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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, April 3, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Paris-Roubaix to return to UCI Calendar

FFC urges that the 'Hell of the North' – Paris-Roubaix – returns to the UCI calendar
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

It was neither the UCI nor the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) which made the latest move in the ongoing power struggle between two of cycling's well-known players. Instead, it was the French Cycling Federation (FFC) taking a step into the fray when it said that it would require Paris-Roubaix to be registered on one of the UCI's calendar.

As a result of escalating developments in the dispute between the UCI and the ASO, Paris-Nice was run last month under FFC sanctioning but with no UCI affiliation as it appeared on neither the ProTour nor any other UCI calendar. Under the FFC sanctioning and no longer subject to ProTour rules, ASO was free to invite the teams it chose.

"The French Federation has required ASO to run its next edition of Paris-Roubaix as a race inscribed on the UCI Calendar, in the category of 'monuments' of professional road cycling," said the FFC according to the AFP. "ASO gave its agreement in principle. The FFC will contact the UCI tomorrow (Thursday) to start the process necessary to make this happen." The FFC said it was responding to communications with UCI President Pat McQuaid and Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) president Renato Di Rocco.

The new calendar, which has been called a "historical" calendar by some, was proposed in late January as compromise that would keep some major European events as part of a UCI calendar without requiring them to be on the ProTour calendar. The UCI and five national federations had come up with a separate calendar to include the Grand Tours and four (of five) 'monuments' of cycling: Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia.

Paris-Roubaix, set for April 13, is expected to be joined by other ASO events UCI's new calendar.

ASO refutes UCI president's claims

The battle of words continues, further adding to cycling's inconsistencies

By Hedwig Kröner

Patrice Clerc
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

While the 2008 season is fully underway, the two most powerful protagonists of the sport, the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the Tour de France organiser ASO, have ceased talking to one another. Relations are non-existent, and the owner of the most important events of the sport is organising its races with the help of the French federation FFC.

The UCI has lashed out at all parties involved, going so far as to take disciplinary action against the FFC as well as the teams and riders, and to theorise that the ASO is trying to supplant the UCI. Cyclingnews contacted ASO president Patrice Clerc to get a response to the recent statements made to Cyclingnews by his UCI counterpart, Pat McQuaid.

With cycling's credibility so widely agreed upon as the sport's number one problem, it is ironic that the sport's governing body and the organiser of the sport's most prestigious races would engage in what appears to be a perfect example of Sophistry rather than meeting face to face to come to an accord, but both sides prefer at the moment to play out the battle in the press.

In ancient Greece, Sophists were intellectuals who employed rhetoric to persuade or convince others. They were also the first lawyers in the world, due their extremely developed argumentation skills. In the modern day version on display in the sport of cycling, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get to the truth behind the words from both sides, and even close followers of the story are left wondering if there are any facts behind the fluster or any hope of resolution.

No parallel federation to UCI

In one example of the baffling contradictions which emanate from this conflict, the UCI has maintained that the ASO is creating a second governing body of cycling. The ASO has managed to hold a major event, Paris-Nice, without any help from the UCI – it used its own sanctioning body (the FFC), its own anti-doping controls, and even had its own terms and contracts for the riders. Yet Clerc refuted McQuaid's allegations that his organisation seeks to replace the UCI, and maintained that ASO wanted its races to take place under the regulatory framework of a strong sports authority.

"Since Paris-Nice, I hear from all sides that ASO wants to create its own federation, parallel to and rivalling the UCI," Clerc told Cyclingnews on Tuesday. "Now, that is ludicrous! I have never, ever said or thought about this... The ASO does not want to create a new federation, quite the contrary!

"McQuaid even goes further, saying that ASO is supported in this project by the French federation, the sports minister and the French government, and even the president of the République, Mr Sarkozy! Now, if the fate of cycling wasn't at stake, this could really make you laugh! It is senseless and completely wrong.

"From the very beginning, we never stopped saying that we believed in a strong sports authority, and that we want our races to take place under a regulatory framework, under the aegis of the French federation, and of course under the aegis of the federation of federations, the UCI. But not under the UCI as it is now, but under a governing body as it should be, which remains in its field of competence and does not change its role."

Read the complete feature.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

No bunch sprint success for McEwen

By Brecht Decaluwé in Koksijde

Mad dash to the line
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In the hectic bunch sprint during the second stage of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Robbie McEwen was unable to show his speed against eventual winner Mark Cavendish. With 400 metres to go both riders were sitting relatively far back, and McEwen decided to have a go on the right side of the road, but he got boxed in.

