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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for August 24, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

EPO test under scrutiny

Latest Armstrong case makes big waves

By Jeff Jones

The stunning news reported by L'Equipe yesterday that Lance Armstrong allegedly used EPO during the 1999 Tour de France has sparked a huge debate in the cycling world. Using research data obtained from the French Laboratoire national de dépistage du dopage de Châtenay-Malabry (LNDD), L'Equipe journalists pieced together evidence over several months that linked six "positive" EPO samples to Lance Armstrong, before publishing it in Tuesday's edition of the widely read French paper. If the results are correct, then the ramifications for Armstrong could be great, even though he officially retired from the sport after winning his seventh Tour last month.

It's an unprecedented case in cycling, and quite possibly in any sport: that an athlete has been accused of doping on the basis of scientific research results. Usually, the subjects of a study are kept anonymous - and indeed they were by the lab - although the news did manage to leak. When the urinary EPO test was first developed by the LNDD in 2000, urine samples from the infamous 1998 Tour de France were used, as it was believed they were likely to contain EPO. The LNDD published its work in Volume 405 of Nature and reported that 14 of the 102 samples tested gave a clear indication that there was exogenous recombinant EPO present, while another 14 were suspiciously high. But no names were given, of course.

The motivation behind the current investigation, which used left over samples from the 1999 Tour, was to improve the EPO test. The test has recently come under fire after Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke, who tested positive late last year, proved that he could give a "positive" result without using EPO at all. But it's understood that that wasn't the sole reason for re-examining the test. It was more to provide a uniform qualitative, rather than quantitative standard for the test.

The director of the LNDD, Jacques De Ceaurriz, maintains that the results of the latest study are unequivocal: there is no doubt in his mind that the EPO test will work on samples that have been frozen for six years at -20 degrees celsius. Thus, according to his results, Armstrong and up to six others were positive for EPO in 1999. De Ceaurriz also admits that it was a purely experimental study, and as there is no possibility for Armstrong to ask for a B test, then neither he, or any of the other six "positives", should be sanctioned under normal sporting rules.

A possible sanction will be left up to WADA and the UCI, but neither body seems particularly interested in pursuing the case, which would involve a legal battle that would dwarf the Tyler Hamilton case. WADA, for one, claims that it didn't exist in 1999, thus has no jurisdiction in the matter. UCI president Hein Verbruggen is taking a "wait and see" approach on the current case, but appears to want to leave it in the hands of the French. Could there be another French judicial case in the offing? It's also noteworthy that in the past, the UCI has received donations from Armstrong to aid in the purchase of anti-doping testing equipment.

On the other hand, there is a divided opinion among anti-doping experts about the LNDD's latest results, especially as they come from samples that were almost six years old. "Can one be certain that in samples deep-frozen for years, there were no biological changes, no aging processes that could falsify the result?" said German National Anti-Doping Agency chief Dr. Roland Augustin to sid. "That has not been sufficiently determined scientifically."

However, Wilhelm Schänzer, head of the IOC doping lab in Cologne, supports the findings of the LNDD. "Urine samples can be kept in storage temperatures of between -20 and -40 degrees for years," he said. "The results are scientifically valid for me. If Mr. Ceaurriz says they are positive, then you can be assured that it's right."

There are similarly opposing opinions among other top scientists worldwide, and while the Armstrong camp remains fairly quiet on this matter beyond a short statement of denial, the debate looks set to heat up.

Team transfer news roundup

- Domina, T-Mobile make big changes, and Simoni for Quick.Step

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

With the official UCI date for team transfers coming next week on September 1, there is a lot of action happening already. Although the deal isn't signed yet, Domina Vacanze team boss Gianluigi Stanga has been negotiating with Erik Zabel to come to his team in 2006 and bring along a major sponsor. Stanga recently visited Bremen, the headquarters of German dairy products giant Nordmilch, who will likely come along with Zabel and his current T-Mobile teammate Jan Schaffrath. Nordmilch is already a co-sponsor of Team Wiesenhof under their Mirlam milk and cheese brand.

