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Latest Cycling News for July 5, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

Sastre signed and ready

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Carlos Sastre
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Carlos Sastre has signed UCI riders' anti-doping agreement and is ready to take his chances in an open Tour de France. The 32 year-old of Team CSC spoke from his home town of Madrid about his options in the three-week race.

He signed the UCI riders' anti-doping agreement before departing to the Barajas (Madrid) airport for London. "I signed it, but it does not take into account my personal and ethical values," Sastre commented to Cyclingnews at a press conference near his home. "In life it is necessary to adopt decisions against my will, and this one is one of them. I have signed, along with all of my teammates, to be able to attend the Tour."

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"I have arrived calm and relaxed for this date, with the work completed that guarantees me to be able to fight and I have the motivation necessary to do something important," stated the little climber, winner of the 2003 Tour stage 13.

"This Tour will be exciting, because nobody can control the race as Lance Armstrong used to do." Sastre will co-lead the team with Luxemburger Fränk Schleck.

He did not want to mention the names of potential rivals. "I do not like to give names before a race. The biggest rival for all of us is the Tour and, after that, the weather. The development of the Tour will provide answers to some questions," he continued.

"I had certain freedom. I had to work for Hamilton and Basso," he said of his past Tour participation. "I had fewer responsibilities but I also could not defend my time gains. In the last Tour, I assumed the responsibility in an unexpected and hasty manner. However, this year I have had time to concentrate. I am working to reach something important for me, for CSC and for my family."

Sastre believes the difficulties will come in the Tour's second set of mountains. "The high mountains have the same difficulties as always, although this year they will be more demanding in the Pyrénées than in the Alps. I believe that the key-stage will be the one that finishes on the top of the Col d'Aubisque, after confronting, among others, the Larraut [in Navarra, Spain. Stage 13 - ed.]."

The two long time trials worry him. "I am not a specialist, although I have been working in depth to improve and I will try to defend myself as well as possible."

American David Zabriskie confirmed the team support for Sastre. "At this point we are all committed to Fränk and Carlos," he said in an interview with Cyclingnews. "Carlos has the experience."

Cyclingnews will have full interviews with Zabriskie and Sastre in the next two days.

Riis responds to Jaksche and removes himself from Tour

Riis to watch Tour from distance
Photo ©: Cyclingworld
(Click for larger image)

Bjarne Riis has issued a press statement to respond to the allegations made by former rider Jörg Jaksche in the German magazine Der Spiegel. The Team Manager of CSC summarized that he is upset about the "turbulence" caused around his squad on the eve of the 2007 Tour de France and, thus, he has decided not to take an "active" role at the race.

"I strongly object to the accusations made in the interview with Jörg Jaksche," said the Dane. Jaksche rode for Team CSC for one year, in 2004. "I have not had any knowledge of, nor have I encouraged the use of illegal substances by Team CSC riders. ... My conscience is clean, but if Jörg Jaksche has another view on the matter, he needs to present documentation in proof of his allegations."

Jaksche noted the training controls initially were "pretty lax." The German said he stopped taking EPO after the 2004 Paris-Nice because of the increased risks of being caught. "Cortisone, however, we took pretty much all season long," he admitted of that year.

"I have replied at length to the accusations that have been made, but Der Spiegel decided not to print my replies," continued Riis.

The winner of the 1996 Tour de France recently came out and admitted to doping during the year that he had won the French Grand Tour.

"I am upset by the fact that my team, my staff, my riders and especially our sponsors are confronted by these allegations on a daily basis, and I am also upset that I have become the target of such accusations following my public confession. I came forward in order to wipe the slate clean, not to claim the responsibility for other people's mistakes. They alone have that responsibility."

Team CSC has been leading the way with their own anti-doping program in the wake of recent scandals and it supports the UCI ProTour Anti-Doping Programme 100% against doping. Riis reminded the naysayers of his work.

"It bothers me a great deal that the ground breaking and sincere work Team CSC is doing to fight doping has to be compromised ... I know we are fighting harder than anyone else to try and rid the sport of doping and my riders and our sponsors deserve credit for that.

"At the moment, I am surrounded by so much turbulence and I do not wish for this to have a negative effect on the focus or in any way influence the atmosphere surrounding the team during such an important race. ... I feel that I have come to the limits of my own energy.

"For the next three weeks the riders and Team CSC have the right to concentrate fully on Tour de France, and the debate regarding me and the allegations made against me will have to be taken elsewhere. I want to fight to clean my name and I want to find the energy to do that."

