What's Cool In Road Cycling

EuroTrash Thursday!

It’s January, so it must be Tour Time! The Giro teams are out, Qatar’s about to kick off, California is just around the corner, the route for Missouri has been announced and Astana look set for the TdF. Add in the ‘Cross Worlds and we’ve an action packed ET to get you going this Thursday.

Giro Teams Announced
While Astana have known for some time that they were as good as guaranteed a start at this year’s centenary Giro, a few other teams have been given the news they were hoping for with race organiser RCS announcing the first 20 (of 22) teams that will contest the event from May 9 to 31.

The list includes 14 of the 18 ProTour teams, leaving out Cofidis, Euskaltel and Franзaise des Jeux (who had already said “no need sending an invite, thanks”) and Fuji-Servetto who may well be suffering from the memory of what some riders got up to when they were previously known as Saunier Duval.

In the non-ProTour ranks, Carlos Sastre’s Cervйlo Test Team have been given the nod to start their first Grand Tour of the year and even if the 2008 Tour winner has his sights firmly set on defending his title, the selection for the Giro gives the opportunity for some very talented bike riders to come and have a race in Italy.

As usual, most of the big name local squads (and the very Italian foreign registered ones like LPR) have been given the nod, and all of the invited teams are participating in the Biological Passport program. Two other omissions that may (or may not) be rectified when the final two squads are announced are Barloworld, who put on a pretty good show at both the Tour and Giro last year, and Flaminia, who have the current Italian champion Filippo Simeoni on their books.

Giro Centoanni: The First 22 Teams
Acqua&Sapone – Caffe’ Mokambo (Ita), AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), ASTANA (Kaz), BBox Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Caisse D’Epargne (Spa), Cervйlo Test Team (Swi), Garmin – Slipstream (USA), ISD (Ita), Lampre-NGC (Ita), LIQUIGAS (Ita), LPR Brakes – Farnese Vini (Irl), Quick Step (Bel), Rabobank (Ned), Silence – Lotto (Bel), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni – Androni Giocattoli (Ven), Team Columbia – High Road (USA), Team Katusha (Rus), Team Milram (Ger), Team Saxo Bank (Den), Xacobeo Galicia (Spa)

Milan San Remo Teams
The days are getting longer here in Italy, which means the spring is nearly upon us (hey, if you were cold and wet and miserable like me, you’d be wishing the winter away too). While La Primavera is still a few months away, the start list is out for both the opening classic of the season (March 21) and the race between the two seas, Tirreno-Adriatico from March 11 to 17th. RCS also organise both of these races so expect to see the “not invited to the Giro as yet” squads doing their best to impress in front of the right people.

The only difference between the selections for these two events is that ISD (featuring Dario Cioni) have been confirmed as starters for MSR but are not yet invited to Tirreno-Adriatico. There is no mention of Fuji-Servetto on either list, but still time for the squad to prove that they are newer (and cleaner) than their previous incarnation.

Tirreno Adriatico March 11-17
Acqua&Sapone – Caffe’ Mokambo (Ita), AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), ASTANA (Kaz), BBOX Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Caisse D’Epargne (Spa), Cervйlo Test Team (Swi), Cofidis (Fra), EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI (Spa), Francaise Des Jeux (Fra), Garmin – Slipstream (USA), Lampre-NGC (Ita), LIQUIGAS (Ita), LPR Brakes – Farnese Vini (Irl), Quick Step (Bel), RABOBANK (Ned), Silence – Lotto (Bel), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni – Androni Giocattoli (Ven), Team Columbia – High Road (USA), Team Katusha (Rus), Team Milram (Ger), Team Saxo Bank (Den)
Four more teams of 8 riders to be added

MSR March 21
Acqua&Sapone – Caffe’ Mokambo (Ita), AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), ASTANA (Kaz), BBOX Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Caisse D’Epargne (Spa), Cervйlo Test Team (Swi), Cofidis (Fra), EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI (Spa), Francaise Des Jeux (Fra), Garmin – Slipstream (USA), ISD (Ita), Lampre-NGC (Ita), LIQUIGAS (Ita), LPR Brakes – Farnese Vini (Irl), Quick Step (Bel), RABOBANK (Ned), Silence – Lotto (Bel), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni – Androni Giocattoli (Ven), Team Columbia – High Road (USA), Team Katusha (Rus), Team Milram (Ger), Team Saxo Bank (Den)
Three more teams of 8 riders to be announced.

Nys Prepped For Worlds
It’s the big one for the mud-runners this weekend with the UCI World Cyclo Cross Championships taking place in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.

