Contracts and transfers; Quick Step meets; Sinkewitz hearing
By Andrew Hood
Levi Leipheimer’s move to Astana is now official and he will join ex-Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel and Tour de France winner Alberto Contador at the new-look Astana team for 2008.
Leipheimer said following the Disco-Astana migration was the natural choice following the closure of the Discovery Channel team at the end of this season after the long-running American squad couldn’t secure a new title sponsor.
“It’s what I’m comfortable with. It’s what I am used to,” Leipheimer told The Associated Press. “It looked like everyone was going to go their separate ways. It was a big disappointment. In the end, to be able to keep working together, we’re all very lucky and fortunate.”
Leipheimer, who turns 34 today, said he will have no problems working with Contador, the surprise winner of this year’s scandal-plagued Tour. Leipheimer also enjoyed a breakthrough Tour, winning his first-ever stage and finishing third on the podium despite being socked with a 10-second time penalty that knocked him out of second.
The reigning U.S. champ said he will have no problem sharing the spotlight with Contador.
“We both feel we have a great chance to win,” Leipheimer said. “We work well together.”
Bruyneel confirmed to VeloNews that other former Discovery Channel riders are also expected to be joining the move as the Belgian reshapes the Kazakh-sponsored team in the wake of a string of damaging doping scandals.
Others expected to sign are Sergio Paulinho, Benjamin Noval, Tomas Vaitkus and Janez Brajkovic. Russian classics man Vladimir Gusev is also being linked to a move to Astana.
Tour stage in Italy?
The Tour de France will likely return to Italy next year for a mountain stage for first time since Lance Armstrong won at Sestriere in 1999.
According to reports in the Italian media, a summit finish to Pratonevoso in northwest Italy near Cuneo is expected to be included as part of the 2008 Tour route.
Tour officials will unveil the complete route for the 95th Tour in a lavish ceremony Thursday in Paris.
Brest will be hosting the Tour’s “grand départ” for the third time in Tour history. The region is home to Tour legend Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win a Tour.
With doping scandals threatening to tarnish the Tour’s reputation, the Tour organization will also be evoking its storied past as a remainder to media and fans of what’s good about cycling.
Britanny is rich in Tour history and the five times the Tour has started in the region, a major name has come out on top. (Brest 1952: 1st Coppi; Rennes 1964: 1st Anquetil; Brest 1974: 1st Merckx; Plumelec 1985: 1st Hinault; Saint-Brieuc 1995: 1st Indurain).
What’s already known is that the Tour will begin without a prologue for the first time since 1967.
Instead, organizers are opting for a road stage from Brest to Plumelec in France’s Brittany region on July 5. The second stage runs from Auray to Saint-Brieuc with the third stage starting in Saint-Malo.
It’s also expected that the Pryénées will be on tap before the Alps as the “grand boucle” is likely to unfold counter-clockwise as it makes its three-week journey back to Paris to conclude on the Champs-Elysées on July 25.
Speculation is high that the route will turn quickly into the Massif Central as Tour officials are keen to pack some more challenging stages into the first week in order to avoid a somewhat boring procession of flatter stages.
A summit finish at L’Alpe d’Huez is also expected to be in the offing, but all the details will be officially unveiled Thursday in Paris.
Several top riders are expected to attend, including defending champion Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Oscar Pereiro, Thomas Voeckler and Mauricio Soler.
Contract news: Redondo, Ventoso to Cajasur; Cobo extends; Gasparotto to Barloworld
More riders are finding new homes for the upcoming seasons.
Saunier Duval-Prodir is continuing to see many of its top riders leave. Already confirmed to be leaving are team stars Gilberto Simoni and David Millar while Iban Mayo still faces an uncertain future after the UCI wants to retest his “B” sample despite claims by Spanish cycling federation officials that he’s in the clear over doping charges.
Promising Spanish sprinter Francisco Ventoso and neo-pro José Antonio Carrasco are both leaving Saunier Duval to join Spanish continental team Andalucía Caja Sur. José Antonio Redondo will also join the team as it improves its lineup following a successful debut in this year’s Vuelta a España.
Saunier Duval-Prodir will count on Juan José Cobo, the surprise winner of this year’s Vuelta a País Vasco. Cobo has penned a contract extension to stay with the Spanish yellow jackets.
Enrico Gasparotto, who wore the pink jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia after leading the Liquigas team across the line first in the team time trial opener, will join Barloworld for next season. Eventual Giro winner Danilo Di Luca screamed at Gasparotto because it was Di Luca, not the largely unknown Gasparotto, who was supposed to lead the team across the line and claim the jersey.
QuickStep holds first meeting
Riders and staff at Quick Step-Innergetic will be getting together later this week in a short two-day meeting to get a head start on the 2008 season.
With the arrival of such riders as Stijn Devolder and new sport director Dirk Demol, the team will meet at Knokke on the Belgian coast. The team will reflect on its successful 2007 season, highlighted by the repeat world’s win by Paolo Bettini.
Sinkewitz appears before disciplinary committee
Patrik Sinkewitz, the former T-Mobile rider sacked during this year’s Tour de France for failing a drugs test, has given evidence to the German Cycling Federation’s (BDR) disciplinary committee.
The 27-year-old German was discovered to have had abnormally high levels of testosterone during a routine drugs test in training on June 8 before this year’s Tour.
He was sacked by his team soon after having declined to have his B-sample tested.
The German has been co-operating with the BDR in an effort to get the normal two-year ban for such an offence reduced and spent the day giving evidence before a disciplinary committee.
“Patrik spent five hours giving evidence today,” said the cyclist’s lawyer Michael Lehner. “I expect a decision in the next two weeks.”
By Agence France Press