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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, January 23, 2010

Date published:
January 23, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Greipel unstoppable Down Under

    Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) is in the driver's seat at this year's Tour Down Under
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 11:49 GMT
    Cycling News

    Thanks to perfect teamwork and shoe insoles

    André Greipel won stage four at the Tour Down Under on Friday, meaning he has won three out of the four stages at the first 2010 ProTour race in Australia. The German's HTC-Columbia team-mates played a big role in the success, especially on Friday, when strong winds made chasing the early breakaway and then a late attack by Lance Armstrong an arduous task.

    "It was a very special day of racing and one that I'll remember for a long time," said team director Allan Peiper. "It was a day that proved the strength of the team and their ability to work together."

    A breakaway of six riders left the pack early forcing HTC-Columbia to work hard to defend Greipel's ochre-coloured leader's jersey. "They were forced to ride at the front for the first 100km chasing the break," said Peiper. "Then they took a small rest during the headwind section and moved back to the front when RadioShack attacked towards the end. They did all that work and then came together again to do a perfect lead out."

    Greipel was very happy with his third win of the week. "What can I say, it's unbelievable," he wrote on his personal website. "Just before the finish there was more wind. Armstrong's team [RadioShack] tried to create an echelon, but we were able to foil this and then took everyone on our own echelon for five kilometres."

    The German sprinter thanked his team-mates and also his team manager, Bob Stapleton, albeit for a very different favour. "Just before the start, I noticed that my carbon shoe insole was broken. So I put in some new ones, that I never rode with. During the very first kilometres they hurt like hell, so I dropped back to the car and asked if there were any insoles from sneakers around. Thank God our team manager Bob Stapleton wore sneakers. He gave me his insoles right away and I was able to continue without pain."

    Greipel is looking forward to the last two stages of the Tour Down Under at the weekend, where he hopes to defend...

  • Caisse d’Epargne to end cycling sponsorship

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 13:13 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Valverde team manager Unzue looking for new backer for 2011 season

    The president of Banque Populaire-Caisses d’Epargne has announced that the French bank will terminate its sponsorship of the ProTour team at the end of 2010.

    Speaking on French radio, the bank’s CEO Francois Perol said Caisse d’Epargne has decided to focus its sports sponsorship on the French Olympic team.

    “There will be a Caisse d’Epargne team in the 2010 Tour de France, but the contract will end at the end of 2010," Perol told Radio-Classique according to the AFP news agency.

    "We’ve become the French banking partner of the next two Olympics, so we’ll be supporting the French teams at Vancouver and in London in 2012. We’ll also support Annecy’s candidature to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. It’s a management decision and we think Olympic values best correspond with the values of the BPCE (Banque Populaire-Caisses d’Epargne).”

    The Caisse d’Epargne team is registered in Spain and has been managed by Jose Miguel Echavarri and Eusebio Unzue since 2005.

    The team is lead by 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde and Paris-Nice winner Luis Leon Sanchez. New riders for 2010 include France’s Christophe Moreau and Colombian climbers Maurico Soler and Rigoberto Uran.

    Valverde was banned from racing in Italy in 2009 after Italian police claimed they identified his blood DNA with a bag a blood found in the Operacion Puerto investigation. Valverde is awaiting a decision on his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the ban, and the UCI could extend his ban worldwide.

    Perol did not comment on if Valverde’s position had influenced the bank’s decision to end the their sponsorship.


  • Cavendish delays start of his season

    Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 14:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Sprint star to commence racing with Ruta del Sol

    HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish is delaying the start of his 2010 racing season due to a dental problem. The British sprint star's first race of the year will be the Ruta del Sol on February 17. His first race would have been the Tour of Qatar, starting February 7.

    Cavendish underwent emergency dental treatment while at a team training camp in Majorca on January 12 to drain a painful tooth abscess according to the Daily Telegraph. He was given antibiotics and ordered to rest and recover.

    "We want to take all precautions and ensure that Mark has fully recovered and is able to get in some extra base training for the long season ahead of him," said Columbia-HTC Team Manager Rolf Aldag. In 2009, Cavendish collected 23 victories.

    "His season goals remain the same and he is looking forward to performing as planned in major Spring races like Milano-Sanremo and Flanders before his focus shifts toward the stage racing."

    Cavendish has previously told Cyclingnews that his top priority this season will be the green jersey of the best sprinter of the Tour de France.

