First Edition Cycling News for March 7, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams
Unibet still lacking assurances, will consider legal action
Team to hold press conference on Wednesday
By Shane Stokes, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
While Monday's press release was somewhat vague about Unibet.com's chance of making the lineup for races such as the Tour de France, all indications since the meeting are that the Swedish-registered squad is still not guaranteed selection for events run by the Grand Tour organisers.
A line in the joint communiqué had initially given the impression that the squad's odds of participation had improved, raising the possibility that their exclusion could be over. "Without prejudicing their right to grant wild cards to all other teams of their choice, for the duration of this agreement ASO, RCS and Unipublic will examine in a positive spirit the granting of wild cards to the teams Astana and Unibet, in particular insofar as such decisions are not likely to expose or be likely to expose the organisers to legal consequences, of whatever nature they might be."
Although optimistic in tone, the phrase 'examine in a positive spirit,' is short of a firm commitment and so Cyclingnews sought to get clarification from the UCI on Tuesday as to what this meant. While the governing body said that it would not comment on Monday's meeting until later in the week, Patrice Clerc's quotes to AFP (see below) show that the team is still not assured of a start in its races.
The ASO chairman spoke of difficulties with the French law prohibiting gambling, suggesting that this bound their hands. While the team used non-branded jerseys while winning the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise and a stage of the Etoile de Bessèges, Clerc did not propose this as a way around the difficulty.
Unibet.com general manager Koen Terryn had told Het Laatste Niews that he was adopting a wait-and-see approach. "At this point we still don't know whether our not we can start Sunday in the first ProTour race of the season, Paris-Nice. If we cannot, then we will take legal steps, that is one of the possibilities.
"First I will wait for our meeting [on this issue] before I come to a decision. We do not want to react prematurely in this very complex situation. We have maintained close contact with ASO, the organisers of Paris-Nice and the Tour de France, among other races."
Team manager Jacques Hanegraaf seemed to be less convinced that there could be a satisfactory outcome. "Nothing has changed in our situation," he told Sporza.be. "Did they really have to negotiate nine hours for this agreement? They could have decided that in half an hour. We have invested 32 million euro in order to join the ProTour. We have a right to start in all races, but they are trying to take that right away from us. We will not leave it at that and will take legal steps to try to enforce our right to start."
Unibet.com has called a press conference for Wednesday afternoon, to take place at 2 PM in the Hotel Drongen in the Belgian town of the same name. Though restrained, a statement on its website further underlined that the team are not satisfied with the current uncertainty.
"The ProTour cycling team Unibet, managed by Green Cycle Associates AB, has learned from the agreement between ASO, RCS, Unipublic, the IPCT and the UCI, that it is still up to the Grand Tour organisers to decide if the team would be granted a wild card to participate in races part of the international calendar.
"Today we will not further comment on the issue as we, the team management, investigate our legal and regulatory position and options."
The release concluded by saying that the team will clarify its position at the press conference. Koen Terryn, Jacques Hanegraaf and legal counsellor Christophe Depretere will be in attendance for Unibet.com.
ASO: Unibet invite against French law
By Hedwig Kröner
ASO president Patrice Clerc has stated his organisation will not disregard French law in order to invite Unibet.com to contest its events. Clerc's comments come one day after the emergency meeting that gathered the representatives of the Grand Tour organisers, the UCI and the ProTour teams around a table to find a solution to the conflict that has been growing since the world governing body of cycling launched the pro cycling reform three years ago.
The question of the greatest cycling races' involvement within the ProTour series has by far not been solved, but for now, the 2007 top-level racing calendar has been saved, and will go ahead as planned - the only 'collateral damage' being ProTour team Unibet.com, which might not be able to race all events despite its ProTour licence.
"We will examine [Unibet's] candidacy closely," Clerc told AFP. "Like Astana, it is part of the teams at the top of the basket. But Unibet confronts us with an additional problem with regard to French law. As long as the team is outlawed [on French soil], we are prohibited to consider its candidacy. If it isn't anymore, as a consequence of a special authorization of some ministry, for example, we would consider inviting it."
Paris-Nice and Tour de France organiser ASO is wary of legal consequences an invitation of Unibet could have for the company. Just a few weeks ago, Etoile de Bessèges organiser Rolland Fangille was fined 4,500 euro and given a suspended prison sentence for letting Unibet.com riders take the start of one stage wearing their official team kit.
Asked if Unibet would be able to participate in the Tour de France, Clerc replied: "If I refer to the current state of French legislation, it won't be easy because of its sponsor and its team jersey. To advertise, directly or indirectly, an activity assimilated to illegal lottery is against the law. I won't risk putting ASO in conflict with the law."
