By Andrew Hood
Former mountain-bike star Miguel Martinez – known as Little Mig for his small stature but big winning ways – looks to be coming out of retirement for another stab at the road scene.
Martinez flirted with road racing in the 2002 and ‘03 seasons, as a member of Mapei, before returning to the mountain bike circuit disillusioned with his inability to secure results on skinny tires.
Martinez, 31, retired from competitive cycling at the end of last season, but is poised to return to road racing for the 2008 season with Agritubel.
“I was already pro’ on the road in 2002 and 2003, but all the doping affairs proved it wasn’t a good period. It seems that things have changed and I am convinced that cycling is going in the right direction,” Martinez told AFP. “I now have a second chance to compete at the highest level.”
Martinez won the 2000 Olympic gold medal in mountain biking, but failed to make much of an impact in skinnier tires while former rivals such as Cadel Evans and Michael Rasmussen shined. He returned to the mountain bike circuit and retired at the Roc d’Azur event of 2006. After taking a one-year break, Martinez is ready for more.
“My year of sabbatical was good for me and I ready to return to competition,” Martinez concluded. “I have superb sensations in training and I am convinced I can do some good results.”
Petacchi, Zabel confirmed for Vuelta
Milram officials confirmed Tuesday that both Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel will be hunting for stage wins at the Vuelta a España.
Both riders have been dogged by controversies this year and will be looking to score revenge victories in the Spanish tour, where both have enjoyed success.
Petacchi returned from a career-threatening knee injury in this year’s Giro d’Italia to win five stages, but was forced to miss the Tour after a row after he tested high for levels of Salbutamol, an asthma medication for which he has permission from the UCI to use. The Italian federation has since cleared the Italian sprinter.
Zabel, meanwhile, admitted he used the banned blood booster EPO during the 1996 Tour de France and has since received mixed signals from various players in cycling. Tour officials want to strip Zabel of his 1996 green jersey while the German national team has doubts about letting him race in the road world championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Germany’s professional cyclists’ union, however, says it stands by the rider, applauds him for his honesty and has called for him to be invited to what is likely to be his last shot at a rainbow jersey.
Milram for VueltaAlessandro PetacchiErik ZabelMatej JurcoMartin MüllerAlberto OngaratoElia RigottoFabio SabatiniNike TerpstraMarco Velo
Martínez lands at Euskaltel
More riders are finding homes following the news that Discovery Channel will close its doors at the end of the 2007 racing season. Riders such as Tom Danielson, Trent Lowe and Matt White (all to Slipstream), Tony Cruz (BMC) and George Hincapie (T-Mobile) already have penned deals.
The latest is Egoi Martínez, who is returning to Euskaltel-Euskadi after a successful two-year run with Discovery Channel. Martínez has confirmed he’s signed a two-year deal to rejoin the Basque outfit.
“I had other offers, but the ‘home team’ has always been very important to me,” Martínez said. “I am very motivated to return to Euskaltel-Euskadi. I am going back to the team that helped become professional and I will be more than ready to be ready.”
French teams ready for Vuelta
French teams will come to the Vuelta a España with mixed squads of young riders as the season’s third grand tour continues to remain of relative lesser importance for the ProTour teams north of the Pyrenees.
Bouygues Telecom is leaving such star riders as Thomas Voeckler and Tour of Limousin winner Pierrick Fedrigo. Voeckler has already raced the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year while Fedrigo will aiming for GP Plouay and other late-season goals.
Picking up the team’s chances for a stage win will be Xavier Florencio, winner of the 2006 Clásica San Sebastian, and Swiss rider Aurélien Clerc.
Bouygues Telecom for VueltaXavier Florencio (Sp)Aurélien Clerc (Swi)Erki Pytsep (Est)Julien Belgy (F)Giovanni Bernaudeau (F)Mathieu Claude (F)Vincent Jerome (F)Dimitri Champion (F)Said Haddou (F)
FDJeux will see the return of team star Brad McGee, who was forced out of the Tour de France with nagging health problems. McGee has already been racing for a few weeks and will be a favorite to try to win a stage.
Philippe Gilbert, the Belgian attacker who abandoned the Limousin tour with a bad stomach, will lead the team’s chances in the GC.
FDJeux for VueltaPhilippe Gilbert (B)Cyrille Monnerais (F)Carlos Da Cruz (F)Mickael Delage (F)Jeremy Roy (F)Thomas Lovkvist (Swe)Bradley McGee (Aus)Ian McLeod (RSA)Jussi Veikkanen (Fin)
Cofidis won’t be bringing American rider Tyler Farrar to the Vuelta and has instead brought a mixed team of veterans and younger riders getting their first taste of three-week racing.
For the first time, Sylvain Chavanel will be racing his second grand tour in the same season and will be trying to win a stage.
Cofidis for VueltaSylvain Chavanel (F)Stephane Auge (F)Geoffroy Lequatre (F)Sebastien Minard (F)Damien Monier (F)Maryan Hary (F)Maxime Monfort (B)Leonardo Duque (Col)Bingen Fernandez (Sp)
Navigators busy after Ireland
Fresh off securing a top 10 finish at the Tour of Ireland and having the team active in nearly every major breakaway in the inaugural five-day stage race around the Emerald Isle, Navigators Insurance continues with a busy schedule to close out the 2007 season.
According to a team release, the team will be racing a full schedule in both the United States and Europe.
Next up in Europe, the team will race a series of events in Belgium which include Grote Prijs Jef Scherens – Rondom Leuven (Sept. 2), Schaal J.C. Sels Merksem (Sept. 4), and Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen (Sept. 5) with Ben Brooks, Glen Chadwick, Hilton Clarke, Kristian House, David O’Loughlin, Ciaran Power, and Bert deBacker. The Tour of Britain, formerly known as the Milk Race, the Kellogg’s Tour and the PruTour of Britain, returned to the British cycling calendar in 2004 after an absence of five years, and is set to launch on Sept. 9 with a prologue start in London.
The race features six stages taking the riders up the western half of Britain ending in Glasgow. The Tour of Britain will provide the team once more with televised international coverage. The scheduled lineup includes: Former FBS Insurance Rás winner, Kristian House, Ben Brooks, Hilton Clarke, Irish National Champion David O’Loughlin, Irish National Criterium Champion Ciaran Power, and Bert deBacker.
Back in the United States, the team prepares for the National Championships with Phil Zajicek and Bernard van Ulden riding the time trial on Sept. 1, and on Sunday, being joined in the road race by Matt Cooke, David Rodriguez, Kyle Wamsley and Matt Wolf. The team will also race the Univest GP on Sept. 8, a one-day event in Pennsylvania which is being televised. The team set to start include: Glen Chadwick, Matt Cooke, Valeriy Kobzarenko, Sergey Lagutin, Darren Lill, Bernard van Ulden, Kyle Wamsley, and Matt Wolf The team will then race the inaugural Tour of Missouri and the lineup includes: Glen Chadwick, Ben Day, Oleg Grishkin, Valeriy Kobzarenko, Sergey Lagutin, Darren Lill, Bernard van Ulden, and Phil Zajicek. The one-day Tour of Leelanau being held on Sept. 15 will feature a smaller squad including: Matt Cooke, David Rodriguez, Kyle Wamsley, and Mike Wolf.