Latest Cycling News for September 27, 2007
Edited by Bjorn Haake and Greg Johnson, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Court injunction over participation of Bettini and Di Luca
By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart
A considerable-sized scrum of journalists and photographers cluttered the centre of the press room at the Stuttgart World Championships on Thursday morning when the Minister for Sport in Stuttgart Susanne Eisenmann disclosed that a court injunction has been taken out by the race organisers to try to block the participation of Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca in the Elite road race on Sunday.
Earlier this year representatives of the UCI, the German Ministry of the Interior, the German cycling association, the City of Stuttgart and the State of Baden Württember signed an agreement in relation to the hosting of the world championships. It is this agreement which is being tested in the court, with the organisers seeking to find out if commitments made then in relation to the anti-doping fight are legally binding.
Should it turn out that they are and Bettini and Di Luca start, it has been indicated that legal action may be taken against the UCI, particularly if television coverage is withdrawn for the event.
"The championships won't be cancelled but we are unhappy with the situation," said Eisenmann. "After the great win by Kupfernagel yesterday, it is such a shame that all this is happening."
The German ZDF television company are reportedly considering its withdrawal from the event, although no decision has been made. It is the official host broadcaster for the championships; Cyclingnews has spoken to overseas broadcasters who believe that even if ZDF withdraws, it will continue to provide television images. If this is the case, it would be the German television coverage which is lost rather than the worldwide pictures.
Should the Stuttgart court find that the agreement the UCI has with the organisers is legally binding, the governing body will find itself in a difficult situation. CAS ruled yesterday that it could not prevent Alejandro Valverde from starting the championships; as regards Bettini, the UCI itself says that it doesn't have the power to block riders who don't sign the Commitment for a New Cycling agreement.
It also stated yesterday that because of this, it never made a commitment with the organisers to exclude riders from the championships should they not sign.
President Pat McQuaid strongly criticised Paolo Bettini earlier this week for not signing the document. The Italian is believed to have put his name to a modified version, in which he declared that he was not involved in Operación Puerto and, contrary to other media reports, would provide DNA if required to do so. However he refused to agree that a year's salary should be handed over if he tested positive. McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Wednesday that the UCI would not accept modified versions of the charter.
Bettini has also faced allegations that he supplied Patrick Sinkewitz with doping products. However Sinkewitz's lawyer Michael Lehner has stated that the rider never referred to or mentioned Bettini during procedures arising out of the German's positive doping control in June.
Armstrong: Second place isn't easy
America's Kristen Armstrong has admitted losing her Time Trial World Champion jersey to German Hanka Kupfernagel is tough, but that she knew the dark horse might come in. The reigning American Time Trial Champion added that she's looking forward to returning to the World Championships in 2008 in an attempt to regain the rainbow jersey.
"After having the world championship jersey, getting second place isn't easy," said Armstrong. "It was a difficult day and it's hard to be world champion every year. Yesterday I told my team-mates the strongest girl will win today because of the technical part and the flats. There wasn't any time to rest during the course. I knew Hanka was a dark horse coming in because she doesn't typically race with us all year, but I knew she was a strong girl."
Armstrong's second place in yesterday's Stuttgart race saw the American claim her third consecutive World Championship podium placing in the discipline, having claimed third in Madrid, Spain, two years ago, in addition to last year's victory in Salzburg, Austria.
While Armstrong failed to retain the rainbow jersey, the runner-up did secure automatic selection for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with her efforts on the 25.1-kilometre course. "I'm looking forward to going for it [world championship] again next year and also in Beijing [at the Olympic Games]," added Armstrong. "I've defended my national title for three years now and have been on the podium of the world championships for the last three years. As long as I'm healthy and injury-free, I feel pretty good about my shot."
Armstrong now has a few days rest before she lines up with her United States of America team-mates in Saturday's Elite Women's road race World Championship event.
Pooley pleased and excited
By Susan Westemeyer
Emma Pooley's goal in the women's Worlds Time Trial was a top ten finish, to ensure that Great Britain would get a spot in the Olympics time trial. And--rather to her own amazement--she made it, finishing eighth, 1'32" behind winner Hanka Kupfernagel. "It's what I was hoping for, but not expecting!" she happily told Cyclingnews after the race.
The excitement had cooled down a little this morning, but the happiness remained. "It was hard, very hard, but I was really pleased. I thought it was going badly for me," she told Cyclingnews. "It was a good result. I am generally just pleased."
