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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for June 8, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

VDB out of danger

Frank Vandenbroucke (Acqua e Sapone)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke is out of immediate danger, but still in intensive care following an apparent suicide attempt. Vandenbroucke, 32, is currently in the Fornaroli hospital near Milan. According to Vandenbroucke's Acqua & Sapone team spokesperson Ivan de Paolis, 'VDB', who had been suffering from depression for years, was distraught because his wife, Sara Pinacci, had left him. "Frank has been abandoned. He no longer has a wife, he lives alone. Only the team is by his side," said de Paolis.

There were conflicting reports on the nature of his injuries, with the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reporting that Vandenbroucke overdosed on prescription medication while the Associated Press quotes the Acqua & Sapone team director Palmiro Masciarelli as saying the rider tried to cut a vein but suffered only "harmless cuts" on his arm. Vandenbroucke is still in intensive care but conscious and out of danger, according to all reports.

According to his psychologist, Jef Brouwers, who was interviewed on Belgian VRT television and had recently been in close contact with the rider, "Things were going very badly with Frank. I could no longer help him. The problems with his knee also played a serious role. The knee is what has always impeded him. He could not ride as he wanted, even after the operation."

Frustrations over his career and his personal life had recently escalated. "The doctors could not determine what the problem [with his knee] was," Brouwers continued. "The last few days it had been really terrible. He had terrible difficulties. The people who I called in Italy could also no longer help him."

Alone, his career in jeopardy, his family gone, and in a deep depression, Vandenbroucke was in a precarious situation. "He had lost everything," Brouwers explained. "Frank was entirely alone. Privately it was also bad for him. He lived alone in a house in Milan."

Vandenbroucke, once considered Belgium's best young prodigy, became a professional at the age of 19 in 1994, and by 1999 had accumulated many prestigious wins including his first Classic, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But during that banner year, 'VDB' ran into trouble with the first of several doping scandals.

In 1999, 'VDB' admitted that he had been involved with Bernard 'Dr. Mabuse' Sainz, a horse breeder who was one of several people charged with supplying doping products to cyclists, along with his then team-mate Phillipe Gaumont. Vandenbroucke was let go when he claimed he was under the impression the products were homeopathic and not banned.

In 2002, a police raid on his home turned up several banned substances, and he served a six month suspension after which his career was never the same. Troubles with drunk driving and domestic disputes replaced victories on the bike, and a nagging knee injury cut short a briefly promising return to form that say VDB place second in the 2003 Tour of Flanders. Throughout the past several years, Vandenbroucke has struggled with depression.

Political drive behind Belgian raids?

Quickstep training
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Following erroneous reports that the Quickstep team was involved in police raids that netted banned substances in western Belgium today, the Quickstep organisation released a statement clarifying the involvement of one member of the staff. According to the statement, none of the cyclists on the team had their homes searched.

One staff member's home was searched, but no "doping or illicit products" were discovered in the residence. The police temporarily took possession of the soigneur's cell phone and computer, but after questioning, returned the phone. "Insofar as we know, there is no investigation into our team, and there is no reason for an investigation. Team Quickstep-Innergetic finds it regrettable that imprecise information which was disseminated today by authorities, was seized unnecessarily to compromise the reputation of our professional team."

The statement echoed the sentiments of team director Patrick Lefevere, who noted that the timing of the searches closely coincides with federal elections in the country. "The complaint which is at the base of these searches dates from the autumn 2006," the statement read, referring to phone taps and other information gathering that was initiated by Kortrijk authorities last year. "The timing of the today's searches, three days before the federal elections, causes serious questions."

Jean-Marie Dedecker, a politician who is outspoken on the topic of doping, claimed to have knowledge of riders, soigneurs and dealers who were involved in doping in Belgian cycling, and his information provided some of the basis of information that led to the raids on Thursday. It isn't the first time that Lefevere has criticised the politician. Dedecker, who was tossed out of his own political party last fall, is also being sued by Lefevere for his involvement in the publishing of a story that alleged the Quickstep directeur was involved in doping.

No CSC decision to stop sponsorship

Bjarne Riis (L) sits alongside team spokesperson Brian Nygaard.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

Despite press reports to the contrary, CSC has no intention at this point of cancelling its sponsorship of the ProTour cycling team of the same name, in light of team manager Bjarne Riis' confession that he used illegal doping products during the 1990s. Discussions are continuing, but no decision has yet been reached, said company sponsoring director Ole Egeblad, and it is not known when a decision might be reached.

