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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for October 2, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Latest ProTour standings: Valverde's lead untouchable

It looks like Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde will take his white jersey of leading ProTour rider home with him over the winter. The Spaniard leads second-placed Samuel Sanchez by over a hundred points, which means that even if the Euskaltel rider wins both Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia (highly unlikely), he will not be a threat to Valverde. Sanchez made a giant leap on Sunday by winning the Züri Metzgete in Switzerland: he jumped from 9th to second.

ProTour standings after Züri Metzgete, October 1, 2006

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Esp) Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears     285 pts
2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Esp) Euskaltel - Euskadi                    173
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                    162
4 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana-Würth Team                            156
5 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                              155
6 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                             154
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                         150
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                            138
9 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 133
10 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana-Würth Team                        121
11 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance                             118
12 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            117
13 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                                  114
14 Carlos Sastre Candil (Esp) Team CSC                                 114
15 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Astana-Würth Team                                110
16 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step - Innergetic                       107
17 Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Team CSC                                    106
18 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                106
19 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                                      105
20 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                                  104
21 Oscar Freire Gomez (Esp) Rabobank                                    99
22 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Esp) Saunier Duval - Prodir              97
23 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step - Innergetic                          94
24 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                 90
25 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas                                       89

Zürich: Three CSC riders in Top 7

Team CSC made an impressive effort in the 93rd edition of the Swiss classic Züri-Metzgete. Stuart O'Grady took the second place, after himself and teammate Fabian Cancellara worked very in the decisive break. Cancellara finished fifth and Nicki Sørensen seventh.

During the final climb, Samuel Sanchez escaped from the lead group and managed to maintain his gap over his pursuers in the rainy streets of Zürich. Initially, both Cancellara and O'Grady were dropped on the climb, but they stubbornly worked their way back together. Cancellara sacrificed himself for O'Grady, catching up with the group several times after getting dropped on the climbs in the finale, and the Australian as a result was able to take the second place ahead of Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin. In the end, CSC placed four riders amongst the top twelve.

"Winning this race would of course have been fantastic, but as it turned out it was Sanchez who was the strongest rider today," said Kim Andersen after the third last ProTour race of the season. "The whole team did really well, and both Fabian and Stuart kept up nicely as we'd expect from seeing how they did at the World Championships. We almost succeeded in our plan, but unfortunately they had to let go on the climb at the end. But that being said, they deserve great credit for fighting their way back as they did. Under the circumstances we have every reason to be satisfied with the outcome of today, especially as we also took the first place in the team's competition, which was one of our goals today."

T-Mobile 2007: An interview with Bob Stapleton

Germany's new Dream Team?
Photo ©: Susan Westemeyer
(Click for larger image)

Bob Stapleton is a new face to the ProTour, and he is bringing his uniquely American style to the European peloton. He spouts the American business lingo of pragmatism, team philosophy, the importance of teamwork and the team environment, the role of communication, and the necessity of international diversity. In a wide-ranging conversation with Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer, he also explains what his role will be for the T-Mobile Team during the races.

Will he ride in the team car at races? "I might sit in the second car and hand out water bottles. That's about all I'm qualified to do." That's his modesty speaking. He comes to the peloton with an entrepreneurial background rather than a sporting one - but then, he's the team's general manager, and not its sports manager. He was co-founder, president and CEO of VoiceStream Wireless, which became T-Mobile USA, and he is on the T-Mobile International board of directors. A passionate cyclist himself, he has been able to take advantage of his financial independence and last year served as the T-Mobile women's team manager. He served as an advisor to the men's team, and when the sponsor decided that a change in management was needed, he was the man on the spot.

After being offered the opportunity to take over the team, he set straight to work. "I think we did eight months of work in two. It's been an enormous amount of work. We drove all over Europe, we flew all over Europe. We talked to over 100 athletes. We made offers to 50 to 60 of them. It's quite a process." What was he looking for in these athletes? "Well, the first thing is that we have to have a clean sport. That's a fundamental requirement, so we were very up front about that. And I think there was a very high degree of self-selection. Either the athletes say, yeah, I want to be a part of this or they say, thank you very much but I'm more interested in another team."

Click here to read the full feature.

Kimberly Baldwin Diary: My final countdown

Click for larger image
Photo: © T-Mobile

At the end of the 2005 racing season, when the future of the T-Mobile women's team was still up in the air, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to race at least one more year. So when the sponsorship came through and our team moved it's headquarters to Germany, it was like a dream come true. But all season long, I knew this would be my final season of racing. I love racing in Europe and, honestly, I would love to live in Europe. But I've reached a point in my life where I feel I need to accomplish new goals in a new realm and attain success in a different field. And with my husband racing on a top domestic squad, I get too lonely with us living on separate continents. I love to ride my bike. That will never change. And knowing all year that this would be my last racing season really gave me a chance to look at the bigger picture and appreciate all that the cycling life has offered me.

