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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for March 2, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo and Sue George

Clerc: "UCI is killing ProTour"

ASO president Patrice Clerc
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

With ten days to go before the start of Paris-Nice, the ongoing divide between the Grand Tour organisers and the UCI may well have the most serious consequences on the road cycling reform and its calendar. One day prior to the meeting of the IPCT, the interest group of the ProTour teams, Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner reached ASO president Patrice Clerc in his Paris office and was able to ask him the ultimate question: Were the reports true that participation in Paris-Nice would determine the inclusion of the teams in the other ASO-organised events, such as the Tour de France?

Clerc's point of view was not one of putting pressure on the teams to stand by the Grand Tour organisers; he rather explained that the current situation of Paris-Nice could be repeating itself over and over at all 11 races that the Grand Tour managers ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic organise. Because of the current deadlock of negotiations with the UCI, it seemed only logical to Clerc that the world governing body of cycling would prohibit the ProTour teams from racing at their events throughout the season, thereby putting an end to the ProTour itself.

"All the 18 teams we had invited have confirmed that they wanted to participate in Paris-Nice," he explained. "Remember, in December we said that they weren't obliged to do so. Now, until two weeks ago, all the teams had their participation confirmed. But if certain teams do not want to participate in Paris-Nice anymore today, they have to explain themselves.

"If this is because of budget reasons, or a change of strategy of the sponsor, we could examine this, and understand. But if the reason is that they obey to a boycott of the UCI, I don't see why this would be different with regard to the other races that we organise. If they decide not to race Paris-Nice, because they've been told to boycott our competitions, then this applies to all of our races. Why one and not the other?

"Now, had a team said in the beginning that Paris-Nice was not included in their racing programme, I would have accepted that," Clerc continued. "They could have chosen their schedule and said, 'We're not coming to Paris-Nice, neither to Paris-Roubaix, but we want to do Liège-Bastogne-Liège' - fine, no problem! But as all the teams first said they were coming to Paris-Nice, and now all of a sudden they're saying they can't come because they've been prohibited to do so - let's be logical: then they will be prohibited to do so for the Tour de France as well!"

When asked how many teams recently reaffirmed that they were going to be at the start of Paris-Nice in Issy-les-Moulineaux (ASO headquarters) on March 11, Clerc replied, "Many. Those who have reiterated their presence have sent the signal that they will be there. But as for the others, that doesn't mean that they won't be there!"

Click here to read the full feature.

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: Paris-Nice decision on teams

By Shane Stokes

The ProTour vs. Grand Tours battle has reached a critical juncture this week.The UCI and ASO have taken unwavering stances regarding the first event in the series, Paris-Nice, with the UCI forbidding ProTour teams from taking part in what is now a national event, and the ASO responding by suggesting in the Die Telegraaf newspaper that non-participation could cost a team its place in the Tour de France.

On Friday, the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT), will meet in Brussels in order to discuss the situation and decide what course of action to take. What they decide could have huge implications for the upcoming season.

Although a few, mainly French, ProTour teams have said that they intend riding Paris Nice, (prompting the UCI to issue a letter of warning to them), the governing body knows that if the majority of the teams stand united and decide to back and the ProTour series, the IPCT will have huge leverage against ASO and the other Grand Tour organisers.

UCI President Pat McQuaid has said that he can already count on the support of six teams, having reportedly got their backing at an impromptu meeting at the Tour of California. However, if the teams decide en masse to back ASO, that will make things extremely difficult for the UCI.

The Irishman told Cyclingnews on Thursday afternoon that the ball is now in the court of those teams, who paid out large sums of money to be part of the top ranked series. "It is up to them to decide what they want to do. At the end of the day it is their ProTour. We have been defending their interests, defending everybody who follows the rules, which is what our job is to do. At this point in time, it is up to the teams to decide what they want to do.

"We don't know what way it will go; I don't think anybody does," he stated.

