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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for July 29, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson

Armstrong praises 'best overall Tour'

By Tim Maloney

Lance Armstrong returned to the Tour de France on Saturday
Photo ©: AFP
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Lance Armstrong has praised Discovery Channel's riders for their efforts at the American squad's "best overall Tour", with the squad looking likely to take two spots on the podium, including the maillot jaune, both the young rider and teams competitions in addition to its two stage wins. Armstrong, a part owner of the Discovery team, arrived in France for the closing days of the Tour, spending his first day in France following 24 year-old Spanish Tour leader Alberto Contador in the team car.

"I have to say that this entire Tour has been a dream for Johan [Bruyneel] and the entire Discovery Channel team," noted Armstrong to Cyclingnews. "In fact, I think we'd have to say that it's the best overall Tour we've ever had as an organisation. Yellow and white for Contador, third on general classification for Levi, overall team GC and two stage wins, amazing!"

After watching Contador's impressive yellow-preserving Time Trial, Armstrong headed north to Paris to meet with the whole Discovery Channel team. The seven time Tour victor praised Contador as an all round rider who will win many Tours.

"I could not be prouder of the boys and the staff," praised Armstrong. "They proved once again that this is the best organisation in the world of cycling. And now we have seen Alberto Condator emerge. We have seen the future of cycling. He's a complete rider - he can climb, Time Trial and is completely poised as a rider. I'm proud of him and look forward to seeing him win many more Tours."

The Condor swoops

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Earlier this year Alberto Contador confirmed his talent when he won two stages plus the overall classification in Paris-Nice. The Spaniard then went on to take the fourth stage of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana and a stage plus the overall win in the Vuelta Castilla y Leon. Having defended his lead in Saturday’s penultimate day time trial, he now looks set to take his biggest career result and triumph in the 2007 Tour de France reports Cyclingnews’ Shane Stokes and Gregor Brown.

He started the day nervous, unsure, excited, but ended it as the likely winner of the 2007 Tour de France. Sunday on the Champs Elysées Alberto Contador is set to become the youngest winner of the race since Jan Ullrich 10 years ago; if he steers his career in the right way and avoids the mistakes of the German, he could win several more.

Contador was up against two Time Trial specialists on yesterday’s 55.5 kilometre race against the clock and while he lost time to both of them, he didn’t panic. The maillot jaune began the day 1.50 minutes ahead of Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto) and 2.49 minutes up on his own Discovery Channel teammate Levi Leipheimer. He conceded 36 seconds to the latter and 22 seconds to Evans in the first 17.5 kilometres but, urged on by directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel and team co-owner Lance Armstrong, he kept his composure and rode fast enough to hold on.

The 24 year-old hit the line fifth, finishing 2.18 minutes behind his teammate and 1.27 minutes off Evans’ pace. It means he will start today’s final stage 23 seconds ahead of the Australian and 31 up on Leipheimer. Although there are time bonuses up for grabs, the fact that most of the other riders in the race will also be racing hard means that it will be a difficult task for Evans to get back the required time.

"Now I feel a little more relaxed," Contador said after the stage. "It was a very difficult day but it is the result of a lot of years of work. Things are now sinking in and it is a good feeling for me."

To read to full feature on Alberto Contador, click here.

ASO distances itself further from UCI

Patrice Clerc
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme and ASO President Patrice Clerc met with the press Saturday morning in Cognac to discuss the last three weeks of their Grand Tour. The event was hit with the news of two in-race positive controls and two other pre-event doping-related incidents that left the Frenchmen wanting to distance its race from the UCI (International Cycling Union). Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown was in Cognac before the start of the time trial listen to what the Frenchmen had to say.

Patrik Sinkewitz, Alexander Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni and Michael Rasmussen made the 2007 Tour one to remember, but not for the right reasons. Both Sinkewitz and Rasmussen had pre-race issues that ASO, organiser of the Tour, believes the UCI could have prevented or perhaps it let slip by.