  • Quick Step to focus on the classics in 2010

    Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen and cycling legend Eddy Merckx talk during the team presentation of Quick-Step, at the Velofolies, in Kortrijk.
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 16:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Boonen to go for Tour stages rather than the green jersey

    The Quick Step team held its official presentation at the Velofollies bike expo in Belgium on Friday, meeting the public in the afternoon and then attending a dinner with 1000 fans, sponsors and supporters in the evening.

    Team manager Patrick Lefevere had tried to sign Alberto Contador during the winter but when the Tour de France winner opted to stay with Astana, Quick Step refocused on success in the classics.

    Tom Boonen, Stijn Devolder and Sylvain Chavanel will again lead the 27-rider team. In 2010 Boonen is targeting his fourth victory at Paris-Roubaix and a third win at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Only Roger De Vlaeminck has ever won Paris-Roubaix four times. Somewhat surprisingly, Boonen revealed he would not try and win the green jersey at the Tour de France.

    Devolder is looking for a third consecutive win at Ronde van Vlaanderen but wants to extend his classics campaign and target Liege-Bastogne-Liege. After his poor overall performance at the Tour de France in recent years, Devolder may miss this year’s race and focus instead on the Vuelta. Chavanel told Cyclingnews that he will target Paris-Nice and then the classics.

    New signing at Quick Step include Belgian track star IIjo Keisse, German sprinter Andreas Stauff and Nikolas Maes. Patrick Lefevere also expected from young stage race rider Kevin Seeldraeyers to step up after winning the best young rider’s jersey at the 2009 Giro d’Italia and finishing 14th in his first Tour de France.

    "I'll sign with my eyes closed for the same Spring results as last year. But I would like to again be a player at the Tour," Lefevere said.

    "Tom Boonen has already won sprints in the Tour, but he has some fast rivals. The trick is to adapt to the surrounding, like a chameleon. There are not five Tom Boonens in the peloton, he can do it."

    "I think that we will change tactics with Stijn. The "carte blanche" idea for the Tour doesn't work. Stijn will...

  • Unzué facing toughest sponsor search yet

    Eusebio Unzúe
    Article published:
    January 22, 2010, 22:08 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Caisse d'Epargne leaves a big hole to fill

    The news that French financial giant Caisse d'Epargne has decided not to extend its sponsorship of the team led by Alejandro Valverde and Luis León Sánchez comes as little surprise.

    Caisse team boss Eusebio Unzué admitted only last month during the presentation of the 2010 squad that the French bank would make its intentions known during the first quarter of this season. The likelihood was always that it would choose to put its sponsorship money into other sporting arenas and quit cycling altogether.

    There is already plenty of speculation about the role Valverde's ongoing battle against doping allegations may have played in this decision, and this is sure to have been a factor to some degree. However, after six years backing one of cycling's elite teams, Caisse may well have achieved all they were ever going to from the sport, especially given the lack of outstanding French talent on the team they have backed for six seasons.

    Back in 2005, Caisse had been hoping to enter cycling as the primary backer of a French-run team. There were negotiations with Jean-René Bernaudeau, then manager of the Brioches La Boulangère team. However, Bernaudeau decided to get into bed with Bouygues Telecom. As none of the other frontline French teams were contemplating a change of sponsor, Caisse's adviser, Yvon Ledanois, looked at the potential to invest in a foreign team, and settled on Unzué's outfit, which was at that time riding under the Illes Balears name.

    Caisse d'Epargne's initial step was into a role as secondary sponsor. There was almost instant payback on the deal when Valverde beat Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong to claim a high-profile Tour stage win at Courchevel. The following season the sponsors' roles were reversed as Caisse took over as the primary backer.

    That investment again paid off handsomely at the Tour, where Oscar Pereiro scrapped for the yellow jersey all the way to...

  • Tour Down Under celebrates best ever stage

    Cadel Evans (BMC) was looking strong on the climb.
    Article published:
    January 23, 2010, 9:24 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Organiser, UCI president amazed with racing on display

    The Tour Down Under’s fifth stage has received universal praise from those on hand, with most describing it as the best racing seen in the Tour’s 12 year history, if not the sport’s history in Australia. Caisse d’Epargne riders Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez joined forces with UCI World Road Champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas) in a break away that challenged the race’s general classification leader Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) by a matter of seconds to the line.