When asked for his response to the Dutch newspaper Die Telegraaf's story [prior to publication of Cyclingnews' interview with ASO's Patrice Clerc] UCI President Pat McQuaid stated that he was unimpressed by the stance taken in the paper, saying that it is tantamount to an effort to blackmail teams into submission. "Once again, ASO is abusing the position that it has," he said. "It is using the dominant position of the Tour de France to try to force teams into Paris-Nice.

"The race is no longer on the UCI calendar, it is on the French calendar and the regulations say that ProTour and Continental Professional teams cannot ride national events. They [ASO] are trying to lever teams in other ways, basically blackmailing them into riding Paris-Nice. It doesn't surprise me that they have done something like this."

Tour of Georgia uncertain

These might be a collector's item
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The clock is ticking down for the Tour de Georgia. Just six weeks before the April 16 start date, the organizers have yet to replace last year's title sponsor, the Georgia Ford Dealers' Association, who declined to continue sponsorship last June. According to the Atlanta Business Journal, the Tour de Georgia has raised $1.5 million so far, with Georgia Department of Economic Development committing $400,000 to become the biggest single sponsor to date. Delta Air Lines, GE Energy and United Community Bank, have also committed to sponsorship, but the race still needs close to $800,000, which amounts to more than one third of the overall operating budget.

The executive director of the Tour de Georgia and a managing partner for Medalist Sports, Chris Aronhalt, wants the race to go off as scheduled. "We are also very realistic and concerned by our current shortfall. We are definitely looking at all the options," he told the Macon Telegraph. "Right now, the (financial) gap is fairly large. But on the upside, there are a lot of positive discussions. We're so dangerously close to the event, and the cities, the teams, the spectators would be devastated. To Medalist, an event cancellation is not in our realm of possibilities."

The Tour de Georgia was initially sponsored by Dodge, then by Ford, but large financial losses in the US automobile industry have caused those companies to cut back on support of events like the Tour. Craig Lesser, Tour de Georgia Chairman, is optimistic about finding a new sponsor, citing good economic times in the state and a wide appeal of the event.

"When you see the Tour de Georgia, you realize that this race is about much more (than a bicycle race)," Lesser told the Macon Telegraph. "This really is about tourism. It's about a festival-like atmosphere in the communities across the state. And unless you've experienced that, it's kind of tough to convey that to people. I truly believe we will get the sponsorship dollars because we know it's such a worthwhile cause."

US Open loses race director

By Tim Maloney

The U.S. Open Cycling Championships, slated for Saturday, April 7th, has run into some problems. Slated to run from Williamsburg to Richmond, Virginia, the ambitious event currently lists no sponsors on its web site and Thursday, experienced race promoter Tim Miller resigned as executive director of the the U.S. Open Cycling Championships.

Miller stated in an e-mail that "It is with great sadness that I write this email to inform you, the stakeholders and supporters of the effort to bring the U.S. Open Cycling Championships to Central Virginia, that I have resigned my positions as officer and director of Red Five Sports Group, Inc., and as Executive Director of the U.S. Open Cycling Championships. This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision. However, I have come to this decision because of irreconcilable differences concerning the production of the event."

When Cyclingnews subsequently spoke to Richard Durishin, President of race organizer Red Five Sports Group, he explained that "the U.S. Open Cycling Championship is still awaiting sponsor approval. We still hope to do the race, to air the race." We asked Durishin which teams might compete in the U.S. Open Cycling Championship and he said "we will have US based teams, Tim Miller faxed invites in February to many teams but we have none confirmed at this time."

UCI to launch anti-doping programme

By Shane Stokes

Whether or not the ProTour teams take part in Paris-Nice, the UCI is pressing ahead with its plans to launch its new anti-doping programme in the French capital on March 9th. Few details have emerged about the measures, which have come about in response to the Operación Puerto and Floyd Landis scandals of last season, but the UCI has said that it will be the most complete and stringent anti-doping programme in the history of sport.

