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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, September 10, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009

By Cyclingnews staff

Floyd Landis, 32, back with Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

USA's Floyd Landis, 32, will make his return to professional cycling after a two-year suspension with the team currently sponsored by Health Net-Maxxis, under a new title sponsor for 2009, sources confirmed with Cyclingnews. The team, run by Momentum Sports Group, has also re-signed many of its current riders, including two-time NRC champion Rory Sutherland, current USA cyclo-cross champion Tim Johnson and Karl Menzies.

"I cannot confirm or deny it," said Momentum's sponsorship director, Thierry Attias, regarding Landis' signing. However numerous other sources familiar with the team confirmed that the agreement is in place, with the new title sponsor's agreement forthcoming. Sources have said the new sponsor is from the health care industry. This aligns with current speculation that Smith & Nephew, makers of Landis' artificial hip and sponsor of his mountain bike endurance racing, is a possible title sponsor.

Landis did not return multiple requests for confirmation. Sutherland and Johnson did confirm they have signed contracts with Momentum. "I have re-signed a contract with Momentum for the next two years," Sutherland told Cyclingnews. "I have been guaranteed there is title sponsor money there. I don't know who the title sponsor is but it's not like it's a big myth, saying there is money when there isn't. I trust Thierry on that."

Landis is currently serving a two-year suspension for a positive test of exogenous testosterone from stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Landis went on to win the overall, but was stripped of that title after his appeal of the US Anti-Doping Agency's suspension was denied by the American Arbitration Association. The ASO and UCI named runner-up Oscar Pereiro as the official 2006 Tour winner soon after.

Landis lost his final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport CAS) in June, but the CAS did uphold that his suspension should run from when he officially stated his voluntary non-compete status – meaning that Landis will be free to race again as of January 30, 2009.

Rumours circulated early in 2008 that Rock Racing owner Michael Ball was interested in Landis, either as a racer or team director. Landis confirmed he was "advising" the younger riders and was seen with the team.

Armstrong Astana bound?

By Gregor Brown, with additional reporting by Bjorn Haake in Calahorra

Lance Armstong back with Johan Bruyneel and Alberto Contador?
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong is close to sealing his return to cycling with Johan Bruyneel's Team Astana. Bruyneel and Armstrong's relationship dates back to the 36 year-old's cancer comeback, before the two went on to win seven editions of the Tour de France.

"I spoke to Lance yesterday evening, and he confirmed that he wanted to make a comeback into professional cycling. I said to him, 'there are a lot of things we have to talk about. If you are a professional cyclist I can't imagine you would make a comeback with any other team.' ... I don't know if Lance can come back at the highest level. He has been training and keeping in shape, it is different than riding at the highest professional level," said Bruyneel Tuesday morning.

He noted yesterday that he believed Armstrong would race with his team. He added today, "I will talk to the sponsor today or tomorrow." The Belgian took over management and reorganised the team after its doping-related problems in the 2007 Tour with Alexander Vinokourov.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Tour, stated it was this 2007 link that led to the 2008 non-invite. The Luxembourg-registered team instead dominated the Giro d'Italia in May with Contador and looks in good position to do the same in the Vuelta a España, which concludes on September 21.

With an already impressive line-up of Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, could it be the case of too many cooks in the kitchen? Contador was quick to dispel any such idea. "I was surprised by the news." Contador thought that a return to the highest level would be difficult for Armstrong. "But I think it is good news for the sport. It will bring some fans back. ... Will I have problems being his teammate? No, what problems... If he returns I will open the door," he said.

Columbia on a roll in Missouri

By Kirsten Robbins in Springfield, Missouri

Mark Cavendish heading the Team Columbia charge
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

After winning its second consecutive stage victory at the Tour of Missouri, whispers that Team Columbia could possibly sweep every stage in the event are getting louder. With the help from a strong team effort, Mark Cavendish proved to be an untouchable force in the field sprint – with four more flat stages to come. With the sprinting prowess of the team proven, the only question remains is today's individual time trial, which will likely decide the overall classification.

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Cavendish predicted that he will not be wearing the yellow jersey after the time trial, but that he thinks it will most likely land on the back of one of his team-mates instead.

"I think that after tomorrow we'll have the top three spots on the GC," said Cavendish, who claimed it was only fair he deliver a good time trial considering he is wearing yellow. "We have George Hincapie, who is tremendous and who is also time trailing really well. He's one of the favourites.

"We've also got Mick Rogers, who is going really well after his illness," he continued. "He's three-time world champion in the time trial and no one's ever done that other than him. We also have Marco Pinotti and Michael Barry – we've got so many options that it's astounding."

With a roster like that, the leading team certainly has a realistic chance to win stage three. However, it will be a tall order to fill when considering the other time trial specialists in attendance. There are no time differences between top-notch soloists, as they are all currently sitting at 20 seconds behind Cavendish in the overall.

The 29-kilometre course is predominately uphill, ending with a four-kilometre ascent to the finish. This style of time trial will playing into the hands of teams like Garmin-Chipotle, which has strong climbers and time trialists ready to take the lead.

Such riders include Dave Zabriskie, who performed outstandingly to win the USA national championships held in Greenville, South Carolina, last week. The double national time trial champion will no doubt want to deliver another winning solo performance here in Missouri.

His team-mates include Christian Vande Velde, who is coming off a fifth place finish in the Tour de France, along with Danny Pate, a former U23 world time trial champion. There is also Tom Danielson, who has recently put together some strong performances in this discipline.

