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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, June 17, 2010

Date published:
June 17, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Bettini confirmed as Italian national coach

    World Champ Paolo Bettini uses San Sebastián to test his Olympic fitness.
    Article published:
    June 16, 2010, 21:00 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Former world champion replaces the late Franco Ballerini

    Paolo Bettini has been named as the new Italian national coach ahead of a full, formal presentation, taking place in Rome on June 23.

    The former Olympic and double world road race champion was confirmed in the role by the Italian Cycling Federation and replaces the late Franco Ballerini who was killed in a car rally accident in February. Bettini had to resolve a dispute with the Italian tax authorities before he could be named for the position.

    Bettini will act as a role model and ambassador for Italian cycling as well as be responsible for selecting and managing the men's professional road and time trial team. He is expected to travel to Australia to see the course of this year's world championships.

    Bettini is now 36 and comes from La California in Tuscany. He raced as a professional from 1997 to 2008, retiring after teammate Alessandro Ballan won the world title in Varese.

    During his career Bettini was affectionately nicknamed' il Grillo – the cricket – because of his attacking style. He dominated one-day races thank to his sharp tactical mind and fast sprint finish. He won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2000 and 2002, Milan-San Remo in 2003 and the Tour of Lombardy in 2005 and 2006. He won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympic in the road race and then took back to back world titles in 2006 and 2007.

    Bettini worked closely with Ballerini when he won his Olympic and world title and will now inherit his influential role in Italian cycling.

  • Ekimov loses bid to be Russian Federation head

    Viatcheslav Ekimov and Johan Bruyneel have a chat before the ride gets rolling back to town.
    Article published:
    June 16, 2010, 21:01 BST
    Cycling News

    Former racer beaten by resource giant chief Makarov

    Former professional rider Viatcheslav Ekimov has failed in his attempt to become the president of the Russian Cycling Federation.

    The 44-year-old, who rode for the likes of Panasonic, Rabobank and US Postal during his career (pictured with Johan Bruyneel, right), was vying for the presidency against Igor Makarov and Yuri Kuchereaviy, the former winning by a siginificant margin.

    Makarov, the president of oil and gas company ITERA, which has supported Russian cycling for many years and is the main sponsor of Team Katusha, was elected to the position with 29 votes, whilst Kuchereaviy and Ekimov received 11 and five votes respectively.

    Since retiring Ekimov has been a directeur sportif with the now-defunct Discovery Channel outfit before moving to Team Astana when Johan Bruyneel was team manager during Lance Armstrong's time with the team.

    Ekimov then followed the Belgian to Team RadioShack upon its formation late last year. The Russian was a vital assistant to Armstrong during most of his seven Tour de France victories between 1999 and 2005.

    For his part, president-elect Makarov is a passionate cycling fan, much in the mould of Oleg Tinkoff, whose team became the current Katusha ProTour outfit with the arrival of Makarov's ITERA resources company in 2008.

  • McEwen ready for Tour de France

    Robbie McEwen (Katusha) wins the bunch sprint for fourth.
    Article published:
    June 16, 2010, 21:03 BST
    Laura Weislo

    Says Cavendish crossed a line in yesterday's sprint

    Robbie McEwen, three-time winner of the Tour de France green jersey, finally seems to be hitting top form just in time for the final selections for July's big event.

    The Australian topped the bunch sprint on the fifth stage at the Tour de Suisse, but unfortunately was racing for fourth place as the breakaway led by stage winner Marcus Burghardt (BMC) stayed clear to the finish.

    McEwen told Cyclingnews that he was very happy with his ride today. "It's a pity we didn't pull the break back, but that's racing and those guys deserved to go for the win."

    Despite having just one win under his belt, the Trofeo Mallorca in February, McEwen has already been informed that he will be on Katusha's Tour squad. "I have shown that my condition is very good and I'm ready for the Tour. The team will be officially announced by the end of the Tour de Suisse."

