First Edition Cycling News for November 19, 2007
Edited by Sue George with assistance from Greg Johnson
Page struggles under Sunweb-Projob pressure
By Brecht Decaluwé
A war of words has erupted between American Jonathan Page and his Belgian Sunweb-Projob squad, with the outfit saying the cyclo-cross rider can't handle the pressure of a professional squad. Page was signed to a two year contract after his impressive second place finish at last season's World Championships, but has come under increasing pressure from the squad in recent races.
The feud boiled over on the weekend with the squad sending its doctor around to Page's home in Oudenaarde to check if he was ill after the rider called in sick in the hours leading up to Saturday's GvA-trophy #3 in Hasselt. "Just a routine control," team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen told Cyclingnews of the reasons behind the visit.
Page, who has failed to achieve the results his team was expecting to see this season, however didn't appreciate the doctor's visit. "I feel like [Mettepenningen's] just looking for a reason to fire me," Page said.
The former American champion was hoping for a strong result at Superprestige #3 in Gavere on Sunday, but Page went home empty handed. After a reasonable start, he crashed into cushions while riding down a slippery and steep descent.
Mettepenningen met with Page in the rider's motor home after the race. "He never stops complaining and keeps going on about him being my boss, and me having to obey him," said Page. "The way he communicates with me is offensive. It's just ridiculous.
"I can't go on like this," Page fumed. "If this is the way it has to go, then that's not what I want. I'd rather ride competitively and happily than be mentally destroyed and underperforming because of him. I don't need his mobile home and money; I'd rather be just a happy man."
Mettepenningen reacted calmly when asked about the discussion and referred to a press release on the team's website, which states that Page can't handle the discipline of a professional team. "Not only are his results disappointing – Page never finished top 10 in a big race – also his approach has raised some questions," the release read, before going on to refer to Page's first race of the season where he had to gather his equipment and mechanics the day before the race.
"In Hamme-Zogge, Page was pumping a tyre himself... One call and our team mechanic would've supported him," Mettepenningen said. "The team's directeur sportif and Jonathan's friend, Mario De Clercq, tried to get him to be more serious about his job, but Page reacted that the team was putting him under too much pressure. These remarks and his feigned illness from Saturday were enough for the team to get together with Page after the race in Gavere. Five minutes later a ranting and raving Page left the camper with his wife, confusing the VIPs that were having a drink next to the camper."
"Presenting all of this as pester campaign against him is incorrect," continued Mettepenningen. "Our team doesn't need the budget from Jonathan to attract another rider. It's too bad Jonathan can't handle the pressure that is related to a top team."
The team's directeur sportif Hans De Clercq reacted on cyclo-cross.info in support of the team's decision. "Of course there's more pressure because of the team's poor performances," he said. "Only Sven Vanthourenhout has a valid excuse, so is it wrong to remind him about his obligations."
"For example, the day before the World Cup in Pijnacker, Page was spotted in a gala evening in Brugge," De Clercq added. "A pro shouldn't have been there the night before a race that is held 300 km away. On Saturday he only warned us about his absence two hours before the race! We have obligations towards our sponsors as well you know."
The team's other director, former triple world champion Mario De Clercq, declined to give a reaction.
Page believes he's not the only rider struggling with team management, claiming that team-mate Sven Vanthourenhout, who abandoned Sunday's race half-way through, was also suffering under management's psychological pressures. "Mettepenningen could have focused on the good things, like his two wins in the US, his podium finish in Switzerland and the fact that he's the team's only rider in the UCI's top 10. Instead Mettepenningen tends to point to all the negative points," Page lamented.
Despite the heated comments the team's media spokesperson, Kris Van Huynegem, said the team had no plans to dismiss Page. "He's aiming at a split, but that's not our intention," Van Hugynegem claimed.
Team Slipstream/Chipotle presents 'The New Face of American Cycling'
By James Huang
Jonathan Vaughters presented his 2008 Team Slipstream/Chipotle professional cycling team in the historic Boulder Theater in downtown Boulder, Colorado, amidst a frenetically positive atmosphere that belied the ominous cloud currently hovering over the sport. In addition to a mass infusion of star-studded talent both fresh and well-seasoned, the Director Sportif has also gained a new title sponsor for the team for 2008, the sports management firm H3O. The reinvigorated squad will now be officially known as Team Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O.
With the Discovery Channel team folding supposedly due in part to sponsorship difficulties, the addition of a major backer to Team Slipstream/Chipotle should not be taken lightly. That fact certainly wasn't lost on Vaughters, who was clearly appreciative of the unwavering support of the team's numerous supporters. "Cycling is always, and especially recently, a challenging environment to find sponsorship," he said. "All of this is only possible because of people who share the dream of having their name on a bicycle jersey. There's no way that this team has so many sponsors, so many supporters, so many people that just want to give us twenty bucks to put our sticker outside their mailbox... what makes us different is that we aren't just completely dependent on one big company. We're really a family of sponsors. You guys make this happen in a way that doesn't happen on any other team because each and every one is important to this team going forward."
