Latest Cycling News for July 26, 2007
Edited by Bjorn Haake, with assistance by Susan Westemeyer
TdF 2007 - Prudhomme holds court prior to stage 17
- UCI didn't give enough warning about Rasmussen, claims race director
By Gregor Brown in Pau
Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme spoke to the press this morning yet again, concerning recent events around former yellow jersey wearer Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Prudhomme blamed the UCI for not clearly communicating the facts about Rasmussen's missed tests, otherwise "he would not have been allowed to start". The Tour director said he tried to call McQuaid, but "apparently he was on vacation."
The big news yesterday was that Rasmussen had left the Tour, and "there will be no yellow jersey in today's stage," the director said. The next yellow jersey will be awarded at the end of today's stage to Castelsarrasin.
Prudhomme summarized the events of last night, when he was informed by Theo de Rooy of Rabobank that Rasmussen was let go by the team due to his lying about his whereabouts in June. Prudhomme elaborated on the fact that communication was slower yesterday as "we were in the mountains and the phones didn't always work."
The Frenchman, who is in the Tour's head spot for the first time since taking over from Jean-Marie Leblanc, commented on Rasmussen's press conference two days earlier. "His answers were unsatisfactory. Now we know more about his whereabouts schedule and he does not have a place in the Tour. This is proof he shouldn't even have started the Tour."
On the question why the whole team didn't get removed from the Tour, Prudhomme stated that "In other teams there were positive test cases. This is not the case here."
He again took a stab at the UCI: the "rules aren't the problem. The real problem is that we had [an accord] with the UCI and the teams, but the UCI and some teams did not respect that. They should have been up front earlier."
Prudhomme and Patrice Clerc, president of ASO, are drawing strength out of the Rasmussen mess, which is "the best news in the last eight days". According to the pair, things are changing and "the problem is not cycling, the problem is doping." Prudhomme sees yesterday's rider's protest as a good sign. "Ten years ago they would have protested against doping controls. Now they are protesting against the cheats."
In terms of the Contador linkage to Operación Puerto the Tour director again blamed the UCI for putting Contador on the list prematurely and elaborated that the "presumption of innocence does not exist anymore. Due to the system there are are doubts about all riders," but he wants this to change back to the concept of innocent until proven otherwise.
While it's never too early to look at next year's event, Prudhomme didn't really know yet how the invitation process would pan out for 2008. "We want to work with the different anti-doping agencies, though," he made clear that the fight against doping is high on the priority list.
By his own account the Tour director slept well and his personal opinion on the stage yesterday was that it "was one of the best stages I have ever seen." He maintained that "the Tour is a magnificent event and we need to defend it." In the end he emphasize one more time that "the Tour is not the enemy. Doping is."
Rasmussen decision welcomed by the UCI
Governing body calls for unity in tackling problem, not chaos
By Shane Stokes
The Rabobank squad of Tour de France maillot jaune Michael Rasmussen may initially have defended its rider when suspicions arose about his behaviour before the race, but in receiving proof that he had lied about his whereabouts, it made the decision to pull him from the race and fire him from the team.
UCI president Pat McQuaid has welcomed the development, even if it is a tough one for cycling “I think it is a shock for the sport, it is another blow, but having said that, it shows that the teams operate to a high ethical standards,” he told Cyclingnews on Thursday morning. “It was on an ethical platform that he was taken out by his team.
“They got strong proof that he had lied to him in relation to his whereabouts; he told them he was in Mexico while in actual fact he was in Italy. He was thrown out on that basis. From that point of view, I would have to support Rabobank completely because there are more forms of cheating than just doping. Telling lies within a team framework is also cheating as well.”
Rasmussen admitted to the team that he had indeed told mistruths about where he was. Was he doing it to avoid out of competition tests, or perhaps to work with a preparatore behind his team’s back?
“That’s not something that I can verify,” said McQuaid of those possibilities. “But his behaviour certainly leads to suspicion, and a lack of credibility as a result. In this sport, particularly in these times, we can't afford that.”
Tour organiser ASO has criticised the UCI over the Rasmussen and Vinokourov affairs, and has been talking in vague terms about setting up a new system. It’s unclear if this is a planned rival to the ProTour, or something more. McQuaid says that the last thing cycling needs at these difficult moments is further splits. Instead, it’s essential to co-operate.
