Latest Cycling News, December 14, 2007
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Tour of America: shorter but still vague
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
On Thursday, Aqu Sports, the promoter of the contentious Tour of America, announced the third trimming of its route for the proposed September 2008 race. This comes in response to harsh criticism levied at the race organisers back at the announcing press conference during the Interbike trade show. Cyclingnews spoke with the Tour Director, Frank Arokiasamy about the progress of the planning.
"Things are moving along really fast," he said. "I say that with reservations, because some [things] are slower."
When asked which part is slower than expected, Arokiasamy acknowledged it was finding sponsors, which he said is his primary task in the organisation. "It is good, but it is the part that is slower than I would have liked. I haven't had a real 'no' answer yet. Some I am very close to getting on board, and I want to have a joint press conference when they come on board."
At the Interbike press conference, Arokiasamy said he had a goal of having 20 million dollars in sponsorships locked up by the end of October. "It will probably be a little later than I expected," he said in response. However, he confirmed he was close to making deals with major corporations, though not naming names. "I am in negotiations with several companies. The initial hundred thousand will be able to chose their stages." This plan is what he sees as a solution to the problems other races in America have faced with the title sponsorship model. "Having a marquee sponsor for the race is the death knell for any race," he said.
The latest incarnation of the race route is much shorter than the initial 27-day, 7,000-plus kilometre route, announced in September. "I wanted a wow factor which is why I made the route and prizes so big, but I want to keep the prizes the same," Arokiasamy explained. About two weeks after the largely negative reaction to this route, the Tour of America website posted a revised route, similar to the current itinerary. The new route is only 21 days and just over 3500 kilometres long, with a major air transfer from Missouri to Colorado. "It was more a tentative route, and it is always going to be. We had at least six different versions. We had to rework all of the angles because it is an ongoing process."
Some of the cities have changed, with the tour start no longer a prologue through Manhattan to ground zero, but a point-to-point race from Central Park to Philadelphia. Arokiasamy assured that the logistics planning was much farther along than sponsorships. "We have contacted all of the major cities on the route," he said. "I am in contact with Mayor Bloomberg's office to set up a time, which is not an easy thing to do. But one of my staff has already met personally with him."
Arokiasamy also was quick to point out that many people are interested in turning his dream into reality. "People are coming out of the woodwork asking if they can help. We have around 200 volunteers around the country so far, and I'm driving up to Augusta, Georgia, soon to meet with three people." He also said the response from teams was positive, though he was careful not to name names. "We wrote to thirty-five top level teams all over the world and we got ten replies in the first day."
Still, the sceptics are out there and will not be likely to quiet down with just a new route plan. "We got blasted like crazy at the Interbike show, especially for the length," said Arokiasamy. "We never planned to make it that long, but we got blasted and justifiably so. We had a retreat in Myrtle Beach with thirteen people to decide if we had something. And one of the things I insisted is that nobody have an ego. If we had egos we would not have changed. But we wanted to show the people that we were listening."
Beyond the feasibility of the route, the sceptics also want to know where the money will come from. That is the challenge Arokiasamy faces himself - and as before, he does so optimistically. "The cities want to know who the sponsors and teams are, and the sponsors want to know which cities and teams will be in the race. It is a total chicken and egg situation. But when we get the first ones, which is the hardest, it will give us momentum," he concluded.
O'Grady "still inconsistent", racing at Revolution 2
Organisers of the Revolution 2 track cycling meet at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena next Wednesday, December 19, have announced that 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O'Grady has been put on the list of participants. It will be the first time O'Grady will race on the track in Melbourne as professional team commitments forced him to miss the 2004 World Championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games.
O'Grady returned to Australia last week following a ten-day training camp in Norway with his team CSC, describing his progress after three months out of the saddle following a horrific crash on stage eight of this year's Tour de France as "still inconsistent". The 34 year-old fractured eight ribs, broke his shoulder, collarbone, three vertebrae, and punctured a lung in the accident that ended his Tour and threatened his career.
Still, O'Grady will return to track racing with a plan for 2008 that consists of defending his Paris-Roubaix title, returning to his best at the Tour de France and then hopefully racing for more Olympic gold in Beijing.
"The plan is still pretty broad," O'Grady said from Adelaide. "At the moment it's a matter of going through the selection policy and ticking the boxes to ensure we have as many options as possible for the Games. I'm keeping an open mind about the Games and I've sat down with the national coaches to talk about it. The road race is on a super difficult course and I'm into the track. If all goes well and I come out of the Tour de France then we will see what best suits."
O'Grady returned to racing in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in October and has made steady progress since, including a recent foray back to the boards in Adelaide. "I miss the track. I've hardly raced since Athens and zooming around the SuperDrome was great fun. I've never seen the track in Melbourne so I'm looking forward to it.
"It's all about keeping my hand in on the track and making progress generally after a pretty torrid second half of the year."
In the Revolution 2 event next Wednesday, O'Grady will compete in the Champions Race, a 30 lap race in which each of the riders will have their own motor paced bike on the track. The race will also feature Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion Matt Wilson, O'Grady's Olympic madison team-mate Graeme Brown, and sprinters Allan Davis and Aaron Kemps.
Whilst now better known as a road rider, O'Grady has collected several major championship medals on the track, including Olympic gold in the madison in Athens, silver in the team pursuit in Barcelona and bronze medals in the team pursuit and points race in Atlanta 1996. His Olympic medal haul is in addition to world championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals in a track career that is without peer in Australian cycling.
