THE WEEK IN BRIEF
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 2 TO FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8, 2008
|EUROPEAN SEASON IN FULL SWING|
Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) is the favourite for a fourth successive win in the Etruschi race. World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) also make their season debut in the race but Petacchi’s biggest rival could be Australia’s Baden Cooke who will have Britain’s Steve Cummings as part of the Team Barloworld lead-out train.
Spain’s Alejandro Valverde will lead the Caisse d’Epargne in the Challenge Mallorca with Tour de France winner Alberto Contador also set to make his race debut in Astana colours during the five-race series.
The Tour of Langkawi starts in Malayisa on Saturday with a 182km road stage that is likely to favour sprinters such as Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff) and Britain’s Jeremy Hunt (Credit Agricole). The replacement of the Ghentling Highlands stage is set to make the Tour of Langkawi a much closer race, with the overall winner decided on the final stage on February 17.
The season has already started in France, with Belgium’s Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet) is the early leader of the Etoile des Besseges stage race after two of the five stages.
The European action continues next week with further races of the Challenge Mallorca, the Giro di Calabria in Italy and the Tour of the Mediteranian that starts in the South of France on Wednesday.
Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins make their season debut with Team High Road at the Tour of California that starts on Sunday with a short prologue time trial.
|HIGH ROAD MOVE TO AMERICA|
While sponsored by T-Mobile the team was always registered and based in Germany but following their sudden withdrawl, team manager Bob Stapleton has decided to register the team in the USA with the team’s offices in his home town of San Luis Obispo. The team’s Service Corse will still be in Bonn but it seems the move will help the team financially and as they search for a new main sponsor for 2009.
The change will mean the USA now has two major teams in the peloton. Both Slipstream and High Road are without major sponsors but include some of the best riders in the world. In a statement High Road said: "We are an International team and proud of it. We are open to committed athletes from wherever they come from. One of the simple pleasures of this team is the international diversity and personal character each athlete brings to the team," team manager Bob Stapleton said.
|HIGH ROAD IN THE GIRO AFTER ALL?|
|MCQUAID GETS TOUGH ON TOUR ORGANISERS|
|FIGHT CONTINUES OVER TOUR TEAMS|
Following a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, the Astana, Team High Road, Rabobank, Milram, CSC, Quickstep, Lampre, Liquigas and Saunier Duval seem determined to put pressure on the Tour organisers but have also called for a meeting to resolve the dispute.
"We're going to talk to the bosses of the Grand Tours to come to a solution. The teams need to know where they're at." Henri van der Aat, Rabobank's interim manager said.
"There could be a situation where we say: 'either you take all of us, or none of us will come'. But we understand and respect the organisers' wish that they don't want any teams that could hurt their image."
|CONTADOR PLANS FOR LIFE WITHOUT THE TOUR|
|USA MOVE CLOSER TO AGREEING WADA CONVENTION|
The move is apparently in response to the 2009 draft of the WADA anti-doping code that restricts the selection of Olympic host cities to those countries who have signed up to the convention.
“The United States supported the development of the Convention as a means to ensure equitable and effective application and promotion of anti-doping controls in international competition,” Bush said.
Leading US sports such as Baseball have been struck by major doping scandals in recent years however adoption of the convention would only affect athletes who compete in Olympic sanction sports.
|NEW RAILWAY, SAME OLD STORY|
Magnus Backstedt: training at home in South Wales this week. Photo: Megan Backstedt
|BACKSTEDT BACK IN TRAINING AFTER BONE BREAK|
|STELLA WEEKEND FOR BIRCH|
|SHIMANO 24-HOUR RACE ENTRIES OPEN|
|EROICA PRO RACE IN MARCH|
|CROSS TIME FOR LE SAUX|
|FLEEMAN JOINS LLOYD AT KELLY'S TEAM|