Meanwhile Cavendish managed to sneak through on the left and powered through to the win in Koksijde near the Belgian Coast. Silence-Lotto's McEwen is still without a win in the 2008 season, but he felt Wednesday's sprint was too hectic for him. "The legs are good, but it was just ridiculous, there were guys going everywhere," said McEwen of the hectic final dash.

The Australian never managed to reach the front of the peloton for several reasons. "I didn't get up there. Someone rode into my back wheel at about a kilometre and a half to go. I lost a lot of places and couldn't come back up anymore." The fast 35 year-old tried once again, but that effort was neutralized by a move in front of him.

"There was nowhere to go. I choose one side to go, and then I got shot down," McEwen explains about his non-sprint. "I tried to get through to the right, but then everything swept across to the right and I got ridden into the barriers. You [have] got to brake then, and then it's all over. A big group came passed me on the left and that was it. It was finished and I just sat up."

Robbie McEwen was clearly disappointed that he was unable to get a real sprint going. "Such a ... it wasn't a very hard sprint. You just had to be a little lucky where you could go through, if you got through." When asked if Thursday's stage would bring him more luck, McEwen didn't know. "Maybe," and then pointed out why he came to the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

"I am here to prepare for Gent-Wevelgem." The semi-classic will be held next Wednesday, and the Australian wants to add a victory there to his palmarès.

Liquigas protecting Quinziato for De Panne overall

'Pippo' encouraged for Ronde Sunday

By Gregor Brown in Koksijde

Italian ProTour Team Liquigas is ready for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen battle. Filippo Pozzato is rallying his troops, who are in contention in the Driedaagse De Panne with Manuel Quinziato in third overall.

Pozzato "called me yesterday [following stage one] to say congratulations," said 28 year-old Italian Quinziato to Cyclingnews. "He is happy, not only for me, but because the team is going so strong. We are all motivated to do well on Sunday for Pozzato. He will be our sole captain, and we are ready to ride a good Flanders for him." He confirmed 'Pippo' Pozzato, third in the Milano-Sanremo, rode for seven hours on Tuesday.

Quinziato rode support for his compatriot in Ronde last year before a crash ruled him out of the finale. He knows what it takes to do well on the Flemish roads as evident in his stage one performance along roads leading to Zottegem. "Here in Belgium, every day can be dangerous; you have to pay attention.

"I am good and the morale is good. I see that my condition is what I had hoped it would be, and tomorrow [stages three and four - ed.] I will try to do the best I can. I was a specialist, and I hope to do a good time trial tomorrow for the overall win."

"Manuel is up there classification, and he is paying attention to his position in the finale," sprinter Francesco Chicchi noted of the team's classification leader in De Panne. "He will make sure to stay at the front ... so that he does not get gapped off." Chicchi, along with Quinziato, will be amongst the Liquigas troops for Sunday's Ronde battle.

Ignatiev aims for Roubaix's velodrome

By Gregor Brown in Koksijde

Gold medallist in the 2004 Olympics, Mikhail Ignatiev, is looking forward to arriving on the track of the 106th Paris-Roubaix. Team Tinkoff Credit Systems has been invited to participate in the event organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and the 22 year-old Russian hopes to make the best of his abilities on velodrome's banks.

He returned from Manchester, England, where he competed the World Championships as part of the 2008 Olympics build up. "I had good form there," he noted to Cyclingnews at the finish Driedaagse De Panne stage two. "I did not have any luck in the points race [10th - ed.], nor in the Madison. It was big mess. [Alexei] Markov crashed, broke his collarbone in the first lap, and then after I could not do anything. We both had great form, and I think we could have at least taken a medal."

His next appointment on the track will in fact be at the Olympics in August. For the time being, he is focused on De Panne's final stage. "I think that the time trial will go well for me," he continued of the 13.7-kilometre run on Belgium's coast. "I think that I will be amongst the top three."

Without hesitation, he stated his joy to hit the cement track at the end of Paris-Roubaix. He will lead the Italian-Russian team in the Monument next Sunday. "Tinkoff will not be in the Tour of Flanders, but we will be in Paris-Roubaix," he continued. "It is important that I make it to the track in the first ten in Roubaix. On the track I will make it work out. [laughs - ed.]"

He has only ever seen the velodrome on television, but is aware the riders will only ride one and a half laps. "There needs to be 10 or 20 laps, this would be the best!"

Another jersey for a focused "Gaspa"

By Gregor Brown in Koksijde

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Enrico Gasparotto added another jersey to his collection when he took the overall lead thanks to winning stage one of the Driedaagse De Panne yesterday in Zottegem. The 26 year-old Italian of Barloworld first came known to the majority of the cycling world when he took the maglia tricolore of Italian Champion in 2005. However, "Gaspa" has no time to hang the jerseys on the wall of his new home as he is focused on winning the race's overall and Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"It is another jersey, eh?" the blonde-haired rider confirmed to Cyclingnews with a grin on his face.

