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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 19, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Eric Boyer: in the line of fire

The head of the teams association is caught in the middle of the political battle on the ProTour

By Hedwig Kröner

Eric Boyer wants his team to race, for that's why it is a racing team
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image) Eric Boyer the team manager of Cofidis

The conflict surrounding the ProTour, the International Cycling Union's (UCI) reform of the road cycling calendar, started in the beginning of 2004. Four years ago, when the sport's world governing body announced its plans for the Formula 1 of cycling, the French race organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) already protested against the series, and it was not alone to do so. The project created polemics within all sides involved in pro cycling: race organisers, national federations, sponsors and, last but not least, the teams.

The most important representative of the ProTour teams at the moment is Frenchman Eric Boyer, Cofidis' team manager and head of the Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (AIGCP), who admitted to Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner that his job in the teams association hasn't been easy since he took the reins at the beginning of this year. Especially, since the power struggle between UCI and ASO escalated prior to Paris-Nice, with UCI president Pat McQuaid threatening the teams and riders with suspensions, should they take part in the race, which was sanctioned by the French cycling federation (FFC).

"I'm going to lose my health over this, if it continues in this way," Boyer told Cyclingnews in Nice. "I don't want to take sides in this battle. I don't want to judge the parties involved – I want to be completely independent. I want the UCI and the organisers to understand that we [the teams] exist, and that we're not a ping pong ball between the two sides."

Boyer, a former team-mate of Greg Lemond at Team Z in the early nineties, was firm to address the main objective of the teams, and the biggest reason they did not give in to the pressure exerted by the UCI, but chose to take the start line of the event organised by ASO: "We want to race. We have our employers, the sponsors; we have employees, the riders. We exist to race, nothing else..."

But although this sounds as if it was self-evident, it is actually the bottom line of a "very complicated, and very difficult" attempt to unite all of the 17 ProTour teams (out of 20) the AIGCP represents. On one hand, team managers bought a ProTour license which was to guarantee them automatic entry to the most important races – something the Grand Tour organisers are adamant about – and on the other, they have to explain this standoff situation to their sponsors, who pay them to produce high-valued media exposure. According to their target audiences in different countries, the interests of the teams can be quite different to one another.

Read the entire news feature here.

Last year's Nokere winner now world traveler

Leon Van Bon is now with the Trek Marco Polo team, enjoying other parts of the world
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Today, the 63rd edition of Nokere Koerse will take place, and one rider not on the start is defending champion Leon van Bon. After the end of his stay with Rabobank, van Bon decided to join the Marco Polo team, which has the quest to help riders from non-cycling countries get a chance to ride to the limelight. However, they did not get an invitation for Nokere Koerse.

Van Bon told Sportwereld that the non-invite is "not a problem. I am having fun in other parts of the world." Still, it can't detract from the pain he is feeling by not getting his contract renewed at Rabobank. "[In 2007] I had the same amount of placings than in previous years," van Bon pointed out. He was generally racing as a domestique, so opportunities like in the 2007 Nokere Koerse, where he won after a solo effort, do not always come by easily.

Trying to find a new team wasn't easy, either. The 36 year-old Dutch champion of 2005 often heard the answer that he is "from the rotten generation. The generation of the dopers. Well, that's the opinion of the masses and as a rider you are helpless against it." After the ProTour teams opted for the younger riders, the only option left would have been a Continental team, "but with all due respect to Nokere Koerse, I didn't want to make that the highlight of my season," said the twice-Tour de France stage winner.

So van Bon opted for Asia, where his passion for cycling and photography could find new objectives. He is acting as a directeur sportif, together with compatriot Bart Brentjens. Most of their races are on Asian soil, such as the Tour de Langkawi, where many European professionals race. Yan Xing Dong got third on stage 3 of this year's edition. Fuyu Li finished ninth in the Asian rider classification.

The Marco Polo diaries will soon start up again on Cyclingnews. To recap their 2007 season, read the archived entries.

Grabsch takes a hike

By Susan Westemeyer

Bert Grabsch (High Road) is usually strong in the time trials, but is suffering the aftermath of a sinus infection
Photo ©: João Dias
(Click for larger image)

Bert Grabsch is 32 years old and has been a pro cyclist for 10 years, so he thought he had seen it all. But the Team High Road rider had a new experience in the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico last week.

"That has never before happened to me in my whole career," he wrote on his website, "I climbed down from my bike and marched 100 metres by foot up the Montelupone. The cause was the crash of a motorcycle directly in front of our group. I had to get off and decided just to continue walking. It was a bad mountain. But it was fun to walk up it. I took this premiere with humour."

