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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Special Edition Cycling News for April 1, 2005

Edited by Chris Henry, Les Clarke, John Stevenson & Jeff Jones

UCI Creates "Slow Tour" for 2007

Coming on the heels of the long-awaited debut of the UCI's Pro Tour changes to road cycling, the international cycling body will launch its counterpart Slow Tour in 2007, aimed at promoting a clean sport and raising awareness of the dangers of performance enhancing drugs in the peloton. The Slow Tour will place a smaller emphasis on points accumulation and prize money at major races, choosing instead to reward riders who demonstrate good sportsmanship, a healthy lifestyle, and value honest competition over cut-throat competition in search of victory.

"Fans have always delighted in the 'Lanterne Rouge' in the Tour de France, paying tribute in a fun and supportive way to the rider finishing in last place," explained UCI spokesman Philippe Darenier. "There will always be a fight for the top, and the Pro Tour will reward the best riders and teams in the sport. But we want a way to recognize those that are riding on virtue alone, no matter where they finish in the general classification. For those riders, the Slow Tour gives new encouragement in the sport."

The UCI's effort presents a new approach to stemming the tide of banned substance use in the peloton, argued by many to be a product of an over-emphasis on sponsorship dollars and expactations from teams desparate for exposure.

Riders who fail to accumulate any Pro Tour points during the season will be grouped together in a run-off style competition, with the year-end Slow Tour title and jersey being awarded to whoever cracks into the standings most effectively in the late season. The Slow Tour jersey would reward overall improvement rather than more objective rankings. The run-off period will most likely fall between the Vuelta a España and the World Championships, although no specific dates have been established.

While most riders will still prefer to chase Pro Tour points rather than the dubious honor of Slow Tour designation, the trade-off could come in the form of better nights' rest thanks to fewer police searches in hotels, not to mention more time for text messaging and interviews after races instead of doping controls.

Cipollini set to star on the catwalk

Mario Cipollini spots a badly-dressed spectator
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

After an illustrious 17 seasons at the pinnacle of cyclesport, Mario Cipollini's swansong will most likely be 2005. While many riders go into team management (such as Australian Scott Sunderland or Discovery DS Johan Bruyneel), Cipollini has decided that fine fabrics take priority over lycra in his retirement.

Cipo told cyclingnews after his Milan San Remo ride that he's always been interested in fashion and that is his calling once the bike has gone into the garage for good. He said that Italians are renown the world over for their love of all things uber sleek and the Lion King is no exception.

Men's clothing and frangrances would be the likely target of Cipollini's venture, with men's and women's swimwear to follow. There's a hint that some sporting apparel may be in the design stages already, but the big man of pro cycling wasn't giving too much away.

The prolific sprinter isn't sure what his label would be called, but our bet is that the name may be derived from his very nickname - "the strength and power of the lion are things that can be applied to the world of fashion" said Cipollini when asked whether the rumours were true. "Lean and mean, that's the best way. That's why all the models are so thin. It makes sense."

Yes it does, Mario... yes it does.

WADA considers official 'Lame Excuse' list

The World Anti-Doping Agency is considering a crackdown on athletes who come up with 'the dog ate my homework'-style reasons to explain away positive doping tests. According to documents obtained by Cyclingnews, WADA is set to recommend penalty increases between 50 and 100 percent for athletes who trot out the same tired old excuses when they return a positive test, if they are subsequently found guilty of a breach of anti-doping regulations.

WADA's list - officially dubbed the 'Reverse Mitigating Circumstances Schedule' - reads like a shopping list of implausible explanations presented by athletes in recent years. Pared of the legal language necessary to make the classes of excuse comprehensive, it includes classics such as:

The drugs are for my dog
The drugs are for my mother-in-law
My mum told me to take it
Someone must have spiked my drink bottle
Nobody would be stupid enough to take that drug anymore because testing is so good
It must be a contaminated supplement
My body makes that drug out of the contraceptive Pill (or any other legitimate medication)
I have a naturally high level of (any substance that does not occur in nature)

One consequence of this initiative is expected to be a reduction in the number of athletes attempting to defend themselves against accusations of drug use. While this would save money for sports governing bodies, it creates concerns that athletes' civil liberties are being trampled in the fight against drugs. "We do worry that increasing penalties for athletes who attempt to defend themselves using these reasons goes against natural justice," said a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union. "But then again, who cares that much about over-paid dopers when there are real instances of oppression to worry about?"

For its part, WADA has yet to decide if the new list will become part of its anti-doping code. "Yes this is something we are considering," said a WADA spokesperson. "For too long we have had to endure excuses from sportspeople that would have got them laughed out of fourth grade. With this initiative WADA hopes to at least encourage creativity in the explanations doped riders come up with."

Discovery Channel recruits local heroes

In a bold initiative to cross the boundaries between local and international cyclesport, the Discovery Channel team is setting out to recruit regional racing superstars - starting with Sydney, Australia's 'King of Heffron Park' Anthony Spurgeon.

Spurgeon - universally known as 'Spurge' - has for the last few years demolished all comers at the Tuesday night crit series held in the Sydney inner-suburban criterium course. But his talent has never had the chance to translate to a bigger stage - till now.

"Reading the local results section on Cyclingnews we realized that there were riders who consistently rule their local scenes but never get the chance to move up to the big league," Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews. "These guys hammer week after week despite holding down full time jobs and spending time with their families. Imagine what they can do with a proper ProTour team behind them."

Bruyneel added, "We were particularly impressed when we heard that Spurgeon turned out to race in pounding rain for the last race of the series. That's the kind of will to win we want on Discovery."

Bruyneel said that he would also be examining the records of local heroes at other highly-contested race series, such as the Asheville Mellowdrome track series and Ontario's Harris + Harris Midweek Criterium series.

Tech special: A different pro's bike

A real pro bike
Photo: © Jeff Jones

Cyclingnews regularly brings you details of the top-flight machines ridden by members of the professional peloton. But there's another type of 'pro's bike' out there - the everyday transport of the hard-working members of the team that brings you this website. Our chief on-line editor Dr Jeff "Do you ever sleep?" Jones maintains a superhuman workload of news reports and other production tasks, but even an uber-editor needs to nip down the shops from time to time for bread and Belgian beer. For those tasks, Jeff chooses his Belgian commuter special.

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