Kirchen Sportsman of the Year
Luxemburg sports press representatives have elected the country's Kim Kirchen as Sportsman of the Year. The 2007 Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Suisse runner-up showed a very consistent stage race talent throughout the year and finished seventh overall at the Tour de France.
He snatched the award ahead of Andy Schleck, followed by his older brother and CSC team-mate Fränk Schleck. Gymnast Sacha Palgen took the fourth place. All three cyclists are already qualified for the Beijing Olympics next August.
Sánchez to line up in Murcia
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Euskaltel-Euskadi climber Samuel Sánchez will be taking part in the next edition of the Vuelta a Murcia, taking place from March 4-8, 2008. The Asturian told Cyclingnews to have received a phone call from the team's technical manager, Igor González de Galdeano, confirming that he will take part in the stage race in the province of Murcia in Southeastern Spain.
It was Sánchez himself who had showed interest in racing in Murcia, as he knew that the good weather and the balance of the stages profiles were two very interesting reasons for participating in the event. "I can improve myself in the time trial (fourth stage between Alhama and Aledo, some 21 kms), as well as in the Collado Bermejo climb (first category) early next season", the 29 year-old rider commented.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi leader will also line up at the Tour de France in 2008. "I want to get there in the best possible condition in order to fight for the general classification, but also to win a stage," said Sánchez, who has started to nourish Grand Tour hopes since he finished third at the Vuelta this year. He admitted he did not have much experience in the French Grand Tour, "but it doesn't matter, as it is very difficult to plan a race that is gained day by day."
Soon, Sánchez will travel to California, USA, to improve his time trial performances, as he does not plan to lose any time against the clock in the next Tour de France.
Telekom doctors falsified patient records
By Susan Westemeyer
Former Team Telekom/T-Mobile doctors apparently faked patient data in connection with their doping activities involving the team's riders, the Freiburg University Clinic announced on Thursday. In a press release, the Clinic said, "As part of its investigation, the Freiburg University Clinic has found in its electronic documentation system data that was falsified - that is, saved under false names. These are in connection with the treatment of the T-Mobile Team."
The clinic said that it had turned all of the material over to the proper investigating authorities and would have no further comment.
Thursday was also to be the first day of a trial by Dr. Andreas Schmid before a German court challenging his summary dismissal from the clinic. However, after the new charges were raised, Schmid's suit will have to wait until the public prosecutor's case is finished, possibly becoming irrelevant in the light of the new criminal accusations against him.
According to the German news magazine Focus, Schmid had made up medical details for fictional patients for years, in order to submit bills for blood treatments done on Telekom/T-Mobile riders. The magazine noted that the patients were given the home address of Hugstetter Strasse 55 in Freiburg - which also happens to be the street address of the sports medicine clinic.
"We are talking about a systematic cover-up," said the clinic's attorney, Peter Rambach.
Godefroot sues D'Hont
Meanwhile, Walter Godefroot, former Team Telekom/T_Mobile manager, is asking a court to order those responsible for the book "Memoires van een wierlverzorger" ("Memoirs of a cycling soigneur") by Jef d'Hont to pay him 700,000 Euro in damages, according to Sportwereld. In the book, Godefroot and his administrative assistant Eddy Vandenhecke are portrayed as having organised a doping scheme at Team Telekom during the 1990s, which the two Belgians deny.
The suit is scheduled to be heard Monday in a court in Gent, Belgium. It names D'Hont, his ghostwriter Maarten Michielssens and the publisher, Van Haelwyck.
CSC signs Danish neo-pro
A new young Danish talent will be joining Team CSC next season: 20 year-old André Steensen will be the only neo-pro on the 2008 team roster when he will start racing on May 1. The youngster joins the ProTour team directed by Bjarne Riis coming from Danish Glud & Marstrand Horsens team.
In 2005, Steensen won the junior world ranking and this year took a third place in the Tour de l'Avenir, a race which requires all-round skills. "I'm most definitely a stage rider," Steensen said. "I do fine in the time trials and okay in the mountains as well. So I'm really hoping to do well in the shorter stage races and on the long term also in the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta."
Sports director Kim Andersen is sure that Steensen will reveal the full extent of his talent in the future. "Of course we're all looking forward to seeing what André gets up to. He's at the very top of the junior world rankings, which does mean a certain amount of expectations. I'm well aware that as a junior you'll get far just by training more than the others, so it's up to him really to confirm his talent now. But I know he's got it and it's not just a case of a lot of training. He clearly proved that with his third place in Tour de l'Avenir this year," he said.
"It may take some time before you get anywhere after you become a senior and we're going to be very patient with him. André is the same age as Andy Schleck was when he came to Team CSC, so the main thing is for him to watch and learn," added Andersen.
Evans documentary on SBS
On Sunday, December 16, Australian TV channel SBS will broadcast a Sport Special documentary on the 2007 Tour de France runner-up, Australian Cadel Evans. The feature follows Evans' amateur and professional cycling career and speaks exclusively to the rider from his home in Victoria. Evans' mother, Helen Cocks, and team-mate, Robbie McEwen, will also be heard.
"Cadel Evans - On Tour" will be broadcast at 10.20pm. The same day, SBS will be showing the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Sydney on 11.30am.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)