“I firmly believe that now is the time for the cycling family to work together and to stay together united. The only way we are going to get through this is if everybody is working together in the one direction,” he stated. “Split and divides and any talks of other leagues or other federations will only bring the sport completely into the cauldron, so to speak.
“Now is the time for everybody to be putting their differences aside and working together for the future of the sport.”
ASO said in recent days that the current system does not work and that the Tour has not been protected. McQuaid counters by saying that the very fact that big names are being caught is a sign that the anti-doping fight is moving in the right direction, that the pressure is being applied that will finally make teams and riders realise that change needs to happen.
“I’m not sure what they [ASO] are talking about as regards a new system,” he said. “Some of the statements they are making are bit paradoxical because they are saying that the [current] system doesn't work.
“Well, if they are referring to doping, is completely wrong to say that. The anti-doping fight is working, the tests are catching people, so therefore that system - which they have bought into and everybody in the cycling family has bought into - is functioning and being seen to do so.
“For the younger riders, for all the other riders in the sport now, they need to understand that. It’s no longer the case that any riders can think that it is possible to have a clever strategy which can beat the system. They need to realise that that is no longer true, that they will ultimately be caught [if they dope]. The tests are evolving all of the time and the tests will catch the cheats. To say that system is not working is not correct.
“If what they are actually saying is that the ProTour system itself is not working, well then once again it is paradoxical. ASO refused to accept Astana as a ProTour team; it gave them a wild card into the event and therefore it was ASO themselves who invited them there. It can’t be said that the ProTour system is responsible for Astana being in the Tour, and for Astana now being out of the race.”
This Tour de France has had two high profile cases with Vinokourov testing positive and Rasmussen being ejected from the race. Christian Moreni’s positive result for testosterone is a smaller story, but also a significant one as it lead to his entire Cofidis team leaving.
Those developments are undoubtedly negative in the short term, but McQuaid said that patience is needed. “A couple of bad apples can’t spoil an orchard. The fact that we are catching the cheats means that our anti-doping system is working. It was never going to happen overnight. It wasn't the case that we could guarantee that the sport is clean by virtue of announcements or statements or pledges. It is going to take some time to convince all the cyclists of this.”
Can Cadel take the top step of the podium in Paris?
Cadel Evans knows he's been beaten by cheats before. Despite the omnipresent doping controversy at this year's Tour de France, the Australian is focused on nothing other than bringing his country its first Tour victory, reports Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson.
Australia's reputation on the international cycling scene has skyrocketed in the past 15 years, with the country now considered among the top cycling nations in the world, especially in the hyper-competitive area of men's road cycling. Despite its successes at almost all other levels and disciplines of the sport, one victory has eluded its riders: a Grand Tour victory. The Tour de France's maillot jaune has been worn by several Australian riders, most recently by a flying Brad McGee and a tenacious Stuart O'Grady. But to take the leader's jersey as the race hits the mountains and reaches its destination in Paris is another thing. The country's greatest road cyclist, Phil Anderson, came close twice during the '80s, finishing in fifth place in both 1982 and '85. However, Anderson did secure the maillot blanc of the race's leading 'young rider' in 1981.
More than two decades would pass before another rider matched Anderson's accomplishment, with Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans finishing fifth in the general classification at last year's Tour. The 30 year-old Evans is currently on track to become the highest place finisher of all his countrymen at the world's most prestigious race, as he effectively holds second place on GC, but it's one position higher Evans is eyeing off.
"Back in London we had two goals," Predictor-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant explained on Tuesday's rest day. "The first was to win a stage, which we did with Robbie [McEwen]. The second was to be on the podium in Paris with Cadel, and right at this moment he is in third place with five days to go. So we're on schedule. We're going to need to do everything we can to keep him there or maybe to improve."
A lot can happen in two days at a Grand Tour, and the period since Sergeant made the comments hasn't been any different. Since then the Tour's leader, Michael Rasmussen, has been axed by his Dutch Rabobank ProTour squad. The Dane's sacking should see Evans take back second place on GC once the order reshuffles at the end of today's stage - depending on how the day unfolds, of course.
"To be honest, I am happy to have [the mountains] behind us," he wrote on his website, cadel.com.au. "[The stage was] a bit of a mess at the start, with some riders trying to protest. I thought we were here to race our bikes, not to make political statements."
To read the full feature on Cadel Evans, click here.
Former pro cyclist Jan Koerts announced live on Dutch television Wednesday night that he used doping products during this career. "You come to a given point in your career where you have to decide," he said on the show De Avondetappe.