Earlier reports had indicated that the company would end its sponsorship before the contract expired in 2008. These reports were based on quotes from Asger Jensby, a former CSC employee who had negotiated the original sponsorship contract for the firm. "I don't know, but I think there is a good possibility for that, " he said in the Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

CSC spokesman Brian Nygaard pointed out that Jensby was fired from CSC over four years ago, and told Cyclingnews that "Jensby is by no means a source for any activity or decision made by CSC."

Tight race in Luxembourg

Flecha plays with the camera in 2006
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha took over the general classification in stage one of the Skoda Tour of Luxembourg following a challenging stage which saw the morning's leader, Jimmy Engoulvent (Crédit Agricole), dropped on a cobbled climb on the final circuit. Flecha, who finished second to Engoulvent in the opening prologue, now leads the overall classification by just fractions of a second over three men - Tiziano Dall'antonia (Ceramica Panaria), Gorik Gardeyn (, and Gregory Rast (Astana).

The 166 kilometre stage from Luxembourg to Mondorf was won by Ceramica Panaria's Maximiliano Richeze who took the bunch sprint, but equally important for the team was Dall'antonia pulling to within fractions of a second of the lead after he picked up a one second time bonus along the course. He trails Flecha by just one tenth of a second. "You have no certainties with such a slim margin," said Rabobank director Erik Dekker, according to "Not much has changed in the general ranking. With this ranking, no team is going to be up front for four days."

Crédit Agricole's Engoulvent held a five second lead going into the stage, but suffered on the final circuits. "He dropped off on the hill in the second-to-last round. Then he barely managed to get back again. He could not do that again the last time," said Dekker. With the former Tour stage winner in the leader's jersey, the team director expressed his faith that Flecha could hold the lead, saying "He is riding very well at the moment."

Pneumonia knocks Barry out of Tour

Photo ©: Steve Thomas
(Click for larger image)

Michael Barry had been looking forward to riding the Tour de France for the very first time ever in 2007 for his new team, T-Mobile, but a half a lung full of pneumonia has most likely put an end to that.

Barry dropped out of the Giro d'Italia, feeling unwell. "I'd wake up in the morning and it was like someone had whacked me in the chest," he told the Toronto Star. "I didn't feel that great in the races. I was able to do okay, do my job. But it started to stress me out and I wasn't able to get on top of things. Now, I know why. I was racing with half a lung."

He dropped out of the Giro after only one stage and returned to his home in Girona, Spain. When he had difficulty breathing he checked himself into the hospital, where he stayed for a week after x-rays showed that half of one lung was infected with pneumonia.

The 31-year-old Canadian had been on T-Mobile's preliminary Tour roster, but his participation now doesn't seem likely. "My chances of doing the Tour now are pretty slim," he said Barry. "But I'd rather take time off right now and try to come back and have a strong rest of the season. It would bother me more if I was in great shape and then got bumped from the squad."

Ben Kersten: 'The land that time forgot'

Mt. Fuji
Photo ©: Ben Kersten
(Click for larger image)
Ben Kersten, one of Australia's fastest track cyclists is currently in Japan attending the International Japanese Keirin school. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the kilo, Australian champion in the sprint, kilo and keirin, and Australian male track cyclist of the year headed to Shizuoka to study at the hands of the masters of keirin in May, and will be submitting diaries from his time at the school to Cyclingnews.

'The land that time forgot'

Where do I begin… I'm actually 7 days or so into the International Keirin school. I say 'or so' because I don’t actually know what day it is. Internet and telephones are a thing of the past for us, or perhaps a thing of the future in Keirin School.

It is a bit of an oxymoron being in the country that has made a name for itself by mastering such devices and to then to be reverting to letter writing and sending carrier pigeons.

This is in fact the first time I have had to write a letter (albeit 11pm at night), including the last weeks I had in Australia. These weeks before arriving were completely tumultuous. Most of this disruption is funnily enough for the same reason that I have neither phone nor computer now.

Instructors spell out rules
Photo ©: Ben Kersten
(Click for larger image)
You see, Japanese Keirin has many rules and regulations (so many in fact that it takes a Japanese Keirin student one whole year of army/boot camp/university to learn them all). I won't go too in-depth but for the purpose of this topic I will elaborate on the Bicycle rules.

