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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for July 20, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Prudhomme calls press conference on Rasmussen

By Gregor Brown in Montpellier

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

In light of the fact that the Danish federation has kicked current yellow jersey, Michael Rasmussen, out of the national team, Tour director Christian Prudhomme called an impromptu press conference in Montpellier at 10:30 this morning. The start of the meeting with the media got delayed for more than 45 minutes and didn't get underway until 11:20.

Prudhomme informed the press that the Danish federation was unable to find Michael Rasmussen for doping tests on May 8 and June 28, 2007, despite a program in place where riders need to always let the national federations know if they travel and where they can be reached.

Prudhomme continued that on June 29, Anne Gripper, the anti-doping director of the UCI, informed Michael Rasmussen that if he missed a third test it would be considered a non-negative test.

The director of the Tour questioned the timing of releasing the news of events that have happened in June. "Why now, on July 19?" Prudhomme asked, and wondered "is there any more information available now than on July 1? The Danish Federaton had cleared him to ride the Danish Championships [then] and [without any more information] Rasmussen will be able to start today's stage."

The head of the Tour also listed the recent conducted tests of the Rabobank rider. "He had a blood test on June 30," which was a day before the Danish championships as well as on July 5th, when all Tour teams were tested. Additional blood controls were conducted on July 17 and the Dane had also a string of urine tests, on July 15, 17, 18 and 19.

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Prudhomme elaborated that "WADA, the UCI and the team [Rabobank] have the results already, but we as the organisers of the Tour de France are still waiting for the results."

Michael Rasmussen was suspected by some to be one of the "Men in Black". The Dane admits that he sometimes doesn't train in the Rabobank outfit, but says his jersey of choice is blue. He lives near Lago di Garda in Italy, but sometimes trains in the high altitudes of Mexico, where his wife is from.

Sinkewitz asks for B-sample test

Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Patrik Sinkewitz has asked to have his B-sample tested, the German cycling federation has confirmed. The results of that test are expected Sunday, at the earliest. It was announced earlier this week that he had tested positive on June 8 for testosterone, and he was subsequently suspended by his team, T-Mobile.

The German television sender ZDF said that there may be procedural problems with Sinkewitz' test. ZDF revealed that it had information that the control sheet for the test indicated that the room where the sample was taken was open to the public.

Sylvia Schenk, former president of the German cycling federation, the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR), has called it "a formal error, at most. But right now there is a lot of indications [that we have a doping case]."

NADA, the German National Anti-Doping Agency, has rejected the claim and said the test was done according to preocedure.

Schenk also has called on T-Mobile to fire Sport Director Rolf Aldag, claiming that he knew that there were suspicions about Sinkewitz, which he did not follow up on. "It's right, that Frau Schenk has spoken to me of her suspicions," Aldag told the dpa press agency. She called him in May to tell him of her suspicions, whereupon Aldag got in touch with the BDR.

Schenk's concerns go back to the 2000 World Championships, when Sinkewitz was on the German U23 team. He was withdrawn from the team following the time trial, in which he finished 33rd. "But only because he was sick," said Burkhardt Bremer, the BDR's Sport Director.

"Bremer told me explicitly, that there was nothing against Sinkewitz at the 2000 Worlds," Aldag contended. It was rumoured that Sinkewitz had a high hematocrit value at an altitude training camp in Colorado before the Worlds, a value which could indicate the use of EPO. "I can't discredit a rider on the basis of such suspicions."

Deignan ready to return to racing

By Shane Stokes

Philip Deignan (right - Ag2r)
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Irish rider Philip Deignan has a strong programme of racing laid out and hopes for a good second half to the season after several months lost to injury. The third year Ag2r Prévoyance professional has taken several good results in the past, including second place on a mountain stage of the 2006 Tour de l'Avenir, but this year he was sidelined through first a knee problem and then a calf muscle strain.

"It's been pretty frustrating," he told "I had a knee injury at the start of the year and only got three weeks good training in before I started back racing. I think I probably did a little bit too much too soon, I wasn't ready for it. I did Circuit de la Sarthe and Four Days of Dunkirk and some other races and then Catalunya. I tore a calf muscle there, just from overdoing it. There is no other reason for it. I crashed in the race but I already had the pain before I crashed, so it was nothing to do with that.

