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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for December 27, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson & Jeff Jones

Lotz considers comeback

"I would have been better off lying"

Dutch cyclist Marc Lotz, suspended for two years for admitting to EPO use, is considering a return to the peloton after his ban runs out on June 1, 2007. Lotz (32) described the circumstances that led to his downfall in an interview with De Volkskrant's Marije Randewijk, reaching the conclusion that he would have been better off lying about it.

After years of working as a domestique for Rabobank, Lotz changed teams to Quick.Step this year. Although he never considered himself a winner, he still managed to ride strongly in the early season classics, helping Tom Boonen and Nick Nuyens in Belgium, and netting himself a nice second place in Brabantse Pijl in March. But in May, as the Tour de France approached, Lotz said that he began to look for "new roads", as he wanted to be in a position to win a stage in the Tour. In the 2004 race, he been part of three breakaways, but did not possess the strength and confidence to finish them off.

"The last time I was there I was always thinking how I would explain that I hadn't won again," he said. "Marc Lotz still couldn't beat all the good riders? That was out of the question. I thought 'It's all good and well, but I don't have the legs of Erik Dekker.'"

In May 2005, Lotz and a bodybuilder friend of his visited a pharmacy in Aachen, on the German/Dutch/Belgian border. He got his friend to buy him some EPO, as he was afraid he would be seen. His plan was to take very small doses in order not to get caught. "If you are really caught for EPO, then you're stupid," he explained. "The apparatuses are becoming more sensitive. I was not afraid of the controls. Say that you have to take half a litre according to a prescription, then I would take an egg-cup. That was the plan. That they could never find it, but it would still be in my body, so that it would help me a little bit. I had that in my head."

But a month later, the Belgian police from Tongeren questioned him after finding his name and phone number among the papers of a Dutch drug dealer. Lotz denied being involved, and told the police that he had to go and train. "Sunday I ride the Dauphiné Libéré. It's for the Tour. Heard of it?" He was allowed to go.

Shortly afterwards, 15 police searched his house and found...nothing, even missing the small plastic bag containing EPO in the bottom of his freezer. Lotz didn't realise this as he surreptitiously watched them searching his house. "I peeped around the corner. I saw men everywhere. I didn't understand anything. How could it be: has someone betrayed me, have they followed me? Again, I thought 'how could this happen?'"

Lotz was taken back to the police cell in Tongeren for interrogation, and kept overnight. The next morning, he learned that his bodybuilder friend had been put in custody, and that the police had found a frozen banana in Lotz's freezer. "They had no idea that you could make a lovely cool milkshake out of it," said Lotz, who more or less assumed that they had also found the EPO. Then Lotz began to panic, as they'd told him that he had no right to a lawyer and it was just five days before the start of the Dauphiné.

"They began to threaten me: 'Mr Lotz, we can hold you in custody for a month.' I thought 'What? A month? F***, I have to get out of here. I'll tell them everything and then I can go home this evening. Then I can sleep and train tomorrow again.'"

Lotz was therefore amazed at the reaction of the investigating judge when he told him what was in his freezer. "'What? EPO? Where?' They opened all the drawers and cupboards, in search of stuff that has to be kept cold, and didn't find anything? I was better off lying. Jesus man, I gave in far too quickly."

Lotz hasn't been questioned again by the police, as he didn't have any other dealings with the pharmacist in Aachen. He was, however, forced to resign from Quick.Step and was given a two year suspension by the Belgian cycling federation starting from June 1, 2005. He will not be allowed to ride for a ProTour team for four years. That might have all been irrelevant, as in June this year he declared he would retire from the sport anyway. He has since gained a diploma as a maths teacher, has finished a broker's course, and was looking at life after cycling.

But the bug didn't leave him. "What hurts me the most is that I haven't got a goal any more," he said. "I'm not proud of my career. It's not over, there's a big gap there. I'll never do it [drugs] again. Oh no, of course not! It's my own fault, but that thing has caused me so much misery. If I have to ride again, I will give it 100 percent. Then I'll get them back, on a sporting level. But if I think about it rationally, I know that will not happen. I already lived 98 percent for my sport; with an additional two percent, I won't do anything great."