While many current sponsors maintain a tenuous association with the sport, Slipstream's newest sponsor is refreshingly excited about what lies ahead. "As a new company, focused on the long-term representation of athletes, and the investment in sports properties in general, it's only fitting for us to choose to sponsor this fresh new face in American cycling," said H3O managing partner Scott Hirshom. "Like many sponsors in the sport, we've witnessed cycling go through a very tough period. Now, more than ever, we believe that cycling represents tremendous value to corporate sponsors. Especially with teams like Slipstream and others leading the way, the potential from our side has never been better. The qualities that attracted us to cycling from the beginning, the discipline, teamwork, preparation, and ability to work hard to achieve great results, are the same qualities that mark a successful company and the same qualities that drive the members of this team today... [I] feel very optimistic that this team will continue to show the strong character and represent the highest values to their sponsors, to their teams, and to the sport of cycling."
To read the full news feature, click here.
Valverde continues to defend himself
Lawyers of 2006 ProTour winner Alejandro Valverde have been asked by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to respond Monday to a case against him presented by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which is seeking to sanction the Spaniard.
WADA, with full support of the UCI, has requested a two-year suspension of Valverde from competition as confirmed by Eugenio Bermúdez, secretary of the Real Federación Española de Ciclismo to the Spanish paper AS.
Valverde's support team consists of the same group who defended his participation in the UCI World Cycling Road Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. "What WADA and the UCI are trying to obtain is what they did not obtain in September, although they are trying another legal way. It is as if they can't arrive by one road, they are trying another. The insistence of the UCI is clear," said Bermúdez to AS.
Valverde's team will argue that he is not currently sanctioned and continues to race with the approval of the Spanish Superior Council of Sports. His lawyers will argue a lack of new tests or evidence supporting a case against Valverde and that "no international federation can go against the decisions of the national organization."
Should the court case be opened, it could last for months.
Hinting at the case against Valverde, WADA's President Dick Pound had said at a press conference Thursday according to the AFP, "There is still the evidence coming from the documentation that is available to the UCI that would indicate this particular cyclist might have been involved in Operación Puerto. He said the names of dogs were associated with blood bags and said, "...funnily enough, some of the dogs were associated with cyclists."
"The problem (WADA has) with Operación Puerto is that the judge has said that none of the evidence which is available to all the parties, including us and the UCI, can be used for sports sanctions purposes until the criminal case is entirely finished. But we are sitting up there with a whole bunch of information that we know exists but you are prevented from using it," complained Pound.
Sunday, Valverde participated in a Criterium in Murcia with other 27 other Spanish cycling stars. After winning a race with a rally car, he was asked to comment on pending allegations.
"I have nothing to say with respect to attacks by the UCI because the CAS gave me a reason," said Valverde, referring to the case where he defended successfully his selection to the Spanish road team for Worlds. "I want to be calm for planning my assault on the Tour, and I'll try my fortunes in Beijing. About the Vuelta a España, I have no more to say because we still do not know the route."
Antonio J. Salmerón contributing
Winners crowned in 15th anniversary La Ruta de los Conquistadores
By Rob Jones in Costa Rica
Federico "Lico" Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS) became the first four-time champion of the La Ruta de los Conquistadores, while first-time attendee Sue Haywood (Trek-VW) took the women's title. The 15th edition of the 360km, four day race ended Saturday on the Caribbean Sea in Costa Rica after traversing the country from its start on the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the country.
Both winners had claimed the first three stages as victories, but neither made it a sweep on the final day. Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss-Bianchi) took the men's stage four win and Louise Kobin (Sho Air-Rock and Road) the women's. Ramirez finished ahead of Paolo Montoya (Macosta-Lee Cougan) and Dietsch, and Haywood ahead of Kobin and Maria Carvajal Brenes (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS) in the general classification.
"This was another hard stage, and I struggled at the end," commented Haywood after stage four. "All I could do was follow Louise."
The final stage may have looked easy on paper, but among several challenges of the day, were a pre-race soaking by rain and 35km of riding railway ties, a bone-jarring effort that broke up any attempt at a rhythm. Finally, a waist-deep swamp had some of the smaller riders all but swimming with their bikes.
"This was another hard stage," said Dietsch, "just as hard as the others. The trestle bridge was difficult to do; you were watching where you put your foot all the time, and the railway [ties] were very rough and hard on the body."
"I'm very pleased to win; I've entered five times and won four of them," said Ramirez. "This one maybe means the most, because the level of competition keeps getting better and higher. Also, for the first time we crossed the whole country with no gaps, so I feel that I am really the champion now."
This year's edition was made harder by the weather, too. Race Director Luis Diego Viquez said that the rain definitely made it more difficult for the organization as well as the riders. "We had lots of problems with the weather; unlike last year, which was really good. It made everything harder for the logistics, for marking the course, for getting our people in place. The rain makes us work double." The race will stick with its four-day format for 2008.
