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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, June 24, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams, Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

CSC-Saxo Bank announce Tour roster

Carlos Sastre will lead the squad
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Less than a week after announcing the addition of Saxo Bank as a joint title sponsor, Team CSC has revealed the riders it will take to next month's Tour de France. Spaniard Carlos Sastre will lead the Danish team once again as it hunts for a podium finish in the French Grand Tour.

"I think we could have taken two teams to the Tour de France, with so many good riders to choose from," said manager Bjarne Riis on "We have taken the nine sharpest riders and we hope we can meet our ambitions with them."

Luxembourgian brothers Andy and Fränk Schleck have been drafted into the roster as support for Sastre, while Stuart O'Grady will also feature in the roster. O'Grady has fully recovered after suffering from a horrific accident at last year's Tour, which ended the Australian's season.

"With Sastre and the two Schleck brothers, we have three riders who can sit among the best in the mountains and it will be extremely exciting to see how far they can go," Riis said. "I think we have a team that can be a factor in just about everything. With the results we've shown the past month, I am sure we're bringing a top-motivated team and we can look forward to the year's main goal."

Swiss time trial ace Fabian Cancellara will again feature in the team's roster, however the rider doesn't have the benefit of an opening prologue like previous years. German Jens Voigt will also take to the start line while Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen has been rewarded for his strong form with a start in the race which commences from July 5 in Brest.

"After last year's Giro, I learned that I could be good for three weeks. I take those lessons and will apply them to try to win the Tour someday," Andy said. "Carlos is the captain, everyone knows that. But everyone also knows that Fränk and I won't be the first ones going back to the team car to fetch water bottles."

Team CSC Saxo Bank Tour de France roster: Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Carlos Sastre (Spa), Andy Schleck (Lux), Fränk Schleck (Lux), Nicki Sørensen (Den), Jens Voigt (Ger), Stuart O'Grady (Aus), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) and Volodimir Gustov (Ukr).

Tour of Missouri announces host cities, stages

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

St Louis will host a circuit race this year
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Tour of Missouri is back for its sophomore year, and is not wasting any time in growing. An additional stage has been added to make it a seven-day affair through the 'Show-me state' from September 8-14. The first half of the race is very similar to last year, while the second half shows some potential for improvement.

One of the biggest criticisms of last year's route was the lack of any significant climbs to really separate the field. The time trial in Branson was the only true climbing stage, but not was hard enough to affect the overall. It was the rolling hills on the way into St. Charles that seemed to be the deciding factor. While there are no road stages through those Ozark mountains to go with the same time trial, a few more rolling stages after the Branson TT should make for more exciting racing.

"In response to surveying a lot of the cyclists from last year's race, we've made it a bit more challenging with some more hills," said Medalist's Sports' Jim Birrell. "While Missouri doesn't have any major mountains, it is a very hilly state. We have incorporated some of the big rollers within the state and come up with some very good courses. One of our course advisors was Kevin Livingston, originally from Missouri, who rode at a world class level in Europe for almost a decade and was a great climber. He pointed us in the right direction."

Obviously, not every rider is complaining of the lack of leg-breaking climbs. Toyota-United's sprinter Ivan Dominguez said in a statement: "As a sprinter, I like the flat terrain, so more hills are not necessarily so good for me. But, there are three good stages for me in Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis, so I am excited."

The race begins in the Kansas City area but in a slightly different start location in St. Joseph, while finishing in the same Kansas City location as last year, with some fan-friendly circuits. As mentioned above, the changes come following the Branson time trial with a rolling course from Lebanon to Rolla in the middle of the state – with race organisers claiming "six sizeable hills."

Stages five and six also look to have additional climbing as the race winds along the bluffs of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Finally stage seven will be the same downtown St.Louis circuit that earned positive reviews from last year, save for the final sprint crash. But that could be a moot point as the start/finish will be moved from Union Station to in front of City Hall at Tucker and Market streets.

"Again, the great state of Missouri will play host to these world class athletes from more than 20 countries this September," said Lt. Governor of Missouri Peter Kinder. "This year, we've worked to make the course more challenging and with a few new twists, including new terrain, new cities, homage to our Armed Forces on September 11th and another grand finale in St. Louis."

2008 Tour of Missouri stages and dates:
Stage 1 - September 8: St. Joseph - Kansas City, 90 miles Stage 2 - September 9: Clinton - Springfield, 126 miles Stage 3 - September 10: Branson (ITT), 18 miles Stage 4 - September 11: Lebanon - Rolla, 95 miles Stage 5 - September 12: St. James - Jefferson City, 108 miles Stage 6 - September 13: Hermann - St. Charles, 96 miles Stage 7 - September 14: St. Louis circuit race, 70 miles

Gerolsteiner for the Tour

German squad Gerolsteiner has decided on its nine riders who will contest the upcoming Tour de France. Markus Fothen and Bernhard Kohl will be the team's main men for the general classification while Robert Förster will look to mix it up in the sprint finishes. They will be supported by Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann and Oliver Zaugg.

