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Latest Cycling News for February 28, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance of Susan Westemeyer

UCI threatens French ProTour teams

The peloton on the road to Nice: but which teams will participate this year?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The French ProTour teams AG2R, Francaise des Jeux, Bouygues Telecom and Cofidis have received a letter from UCI president Pat McQuaid yesterday, urging then not to take part in Paris-Nice, organised by Tour de France management company ASO. After a long dispute over the ProTour, the world governing body of cycling and the three Grand Tour organisers have reached a dead end of negotiations. The French stage race has been taken out of the UCI calendar and placed under the supervision of the French cycling federation, which will also carry out doping controls at the event. The same is expected to happen to Italian stage race Tirreno-Adriatico, organised by RCS.

In his letter, McQuaid reminds the four French teams (except Crédit Agricole) that the UCI will sanction them in case they participate in the race, threatening them with "very hard sanctions." Under article 2.1.009 of UCI rules, ProTour teams cannot take part in national events.

But the directors of the French teams, to which Paris-Nice is even more important than to the other European ProTour teams, do not want to back down. "I don't want to be taken a hostage," Francaise des Jeux team manager Marc Madiot told L'Equipe on Wednesday. "I don't accept threats. I have a contract with my sponsor, with my riders, but also with the UCI ProTour, and Paris-Nice is still in that calendar. I have fulfilled a list of requirements to obtain a license, and I honour my commitments. I can't imagine that I will be sanctioned. According to what could you prevent people from doing their honest jobs?"

Paris-Nice is an important event, especially for the French teams and their sponsors
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jean-René Bernaudeau of Bouygues Telecom agreed. "I have three problems," he explained plainly. "On one hand, the UCI that asks me to respect the rules, and on the other, my riders and my sponsor, who want us to race. Whichever side I choose, I will have at least one problem yet to solve."

And there are legal conditions which need to be taken into account. "If we can't race, we are forbidden to carry out our profession," he said. "Will the riders thus be technically on the dole? That would create a nice legal mess, and it wouldn't be wise of the UCI. Moreover, the UCI would not be very thankful of the fact that we have been paying a license for three years, without getting in return what it was supposed to bring. We have always encouraged the UCI to dialogue and to be constructive, but in this instance, it shows that it is rather totalitarian."

Last Sunday, Pat McQuaid met with other ProTour team managers at the Tour of California (amongst which Crédit Agricole), to convince them of taking the UCI's side in the conflict. The interest group of the ProTour teams, the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT), will meet in Brussels on Friday, March 2 to find a common stance in the power play.

Belgians gear up for Het Volk

Back in the damp: true Flandrian Tom Boonen in the pack of 2006 Het Volk
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

With the Belgian season-starter Omloop Het Volk only a few days away, the Belgian Quick-Step pros are fine-tuning their form. Former world champ and Classics favourite Tom Boonen currently still enjoys the mild temperatures of his new home in Monaco, where he was reported to train four to five hours a day with teammate Kevin Van Impe. Quick Step-Innergetic will make known its selection for the week-end races of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Het Volk tomorrow, but the names of Boonen, Baguet, Cretskens, Hulsmans, Steegmans, De Jongh, Rosseler, Van Petegem, Weylandt, Tankink and Van Impe are rumoured to be on the list.

Three-times winner Peter Van Petegem is going for a Het Volk record this year. The new Quick-Step rider has recovered from an intestinal flu that caused him to drop out of the Volta ao Algarve and is looking forward to the race on Saturday, which he has won in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

"I did not lose much form. Everyone will be ready on Saturday. Quick-Step will be going for the win," he said, adding that it did not matter whether it will be himself or a teammate that snatches the prestigious victory. "That I could become the record holder with a victory doesn't play a role," he noted. "Monday all the newspapers will be full of it. The one who wins is a hero. The one who loses, is finished."

Van Petegem transferred to Quick-Step this year after seven years at Davitamon-Lotto. Asked if he was looking for revenge, he answered, "I have already taken revenge by going to Lefevere's team. I am now in a stronger team."

Hincapie's surgery a success

After crashing at the Tour of California and breaking his left wrist, George Hincapie has undergone successful surgery. Surgeons inserted a plate into his wrist. "The surgery went well, straightforward and no complications," Discovery Channel Team Manager Johan Bruyneel told AFP. "Now we just have to wait and see how he recovers."

Still, Hincapie will probably miss out on his all-time target, Paris-Roubaix, as it is not clear when he would be back to racing. "We'll wait one week and see how it goes. He will be able to ride his bike pretty soon, but it's not very realistic to think about Paris-Roubaix," Bruyneel added. "It's not just a Classic. It's the cobblestones. That's the issue."

Ullrich to "help all Austrian cycling"

Ullrich, the new Team Volksbank advisor
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Jan Ullrich will help not only Team Volksbank but also "Austrian cycling in general", according to an enthusiastic Thomas Kofler, manager of the Professional Continental team. "He can give us new impulse, both on the road and behind the scenes," Kofler said.

On Monday, Ullrich announced his retirement as a pro cyclist and said that he would be working with the Austrian team in the future.