It's a good thing he kept his sense of humour. "Actually, Tirreno-Adriatico was supposed to be my first season highlight." But since he was recovering from a severe sinus infection, he knew things wouldn't go as planned. "Things went well on the flat, but I just wasn't strong enough on the climbs. I had especially hoped for a better result than 18th in the time trial. I was disappointed, but knew that I couldn't expect any miracles."

Grabsch's next race will be next Monday, Rund um Köln.

Elk Haus invited out of Henninger Turm

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Elk Haus Simplon has had its invitation to the Rund um den Henninger Turm on May 1 cancelled. The reasons given range from doping suspicions to financial problems to the fact that the Austrian Professional Continental team is not a member of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC).

The team finds it doubly insulting in light of the fact that its rider Björn Thurau, a Frankfurt native, was invited to attend the press conference announcing the race. "It's illogical for sure," admitted race organiser Bernd Moos-Achenbach to the Austrian newspaper, Die Presse. He said that only teams which were members of the MPCC and German Professional Continental teams would be invited, but this announcement apparently came after the Netherlands agency Cycling Service had already signed an appearance contract with the Austrian team. The newspaper further noted that both Team Milram and Team High Road are expected to participate, although neither is a member of the MPCC.

"We are being sacrificed," complained Elk Haus' Sport Director Bernhard Rassinger, who suspected that German TV sender ARD was behind the action. His suspicions in that direction go back to the Deutschland Tour last year, when his team was un-invited at the last minute, but was able to participate due to a preliminary injunction. "There is nothing against us," Rassinger said, and added that he would have to think about whether to put out the money for the bio passports. "Then it will be before the Deutschland Tour just like it is here at Frankfurt. ARD will say, 'we don't want Elk Haus', and I will have thrown the money away."

Women's World Cup in Varese looming

The profile of the World Cup race
Photo ©: Trofeo Binda
(Click for larger image)

The native area of Alfredo Binda will play host to a major event on March 24, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio. It also happens to be the next round of the Women's World Cup. Easter Monday will see the top women fight it out for the World Cup standings, currently led by American Katheryn Mattis (Webcor Builders Cycling Team), following her surprise win in Geelong, Australia. Matthis and Australian Emma Rickards were in a two-women break and could not be caught by the peloton. Due to a broken collarbone, the American will not be able to defend her lead.

This will be first of two major events in this area for the year, with the World Championships in Varese, nestled in northern Italy between Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como, coming at the twilight of the season. The race started in 1974, but it is the tenth year as the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and what better way to celebrate it than with hosting a World Cup, with the top women on the start. The teams confirmed to the event include Team High Road, Team DSB Bank, Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung, Menikini – Selle Italia, Bigla Cycling Team, Cervelo Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team, Team Halfords Bikehut, Team Flexpoint, Safi Pasta Zara Manhattan, Cycling Team Titanedi- Frezza Acca Due O, AA – Drink Cyclin Team, Gauss RDZ Ormu, Vrienden Van Het Platteland, USC Chirio Forno D'Asolo, Team Specialized Designs For Women, Fenixs, Giant Pro Cycling, Lotto – Belisol Ladies Team, Team Pro Feminin Les Carroz, S.C.Michela Fanini Record Rox, Team CMAX Dila, Swift Racing, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo Raxy Line, Bizkaia Durango, Team Uniqua and Pol Aqua.

The route is 121 kilometres in length. A first loop will have to be done twice, with the QOM points given at Rancio Valcuvia, in Brinzio. In the final laps, the climb of Cuvio ad Orino has to be tackled three times, before the finish line relieves the riders. Recent winners include Nicole Cooke, who won in 2005 and is also the defending champion. Regina Schleicher took the honours in 2006 and Australian Oenone Wood in 2004. Diana Ziliute won in 2003. Also at the start line will be 2001 winner Nicole Brändli.

Other notable riders include Noemi Cantele, who virtually rides at home, 2006 junior winner and current world champion Marta Bastianelli, Yulia Martisova, the last Italian winner Fabiana Luperini (2000) and Edita Pucinskaite. Giorgia Bronzini, the bronze medal winner of the Worlds in Stuttgart, will give her season debut on Monday.

