RadioShack manager says Steegmans will win at least 10 races, can beat Cavendish
RadioShack's Gert Steegmans is set to assume responsibility for the team's sprint performance next season after manager Johan Bruyneel backed him to add at least ten victories to his palmares next year.
"Mark my words, Steegmans will win at least 10 races next season," Bruyneel told Belgian magazine Knack. "For RadioShack, the transfer of Steegmans is an opportunity."
Steegmans confirmed his transfer from Katusha in September after a disjointed season with the Russian squad. His 2009 season began well, with victories at the Trofeo Mallorca and Vuelta a Andalucia in February. However, his relationship with Katusha became strained in June when he disagreed with elements of the team's new anti-doping charter. Steegmans refused to sign the document and was subsequently placed on non-active status before his contact was dissolved in August.
Despite the acrimony of Steegmans' split with his former team, Bruyneel is confident that he will return to top form at RadioShack. "Steegmans is a talent. If he sits in an environment where he can best train and is well cared for, how can it go wrong?" said Bruyneel. "Steegmans can win, but he can do so without standing in the way of the team's other ambitions; that is just what we were looking for."
The RadioShack manager's praise of his 29-year-old compatriot went so far as to also predict that he could defeat the peloton's premiere sprinter, Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish.
"Steegmans is no Mark Cavendish, who you must build the whole team around. But he is someone who one day can beat Cavendish."
Although Bruyneel's comments indicate that Steegmans will act as a free agent in his hunt for victories next season, he is likely to receive assistance from fellow Belgian riders Sébastien Rosseler and Ben Hermans who will join him at Lance Armstrong's US-based squad.
Steegmans will get the opportunity to repay his manager's faith in him early next year. He,...
Anti-doping body concerned by drain on costs and resources
Delays in Alejandro Valverde's two pending appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have raised the ire of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA). A representative from WADA described the organisation's dissatisfaction with the proceedings at the WADA board meeting in Stockholm on Wednesday.
Valverde is currently involved with two cases before the CAS, both related to the 2006 Operación Puerto blood-doping investigation. The first is the Caisse d'Epargne's rider's own appeal against a two-year ban from competition in Italy, enforced by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for his alleged involvement in the Puerto affair. The second case is a joint action by WADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI), who have appealed the Spanish cycling federation's (RFEC) decision not to launch their own disciplinary proceedings against Valverde as a result of evidence gathered during the Puerto investigation.
A decision in the Valverde/CONI case had been expected in the middle of November, however, the CAS announced earlier that month that the decision would be delayed. It was the second such delay in the case and WADA have now expressed their concerns over the drain, in terms of costs and resources, that have been incurred throughout the proceedings.
"This case has lasted for two years; it is extremely frustrating," said Olivier Niggli, the director of legal affairs for WADA, according to AFP. "I hope the CAS does not forget these costs when it announces its decision."
Although delayed, a decision in the Valverde/CONI case is expected to be made before that of the WADA/UCI's appeal. The outcome of the latter action has the potential to have an even greater effect upon Valverde's future. If the CAS rules in favour of WADA and the UCI, he could face a global two-year ban from competition.
The president of the UCI Pat McQuaid has echoed the concerns of WADA in terms of costs and...
German riders take different paths in approach to next season
Heinrich Haussler of Cervélo TestTeam has started his training for the coming season, but is still not yet back on the bike. After a visit back home to Australia and a short trip to his former base in Cottbus, Germany he is taking off next week to St. Moritz for winter training.
The 25-year-old also squeezed in a two-day Cervélo team meeting in Basel, Switzerland, which involved tests and season planning. Before that he had made his first visit to Australia in two years, and relished the opportunity to see his parents and enjoy the good weather.
He is using his time now in Germany to work on some weight training before heading south to the Alps. He will stay in the winter sport resort until shortly before Christmas, and hopes for “good weather and lots and lots of snow. As [I did] last winter in St. Moritz, I want to build my basic condition through cross-country skiing.” Haussler wrote on his personal website.
In contrast to Haussler's bike-free approach to the pre-season, fellow German rider Fabian Wegmann has picked up his bike again after vacation. The 29-year-old has started his preparations for 2010 by riding both his road and mountain bikes. “The weather here isn't that bad and so everything is going according to plan,” he said on his website.
The Milram rider will do basic endurance training, before heading off to the first team training camp on Majorca, Spain later this month.
Dane shrugs off ankle injury to re-join Saxo Bank survival camp
Saxo Bank's Matti Breschel appears to have recovered quickly from an ankle injury suffered at the team's annual training and survival camp.The 25-year-old Dane joined his teammates last night to climb a mountain as part of the team building exercise on Fuertaventura in the Canary Islands.
Earlier in the week Breschel twisted his ankle and had been instructed to stay off of it for several days. Despite some discomfort the Danish national road race Champion made it to the top of the climb for a bonfire with his fellow riders and team staff.
"Frankly, I'm a little surprised that I could go all the way up, but also totally thrilled that I did. It was a totally wild great experience to stand up there with the bonfire," Breschel told Denmark's TV 2 Sport.
Although the start of the 2010 road season is still some two months away, Andy Schleck's quip by the bonfire indicates that the riders are already contemplating the challenges the new year will present. Schleck asking brother Fränk, "Do you think that [Alberto] Contador can see the bonfire from Madrid?"
The Saxo Bank camp concludes today in Fuertaventura.