"It basically meant I had to take more time off the bike. I have got a few weeks training in at this stage so hopefully I will be okay until the end of the season."

Deignan turned professional after a strong 2004 season when he won two stages plus the overall in the prestigious Ronde d'Isard World Cup stage race, finished eighth in the under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège [despite being sent the wrong way], took third on two climbing stages (stage 5 and >stage 9 of the Baby Giro and top twenty GC places against the pros in the Tour of Britain and Tour de Langkawi.

In 2005 he recovered from a crash in the Tour of the Mediterranean to take his first pro win in the Tour du Doubs. He also placed third on a stage and eighth overall in Paris-Corrèze and got several other good placings, including fifth in the European championships and ninth in the under 23 worlds.

Last season was a frustrating one, with a broken collarbone and glandular fever [mononucleosis] causing him to miss a substantial chunk of racing. However he came good towards the end of the Tour de l'Avenir, placing second to Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux) on the mountainous eighth stage to Saint-Genis-Pouilly.

The Donegal rider finished things off with a solid 14th in the following day's mountain time trial and tenth on the tough final stage, placing 22nd overall. Without all the disruptions to his season and that concomitant time loss on days one and two, he surely would have been higher in the general classification.

He's got ability, but hasn't had a good run at things since the 2005 season. The 23 year-old is hoping that all changes now. "I will get back to racing in the Polynormande [August 5th – ed.]," he said. "My form is coming along but there is a bit of work to do. I was only doing an hour and a half of training a couple of weeks ago but now I am doing pretty good four or five-hour rides.

"When you haven't raced in a while you lose speed so I will be missing that for the first few races. But my form is at a decent level at the moment and I still have another two weeks to get ready. It will be okay."

All going to plan, he will have plenty of opportunity to chase a good result. He'll also make his Grand Tour debut. "Pretty much every race I will do between now and the end of the year are all pretty big. The Tour of Germany, the Tour of Ireland, the Tour of Spain and then right up to the Tour of Lombardy. When the riders are tired in the Vuelta and the Classic races at the end of the year, I will hopefully be fresh and riding well. I will target all of them, right through Lombardy. I think the Worlds should also be a possibility.

"The Tour of Ireland is going to be great to do. It is a brilliant opportunity. I haven't raced in Ireland for ages. I will have the opportunity to race against T-Mobile there as well as the other ProTour teams that are riding. It is a great opportunity and I am really looking forward to it."

Brother versus brother

It's brother against brother in the Tour de France -- quite literally. Ralf Grabsch rides for Team Milram while his older brother Bert is employed by T-Mobile, but the two would-be rivals couldn't be much closer. Going into today's stage, the two are in places 132 (Bert) and 133 (Ralf), separated by a grand total of 13 seconds.

They finished with the same time in Thursday's stage, both in the first group, with Ralf winning the family duel in 24th, ahead of Bert in 30th. But they have finished even closer together in this race. Bert "won" the second Alps stage, but just barely, as they came in in places 108 and 109. "We came in with the same large group," he said on "But he must have been on the other side of the pack. I didn't notice that we placed together."

The other pair of brothers are the Chavanels. Sébastien rides for Française Des Jeux, Sylvain is a Cofidis member. And they couldn't be further apart, being separated by almost 1 hour and 20 minutes in the overall, although they came in together at 105 and 106 in yesterday's stage, 3'20" off the pace.

Before the start of stage 10 French TV chatted to the pair and asked if they ever see each other during the stages. Sylvain was quickest to reply, saying "not so much in the mountain stages. I usually see him [Sébastien] on TV when he comes in with the gruppetto."

The two are very different type of racers. Sylvain has been going in several breakaways and wearing the mountain leader's jersey for a few days, whereas Sébastien is a sprinter and has finished in the top ten four times this Tour, with a fourth place on two occasions the best result.

They expected stage 10 to be better suited for Sylvain and the run-in the day after to Montpellier an affair for the sprinters.

Milram's big breakfast

Enrico Poitschke of Team Milram was tired of the usual Tour de France breakfast of baguettes, muesli and yoghurt, and asked for an omelet with cheese on the morning before the stage to Marseille. He got enough -- more than enough. "It took four of us to finish it," he said of the omelet, which turned out to be the size of a large pizza. "They did something good for us," he said, after sharing his breakfast with half of his teammates.