"Either you consider your career has failed or you participate in doping," he said. "I have participated. It was that or put an end to my career.
"If I could live with the lie?" he asked. "You go to the controls, which turn out negative, and then life goes on."
Koerts rode professionally from 1992 to 2005, riding for PDM, Festina, Palmans, Rabobank, Cologne, Farm Frites, Mercury, Domo, Bankgiroloterij, Chocolate Jacques and Cofidis. He won a stage in the Vuelta a España and was Dutch national champion in 2001. He retired because of injuries suffered in a crash in the Volta a Portugal in 2005. He tried to make a comeback this year.
Armstong may visit the Tour
Inspired by the performances of Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer of the Discovery Channel team, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong told AFP he may change his mind and visit the last few days of the Tour. That was a day before the Tour's final mountain stage in the Pyrénées and before news about Vinokourov had broken.
Armstrong had strong words then in the Rasmussen case, saying that "it's 2007, everyone's accessible by cell phone, e-mail or Blackberry." He also stated that "I declared where I was 365 days a year. Everybody has to play by the same rules."
Armstrong also talked to MSBNC on Wednesday, after it was announced that Cristian Moreni had tested positive for testosterone and Moreni's team, Cofidis, had quit the Tour, but before the Rasmussen pullout was announced. The Texan declared that "this shows that the controls work. Cycling does more [in the fight against doping] than any other sport."
The outspoken American compared the Vinokourov case to the one of Tyler Hamilton, adding that "it doesn't make sense. Why would someone take the risk and make the same mistake?"
Voigt fed up
Jens Voigt is sick and tired of his doping colleagues. "I am fed up with this. They make our life difficult and complicated. Through their obvious stupidity, they risk the existence of the teams, including soigneurs, mechanics, bus drivers and so on."
Writing on Sport1.de, he said that "These people go home now and hide behind their attorneys. But I stand here on the front line. I have to answer all the questions and talk about doping. And I don't have anything to do with it.
"The sit-in strike before the start was great," he said sarcastically. "It just happened to have been organized by Moreni's team. That was really a good one!"
Voigt added, though, that the demonstration could have been more successful, if it had been better planned. "I only found out about it two minutes before the start. We weren't told what we were demonstrating for or against, and how long it should last."
"We can only hope that the sponsors won't all drop out, and instead will say, 'Let's go through these hard times together.'"
The CSC rider opposed suggestions that the Tour be ended early. "That would mean that the good guys have given up and the bad guys have won. I don't want that. That would be the wrong signal."
Boogerd wants to go home
Tour de France organizers have said that the remaining Rabobank riders are welcome to stay in the race, and the team management has said that it will leave that decision up to the individual riders. But Michael Boogerd said last night that he wanted to go home.
"To ride for four more days in the Tour for nobody? I won't do that," he said, according to Sporza. "I don't know what I should think of all this. I want to go home immediately.
"And what do you think it will be like in the criteriums?" Boogerd continued, according to HLN.be. "At Boxmeer you come to the start and the announce will say, 'Look, here we have Michael Boogerd, who rode for Rasmussen for weeks.' I find it terrible."
"I don't want to think about it. This is a disaster, man. I hadn't held it for possible."
Boogerd has already announced that he will retire at the end of this season.
The Rabobank team is staying in the same hotel as the teams Euskaltel, Caisse d'Epargne and CSC, and while those three showed signs of live Thursday morning with the mechanics running around and getting the bikes ready for the stage, the Rabobank area was suspiciously quiet.
Official Tour Communiqué after stage 16
The official communication of the Tour de France organisers, a list of race jury decisions and medical report compiled over the course of the day, had some rather interesting facts in it, even though it failed to acknowledge the wasp sting that Michael Rasmussen sustained on yesterday's hot stage.
The medical report showed that Voigt and Ballan, who had crashed on the descent of the Col de la Pierre St. Martin, had minor skin scrapes and several riders were reported with stomach problems, even forcing one rider to abandon (Matthieu Sprick of Bouygues Telecom).
The jury decisions were more exciting, as several racers received time penalties, usually for getting a tow from the team car. The penalties depend on the distance being towed and the how often they did it - or at least how often they got caught. Yesterday the range was from 10 seconds to 40 seconds (Niermann and Weening).
