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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 28, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Laura Weislo

Six Day racing to return to the USA

By Peter Hymas

Wiggins and Cavendish during the madison.
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Professional Six Day style racing will make an re-appearance in the United States at the 2008 Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. Six Day racing had its heyday in the U.S. in the early 20th century, but faded from prominence after World War II. The last professional Six Day bicycle race in the United States concluded nearly 35 years ago in Detroit, Michigan on October 2, 1973.

Not coincidentally, an American who finished the 1973 Detroit Six Day event in second place, Jack Simes III (while teamed with John Vande Velde, father of CSC professional Christian Vande Velde) is an instrumental figure in the sport's return to the United States.

Simes explained to Cyclingnews, "We haven't seen Six Day racing in the United States since the early 1970s. The last pro international races were run in 1973 on a very, very low scale in California and Detroit. Previous to that, it was 1961 in Madison Square Garden. To make a long story short, after looking at all of the options, what I'm planning to do is bring over the whole pro show and produce that in the United States.

"We have dates now in Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to do it during the time of Interbike. It's going to be three-days and not six-days to start with. It's pretty difficult to book six days of racing in an arena plus two days to move in and another day to move out. An event like this, which is relatively new in modern times to the U.S., it's better to start with three days and it's easier to get the arenas. It doesn't take up so much time on the calendar, so that's the way it's being planned."

Simes continued, "It's important to produce a very successful event from the beginning. You're not going to get a second chance. The European professional riders are very excited to come to the United States. Some of them actually know more about the history than you might think. Top guys like [Bruno] Risi and [Erik] Zabel are historians of the sports themselves. They're all very interested, and of course they're professionals and they have to get paid for what they do."

Simes is looking to achieve the type of environment typical of the Gent Six Day. "That type of event goes back to the style of events that took place in the United States [in the early 20th century] where you have wall to wall people standing on the infield, the infield bar, the packed stands, the great racing," Simes explained. "The Gent Six is on a smaller track, the type of track that we will use in the United States because that's the only thing we can put in our arenas. That's kind of a similar atmosphere to what you'll see in the United States with a little more Las Vegas zip into it."

Jack Simes III is no stranger to competition at the highest level of track cycling within both the United States and Europe. Raised in a family of elite cyclists (both Simes III's father and grandfather raced professionally in the early 20th century during the heyday of American cycling), Simes III competed in three Olympics (1960, 1964, 1968), earned silver medals at the 1967 Pan-American Games and the 1968 World Championships, competed in eight world championships, earned multiple American national titles, and competed professionally on the track in the early 1970s.

Simes later became the executive director of USPRO, the governing body of professional cycling in the United States, as well as the first executive director of the Lehigh County Velodrome.  

Basso to return with Barloworld?

By Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso's last return was with Discovery
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso, who rose to the top of cycling with his win in the 2006 Giro d'Italia but then was banned from racing for his involvement in Operación Puerto, has been linked with Barloworld. The 30 year-old rider from Varese is eligible to race after his suspension ends on October 24, 2008.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Barloworld Team Manager Claudio Corti has been interested in Basso since before he signed with Discovery Channel at the end of 2006. There is a reportedly a verbal contract between the two, and Basso's return to racing could happen in the in the Japan Cup, October 26, 2008. The team would also have interest in Basso racing certain end-of-season races in South Africa, where the sponsor has its base.

Barloworld is also at an advantage since it is Professional Continental, which is a second tier team that is one level below ProTour. Basso is prohibited by Ethical Codes from signing for the top tier teams for four years.

Basso may also be linked with 'The Killer' for 2009 according the Italian sports newspaper. 2007 Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca is said to be interested in racing alongside the suspended rider. Di Luca, who is currently serving a three month suspension for involvement in the 'Oil for Drugs' scandal – signed with Team LPR for 2008. He recently joined Basso for a charity event on December 8 in Varese where the two were able to talk at length.

The rider, known as 'Birillo' in the documents related Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid, had denied any involvement in Operación Puerto before finally confessing that he had banked his blood with intent to infuse it for performance enhancement. Fuentes' offices were searched in May 2006, revealing around 100 blood bags, some of which belonged to Basso.

Fuentes expects a Nobel prize

By Susan Westemeyer and Laura Weislo

One of the blood bags from Fuentes' clinic
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the man in the centre of the Operación Puerto case, only wanted to help cyclists with his "therapeutic medicine," he said in an interview with the German news magazine Stern. In the second interview made public after a conference recently held in Spain, Fuentes guessed at how his medical practices would be thought of in the future, postulating, "Perhaps in 20 years they will give me the Nobel Prize; maybe they will build me a memorial. Or they will kill me."

