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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 22, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Renshaw claims first ProTour stage in Australia

By Paul Verkuylen in Adelaide, Australia

Credit Agricole Team Manager, Serge Beucherie, congratulates Mark Renshaw
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Australian Mark Renshaw, who hails from Bathurst in NSW, has claimed the first ProTour stage to be held outside of Europe which was also his first victory in a ProTour event. To make it all the more special for Renshaw, family and friends were there at the finish of stage one of the 2008 Tour Down Under to witness his historic feat.

"Dad was here with my sister and girlfriend, so yeah it's great to win in front of them; it drives me along," Renshaw said. "This is really a stepping stone, my director [Serge Beucherie] sat me down at the start of the week and said 'this year has to be the year that you step up.

"I have finally stepped up to the mark on the ProTour. It has been a few years, but it has definitely paid off," Renshaw concluded.

Although Renshaw is effectively leading the ProTour after receiving three points for his win today, he will not wear the leader's jersey as the UCI does not award the jersey mid-way through a race, opting to wait until the final classification is decided. The overall winner of the Tour Down Under will receive 50 points.

Interestingly, riders not part of a ProTour team are not eligible to gain points in the competition, meaning that if any rider from the UniSA team wins a stage or places in the points overall, those points will be forfeited and therefore will not be awarded to the next rider on classification. If, for instance, a UniSA rider were to win the overall, the first ProTour rider on classification will be awarded the points for his actual place on GC, not his effective place with the non-ProTour rider removed.

Menzies' day ends in disaster

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

Tasmanian Karl Menzies (Australia UNISA) lost time after crashing
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Karl Menzies (UniSA-Australian National Team) was confident at the start of today's opening Tour Down Under stage, but the day didn't end on a positive note for last year's runner-up. Menzies shattered his front wheel 20 kilometres from the end of the 129 kilometre stage after hitting a flexible white reflector post on the side of the course.

"We were just going up that hill around the back and everyone was fanned out, there was one guide post and everyone moved at the last second and I went straight into it," recalled the Tasmanian. "There was only one on that whole hill."

The accident required a mechanic to rebuild the bike, costing Menzies valuable minutes on general classification. It was a disappointing blow to the rider's goals, with Menzies hoping for a repeat of last year's general classification battle that saw him finish second by a narrow margin to Swiss rider Martin Elmiger.

"It's just disappointing more than anything, you know you like to help out and try to have a go at the finish," he said. "It's just disappointing."

Despite sporting heavy grazes and bruising at the finish line, Menzies is expected to continue the race tomorrow after receiving a medical check following today's stage.

On a higher note for the UniSA-Australian National Team, star sprinter Allan Davis claimed fourth in the bunch sprint for the outfit, following on from Richie Porte's 70 kilometre break away appearance.

Carlström too late for Olympic qualification

By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide, Australia

Kjell Carlström (Liquigas)
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

There must have been some confusion at the Finnish cycling federation about the Olympic qualification via the ProTour ranking. Although the game remains open for the women's road race until the end of May, the 145 starting spots for the men were allocated to the different countries at the end of October last year. Still, some officials in Finland asked their only two ProTour riders, Jussi Veikkanen and Kjell Carlström, to ride the Tour Down Under with the ambition of scoring qualifying points.

Finland has in fact qualified one rider for the individual time trial, but only athletes who enter either the road, mountain bike, track or BMX races can take part in the time trial, and the Scandinavian country hasn't secured any spot for the road race.

Veikkanen was replaced at the last minute by Tom Stubbe at Française des Jeux since he almost broke a scaphoid while training before Christmas. But Carlström made his way to Adelaide still with the idea - if not the certainty - that scoring points at the Tour Down Under could eventually qualify his country for Beijing. His Liquigas team lined him up in Australia upon his request.

