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- The 2013 National Track Calendar concluded in suburban Los Angeles last month.
MILAN (VN) — Lampre-Merida wants to break free of its Italian heritage and links to the Mantova doping investigation. This week, the team meets in northern Italy in Darfo Boario Terme with an eye on moving ahead.
South African Brent Copeland, the new team manager, leads the charge. In his ranks is Portugal’s star and new world champion Rui Costa.
“We have to keep stepping it up,” Copeland told VeloNews in response to the neon blue and pink team being considered Italy’s No. 2.
Cannondale, with Peter Sagan, is No. 1 and Lampre, despite 22 years, appears a long way behind.
“I agree, but that’s also because of the budget. If you have a good budget, then you can buy riders that are competitive in the three grand tours and get points,” Copeland said. “Now, with the help of Merida and Lampre, we tried to re-enforce the team to get points.”
General Manager Giuseppe Saronni hired Copeland this summer after he left South African team, MTN-Qhubeka. Copeland, who lives in Como, worked in the team before as a sports director and left to help Moto GP star, Ben Spies. He felt he as though he returned to his family.
“They said that they wanted to make the team more international,” Copeland explained. “They have more international sponsors and the English language is more important for the team.”
Lampre finished the season 14th in the UCI rankings, which was, of course, behind Cannondale. It keeps its classic colors for 2014 but makes several changes. Saronni and Copeland signed Costa, who went on to win the world championship road race in Florence. He joins the team from Movistar and brings his rainbow jersey with him.
Nelson Oliveira, also from Portugal, joins the squad as well. Sacha Modolo steps up from the second division. Having won nine sprints this year, he should help Lampre take valuable UCI points.
Copeland has their schedules already planned for 2014. He wanted to see Lampre move up its scheduling by one month, to mid-November. He also upgraded the team’s computer systems to ease the logistics that come with running a first division team, which sometimes competes in three races simultaneously.
“Cycling is a business, you can’t run it like it used to be 10 or 15 years ago,” Copeland said. “Without losing the Italian team’s roots, which are important, a new aspect and a new way of running things is good. Italians are scared of changes and don’t take them well. That’s the team idea, to bring me in and force the changes.”
The Mantova element
Copeland remains concerned about the team’s image with the continuing Mantova investigation that involves 28 individuals, including current and former Lampre staff. Last month, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recommended a two-year ban for Alessandro Ballan, who now rides for BMC Racing. It requested the pharmacist at the center of the investigation, Guido Nigrelli, be banned for life.
The others will slowly make their way to Rome. Damiano Cunego is due to be heard December 10. Saronni, the boss, will also have his day in front of the committee’s prosecutor.
“It’s not a great image for the team,” Copeland explained. “With the Italian system, you never know how long this can go on for. It’s not great. The people involved and under investigation in this trial, we don’t want to be completely in this team. We are looking at that now.”
How Lampre will change and morph remains to be seen. The team’s concern now at Darfo Boario Terme is plotting the 2014 season. It must utilize Costa’s rainbow power and break some Italian roots.
The post Lampre breaks from its Italian roots as Mantova doping case lingers appeared first on VeloNews.com.
A near-miss with a giant elk
Last week, I went to get a haircut with my dad. It’s something that probably hasn’t happened since 1997, but it was the week of Thanksgiving and I was already at my parents’ house. I was in Belgium for Christmas last year, so I figured I’d go early for Thanksgiving to make up for some lost at-home time. My parents live in rural, northern New Jersey. I’m used to suburban Boston, where I can walk to get a pizza in five minutes. At my parents’ house, I have to drive 20 minutes to pick one up.
Thanksgiving is always a time for me to go see the ‘rents and bask in some nostalgia. Right now, I’m looking out the window at the nearby hay fields where I built my own cyclocross course every fall when I was in high school. I would wait until they had been hayed for the last time of the summer, and then I would mow my own course that would zigzag through the fields and in and out of the nearby woods. It would always make for some good preparation before the Mid-Atlantic Cup series started.
Another piece of nostalgia that pertains more to my current life are the stories of when I started to shoot bike racing in earnest. During the summer of 2003, I was shooting all the downhill NORBA races. All of the races in the second half of the season were out west, so I spent a couple months sleeping in my friend John’s living room at his apartment in Denver. We put a lot of miles on my Dodge Neon that summer.
During one late-night drive back from a race, John was starting to crack despite both of us having plenty of Red Bull in our systems. He started to see faces of demons in the road signs. At that point, it seemed like a smart idea to trade driving duties. We were on our way through a mountain pass so he pulled over at the top and I climbed into the driver’s seat. We were both a little on edge because he had spent the past 15 minutes spooking himself with all the imaginary scary stuff he had been seeing.
Less than five minutes after I started driving down the pass, a giant elk ran in front of our tiny Neon. It was going full speed, diagonally across the road. I slammed on the brakes, trying not to lock up the wheels, but it was inevitable. We narrowly missed hitting the thing as it ran out of our path, and for an instant we both breathed a sigh of relief.
That relief turned to horror when the beast swung a 180 and bolted right back across our path in the other direction. This time we came dangerously close to smashing into it. I had to look up to see the top of his shoulder towering over my car. If we made contact, we would both be dead, or at best, the Neon would be completely totaled. The wheels locked up again and both John and I were screaming. The elk’s back end got out of our path just in time for us not to take out his back legs and have his huge rear end come straight through the windshield. The elk ran away into the darkness and John and I had a pretty long and delirious laugh over the whole thing.
It was the only way we could react.
Director/Producer, Behind The Barriers
The post Behind The Barriers Director’s Cut: Cyclocross Nostalgia appeared first on VeloNews.com.