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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, June 16, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams

Valverde hails most important career victory

Valverde comfortably sealed overall victory
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde has shown himself as one of the firm favourites for the Tour de France after wrapping up a commanding victory at the 60th Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré on Sunday in Grenoble. The Spaniard kept a close eye on Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer throughout the mountain stages and will now seek to hold his form before the Tour de France start in Brest on July 5.

"This is the most important victory of my career so far," said Valverde. "Because of the prestige of this race but also because of the time of the year when it's held. This week allowed me to judge the condition of my adversaries. I came with a good condition myself after the training camp we had in the Alps."

His overall victory was backed up by two stage wins, including the 31 km individual time trial on stage three. But it was his third place in the prologue behind Levi Leipheimer and Thor Hushovd that gave him the motivation to perform so well in France.

"I did a phenomenal prologue," he said. "It gave the motivation for the next day and winning stage one gave me even more motivation. The time trial gave me the yellow jersey and I rode like Miguel Indurain did: after the time trial I controlled the situation."

Although the Tour de France has fewer time trial kilometres than most previous editions, Valverde was cautious about his chances, despite a dramatic improvement against the clock in recent years. "The Tour de France will be a different story because the time trial will be a very different one from the Dauphiné's," Valverde added.

"I'll take it day by day. Now I'll take a rest and try and maintain my condition towards the Tour de France. Winning the Dauphiné gives me the confidence for the Tour as well."

For full coverage from stage seven of the Dauphiné Libéré, click here.

Anton takes control of Tour de Suisse

By Susan Westemeyer

Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) proved to have the best legs at the top of the long climb to Flumserberg, as he broke away from his six remaining rivals to take the stage win by six seconds over Kim Kirchen (High Road) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre). Anton also took the leader's jersey from Oscar Freire (Rabobank) while pre-race favourite Andreas Klöden (Astana) lost 30 seconds on the final climb.

"When I finished second in the Euskal Bizkleta, I said that it is very difficult to win, and that one must take advantage of the opportunities," said the 25 year-old. "Today I have not failed. I am very thankful to my team-mates for the confidence that have shown in me.

"On the final ascent there were a lot of attacks. I knew that I had to be careful with people like Cunego," he added. "Kirchen is also fast... The last 300 metres seemed to me to never end, but I have achieved a very important victory for the team."

The stage was marked by rain and a long escape by Swiss AG2R rider Martin Elmiger. He left the peloton at km 39 and built up a maximum lead of 18 minutes before hitting the first climb in the middle of the stage. Once the climbs started, his lead gradually disintegrated, falling dramatically in the last 20 km until he was passed by the remains of the peloton at the start of the Flumserberg climb with 10 km to go.

That led to a furious finale, with the group of 30 or so, including all the favourites, slimming down to seven riders, with Anton sprinting out to take the win. Elmiger finished the day 155th of 158 riders, over 17 minutes down.

For more from the Tour de Suisse, click here.

Armstrong tips Evans for the Tour

By Gary Boulanger,

Lance Armstrong at the 2007 Tour de France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In an upcoming interview with Procycling magazine, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has tipped Cadel Evans as one of his favourites for the 2008 race, which starts in less than three weeks time. But with much of Armstrong's life in retirement spent away from the European cycling scene, the Texan said he no longer follows professional racing as much nowadays.

"I follow enough to be able to say that I do like Cadel Evans," said Armstrong. "He had a good ride last year, is riding well this year - that could be a good or a bad thing. I was never able to have a great spring, a great Classics season, and then be competitive in the Tour. It would be super-cool if someone could, so if he's able to do that and win the Tour - hey, that's great! I mean who else is there?"

On the subject of other Tour contenders, Armstrong was cool on the prospect of Damiano Cunego taking the Tour title back to Italy. "He'll never win the Tour. Those Tour climbs... he can't climb like that. And he can't time trial like that. And that's not a slap at him. He's a little guy. I just don't think he's a Tour rider.