"I'm used to race in this country anyway", he shrugged on the start line in Mawson Lakes. "I never rode the Tour Down Under before but I did Melbourne to Warnaambol, the Sun Tour, the Tour of Queensland - I won a stage there with Amore e Vita -and the Tour of Tasmania where I finished second on GC and won a stage in 2006. Australia is very suitable to me."

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The rider from the North actually loves the South. "Unfortunately I got a bit of a cold while training in Italy last week. I kept going because of this possibility to qualify for the Olympics and also because I'm convinced I can do well in a stage here - but not in one of the two first ones that I believe to end in bunch sprints, something I'm not good at." Carlström is known for being a dedicated domestique in Grand Tours, but this season he doesn't know yet if he'll do his favourite job at the Giro d'Ialia or at the Tour de France again like he did in the past few years.

Meares to undergo further tests in Australia

Olympic Champion Anna Meares will undergo further tests when she returns to Australia after being injured in an accident at the Los Angeles World Cup on Monday.

Meares was contesting the keirin final when she crashed. She was knocked out but regained consciousness before she was transported to hospital for treatment.

Cycling Australia's Team Doctor, Mark Fisher, spoke by phone to the doctors treating her in Los Angeles and said she should be cleared to fly home with the rest of the team on Monday night (Los Angeles time).

"Anna had precautionary x-rays and scans for soft tissue leg/hip and neck injuries," said Dr Fisher. "She's okay and should be discharged from hospital today. She will be wearing a soft collar on the flight home and will be checked on arrival back here."

Bettini "dreams" of Flanders

Double World champ Paolo Bettini doesn't miss many races on his palmarès
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

As a part of the European peloton is currently participating in the Tour Down Under in Australia, World Champion Paolo Bettini is quietly preparing for the 2008 season at home in Italy. the Quickstep rider will begin his racing programme on February 9 in the G.P. Costa degli Etruschi before heading to the USA for the Tour of California. His first big goal this year will be the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on Belgian soil on April 6 - a race the Olympic champion and Classics specialist hopes to add to his palmarès this season as 2008 could be Bettini's last year as a pro cyclist.

"I dream of Flanders, which I have never been able to win, even more so because this will be my last season in principle," Il Grillo told L'Equipe on Tuesday. "In 2004, I had announced that I would stop in 2008 - at the moment, I don't want to think of it, but I won't take this decision lightly. I wouldn't want to announce my retirement and come back on it later, that would be a sign of failure."

2008 being an Olympic year again, Bettini naturally thinks about defending his title but finds it hard to reconcile the event in an already-full race calendar. "The lead-up to the Games won't be easy to manage, even more so because I want to be on my best level of fitness for the Worlds, too," he explained. "How can I conciliate everything? In Beijing, there will be the smog, the heat, and it's a long travel, complicated by our previous engagements. Seven days before the Games, there's the Clasica San Sebastian, which is important to Quickstep. That will leave us very little time to get used to the Chinese climate."

Speaking of the World Championships in Varese, Italy, Bettini feels up to the challenge of winning the event for the third consecutive time, a feat even the great Eddy Merckx did not accomplish. "Nobody ever did that, but nobody has been Olympic champion and double World champion at the same time, either," he smiled. "If I was able to defend my title in the hostile climate I was experiencing in Stuttgart, I should be able to achieve it in Italy."

Cooke to miss Geelong World Cup

By Shane Stokes

Nicole Cooke: 2007 Geelong world cup winner.
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

2007 victor Nicole Cooke will not take part in the Geelong World Cup race next month, preferring instead to build form for later in the spring.

The multiple British champion changed teams over the winter and is now part of the new Halfords Bikezone squad, which has very close links to British Cycling. Her team-mates are former Raleigh-Lifeforce rider Tanja Slater, Catherine Hare, Joanna Rowsell, Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Curtis, Emma Trott, Jessica Allen and Katie Colclough.

A representative from Halfords Bikezone told Cyclingnews that "the outline plans for early season include a good proportion of domestic races." She said that the team would then take part in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on March 24, the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 12 and La Flèche Wallonne Féminine on April 23. It is not clear if they will ride the Ronde van Drenthe on April 12.

