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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 20, 2011

Date published:
February 20, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • UnitedHealthcare bouyed by Van Poppel's performance in Portugal

    Two new recruits, Boy Van Poppel and Scott Zwizanski.
    Article published:
    February 19, 2011, 20:22 GMT
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Dutchman gives US ProContinental team its first top 10 European result

    Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) delivered his squad its first top-10 result on European soil after he sprinted to eighth place on the final road stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal on Saturday afternoon.

    The Dutchman, who joined the American ProContinental outfit this year, was the only non-ProTeam rider to finish in the top 10 on the 167.3km stage from Albufeira to Tavira. Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) collected his first race win of the season, ahead of Michael Matthews (Rabobank) and Anthony Ravard (Ag2R-La Mondiale). Van Poppel expressed his satisfaction with his result, praising his teammates for their work to set him up for the sprint finish.

    "The team really protected me today and I was able to bomb the last four corners," said Van Poppel after the stage. "I'm happy with the top 10 finish today. Our goal is to continue racing hard and tomorrow we get another chance to do just that. We're looking forward to Sunday's time trial."

    Van Poppel's result was a welcomed by his UnitedHealthcare, who has found itself caught up in a number of with frustrating crashes throughout the race. US rider Brad White remains in the race after his stage 2 accident, while Christian Meier and Charly Wegelius were involved in a late race crash on Saturday. Despite their misfortune, UnitedHealthcare General Manager and Directeur Sportif Mike Tamayo expressed his satisfaction with the squad's performance in their first major test against ProTour competition.

    "The [race] has lived up to expectations, and it has been a great race so far. We're pleased with Boy's top 10 finish today," he said. "This field is outstanding and I'm proud of the way our guys are racing. This team never stops working together and it...

  • Four biological passport doping case verdicts pending from CAS

    Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
    Article published:
    February 19, 2011, 22:19 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Court of Arbitration for Sport to issue upcoming decisions

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will give verdicts on four cycling doping cases in the near future, according to the Associated Press. All four cases stemmed from the UCI's biological passport program, which was started with cooperation from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

    The next CAS hearing is on February 25 for Francesco De Bonis, who was handed a two-year suspension and fine by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI). The Italian was one of the first five cases opened by the UCI using its biological passport after it detected abnormal values in his profile. His suspension runs from June 18, 2009, to June 17, 2011. Following the initial suspension, De Bonis was subsequently found positive for third generation Erythropoietin (EPO), CERA, in a control taken two days before the start of the 2009 Giro d'Italia.

    Next up is Franco Pellizotti, who has a hearing on March 2. The Italian is facing charges of biological passport irregularities and could face up to a two-year ban. The UCI first suspended him, but then the Italian national anti-doping court cleared him. However, the UCI followed up by appealing that decision to CAS.

    Meanwhile, there are two other biological passport-related cases awaiting verdicts from CAS. Pietro Caucchioli was among those first named as an alleged doping offender when the UCI announced the first biological passport-based doping cases in 2009. He gave his defense to CAS in December.

    Finally, Tadej Valjavec of Slovenia is also awaiting a decision from CAS. Valjavec was sidelined by the UCI in May of last year but was subsequently cleared of doping charges by the National Anti-Doping Commission of Slovenia in July. The UCI then...

  • Prost trades pedal strokes with Merckx in Oman

    Alain Prost with Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault at the Tour of Oman.
    Article published:
    February 19, 2011, 22:53 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Formula One legend visits Tour of Oman

    While many of the biggest names of the contemporary peloton have been on show at the Tour of Oman this week, some greats of yesteryear have been following the race.

    Eddy Merckx is on hand in his role as race director, while Bernard Hinault has also arrived in the Gulf State to keep a close eye on proceedings. With ten Tours de France, eight Giri d’Italia and four rainbow jerseys between them, Formula One legend Alain Prost could hardly have asked for two better guides than Merckx and Hinault when he took to the roads of Oman.