German politicians angered by SAT 1

Many German politicians had welcomed the decision by the two public German channels, ARD and ZDF, to stop broadcasting the Tour de France following the doping case of Patrik Sinkewitz. Quickly, however, the cable channel SAT 1 took over and started the broadcast a day later.

The reactions from the various parties were in quickly, with Peter Danckert (SPD), leading the Sports Board, remarking that "The private channels can do what they want. And that is what they do. The public channels need to be a role model. There is a fear that a private channel won't report as critical about the doping issue."

Winfried Hermann (Green Party) called the decision "a scandal. Even private channels should have ethical guidelines and not just look at the quick buck. Otherwise it appears they are just becoming doping channels."

SAT 1 doesn't have much experience with bike racing, according to the Spiegel Online, even though they had broadcast the Deutschland Tour in 1999 and firm plans to also show the Tour in the future. To make up for the lack of expertise, they are now trying to get the cycling moderators from the public channels as consultants.

SAT 1 had contacted ASO, the Tour de France organisers, within hours after the other channels' pullout. The former cyclo cross world champion Mike Kluge will be the co-commentator.

ARD and ZDF still have a contract until 2008. An option to extend to 2009 has not yet been decided on by either channel.

Rominger on doping

Matthias Kessler (Astana)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Former rider and current rider agent Tony Rominger has a doping problem: two of his clients, Matthias Kessler and Patrik Sinkewitz have both tested positive recently for testosterone, and his other Astana clients Alexander Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden have been mentioned in connection with the UCI's "Men in Black" investigation.

As to the two positive tests, "I can't understand it," Rominger said in an interview with He noted that "I can't do anything more" for Kessler. "He'll have to take care of his own defence, he has taken Herr Lehner as an attorney. If is he is acquitted, then we will surely work together again. If not, then it's all over."

He expected Sinkewitz' B-sample to also test positive. "They almost all say at first, I didn't take anything, I didn't do anything! I don't know what I should believe."

The positive tests for his clients aren't good for him ("There is surely better advertising than this"), but "I see the Sinkewitz case as damage to the image of T-Mobile primarily. They said that they have everything under control with their internal anti-doping program. The team management can do a lot, but they can't control everything. It is impossible to control what the guys do at home."

Rominger responded angrily to charges that Vinokourov and Klöden were involved in the "Men in Black" investigation. "That took a lot of nerve, to write things like that about Klöden. He has never trained in southern France and has never worn a black jersey for training. Right now it is hunting season. Too often, people write first and research later. And Alexander Vinokourov is contractually obligated to ride every day in his team jersey. The people who make the controls recognize the riders, even if they wear black jerseys. That was total nonsense and unnecessary and led to a lot of speculation.

"I am very disappointed by cycling," he concluded. "We thought we had a new beginning. After the Festina scandal, we thought that cycling was going the right way. The Floyd Landis doping case has done the most damage. That was the lowest point for me. The Puerto affair would be so easy to solve. The documents are there and the blood bags are there, the riders have all agreed to do a DNA test. I don't know what they are waiting for. We should try to close the case and make a new start."

Axel Merckx to join Lance Armstrong at Tour of Courage

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: David Reinhardt
(Click for larger image)

The British Columbia Cancer Foundation announced today that Axel Merckx, who is currently competing in the Tour de France, will participate in the BC Cancer Foundation Tour of Courage Community Ride, September 23, featuring Lance Armstrong.

A statement sent by Merckx from France read that "I am delighted to be returning to Vancouver to again help raise funds for the BC Cancer Foundation and participate with Lance Armstrong in the BC Cancer Foundation's Tour of Courage Community Ride. The challenges and pain I face as a cyclist are a result of what I choose to do, others did not choose their path through cancer. What they battle is much tougher than anything I have done. I hope my participation can help in some way."

In 2005 Axel took part with his father Eddy Merckx in "an evening of champions", organised by the Wedgewood Cycling Team which raised over $100,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation.

It is expected that other cycling celebrities will be announcing their participation in the coming weeks in what promises to be a star packed peloton.

The Tour of Courage Community Ride will be held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on Sunday, September 23 2007 For more details visit

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