First Edition Cycling News for September 23, 2007
Edited by Laura Weislo, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Euskaltel-Euskadi's best ever Vuelta
By Monika Prell
The Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team has plenty to be happy about in this year's Vuelta a Espańa. For the first time ever, one of its riders has climbed on the podium of the country's home Tour: Samuel Sánchez. Barring a mishap on the final stage, Sánchez will finish this year's edition in third overall after pulling off a superb effort in the 20 kilometre stage 20 time trial, where he edged Australian Cadel Evans out of the podium berth.
It was the third stage win for the 29 year-old Asturian whose performance has only improved throughout the Vuelta while Evans, feeling the effects of his efforts to take second in the Tour de France, faded. Sánchez took his first win on stage 15, and then another on the Alto de Abantos on stage 19.
"In the Clásica de San Sebastián and in the Vuelta a Burgos I was very bad," Sánchez admitted of the races leading into the Vuelta, and went on to add that he was under-prepared for the start of the Tour of Spain. "I did not come into the Vuelta with the best form, and in Los Lagos [stage four -ed.], I was more than a minute behind [Denis] Menchov."
However, the lack of form wasn't unintentional, and paid off with a strong third week. "This was all planned like that because the idea was that I should finish at the top. And we reached this goal: we won three stages and two of them in the last three stages of the Vuelta. For me this has been a great joy because in addition to this I could climb on the podium", stated a very pleased Sánchez.
The technical director of the Basque team, Igor González de Galdeano, was extremely satisfied with the performance of his team. "Three stage wins and for the first time a rider on the podium is really a reason for us to be happy. I am very ambitious, but not even I would have demanded so much from my team. In any case, I believe that the best thing of this Vuelta is that we presented a squad from Euskaltel that excites the fans," affirmed González de Galdeano.
Menchov's big haul
Denis Menchov looks set to take home his first outright Vuelta overall victory as long as he makes it through the final stage to Madrid intact, and when he crosses the line on Sunday, he stands a chance of taking home not one, not two, not even three but four jerseys.
Menchov has been wearing the leader's golden jersey since he seized it on stage nine, but he's also won the mountains classification - there are no classified climbs on Sunday - and is leading the points and combination classifications as well. Only the team classification is out of his grasp - Rabobank is well behind leaders Caisse d'Epargne in 13th place.
Lampre's Daniele Bennati, currently in third in the points classification, trails Menchov by 17 points, and must take at least second place on the stage to bring home the dark magenta jersey for that classification.
It's probable that the sprinter can take back the lead in the points competition, but Menchov is set to take home the gray mountains jersey. He beat Discovery Channel's Jurgen Van Goolen by 12 points in that classification by merely defending his lead in the overall classification against the onslaught of Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
With his lead in the overall and mountains classifications, Menchov is also the clear leader in the white jersey 'combination' classification - a combined score for mountains and GC placings. He leads Sánchez in this competition. Photographers should not worry, however, because even if Menchov wins all four jerseys, there will be four different men modeling the gray, white, purple and gold jerseys on the final podium. If things stay as they are, second placed Van Goolen will be in gray, Sánchez in white, and Bennati in purple.
Hansen "wanted to do something"
By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile's Adam Hansen finished an outstanding tenth in the Vuelta a España's time trial Saturday, his best finish in the race. "I wanted to do something here, so today was my real last day to try," he told Cyclingnews. He finished only 34 seconds behind stage winner Samuel Sanchez.
A week ago, the Australian said that he was "pretty happy with how things were going." This is only his second start in a three-week tour, and the first "didn't count" he noted, as he had to drop out of this year's Giro d'Italia in only the second stage. The first week was hard, and the second went better. How has the final week been?
"I'm happy that I can still perform after three weeks of racing. That's a good sign for my future, but I'm a little disappointed because maybe I didn't go hard enough during the Vuelta. I guess I thought I would be totally dead from all the racing. As it's my first Grand Tour, I didn't know what to expect for this last week. But I'm in much better shape than I thought I would be. But that's a learning curve. Now I know for the next one," he said.
And don't be surprised to see Hansen leading the charge in Madrid on Sunday afternoon, in what he says will be his "hardest race." The reason why is simple: "The race should finish about 5:10 p.m., and my plane out of here is at 6:15 p.m. It's 20 minutes to the airport -- it's not looking good! So I hope I can make it to the flight. Maybe I might sit on the front and keep the pace high, to come in earlier!" he laughed.