"There can only be one answer for the UCI, either they are incompetent or want to damage the Tour de France," blasted Prudhomme Saturday morning. Former maillot jaune wearer Michael Rasmussen missed two out of competition doping controls in June according to the UCI but Tour organisers were never made aware of it. "The UCI knew about the missed controls, and by the team, and yet the UCI told us he was okay," commented Clerc.

"Strange that we only knew of the Sinkewitz's positive results in the Tour," Prudhomme added. "Other results come so much quicker, so, for us, I get the feeling that the UCI did not really want to give us the results before [the Tour]."

There were two positive results in the Tour, with Alexander Vinokourov (Astanta) testing non-negative for blood doping while Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) tested non-negative for testosterone. Both the Switzerland and French registered squads were asked to leave the event, and did so immediately. "The mistakes from two riders, Alexander Vinokourov and Cristian Moreni, damaged the Tour de France with their behaviour," said Clerc. "Most of the riders are working in a clean way, without using any products. But some of them did not understand that things have changed. Most teams are doing well but some don't understand."

To read the full news feature, click here.

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

McQuaid ready to talk

By Brecht Decaluwé in Cognac

Pat McQuaid wasn't invited to the Tour by organiser ASO
Photo ©: AFP
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A surprising face at the start of the Time Trial was UCI president Pat McQuaid, who wasn't invited to this year's race by organiser ASO after the continuation of a standoff between the two organisation. "I was invited here by French television to do a interview yesterday evening and some teams invited me for the start today," McQuaid explained of his presence, adding he wasn't aiming on a split between the UCI and ASO. "That would be very unfortunate. We don't need more splits in cycling. I'm ready to talk.

"The UCI is ready to offer its services and its assistance to the Tour de France and ASO at any time," he continued. "I don't think the Tour de France belongs to the ASO, I think the Tour de France belongs to the cycling family and I am president of the cycling family. I think in that context they should accept that and we should be sitting down together to work out plans for the future. The biggest - I agree with Patrice Clerc on that - enemy of cycling is the doping. We shouldn't be fighting over that. Whatever the future is, we shouldn't be fighting over doping, we should be working together."

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Last week McQuaid demanded an apology from Tour director Christian Prudhomme, after receiving a series of insults and accusations from the Frenchman after it was announced then Tour leader Michael Rasmussen had missed lodgement of whereabouts dates with anti-doping officials. "I still haven't received it," noted McQuaid. "He attacked and insulted me for reasons that were completely wrong. If I see him, I see him but there's no meeting scheduled. I have other people to see here."

"They're all completely wrong. They [ASO] take the opportunity when they have the media at their fingertips to blame the UCI on everything," he continued. "They blamed us for releasing information but we weren't even consulted for that. The Danish federation decided to release the information that they wouldn't select Rasmussen for the Worlds. They also blamed us for the fact that the German federation released the information but they did it themselves."

ASO claims that Rasmussen shouldn't be allowed to start due to a 45-days rule that states a rider can't miss a doping test in a period of 45 days before the start of a Grand Tour. McQuaid denies the usability of that rule. "We couldn't apply it," McQuaid reacted. "We took all the evidence that was there with us at that time and the 45-days rule didn't apply on the Rasmussen situation; we're using the three-warning-system. He had been tested twice in the month of June, once by the UCI and once by the Danish agency. Why would we throw a rider out of the Tour de France because he is one or two days late with his whereabouts schedule?

"Rules have to be in proportion," he continued. "The information we have now makes things different but at that time this was the information we had. It's correct that he has been thrown out because of the fact that he told a lie about his whereabouts. If you tell lies about your whereabouts to your team and the authorities then you're cheating as well."

Rabobank's Theo de Rooy was surprised that the confidential information on his former rider's warnings was made public and McQuaid agreed with the Dutch manager. "The rules don't allow us to make that public," he confessed. "If an A-sample is positive the rules don't allow us to make that public. It's the team's choice to do that but our rules don't allow that. I don't know if there are other riders with recorded warnings in this Tour, there probably are but I shouldn't know it before the third infringement."

Asked if the rules shouldn't be changed so everybody would know who's messing with his whereabouts McQuaid pointed towards World Anti-Doping Agency's Dick Pound. "That's the WADA rule, not ours."

