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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, September 22, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Gerolsteiner's forgotten riders

By Susan Westemeyer and Gregor Brown

Italian Francesco De Bonis, 26, celebrates after his win in the Tour de Romandie celebrates
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team Gerolsteiner placed two of its Italian riders on the inactive list early this season and forgot about both riders soon after. While it announced Andrea Moletta's case at the time, when his father was involved in a doping raid during the Giro d'Italia, nothing was ever made public about the fate of Francesco De Bonis.

De Bonis, 26, is a first year professional who joined to the team upon the recommendation of Davide Rebellin. He rode only a few races for the German team, which is dissolving at the end of the season, but came into his own at the Tour de Romandie.

He finished an impressive 20th in the stage three's individual time trial. The next day he won the fourth stage after he joined an early escape group. He went free on the final climb to claim the mountains points and found the energy to out-sprint the two riders who joined him near the finish. In the final stage, comfortably back in the pack, he finished 13th overall and took home the mountain jersey.

That was Sunday, May 4, and it turned out to have been his final race of the season. Nobody is saying exactly what happened. Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer "came to the decision that Francesco De Bonis did not fit well to the team," spokesman Jörg Grünefeld told Cyclingnews. "I had problems with the team manager, we did not understand each other," De Bonis said. He added, it was "nothing particular."

Was it a coincidence that this occurred only days after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that it was investigating a number of unnamed riders for problems arising from unusual patterns which had emerged through their biological passports? Yes, said De Bonis, it was just a coincidence. "The problem was that I did not see eye to eye with Hans for the season. There were no problems with the hematocrit levels."

Whatever the reason, the result was that the Italian was placed, at least unofficially, on the inactive list. "I am still under contract with them and they are paying me," De Bonis confirmed. He took a vacation and continued to train "Now I am starting with my preparations for 2009." He looks to ride again next year, saying, "it will not be a problem. I am in negotiations with a team."

Looking back at his months with Gerolsteiner, De Bonis said, "At the beginning I found it good. However, in the end, we did not see eye to eye... It is an optimal team – it is a ProTour team. It is one of the best teams in cycling, even if next year it doesn't have a sponsor."

"My teammates treated me well. I got along with everyone, it was only a problem with Hans-Michael – basta."

Andrea Moletta riding in April's Flèche Wallonne
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

There was never any secret about why the team placed Andrea Moletta, 29, on inactive status. During the Giro d'Italia, Italian Guardia Finanza stopped his father and questioned him about the Viagra tablets and unidentified fluids. Both father and son denied any knowledge of or participation in any doping.

Like his Italian colleague, the team apparently swept Moletta under the rug. Since the end of May, "Hans hasn't got any helpful further information which could have changed his opinion in this case," Grünefeld said.

Since May 21, Moletta has been on inactive status, unable to race "and trying to solve everything," he told Cyclingnews. "At the end of this month, next week, I should have a 'decrecto' [decree – ed.] from the Padova prosecutor that says I am cleared to race."

It was the team's decision to withdraw him from racing. "I did not agree with them, but I had to follow their decision. I tried to talk with them, but they made their decision and there is the code of ethics that requires them to stop me," Moletta said.

Was he in agreement with the team's actions? He paused before answering, "I was not in agreement. Definitely not in agreement. The system in cycling is messed up. In cycling all you need is some little thing and they stop you right away."

He puts the blame for things more on the situation in the sport today than on the team. "It is more of the way the system works than Team Gerolsteiner – cycling in general."

Like De Bonis, Moletta continues to train and is optimistic about riding next season. "I have always been training. Today, I was out training with Davide Rebellin. When he is at home I go out with him and if he is not there, I go out alone."

Gerolsteiner continues to honour its contract with him and paid him throughout the year. Moletta is now looking for a team for the coming season, although he must still wait for the decree. "I thought that this decree would have arrived sooner! As of yet, I have not started talking to other teams. This year has been strange, and I have been waiting for this decree. When I have it in hand, then I will be able to show that I am free to race."