Two of the procedures which are believed to be part of the programme are blood volume testing and examination for traces of growth hormone. Unconfirmed rumours are circulating that ProTour teams will be asked to each contribute €30,000 towards the cost of the programme, with race organisers and Continental Professional teams also required to pay a sum.

Pat McQuaid did not comment on the specific amounts each group would be putting in, but he did confirm that the cost would be spread between different bodies within the sport. "All of the stakeholders in the ProTour will be funding it;" he stated. "The teams, the riders, the organisers and the UCI. They will all be contributing.

"This is on top of the anti-doping measures already in place; this is purely a ProTour programme aimed at the teams and riders of the ProTour and those outside [Continental Professional teams] that who would possibly ride some ProTour events."

Cyclingnews will feature more details of the new anti-doping measures when they become available.

Lefevere sues newspaper for €20.5 million

Quick-Step-manager Patrick Lefevere held true to his promise to sue the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, the newspaper which linked him to doping practices, and its journalist Maarten Michielssens, the author of the article, for over 20 million euros. The civil case will be introduced on March 16 in the Brussels court, according to the Belgian press agency Belga.

Lefevere is reportedly suing for three million in personal damage and 17.5 million commercial damage. According to Lefevere's lawyer Chris Declerck, the article, headlined "Patrick Lefevere - 30 years of doping" led to the loss of a sponsor that was ready to commit to four to six years at 3.5 million euros per year, but the sponsor pulled out after the articles were released.

Teams ready for tough race weekend in Belgium

Quick Step's Boonen claims he's at 85%

Boonen gets his first win
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Racers will dispute two grueling Belgian semi-classics this weekend: Omloop Het Volk on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. And with the opening of the Belgian race season, the traditional public denials of top form have once again begun. Tom Boonen held a press conference in the advance of the races saying that he was "only at 85%" of his abilities, but will nonetheless lead his Belgian Quick Step team. According to Boonen said he "had a cold last weekend", and that he took an extra rest day in order to recover for the races.

After dominating the Tour of Qatar, Boonen struggled to regain his speed at the Ruta del Sol, winning one stage, but he was philosophical about the early season races, saying "Those who are already super, by the end of March, beginning of April, will come short." With his goals firmly planted in mid-April, Boonen assured that his team will have several cards to play, and that his teammates will be ready to carry on if he cannot go for the win. Former Davitamon-Lotto lead-out man Gert Steegmans, and 2002 Het Volk winner Peter Van Petegem will be on tap to fill in for Boonen on the podium if need be.

Quick Step for Het Volk: Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Gert Steegmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Kevin Van Impe, Peter Van Petegem, and Wouter Weylandt.

Hammond ready for the weekend

Photo ©: Photosport International
(Click for larger image)

Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) is among the list of riders preparing to make his mark at the first real test of form for the upcoming Spring Classics. Looking forward to this weekend, Hammond said, "The forthcoming weekend of racing is going to be tough but I'm looking forward to pushing myself, getting stuck in and making my mark as a member of the T-Mobile Team. I want to make sure I set a high standard for the rest of the classics season and both of the forthcoming races are a great place to do that."

T-Mobile for Het Volk: Eric Baumann, Lorenzo Bernucci, Markus Burghardt, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Roger Hammond, Andreas Klier, Servais Knaven

T-Mobile for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Eric Baumann, Lorenzo Bernucci, Markus Burghardt, Bert Grabsch, Roger Hammond, Greg Henderson, Andreas Klier, Frantisek Rabon

Discovery misses Hincapie

Following the departure of Classics men Leif Hoste and Roger Hammond from their roster, the Discovery Channel team will now have to count on Belgian Stijn Devolder for the spring races now that George Hincapie is out with a broken wrist. Assistant director sportif Dirk Demol said on Sporza radio that Russian Vladimir Gusev is also out of the weekend's races, having a suspected pinched nerve as a result of a crash he sustained in the Volta ao Algarve. "He has no feeling in both feet", said Demol. With Hincapie and Gusev out, and other classics riders Benjamin Noval and Uros Murn also on the injured list, Demol said, "Therefore Stijn Devolder is head man."

