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No Tights Edition.

Every year for a few short days in January, California gives us a brief, tantalizing tease of Summer. A high pressure parks high overhead, and warm, dry, sun shines down upon us. And it is good. For just a moment, Summer comes in January. Never mind that the rainy season, should it occur and really it must, is still yet to come. For now, there is blissful Summer warmth. We have no complaints.

Despite all this bright, shiny goodness, we have not forgotten our vital mission here at the Gossip World Headquarters, to bring you all the necessary - and un-necesary - Gossip from around the world. A new year, a new season, and we can't begin to imagine what it will bring. Hopefully, happiness and hottitude. World peace and Pinarellos, would also be nice.

For now, we'll settle for some Gossip.

Unlike here in California, it's been all snow, all the time in Northern Italy recently. Damiano Cunego decided enough was enough and travelled to San Vincenzo to get in some training without freezing his tootsies off. Monday, he took a field trip to Cinque Terre to give the Giro's long crono a look-see. Cunego and team-mate Marco Marzano devoted 2 hours to riding the course. "It is a time trial not to be underestimated," said Cunego. "There are two climbs, which aren't simple, and a descent to study attentively." On the first climb at Bracco, it is possible to "pedal with power," he said. The Passo del Termine which comes near the finish is more difficult, because "it is the second climb and because it has a steeper gradient." Lampre-NGC will now consider what bikes to use and perhaps plan another trip for a second look at the course. Marzio Bruseghin, meanwhile, has not felt much of winter's bite in Treviso, and continues to prepare for the season at home. He reported that he put in four hour days over the holidays, building a base for bigger miles to come.

In other Lampre-related news, world champion Alessandro Ballan is also preparing for the coming season. Like Bruseghin, he has remained at home in Veneto, largely unbothered by winter weather. In between training rides ranging from four to five and a half hours, he celebrated the grand opening of his wife's new business. Named Iridè, the new Ballan enterprise is a day spa offering a solarium and massage therapy.

The UCI announced Monday that the new Russian stage race, the Tour of Sochi will take place in September. The race will run from 14-20 September, which is one week before the World Championship races in Mendrisio. This spot is the old calender home of the Tour of Poland, which has moved to August. Any questions?

Silence-Lotto has not given up on their dream of seeing Cadel Evans at the Giro. "If he rides the Giro, Cadel will ride without any pressure, and with the sole objective of preparing for the Tour, which remains his big objective for 2009," explained team manager Marc Sargeant. "Certainly, it would be beautiful to see him at the Giro, seeing all the great champions who will be on the road," concluded Sargeant a trifle wistfully. The decision awaits the return of Evans to Europe on 28 January. Currently, "it is not easy to talk with him," admitted Sargeant. While we hate to rain on anyone's parade, will that really change once Evans returns to Europe? In other Silence-Lotto news, Marc Wauters has signed on as a part-time DS. Wauters will devote 80 days of racing to Silence-Lotto, while continuing his own project, the Vlaamese Wielerschool, a cycling school.

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Carlos Sastre is also undecided about the Giro d'Italia. The Cervélo TestTeam rider recently told the press that he would decide "later." Sastre begins his season at the Tour of California, where we promise that all of us here at the Gossip World Headquarters will cheer loudly for him as he rides past our front door. Then, the Spanish Tour winner will ride the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and depending on how things go, he'll think about a trip to Italy. If he does not ride the Giro, Sastre will definitely ride the Vuelta a España. "The Giro is in my head," said Sastre. "It is the only podium that I am missing from the grand tours." Collect them all.

Alberto Contador has his season all planned out, leading up to his July rendez-vous in France. The (other) Spanish Tour winner will ride Volta ao Algarve in Portugal as his first race of the year. This will be Contador's first trip to Portugal, and in a recent press statement, he said he was looking forward to the new experience. After Portugal, the Astana team leader will ride a series of short stage races, including Paris-Nice, Vuelta a Castilla-León, and Vuelta al Pais Vasco. He will treat Castilla-León as his first serious test of the season. Translation: Contador will race to win. After Pais Vasco, Contador will turn to the project of preparing specifically for the Tour de France. He will travel to France to preview stages, especially the crono, and then will race the Dauphiné Libéré, which traditionally covers some of the same terrain as the Tour. Currently, Contador is training at home in Spain in preparation for the Astana training camp in California, which begins 1 February. This week, he will take a break from the miles, and travel to Paris to receive the Velo d'Or as best rider in 2008.

Certain not to be at the Tour de France is Ivan Basso. As a consequence of his involvement in the Puerto scandal, the ASO has limited enthusiasm for the Italian Giro winner's presence at their race. With no interest in alienating the powerful Tour organizers, Team Liquigas has decided not to press the issue. Instead, Basso will ride the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España. After a trip to Argentina for an early season stage race, Basso will ride Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro del Trentino. Franco Pellizotti will also ride the Giro for Liquigas alongside Basso. The two are billed as co-captains, though Pellizotti has never shown quite the legs for a top GC placing and is more likely to chase a stage win than the Maglia Rosa.

