Joaquim Rodriguez will ride for Katusha in 2010 after leaving Spanish squad Caisse d'Epargne, where he has spent the past four seasons.
The negotiations were concluded during the Tour of Burgos, where he won a stage and briefly held the race lead before countryman and teammate Alejandro Valverde won the event. Rodriguez had next year in mind, however. "Aside from the improved economic conditions, I needed new challenges and Katusha are betting on me to lead the team in certain races," he said.
A guarantee to ride next year's Tour de France was an important factor in Rodriguez's decision to sign for Katusha, a squad which will appreciate his versatility in different events. "I have been assured of my presence in the Tour; my previous teams have never felt the need take me [to the Tour] - I'm very excited because I'm already 30 and this is the only major 'fault' of my career," he explained.
Rodriguez said that despite his leaving, he and Caisse d'Epargne team manager Eusebio Unzué are "very good friends". "Some technical differences aside, I have always been treated very well and these have been four very important years of my career where I think I've grown and matured professionally," he added.
As expected, Rodriguez's main goals will be the Spring Classics and Tour de France next season. The former ONCE and Saunier Duval rider says he expects to "continue improving as a cyclist in an international team such as Katusha," where he will be reunited with former Caisse d'Epargne colleagues Joan Horrach and Vladimir Karpets, with whom he said he has always had a good relationship.
Astana's Tour points haul means Kazakh crew still reigns
Alberto Contador remains at the head of the UCI world rankings following the conclusion of the latest ProTour round, the Tour of Poland. The Spanish star holds a 193-point lead over Tour de France runner-up, Andy Schleck.
Australian neo-pro Wesley Sulzberger cracks a spot in the top 100 after his victory in the final stage of Paris-Correze and third place in Poly Normand. Edvald Boasson Hagen was the big mover following his exploits in the Polish event, moving up 21 place to sit 14th in the individual rankings.
The teams rankings still indicate the dominance of Astana at the Tour de France, with the Kazakh squad maintaining a 219-margin over Saxo Bank, with Columbia-HTC narrowly trailing Bjarne Riis' outfit.
Predictably, Spain is the leading nation in the rankings thanks to the success of Contador, Valverde, Barredo and Co, with a very comfortable 424-point buffer between the Iberian kings and Italy's riders. Australia holds its own with third place overall.
Readers may not have noticed but Alejandro Valverde rode - and won - the recent Tour of Burgos aboard Pinarello's latest composite wondership, the all-new Dogma. The Spanish ace was testing the new flagship model and judging by his result, it obviously performs quite well.
The Dogma 60.1, named as such due to the composite material used - Torayca's 60HM1K carbon fibre - makes the shift from Magnesium frame construction to carbon technology. Like the unveiling of the new Prince two years ago, the arrival of the new Dogma has had tongues wagging and wallets aching in anticipation of the high price tag.
It features an 'assymetrical frame design', whereby the drive-side of the frame has been reinforced and the shape altered at several points to increase rigidity, thus enhancing power transfer.
The right side of the fork is thicker and more angled while the right seatstay gets the same treatment. The top tube is thicker on the 'belly' of the drive side and both chainstays change at either end to deal with any potential flex when under load.
According to Pinarello, the use of the 60HM1K carbon in the Dogma apparently yields 23 per cent more impact resistance over the Prince and makes it up to 90g lighter per frame. You may not notice the weight difference on the road but your pocket certainly will, with a frame-only price tag of US$5,500
Dorel makes moves in Oz
The group behind brands such as Cannondale, GT, Schwinn, Mongoose and Sugoi, Dorel Industries, recently acquired the Mongoose assets of Sydney-based distributor Gemini Bicycles for $2.2 million.
It's one of the biggest shake ups seen in the Australian bicycle industry for some time and follows various moves by Dorel in recent times that included moving the production of Cannondale bikes away from the United States.
After Vincenzo Nibali confirmed that he would remain at Liquigas, TeamSky has refused to rule out a move for Garmin's Bradley Wiggins, saying that there is a possibility that he might ride for them in 2010. Speculation has been rife that Wiggins would leave Garmin for Sky after finishing fourth at the Tour and Sky's desire to hire British riders.
"If Bradley is available then of course we're interested; he's British, so yes it's a possibility," Team Sky directeur sportif Scott Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "If Wiggins himself wants to come then of course it could happen. But it's not so that we'd take him because we can't have Nibali or vice versa."
Missing out on Nibali comes as a shock to many cycling fans after his deal looked to be on the cards earlier in the year. The Italian also finished seventh in the Tour, with some fine displays in the mountains. However, the Italian was left out of the Liqiugas's Giro squad and the Italian outfit already has an abundance of stage race potential with Ivan Basso, Franco Pellizotti and Roman Krueziger.
"Speculation is one thing, reality another. Vincenzo was indeed a rider we were interested in but I'm sure so were a lot of teams who saw his performance at the Tour de France." continued Sunderland.
"But Nibali is under contract, he preferred to stay and of course we respect that and he'll be riding with Liquigas next season. I guess, as an Italian rider it is still most comfortable for him to ride for an Italian team.
"Nibali's a great rider and I'm sure that even Bruyneel and Radio Shack would have been on the phone to him as well. But just like other teams would have noticed while scouting the field I have too found that there's plenty of other potentially great talent out there," Sunderland explained.
"One of the most important aspects for me is that the riders who chose to come and be part of Team Sky do so because they really see themselves working with the team, its...
Italian authority expected to seek two-to-four year ban
Danilo Di Luca will face a hearing with the Anti-Doping Commission of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on August 26, it was announced Monday. The Italian returned two positive anti-doping controls for EPO-CERA during this year's Giro d'Italia.
