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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 28, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Valentino Fois passes away

By Gregor Brown

Valentino Fois
Photo ©: Daniel Schamps
(Click for larger image)

Italian Valentino Fois was found dead this morning at his home in Villa d'Almè (Bergamo). The cause of death is not clear, but according to early reports the 34 year-old succumbed to a seizure.

Fois made his professional debut in 1996 with Panaria, and was best known as a domestic for Marco Pantani. After a three-year ban for doping in October 2002 by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), he faced personal problems, including depression, alcohol and drug use. However, a new page had been turned last fall when he signed for Ivano Fanini's Amore & Vita-McDonald's Continental team and immediately started racing.

Cyclingnews extends its condolences to Fois' family and friends, and will report further details as they become available.

Wildcards for Tinkoff to Spring Classics

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Team Tinkoff "has been granted the opportunity to participate in cycling's most prestigious spring classics, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège," the Professional Continental team announced Friday. ASO issued invitations to the team for all three races, which general manger Stefano Feltrin called "evidence that the race organisers are confident in our ability to aggressively animate and pursue a final victory in these events.

"We had hoped of racing at least one of the major Classics races this season, and the fact that we have been invited to three events is tremendous," Feltrin said. "For our team, it is without a shadow of doubt an important benchmark in reference to our position in the sport, and a motivational factor for us to perform to the utmost of our ability in order to confirm the confidence the ASO has extended to us."

Rabobank climbs into Top Ten

Team Rabobank climbed its way into the top ten Thursday in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. Thomas Dekker finished third on the queen stage, Denis Menchov fifth and Bauke Mollema sixth, with all three riders also claiming these positions in the overall rankings. In addition, the Dutch ProTour team took over the lead in the team classification.

With three kilometres to go, race leader Alberto Contador broke out of an escape group which included, among others, the three Rabo riders. Menchov stayed behind to help Dekker, who is the team captain in the race. "Denis could have stayed with Contador; that is how well he was riding," Dekker told team leader Adri van Houwelingen, according to the team's website.

According to Van Houwelingen, "Denis was the best rider of our team today, and perhaps even the best rider of the stage. Thomas has had to say 'stop' multiple times during the final kilometre. But, Thomas is also making a good impression. The tests of both men have been more than satisfactory."

Van Houwelingen was also happy with the 21 year-old Mollema, who previously finished third in the race's second stage. "I am convinced that Bauke will again make a good impression on Friday. His ability to recover is perfectly in order and he is riding an excellent race. I have also told him that he should take into account and consider from whom he rode away today. That is a long list of world-class riders. Surely, this is not a vital tour, but there are a couple of cannons riding around here. The first three of the last Vuelta, the number one and three of the Tour, the mountain king of the Tour and a couple of other top-class cyclists."

Steegmans recovering

Quickstep's Gert Steegmans is still recovering from his close encounter with a tractor in Dwars door Vlaanderen. He will decide later on Friday whether he will ride the E3 Prijs Saturday. "I don't feel super, but I don't feel that bad either," he told Sporza.

He is still having trouble with his back and left leg. On Thursday "it was possible to train a bit, but even the doping inspectors were able to catch me." If Steegmans is unable to ride on Saturday, his place will be taken by Carlos Barredo, the team said.

Österreich Rundfahrt "Olympic preparation race"

Even in July, Austria's mountain passes can be quite cold
Photo ©: world of cycling
(Click for larger image)

The 60th Österreich Rundfahrt doesn't fear being scheduled opposite the Tour de France this year. It is billing itself as the ideal preparation for the Beijing Olympics, and can count on the presence of none other than World and Olympic Champion Paolo Bettini. The race, which was presented Thursday evening, is being held July 6-13, and covers more than 1,000 kilometres.

For the first time, the event will spend its first two days outside of Austria. It starts with a 3.3 km prologue in Klausen/Chiusa, Italy, and the first stage runs from Klausen to winter sports resort Cortina d'Ampezzo. Arriving in Austria the next day, the riders will finish atop the Kitzbüheler Horn. Stage three is the Queen stage, with five ranked climbs, including the legendary Grossglockner. The race then winds its way through Austria, with a 25.9 km individual time trial on the penultimate day, before ending in Vienna.

The race will feature nine ProTour teams, and is looking forward to some "internationally famous cyclists, who are specifically preparing for the Olympic games in Beijing," according to race director Ursula Riha. One of those is World Champion Paolo Bettini of Team Quickstep. In a video shown at the presentation, he said, "I have good memories of Austria and especially of the World Championships in Salzburg 2006 and want to be in the Rundfahrt. I hope that I can give a spectacular impression."