ASO lashes out at UCI
Following the announcement by UCI president Pat McQuaid that the Grand Tours will no longer be a part of the UCI ProTour for 2008, the Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has lashed out at the sport's governing body for failing to address several of its concerns.
The ASO, which also organises the one day races Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Tours and La Flèche Wallonne as well as the spring stage race Paris-Nice, was critical of the plans for the calendar, saying it "has not answered the ASO's legitimate expectations, for the future of the Tour de France and other events it organises."
The statement decried McQuaid's suggestion that the one-day Classics should be on a separate calendar from the ProTour, saying, "These proposals would notably create a 'European' schedule for such well known and long standing events, which are, [and] have always been included on the world calendar."
Since the breakdown of negotiations between the two organisations, the ASO said that it will turn to French Cycling Federation and the Royal Belgian Cycling Federation to "help preserve the future of these cycling Classics".
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
Antidoping summit could bring blood 'passports'
The summit on doping in cycling scheduled to take place in Paris on October 22-23 could result in the use of a 'blood passport' as a way of tracking and catching cheaters. The method of measuring blood values over time to find suspicious changes could be in place in time for the 2008 Tour de France.
World Antidoping Agency (WADA) president Dick Pound and his vice-president Jean-François Lamour, will address the issue at the summit organised by the French ministry of Health, Youth and the Sports. "It is the principal topic which we approached with [French minister] Roselyne Bachelot," Pound explained to AFP.
The concept of a blood 'passport' is already in use in some fashion on the internal antidoping programs of the CSC, Slipstream and Plowman Craven teams, and is currently being studied by the UCI as a system for detecting suspicious changes in blood values that could indicate a rider is doping.
For the system to be used to produce doping convictions, Lamour noted, "It will be necessary that the blood tests [being used to establish the reference values] are taken under good conditions, i.e. in an unexpected way", Jean-François Lamour noted.
The Paris summit will address a reduced timeline for the introduction of the passports as well exact methods. The main discussion will revolve around what will happen if a suspicious value is detected - a prohibition from racing (which exists for too high hematocrit values already) or a doping conviction.
WADA on UCI's side over Valverde
The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has backed down on its icy relations with the UCI to support the cycling body in its demand to exclude Spaniard Alejandro Valverde from the World Championships in Stuttgart next week. WADA's legal director, Olivier Niggli supported the UCI's investigation of Valverde, saying that the 6,000 page Operación Puerto dossier has enough evidence to warrant the doping investigation.
Valverde, who is a strong candidate to win the World Championships after finishing third last year, maintains his innocence in the doping affair, and has the support of the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) which maintains that the dossier has no new evidence against the Spaniard. Valverde has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which will hear his case this coming Wednesday.
Klöden to stay with Astana
If there is a Team Astana in 2008, then Andreas Klöden will be a part of it. "He has a valid contract through the end of 2008 and he will fulfil it, if the team continues to exist -- which I assume it will," his manager Tony Rominger told the dpa news agency..
In August, Rominger had said Klöden's signing with Astana was a "mistake" and that the German rider was looking to leave, which Klöden later denied. It is rumoured that Team Milram is interested in signing him to lead them in the Tour de France.
Rominger admitted that he doesn't know what Astana's future will be. "I have heard that it should run under the management of Johan Bruyneel next year, but I have no official word." It is also rumoured that Bruyneel might also take Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, another Rominger client, with him. "I wouldn't have anything against that," Rominger said. He added that he has received inquiries about Klöden's and Contador's availability.
Stars confirmed for Monte Paschi Eroica
By Gregor Brown
The organisers of the first Monte Paschi Eroica have confirmed a large number of cycling stars for the first edition of its race, to run October 9 in Tuscany. Newly confirmed participants include Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), Gilberto Simoni and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
Organizers RCS Sport were inspired by races like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen as well as the long running cyclo-tourist event held on the same white gravel roads, or Le strade bianche. The 180-kilometre race, starting in Gaiole and ending in Siena, will include seven sectors, 70 kilometres of sterrati ('gravel roads').
There will be a total of 15 teams of 10 riders. Other than Petacchi, Simoni and Riccò, there will be Lampre-Fondital's stars Alessandro Ballan, winner of this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Daniele Bennati.
