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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 30, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Evans injury rumours flare again

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) has failed to escape injury rumours, despite a press release from Cycling Australia on Monday dismissing the claims. The rumour has again flared after the Tour de France runner-up withdrew from a post-Tour criterium in Diksmuide, Belgium.

The Diksmuide event's organizer Denis Bolle told AFP that the Australian Olympic team member had withdrew just hours before yesterday's event. A clearly displeased Bolle said a knee injury obtained from a post-Tour party thrown by Silence-Lotto was the reason for Evans' withdrawal.

"It shows a flagrant lack of respect," said Bolle. "[He only let us know] a few hours before the criterium."

Bolle's comments directly refute a statement made by Cycling Australia on Monday. The national body said Evans did slip on the floor but didn't fall over and dismissed injury rumours.

"That's what it is - a rumour," said Evans in the statement, which also acknowledge he was planning to contest the Belgian race yesterday.

Evans is expected to be Australia's best hope for a gold medal in the men's Olympic road race. The course in Beijing, China has a hilly profile which should suit Evans. The men's Olympic road race will be held on August 9, one day after the opening ceremony.

Freire ahead of Steegmans in Belgium

Green-man Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Stijn Vercaemer
(Click for larger image)

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was the fastest sprinter at Tuesday evening's 4th Na Tour Broker post-Tour criterium in Diksmuide, Belgium. The Spaniard, who claimed the Tour's green jersey this month, won the race ahead of Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), while the Tour's mountain classification winner Bernard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) placed third.

Freire and Steegmans broke away from the peloton four kilometres from the finish, and contested the sprint between themselves. Kohl tried to bridge across to the two leaders but was unable to ride across the gap. He finished just 50 meters behind the pair.

At the finish the green jersey winner from the Tour was too fast for the winner of the final stage into Paris.

"I was beaten [by a] small man," Steegmans said, who replaced Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) in the event's lineup after the Australian failed to show up at the criterium (see separate story). "Freire went through the last corner better than me, and because of that I timed my run too late."

"The sprint was difficult, but worked out perfectly for me," Freire said.

Across the border in the Netherlands Andy Schleck (CSC - Saxo Bank) took out the criterium in Stiphout. Schleck beat his team-mate and Tour winner Carlos Sastre in a sprint after the pair broke away with 10 laps remaining.

Mark Cavenndish (Columbia) was third ahead of fellow sprinter Robbie McEwen (Silence - Lotto).

Klöden praises exciting Tour

Astana's Andreas Klöden has praised Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre on the performance he and his Team CSC-Saxo Bank squad turned out to claim the Grand Tour victory. While the German rider's Astana squad, which includes 2007 Tour champion Alberto Contador, was left out of this year's Tour Klöden said the team's absence doesn't diminish Sastre's feat.

"It was an exciting tour and I think at the end Carlos Sastre was the deserved winner," he said. "He was [one of] the drivers and could be consistent over time trials as well."

Klöden admitted he didn't watch the Tour until it reached the mountains, instead taking some time away from the sport with his family. The rider admitted it was a shame Astana wasn't at the Tour to measure just how strong Team CSC-Saxo Bank were against the Giro d'Italia winning squad.

"It was just a pity that he is not with the best tour team," he said. "The tour without Astana: this is like Brazil missing at the [football] World Cup. "But that should not diminish Sastre's success, and I belong to those who give Carlos the victory."

The German also praised the efforts of his compatriot Stefan Schumacher. The Gerolsteiner rider claimed victory in both time trials and also held the yellow leader's jersey for a number of days.

"Although it was always clear to me that [Schumacher] is a very good and talented cyclist, his outstanding performance during the two time trials and the yellow jersey, I was somewhat surprised," he said. "In any event, I am very pleased for Schumi."

Klöden added that a team such as CSC-Saxo Bank winning the Tour shows that the fight by squads with strong anti-doping programs is bearing fruit.

Gasparotto abandons Barloworld

Enrico Gasparotto
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Enrico Gasparotto will ride the 2009 season for Italian squad Lampre, according to Belgian new site Sporza. The sprinter, who currently rides for the squad-formerly-known-as-Barloworld, has signed a two year deal with the Italian team.

