First Edition Cycling News for December 1, 2004
Edited by Hedwig Kröner and John Stevenson
Phonak: "Black day for cycling"
The Swiss Phonak Cycling team has issued an official statement on the rejection of the team's ProTour license on its website, www.phonak-cycling.ch. In the statement, the team declares that the UCI's decision was based on Phonak's dossier as it existed on November 12. "But it was only on November 12 that the commission worded the reasons why the provisional decision on a license on June 30 was overturned. [...] In the end, the only decisive question was whether the team complied with the commission's ethical standards or not. The appearance of this ethical question can be interpreted as a change in the licensing requirements. On this matter, the team was not granted a further hearing."
Phonak declared that the hearing on November 22 was not intended to review the decision already taken by the UCI on November 12. "From November 12 until November 22, the questioned matters were corrected. An extensive Medical Control Programme was introduced and handed out. All contracts were modified according to the 15% rule on image contracts. These changes were included in the dossier before the hearing in Lausanne, as well as before the commission's final decision. But the said decision shows that the hearing was without real importance, and that the decision had already been taken on November 12 in a final and irrevocable manner. This also shows that the whole matter has been treated disproportionately. Instead of definitely refusing it, the commission could have granted a restricted or provisional license. In its decision statement, the commission confirms that the measures taken were pointing in the right direction, but were taken too late according to the ethical assessment criteria. With respect to this, the commission could have honored the actions taken by the team."
The statement continued by calling this day "a black day for Swiss and international cycling. It is a fact that a great uncertainty exists for the team without the ProTour. Nobody can say today whether or not the team will get wildcards for the big stage races. [...] The riders will not want to stay with the team if there's no guarantee for participating in the great races. [...] Bearing this in mind, it looks like the team will stick to the 2005 contracts and start to pursue race wildcards, but in the case of failure or too short notice, a step-by-step withdrawal from professional cycling may not be preventable."
The Phonak Cycling team will meet next week to discuss its situation and make further plans.
Hamilton confirms sacking; UCI explains
Tyler Hamilton has confirmed his departure from Phonak in an official statement on his and the team's websites, somewhat belatedly admitting that his termination occurred on November 25.
"After many discussions with team management, we concluded together that it would not be possible for the team to continue at the level we hoped with my name on the roster," said Hamilton. "Specifically, it would be impossible for Phonak to be accepted into the UCI Pro Tour with one of its riders facing charges of using prohibited performance enhancing methods."
Hamilton said he had hoped, "my facing the judicial process alone, apart from the team, would pave the way for Phonak being included in the Pro Tour." However, as reported yesterday, that wasn't enough for the UCI.
The denial of a ProTour licence to Phonak hinged on two problems. The major one was the ongoing Hamilton and Perez blood-doping cases, and the background to them. "It emerges from the dossier and the explanations given by [UCI medial officer] Mario Zorzoli during the hearing of 22 November 2004, that on several occasions during 2004 doubts had arisen about the abnormal readings observed in the blood of certain riders in the Phonak team," said the UCI, effectively confirming previous reports that the Phonak team had been warned about irregularities in the blood profiles of some of its riders.
Phonak's behaviour after Hamilton's positive tests for blood-doping did it no favours at all with the UCI. Phonak cast doubt on the validity of the blood-doping test and assembled a team of experts to attempt to discredit it. "Though it is not in itself contentious for a team to defend its riders when they are involved in a doping affair, at least while their guilt has not been established, the attitude of this team, which has tried to cast doubt on the validity of the tests which revealed the suspected doping in order to provide its defence, is quite another thing," said the UCI.
While adding that the draft anti-doping measures submitted by the team were, "a step in the right direction," the UCI commented, "This team does not provide guarantees in respect of sporting ethics as they apply to doping. Its admission to the UCI Pro Tour would ... harm the image of cycling as a sport."
A further problem was a beach of ProTour regulations regarding image payments to riders, which are capped at 15 percent of the rider's salary. Phonak admitted it had signed contracts with five riders that included payments over 15 percent, claiming it had been advised by its accountants that this would be acceptable because these were renewals of existing contracts. "The regulations, known and applicable at the time that these contracts were renewed, make no distinction between renewed and completely new contracts," commented the UCI.
