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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for October 8, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

L'Equipe wants 'freedom of speech'

By Hedwig Kröner

French sports newspaper L'Equipe, the only one of its kind in the home country of the biggest cycling race on earth, continues its campaign for a clean sport, free from doping. Since the publishing of the 1999 Tour de France doping allegations against Lance Armstrong on August 23, and even more since it released the results of a European survey on the credibility of cycling earlier this week, the paper seems to have a mission: overturn what has been described as "one great omerta" by Nanterre judge Richard Pallain, who investigated the integrity of French Cofidis team after one of its riders, Philippe Gaumont, accused several team members of abusing illegal substances. The verdict is expected shortly, as the judge has closed his investigation.

For Friday's edition, L'Equipe interviewed current Cofidis manager Eric Boyer, who denounced the doping practices of the international peloton and asked for "freedom of speech", which in his view was the only way to really tackle the problem. Talking about the silence of "the managers, the directeurs sportifs, the federations, the race organisers and the riders" with regard to doping, Boyer, who rode with Greg Lemond in the late 80's-mid 90's, said, "As long as my generation and the one before it hasn't made its coming out, we won't be credible in the eyes of the new one. Creating systems repressing something that we practiced ourselves, but that we continue to deny, is not enough."

Boyer, who admitted openly that he'd taken corticosteroids and amphetamines, but not EPO, during his time as a professional bike racer, called for other directors of the sport to admit to their own responsibility for the sake of a true fight against cheating. "Not one single official says 'OK, I've been in cycling for 20 years, and I couldn't prevent it so I step down' - to the contrary, the guys stay there, for years and years, untouchable. Do they serve their sport or does the sport serve them? While soccer is a bad example, where a team can change trainers three times in a season, maybe we should think a minimum about the responsibility of the technical directors."

In Thursday's edition of the French sports paper, two pages were dedicated to the medical angle of doping, with further articles about the doctors practising in cycling - especially Italy's Michele Ferrari, Luigi Cecchini, Carlo Santuccione and Massimo De Ritis - as well as an interview with former US Postal doctor Prentice Steffen. The American, who now works for team TIAA-Cref directed by Jonathan Vaughters, said that the practice of enhancing one's blood with EPO before a competition, extracting part of it and then transfusing it back again in the morning of the event was quite common.

"[At the Tour de France], the teams know that the 'vampires' can come around any day, but always between 7 and 8 a.m., with half an hour as a margin," said Steffen. "After that time, there are no controls anymore and the riders can reinject their own blood. They ride the stage with this huge advantage - a hematocrit between 55 and 58 - and get the exceeding blood extracted again in the evening at the hotel. That way, they can sleep safely and avoid abnormal values at the possible doping controls the next morning."

Cyclingnews has also published an article on this kind of doping, entitled Riding under the Radar.

2006 Tour de France to Benelux

According to Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, the first week of next year's Tour de France will be carried out in Luxembourg, in the Southern Netherlands and in the Belgian Ardennes. Starting from the French town of Strasbourg on July 1 with a traditional opening time trial - so much is official - the first stage of the 2006 Tour will start and end in that very same city close to the German border.

The second stage on July 3 will reportedly also start in Strasbourg, and end in Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg or in the French town of Thionville close to the border with Luxembourg. German media have also speculated about a return to their country on that day.

On the next day, the peloton will supposedly start in Esch-sur-Alzette and finish the third stage in Valkenburg, Netherlands. The Tour de France is said to return to its home land on July 5, starting from Huy, Belgium, and finishing in Saint Quentin. Huy's mayor, Anne-Marie Lizin, has confirmed that her city will be one of the stage cities of the Tour next year, as well as being the traditional finish of the Flèche Wallonne.

Race organiser ASO will present the 2006 Tour de France in Paris' Palais des Congrès on October 27.

Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under continues at top level

South Australia's Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under's UCI ranking has been maintained at the highest level outside Europe: 2.HC. The event, established in Adelaide in 1998, has been given the 'Hors Classe' rating in terms of international standards, as it was in 2005.

