By Ben Atkins
After an annus horribilus in 2006 with the biggest doping scandal for many years and the winner of the Tour de France apparently testing positive, surely 2007 could only get better. Or could it? It's time for a look back at the big races and top news stories in the last year in cycling.
Starting off in January, the New Year sadly brings no new progress in any of the issues that plagued much of 2006. We still don't know who won the Tour last year, and the big pre-Tour scandal of Operación Puerto still rumbles along, implicating certain names but still no concrete evidence can be linked to anyone.
The conflict between the UCI and the organisers of the three grand tours continues. No one quite knows if new team Astana (for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan) and expanded former Professional Continental team Unibet.com are actually in the ProTour, and even less if they'll be invited to any races.
Meanwhile, the nation of Belgium is rocked by the admission from Flemish legend Johann Museeuw that he did indeed use doping products at the end of his career. Suddenly nothing else matters in Flanders.
Out on the road, the Tour Down Under is becoming the traditional season opener, and proving to be way more than just the chance for Italian riders to top up their tans so early in the year that it used to be. There is the usual flurry of success from the domestic peloton, who are in the middle of their season where the Europeans are right at the beginning of theirs. There is bad news for home riders though, as Frenchman Martin Elmiger (Ag2r) takes the overall from Aussie Karl Menzies, by picking up bonus seconds in the last two stages. Will the race be in the ProTour next year? Will it be the only race in the ProTour next year?
The other recently developing tradition sees the peloton stop off in the Gulf for the Tour of Qatar on its way back to Europe. Former World Champion Tom Boonen takes four of the five road stages and his Quick.Step-Innergetic team takes the team time trial as the Belgian super team shows that it's unbeatable on flat roads with crosswinds. Wilfried Cretskens takes overall by virtue of being the Quick.Step-Innergetic rider in the race's only breakaway - which is incidentally the only stage that his team doesn't win.
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