    Not that Prost is any slouch himself and since retiring from driving, the Frenchman is as often seen on two wheels as he is on four, and is a regular on the cyclosportive circuit. Indeed, Prost competed in the very first Etape du Tour in 1993, the same year that he captured the fourth of his world titles. On Saturday morning, he rode part of the course of the stage five time trial in the company of Merckx.


     

  • Breschel's Classics season threatened by new knee pain

    Matti Breschel (Rabobank) chats with race leader Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
    Article published:
    February 20, 2011, 8:25 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Rabobank newcomer forced to abandon in Algarve

    Matti Breschel's Spring Classics season may be endangered by the recurrence of knee pain following off-season surgery. The Danish rider for Rabobank had to abandon the Tour of the Algarve Friday after only six kilometres.

    "It's the same old song. I got a sore knee on today's stage, so there was nothing else to do but stand down,” he told Sporten.dk.

    “I don't know how bad it is yet,” he said. He will have it examined again by the doctor. “It is too early and difficult to predict anything about it right now. But it hurts, and it's damn annoying.”

    Sport director Adri van Houwelingen said the news put a damper on the day. "We had previously hoped that he could work on his condition here without pain. This recovery however is now stopped. How terrible it is, I can not say. The pain occurs or in the same knee, but according Breschel, not the same pain.”

    Breschel, 26, rode for Saxo Bank last season, and underwent surgery on his left knee last November. He signed with Rabobank to lead the Dutch team in the Spring Classics, which he knew would be jeopardized by the surgery.

    Late last month he told Cyclingnews that he would ride the Classics anyway, even if not in perfect shape. Of course, I can't rush it too much and just have to take the time to recover."

    He won Dwars door Vlaanderen – Wevelgem last year.

  • Jaksche to return with Christina Watches?

    Jorg Jaksche (Wurth) smiling
    Article published:
    February 20, 2011, 10:39 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Rasmussen team may give German his second chance

    Jörg Jaksche and the Christina Watches team are in negotiations for the 34-year-old German to make his professional comeback. In 2007, Jaksche made a public confession to extensive doping and subsequently served a one-year suspension.

    The Professional Continental-ranked Danish team is built around Michael Rasmussen.

    Both Jaksche and team sponsor Christina Hembo confirmed the negotiations to Ekstra Bladet, but Hembo stressed that no decision had yet been made.

    “Jörg has publicly distanced himself from doping, and he has apologised and regretted what he did and thus he is definitely a possibility, “ she said.

    “All who have served their sentences and reject doping deserve a second chance. But that does not mean that he becomes part of the team. We will decide in the coming weeks”

    Jaksche was eager to return to racing. “Cycling is my passion, and every athlete wants to decide how and when his career ends,” he said.

    “Christina Watches have a different approach to things than other teams I've spoken with. Here was someone who was not hypocritical like everyone else,” Jaksche said.

    Jaksche, now 34, has not ridden since 2007. His name was mentioned in connection with Operacion Puerto, and his team Astana-Würth withdrew from the Tour de France 2006 at the last minute. He rode for Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2007, winning the Circuit de Lorraine, but the team suspended him after a few months and ultimately cancelled his contract.

    That same year he gave an extensive interview to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, in which he detailed doping practices at his various teams. He was given a one-year-suspension, but was unable to find a team when his ban ended.

  • Greipel brings in first sprint win at Tour of Algarve

    André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on the podium
    Article published:
    February 20, 2011, 11:47 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    German sprinter gives Omega Pharma-Lotto second stage win

    Sprinter Andre Greipel was expected to bring in Omega Pharma-Lotto's first victory of the season, and when it didn't work out at the Tour Down Under, the pressure was on at the Tour of the Algarve. After a false start in Australia, the team has now claimed two stage wins in Portugal, with Greipel finally bringing in his first stage win on Saturday.

