First Edition Cycling News for July 4, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Cancellara's emotions run high
Tour de France prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) makes no secret of the fact that he is an emotional guy. When Lance Armstrong, the last man to start the race, failed to better Cancellara's time, the 23 year old Swiss rider grew very quiet as the weight of his accomplishment began to sink in. Minutes later, he was all smiles as he climbed the podium to don the first yellow jersey of the 2004 Tour.
"It's very difficult to say what I really think," he said after his victory. "I'm a very emotional guy. I can't hide my feelings. To have the yellow jersey is really really great."
Cancellara is known as a time trial specialist, particularly adept at short efforts such as the prologue. This year he claimed his first road race win at the Tour of Qatar, and while his short term ambitions are modest, he is sure of one thing: he wants to win the Tour.
"My biggest objective is to finish in Paris," he said of his goals for this year. "I am only 23. It's my fourth season and what I want here is to gain some experience. My one ambition in future is to come back and win the Tour."
Cancellara started cycling at age 13 after dusting off one of his father's bicycle in the garage. Playing soccer soon lost out to enjoying the scenery of Switzerland on two wheels, and now ten years later he rides for one of the world's strongest professional teams, Fassa Bortolo. Despite the obligations for sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, Cancellara believes he can profit plenty from his first yellow jersey.
"Alessandro is here for the sprint stages, and with me in yellow, it's something different," he explained. "I am a time trial specialist but it's also very important for me to win a road stage. I won a stage in the Tour of Qatar earlier this year and it was one of the best victories of my whole career. It was the first time I won a road race so it was very important. I wanted to prove that I'm something other than a time trial specialist."
Anti-doping measures get tougher
By Jeff Jones in Liège
At a press conference on the morning of the Grand Départ in Liège, the UCI and the organisers of the Tour de France unveiled the latest methods for combating doping in cycling, which is still clearly alive and kicking. The revelations of the Cofidis affair, where high profile cyclists David Millar and Philippe Gaumont have admitted to EPO use without testing positive; and the horror stories of former Kelme cyclist Jesus Manzano have demonstrated that the current drugs testing procedures are inadequate for reaching the goal of a clean sport.
Cycling has been at the forefront of developing new methods to combat doping, introducing blood testing as a health measure in 1997, followed by the first test to detect EPO in urine in 2001. However, while a high hematocrit from a blood test can indicate the use of EPO, it has not been used to sanction a rider for longer than 15 days, and it does not constitute a positive test. Additionally, while the urine test is used to determine a positive, its effectiveness is relatively short range: 3-4 days at most before artificial EPO becomes impossible to detect. However, the effects of EPO last much longer: 3-4 weeks, and it doesn't take a genius to work out when the ideal time is to take EPO before a race.
In view of the Tour de France, the UCI has tried to eliminate this by doing out of competition tests in early June - a month before the riders want to be at their best for the Tour. For this reason, the UCI demands to know the exact whereabouts of all riders during this time period in case they are required for a drug test. The UCI is also getting smarter with its testing, zeroing in on riders with abnormalities in their blood profiles. "The health data that we accumulate allow us to target our controls, and to carry out surprise controls on suspected riders or those preparing for an event," said UCI doctor Mario Zorzoli.
More tests planned
During this year's Tour de France, the race's assistant director Christian Prudhomme confirmed that at least 180 riders will be urine tested after each stage. 100 of these samples will be tested for EPO. This is a significant increase from last year, where a total of 142 urine tests were carried out. The stage winner and yellow jersey will be tested, as well as between four and six other riders each day. In addition, surprise controls can be carried out at any time.
"It's clear that there is doping in cycling, but it's also clear that there is a strong anti-doping culture," said Dr Zorzoli. "The UCI is taking a pro-active approach. We want to anticipate rather than wait for [the doping]."
The Tour must go on
In response to calls that the Tour de France should be suspended because of doping problems in cycling, Tour de France boss Patrice Clerc was completely dismissive. "To suggest that the Tour should stop is stupidity," he said. "You don't stop the Olympic Games because American athletes tested positive, you don't close motorways because there are accidents. Our sport has done more than any other sport against doping and Tour organisers have done more than any other sports promoters against doping."
Although doping stories are ongoing and widely reported, Dr Mario Zorzoli pointed to the UCI's testing statistics from 2003. Of 5206 tests carried out worldwide, including 360 for EPO/NESP, 55 riders were sanctioned, which represents 1.05% of the sample size. In the 242 out of competition tests conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency, only 1 rider was positive (0.41% of the sample size).
