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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for February 4, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Vuelta stands firm behind ASO

Vuelta organiser Victor Cordero
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

In the ongoing power struggle between the Grand Tour (GT) organisers, headed by French ASO, and the UCI, the organiser of the Vuelta a España, Unipublic, has reinstated its support of the Tour de France management. On Saturday, Victor Cordero, head of the Spanish Grand Tour, said that he will not consider inviting Swedish ProTour team to his race.

"The Vuelta will share the destiny of Paris-Nice and the Tour," he told Spanish media. "We accept the 18 (ProTour) teams and will give away four invitations. One will be for Astana, the team of the last winner (Alexandre Vinokourov), but we do not consider Unibet amongst the three remaining."

In early December 2006, the Grand Tour organisers announced that they would accept only the 18 teams that then held a ProTour licence to their races. However, was attributed a license a few days later - as was Astana - and now seems to be caught in the middle of the conflict between the GT organisers and the UCI.

On January 13, ASO announced that it will not let take the start at Paris-Nice, as the organiser preferred to invite Astana and French Pro Conti squad Agritubel to the race running from March 11-18. However, ASO did not exclude inviting the Swedish team to some of the other races organised by the company, saying that "logistical grounds" prevented them from inviting more than 20 teams to that particular event.

In a recent interview with Cyclingnews, ASO president Patrice Clerc said that more teams would be allowed to start at the one-day races (such as Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège) but that ASO would "take the final decision on the sporting level". Moreover, for races on French soil, has another problem: The sponsoring company is currently in a legal proceeding with the French state over French legislation that only allows three companies to offer sports betting via the Internet. Meaning that may not legally be entitled to compete in France - the European Commission has been called upon to decide on the subject, as well as on the conflict over the UCI ProTour in general.

Marc Biver: Leading the way at Astana

Astana General Manager Marc Biver
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Marc Biver has a long history in the sport as an agent and race organiser, but now he's got a new project: general manager of the Astana team, overseeing the efforts of riders such as Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Klöden, Andrey Kashechkin, and Paolo Savoldelli in their bids to land the biggest prizes in the sport. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes sat down with the Luxembourger for half an hour at the team's recent training camp in Majorca to hear more.

It takes a particular kind of confidence for a team to publicly declare they don't need a ProTour licence, but right up to the moment Astana secured the twentieth slot that is precisely what they were saying. That self-assurance is born out of the fact that they have such a strong line-up; Alexandre Vinokourov won the 2006 Tour of Spain and is one of the best all-round riders in the sport. Andreas Klöden has placed second and third in the Tour, Paolo Savoldelli has won two Giri d'Italia and Andrey Kashechkin was third in last year's Vuelta.

That strength in depth earned the team assurances of an invite to each of the Grand Tours this season, so when they did net the final ProTour place in mid-December, it was a confirmation rather than a salvation.

At least that is the stance of Marc Biver, general manger of the new team. "I honestly didn't think too much about it," he told Cyclingnews at the team's recent training camp in Majorca. "For us, in the end it wasn't a big deal to have it or not because with the team that we have, the quality of the riders, I don't think we would have had any problems to get invited into the major races. We already had guarantees from the three big Tours that we would be invited, so we did not stress too much about getting the license."

Astana were initially passed over by the UCI on the grounds that it was not satisfied with the financial guarantees in place.

However an appeal was made, an extension was given and with Manolo Saiz losing out on his own licence, the Swiss-based team eventually got the green light. Upon reflection, Biver does see some advantages to that.

"In the end, it is better to have one…firstly because it makes things easier and, for Kazakhstan, it was also a question of prestige. It is probably a good thing, even if I am not totally convinced that the ProTour is the right thing to have in cycling."

To read the first part of the interview with Marc Biver, click here.

A perfect week for Quick-Step

Boonen (stage winner) and Cretskens (overall winner)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen can be very satisfied with how things went for him and his team at the recent Tour of Qatar. "We won almost everything here," he told Belgian media after the race. "Ah... c'mon, we won everything." Indeed, Quick-Step won five out of six stages in the Middle Eastern Emirate, Boonen himself took four of them, and teammate Wilfried Cretskens scored the overall victory.

The former world champ was especially happy that Cretskens took the yellow jersey home. "On Thursday, I could finally give something back to Wilfried," said Boonen. "He worked so hard for me all these years; he held me out of the wind when I won the World's in Madrid."

The team is now looking very optimistically to the new season. "We're in for a good year, I can feel it," he continued. "I'm not at a 100 percent yet - that would be crazy. I'm right on time for what's still to come." It is no secret that one of Boonen's targets this spring is Milano-Sanremo, and the fact that be beat Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi every single time in Qatar can only give him extra motivation.