The biggest unusual item was the one stating that "after notification by the UCI about the positive result of a doping test conducted July 19 after stage 11 between Marseille and Montpellier, Moreni (Ita) was excluded from the race. The rider has accepted the result and is not requesting a B sample analysis."
German riders on the demonstration
German Tour riders who write online diaries were unanimous -- things can't go on this way! So they participated in a small demonstration before the start of Wednesday's stage. And all of this was before the latest doping case was announced and leader Rasmussen taken out of the race.
"It's been a long time since I had so little interest in riding a race," said Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl on his website, bernhardkohl.at. "Our team all took part in the protest. We simply wanted to show our displeasure with the doping cases and show that we want to change things. It can't go on like this!"
"We just wanted to make a point. We don't want to boycott the Tour de France -- we can't do that because of the sponsors, if nothing else," wrote his teammate Fabian Wegmann on fabianwegmann.de.
"We tried to make a point against doping," according to sprinter Robert Förster, also of Gerolsteiner. "We thought about it for a long time, what should we do? Should we even ride at all? But to drop out -- that wouldn't be fair to the sponsors or fans. We aren't the ones who should leave," the German reported on his diary at radsport-news.com.
"It's possible that a little strike of a few minutes might look like it won't do anything. But the teams and the riders who took part want to change things. And with our protest action we want to challenge everyone to go in this direction with us: towards a doping-free cycling," wrote T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann at radsport-aktiv.de
Truckin' hell in Toona
By Greg Johnson
There were frightening scenes in the International Tour de Toona's Stage 3 overnight, with a break in the men's forced to take evasive action as a truck pulled out into the cyclist's path. The 11 man break, containing riders from Navigators Insurance, Toyota United, Team Slipstream, Team BMC, Colavita-Sutter Home and Health Net, were forced to swerve aggressively as the Mack-powered semi-trailer - carrying earthmoving equipment - decided to disobey orders and pull back onto the road.
A race official following the break watched on in amazement as a clearly upset Navigators rider gestured at the rogue driver.
Meanwhile a poorly designed final 100 metres of the race caused some riders to sprint off course causing more controversy. Karl Menzies (Health Net-Maxxis), leading into the well-known final turn, took the wrong way around a newly constructed traffic island and jumped a curb. His path turned out to be a slight shortcut around the final turn, possibly giving him an advantage as he came across the line first.
"It's an unfortunate situation and a mess," said Health Net-Maxxis director Jeff Corbett. "There is no way to know what would have happened if everybody had gone the right way, so there is no way to sort it out."
There were plenty of unhappy team directors and riders, with four managers quickly tracking down race officials to file a protest. "The guy cut the course, he should have been relegated," said Kodak Gallery's Kurt Stockton. "It's tough because my guy was the first guy through the corner 'on the course' and he comes around the corner and sees Menzies come through the corner, jump the median and sprint in front of him."
Race officials decided to let the results stand as is originally, however after several reconsiderations, the stage was ultimately neutralized for the men's race. The women's race, however, went off without a hitch, with Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton) taking the stage victory as well as the yellow jersey.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Kurt Jambretz/www.actionimages.cc
Gilmore joins TIS track program
By Paul Verkuylen
Recently retired six day track star Matthew Gilmore has taken up a position as a coach with the successful Tasmanian Institute of Sport track cycling program. The Tasmanian, himself an Olympic silver medalist and world title holder in the Madison event, sees the move as a logical step in his career.
"For me it means I have come full circle, I was a scholarship holder here at the TIS way back in 1990, and coming back now as a coach is satisfying," he told Cyclingnews from his home in Tasmania.
Gilmore said that he began thinking about what he would do after his own professional career ended some time before he retired. "I started thinking about it around three years ago, it's terrific to be involved in coaching the young guys," he said.
Gilmore sees his role as a way to develop young riders and offer an alternative path to targeting the road scene in Europe, as so many of Australia's top track riders have done in the past including Stuart O'Grady, Robbie McEwen and Brad McGee. "It's good for the young guys to have another path that they can go down, there are many guys that have tried to go down the same path as O'Grady and McGee but eventually disappear if it doesn't work out," he said.
The long term goal of the squad is to build a base for a professional six day cycling team to compete in Europe's most famous tracks during the winter. "Hopefully in five years or so we will have a professional team targeting the six day scene," he said. "I still have a lot of contacts in Europe that will help these guys get to those races."
Gilmore hopes to be accompanying the TIS-Cyclingnews Under 23 team to Europe to compete in some six day races, giving them valuable experience in some of the hardest six day events in the world.
