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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 9, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Discovery bids adieu in Missouri

Bruyneel joins Contador in stateside journey

Discovery Channel in the lap of honour
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Johan Bruyneel accompanies his star rider Alberto Contador to the USA for the Discovery Channel team's final race this weekend, the Tour of Missouri, bringing the Tour de France champion and a tinge of bitterness along for the end of an era. After eight years directing the organisation which was more successful than any team in modern memory, Bruyneel has eight Tour de France victories to remember but leaves with a bad taste in his mouth.

Bruyneel became familiar with the whispers of doping which follow every modern Tour winner, having stood by Lance Armstrong as he fended off one doping accusation after another through press releases and lawsuits, but this year's Tour was too much."They have not let me enjoy Contador's victory in the Tour," the Belgian told Marca, complaining of the accusations of involvement with Operación Puerto which followed the Spaniard's victory.

"With that atmosphere, it has been the worse Tour of my life," Bruyneel lamented. Not one month after the end of the Tour, the team's owner, Tailwind Sports, announced it would end its bid for a new title sponsor, effectively disbanding the organisation. Bruyneel hastily announced his retirement along with the news. He blamed the atmosphere surrounding Contador's win for his decision. "All of that was the main reasons why I did not desire to continue.

"You see the comments of these so-called experts, see the stupid things they say, and come to the conclusion that it is not worthwhile to continue," said the Belgian. Bruyneel has, however, been courted by the Astana squad, and is still weighing his options about his future. One thing is certain, is that the team which conquered the Tour de France will be scattered to the four winds after the Tour of Missouri, and cycling will be quite different without it.

George Hincapie, who has been on the team since its inception, and who rode all eight Tours which the team won, is heading over to the T-Mobile squad, and hasn't let the changes really sink in yet. "I thought about it at the Tour [this year] a little bit," Hincapie told AP. "I'm sure that next year, when everybody's riding for a different team, it'll be strange."

Contador embraces Leipheimer
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Stijn Devolder, who took over the lead in the overall classification of the Vuelta a España in Saturday's time trial, will head to the Quick.Step-Innergetic squad - a hometown team for the Belgian champion.

Yaroslav Popovych, who finished eighth in the Tour this year, recently announced he would go to the Predictor-Lotto squad, forming a strong alliance with second placed Australian Cadel Evans. A number of other riders will head to the Slipstream squad, most notably Tom Danielson, along with Trent Lowe and Matt White, who will act as a director sportif there.

As of yet, however, third place Tour finisher Levi Leipheimer has yet to announce his plans for next season, and Contador? He's been rumoured to be going along with Bruyneel to the Astana squad, but no formal declaration has been made as of yet.

As the sun sinks lower on the horizon in the US and autumn approaches, its only ProTour team will bid its farewell in a new race in Missouri. Where one team ends, another may well begin one day but Bruyneel is sure of one thing: "It's going to be very difficult to repeat our track record."

UCI repeats no Valverde at Worlds

Photo ©: Sirotti
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The public tug-of-war over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde's participation in the World Championships reached a new level of intensity on Saturday after the UCI upheld its decision to exclude the rider from the race in Stuttgart at the month's end. The UCI reiterated that Valverde is officially under investigation for alleged doping, and according to the organisation's rules, he cannot compete. This comes one day after Spain defied the UCI and registered Valverde to ride despite the UCI's insistence that he was not allowed.

Valverde had been the target of suspicions of involvement in the blood doping scandal dubbed Operación Puerto after bags of blood labelled "valv. piti" were alleged to have been amongst the items seized at a Madrid clinic in 2006. Valverde and his Caisse d'Epargne team have vehemently denied the rider has any links to the clinic, and has been allowed to race the entire season, including the Tour de France.

The UCI announced last month that it had uncovered new evidence against Valverde while sifting through some 6,000 pages of evidence relating to the case, and placed the Spaniard under official investigation.

According to AFP, the UCI stated that, "This inquiry does not in any way imply that Alejandro Valverde is guilty," only that he is under investigation, and the organisation is bound to follow its own rules.

Lissavetzky defends Valverde

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Jaime Lissavetzky, the Spanish minister of sport, indicated Saturday that Alejandro Valverde can count on the support of the Spanish Superior Council (CSD) as well as the Spanish federation in his battle with the UCI to participate in the World Championships. Lissavetzky said that the organisations would support him as long as the UCI "does not demonstrate that there are changes in relation to the Operación Puerto summary that already is known".

"If Valverde fulfilled the requirements to race the Tour de France," he told EFE. "I do not understand why he cannot also race the World Championships; we do not have any information that changes the previous situation."

The situation concerning Valverde's participation in Worlds could become a subject of the State, after Lissavetzky declared that, "cycling plays an important role in [Spanish] sport. The situation can be delicate, but there are moments in which from the crisis a greater strength results."

National teams: no link between Tour de l'Avenir and Tour de France, Prudhomme says

By Jean-François Quénet in Cholet

Christian Prudhomme can't always smile
Photo ©: Sirotti
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After a difficult Tour de France with one doping scandal after another and bitter tension between the organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and cycling's governing body, the UCI, there was a great deal of speculation that the Tour de France would take drastic action for next year's event and embrace the model of national teams instead of trade teams. Some of this speculation came about because the Tour de l'Avenir, another race organised by the ASO, returned to the national teams model this year. ASO's Tour director Christian Prudhomme was in Cholet for the finish of stage three, and denied that there are any parallels between the two events.

One year ago, the ASO chose to integrate the Tour de l'Avenir in the new UCI Nations Cup, which features national teams for U23 riders only. "National teams at the Tour de l'Avenir have nothing to do with the Tour de France," Prudhomme clarified in Cholet. "This is the true revival of the Tour de l'Avenir with the new category: Under 23 instead of Under 26."

