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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for November 8, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Rasmussen & Rabobank go public

Michael Rasmussen is expected to tell his side of the story this afternoon at a press conference near Copenhagen, Denmark. This is in response to a press conference called by Rabobank for Monday, November 12, at which it will release an internal report on the Dane's removal from the Tour de France and firing from the team.

According to Rasmussen's press release, he will discuss "the circumstances of his suspension from this year's Tour de France." The Dane told the dpa agency, "I don't know anything about the contents of the report and I don't expect to know more tomorrow, when I will tell my version of the story."

Rasmussen was removed from the Tour after the 16th stage and subsequently fired by his team. Rabobank claimed that he had lied about his whereabouts in the time period before the Tour, and had missed several out-of-competition doping controls.

The Dutch team announced earlier this week that Peter Vogelzang would present his report over the Rasmussen affair at a press conference Monday in Utrecht, Holland. The Council of the Governing Board of sponsor Rabobank in August asked Vogelzang, former Utrecht chief of police and head of the 2004 Dutch Olympic team, to investigate the circumstances leading up to the firing.

O'Neill apologises for positive doping test

Nathan O'Neill (Health Net) won the Elk Grove prologue
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Nathan O'Neill has admitted to taking the appetite suppressant Phentermine which lead to his positive test at this year's Tour of Elk Grove, and has apologised to all concerned for the "embarrassing situation". The former Health Net-Maxxis rider was released by the team in late October, the professional squad announced yesterday, after traces of the appetite suppressant, which O'Neill is legally allowed to use out of competition, were found in his system during the Elk Grove event.

"I admit that I used the medicine for the prescribed purpose, in an out-of-competition situation," O'Neill said in a statement. "Unfortunately for me, there was a tiny amount that was still present in my body at the time the sample was collected in competition."

The 33 year-old is an eight time Australian national time trial champion and has displayed his prowess in the discipline on American soil, taking six time trial victories in 2007 including leading the Health Net-Maxxis squad to win the first team time trial in an American NRC race at the Tour de Toona.

"We are certain that this did not constitute a stimulant effect, but I do understand that there will be repercussions for this misjudgment," continued O'Neill. "I sincerely apologise to my Health Net team, my sponsors and my fans for this embarrassing situation."

The statement from O'Neill, who claimed the Tour of Elk Grove's opening stage and general classification victories, concludes by saying he will go before an Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority panel in the coming weeks to put forward his case.

French federation doctor criticises blood passport

Armand Mégret, the official doctor of the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC), has released an open letter in response to the planned blood passport, an indirect doping test method scheduled to take effect next season. According to Mégret, the project sealed by the UCI and WADA at an Anti-Doping summit in Paris two weeks ago is still much too vague.

"The World Anti-Doping Agency has imposed a [detection -ed.] method of which we ignore the application modalities, the cost, or the persons that will be tested," Mégret stated. "We don't know if this will be considered a tool in the fight against doping [resulting in suspensions - ed.] or a medical procedure leading to a no-start."

The doctor also wondered about the methodology of the tests, as well as legal aspects. "It is also necessary that the detection values be clear. Doping is not the only factor that can lead to these kind of variations. We have to be able to exclude biological anomalies caused by possible health problems of the athletes," he continued. "For this method, there is no operative system, no organisation, no method, no technical details to be applied by the labs, no kits or protocols to be used. Riders will only turn to courts, which will appoint experts to show the method is flawed, as usual."

Promising youngsters to T-Mobile

T-Mobile Team has signed two 22 year-olds for its 2008 squad, the American Craig Lewis and the German Tony Martin. Both are looking forward to their ProTour debut.

Lewis is an all-rounder who came to the team through his mentor and fellow South Carolinian, George Hincapie. In US cycling circles he is considered the "next big thing," and can point to top ten finishes this season with Team Slipstream at the Tour of Ireland and the Tour de l'Avenir.

"A lot of things brought me to T-Mobile. I guess you could say everything I have ever done in cycling has led to this team," he said on the team's website. "I have really watched T-Mobile the past couple of years and really loved the direction that they were going in. So it was my first choice for sure and with the help of my mentor, George Hincapie, I am now on the team and very excited with what's ahead."