Basically, go back in time 20 years. Whatever bicycles they had then is what they use now and is all that is allowed. For the local circuit this is not a problem, as all these parts are of course easily accessible and used and sold daily in 'the land that time forgot'. In all my wisdom I do see how bicycle evolution has bypassed the Japanese Keirin. Because of the gambling involved, there must be total equality and consistency for each Keirin racer. There is no flexibility on these rules, nor has there been for some time, hence prehistoric bicycles for everyone.

To read the rest of the diary, click here.

Milram for Dauphiné Libéré

Igor Astarloa will lead Team Milram in the Dauphiné Libéré, starting Sunday. "The eight-day ProTour race is one of the most important tests for the Tour de France," the team noted. "That is why Team Milram is sending a part of the team in question for the Tour de France to the French Alps."

Milram for Dauphiné Libéré: Igor Astarloa, Volodymyr Dyudya, Andrey Grivko, Matej Jurco, Fabio Sacchi, Carlo Scognamiglio, Marcel Sieberg, and Sebastian Siedler.

T-Mobile to Tour of Ireland

T-Mobile will be sending a squad to the inaugural Tour of Ireland race, to be held at the end of August. The ProTour team, which supports Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish, who put his stamp on his first year as a pro by winning two stages of the Volta a Catalunya in Spain last month and Brit Roger Hammond won't solidify their roster for the race until August, but it is hoped that both will be selected for the Irish five-day tour which runs from the 22nd to 26th.

Event organiser Alan Rushton is delighted to have T-Mobile on the inaugural tour. "It’s great to have the team on board," said Rushton, "They have a real focus on teamwork and are famous for the pink train on the front of the peloton heading into town in the final kilometres as they set things up for the team sprinter."

Potential riders from T-Mobile for the Irish tour are Jakob Piil, Axel Merckx, Servais Knaven and triple world road time trial champion Michael Rogers.

Interbike sponsors World Criterium Championship

The Interbike organisation announced today that it will be the presenting sponsor of the World Criterium Championship, to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday, September 27, 2007 in conjunction with day two of Interbike's international bicycle expo.

The World Criterium Championship is the final race in the 10-city 2007 USA Crits Championship Series and will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, near Interbike's home at the Sands Convention Center.

"Each year we consider several after-hours events to entertain show attendees," said Lance Camisasca, Interbike's show director. "This year we are excited to support the World Criterium Championship, a world premier bike race. Besides it being a great event for the industry, it will also be a great event to promote cycling in Las Vegas, as well as nationally with lots of media attention."

The World Criterium Championship will have Men and Women's pr races, and for Interbike exhibitors, an Industry Cup Challenge. The Pro- Women's race will be at 7:00 p.m., the Industry Cup at 8:00 p.m., and the Pro-Men will race at 9:00 p.m. with an after party hosted at Mandalay Bay.

The fast and technical, six turn, 1-kilometer course will wind through many of the popular areas of the Mandalay Bay resort. For more information about the World Criterium Championships, please visit, and for more information about the 2007 OutDoor Demo and Interbike Expo, please visit

Tour de Gastown gets new sponsor

The Tour de Gastown, British Columbia's premier bicycle race and the centrepiece of the BC Super Week series of bike races, announced a new presenting sponsor - BC Hydro Power Smart. The same company recently announced that it will be sponsoring Vancouver-based Symmetrics Pro Cycling, one of the most successful teams currently racing in North America.

Tour de Gastown director Jonathan Wornell said the additional sponsor will help raise the level of the event. "We are proud to have BC Hydro Power Smart on board," said Mr. Wornell, "this year's race promises to be bigger, better and more exciting than ever before - and, as always, it's free for spectators, all they need to do is get there early for the best vantage points."

Wornell said the Tour de Gastown has become a firm family favourite as a mid-week summer outing. This year, he expects close to 40,000 spectators to line the route in Gastown on July 18th to see some of the top riders in North America.

The Tour de Gastown has races for both men's and women's pro fields, and is contested on a fast 1.2 kilometre course on the streets of Gastown. It attracts some of North America's top riders who battle for more than $15,000 in cash prizes. Past winners have included seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

Visit for race details and updates.

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