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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for August 9, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

An interview with Oscar Sevilla

Beloved Baby Face

By Hernan Alvarez Macias

Beloved Baby Face: Oscar Sevilla
Photo ©: Caroline Yang

Spanish fans adore him. He is friendly to every person who wants a picture or autograph, and has a cheerful and happy way about him. "I feel proud of being liked by the fans. Feeling loved is the nicest thing in the world," he says.

Ever since his eleventh hour defeat at the 2001 Vuelta a España though, Oscar Sevilla has been troubled with injury and bad luck. But 'Baby Face' is ready to show his critics he isn't finished. By the end of this year's Vuelta, Sevilla wants to say to his supporters: "OK fans, you love me and this triumph is for you".

Cyclingnews: The Tour de France is over. Was it good for you?

Oscar Sevilla: I've come to a number of conclusions about the Tour. First, on the sporting side, I ended up happy because my performance was as I expected to be. Personally, I felt satisfied because I was able to finish the race. Almost no one knows, but I suffered a cracked rib and I had to have surgery on one of my knees after the Tour. I had a problem in my knee because of the fall I suffered in the race's first day. So, I rode injured almost the whole race.

Actually, I felt bad psychologically as well as in my body. I was not able to ride in the front of the peloton because of my injury, and I thought my place in the race wasn't right, being so far behind in the peloton. I wanted to ride in the front, attacking, trying to get in the leader's group, and I wasn't able to achieve that in any part of the race. I rode the whole race suffering on the bike, chasing the others, and I actually had a very bad time.

CN: How did you feel being one of Tyler Hamilton's soldiers?

Painful times at Le Tour
Photo ©: Sirotti

OS: I accepted it. I prepared myself for the Tour knowing that Hamilton was a big candidate for the final victory and I think that I and the rest of the team were convinced about that.

We knew our place in the team and I think Tyler was happy with all of us. We stayed together, we worked together, sheltering Tyler from wind, from pave and from the crashes on roads I dislike during the first and second week. And the truth is that Hamilton was happy with the team. We had many problems later though, beginning with the team time trial, then Tyler's crash and my own crash. It was a truly difficult Tour de France for Phonak.

Click here for the full interview

Dajka's appeal unsuccessful

After a five-hour hearing, Jobie Dajka's appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport was unsuccessful today and the Australian sprint cyclist will not be rejoining the team for the Athens Olympics.

"It probably won't hit home until the next couple of days," he told reporters after the hearing in Sydney. Dajka's place in the squad was "terminated" by the Australian Olympic Committee due to the "untruthful denials" the rider gave before the inquiry headed by Robert Anderson.

Dajka had told the inquiry he was not one of the riders to have allegedly used the room occupied by suspended rider Mark French at the Australian Insitute of Sport in Adelaide. However, this was contradicted by DNA analysis of injecting paraphernalia found in French's room, where nine items revealed a profile that was an exact match for Dajka.

His omission from the Australian sprint team has created a gaping hole in the team's sprint squad, as the 2002 world keirin champion was set to compete in three events in Athens; the sprint, keirin and team sprint.

Dajka's troubles have not yet ended, as he also faces a disciplinary hearing before Cycling Australia and the Australian Sports Commission over the Anderson inquiry revelations.

Australian sprint squad still juggling

The four member Australian men's sprint team is still juggling riders among the four sprint events to be contested in Athens (Sprint, Kilo, Team Sprint, Keirin), and at this stage it's still uncertain whether Ben Kersten will get a ride at all. In response to a question about the likely line up of riders in the team sprint, Australian track coach Martin Barras told AAP that Sean Eadie, Ryan Bayley and Shane Kelly [not necessarily in that order] would comprise the team sprint, if he had to pick the team now.

The fourth member of the team, Ben Kersten, brought in as a replacement for Jobie Dajka, would be a reserve as he has been posting the slowest times of the quartet so far in training. However, given that Shane Kelly will be riding the Kilo the previous day, things could change.

"At this stage I'm on the outer in the starting lineup," said Kersten today. "I've not been given any trials to change that. Their opinion is if something goes horribly wrong physically with one of the riders then I'll fill in. But I'd much rather be given an opportunity to change that starting lineup because it's not very flexible at the moment.

