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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, January 24, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

A close battle for Renshaw

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) loving that jersey!
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) has re-claimed the Tour Down Under leader's jersey as the gripping battle for general classification continues at the event's half-way mark. The rider, from Bathurst in regional New South Wales, finished second on today's third stage to Victor Harbour, earning a time bonus that put him into the outright lead after losing the jersey on a count back to Rabobank's Graeme Brown after yesterday's stage.

"It's something we were chasing," said Renshaw of his return to the leader's jersey. "It was a bit unfortunate yesterday with the mishap at the finish, I came down to the presentation and it actually wasn't me that had it."

Renshaw had been presented as the leader of the tour after stage two yesterday - interviews had already taken place - but then UCI officials realized that his seventh place was not enough to retain the jersey and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) was in fact the leader of the tour on count back. "It gave my guys a bit of a rest today," he added. "I didn't have to put them on the front today - that was the responsibility of Rabobank - so it gave them a bit of a break before tomorrow."

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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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Renshaw claimed his own piece of history on Monday when he won his first ProTour stage - and also the series' first stage outside of European borders. The rider believed having lost the jersey to Brown on stage two could prove to be a blessing in disguise for his team's general classification hopes. "It's not such a bad thing to lose the jersey, that could be what wins me or Simon [Gerrans] the Tour," he noted. "So it's not a bad thing - it never is."

Renshaw, who has won three stages of the Tour Down Under during his five years as a professional, was disappointed to not add a fourth victory to his resume but was delighted with his form for the season ahead. The stage win went to Allan Davis (UniSa-Australia). "I just missed Allan, so a bit of a disappointment, but it's great to know the form is there," Renshaw added. "I haven't been out since the top three/four all week so definitely getting better."

The 25 year-old rider, who won Tour de Picardie's second stage last year, didn't think the climbs on Friday and Sunday's stages pose a threat to his general classification hopes. "I think I'll be pretty fine with the hill," he said. "As long as not more than five or six riders get away I should be alright."

In addition to his general classification lead, Renshaw also holds the sprint competition leader's jersey heading into tomorrow's fourth stage.

Davis confirms world-class status

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

Allan Davis (UniSA-Australia) was a wanted man after his stage win
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Allan Davis (UniSA-Australian National Team) proved the UCI made the right decision in allowing a national squad in a ProTour round for the first time by taking victory on stage three of the Tour Down Under. Davis said he wasn't out to prove his ability, despite not having a contract for this season, as he's proved that throughout his entire career.

"I've always known that, I've proved it all my career," he said. "I think I'm coming into a pretty good phase over the next hopefully five or six years, I'm just getting stronger and stronger. I think all the sprinters in the world know that when I'm there I'm there and who I am."

Davis didn't hold back on future goals. "It's coming into a pretty fierce battle between five or six of us [world-class sprinters] at the moment, hopefully over the coming years there will be two or three top sprinters in the world and hopefully I'll be amongst them," he added after taking the victory in front of his two children, wife and extended family, who were on awaiting the Queenslander's arrival in Victor Harbour at the end of stage three.

Coming up on

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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The former Discovery Channel rider's victory showed the UniSA-Australian National Team's abilities against its bigger ProTour rivals. The squad had Ritchie Porte in the day's first attack, which only lasted five kilometres, before its talented youngster Wesley Sulzberger launched an attack that saw him stay away for the majority of the race with two fellow riders. "We knew we had no problem knowing we could do it - especially with this bloke, I mean he's as good as anyone in the world," said team manager Dave Sanders. "It's good though to earn respect from the other teams, we're pretty pleased."

Sanders added that there will be plenty more to come from the UniSA-Australian National Team over the remaining three stages of the ProTour race. "There's no question. No question," he said. "We couldn't be happier where we are on general classification, we believe we will get up the hill better than some of the others guys that are sitting here.

"[The good results] certainly give us credibility - there it is in black and white, nobody has been embarrassed by it, I think it just speaks for itself," he concluded.

Davis, who is the only rider to contest all 10 Tour Down Unders, said he was delighted to win on the event's special Anniversary. "It's a big honour just to be here for 10 times, not just racing it but to be a part of the whole event," he said. "It's more than a bike race, it's an Australian national event and it brings a lot of international influx into Australia - just to be a part of that is a real privilege."

