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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for November 27, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan

Heras case gives UCI "unconditional confidence" in EPO test

Expert recommendations ignored?

By Anthony Tan

A statement released by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) yesterday said they "noted with regret the abnormal result of Roberto Heras' analysis in Madrid", but used the Spanish rider's positive counter analysis as its way of addresing criticism of the urinary test for erythropoetin (EPO).

"The UCI would like to express its full satisfaction as to the progress of the procedures related to this case, and reaffirms its unconditional confidence in the method used for the search of EPO," read one of the statement's opening lines.

"The regrettable context of suspicion and distrust created around this affair, which will once again have provoked very negative consequences for the image of the cycling, is only the will of a number to discredit, in a totally unacceptable way, the reliability of the most important tool with which the UCI, as first International Federation in the world to be equipped within the framework of its commitment against doping and this already in 2001."

Whether these words have been directly aimed at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and/or Cyclingnews is a question worth asking. Chief Online Editor Dr Jeff Jones' recent report titled: "Serious concerns over urinary EPO test" stemmed from the three recent cases in the endurance sport of triathlon, where scientists defending Rutger Beke, Virginia Berasategui and Ibán Rodríguez were able to prove to test for artificial or recombinant EPO (rEPO) could lead to false positives.

In early 2002, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) called for the urinary EPO test to undergo an independent review, whose experts recommended seven points of improvement, ranging from the assessment of the urine samples prior to analysis to a new approach for the interpretation of the scanned EPO profiles, as well as the use of more appropriate testing materials.

The experts asked to review the test, Drs. Gabriel Peltre and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Thormann, also noted stress-induced activity can lead to proteinuria, where the body can naturally excrete proteins that would yield a positive test - which lead to the three aforementioned triathletes having their cases dropped. Furthermore, the doctors noted the use of an antibody that is non-specific for rEPO identification - that is, other proteins in the sample could be identified.

However, the UCI appears to be unmoved by Drs. Peltre and Thormann's recommendation: "The positive results which ensued from it since its introduction until this last case of Roberto Heras prove unmistakably that the battle against the plague of EPO must be pursued, but demonstrate especially the efficiency of these controls," read the statement. "The charges pressing in a recurring way on other riders subjected to the same test are thus pure speculation."

McEwen: "The goal is to stay there"

Robbie McEwen was chuffed with the accolade, but wins are what really matter to McEwen
Photo ©: John Veage
Click for larger image

Surprised maybe, but when one takes a good look at Robbie McEwen's 2005 season, the 33 year-old was a deserving winner of the Sir Hubert Opperman medal as 2005 Australian Cyclist of the Year, writes Anthony Tan.

His season in a nutshell: fifteen victories that included his second Australian road title, the GP Fourmies and Paris-Brussels semi-classics, a stage win at the Tour of Qatar, Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt and Tour de Suisse, and three stage wins apiece at the Tour Down Under, Giro d'Italia and, of course, the Tour de France.

"What makes me happy is it's hard to pick between 2002, 2004 and 2005 - similar results in all three years, but under different circumstances each time," says McEwen to Cyclingnews, asked if he still rates 2002 as his best year ever, the year he earned his first 'Oppy'.

"It's hard to say... 2002 was the real, absolute breakthrough, 2004 was coming back after a slightly ordinary 2003 and performing like I did at the Tour de France with a bad injury where I broke my back. This year, I turned 33 and people started to say, 'Well, he's 33... is he going to slow down, is he just as quick this year?' or 'Petacchi, he can't be beaten' or 'Boonen, he's the young guy coming up and no one can beat him' - and I beat both those guys during the course of this season - they beat me too - but I had another very good season, reconfirming what I'd done last year."

Still, McEwen was certain he wasn't going to win: "Like I said, I didn't even put my jacket on, didn't have my shirt done up... I was just sitting in my chair waiting to see who it was going to be."

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Australian Cyclist of the Year award winners

Following on from Cycling Australia's awards night last Friday, below is the full list of award winners from the evening:

2005 Australian Cyclist of the Year - Sir Hubert Opperman Medal
Robbie McEwen

Track Cyclist of the Year
Ben Kersten
Katie Mactier Road Cyclist of the Year
Robbie McEwen
Oenone Wood

MTB Cyclist of the Year
Sam Hill
Katrina Miller

GT BMX Cyclist of the Year
Luke Madill
Renee Junga

Disability Cyclist of the Year
Chris Scott
Jane Armstrong

SBS Television Coach of the Year
Warren McDonald

Masters Cyclist of the Year
Peter Barnard
Julie Barnett

Junior Track Cyclist of the Year
Skye-Lee Armstrong
Scott Sunderland

Junior Road Cyclist of the Year
Cameron Meyer
Amanda Spratt

Junior BMX Cyclist of the Year
Leigh Darrell
Nicole Callisto

Junior MTB Cyclist of the Year
Amiel Cavalier
Tracey Hannah

Cycling Australia Event Merit Award
Melbourne to Warnambool Classic

ASC Volunteers of the Year
ACT - John Armstrong
NSW - Doug Wallace
QLD - Betty Bathersby
SA - David Birks
WA - Michael Dunne
VIC - Marie Manskie
TAS - Peter Barnes

Keith Esson Regional Media Award
Cameron Best - WIN Television

Cycling Australia Photo of the Year Award
Mark Gunter - / Ride Cycling Review

Cycling Australia Story of the Year
John Thompson-Mills - ABC Radio Adelaide

Brown leaving nothing to chance

By Anthony Tan

Graeme Brown's relationship with his Italian team soured in 2005, but luckily for him, a chance meeting found him a new home at Rabobank
Photo ©: Mark Gunter/Cyclingnews
Click for larger image

With a new contract and an open door into the ProTour, Graeme Brown believes he can now approach the 2006 season with confidence. However, the 26 year-old knows his opportunity with Rabobank isn't one to take for granted, telling Cyclingnews he will be doing everything in his power to fulfil his promise as one of the world's best sprinters.