Sponsor Gerolsteiner announced in September 2007 that it would not extend its contract, which expires at the end of this year. Holczer announced the end of last month that he had not been able to find a new sponsor and that the team would stop at the end of the year.

Holczer continues with progress of teams' organisation

By Gregor Brown

German Hans-Michael Holczer making progress with the teams' organisation
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Germany's Hans-Michael Holczer is without a sponsor for his Gerolsteiner team next year, but it has not kept him from making progress for cycling's future. He was part of the meeting last Friday of the 18 ProTour teams in Madrid to push forward the teams' organisation in 2009.

"It seems the 18 teams have a common position, which is very important. ... It seems constructive, and if we continue in this way they can have a future for cycling – what it should be – on the highest level, attractive [for sponsors], well-governed and well-organised," he said to Cyclingnews.

Following a meeting at the Tour de France, the ProTour teams announced they would not be renewing their licenses for the 2009 season and forming a teams' organisation away from the ProTour created by the International Cycling Union (UCI). The group had another meeting on the Tours' second rest day, in Cuneo.

Friday's meeting in Madrid continued the talks that began in June. The teams initially met in Frankfurt on June 4, followed by two further meetings in Brussels on June 18 and June 30. (Read Holczer tight-lipped after teams' working group meeting.)

"I am writing an e-mail to the UCI [UCI ProTour Manager Alan Rumpf] to request a meeting in the next days," Holczer continued. "We have this agreement with the organisers. It is a clear proposal to develop cycling on the highest level in the next years. I don't think our positions are that far off [from the UCI]. From the first moments of this initiative, we said we have to have UCI in on this plan as the governing body.

"We – the current 18 ProTour teams – have this agreement to start at the Monuments, excluding the Tour of Flanders, and the big three tours. Also, the code of ethics, financial and supporting guarantees. It is an agreement made on my initiative in June. We met in Frankfort and Brussels, and this is the agreement from the June 18 meeting in Brussels."

Holczer is part of the five-member working group formed to create a teams' organisation for 2009. The group consists of Holczer, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Eva Parera, CSC-Saxo Bank's Carsten Jeppesen, AG2R La Mondiale's Vincent Lavenu and Geert Coeman of Silence-Lotto.

Holczer is not sure of his role in 2009 since he will be without a team. He was unable to find a sponsor to fill the departure of Gerolsteiner. "At this moment I don't know," he commented. "Since I won't have a team I won't be in the association. So far, as I can see, I am out."

A bicycle shop and finding sponsors, albeit at a lower level, for his Continental Team keeps Holczer busy as Team Gerolsteiner comes to an end.

Ballerini places his bet on Bettini

Italian DS Franco Ballerini
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Unlike in years past, the Italian team heads to the World Championships with one leader. Paolo Bettini, two-time world champion and 2004 Olympic champion, will captain the nine-man team this Sunday in Varese.

"If you look at the results in the last years, Bettini is almost a guarantee. It is worth the risk," said team director, Franco Ballerini, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Bettini won the last two editions and finished in the top ten three other occasions.

The 2008 season was dry for Paolo Bettini, like last year. His first win did not come until July and he really did not prove his readiness until the Vuelta a España. He took two stage wins on the Iberian Peninsula; the second stage win came in dramatic style after he announced he would not be racing for Team Quick Step in 2009.

"I am optimistic and I don't want to think of the negatives," said Ballerini when asked if Bettini was on form. "In any case, Paolo would work for the others, because he was born as a domestique."

Ballerini has a second front should his one captain approach fail. Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego and Alessandro Ballan are the star-studded defence line behind Bettini.

"Rebellin is a definite alternative. Ballan and Cunego cold also have their chances from an escape."

Cancellara, Albasini, Gerdemann out of Worlds

Swiss Fabian Cancellara out of the Worlds
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Fabian Cancellara announced that he will not ride in the World Championships this week in Varese, Italy, which means that neither of the reigning World Time Trial Champions will be there to defend their titles. Women's Champion Hanka Kupfernagel earlier announced that she would not participate.

Cancellara's Swiss teammate Michael Albasini and Germany's Linus Gerdemann cancelled their appearances as well, due to physical problems.

