News Shorts – Feb 1, 2012

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Here are the headlines in Pro Cycling news over the past past week and what’s coming up…

Leipheimer Superior in San Luis; Meyer and Howard Win Berlin Six Day; Contador Waits For CAS; Boonen Returns; Evans Talks About His Adopted Son, Gilbert and Hushovd Promise to Support Evans; Valverde Makes a Point, or Does He?; Racing Continues in Qatar and Mallorca; Roelandts Eyes Return in Tirreno-Adriatico; Beautiful Tour of Italy

Leipheimer superior in San Luis

Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer dominated the Tour of San Luis in Argentina last week, but to be honest, they faced inferior rivals. Besides Vuelta a España winner, Vincenzo Nibali, they were up against mostly friendly South Americans.

“In the group there were riders looking and talking about me,” Contador told Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport. “They all wanted to take a photo with me.”

Contador (Saxo Bank) won the first mountain stage to Mirador del Potrero on Wednesday and the second and final one to Mirador del Sol on Friday. American Levi (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) trailed slightly behind on both stages, but won the time trial by one minute over Contador.

“It was expected,” Contador explained. “After the Tour maybe I was still for too long. Even my brother was worried. I was seven kilograms over [from in-form weight 62kg]. I could still lose about three kilograms.”

Leipheimer’s win paved the way for his overall win. He won tours in Utah, Colorado and Switzerland last year. This year, he will be OmegaPharma’s captain at the Tour de France.

Nibali finished second, 33 seconds behind Leipheimer in the 19.5-kilometre time trial.

“Contador said that he’s only been training for 20 days and the other [Leipheimer] said that he had to stop for 10 days due to tendonitis. So, I’m the only idiot who’s training like crazy?” Nibali said, letting loose after the time trial. “Don’t try to kid me!”

He finished fifth in the final overall behind Leipheimer. Contador finished second at 46 seconds. Australian Jonathan Clarke (United Healthcare) finished 18th overall.

Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard Take Berlin Six Day

Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard have won their first Berlin Six Day in a thrilling final day of racing. Kenny de Ketele and Iljo Keisse went into the final evening with the lead, but couldn’t hold the pace with the previous five nights of racing and dropped down to third. Franco Marvulli and Silvan Diller moved to second place with only 24 points separating the top four places. The last Australian to win a the Berlin Six Day was Danny Clark in 1988. More good info on this story at cyclingnews.

1 Leigh Howard (Aus) & Cameron Meyer (Aus) Axel Lange 263 pts
2 Franco Marvulli (Swi) & Silvan Dillier (Swi) Wolfram 254
3 Iljo Keisse (Bel) & Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Techem 254
4 Leif Lampater (Ger) & Roger Kluge (Ger) Schultheiss 239

Contador waits for CAS

Besides his weight, Contador returned to Madrid yesterday morning worrying about a possible doping ban. He now has dropped beef from his diet, but says that a contaminated steak that he ate at the 2010 Tour de France led to him testing positive for Clenbuterol.

Contador won that Tour – his third title – but later discovered he failed an anti-doping test. The Spanish federation cleared him, but the Union Cycliste International (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.

The CAS heard the case in November and after a few delays, was due to announce its decision on Monday. Instead, it announced that the decision will come next week on February 6.

Contador faces a two-year doping ban and loss of his 2010 Tour title. He says he is innocent and prefers not to think of the consequences for himself and cycling.

“I try to alienate myself from it as much as possible, even if that’s not easy,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I think only of cycling, which is what brings me pleasure.”

Contador’s next scheduled race is the Challenge Mallorca, February 5 to 8.

Boonen returns

Leipheimer’s OmegaPharma team-mates Francesco Chicchi and Tom Boonen dominated the sprints in San Luis. Boonen’s win on Sunday marked a comeback, even if the startlist lacked depth.

His last win came in Gent-Wevelgem nearly a year ago. In past years, he was the king of the classics, winning three times Paris-Roubaix and twice Tour of Flanders. In recent years, he had problems with injuries and cocaine.

“It’s been nothing but problems and bad luck in the last two years,” Boonen said at the presentation on January 13. In Argentina he said, “It’s a nice feeling to taste victory again. I hope this is the first of many.”

Tom Boonen wins stage 7 of Tour de San Luis - Photo Cor Vos

Evans talks about… his adopted son

BMC Racing presented its 26 cyclists on Friday in Spain, including Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. Evans talked about winning the French race again this year and, something closer to his heart, becoming a dad.

“It happens like,” Evans told news agency, AAP, while clicking his fingers. “It is a flood of emotions and it has been an amazing process.”

He described how he and his wife Chiara went to Ethiopia over Christmas to take custody of 15-month-old Robel. The process took years.

They first discussed adopting a baby five years ago and had their first meeting with Switzerland’s social services (where they live) in October 2009. From that point, though, he said that the time flew.

