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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for February 18, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

California, here we come...

By Mark Zalewski in San Francisco

Levi Leipheimer is a favourite for this year's event
Photo ©: Russ Wright
(Click for larger image)

Ralph Waldo Emerson once quipped, "The attraction and superiority of California are in its days. It has better days and more of them, than any other country". This saying rang true for the first edition of the Tour of California in 2006, with the seasonal rain seemingly put on hold for the entire eight days of racing. The sunshine and warm weather are among the many draws for the nine ProTour teams flying around the world to the Golden State, as are the eight stages of good race training as the European season draws near.

The 2007 Tour of California, once again sponsored by the drug company Amgen (one of the world's largest manufacturers of EPO, among other products), will cover 650 miles (1028.1km with a 3.1km prologue) in eight days. The 2007 race is expected to be tougher than last year's event and the last few days of the race, when riders are more fatigued, are likely to be more difficult.

The nine ProTour teams is an increase from last year's eight, and with the likes of Quick Step-Innergetic bringing world champion Paolo Bettini, the word seems to be out in the European peloton that this is a race to make room for on the calendar.

Some will likely use this race for training, as in the aforementioned world champion, while others will be looking to make an early season statement - like the riders new to the ProTour. And then there are the US teams, which run the spectrum from a ProTour squad in Discovery Channel, to Professional Continental and domestic Continental squads, as well as the US National Development Team. All the American riders will be keen on taking wins on home soil - whether they be top tier Euro-pros or US based racers.

To read the full Tour of California preview, click here.

No EPO tests in 2006 Tour of California

By Susan Westemeyer & Tim Maloney

Riders were not tested for performance-enhancing EPO last year at the Tour of California - a race whose main sponsor is Amgen, a company which manufactures the drug used in cancer treatment. And that did not make the company happy.

"Our understanding going into the race was that the test would be included," Amgen spokeswoman Mary Klem told the New York Times. "And we were told afterwards that no rider tested positive for EPO or for any banned substance." According to the newspaper, company executives were angry and surprised when they heard that EPO testing was not actually carried out.

"We made it clear that if Amgen was going to continue as sponsor of the race, it needed to be a clean race and EPO had to be tested for," Klem said. "If somebody's using EPO in this race, we want to know about it. At least we know going into this year's race that we will."

This year, EPO testing will be part of the anti-doping measures conducted at the race. Amgen chose to sponsor the race as a way to educate the public against improper use of its drug, which is sold primarily to help cancer and dialysis patients fight anaemia.

The process for including EPO testing involves several parties. If Amgen had wanted to have EPO testing included in the standard medical control protocol at the 2006 Tour of California, they would have asked event owner AEG, who would then have asked their event technical contractor Medalist Sports to request this of USA Cycling. Medalist Sports organizes other pro races like the Tour de Georgia and US Championship races.

Once USA Cycling received the request, they would have asked the UCI to include the race's medical control protocol as an addition to standard protocol. The UCI then would have assigned a certified medical official to manage the on-site race medical control protocol process for the EPO testing.

AEG spokesman Michael Roth told the NY Times that "AEG did not know that EPO was not part of the standard test" in 2006, but that the company asked for it to be included this year's Tour of California.

US Development team ready for ToC

2006 Tour de Shenandoah winner Brent Bookwalter will also line up at the ToC
Photo ©: Bill McCarrick
(Click for larger image)

The inaugural USA Cycling Professional Tour begins Sunday as the 2007 Tour of California kicks off with a three-kilometer prologue up Telegraph Hill in downtown San Francisco. Among the 18 teams slated to start, the 2007 USA Cycling National Development Team will make its season debut as part of arguably the greatest field ever assembled for a competitive cycling event in the United States.