While there have been murmurs of discontent in the Belgian camp (who would go, who would ride for whom, who might just help a foreign rider from the same pro team at the expense of a countryman with a different sponsor etc etc), one man has made damn sure of his favourite status heading into the race, and that is Sven Nys.

In Milan, Nys stamped his authority on the final World Cup event before Sunday’s championship, by out-sprinting the current World Champ, Lars Boom with a late run from behind in the final metres of the race.

As for what the contenders are saying about each other, it is all down to who can move the pressure onto the shoulders of others.

Czech Zdenek Stybar, silver medallist in 2008, said on his website, according to Sporza that “for me, Sven Nys and Lars Boom are the favourites. Boom is riding in front of his home fans and has been saying for two years that this is the most important race for him.” Stybar added that his motivation is good and, “I will start without stress.”

Meanwhile, Boom’s Dutch team mate Thijs Al says he thinks the Belgians are “scared.” Al said to local TV channel NOS that “Lars [Boom] is very strong mentally and he plays with the Belgian crossers. Last year three or four Belgians went out the back of the race due to the stress and then when the pressure was off, we could fly!”

And what do the Belgians think of all the talk? Well, two times world champ Bart Wellens told the belga agency that he finds Boom, “not the same guy as he was 12 months ago. Then, he was a good colleague but now, as world champ he has become an arrogant guy.”

Wellens and Stybar will also have another incentive to race for on Sunday, with their trade team sponsor announcing that there would be a 30,000euro prime for any rider from the squad who wins the rainbow jersey. I wonder how that will help tensions in a certain camp?

Sunday’s route is not an overly technical course (take a virtual lap here) with Zdenek Stybar saying, “There are no difficult corners. It is flat and long, but if it rains, it will turn into a mud pool.”

Watch Cross Worlds This Weekend
UniversalSports.com, in conjunction with International Cycling Union (UCI), presents same day webcast coverage of the Cyclocross World Championships this Sunday from Hoogerheide, Netherlands.

For viewers in the USA, UniversalSports.Com will post the elite men’s and women’s races same day for video on-demand viewing.

Universal Sports, available in 30 million homes, will also present encore presentations of CrossVegas on Friday, Jan. 30 at 11:30 a.m. ET and Saturday, Jan. 31 at 6 a.m. ET. In addition, fans can visit the cycling section on UniversalSports.com for updated broadcast schedules (TV and online), news, video highlights, special features, photo galleries and more.

Zabel Signs Off On Top
German sprint star Erik Zabel has closed his long cycling career in style, taking out the win in the Berlin Six Day race.

For Zabel, who was born in Berlin, it was the first time he had ever ridden the race and when the final gun sounded, he was given a standing ovation by the loyal local public.

The win gave Zabel his 13th career 6Day title, which he can add to his six green jerseys from the Tour de France and four Milan San Remo titles which have been amongst the highlights of his 17 seasons as a pro.

Final Standings Berlin 6Day
1. Erik Zabel/Robert Bartko (Ger) 269points.
2. Bruno Risi/Franco Marvulli (Swi) 255points.
3. Kenny De Ketele/Roger Kluge (Bel/Ger) 1 Lap behind, 243points.

Weylandt Off To Qatar
Wouter Weylandt is on the mend and on the plane to Qatar to join team mate Tom Boonen in the hunt for more desert glory.

Weylandt suffered an injury at the team training camp, held in Benicassim two weeks ago, but is now fit to join the squad in Qatar from February 1-6.

“On Saturday I trained 5 hours and on Sunday 6 hours without pain,” said Weylandt. “I am ready to give my contribution to the team in the Tour of Qatar.”

The full Quick Step squad for Qatar is:
Tom Boonen, Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Kevin Van Impe, Sebastien Rosseler, Marco Velo, Wouter Weylandt and Maarten Wynants.

Cavendish Primed For Season Start
Qatar might well be Tom Boonen’s favourite season-starter but he won’t have the sprinting all his own way next month, with Team Columbia sending their fast men to the desert classic.

“It’s been quite a while since I raced,” said Team Columbia’s Mark Cavendish, “I’m in good shape, I’ve had a good winter and I’m feeling excited about the new season.”

The US registered team will be looking to build on a solid early start in the team time trial and then set their British fast-man up for the stage sprints.

“We’ve got some of our top time triallists coming out there, guys who know how to keep up a high pace in the final kilometres of each stage, so we should be able to create a great ‘train’ for the sprint.”

