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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, November 25, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Merckx hopes for Armstrong of 2005

Eddy Merckx, here in the 1969 season, hopes for a strong Lance Armstrong return
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Cycling's great Eddy Merckx wants to see the return of a dominating Lance Armstrong in the Giro d'Italia. The five-time Tour de France champion rated his chances high, but has concerns over the American's long break from racing, according to Tuttosport.

"Let's hope the return sees him win and not only to launch his foundation against cancer," said Merckx during a visit to Torino, Italy.

Merckx retired from cycling in 1978 at the age of 33. Pundits rate him as the most complete cyclist in the sport's history. USA's Armstrong, with seven overall wins, topped his record in the Tour de France.

Armstrong retired at the end of the 2005 Tour, but announced his comeback for the 2009 season this September. Merckx, who keeps in close contact with the Texan, believes it will be a tough battle in the Giro and the Tour.

"A three-year pause is a lot, but he is special. I know that he is training intensely. It will be a great battle and a beautiful occasion for the fans.

Armstrong will race under the direction of Belgian Johan Bruyneel at Team Astana. His team boasts Spaniard Alberto Contador, who is one of five riders – along with Merckx – to have won all three Grand Tours.

"Contador is an outstanding talent, a young rider with a lot of value and climber that goes strong in time trials. These are the qualities that make a difference."

Merckx previously stated in an interview that he did not believe Armstrong will race the Tour.

Contador recovers from surgery

Spaniard Alberto Contador's surgery a success
Photo ©: Unipublic
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Doctors at Ramón and Cajal hospital in Madrid successfully corrected a deviated septum in triple Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador's nose yesterday. They refrained from the removal of a small growth on his vocal cords after closer inspection.

"The doctors believed the scar that they would produce when uprooting the small [vocal cord] nodule would be more harmful than good," said Contador's brother, Fran. Doctors explained Contador can work with speech therapists to correct the vocal cord growth.

Contador – winner of the 2007 Tour de France and 2008's Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España – will be released from the hospital today. He will have discomfort for the next two days, but will be fit to attend the Team Astana training camp. It starts November 30 and is based in Tenerife, Spain.

Katusha prepares for debut

By Gregor Brown

Katusha Team Manager Stefano Feltrin, l, with Andre Tchmil and Oleg Tinkov
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Katusha is preparing for its first season with a training camp in mid-December. The Russian ProTour formation will meet in Southern Italy to plan 2009, which will likely include all three Grand Tours.

"We are working in a mode that will allow us to be invited [to the Grand Tours]. We are doing all we can to show to the organisers that – even if we are a ProTour licensed team – we can show well at the Grand Tours," said Team Manager Stefano Feltrin to Cyclingnews.

The Grand Tours and their associated races are on the historical calendar, which falls under the World Calendar with the ProTour races. The exact invitation process for the historical races is not clear at the moment.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) announced Katusha amongst a list of seven ProTour new or renewing teams yesterday. The team rose steadily as Tinkoff Credit Systems and, with a change of sponsors, it was able to sign top riders. The team boasts Filippo Pozzato, Robbie McEwen, Gert Steegmans and Vladimir Karpets.

The new signees will meet with the Tinkoff riders of 2008, like Russian Mikhail Ignatiev, at the first of its camps for the New Year.

"We will hold our first camp in the second week of December in Toscana, near San Vincenzo. We will have one in Spain in January too. We a have a team racing Tour Down Under and the rest will stay at the camp. We are not sure [of the exact dates]; we will also take a look at the calendar to decide."

Kohl "disappointed" with two-year suspension

Bernhard Kohl is "terribly disappointed" over the two-year doping suspension handed down yesterday by the Austrian Anti-Doping Agency. He called it "the wrong signal and the wrong direction."

"It doesn't seem to matter whether you say nothing or admit everything and give detailed information," he said to If they had reduced the suspension "by even one day ... then I would have seen the sense of my openness. But that didn't happen. Rather, the anti-doping fight has been thrown back, because there is obviously no interest in explanations."