Operación Puerto began when Spanish authorities raided a Madrid clinic run by Fuentes and found hundreds of bags of stored blood as well as performance enhancing drugs. The sting also reportedly netted intercepted phone conversations, videos of various figures coming to the clinic, and documents detailing doping regimens.

Fuentes, who was one of several arrested in the 2006 operation, has been involved in the sport since the 1980s and admitted to helping cyclists dope. He called professional sport a circus "in which the athlete's health takes second place". He offered his medical services to riders who he claims were already medicating themselves, justifying it by saying, "The body of a professional cyclist is not made for three weeks of permanent stress."

Fuentes went on to distinguish his brand of medical services from uneducated doping. "In doping everything is lumped together. But the use of a substance by someone who knows what he is doing – that is something else."

Puerto fallout continued through 2007

Liberty Seguros director Manolo Saiz was also arrested in Puerto
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In the 18 months since the Operación Puerto case hit the news, the evidence of large scale, organised doping rippled through the sport, causing havoc for teams and riders alike. Liberty Seguros and Comunidad Valenciana were the first major sponsors to leave the sport because of the affair, while this year's loss of T-Mobile and the demise of the Discovery Channel team can be linked to the negative publicity generating by the doping news from Puerto.

Few of 58 riders initially named have been either cleared or sanctioned. Some riders have returned to racing, some still face an uphill battle; handicapped by the lack of a conclusion to the case and a possible future of more action from the UCI or other authorities. Others were cleared, but still faced resistance this year from the UCI and some race organizers who were afraid to host any rider even remotely tied to the scandal.

However, other than the repeated confessions of Jörg Jaksche, admissions by Basso and Italian Michele Scarponi and the DNA link from Ullrich to blood bags from the clinic, no other rider has been either sanctioned or admitted to involvement. This leaves a large number of riders in limbo - tainted by a connection to the case which may or may not prove to be true.

The fallout from the case has rippled through the peloton in the past year and half. Despite being cleared not long after the initial reports in 2006, Allan Davis was threatened with exclusion from the 2007 World Championships more than a year later. Alberto Contador, after winning the Tour de France, was hounded by reports of his connection to the case, despite his also being cleared at the same time as Davis.

Other named riders continued to race, but were forced to take a step down from the ProTour ranks, where teams were not bound by the ProTour code of ethics which prevents teams from signing implicated riders. Francisco Mancebo spent the season riding alongside Oscar Sevilla on the Relax-GAM team before both were sent scrambling when the team lost its sponsor. Santiago Botero stayed in his native Colombia after being cleared by his national federation, but is rumoured to be moving to the American domestic squad Rock & Republic along with Tyler Hamilton, who was suspended from his Tinkoff team after being named in the extended version of the Puerto dossier.

The 6,000 page dossier caused the most pain for Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who, like nearly all of the riders alleged to have been named in Puerto, continually asserted his innocence. Valverde took the UCI to court to get into the World Championships and has fought off suspicions all season.

With a total of 107 riders supposedly named in the dossier but only four either admitting or tied to the blood bags with concrete evidence, the potential for more casualties in 2008 is high.

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

Indurain supports Tour Down Under

Five time Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain has thrown his support behind the ProTour's newest event, the Tour Down Under. Indurain arrived in South Australia just before Christmas in advance of the 2008 ProTour's first event, which begins January 22 in Glenelg, outside Adelaide, South Australia.

Indurain was positive about the Tour Down Under's inclusion in the ProTour - the first time the series has gone outside of Europe. "This race is perfect for the start of the season," Indurain enthused. "It's a comfortable race and every day the cyclists come back to the same place."

The Spaniard did not worry about the lack of high mountain stages in the event, saying that despite the relatively gentle parcours, the event had an important place on the calendar. "It's good not to have big mountains. The preparation is what they need."

"The race is becoming so important in Australia. It's expanding the cycling world and I wanted to compare this race with the European races."

O'Grady recovered and ready to go

By Susan Westemeyer

Stuart O'Grady making his first start
Photo ©: Brad Hooker
(Click for larger image)

It takes more than a few broken bones to keep a good man down. Specifically, the five broken ribs, a fractured shoulder and collarbone and three cracked ribs – not to forget the punctured lung – that CSC's Stuart O'Grady suffered in his crash at the Tour de France this summer are now healed and the feisty Australian is ready to return at full speed.