Evans still did not expect the process to be complete until 2012, but in August, while racing at the Tour of Colorado, he received good news. Then, when the couple where in Australia in October, they were called and given a hearing date in Addis Ababa on December 28.

“You come back from the courtroom in a taxi and this time you can walk out the door [of the childcare centre] with him,” Evans said. “It is quite bizarre.”

Robel was abandoned in the streets at six months old. He is now with Chiara in Stabio while dad trains with his team in Spain.

Gilbert and Hushovd promise to support Evans

Evans won the Tour last year, but Belgian Philippe Gilbert won about everything else. BMC Racing signed him and 2010 World Champion, Thor Hushovd to the team for this season and to support Evans.

They said at the presentation in Denia, Spain, that they would support Evans towards a second title, which may not be a surprise since the team pays them to do so and, at least, say so.

Gilbert won the opening stage and Hushovd won two stages last year. They both will forgo their hopes of winning a green jersey for Evans.

The three musketeers, Philip Gilbert, Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd during the January trianing camp in Spain. Image: Team BMC

“We will do everything for him,” Gilbert said, “to support him to win the Tour again.”

“It’s easy, Cadel is the defending champion and our main goal is to win the Tour,” Hushovd said. “We have to sacrifice something and we knew that when we signed with BMC. We will all work to help Cadel.”

Gilbert and Hushovd also promised that they would help each other in the classics this spring.

Valverde makes a point, or does he?

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) proved strong on returning from his doping suspension in the Tour Down Under. He won the Willunga Hill stage and placed himself for an eventual second place overall.

Did he make his point? No, at least not with the UCI.

Valverde after the Queen stage of the 2012 Tour Down Under.

The cycling federation awarded him WorldTour points for his second overall (80), stage win (6) and fourth place in Stirling (1). Those 87 points put him second in the WorldTour individual rankings and Movistar second behind RadioShack in the team rankings, but they will not figure when it comes to licence renewal.

The UCI decided last year to withhold points won by returning dopers when reviewing a team’s WorldTour licence application, specifically the its sporting value. The UCI’s licence committee consider four criteria: sporting, ethical, financial and administration.

The rule applies for riders who served a doping suspension of at least two years. Spain’s Movistar might suffer since Valverde is its key rider, but the UCI would rather see such teams building on clean riders.

Movistar’s licence expires at the end of 2013, but will be reviewed this fall, as the UCI does with all teams every year.

Roelandts eyes return in Tirreno-Adriatico

Jürgen Roelandts plans on returning to action in March, nearly two months after crashing and fracturing a vertebra in the Tour Down Under. Doctors gave him the OK to train on rollers after a check up yesterday in Herentals, Belgium.

Team Lotto-Belisol took him to Adelaide to help André Greipel win stages. Roelandts hopes he can be back in action for Tirreno-Adriatico, March 7 to 13, and then to help Greipel win Milano-Sanremo on March 17.

He fractured his sixth vertebra in a crash in the final kilometre of stage one of the Tour Down Under.

Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) with neck brace after his crash in stage 1. Photo Cor Vos

Racing continues in Qatar and Mallorca

Cadel Evans will make his season debut in the Challenge Mallorca in Spain this week, February 5 to 8. He joins the Schleck brothers, Andy and Fränk, who finished second and third last year at the Tour de France, and Alberto Contador.

The Challenge Mallorca is a unique series of one-day races where teams are able to interchange riders for different days. Teams, like BMC Racing, often include the race as part of their training camps and field around 10 riders.

World Champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) will debut in the Tour of Qatar, February 5 to 10. The race is a sprinters’ affair, held over flat, wind-swept and mostly life-less roads.

Mark Renshaw won the overall title last year with HTC and will return this year to lead team Rabobank.

GreenEDGE will send a team with Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke, Garmin with Tyler Farrar, BMC with Gilbert and Hushovd, Katusha with Denis Galimzyanov, Lotto with Greipel, OmegaPharma with Boonen, Liquigas with Peter Sagan…

The race:
Stage 1: February 5: Barzan Towers – Doha Golf Club, 142.5km
Stage 2: February 6: Lusail TTT, 11.3km
Stage 3: February 7: Dukhan – Al Gharafa Stadium, 146.5km
Stage 4: February 8: Al Thakhira – Madinat Al Shamal, 144km
Stage 5: February 9: Al Khor Corniche, 160km
Stage 6: February 10: Sealine Beach Resort – Doha Corniche, 120km

WorldTour racing continues with the Paris-Nice stage race from March 4 to 11.

Beautiful Tour of Italy

Danish singer Malene Mortensen recorded a song in honour of the Giro d’Italia starting in her country this year, Beautiful Italy. The video includes some memorable scenes from last year’s edition, won by Contador.

“You know what you got to do…” get ready to dance!

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