Last year, Cooke won the Geelong Women's Tour with Raleigh Lifeforce and then went on to take the World Cup race in the same location, outsprinting Oenone Wood (T-Mobile Women) and Nikki Egyed (Australian National Team) to the line. The victory set her up for a strong campaign; she led the World Cup series for much of last season but ultimately lost out to the then-world champion Marianne Vos.

While Welsh rider has decided on a different approach to 2008, many of her former team-mates will begin their seasons in Australia. The Cervelo-Lifeforce team will do both the Geelong World Cup and the preceding Geelong Tour.

According to team manager Thomas Campana, the line-up for the big one day event will be decided closer to the race. "Every year we have our annual training camp in Melbourne from January-March," he told Cyclingnews. "We cannot say anything about the composition of the team at this moment, as we have ten riders available in Melbourne. One week before the [World Cup] race we will have internal selection races, and then our staff will decide."

Evans to stay with Lotto?

According to the Telegraaf, 2007 Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans has extended his contract with his Silence-Lotto team until 2010. The 30 year-old could thus remain with the Belgian squad even though he had recently complained about not getting enough support in his bid for the 2008 Tour victory. Last year's team-mates Chris Horner and Josep Jufre were not kept on the team even though Evans had personally asked the management for it.

"When you finish second in the Tour de France and win the ProTour, you deserve something better than a slap in the face at the end of the season," the Algemeen Dagblad reported Evans as saying this week-end. "I had two wishes: that Chris Horner and Josep Jufre stay with the team - not only for myself, but also because they work well for the whole squad. But my requests were simply denied."

When contacted by Cyclingnews, Silence-Lotto team spokes man Filip Demyttenaere neither confirmed nor denied the contract extension.

Cheerwine announces 2008 roster

The Cheerwine Women's Professional Cycling Team (USA) returns to racing with a strong lineup and a full calendar for 2008. Returning riders include Laura Van Gilder, the 2008 Women's NRC and USA Crits Series champion, Kelly Benjamin, winner of SuperWeek in 2006 and 2007, Catherine Cheatley of New Zealand, the 2007 Bronze Medalist in the Worlds Points Race, Leigh Hobson of Canada, 2nd Overall and QOM in the 2007 New Zealand UCI Trust House Tour and Sarah Bamberger of San Francisco, a member of Cheerwine's winning 2007 USA Crits Series team.

New 2008 members include Anne Samplonius of Canada, the current Canadian National and Pam American Time Trial champion, Stacy Marple, winner of the 2006 Bermuda Grand Prix, Marisa Asplund-Owens, stage winner in the 2007 Tour of Gila, Robin Farina, winner of the 2007 Mengoni Gran Prix, Allyson Brandt, winner of Most Laps Led in the 2007 USA Crits Series and Tashony Noplos, a young rider that is set to surprise many in 2008.

"I am very pleased with the quality of our roster for 2008 both on athletic ability and on the outstanding character of each athlete," commented team owner and founder Anne Bolyea. "Along with our management, staff and sponsors I feel we have great balance going into the 2008 season."

In 2007, the team had 22 wins in NRC races, as well as 34 podium placings. Add to that 11 wins in non NRC events such as The Indio Grad Prix, The Bermuda Grand Prix and the Overall Team win USA Crits Series, Cheerwine had a solid 2007 season.

"I would like to say thank you to all of the girls that made up our 2007 roster as well as to our staff and sponsors for making it a special year," said Team Director Thad Fischer. "Each one of our athletes made solid contributions to our success. We have structured our 2008 program with that in mind and I am very pleased to announce that Jame Carney will be joining us in 2008 as Competition Director. We welcome him to the programme."

Cheerwine Women's Professional Cycling Team will contest the entire 2008 NRC Calendar. The team has three weeks of training camps and starts the race season in Santa Rosa, CA on February 18.

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