November 30 - Weekly RapHey DJ, give me a beat. The Weekly Rap coming at you in full holiday season mode to bring you the latest from the international and domestic pro pelotons. While many of you are still recovering from your Thanksgiving weekend, most of the cyclists whom you'll see racing at the Amgen Tour of California in February have begun training for the race in earnest.
Like all athletes, cyclists are acutely aware of how dangerous their sport can be. Unfortunately there have been two sobering tragedies in recent weeks that have reminded us all how fragile life is. During the recent Tour of Southland in New Zealand, Australian Paul Crake (Naturino-Sapore di Mare) along with several other racers were literally blown off their bikes by dangerous gusts of wind. Crake was blown into a fence and suffered permanent damage to his spinal cord, which will most likely leave him confined to a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. The former star climbing champion had five straight wins in the competition at the Empire State Building in New York City (1999-2003) before taking up cycling.
Over the weekend, the Ghent Six-Day turned tragic when Isaac Galvea (Caisse d'Epargne) collided with another rider on the track and crashed hard into the protective barrier separating the crowd from the track. The 31-year-old Spaniard died in transit to hospital. Galvea was the World Champion in the Madison on the track and scored a 2nd place finish along with two 6th place finishes in this year's Tour de France. Everyone at the Amgen Tour of California extended our hearts and prayers to both riders and their families during these very difficult days.
He's All Heart
Some good news: late last summer, it was with a heavy heart that The Weekly Rap reported the premature retirement of HealthNet's Hayden Roulston after the 25-year-old was diagnosed with a heart ailment that could prove fatal if he was to continue racing his bike. So imagine everyone's surprise when Roulston recently claimed to have been 100% healed of his condition through the use of natural herbs. Roulston won the Tour of Southland, the biggest stage race in New Zealand. As if we weren't perplexed already, now everyone is wondering which team Roulston will race for next season since HealthNet released him after his heart condition was diagnosed.
The 35th Mendrisio d'Oro was awarded to Fabian Cancellara (CSC), who won the World Championship time trial and conquered Paris-Roubaix this season. The prestigious Swiss honor goes to the top cyclist, with the past two winners being Belgian Tom Boonen and Italian Paolo Bettini. Cancellara is Swiss, thus the award stays home this year.
Down in Oz, Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) was named 2006 Australian Cyclist of the Year over teammate and speed demon Robbie McEwen.
Roadies on the Track
Thankfully they're not as scary as “Snakes on a Plane,” but they're probably just as fast. ProTour stars Paolo Bettini and Erik Zabel hit the velodrome in Germany for the Munich Six-Day. Zabel, who was defending champ, successfully defended his title this year with partner Bruno Risi. Bettini, who is new to track racing, finished 8th along with partner Marco Villa.
The route for the 2007 Tour of Georgia was announced and the biggest change is that the race has been extended from six to seven days. The race, which will be held April 16-22, is longer, but the stages are a bit easier. Two ProTour teams – Discovery Channel and Predictor-Lotto – were the first to accept their invitation to participate. Starting and concluding in the Atlanta area, highlights of the stage race are the individual time trial up Lookout Mountain, the precipitous and usually decisive ascent of Brasstown Bald, and the closing circuit race in Centennial Olympic Park.
For those who like to plan ahead, the Giro d'Italia will unveil the 2007 route in an announcement next week. Looking further into the future, the preliminary course has been selected for the 2008 Olympic Road Race. While the course hasn't yet been given final approval, the buzz is that it's designed for climbers and will be as vertically challenging as a Tour de France mountain stage.
After igniting the California roads with two stage wins at the first Amgen Tour of California, everyone took note of Toyota-United's sprinter J.J. Haedo, including the ProTour teams he rocketed past to claim his victories. The 25-year-old Argentinean, who also won a stage at the Tour of Georgia, inked with powerhouse CSC for next season. Haedo is the first pure sprinter ever signed by CSC ruler Bjarne Riis.
Also changing jersey's next season are Charles Dionne and David McCann, both of whom move to Colavita/Sutter Homes presented by Cooking Light. McCann is a three-time Irish champion, while Canadian Dionne, who was with Saunier Duval-Prodir this year, is a two-time winner of the T-Mobile International/San Francisco Grand Prix.
Coming back to competitive cycling after serving a two-year suspension, reigning Olympic gold medal time trialist Tyler Hamilton signed with the new Tinkoff Credit Systems team. The American hopes that the Italian based-squad, owned by Russian Oleg Tinkov, will gain berth in the Giro d'Italia. Hamilton previously finished 2nd at the Giro and will look to make the most of this new opportunity.
The Love Boat?
What do cyclists do when on vacation? They ride, natch. Milram's Erik Zabel and two teammates will be setting sail on the Cycling Week Cruise Aida. Thirty participants will join the German for spin class on the ship and will pedal 60 kms per day on the Canary Islands. No word yet on if Gofer, Isaac, Doc, Julie & Captain Stubbing will join in for the spin classes on the Lido Deck.
Marathon Man: The Sequel
Apparently in an effort to out due Oprah and P. Diddy, who both have marathons under their belts, Lance Armstrong will be back for the New York City Marathon again in 2007. Armstrong recently completed his first marathon while calling it the hardest thing he's ever done. We're betting the Texan, who finished a hair under 3-hours, will knock 20-30 minutes off his time next November when he runs to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.