Evans debates future

Cadel Evans doesn't yet know where he will ride in 2009 - he may stay with his current Belgian team Silence-Lotto, but then again, he may not. "On most fronts, I'm happy with Silence-Lotto, but we've got a few issues to sort out," he told Australian newspaper The Age. "I'm waiting to sort these things out." He added that he would sign a proposal with the team, "not a contract, it's not fixed."

A Belgian newspaper reported earlier this week that Evans extended his contract with Silence-Lotto through 2010. But the Australian, whose main goal is to win the Tour de France, had been criticising the team's support for that. "A team that wants to win the Tour has a team capable of doing it - I might be interested, yes," the 30 year-old said. He finished second in the Tour de France and won the ProTour title in 2007.

Evans is training at his home in Barwon Heads, Australia, and will return to Europe early next month. Meanwhile, he will join his teammates in Adelaide on Saturday "to visit the team during the Tour Down Under and to talk about his contract," team spokesman Filip Demyttenaere told Cyclingnews.

Gilbert on target for spring classics

By Paul Verkuylen in Adelaide, Australia

Philippe Gilbert (Francaise Des Jeux) is having fun at the TDU
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Belgian classics specialists, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise Des Jeux) finished down in 10th position on the third stage of the Tour Down Under despite pushing hard to prevent the stage from coming down to a sprint in the final kilometre. Ultimately, Australian sprinters got the better of him, but the Belgian still sits in top position on the mountains classification. Not putting too much pressure on himself to ride a good overall classification, Gilbert is concentrating on his preparation for his favored races in March and April.

"I am here first and foremost for training, but this is a nice race, as well as tough," he said. "I am having some good sensations, I felt good on the climb and I will try every day to break away. But the ProTour is always difficult. You have the best riders in the world and it is never simple.

"I had enough left for the sprint, so I gave it a go as every second counts here. I will keep trying until Sunday."

Gilbert is once again targeting the traditional spring classics as he hopes to this year come of age with a big win that has thus far eluded him. "My first real goal is Milan-Sanremo. I will ride Paris-Nice as preparation before that. Then the Tour of Flanders, De Vlaamse Pijl, Amstel and Liège," he explained.

Riders react positively to Langkawi climb replacement

By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide, Australia

Some of the riders currently competing in the Tour Down Under will also take part in Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia (February 9-17) after completing the Australian tour on Sunday. In Adelaide, they received the news about the replacement of the legendary climb to the top of Genting Highlands by Fraser's Hill, and were happy the grueling Malaysian mountain was taken out of the itinerary.

Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

"I had never done Genting before because this will be my first time at Le Tour de Langkawi", Crédit Agricole's new signing Simon Gerrans reacted. "I don't know what I'll be missing but from my team-mates' reports, I'm actually very happy not to do it. I understood that Genting Highlands has been the reason why many top riders from Europe didn't want to take part in Le Tour de Langkawi in the past few years. I obviously don't know more about Fraser's Hill but from what I heard, it's not as steep as Genting and that opens the race a bit more. I'm excited about it because I become a potential winner among 30 others, which probably wasn't the case until the course was changed."

Another Australian rider was enthusiastic after hearing the news. Matt Wilson who will captain the new American outfit Team Type 1 after winning the Herald Sun Tour in October last year explained: "I prefer to have a big climb on the course because it would be boring if there were only bunch sprints. As long as there is something interesting to do, it's fine. Last time I rode Le Tour de Langkawi was just ten years ago with the Australian national team when I was still an amateur rider. I don't have bad memories of Genting but I'm curious to see what Fraser's Hill is like. It could be the perfect climb for my new team to win the race, rather than making the overall win suitable for two or three Colombian riders only."

Bouygues Telecom's Aurélien Clerc was happy about the change for obvious reasons. "For us, the sprinters, it will mean less worries about the time cut if the new climb isn't that steep, but our job will have to be done before," he stated. Australia's most promising rider Wesley Sulzberger, who ran second in the U23 world championship in Stuttgart and showed great form being a part of the three-men breakaway on his way to Victor Harbor in the TDU, was also excited after hearing he won't go back to Genting Highlands. "Last year I struggled after crashing on stage four," the Tasmanian rider from recalled.

