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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for July 27, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson, Ben Abrahams and Laura Weislo

WADA calls summit as UCI tensions rise

By Greg Johnson

WADA's Richard Pound at the International Olympic Committee meeting
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

A concerned World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound has announced an anti-doping summit specifically targeted at cycling, branding recent measures taken to counter the sport's problems as "obviously insufficient". However, while supporting any effort to solve the problem of doping, a responding press release from the UCI has signaled tension between the two bodies.

"Without commenting on the specifics of pending cases, WADA is deeply concerned by the multiplication of doping cases and affairs in cycling," a statement from WADA read. "Even recent initiatives taken by cycling authorities, such as a pledge against doping and increased pressure, are obviously insufficient to deter some riders from cheating.

"We need to hold such a meeting urgently to see what more can be done to restore the credibility and integrity of cycling."

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The WADA summit comes after a troublesome fortnight under the spotlight of cycling's biggest stage – the Tour de France. This year's Tour has been dogged by doping controversy, starting with Rabobank's now relieved Michael Rasmussen, who was under fire for not lodging his whereabouts to anti-doping officials on numerous occasions, followed by the expulsion of both the Astana and Cofidis ProTour squads, following non-negative A samples from Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) and Cristian Moreni (Cofidis).

"WADA will officially contact the parties involved in the next few days to offer to hold this summit," said WADA director general David Howman. "Because WADA is an independent international body and has a structure which is an equal partnership between the sports movement and governments of the world, we are uniquely positioned to co-ordinate the fight against doping and bring together the strengths and resources of all of these partners involved.

"We are willing to further assist cycling in finding solutions to the doping issue."

The UCI hit back at a critical WADA, with a press release from the Switzerland-based governing body saying: "WADA is now criticising the UCI for having found banned substances, which is the consequence of any effective anti-doping campaign, and is preparing to stage a show trial instigated by its President Richard Pound, who during the Tour de France, has constantly made condescending comments about cycling.

"The same Richard Pound, under threat of a libel complaint, retracted previous statements by sending a letter to The Guardian newspaper confirming in particular that: 'I acknowledge that with the information that I now have, my opinion is that the UCI is not turning a blind eye to doping. On the contrary, the UCI is committed to fight doping in cycling. I would have made it clear that the UCI has indeed a watchful eye on the matter of doping'."

In the UCI's release the organisation welcomed the announcement of WADA's moves to help solve the sport's doping issues. The UCI also declared its willingness to participate in such discussions "in a constructive manner and under acceptable conditions".

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

Breukink: Rabobank will make it to Paris

By Brecht Decaluwé in Castelsarrasin

The depleted Rabobank team arrives for Stage 17.
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

The Rabobank team received most media attention during Stage 17, although that was of course not because of the stage's race action but because of the team leader's untimely exit, now known in the press as the 'chicken run'. Rabobank's directeur sportif Erik Breukink still had the number one on the car as race leader, but he wasn't driving in first position in the caravan today. "Bruyneel told me that I could drive in front but I couldn't afford to do that," said Breukink. "I was hiding somewhere in ninth position, I really couldn't afford to do that."

Together with the former white jersey winner from the 1988 Tour de France, Cyclingnews looked back at the rollercoaster past 24 hours. After the departure from Rasmussen the team came together to discuss their further participation in the Tour de France and decided that every rider could choose for themselves. "They gathered all their courage and went to the start this morning," Breukink said about the seven Rabobank starters.

During Stage 17, Rabobank's Russian, Denis Menchov, abandoned leaving the team with six men. "I think that these six boys will press through to Paris and they probably felt it was a good decision to continue." When asked why Menchov didn't continue his race Breukink was rather cynical. "Denis was tired and without morale, he said he would prepare for the Vuelta so let's say that was a positive sign," was Breukink's take on losing another rider.

It's understandable that the morale of the orange army is rather low these days, Breukink explained, "Suddenly everything they intensively worked for - all their goals - disappeared in front of their eyes. Last night was so chaotic but what's left now is just disappointment."

The departure of Rasmussen was probably the moment that everybody will remember from the 2007 Tour de France and of course photographers were lined up to capture this moment. Cyclingnews was informed that a photographer who surprised the Danish rider, when he left the hotel like a thief in the night, was attacked by Rabobank people who forced the photographer to give up his camera. Luckily other people showed up and the pictures became available for the whole world.

