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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 11, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Schumacher fighting doping speculation

By Susan Westemeyer

Stefan Schumacher at the World Championships
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher admits to having made a mistake, with his drunk-driving accident over the weekend, and is willing to accept the consequences. But that is all that he is admitting to, and has now gone on the offensive to fight rumours that he was using doping products to prepare for the World Championships, where he placed third.

After the Worlds, it was reported that two unannounced out-of competition tests conducted the week before the race showed irregular blood values, which he said were due to diarrhoea. Since then there has been public speculation that the irregularities were due to doping, which Schumacher, the UCI and the German federation have all denied.

The Chairman of the German Parliament's Sport Committee indicated that he would hold hearings on the subject, and challenged the rider to supply his blood values. Schumacher has now responded to the challenge. He said that he is willing to appear before the committee at any time.

In addition, he said that he was prepared to present his blood values to an independent commission. He would make himself available to the commission for questioning and cooperate with it in order to clear up the situation. He further noted that he had turned over his blood values to the UCI and national federation before the Worlds race, and they allowed him to start after they had studied the documents.

It was also announced by the BDR (German cycling federation) yesterday that a urine test conducted by the German national anti-doping agency (NADA) at the same time as the first blood test before the Worlds came back negative for doping.

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"Even if it doesn't please some people, there is no Stefan Schumacher doping case!" he said in a statement released yesterday. "I gave everything for the Worlds. I trained and lived like never before. The Worlds were my biggest goal, my vision! Because of my illness shortly before the Worlds it was almost all over. I spent one night and half a day on the toilet. That caused some of my blood values to change. But to therefore accuse of manipulation and then to add the hypothesis that my parents helped me – that is absolutely crazy!"

Schumacher's mother is a physician. Fritz Sörgel, the director of the Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Nürnberg, said in WELT magazine that the irregular blood values could be an indication of blood doping, and insinuated that the rider could have had help from close sources.

"Sörgel now has a very large problem," said Schumacher's manager, Heinz Betz. "Our attorney is already working on the matter."

Schumacher made un-related headlines this week when he crashed into a garden fence and left the scene of the accident while under the influence of alcohol.

Worlds leave Stuttgart in the red

The Elite Men's field in Stuttgart, September 30
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Hosting the World Championships has left the city of Stuttgart with a deficit of between 700,000 and one million euro. "It is hard for me to think that the taxpayers should cover this," said Stuttgart Mayor for Culture, Education and Sport Dr. Susanne Eisenmann, according to the dpa.

Stuttgart has not yet paid the UCI 600,000 euro and the German federation 75,000 euro owed, as had been earlier agreed. The city is also owed money, as the Bundesinnenministerium ('Ministry of the Interior') has not yet given it 150,000 euro as promised. Nor has the city received its full payment from Infront, a Swiss agency which was responsible for marketing the championships. "It is our goal to reach an agreement with all of our partners and not to have to go to court," Eisenmann said.

Eisenmann's pressure on the UCI during the weeks leading to the Worlds certainly could not have helped to draw tourism and money to her city. The organizing committee asked past cycling stars, such as Eddy Merckx and Gianni Bugno, not to attend and threatened the UCI with legal action if it allowed Danilo Di Luca and returning World Champion Paolo Bettini to race.

Heras is ready for return

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Two years after his suspension for EPO (Erythropoietin), Roberto Heras is ready to return to competition. "Simply, I have the desire," said the 33 year-old, three-time Vuelta a España winner, to the Spanish sport newspaper Sport. The Spaniard was discovered to have doped to win the 2005 Vuelta a España, a title that was later stripped.

"At the beginning [of the suspension] I did not want to know anything about cycling, but as time passed, my opinion changed. I have been training every day, and the truth is that I want to return, but without objectives for the short term," he commented.

He is conscious of the difficulties in his return to competition. "I wanted to return at the highest competition level," Heras continued. He is unable to sign for a top, ProTour squad due to rules that prevent signing a rider after being involved in a doping offense for four years. Recently, a court process presented by Heras to override this rule failed. "It is a barbarism that holds you during four years. However, we accepted it is as we had to. I do not say that we are guilty, but we have accepted these things as barbarism. I believe that with two years is sufficient pain."

