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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, January 26, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams with assistance from Steve Medcroft

Vannoppen confirms cocaine positive but denies involving Boonen

By Susan Westemeyer

Tom Vanoppen (Sunweb Team)
Photo ©: Stijn Vercaemer
(Click for larger image)

Tom Vannoppen confirmed that he had returned a positive test for cocaine, but denied naming Tom Boonen as his dealer. "I tested positive but Tom Boonen has absolutely nothing to do with it," he told

After he was released from Team Sunweb, "I had a party. I drank and did dumb things. I felt I was no longer a rider. But two days after my dismissal, I was visited by the doping controllers," explained Vannoppen, who is in Treviso attending the 'cross world championships.

He vehemently denied having said that Boonen provided him with drugs. "This is a game to put cycling in a bad light," the 29 year-old said. "Tom and I frequently train together and we will sometimes drink a pint. But there is nothing more. In my questioning the names of thirty riders came up, of course his name was mentioned."

Het Laatste Nieuws reported that investigators had no search warrant when they arrived at Boonen's parents' house earlier this week, but he and his mother allowed them to enter. Hasselt prosecutor Marc Rubens emphasized that "With respect to Boonen, there is no indication that he has anything to do with the matter."

Renshaw not looking forward to Willunga

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Tour Down Under leader Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) isn't looking forward to Saturday's penultimate stage of the 2008 Tour Down Under on the gruelling Willunga Hill. The sprinter will be forced to defend his narrow four second general classification lead on the 400 metre high climb, over a distance less than five kilometres, before tackling the quick descent and run into the finish line.

"It's going to be hard, that's for sure, I'm not looking forward to it," said Renshaw, who won his first ProTour stage on Tuesday. "But I'm going to take it by the horns, I think if I can stay within a minute over the top then my team-mates can drag me back up. We're just going to have to bank on that."

With just seven seconds separating the top three riders on general classification, and with very little time bonuses on offer during Sunday's criterium finale, today's stage is set to be an epic battle. Renshaw believes the stage will unfolded similar to Friday's Stage 4, with attacks expected from the very first kilometre.

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"I think it's going to be much the same as today," Renshaw predicted after yesterday's stage. "There will be a lot of attacks at the start, everyone's going to want someone in the break. If they can get a better rider in there than it takes pressure off them later in the stage.

"Hopefully we won't let too many guys go away and we will find an ally in Team CSC, Caisse d'Epargne or someone that can ride towards the end with us and try to limit the time gap," he added.

The youngster, who hails from Bathurst in New South Wales, said that his lead wasn't the only card the squad had to play as the race nears its conclusion.

"With Credit Agricole we have the double spear attack with Simon Gerrans and myself," he said. "We'll be looking to either put Simon in the break or have me defend the jersey."

Renshaw says he's excited by the prospect of walking away from the event with the overall orche jersey, but that there's a long way to go before that possibility becomes any more than that.

"Every day it becomes a little bit more possible," he said. "If I can get through tomorrow within striking distance there's no reason why I couldn't come back on Sunday and take a few seconds back, but I'm going to need to be within three to five seconds and that's going to come down to tomorrow."

The Tour Down Under's penultimate stage is a 147 kilometre test from Willunga to Willunga and will commences at 11am local time.

Tour fighter Txurruka promises continuous attacks

By Jean-François Quénet in Strathalbyn, South Australia

Amets Txurruka has his race face on
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

At the start of Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under, the first man to attack was no stranger to listeners of Radio Tour at the Tour de France. Amets Txurruka didn't go far in the breakaway on Thursday, but confirmed the fighting spirit already shown on the roads of France last year.

The Euskaltel rider is the one who went on stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris at the 2007 Tour de France to receive the prize for most aggressive rider overall, still wearing the white jersey of best young rider. He finished his first Tour de France in 23rd position and was the third best young rider, wearing the white jersey after the exclusion of Michael Rasmussen, while Alberto Contador was busy in yellow and Juan Mauricio Soler with the polka dot jersey.

"My first Tour de France brings me fabulous memories back," he said with a large smile in the small and charming town of Manum in South Australia. "I want to go back with the ambition of winning a stage but not for improving my overall classification yet. For now, I still work in support of Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sanchez and Mikel Astarloza. I also target the Vuelta for this year and I'm actually keen on going for a win at any bike race I take part in."

It hasn't happened yet since he turned professional with Barloworld in 2006 before joining the team of his region last year. Txurruka hails from Markina in Vizcaya. Aged 25, he's still a student at the University of the Basque country in San Sebastian where, after graduating as a teacher, he's now studying child psychology.

"I did ask my team to bring me here and I don't regret it," he added. "Australia is beautiful. It's not usual for Euskaltel to come and do this race but now it's ProTour so we have to do it and we want to begin the season on a high note."

On the way to Strathalbyn, it wasn't Txurruka the orange rider away but Javier Armendia. It confirmed the intentions of the Basques and we'll see Txurruka in action again this year.

Anonymous cyclist sues USADA

By Steve Medcroft

The Associated Press reported on Friday that an unnamed cyclist filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking an injunction to prevent USADA from testing a backup urine sample the agency took during the 2006 racing season even though, as the suit claims, the A sample for the rider returned a negative result.