Everyone wants to be Ivan Basso. On the internet, at least. Basso recently issued a statement in an effort to clarify which usernames actually belong to him. He is really Ivan Basso on Twitter, where we learn that he recently had sushi with his wife. My life is so totally complete now. He is also really Ivan Basso on Facebook, where he says he is a fan of Ivan Basso. Pass that mirror over here, would ya? There is also an official Ivan Basso blog and forum. Any other Ivan Basso you may encounter on the internet is not the Real Ivan Basso. Accept no substitutions.

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In other Team Liquigas news, Daniele Bennati will begin the season at Tirreno-Adriatico, before contesting Milano-San Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Ghent-Wevelgem. Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger, meanwhile, will again share a similar program this season, which includes Paris-Nice, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Amstel Gold Race, and Flèche-Wallone. Both riders will represent Team Liquigas at the 2009 Tour de France.

Santiago Botero is thinking of retirement. The 36 year old Colombian rode for Rock Racing last season. Currently, he is without a contract and in a radio interview said that he no longer had motivation to continue. Professional since 1996, Botero won the Mountains classification at the 2000 Tour de France, won two stages and finished fourth in the general in the 2002 Tour de France, and is a former world champion in the crono. In recent years, doping scandals shadowed his career as he tested over the limits for Testosterone, though he received a clearance signed by Dr. Fuentes. Botero was also among the riders implicated in the Puerto scandal.

Is TelTeck-H20 racing or not? Last week, the press reported that the team had dissolved. Not so fast, said TelTeck-H20, the rumors of our demise are vastly exaggerated. According to management, the team's registration at the Continental level is in progress with the UCI. Some riders are not waiting any longer to find out, though. Sergio Pardilla of Spain has signed on to ride for CarmioOro A-Style, the Continental team managed by Eric Berthou and Daniele Colli. CarmioOro A-Style has gone to new levels in designing their kit to ensure that the team's female fans will know exactly where to look. Thanks, but really, we can figure it out on our own.

Talk of Michele Bartoli and his desire to return to racing continues. Rumors swirled in the press that Bartoli was close to signing with the new Ukrainian team ISD. Bartoli has denied the story. "The possibility that I would ride in their jersey is close to 0%," he said in a Monday statement. Alessandro Petacchi, meanwhile, recently told the press that he'd like to ride with his good friend Bartoli at LPR. No word on whether the LPR management feels the same. LPR did grant one wish to Petacchi recently, and signed on Alberto Ongarato to provide lead-out services to the sprinter from La Spezia.

Denial's are all the rage, it seems. Paolo Bettini has joined the fun. He will not, no way, not a chance, be working with Fuji-Servetto this season, or really, any season ever. He is not going to buy the team, and he is not going to work as a DS or technical advisor. No way, no how. That's all a figment of the press's collective imagination. Because really, that's what we spend our time imagining. Hmm, I wonder what it would be like if Bettini worked with Gianetti. Hmm, yes, this is fun. I'm afriad we really do have better things to imagine than that. Anyway, no Bettini for Fuji-Servetto, who now have very blue kits. Bettini will serve as an advisor to the Gp Costa degli Etruschi di Donoratico and spend time with his family.

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Less Orange for CSF-Navigare this season. CSF-Navigare presented their new team kit and bikes recently. They will ride black and white Colnagos this year, and their kit has lost some of its orange. A sad loss, for sure. Campagnolo bedecks the Colnago CX-1 framesets. Yum. The team will ride Mango helmets, who appear to have a deep and lasting love for Flash. Buona Fortuna to the kids at CSF-Navigare.

Dutch team Skil-Shimano hopes to ride the Tour de France in 2009. The team has expanded both its roster and its technical staff and registered at the Pro Continental level this season. Both sponsors have prolonged their commitment, and Shimano will remain with the team until the end of 2012. Skil-Shimano has not only signed on to the UCI anti-doping passport program, but also will have its own internal testing program run by a WADA-certified lab in Germany. Last year, Skil-Shimano made the short list of possible Tour wildcards, as a result of their attacking style and solid early season results. This year, with an expanded staff and five French riders on the roster, they stand a good chance of catching the elusive eye of the ASO. Here is their full roster, from their webby that is published in seven, count 'em seven, languages.

The name of the race you are trying to reach, Omloop Het Volk, has been changed. The new name of the race is Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Please make a note of it. Longtime sponsor of the race, the newspaper Het Volk, is no longer publishing. Het Nieuwsblad has taken over as the race sponsor and renamed the race in its image. Originally named Omloop van Vlaanderen, the race first ran in 1945. In 1957, it became Trofee van Vlaanderen, before Het Volk became the title sponsor in 1960. This year's edition, now the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, will include the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The Belgian season opener marks the first trip to the cobbles of the season. Forty-six days and counting...

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That's all for now. Back soon!