Michael Boogerd is battling on to Paris
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Breukink wasn't asked for his opinion when the decision was made to force Rasmussen to leave the Tour, nor to fire him. "When I came back the decision was already made, I don't mind that I didn't have a word in it, a quick decision was needed," Breukink explained, perhaps regretting that he wasn't asked for his opinion.

"You're confronted with something that you can't rewind and that's tough although this doesn't mean I don't support the team's decision. I would have liked to see that everything went as planned and that we could just finish the race," Breukink said, "but that was clearly not possible." The Dutchman pointed out that he wasn't against the team's decision though. "I can't be against the team's decision because I don't know the content of the conversations between everybody. But I agree that we couldn't keep someone who didn't follow the rules. Also, it's obvious that the pressure was mounting."

The removal of a rider during the Tour because he missed doping tests indicates that the 'chicken' might have been on slippery grounds in June. "That's not the case since there is no proof for that," Breukink countered, affirming that there was no evidence of Rasmussen doping. "There are only anti-doping rules that take on the cheaters but clearly also the suspicious riders who didn't fully follow the rules. You can find many reasons for his lies but it's in the UCI-rules so he had to walk that line. That reason is good enough to take serious measures."

"There are so many doping cases because there are so many controls," he added. "That's not bad but it confronts us with a lot of misery." Another man who is confronted with misery is the 'chicken' himself, who blamed his team manager Theo de Rooy. "There is no evidence, this is madness," the Dane said. Breukink understood the reaction of his former rider. "I think he is downhearted right now and I think we need to understand that."

It was a clearly deceived Breukink who talked with the press and he didn't hide his mixed feelings but reassured those who worried about him. "I'll make it to Paris, don't worry."

Gutted Wiggins aims at 'stupid' Moreni

A stunned Bradley Wiggins leaves his Cofidis team's hotel
Photo ©: AFP
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Britain's Bradley Wiggins was not sorry to leave the Tour de France. The Cofidis rider was forced from competing after Stage 16 when his teammate Cristian Moreni was arrested after testing non-negative to testosterone, but Wiggins wasn't too upset about leaving the race given the events of the past week.

"I don't want to continue in the Tour de France anyway, it's not supposed to be like this," Wiggins, himself an anti-doping campaigner, told The Guardian newspaper. "It is completely gutting to have to quit the Tour but everyone knows where I stand on doping. I have nothing to hide."

Wiggins hit out at the "pure stupidity" of his Italian teammate's actions. The respected rider also admitted that such events at times makes him question his future in the sport.

"It's pure stupidity on the part of Moreni," he said. "I don't know how he can have slipped through the net. It makes you think about your future as a professional cyclist. It makes me question the whole thing, but then you think why not continue because I get a lot of pleasure out of it."

Just weeks after successfully hosting Tour stages for the first time, London's mayor Ken Livingstone offered his heartfelt support to Wiggins. "This is deeply disappointing for Bradley Wiggins, who has had a fantastic Tour de France," Livingstone told the BBC. "As a steadfastly clean rider, he is well known for his vocal condemnation of drug use in his sport, and has been a tremendous ambassador for London and cycling."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full interview with Bradley Wiggins.

Gerdemann wants cheaters to leave

By Brecht Decaluwé in Pau

Gerdemann lost yellow to Rasmussen
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Stage 7 winner and the rider who gave up the yellow jersey to Michael Rasmussen, Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) was philosophical about the withdrawal of Rasmussen when he talked with Cyclingnews at the start in Pau.

"We were watching TV when we heard the news. It's a late start so we were still awake," Gerdemann smiled. He seemed to feel that the news was a good sign for the sport. "We are on the right way. People who don't want to learn have to leave cycling."

Every rider that is participating in this Tour de France has signed the UCI's antidoping charter in which they promised to give up a year's wages if caught doping. That means that Vinokourov, Moreni and possibly even Rasmussen may be giving up their salaries as punishment, but that's no consolation for their teams, the sponsors, the mechanics and other people involved with the team.

Nuyens disillusioned

"This is a bitter pill to swallow," said Nick Nuyens, whose Cofidis team removed itself from the Tour de France. "It hasn't all sunk in yet." Nuyens was forced to leave following the news that his Italian team-mate Cristian Moreni had tested positive for testosterone.

"Of course I was surprised [by Moreni's positive test], he told the Gazet van Antwerpen. "I am disillusioned. I don't know what they will do with us. All I know is that we have to leave the Tour.

"When you take part in the Tour for the first time, you hope to at least reach Paris, not this," he said bitterly. "And I was so happy to have survived the last mountain stage."