"The team's been picked and through my training if I broke a world record they'd consider it, but even if I do faster times, they're sticking with their original selection."

Barras confirmed Kersten was fourth choice and would find it hard to force a change in his policy of allowing team members plenty of time to prepare without feeling their place was under threat.

"If he wants to set a world record in training, we would look at that," Barras said. "But as it stands, we've had our trials and the starting line up is [if we had to pick it now] Sean Eadie, Ryan Bayley and Shane Kelly. And we told him so when he arrived."

If Kersten is not selected, he may have a chance to ride in the Keirin, where Australia has qualified two spots. It's likely that Ryan Bayley will take one, but the remaining position would be between Eadie, Kersten and Kelly. And in the Match Sprint, it's likely that Bayley and Eadie will gain the two positions.

Australia has been allotted 14 spots in total for the track team, consisting of 3 women and 11 men. The men's team is further broken down into 7 endurance spots and 4 sprint positions. If Kersten had qualified for the second spot in the kilo in Melbourne it would have meant the men's squad would be 6 endurance and 5 sprinters, not 7 and 4 as it currently stands.

Kersten happier to be here than at home

Off the track, Kersten said he had not enjoyed "a very nice lifestyle" since last weekend when he joined a team under stress from the Mark French injecting saga, including Eadie whose position he challenged through the courts. He admitted to feeling it was him against the rest and he has only just started talking to Eadie, which he considered a breakthrough.

"We didn't really speak for a while. I'm directly challenging him, I can understand why he wouldn't want to be my pal," Kersten said.

Kersten was unsure whether he was enjoying himself in what should be an exciting buildup to his first Olympics. "Yeah, sort of, yes and no. It's been really difficult," he said.

He even questioned the point of all his dramas, until he realised that an Olympics, even one in a strained atmosphere without competing, was still worthwhile. "I guess being over here, even if I don't get to ride, makes it somewhat better. I get to go to the village, get to go to the track, wear my pass, wear the clothes, go to the closing ceremony, see the sites, it's much better than sitting at home looking for a job."

© AAP (Cyclingnews also contributed to this report)

Bates explains

Ben Kersten's manager Phill Bates has issued a statement in response to a recent story where he alleged that Kersten may have been slipped a drug by a teammate before an incident in Moscow in 2003 that cost Kersten his place at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). The AAP story quoted Bates as saying that Kersten had lost control because someone had slipped the so-called date rape drug Rohypnol into one of his drinks during celebrations after the competition. Kersten was suspended for three months as a result, and subsequently had his AIS scholarship terminated.

Kersten reacted to the story with a statement, saying that, "I've never accused nor would I ever accuse my team mates of such a crime." He has now been backed by his manager Phill Bates, who issued the following statement, reproduced here in full:

This issue originated from an AAP journalist who phoned me on Friday morning with a fist-full of allegations that he had received on Ben Kersten and one of his brothers dating back to 2000.

In all aspects I defended Ben's position and made my intentions known that his source was mud raking on a person that has done nothing wrong.

During this entire saga that has threatened the track cycling program over recent months, Ben Kersten has been completely supportive of his team mates and has made no derogatory claims about anyone.

All Ben has done is win National title medals, post record times and display great form.

In mid July, I decided to stand aside from the CA Board in support of Ben over concerns with the selection process. It was a decision that I made in the best interests of both parties and to ensure that I had no influence on any decision made by the Board.

I am appalled at the article that originated from the AAP correspondent and recent assertions made by journalist Leo Schlink.

I was not at Moscow during the World Cup, am still not aware of who was in the team but can state that Ben Kersten was exonerated by an independent tribunal that invoked a forensic expert to give evidence.

I was stunned at the misrepresentation of what I said and at no time would I have accused AIS athletes of doping Ben Kersten. I did not even think that it was a story to be told.

The statement made by Ben Kersten was indeed directed to the person that contacted the AAP correspondent for the mud slinging.