The 26 year-old will be joined by Mauro Da Dalto, who is leaving Lampre's rival Italian ProTour squad Liquigas. Gasparotto was second in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico and third in the Driedaagse van de Panne, where he also won a stage.

In 2005 Gasparotto was crowned the Italian champion and in 2007, while riding for Liquigas, he was part of the team which won the team time trial at the Giro d'Italia.

Barloworld announced that it would stop the sponsorship of the Professional Continental team at the conclusion of the Tour de France. The team will continue through until the end of the season, but without the Barloworld name on its jerseys.

Barloworld's withdrawal from cycling sponsorship follows a non-negative test by one of its riders at the Tour de France. Moisés Dueñas was one of four riders to return non-negative anti-doping samples at the French Grand Tour. Saunier Duval also withdrew its sponsorship of the Saunier Duval-Scott squad immediately after star rider Riccardo Riccò registered the third non-negative of the Tour.

Final showdown for Beijing-bound women

By Ben Atkins

Judith Arndt (Team Columbia) is in great form
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

The Women's World Cup returns this week after the early summer stage races and offers a final chance for the favourites to hone their form for the Olympic Games in just over one weeks time. Last year's Open de Suède Vargarda winner Chantal Beltman will not return to defend her title, but the Columbia team - that has been almost unstoppable this summer - will be led by World Cup leader Judith Arndt.

Arndt, who as well as holding a commanding lead in the season-long competition, recently took the overall in the Thüringen Rundfahrt, showing that her season is peaking at just the right time. This race also marks a 2008 World Cup debut for Columbia's 19 year-old Swedish champion Emilia Fahlin.

The course will consist of 12 laps of an 11 km circuit based on the town of Vårgårda, to the northeast of Gothenburg, adding up to a total of 132km. The major obstacle each lap will be the short climb of the Hägrungabacken, which provided Beltman (when the team was still T-Mobile) with the springboard for her attack last year. The majority of the rest of the course is generally flat but rolling, giving a breakaway rider a chance to stay away but also providing an opportunity for a well-organised chase to pull it back. If a sprinter's team does manage to keep things together, the final stretch is almost perfectly straight apart from two corners inside the final kilometre.

Last year's second place Karin Thürig (Cervelo-Lifeforce) also comes off the back of a successful Thüringen Rundfahrt, having won the time trial and finishing fourth overall. She leads a strong team - which also won the team competition at Thüringen - which includes Chrstiane Soeder and Priska Doppmann. Those four are Beijing bound and so they should be on top form, and will be supported by riders like Sarah Düster and Australian Carla Ryan.

Completing last year's podium was Noemi Cantele (Bigla), and she also approaches the race after a successful Thüringen; the Italian won solo on Stage 3 and took the leader's jersey for a day. As usual Cantele will be joined by Nicole Brändli, but the Swiss will be testing the recovery of the thigh injury that forced her Thüringen withdrawal. The Bigla team will be competitive as usual but Swedish pair Veronica Andréasson and Monica Holler will be extra motivated.

Another local rider hoping to impress will be Emma Johansson at the head of her AA-Drink squad. The Swedish time trial champion is another due to represent her country in next month's games and will hope that her Beijing form will be enough to give her a result in her home World Cup race. The Dutch team has sent a strong roster of riders to support Johansson and also includes Kirsten Wild in case it finishes in a sprint.

A full Open de Suède Vargarda preview will be available shortly.

Adam Craig: Gunning for Beijing glory

Adam Craig (Giant) riding in eighth place
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Just two weeks after being named to represent the United States of America at the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing in August, Adam Craig successfully defended his US national cross country and Super D titles in Mount Snow, Vermont. Cyclingnews' Sue George spoke with Craig about his preparation for the Olympic Games and the effect the Games have had on his season.

It's not the first time Adam Craig has built a season around the Olympic Games. In 2004 Craig was one of four contenders for two positions on the United States of America Olympic team. After a season-long, global quest for the UCI points needed to make the team, Craig was not selected. However, in 2008, things have worked out quite differently.

"It is a lot better this time around - in part because the [selection] criteria is not absolutely ridiculous," said Craig, who turns 27 this week. "But I'm also four years older and four years faster, and I know what I need to do now.

"It - the effort to make the Olympic team - has been pleasant and pretty easy as far as hard things go," said Craig with a smile, looking back on his spring campaign.