Aussies get Tour live
By John Stevenson
Australian broadcaster SBS has announced that starting in 2005 it plans to broadcast the Tour de France live in its entirety, making it the only free-to-air broadcaster in the English-speaking world to do so.
Since 1991 SBS has screened the Tour de France as a daily edited highlights package; a few years ago it started screening two or three live stages each year, an event that was an excuse for some lengthy beer and pizza evenings among Australian cycling fans.
SBS head of sport Les Murray explained to Cyclingnews that the broadcaster has decided to ramp up its coverage for a number of reasons. The popularity of the show was one of them, but more significant was the quality of Australian cyclists in the Tour for the last several years. "The high quality presence of the [Australian] cyclists drove us to decide that we have to do more than what we have been doing," said Murray. "Half hour highlights per day, two or three live stages per year simply didn't do justice to the event.
"It became clear that because Australia was the most represented country among successful riders in the Tour de France - which is quite remarkable given that cycling is supposed to be a minority sport in this country - we had to do more than what we'd been doing. It was not right that French television, Italian television, German television, Spanish television was doing this blanket coverage when their riders were inferior, in terms of success, to our riders."
Another factor was the desire of Tour organizer ASO for SBS to do more with the Tour. It's no coincidence that this initiative comes alongside the news that SBS has renewed for five years its contract with ASO to screen the Tour. "Yes, there was pressure from ASO [to do more]" said Murray. "ASO is always keen for us to do more than we were doing. ASO is very keen on promoting the event globally, it's very keen on gaining exposure for the event globally on free to air TV. We always had a very willing partner in ASO if we wanted to take this event up one notch."
That said, Murray told Cyclingnews the decision was, "primarily driven by saying 'we have exposed this event for 13 years, lets see if we can capitalize on that and get some reward for our investment.'"
ASO also organizes several other major races, including Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Nice, and the deal includes the rights to screen those races live too. However, at the moment SBS intends to show those events on a delayed basis. "Live access is available if we want to do it," said Murray. "It depends on the programmers, my colleagues at SBS who sit in judgment of program scheduling. If they want to schedule it live we can do that."
The 2005 Tour de France starts in Vendée with a 19km individual time trial from Fromentine to Ile de Noirmoutier on Saturday July 2. Time zone differences mean this stage will screen on SBS in the very early morning of Sunday July 3.
Bart Wellens injured
Cyclo-Cross World Champion Bart Wellens suffered an injury to the ligaments of his right thumb at last week-end's Superprestige race in Gieten, Belgium, due to a crash. Although the Belgian finished the race, passing all other riders except for the winner Sven Nys, the injury is reported to need plastering for up to four weeks. According to French website velomania.net, Wellens chose to wear a leather protection to be able to continue training, but his participation at the next World Cup races in Swiss Wetzikon (December 12) and Italian Milan (December 8) remains uncertain. A decision is expected at the end of the week.
2005 Cross World Cup race in U.S.
Leading UCI cyclo-cross racer Sven Nys confirmed to Cyclingnews that the Cross World Cup calendar 2005/2006 will most likely include a round on U.S. grounds. UCI cyclo-cross coordinator Peter Van den Abeele asked top cross riders about their opinion on this at the World Cup race in Koksijde, Belgium, and will travel to Portland for the American Championships next Thursday, according to velomania.net. Where and when this race would take place is not known yet.
Rousseau ends career
French track racer Florian Rousseau will end his professional career at the Stuttgart Six Day on January 20-25. At the velodrome of Noumea, New Caledonia, where he participated in the Cycling Open, Rousseau said, "I'm going to quit cycling without any regret or bitterness. I'm very happy to stop at this point." The 30 year-old has been an Olympic champion three times (1996 kilo win, 2000 team sprint and keirin victory) and counts ten World Championships to his palmares. Rousseau hadn't been nominated for the 2004 Athens French team.
US Postal Service rider Robbie Ventura has announced his retirement from professional cycling. While he'll continue to race at local level, Ventura will now concentrate on his coaching business, Vision Quest Coaching Services and will be director of a new Midwest pro men's team.
Ventura, who was a pro rider for 11 yeas, the last four of them with US Postal, said in a statement, "I've had a great experience as a professional. I have learned so much from some of the greatest teammates, directors and team managers in the business. I want to thank the US Postal, Saturn and Navigators teams for the opportunity to race my bike for a living. Now I'm looking forward to the future. I hope to return some of the joy and excitement that I experienced back to others in this wonderful sport."