Heras will be free to sign with a second-tier, Professional Continental team. They have served of refuge other cyclists of high level, he is conscious that, "the structure of these squads, and the calendar that they dispute are remarkably different. If the project satisfies me; perfect. I want to return, because I like this sport."

He has received three different offers from teams, but has not yet signed with any one team.

During the last two years he has had time to observe the reactions of those in and around the sport. "Friends have continued to be at my side, and they have supported to me, whereas others have made firewood of the fallen tree. I imagine that it is normal."

McEwen wins against horsepower

By Bjorn Haake

Robbie McEwen is used to winning bunch gallops, but Tuesday the victory came against an actual horse. In St. Eloois Winkel, where Belgian Nico Mattan just retired on Sunday, McEwen took part in the festivities of the 151th Kermisdinsdag.

McEwen won the two-up sprint according to Sportwereld, and declared after the race that "It was tough. I was puzzled that a horse could run that fast." The 35 year-old Australian won the suspenseful 400-metre race by one and a half bike lengths. The parcours was slightly uphill, with a little bit of a headwind.

"We were doing a top speed between 54 and 58 kilometres an hour, and the horse just kept going well," he said of the the four-legger. "In the first part of the race it was ahead of me. I wanted to switch gears, but I was already in my highest gear."

McEwen eventually passed the horse, but admitted that "in the last 100 metres I had to give it all. I prefer a bunch sprint; I am more experienced at it." In addition, McEwen was glad that the horse didn't share anything in common with Djamolidine Abdoujaparov. "I am relived the horse held its line," as the two were sprinting along throngs of spectators with umbrellas. Fortunately during the race itself there was no rain.

The jockey, Jan Pattyn, had won two of the Winkel Koerse races before with his horse, Baron. "My knowledge of the course was an advantage, but I also had the outside lane and had to run a few metres more."

Mattan had previously participated, winning in 2004 against Silver Blue. He lost last year by several centimetres, proving that the horses are equal competitors on a short distance.

Mertens may end career at 27

By Bjorn Haake

Pieter Mertens (Predictor-Lotto) will possibly end his career at the tender age of 27. He has opted to not extend his contract with the Belgian ProTour team and is a bit disillusioned, reported Sportwereld.

He is considering returning to his medical studies, which he put on hold for his professional cycling career. Two additional years are missing. "Maybe after that I will return to racing, like Serge Baguet did."

Mertens said that he believes he doesn't get enough chances in the team. "I don't have the feeling that I am appreciated by the team management. Some people have let me down, and there are still a lot [of other things] ahead of my life."

Masters track Worlds launched

By Paul Verkuylen

Mark Condi and Keith Oliver
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

The Masters Track World Championships begin on Tuesday October 16 at the Dunc Gray velodrome in Sydney, with the official launch being held today at the Bankstown sports club, the main sponsors of the event that is open to all competitors aged 30 and over.

The event comes after eighteen months of hard work by the eight member organising committee headed by event coordinator, Chris Koke from Cycling Australia, with the support of the Bankstown Sports club. "We are pleased with the turn-out. With over 400 competitors we are expecting great competition across the board," Koke said.

424 competitors from 24 nations, including the likes of Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Great Britain, USA and, of course, Australia, will be competing for medals and world championship jerseys in five events: the time trial, pursuit, scratch race, teams sprint and sprint.

One rider who is looking forward to lining up for his first event of the competition after months of hard work is Australian Keith Oliver, who was named the rider of the championships last year in Manchester after he took world titles in three events.

"I wouldn't say I am the favourite in any events, there are a lot of really good riders in the field, any of which is capable of taking the win. We will just have to wait and see," Oliver said modestly to the assembled press.

Oliver missed out on winning the sprint at last year's event, beaten by Earl Henry of Trinidad and Tobago, and has no doubt been training hard lately in order to turn that result around. "I do all of my training between 9:30 and 10:45 at night. With a stressful full time job, I am not able to fit it in at any other time," Oliver said, explaining how he finds the time to work full time and compete at an international level.