"I'm six kilos lighter than I normally am at this time of the year, which obviously makes a big difference," Brown began by saying. "I'm just going out and rolling the legs over, y'know, 25k an hour, doing an hour and a half to two hour rides and actually really, really enjoying myself. I've spoken with a few people about riding style, biomechanics, cleat set-up, training programs... everything's falling into place, and it's great."

For a rider that began his career with Panaria back in 2002 and for whom he has accumulated ten stage wins, the Sydneysider has mixed feelings about his departure. "I'm glad about my time spent at Panaria. It taught me things about cycling that I needed to know, I did quite a few big races.

"The last year [2005] with Panaria wasn't my best year in terms of my relationship with the boss and director, Roberto and Bruno [Reverberi]. I don't know what happened towards the end of this year... they actually still owe me money, so I'm actually that disappointed to leave."

His strained relationship with the team also had something to do with having two other sprinters on a 17-man roster, Guillermo Bongiorno and Paride Grillo. Brown cited a number of occasions where he was instructed to ride for Grillo irrespective of his own form or chances, which created a situation of unease within his team and led to the Australian fearing he would be out of a job next season.

"I think the problem is that nobody makes good money; they don't pay a very good wage and everyone's trying to win to get a bonus for next year, where you get a few dollars extra on your contract. So nobody wants to help the other person. They're an Italian team and they try and really look after their Italians - that's the way it seemed, anyway."

Thanks to a fellow Australian, Mathew Hayman, who recommended the dual Olympic gold medallist (teams pursuit, Madison) to his manager Theo de Rooy, Brown has found a very good home at Dutch ProTour squad Rabobank. With a roster close to 30 riders, up to three concurrently-run race schedules and a far larger budget, the opportunity to show himself is there - it's up to him to prove it.

"I'm not racing at all this off-season; I'm trying to make sure that my body's right for the first day of racing in Europe," he said. "My only objectives for the year are to make sure I'm right when I get to Europe and then perform when I'm in Europe.

"I have no track commitments at all. I'm not worried about chasing races like I have every other year, doing crits here, track races there, Christmas carnivals, Bay Series... it's fun, I love it, I'm glad I did it all, but now it's time to really concentrate and knuckle down on what I really want, and that's be the best bike rider I can be."

Arriving in Europe far earlier than previously on January 5 for Rabobank's official team presentation, Brown will then migrate south for the team's first training camp in Spain. From there, his first race will be the six-day Tour of Qatar. "That gives me a good opportunity to strut my stuff early," said Brown.

"Based on how I go from there, they're going to see what races I'm going to do, but generally speaking, all the Spring Classics, I would presume, and then the Giro. And they said if you're flying, then the Tour's a possibility too, especially now that there's nine sprint stages."

Look out for the interview with Graeme Brown tomorrow on Cyclingnews.

British team confirmed for Manchester World Cup

With the British team now confirmed for the Manchester round of the UCI Track World Cup from December 9-11, two British trade teams as well as the British national squad will form the local contingent taking on each other and as well as some of the best talent from 36 other nations.

Great Britain's world class performance director Dave Brailsford knows that the Manchester World Cup will be a crucial test ahead of the Commonwealth Games and World Championships: "The Manchester World Cup provides us with a great opportunity to race both our young and experienced riders against the world's best on our home track in front of a partisan crowd," he said. "It is an important part of our preparation for the Commonwealth Games and we will be looking to get riders on the podium."

UCI regulations allow trade teams to compete at the World Cup events, meaning a Science in Sport team of Jason Queally, Jamie Staff, Matt Crampton and Victoria Pendleton will race alongside a squad including Rob Hayles, Chris Newton, Paul Manning, Mark Cavendish and Evan Oliphant. This gives them all an opportunity to score vital qualifying points for their country and themselves for the World Championships next year and sets up some interesting head to heads in advance of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

The home nations' clash will be most prominent in the sprint events with Great Britain fielding an all Scottish squad of Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean and Ross Edgar. They will join the all English Science in Sport trio to take on teams from France, Holland and Japan as well as a powerful Australian team including Ryan Bayley, Ben Kersten and Shane Kelly.

Another Britain versus Australia battle is likely to take place in the women's sprint as world sprint champion Victoria Pendleton and Australian sprint star Anna Meares are both confirmed to ride. Meares won bronze in this event at the Athens Olympics and at the world championships this year, where Pendleton knocked her out in the semi-finals before taking the title against Tamilia Abassova. In advance of the Commonwealth Games, a victory will give either rider an important boost.

In the endurance racing GB will field a young squad for the men's events with U23 Academy riders Ian Stannard, Andy Tennant, Ben Swift and Ross Sander joined by academy graduates Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas. They will all be out to make their mark against the strong international field as well as the experienced British world champions in the squad. World road race silver medallist Nicole Cooke leads a squad including Rachel Heal, Nikki Harris and Kate Cullen.

More details:

Saunier Duval to meet in Cantabria

The riders, the staff and management of Saunier Duval Prodir team for 2006 will spend a few days together starting from this coming Monday, November 28 till December 1 in Santander (Cantabria), where the headquarters of the team is based. The team will be staying at the Hotel Torresport de Torrelavega.

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