Seven-time Tour winner admits that some past conflicts were deliberate
Lance Armstrong is well known for fostering personal conflicts in the media in order to intimidate his competitors, a fact he acknowledges in a recent interview. But Armstrong said that the contentious relationship he had with teammate Alberto Contador during this year's Tour de France was not a public-relations ploy.
“We are not making it up. It's there,” he said about his feud with Contador in the December issue of the Australian magazine Sport&Style.
During the American's string of seven Tour de France wins, he admits that there were times that conflicts were manufactured for competitive ends. “We would create those things. But I am a different person than I was 10 years ago.”
While it was clear during this year's Tour de France that there was not a close relationship between Contador and Armstrong, the depth of feelings was revealed after Armstrong skipped the Spaniard's victory celebration dinner. Contador later said of Armstrong: “My relationship with Armstrong is zero. I think that independently of what his character is, he is still a great champion.
"He has won seven Tours and played a big role in this one, too. But it's different to speak at a personal level... I have never really admired him that much, or will, ever. But of course as a cyclist he is a great champion.”
“It's no secret that we are not friends,” Armstrong admitted. “It was just typical. Young guy, tons of success, never faltered. I called his PR guy and said, 'I don't want to tell you what to do, but I don't think that's such a good thing to say. That's stupid.'”
There is one advantage to the bad blood between the two, though, with respect to the upcoming 2010 Tour de France: the two will now go up against each other on separate teams. “It will make for an epic build-up, an epic Tour,” said Armstrong. “Those key stages will be...
Spaniard may retire if contractual issue not resolved
Oscar Pereiro has admitted that he still has no idea whether or not he will be racing for Astana next season and says that if his contractual problem with the Kazakh team is not resolved quickly he is likely to be forced into retiring from racing at the age of just 32. Speaking to the La Región newspaper in his home region of Galicia in northwest Spain, Pereiro also pointed out that because he has signed a contract with a team, he is not allowed to look for a potential deal elsewhere.
The Spaniard signed a one-year contract with Astana on November 12, but his representatives subsequently received a request from the team for the salary agreed in that contract to be re-negotiated. Pereiro then put the matter in the hands of his lawyers.
Asked if he'd got any explanation for what has happened, Pereiro responded: "I don't know what has happened, nor who is in command at Astana, nor even whether the person who signed the contract [for them] had any decision-making power. The fundamental thing now is that I've got sufficient proof to be able to show that all this isn't some tantrum thrown by me, but is instead something real.
"The big problem is that I can't negotiate with another team because I've signed with Astana. They would have to rescind the contract so that I could avoid being accused of double-dealing… The rosters are all closed now and it would be complicated to find a place somewhere, especially on a strong team. My salary is not stratospheric, but it's also not minimum wage. Moving to Quick Step is impossible. But, in any case, there is still life after cycling."
The 2006 Tour de France champion acknowledged that he had been set on retirement until he received offers to continue next season from Astana and Quick Step. "Perhaps all this is the final thrust that ends my cycling career. My family would be delighted because it knows that nowadays the life of a cyclist is pathetic," he said, perhaps...
Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel will continue her professional career with the Cervélo TestTeam after the women's squad announced the Dutchwoman had signed a one-year contract on Monday.
Melchers had been contemplating retirement after her former squad Flexpoint folded at the end of this season. However, she has instead become the 13th and final member of the Cervélo roster for 2010.
"The most important thing for me in the upcoming season will be to support the team and riders," said Melchers. "After many years at the highest level, it's obvious that I have a lot of experience to share, which would be useful for the team.
"To be a part of a leading team was one of my goals and was one of the main reasons for me to sign."
The 34-year-old also indicated that she may look to extend her tenure at Cervélo when she does come to hang up her bike. "I also started a coaching course this winter, and my role in the team could fit into this."
Her husband, Jean-Paul van Poppel, has worked this season as a sports director with the men's Cervélo TestTeam.
Melchers becomes the fourth Dutch member of the team. With a majority of Dutch riders on the team Cervélo will be registered in that country for next season.
"After the retirement of Kristin Armstrong, it was our goal to find a rider who would bring a lot of experience to the team," said Geert Broekhuizen, Cervélo's Press Officer. "With Melchers, who has already won the tough women's Ronde van Vlaanderen twice, we have achieved this aim.
"Mirjam is a top-rated athlete who brings many skills to our team. Due to the fact that she is already the fourth Dutch rider in the team, the management has decided to apply for a Dutch licence for the women's team for 2010."
Team Vorarlberg-Corratec is meeting this week to prepare for the new season with a wintery team building exercise. The 50cm of new snow and temperatures down to -5°Celsius only added to the challenges faced by the riders, management and staff of the UCI Pro Continental squad in the Austrian mountains.
Team manager Thomas Kofler called the combination of hour-long hiking through the snow, rappelling and extreme climbing the "hardest team building that we have ever had." It was the team's third such event, and he praised its worthiness. "You quickly learn even the most hidden sides of your colleagues. When you have to co-operate to solve problems in extreme situations in bad outdoor conditions, then that bonds you together. Even before riding the first metre on the bike, the guys know exactly how each other ticks."
The snow started falling at 7 a.m. Tuesday, as the 24 participants gathered for their first task, hiking to the Kafpwand, one of the hardest climbs in the east Alps. They all successfully mastered the climb and then went even further up to camp for the night.
The next day the troupe had to make its way back down the mountain, with Thursday then being devoted to the more traditional activities of organisational activities and race planning.
"This team building has proved itself in the last years, and this year I have an extra good feeling as to the team spirit," Kofler concluded.