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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, February 27, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Silence-Lotto reconnoiters Omloop Het Volk

By Bjorn Haake in Gent

35 year-old Robbie McEwen did 120 kilometres of the Omloop Het Volk parcours on Monday and joined his Silence-Lotto team-mates today
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Belgian ProTour Team Silence-Lotto took advantage of the nice weather on Wednesday to do a reconnaissance ride of the route for Saturday's Omloop Het Volk, which signals the impending start to the Classics season. PR Manager Filip Demyttenaere told Cyclingnews that the team will do most of the route, "about five hours."

The team drew on the knowledge of local resident, Australian Robbie McEwen. The 35 year-old rider returned from the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal last week, and took Saturday off (but joked that he rode five kilometres with his five year-old son, who desperately wanted to go out on his bicycle). Then he rode on the course on Sunday and did 120 kilometres of it on Monday. With a smile he added, "I don't think anybody knows the course as well as I do."

The Australian told Cyclingnews that his injuries, sustained in the Volta ao Algarve, are not too bad. He has bruises and some deep cuts near his elbow and a banged-up hip. "It's a bit uncomfortable, but not really painful." He had no trouble riding on the cobbles the last few days, showing he is ready for the race.

Wim Vansevenant ready to join his team-mates in training
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

McEwen switched bikes just before the ride, as the one he arrived on was showing the signs of a rainy-day training ride. Currently, the weather is perfect and McEwen expects the same for Saturday.

He will hope for a sprint, but wants to ensure that this year's bunch gallops are safer than last year's. He has talked to International Cycling Union (UCI) officials regarding the various instances last year of sprinters being accidentally hit by spectators. "I still have to do some paper work and fill in some forms," McEwen elaborated that he is in the process of helping the stage finishes become safer.

Even if a large bunch sprint is not expected McEwen has made the race a focus of his race calendar frequently, finishing fourth in 2002. If it wouldn't have been for his recently retired then-team-mate Peter Van Petegem, he may have done even better, so he has a good shot at it on Saturday.

Another rider capable of winning Omloop Het Volk is Belgian Leif Hoste. He was the last to arrive for the training ride, but don't expect that to be the case on March 1.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Bjorn Haake/

Moletta eager to return to Milano-Sanremo

By Susan Westemeyer

The Sanremo crash that took Andrea Moletta out for most of 2007
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Andrea Moletta of Team Gerolsteiner is looking forward to riding Milano-Sanremo next month, a year after he was seriously injured in a crash in the race's finale. "I have put the crash behind me," he told Cyclingnews. The Italian returned to the scene this week to preview the finale.

The Italian, who last week celebrated his 29th birthday, was in a three-man escape group descending the Cipressa with about 20 kilometres to go in the 2007 edition when he lost control of his bike and smashed into a telephone pole and stone wall, breaking his femur. He underwent surgery a few days later, and although the doctors had originally said that his season was over, he was able to make his return to the peloton in July at the Brixia Tour.

Moletta went on to ride the Vuelta a España, where he finished 107th, over two hours behind winner Denis Menchov. However, his final placement was not the motivating factor. "It was important for my morale, that I could ride the Vuelta 2007 and finish it." (See related interview: Coming back one day at a time.)

During the Vuelta, he discovered how much recovery he still had to do. "The injured leg was noticeably thinner than the other one. During the Vuelta I painfully noticed the difference in strength. After my season ended, I spent nearly five months doing concentrated strength training and special exercises for my leg." He also made a return to the hospital to have the screws removed from his leg, although he still has "a piece of steel about 30cm long in my thigh."

He trained at home in Tombolo, Italy, over the winter, except for a training session of 25 days with Davide Rebellin in Malaga. Moletta opened his season with the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, where he finished seventh in the first stage. "Grosseto went very well. In Haut Var we had an optimal result and I could ride for Davide up to the absolute finale." Rebellin won the Tour du Haut Var on Sunday.

Moletta is looking towards Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo, Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, GP Frankfrut, and "of course, the Giro d'Italia."

He will have a special motivation for the Giro. The 13th stage ends in Cittadella, with "the finish line only two kilometres from my house! Unfortunately, it is a flat stage and a sprint finish is nothing for me. Maybe we can help Frösi [team-mate Robert Förster - ed.] take the win."