The Austrian's suspension stems from two positive doping controls for EPO-CERA at the Tour de France this summer. He admitted using the drug and hoped for a reduced sentence. The ban is effective as of July 3, 2008.

Kohl said that he explained how he obtained the doping product, "and I am surely not the only one, who has got CERA in this way." This explanation "could be very worthwhile and helpful," but that wasn't acknowledged, he said.

He believes the agency made the decision too fast after the hearing – within a half an hour, but the anti-doping agency had previously reviewed the case details.

"He didn't name us any names, who helped him, so the punishment was clear," said Gernot Schaar, head of the anti-doping legal committee, to APA. He plans to send a copy of the hearing's transcript to public prosecutors. "Kohl gave information, which could lead to names being found out, with the appropriate research." (SW)

Luxembourg anti-doping agency schedules Schleck hearing

The Luxemburger National Anti-Doping Agency (ALAD) scheduled a session for December 9 to further discuss Fränk Schleck's case. The agency did not indicate whether the CSC Saxo Bank rider would attend, or whether it would announce a decision.

Schleck, 28, admitted to paying €6,991.91 to a Swiss bank account belonging to Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, centre of the Operación Puerto investigation. He denied any doping connection and said that the payment was for training plans, but that he broke off the contact before receiving any instruction. (SW)

Gesink and Vos Dutch cyclists of the year

Robert Gesink Dutch cyclist of the year
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Robert Gesink and Marianne Vos were named Dutch Cyclists of the year on Monday. Members of the Club 48 cycling club and the readers of Wieler Magazine voted for the awards.

Gesink, of Team Rabobank, finished top-ten in the Vuelta a España, the Olympic time trial race, the Olympic road race and the World Championship road race. He finished fourth overall in Paris-Nice after wearing the leader's jersey for two stages. The 22-year-old beat Lars Boom, who won last year, and Steven de Jongh for the title.

Vos won the title for the third year in a row, this time ahead of Willy Kanis and Suzanne de Goede. The 21-year-old with Team DSB Bank won 23 races this season. She also finished second in the World's road race.

Coen Vermeltfoort, 20, was named best young rider. His eight wins on the season included the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. (SW)

Italy's anti-doping prosecutor meets with Priamo

Italy's Matteo Priamo meets with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Matteo Priamo of Team CSF Group met with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri, yesterday in Rome. The two discussed the claims made by former teammate Emanuele Sella and products found at the riders home.

It was the second time Priamo, 26, has met with Torri. Sella named the winner of Giro d'Italia stage six as the supplier of his EPO during his hearing with CONI's prosecutors. Yesterday, the focus was on the products found at Priamo's home – cream and other anabolic steroid based pharmaceuticals – according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Priamo claims they belong to his mother, who was present at the meeting.

CONI is expected to deliver its recommended suspension for Priamo next week. It recommended a one-year suspension for Sella earlier this month; the sanction will be handed down by Italy's anti-doping tribunal December 1.

Ciolek and Wrolich prepare, Krauss searches

Gerald Ciolek and Peter Wrolich are going to opposite climates to train for their first season with Team Milram, while their former teammate Sven Krauss is still looking for a new team.

Ciolek, 22, took a two-week vacation in the Philippines and Thailand before starting his training. He was home in Germany for a few weeks, where he concentrated on jogging, inline-skating and the gym, according to his personal website. On Saturday he flew to Austria for two weeks for base condition training, including cross-country skiing. He will meet a number of his new teammates, including former Team Columbia teammate, Linus Gerdemann.

Gerolsteiner's "Paco" Wrolich, 34, took five weeks off after the season. Instead of the Alps, he selected the sun and warmth of South Africa for his training. Last year he didn't even take a full week off, he noted on his website. "It is going well, but the start is always difficult," he said.

Team Milram will hold its first training camp in Mallorca, Spain, next month.

Wrolich's former Gerolsteiner teammate, Sven Krauss, is still searching for a new team. He would like to stay in the sport for a few more years, the 25-year-old said on his website, but it is not easy to find a team. He had no luck with the ProTour teams and is now in contact with a few Professional Continental teams, but he is pessimistic about finding something. (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)

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