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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, September 24, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Lefevere mounts unlikely Armstrong bid

Quick Step team-manager Patrick Lefevere has started an effort to woo Lance Armstrong to the Belgian squad. Quick Step is losing star rider Paolo Bettini for next season, as it's unable to afford the Italian UCI World Road Champion, but Lefevere's sponsors have apparently said they've be happy to foot the bill from Armstrong.

"It seems unrealistic, but it's worth a try," Lefevere told HLN.be. "There are still no concrete talks, but I have contacted the office of Bill Stapleton [Armstrong's adviser]."

"My two main sponsors, Quick Step and bicycle manufacturer Specialized, are in American hands," he added. "For them, Armstrong is very attractive. Even if he doesn't win the Tour, it would still have gigantic advertising return."

While sponsors might be happy to stump up the cash to employ Armstrong, the main stumbling block for Lefevere's bid is in fact his sponsor Specialized. The seven time Tour de France champion has a life-long deal with its rival American manufacturer Trek Bicycles.

The Trek connection adds further weight to suggestions Armstrong will re-unite with team director Johan Bruyneel. The Astana boss has gone on record saying he can't imagine Armstrong riding with any other team, however Astana has said it's not considered taking on Armstrong and won't until the American releases more details on his comeback.

Armstrong is expected to announce more details on his 2009 return, aimed at raising cancer awareness through his Livestrong charity, today. The influential sports figure will announce his plans at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, USA, where world leaders are also gathered this week for the United Nations General Assembly.

Kazakhstan officials have thrown further weight behind a possible Armstrong-Astana hook-up. Defence Minister Danial Akhmetov, who is also the nation's cycling federation chief, gave his stamp of approval to Armstrong as a possible signing to the squad. "He is a great cyclist and he is also a great humanitarian and that makes him a perfect fit for our team," Akhmetov told Reuters.

Squadra azzurra ready to defend title

Damiano Cunego leads the Italian
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italy's squadra azzurra, or national team, was busy out practicing on the UCI World Road Championships course yesterday, in preparation for Sunday's road race. The Italian squad will enter the weekend's road race with the weight of a nation on its shoulders.

In addition to racing on home soil in Varese, Italy, the squad has the added pressure of expectation. While the team couldn't defend Paolo Bettini's Olympic Games title in Beijing, China last month, it will go all out to ensure a squadra azzurra rider takes gold in Sunday's event.

Bettini enters the event once more as defending champion, having won the last two world titles.

Italian fans have already had much to cheer about just one day into the Worlds. Adriano Malori, at just 20 years of age, stood atop the podium in Varese and listened to the Italian national anthem after claiming the Under 23 UCI World Time Trial Championship.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net

Vogels to lead Toyota-United in Australia

West Australia's Henk Vogels will lead his Toyota-United squad at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne, Australia next month. The 35 year-old will lead a predominately Australian squad at the event.

"All the guys on the team are super-psyched for this as we are coming home with five of us Australians and a couple of adopted ones (a New Zealander and a Canadian)," said Hilton Clarke. "I know for us it basically feels like we are coming home as a national team.

"It is such an advantage to know a lot of the roads in country Victoria - that local knowledge should be a big help," he added.

Clarke's brother Johnny will also contest the event, as will former Commonwealth Games medallist Ben Day. Canada's Dominique Rollin will also make the trip as well as New Zealand's Heath Blackgrove and Tasmanian Caleb Manion.

"To come home and get my head in the paper for my friends and family to see is always fun," said Clarke. "I can prove to my mates I am not just on a vacation surfing at Santa Monica beach all year."

The Tour will be the squad's final mutli-stage race under the Toyota-United name. The sponsor has withdrawn its support from season's end, leaving the outfit to either find a new title sponsor or disbanding.

Time for a name change

Time Pro Cycling will be re-named as Premier Sports Partners for 2009, but will remain a Continental team. The outfit has also signed six new riders, including Mark Hekman, for the season and brought in former Masters National and World Champion Jason Snow to direct the outfit.

"There were not many guys out there with our mindset looking to be directors," said team owner Erik Saunders. "Finding Jason was a relief to us all. Snow is going to help us stay with that Old School Fury that small teams tend to lose as they grow.

"We started this as a no money, six rider U23 team and we want to stay close to what it means to be young privateers," he added.

For the time being, Time Pro Cycling enters the USA Crits Finals tomorrow evening in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA in second place. Adam Myerson sits in second place 38 points adrift, while the team also holds second in the team standings behind Toshiba-Santo.

2009 Premier Sports Partners roster: Andy Baker, Jackie Simes, Eric Barlevav, David Guttenplan, Mike Stoop, Tom Soladay, Daniel Ramsey, Jon Hamblen, Adam Myerson and new additions Mark Hekman, Phillip Gaimon, Logan Loader, Will Hoffarth, Spencer Beamer, and Issac Howe.

California opens volunteer registration

Tour of California organisers have started the hunt for volunteers for the fourth edition of its event on February 14-22 next year. The organiser is in need of people interested in providing assistance with course marshal, security, media relations and medical controls.

"Volunteers are essential to the success of the Amgen Tour of California," said AEG Sports' Andrew Messick. "The support of the communities we travel through has been vital in making the Amgen Tour of California the most successful cycling race in the United States, and with the expanded route in 2009, volunteers will be more important than ever. It is a great way to take part in an event that will capture the attention of local communities and the world."

Those interested in lending their time to the Tour of California can check out more details and register online at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

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