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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 18, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Déja vu in D-Land

Jens Voigt has permanent lipstick marks
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The entire Tour of Germany has been one déja vu after another for CSC's Jens Voigt. The defending champion has spent day after day getting kisses from the podium girls after taking the yellow jersey in the stage two team time trial, and the situation was no different on Friday. Voigt rocketed to a stage win in the penultimate stage's time trial, solidifying his lead with his performance and becoming practically a sure bet to repeat as overall winner.

Hungarian Lazlo Bodrogi also got the chance to relive a moment from last year in Friday's eighth stage of the Deutschland Tour. Bodrogi set the early fastest time in the second to last stage, just as he had done in 2006, and had to sit for hours waiting to find out if he'd win the day. Both times, the Crédit Agricole rider had to wait until the last rider, overall classification leader Jens Voigt, finished to find out that he'd taken second place.

Voigt was happy to win the stage and let off some of the pressure which had mounted on his shoulders coming into the stage. "I felt very good on the bike today," Voigt said. "Straight from the first time check, even if I was a little bit off the pace then, I knew that I was going to save my yellow jersey."

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Voigt credited his victory to his pre-race reconnaissance of the course, which helped him pace himself along the demanding 33.1 kilometre route. "I was out on the course this morning, and I was able to see the obstacles first hand and judge the wind, so I would know when I really had to push hard."

With the win, Voigt extended his lead in the overall, and now seems to be unbeatable with a 1'57" lead over second placed Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel). Voigt indicated that he had plenty of support along the route. "The atmosphere was great here today," Voigt said. "The fans were behind me, calling my name. All 'round it has been a very satisfactory week."

CPA criticises treatment of Moreni

French gendarmes take Cristian Moreni
Photo ©: AFP
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The Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) issued a statement Friday denouncing the treatment of riders and UCI President Pat McQuaid by race organisers. McQuaid was denied accreditation for the Tour de France by the ASO, a move which the statement called "a serious lack of respect to the institutional representative of world cycling."

The CPA decried the treatment of Cofidis' Cristian Moreni, who was met at the finish line of stage 16 by the French gendarmerie after word came that he had tested positive on stage 11 for testosterone. Moreni was escorted away in a manner which the CPA described as a "useless and unacceptabl[y] theatrical way." The statement argued that, "The Italian rider, who infringed the antidoping regulation, immediately admitted his responsibility and it was in no case necessary to deploy such a security plan as the French authorities did."

The statement conceded that "a rider who is positive in an antidoping control deserves to be punished and excluded from a sporting event," but called the arrest of Moreni by uniformed policemen at the finish line "behaviours which are completely disproportionate compared to the real importance of the infringement."

The CPA, which is presided over by Italian legend Francisco Moser, disagreed with Cofidis' decision to exit the Tour de France following Moreni's positive. "The CPA cannot agree with the decision the persons in charge of the team Cofidis took, to take all their riders out of the Tour de France: such a decision indeed affected riders who had nothing to do with the case."

Likely referring to the recent statement by the World Championships organisation which declared Erik Zabel and Alejandro Valverde "not welcome" at the championships, the CPA statement went on to state that it "wishes to call the organisers' attention to the fact that no rider can be declared persona non grata only on the basis of suspicions or journalistic speculations.

"The antidoping regulation[s], and in particular the results of the controls, each time more numerous and effective, or any proven implication by police investigations, must be the only elements that can be used to exclude an athlete from the race," the statement concluded.

On a more positive note, the statement congratulated the owners of the Caisse d'Epargne team, Abarca Sports, who held enough insurance on its riders to allow the widow of deceased rider Isaac Gálvez, who perished during the Gent Six Day, "to receive the lump sum of 550,000 Euro following her husband's death."

Klöden looking around

Andreas Klöden (Astana)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden is looking to leave Team Astana, his manager Tony Rominger has told L'Equipe, and added that it had been a "mistake" to sign with the Kazakhi team. Klöden was forced to leave the Tour de France while sitting in fifth place overall when his team-mate Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for an illegal blood transfusion.

Klöden came to the Kazakh-led team from the German T-Mobile squad, a team which was negotiating for his renewal at the time. "Andreas would have done better to accept T-Mobile's offer last year, but hindsight is always better," Rominger said.