The Cofidis riders were questioned by the police after the stage. "Fortunately, there was food on the bus and we could change clothes," recalled Nuyens. "But this is absolutely not what you expect after seven hours on your bike in the mountains. Not nice." SW

Kazakhs support Vinokourov

The Kazakhstan cycling federation is standing behind Alexander Vinokourov, suggesting that he was forced out of the Tour by a "provocation". "This is politics", said Nikolai Proskurin, the federation's deputy director, according to AP.

Speaking on Kazakhstan television on Wednesday, Proskurin alleged that that Astana leader was never popular with race organiser ASO. "Even before the start the organisers said that if Vinokourov is among the favourites it would be wrong and no good," he said.

In an official statement, the federation said that it was shocked by the positive doping test but urged officials "not to make any fast conclusions and final accusations against the cyclist and his team." Alexander Antyshev, the federation's executive director, said "We have to wait for the officials results of Test A and then get confirmation of Test B and other necessary conclusions and examinations." SW

Petacchi decision appealed

Petacchi must now await a ruling from the CAS
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Despite being cleared by the Italian Cycling Federation's disciplinary committee earlier this week for suspicion of doping, Team Milram's Alessandro Petacchi's problems may not be over yet. Only two days after being cleared, the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) said that it would appeal the FCI's decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. CONI attorney Ettore Torri, who initially recommended a one-year suspension when the case was handed to FCI, announcement the appeal overnight.

The Milram sprinter tested non-negative for the asthma medication Salbutamol during the Giro d'Italia. Team Milram suspended the rider immediately, ending the star sprinter's hopes of contesting the Tour de France, but reinstated him this week when he was cleared by the FCI.

The UCI had also indicated that it might appeal the decision, with president Pat McQuaid reporting the organisation would request documents relating to the case from the Italian bodies. SW

Milram's busted bus

By Susan Westemeyer

Tour de France riders had to deal with a lot on Wednesday – with the event's queen stage during the day and then in the evening cope with Moreni's doping test, Cofidis' withdrawal and finally Rasmussen's dismissal. But Team Milram had to cope with even more - the team bus gave up the ghost on the 80 kilometre drive back to the squad's hotel.

All were on board, but "after the big back-up around the finish line, nothing worked any more," said Enrico Poitschke. And once the bus managed to make it to the toll road, it couldn't get above 20 km/h. "Only the first and second gears worked."

The driver tried everything he could, but nothing helped. He finally pulled over to the side of the road, where the riders climbed into team cars. They finally arrived at the hotel at 9 p.m., more than 12 hours after they had left it.

The bus was taken to a garage in Pau, which was of course closed for the evening. The team had to climb back into the cars Thursday morning to get to the start and look for a place at the Tour village to change clothes.

The whole transmission had to be rebuilt, and there just wasn't time to accomplish that by the end of the stage. So the Milram riders had to sit on folding chairs outside - in over 30 degree heat - to recover from the stage, and then wash and change right there on the side of the road. They then climbed into the now-familiar Skoda team cars to head for the hotel.

Here they at least had a pleasant surprise. For one thing, it was much closer than the previous night's hotel. For another, the hotel proved to be the Chateau Residence de Terrides, built in 1887 as the summer residence of the Earl of Clervaux, and which they shared with Euskaltel-Euskadi and Predictor-Lotto.

However bus driver Diego was unable to enjoy the luxuries. He stayed behind in Pau with his vehicle, waiting for the repairs to be finished. The riders will take the Skodas to the start again Friday morning, but hope that their faithful (and air-conditioned) bus will once again be waiting for them at the finish line in Angouleme.

Gerrans gets Crédit deal, Quick.Step re-signs duo

Australian rider Simon Gerrans is leaving one French ProTour team for another. The AG2r Prévoyance rider, who is currently contesting the Tour de France with the squad, has signed a one-year contract with Roger Legeay's Crédit Agricole, with an option for another season the squad has announced.

Meanwhile Quick.Step-Innergetic's Sébastien Rosseler and Steven De Jongh are staying put. The Belgian team announced the pair had re-signed overnight. Rosseler, who has been with the team since 2005, extended his contract through the 2008 season, with the 26 year-old also having an option for 2009. De Jongh signed a one-year contract for next season.

"We are very proud for the confidence that our riders have in us," said team manager Patrick Lefevere. "With these new contracts Boonen's blue train will remain the same for the next year." SW

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