"This climb was so hard! It really sorted the race out. I supposed the race can be just as hard as long as we go uphill, but everyone knows Genting and is aware of how hard it is. Now it will be more of a surprise. I'm excited. I should be able to go for GC at Le Tour de Langkawi, otherwise I'll be looking after myself for a stage win."

It sounds like the late scrap of Malaysia's famous climb will generate a more open and more interesting race in 2008.

Züri Metzgete returns as women's race

The Züri Metzgete will be held again in 2008, but in an entirely different format. The former Championship of Zürich ProTour race will be held as a women's and "everyman's" race this autumn, race organisers announced Wednesday at a press conference in Zürich, Switzerland.

The ProTour race had been cancelled last year due to financial problems and the lack of a main sponsor. Now, organisers have found a new backer, the regional electricity supplier 'Elektrizitätswerk des Kantons Zürich' (EKZ), and will present the EKZ Züri Metzgete on September 7.

The women's race will cover 104 km, which will be two times around the circuit course. Each lap will have 600 climbing meters. It is expected to attract the top three Swiss women's teams, Raleigh Lifeforce, Bigla and Specialized, and such top Swiss riders as Karin Thürig, Nicole Brändli and Sereina Trachsel.

Rabobank demands apology from ARD

Team Rabobank is requesting an apology from the German television broadcaster ARD, which had said that current and former Rabo riders Michael Boogerd, Denis Menchov and Michael Rasmussen were blood-doping clients of the Viennese blood laboratory "Humanplasma".

ARD issued a public apology last week after it had said that four named cyclists and unnamed German biathletes and cross-country skiers had ties to the blood bank, implicating their doping activities. But the apology did not specifically address the cyclists, and the Rabobank management considered it insufficient.

"It is too early to start a civil procedure," said interim team manager Henri van der Aat to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "But it seems to us that it would be good if the ARD would publicly make a complete acknowledgement of the fact that these charges had no basis. This way, our riders would have all doubt removed from them. It seems to me the least that the ARD could do."

The fourth rider named was retired Austrian Georg Totschnig, who announced earlier this week that he will sue ARD for damages.

Sanremo's Via Roma gets detoured

By Gregor Brown

The 99th Milano-Sanremo will likely not finish on the famed finish straight of Via Roma when it is run this Saturday, March 22. The 2.4-kilometre long stretch, which last year saw the sprint win of Oscar Freire, is under construction according to ANSA.

Organiser RCS Sport, who also faces resistance from Sanremo merchants for shutting down the streets on Easter weekend, is looking into three different alternatives. The likely solution for La Classicissima is a finish along Lungomare Italo Calvino.

Two German stage races in doubt

Two German stage races are facing an uncertain future. The 3-Länder Tour, formerly the Hessen Rundfahrt, has lost its manager, and the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt is still looking for money.

Christian Bergemann announced Wednesday that he was resigning from his duties as the Tour Manager for the 3-Länder Tour after five years, citing personal reasons. It was not immediately known whether the race will be held this year as scheduled, September 17-21. "Others will decide over the future of the Tour," Bergemann said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt organisers hope to decide this weekend whether the race will take place April 23-27 as planned. The event has lost about 100,000 Euro through the loss of sponsorship from the state of Niedersachsen and Volkswagen. Other sponsors, including Lotto Niedersachsen, Einbecker Brauhaus and Hit-Radio Antenne have already expressed their willingness to continue.

The race suffers from politics as the moment. Uwe Schünemann, head of the organising committee, "Verein Internationale Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt", has little time for the race at the moment as he is will be standing for election when the state of Niedersachsen votes on January 27.

AT&T upgrades sponsorship for 2008 Tour de Georgia

On Wednesday, officials from the Tour de Georgia Foundation, Inc. and AT&T Inc. announced a new branding for the American spring cycling event, which will become the Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T. As the Presenting Sponsor for 2008 tour, AT&T will own exclusive rights for "Communications Services" for the race scheduled from April 21-27.

Last year, AT&T's sponsorship included naming rights to the Overall Leader jersey awarded after each stage. As the Presenting Sponsor in 2008, AT&T will maintain ownership of the leader's jersey and will receive prominent branding at all venues of the race, as well as the tour's website.

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