Lewis is especially enthusiastic about the new training methods. "The team's methods of on and off the bike work is really going to make a huge difference for me next year. You really have to have a balanced body to get the most out of it and with the test we did we found our weak points. The coaches have set up a program for each of us to fix those so that we will have a great and injury-free year."

While he knows it will take him some time to adjust to the ProTour, his goals are "to really make a big impression with the team and prove that I am an important part of the success of T-Mobile. I will look to do well in the hillier classics, like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and also the week-long stage races."

Unlike Lewis, his new teammate Martin isn't particularly thinking about cycling or training at the moment, as he is finishing up his training as a police cadet at the Police Academy in Thüringen, Germany. That will be over in January, and "Then I will be able to fully focus on my cycling career."

Martin has shown talent in a number of areas, having won German championships on the track, in time trials and in the mountains in the last few years. "Time trialling is my strongest discipline. Because of my track background the speed is in the legs", he said. This year he took the overall win at the Irish FDB Insurance Ras and finished second in both the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the Tour de l'Avenir.

He believes that he now "mentally has what it takes to hold my own in stage races." His first season highlight will be the Circuit de la Sarthe. "The race parcours there is mostly flat, and the overall is normally decided in the time trial. It will be a chance for me to see where I stand."

Sydney World Cup attracts 48 nations

The opening round of the UCI Track World Cup Classics being staged in Sydney from November 30 - December 2 has attracted the largest World Cup field ever with more than 400 riders from 48 nations entered to contest 17 events over three days of racing. With nine months to go before the Olympics, track cyclists throughout the world are interested to score some points in order to qualify for the world's biggest sports event held in Beijing next year.

Australia will be represented by a host of Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champions, as well as some of the country's greatest young talent. Cycling Australia today announced the 'The Cyclones' National Team to race in Sydney, with Australia also being represented by the newly formed professional outfit, Team Toshiba, and riders in both the T-Mobile and Drapac Porsche professional teams.

Six of Australia's reigning Olympic Champions (Ryan Bayley, Graeme Brown, Peter Dawson, Brett Lancaster, Anna Meares and Luke Roberts) will be in action along with Commonwealth Games road race Champion Matthew Hayman, who is returning to the track for the first time in more than a decade. Reigning points race World Champion Kate Bates will also be in Sydney and five of Australia's Junior World Champions (Jack Bobridge, Leigh Howard, Travis Meyer, Tom Palmer and Josephine Tomic) will experience their first senior World Cup competition. Tomic, 18 years of age, already owns three rainbow UCI Junior Women's World Champion jerseys and was interviewed by Cyclingnews last August.

For more information, turn to the official site of the World Cup in Sydney.

Southland to pay homage to Peoples

By Greg Johnson

Scott Peoples
Photo ©: Kevin Chang
(Click for larger image)

The Tour of Southland will pay homage to the late Scott Peoples on tomorrow's Stage 7, the New Zealand race's toughest stage which was won in 2006 by the youngster from Shepparton in Victoria, Australia. Peoples put in a brilliant performance at last year's Tour of Southland and was reportedly in discussions with European squads about a contract for the 2007 season when he was tragically struck from behind by a Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive while training on the Maroondah highway in Merton, Victoria, and died later at the scene last December.

The entire peloton well observe one minute's silence at the start of tomorrow's 163.8 kilometre stage in Winton on Friday morning, before racing in the 19 year-old's memory on a stage dedicated to the young talent.

Riders from the The Southland Times-sponsored squad, for which Peoples contested last year's race, will wear black arm-bands on tomorrow's stage in Peoples' memory, while a special presentation will be held following the stage.

Peoples set last year's edition of the Tour of Southland alight with his relentless pursuit of victory. The Victorian claimed his first podium finish on the second stage, where he took second place to New Zealand's Clinton Avery, but he would go one place better just two stages later and score his first stage victory at the race. Despite dropping a large amount of time with the majority of the peloton on Stage 6, Peoples bounced back the following day on the event's toughest stage to claim another victory.