The course was hard, "harder than expected. The thing I was worried about in training was the corners and the technical parts, you could never find a rhythm because of all the turns and gradient changes," Pooley said. "The worst was that long drag up to the end. It was soul-destroying. It just went on forever. It didn't look as steep as it was. I thought all the on-lookers were thinking how slowly I was going!"
Next on her agenda is the road race. "I'm looking forward to that. There's a little nervous anticipation, because you never know what will happen. Anything can happen in a road race!"
The early start doesn't bother the 25-year-old. "I like racing in the morning. Getting up at 6 a.m. is a bit much, though."
Firstly though, there is a normal training ride today. Not all of the other road race riders are there. Most will arrive today or tonight. Then on Friday they will all hit the course. "Tomorrow they will close the road, so we can ride it."
And how bad is the nervous anticipation? "I try to ignore it as long as I can."
Silver for Ignatiev
By Gregor Brown
Tinkoff. Credit Systems' rider Mikhail Ignatiev, racing for the national squad these days, took silver in Under-23 category individual time trial held on the opening day of the Worlds in Stuttgart. Being a double junior World Champion and a winner of gold and silver in the next age group, the Russian was logically considered one of the top favourites in this event. At the first time check Ignatiev took the leadership eight seconds ahead of Dutchman Lars Boom. On the finish line, though, the rider from Holland took over; the final gap was just nine seconds; perhaps, the technically demanding course was cut out better for Boom, who already took the rainbow jersey earlier this year in the Cyclo-Cross World Championships.
Ignatiev shared his view of the race with Tinkoff's press officer, Sergey Kurdyukov and Cyclingnews.
"I wouldn't call myself exactly a success as I always aim to win in a race like this. But, strictly speaking, this time I didn't have the full right to aim as high as I severely pulled a muscle in my leg about a month ago. It told on my training pretty dramatically, and I raced all these weeks just to keep myself in form with no ambition. Taking all of that into consideration, I'd call today's performance rather satisfactory."
Ignatiev mentioned that there was another factor that impeded his ability to fully concentrate on his own performance. "As you've seen, as soon as I overtook the Italian who started a minute earlier [Adriano Malori] he hung behind me, then tried to get back to the front; these manoeuvres didn't help the concentration at all."
Ignatiev has had a good year, and did well especially in time trial. In the Vuelta a Burgos, he got second behind Valverde, while he won the time trial in the Regio Tour, which also had some climbing in it. At the time he told Cyclingnews before the race that he he didn't think he could win it, as he preferred a flatter course. But now, he summed up, "All in all, this season was definitely good, but I already started to look forward to next year. I'm absolutely set to be on top for the Olympics; track races hold the best chance for me; if my form really hits the highest point, I'll think about the individual time trial on the road--still, I can't say how likely [it is] I am going to contest it."
Tinkoff. Credit Systems owner Oleg Tinkov followed his rider in the team car, but acknowledged to Cyclingnews that getting there was tough. "I came here just for a day to see Misha riding. Business doesn't give me much freedom at the moment, so I took the plane in the morning, but much later than I'd have liked, as I got caught in heavy traffic back in Moscow. Dmitri Konychev drove me to the course just five minutes before Ignatiev's start time. I found him in good spirits, ready to fight. Then I jumped into the car and off we went."
Tinkov added that he likes following his rider in the time trials and he can well judge Ignatiev's performances."It was for the fourth time that I accompanied Misha during a time trial, so it turned out no problem for me to see that he was not at his very best in this race. He didn't look quite a picture of absolute power while pedaling. There was an injury to blame, of course, and the course was too winding to his liking; the Italian was rather annoying, too. But, apart from all that, there was a problem of overdoing it all. Ignatiev didn't have a thorough rest for about twelve months, he started winning already during the Track World Cup Moscow leg. You can't run after everything, he has to take it into account in the future."
The manager of the team confirmed that Ignatiev's season was very good and that Tinkov was happy "He's had a great season with five spectacular victories in some top-level races. Yet it makes me sad to think that a talent like him bids farewell to under-23 category on a double silver note, so to speak. On the other hand, perhaps the Saturday's road race has something in store for him. I wish I could give Mikhail all of my support, but business is business, so I have to be away. Still, I'll be with him on the road, in my heart."
Big guns scrap it out for Gold
Tough parcours makes for big showdown
By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart
As is habitually the case, the road world championships got underway with the time trial events coming first in the schedule. Since the junior races were moved from the main programme after 2004, the number of such races has dropped to three. The under 23 and elite women’s TTs were held on Wednesday, covering 38.1 and 25.1 kilometres respectively, and the 44.9 kilometre elite men’s test follows one day later.
