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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 14, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner & Anthony Tan

ASO puts pressure on UCI re. Würth Tour invite

By Hedwig Kröner

After announcing that the Tour de France would not welcome Spanish team Comunidad Valenciana at this year's event, organisers say they are now waiting for the UCI to take a decision concerning the attribution of a ProTour licence to the team formerly known as Liberty Seguros-Würth.

In an official communiqué, ASO made it clear that it welcomed the retreat of Manolo Saiz from cycling and therefore the Tour de France - "which the organisation would have called for anyway" - but that the inclusion or non-participation of the team now depended on the UCI licences commission.

"Because the system of participation in place this year, except for invitations, is for the International Cycling Union to decide, through the attribution of licences by a commission, the management of the Tour de France is awaiting the expected decision of this commission about the presence of a team, of which one of its shareholders is implicated in a doping affair," the statement read.

By making the participation of the Würth team dependent on the UCI licences commission, ASO hands the responsibility over to the organisation presided by Pat McQuaid, even if, in the past, the Tour de France organisers have made a public point about the fact that they are not officially part of the UCI ProTour. The commission is still analysing the sponsorship contract and financial resources of the new main sponsor of the Spanish squad, Astana, brought about with the help of the Kazakhstan government.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has also criticised the "long silence" of the UCI on Tuesday, according to German Radsportnews. "It should have decided already before the Dauphiné," Prudhomme reportedly said, adding, "There are many independent commissions at the UCI" - referring to the independent investigation of the L'Equipe revelations about Lance Armstrong, conducted by a Dutch lawyer commissioned by former UCI president, Hein Verbruggen.

Pressure is also being put on the Spanish legal authorities. "If riders or members of staff are incriminated by the Spanish judiciary before the start or during the race, the code of ethics which was elaborated by the teams and provides for the non-participation or retreat of the concerned persons, will be applied without hesitation," the statement continued.

Unlike the presumed head of the doping network, doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and other accused persons including the former directeur sportif of the Comunidad Valenciana team, Würth's Manolo Saiz has not yet been incriminated by the Spanish court in charge of the affair, despite having being arrested. Also, the 'secrets' of the initial investigation are still not fully known, and the approximate two-hundred names that were reportedly found in Fuentes' apartment are still in the hands of the Madrid court, visited last week by UCI president Pat McQuaid.

Some observers think that it would help the future of the Spanish team if Manolo Saiz would sell his shares of Active Bay, which amount to 51 percent of the company managing the cycling team. In fact, he is currently being asked to do so. But according to ASO at least, it would seem the main responsibility for the scope of this new doping affair - "bigger than Festina" according to Lance Armstrong - and the public image of cycling, now lies with the UCI, which used to have close ties to Manolo Saiz.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Ardila out of Suisse

Mauricio Ardila, Columbian climbing hope at Dutch team Rabobank, has abandoned the Tour de Suisse before that race moved into high mountains. Stepping off his bike in Tuesday's stage four after being unable to take on the day's first climb, Ardila will now be examined by the medical staff of his team.

"There will be a lot of criticism, but I'll take it for him," said a loyal team director Adri van Houwelingen, who already had to watch his rider abandon the Giro d'Italia a few weeks ago.

"Mauricio wants to ride, and he tried his best every day in this race, but it just doesn't work. It would seem that he is over-trained: he's always tired and sleeps a lot. But he does make a very sharp impression."

Flanders wants the 'Grand Départ'

The Belgian region of Flanders is trying to become the host of a Tour de France start in 2010 or 2013, and Prime minister Yves Leterme has been in talks with Christian Prudhomme and Jean-Marie Leblanc of Tour de France organiser ASO.

"It's never to soon for that kind of candidacy," said Leterme, who also acknowledges the Tour can not start outside France every year. "Flanders is not alone," added Leblanc. "Utrecht, Rotterdam, Düsseldorf, Lugano, Monaco, Florence, Salzburg: they all want the 'Grand Départ'," he said.

Wielinga added to Quick.Step's TdF shortlist

Dutch rider Remmert Wielinga has been added to the shortlist of riders competing for the final nine spots on the Quick.Step-Innergetic team in the upcoming Tour de France.

Directeur-sportif Rik van Slycke was impressed with the way he rode at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, and as a consequence, the 28 year-old now has a real chance of riding the Tour de France.

"Of course, it would be fantastic to ride the Tour," said Wielinga, who rode the Tour for the first time in 2003 but did not finish. "But the team is built entirely around Tom Boonen and it is now a question of exactly how I will fit in," he said.

Boonen testing Tour bike

World champion Tom Boonen has been given a brand new bike for the upcoming Tour de France. Until now, the star rider at Quick.Step had been racing on a black carbon frame with a white and rainbow-coloured front, but bike manufacturer Time has now produced a special machine for the Tour de France, which is completely white. The bike will also be a collector's object, as there will be only 300 frames made.

Entries open for Oz 24 Hour MTB champ's

Entries for the largest 24 Hour mountain bike race in the world will open online on Thursday, June 15. The Scott Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the Scott Australian Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships will be held on October 7-8 2006 in Kowen Forest, Canberra. Canberra Off-Road Cyclists (CORC) have announced that 'Scott' will be the naming rights sponsor for the event.

This year, there are 2750 spots up for grabs, but organisers recommend to enter early. The event sold out four months prior to last year's race and 850 riders missed out.

More information or to enter:

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)