While there's no word yet on whether Haywood will return next year, but Ramirez promised another attempt. "I will be back for sure, for five," he added.
Napolitano visits Japanese bicycle trade show
By Miwako Sasaki
Italian Danilo Napolitano (Lampre-Fondital) travelled to Japan to visit the nation's biggest bicycle trade show ''Cycle Mode International 2007'', which was held from November 16 - 18 in Makuhari, near Tokyo. The show had its own motto: bicycle entertainment which can be felt with the body. So visitors got to ride many of the new bikes on display. Over 350 brands of bicycle appeared, and some major Japanese brands, like Shimano, invited their own riders for the show.
The 26 year-old Napolitano, who won a stage of the most recent Giro, was invited by Hattori Sports, the Japanese agency of Italian bicycle manufacturer Wilier, which is used by Team Lampre. The Sicilian sprinter arrived in Japan on Friday. ''It's nice to visit Japan! But I didn't get a good look at the city yet; [I] only have been near the hotel last night. Maybe I'll get out today," he said at the show Saturday. Although news of his visit was only announced days before the show, many cycling fans came out to see him. Napolitano enjoyed signing posters for fans.
''[The] Giro will start from Sicilia, my hometown next year. [It'll spend] four days [there] including a team time trial. I hope that I can win a stage like this year!'' Napolitano declared his ambition for the next year at the show. ''I hope that I can also start Tour [de France].''
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Miwako Sasaki
Winning weekend for Kupfernagel
By Susan Westemeyer
Hanka Kupfernagel had a successful start in the 'cross season, winning her first two races. She won both races this weekend in Kleinmachnow, Germany. Sunday's race was a Deutschland Cup race, in which she beat Nicole Kampetere by two minutes. However, Kampetere, who has won five races in the series so far this season, remains in the overall lead. Kupfernagel, who is time trial World champion and three time cross world champion, did not compete in the earlier races.
For the men, Finn Heitmann won on Saturday, with Johannes Sickmüller second. On Sunday, they reversed positions, with Sickmüller ahead of Heitmann.
Armstrong and chiropractor's names used to endorse healing machine
While the lawyers of Lance Armstrong said the multi-time Tour de France winner has neither used nor endorsed an EPFX machine, they claimed Armstrong's name, likeness, image and registered trademarks have been used without his permission to market the device world-wide according to a story in the Seattle Times. The EPFX is reported to heal with radio frequencies.
Armstrong's representatives have sent cease and desist letters to EPFX operators and related web sites asking for an end to false claims. Through his lawyers, Armstrong has said he never heard of the machine.
EPFX distributed materials saying that Armstrong's chiropractor Jeffrey Spencer used treat Armstrong during the 2003 Tour de France. The Times found that EPFX promoters paid Spencer US$20,000 since 2003 to talk at conferences and teach attendees use of the machine "to diagnose ailments and treat injury." The manufacturer of EPFX, William Nelson, is sought on federal health care fraud charges.
Spencer has admitted authoring a testimonial on how the device could support cyclists during races in the EPFX newsletter, but claims not to have used the device for diagnosis or healing. He has since retracted statements about the EPFX attributing them to fatigue and distraction while travelling. Spencer, too, will be sending cease and desist notices to relevant parties.
"I would certainly not ever use this device again or recommend it to anybody," said Spencer.
Stegcomputer - CKT sponsors new Swiss Continental Team
Switzerland's new UCI Continental Team for 2008 will be sponsored by Steg Computer, the country's biggest computer assembler. CKT Bicycles (Taiwan) will support the squad with equipment. So far, 12 of a total of 16 riders are engaged, with the most prominent rider being Christian Eminger of Austria (Masters World Champion 2006 and 2007).
Team Stegcomputer - CKT for 2008: Timo Albiez (Ger), Peter Andres (Swi), Michael Haiser (Ger), Hans Hanebeck (Ger), Dimitri Jiriakov (Liu), Peter Jörg (Swi), Tigran Korkotyan (Arm), Fabian Krienbühl (Swi), Janusch Laule (Swi), Lars Pria (Rom), Christian Rocha (Swi)
Wenzel to Malaysia?
Former US National Team road coach and former director of the Saturn Pro Cycling Team Rene Wenzel may be headed to Malaysia to serve as director of coaching for the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF)
The MNCF has offered the 46 year-old Wenzel the job, but it is waiting for the green light of approval from the National Sports Council (NSC) before formally hiring the Dane.
"He will be appointed as soon as possible to oversee our preparations for the Sea Games and immediately after that to look at the squad for Le Tour de Langkawi," said MNCF deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad to the New Straits Times.
Wenzel's duties would extend beyond coaching the team; he would also be expected to grow the coaching and rider base nationwide. "His duties won't just be limited to the national squads. He'll have to look at the entire programme from the juniors up to the elite level," said Naim. Wenzel has previously coached riders such as Americans Fred Rodriguez and George Hincapie and Australian time trial star Nathan O'Neill when they were younger.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)