Since international rules dictate that an athlete can only be considered to have returned a sanctionable positive doping test if both the A and B sample return positive results, the suit claims that the order of a B test following a negative A test amounts to harrassment of the rider.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 'John Doe' by the same legal team that represented Floyd Landis in his doping case before USADA, is asking for a jury trial to recoup damages the cyclist claims he suffered when USADA notified race organizers and a testing lab that the rider was under suspicion of doping.

Landis is reported to have told the Associated Press that he is not the plaintiff in the suit levaing the identity of the rider, and the race from which the testing was ordered, a mystery.

Big gear specialists to the fore in Qatar

By Shane Stokes

Tom Boonen has won a whopping 11 stages at the Tour of Qatar.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Given that its riders have won the past two editions of the race and the team have proven themselves one of the best in the world on flat, wind-swept terrain, all eyes will be on the Quick.Step team during the seventh running of the Tour of Qatar.

The race represents the season debut for many riders and while some will be in the middle-eastern country primarily to build form, others will be taking the race very seriously indeed. Tom Boonen won the 2006 edition, finished second last year and has landed 11 stage wins in all; he'll be keen to add to that impressive tally and show that he is on course for a strong Classics campaign.

Boonen's team-mate Wilfried Cretskens finished two minutes and nine seconds ahead of the former world champion 12 months ago, pushing him into second place thanks to the time he gained in the stage five breakaway. He too is heading back to the six-day, 2.1-ranked event with success in mind. Both of them will be backed up by a strong Quick.Step selection.

Greg Van Avermaet won stage five last year and the 22 year-old will be fired up to ride strongly again. His Silence Lotto team features the likes of 2006 Tour of Belgium winner Maarten Tjallingii and Leif Hoste, who will have trained hard over the winter to prepare for the Tour of Flanders. He finished second there in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and is highly motivated to finally win the Ronde.

To read the full preview, click here. 'superteam' sets out its plans for 2008

By Gerry McManus

The 14 man team.
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

The new British professional cycling team was officially launched at a packed Singapura restaurant in Ludgate Hill in the heart of central London on Thursday evening. The team is a merger of the Rapha Condor squad captained by Dean Downing last year and the outfit which had largely become a development road team for young riders in recent years.

"It's a bigger team for 2008," said directeur sportif John Herety. "I don't really like the word 'superteam' that has been banded around in the cycling press. It is bigger than we have had for a number of years but that reflects ambitions of the sponsors. We want to support the team in the UK but at the same time we want to ride major UCI ranked events like the Tour of Britain and Tour of Ireland as well as the other UCI ranked events."

Downing is the only member of the Rapha team to be retained in 2008 with Herety keeping faith with his Recycling riders with a sprinkling of new young blood added, making up the squad 14-strong for the forthcoming season. World and Olympic track medallist Chris Newton will be joint team leader alongside Downing, but the two riders have completely different agendas for 2008.

"We have got different goals for the season," explained Newton. "I am looking towards the Olympic Games and preparation is going to take quite a bit of my time. I am aiming for a ride in the points and team pursuit races in Beijing," said the 34-year-old from Stockton on Tees.

The new strip
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

"I have put a lot of emphasis on the points race this year which is something we haven't done much of in the past. We have made the podium twice in the world cup events this season. There are more riders in the equation for the team pursuit this year and we will quite simply run with the fastest four."

Newton won the British Cycling Premier Series title last year but will hand over the defence of his title to Dean Downing. Downing won a number of the series races last year including the prestigious Lincoln GP near his home town of Rotherham in Yorkshire. There was a small surprise for Downing as he was presented with a cake to celebrate his birthday.

"My season will very road based," said Downing. "We have got quite a few international races planned for this year which is a good stepping stone for the young lads we have got in. But we have also got a good bit of experience in the team with Kristian House and Ben Greenwood back in the UK and in the team along with Rob Partridge and Dale Appleby.

"My target will be the Premier Calendar this year but I will also be looking for good performances that will get me selected for the international races as well," continued the 33 year-old. "The team is much bigger than I was in last year. I know a lot of the riders because I raced against them last year. It will be good to pass on some of my experience to the younger riders."

Recycling boss Charlie Jackson will be the team's general manager with Herety as directeur sportif.

Chris Newton
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

Herety explained that the young riders will have a program mixed with local and national events this year. "Some of the Premier Calendar races will feature the best team, no matter what, out of respect for the quality of those events," said Herety. "The youngsters will have to go off and win smaller races. It will be there job to dominate domestic events. The idea is to teach them how to win races. The higher up the ladder you go, the more difficult it is to win races and if you don't get those skills at a young level it becomes more difficult when you climb the ladder."

There was also a surprise for Herety when Tour of Britain organiser Mick Bennett went on stage and officially invited the new team to ride the Tour of Britain in September.

Rhys Lloyd and Luke Rowe are the youngest members of the team. Lloyd has just finished his spell with the British Cycling Olympic Development squad and joins as a first year senior.

