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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for July 31, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Slipstream signs former Paris Roubaix winner

By Sue George

Which Roubaix winner has joined Slipstream? Magnus Backstedt is one of five possibilities
Photo ©: Olympia

Team Slipstream is aiming to be a bigger player in the European road scene in 2008. After team director Jonathan Vaughters confirmed yesterday the signing of Saunier Duval's David Millar and two Team CSC stars Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie, he revealed today that the team has also signed a former winner of Paris-Roubaix.

Vaughters would not be drawn to comment on who the latest signing is, but the list of non-retired recent winners is short, namely: Stuart O'Grady (2007), Fabian Cancellara (2006), Tom Boonen (2005), Magnus Backstedt (2004), Peter Van Petegem (2003), and Frederic Guesdon (1997).

"Our singular goal is to do the Tour de France, but we also signed a former Paris Robuaix winner, so that will be a big objective for us, too," Vaughters told Cyclingnews, not revealing the identity of the rider. "We'll be doing the Tour of California and other major US races, too."

Vaughters also addressed the signing of Millar, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie, which was announced to an exclusive group of individuals in France following Sunday's final stage of the Tour de France. "All three signed two-year contracts with the team," he said. "They are the first three of the news guys we're bringing onto the team."

None of the trio have been signed as a squad's leader, but their experience will play an important role in the team. "We're not the kind of team that's going to have a big solid GC leader," said Vaughters. "That's not going to be the style of the team. But those guys will be the leaders in spirit. They'll be the guys who are captains on the road and will help our young guys get to the next level."

Vaughters also confirmed he has talked to the retiring Axel Merckx of Team T-Mobile. "I'm certainly interested in him, but Axel wants to live in Canada, not in Europe, so we're trying to figure out if something can work," he noted. "We've had a preliminary conversation, but we're a long way from a signing with him."

Telekom to decide future within weeks

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile will commence analysis on its financial involvement with cycling, and whether the pair have a relationship going forward, with a decision expect by August 10 on the company's future involvement. The company has pledged its long dedication to sports sponsorship will continue, but that may not involve cycling sponsorship.

"The hour of reconstruction has come and many people are now reflecting more critically on what can be done for cycling," said Christian Frommert, vice president of sponsoring communications at T-Mobile's parent company Deutsche Telekom. "Perhaps the Tour has touched rock bottom - if so, it offers a chance for renewal and a clean break with the past. At this moment it is difficult to see how this renewal can shape up - and who will be around to shape it. For that we will have to wait and see."

After year's of turmoil surrounding the T-Mobile name, including the exclusion of Jan Ullrich from the 2006 Tour de France after being named in the Operación Puerto scandal, 2007 has been another difficult season for the squad which has pledged to fight doping unconditionally. In addition now former T-Mobile rider Patrick Sinkewitz testing non-negative during this year's Tour, the squad has already released Serhiy Honchar from its ranks this season, with the rider recording irregularities in blood tests. The T-Mobile name has also been linked with high-profile admissions from former riders including Erik Zabel, Bjarne Riis and the team's current director sportif Rolf Aldag.

Rumours have flown over the past month that the company may well end its sponsorship. "We are taking our time to discuss this matter in a calm and considered manner," he noted in an interview on "What's certain is that the Deutsche Telekom is a committed patron of sport - and that will remain the case. The company is conscious of it responsibilities. And that means upping the push for clean and fair sport."

He wouldn't name an exact date that the company might make its decision, but indicated it would be before the beginning of the Deutschland Tour on August 10. "We will hold discussions with politicians, sports bodies and the media," he noted, showing a thorough approach to its decision. "We will take as much time as we need. We all owe it that. But there must be closure on this within the next two weeks."

Frommert called for a whole new system to fight doping. "A more credible infrastructure must be constructed; a professional framework, with clear regulations, strict testing and tough sanctions directed by competent figures with the appropriate track record," he said. "The system must be strong enough to withstand the collateral damage of exposing cheats - this should not be a sign of collapse but of progress."