As for the planned efforts to come to a final resolution of the conflict in Autumn, Clerc didn't expect to find a solution to all the problems. "I hope that we will find a consensual platform which will enable us to build something that will last," he said. "To say it with Patrick Lefevere's words, we have to come to a situation 'that we can live with'. To take the time to create a good system - because the damage done these last two-three years is considerable."
While the ASO president still had doubts about his adversaries at the UCI, the 'peace talks' on Monday were seen as urgent in a battle that to some observers had lost all common sense, jeopardizing the image of cycling in the same way as the recurrent doping affairs. "I note that all the participants of the meeting gave their agreement for discussion," Clerc said. "Nobody can believe that we will embrace each other after all that has happened. I have a great mistrust, but we will try to discuss things. It is not out of conviction that we met again, but out of reason."
Lotto to take action against Unibet.com
By Gregor Brown
In addition to the legal problems it is encountering in France, Unibet.com also faces an action in the Gent courts, brought about by Lotto - the Belgian national lottery.
"We have a monopoly on Belgian gambling," a spokesperson for the national lottery told Tuttobiciweb.com. "Unibet is not authorized to develop its business, nor publicize it in Belgium. From here begins the problems of Unibet.com."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
UCI's anti-doping programme to be launched on Friday
By Shane Stokes
The UCI will launch its latest weapon in the war against doping this Friday, two days before the start of Paris-Nice.
Entitled 100% Against Doping, the extensive programme will be unveiled at 5 pm at the Maison de l'Amérique Latine in Paris. Although little is known about what it will entail, UCI President Pat McQuaid previously described it as the most complete anti-doping plan in world sports. Unconfirmed rumours have suggested that blood volume testing and an examination for human growth hormone will be featured amongst its measures.
McQuaid confirmed recently that the cost of the programme would be spread between different bodies within the sport. "All of the stakeholders in the ProTour will be funding it;" he told Cyclingnews. "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."
It is unknown whether Monday's meeting with the Grand Tour organisers has changed anything as regards the planned financing of the project. There, ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic said they would co-operate with the UCI this season, but stopped short of saying that they were part of the ProTour.
A press release issued by the UCI on Tuesday said that many personalities from the cycling and sports world would be participating in the launch. It also stated that McQuaid will: "present his vision of the 2007 cycling season, following the meeting between the UCI, IPCT and the organisers of the Major Tours."
Tinkoff one of five wild cards for the Ronde
By Gregor Brown & Susan Westemeyer
Tinkoff Credit Systems has already succeeded this year in making its mark and proving its worth; the Italian-Russian squad has won a stage in Langkawi, a stage in the Tour Méditerranéen as well as the Trofeo Laigueglia and GP Chiasso and has now been selected to take part in the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on April 8.
Tinkov and team manager Omar Piscina started off the season with the goal of ten victories and, thanks to Pavel Brutt and Mikhail Ignatiev, the team is well on its way to that goal. Already selected for the Giro d'Italia in May, Tinkoff will no doubt be happy with its invitation to the Ronde. The squad may now have a chance at wild card entry into Liège-Bastogne-Liège (also organised by the ASO), a race its new signing Tyler Hamilton won in 2003.
Along with the team of Oleg Tinkov, four other teams were selected for the cobbled Classic: Belgian teams Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner and Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen plus the Dutch Skil-Shimano team and German squad Wiesenhof-Felt.
"We are extremely happy, that we can be in the Ronde van Vlaanderen," said Wiesenhof-Felt team manager Raphael Schweda. "That is one of the season highpoints that we have been aiming for."
"We have to see this nomination as the result of our outstanding team performance at the two races last weekend in Belgium, where we did well despite the loss of our captain." That captain is Steffen Wesemann, who won the Ronde in 2004. "It is our goal to bring Steffen Wesemann into position at the deciding moment, in order to help him finish as high as possible," continued Schweda. "We will not just ride along, we will go to Flanders to show what we can do.
Schreck out of action
By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile's Stephan Schreck has a virus infection that has knocked him out of the early part of the season. In a TV interview in Erfurt, Germany on Tuesday, he said that he has been unable to train for four weeks and has given up on the spring season. He hopes to be back in action this summer.
T-Mobile spokesman Stefan Wagner told Cyclingnews that Schreck "is being handled by our medical team in Freiburg. He will wait until all parameters are normal again and will then start up again with training and racing".
Team line-ups for Milano-Torino
Danilo Di Luca and Vincenzo Nibali will be hoping to continue Liquigas' stellar start to the season in Saturday's 1.HC ranked Milano-Torino following Filippo Pozzato's victory in Het Volk last weekend. The pair will be supported in the 199km race by Leonardo Bertagnolli, Eros Capecchi, Francesco Failli, Enrico Gasparotto, Andrea Noè, Roberto Petito, Alessandro Spezialetti and Charles Wegelius.