He has his eyes firmly on a victory of his own this year. He has only one win in his six-year career, a stage win in the Peace Race in 2002, when he was a neo-pro with Mercatone Uno. "An early win this season would be good. Maybe a stage in Paris-Nice, or in País Vasco?"

Looking further into the season, Moletta noted that the Tour de France "isn't on my programme this year. I want to ride the Vuelta and then take part in my 'home' World Championships" in Varese, Italy.

Cipollini and Ball's relationship on the rocks

Italian Mario Cipollini, 40, wants his say in Rock Racing management
Photo ©: Luca Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The relationship that was started last fall in a Las Vegas discotheque could come to an end if Mario Cipollini does not get his say in the management of Rock Racing. The Italian, who came out of retirement at the age of 40 to race in the Tour of California last week, and his lawyer met with the owner of the team, Mike Ball, yesterday to discuss the coming season.

"We need to sit at the table and make clear who is in command," said Mario Cipollini in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna. The Italian from Lucca and lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone were scheduled to meet with Ball later in the day.

"The boss is Ball, but after him it is me. Therefore I want to manage the squad starting now. I can organise the participation in [Milano-] Sanremo. To find men to race is not a problem. ... If Ball does well it will continue, otherwise goodbye. I now understand that the name Cipollini still has value, in the United States and elsewhere."

Cipollini was happy with his return, but not with the fiasco surrounding the team and Ball's backing of Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero. The riders, all allegedly linked with Operación Puerto, were barred from racing by the organiser, but continued along daily by riding behind the race caravan and signing autographs for fans at the stage villages.

"For a week I had an infinite amount of patience ... Maybe it was my great desire to return to racing with an important project. However, we can't go forward like this. We are not able to continue to pull along this heavy weight that ruins our image, and now Ball also understands this. It is not enough to advertise and show off models."

Euskaltel-Euskadi will participate in Paris-Nice

By Monika Prell

Like all Pro Tour teams, Euskaltel-Euskadi received a letter from the International Cycling Union (UCI) yesterday, demanding the team not to participate in Paris–Nice, organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO); however, the Basque ProTour team intends on lining up this March 9.

Team Manager Miguel Madariaga noted to Gara, "We promised to participate in Paris-Nice, nobody had said anything, and I always keep my promises. ... I think that it's a shame that ten days before the start of this race they [the UCI] come to the teams and try to put the screws on us. We already have a lot to do, to nominate our teams and to fulfil the requirements of the UCI and the organisers. It is not normal what they do with the teams. May they arrange it among themselves, before they castigate us."

The sport directors Marc Sergeant (Silence-Lotto) and Patrick Lefevere (Quick Step) have also announced that their teams will participate in Paris-Nice. It is expected that the other teams also will take decision in favour of the French race, known as the 'Race to the Sun.'

CPA reminds cycling's organisers of riders' interests

The Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) released a statement today reminding the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) to look after the major 'actor' in cycling – the rider. The statement was released on the heels of the ASO announcing it would organise its race Paris-Nice under the French Cycling Federation (FFC) instead of the normal UCI governance.

The decision by French race organiser allows for further freedom in its team and rider selection without the pressure of the UCI, which was the case after it did not invite Astana to any of its 2008 events, including the Tour de France.

"The decision ASO took not to organise Paris–Nice according to the UCI International regulations put the riders in front of a dilemma, which they are incontestably the victims and the hostages," read the release by the CPA, which is headed by ex-professional Cédric Vasseur.

"Even if nobody can contest the fact that they are the major actors, the riders have no other choice than following their employers' instructions; otherwise they risk losing their job without any compensation. What the riders desire is to – first of all – have the possibility to exercise their job with serenity and in the respect of the established regulations.

"The riders are deeply shocked and exhausted by the conflict which has been lasting for too long. ... The riders really hope that cycling will be again the sport it was before, the one which used to fascinate the fans."

Sieberg looking forward to Classics

By Susan Westemeyer

Marcel Sieberg's transfer from Team Milram to T-Mobile Team turned out to be rather confusing, with his former team changing from Italian to German and his new team changing its base from Germany to the USA, and now known as Team High Road. "That's the way it is. These days lots of things are changing in cycling," he said in an interview on

The 25 year-old rode for Milram for only one year. "The professionalism and plans at High Road for 2008 told me a lot. That's why I took this step, although I felt very comfortable at Milram."