Rominger added that the German "will be able to find a new employer. He is interested in a well-structured team." He denied that T-Mobile had come to offer his old job back. "There is no contact yet with T-Mobile," Rominger stated.

Klöden may not be the only Astana rider looking for a job. Team manager Marc Biver has been summoned to appear before the UCI later this month, with speculation that the team could lose its ProTour license because of its doping problems.

Valverde inches closer to Soler

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Freddy Guérin
(Click for larger image)

Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde pulled himself to within seconds of the lead in the overall classification at the Vuelta a Burgos on Friday, when he won time trial on the penultimate stage. Valverde scorched the 15 kilometre course around Ribera del Duero, beating Russian time trial specialist Mikhaďl Ignatiev by 22 seconds. The Colombian leader, Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) was fifth, 40 seconds behind the flying Spaniard.

"I really liked the course", explained Valverde. "This morning, I went to see it and I knew it would suit me pretty well. I started very fast, the same way I might in a prologue. I am very happy with the result." Valverde's weakness in past stage races has been his time trialing abilities, something he has worked hard to hone over the past year.

Valverde has been victorious in three time trials so far this season, but all of them have been less than 25 kilometres long. He won the 23.3 kilometre test in the Vuelta a Murcia in March, a course which was predominantly uphill, and the 9.7 kilometre time trial of the Clasica a Alcobendas. Still, the win gives Valverde a bit of confidence he lost in the discipline following his poor performance in the long time trials of the Tour de France, especially the race in Albi on stage 13 when he was caught for three minutes by then yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen.

It will be difficult for Valverde to unseat Soler in a race without time bonuses, but he remained optimistic, saying, "There is only one stage left, but considering the little gap to the leader, nothing is impossible."

Cunego out of D-Tour

Damiano Cunego picked up a brilliant stage win in the Deutschland Tour on stage four, and has decided to quit the race before the final stage in order to prepare for the Vuelta a España. The Lampre-Fondital rider contested Friday's time trial, but finished well back in 125th place, nearly five minutes behind winner Jens Voigt. He decided to leave Germany after achieving what he came to do. "I came here in Germany in order to improve my fitness in light of my next events such as Vuelta, World Championship and Giro di Lombardia," Cunego explained. "I'm satisfied because I felt good sensations and I succeeded in obtaining results."

Cunego decided to skip the final day because, "I prefer to take one day rest in order to be in good condition at Tre Valli Varesine," on August 21st, "an important race because the final part is the same parcours of Varese World Championship [in 2008]. I want to cover it in a competitive way," Cunego concluded.

Neben hangs on to Route de France lead

Amber Neben at Redlands
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

American Amber Neben held onto her lead over Russian Sveltala Bubnenkova in the overall classification of the Route de France Féminine on the challenging penultimate stage to La Bresse on Friday. Bubnenkova won the stage in a difficult uphill finish that was preceded by a leg-sapping climb of the Col du Brabant in the final five kilometres. Neben had her team-mate Mara Abbott nearby on the final climb to help her stay in contact with Bubnenkova, whom Neben leads by 1'04" in the general classification going into the final stage.

Neben opened up her lead in the overall with a stellar stage 4b time trial where she put 1'07" into Bubnenkova. Until that stage, the leaders had been separated by just seconds. The performance is one of the best for the US National Team in international competition, and aside from Neben's time trial victory and lead in the overall, the team netted a a prologue victory by Kori Seehafer and Mara Abbott's current second place in the young rider's classification.

Neben was runner-up in the final classification in last year's inaugural Route de France Féminine to her Flexpoint team-mate Linda Villumsen, but this year it looks likely that she will be the one to stand on the top step of the podium when the race reaches its conclusion in Vittel. Neben's performance follows a strong year in which she won the Redlands Classic stage race in March, and was just fractions of a second behind German Judith Arndt in last month's International Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen 2007.

