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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 24, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams and Laura Weislo

Levi Leipheimer: Back for more!

Levi Leipheimer
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Thirty-one seconds... thirty-one of the hardest, most grueling seconds of racing in the sport is all that came between American Levi Leipheimer and the top podium spot on the Champs-Élysées in Paris last July. The closeness of that result has, however, renewed his motivation for the next Tour de France. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski visited Leipheimer at his home in Santa Rosa, California as he enjoyed a brief respite between racing seasons.

Finishing third at the Tour de France is a remarkable feat for any cyclist – but to do so while helping your team-mate finish first is even more impressive. Such was the 2007 Tour for Levi Leipheimer – the top American in the race and a contender for the top spot in his own right. After the closing of Discovery Channel at the end of the season, many people wondered where Leipheimer (and the rest of the Discovery team) would end up. Surely he had offers from a few teams – but in the climate cycling is in right now, transfers are a delicate issue.

So when former Discovery boss Johan Bruyneel signed on to right the Astana ship, it was little surprise that many former Discovery riders joined him. While some may have been surprised that a Tour contender like Leipheimer would sign for a team that included the defending champion, Leipheimer said that staying with Bruyneel is a safe option. And though Astana is in need of a major PR overhaul after last year's Tour debacle, having the resources that Bruyneel and Co. bring outweighs that.

"The state of cycling now is such that there are a lot of teams [in trouble,]" said Leipheimer. "T-Mobile, with all the problems, is now High Road. CSC and T-Mobile were the ones in crisis in the 2006 Tour, and they had to do something to make a change. Obviously, I would like to go to a team that didn't have a history, but it is really just the sponsor [that is the same]; they didn't have anything to do with what happened.

"Everyone on the new Astana has a job to do in creating a new team. Mostly new riders, all new staff and management, and hopefully our actions will speak for themselves. One thing we need to be clear about is how thankful we are that Astana and the other sponsors have stuck around the sport and are continuing."

Leipheimer also noted that the new team is following in the footsteps of other top teams, like High Road and CSC, in developing internal testing. "We have doctor Damsgaard from the CSC program doing controls internally. I think basically racing our bicycles and adhering to fair and clean sport should speak for itself. If someone wants to ask a question about it, we are here to answer it and be transparent. Beyond that I don't know what we can do – what has happened in the past, is in the past."

Read the full feature here.

Saunier Duval DS critical of UCI

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Basque Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Saunier Duval's directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin expressed frustration this week at the UCI's treatment of its riders, singling out the UCI president Pat McQuaid for the harshest words. The UCI announced it would appeal the Spanish federation's decision to not sanction Saunier Duval rider Iban Mayo to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Mayo tested positive for EPO during the 2007 Tour de France, but the 'B-sample' analysis drew criticism after a first test done in Belgium came back inconclusive, and the UCI sent the remainder back to the Châtenay-Malabry National Anti-Doping Laboratory in Paris. The second test came back positive.

"Pat McQuaid is the worst thing for cycling at the moment," Matxin complained to Cyclingnews. "He is destroying cycling, and nobody knows why. I gave him my support many times before, but not now."

The Spanish federation general secretary Eugenio Bermudez refused to sanction Mayo after the repeated 'B-sample' analysis, saying that the UCI was trying to bend its rules to suit its own purposes. Matxin re-iterated that concern, but added that he felt his team was "like a ball in a tennis match played by the Spanish federation and the UCI".

"We had been attacked by the UCI before Mayo's affair when Piepoli was accused by the UCI due to a false alarm of doping in the Giro", Matxin recalled. Mayo and Piepoli were both found to be 'non-negative' during the Giro d'Italia: Mayo for a too-high testosterone:epitestosterone ratio and Piepoli for the asthma drug salbutamol.

Mayo was cleared after IRMS analysis showed no evidence of artificial testosterone. His team argued that he had an exemption for a naturally high ratio, and the UCI should not have released the test results and given the team negative publicity. Piepoli also had a medical exemption to use the asthma drug, but the level exceeded the legal limit. He was later cleared by his federation of doping charges.

Matxin is concerned that the problems with Mayo will affect the squad for 2008 after the loss of several key riders. "We lost very important riders, such as Gilberto Simoni and Koldo Gil, among others," Matxin explained. "But we will count on young promising riders that also have gained experience, such as Juan José Cobo, De La Fuente, Josep Jufre ... We have planned to race the three Grand Tours, but not all of them are certain for us. In this sense, I know that we will be in the Giro and in the Vuelta, but I do not know if we will have a wild-card for the Tour. We have to show we are as combative as ever."

Nys makes Olympic training plan

Sven Nys (Belgium)
Photo ©: John Pierce/PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Sven Nys' coach is already making specific training plans to prepare the star cyclo-cross rider to compete in the mountain bike events at the Beijing Olympic Games. With cyclo-cross not on the Olympic agenda, Nys, who dominates the 'cross circuit, is a former Belgian champion, but third on the list for the Belgian Olympic mountain bike squad behind Roel Paulisson and Filip Meirhaeghe.

"On March 31, Sven will start his preparations for the Games. His first pick is planned for the mountain bike European championships in Sankt Wendel," Paul Van den Bosch told "After that there are two big competitions on the agenda: The World Cup in Fort William and the World Championships," he said.

Nys had previously discounted his Olympic hopes after having trouble competing in hot weather, but his coach has a plan to tackle that weakness. "July and August will be entirely dominated by specific training and adaptation to the extreme heat."