Things didn't start out well for the 1.98-metre tall redhead. He hurt an elbow in a crash during the team's training camp in California, USA, and couldn't ride for five days. Then the jet lag kicked in when he flew back to Europe and to start in the Volta ao Algarve only a few days later. "Fortunately things went better every day and I hope to keep on getting better for the coming races." Sieberg finished ninth in the Volta's final stage, winning the sprint of the following group.

Sieberg will build up to his season highlights – the cobbled Spring Classics in Belgium and France – by riding Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne this weekend, to be followed by Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo. He will not be team captain, as he might have been at Milram. "We have a super team," he noted, "and I hope that we can have a say in the outcomes of the Classics. I think that I can learn a lot from my team-mates. I just hope to ride forward as long as I can and to be able to help them. And maybe I will have a good day, too..."

A win in Paris-Roubaix would be his ultimate dream. "Paris-Roubaix is simply one of the hardest and most beautiful races, and only happens once a year. With a win there, you go down in history. On the other hand, the Tour has 20 stages," he laughed. "But every win is good." He doesn't expect to be at the Tour de France this year. "Of course you hope to be at such a great race, but I knew from the beginning that it would be difficult to make the squad this year. If the team takes a sprinter and says, 'Sibi, we need you,' then that would be great. But if it doesn't happen, then that's not the end of the world."

UCI bans race radios in U23 races

By Monika Prell

A rider gets his radio adjusted during the Tour de France
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

One of the most controversial discussed inventions in the world of cycling is the use of the radio. The supporters argue that it facilitates a lot of the work of the entire team: If a rider has a flat tyre or crashes, he is able to announce it directly to his team car and the sport directors are able to remind their riders to eat and to drink, give them tactical advice and to react immediately to every change in the race. Those who oppose the radios, amongst them ex-professionals, reproach the system. Their arguments are that they fear a total control of the riders and the race by the directeur sportifs, and that the riders would lose their ability to analysis the race situations.

Now, the International Cycling Union (UCI) made a first effort and banned the radios in U23 category races. The Basque cycling federation (FVC) backed the prohibition; to make "the races more open and to make it so that the rider has more initiative," said Unai Yus, the technical director of the FVC, to Noticias de Gipuzkoa.

The reactions of the team directors are various. Opel Ibaigane Sport Director José Manuel García noted the advantages, "You will see who the keenest one in the race is. They will learn to read the races. With the radio, you control much more what happens, and I think that this favours the stronger teams, as they are able to stop their riders in breakaway groups or to defeat the breakaway's intent."

Rubén Gorospe of Café Baqué did not agree with the UCI's decision. "I don't think that this is a good measure. I could understand it if this decision was taken for the junior cyclists, because it still is a game, but in the U23 there are many more things that play a role. Without the radio, we almost don't have any information during the races. Normally, we use it more to know the race situation than to give instructions, as often the frequencies cross and you can hear the others, as well as the others are able to hear you.

"Without the radio, the cyclists would have more liberties," Gorospe admitted, but warned, "I don't know if this is good or not. The races will be crazier. Cycling is the only sport where you don't have a direct access to the rider. ... The radio is a progress, now we take a step backwards."

CAI Sport Director Carlos Canales noted the riders' education first. "The U23 category is a category when you still have to educate the racers in the race; you have to tell them to eat, to drink, you have to advise them against some dangers... Furthermore, if Radio Vuelta [the official race radio - ed.] announces that one of your riders has a flat tyre, you already are with him because he advised it to you earlier." Canales added, "We will return to the bare wonder, like in the 1970s."

The UCI announced on February 15 that it formed a "working group" to "treat the question of radio transmissions and coaching during competitions. In particular, it will consider the use of earphones." Further discussion of this issue, and its regards to top-tier professional races is expected at UCI Management Committee meeting in Copenhagen this June.

De Goede takes first New Zealand stage

By Susan Westemeyer

Suzanne de Goede of Equipe Nürnberger has won the first stage of the Tour of New Zealand in a photo-finish over Team High Road's Oenone Wood. Joanne Kiesanowski of Team Cervelo was third.

The Dutch rider won the sprint out of a 10-rider strong escape group which held on to a 47-second advantage at the finish of the 35-kilometre stage between Avalon and Lower Hutt.

"The knot is broken," said Jens Zemke, the team's directeur sportif. "We are very happy with this first win in the new road season. That gives us extra motivation for the more difficult upcoming stages."

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