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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Cycling News Flash for November 30, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Hamilton sacking doesn't save Phonak

UCI sticks with 19 ProTour teams

After reviewing the dossiers of Phonak, and Ag2r over the last week, the UCI has announced the final list of teams that will be allowed into the ProTour next year. Despite there being one spot theoretically open, the UCI declared that the ProTour will be comprised of 19, not 20 teams next year, and that none of the three aforementioned teams under revision will get a ProTour licence.

Phonak's exclusion was the most contentious, as it had originally been part of the ProTour at the UCI's initial assessment on June 30. Since then, three doping cases involving Phonak riders have surfaced (Camenzind, Hamilton and Perez), and Phonak has not satisfied the UCI with its course of action, even though Tyler Hamilton has now been fired and Perez's contract is unlikely to be renewed beyond the end of this year.

With regard to Hamilton and Perez, Phonak has contested the results and cast doubt on the doping tests, which have been approved by WADA and the IOC, and clearly this did not put the team in a favourable light with the UCI. Phonak set up its own panel of experts to judge the validity of the test, and at the UCI hearing on November 22, the team's lawyer Alessandro Celli indicated that, "a provisional report from their experts did not enable them to reach significant conclusions, two of these experts considering that the Lausanne and Athens laboratory tests were invalid, a third having detected certain errors which, however, did not cast doubt upon their reliability, and two others having found nothing abnormal in these tests."

On the basis of these results and pressure from the UCI, Phonak decided to terminate the contract of Hamilton, which was due to run until December 31, 2005, on November 25, 2004.

The UCI's statement continuned, "It emerges from the dossier and the explanations given by 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. The team's managers had been summoned to clarify this matter. Following the recent cases mentioned above, the UCI decided to launch an enquiry to determine and improve the Phonak team's modus operandi in relation to the fight against doping and the protection of riders' health.

"During the hearing of 22 November 2004, the applicants manager produced a draft protocol, dated 27 October 2004, intended to establish the terms of the Phonak team's antidoping policy.

"Apart from the existence of the checks instituted by the UCI's doctor, the facts related above [abnormal blood values] by the applicant do not appear in the dossier and were not known to the Commission when it issued its initial evaluation. [According to an established regulation] the commission is not entitled to take these into account. Nonetheless, the consideration of these facts and even the last minute announcement of the dismissal of the rider Tyler Hamilton, does not make it possible to overturn the negative initial evaluation issued on 12 November 2004."

The final item that Phonak could not bring into line with the UCI's requirements dealt with image contracts, which are given to riders separately to their employment contracts. "Remuneration under the image contract may not exceed 15% of the total remuneration paid to the rider," the UCI noted. "The applicant does not dispute the fact that after learning of this regulatory provision, five image contracts were extended without respect for this 15% limit. The manager of the team, Urs Freuler, explained that at the workshop of 1 September 2004, an Ernst & Young consultant said that there was no need to worry about the 15% problem for existing contracts. This explanation is not convincing, as the regulations, known and applicable at the time that these contracts were renewed, make no distinction between renewed and completely new contracts."

The full list of ProTour teams and rosters can be found in our 2005 Teams Database.

Grand Tours back in ProTour

After over two months of stubborn negotiations, the organisers of the three Grand Tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España) have agreed to become part of the UCI's ProTour when it launches next season. The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which runs the Tour de France, stated that it wanted "to prevent a crisis in cycling that is not good for anyone and to allow the [ProTour] teams to prepare for the new road season with total calm."

That means that the three Grand Tours, along with other important races such as Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Flèche Wallonne, Paris-Tours, Giro di Lombardia, Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice will all be on the ProTour calendar next season. The withdrawal of these races threatened to scupper the ProTour before it started, as most of the big ProTour team sponsors want to guarantee their presence in the major races. Without these, the ProTour would have had a small fraction of the impact that it was supposed to.

Although organisers ASO, RCS and Unipublic have joined the UCI's reform, it's clear that not all the problems between the two parties have been resolved yet. The negotiations will likely continue into the next season.

Lance's GTO gets overhauled - by Sheryl and friends

What lies underneath
Photo ©: TLC
Click for larger image

One of the benefits of winning the Tour de France six times in a row is that your rock-star-singer-girlfriend buys you a legendary muscle-car from the '70s to cruise around in, so you can rest your legs when you get home. Such is the lot in life for Lance Armstrong - except the Pontiac GTO that Sheryl Crow purchased as a six-times TdF winning bonus is 'stolen'.

However, it's no ordinary auto-theft. Rather, it's a set-up by the restoration crew from The Learning Channel's Overhaulin' program. Screening tonight, November 30, in the USA at 9pm ET/PT, is a half-hour special on the special treatment given to Armstrong's GTO, and his reaction when he learns his car wasn't stolen and sold for scrap after all.

For a behind the scenes snenk preview, check out the Cyclingnews special featuring an interview with the show's producer, Matt Gould. To coincide with the TV special, Cyclingnews has also put together a directory of all the interviews we've published so far with the six-time TdF winner.

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