And the very fact that T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz was found to have tested positive "was exactly through this new system," he said. Telekom has given 450,000 Euros to the German National Anti-Doping Agency this year, with 50,000 of that sum to be used for out-of-competition testing of T-Mobile riders.

"And it was an internal test, a blood volume control, that revealed abnormalities in Serhiy Hochar's blood levels, leading to his expulsion from the team," he noted. "That is how we can move forward, by degrees. Collectively, competently and on a sustainable basis. At the T-Mobile Team, this system is being led by Bob Stapleton, a person of integrity - and the system must be embedded in the sport."

Franke claims Contador involved in Puerto cover-up

German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke has claimed to be in possession of incriminating documents which, he says, proves Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was involved in Operación Puerto. Franke described the Spaniard's victory as "the greatest swindle in sporting history", before going on to claim the documents not only list Contador but also the substances

"The name of this Mr Contador appears on several occasions on the court and police documents," he told German television station ZDF. "All of this has been simply concealed and hidden under the carpet while the name Contador was erased from the list of supicious riders."

Franke claims to be in possession of a detailed list of performance enhancing and banned products used by Contador, which appear in sworn statements following the raid on Fuentes' medical practice.

"He took insulin, HMG-Lepori, a hormone to stimulate the secretion of testosterone and also a product for asthma called TGN - in brief I have before my eyes a protocol for doping," he said. "All of this has been covered up, at least in Spain."

When questioned on how he came into possession of such documents, Franke refused to give away any information. "They simply landed in my briefcase, that happens sometimes, and I promptly handed them over the Bundeskriminalamt {the German national police - ed.}".

Jaksche comments on Contador

Jorg Jaksche riding for Liberty Seguros at the 2006 Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Former Tinkoff Credit Systems rider Jörg Jaksche, who recently admitted to being involved in Operación Puerto, has said it would be a 'reasonable assumption' that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) is the "A.C." listed in the Puerto documents.

"If you haven't been turned into a woman, there was no reason other than doping to go to the gynecologist Fuentes," the German told Süddeutsche Zeitung. "I can say for myself, that I am the JJ in the document 31 and that I doped as stated there." When asked whether the "A.C." listed on the document could be Contador, Jaksche resonded: "That would at least be a reasonable assumption."

But Jaksche added that Contador is the only person who knows about his own situation. "He is the only one who knows," he said.

Contador signed with Manolo Saiz's O.N.C.E. - Eroski as a junior rider in 2002, where he was one of Jaksche's teammates, but the 24 year-old has defended any links with the Spanish doping ring, saying his involvement with Saiz as an employee was merely bad timing. "I was in the wrong team at the wrong time and somehow my name got among the documents, but the UCI corrected the mistake and now I've got no link to Puerto," he said on the weekend.

In another interview, with Bayern 3 radio, Jaksche defended T-Mobile Team, calling Patrik Sinkewitz an exception and saying he would trust the rest of the team. "The most important thing is the test for blood-doping, and T-Mobile is the only team that does that," he said.

Vinokourov fired

Team Astana has fired Alexander Vinkourov, making the announced Monday afternoon in a brief press release. "Astana Cycling Team received the confirmation that the B-sample of Alexander Vinokourov was also 'non negative'. The rider is then fired from the Astana Cycling Team with immediate effect," read the statement.

Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping after winning the Tour de France's Stage 13 Time Trial. The B-sample was opened last Friday, and it was announced on Saturday that it had also tested non-negative. SW

Rund um Köln meets its end?

The recent spate of doping scandals may well have claimed another victim, with German race Rund um Köln losing another sponsor. The withdrawal of yet another financial backer has put the 99 year-old race's future in question.