With the introduction of the new blood tests, it will be interesting to see whether these numbers vary.
Click here to read the full story.
Tough start for Aussies
By John Trevorrow
There was no fairy tale beginning for the Aussies in this year's Tour de France. The day started tragically when Matthew White crashed out of the tour two hours before the start. Australia's best hope overall, Michael Rogers, also hit the bitumen whilst red-hot favourite Brad McGee fell nine seconds short of a consecutive prologue victory.
Matt White has nearly made it to the start line of the world's premier cycling event on three previous occasions, and again it was not meant to be.
"It's hard to get my head around but the good thing is I can't remember anything about it," Matty said. "Mate I am not going to give up on it. It's been my dream since I was a kid, I've done nearly everything else in the sport, three Giros, three Vueltas, the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, but this is the one I want to ride. It's just going to have to wait another year."
The hard question to ask Matt was how this would effect his Olympic selection but he was very positive. "The break is not so bad in the collarbone, I didn't have to get it pinned and I should be back on the bike in a few days. There are still six weeks to go and I should be fine."
Brad McGee sat in the gutter after his usual full bore effort. "I was beaten well. I can't say I felt I did the perfect ride but it was solid anyway. I think I lost a bit of all over power. I might have to stop a bit of this climbing racket and get back to my pursuiting," Brad joked.
"I've been very happy with my year so far and I'm glad I'm the rider I am today. I still dream of winning prologues but if I have to give up that extra bit of power to climb with these guys in the mountains then I've got no problem with that. I'm a bit of a lightweight now. I've never started a tour this light in my life, but it helps up hills. I have tried to change it a bit but it hasn't come back quick enough. I still have my eyes on the Olympics and I'll have it by then.
"I was more relaxed this year and the next stages I will be stronger as I was really tired after the prologue last year. I watched the SBS coverage of the Tour the other day and I got goose bumps. You see yourself in yellow and you want to get it back."
Stuart O'Grady's first thoughts after crossing the line were for his mate Matt White.
"There is no word for it, I'm just glad to be here at the moment. The gods definitely aren't smiling on us. Whitey is a great friend of mine and he was so excited about riding his first Tour, I just feel for him.
"It's been a rough year and I hope to get rid of the demons at some stage on this tour," O'Grady added. "It's been a terrible year."
Stuart was asked how you recover from this and his reply was simple. "Win a stage, it would be very very sweet. This is the Tour de France and just when you think you're stuffed and everything is gone, you can come out the next day and win the stage and get the jersey. Nothing is impossible, you just keep chipping away and see how it ends up"
Michael Rogers fell on the tightest corner of the circuit when he evidently hit a small stone just past the apex of the corner and came crashing down to earth. "I'm not sure what happened, I was going round the corner at what I thought was the right speed to get around and then I think I hit a pebble because my bars jolted to the right and before I knew it I was sliding along the ground. I'm a bit disappointed but the Tour is long and I don't think the 30 seconds I lost today will make much difference when we get to Paris.
"I would like to finish top 15 or even top 10 if possible. Obviously today wasn't the ideal start but I am not hurt and there are plenty of mountains to get that back."
When asked about Matt White, Michael just shook his head. "Australia's had a bugger of a day, let's just hope Brad can bring it home for us."
Baden Cooke, on the other hand, looked comfortable and quite happy with his prologue performance. "I felt strong, I felt good, I didn't blow and I kept the pace going," he said. "I couldn't ask for more."
Baden was asked if he could take the yellow jersey. "I will try and win a stage and then see what happens. I will also have to see what opportunities present themselves as far as the intermediate sprints are concerned."
Scott Sunderland had a huge grin when he crossed the line and was obviously enjoying being back in the Grand Boucle. "Yeah it's good to be back," he said. "Mate, this is purely for myself. After the doctors wrote me off from riding a bike again, I've been able to achieve some personal goals that I wasn't able to do before that. I've had a bit of a before and after career. I'm just bloody stoked that a man of my age can still be here and be asked to come along and join this little criterium around France.
"It was tough bloody, though. The wind was coming from all directions. One minute you had a bit of a tail wind and your doing 60 kph and bang the wind changes and comes between the buildings and you've got a head wind. It takes the big boys, the strong boys, to fight against it and I struggled a bit there today.
"I am really looking forward to this Tour. We only have two guys who don't have to go in the breaks, that's Noe and Caucchioli, the two climbers. The rest of us are just going to go in the breaks each day. We work really good as a team and as soon as one group comes back we plan to have someone in the next one. I can't get any better than this as I don't have to be on the front riding for the sprinters."