To read Cyclingnews' complete preview for Het Volk, click here.

Teams gear up for Swiss races

Up we go
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Barloworld, T-Mobile, and Tinkoff announced their teams for two Swiss races this weekend: the GP Chiasso on March 3 and GP Lugano on March 4.

The two races, which open the Swiss road season, may lack cobbles, but they pack in plenty of energy-sapping climbs along their respective routes. The 174.3 km GP Lugano features two distinct circuits (18.8 km and 15.1 km long) followed by a 25 km finishing stretch that snakes along the shores of Lake Lugano; the GP Chiasso is raced over two distinct circuits (11 km and 15.1 km long) in the same region.

Fresh off the Volta ao Algarve, Barloworld will be resting most of its more experienced racers and giving their younger riders a chance to prove their form. The team considers itself to have had a good start to the season, but it's hungry for a win. It's looking toward talented South African John-Lee Augustyn and Gianpaolo Cheula, whose form has been improving with every race.

Under Alberto Volpi as Director Sportif, Barloworld's roster will include Pedro Arreitunandia, neo-pro John-Lee Augustyn, Diego Caccia, Gianpaolo Cheula, Paolo Longo Borghini, James Perry, Kanstantsin Siutsou, and Mauricio Soler.

Fielding teams in both Belgium and Switzerland this weekend, T-Mobile riders Guerini and Honchar will make their season debut, and Linus Gerdemann will be there to warm up his legs for Tirreno-Adriatico. Leading the magenta charge through the Italian-speaking Ticino region will be Patrik Sinkewitz and Thomas Ziegler.

"They both showed good form and performed well at the Algarve-Tour. The Ticino parcours should suit them," said Valerio Piva, who will be directing team affairs in Switzerland. He is hoping to get his riders off the front in some breakaways.

Eight men will start each race for T-Mobile, with just one personnel change; Scott Davis starts the GP Chiasso, before sitting out Sunday's race where he will be replaced by Linus Gerdemann. "Linus needs to get some good hard races in his legs before he goes to the start of the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in ten days time," said Piva of the German stage race specialist.

T-Mobile for GP Chiasso will include Scott Davis, Giuseppe Guerini, Serhiy Honchar, Axel Merckx, Marco Pinotti, Michael Rogers, Patrik Sinkewitz , Thomas Ziegler.

For Lugano, T-Mobile will race Linus Gerdemann, Giuseppe Guerini, Serhiy Honchar, Axel Merckx, Marco Pinotti, Michael Rogers, Patrik Sinkewitz, Thomas Ziegler.

Meanwhile Tinkoff will send two different squads to pair of races. For GP Chiasso, the team will include Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Steffen Weigold (Ger), Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus), Evgeni Petrov (Rus), Ruggero Marzoli (Ita), Pavel Brutt (Rus), Daniele Contrini (Ita), and Sergey Klimov (Rus).

For GP Lugano, the team changes slightly and will consist of Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Ivan Rovny (Rus), Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus), Evgeni Petrov, Ruggero Marzoli (Ita), Pavel Brutt (Rus), Daniele Contrini (Ita), and Sergey Klimov (Rus).

Caisse D'Epargne for Almeria

Caisse D'Epargne announced its line-up for the Spanish Clasica de Almeria on March 4. Last year, Francisco Perez won the race for the team.

Although Perez won't be attending this edition, the team will send Marco Fertonani, Joan Horrach, Alberto Losada, Alexeï Markov, Mathieu Perget, Sébastien Portal, José Joaquín Rojas, and Constantino Zaballa.

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