"The signs are now all pointing in the same direction: direction east. Hopefully we will return at the end of August satisfied: direction west."

Iker Flores ends pro career

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Iker Flores (Euskatel)
Photo ©: Christine Grein
Click for larger image

When the Canary Islands government decided not to continue with sponsorship of the Pro-continental Fuerteventura-Canarias, many riders were left scrambling for new jobs. Amongst them was Spaniard Iker Flores, who was a professional with the Eusakltel-Euskadi team from 1999-2006 before switching over to the budding team in 2007.

Now, Flores may be at the end of his professional cycling career. While Flores is not giving up hope that he will find a last-minute contract, his attempts to join a Portuguese team ended without any agreement.

"I leave professional cycling a bit sad," Flores commented in Diario de Navarra. "When the Fuerteventura-Canarias told us that they would not continue, I saw it would be very difficult for me to continue too. I have tried to exploit all the possibilities for continuing, but it was impossible."

Barring a last-minute reprieve, Flores will leave cycling after just eight seasons as a professional rider. While his greatest achievement was the overall win and one stage of the 2000 Tour de l'Avenir, Flores also took the mountains classification of the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2001 and the points classification of the Basque Tour in 2007. In 2004, he took second on a stage of the Tour de France to Filippo Pozzato. At 31 years of age, Flores feels he is leaving cycling with the ability to have gone on racing for several more years.

"I feel very well. I wanted to continue racing. Perhaps I could have achieved some better results, or could have done more, but I leave cycling with the feeling that I did everything I could. I am satisfied with what I have achieved," The rider born in Urdiáin will be father next February. He still does not know what is going to do in the future, but said that he wants to complete his studies. "I want not to spend many days out of home as director or something similar. I must to start a new life."

Ciolek on the move

Gerald Ciolek of Team High Road has been busy on the road this month. The 21 year-old German, who notched up seven wins this season, started out with a week on Majorca with his team-mates at an unofficial training camp, where the main topic of discussion was the loss of the title sponsor of the last 16 seasons - Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile.

"We didn't immediately notice any big changes," he said on his website "We'll just have to wait and see what the future brings. I am trying not to let myself be affected by it all. It's not all that long until the season starts."

After the sun and warmth of Mallorca, Ciolek spent just one day at home before heading to the snow and cold of the Alps, for cross-country ski training. He intends to dedicate two weeks to this training, as a change from cycling, before heading home again to his family for Christmas. He won't stay long this time, either. Shortly after New Year he will head back to Majorca for three weeks of pre-season training.

Hoy calls for Meadowbank velodrome replacement

Another one for the trophy cabinet:
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Olympic kilometre champion Chris Hoy has expressed concern at a recent report from Edinburgh Council that makes no mention of upgrading facilities at Meadowbank velodrome - the venue where Hoy began his career as Scotland's most successful track cyclist. Supporters of the 40 year-old open air velodrome believe the council may be planning to sell off some land at Meadowbank for housing, in order to fund refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

Hoy, who was honoured with a civic reception in Edinburgh last week, said that without an ongoing commitment to track cycling in the Scottish capital, there may not be any more such achievements to celebrate. "The velodrome has established a tradition of track cycling in Scotland," he told The Scotsman newspaper. "The tradition has been built up over the years and the fruits are only really being seen now. Scottish riders dominated British track racing in the 1980s and then, in the last decade, there have been riders, including myself, who have made an impact at world level.

"They say it takes eight years to create a world-class athlete, but it takes decades to build this kind of tradition, with all the expertise and experience of the people involved, in terms of organisation and coaching."

Despite Glasgow's plans to build a brand new velodrome after being awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Hoy insists that the loss of Meadowbank would almost certainly impact on the development of young track cyclists. "We are getting a new velodrome in Glasgow, and that's great, but if I was a 14 or 15 year-old kid - the age I was when I started at Meadowbank - I wouldn't be able to travel there on a weekly basis. I would have been lost to the sport, I'm absolutely sure of that," he said.

The 31 year-old said he does not expect the council to build a world-class facility like Glasgow, but a basic track where children can practice cycling away from the city's increasingly congested road network. "We don't expect an all-singing, all-dancing track, just a basic, training standard facility," said Hoy. "A concrete 250-metre track with a canopy, or a 200m indoor wooden track - these do not cost the earth, but they would provide a lifeline for young cyclists in Edinburgh."

Redlands revamped for 2008

The 24th Annual Redlands Bicycle Classic return to the domestic US calendar with a four day format under the guidance of new race Director Dan Rendler. The USA Cycling National Racing Calendar stage race's new director stepping into the role after five years of serving on the all-volunteer committee which organizes the race each year.

The 2008 edition will get a new, yet to be announced stage, as well as the traditional opening time trial on April 3 in Redlands and the infamous Sunset Road Race as the finale on April 6.

"In addition to providing the United States with a premier professional cycling competition, the RBC offers events for local citizens of all ages who want to experience the thrill and excitement of organized bicycle racing," said Rendler. "These public races showcase future cycling talent and encourage positive activities for our youth."

Along with a new stage, the 2008 Redlands Bicycle Classic will award the "Legends" Award and host a full day of public races and activities, a School Duel for local school aged racers, a new and improved "Green" festival focused on environmental awareness, and, a larger presence from PossAbilities and its contingent of handcyclists who will kick-off the season opener of the U.S. Handcycling Series.

For more information about the race, visit

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