Stage 19 reactions:

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto): "Sorry I didn't win it," Evans said to all his Australian supporters. "I did my best and I did what I could but it's only my third Tour so there's a few more good years left in me yet and let's try again next year. I'm not too disappointed. All along my aim was to do better than last year, when I came fifth. This year I'm second, but of course when you're so close to winning. Theoretically it's possible [to win], but let's digest today's stage first. Right now I'm thinking about going to the hotel, giving my wife a kiss and putting my feet up for a few minutes."

Hendrik Redant (Predictor-Lotto sport director): "They have numbers on their backs so there's still a race going on. But it's going to be much more difficult than today in a way because today was the day of truth I think, and tomorrow will be more of a play. But you never know, you can always take a few seconds but to take 30secs will be a lot - he has to win the race for that."

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel): "I’ve never felt so good, I just felt awesome out there – I had all this energy. It was great for Discovery. I’m happy for Alberto. He’s the future star."

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC): "Once again I gave my very best and I'm happy with my time trial. I knew I probably wasn't able to improve in the general classification, but it was still important for me to show that I'm among the best riders in this race."

Kim Andersen (Team CSC manager): "It was a shame that Fabian had bad weather, but Carlos did a very good time trial and yet again confirmed he can be at his very best even in the final week of a very, very demanding stage race."

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile): “I was able to keep up with the best. I’ve learnt a lot for the future in this Tour. Despite everything, there were loads of fans out on the course. This type of atmosphere makes it fun to ride here.”

Vino's B-Sample positive

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) is back
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Alexander Vinokourov's B-sample from the Tour de France's Stage 13 has tested positive, according to L'Equipe. The Kazakh rider continued to deny doping charges and said that he would take action against the lab that tested the samples.

Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping after winning the Tour's first Time Trial. His Astana team left the Tour entirely after the announcement of the positive A-sample. He asked that the B-sample also be tested, which was done Friday, with the results being announced Saturday.

"I have always raced clean," he said in a statement distributed by his lawyers on Saturday. "Never before this year's Tour de France have I ever been accused of violating any doping law. I have been tested at least 100 times during my career. These test results simply make no sense. Given all the attention paid to doping offences, you would have to be crazy to do what I have been accused of, and I am not crazy."

He also said that he questioned the "flow cytometry instrument" used by the French anti-doping lab in Chatenay-Malabry and will take legal action against the lab. "As of now, the public has only heard one side in these test results. We encourage everyone to keep an open mind about the test results and not to assume that the LNDD has done everything correctly or has achieved accurate results," said Vinokourov's lawyer Maurice Suh, who also represents last year's Tour de France winner Floyd Landis.

Astana has 'every right' to start Vuelta

By Brecht Decaluwé in Cognac, France

UCI president Pat McQuaid has thrown his weight behind the Astana ProTour team and its right to contest the Vuelta a Espana, the final Grand Tour of 2007, after many questioned if the Switzerland registered squad should be allowed to start. McQuaid has outlined that Unipublic, the organiser of the Spanish race, still wishes to invite the squad despite Alexander Vinokourov's non-negative sample from the Tour de France for Blood doping.

"From my point of view they have every right to start in the Vuelta since they are a ProTour team," McQuaid told Cyclingnews. "They [Unipublic] want to invite them - like the ASO did in the Tour de France - with a wildcard. They did it so that's their choice.

"I've spoken to Astana in recent days and there's are a lot of new changes within that team," he added. "They are examining on new ways on how they can do things. You need to know a little bit more about what's going on before you can take decisions."

For its part Astana has issued a statement defending its other riders who, in its eyes, paid un unfair price for Vinokourov's test results. While organisers of some races have said the Kazakstan-backed squad isn't welcome at their events, most notably the ProTour Deutschland Tour race, Astana has said there's no reason for the integrity of the squad or the other riders to be questioned following Vinokourov's non-negative test.

"This investigation has been very difficult for the entire Team, but these allegations should not cast any doubt on the integrity of Astana or any of its team members," stated Astana manager Nicolay Proskurin.