"If I could pick one guy and say 'let's make this a project', I would pick Stijn Devolder. I think he can win the Tour some day. He can climb well enough, and he's lean, skinny, certainly can time trial. Tactically, I don't know, it's a little different from winning Tour of Flanders, but he's got a good team and smart guys around him so that should work.

"As far as the Americans go, I'd say we're at least a couple of years away. Those riders referred to as the Great White Hopes haven't really panned out. That's not a criticism of them, it's just that European cycling is just very different than the Tour of Georgia or Redlands or a VO2 test in the lab."

Asked about the exclusion of Astana from this year's Tour - the team managed by his former directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel - Armstrong described the decision as "a Johan Bruyneel/Lance Armstrong penalty".

"It's their race so they can do whatever they want," he said of Tour organiser ASO. "As for the decision to leave out Astana... at the same time they're allowing in a lot of other teams that are in the same situation, or certainly potentially in more of a 'devious' situation, or certainly more of a history. Astana 2008, aside from the sponsor, is certainly not anything like Astana 2007.

"That's simply a decision they took as a Johan Bruyneel/Lance Armstrong penalty. And if that's the way they want to run their event, they're going to be managing a very small group of people real soon. You can't make those decisions in world sport.

"And they have double standards by keeping in the CSCs and the Rabobanks, all the guys that have a laundry list of problems. If you want to kick one out, kick them all out. They're just playing games, and that's a disservice to the sport, to the fans, to the media, certainly to a guy like [2007 Tour winner] Alberto Contador. It's not fair.

"If they want to play games like kids, then play games, but the record will show that I think ASO and the sport of cycling was fairly, if not very, prosperous during our time winning seven. And the record will show that since then it has not done well. And I'm not taking any credit, I'm just saying, for the record, the facts are what they are."

For more Procycling, check out a sample copy here or subscribe here.

Evans back on top of ProTour standings

Cadel Evans is the new ProTour leader
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After eight rounds of the 2008 UCI ProTour series, Cadel Evans finds himself back in familiar territory with a narrow lead over Alejandro Valverde after the Dauphiné Libéré ended on Sunday. The 2007 ProTour champion has a two-point advantage over Valverde with another eight races remaining on the much reduced ProTour calendar. Evans' lead comes courtesy of two second place finishes at the Vuelta al País Vasco in Spain and the recent Dauphiné Libéré, while Valverde has scored points at the Amstel Gold Race and the Dauphiné.

After all the wrangling between the UCI and Grand Tour organisers, this year's ProTour calendar is markedly different with 16 races compared with 26 the year before, and does not feature any of the Grand Tours. The remaining eight events are the Tour de Suisse, Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian, GP Ouest France, Eneco Tour, Deutschland-Tour, Vattenfall Cyclassics, Tour de Pologne and a final one-day event entitled 'La Finale', details of which are still to be announced.

In the teams standings, Astana continues to stake its claim as one of the strongest teams in the peloton with a 17-point lead over Team CSC with Caisse d'Eparnge in third. Spain sits comfortably atop the nations ranking followed by Italy and Belgium.

For the complete ProTour rankings after the Dauphiné Libéré, click here.

Sastre satisfied with Dauphiné performance

Carlos Sastre climbs the Col de la Croix-de-Fer
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Despite finishing in a fairly anonymous 20th overall, more than 12 minutes behind Alejandro Valverde, Team CSC's Carlos Sastre has said his preparation for the Tour de France is still going according to plan. The Spaniard was unable to ride with the leaders through the mountains and showed no signs of an improvement in his time trialing, finishing 65th on the stage three race against the clock.

"I went to the Dauphiné not to contest the race, but to test my form and progress after previous races," said Sastre. "In that sense I'm happy because I know I have four and a half weeks before the critical stages of the Tour. In these four weeks I know I have to make a large progression but I will start the Tour with the possibility for victory."

Besides his own condition, Sastre also insisted he was not worried about the form shown by other riders in the Alps, such as Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans. "There were four riders who were well above everyone else," he said. "I soon realised this and decided not to contest the overall. At this point, if I see I have no possibility to win, then I do not take risks. For me it is very important to avoid falls and other incidents, and see that every day I was more at ease on the bike.