Prudhomme supported the model of national teams for the Tour de l'Avenir. "The formula of national teams suits the young categories to perfection," Prudhomme declared. "Spectators who don't know much about the young guys can identify the teams more easily." However, the professional riders and teams are quite well known, and a return to national teams for the Tour would spell disaster for trade team sponsorships, so it is highly unlikely that the Tour will venture into that territory.

One territory the town of Cholet hopes the Tour will venture into is its own - the town is bidding for inclusion in the 2008 Tour de France, and is hoping to be a stop on the route between Brest and Brittany, according to the local newspaper Le Courrier de l'Ouest. The mayor of Cholet, Gilles Bourdouleix, is none other than the brother-in-law of Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme, giving the Tour boss another reason to visit the Tour de l'Avenir finish.

Cholet is one of the very rare towns whose image was affected by the scandals of the 1998 Tour de France, the last time it saw the Tour de France in its streets. In Cholet, Stuart O'Grady took the yellow jersey and Festina's DS and doctor Bruno Roussel and Eric Rijkaert were arrested, and the town hopes to have better luck next year.

"We currently have 227 bidding cities for 20 days of racing each year," said Prudhomme, who wouldn't confirm anything about next year's course before the launch of the 2008 Tour de France in Paris on October 25.

More than the course, changes to the essence of the race is highly anticipated as the director of the Tour made it clear at the end the event in July that they won't go with the same teams qualification system anymore, neither do they wish to work with UCI anymore, which puts many question marks on the board for the whole cycling community.

International summit on doping for Paris

A high-level summit on doping in cycling offered in July by the World Antidoping Agency (WADA) will convene in Paris on October 22-23, according to AFP. The offer by WADA was made in late July after multiple doping scandals plagued the Tour de France. The meeting will gather representatives of the UCI, WADA, Grand Tours, National Federations and National Antidoping Agencies. Roselyne Bachelot, Minister for Health, Youth and the Sports, announced the date, which comes three weeks before the opening of the world antidoping conference in Madrid (15 - 17 November) where the new version of the world antidoping code will be discussed.

The last half of this year's Tour de France was marked by positive controls of Alexandre Vinokourov (homologous transfusion), Cristian Moreni (testosterone) and Iban Mayo (EPO) as well as the exclusion of the yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen for issues surrounding his whereabouts declarations. The sequence of events led WADA president Dick Pound to proposed to organise an antidoping summit on cycling.

The UCI was initially critical of the move by Pound, but said that it was willing to participate in discussions "in a constructive manner and under acceptable conditions".

No Circuit Franco-Belge for Astana

The race director of October's Circuit Franco-Belge announced Saturday that he did not want the Astana team at his race. Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke told Le Soir that the doping cases of Alexander Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin for blood doping as well as the testosterone positive of Matthias Kessler were so detrimental to the sport that he does not want the team at the race. "We lost a sponsor who left after the Tour in disgust. Why should we then start at team which harmed the image of cycling so much during these last months?"

Vandenbroucke continued, "I think that it is our duty to strike a blow. It is the only weapon offered to the organisers to fight doping," explained Vandenbroucke.

Astana was asked to leave the Tour after the initial positive result of Vinokourov, and was further scandalised by the subsequent positive of Kashechkin in an out of competition control after the Tour. Both riders denied ever having doped, but were sacked by the team.

Pedersen in Britain with team ready to race and no fears for Cavendish

By Gerry McManus

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

Martin Pedersen (Team CSC), Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) and James McCallum (Plowman Craven - Evans Cycles) attended the press conference ahead of the start of the Tour of Britain on Sunday 9th September.

Speaking at the Millenium Hotel adjacent to the Madejski Stadium in Reading on Saturday afternoon, last year's winner Pedersen is in confident mood before the start of the race on Sunday at Crystal Palace. "I think my form is really good," said Pedersen: "It's going to be a tough race but I hope to do really well in the results. I personally want to do really well but the whole team will be racing."

Mark Cavendish has returned to the race with even more confidence than he had as a stagiaire at last year's event but is not sure of his form. "I am not that well prepared," confessed Cavendish: "I had my wisdom tooth out last week and my form maybe not quite as good as it could have been but I am highly motivated to come back this year." The Manxman is unconcerned with the small six man teams in the race when it comes to the bunch gallop. "I only normally need one or two riders," continued Cavendish: "And I have got some really good people there like Roger (Hammond). He is normally the last man and he is perfect for that. The 2.5km prologue could be quite good for me and hopefully I can do something tomorrow but we will have to see how it goes."

Cavendish has picked out a number of riders who he thinks will be rivals in the bunch gallops. "Robert Hunter (Barloworld) has won a stage of the Tour de France this year and JJ Haedo (Team CSC) is obviously fast. I have got a good team with me and I have proved that I am fast this year so I am not scared of anyone."

James McCallum is looking forward to the race reaching his home town in Glasgow. "It has taken me seven hours to get down from Scotland yesterday and it will take me seven days to get back there," said the British men's criterium champion: "But it will be nice to race into Glasgow where I am originally from."

Lovkvist to T-Mobile, Meersman to FdJ

The Swedish rider Thomas Lovkvist (23 years) will leave Française des Jeux at the end of the 2007 season, director Marc Madiot told AFP on Saturday. The 2006 Swedish champion will move to the T-Mobile squad. Meanwhile, one more rider of the disbanded Discovery Channel team has found employment for next season., the Discovery Channel team's fan site, announced Meersman would join the Française des Jeux squad.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)