Sparkasse KölnBonn has pulled out as a sponsor of the event, because of the sport's doping image, German newspaper Express reports. The events former title sponsor DEVK pulled out this year, too, taking away its 1.2 million Euro contribution. SW

Rabobank to investigate Rasmussen affair

Rabobank, the sponsor of the same-named cycling team, has announced that an independent expert will investigate Michael Rasmussen's firing from the team. Bank spokesman Rene Loman told the Germany's dpa will also look into the open questions about Rasmussen's whereabouts in the time period leading up to the Tour de France. The banking giant said the investigation is needed: "to assess what happened before and during the Tour. Everyone knows that a lot happened."

The team fired the Danish rider last week during the Tour, claiming he lied to them as to his whereabouts in the weeks leading up to the Tour.

Loman noted that Rabobank does not intend to withdraw from sponsorship. "We have been sponsoring since 12 years," he noted. "Radsport is a typical Dutch sport and we will remain as sponsor." Loman added that the company is proud of the team's performance at the recently concluded Tour.

Rasmussen: My world was turned upside down

Rabobank charged Rasmussen 10,000 Euro
Photo ©: Makoto Ayano
(Click for larger image)

Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen has spoken of the dark night he spent in a France, somewhere 30 minutes drive away from Pau, after being sacked by his Rabobank squad. Rabobank dumped its Tour de France leading rider after former professional Davide Cassani alleged that Rasmussen was in Italy at the time he claimed to be in Mexico (one of Rasmussen's reasons for not properly filing his documents to assist out-of-competition dope testers, which are central to the whole situation).

"My world was turned upside down," Rasmussen told Danish newspaper B.T.. "I didn't know what to do anymore, luckily I kept my thoughts with my son and wife and that there are other more important things for me."

"I was so tired of being accused [of not being in Mexico] time and again, I must admit," he continued. "Then my whole world was turned upside down. It seemed so unlikely to me and I wasn't sure what to do. That night was so long. But I knew that I would make it through the night, and that I would be back with my wife and family eventually."

Rasmussen is meeting with his legal council this week where he will discuss his options. The Danish rider revealed in an interview yesterday that he hopes to return to professional cycling with another as soon as possible.

Eight American squads announced for Missouri

The Tour of Missouri has announced a further eight squads which will join the Tour de France winning Discovery Channel outfit at its September race. Jonathan Vaughters' Professional Continental Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle will join International Tour de Toona winners HealthNet-Maxxis and Toona runners up Toyota-United at the inaugural Tour of Missouri, on September 11-16.

"Professional cycling in the United States continues to grow, and it's reflected in the strength of the American-based teams racing mostly in the western hemisphere," said race director Jim Birrell. "Most of these teams field a strong contingent of the best American riders, as well as top international guys."

The other five new announcements are Navigators Insurance, Colavita-Sutter Homes, Jelly Belly, BMC and the USA National Team. "We look forward to the Tour of Missouri," said Colavita-Sutter Homes director Tom Schuler. "This is a great way to end the season for the top domestic teams. It starts with a quality event with the Amgen Tour of California and ends with a the Tour of Missouri. And, we always look forward to battling the international teams."

According to the race's competition director and former Tour de France rider Kevin Livingston, the race will add six, possibly seven additional teams, made up almost exclusively of internationally-based teams, some which have raced in the Tour de France.

"The BMC Cycling team is ecstatic about participating in the inaugural Tour of Missouri," says Gavin Chilcott, director of the BMC Pro Cycling Team. "These major tours are great for the sport in the United States. We plan on bringing a very strong team that will be suited to the terrain in Missouri. And that team, of course, will feature Missouri-native Dan Schmatz."

Rosters for each team will not be announced until early September.

Post Tour crits rosters

Italy's Danilo Di Luca, winner of the Giro d'Italia, took victory in the first post-Tour de France criterium in Belgium on Monday in the town of Aalst, edging out current Belgian champion Stijn Devolder in a sprint. The weeks following the Tour are always packed full of criteriums, with fans in Belgium and Holland, the traditional home of the post-Tour crits, coming out in their tens- and some times even hundreds-of-thousands. That was the case in Germany in 1997, the year Jan Ulrich won the Tour, when over 500,000 spectators turned up to the German take part in a 'local' criterium.