All three are held on variations of the same course and just shy of two complete laps. The start will take place approximately 500 metres past the finish line, meaning that the second lap is fractionally shorter in each case
The women’s race was held on a loop of 12.8 kilometres and went to triple world cyclo-cross champion Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany. She beat defending champion Kristin Armstrong (USA) and the Austrian Christiane Soeder by 23.47 and 41.53 seconds respectively, a performance which she attributed in part to her racing background and the nature of the parcours.
“Cyclo-cross has been very good preparation for this time trial, because the course was very good for me,” she stated. “There were downhills with a lot of bends, and also climbing, so it was something like a cyclo-cross circuit.”
The under 23 riders used the same course but also had to do an out and back stretch of 6.5 kilometres each time, bringing their lap up to 19.3 clicks. Lars Boom (Netherlands) was quickest, taking the first gold medal of the championship ahead of Russian rider Mikhail Ignatiev and Jerome Coppel (France). They were 9.06 and 45.59 seconds back respectively.
Thursday’s Elite men TT will head even further along the Wildpark Strasse dual carriageway, adding on an additional 3.4 kilometres and thus covering 22.7 each time. Last year’s winner Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) is the clear favourite, while Dave Zabriskie (USA), David Millar, Bradley Wiggins (both Great Britain), Vladimir Karpets (Russia), José Ivan Gutierrez (Spain) and Marco Pinotti (Italy) are amongst those looking to go quicker and take gold.
Cancellera downplays chances
The defending World Time Trial Champion, Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, is downplaying his chances at repeating the title this year. "I have more race days in my legs than last year. I am maybe a bit more tired," he said, according to Radsportnews.net. He certainly does not expect to repeat his success as overwhelmingly as last year: "This year I cannot hope to win with over a minute advantage."
He says that he rode a "simple preparation program" this year. He spent much time training alone behind a motorcycle, after the Poland Tour. He named his CSC teammate David Zabriskie, last year's silver medalist, as his main rival for the gold.
Bert Grabsch, the German time trial champion, sees the Swiss rider as the favourite. "Fabian Cancellara will be very difficult to beat. But even he can have a bad day."
Di Rocco demands UCI action in favour of cycling's greats at Worlds
By Gregor Brown in Stuttgart
The Italian cycling federation (FCI) President Renato Di Rocco called on the International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid to protect cycling's legends, allowing them to attend the World Championships. The organizers of the Worlds in Stuttgart had already asked previous ambassadors Rudi Altig and Erik Zabel not to attend, later adding the names of Gianni Bugno and Eddy Merckx. Cyclingnews confirmed Bugno to be in Stuttgart, where he won his first Worlds' title 16 years ago.
Di Rocco reprimanded McQuaid for not protecting cycling's history and legends. "I've read the latest statement by the Organising Committee of the Stuttgart World Championship that refused to invite athletes such as Eddy Merckx, Gianni Bugno and Rudy Altig, that is, riders who have written extraordinary pages of our sport worldwide. I find it impossible for UCI not to react and protect its own competencies and history!" the Italian wrote in a letter to the head of the UCI yesterday.
"I expect you to take action immediately in order to recover your role with respect to an Organising Committee that has been indulging for too much in actions and methods which damage the image of cycling and UCI itself."
The UCI has had its hands full this week with legal issues, including its fight against Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and threats of lawsuit from the city of Stuttgart for allowing Italians Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca to race.
Bettini, Lefevere deny Sinkewitz story
Paolo Bettini and Patrick Lefevere have both denied alleged statements by Patrik Sinkewitz that Bettini supplied the Italian with testosterone products while they were both on Lefevere's Mapei/Quick.Step team. The charges were made public yesterday by the German TV sender ZDF, which claimed to have notes from an interrogation of the German rider. Sinkewitz' attorney has also denied that his client said that.
Sinkewitz tested positive for testosterone in an out-of-competition control in June, and was subsequently fired by T-Mobile after confessing to the usage. He is cooperating with investigators in an effort to receive a shortened suspension.
Bettini promptly called his former team-mate, according to the Italian press agency ANSA. "If you did not give these statements, as you say now, then deny them immediately," he is said to have told Sinkewitz. "On the other hand, if you have made these charges, then you have to take the responsibility for them yourself. Have you spoken to no one? Then where does this story come from?"
Lefevere, team manager at Quick.Step-Innergetic and its forerunner Mapei, told Sporza that he has "absolutely no belief in this story."
