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HTFU Edition.

It was a rough day here at the Gossip World Headquarters. All we wanted was a cup of coffee and an internet connection and THEY WOULDN'T GIVE IT TO US!

Ahem.

This Gossip business, not for the faint of heart. But we have persevered and scoured the interwebs to bring you all the Gossip that really matters, and probably a whole bunch that doesn't. It's not like we're solving world hunger or anything.

En avant, mes amis. That's French. It means, move along now, nothing to see here. (Roughly.)

The DRAMA continues. Tuesday in Spain, Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador went on Separate Rides. Not together, separate. The photographers gathered to cover the Astana training camp cried in their paella as they were denied the chance to photograph the two former Tour winners together. According to the Spanish press, the Separate Rides incident signals tension between Armstrong and Contador and the formation of Two Camps within the team, with Popovych and Leipheimer firmly on the side of Armstrong. As the Wheel Turns. According to a press release issued by Team Astana, Contador and Armstrong will train together on Wednesday. Expect smiles through gritted teeth all around.

In related news, the ASO responded to the announcement that Armstrong intended to ride the Tour de France this July with a somnolent non-comment. Eh, okay, he is coming to our race. We are trembling with excitement. Yawn. Christian Prudhomme denied that the ASO had offered Armstrong any special arrangements to ensure his safety, one of the concerns that Armstrong had trumpeted to the press in recent weeks. Said Prudhomme, "Proximity is inarguably the character of cycling in general, and the Tour de France in particular. This accessibility must certainly remain. For us as organizers, the Tour de France as a public celebration is an integral aspect of the race." Bernard Hinault publicly pou-pou'd Armstrong's comments about his personal security. Said the Badger, "He is not a President of the Republic, nor a god. If he is paranoid, that is his problem." Shorter: HTFU.

Speaking of HingTFU, the Saxo-Bank-no longer IT Boys, have been off in Denmark enjoying their team-building sufferfest. It involved cold water, guns, and walking around a lot. Astana went surfing in Southern Spain. And they got to wear booties, unlike the Saxo Bankers up in the frigid waters of Denmark. Here at the Gossip World Headquarters, we do not like cold feet. Plainly, we need to HTFU.

Stefano Fanini has signed with Fuji-Servetto as a sports director. Fanini leaves Silence-Lotto to take on the new challenge. In his sixteen years as professional, Fanini counted among his victories two stages of the Giro d'Italia, a stage of the Tour de France, and the Amstel Gold Race. Speaking of Fuji-Servetto, no further word has surfaced about the possible merger between Acqua&Sapone and Fuji-Servetto. Nor has confirmation arrived that Paolo Bettini will join either team. Mauro Gianetti has publicly denied selling the team to anyone, but admitted in a press release last weekend that he is pursuing various options to deal with the likely shunning of his team by the grand tour organizers. Those pro tour licenses, sure not what they used to be. According to a Tuesday press release from the UCI, Acqua&Sapone-Cafe Mokambo has received a Pro Continental license for next season. Did Gazzetta lie to us? It wouldn't be the first time. But perhaps the story is not yet finished.

In other Fuji-Servetto news, the U23 World Champion, Fabio Duarte of Colombia, has signed a contract with Gianetti. Gianni Savio recruited the South American climber to Diquigiovanni-Androni in 2007, but Duarte chose to return to the amateur ranks without riding out his contract. Duarte attacked repeatedly in the final lap of the road race in Varese, foiling the combined efforts of Damiano Caruso and his team-mates to secure an Italian victory. A whiff of doping scandals past marred the celebration for Duarte, though, as the press uncovered the news that the Colombian Federation had failed to investigate high testosterone levels in Duarte's test results. Duarte tested positive for testosterone in July 2007 at the Clasica de Girardot in Colombia, but he claims he has naturally high levels. At Varese, the UCI vowed to look into the matter. Hello? Anyone? Apparently, they're still looking. Or maybe they forgot. He's only the U23 World Champion and Fuji-Servetto is only a pro tour team. Not really worth the effort or anything. Nothing to see here, move along now. In other Fuji-Servetto news, Australian William Walker will also ride for the team next year. The 24 year old comes from Rabobank, where he passed a quiet season.

Speaking of Scandals past, Jörg Jacksche will ride for the Italian Continental team, Cinelli, next season. There, he will join Frank Vandenbroucke. The 32 year old Jacksche, who won Paris-Nice in 2004, has spent a long exile in the wilderness after being caught up in the Puerto scandal and speaking openly to the press about the doping practices of he had encountered in the sport. Among other things, he claimed that Bjarne Riis told him to dope. For his pains, he earned insult and opprobrium from many throughout the sport. At last he will return to racing in Italy. With Vandenbroucke as a team-mate, we doubt very much anyone will notice Jörg.

