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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for February 23, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

ToC: Team directors shocked over Paris-Nice

By Kirsten Robbins in San Luis Obispo

ProTour team directors met before the start of stage four of the Tour of California to discuss the ongoing developments surrounding the status of the Paris-Nice stage race, an important event on the international road cycling calendar that was part of the 'ProTour'.

The owners of the race, ASO, changed the status of the race to become a "free" event on the national calendar just weeks before it was scheduled to take place, effectively removing it from the ProTour. But the ProTour teams were then told by the world governing body of cycling, the UCI, that they are not entitled to participate under those circumstances.

The ProTour license they bought from the UCI may now be worthless if they cannot race in some of the world's most prestigious races - the Grand Tour organisers (ASO, RCS and Unipublic) own a total of 11 events, among which the monuments of Milano-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia, not to speak of the Tour de France.

Some of the ProTour teams in North America for the Tour of California are trying to keep up with the rapidly changing developments. "It will take a week for us to figure out what is happening over in Europe right now," Stefano Zanatta, directeur sportif of the Italian team Liquigas said. "This just happened and having a new complication in cycling is a very difficult situation. Cycling already has many problems and now we are in a moment of difficulty with the UCI and ASO."

CSC chief Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

It is too early to predict whether or not a resolution is in sight or if the teams will be forced to take action into their own hands. Many of the team directors are in accordance with one another and no matter what side is taken, all agreed that the fighting between the two organizations has to be resolved soon. CSC’s director sportif Bjarne Riis shared Zanatta's opinion: "It is difficult to say what is going to happen right now because this situation just came about yesterday. It is very ridiculous that they have tried so hard to solve these problems but they have still not come to a conclusion and this is not okay. It is a very serious situation right now but we will have to wait."

Part of the problem the teams are facing is the scheduling and planning of the team’s race calendar. Rabobank’s Erik Breukink found out just moments earlier that the UCI has reminded ProTour teams that they are not permitted to start a national event and was unhappy with the organizations’ power showcase. "I heard this just a minute ago and now we are not allowed to ride in the Paris-Nice," Breukink said. "Now the UCI is battling with the Grand Tours and this is not good for us. We planned our season around the ProTour events and we want to do all these races for the ProTour. If they are now saying we can't ride what can we do, how are we supposed to prepare our season?"

Breukink added, "Now it is only a battle and they need to solve something because ASO, the organizer of the Tour de France are showing their power and the UCI is trying to show their power. For cycling this is a bad battle. Most of the teams agree that the ProTour teams need to stick together."

Paris-Nice is one of the most historic events organized by the ASO in France. Tens of thousands of fans are awaiting the ProTour teams to pass through on route to Nice and in fact, the race's parcours had been recently modified to make it more suitable for the Belgian star, Quick Step rider Tom Boonen.

T-Mobile’s director sportif Brian Holm elaborated on his disappointment not being able to bring a team to the prestigious event. "I’ve just heard about this in the morning and I think from the point of view of the riders it’s a pity if we couldn’t do it and we were planning to race there," Holm said.

"Personally I hope we can work this out and I hope we can do this race because it is a great race and I’ve always liked it. I just can’t figure out how the UCI can’t work it out with the ProTour and ASO. If the ProTour teams don’t show up for the people who love cycling and the French people who stand out on the side of the roads for that race it is a real pity for them."

Liquigas director Stefano Zanatta with Italian champ Enrico Gasparotto
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Stefano Zanatta felt the ASO should try to respect the rules that the UCI has placed on ProTour events, even though the French organisation never officially counted its races among the new circuit. "The race was officially UCI, the riders and teams are official of the UCI so ASO needs to respect the rules of being a ProTour event," Zanatta said.

The battles rose further when ASO decided in December to accept only 18 ProTour teams to its races, omitting Astana and Although Astana finally received a wildcard invitation, was turned away because of a restriction in FRance that prevents the advertising of gambling services (Unibet is a betting operation).

"ASO can’t take whatever teams they want when the organization of the UCI plus being a ProTour event is already in place. So, they must take all twenty teams."

During the press conference at the end of stage four, world champion Paolo Bettini’s Quick Step director Wilfried Peeters also commented on the subject. "The UCI has asked the teams not to start and I hate this mess," he said. "These people have to understand that they are playing with our future of cycling. I am sad that they are playing with our rights. We have already been struggling over a year against doping and now the UCI is against the Grand Tours and for what? We are all in business together and the name of this business is cycling. We have to stay together, whether we want to or not, because these people are not understanding and I am ashamed of them."

Peeters finished with a strong point on behalf of the ProTour team directors. "You have to understand that you can’t make a movie without actors. We [the team directors] have the actors and we are the ones paying them so if they want to make a film then they need us and they need to find a solution or we will make a solution ourselves. We have a meeting next Friday in Belgium and we are all going to take (that) position."