Caisse d'Epargne announces line-up for Primavera

Caisse d'Epargne will ride Milano-Sanremo with Arnaud Coyot, Imanol Erviti, Iván Gutiérrez, Vladimir Karpets, Pablo Lastras, Luis Pasamontes, Joaquím Rodríguez and José Joaquín Rojas. The team, which is likely to be in an attack via Karpets towards the end of the race, is lead by José Luis Jaimerena.

A day later, they will head to Cholet Pays De Loire in France, with Alejandro Valverde, Anthony Charteau, Mathieu Drujon, Alberto Losada, Fabien Patanchon, Mathieu Perget and Nicolas Portal. Directeur sportif will be Yvon Ledanois.

Successful Living off to good start

Successful Living at the front
Photo ©: Successful Living
(Click for larger image)

The Successful Living Pro Cycling Team kicked off its 2008 season at the Sequoia Cycling Classic 40-kilometre time trial on Saturday and a 90-minute criterium on Sunday. They earned a second-place finish in the criterium by Cody O'Reilly and an eighth place in the race against the clock by junior Michael Grabinger.

The team started the week with an intense training camp in Ventura, California, where they logged an average of five to six hours per day in the saddle. The time trial in Exeter, California, was a long out-and-back course that would give a preview of the fitness levels of the competition in the early season. "I really wanted to get on the podium but I gave it everything and even after a 40-hour ride week I was less than 30 seconds off my goal, so you can't be disappointed with that," said Grabinger. Successful Living placed four riders in the top 20, which was the most of any team represented.

On Sunday's criterium, most major domestic pro teams were present and the pace was blazing from the start gun. With constant attacks the peloton was single-file for most of the race. Successful Living was represented in every serious move with Curtis Gunn, Brian Jensen and Grabinger.

20 laps to go, new team member Charles Dionne was involved in a nasty crash and unfortunately broke his elbow. The original plan to set up Dionne for the finish shifted to plan B with the team quickly regrouping and working for the team's young gun, Cody O'Reilly.

In the end, the battle of the lead-out trains began. In the final lap, it was Successful Living and Colavita/Sutter Home side-by-side, leaving their designated sprinters to finish the job. Cody O'Reilly was narrowly beaten by Sebastian Haedo of Colavita/Sutter Home. "The team was amazing!" said O'Reilly. "They gave it everything and I could not have done this without them. You are going to be seeing a lot of our team this year on the front!"

Next on tap is the San Dimas stage race, March 28th-30th.

German Bundesliga starts without radios

With Cottbus-Görlitz-Cottbus, a 190-kilometre race on Easter Monday, March 24, the German Bundesliga season will start. Due to the new UCI ban of radios in U23 races, the teams will have to revert to the old style of racing. The directeur sportif of the Thüringer Energie Team, Jens Lang, explained that "In the last races we emphasised for the riders to be close to each other, so that they can communicate." Thüringer Energie Team is optimistic for Monday. They are the defending champion of the Bundesliga teams overall title.

The UCI is hoping that the U23 will be less tactical and that the independence of the athletes will be developed better. Lang added that "The best will win anyway, the rule won't change that ... A hierarchy for the team is necessary. There has to be one who calls the shots during the race. But sure, I will give instructions from the side of the road or from the team car, when they get bottles." Lang was also quick in pointing out that a safety aspect has been lost. "I used the radio to give information about the route." Construction zones, a narrowing road or a dangerous descent – things he can't warn the riders from anymore as conveniently. The athletes will once again have to watch out for themselves.

Despite being the defending champion, Lang saw other teams in the advantage. "Team Ista started the season very early in Malaysia ... Team Lamonta has last year's winner Sebastian Forke and German champion Dominic Klemme. There are other teams who have to deliver." But Thüringer Energie will bank on its sprinter, Philipp Klein, on the flat course. He finished eighth in the final sprint in the recent Istrian Spring Trophy, in Croatia.

Thüringer Energie Team will ride with Florian Frohn, Oliver Giesecke, Marcel Kittel, Karsten Heß, Philipp Klein, Lucas Schädlich, Marcel Barth and John Degenkolb.

The races of the 2008 Bundesliga season are as follows:

March 24 - Cottbus-Görlitz-Cottbus
May 18 - Harz-Rundfahrt
June 6 - Passau (German hill climb championships)
June 27 - Lucka (German time trial championships)
June 29 - Chemnitz
July 20 - Velbert
August 16 - GP Rheinhessische Schweiz
August 17 - lsfeld-Auenstein
September 9-14 - Brandenburg-Rundfahrt
October 4-5 - Büttgen (track event)

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