    Unlike the previous day's stage finish, there was no acrobatics necessary on the rainy stage to Frutigen. McEwen said he was lucky not to be involved in the massive pile-up on yesterday's stage that took down a large portion of the peloton, saying he "looked back to see the carnage and wondered how the hell I got through".

    He unflinchingly placed the blame for the crash on HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish, who came across into Heinrich Haussler (Cerevelo) and took dozens of riders down in the resulting fall.

    "There's a fine line between right and wrong in sprinting," McEwen said, "and it was definitely crossed yesterday."

    The riders staged a brief protest at the start of today's stage to send a message to Cavendish not only for causing the crash, but for reacting to criticism by spitting at Haussler (an incident McEwen did not himself witness).

    "The one minute delay at the start today was a signal from his peers that what happened yesterday, the spitting incident after the crash in particular, is not acceptable and I'm sure he understands the message."

  • FFC committee listens to Lelangue

    Andy Rihs (center) with John Lelangue and Floyd Landis after the 2006 Tour de France.
    Article published:
    June 17, 2010, 10:23 BST
    Cycling News

    BMC Racing manager assists with Landis inquiry

    BMC Racing team manager John Lelangue attended a hearing of the special committee established by the French Cycling Federation (FFC) on Monday as part of investigations into comments made by Floyd Landis that were released during last month's Amgen Tour of California.

    In the leaked email from Landis to USA Cycling's CEO Steve Johnson, the former US Postal and Phonak team member claims that Lelangue knew of the star rider's doping practices in his capacity as Phonak team manager (pictured right). It prompted the International Cycling Union (UCI) to call on national federations to investigate the various allegations made by the American.

    Landis said in the now-infamous email: "One thing of great significance is that I sat down with Andy Riis [sic] and explained to him what was done in the past and what was the risk I would be taking and ask for his permission which he granted in the form of funds to complete the operation described. John Lelangue was also informed by me and Andy Riis [sic] consulted with Jim Ochowitz before agreeing."

    Lelangue has a French licence and was thus summonsed by the relevant federation; French daily L'Equipe reports that FFC Chairman David Lappartient explained the role of the committee in the ongoing investigation is not a disciplinary one, merely a vehicle to determine whether further action should be taken.

    "The special commission has the discretion to investigate incriminating and exculpatory [evidence]," he said. "It probably raises specific questions, but I do not know if there will be other hearings. It is not a disciplinary body, but a commission of inquiry. The report will decide whether to proceed."

    Following Landis' claims surrounding former US Postal teammates Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and Dave Zabriskie, Johnson has instructed the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to examine the allegations in line with the UCI's requests.

  • Löwik unlucky in Suisse slide

    Gerben Löwik (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
    Article published:
    June 17, 2010, 11:08 BST
    Cycling News

    Mechanical failure costs Omega Pharma-Lotto rider

    Gerben Löwik was forced to abandon the Tour de Suisse after an accident during stage five that sent him sliding into spectators along the roadside.

    The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider was riding in the peloton that trailed the day's main break which boasted eventual stage winner Marcus Burghardt when he suddenly lost control of his bike and was sent careening into spectators.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman explained on his website that he suffered facial and leg injuries plus slight concussion; he required stitches in his thigh and lip.

    He added that the accident was caused by a broken brake cable - footage of the accident would suggest this was the case as he appeared to have the use of just one brake and hence had limited control over his bike heading into the downhill corner.

    He slid into the spectators, none of which were hurt. Löwik is expected to make a quick recovery from his inuries.

  • Maaskant hopes for Tour nomination

    Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Transitions)
    Article published:
    June 17, 2010, 11:10 BST
    Cycling News

    Garmin-Transitions rider takes second in Suisse

    Martijn Maaskant hopes to turn his good performance in the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse into a place on the Garmin-Transitions Tour de France squad. The Dutch rider finished second to BMC Racing Team's Marcus Burghardt, and was both disappointed and satisfied.

    “Maybe I should have attacked earlier,” he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “If we had arrived in a sprint, I would probably have been the fastest.”

