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December 11 - Weekly Rap

‘Tis the season to clip-in and go for a ride with The Weekly Rap.  Climb aboard our holiday sleigh as we spread good tidings of cycling joy to all the good boys and girls everywhere.  Strap on your helmet and let's ride!

ATOC

Most professional teams have been spending time getting together this month or last month for team building training camps and planning for next season.  Sixteen of those teams, including Discovery Channel, CSC and Predictor-Lotto (formerly Davitamon-Lotto), will be in the Golden State on February 18-25 for the second Amgen Tour of California.  The 650-mile route was unveiled last week in Sacramento, the state's capital, and it's being described as longer and harder than the inaugural race.  The usually decisive time trial has been pushed back in the schedule to keep the suspense of who will win the race until the final weekend.  Hopefully you'll be able to plan your trip to see the best pro cyclists in the world up close and personal, but if you can't swing it, you'll be able to catch the action on Versus, which will broadcast highlights daily during the race.  For all you collectors, you're going to want to get the official Amgen Tour of California program guide published by VeloNews.  Stay tuned to this website for more exciting race news and team announcements.

The Giro

The course for the 90th Giro d'Italia was recently unveiled with lots of Italian panache.  This year's winner, Ivan Basso, was present to catch the first glimpse of what is being billed as a climber's course.  The race starts in Sardegna on May 12th with a team time trial and finishes on June 3rd in Milano.  There will be five mountain top finishes, the first of which occurs on stage 4, which is considered early to hit the mountains in Grand Tours.        

The Wizard of Aus

Down in Brisbane, Australia, where the summer is just preparing to bloom, the Australian National Championship Criterium was held with a stellar crew of ProTour riders in attendance.  Sixty riders hit the crit that was an hour-long plus three laps to determine who would wear the national jersey for the next year.  Amongst the famous legs were those of Baden Cooke, Matthew White, Simon Gerrans, Alan Davis, Graeme Brown, Nick Gates, Henk Vogels and the Tour de France points winner Robbie McEwen.  With 25 minutes to go, a threatening five-man break, including Brown and Davis, opened up a 17-second lead, but Gerrans, White and Gates went to the front and drove the pack to catch the leaders, setting up McEwen for the sprint.  Rabobank's Brown started the sprint early and only McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and Davis (Astana) could respond.  Davis came around Brown first followed by McEwen, who then came around Davis with less than 50 meters to go for the win.    
     
Up next on the Aussie scene is the Surfer's Paradise International Crit featuring most of the same cast of ProTour riders.

More Paper Weights Distributed

More honors and awards were handed out to this year's best cyclists.  World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) received the prestigious Velo d'Or award from French magazine Velo.  "The Cricket" was selected over Alejandro Valverde and Fabian Cancellara.    

Lampre's Alessandro Ballan was named Best Italian cyclist in 2006.  Ballan was recognized for being the best Classics rider to challenge stud Tom Boonen.  Hmm…wonder what Bettini, also an Italian, had to say about Ballan's selection.

Raisin Hope

Wonderful news continues to emerge from Georgia, where Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole) continues his miraculous recovery from his near fatal crash last April in France that resulted in severe brain injuries.  Raisin recently completed his longest ride since the crash, a 120-mile, 8-hour ride that consisted of 20,000 feet of climbing.  Raisin's recent neurological brain tests came back with great results.  Because he can not risk sustaining a blow to his head for another 12-18 months, don't expect to see him racing for a while, but he's making remarkable progress towards his return.  On March 31, he'll lead the "Raisin Hope" charity ride starting in his hometown of Dalton, Georgia, with the proceeds to benefit brain and spinal cord injuries.  
  
Tree Huggers

Saunier Duval-Prodir raced this past season in support of human rights.  To mark the centennial anniversary of Saunier Duval, in 2007 they're going to be pedaling for trees under the slogan of "100 years for one million trees."  For each kilometer the team races, they've agreed to plant a tree in Mali, an area of Africa that is fighting desertification.  The goal is to plant one million trees.  They'll earn double for each kilometer ridden in breakaways and up to five times the reward for victories.  The first tree will be planted in January when the team races in Mopti with the best African riders.  This is a frequent flyer program to be proud of.   

The Flying Scotsman

Who can forget "Breaking Away" or "American Flyer?"  Cycling will hit movie screens again on December 29th when MGM releases "The Flying Scotsman," a bio picture about Scottish amateur cyclist Graeme Obree's successful attempt to set the world hour record in 1993.  Obree suffers from bipolar disorder and the film is based on the autobiography that he wrote while hospitalized after a suicide attempt.  Actor Jonny Lee Miller plays the troubled former amateur national time trial champ who came out of nowhere to best the record that some of the top professionals in the world couldn't touch.  Incredibly Obree built the bike that he rode while breaking Francesco Moser's record.  The record stood for only a few days before Chris Boardman set the new mark, but Obree rebounded to set a higher mark.  The inspirational film has been drawing lots of praise.  Look for it soon at a theatre near you.