George stays with Barloworld
South African rider David George has extended his contract with his team Barloworld. George will be living in Cernobbio, Italy, during the season where he will share an apartment with another South African rider, Robert Hunter. The team directed by Alberto Elli counts 20 riders on its roster at the moment.
USA Navigators return Down Under
The Navigators Insurance cycling team is headed back to Adelaide to contest the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under in January, 2005. Ed Beamon, manager of the Navigators Insurance team said, "We are really looking forward to our second trip to the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under. We did a lot of travel with the Navigators Insurance Team in 2004, in fact the team raced on five continents during the season, but I have to say, the best event of the year was the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. We were so impressed with the quality of the field, the beauty of the course, and the tremendous organisation by the race committee, but the most memorable impression was the fantastic reception we received from the people of Adelaide."
Mike Turtur, race director of 2005 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under said, "The Navigators Insurance team has had the benefit of quite a few Australian athletes over the past several seasons, resulting in the team developing a kinship with Australian cycling, and it is a special treat for the team to be able to support their Aussie riders in their homeland."
One of those is five times Australian time trial champion, Nathan O’Neill, who fought back from a crash that almost claimed his life in 2003 to make a successful return racing with victory in the time trial at the 2004 Australian Open Road Championships. Team Navigators are: Nathan O’Neill, Chris Baldwin, Hilton Clarke, Kirk Obee, David O’Loughlin, Ciaran Power, Phillip Zajicek.
Top women head to Tassie
The 2004-05 Tasmanian Christmas carnivals will have a separate women's series, unlike previous years when top female riders had to compete against the men. It's a development that has already met with approval from three of Australia's top female track riders who have signed up for this year's series.
Rochelle Gilmore, Alexis Rhodes and Jessie MacLean will head the Australian female presence at the carnivals, and it's expected that the contingent from Jame Carney's Northwestern Mortgage Pro Cycling Team will include top US female riders.
In 2003 Gilmore, now 23, became the only woman ever to qualify for one of the carnival's wheel races when she got through the heats of the Devonport wheelrace which was eventually rained off. Since then, Gilmore has won three Australian track titles, a World Cup team sprint and on the road, the eighth stage of the 2003 female Giro d'Italia
Rhodes and MacLean are two of Australia's most promising young riders. Rhodes - who turns 20 today - was awarded Australia's Junior Female Track Cyclist of the Year in 2002 after winning the individual pursuit title at the World Junior Championships. Since then she has been Australian criterium and points race champion respectively, and won the points race at the 2004 Sydney World Cup.
MacLean (19) was Australia's Junior Female Track Cyclist of the Year in 2003 and is a former world junior individual pursuit champion. She represented Australia at the World Junior Track Championships in Russia last year.
For more information see: www.tascarnivals.com
Davis adds sprint sparks to Launceston crit
Rising Australian road sprint star Allan Davis has been confirmed as a starter in this year's Launceston Classic criterium in Tasmania on December 27. The 24-year-old from Bundaberg, Queensland has had a breakthrough year, winning the Giro del Piemonte, Trofeo Alcudia, Trofeo Mallorca, the points classification at the Tour of Poland and stages of the Tour of Poland and Tour of Germany.
Davis, who rides for the Spanish-based Liberty Seguros team is rapidly becoming one of the most feared sprinters in the European peloton, impressing none other than top German speedster Erik Zabel who has said that he would like to end his career as mentor and lead-out man to Davis.
Last year's Launceston criterium came down to the final sprint with Robbie McEwen powering away from the field in the final corner. With Davis to contend with, McEwen might no have things all his own way at this year's race.
For more information see: www.licrace.com
Colorado State 'Cross Champs
The American Cycling Association Colorado State Cyclo-Cross Championships will be held this coming weekend (December 4-5) in Denver. The two day event will see racers compete in 20 different categories, ranging from Junior Women ages 10-12 to the Pro-1-2 men. Other categories of note include the Masters 30+ Cat 4 categories for both men and women which opens cross to beginners.
The promoters of the event have scheduled a full hour between each race for course inspection, much more than the typical 5-10 min allowed in previous state championships.
More info can be found at americancycling.org
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)