doping test at the Tour of California on Friday after the time trial, so a doping controller was sent to get him out of the team camper in San Luis Obispo. The controller entered the camper just as all eight of the Quick Step riders were showering, so the controller observed all of them until Hulsmans was ready to leave.

But the controller was a female, upsetting Hulsmans. "I don't think it is normal that a woman is indicated for that job," Hulsmans complained to "We politely asked her to leave, but she refused. What were they thinking? That I would try to escape through the roof?"

He further wondered what would happen if the situations were reversed. "Would they send a man to look at eight naked female athletes?" he asked.

Austrians not enjoying California

A Gerolsteiner rider all bundled
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The fourth stage of the Tour of California was a hard one for Team Gerolsteiner, as it lost five riders on the day. While four of them succombed to the stomach bug that is sweeping the peloton, Paco Wrolich crashed out of the race.

"I crashed during the neutralized zone only two kilometres after the start, in pouring rain," Wrolich said on his website, "At first I wanted to keep on riding, but then I noticed that my left eyebrow was ripped open. I immediately dropped out and was put back together with six stitches – by Arnold Schwarzenegger's personal physician, by the way, who is serving the Tour of California as tour doctor."

Team-mate and fellow Austrian Bernhard Kohl is one of only three Gerolsteiner riders left in the race, and he also didn't enjoy the wet aand windy fourth stage. "I hope I don't experience many more days like that one," he wrote on his website, "Constant rain over 219 km and eight degrees (Celsius); and also a front wind that was so strong that we ended up being underway seven hours and 30 minutes. It was so cold that I could barely hold on to my handlebars."

Devolder takes advantage of the weather

It was a cold, rainy and windy day at the Time Trial in the Volta ao Algarve Saturday - in other words, the Portugese offered up typical Belgian weather. So it was natural a Belgian rider took advantage of the fact and Belgian national road champion Stijn Devolder did exactly that by winning the stage while riding his first race for Quick Step. Devolder won the time trial by 25 seconds over Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), and also took the overall lead in the tour.

"I'm extremely happy," the 28 year-old said. "In the first three stages the team decided to keep the race close until the Time Trial to put me in the best condition to win the race. We did our job excellently.

"Tomorrow we have to win the last stage to defend the leader jersey," he continued. "It won't be easy. The race is nervous and the weather will be bad but we have a strong team and we are motivated."

The five stage race finishes today with a 193.5 kilometre stage from Vila do Bispo to Portimão.

McEwen not seriously injured

Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: João Dias
(Click for larger image)

Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) hit the ground Friday in a crash during the third stage of the Volta ao Algarve hard enough to be taken to the hospital, but the tough little Australian wasn't seriously injured. "I came away with just a scare," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "There is a deep flesh wound to my left elbow, which is swollen and stiff. But it's not that bad. I dropped out because I didn't want to take any chances."

The Silence-Lotto rider went down when his bike slipped out on the wet pavement on a a descent, landing on his elbow. To add to the horror, an accompanying motorcycle slid on the same spot and came to rest only inches away from him. "That was scarey, but nothing more," he said.

The 35 year-old was planning to fly home again on Saturday and hoped to be training again by Sunday. "It is important that the rest of my spring not be endangered. I will get back on my bike as soon as possible." The Queenslander's next planned races are Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne next weekend, and "are certainly not going in danger."

He wasn't the only Silence-Lotto to leave the race early, as team-mates Glen d'Hollander and Bert Roesems also did not finish.

Les Boucles du Sud Ardèche opens up for professionals

Les Boucles du Sud-Ardèche-Souvenir Francis Delpech will host a professional race for the first time this year. "Les Boucles" is a 150 kilometre cyclo-sportive event which became part of the French amateur cup (Coupe de France amateur) last year.

This year the course has been slightly modified, adding seven kilometres for a grand total of 157 kilometres. There will be three major climbs, but many more uphills. The Col de la Grande Serre will have to be done only once, but La côte du Musée Alphonse Daudet four times and the Le Rocher de Sampzon three times.

The race has a UCI 1.2 ranking and will take place between Vals-les-Bains and Ruoms. There will be eight professional teams, with Professional Continental team Agritubel the biggest of the squads attending. The others include Meitan Hompo (Japan), Differdange-Apiflo Vacances (Luxembourg), Hadimec-Nazionale Elettronica (Switzerland), Rietumu-Bank Riga (Latvia), Designa Koekken and Team GLS-Pakke Shop (Denmark).

"This change of category corresponds to our will to staying consistent," explained Guillaume Delpech, the organiser of the event. At its heart Les Boucles is a "weekend vélo".

Agritubel will be racing with Jimmy Casper, Steven Caethoven, Anthony Ravard, Nicolas Jalabert, Benoît Salmon, Cédric Coutouly, Cédric Hervé and Emilien-Benoît Berges.