The Österreich-Rundfahrt details as follows:

July 6: Prologue - Klausen/Chiusa (Italy)/ITT, 3.3 km
July 7: Stage 1 - Klausen - Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy), 145 km
July 8: Stage 2 - Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) - Kitzbüheler Horn/Alpenhaus, 180.6 km
July 9: Stage 3 - Kitzbühel - Prägraten am Großvenediger, 183.7 km
July 10: Stage 4 - Lienz - Wolfsberg, 212.8 km
July 11: Stage 5 - Wiener Neustadt - Bad Vöslau, 179.7 km
July 12: Stage 6 - Podersdorf am Neusiedlersee/EZF, 25.9 km
July 13: Stage 7 - Podersdorf am Neusiedlersee - Wien (Rauthausplatz), 128.5 km

Total length: 1,059.5 km

9th San Dimas stage race kicks off

By Kirsten Robbins in Glendora, California

The 9th annual San Dimas Stage Race's three day event is set to kick off on Friday March 28, 2008 where the North American men and women teams are certain to test their strength, skills and camaraderie before heading over to the prestigious Redlands Classic held the following weekend.

Events include a preliminary Glendora Chevrolet Mountain time trial, a twisty 3.8-mile scale up the beautiful and scenic Glendora mountain pass with elevation gains of 1375 feet.

Saturday holds stage two, that will present the riders with numerous grueling laps of a seven-mile circuit presented by the San Dimas Hospital, totaling fifty-six miles for the pro ½ women's field and eighty-four miles for the pro 1 men's field. Not only does the circuit cater to the climbers offering KOM sprints every other lap, but it also gives the sprinters their chance to shine in the hot spot sprints on each alternate lap.

If the race has not sorted itself out by Sunday, it just might in the Cannondale Incycle's finale criterium held in Old Town San Dimas. The six-corner speed way offers one shallow climb through the mid section on the course and an equally graded descent down toward the finish line.

An action packed pro 1 men's race is assured given the over flowing 140 riders registered. Riders expecting success include Cuban Luis Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home), former US national time trial champion Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), Ben Brooks (Team Type 1), Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing), as well as Trent Wilson (Jittery Joes).

On the women's side, Team High Road as sent a stacked roster to include US national champion Mara Abbott, who will have the opportunity to debut her climbing prowess in the preliminary mountain top time trial. Other promising riders include Leigh Goldstein (Value Act Capital), Kathleen Billington (Team Rock), Emilia Fahlin (High Road) and Gabriela Gonzalez-Farrat (Bicycle John's).

Kelly Benefit Strategies warms up

The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team are breaking camp in San Bernardino, California on Friday to take on the three-day San Dimas, California stage race. The team's lineup will serve as a test and warm-up ahead of the Redlands Classic where riders will support team-mate Andrew Bajadali in his defense of his 2007 champion title.

"We're geared up and looking forward to San Dimas," said Jonas Carney, performance director. "It's a perfect combination of hill work, road race endurance and some fast technical corners in the downtown stage three criterium that should help our guys get their game in place for Redlands next week."

The San Dimas roster includes Alex Candelario, new to the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team in 2008 and winner of stage four of Redlands in 2007, Keven Lacombe, back in the saddle after a collision with a team car during the Tour of California, plus all-rounders Jonny Sundt, Mark Hinnen, Justin Spinelli and Nick Waite. Ben King, Junior TT and Road Race Champion in 2007 and David Veilleux, Canadian U23 2007 Road Race Champion complete the eight-man roster.

"It's a strong lineup," added Carney. "We're not just warming up for Redlands - we're here to race and win too."

Hushovd ready to protest for Tibet

Norwegian pro Thor Hushovd is the first cyclist to openly address the repression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government. Speaking to Norwegian media, the Crédit Agricole rider wasn't afraid to take a political stance and declared himself ready to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer, should the conflict still be unsolved by August.

"As athletes, we don't have any particular responsibility to react to what is happening in China, but we can have a certain influence in skipping the opening ceremony in Beijing," Hushovd said. "That would be a form of protest, and I would be ready to do it."