    Renowned race commentator Phil Liggett described the situation as a race organiser’s dream during its live broadcast, but that barely even scratched the surface on race director Mike Turtur’s thoughts. The normally subdued Tutur was enthusiastic as he reflected on the stage, which left Greipel in the lead by just 11 seconds.

    “That’s the best stage we’ve had in the race, because of what was at stake,” said Turtur. “The jersey being held by Greipel, the possibility of Cadel taking the jersey, then the passion and desire for guys to win a stage like Sanchez. I think it just had everything; you couldn’t have scripted a better day.

    “To have the world champion in the front, like, on the climb…you should have seen the reaction from the people. That was sensational,” said Turtur. “When they heard Cadel was at the front making a bid it was unreal. I’ve not experienced a climb like that other than the Tour de France, that’s the only place I’ve ever experienced it. That was just unbelievable.”

    The event unfolded before the eyes of International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid, who was visiting the race for a second time after his initial trip in 2004. In addition to the breakaway’s survival, McQuaid saw returning rider Luke Roberts dragged across to the lead group by a Milram team-mate inside the final...

  • McQuaid says UCI looking at transfer regulations

    UCI President Pat McQuaid and RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel
    Article published:
    January 23, 2010, 13:38 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Team Sky's off-season recruitment raises questions over current rules

    International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid has indicated that cycling's governing body will move to tighten the rules on rider transfers following a series of off-season controversies involving new British squad, Team Sky. McQuaid's comments came on Saturday at the Tour Down Under where Team Sky is making its professional debut.

    "Since other teams believe that Sky has acted quite aggressively in its efforts to attract exactly the riders it wanted, we should perhaps tighten the rules on transfers. It's something we're looking at right now" McQuaid told AFP on Saturday.

    Despite both riders being under contract with their previous employers, Team Sky secured British riders Bradley Wiggins from Garmin-Slipstream and Ben Swift from Katusha. While settled behind closed doors, the transfers had raised the ire of management at both Garmin and Katusha, who had been reluctant to let go of their now former riders.

    While UCI regulations set out penalties for both teams and riders who breach the terms of existing contract, the settlement achieved by Sky meant the British squad was able to avoid action from the UCI. Concerned about the precedents that may have been set, McQuaid said an overhaul of the current regulations could take place as a result of the turbulent transfer season.

    "We probably need to tighten controls and rules of the transfer system," he said. "We're working because there have been many controversies about this last winter."

    Although changes could be made to the UCI's regulations, McQuaid indicated that a compromise would need to be reached in order to ensure a level playing field for all teams.

    "There is no [easy answer], because when a new team comes on the market ... as Sky last year, it must have 25 or 30 riders and most of them are already under contract, of one form or another," he said. "It's hard for them to arrive at a good level and take only the riders that are available out...

  • Sánchez's win affirmation of pre-season preparations

    Eventual stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez climbs with the peloton on the first ascent of Willunga
    Article published:
    January 23, 2010, 16:48 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Spaniard sets up his season with early win

    Luis León Sánchez's successful history at the Tour Down Under continued on Saturday as he took his second career stage win at the race. A winner of the event overall in 2005, the 26-year-old's success on the event's Queen stage to Willunga Hill is a signal that his altered pre-season preparation could pay dividends.

    “We intended to do something great today and it was impossible to get a better result,” said the Caisse d'Epargne rider after his win.

    Sánchez's victory was set-up as he and teammate Alejandro Valverde followed an attack by Cadel Evans (BMC), 20km before the finish on the second of two ascents of the Tour Down Under's famed Old Willunga Hill. Having worked hard to set up Valverde two days earlier into Stirling, Sánchez said the signs were good early in the day.

    "We knew we had another opportunity to win a stage today because of the tough course," he said. "I felt great when I woke hope this morning, with good legs and the entire team was very motivated when we started from Snapper Point.”

    Sánchez's response to Evans' attack was a strong signal that alterations to his early season preparations have helped his ability on the climbs. The Spaniard abandoned much of his usual off-season gym programme in an effort to keep his muscle mass to a minimum, a plan which, he says, appears to have paid off.

    “I arrived in Australia with a different preparation compared with the previous years. It looks like it was not a bad idea. We had very good training sessions in Australia, always with sunny weather and I could tell that I was improving every day."

    Saturday's result bodes well for Sánchez's early season objectives, which he hopes will include the defense of his 2009 Paris-Nice title. Despite his team's desire for him not to participate, his form on today's Willunga parcours could be enough to force a change of schedule.

    "It is obvious that...