T-Mobile's Ludwig sets out store for 2006

Olaf Ludwig at the 2004 Peace Race
Photo: © KlaDi
Click for larger image

New T-Mobile team manager Olaf Ludwig has hinted that he expects the team to be more successful in 2006. The 45-year-old former pro has worked as T-Mobile's spokesman for the last several years, before stepping into a team management role in 2005. With the departure of long-standing team manager Walter Godefroot, Ludwig will be in overall charge of the magenta team in 2006.

In an interview posted on the team's website, Ludwig said that the team's "goals remain the same in the future: We want to leave our mark on the Spring Classics, the Tour de France and the Deutschland-Tour. We have 29 riders in our team and apart from the Tour de France there are significantly more races we are capable of winning. The big Classics like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Amstel Gold Race, the Tour of Flanders or Milan-San Remo come to my mind. My aim is to form a team, which will show determined performances in 2006 and race with passion."

Ludwig will be helped in that aim by Mario Kummer, who moves up from acting as a day-to-day directeur sportif to the role of sport and technical director, effectively making him Ludwig's second-in-command. "Mario Kummer fits the bill perfectly," said Ludwig "He will handle logistics and strategy, assigns the sporting directors, who in turn can commit themselves to their original job: Focusing on sport matters. I think, this ways we have a clear structure in the future, the positions are defined."

Ludwig says he is looking forward to the job. "Having had experience as a rider, team spokesman, sporting director and having worked in organisations and committees makes thing somewhat easier for me," he said. "By now I have developed an all-encompassing view of cycling. And that's a good place to start from and tackle the challenges ahead."

However, he doesn't seem to be planning to faithfully emulate Walter Godefroot's management style. "I don't want to be a tough cookie, neither do I want to be too soft," he said. "In other words, it's about striking the right balance and finding my own style. I'm still quite young, have even raced together with some riders in the peloton like Steffen Wesemann. I might make a mistake or two. But that's part of the game."

Baby for Schreck

In other T-Mobile news, team rider Stefan Schreck became a father on Wednesday December 21 with the arrival of 54cm (21.2in), 3,860g (8lb 8oz) Finn Oscar Schreck. "Nicole and I are overjoyed," said Schreck, who obviously hasn't yet thought about the implications of buying Christmas and birthday presents at the same time.

Cipo injured in skiing accident

Former professional cyclist Mario Cipollini has sustained a fractured knee after hitting a tree in a skiing accident on December 26, according to Europa Press.

Cipollini was on a high-speed downhill run at the ski resort of Abetone, near Lucca when he hit the tree. He was attended by resort personnel before being transferred to hospital in Lucca where he was operated on by Italian football team doctor Enrico Castellacci.

El Pais names Armstrong sportsman of the year

Spanish newspaper El Pais has named Lance Armstrong as its Sportsman of the year for 2005. A panel of 100 sports journalists and significant sporting figures chose Armstrong over Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, who got the nod as Spanish sportsman of the year. Italian motorcyclist Valentino Rossi was third.

Claude Sudre dies

Former team manager and Tour de France chief press officer Claude Sudre died on Monday December 26 in Angiers. He was 74.

From 1970, Sudre was manager of the GAN team that included Raymond Poulidor and Joop Zoetemelk, before taking on the role of press chief at the Tour. In 1984 he also became chief press officer for the Palais Omnisport de Paris-Bercy.

In retirement, Sudre continued to work for the cycling press as a delegate of the Association Internationale des Journalistes de Cyclisme (AIJC).

Six countries for 41st Vuelta a Tachira

A total of 120 riders from six countries will start the 2006 edition of the Vuelta a Tachira, the Federación Venezolana de Ciclismo (FVC) announced yesterday.

The FVC confirmed the presence of Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Russia, and the Italian club, Selle Italia. Venezuela will take part with several teams, among them powerful Loteria and Kino Tachira.

The 41st Tour to Tachira will be held between January 7 and 29, for 1,215.4 miles divided into 14 stages. The event challenges the athletes with severe temperature changes, from shining sun and heat along the coast of Lake Maracaibo to the cold in Merida.