One of the greatest things I will take from cycling is the friends that I've made throughout the world. I've met so many people through this sport - most very cool but some not. All my best friends in the world, including my husband, all came to me through sports. University cross-country, triathlon, duathlon and cycling all provided me with the gift of life-long friendships. This past August, at the French World Cup, I came down to breakfast and sitting there at the next table was a great friend that I hadn't seen in over two years. Anke Erlank, a great South African cyclist and triathlete, was my teammate on both Autotrader.com and Saturn. We'd travelled and raced together all over the States, Bermuda, Australia, and Europe. The past few years our paths had crossed randomly and when we did meet up, we'd start chatting like we'd never been apart, which is exactly what we did there in Plouay. We got to see each other again briefly at the World Championships and although I have no idea when I may see Anke again, I know that I will.

Click here to read the full feature.

Detergent enzyme to mask EPO? Ullrich named

Urine samples being tested for EPO are supposed to show a certain amount of EPO, which is naturally produced in the body. But what if the sample shows absolutely none? This is happening more and more frequently, according to the Neue Züricher Zeitung, and allegedly some cyclists are using some sort of powder to affect their urine tests. The paper reports that Swiss TV SF1 has identified this powder as protease, an enzyme in laundry detergent which usually works as a stain remover, giving a whole new twist to the term "racing clean". And a familiar big name is mentioned in association with the new problem - Jan Ullrich.

The theory goes this way: The athlete puts a little of the powder in the pockets of his pants. Before urinating, he puts his fingers into it, and urinates over his fingers at the control, so that the enzyme is mixed with his urine in the container. This little amount is sufficient to destroy the protein, and therefore the EPO, in the urine. "Protease is simply easy to use, cheap and available without prescription - and thus an almost perfect aid for the deceptive athlete," says the NZZ.

The process doesn't seem to have become too popular yet. Marial Saugy, director of the Lausanne doping laboratory, said that "less than 10 percent of the samples" showed a zero EPO value. This did not necessarily mean that protease was being used, but the lab is currently testing the enzyme. "We should have legally acceptable evidence within a few months," he said.

Matthias Kamber, head of the antidoping department of the Swiss federal agency for sport, was reportedly the first to identify the problem. He noticed that over the last few months, more than a dozen doping samples containing no EPO at all were delivered. He listed the cases and noticed that some of them matched certain athletes. "That led us to suspect manipulation," he said. After conferring with other experts, he came to the conclusion that protease was involved and turned the matter over the Lausanne lab in spring 2006.

According to SF1, one of the doping samples without EPO belonged to Jan Ullrich and was taken in South Africa in December 2005. The NZZ reported that there were at least two other similar samples form Ullrich according to its sources, and that a link to the evidence uncovered in Operation Puerto was possible: Certain documents uncovered by the Spanish Guardia Civil relating to Ullrich repeatedly used the word "polvos" - powder.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Mayo to Saunier Duval?

According to the Spanish media El Correo, Euskaltel's Iban Mayo has found a new team for next season: Saunier Duval. The Basque climber, whose greatest season was 2003 when he was able to follow Lance Armstrong in the mountains of the Tour de France, had been rumoured to be on the lookout for a new squad since his performances in the last couple of years never reached a this kind of peak again. Teammate Haimar Zubeldia, meanwhile is certain to remain with Euskaltel.

Lindgren & Lund become pros

Swede Johan Lindgren, currently riding for French team U Nantes-Atlantique, will be joining the pro ranks as of next season. The 20 year-old was recruited by Francaise des Jeux' Marc Madiot and signed with the ProTeam for two years. He will be joining fellow Swedes Thomas Lövkvist and Gustav-Erik Larsson at the team. Coming from Belgium, where he raced for KSV Deerlijk as a junior, Lindgren hopes to participate in the Northern Classics soon - the first cobblestone hill he climbed was the Nokereberg.

Moreover, according to French website Velo101, Danish rider Anders Lund will be racing for Team CSC next year. "It's a dream come true to me," said the 21 year-old, who become second at the U23 European championships last year. "I'm very happy to have signed at CSC as it was a big objective. Now that it's done I'm of course very proud." Team director Bjarne Riis predicted that Lund would have "a great career. He has great talent, and the potential to become a brilliant rider."

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