The eight-man development team roster includes Chad Beyer, 20 (Anthem, Ariz.) Brent Bookwalter, 23 (Cedar Springs, Mich.), Sheldon Deeny, 22 (Fort Collins, Colo.), John Devine, 21 (Dixon, Ill.), Caleb Fairly, 19 (Amarillo, Texas), Scott Stewart, 19 (Oxford, Mich.), Chris Stockburger, 19 (Fort Collins, Colo.) and Tejay Van Garderen, 18 (Fort Collins, Colo.). For these athletes, the Tour of California will represent their most significant challenge to date as they compete alongside many of the top professional cyclists and teams from Europe and the United States.

"I think we're all going into the race with open hopes," explained John Devine of his team's expectations. "It's hard to come into a 2.HC race this early in the season and know exactly where you're at, but we've done some good testing on the SRM's and I know that for me personally, I've put up more numbers this year than ever before, and I'd say that trend would follow with the other riders also. The best-case scenario would be to win the Best Young Rider's Jersey. That would be the ultimate goal for the team, but the second goal would be to get everybody to the finish line in Long Beach and to really grow as a team."

Although several UCI ProTour teams and other professional teams' rosters feature riders under the age of 25, the US Development Team is the only entry whose entire roster is less than a quarter-century old. Bookwalter, who turned 23 on Friday, is the squad's eldest competitor starting on Sunday.

For team director Noel Dejonckheere, success for the squad will be defined in a similar fashion, but he also noted that the opportunity to compete in an .HC-classified race will also give his riders a chance to show their skills on a global stage.

"I'm hoping that one or two days we can get a top-ten placing in a stage," said Dejonckheere. "The other possibility is that we try and get the under-25 jersey for maybe one or two days and hope that one rider makes the top-20 or 25 in the general classification. For us, it's the highest-level race we'll do this year along with the Tour de Georgia. There are a lot of races we'll do in Europe that are category-1 events, but they don't have the quality of field that the Tour of California will. This race is really close to a UCI ProTour race, and if people feel like they are getting close to going to a UCI ProTour team, it's up to them to show it. They've got the chance. If you can show it, maybe some team will want to sign you up."

Ultimately, the goal of each rider on the US Development Team is to land a contract with a UCI ProTour team - something eight riders have accomplished since the program's inception in 1999. Devine, who will join the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team on July 1, will be the latest program graduate to make the jump to cycling's big leagues.

"It's a little overwhelming and we're all a little anxious," explained Bookwalter. "You think about it all year, but when you roll into the parking lot and see all the teams and all the riders, the magnitude of it kind of hits you. But it's still a bike race and we're all strong and capable riders. I think we all want to leave some mark on this race. We're definitely the youngest team here, but we just want to have an impact and represent and show these guys that we belong here."

RCS selections "unacceptable" to McQuaid

By Shane Stokes

Pat McQuaid supports, the ProTour team currently illegal in France and snubbed by the Grand Tour organisers
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Whatever about suggestions that French laws regarding online betting had some part to play in’s exclusion from Paris-Nice, the speculation that the Swedish-registered team is being discriminated against by the Grand Tour organisers became much stronger on Friday.

RCS announced its wildcard selections for Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo and the Giro d’Italia and, despite the fact that several smaller Professional Continental teams got the nod, there was no place in any of those three races for the 19th ProTour squad. campaigned for a couple of seasons and made a big investment in order to secure the licence last autumn but it now faces being left on the sidelines for cycling’s biggest races after ASO and Unipublic both previously said that the team is unwelcome in their events.

UCI President Pat McQuaid told Cyclingnews that he was unimpressed with what had happened. "For the UCI, it is completely unacceptable that a company like RCS, which has a long and a very strong tradition in sport in Italy should allow itself to, firstly, go outside the regulations of the UCI, and secondly, that it would exclude a team such as Unibet which was second in the Europe Tour last year in preference to a team which has riders such as Hamilton and Hondo.

"Hamilton has already been proven guilty of doping offences and Hondo is currently under suspension for doping. In the situation that cycling finds itself in today, this is completely unacceptable and it is amazing to the UCI that RCS would do such a thing. It is by no means sending the correct message to the cycling world."