"This is great news for South Australia and the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in terms of global recognition of its impressive success over the past seven years," Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said, explaining the changes that will take place. "Modifications will be introduced to next year's race to comply with the international requirements for Hors Classe ranking.

"The traditional six-day event will be restructured into a five-stage race, preceded by an opening circuit race - the Jacob's Creek Down Under Classic - to replace the current Stage 1," she added.

The Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under attracted up to half a million people over its six days of racing in 2005 and has grown into the State's number one sporting event, generating a total net economic benefit of $12.5 million and the equivalent of 207 full-time jobs in South Australia.

The 2006 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under will be held in Adelaide and surrounding regions of South Australia from January 17-22, 2006.

More information:

Liquigas to Paris-Tours

Liquigas-Bianchi has announced its roster for the second-to-last 2005 ProTour race, Paris-Tours on Sunday. The first winner of the newly established racing calendar Danilo Di Luca will captain the squad. However, the "Killer" denies that he has any personal ambitions at the event: "I have already won the Pro Tour," he said. " So I think it is right to make room for my teammates who regard the finish in Tours as suitable for them. I will save my remaining energy for Saturday 15, the Giro di Lombardia."

Marco Zanotti, who has just won the Circuit Franco-Belge, Magnus Bäckstedt and Enrico Gasparotto are therefore free to take their chances.

At first, Italian champion Gasparotto was expected to take part in the Giro dell’Emilia and G.P. Beghelli but, as General Manager Roberto Amadio explained, "Now that Di Luca has won the ProTour, we can open the team more than if we would have still been out for more points." In other words, there is a chance for a very young rider like Gasparotto who, Amadio points out, "is only 23 and has already proved to have excellent qualities. He has to increase his expertise taking part in the greater international races."

The complete list of Liquigas-Bianchi riders participating in Paris-Tours is: Danilo Di Luca, Magnus Bäckstedt, Patrick Calcagni, Enrico Gasparotto, Mauro Gerosa, Nicola Loda, Marco Milesi and Marco Zanotti.

Di Luca tunes 2006 bike

Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Liquigas-Bianchi
Click for larger image

Danilo Di Luca is already thinking about his new bike for the challenges in 2006. Yesterday, the first winner of the ProTour has visited the Bianchi factory in Treviglio to develop the main features of his engine with the staff of the Research and Development department. "I often visit Bianchi because I like to contribute to the study of the new prototypes and the development of the bicycles that already exist," Di Luca said. "The bicycle is my tool of the trade: it must be perfect."

The Italian took a close look at the brand-new 2006 FG Lite in the product department, where the frames are assembled. Then, the "Killer" checked his sizes. "We projected the geometry of Danilo’s FG Lite bicycle at the beginning of the year and we changed it little later to satisfy his requests," Luca Minesso, R&D Manager of Bianchi explained. "We talked about some other changes he would like to make already for the upcoming Giro di Lombardia. In particular, Danilo wants to sit lower on the saddle. The geometry will increase the stiffness of the frame."

Next week, the other riders of Liquigas-Bianchi will be in Treviglio as well to set the team's bikes. Bianchi bicycles are almost tailor-made with specific materials and sizes for each rider - certainly including Magnus Bäckstedt, the "Giant", who is going to attempt to break the derny-paced Hour Record on October 29. Following that event, Bäckstedt will personally test the new time trial D2 Bianchi frame in the wind tunnel.

No soccer for Boonen

Davitamon's Nico Mattan organised a soccer game to be held on October 19 in Sint-Eloois-Winkel, with himself and his teammates lining up against some of the Quick.Step squad, including Tom Boonen. Unfortunately, Quick.Step manager Patrick Lefévère had something against the idea, so Mattan needed to reshuffle: instead of Boonen and the likes, Davitamon will now play against members of a Flemish team of well known Flemings, including former soccer players Jean-Marie Pfaff, Carl Huybrechts, Lorenzo Staelens and Claude Verspaill. The new World Champion is nevertheless allowed to kick off the game.

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