Bennati, recent winner of two Vuelta stages, is enjoying superb form and has already reconnoitred the course. "It was a sensation of turning back in time," he reported to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I did not think that paths like these still existed, where you only see a tractor every now and then. During the test I covered all seven sectors, and I can say that the last one contains points of 18%. You have to use a 39x25, and you can't get out of the saddle."
The race will finish in the medieval Piazza del Campo, home of the famous horse races. "It will be an important race that could become an important Classic. ... I can already imagine the atmosphere at the finish in the Piazza del Palio."
The team will also field cyclo-cross star Enrico Franzoi, Danilo Napolitano and Fabio Baldato. World Champion Paolo Bettini of Quick.Step has confirmed, but his team-mate Tom Boonen is still in doubt.
Ceramica Panaria-Navigare will bring Emanuele Sella, Luca Mazzanti, Paride Grillo, 'Lucky' Fortunato Baliani and Luis Felipe Laverde. The Italian/Russian team Tinkoff has confirmed Pavel Brutt, Elio Aggiano and Salvatore Commesso. Finally, Giro del Lazio winner Gabriele Bosisio will line up for Tenax-Salmilano.
Cyclo-tourist event L'Eroica dei Pionieri, run two day before the main event on Sunday October 7 has a record number of precipitants in for its 11th edition. There are already 1,510 signed up; organizers expect more than 2,000 to ride the le strade bianche, starting and ending in Gaiole. Last year, 1,503 cyclists took part.
Jaksche hopes for shorter suspension
German Jörg Jaksche, who stirred up the cycling world with his tell-all confessions earlier this year, accepted his one year suspension for admitted blood doping and EPO use, but is hoping to have it further reduced. The rider blew the lid off the cycling's Omertà by detailing the doping practices he took part in during his career earlier this summer, and received his sentence this week rom the Austrian cycling federation.
"I can live with the one-year suspension," said Jaksche. "But I will speak with the Austrians again, as to whether I can ride again as of January and not as of July 2. After all, I have a 'cooperating witness' agreement with the WADA."
In an interview with Sport-Bild magazine, he said, "So far no team has offered me a contract. If I don't find a new team by February 2008, I will be forced to end my career. But in that case all the big talk about the fight against doping would just be worthless."
Looking at various Tour de France performances, Jaksche said that he could not comment on Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen because he "was not at the Tour and therefore can't judge them. But one thing is sure, there are still doping methods which cannot be proved." He did comment on Linus Gerdemann, however, noting that Gerdemann rode well one day and not the next, and said that "Gerdemann rides like one who is clean."
His advice to Patrik Sinkewitz, who tested positive this summer for testosterone was to confess. "He comes out of the same doping milieu as I did. He must lay everything open, that's the only way we will get cycling clean."
Sinkewitz is using the same attorney as Jaksche, Michael Lehner, who told the BILD tabloid that Sinkewitz also hopes to becomes a 'cooperating witness', in hopes of reducing his suspension to six months. He added that both Jaksche and Sinkewitz are hoping to sign with T-Mobile Team.
Jaksche continues to train, either around his home in Kitzbühel, Austria, or around Florence, Italy. He has put on six kilo, "which have to go!"
Ullrich's "suspicious cash withdrawals"
Prosecutors in Bonn, Germany, continue to make their way through Jan Ullrich's Bank records. They have now come up with "suspicious cash withdrawals", the dates of which correspond to notes in Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes' records, Focus magazine has reported. The magazine also reports that there is evidence that Ullrich and his mentor Rudy Pevenage flew repeatedly to Madrid.
According to the magazine, Ullrich "withdrew five figure sums from his Swiss bank account" during his training times in 2005 and 2006. The transactions are said to correspond in time to medication delivery by Fuentes to the athlete using the code name 'Nr.1'.
The Bonn prosecutors announced earlier this month that their examination of Ullrich's bank records showed a transfer of 25,000 Euros to Fuentes in early 2004. They are now further investigating whether the German cyclist then changed to paying cash for the Spanish doctor's services.
Ullrich has continued to maintain that he had no contact with Fuentes. Focus claims, however that there are travel documents which show that Ullrich and Pevenage "flew to Madrid at least five times".
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)