Saunier-Duval Prodir have also released their eight man roster for the Italian race: Riccardo Riccò, Manuele Mori, Luciano Pagliarini, Guido Trentin, Ángel Gómez "Litu", Peter Mazur, Rubens Bertogliati, and Raivis Belohvosciks.
Wiggins and Hayles top Good Friday bill
British riders Bradley Wiggins and Rob Hayles will contest the Good Friday International Track Meeting just one week after appearing at the World Championships in Spain later this month.
The pair will contest the 10-minute pursuit and the Golden Wheel 20 kilometre scratch race at the event to be held at London's Herne Hill Stadium. In addition to the British pair riders from Italy, Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic have been confirmed for the event.
The traditional Good Friday Meeting, which was first promoted in 1902, will be held on April 6.
Tour to be staged in Beauce
Tour de Beauce organizing committee president Denis Levesque has announced that the Tim Hortons Road National Championships will be held in Beauce, Quebec for the next two years.
Canada's premiere road cycling event will be hosted by the Beauce region from July 5 to 11, 2007, and will again return in 2008.
"I am pleased to act as honorary chairman for an event of this calibre, which will have a major economic impact on our beautiful region," said Maxime Bernier, federal deputy for Beauce and Minister of Industry. "To host such a prestigious event is an honour for the people of Beauce and we all wish the athletes and organizers the best of luck."
Past champions who are expected in Beauce include Stéphane Côté and Pierre-Olivier Boily, Mark Breton, Karol-Ann Canuel, Mark Hinnen, David Veilleux, Alexandra Wrubleski, Dominique Rollin, Svein Tuft and Eric Smith.
"Knowing the expertise of the Tour de Beauce organizing committee, I am certain that we will witness an event of the highest calibre," said Canadian Cycling Association president Dr. Pierre Blanchard.
The elite competitions will begin on Monday, July 9 with the time trial, followed by the U23 men's and elite women's road race on Tuesday. The event will close with the elite men's road race on Wednesday July 11.
New tough course for Women's UK Championship
The British Women's National Road Race Championship will be a tougher challenge in 2007 for its contestants with course director Mark Robinson announcing a new, tougher route for the event to be held in the East Riding of Yorkshire on Saturday, June 30.
The title event will be seven laps of the 13.8 kilometre East Yorkshire Road Race League course at North Newbald. The course, nestled on the western slopes of the Yorkshire Wolds, includes seven ascents of the testing Newbald Hill while the start and finish remain in Beverley.
Women riders have a chance to test the championship route before the big day with the Hull Thursday Road Club race to complete six laps of the circuit on Sunday, May 20.
Largest collegiate road race set for Philadelphia
Philadelphia will play host what is anticipated to be the largest collegiate race in history this weekend from March 10-11. While collegiate teams normally focus on competition within their conference during the season, this Pennsylvania-based event will serve simultaneously as the second stop on both the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) and the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference (ACCC) road calendars.
It will feature teams from Delaware, New England, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Building on the success of the 2006 event, promoters are expecting nearly 600 student racers, which would make the race larger than both the Boston Beanpot or Nationals.
University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Villanova, Temple University and Johns Hopkins have teamed up to host the three-event cycling weekend. "What the Philly and Johns Hopkins coalition has done is remarkable. Never before has such an important expanse of downtown metropolis been completely closed to host a collegiate cycling event," said ECCC Conference Director Mark Abramson.
The weekend of racing kicks off Saturday morning with the Schuylkill Challenge Circuit Race along the banks of the mighty Schuylkill River. "This course is going to be epic, as the course features a number of climbs that will test the early-season legs of both conferences," stated race director Joe Kopena of Drexel. "Plus, this course is in downtown Philly and is completely closed to traffic. Outside of the USPro championships, this simply has never been done."
Sunday morning, a 14km Trophy Bikes team time trial will take racers on a flat course along the banks of the Schuylkill and feature views of downtown Philadelphia. Squads of up to four riders per team. "The team time trial event is one of the best parts about Collegiate Cycling. Team-building tests such as this are usually reserved for epic stage races such as the Tour de France," said race promoter Jim Devlin of UPenn.
The weekend of racing will wrap up with the "Philly Phlyer" crit in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus. A new course for 2007, the one-kilo meter course will test of handling and sprinting prowess of the master tacticians of collegiate cycling. "On-campus events such as this bring our sport to the heart of the school so everyone can see how much excitement and fun there is to be had with collegiate cycling," explained Clifton Smoot of Johns Hopkins University.
New for this event is an "intro to racing" category for both men and women to ease the learning curve for road racing. These events will have a coached portion, where racers work with experienced riders on racing skills and then go off to race against each other. The category was tested successfully in 2006 at several events and at the ECCC opener at Rutgers last weekend.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)