I wish to say that I have done nothing but promoted positive aspects for the sport over a long period of time, respect the honour of being a CA Board member and taken the stance of standing beside Ben, a person that I have known throughout his cycling career and have sponsored for considerable number of years to help him achieve his ambitions.

It would be far better if the media focussed on the tasks ahead and ensuring the entire cycling team was given media coverage on what they may achieve in Athens. This is without question the best cycling team we have ever sent to an Olympic Games.

Phill Bates AM

Coach confident in Australian team

Australian track coach Martin Barras believes that his 14 member team full of current and former world champions as well as world record holders in the team pursuit has the potential to win a swag of medals in Athens. But he laments the fact the team will go to the Athens Olympics under a cloud of drugs controversies, appeals and personal squabbles.

"It's frustrating, there is this perception in Australia that there seems to be this crisis," Barras said today at the team's camp in the German town of Büttgen. "What's happening and what's being talked about (in Australia) and what's taking place here are two different realities, two different worlds.

"I don't have any hesitation in saying this is the strongest team ever put on the track, period. Not just the best Australian team."

But with the various controversies surrounding the team, there has been little talk about the triple world champion team pursuiters, Shane Kelly's bid for gold, Brad McGee's chances in the individual pursuit, Katie Mactier's attempt to convert two world championship silvers into Olympic gold or women's world time trial champion Anna Meares.

"That's what it seems, that's what it appears but that reflects on a different reality," Barras said. "In a sense, it's probably going to serve us well with the rest of the world because no-one seems to want to take notice at the moment. We're just going to get on with our business, stand up tall, stand up and be counted."

Barras was impressed with the way the team had handled the various scandals and dramas and he attacked French, who sparked the dramas when he was banned for two years in June.

After being banned, French named Dajka, Kelly, Sean Eadie, Graeme Brown and Brett Lancaster as being part of an injecting culture at the AIS centre in Adelaide. Kelly, Brown and Lancaster were cleared while Eadie was later dumped but reinstated after it couldn't be proved he tried to import banned substances. Dajka was axed for lying to investigators about injecting himself.

"People just need to see these riders for what they really are instead of through the distorted view of a fairly fickle situation, the distorted views of allegations of disgraced drug cheats," said Barras.

French-Canadian Barras, who joined the Australian team in 2002 after guiding Great Britain to one gold, a silver and two bronze medals at the Sydney Olympics two years earlier, would not make any medal predictions, but was confident the team would live up to his billing.

"I made myself a little pact a month and half ago when things didn't look particularly good," he said. "I was going to come out of this Olympic experience with no regrets whatsoever about what we've done and no regrets whatsoever about the cards that have been handed to us.


Blackgrove to ride TT for NZ

The New Zealand cycling federation BikeNZ has named Heath Blackgrove of Waimate as its choice for the 46.8 km Men's Individual Time Trial at the Olympic Games on August 18. "Heath has shown remarkable form all year in the lead up to the games, but particularly in the last 4 months," said BikeNZ's head road coach Jacques Landry. "He has had several top five finishes in a variety of events, and was a member of the Teams Pursuit Team at the Track World Championships in Melbourne in May this year."

Blackgrove will also compete in the Men's Road Race on August 14, held over 239 km.

Blood testing to be widespread at Olympics

Athens dope testers have extended blood sampling to all Olympic sports for the first time. "It's the first time there will be blood tests across all sports," an IOC official said.

Blood testing was previously limited to endurance sports, which was screened for the blood-boosting synthetic hormone erythropoietin (EPO).

More than 3,000 tests will be conducted at Athens, a 25 percent increase from the 2000 Sydney Games, according to IOC officials. Blood samples taken from athletes will also be frozen and stored for potential retroactive tests, IOC officials said.

Testing of this kind led to a breakthrough against the so-called designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Last year scientists tested frozen blood samples from the athletics world championships in Paris for the newly-discovered THG, which is at the centre of a doping scandal tearing apart US sport.

The top four athletes in all events will be tested as well as a random selection of other competitors. IOC medical director Dr Patrick Schamasch refused to comment on reports that the new tests for human growth hormone (HGH) will be used during the Games.


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