Four years has given Craig more maturity, perspective, confidence and experience travelling in Europe. "I know as long as I'm riding decent that I can always be top 15 top 20 World Cup," he said. "I'm comfortable with myself racing now."

Craig credited his Giant team for providing a mechanic and a soigneur this time around. "I have better support," he said. "We have a good set-up. Knowing that's necessary and being able to put my foot down makes a difference. I said 'you know last time my bike broke a bunch and I didn't make the Olympic team - let's try to avoid that'."

Making the team

USA Cycling named Craig to the USA Olympic team along with Todd Wells, who also went to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Wells started off the 2008 season with a bang, sending the message to the others that he really wanted one of the two Olympic berths.

"Todd's got a leg up on me for sure," said Craig about a month before winning twice at Mount Snow. "He's been riding out of his skin. I've been riding fairly average.

"Todd's good at getting in shape for stuff," he added. "He's good at hanging out in Tuscon [Arizona] all winter and never missing a day of training and being ultra professional, so I wasn't surprised to see him up there. He's never ridden like this at World Cups before, but it's not like he's ever had to prepare for this before either. He's really stepped up and done well."

To read the full interview, click here.

Gibb aims for British Criterium Championship win

By Gerry McManus

Former world track silver medallist Tony Gibb (Plowman Craven RT) is keen to sign off his professional career with the gold medal at this week's British Criterium Championships. The 32 year-old is one of 70 riders heading to Beverley in East Yorkshire on Friday evening aiming to take home the title.

"This is my final year of racing and it would be great to sign off with a win in the championships," said Gibb. "It is what I have been working for in the last couple of weeks. I wanted to win the British 10-mile time trial championships but that didn't work out because Michael Hutchinson pulled out an absolutely outstanding ride and I finished second."

Gibb's career successes include a record four wins in the Eddie Soens Memorial race at Aintree, eight Track World Cup and multiple British Championship medals but Gibb won't let his personal ambitions outweigh those of a potential team victory. "There are a lot of people for us to look out for in the race," said Gibb. "We will just concentrate on our own game to set it up for one of our guys to win."

Gibb's team-mate James McCallum wears number one as the defending champion, but team orders could see him riding for Gibb. Gibb is clearly on form after he rode away from the entire field to win the Blackburn Grand Prix last week.

The hot British summer spell is expected to be cooled by showers on Friday to provide a little comfort for the riders competing in the high speed 70 minute plus five laps race. The 1.25 km circuit throws up a couple of long 90 degree bends, but nothing that would prove to be too advantageous for the short distance specialists. The long run up to the finish line could see all the big teams battling it out to deliver their nominated sprinters into a race winning position, if it should all end in a mass sprint for the line.

"There are only two tight corners on the Beverley criterium circuit and the back-straight is quite narrow," said Gibb. "It is not too twisty and we have got a 500m run in to the finish. If we can get it going really fast, that would really suit me."

Plowman Craven may have eight riders in the race but the powerful Rapha Condor Recycling squad will have 12 starters. The latter's squad includes 2008 sprint revelation Graham Briggs, Dean Downing, Kristian House and Simon Holt.

Pinarello could also provide the British champion through Russell Downing or Malcolm Elliott. At 47 years of age, Elliott still shows no sign of slowing down.

Rob Hayles (Team Halfords / Bike Hut) would dearly love to take the winners gold medal home to sit in the trophy cupboard next to the one he won in at the British Road Race championships last month. A double victory would provide some consolation for missing out on Great Briton selection for the Beijing Olympic Games.

It would take a brave man to bet on the winner coming from anyone else that the aforementioned top four teams. Ian Wilkinson (ScienceInSport-Trek) is the only United Kingdom regular to snatch victory from them in the major races this year and we can expect other spirited winning efforts from Dave Collins (ScienceInSport-Trek), Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport RT) and Pearl Azumi-Planet X's young trio of Liam Holoham, Stephen Adams and Jon Mozley.

Many of the riders are staying over in Yorkshire to ride the British Cycling calendar event of the East Yorkshire Classic on Sunday with 104 riders entered for the tough 98-mile race over the rolling terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. Russell Downing could clinch the series, with two events remaining, if he wins on Sunday.

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