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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for November 15, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Valverde shifts focus to Tour and Vuelta

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) after winning both the 2006 Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Contrary to previous years, Spanish all-rounder Alejandro Valverde will not target the Spring Classics next season, but concentrate on the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España instead. At a meeting with students of the Murcia University in San Javier on Tuesday, the Caisse d'Epargne rider revealed that the second part of his 2008 season will be more important to him than the early one-day monuments like Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Flèche Wallonne, which he won in 2006.

"Even without knowing the route of the Vuelta a España, which will be revealed on December 5, I can already say that I will race the Spanish Grand Tour," Valverde told Cyclingnews. "Contrary to the last few seasons, I will concentrate on the second half of the season, which includes the Tour, the Beijing Olympics, the Worlds and the Vuelta. I want to change the way I dealt with the calendar up until now."

The Spaniard has been known for his tendency to race competitively as early in the season as the Mallorca Challenge in February, which he won twice. But in the light of his Grand Tour possibilities, the man also known as 'El Imbatido' will have to pick his peaks of form more carefully. "I want to start off [the season] much more relaxed, without pressure," he said. "I'll also participate in the Classics, but I'll deal with them differently."

Valverde was looking forward to fulfilling his Grand Tour hopes at both the Tour and the Vuelta. Although he missed the presentation of the Tour route in Paris last month, he has had time to look at the itinerary - and liked what he saw. "For me, it's better to first take on the Pyrenees, and the Alps afterwards. It's also a relief to know that there will be less time trialling kilometres. I like the climbs they have put in, and the overall route is good for me, I think. But hold your horses - you don't win the Tour on paper," he commented.

But the 27 year-old didn't want to get into any polemics as to the integration of the dreaded Angliru climb in the Vuelta a España, which has generated much discussion in Spain. "I don't argue about that," Valverde added. "The fans want the Angliru because it creates a great spectacle, and that's a priority in cycling to recover public interest."

Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón

Rasmussen to sue Rabobank, waits for UCI decision

By Katharina Schulz and Susan Westemeyer

Michael Rasmussen
Photo ©: Makoto Ayano
(Click for larger image)

Michael Rasmussen thinks that Team Rabobank unfairly fired him, and is getting tired of waiting to hear from the team that sacked the Danish rider after withdrawing him from the Tour de France. An independent committee this week concluded that Rasmussen had lied about his whereabouts in the time leading up to the Tour, and that the team was justified in firing him.

"We have two options," the Dane said in a press statement issued yesterday. "Either we come to an agreement or I go to court. I have already waited 100 days without an answer." Rasmussen's lawyer contested the committee's finding that the team did not know the whereabouts of the 33 year-old during the month of June, calling this "absurd", according to HLN.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen has given the UCI new information about the month of June on Tuesday at a meeting at the federation's headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. "Michael Rasmussen came forward with new information today, which we hadn't heard about so far, and we asked him to provide us with further details, so that we will be able to come to a decision some time next week as to what should happen next in this case," Anne Gripper, head of the UCI's anti-doping unit, told the Danish newspaper Politiken.

Rasmussen hopes that the information he gave to the UCI will help him to redeem himself, while he still refuses to publicly go into any detail about the reasons for his behaviour. "I have now given the UCI an account of those details which made me act the way I did. I have already said at the press conference a few days ago that I can't elaborate those details for private reasons, but I did so nevertheless for the Rabobank committee, and I hope that repeating them [to the UCI] has been in my interest," he said.

The Dane believes he has done all he can to shed light on the episode, and now waits for the UCI to act. "Now the UCI has to take the next step. The federation is going to evaluate the information I have provided them with, and I have no idea which direction it's going to take from here. Neither do I know how much time it will take before they reach a decision. But should it come so far that the UCI decides to conduct a doping case against me, then it's the federation in Monaco, where I have my license, that should actually conduct such a case."

The Danish federation (Dansk Cycle Union, DCU) is in any event "finished" with the 33 year-old climber, and will not include him in its national team any longer. "He is definitely finished in his role [on the national team]. With the Vogelzang report we have got proof that he deliberately tried to cheat. I must strongly condemn this," the DCU's head Tom Lund told Jyllandsposten.