The full team roster: Chris Newton, Dean Downing, Kristian House, Graham Briggs, Ben Greenwood, Rob Partridge, Ryan Bonser, Dale Appleby, Matt Rowe, Simon Holt, Adam Bonser, Tom Diggle, Rhys Lloyd and Luke Rowe (junior)


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gerry McManus/

A big battle ahead; the Matt Lloyd TdU diary

As is customary for a stage start in a desert-like landscape, attacks were happening for at leat two hours in the cross-winds and open highway climbs that greeted the riders today. As I had imagined, none of these ambitions proved a success, as all contenders and teams were switched on and willing to snap on to groups gaining what small advantages they could achieve.

Although the field had split and re-grouped on countless occasions, once it reached the plateau and then slowly descended toward the finish, all riders were together and able to once again engage in a sprint, which saw Andre Greipel (Team High Road) once again take out the stage. Jamming a huge gear down the right hand barriers, nobody was able to sustain a similar output leaving this mega-man with his third victory this week. Impressive.

Less impressive was the downfall of Aussie Matty Hayman, who was unfortunately subjected to Elia Rigotto's sprint attempt. Sadly Matty sustained numerous injuries, at this point looking to include a busted collar bone. As is known though, in certain sprint scenarios the boys pull out their whole arsenal of movements, which in this case resulted in Rigotto being disqualified from the race. Nobody, including the sprinters, aim to have such an incident and I wish Matty the quickest of recoveries.

After the onslaught of aggression today, it's quite obvious there'll be some serious movements in tomorrow's stage, especially on Willunga. It's fair to say that, although the entire stage remains quite demanding of course, all energies will be conserved in order to destroy the field on the final climb.

Read the entire Matt Lloyd diary here.

Le Bandie promises fast day

Gregor Brown in Treviso

Home rider Enrico Franzoi
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Le Bandie – host site of the Cyclo-cross World Championships in Treviso, Italy – promises a fast day out. Those in the hunt for the rainbow jersey will not face the cold and mud that is so often present in the northern countries, but rather mild Italian weather and a mostly grassy parcours.

"It was a very hard race today, very fast," explained Francis Mourey after winning the World Cup event in November 2006 on a near identical course. This year the Frenchman will be considered a favourite but will have to face a longer uphill arrival that may spoil any solo attempt for freedom. The finishing line has been moved back (uphill) by some 100 metres, while the organisers have also added more hairpin turns and barriers.

"I will start more or less in the back; on a course this hard like we have in Treviso, who attacks early risks browning up," said Franzoi to La Gazzetta dello Sport this morning. "If I am going well I can still do a number."

Like many road races, an attempt at freedom could be awarded or seen falling to pieces in the final metres thanks to this fast parcours that will be used this weekend in Treviso.

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic expects 900 riders in 2008

As one of the oldest and largest pro/am cycling competitions in North America, the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic expects nearly 900 riders for its 49th annual event to be held this year over the fourth of July weekend. The race, which is on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar, attracts top racers from around the world, including many national champions and Olympic competitors.

The four-day competition is accompanied by a variety of community events and celebrations, beginning with opening day festivities on July 2nd and continuing through four days of racing from July 3rd through July 6th. The races will feature riders in eight different categories, including Women's Pro/1/2 and Men's Pro/1. Other categories include Men's Category 2, Category 3, Category 4, Masters and Juniors and Women's Category 3/4. The event is part of the Lance Armstrong Junior race series (LAJORS). The top Masters 45+ and Women Cat 4 riders, who will be racing with the Masters 35+ and Women 3 fields, respectively, will also be recognized at the final podium presentations.

This year $51,000 in prize money will be awarded, with the Men's Pro/1 prize pool at $25,000 and the Women's Pro/1/2 at $12,500. Racers in all categories are encouraged to register early to secure a spot - many categories are expected to fill early this year. Registration is on-line only at

As the second oldest pro/am cycling race in North America, the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic honors the memory of Arthur Longsjo, a Fitchburg native and the first US athlete to compete in the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year (1956). Art's accomplishments have been recognized by his posthumous induction into the Cycling Hall of Fame and Speed Skating Hall of Fame. The oldest U.S. cycling race still in existence is the Tour of Somerville, which Art Longsjo won in 1958.

Milram heads to the desert

Team Milram will be going short-handed into its second race of the season, the Tour of Qatar, which starts Sunday. A feverish cold is keeping Fabio Sabatini at home, and since the team is also riding the Tour Down Under and some races in South Africa, it couldn't come up with a replacement for the Italian.

Ralf Grabsch was looking forward to his trip to the middle east and the unique attractions of Qatar. "You ride over expensive carpets to the sign-in," he said. "It is good for the body to start with a race like this with its flat, fast stages."

The Tour of Qatar runs over 712.5 km in six stages, from January 27 to February 1.

Milram for Qatar: Volodymyr Diudia (Ukr), Matej Jurco (Svk), Alberto Ongarato (Ita), Marco Velo (Ita), Ralf Grabsch (Ger), Christian Knees (Ger), Niki Terpstra (Ned)

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