Movement in T-Mobile TdF 2006 doping investigation?

German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke has filed charges against the riders on the T-Mobile 2006 Tour de France Team, as well as the team's Sport Director at that time, Olaf Ludwig. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, he has filed against "up to six" riders who were on the team's roster, claiming that they travelled to the Freiburg University Clinic for blood-doping. Meanwhile, investigators are allegedly threatening Patrik Sinkewitz with jail if he doesn't name the other riders who they claim were involved in blood-doping.

Franke told the newspaper that he is charging the riders with illegal doping, and Ludwig with deception and conspiracy to deceive. After Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla were removed from the team the day before the Tour started, T-Mobile started the race with seven riders: Andreas Klöden, Giuseppe Guerini, Serguei Gonchar, Matthias Kessler, Michael Rogers and Patrik Sinkewitz. Sinkewitz has admitted to going to the Freiburg University Clinic on the Tour's opening weekend for blood-doping, and it has been alleged that some of his team-mates also went.

Meanwhile, Sinkewitz is facing additional problems. German investigators say he knows which of his former T-Mobile team-mates doped and if he doesn't name those people, he may be looking a stay in jail, Spiegel magazine reported.

While the 27 year-old had gone into extensive detail about his blood-doping experiences at the Freiburg University Clinic, he has consistently refused to say whether any of his team-mates were also involved. According to Spiegel, the Bundeskriminalamt (federal police) in Wiesbaden and the prosecutor in Freiburg "have evidence" that other riders were involved.

In order to get the names, the investigators are allegedly preparing to interrogate Sinkewitz, under oath and in the presence of a judge. If he were later proved to have committed perjury, he could be jailed. In addition, the judge would have the option of ordering Sinkewitz held in custody under charges of withholding evidence, until he was prepared to talk, the magazine says.

Bissell is looking for the stage races

The whole team assembles before heading out
Photo ©: Kirsten Robbins
(Click for larger image)

The California-based Bissell team has decided to spend its 2008 sponsorship dollars on adding more diesel fuel to their engine tank, standing out amongst the teams who have followed a recent shift to stacking up multiple sprinters. Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins joined the team camp held in Santa Rosa, California, to find out what directeur sportif Glen Mitchell had planned for the week's training regimen to be used as a selection process for the Tour of California.

Mark Bissell, owner of Grand Rapids, a Michigan-based floor-care company, decided to enter into the sixth year of cycling sponsorship, returning as the title sponsor of the previous 2007 Priority Health team. Team director Glen Mitchell commented on the renewed signing and strong relationship between the team and company, stating Bissell's commitment as being one of the biggest factors in the young team's progression. "The passion that both Mark Bissell of Bissell and Bob Huges of Advantage Benefits [show] has been here from day one, even when the team was very small," said the more than eight-year professional and former Priority Health rider. "They have helped the team grow to the point that they have taken the program to the next level. We stemmed off of what we had last year, which was a break-out year with results from riders like Ben and Tom who lifted the profile of the team."

Landing on the podium in the 2007 Tour of California prologue and ending with five victories in the Tour of Southland, New Zealand proved a worthy foundation to build an aspiring stage race team with an additional four riders. "I wanted to use our results as our base and then strengthen the team from there," said Mitchell with regards to welcoming ProTour-experienced Aaron Olson back into American racing, along with former NRC champion Burke Swindlehurst, Jeremy Vennell and Joao Miguel da Silva. "Last year we had twelve riders and this year we've moved to fourteen. We tried to keep the core group of guys together because the chemistry between them worked really well and we could see the results coming from that. We had a lot of team effort behind those individual results that we had."

While the prize money is heavily tied to criterium racing in America, according to Mitchell the prestige is actually still in the stage racing events. Hence, the selection of diesel engines are intended to enhance the performance of the team as a whole, while allowing powerhouse time trialists, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Tom Zirbel, to focus on their GC positions in select UCI tours that include California, Georgia and Missouri, along with domestic events like the Nature Valley Grand Prix, Cascade Classic, Mt Hood and the Tour of Utah that will make up for a minimum of eight weeks of the racing year.

To read the full feature, click here.

Caisse d'Epargne for Valenciana

Spanish ProTour squad Caisse d'Epargne has announced its roster for this week's Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, which will be held from February 26 - March 3. The squad, which will be directed by Australia's Neil Stephens, includes 2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro, Luis León Sánchez and last year's Tour de Langkawi winner Anthony Charteau, who joined the squad at the start of 2008.

Caisse d'Epargne for Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana: Anthony Charteau, Vicente García Acosta, Mathieu Drujon, Iván Gutiérrez, David López, Fabien Patanchon, Oscar Pereiro and Luis León Sánchez.

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