Given that Hamilton's name also came up in the Puerto affair, RCS’ endorsement of his team for all three of the races appears to be in contrast with the tougher stance supposedly being considered by ASO regarding Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich. While the French organiser has not stated that it will block these two riders from taking part in the Tour de France, there have been several suggestions that this could be the case. Tour directeur Christian Prudhomme has done nothing to play down such talk; indeed he has hinted that this could happen.

"Unibet has strict ethical guidelines in place, they had to have that in order to get a UCI ProTour license," said McQuaid. "Hamilton has served his time but he is also implicated in Operación Puerto, and Hondo is currently under suspension. It amazes me that the company like RCS, which has a huge reputation in Italy as both a publisher and also an organiser of sports events, would do something like this."

Selle Italia deplore RCS decision

Selle Italia's Gianni Savio at the 2005 Giro
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Gianni Savio, manager of Italian Pro Continental team Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia, has expressed his bewilderment at the announcement of Giro d'Italia organiser RCS not to invite the squad to the Grand Tour in May. "The exclusion of our team from the Giro d'Italia confirms that in the present ProTour system, sporting results are not rightfully considered," Savio stated in a press release.

Although he did not want to "discuss the decisions of RCS", Savio pointed at the results of his team in the last two editions of the race, which included "One final podium placing, four 'queen' mountain stages, three King of the Mountain jerseys, one Intergiro jersey, two Most Combative rider prizes" amongst other honours.

"Also this year, we are convinced to have a competitive outfit," he continued. "At the recent Tour of Langkawi, where victories of the ProTour teams were expected, we won six out of ten stages (five with Loddo and one with Serpa) and placed Serpa as well as Pedraza on the podium. Moreover, we won the King of the Mountains prize with Pedraza and the Points Classification with Loddo.

"We hope that in future, the sporting merits will be the team selection criteria for the Grand Tours," Savio concluded.

Puerto: EPO levels in blood bags low

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Increasing the ability of the blood to deliver oxygen to the muscles is a potent performance-enhancer.
Click for larger image

The EPO levels found in the frozen blood plasma bags seized in Eufemiano Fuentes' home have been analysed by the National Institute of Toxicology in Madrid, with the conclusion that they did not put one's health at risk. The experts elaborated a report ordered by the magistrate of the national Court number 31, who instructs the Operación Puerto affair.

According to daily newspaper El Mundo, the mentioned report, which is dated December 22, 2006 and signed by doctor Rafael Cabrera and the Department director, Josefa Gomez, could be used in the judicial resolution of the investigations into the doping affair.

The analysis was required by the judge at the end of November after the Barcelona anti-doping laboratory reached the conclusion that the sanitary parameters of the blood bags were within normality and that only in eight of the 99 analysed samples high levels of exogenous EPO were detected. (Also see Cyclingnews' 2005 feature on blood doping methods.)

In the Puerto dossier, three samples would correspond to n°5 and the rest to the pseudonyms of Klaus, Fault, Mari, n°18 and Gemma. According to the investigations of the Guardia Civil, n°5 could correspond to former T-Mobile rider Oscar Sevilla and n°18 to the pseudonym VAL (PITI), which some have linked to Alejandro Valverde.

The report will be essential to determine if the accused persons (Manolo Saiz, Eufemiano Fuentes, Merino Batres, Vicente Belda, Yolanda Fuentes, Ignacio Labarta, Alberto León and Alfredo Córdova) have committed any crimes against public health. Court number 31 asked for clarification if the EPO levels found in the seized plasma samples in Fuentes' house were detrimental to the health. To which, the Institute of Toxicology responded: "The administration of the existing amounts (of EPO) in the bags would not be sufficient to cause detrimental effects and the doses used in patients who need it therapeutically are much greater."

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

Ullrich: Fed boss "hurt cycling"

By Susan Westemeyer

The president of the German cycling federation Rudolf Scharping has "hurt cycling" with his recent comments, said Jan Ullrich.