Riis stated he is removing himself from the Tour. "I have chosen not to be actively involved in this year's edition of the Tour apart from the obligations I have towards my sponsors. It has been a very difficult decision, but it is mine alone and is not made because of pressure from the outside, nor does it in any way reflect on whether there is any truth to the allegations."

Masterseek cosponsors Team CSC

Team CSC announced Thursday morning that internet company Masterseek signed a contract to be a cosponsor starting with the 2007 Tour de France. The Masterseek name will be displayed on the team's apparel for the first time this Saturday, when the Tour starts in London with the 7.9-kilometre prologue.

The team recently lost cosponsor MAN but with the addition of Masterseek and Computer Sciences Corporation's (CSC) commitment to continue sponsoring the team is set to remain as a force in cycling. Masterseek's contract runs to the end of this year but the team hopes to talk to company later this year concerning a longer collaboration.

"We are very happy to sponsor the most prestigious and professional cycling team in the world. The team has some well-defined values, which we share and which reflect a professional, modern company. In our dialogue with the team we have been met with a passion and respect for what it takes to be the best in the world and that ties up perfectly with our own ambitions in our particular area of business," announced Masterseek President and CEO Robert P. Perz. Masterseek is a global business-to-business search engine.

"In Masterseek we have found an exciting and dedicated new sponsor and we are excited to start the Tour with this new partner on board. Over the next three weeks our team has to show our fans and sponsors, what we do best, and I am very proud and happy that we can do this with a new cosponsor. I look forward to working with Masterseek," said Bjarne Riis in a press release.

Klöden considers UCI riders' agreement "degrading"

Andreas Klöden
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden (Astana) has finally signed the UCI riders' agreement "because I want to start the Tour de France." The German rider expressed his disagreement with the UCI's actions.

In an interview to German paper Die Welt the podium-hopeful for the Tour declared that "again a decision was made without involving the athletes. I am at an age where I don't want to be shifted around like a chess piece."

Klöden explained that there is always a chance to fall into a case with contaminated samples and then "I have to pay back a year's salary. I have a family to feed." The German declared that he is afraid of doping controls, not because he has something to hide, but because of a false positive.

The recent string of admissions surprised him and he never would have believed that people like Henn, Bölts or Zabel took drugs. The stories of Bert Dietz and Jörg Jaksche on the other hand he thinks were triggered by the six-figure sums they allegedly received. "I'd only believe it if they pay back every cent they earned illegally."

Klöden is vehemently opposed to an amnesty. He says that despite being treated by the two T-Mobile doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid he has not doped. Asked what he does so people can believe him he replied that "I am obliged to tell the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] three months ahead of time when I am going somewhere. I have to tell them exactly where I can be reached mornings and afternoon for a three-month period. The UCI is getting the same information, along with the German Anti-Doping Agency [NADA] and the Swiss anti-doping office."

When confronted with the fact that many riders have been slipping through the controls the Astana rider gets frustrated. "Should I now also take on making sure the labs have better control methods? I can only say it and show it. If 20 or 30 people dope that doesn't mean everyone does it. There are riders who risk doping so they can get where a Jan Ullrich, a Michael Schumacher or a Boris Becker had been." Klöden concluded that if "everyone did what I am doing cycling would be clean."

"In 2001 I was already excited three weeks ahead of time. I am certain this Tour will be less about the sport and more about doping. It's a horror scenario." One that he'd be prepared to even leave the Tour for, if things get too much out of hand.

On the sporting side he has prepared to be able to contend for the overall victory. Although he thought that "this year's winner may have less fun than the victors in the 1990s, when everything was still OK."

Le Tour in Britain

London is the fastest growing cycling community in Europe. One who can be at least partially credited for that is mayor Ken Livingstone, who's decision to charge car drivers going into the inner city has made people look for alternative transportation. Now the biggest bike race in the world will embark from Hyde Park with the prologue this Saturday, which should give an additional boost.

The most famous Tour rider of the British Islands is no doubt Tom Simpson, sadly so for leaving his life on the slopes of the Mount Ventoux due to doping in the 1967 Tour, reports AFP.

This always overshadowed other great accomplishments, reports the Volkskrant, such as the twelve Tour participations of Barry Hoban. In the 80's it was Scotsman Robert Millar, who lit up the mountain stages, taking three of them. This was also the times of super-domestique Sean Yates, who was known as the best descender in his time, even acknowledged by Miguel Indurain, who himself wasn't a wimp when the roads pointed downwards. Yates also was known as a great time trialer, winning the Wasquehals time trial in 1988.

Chris Boardman then came on the scene, even faster than Yates in the race against the clock and won three Yellow Jerseys in the 1994, 1997 and 1998 prologues. Then it was David Millar, also known for his time trial ability and taking the prologue in the 2000 edition before being sidelined for two years following his admission to doping.