"I was not the only rider who has gone unnoticed in this race," he added. "There are others who talk a lot about the Tour but have been very quiet here."

Quick Step CEO pushing for Boonen in Tour de France

Team sponsor Quick Step has explained why it is so anxious for Tom Boonen to ride the Tour de France: it has already prepared a big publicity campaign for its laminate flooring products to run in France during the Tour with Boonen in the lead role. The company has already purchased the advertising time on French television.

Quick Step CEO Frans De Cock told the Belga press agency that he had asked Boonen privately after Wednesday's press conference whether he still wanted to ride the Tour. "He said explicitly, 'yes, I want to'. So I will do everything I can to make that happen." De Cock will meet with Tour organisers this week to discuss the matter.

"For a cycling sponsor, the Tour means half of the return for the year's investment. I need Tom Boonen. I think that Quick Step has contributed a lot to the sport."

UCI presents 2009 MTB World Cup calendar

While meeting in Snekkersten, Denmark last week, the UCI Management Committee approved its 2009 Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup calendar. The World Cup will make its first-ever triple discipline stop in Africa. Though Stellensbosh previously hosted a World Cup downhill race in 1997-1998, the continent gets its first combined cross country, downhill and four cross World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, next April. The home nation location will give recent World Cup downhill winner Greg Minnaar and cross country contender Burry Stander both chances to shine. The event will serve as the 2009 World Cup season opener.

In total, there will be eight rounds for each discipline, covering 12 sites on three continents. Elite international mountain bike competition will take place on four continents when also counting the 2009 World Championships which will be hosted in Canberra, Australia, next September. The UCI Marathon World Championships are set for August 23 in Graz, Austria, while the rest of the mountain bike disciplines will contest their World Championships from September 1-6 in Canberra, Australia.

Finally, the weekends of July 18-19 and 26-27 are set for nations to host their respective national championships.

UCI 2009 Calendar

April 11-12: Round 1 (XC/DH/4X), Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
April 25-26: Round 2 (XC), Offenburg, Germany
May 2-3: Round 2 (4X) / 3 (XC), Houffalize, Belgium
May 9-10: Round 2 (DH), Location TBD
May 16-17: Round 3 (DH/4X), Vallnord, Andorra
May 23-24: Round 4 (XC), Madrid, Spain
June 6-7: Round 4 (DH/4X), Fort William, Great Britain
June 20-21: Round 5 (DH/4X), Maribor, Slovenia
July 25-26: Round 5 (XC) / 6 (DH/4X), Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada
August 1-2: Round 6 (XC) / 7 (DH/4X), Location TBD
September 12-13: Round 7 (XC), Champery, Switzerland
September 19-20: Round 8 (XC/DHI/4X), Schladming, Austria

Other major MTB 2009 events

UCI Marathon World Championships, August 23, Graz, Austria
UCI XC/4X/DH World Championships, September 1-6, Canberra, Australia
National XC/4X/DH Championship Weekend, July 18-19
National Marathon Championship Weekend, July 26-27

Becker out with broken collarbone

Friday the 13th turned out to be unlucky for Charlotte Becker of Equipe Nürnberger. The 25 year-old broke her collarbone, and now is unsure whether she will be able to ride the German national time trial championships, which she won in 2006 and finished second in last year.

Her crash in the second stage of the Iuretta-Emakumeen Bira happened shortly before the finish line. "Suddenly a rider shot in front of me on the rain-wet street and slid out on a curve. That was totally unnecessary under those conditions," she said. "I had no chance to react. I'm always careful in the rain in order to avoid crashes. But that all happened so fast."

Becker had planned to ride both the time trial and the road race at the end of June in Bochum, Germany. "The time trial is always a highlight for me, and this year the road race is not far from my parents' house in Bochum. It is really too bad, but I haven't yet given up hope that it may work out," Becker noted.

The broken left collarbone was diagnosed in a Spanish hospital. She has since returned to Germany and will undergo further examinations in Berlin on Monday.

(Editorial assistance and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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