John Elliott, managing director of Brand Advantage Partners,
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

"Also, my wife is very understanding," he added before presenting the Bankstown sports club with one of his World championship jerseys from last year's championships, in recognition of the support that they have provided for the championships.

Dunc Gray velodrome was originally built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and since has been used for many elite track meets, yet many competitors and officials believe that the track may well be at its fastest. "As the boards get older they become harder, which in turn makes the track faster," commented Oliver.

Although there are no official world records for the master's categories, as their times are to be compared to those of any cyclist outside of the junior ranks, there are 'Worlds fastest times' recorded for each age group. Many of these times are expected to fall over the next week as the world's best Masters cyclists compete to win a world title in their discipline.

Gallopin to Astana as Sport Director

Gallopin (centre) with Riis (l) in 2006 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Sabine Sunderland
(Click for larger image)

Alain Gallopin is leaving his job as a Directeur Sportif at Team CSC to become Sport Director at Team Astana under incoming Team Manager Johan Bruyneel, the Frenchman announced Wednesday.

"Sport Director is a new challenge to me," the 50-year-old told the Belga press agency. "The experience attracts me, as well as perhaps my ambition of becoming the Sport Director of a French team.

"I leave CSC in a good understanding with Bjarne Riis. He said he understood my decision but could not offer me the same position."

Gallopin had worked as a Directeur Sportif for Teams Catavana-Corbeil, Française des Jeux, Mercury, Coast and Bianchi, before joining CSC in 2004.

Muraglia faces disciplinary commission and possible four-year ban

Giuseppe Muraglia will face the Italian cycling federation (FCI) disciplinary commission this afternoon, 16:30, in Rome. The 28 year-old Italian was deferred by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors with a recommended four-year suspension on June 19 in regards to a positive test for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

The rider from Bari, since suspended from Team Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo, tested positive for hGH in a post-race control after winning the 22nd Clasica de Almeria. CONI also investigated possible implications with the Oil for Drugs affair, however, the rider had denied any connections to Doctor Carlo Santuccione.

Knee injury ends Pollack's season

Olaf Pollack of Team Wiesenhof-Felt has had to end his season because of a badly bruised knee that resulted when a car cut him off while training. The 34-year-old had planned to ride Paris-Tours this coming weekend.

The sprinter is in Palma de Mallorca at a training camp with the German national track team, and he still plans to ride the winter track season. Pollack is still looking for a team for the coming season, since his current team will stop at the end of the season.

Botero will not race in the Clásica RCN

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Colombian Santiago Botero has stated health problems as the reason for him not taking part this Saturday in the Clásica RCN. The 34 years-old rider is suffering an infectious virus. The Vuelta a Colombia winner, with his technician Raul Mesa, decided to not participate in the local, classic race.

The 2002 Time Trial World champion, "could not recover from an active infection – recognized as epstein barr – that began to affect him a month ago, and that had degenerated into a mononucleosis," according to the medical diagnosis of Doctor Alberto Beltrán.

Strong pains in his throat and ears, accompanied by nasal congestion were the symptoms noted by Botero, who was forced in the last week to go five days without training. "I feel a lot of pain and sadness by not being able to be in the Clásica RCN," said Botero press agency EFE. "I wanted – honestly – to recover, when I tried to return to train in these last days."

Botero will be replaced by Giovanni Chacón. Team Une Orbitel will face main rivals like Javier González, current champion of the Clásica RCN, Giovanny Báez, Juan Carlos Lopez, Oscar Alvarez, Alexander Ramirez, Héctor Mesa, Freddy Piedmont, John Martinez, Giovanni Chacón and Edwin Orozco.

Vuelta a Chile postponed

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The 30th Vuelta a Chile has been postponed to April 2008 due to lack of financing, the president of its national federation, Oscar Gomez, confirmed to

"It did not make sense that we hold the Vuelta a Chile if we could not count on at least half of the money that was required. We could not commit the same error of the last organizer," Gomez commented.

Of the 250 million pesos budgeted (€356,443), only 120 had confirmed. "Possibly we will start on the fourth [of April], one week after disputing the Vuelta del Líder," Gomez explained. The Vuelta a Chile has been held every year since 1976 except for 1993 and 1994.

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