So Zabel will join Ale-Jet Petacchi at the Domina Vacanze-Mirlam squad in '06, and the Italian super-sprinter can count on the support of Marco Velo, Alberto Ongarato, Fabio Sacchi and possibly Stefano Zanini for his leadout train. Look for other changes at the Italian squad in '06, as Stanga has already advised a dozen riders, including recent Coppa Bernocchi winner Paolo Valoti, that their contracts won't be renewed for 2006. This may clear the way for other German riders from Team Wiesenhof, which is set to fold at the end of 2005, to join Zabel.

Although Erik Zabel and Alexandre Vinokourov will head elsewhere in '06, T-Mobile have inked agreements with Ukrainian powerhouse Serguei Gonchar and Italian Eddy Mazzoleni likely to play key support roles for Jan Ullrich along with Giuseppe "Turbo" Guerini, who has signed a one year contract extension for 2006. Gonchar was talking to Lampre about coming on board to support Cunego in '06, while Mazzoleni had previously agreed to stay with Lampre next season to support Damiano Cunego, but the temptingly rich offers from the German formation convinced both the Ukrainian and Italian otherwise.

T-Mobile have already signed deals with emerging talents Patrik Sinkewitz and World TT champ Michael Rogers, both from Quick.Step while old pro Rolf Aldag and Ullrich's key support rider Tobias Steinhauser will retire at year's end, but both will continue to work within the T-Mobile team structure. Other riders who are reportedly close to signing with T-Mobile are Spanish rider Koldo Gil (Liberty Seguros), Fassa Bortolo's Kim Kirchen, Phonak's Tadej Valjavec and 2003 World Champion Igor Astarloa.

Simoni heads north

Although Quick.Step will lose Rogers and Sinkewitz, it looks certain now that 34 year old Italian Gilberto Simoni will leave Lampre to ride for the Belgian team in 2006. Quick.Step wants Simoni as leader for the Giro d'Italia, where he's on the podium six times in the last seven years, including two wins (2001-2003). Simoni will have riders like Spanish champ Juanma Garate (Saunier Duval) as support, while Quick.Step has added Dutch sprinter Steve De Jongh, emerging 23 year old Belgian talent Kevin Van Impe and Italian Matteo Tosatto, who will join ex-Fassa Bortolo teammate Guido Trenti.

2005 Giro d'Italia revelation, Colombian mountain mini-me Jose Rujano will also join Quick.Step next season, but only after he rides the Giro for current team Colombia-Selle Italia, which will also see the departure of their other Giro revelation Ivan Parra, who has a three year offer from Cofidis on the table. But Colombia-Selle Italia team boss Gianni Savio has a few more climbing cards up his sleeve from the Colombian cordillera: 23 year old Walter Pedraza, Colombian national champion and 27 year old Alex Giraldo will join Savio's formation in 2006.

Liquigas-Bianchi has convinced former European U23 TT champ Manu Quinziato to return to Italy from Spanish squad Saunier Duval for the 2006 season, and has also signed some up and coming riders from the Czech Republic and Italy. 23 year old Martin Mares, winner of the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China will join the Italian formation next season, as will 19 year old Czech, World Jr. TT champ Roman Kreuziger and talented young Italian Eros Capecchi. 22 year old Claudio Corioni who has had a successful neo-pro season with Fassa Bortolo with one win and four second places will move to Lampre next year, which will probably be named Lampre-Valsir with the probable arrival of Brescia building products firm Valsir as second sponsor.

An interview with Tyler Farrar

US champ riding high

Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
Click for larger image

After signing a two-year deal to ride for Cofidis next season and a win at the USPRO criterium championships, Tyler Farrar is riding high. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes jumped on cloud nine, where Tyler is sitting right now, to join the young American for a chat.

August sure seems to be a good month for Tyler Farrar. Twelve months ago it brought a glittering run of form; the Health Net - Maxxis rider won the National Under 23 TT title, the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix and the National Under 23 criterium championships over a highly-productive five-day period.

This time round, Farrar won the Portland Grand Prix, placed second in the Manhattan Beach GP, signed a ProTour contract with Cofidis, and then finished off his domestic career with a real flourish when he won the USPRO Criterium Championship in Chicago.