The Tibetan people have claimed independence of China for more than half a century. Recently, violence escalated again between demonstrating Tibetan monks and Chinese police forces. It is not known how many people exactly died, since foreign media are not allowed in the region. Human rights issues, as well as the freedom of press during the Beijing Olympics have raised a number of concerns in Europe and North America since the attribution of the Olympic Games to Beijing.

Team line-ups for upcoming races

The season is moving into full swing, with the weekend featuring not only the opening of the Belgian Spring Classics, with the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday and the Brabantse Pijl on Sunday, but also the Criterium International in France. The Belgian races will feature such riders as Quick Step's Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini, Milram's Erik Zabel and Barloworld's Enrico Gasparotto. The Criterium International can look forward to U23 World Champion Peter Velits of Milram, Lampre's Damiano Cunego, and Mauricio Soler of Barloworld.

Milram for the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl: Christian Knees, Erik Zabel, Fabio Sabatini, Markus Eichler, Martin Müller, Martin Velits, Niki Terpstra and Ralf Grabsch.

Astana for the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: Koen De Kort, René Haselbacher, Serguei Ivanov, Aaron Kemps, Dmitriy Muravyev, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär and Tomas Vaitkus.

Astana for Brabantse Pijl: Antonio Colom, Koen De Kort, René Haselbacher, Serguei Ivanov, Benoît Joachim, Aaron Kemps, Berik Kupeshov and Dmitriy Muravyev.

Quick Step for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Stijn Devolder, Kevin Hulsmans, Gert Steegmans, Matteo Tosatto, and Wouter Weylandt.

Quick Step for De Brabantse Pijl: Carlos Barredo, Paolo Bettini, Dmitry Grabovskyy, Addy Engels, Sébastien Rosseler, Kevin Van Impe, Giovanni Visconti, and Maarten Wynants.

Barloworld for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Brabanste Pijl: Enrico Gasparotto, Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke, Diego Caccia, Daryl Impey, Paolo Longo Borghini, Hugo Sabido and Carlo Scognamiglio.

Barloworld for Driedaagse De Panne: Enrico Gasparotto, Robert Hunter, Baden Cooke, Diego Caccia, Daryl Impey, Paolo Longo Borghini, Patrick Calcagni and Carlo Scognamiglio.

Barloworld for Criterium International: Mauricio Soler, John-Lee Augustyn, Francesco Bellotti, Patrick Calcagni, Félix Rafael Cárdenas, Giampaolo Cheula, Christopher Froome and Christian Pfannberger.

Lampre for Criterium International: Damiano Cunego, Matteo Bono, Robert Longo, Mirco Lorenzetto, Mauro Santambrogio, and Paolo Tiralongo.

Milram for Criterium International: Andriy Grivko, Brett Lancaster, Dominik Roels, Elia Rigotto, Matej Jurco, Peter Velits, Sebastian Schwager and Sergio Ghisalberti.

Euskaltel-Euskadi for Criterium International: Mikel Astarloza, Egoi Martínez, Iñigo Landaluze, Jorge Azanza, Iban Velasco Murillo, Josu Agirre Aseginolaza, Aitor Hernández and Antton Luengo.

Coming up: Australian Schools Cycling Cup

The inaugural Australian Schools Cycling Cup will be taking place on April 23, 2008. The field for the new event, which is designed to engage schools in a team dedicated cycling event, has been filled and a waiting list is accumulating.

Event director, Susan Stewart, looks forward to being able to build on the interest for future years. "Being a brand new initiative, I kept the first year reasonably small (150 participants) to ascertain the level of interest out there," she explained. "However, I've been really pleased at the enthusiasm from the schools and have already filled the places for the event."

Stewart and her partner David McKenzie planned the event since their return from Europe after McKenzie's retirement from professional cycling. "I noticed a big gap in the style of racing that was being promoted in Australia," Stewart said. "Cycling is very much team-focussed in Europe, where as here, aside from the big races, it was mostly individual. Although that is changing, I thought a good place to start was with the schools."

The event will emulate the categories of big tours with a yellow, green and polka dot jersey and will be conducted solely as a team event with no individual honours. Still, every team member must contest an individual time trial and a road race, while three team members will then complete a teams' time trial.

"There is a lot of strategy and tactic in teams racing and it is a great opportunity for kids to understand and compete in this style of racing," technical manager McKenzie highlighted. "The racing is tough and the kids have to be able to compete across a range of disciplines. The event is deliberately structured to ensure all team members must contribute to the team unit. We all know Lance Armstrong as an overall winner, however, it is good for students to start to understand how a team supports the team leader to get into a winning position."

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