    With both Greipel and Philippe Gilbert lining up in the Algarve, the Belgian team correctly reckoned that its time had come. The first stage of the race was predicted to finish in a mass sprint and to favour Greipel, but instead it was Gilbert who notched up Omega Pharma-Lotto's first win of the season. The team later disclosed that the last-minute attack by Gilbert was planned.

    The Belgian held on to the leader's jersey for two stages, but lost it on Friday's mountaintop finish. After that, the team was ready to take a chance again on Saturday.

    “The stage was very fast, but today we didn't need to do any chase work,” Greipel wrote on his personal website. “Since one rider in the lead group was dangerously close to the leader's jersey, Sky had to do the work. Everything came back together about 10 km before the finish.

    “Then for the first time we brought the Omega Pharma-Lotto sprint train into action and thanks to the team's nearly perfect preparations, I could bring in my first win of the season in my new jersey.”

    He concluded, “Of course I am very happy, but also a bit relieved. The first win is always important for the morale.”

  • Prudhomme says Tour de France invitations are not preserve of French teams

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    Article published:
    February 20, 2011, 14:38 GMT
    By:
    Barry Ryan

    Race director opens door to foreign wildcards in 2012

    Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has warned that wildcard places in the event will not necessarily be the preserve of French teams in future years. The ASO’s four invitations for the 2011 Tour have gone to home-based teams in order to guarantee a sizeable French contingent at the race.

    Prudhomme explained that this year’s wildcard selection was a product of the circumstances that saw France left with just one ProTeam, Ag2r-La Mondiale. With the 18 ProTeams qualifying automatically, ASO named FDJ, Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun and Europcar as the four wildcard teams in January, but Prudhomme is hopeful that there will be more French teams in the World Tour in 2012, thus opening the wildcard process to other teams from other countries.

    “This year we have given the four invitations to four French teams,” Prudhomme told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I hope the French teams find their place in the first 18 [World Tour] because it will become more complicated to give out invitations. If an Australian team knocks at the door, or a Columbian team, or a Kenyan team - we will look at that very closely, of course.''

    One of the teams eyeing Tour de France participation in 2012 is the new Australian GreenEDGE outfit, which is set to enter the peloton next season with ambitions of obtaining a ProTeam licence, or at least of winning invitations to a host of World Tour events. While Prudhomme was reluctant to discuss specific cases, he reiterated that foreign teams would be considered.

    ''I can't say we will take them [GreenEDGE],” Prudhomme said. “We don't know anything yet, but of course the candidature will be considered. We are not going to take...

  • Visconti satisfied with third in Tour of Oman

    Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli)
    Article published:
    February 20, 2011, 16:14 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Italian champion to target victory at Tirreno-Adriatico

    Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) finished third overall in the Tour of Oman, confirming his good early season form and his potential for short stage races.

    Visconti finished the Tour of Oman 1:19 behind Robert Gesink (Rabobank) but was just three seconds behind Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and finished ahead of Michael Albasini (HTC-Highroad), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) and Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek).

    His third place overall, fourth place on the uphill finish on Green Mountain and Andrea Guardini's third place in the stage six sprint proved that despite only being a Professional Continental team, Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli can compete against the major ProTeams in the peloton.

    "I'm satisfied with third overall and I'm especially satisfied with my form. I didn’t think my legs would feel this good, so early in the season," Visconti told Cyclingnews before climbing on the final podium with Gesink and Boasson Hagen.

    "The Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Oman were two tough races and I'm sure when I get home and recover, I'll have some solid form to build on the rest of the spring and also excellent moral. It's been a great start to the season for us.

    Visconti's next target will be overall success in Tirreno-Adriatico. The week-long stage races begins with a team time trial and ends with a 9.3km individual time trial. Stefano Garzelli won last year ahead of Michele Scarponi and Cadel Evans.

    Visconti is convinced he can be a contender because of his time trialing ability.

    "Physically I don’t look like I can do well in time trials because I'm pretty good. You have to really like time trials and I do," he...