No USADA testing at 'Toona raises questions

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Team Slipstream have their own doping controls in place
Photo ©: Jonathan Devich
(Click for larger image)

The International Tour de 'Toona, one of the two highest rated, non-championship races on USA Cycling's NRC calendar, had no US Antidoping Agency (USADA) testing for the entire seven stages. Instead, the USADA testers were on location at Superweek, though not for the NRC rated races the week before the Tour de 'Toona, but the non-NRC races the same week as 'Toona. This fact did not sit well with many of the team managers at the race in Pennsylvania, with the general consensus being that the top races deserve the most scrutiny -- particularly in light of what happened in the Tour de France.

"I was a bit shocked and surprised honestly," said Navigators Insurance director sportif Ed Beamon. "I thought it was a little odd that they would target a race that does not have near as much money at stake. That should be a cue to them, it makes sense to prioritise the events.

"I think the more testing they can do, to an extent, the better off we are," said Beamon. "It's obvious they need to pick and choose which events, so to me it makes more sense to target events with higher prize money. From my perspective, they are not as educated as to what is going on in the sport. They need to be more educated, and if they were they wouldn't come out with the comments they say, targeting our sport."

Jonas Carney, a former racer and now director of the Kelly Benefits/Medifast team was also frustrated. "I understand that it is not possible for USADA to be at all of the NRC races," he said. "I do believe however that USADA does not test nearly enough. They rarely show up at NRC events, never do any blood testing, and their out of competition testing covers only a very small pool of US cyclists."

"As someone who never doped, and someone who works very hard to have a clean team, it is frustrating. The doping problem is not isolated to ProTour racing in Europe and steps should be taken here in the states. I for one would be thrilled if USADA would offer no advance notice out of competition testing for pro teams in America. We would be the first to sign up."

Read the full feature here.

Univest GP expands TV coverage

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

John Eustice
Photo ©: Emory Ball
(Click for larger image)

The 10th annual Univest Grand Prix, held in Souderton, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, is preparing to race under increased television coverage. The Saturday, September 8 UCI one-day 107.3-mile road race opens with a 68-mile loop traversing 18 municipalities throughout Bucks and Montgomery counties before hitting the decisive finishing circuits in Souderton. The next day's criterium, the Univest Grand Prix of Doylestown, will be held on an expanded course.

Emmy Award winning producer Kent Gordis will provide live race pictures for WFMZ of Allentown, which has agreed to broadcast live coverage of the entire road race from the start at 10:30 a.m. through the finish at 3:00 p.m. In addition to live TV, post-race coverage will be broadcast on NBC-10 in Philadelphia on Sunday, September 23 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., with other NBC affiliates potentially signing on to the broadcast.

"We believe the number one priority of a race promoter is high quality television coverage," said John Eustice, president of Sparta Cycling, organisers of the Univest Grand Prix.

The makeup of this year's field reflects Sparta Cycling's commitment to helping develop a true North American racing class. Top North American teams, such as Navigators Insurance, Toyota-United, Tecos of Mexico and Canada's Symmetrics, will be challenged by teams from Germany, Italy, Colombia and Hungary.

In addition to the races, the Cyclosportif 100K recreational ride will return on Saturday, September 8, giving participants an opportunity to challenge themselves on the actual road racecourse.

Hoppy leads the bean team to Crit nats

Australian speedster Jeff "Hoppy" Hopkins has returned to form after his crash in Athens, and will lead his Jittery Joe's team in its assault on Downer's Grove at the Pro-Am Challenge and US Pro Criterium Championships on Saturday and Sunday. The race will award the stars and stripes jersey to the highest placed American in Sunday's race, but with $20,000 on the line, the team may rely on Hopkins to bring home the bacon.

"While we may end up going to our American sprinter Evan Elken on Sunday, Jeff will be the man for the Saturday race for sure, " said Micah Rice, Team Manager, "Depending on how both of them are riding, we will make a decision after Saturday's race who to work for on Sunday at the Championship".

Hopkins, who crashed at the Athens Twilight in April and broke his wrist was back racing in June and showed that his speed is back when he took second to Ivan Dominguez at the Hanes Park NRC Criterium in North Carolina at the beginning of August. He took a solid top ten in the Elk Grove criterium last weekend as well.

The team will line up with a trio of Australian talent - Hopkins, Trent 'Willo' Wilson and Tommy Nankervis alongside the three Americans Evan Elken, Matt Shriver and Neil Shirley.

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