Many were ready to write off the youngster soon after he took the Italian championships as he was struck down with mononucleosis that prohibited him from showing his best. However, Gasparotto rocketed back into the public's eye when he took the classification leader's maglia rosa in the 2007 Giro d'Italia; in addition to holding the pink jersey, he held the maglia biancia of best young rider.

"I started in 2005 with the Italian jersey, then the pink jersey and white jersey last year, this year, the Tirreno and De Panne. It's another great jersey for my collection," he continued while signing autographs and posing for photos with young Belgian fans. He recently moved into a new apartment in Varese, far from his parents in Italy's northeast Friuli region. "I leave the jerseys in the chest. I am not at home enough to decorate my new place."

The tricolore left its mark, as a past champion of Italy he is able to have the green, white and red stripes on the sleeves and collar of every team jersey. "Every jersey has its story, I think the Italian champion jersey is the jersey is that changed my life. Of course every jersey is different, but with the Italian one I always carry that on all my team jerseys with the small tricolore band. I am able to remember that every day."

Gasparotto wants to hold onto the white leader's of De Panne until the races end on Thursday afternoon and then use the form that he has for the big one, Ronde van Vlaanderen. Following stage one, the team had some time to celebrate before continuing its drive towards the weekend.

"The whole team did a very good race yesterday; my team-mates helped me so much. For Team Barloworld it is important to win and we celebrate it. However, tomorrow's morning stage [three] is dangerous for the classification, but I hope to arrive in the time trial [stage four] with the leader's jersey."

He holds the lead with five seconds on Luca Paolini (Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) and seven on Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas). "I know Quinziato well because we were on the same team, he is dangerous, and also Bernard Eisel [at 25"] and Alessandro Ballan [at 40" - ed.]. If I have only 20 seconds it will be enough because the time trial is not so long ­ only 13 kilometres.

"It is better to try to win this De Panne and then think of the Tour of Flanders," he confirmed. "They say the weather is not good for Sunday; they say there will be rain and maybe snow. I don't know how the race will go for me."

"Gaspa" will have the backing of Australian team-mate Baden Cooke, who is coming on form as evident by the smart moves he made in stage one's finale. "The main objective is to defend the jersey," said Cooke. "I am feeling good ­ despite a bad weekend ­ and it is a good sign for Flanders.

"If we can get a couple of us in the front on Sunday then we are allowed to dream, and anything will be possible."

(For more on Gasparotto read Growing up.)

Euskaltel-Euskadi reconnaissance ride in Basque Country

On Thursday the Euskaltel-Euskadi team will do a reconnaissance ride of stage five of the upcoming Vuelta a País Vasco. The riders are planning to scout the last 120 kilometres of the stage. The stage will run from Vitoria-Gasteiz and Orio, with a total distance of 162 kilometres. The orange squad intends to start their training session in the region around Bergara and end it in the municipality of Orio. En route they will climb four mountains: the Elosua, Santa Ageda, Alkiza and Aia.

The team, organized by leader Miguel Madariaga, will particularly be interested in the last kilometre and a half of the Aia, with a gradient of up to 25 percent.

Cannondale Vredestein gets creative with their wheels

By Nic Lamond in Bredasdorp

Roel Paulissen rides on his tireless rim
Photo ©: Gary Perkin / SPORTZPICS
(Click for larger image)

The dramatic change of weather the evening after stage five was an appropriate metaphor for how quickly and completely fortunes shift in the Absa Cape Epic.

Amid thunderstorms, riders in the tented village were still recovering from the sapping heat and dry gusting winds they powered through Wednesday to reach the overnight stop in Bredasdorp. The demanding, 146km stage was particularly fresh in the minds of overall leaders Roel Paulissen and Jakob Fuglsang [Cannondale Vredestein] as an unfixable flat tyre forced them to clang their way through the last 18km and over the finish line on the rim of Paulissen's rear wheel.

With 18km left to race and a slender 19-minute overall lead to protect, Paulissen decided the tyre was coming off and the two would try make the finish line, with the bare metal rim grinding through dirt and tar: "I saw it once before last year in the Bart Brentjens Challenge – in Bart's own race – I saw him doing 10km on a rim. So I thought, okay, it's better to take the tyre off because otherwise it may block the whole bike and break something. I could feel already with our first flat the tyre was loose. And with a loose tyre, a loose bead, you can damage the whole drivetrain."

