August 31, 2007
US Pro Championships preview
The US Pro Championships return to Greenville, South Carolina this weekend. It's a fantastic course in a lovely small-town setting, with a terrific river park less than 300 yards from the finish, sidewalk cafés, barbecue, and top-notch bike racing.
Race organizers took half my advice, shifting the little-attended time trial from Friday to Saturday, but left the road race on Sunday, so the likelihood of an already-difficult double national champion seems even a little more remote. For Southeastern fans, though, it means you can see both races for the cost of a single night's hotel room, and still get home for Labor Day.
I've always pulled for Levi Leipheimer, but I've never really believed in him. After this year's Tour, I believe. He was the strongest rider in last year's USPro road race, this year's Tour de Georgia, and the strongest American at the Tour de France. He's my favorite to take the Stars and Stripes to his new team, whatever it may be.
Last year, I felt Leipheimer's support was critical for George Hincapie, who will look to repeat as US champion and carry the Stars and Stripes to the T-Mobile team as Team Discovery Channel ends its successful run.
On the other hand, you can bet Team Slipstream would love to kick off its reign as the top US team with the US title onboard. Danny Pate was 3rd last year, while his teammates packed the top 15. A win for Dave Zabriskie is a win for Slipstream, as he transfers to the Argyles after this season.
And Bobby Julich has suggested wearing the Stars and Stripes at 35 would be a great career capper, and one thing he's yet to achieve in a very successful career:
“I'd like to try to win a national jersey finally. Either the time trial or the road race, I don't care. I'd take anything,” Julich said. “It would be fun to have the jersey in the last year of my career. I've never had it.”
In the time trial, the course has been slightly altered from last year, getting cut off before the hard right-hander in this photo. Last year, that led up to a twisty last 3 kilometers, where 2005 TT champion Chris Baldwin, neck and neck with Zabriskie, went into a ditch, and lost at least 30 seconds getting back up to steam. If Zabriskie's knee is back in racing shape after his forced withdrawal from this year's Tour, this is his race to lose: Nobody without a funny accent TTs faster than Z.
Dalton, Georgia's Saul Raisin returns to competition, just like he said he would, with a ride in the ITT Saturday. Also expected to return to competition (in both events) is Tyler Hamilton, whose team has kept him from racing since the Tour de Georgia in April.
There are 99 riders scheduled to start Sunday's road race. Missing this year? Christian Vande Velde, Freddie Rodriguez, Tom Danielson, Jason McCartney, and Aaron Olson.
I'll be there, so look for race updates and photos as soon as I can post them.
From last year's race:
August 10, 2007
Discovery Channel team disbanding after '07 season
The announcement comes in the wake of a press conference today where Tour winner Alberto Contador reiterated that he's never used doping products and was not involved in the Operación Puerto ring.
The Discovery Channel team was the only US-based ProTour team, and grew out of the Subaru-Montgomery Sports team created by Thom Weisel in 1989. The announcement will free Contador, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, and the team's other riders to seek alternate teams next season. The team will still compete in the Vuelta a España and the Tour of Missouri as planned.
Jonathan Vaughters' Team Slipstream is racing more and more on the European circuit, and has signed a number of ProTour riders, including David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, Magnus Backstedt, Julian Dean, and Christian Vande Velde. Vaughters has said he hopes to win a ProTour license for 2009.
T-Mobile announced yesterday that they will continue sponsorship of the team at least through 2010, when its contract expires, despite continuing doping scandals, including T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz, who tested too high for testosterone in June.
August 08, 2007
Astana's Kashechkin positive for doping out of competition
Astana's Andrey Kashechkin, who was 3rd in the Dauphiné Libéré, has been suspended by the team after testing positive for a homologous blood tranfusion.
Astana announced a 1-month racing layoff after leaving the Tour de France under a cloud when leader Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for the same sort of blood doping. Kashechkin was apparently tested out of competition on August 1st in Turkey.
The team is awaiting results from the B-sample.
A team press release said:
“This new hard blow does nothing but reinforce the will of the Astana Cycling Team's management to set up drastic measures for a clean cycling.”
Bike maker BMC has already severed ties to the team, while Skoda reconfirmed its sponsorship before the latest news, with the caveat that it “is willing to support a team that is fully committed to a new start.”
August 06, 2007
Millar wins rescheduled British nationals
“This win is massive for me. It means a huge amount,” he added. “I have wanted this jersey for the whole of my career.”
The British national championships, which (like other European championships) are usually held a few weeks before the Tour de France, were rescheduled because of torrential rain and flooding.