Giro organiser backs ASO and maintains stance

By Gregor Brown

Angelo Zomegnan
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

"We have not heard from [President of the UCI] Pat McQuaid recently," noted RCS Sport events director Angelo Zomegnan Friday morning to Cyclingnews. The Italian director of Tirreno-Adriatico, Giro d'Italia and Giro di Lombardia, had read about the letter that the UCI sent to the ProTour teams, insisting that they do not participate in Paris-Nice.

"Yes, yesterday, I read the letter. I think that, yet one more time, the UCI has caused problems for the teams without any solutions," he said. Zomegnan commented on ASO's decision to stick with its invitation of 19 ProTour teams. "We will run our race just like Paris-Nice, who ever wants to come can come, who ever wants to stay at home can stay at home; period."

Does this mean RCS Sport will continue without, even with the disapproval of the UCI? "Yes. We will go on to have our races without Unibet. In my house we invite who we want, not who the UCI says."

The Tirreno-Adriatico, run nearly at the same time as the troubled Paris-Nice, March 14 - 20, could be yet another sticking point for the UCI in its quest to keep the ProTour intact. Riders and teams have voiced their concerns over the ProTour-Grand Tour fallout but a solution has yet to be reached, and it is uncertain if every ProTour team will participate in the Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

LNDD technicians questioned in Landis hearing?

Dr Jacques de Ceaurriz, LNDD director - did his lab commit errors important enough to invalidate the test results?
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Two technicians of the French Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage (LNDD) may be questioned at Floyd Landis' disciplinary hearing in front of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that is scheduled to start on May 14.

The laboratory, based in Châtenay-Malabry on the outskirts of Paris, processed the anti-doping tests taken at the 2006 Tour de France, including the samples that led to the charges against the race's overall winner, Landis.

One key argument by Landis' attorneys is that the same two technicians from the French government-owned lab were involved in treating the A sample of the cyclist, as well as the B sample used to confirm the A results. This may invalidate the findings, as it is said to be prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules.

Landis' attorneys have thus asked for the two technicians, Esther Cerpolini and Cynthia Mongongu, to be questioned at the hearing, the LA Times has reported.

Another argument that will be used by Landis' defense is that the lab may have operated one crucial piece of testing equipment under conditions that violated its manufacturers' specifications, moreover using software that was designed for another piece of equipment. The lab has insisted that the instrument, which was used to determine the alleged presence of artificial testosterone in the urine of the rider, was in proper working order.

The arbitration panel held a closed-door session on Thursday to consider Landis' request for more documents from the laboratory and for testimony from lab employees. The panel also considered the USADA's request to retest the nine remaining B samples of Landis from the Tour de France, while his lawyers argue that using the test results in the disciplinary case would violate current anti-doping regulations, as a match between A and B sample is no longer possible.

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

Ullrich explains Spanish court case

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich has denied a report that his attorneys recently applied to a Spanish court to block the transfer of blood bags taken into custody during Operación Puerto to Germany for DNA comparisons. Instead, he announced, his attorneys first filed suit in Spain at the end of last year.

In a statement published on Ullrich's website, his attorney Dr. Ulrich Theune said, "The reasons for this are obvious. The use of the investigation against the Spanish doctor for other purposes is a scandalous arbitrary decision by the investigators. The reports of the Guardia Civil contain a colourful mixture of unfounded claims, conjectures and suspicions. They are illegally constructed, illegally disseminated, and purposely falsely interpreted. For these reasons, there are currently in Spain several court proceedings against leading figures of the Guardia Civil, especially because of the falsification of evidence."

At the same time, rumours of Ullrich signing with Team Volksbank still persist. Thomas Kofler of Team Volksbank confirmed to Cyclingnews Friday morning that he is contact with Ullrich regarding a possible contract. "So far nothing has been signed," he emphasized. "We're still waiting. We don't want to rush into anything. After Monday's press conference we will know more."

Kofler confirmed that he had spoken to Ullrich in the last few days, and will be in touch with him over the weekend. Kofler was planning to spend much of Friday in meetings with various sponsors, trying to work things out. "Things look good," he said.

Basso invests in Leipheimer

By Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso (Discovery)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Wednesday's display of force in the Tour of California by Discovery Channel's Ivan Basso was an investment in future objectives and ensured that Levi Leipheimer stayed in the leader's golden jersey. The American noted the work of his Italian teammate after the stage, "Thanks to Ivan Basso for this great work that he did, in particular at the beginning of the stage," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He went to the front and did a beautiful pull."

The words were contrasting to an article in the Los Angeles Times a few days prior, when the 33 year-old questioned the signing of Basso. Both riders are new to the team for 2007, but Leipheimer was signed first by team manager Johann Bruyneel, and most were surprised in early November when he signed Basso. "I remain a little upset that Discovery took on Basso," Leipheimer said in the American paper. He continued, hinting at possible reoccurring Operación Puerto investigations, "I can understand the motives; he is the number one favourite for Tour, even if there remain unanswered questions about him."

