SATURDAY FEBRUARY 9 TO FRIDAY FEBRUARY 15, 2008

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

The Tour of California starts this Sunday. We will be covering the event in full, with exclusive race reports, photography and analysis. In the past couple of years California has quickly become the early-season preparation race of choice for the world’s biggest teams – and this year many of the squads have sent their best riders. The start list includes an all-star cast: Boonen, Bettini, Voigt, Cancellara, Leipheimer, Millar, Cavendish, Kirchen, Hincapie, McGee, Freire, Wegmann, Voeckler and Cipollini (see below).
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SUPERMARIO RETURNS

Mario Cipollini – who retired from professional cycling in 2005 – will take part in next week’s Tour of California. He has inked a deal with the controversial US outfit Rock Racing Team, which includes Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla – both implicated in doping investigation Operacion Puerto – on its roster. Will Cipo wear one of his infamous multi-coloured skinsuits when he lines up on Sunday? Anything could happen…
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ASTANA: NOT WANTED AT THE TOUR

Confirmation came on Wednesday that Team Astana and Alberto Contador are not invited to this year’s Tour de France. The squad also includes Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer, both of whom have featured on the Tour final podium in recent years. It is the first time that a previous Tour winner – and one who has not retired or been banned – has not been invited back to the race. Astana quickly released a statement saying that they took the news with “surprise, disbelief and incomprehension”.
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Team High Road: Britain’s Bradley Wiggins models the squad’s new white outfit

HIGH ROAD TURN WHITE

Team High Road – the squad formerly known as T-Mobile – have ditched the all-black ‘training kit’ and gone white. The three Brits on the US-based ProTour squad, Bradley Wiggins, Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish, all modelled the jersey. Wiggins and Cavendish line up at next week’s Tour of California, their first outing of the year.
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CUMMINGS WINS IN ITALY

After Jeremy Hunt’s stage win in the Tour of Langkawi (see below), fellow Brit Steve Cummings (Barloworld) won a stage and took the race lead in the Giro di Calabria, Italy. Cummings couldn’t quite hold on to the race lead, and lost the overall to Daniele Pietropolli on the last stage.
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LIVINGSTONE PROMISES TO MAKE LONDON BIKE CAPITAL OF WORLD

On Monday, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone announced an enormous investment in cycling and walking in the capital. He has allocated £500 million to create a network of safe cycling and pedestrian routes, plus the creation of a bike hire scheme including 6,000 cycles available around the city. His announcement caught the imagination of the mainstream media, with newspapers and television news covering the announcement in full.
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HUNT WINS IN LANGKAWI

Jeremy Hunt, the British sprinter now signed with French pro squad Credit Agricole, scored his first win of the year in the Tour of Langkawi. Hunt has made a habit of winning very early season races, having won the first European race of the season last year, the GP D’Ouverture La Marseillaise.
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STEWART’S PERF-ECT PERFORMANCE

James Stewart (KFS Special Vehicles) rounded off a good weekend by winning the Perfs Pedal Race in Hampshire. Stewart won the British season-opener on Sunday after winning the previous day’s Upavon Winter Series event in Wiltshire. Click on the play button above to see a gallery of photos from the event.
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PETACCHI: FIRST RACE, FIRST WIN

Italian sprinter Alessandro Pettachi (Milram) kicked off his season in style by winning his first race of the year: the GP Costa degli Etruschi in Tuscany. Petacchi had been nervous before the race, coming up against rivals who had got their racing legs in shape in the Tour of Qatar. Britain’s Ian Stannard made his first professional outing for the Landbouwkrediet team, and came a highly creditable 30th – the highest placed rider in his squad.
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