"We are happy to announce the institution of a internal doping control program," he continued. "We look forward to contesting the rest of the season, in particular, the Vuelta a Espana, and showing that Astana is one of the strongest cycling teams on the ProTour. Astana will continue to look towards the future, and we predict we will continue to attract some of the best cycling talent in the coming years, and become even stronger."

Big day for magenta

By Susan Westemeyer

Eric Baumann (T-Mobile Team) takes victory
Photo ©: World of Cycling
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Friday was a big day for the T-Mobile Team, with three races bringing in two first places, two seconds, and one leader's jersey. Axel Merckx finished second in the second-to-last stage of the Tour de France. This is his ninth and final Tour, as he has already announced that he will retire at the end of the season. "It was a great experience to ride so far ahead of the field," he said on "The public was yelling my name. This is a great way to leave the Tour."

Back in Germany, sprinter Eric Baumann and Thomas Ziegler took the top two places in the third stage of the Sachsen Rundfahrt. Teammate Andre Greipel had previously won the first two stages, giving the magenta team the hat-trick in the first three stages.

Judith Arndt of the women's team blasted herself to victory in the queen stage of the Thüringer Rundfahrt, winning not only the stage but taking the leader's jersey as well. She was in an early three-rider strong escape group that came in six minutes ahead of the peloton.

The T-Mobile Teams can now count 45 UCI-race wins. The women continue to lead in the "battle of the sexes" with 24 wins to the men's 21. Ina Teutenberg and Judith Arndt both have nine individual victories, while Mark Cavendish leads the men with six.

Klöden to quit?

Andreas Klöden (Astana)
Photo ©:
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Astana's Andreas Klöden says he's thinking of leaving professional cycling, following a difficult few months for his Switzerland-registered ProTour squad. Astana's troubles began with the non-negative sample of the German's now former teammate Matthias Kessler, followed more recently by lead rider Alexander Vinokourov's non-negative at the Tour de France, which saw the whole squad asked to leave the event.

"Maybe I'll just quit entirely," he told German tabloid BILD. "I'm afraid that the sport is being criminalised, we could end up in prison. What happens if someone pours something illegal onto my salad? Suddenly I test positive and go to jail. I don't want that, I have a family. The whole thing doesn't make sense any more."

Klöden, a popular rider in his home country, said the recent events have played heavily on his mind. "I can hardly sleep," he said. "I couldn't explain to my daughter Felicitas why I am already at home, although the Tour is still going on. I told here that I had crashed and that's why I couldn't ride any more."

The 32 year-old has had trouble understanding the non-negative doping tests for his teammates Alexander Vinokourov and Matthias Kessler. Klöden added that he's been tested personally 14 times this season, including six unannounced tests. "They seem funny to me," he started. "Vinokourov is supposed to have doped with someone else's blood. He knew that he would be controlled. That's like when someone sees a radar control in an 80 kmh zone and races through at 150 kmh. The same goes for Matthias Kessler. He had a testosterone value that had never before been measured so high. And that between two races which he was racing to win and had to reckon with controls. Nobody is that dumb."

Klöden's "adventurous" theory for the whole thing was a power fight between the UCI and the ASO for control of the Tour de France. "Intrigues are being woven, everyone wishes each other the worst," he said. "It has to do with a lot of money. What if someone is manipulating things in order to destroy it all and then take over the remains?" SW

Jaksche questioned

Prosecutors in Ansbach, Germany have questioned former Tinkoff Credit Systems rider Jörg Jaksche in connection with a fraud investigation of the cyclist. "They are checking whether to press charges against me," confirmed Jaksche to dpa.

Jaksche lives in Kitzbühel, Austria, and rides with an Austrian license, and will therefore not yet meet with the German cycling federations's newly-founded independent antidoping commission. "My attorney and I are looking into a postponement of the appointment, because I first have to clear up matters with the Austrian federation," he revealed.

Jaksche hopes to receive only a one-year ban so that he would be able to ride again in the coming season, providing: "I can find a team who doesn't feel bound by cycling's omerta". SW

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