David Millar is now back, stating he is riding clean and will tackle the prologue Saturday on home soil. Bradley Wiggins is another British rider hoping to win the yellow jersey. He recently won the prologue of the Dauphiné Libéré.

Landis will know verdict Friday

According to Belgian website, American Floyd Landis will learn about his fate Friday (local US time) by the American Anti-Doping agency (USADA). The year-long case will know a verdict on the eve of the next Tour de France.

Landis is accused of having used testosterone in last year's stage 17. If convicted he will lose his title of Tour de France winner. The French authorities will wait for the USADA outcome before continuing with their procedures, so even if found innocent by his country's agency the struggle for the Californian will not be over.

The timing of the announcement a year after the Tour is puzzling, prompting Tour head Christian Prudhomme's to react, "It already wasn't very logical that a positive sample from last July was only juristically dealt with in May this year in the United States."

Gerdemann in support for Rogers

Linus Gerdemann of T-Mobile is getting ready to tackle his first Tour de France.

He sees himself mostly in support for the team and especially Australian Michael Rogers, who has chances of getting onto the podium in Paris. The German told radsport-aktiv that his preparation went well and "we'll see what the Tour de Suisse did for my condition."

His plan to ride strongly in the German Championships didn't quite pan out. "The decisive group was established after five kilometres, so it wasn't a real test for me."

He revealed that his favourites to take the crown in Paris are Klöden, Leipheimer, Valverde and Vinokourov.

Record number of German Tour riders

Nineteen Germans will start the Tour this Saturday in London. This new record, up by two from the previous best, shows that Germany is still benefiting from the Jan Ullrich-boom, even with the current negative headlines.

Team Gerolsteiner only has two foreigners in their line-up for the Tour, but Austrians Bernhard Kohl and Peter Wrolich at least speak the same language. Milram sends five German and T-Mobile four. Astana (Klöden), CSC (Voigt) and Rabobank (Niermann) have one German each in their formations.

Erik Zabel of Milram is the senior, starting his 13th Tour and hoping to advance his number of stage wins (12) to the same margin. Seven professional will make their debut in the French race. Stefan Schumacher and Heinrich Haussler of Gerolsteiner are especially given good chances to start their Tour careers with a stage win.

Germans at Le Tour
Gerolsteiner: Markus Fothen, Robert Förster, Heinrich Haussler, Sven Kraus, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, and Fabian Wegmann.
Milram: Ralf Grabsch, Christian Knees, Enrico Poitschke, Marcel Sieberg and Erik Zabel.
T-Mobile: Marcus Burghardt, Linus Gerdemann, Bert Grabsch, Patrik Sinkewitz
Astana: Andreas Klöden
CSC: Jens Voigt
Rabobank: Grischa Niermann

Marzoli not responding to CONI

Ruggero Marzoli did not respond yesterday to the questions of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri during the one hour and 15 minute hearing. CONI summoned Marzoli for questioning stemming from the 2004 Oil for Drugs investigation.

"The cyclist did not want to interfere with the legal work of the Pescara prosecutor," noted Marzoli's lawyer, Nicolò Velati. However, Torri noted that the 31 year-old cyclist from Abruzzo had a "collaborative attitude," according to

"It was an interlocutory meeting. Our line of defence is based on the eavesdropping of NAS (Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group)," concluded Velati.

Another CONI hearing is expected for Marzoli. For more details on the Oil for Drugs, read NAS blitz nets nada and NAS raid Giro again from 2004.

Centenary Tour

By Paul Verkuylen

Cyclingnews' latest video in our collection takes a look back at the drama that was the centenary tour. From Beloki crashing out on Bastille Day, to Lance being taken out by a handbag and Ullrich crashing into the hay bails on the final time trial stage the tour was full of ups and downs.

In 2003 the Tour de France celebrated its centenary tour. It had been 100 years since Maurice Garin won the very first tour organised by Henri Desgrange, in 1903 to increase awareness of his magazine L'Auto. Since the the tour had been run 90 times, only stopping for the world wars, and has grown into the biggest annual sporting event world wide.

The centenary tour was a true celebration of the sport, and everyone involved combined to make it one of the most memorable. During the event le tour visited each town that hosted the start or finish of a stage during the very first tour de France as well as honouring each of its greats, who made the tour what it is today.

Of course Lance Armstrong went onto win that tour and in doing so also wrote his name into the history books as only the fifth rider in history to win the tour five times, and only the second to do so consecutively.

Click here to view the video.

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