Mark Renshaw, the man signed specifically to be Cavendish’s lead out man in 2009, will be taking a spell after the Tour Down Under and some jet-lag inducing international travel, so the role will be taken over by Kiwi Greg Henderson. Henderson himself won two bunch sprint stages of Tour of Georgia for Columbia-Highroad back in 2008, so knows a thing or two about racing at the front in the closing stages of a raging bunch sprint.

Armstrong Welcome At Tour de France
After it was officially confirmed that Astana would be going to the 2009 Giro, Lance Armstrong has had the best indication yet that both he and his squad would be welcome on the roads of France this summer.

According to Wielermagazine ASO boss Yann Le Moenner told Spanish journalists that, “Nothing stands in the way of Armstrong and his Astana team.”

The negativity surrounding the “old” Astana team that kept the “new” formation out of last year’s race has now gone, with Le Moenner saying that, “cycling has taken great steps to clean things up and we have seen the fruits of that at last year’s Tour de France.”

Tour Of Missouri Stages Announced
Event organisers have announced the host cities and the overall course for the third Tour of Missouri, scheduled for September 7-13, 2009.

St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, Farmington, Rolla, St. James, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Chillicothe, St. Joseph, and Kansas City were announced as playing host to a leg of the Tour in 2009 after a record number of enquiries from cities and town wishing too take part.

The overall course will take on a very different slant in 2009, with the race will route heading east to west for the first time, starting in St. Louis and finishing in Kansas City.

“In keeping with tradition, we will change the course from year to year to keep it fresh,” said Chris Aronhalt, the managing partner of event organisers Medalist Sports.

The race will be contested over seven days and seven stages. There will be two circuit races (St. Louis, Kansas City), one individual time trial (Sedalia), and four point to point road races (Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau; Farmington to Rolla; St. James to Jefferson City; Chillicothe to St. Joseph).

“I like what they’ve done,” said 2008 Tour of Missouri champion Christian Vande Velde, who also finished fourth overall at last years Tour de France. “It’s a totally different race course and it looks like they’ve added some challenging terrain.”

As further details of the course, including stage distances and detailed routes, are released, PEZ will keep you posted.

Davis Leads World Rankings
Tour Down Under winner, Allan Davis is the first leader of 2009’s UCI rider classifications, while his Belgian Quick Step squad is the leader of the Team’s World Rankings.

Davis won three stages and the overall standing in the Tour Down Under and is currently first in the World Ranking, ahead of his fellow countryman Stuart O’Grady and Spain’s Josй Rojas Gil.

While it is only the beginning of a new season and we shouldn’t get too excited about who is where and why, I did want to give a mention to a home town Tassie boy, in Wes Sulzberger.

The younger of the two Sulzberger Bros was making his professional debut with FdJ at the Tour Down Under and put in a great ride on the final day to help put the French squad into the winning place in the Team’s classification.

Maybe when he retires he can brag about that one time “when I was ranked 5th in the world, ahead of triple world champs and green jersey winners.” Although, if the start he has made is anything to go by, he may just have one or two of those jerseys himself, by the time he’s done and dusted with cycling. Either way, I bet mum Linda has the list stuck to the front of the fridge back in Flowery Gully!

UCI World Ranking 26.01.09
1. DAVIS Allan (AUS) QUICK STEP 122pts
10. CHICCHI Francesco (ITA) LIQUIGAS 6

UCI Denies ‘30 Suspected Dopers’
In other news from the UCI, the sport’s governing body has reacted to claims that there were 30 riders under suspicion as a result of the values recorded through the Biological Passport program. Part of the press release follows:

In actual fact, these statements [of 30 suspect riders] do not correspond exactly to what an in-depth analysis by the UCI experts has established is the present situation.

Throughout 2008 the UCI collected approximately 8’300 blood samples which were integrated into the biological passports of 804 riders.

The profiles have been submitted to a group of nine independent scientific experts who were appointed by the UCI to interpret the scientific and statistical elements of each profile in order to give recommendations on whether blood manipulation had occurred.

A first selection resulted in a number of profiles that that could be qualified as “abnormal” and which required further attention from the experts.

A thorough examination by the experts of these profiles resulted in a number being considered as not suspect, based on indications that the abnormal profile may have arisen due to reasons other than doping.

There were other profiles which justified immediate target testing with normal doping controls and/or the collection of further blood samples for completing the profile in order to exclude any uncertainties.

A small number of profiles are now under further scrutiny following high scientific and legal standards.

The concept of indirect detection which is enabled through profiling is a new paradigm in anti-doping. It is therefore critically important that the UCI will proceed only on sound evidence of doping.

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