"You can't say that the Tour of Qatar is a warming-up race anymore," Boonen added. "It was a war from start to finish, every day. They said my sprints against Petacchi were impressive..."

Sastre in the wind tunnel

Carlos Sastre (CSC) lost four minutes to Andreas Klöden at the 2006 Tour's last TT
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The top riders of Team CSC will take up the opportunity of their stay in California to improve their time trial skills in the wind tunnel in San Diego on February 16. Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck and world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara are scheduled to for a series of tests intended to check the riders' time trialling position, aerodynamics and effectiveness.

For Sastre, it will be the second time in the wind tunnel. "We already went through this in 2003 and got a lot of improvements out of it," he said. "This time, three of our sponsors will be joining us to see the influence on aerodynamics of the new materials they designed for us, and maybe improve it if needed. We'll work on our aerodynamics, always keeping in mind the power output, which is obviously the most important thing."

In the wind tunnel, the air flow is designed to test not only the cyclists' position, but also that of the bike components. "The simulation takes place in a straight line, and the wind blows with the same intensity as if we would ride at 40 km/h on our bike," Sastre continued. "The wind always blows from the front, to see the aerodynamic progression, but they also test the different materials from the side to see their resistance."

Contrary to what some cycling fans may believe, the Spanish stage race contender explained that wind tunnel testing wasn't actually hard on the legs. "You can't put in any effort, because the cadence must be 40 rpm. It's only about aerodynamics; later on they do field tests to see the results of the new settings," added Sastre, who hopes that the check-up will make him improve his time trialling skills further in view of his season goals, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

Alfred gets 8-year ban

Stephen Alfred won Gold at the 2005 US National Track Championships
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
Click for larger image

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced on Friday that track cyclist Stephen Alfred of Capitola, Calif., has been given an eight-year suspension after testing positive for exogenous testosterone and for 'pregnancy hormone' human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).

Alfred, 39, returned a positive result for exogenous testosterone or its precursors and for an elevated testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio in an out-of-competition test conducted on May 28, 2006. He also tested positive for hCG on June 10, 2006, at the Pan American Cycling Championships in Brazil. The two positives are considered one doping offense according to the World Anti-Doping Code.

Alfred previously tested positive for the prohibited substance norandrosterone at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which made this his second doping offense. However, the lifetime ban was not applied "given the nature and circumstance of this first doping offense for which Alfred received a reduced suspension of six months," USADA stated.

Alfred’s eight-year ban commenced January 30, 2007, the date he accepted the sanction.

Page refuses start in Lille

American Cyclo-Crosser Jonathan Page, second-placed at the World Championships last week, refused to take the start of the Belgian Krawatencross in Lille this Saturday. According to Belgian reports, Page's assistant Franky Van Haesebroucke was not permitted entrance to the course by the gate keeper, and in an ensuing argument, a fight broke out, sending Van Haesebroucke to the hospital.

Cyclingnews spoke with Page about the incident. Page's wife Cory was with Van Haesebroucke before the start of the race, as the crew was heading into the venue. "He had a pass to get in, but the guy at the gate insisted that he had to pay." During the discussion over payment, Page said "Franky took a step forward to get out of the way of the crowds [who were coming in for the race], and the guards took that as him trying to go in without paying." The guards then grabbed Van Haesebroucke by the neck and threw him to the ground, and "basically beat him unconsious."

In the a brief press conference, the security guard, Wim Claes, said that he was "told the person that he hadn't paid. There was an exchange of words and then suddenly he grabbed me by the throat. I neutralised him. I do this job for years, so I have experience. It was an unfortunate incident."

"There is a rule that the assistants and mechanics have to pay entrance; that has been made very clear," said race organiser Jef Van den Brouck. "Apparently, Page's assistant didn't want to do this, and attacked the security guard, who then countered the aggression."

But Page's wife Cory told that van Haesebroucke did not start the fight, "Franky was not at all aggressive and certainly didn't grab anybody by the throat." Van Haesebroucke is being kept in the hospital overnight for observation after suffering a concussion, and possible nerve damage to the right side of his body due to the incident.

Page was shaken by the incident, and incredulous that it could even happen. "My friend and my mechanic, and it's a terrible thing to happen - I can't believe it happened."

CSC meets the fans at Tour of California

Team CSC has announced that it will provide cycling fans an opportunity to meet team members before stage two of the Tour of California, which will take place on February 20 in Santa Rosa. Attendants are requested to go to the Team CSC camper close to the start area at 8.30 am that morning, where an event team will introduce them to the riders. Sport directors Kim Anderson and Bjarne Riis will also be there to talk about race tactics until the stage gets underway at 10am.

Team CSC hopes that there will be enough room for everybody interested, but may have to cut off attendants. In that case, members of the Team CSC Official Fan Club will have the first priority.

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