Emanuele Sella has received a one year vacation from racing from the Italian national anti-doping court. The reduced sanction - the maximum reduction allowed by the rules - came as a consequence of Sella's willingness to cooperate with the authorities. He named his team-mate Matteo Priamo as his supplier for the CERA which showed up in an out-of-competition test on 23 July. Sella will return to racing on 18 August of next year. According to reports in the Italian press, he will return to his same team, CSF-Navigare. Forgive and forget, that's what we always say. CONI has also opened an investigation of Priamo, who won the 6th stage of this year's Giro d'Italia. A recent search of Priamo's house uncovered a stash of anabolic steroids. He claimed that the steroids belonged to his mother. Our sources tell us that female body building is all the rage in Italy these days among the Mommy Set. Meanwile in Modena, Riccardo Riccò jabs more pins into his CONI doll. Despite his willingness to finger Dr. Santuccione as his source, Riccò received a two year sanction. The Modenese has since filed an appeal with TAS, in an effort to secure a shorter sanction. The decision is expected in the next three months.

Carlos Sastre has gained an ally in his quest next year to win another grand tour. According to the Spanish press, climber José Angel Gomez Marchante will ride for Cervélo TestTeam next season. In 2006, the 28 year old climber finished fifth in the Vuelta a España. Injuries have ruined the past two seasons for Gomez Marchant. Should he remain upright, Gomez Marchante promises to provide solid support to Sastre in the high mountains. José Angel Gomez Marchante should under no circumstances be confused with Angel Gomez Gomez of doodsmak fame.

Sour Milk? According to reports in the German press, Milram is considering an early end to their sponsorship, stopping their funding of the team at the end of the 2009 season. A spokesperson confirmed that the Northern German dairy company, which works with 7000 farmers, is reviewing its commitment, but refused to offer any details. The current contract runs until the end of 2010, but the sport's ongoing doping scandals and the decision of German television channels ARD and ZDF to end live coverage of the Tour de France have led executives at Milram to question the continued commitment to cycling. An enthusiastic fan within the management team, in this case marketing manager Martin Mischel, promoted the company's involvement in cycling. Mischel recently left Milram, and with his departure, the team lost its principal advocate within the company. As of now, no decision has been made, and team manager Gerry van Gerwen will meet with officials from Milram on 3 December. It also remains unclear under what terms Milram could end its contract. The team's budget is 9 million euro per year. In the case of T-Mobile, for example, Bob Stapleton received a significant buy-out payment from the German telecommunications giant. Leenoos Gerdemann, who recently signed a two year contract with Milram after buying out the remaining year with Team Columbia, hopes that Milram will fulfill their two year agreement. He believes that the young and "homogeneous" roster at the team, which has become more German during the recent transfer season, will help make cycling appealing to sponsors again. Hopefully, Leenoos will not be left crying over spilt milk in udder disappointment.

In happier news, fans of German cycling can rejoice in the resurrection of the Rund um den Henninger Turm. Threatened with extinction by the withdrawal of its title sponsor, a restaurant, the local government in Frankfurt has decided to sponsor the race. The Rund (which is totally different from a Rundfahrt) typically takes place around 1 May, following the Ardennes classics. Karsten Kroon won last year's edition.

Fränk Schleck has a hot date with ALAD. The Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency is continuing to investigate the possible relationship between Schleck and Dr. Fuentes. Schleck reportedly paid 6.991,91 Euro into the Swiss account of Fuentes, a payment he claims bought training plans, not doping products. ALAD met with Schleck previously in October, but did not have sufficient information to reach a decision. Schleck will appear at a hearing on 9 December. No word yet as to what if any sanctions the agency may be considering.

Gratuitous Benna News! The Bennati Fan Club will host a party honoring their favorite bike racer on 7 December at the Hotel Planet di Rigutino. Benna will be in attendance. Girls, book your flights now. Other riders will also attend. We won't bore you will the whole list. Benna's successes and career highlights will be shown a big screen teevee. Did I mention Benna will be there? We must watch carefully for photos of this very important event.

A prize for Il Grillo! On 9 December, Paolo Bettini will receive a prize from the International Association of Cycling Journalists. The prize recognizes the rider who has shown the best attitude toward the press. Among those nominated for their willlingness to answer endless questions were Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert, and Erik Zabel. The criteria for the award includes "professional qualities," "respect for ethics," and above all a good relationship with the press. Chapeau to Bettini!

TelTeck-H20 will ride Museeuw bikes for the next three seasons. The Belgian pronounced himself pleased with the agreement. He also said he would provide technical assistance to the team when they race in Beligium. The bikes are apparently made of a carbon-flax fibre weave, which promises to provide enhanced riding comfort and shock-absorbing capabilities. Want to know more or drool on the bikes? Head over to the the webby and have a look.

Phew. That's all for now. This off-season Gossiping is a rough business. Uphill both ways. In the SNOW!

Lates!