The final selection was put together by Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer and Directeur Sportif Christian Henn, who said: "We tried to keep in mind that we will probably have to keep an eye on Markus Fothen and Bernhard Kohl in the overall ranking, and that there are some difficult stages in the final week. But we still want to take a sprinter along in Robert Förster, because we want to be involved in the sprints, too."

Gerolsteiner Tour de France roster: Markus Fothen, Bernhard Kohl, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lange, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann and Oliver Zaugg.

Post Tour fever begins

Will he or won't he? Tom Boonen is the centre of attention for the post-Tour crits
Photo ©: Tim Van Wichelen
(Click for larger image)

With the Tour de France starting in less than two weeks, talk of the post Tour criteriums has also begun. In Belgium the big question on everyone's lips is whether Tom Boonen, who is unlikely to contest the Tour this year after testing positive for cocaine in an out of competition test, will take part.

The Diksmuide criterium has announced its preliminary start list for the race on July 27. "The idea is that we get the winner of the Tour de France on the start line for our fourth edition," Denis Bolle, a spokesperson for the event, told HLN. "But it doesn't stop there. We also want the green jersey and the winner of the mountains competition."

Boonen has already won the criterium two of the three times it has been run, yet his participation is uncertain. "That is an open question," said Bolle. "If Boonen is granted a start in the Tour then he will be definitely racing with us. The most likely scenario is that Boonen won't depart from Brest and then we just have to wait to see how his programme shapes up as he prepares for the Worlds in Varese. With or without Tom we already have a strong field of riders contracted."

Even the event's poster has some symbolic reference to the troubled Belgian star. An image of an Angel and a Devil take centre stage in the advertisement. The Angel is clad in a green jersey, while the Devil is the infamous German who can be seen each year at the Tour de France.

"Our poster is symbolic in the light of the events of the past weeks," confirmed Bolle. "Young athletes are often elevated to the heavens in praise, but almost nobody will save them for the dangers of the stardom. The pressure and the temptations are great.

"In this view, we as organisers try to understand what Tom Boonen, dual winner of our criterium, has experienced," he added. "We certainly don't want to approve of what he has done, but we refuse to make an example of it. Tom Boonen is just like any other man, he deserves a second chance. It is up to him to erase the mistake he has made."

Diksmuide preliminary start list: Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Mark Cavendish (High Road), Erik Zabel (Milram), Andy Schleck (CSC), Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Ricardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott).

Cunego tops ProTour standings

Lampre's sprint sensation Damiano Cunego has taken over the lead in the ProTour standings after the Tour de Suisse. The 26 year-old finished fourth overall in the race and took the lead in the competition from Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), last year's ProTour winner, who dropped three places.

The Italian rider leads the standings with 104 points, eight more than the German Andreas Klöden (Astana), who finished second in Switzerland. The winner of the Swiss tour, Roman Kreuziger, moved into third overall some 10 points behind Cunego.

Astana leads the teams classification on 145 points, followed by Caisse d'Epargne on 127 while Team CSC holds third place with 126.

Dekker to ride Dutch championships

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) will take to the start of the Dutch national championship road race this Sunday after all, according to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Dekker had decided earlier to skip the title race in Ootmarsum to focus on his preparation for a possible Tour de France start.

In the Tour de Suisse Dekker was forced to abandon due to a lack of form. Dekker wrote on his website that he has changed his mind and will take part in the race for the red, white and blue jersey.

Dekker is hoping to play a role in the upcoming Tour de France but it is not yet known if he will be part of Rabobank's squad. That decision will be made later in the week.

La Ruta ready to pay out prize money

Riders await the 5.15 am start for last year's race.
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Organisers of Costa Rica's prestigious mountain bike race, La Ruta de los Conquistadores, have received confirmation from the Costa Rican Cycling Federation (FECOCI) that all doping tests from last year's edition have come back negative. The race took place from November 14-17, but it had taken until last week to have all the samples tested at a UCI accredited laboratory in Madrid where the federation conducts all its anti-doping analysis.

A total of 20 riders were tested in the 2007 edition of La Ruta, the only multi-stage mountain bike race in Costa Rica to implement such testing.

"We are now allowed to release the prizes to the top five finishers in each category. We are going to deliver more than $25,000 USD in both cash and gifts prizes; such as several amazing Fox Shox (suspension products)," said PR director Luis Rueda.

Race director Diego Víquez added: "I guess the time was finally worth it. We don't know why it took almost five months for them to examine and send out the results, but the important thing here is that all the racers that were tested turned out to be clean once again; all of them, local and non-local guys."

The five category winners from 2007, Federico Ramírez (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS), Susan Haywood (Trek-Volkswagen), William Valverde (Vedoba y Obando), Mike Charuk (Team Whistler) and Sandy Mitchell (Gerick Cycle Nelson) will all receive free entry to this year's race, to be held November 12-15.

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