When asked what he thought of Matt White's terrible misfortune, Scott replied "I've been struck with bad luck myself but to have that happen just before signing on for your first Tour de France, he must be gutted. I know I would be. Nobody asks for that, I feel really sorry for him."
Nick Gates was a relieved man after the finish. "I'm glad that's out of the way, it was so gusty out there. The first few days of the Tour are real tough because you have to put in a bit.
Like most of the Australian riders, thoughts of Matt White didn't take long to surface. "Poor Whitey, I'm devastated for him. I just feel that bad, I can't believe it."
(Note: It wasn't such a bad day for Australian rider Oenone Wood, who took out the first road stage of the Giro d'Italia Femminile.)
Petacchi not seeing green
Alessandro Petacchi, winner of nine stages in this year's Giro d'Italia, enters the Tour de France as the sprinter to beat. The field of fast finishers is deep this year, as is the competition for the points jersey, something Petacchi confesses is not his top priority.
"I want to concentrate on stage wins," Petacchi told l'Equipe. "If I took the start with the green jersey in mind, I would have to fight for the intermediate sprints, which is a sure way to compromise what matters most: getting to Paris."
Petacchi, who ranks as the top rival for the other sprinters, also makes it clear that he is not focused on beating any one man, rather... beating all of them.
"People ask me if it's important to beat Cipollini in this Tour, but to me it's simple, the important thing is to win, not who I beat.
"As far as Cipollini is concerned, all I can say is I hope I'm still capable of winning when I reach his age," Petacchi added. "Cipollini's got a fantastic career behind him, but if he's still at the start it means he's still competitive."
McEwen tired of the talk
Robbie McEwen, one of only two sprinters to beat Alessandro Petacchi in this year's Giro d'Italia, is eager to let the legs do the talking in this year's Tour. McEwen recognises Petacchi's talent, but he's grown weary of the Italian's 'super sprinter' moniker. McEwen is the focal point of his Lotto-Domo team in this year's Tour, and he's anxious to take on his top rival in the Tour's famous bunch sprints.
"I suppose it's understandable that after his nine victories on the Giro, Petacchi will be the main favourite if it comes down to a sprint finish," McEwen said in an AP report. "But I'm certainly not worried about him. Even if he has a whole team dedicated to his cause, I know I can beat him."
Just like Petacchi, McEwen- a former green jersey winner- has a clear objective at the Tour. "My aim is first to win a stage," he said, "because the fight for the green jersey could come down to a lot of things."
Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) was fined CHF200 for improper equipment (colour and design). Team Domina Vacanze was fined CHF250 for the same reason.
Matthew White (Cofidis) crashed during training in the morning, suffering a broken right collarbone and a wound above his right eyebrow. Other crashes during the prologue were without serious consequences.
Mazzoleni's suspension lifted
Team Saeco has announced that the temporary suspension of Eddy Mazzoleni, which began June 17, has been lifted. Mazzoleni was suspended following reports of phone taps implicating the rider in ongoing doping investigations in Italy.
"As no objective evidence has confirmed the eventual responsibility of the rider, the team has decided to allow him to start riding again," a team statement read.
On Thursday, July 1, Mazzoleni was summoned by the Procura Anti-doping of the Italian Olympic Committee in Rome. No information revealed in that meeting justified his continued suspension and thus the team has permitted Mazzoleni to compete once again.
Fantasy Tour de France first winner
The first prize winner of this year's Tour de France has already been awarded. After the prologue results had been uploaded to the site, team manager Stimulleke's team "2Tourstimul" was a clear winner of the first pair of special edition Rudy Project Tour de France glasses. His team scored the highest stage points in today's competition. Have a look at the top 100 teams so far.
Speedplay has joined the prize list offering a pair of Tyler Hamilton Signature Edition Zero Pedals and a pair of Team CSC Edition Zero Pedals.
"Since Tyler began riding the yellow Zero pedals at the beginning of the racing season, we've been flooded with requests from riders worldwide who want to purchase pedals just like Tyler rides," says Doug Cerri from Speedplay. "So we decided to offer consumers a yellow Tyler Hamilton Signature Edition. The Signature Edition also enables Speedplay to provide a way for Speedplay customers to support Tyler's non-profit foundation."
To take part this year all you need to do is pick a team of 15 riders to race and select 9 riders each day during the tour. You can join up until stage 6 begins. It's a great way to follow the tour. To register go to http://fantasy.cyclingnews.com/ . Good luck!
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)