Cancellara, 27, won not only the last two Worlds time trials, but also the Olympic time trial, as well as third in the Beijing road race. "After my successes in Beijing, I can no longer motivate myself for the exertions," he said, according to the Swiss news agency SI. "The final 'click' is missing, to ride the Worlds and defend my title in the time trial."

Albasini's withdraw from the road race is due to a crash shortly before the Olympic Games. "My legs are okay, but I still have pain in my shoulder," the 28 year-old said. "The piece of iron they put in during the operation makes problems. I feel uncertain and I don't want to aggravate the situation."

Cancellara cannot be replaced in the time trial, as he held his starting place as defending champion. As previously announced, Ruben Bertogliati and Thomas Frei will ride the time trial for Switzerland. Andreas Dietziker and Frei will take Cancellara and Albasini spot's in the road race.

Gerdemann, the winner of the Deutschland Tour, is suffering from pain in his neck since that race. After a three-hour ride on Sunday, he told, "the pains came back. Since I have hardly been able to train the last week, there is very little sense in riding in Varese." His place will be taken by André Greipel, who started out the season by winning the Tour Down Under and has gone on to take 13 wins this season, including the Kampioenschap Van Vlaanderen last Friday.

The Team Columbia sprinter, 26, "has shown an outstanding performance over the entire season and especially showed at the Deutschland Tour, that, in addition to his sprint abilities, he can work hard for the team," German cycling federation vice president Udo Sprenger said. (SW)

Zabel to announce future plans

Erik Zabel has decided what his fate will be in the coming year, but he isn't making his plans public yet. He will announce his decision whether to retire or continue riding this week, according to Milram team manager Gerry van Gerwen.

"At Erik's wish, the announcement will only be made just before or during the World Championships," van Gerwen told the dpa press agency. It is expected that the 38 year-old will announce his retirement from professional racing.

Zabel started his career in 1993 with Telekom. His wins, amongst others, include six points competitions titles at the Tour de France and four editions of the Milano-Sanremo. (SW)

Cervélo TestTeam signs Lloyd, Hunt and Deignan

The Cervélo TestTeam, future home of Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd, announced the signing of Britain's Daniel Lloyd and Jeremy Hunt, and Ireland's Phillip Deignan today. Scott Sunderland and Jean-Paul van Poppel will direct the new Swiss-based team on the road.

Daniel Lloyd currently races for An Post-Donnelly-Thornton-Kelly Team. He placed 15th in the recent Tour of Ireland and won the Vuelta Ciclista Internacional a Extremadura in April. Hunt is currently with Crédit Agricole, which is closing its operations at the end of this season. The two-time British Champion will apply his sprint skills in the newly formed team.

Deignan, currently with AG2R La Mondiale, finished 25th in the recent Deutschland-Tour and 25th in the Vattenfall Cyclassics, one day later.

Cyclingnews online production editor required - Australia

Work on the world's leading cycling web site

Cyclingnews, the world's leading cycling web site, is expanding and is looking for a full time online production editor based in Sydney, Australia.

The position requires applicants to have a keen interest and thorough knowledge of competitive cycling, as well as editorial or writing experience with excellent English skills. The position will involve producing reports, results, photos and features from the world of cycling, so fluency in a second language is also an advantage, as is a familiarity with online production techniques, experience in journalism and attention to detail.

The applicants will need to be self-starters as the position involves regular liaison with production editors in all Cyclingnews offices. As Cyclingnews is a 24/7 daily news operation, the position will require regular weekend work. The weekend duties are handled on a rotating shift basis with other production editors, so the applicant must be flexible in their work schedule. However, the majority of work will be done during normal business hours on week-days.

The online editors will be required to have familiarity with online production applications (a good working knowledge of HTML and Photoshop are important skills) and could also be required to attend major cycling events in each region. However, the primary responsibility is the production of content for publication on the web site. Training in online production techniques can be provided to the right applicant, ability to handle the technical processes involved and an ability to communicate are required.

Please send your CV with a covering letter via e-mail to with "Cyclingnews online editing position - " in the subject line. Deadline for applications is October 2, 2008.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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