    The knowledge that Maaskant was the best in a sprint was probably part of Burghardt's motivation to attack just before the flamme rouge. Maaskant gave chase but finished two seconds behind the big German.

    However, Maaskant, 26, was satisfied with respect to a probable Tour de France participation. “I think now that they really want to take me,” he said. “They told me I needed to show good form in the Tour de Suisse. I showed that with my second place.”

    Maaskant rode the Tour last year as a last-minute replacement, finishing fourth in stage 14.

  • Burghardt shrugs off doubts to scoop Suisse win

    Marcus Burghardt listens in while Mike Sayers describes the finishing circuits, which could suit his abilities.
    Article published:
    June 17, 2010, 11:18 BST
    Shane Stokes

    BMC Racing rider motivated to perform well in adopted homeland

    Having endured a season that has rarely reached great heights thus far in 2010, BMC Racing’s Marcus Burghardt had something to smile about when he triumphed on yesterday’s fifth leg of the Tour de Suisse.

    The 26-year-old German clipped away with Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Transitions), Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Doimo), Angelo Furlan (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Francisco Javier Aramendia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) after 10km of racing before jumping clear of the first two of those breakaway companions with just over a kilometre left in the 172.5km stage.

    Burghardt’s win is his first of the season, and the third in 2010 by his BMC Racing Team. It was a fine performance made all the more worthy by the desperate weather the riders faced, yet he admitted after the stage that he didn’t have a lot of faith in himself prior to the start of the ProTour event.

    “This is a big satisfaction for me because I was injured at the Tour of California,” he told journalists at the post-stage press conference. “Even four days before the start of this race, my participation was not certain. I had done a lot of training [after recovering from his injury] but it is hard to properly simulate racing. However, we took the decision that I would do the Tour the Suisse.”

    That decision clearly worked out well. He said that he was very motivated to do something. “I wasn’t sure what my form was like but I was full of motivation.”

    The parcours and the weather both played into the favour of the riders in the break. The bunch’s morale was bruised thanks to the rain and cold, and that gave enough of an opportunity to those in the move for them to stay clear.

    Burghardt said that he had a hunch that things might go well for those willing to take a chance. “I looked at the route profile and thought that there would be a very good chance for a breakaway,” he said. “After ten...

  • Merckx celebrates 65th birthday

    Eddy Merckx is always a star, wherever he goes.
    Article published:
    June 17, 2010, 11:37 BST
    Cycling News

    'I was simply the best of my generation'

    The greatest Belgian cyclist of all times - if not the greatest cyclist in the world - is celebrating his 65th birthday today. Eddy Merckx, also know as 'the Cannibal', can look back on a rich palmarès of victories, all achieved during 13 years of pro racing between 1965 and 1978.

    Merckx took part in 1,800 competitions and won 525 of them. He won 11 Grand Tours: five times the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, once the Vuelta. He became Wold Champion four times and won 19 major Classics, including seven times Milano-Sanremo and five time Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    No wonder the Belgian can proudly say, "I was simply the best of my generation. I was an allrounder. I wasn't much of a sprinter, but I won some sprints. Solo breakaways and time trials were my strongest points. I could also climb, but never better than in the Tour 1969."

    His first Tour de France overall win will be forever remembered. "That was without a doubt my most beautiful victory," he told Sporza. "As a child, I dreamed of the Tour. We listened to the radio and then played racing. When I finished in Paris with the yellow jersey, a child's dream came true. The Tour is the greatest cycling race on earth."

    In stage 17 of that Tour, between Luchon and Mourenx in the Pyrenees, Merckx was already certain of the overall win but topped it off in unprecedented style. "I raced 120 kilometres in the lead. That was uncommon for the yellow jersey. I hadn't planned on it. It was pretty extraordinary. You don't see this sort of thing anymore now.

    "We used to race just by feeling. There were never any meeting before the races. You had to attack if your rival was vulnerable, make the difference when you could."

    These days, Merckx is still involved in the sport through organising the Tours of Qatar and Oman. "I also have a chair in the Belgian Olympic Committee. But good health is now my first priority, which is why I sold my bike...