Other notables include Tom Zirbel (Bissell), runner up at the USA national championships and Jeff Louder (BMC), who recently won the overall at the Tour of Utah after a winning time trial finale. There are also a number of other strong performers like Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) and former US national champion, Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United).

Another crash takes out top sprinters in Missouri

By Kirsten Robbins in Springfield, Missouri

Tour of Missouri sees second incident to mar the finishing circuits
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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A second consecutive crash in two days took place when the peloton entered the Tour of Missouri stage two finale circuits. The accident eliminated some of the nation's top sprinters from a rare opportunity to challenge Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia.

"Accidents are a part of field sprinting," said Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast sprinter Alex Candelario, who was looking forward to testing his legs in a sprint against the stellar field. "The stages have been a little easier so I think there are people in the mix at the end who just don't have the handling skills to be there at that point of the race."

The crash happened as the riders approached the start of the final two finishing circuits when the sprinter teams rallied for good position at the front of the field. Approximately twelve riders went down, including Candelario and other notable sprinters such as Frank Pipp (Health Net-Maxxis) and Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home).

"We started to line up our train and when I looked back to see if all the riders were there, someone collided with me," said Haedo, a formidable sprinter who has just returned to the peloton after a broken wrist suffered at the Triple Crown series in June. "The bad luck just keeps continuing."

The accident did not only disrupt the sprinters, but also several riders in contention for the overall. Such riders included Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Chipotle) and Cesar Grajales (Rock Racing). Sutherland and Danielson rejoined the peloton with no time loss. However Grajales lost time in the overall battle.

"I went down yesterday and today," said Grajales, Rock Racing's general classification contender. "I don't know what caused the crash, but I just saw some riders went down in front of us and there was nothing we could do to avoid it. I was thinking that I could do a good time trial tomorrow because it is a very hilly course. But, after crashing twice in a row, I don't think so."

The crash was the second incident to mar the finishing circuits, after the previous stage's upset. All riders involved escaped severe injuries with the only loss for some being that of the time on general classification.

Reus returns to racing

By Susan Westemeyer

Kai Reus in 2006
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

The headlines these days belong to the comeback of Lance Armstrong, but over in the Tour of Missouri another rider is celebrating a lower-key comeback from a life-threatening crash. Team Rabobank's Kai Reus is racing again for the first time in 15 months in the Tour of Missouri, after recovering from head injuries suffered last year.

"Kai finished the first two stages in the bunch, without problems," Team Rabobank spokesman Luuc Eisenga told Cyclingnews. As to the the 23 year-old Dutchman's future, he said, "Everything will depend on how he is feeling. We will take it race by race."

Reus crashed while training in July 2007. He was not wearing a helmet and suffered head wounds serious enough to place him in an induced coma for 12 days.

The team continued to support Reus during his convalescence. Last month, Reus said he hoped to return to racing after training this summer with the Rabobank Continental team.

Quick Step signings

Team Quick Step announced Italian Matteo Tosatto extended with the team for another two years and that it signed Italian Francesco Redo for two years.

Tosatto, 34, joined Quick Step in 2006 and won a stage in the Tour de France that year. He started this season off on a high note, taking the first leader's jersey in the Tour of Qatar when he led his team over the finish line in the opening team time trial.

"I'm satisfied," Tosatto said, according to a team press release. "With this team I've found the ideal environment in which to race and give it my best. This choice allows me to play an important part on the Tom Boonen train. He's one of the best sprinters in the world. This was the technical guarantee I was hoping for."

Team manager Patrick Lefevere was also satisfied. "Thanks to Tosatto and De Jongh's renewals, together with the arrival of Marco Velo and the growth of some of the athletes who've been with us for a while, like Rosseler, the team machine we've built around Tom Boonen is shaping up to be one of the best on the international cycling scene".

The newcomer to the team is 24 year-old Reda, who now rides for Team NGC Medical – OTC Industria Porte. This summer, he placed second in the Trofeo Matteotti behind Paolo Bettini and finished second in the Giro de Romagna this past weekend behind Enrico Gasparotto. He signed a two-year contract with the Belgian team.

"Reda was among the best in some of the most important Italian summer classics," said Lefevere. "We think he could be an athlete with lots of potential and useful to the team work." (SW)

Lampre signs Mori

Team Lampre announced today that it signed Italian Manuele Mori for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The 28 year-old from Empoli, Toscana, will race along side Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Ballan, Enrico Gasparotto and brother Massimiliano.

"I am very happy," Mori, winner of the 2007 Japan Cup, said in a press release. "Thanks to Lampre for its faith in what was a difficult year for me; I hope to repay them in the next two years.

The Italian ProTour team strengthened itself with the signing of Gasparotto last month. Both Italians are able to support Cunego and Ballan, and vie for their own wins.

"Manuele is a rider with character ... able make the escapes often," confirmed Team Manager Giuseppe Saronni.

Eeckhout looking for a new team

Niko 'Rambo' Eeckhout looking for 2009 team
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Niko Eeckhout joins the list of riders looking for a new team. His current team, Topsport Vlaanderen, told the 37 year-old "that I am too old, which shows a lack of class," he said, according to Gazet van Antwerpen. "On the other hand, it doesn't surprise me."

He is not ready to stop riding, though. "I am still too good to stop. There are already some teams that are interested in me." 'Rambo' Eeckhout added, "It is Vlaanderen's right to not want me, but the manner in which they did it was not good."

Team Manager Christophe Sercu said, "Even if I have worked well with Niko for more than ten years, his time is up. Vlaanderen is definitely now more than ever working with young riders. Unfortunately, a man of almost 38 no longer fits in that profile." (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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