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This Week in Pro Cycling – March 7, 2008

Dear Readers,Welcome to the latest edition of The Prologue, VeloNews.com's regular summary of the news from the world of competitive cycling.

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Dear Readers,
Welcome to the latest edition of The Prologue, VeloNews.com’s regular summary of the news from the world of competitive cycling.

The big story this week has to revolve around the continuing game of brinksmanship being played by the sport’s two most powerful organizations, namely the UCI and Tour de France organizer ASO, over the upcoming edition of Paris-Nice. VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson says the battle could have devastating consequences, both for Paris-Nice in particular and the sport of cycling in general.

Caught in the middle are riders and teams faced with the uncomfortable choice of risking exclusion from the Olympics and world championships if the line up on Sunday or facing exclusion from other top-tier ASO events, including Paris-Roubaix and, of course, the Tour de France.

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere probably put it best when he noted that teams have been forced to “choose between the firing squad and the guillotine.” Efforts at compromise have produced few results; riders have been threatened with fines and suspensions and the French federation has threatened a law suit. There may, however, be a light at the end of the tunnel, given that the International Court of Arbitration for Sport may issue an emergency ruling in the matter as early as Friday. Be sure to check in with VeloNews.com for the latest on that developing story.

Assuming that riders will toe the line, Paris Nice begins on Sunday and we’ll be offering Live up-to-the-minute reports throughout the week. European correspondent Andrew Hood will be on the scene. We’ve yet to figure out whether he’ll be there as a race reporter or political analyst, although we’re certain that he’s well-prepared to do both.

Meanwhile, there is some actual racing taking place on European roads and the man who is emerging as the sprint star of the early season is none other than CSC’s J.J. Haedo. He’s already scored two solid wins this week, taking Sunday’s Clasica de Almeria and again on Thursday at the Vuelta a Murcia. You probably remember when the former Toyota-United sprint ace was tearing up the roads here in the U.S. and now he’s showing the promise that landed him a contract with CSC last year.

Speaking of U.S. races, the organizers of the AT&T Tour de Georgia have released new details of their week-long ride through that southern state. The 600-mile tour – about 70 miles shorter than last year’s – will offer up a team time trial, visit neighboring South Carolina and, of course, retain its marquee stage finish atop Brasstown Bald. It should be a great event.

One of the big surprises of this year’s still-young domestic scene has been BMC’s Scott Nydam, who took the KOM jersey at the Amgen Tour of California. VeloNews contributor Dirk Friel had a chance to sit down with the 30-year-old Santa Rosa resident and discuss the race in California, his team’s aggressive approach to racing and what it’s like to train with local hero Levi Leipheimer.

By now, many of you have received the annual VeloNews Buyer’s Guide in the mail and have the chance to skim through a collection of some of the finest racing machines on the planet. We, however, were particularly intrigued by one ride that didn’t make the pages of the Guide, namely the 7.04-pound (not kilo!) road bike assembled by Gunter Mai of Lampertheim, Germany. Yeah, we know that under UCI rules it’s too light to race (by almost half), but Mai’s ride is an interesting study in just how far the technology of cycling has progressed in recent years. It’s fully functional and Mai says he rides it up to 1000 kilometers a week on the open road. Price? Well, given that it starts with a $15,000 pair of Lew wheels, we were actually afraid to ask. [More]

Whether you’ve taken out a second mortgage to put together your own version or are still using that trusty steel steed from 25 years ago, we hope you find time to put in a few miles yourself this week.

Have fun and be safe out there.

Charles Pelkey
Editor, VeloNews.com
CPelkey@insideinc.com