He made his comeback at the Herald Sun Tour in Australia in October, but took it easy there. Now the 34 year-old is ready for the real thing. "It has all mended up pretty well. I have no pain at all so it's really promising. I have been racing a little bit, and that has been okay," he said on the team's web site, team-csc.com.

O'Grady will start his season with the Australian National Championships in January. "I can't say now, that I'll have the form to win, but obviously I'd like to be in the top end of the results. We'll just have to see how it goes."

After that, he will be concentrating on the Spring Classics. "I'll be going for Milano-Sanremo, Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix as the main objectives. I'd like to say that I can repeat the victory in Roubaix, but you know it's such a special race. This year we had 27 degrees and a heat wave – next year it could be seven degrees and mud. That's the beauty of Paris-Roubaix, that's what makes it so special."

The highlight of the past year was without doubt his win in the Hell of the North. "You can't really explain it. The emotions were felt all around the velodrome – it was just something, you never, ever, ever forget. It was just incredible."

Leukemans stands alone

By Susan Westemeyer

Björn Leukemans was not surprised that Team Predictor-Lotto fired him for his positive doping test, but said that it "still was quite a blow."

He told sporza.be that now he must wait for his hearing before the Vlaamse Gemeenschap (Flemish Community) on January 10, while continuing to protest his innocence. "I have nothing to confess, therefore I can confess nothing."

He said that he feels alone and abandoned. "I only know that I stand alone," he continued. "I have relied on my family and friends. And some of them have disappeared, too. That is life, right? But it is hard. I have learned a lot from this. Many people have surprised me in a negative way."

The 30 year-old said he doesn't now know what his future will hold. "I don't know whether I will return if I am acquitted. First, I will have to think about it all. At this moment, I don't see any sense in cycling. But I am continuing to train."

Roesems returns to racing

By Susan Westemeyer

Bert Roesems of Predictor-Lotto, soon to be Silence-Lotto, will return to cycling in January for the first time after crashing out of the Vuelta a España. He will fly to Los Angeles on January 2 for a two-week stay, including racing the World Cup track race there. He is expected to ride in the individual and team pursuit.

Roesems, 35, suffered a broken hip in a mass crash during the seventh stage of the Vuelta.

Italian Road Championships scheduled for Bergamo

By Gregor Brown

The Italian Road Championships – or Settimana Tricolore – have been scheduled for June 24 to 29, 2008 with events to be held in and near the city of Bergamo. The locations for the women's and men's time trial and road race events will vary, with the marquee event, the Elite Men's road race, to be held on June 29 in Bergamo.

All time trials will be held in Montichiari (Brescia), while the women's junior and elite races are to be held in Forcola (Sondrio). Albano Sant'Alessandro (Bergamo) will host the junior men, Boltiere (Bergamo) the amateurs, and Palazzago (Bergamo) will host the Under-23 men. The city centre of Bergamo will provide the venue for Giovanni Visconti to defend his 2007 title.

Moser has scare on skis

By Gregor Brown

Francesco Moser.
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italian cycling legend Francesco Moser had a scare while skiing on Christmas day. The 56-year-old past winner of the World Championships, Paris-Roubaix and Giro d'Italia, among other races, was involved a nasty crash on the slopes of Rio Pusteria (Alto Adige), Italy. The incident resulted in bruises and cuts, but no fractures.

"Luckily there was nothing broken," said Moser to La Gazzetta dello Sport from his home in Gardolo di Mezzo (Trento). "There was a lot of fear. I was practically at the bottom of the hillside when I screamed out with my son Ignazio."

The Christmas incident reminded many of Mario Cipollini's crash two year's ago that resulted in fractured kneecap, but luckily it was not so serious for the three-time winner of Roubaix. "The skis went out and I slid for some twenty metres, slamming my chest against snow chunks some forty centimetres high. The speed was somewhat contained, and the bangs left scrapes on my ribs and left hand. However, the medical exam did not reveal any fractures even if the pain is there."

Moser will pass the end of they year at home with his family and dog Freddy. "They waited for me for lunch, and I joined them before being transferred to the hospital in Bressanone where I was under observation by all of the medics. Thanks to Doctor Hoffer and his staff for the care and attention."

He recalled his last serious incident, which occurred during his professional racing career. "In Marilleva I was contender in off-the-slopes skiing, and I ended up running into a tree. Also that instance ended well.

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