Gilmore's experience in the Madison, points and scratch race will enable him to give valuable insight to the juniors, women's and Under 23 teams as he guides them with race tactics and training techniques.
The team will continue to be headed up by Paul Brosnan, but with Brosnan taking on a role which sees him involved in some specialised coaching activities. Gilmore will be there to step into the role when Brosnan is unavailable.
Gilmore's addition to the program is a coup for Tasmanian cycling. "Our developing cyclists will have the opportunity to learn from one of the State's finest ever cyclists, who has only recently retired from international competition," said Development Minister Michelle O'Byrne.
Gilmore said he doesn't hold any grudges against Cycling Australia with regard to his Olympic history, which saw him represent Belgium rather than Australia. The former rider has talked the topic over with the national coaches, leaving no doubt that this partnership is beneficial to Australian cycling. "I think my decisions were respected, as my move to represent Belgium was out of necessity, I did it because it was a progression in my career," said Gilmore, who was born in Belgium.
Jamis signs Jesse Anthony
Jamis has signed 23 year-old cyclocross champ Jesse Anthony. Anthony has won seven national titles in the discipline. He also had a breakthrough in the road scene. Details of the contract were not immediately available, but the Anthony will make his debut with Jamis in the CrossVegas event and will contest all the USGP races and several Verge NE series competitions. The highlight wil be the National Championships again.
Timbercorp Tour of Gippsland, Victoria, announced
The route for the Gippsland Tour in Victoria, a stage race running from August 1 through 5, has been announced. Even though it's scheduled for only five days, there are eight stages total, as three of the days are split off into double events. The total distance of the race is 601.7 kilometres, and the week features a total of 27 climbs. In the mix of circuit and road races, the amount of of sprints outnumber the KOM's by a ratio of more than two to one, for a total of 68 spots where the fast men can gain points.
Englishman Tom Southam, a former British under 23 road time trial champion, will travel to Australia for the race and give it some international flair. Southam, 26, first visited Australia in 2002 as a member of an elite U.K. training squad which based itself in Bendigo. Southam clearly likes the country as he is now married to an Australian and has applied for a permanent resident visa. The Brit also has secured a contract with the Drapac-Porsche team.
"It's an excellent team and I've been very lucky," said Southam, who twice finished second in the British open road championship. "I have not tested myself in a full-on Australian road race, so the Tour of Gippsland is very important to me at this point. "I just don't know how I'll go. If I can't do well on general classification, I at least want to win a stage."
The field will be 63 riders strong and will include Victorian Zak Dempster, who resides in Bendigo and trains with Southam. He's from the South Australian.com-AIS squad, managed by former world track champion Rodney McGee.
The Tour is the opening round of the 2007 Timbercorp Cup (formerly Tattersall's Cup), first held in 1996. The cup series will continue with the Australian Cycling Grand Prix at Ballarat from August 17-19, the Tour of the Murray River (August 26 – September 2) and the Tour of Tasmania (October 2-7).
Oakley debuts new film at CrankWorx
Oakley will debut a new film called Have You Seen It at CrankWorx in Whistler, British Columbia, in Canada on July 26.
Oakley's Steve Blick said to Cyclingnews, "Have You Seen It is neither a big screen movie nor a DVD. We wanted to make a a half hour TV movie, intended to run at Film festivals and on HD TV networks worldwide. Have You Seen It will be a DVD extra on the next edition of New World Disorder New World Disorder 8, Smack Down which will premiere in Las Vegas during Interbike."
Blick commented on Oakley's motive behind the film. "Our purpose is to make something unique to give back to the sport. Our goal is to refocus back to the soul of riding for the right reason and keeping it fun riding with your buddies. Kind of a cross between Lost and Blair Witch Project with mountain biking and some Scooby Doo fun mixed in."
"At the close of the 2006 season, as the seasons changed from fall to winter, a select group of Oakley Factory Pilots came from all corners of the globe to gathered in a zone deep within the Pacific Northwest to search for the soul of mountain biking after a hard racing season had depleted them," said Blick. "They were looking to get in some of the best riding ever. But what they found in those deep, dark woods was something far more unexpected."
What they found remains a secret, but to see the first four teasers and pictures, visit www.haveyouseenitmovie.com. Or attend the movie's premier in person at the Longhorn Saloon on the outdoor Jumbotron wall.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)