"I cannot imagine that Sinkewitz got doping products from Bettini two years after he left the team," he continued. "Bettini wants Sinkewitz to deny or retract these statement as soon as possible. If that does not happen, he will take the necessary steps against Sinkewitz."
Meanwhile, the reigning World Champion "is calm and wants to use his anger to become World Champion again on Sunday," according to Lefevere.
Unzúe thankful for Valverde support
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Caisse d'Epargne's Eusebio Unzue felt "immense joy" when hearing of CAS' ruling to allow the ProTour squad's rider Alejandro Valverde to contest this weeks World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. "It is the right decision, after the nonsense things of the last few days" Unzue told EFE. The Spaniard pointed to the bad relationship between the UCI and the RFEC, which described as an "incomprehensible situation". "I prefer not to add more to this valuation," said Unzue. "At the moment, any differences between our cycling team and the UCI have not taken place." The Caisse d'Epargne director stressed he was surprised when the UCI, which he described as a excellent organisation, moved to prevent his rider from participating in the World Championships. Unzue was thankful for all the support given to Valverde, "[by] the Spanish federation and also to all people who has been around him during these so complex moments".
Mactier refines pursuit position for Beijing
Australia's Katie Mactier teamed up with Australian National Track Cycling Coach Ian McKenzie and a team of experts for some wind tunnel testing at the Colorado Premiere Training Wind Tunnel facility in Fort Collins last weekend to work on her pursuit position ahead of next year's Beijing Olympic Games in August. The assembled group included guru aerodynamicist John Cobb, Monash University aerodynamicist Scott Wordley, University of Utah cycling modeling expert Dr. Jim Martin, carbon fibre expert Raoul Luescher from Melbourne's CRC Advanced Composites, Dr. David Martin, Dr. Nick Brown and the Australian Institute of Sport's Marc Quod.
The group followed up on some data collected at an AIS National Team Track Camp in Büttgen, Germany, earlier this month. The team spent a day evaluating specific aerodynamic issues associated with Mactier's riding position, with a second day in the wind tunnel used to evaluate position, helmets, suits, handlebars and other modifications, which will be kept under wraps until the Beijing Olympics.
"It was great to work with some of the world's most knowledgeable cycling experts in a wind tunnel," said Mactier, who also riders for the ValueAct Capital women's team in America. "I can't wait to try a couple of my new positions out on the track to see if they are really as fast as the models suggest. The whole team was fantastic - it felt like I had Formula one race car support."
WCSN criteriums finals in Las Vegas
On September 27th Las Vegas will host the Criterium Finals, which will make it easy for Interbike visitors to stream out of the convention centres and onto the road side to see the exciting final. For those not in Las Vegas, WCSN (World Championship Sports Network) will provide live coverage of the event. It is possible to watch it live or on demand.
With the main sponsor withdrawing the Wiesenhof support at the end of the season, many riders are now looking for a new employer. For two of them the looking is over, as Robert Wagner and Stefan van Dijk have found new teams.
Van Dijk, who is a good sprinter and had several good results this year, will be joining Mitsubishi-Jartazi, according to radsport-aktiv.de. Other riders to join the team are Andy Capelle and James Vanlandschoot (currently Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner). Capelle had a good last part of the season and among several good results finished second behind Baden Cooke in the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen. Mitsubishi-Jartaziwill ride with a Professional Continental license next year.
And Robert Wagner is moving over to Skil-Shimano, where the allrounder will be welcomed to ride many of the Belgian and Dutch races.
Epic Everest Challenge
The Everest Challenge is an annual, grueling event in Southern California, and features 8,850 metres of climbing--the unofficial height of Mount Everest, as the Nepalese government is still holding on to the 8,848-metre measurement obtained in the 1950's. This past weekend almost 200 brave riders in all categories, including tandems, went to Bishop in California and prayed they would survive the two-day event.
If the climbing wasn't enough then the weather did its best to finish off the competitors. Rain, snow, hail and highs that were barely above freezing on the climbs softened even the toughest guys. Interestingly enough, the completion rate was higher than usual. The low snow level meant a slight rearrangement of the usual course, but unfortunately for the riders it didn't really get any easier.
Former winners Lindsay Blount and Chris Walker of Santa Barbara, California, were in attendance again and lit up the mountains with their aggressive racing. Walker has completed every single one of the seven Everest Challenges offered so far and still holds the course record with 10h17'59"
But anybody who finished this tough event can consider themselves winners, especially in adverse conditions like this year. It's one of those rare adventures left in our modern world.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)