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November 13 - Weekly Rap

Guess who's back?  While things have definitely slowed down for the off-season, The Weekly Rap is back with news from the world of pro cycling.  We're bringing it to you with a whole new flow, kickin' it with a fresh beat to give you the latest on the scene.  It's the new style!  Drop it.

Still Racing
Not everyone is kicking back getting fat this fall.  Some are still out there racing their bikes.  The 15th Japan Cup took place late last month and for the 10th time, an Italian won it.  Kudos to Saunier Duval-Prodir's Riccardo Ricco, a 23-year-old climber, who took home the win.  A five-man break – Ricco, two from Lampre and two from Discovery Channel – was formed when Disco's Stijn Devolder attacked on the final climb on the last lap.  Ricco dusted Lampre sprinter Ruggero Marzoli in the dash for the cash with Disco's Gusev nailing 3rd.

Earlier this month, a handful of ProTour stars went to the Caribbean Island of Curacao, but not to lay on the beach on vacation.  They rocked the 87-km Amstel Curacao race.  Yes, that was "Gorgeous" George Hincapie stylin' & profilin' in his new U.S. Championship jersey for Discovery Channel.  It was the final race for Rabobank's Erik Dekker before someone handed him a retirement watch.  His teammates, including Michael "Boogie down" Boogerd, wanted to send him off in style.  Although the race was neutralized after 20 kms due to a passing rainstorm that made the roads like sheets of ice, when the racing resumed Dekker made the winning break with ProTour champ Alejandro Valverde and CSC stud Frank Schleck.  Valverde loves to win, which is exactly what the Spaniard did.

Africa?  Yes, Africa.  The 20th Tour de Faso took place with 18 six-man teams racing 1305 kms over 11 stages.  Who won isn't important.  The fact that they race in Africa with riders camping overnight on the side of the dusty roads between stages is what intrigued us.  Can you even imagine Italian and French pros pitching tents, building campfires and eating beans & franks out of a can?     

Basso Discovered
Last week, Discovery Channel inked Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso to a two-year pact.  The Italian will attempt to win both the Giro and the Tour de France in the same season and will be fully supported by the team to accomplish this goal.      

Got Track?
Apparently all the cool kids are picking up bikes without breaks and gears this off-season to whip around the oval.  Getting their revolution on this fall are speedsters Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, David Millar, Roger Hammond, Bradley Wiggins, Brad McGee, World Champion Paolo Bettini, and Tour de France stage winners Jimmy Casper and Yaroslav Popovych.  Even climber Gilberto Simoni, who ended his season by racing a half-dozen mountain bike races, is spinning his wheels on the boards.

The Munich Six-Days Race is now underway in Germany where Zabel is back attempting to repeat as champion, this year teaming with Bruno Risi.  Also doing battle is Bettini, who will be paired with Marco Villa.  The hype is that it will end up being a rematch between the winner (Bettini) and the runner-up (Zabel) from the World Championship.   

Speaking of track, the U.S. will be getting its second indoor track (yes, kids, the first is the state-of-the-art Home Depot Center in Carson, California).  The peeps behind the Pro Cycling Tour announced plans to build the first east coast velodrome near Philadelphia in Valley Forge where they expect to host national and international events in the 2500-seat venue.              

The Tour, Baby!
The 2007 Tour de France route was announced in France even though the race itself will begin in London, England on July 7th.  Riders will compete in 20 stages over 3547 kms, finishing July 29th in Paris.  The profiles of the stages are 11 flat, 2 individual time trials, and 6 mountain stages, including 3 mountaintop finishes.  

You know what other tour is coming soon, don't you?  The Amgen Tour of California kicks off February 18th.  Start planning your trip to catch it now because this race is going to be even more thrilling, featuring bigger stars and the best international and domestic pro teams.  Stay tuned to this website for exciting race announcements.   

2007 National Racing Calendar
The U.S. domestic pros recently got to peep the 2007 National Racing Calendar, consisting of 41 events in 19 states, including 7 new events.  It begins March 3rd in Merced, California at the Merco Credit Union Grand Prix presented by McLane Pacific (dare you to say that ten times fast) and will conclude Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta, Georgia at the U.S. 100k Classic.  The schedule is comprised of 2 stand alone time trials, 3 omniums, 7 one-day road races, 11 stage races and 18 criteriums.     

Team Biz
Kudos to Saunier Duval-Prodir, who raced this season in support of the 30 basic Human Rights.  The team gave out T-shirts and other signed thingies to help spread their important message.  The team expects to adopt another cause next season.   

Discovery Channel has pacted with the Marco Polo Cycling Team in China to recruit and develop cycling talent beyond just the U.S. and Europe, re-invest in the sport, and provide broader exposure for both teams' sponsors.   

From the "What were they thinking?" file comes news that Davitamon-Lotto is changing their team name and colors for 2007 to Predictor-Lotto.  Um-kay, here's where the fun happens, boys & girls.  Predictor, from the makers of Davitamon, is a home pregnancy test.  The team colors will now be...drum roll, please...salmon pink, the same color as the Predictor box.  Look for Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans, Leif Hoste and the rest of the squad sporting their hot new look next season.

Houston, We Have A Problem
You're one of the best cyclists in the world and you're only 25.  You've already won the Giro de Italia and you're an Italian, thus your place in cycling history is assured.  So where do you go to get hitched?  Apparently Houston, Texas.  At least that's what Damiano Cunego did last month.  And to really please his new wife, while he was there he spent time working on his time trial position in the wind tunnel.  Ah ha...now we know the real reason for his trip to Houston.  Thankfully Cunego took his bride on a Mexican holiday afterwards.

Flandrian Of The Year
In Hollywood, it's all about the Oscars, but in Belgium, apparently it's all about the Flandrian of the Year Award, handed out by newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.  Scoring 10 wins this season, including the World Championship, Italian Paolo Bettini wrestled the honor away from his Belgian teammate, Tom Boonen, who had won the award the previous two years.  The other top vote getters were Alexandre Vinokourov, Alejandro Valverde and Fabian Cancellara.       

Marathon Man
Apparently old Tour de France heroes do the New York Marathon after they retire from cycling.  Last year, Frenchman Laurent Jalabert, king of many Tour de France mountains, ran it in 2:55:39.  This year, Lance Armstrong set off on his first marathon determined to finish under 3-hours or within an hour of the winner's time.  He did both.  The Texan finished in 2:59:37 in 869th place behind winner Marilson Gomesdos Santos of Brazil, who completed the course in 2:09:58.  Armstrong said running a marathon was much harder that he imagined and he pushed through plenty of pain en route to raising over $600,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  At present, he has no plans to run another marathon.