The race was dominated by a dangerous three-man move containing Health Net-Maxxis' John Lieswyn, former winner Kirk O'Bee (Navigators Insurance) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada.) It looked like the three would stay clear, but a last-gasp recapture by the main bunch paved the way for a big gallop and, with Farrar getting a top-drawer leadout by team-mate Greg Henderson, the 21-year-old managed to hold off Dave McCook (Jelly Belly-Pool Gel) for the win.

"It was great, it was a dream come true," said a clearly elated Farrar two days later. "To have my last race in the US for I don't know how long turn out that way, winning a US Pro championship...that's a pretty nice way to finish it out."

Click here for the full interview

Courageous Yaxley stays positive

Louise Yaxley Media Conference, Launceston, Tasmania

By Shane Goss in Launceston

Yaxley is remaining positive
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

Having birthday cake with mother Annette and father Brian in a German hospital is a long way from Penguin in Tasmania, and after wanting to be home for so long Louise Yaxley finally returned to familiar shores on Sunday morning. To her this was a major step in her recovery.

After suffering horrific injuries in the AIS Women's team cycling tragedy in Germany last month, Louise Yaxley has returned home to Tasmania. In Launceston today she held a media conference at the Silverdome, a track that has seen her development and courage in the sport rise to becoming a well liked and feared competitor on the bike.

In an emotional opening for all. Yaxley, with Paul Brosnan from the Tasmania Institute of Sport beside her, thanked everyone for the support she had received from all over the country and in particular Tasmania. She especially thanked the doctors who had treated her in Germany and holding back the tears she spoke of her boyfriend Mark Padget being at her bedside within two days of the accident.

"The support from family members and close friends has been amazing", she said. "I would like to make a special mention of the support from the town I grew up in - Penguin, on the coast, and where I am now based in Launceston"

Click here for the full story

Fantasy Vuelta game tactics

This year's Fantasy Vuelta a España game is under way, and you can begin building your teams now! Be a professional team manager, there will be some great opportunities to win prizes in this year's game. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with managers from around the world. For more info go to

Tactics 101

Last year's Vuelta winners, Brett and Stephan, who won the Orbea ORCA frameset painted in Euskaltel-Euskadi team colours share some of their tactics below:

"We had only eight of our original 15 riders left at the end, our six remaining GC picks performed very well - earning good stage points and placing overall 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, and 13th. Our aces in the hole were Santiago Perez and Carlos Sastre.

"We decided on four riders as "must haves," and built around this core group. At the beginning of the race, our four "must haves" were Dennis Menchov, Aitor Gonzalez, Roberto Heras, and Alejandro Valverde. Heras has owned the Vuelta this decade, and Valverde is currently perhaps the most talented rider in cycling next to Armstrong. Menchov was looking exceptional early, and as a previous winner of the Vuelta who seemed on form in the second half of the year, Gonzalez looked good too.

"We filled out the remaining five GC spots by carefully considering a rider's current form, past performances, and UCI point cost. Given our expensive selection of core GC riders (Valverde, Heras, and Menchov) plus the fact that we wanted at least one expensive sprinter on the team (which turned out to be Petacchi), we really had to be cautious with the remaining GC point cost (which put the likes of Mancebo and Nozal in the too expensive category).

"In each grand tour fantasy game, it seems each of us makes one great pick that the other is thankful for. For the Vuelta, Brett lobbied hard for Carlos Sastre, and Stephan was very high on a youngster named Santiago Perez. These two riders became the key to our team's success.

"The whole race was about as exciting as can be, especially the final week. Santi Perez really broke out as a grand tour contender during the final week. The secret is out! What a great race to end a great season, and we can't wait for the 2005 season to arrive."

Read more tips from winning managers in the downloads and prizes sections.

Join for free

You can begin creating your team/s now. You can play the first five stages for FREE! We will be making additions to the start list on a daily basis. The fantasy tour games are easy to play, all you need to do to manage your own team is select 15 riders from the live start list then select 9 of these riders to race each day throughout the Vuelta. You score points according to how well each of the riders place each day in the Vuelta. So try your team today and see if it's for you. It's a great way to follow the Vuelta. Create your teams now at

Good luck!
The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team

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