The two positive tests came from blood samples taken on May 20 (stage 11) and May 28 (stage 18). The LPR Brakes rider finished second overall in this year's Giro. He won the three-week Grand Tour in 2007.
The positive results were first announced July 22 and Di Luca was suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI). His B-samples were subsequently confirmed positive earlier this month by the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory in Paris.
It was unclear what length suspension Di Luca might face if found guilty by CONI. In 2007 he served a three-month ban for his involvement for the Italian “Oil for Drugs” investigation. Ordinarily, a second doping violation could lead to lifetime ban, but UCI president Patrick McQuaid earlier told Cyclingnews that it was not clear whether the previous suspension would be considered as a first offence.
CONI is expected to ask for a two-to-four year suspension for the current charges.
When the original positive results were announced, the 33-year-old said that he would retire if the B-samples were also positive. However, when the second set of positive results were confirmed, his attorney said that he would fight the charges.
Di Luca turned pro in 1998 with Riso Scotti, and rode for Cantina Tollo (1999-2001), Saeco (2002-2004) and Liquigas (2005-2007) before joining LPR Brakes-Ballan in 2008. In addition to winning the Giro in 2007, he has won eight stages in that race, and also won the UCI ProTour overall title in 2005. He has also won a number of prestigious one-day races, such as the Amstel Gold Race (2005), Giro di Lombardia (2001), Fleche Wallonne (2005) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (2007).
Dane approached by team entered in Spanish Grand Tour
Michael Rasmussen says he hopes to race in this year's Vuelta a España, as he continues to look for a new professional team after returning to competition last month. Danish and Dutch media outlets have reported that the former Rabobank rider has been in contact with a number of teams, including one that will race the Spanish Grand Tour.
The Danish rider returned to racing on July 24, when he finished second in the Designa Grand Prix in Denmark. He had served a two-year suspension for having lied to anti-doping authorities about his whereabouts in the months prior to the 2007 Tour de France.
“There is a team which approached me this weekend, and if it falls into place, it looks very promising,” Rasmussen told the Danish website, feltet.dk. “My sporting ambitions could be satisfied if I get the contract, so obviously I hope it becomes a reality.” He did not reveal the name of the team, but indicated that it would be riding the Vuelta a España.
However, he has also told the Dutch magazine Sportweek that he was still looking for a new team, possibly a smaller, pro continental Italian team. The magazine indicated that Rasmussen had been in negotiations with Amore & Vita, which would have required him to admit his mistakes before signing a contract.
Last month Rasmussen claimed that the UCI put pressure on Italian team Ceramica Flaminia not to sign him, saying the UCI had “black-listed” him after his alleged involvement in the Austrian Humanplasma investigation. Both the UCI and the team denied the claims.
Garmin Slipstream rider building for Tour of Spain
Motivated by a strong performance in the Vuelta a Burgos, Garmin Slipstream's Tom Danielson is now focussed on fine-tuning his form in advance of the Vuelta a España. The 31-year-old proved he was back to strong form when he won Saturday’s time trial in the 2.HC Spanish event, beating team-mate Danny Pate by ten seconds.
It was his first major victory since winning a stage of the 2006 Vuelta a España in Granada and earned him the race leader’s jersey. He ultimately finished third overall after Sunday’s summit finish to Lagunas de Neila but rather than rueing what might have been, he heads away from the race focussed firmly on the positives.
"Going into the race I knew I was in condition and in the right frame of mind to perform well. However I did not expect that to be a stage win and on the podium in the overall," he told Cyclingnews.
Danielson finished the race twelve seconds behind Valverde, having lost 13 seconds to the Spaniard on the steep ramp to the finish on stage two. He is philosophical about this, saying that he learned from the experience and that his final finishing position has made him hungry for more.
"I think I made some mistakes on the last day and in the beginning of the race I lost some time here and there," he said. "But in the long run I think it was good that I made the mistakes and leave the race hungry. I am really satisfied, really happy. It is a great result and a great confirmation, but at the same time it is good to continuously learn. To have some things in the back of my mind so when I cross those paths in the future, I know how to react.”
Garmin Slipstream team boss Jonathan Vaughters was delighted with Danielson’s return to form. “Sometimes being patient with people plays off,” he said on Twitter immediately after the time trial victory. He further expanded on this on Monday. “I'm very happy Tom is having fun racing...
Manager says Norwegian is considering shortlist of contract offers
Edvald Boasson Hagen will leave Team Columbia-HTC at the end of this season said his manager on Tuesday. Birger Hungerholdt did not reveal which team the 22-year-old would ride for in the coming season, but said that he was currently considering a shortlist of contract offers.
"We have ruled out some of the offers," said Hungerholdt to Norwegian press agency NTB. "We now have in front of us a final round with several appropriate candidates. After Edvald's efforts in the Giro d'Italia, there was an explosion of inquiries, and after the Tour of Poland came a new wave. "
Last week, the young Norwegian won two stages in the Tour of Poland and finished the race third overall. The results in Poland continued a strong season for Boasson Hagen, who won stage seven of this year's Giro d'Italia and the the Belgian semi-classic, Gent-Wevelgem in April.
Hungerholdt also said that his client had received a lucrative contract offer from a non-ProTour team, but played down the importance of financial incentives in Boasson Hagen's final decision. "Last Monday a huge offer was made by a team from outside the ProTour," he said. "It would be very interesting if it was only money we were after. "
While Hungerholt remained silent on the teams being considered, Boasson Hagen has been linked with a possible move to Team Sky. An article by Richard Moore, published by British newspaper The Guardian on July 27, suggested that both Boasson Hagen and Columbia teammate, Swede Thomas Lovkvist, were being targeted by the new British squad.
Boasson Hagen is currently racing in his second season with Columbia. He previously rode for Norwegian squad Maxobo-Bianchi, with whom he turned professional in 2006.