Latrobe considers return to two-day carnival


The Latrobe Carnival, the opening event of the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals series, may return to two days in 2006. Latrobe Bicycle Race Club (LBRC) secretary Dennis Chugg said yesterday, the possibility of a return to two days had been flagged at committee level and there was increasing interest. Now in its 109th year, the Latrobe Carnival has been a one-day affair for approximately the last 12 years, but for many years prior to that was conducted on the afternoon of Christmas Day and all of Boxing Day.

Mr Chugg said there were a number of once-traditional events that his club had been forced to delete from the programme because of commitments to other events. "The Patron's 2000 m Handicap and 1000 m Lightning Handicap for cyclists are no longer and for runners, we no longer have the 70 sprint or the old "two-mile" (3200 m) race," he said.

Mr Chugg said the possibility of returning to a two day carnival would include Boxing Day and December 27, now that the Launceston International Criterium is no longer held. "The day after Boxing Day is now spare on the Carnivals calendar and the LBRC is seriously considering taking up the option of running over two days. Also if we went back to a two day carnival, we could re-introduce the Calcutta on the Latrobe Wheel. The Calcutta was always a big affair and held on Christmas Eve and I for one would like to see it return."

Mr Chugg also said the current situation where A Grade riders are subjected to an 8000 m and a 16,000 m scratch race within two hours of each other could be alleviated if the LBRC went back to two days. The LBRC had been under pressure last year to include more than two races for junior riders. It bowed to that pressure this season and offered the youngsters three races each.

Going to two days would give the club more scope to look after senior, junior and female riders, as well as adding more running races to the programme. "Prize money shouldn't be an issue as the club has an attractive array of current sponsors and I'm sure we could adequately look after all of them if we added new events to the programme," he said.

The LBRC is expected to make a decision at its first general meeting in 2006.

The Tasmanian Christmas carnivals series started yesterday with the Latrobe carnival. For a full report from the day's racing click here.

Big turnout expected for Irish 'turkey race'

By , Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

A turnout in excess of 200 is expected for the 2005 Rás an Turcaí on Wednesday December 28 in the village of Carraroe; it's a race that has grown in stature since its inception in 2001. The event is organised by the former Galway inter county footballer Mairtin Og MacDonnacha who gave up his career in the sport in the 1980's and now enjoys cycling with the Blazing Saddles.

The greats of Irish cycling past and present will be in attendance, including inaugural winner Sean Kelly, but he'll have his work cut out if he is to keep the young cubs at bay, particularly Philip Deignan who looks set to keep the flag aloft in the professional peloton next year.

This year's race will take place over six laps of a ten kilometre circuit in South Connemara. The first two of these will be controlled in order to enable those of all ages and abilities to ride alongside Ireland's top competitors.

Following this, the final four laps will be handicapped in order to guarantee fair and exciting racing between all those taking part.

It will also be a cue for those wishing to burn off the excesses of Christmas and have the opportunity to test their mettle against the established stars. Last year's winner, David O'Loughlin is razor sharp and back to back wins is very much attainable for the popular Navigators Insurance rider.

This year's edition is sponsored by RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Sweeney/Statoil, Club Energise, with the organisers also thanking An Garda Siochána.

In order to ensure a broad appeal, Rás an Turcaí will be preceded by an Oíche Áirneáin on December 27, with local musicians, singers and dancers providing entertainment. A Children's Fun Cycle will also be held for those under 12 years of age. Up to 100 children took part last year.

Vitamin Cottage Cycling Team 2006

The Vitamin Cottage Cycling Team, the 2005 NRC's #1 ranked amateur team and the American Cycling Association's Best-All-Around Team, has announced its 2006 rider and sponsor lineup.

Click here for the full release and roster

Cyclingnews reader awards 2005

One of the things we enjoy about our annual reader poll is trying to predict who will win before we count the votes, and then having a guess at the reasons for your choices. In the case of the female mountain biker of the year, the winner was not hard to pick or to explain - she has dominated women's mountain biking in the last fear years in the same way Juli Furtado in the early 1990s.

But we wouldn't have predicted the male mountain biker of the year, though we're very pleased at your choice which, we think, demonstrates that an athlete can gain recognition for being approachable and down-to-earth as well as talented.

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