Especially the fact that Rasmussen apparently tried to convince members of his wife's family in Mexico to fake letters to prove he was there, astounded Lund. "That is condemnable, if professional cycling is calling for credibility," he said.

Rasmussen himself did not seem overly worried about these statements. "The Danish federation's actions towards myself have been quite definite in themselves, so this mainly indicates a man who likes to hear himself speak," he told the Danish news agency Ritzau.

Rasmussen's career over in case of two-year ban?

The UCI is currently examining Rasmussen's case, and it is expected that they take a decision some time next week. It is not to be ruled out that Rasmussen faces a two-year ban. This could have far-reaching consequences for the 33 year-old.

"A two-year ban would mean a life sentence to me. Should that be the case, I would have ridden my last bike race, and that would be a bit paradoxical, since my last race was the queen stage in the Tour de France, a stage I won," he told B.T.

But there are also other possibilities: "It is also possible that I get a check which means that I simply won't have to work any more. There are many scenarios," Rasmussen said.

Fahey's WADA future remains uncertain

By Greg Johnson

Former Australian Finance Minister John Fahey was criticised by Council of Europe members on Tuesday as the 62 year-old tried to consolidate his candidature for the replacement for World Anti-Doping Agency head Richard Pound. Despite being the only remaining candidate in the election for WADA's top job, the New Zealand-born Fahey is facing stiff resistance from European members at the World Anti-Doping Conference in Madrid, as they are reportedly considering to attempt to block Fahey's election on Saturday in the fallout from the withdrawal of French candidate Jean-Francois Lamour.

"Lamour withdrew without consulting anyone," Pound told news agencies. "He didn't answer his phone calls, he just went to a press conference and made very un-credible allegations against an organisation he was ready to lead. It was bad for France, it was bad for Europe."

Lamour announced his resignation from the candidacy as WADA vice president in mid-October and hit out at the body for allowing Fahey's late entry. While even Pound has admitted that Fahey isn't yet a sure bet as his replacement, noting that a last minute opponent could still arise, Fahey has the support of IOC president Jacques Rogge – arguably the world sport's most influential figure.

"John Fahey deserves to have the time to show his credentials," Rogge said. "He's an intelligent man, he's new to the sports movement and fight against doping. He deserves the chance to show his capacities and will be judged on how he performs. I will give him the benefit of having time to come into his role."

Fahey, who would officially take over the Montreal-based organisation on January 1 if elected, gave a 15-minute speech to 45 EoC members on Tuesday, before being questioned by the delegation for an hour.

"If the election carries, I hope to get more government involvement in the fight against doping, more cooperation," Fahey told The Associated Press. "That isn't to suggest it isn't there now, but the more that's there, the better the outcome."

Fahey admitted that there has been concerns by the European sport ministers following Lamour's voluntary withdrawal, with the Frenchman accusing the former New South Wales Premier's support being based on the desire for a softer approach to drug use in sport. Lamour's suggestion was quashed by Australian Minister for Sport senator George Brandis, while Fahey described the comments as "nonsensical ramblings".

"I can't deny in discussions with a number of European (sports) ministers that there is some level of concern about the fact that they anticipated or expected the president to be a European," Fahey said. "But it's not my fault that a candidate withdrew."

Last month, European Union sports ministers hit out at Lamour's withdrawal from the presidential race. Portuguese Cabinet Minister Pedro Silva Pereira said the 27 EU sports ministers who met is Lisbon were "very unhappy and deplore the decision" made by the Frenchman.

"The restrictions on deadlines and this late withdrawal mean that at present the EU has no plans to put forward another candidate, (but) that is not of course to say that we would not support somebody else amongst the interested parties who may come forward," Pereira told Reuters. "We have taken note of the candidate, but many states have requested more information on the candidate from Australia and we will make our decision collectively."

Should Fahey be given the nod in Saturday's vote, where he will require a majority of the 36 board members, the lawyer will continue to work from his Sydney base, where he operates three days a week as an investment bank senior advisor. "I'm sure (WADA) will require my attention almost daily - thank God for telecommunications," said Fahey, who had a lung removed after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001. "But there is a team of professionals in Montreal who are there all the time."