Scharping had said that cycling owed much to Ullrich, but that it has also been damaged by him. He also added that Ullrich would most likely never again represent Germany in the world championships or the Olympic games.

"I don't like what Scharping said," Ullrich told the German tabloid Bild. "I was always proud to wear the national jersey. I was proud to be World and Olympic champion for Germany. I believe that M. Scharping has hurt cycling with his fully unnecessary comments." He added that, "Some of my friends and cycling colleagues have lost all interest in the national team," because of the politics involved.

Ullrich was suspended and later fired by T-Mobile Team after his name came up in the Operación Puerto doping scandal. The 1997 Tour de France winner does not yet have a license or a team for the current season.

"I do not plan to apply for a license in Germany. But you must not forget that I have a right to," Ullrich noted. "There is nothing against me at this time. And that's exactly why I find it so weak when someone tries to heat up an unnecessary debate with such flimsy arguments."

Milram for Italy

Igor Astarloa and Mirko Celestino will lead Team Milram in the Trofeo Laigueglia in Italy on February 20, the team has announced. The Italian one-day race runs 183 km and includes three major climbs.

Milram for Trofeo Laigueglia: Igor Astarloa, Mirko Celestino, Sergio Ghisalberti, Andrey Grivko, Matej Jurco, Mirco Lorenzetto, Elia Rigotto and Fabio Sabatini.

Wiesenhof opens season in Portugal

Steffen Wesemann in his T-mobile days
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Team Wiesenhof-Felt is opening its 2007 season in the Volta ao Algarve, starting Wednesday, Feb. 21. The team will be led by its two new captains, Steffen Wesemann and Olaf Pollack.

"After all those weeks of preparation, our riders are ready to go," said Directeur Sportif Ronny Lauke. Wesemann will be preparing for the upcoming spring classics, while Pollack will look for his chances in the sprint finishes. "That doesn't mean that we're only looking at the stage finishes, though," Lauke noted. "All the riders are possible for the Classics in March in April. They will do everything they can to get that important race experience."

Wiesenhof-Felt for Volta ao Algarve: Steffen Wesemann, Steffen Radochla, Olaf Pollack, BAs Giling, Torsten Schmidt, Jörg Ludewig, Daniel Musiol, and Stefan Van Dijk.

Stars out for Manchester World Cup

By Ben Atkins

Keirin action at last season's Manchester World Cup
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
Click for larger image

A record 274 entries from 36 countries and 11 trade teams will be competing over three days of events in the final round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Manchester on February 23-25. The field will be liberally studded with World and Olympic Champions, and World Record Holders as the build up continues to next month's World Championships.

In the Men's Sprint events a full home team is led by Olympic Kilo Champion Chris Hoy who will be pushed hard by individuals and teams from top sprinting nations. Riders including Holland's World 200m Record Holder Theo Bos, Australia's Double Olympic Champion Ryan Bayley, Germany's Olympic Team Sprint Champion Stefan Nimke and France's World Kilometre Record Holder Arnaud Tournant will be leading the charge for their respective nations.

The Men's Endurance events will be just as hard fought. A large contingent of British Riders led by Olympic Pursuit Champion Bradley Wiggins will be challenged particularly by the Australian Pursuit Team. Australia's Bradley McGee chooses not to take part in the team race, but will be contesting the Individual Pursuit, where once again he will come up against Wiggins. Hong Kong rider Kam-Po Wong - fresh from his victory in the Asian Games Road Race - will contest the scratch race.

Women's racing will be just as competitive. The British Riders will be out in force, but competition from Australian Sisters Kerrie and Olympic 500m Champion Anna Meares. One of three Dutch Women travelling will be former World BMX Champion Willy Kanis, who has successfully made the transition to the track.

Tickets are still available on the event's website or from the ticket hotline: + 44 (0) 871 230 2621.

Cyclingnews will be providing full and up to the minute coverage of racing over all three days. A full preview of the event, including a complete rider list and event timetable, will be up on the site soon.

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