It was actually Fuglsang who had the tyre trouble, but after a lengthy delay repairing their first flat at 40km, the pair decided that Paulissen, who was feeling the stronger, should ride in on the rim with 18km to go. So they stripped the tyre.

The pair didn't know they had so far to travel, nor that what lay between them and the finish was a corrugated gravel country road, and then a tarmac highway. Fuglsang was surprised by the ride in. "We were told there would be 15km of sand in the end. But really loose sand would have been a bigger problem. We knew it wasn't that far and we really had no other choice but to go on a flat tyre…"

Paulissen was amazed they survived the push home. "It was so rough and the noise… and it was hitting so hard that I said there's no way the wheel can keep it up… or the spokes. But actually, come over to the van, I'll show you, the wheel is completely straight. Not even one millimetre out! But the sides, they're gone – it's a flat rim!"

Fuglsang didn't get to coast alongside his struggling partner. Instead, he pushed and pulled his team-mate at pace into a pounding headwind.

While some riders got to admire the scenery, the Cannondale Vredestein pair, occupied with more immediate technical troubles, didn't notice, "I saw that the ocean was there but nothing else actually! It was the same last year we were riding past some elephants and everybody saw the pictures with the elephants just beside us… but I didn't see anything at all!"

When asked about plans for tomorrow, Paulissen said, "That depends how the race goes. A problem like today will normally cost a minute if everything goes well and you ride back to the front group. But it could be bad if this happens again...where eight quick-fills don't work. So first of all tomorrow we defend our jersey and if the possibility is there we can attack. But we also have to save the energy now – not that we blew today," he quickly adds.

A more outspoken Fuglsang said, "I think all the teams are suffering. Sitting in the front group today, I think we were probably the strongest team. The others were suffering more than we were. If it's hard and there's climbing then I think we are the best team for that and we have to use this to protect our lead, or even take a little more time."

Tour of America cancels for 2008

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Dr. Frank Arokiasamy
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

It may no longer be April Fool's day, but it would be understandable if you thought otherwise as the organizers of the first Tour of America announced on April 2 that their race for 2008 would not materialize. Dr. Frank Arokiasamy, Ph.D., president of Aqu Sports, organizers of the race, had announced previously that last Monday, March 31, would be the go/no-go decision date – and apparently the decision was to wait another year.

"After we announced the Tour of America last fall, we hit the ground running to make the event happen in 2008," Arokiasamy said in a press statement. "Everyone we have spoken with wants to see a 'Tour de France-style" race here in the United [sic] We want to work with USA Cycling and UCI to establish this event as a compliment to the major international races, and at the same time not conflict with established races in the United States. Overall, we want to make sure the Tour of America strengthens the sport of cycling and the race calendar. In addition, potential sponsors and route cities have expressed strong support for a fall 2009 race."

Arokiasamy and his partners underwent harsh criticism when announcing their plans at the 2007 Interbike show last September – a plan that included extreme stage lengths and unrealistic race routes. This resulted in the group altering its plans a month later, reducing the number and lengths of stages, as well as making route adjustments. However, the new plan was still conceptually difficult to reason, particularly given the short amount of time the group had to make it happen.

The statement went on to say that the race will be on for 2009, but with about the same lack of detail that was ever released about the 2008 edition.

Tour of Virginia also cancels 2008 race

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The field climbs at the 2007 Tour of Virginia
Photo ©: Jason O. Watson
(Click for larger image)

Another race on the National Racing Calendar (NRC) circuit in the United States has announced a major change for 2008. The Tour of Virginia, formerly the Tour of Shenandoah, posted on its website this week that it is cancelling the 2008 event due to a lack of funding. "I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't supremely frustrated, devoid of confidence and depressed after having this experience," event director Matthew Butterman on the race web site regarding attempts to sign sponsors for this year's event.

"From the start of this event, we have pushed forward under the assumption of 'build it and they will come,' " the statement said. " 'They' refers to private corporate and state financial support. The state has been unwilling to invest in this event... So we built it anyway with the hope that a media friendly, attention-getting event would eventually attract private support either from within our venue community network, or from the outside. This has not happened to a sustainable level despite what must be described as our best efforts as a grossly under-funded promoting organization"

The news of the cancellation comes the same week that the Tour de 'Toona announced it is reducing its week-long stage race to one criterium after twenty years.

Butterman's statement said that plans are in the works to bring the event back in 2009, though how that will be achieved is yet uncertain. "The original business plan of attracting sponsorship to cover our considerable costs will have to be revised, or someone will have to bring this sponsorship or capital in to the event. A merger or dissolution of Vista Sports and collaboration with another promoting company are options that are open to us, and we are considering them carefully."

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