Early next month, the Scott Peoples Foundation in conjunction with the Shepparton Cycling Club will stage the inaugural Scotty's Race, designed to honour and celebrate the youngster's sprit. All funds raised from the 120 kilometre memorial race will go towards the Scott Peoples Memorial Fund Foundation, which was established to help promote and develop junior cycling in Australia. Peoples' mother Wendy will wave off the riders at the start line in Shepparton.

For more information visit www.scottpeoplesfoundation.com.au.

Caisse d'Epargne signs Colombians, and Stephens

Spanish team Caisse d'Epargne has announced the signing of two Colombian riders, Marlon Pérez Arango and Rigoberto Uran, for the next two seasons. Marlon Pérez, 31 years of age, has been a professional rider for seven years. He won the Gold medal of the Points race at the Junior Track World Championships in 1994.

Rigoberto Uran, who is only 20 years old, is one of the biggest hopes of Colombian cycling, winning the eighth stage of the Tour de Suisse this year.

Caisse d'Epargne also announced that Australian Neil Stephens will be the team's new sport director after having been less involved with cycling this season. Stephens has been living in the Basque country for years and brought some well-known Australian riders to Europe, like brothers Allan and Scott Davis, or Aaron Kemps. Stephens competed from 1985 to 1998, amongst others in the team ONCE. Later, he became directeur sportif at Liberty Seguros before working as part-time consultant for the Australian cycling federation.

Van Impe becomes DS at new team

Lucien Van Impe, the last Belgian winner of the Tour de France, will become sport director at a newly formed Belgian Continental team, the Willems Veranda Cyclingteam, he announced yesterday. The team has not yet signed any riders, but hopes to be able to announce 16 names by mid-December. It will have a budget of about 500,000 Euros.

Willems Veranda is a metal construction firm specializing in porches and conservatories owned by Luc Willems. "I am stepping with my company into a world unknown to me," Willems told Belgian HLN. "We signed a contract for one season, but it is possible that after a positive evaluation, it could be for two or three years. With Lucien van Impe we have the ideal man to take on our project."

Van Impe is looking forward to the new squad. "I am happy to accept this challenge to help set up a new team. I certainly won't be lacking in motivation. I want to establish a strong team. It will be a combination of eight young riders with an equal number of professionals. The pond from which I can fish is quite big. There is still a large number of guys without contracts. Well, we can put them back on their bikes. Naturally some names are already circulating in my head, but as long as there is nothing official, I won't say anything more."

Van Impe, 61, won the Tour de France in 1976. He rode professionally from 1969 to 1987. The Belgian was the outstanding climber of his era and won the mountain jersey at the Tour six times. He most recently served as a team manager at Unibet.com.

Avermaet ready to re-up, brings D'Hollander to Lotto

Greg Van Avermaet is ready to extend his contract with team Predictor-Lotto through the 2010 season. He has also convinced the team to sign his brother-in-law, Glenn D'Hollander. However, the team's sponsorship contracts expire in 2008, and no final decision has yet been reached as to whether they will be extended.

Van Avermaet, 22, has a contract for the coming year with the team, but decided to extend it early. "At this moment I have a good feeling. That is what counts," he told the Gazet van Antwerpen. He was pleased that the team has signed D'Hollander at his request, saying, "That is great proof of the confidence they have in me." This was his first pro season, and he had five wins, including stage wins in the Tour of Qatar and the Tour de Wallonie.

D'Hollander, 33, signed for one year and takes the place of Chris Horner. D'Hollander turned pro in 1996 with Vlaanderen 2002, and joined Lotto in 2000. In 2005 he rode for Landbouwkrediet before joining Chocolade Jacques for two years.

Meanwhile, the team shouldn't have to worry about its title sponsors. Marc Coucke, head of Omega Pharma has said that the company wants to continue its sponsorship. "We are still working out a plan," he told Sporza. "The situation looks better now than it did six months ago. The board of directors at Omega must still approve the plan. That applies for Lotto, too," he noted. For this reason, Van Avermaet has not yet signed the extended contract - nor has anyone else. "There is nothing on paper," Coucke said. "But we have a sort of 'option' so that we don't lose the rider when the season ends."

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