"He can help the team, with his experience, his ambition and his strong will. Not to forget Ullrich's contacts, which could be unbelievably valuable for the future of our squad. Ullrich will pursue his career with Volksbank with the same energy as he did in his active career, I am convinced of that," the team manager told sport1.

Although Kofler did not want to go into specifics of what role Ullrich would fill at the team, he said that "Jan has his own ideas, which he wants to put into action. He is very enthusiastic about it, because he has the feeling of being useful. We are giving him the proper environment and he is bring the ideas. We both profit from it."

Although Ullrich did not directly address the question at his press conference Monday, he told the Bild tabloid that "I have never doped." On which Kofler commented, "If he said that, then I believe him. I know Jan ULlrich as a trustworthy person of integrity. (...) He assured me that there is nothing to the rumours. Why should I doubt his word?"

Kofler added that he is not aiming to join the ProTour, because he is not sure how much longer it will exist. "But we want to eventually position the Volksbank Team in the first league, and at least play a small role there," he said.

León Sánchez to help Valverde win Valencia

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Mallorca challenge winner Luis Leon Sanchez
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Mallorca Challenge winner Luis León Sánchez may be seen as the favourite for the ongoing stage race Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana (February 27-March 3), but the timid youngster himself preferred to point at his teammate Alejandro Valverde for the overall win.

"There is a decisive final stage up the Campello climb, and that is beyond my possibilities at the moment," the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears rider admitted. "I sincerely think that Alejandro Valverde should be taken into account, because this final stage is good for him. My objectives are further down the road, perhaps Paris-Nice, or the Criterium International. In the Tour, it will be necessary to help Pereiro and Valverde. Sáiz always told me that it's not good to assume responsibilities so young."

The 23 year-old still thinks highly of his former team manager at Liberty Seguros, Manolo Sáiz. "I owe him a lot, mainly because he trusted me and gave me the opportunity to start in the professional category when others said that I wasn't ready for that," León Sanchez said. Commenting about the team change, he added, "What happened is nothing different from what I used to do. Caisse d'Epargne-Illes asked me for my racing calendar, and I decided not to change it with respect to what I did before. I worked very hard to prepare this season, so that, in the Challenge de Mallorca the opportunity of winning appeared and I was lucky."

Taking a humble approach is fits perfectly with the Spaniard's character. Asked about his chances of performing well in the Classics, the replied, "People talk too much. I don't deny that I could do well, but I have to gain many experience before that. In this sense, I'm lucky being next to Valverde and Pereiro..."

Grillo unfit to start in Valencia

Italian rider Paride Grillo (Panaria-Navigare) could not take the start of the first stage of the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana on Tuesday. UCI doping controls carried out on riders of six teams (Benfica, Euskaltel, Grupo Mateos, Karpin, Panaria et Relax) prior to the start of the race returned a hematocrit level exceeding 50 percent for the 24 year-old sprinter. Grillo will thus be out of competition for two weeks.

New Zealanders hammered by Lara bingle

By John Michael Flynn in Lara, Victoria

More than one crash slowed down the peloton
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

At the eighty-nine kilometre mark in stage three of the Geelong Women’s Tour, there was disaster for the Bike NZ New Zealand National Team. Just outside the hamlet of Anakie, and almost within range of the finish line in Lara, a bingle in the bunch brought down six riders.

Included in the group, Jenny Macpherson and Josie Loane of the Australian National Team, Charlotte Becker (Nürnberger), Sigrid Corneo (Meninko Gysko), and New Zealanders Sarah Ulmer and Marina Duvnjak. The latter was the worst effected by the shunt, with Duvnjak transported to hospital after sustaining a suspected dislocated shoulder.

"We've had better days on the bike, we saw more of the terra firma than we wanted to," New Zealand National Team manager Susie Pride said. "There were a lot of crashes out there just mayhem and unfortunately we fell victim to one of the many crashes, and one of our girls Marina Duvnjak has a suspected dislocated shoulder. Sarah [Ulmer] crashed as well in the same crash but on the other side of the road, she cruised in afterwards quite fine."

Aussie track world's line-up announced

Cycling Australia has announced the 18 member 'Cyclones' team to contest the 2007 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Mallorca, Spain, from March 29 to April 1. The team includes:

Katherine Bates (18.05.1982 - NSW)
Ryan Bayley (09.03.1982 - WA)
Kristine Bayley (22.06.1983 - WA)
Peter Dawson (04.02.1982 - WA)
Zakkari Dempster (27.09.1987 - VIC)
Mitchell Docker (02.10.1986 - VIC)
Mark French (13.10.1984 - VIC)
Belinda Goss (06.01.1984 - TAS)
Matthew Goss (05.11.1986 - TAS)
Mark Jamieson (04.05.1984 - TAS)
Ben Kersten (21.09.1981 - NSW)
Joel Leonard (22.07.1981 - VIC)
Katie Mactier (23.03.1975 - VIC)
Anna Meares (21.09.1983 - QLD)
Cameron Meyer (11.01.1988 - WA)
Shane Perkins (31.12.1986 - VIC)
Scott Sunderland (16.03.1988 - WA)
Phillip Thuaux (09.07.1979 - NSW)

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)

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