"Life is about opportunities and challenges, and there is clearly a challenge here," Fahey said. "If we can't remove cheating in sport, then sport dies. That would be a tragedy."

In addition to his current position as a senior advisor to J.P. Morgan Australia, Fahey is board member and chairman of the Bradman Cricket Foundation, a position he's held since 2001. On top of this, Fahey and wife Colleen have become full time parents to 8 year-old granddaughter Amber and 6 year-old grandson Campbell after their 27 year-old daughter Tiffany was killed in a car accident on Boxing Day last year.

2008 Paris-Nice starts in Amilly

After presenting the parcours of the 2008 Tour de France last month in Paris, race organiser ASO has announced that the start of Paris-Nice next year will not take place in the French capital as has been the custom. Instead, the 'race to the sun' scheduled from March 9-16 will depart from Amilly, south of Paris.

The opening time trial will be covering 9.3 kilometres, which is about the double length of the prologues raced in Paris-Nice in the last few years. The second stage of the race will also depart from Amilly. The full details of the 2008 Paris-Nice will be released in the beginning of next year.

Little luck for Jaksche with German ProTour teams

By Susan Westemeyer

Jaksche had to leave the 2006 Tour as the Operation Puerto scandal broke
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jörg Jaksche has made his doping confession, and currently serves his suspension but continues to train in the hope of finding a contract to race again next season. But the former Liberty Seguros and Astana rider is not finding much positive response from the three German ProTour teams, according to the German news magazine Stern.

"Give him a contract?" asked Gerolsteiner's Hans-Michael Holczer. "I don't even need to mention that around the team. No one there is satisfied with what he said," he added, referring to Jaksche's revelations about doping in the sport. In addition, the two have a history which would make future cooperation rather difficult. "In 2003, Jaksche agreed to sign with me and then didn't keep his word. I could have lost my own job because of that," Holczer said.

Jaksche once had good contacts with Team Milram, but that was much earlier in the year. He had discussions with the team's former business manager, now the new team manager, Gerry van Gerwen, before he made his confessions. At the time, Jaksche was strongly associated with Eufemiano Fuentes. "He wanted to come to our team," Van Gerwen said. "I said, first when we can be sure that you didn't dope, then we can talk."

In the light of Jaksche's admission, contract negotiations may now have become obsolete. "Before, a good Catholic would have received absolution," Van Gerwen said. "But today, cycling has to rid itself of doping sinners."

Jaksche rode for Team Telekom in 1999 and 2000, and has indicated that he would like to return to the new T-Mobile Team. Manager Bob Stapleton was the only team manager not to entirely rule out signing him, but his statement that in principle, "the door is always open for anyone who wants to change cycling. That includes Jaksche," is apparently more theoretical than practical. Team spokesman Stefan Wagner told the magazine that the team had "no talks with Jaksche at this time."

Scody 2007 People's Choice Cyclist of the Year

Cycling Australia has announced the launch of the 'Scody 2007 People's Choice Cyclist of the Year' award so Australian cycling fans can vote for their favourite cyclist of the year. The award will be presented at the Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards being staged at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide on Friday, December 14, 2007.

The Scody 2007 People's Choice Award has been added the range of categories to encourage Australian cycling fans to have their say and to give them the chance to win the ultimate evening with some of Australia's champion cyclists as part of the Scody prize pack. This includes a return economy air travel to Adelaide, two tickets to attend the 2007 Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards, hotel accommodation and an autographed photo of the Scody 2007 People's Choice Cyclist of the Year.

The voting is now open on the Cycling Australia website for people to nominate their favourite and from Monday 19 November to vote for their favourite from the list of finalists. Tickets for the Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards gala are also on sale.

SBS shows Croc Trophy & Tour du Faso

On Sunday, November 18, Australian SBS Television will broadcast highlights from the 13th annual Croc Trophy endurance event in North Queensland, Australia, as well as highlights from the Tour du Faso in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

The programme will begin at 12pm with the ten-day, 1400 kilometre mountain bike race that was staged in the punishing terrain and the unrelenting heat of Australia’s north in the end of October. Then following at 12:30pm, cycling enthusiasts will enjoy highlights from the 10 stages of the Tour du Faso in Burkina Faso.

Cyclingnews also has video highlights from the Croc Trophy.

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