Maybe this is why Basso wanted to put on such a display of force for his teammate in stage three to San José; to prove that the team was not to be completely centred on him. "Yes, I am helping Leipheimer to win, then I hope that further in the season that it will be the turn of him and the others to give me a hand," the 29 year-old rider from Varese commented to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "And now, this work is helping me a lot [for training - ed.]."

In the team car for the stage into Leipheimer's home town was the former rival of the two new Discovery signings, Lance Armstrong. "It was a very interesting stage that was developed with a lot of battles," noted the seven-time Tour champion. "I am happy that Basso has accepted this role [as domestique]; he has a lot of respect for this race."

Basso confirmed that he was giving his all for his teammate, even if it meant finishing three minutes down while Leipheimer fought for glory. "I would have wanted to pull in the second part, up to the top of the climb, but [George] Hincapie and [Tom] Danielson came up and I had to drop off immediately after the beginning of the climb," he noted. "Had I not done so much work in the previous days then maybe I could have stayed up front." Instead he listened to race radio as his teammate kept the leader's jersey but lost the stage to his former CSC teammate Jens Voigt.

Boonen agrees to DNA testing

2005 world road race champion Tom Boonen has signed an agreement with his Quick Step team to undergo DNA testing should he ever be involved in a doping investigation. Contrary to some of his colleagues, especially Italian Paolo Bettini, the Belgian star sprinter is not opposed to the new regulation the ProTour teams imposed on themselves after the various doping scandals that hit cycling last year.

"I'm all for it," Boonen told Sportwereld. "All the Belgians in our team have signed the paper. I don't know if Bettini did, too, but I find that this is a personal matter. If ever there is an affair, the DNA profile can help - more we cannot do. I find it much more difficult to report exactly where and when I will be so that they can control us out of competition. It's not easy to predict things like that all the time."

Freire surprised at victory

By Monika Prell

Óscar Freire was surprised of his victory of the Vuelta a Andalucía, as he confirmed in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS. "I did not think that I could win the Vuelta, but I still had force, I felt strong and all went better than planned." Initially, the Spaniard had not aimed at the overall classification. "The route was more favourable to me this year, because there was no finish in altitude. But my intention was to win a stage. Now I won two and in addition also the Vuelta. I can't ask for more!"

In the end, the Rabobank sprinter beat Predictor-Lotto's Dario Cioni only by one tiny second. "I'm sorry for Cioni," he commented in sportsmanship. "He and his team worked a lot and they deserved it, but in cycling it's no secret that nothing is decided until the last kilometre."

Although Freire has been suffering from spinal cervical problems for a long time, but said that it did not affect him too much at the moment. "I felt well at every day, excepting in Córdoba. I'm better, but now I'll travel to Amsterdam and hope that they will finish curing me. If the lesions leave me alone, then the victories will come."

The triple world champion has his eyes set on Milano-San Remo next. "I'll ride the Tour, the Vuelta a España and the World championship, that is my big goal this year. I hope that I will be able to compete, not like in the last two years," Freire said, when he had to cancel his participation due to his injuries.

Garate injured

Juan Manuel Garate was involved in a crash on Thursday during a downhill section of the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. The Spanish rider and Giro d’Italia 2006 green jersey holder suffered a fracture of the radial head of his right arm, his team Quickstep announced.

Garate will be undergoing further medical checks over the next few days after which it will be possible to ascertain his recovery period.

Zabel & Petacchi together in Valencia

for the first time this season, Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel will start in the same rider roster for their team Milram. At the Vuelta Valenciana (UCI category 2.1) from February 27 to March 3, 2007, the top sprinters will lead a team of eight riders.

Last year, Petacchi won two stages at the Spanish event. This time, organisers have laid out at least two stages suitable for a bunch sprint, in which Zabel will probably be Petacchi's most precious lead-out man.

Team director Antonio Bevilacqua has selected to following riders for the stage race: Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel, Brett Lancaster, Mirko Celestino, Christian Knees, Elia Rigotto, Enrico Poitschke and Marco Velo.

Cancellara receives the 'golden pedal'

World TT champ Fabian Cancellara
Photo ©: Speedplay
(Click for larger image)

Sharp-eyed racing fans attending the Tour of California prologue in San Francisco earlier this week may have noticed something special about the Speedplay Team CSC Edition Zero pedals on the machine of 2006 world time trial champion, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara.

To celebrate Cancellara’s gold medal performance in 2006, Speedplay presented Cancellara with a pair of 24 carat gold-plated Zero pedals for the rider’s first time trial in the rainbow colours of the world champion.

Cancellara was expected to start Friday’s decisive time trial stage in Solvang on the prized pedals, so fans who missed seeing the pedals on Sunday may be able to catch a glimpse of the glittering gold Speedplay Zeros. Speedplay, the supplier of pedals to Team CSC, Health Net/Maxxis, Navigators Insurance and Priority Health, is also exhibiting each day at the 'Tour of California Lifestyle Festival presented by Health Net'. At the exhibition there are displays on the pedals, including its new Speedplay 'Light Action'. Visitors can test the new Light Action along with the other pedals, as well as a competition to win a pair of Speedplay pedals.

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