For places like Holland and Belgium, where cycling is an imbedded part of the culture, the criteriums are seen as a return to the grass-roots for the riders. Typically junior riders begin their careers in 'races around the church' so to see the biggest professionals come back to race these races is a spectacle for the fans. For the riders, it is always good for their popularity to come back to their home country and meet their fans; of course the hundreds of thousands of Euros in start money on offer doesn't hurt either.

The criteriums begin immediately after the Tour, with some riders effectively racing each day for over four weeks. It is widely known that most of these criteriums are fixed; the winner is determined before the start and the races are ridden to a formula, with riders being told that they may 'attack' but they may only be allowed to spend a certain time off the front before being brought so that the favourite can come to the front and take the win. The year that Marco Pantani won the Tour he also won a post Tour criterium held in Holland, by out sprinting a very well known sprinter, who was seen in the first week of the same Tour fighting for the green jersey.

Post tour criteriums agenda and the riders attending:
Monday, July 30 - Boxmeer (Ned): Mauricio Soler (Col), Robert Hunter (RSA), Thomas Dekker (Ned), Michael Boogerd (Ned), Bram de Groot (Ned), Bram Tankink (Ned), Pieter Weening (Ned), Steven de Jongh (Ned), Stef Clement(Ned) and Koos Moerenhout (Ned).

Tuesday, July 31 - Stiphout (Ned): Alberto Contador (Spa), Mauricio Soler (Col), Fabian Cancellara (Zwi), Thomas Dekker (Ned), Pieter Weening (Ned), Bram de Groot (Ned), Steven de Jongh (Ned), Bram Tankink (Ned), Stef Clement (Ned).

Tuesday, July 31 - Diksmuide (Bel): Danilo di Luca (Ita), Tom Boonen (Bel), Gert Steegmans (Bel), Stijn Devolder (Bel) en Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel).

Wednesday, August 1 - Chaam (Ned): Mauricio Soler (Col), Michael Boogerd (Ned), Thomas Dekker (Ned), Bram de Groot (Ned), Steven de Jongh (Ned), Bram Tankink (Ned), Theo Bos (Ned), Michiel Elijzen (Ned), Matthieu Heijboer (Ned), Robert Gesink (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned) and Bart Wellens (Bel).

Thursday, August 2 - Wateringen (Ned): Mauricio Soler (Col), Stef Clement (Ned), Michael Boogerd (Ned), Thomas Dekker (Ned), Bram de Groot (Ned), Pieter Weening (Ned), Steven de Jongh (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned), Karsten Kroon (Ned), Theo Bos (Ned), Michiel Elijzen (Ned), Matthieu Heijboer (Ned) and Richard Groenendaal (Ned).

Friday, August 3 - Heerlen (Ned): Thomas Dekker (Ned), Bram de Groot (Ned), Steven de Jongh (Ned) and Koos Moerenhout (Ned).

Saturday, August 4 - Steenwijk (Ned): Gert Steegmans (Bel), Michael Boogerd (Ned), Thomas Dekker (Ned), Pieter Weening (Ned) and Bram de Groot (Ned).

Monday, August 6 - Roosendaal (Ned): Alberto Contador (Ned), Michael Boogerd (Ned), Koos Moerenhout (Ned) and Theo Bos (Ned).

Liquigas for Denmark

Magnus Backstedt will guide Liquigas at the Tour of Denmark from August 1-5, the Italian squad has announced. The event, which starts in Thisted and finishes in Frederiksberg will see the riders cover some 842 kilometres over six counties through the Danish countryside.

Liquigas' Tour of Denmark roster: Magnus Backstedt, Francesco Chicchi, Mauro Da Dalto, Enrico Gasparotto, Roman Kreuziger, Luca Paolini, Vincenzo Nibali and Alessandro Vanotti.

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