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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, April 17, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Prudhomme happy with Paris-Roubaix outcome

UCI convoy position system questioned

By Brecht Decaluwé in Roubaix, France

The peloton winds its way through the Paris-Roubaix course
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

While expected rain never arrived at the Paris-Roubaix's 106th running on Sunday, Amaury Sport Organisation cycling director Christian Prudhomme is happy with how the event unfolded. The French director described how pleased he was to see a Paris-Roubaix where the big guns battled each other in the finale, despite the lack of bad weather that – according to sadist cycling fans – is an essential ingredient for the 'Hell of the North'.

"Some people say Paris-Roubaix needs rain, but I think that even without rain we've seen a fantastic race," said Prudhomme. "It was a great finale with those three men [Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and Alessandro Ballan] out there. They are the reference in this type of races."

Despite the multiple battles between the ASO and the UCI in the past, it turned out that Paris-Roubaix was organised under the authority of the UCI. The French Cycling Federation (FFC) asked ASO to have the race on a UCI-calendar two weeks ago, and eventually Paris-Roubaix featured on the international governing body's 'historical calendar'. That calendar features as a 'lubricant' for races that are inflicted in the conflict between the UCI and race organisers, of which ASO is the most well known. "It's a first step towards the end of the conflict," the FFC claimed.

As a result of this agreement it was up to the UCI to make the decision in the formation of team cars behind the peloton. As the event is not part of the ProTour calendar, there's no ranking to derive the order from. ASO suggested deriving a ranking from the Milano-Sanremo and Ronde van Vlaanderen results, but the UCI didn't agree.

Instead the UCI put in place a lottery system, where teams would be drawn out of a hat in their start order. The system was unlucky for Silence-Lotto and Liquigas, while Saunier Duval-Scott was lucky to pick number one and the team of eventual winner Boonen, team Quick Step, started fifth.

The UCI's solution wasn't exactly something that pleased everybody. Silence-Lotto's director sportif Herman Frison said the battle between the UCI and ASO impacted on the team's Paris-Roubaix hopes with Leif Hoste as a result of the squad's poor convoy position.

"We are the victim of the row between the UCI and the ASO," said Frison. "Of course this couldn't be solved right away, but it is about time that the teams come together to figure out a system for the order in these races [on the historical calendar].

"I've got nothing against Continental teams, but they had five teams in the top-10," he added. "That's a little bit frustrating, because the stakes are much higher for us."

Silence-Lotto tried to solve the problem by organising a network of mechanics with wheels and bikes along the course. Eventually Hoste proved not to be as strong as Boonen, Ballan and Cancellara, and he missed the cut when they jumped away towards the podium. To his credit, Hoste didn't get into stories about team cars being too far away after the race though. "I wasn't bad, but the three others were better," Hoste said after the race. "So, I don't need to search for excuses."

CONI clears Giro champion Di Luca

By Gregor Brown

The 2007 Giro winner Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

The expert panel assembled by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) has absolved 32 year-old Danilo Di Luca of any wrong-doing following a review of the Italian's anti-doping controls taken after the Monte Zoncolan stage of the 2007 Giro d'Italia. The Italian claimed victory in his home Grand Tour by 1'55" over Luxembourg's Andy Schleck.

CONI anti-doping prosecutors speculated that Di Luca took injections that altered his hormone level in the time between the International Cycling Union (UCI) anti-doping control following Stage 17 and its controversial control later on that same evening. Di Luca was heard by CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri in December in relation to the adverse findings and then had his case first heard by the CONI expert panel, Giudice di Ultima Istanza (GUI), on April 1.

"The hypothesised and possible use of forbidden methods did not reach the degree of probability asked for by WADA article 3.1 [Burdens and Standards of Proof - ed.]," stated CONI in a release Wednesday afternoon, April 16.

Di Luca, who rode with Liquigas in 2007 before switching to Team LPR Brakes for the 2008 season, was delighted with the news. "Now, I will not be held back from returning to win the Giro," Di Luca told Agr. The rider was not at the hearing in Roma, instead opting to train on his bike. "I needed it because I was a little tense, but also calm because I knew that I would go well."

Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) president Renato Di Rocco is pleased the legal process has concluded and that last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner is free to ride without any doubts lingering. "Justice has run its course," stated Di Rocco. "I am content for the man and athlete, Danilo Di Luca, and happy to see him leave this experience stronger and more motivated than before."

CONI's case was unique in that it sought to suspend a rider not for a positive doping result, like high testosterone, but for varying hormone values. Di Luca based his innocence on the consumption of large amounts of water following the Zoncolan stage where he finished fourth, however the prosecutor argued that there must have been an injection of plasma.

CONI may appeal the decision by the GUI to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but has not yet indicated that it will do so.

In a statement to the media, Liquigas questioned the approach by the various bodies involved with the Di Luca case. Liquigas, clearly unhappy that both it and its former star rider have had their names tarnished as a result of the case, called for an overhaul of the current practices and procedures.

"The judge's acquittal of Danilo Di Luca disproves CONI's anti-doping committee. It has been proved that the rules were adhered to after the Zoncolan stage. The damage suffered in the meantime by the team and the racer is irrefutable. Relations between sporting groups and the other cycling figures need to be re-evaluated. The code of practice no longer meets current needs."

Key dates:
October 16, 2007: Di Luca was suspended for three months for unrelated Oil for Drugs investigation.
December 6, 2007: Di Luca was heard by CONI's anti-doping prosecutor relating to the doping controls following the stage to Monte Zoncolan.
February 27, 2008: CONI's anti-doping prosecutor requests a two-year suspension for Di Luca.
April 1, 2008: First hearing in front of CONI's expert panel, Giudice di Ultima Istanza (GUI).

Cobo targets Tour top 10

By Jean-François Quénet in Marmaris, Turkey

Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Saunier Duval-Scott)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Juan José Cobo was prevented from defending his Vuelta al País Vasco victory in 2007 at last week's race as he was suffering from the flu, but the Spaniard hasn't lost any of his motivation to finish in the top 10 at July's Tour de France. Cobo has chosen to re-start his preparations with the Tour of Turkey.

Cobo's fitness wasn't good enough to enable him to stay with eventual Stage 3 winner Matteo Priamo (CSF Group Navigare) and his compatriot David Garcia (Karpin-Galicia), who became the new race leader, in the break on day three. The Spaniard was however involved in the decisive breakaway until the second King of the Mountain climb located 49 kilometres from the finish, confirming the optimism he held on the start line in Marmaris.

"I'm finding the good rhythm again," Cobo said. "I'm feeling good for the second part of the season that will take me to the Tour de France. I was victim of the cold at the beginning of Paris-Nice. I felt some pain in my left knee and I had to stop riding for one week because of the flu.

"I suffered a lot during the Vuelta Castilla and Leon although I rode until the last day," he added. "That's why my directeur sportif Matxin and I decided to skip the Tour of the Basque country and replace it on my calendar with the Tour of Turkey."

Cobo won three stages and the overall classification at the Tour of the Basque country last year. It was heart-breaking for him to miss a race he enjoys so much, but the rider seems to be enjoying his replacement trip to Turkey. "My new plan will include the Tour of Asturias, the Tour of Catalunya and the Dauphiné Libéré," he explained. "I want to get a result before the Tour de France but the only goal I have really is the Tour de France itself. In principle, I'll be the captain of Saunier Duval for the Tour. I finished 20th last year for my first attempt and I've set the top 10 as my goal for this year.

"For me, the Tour de France isn't only the biggest race in the world, it's also the best for my characteristics because it goes regularly," he added. "I also like the absence of a prologue this year. I'm excited to do well in July."

Van Houwelingen denies Flecha reports

By Bjorn Haake in Schoten, Belgium

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) was unlucky
Photo ©: Florian & Susanne Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

Reports about Juan Antonio Flecha not being happy with his team-mates and the team orders coming from directeur sportif Adri van Houwelingen are incorrect, according to the directeur. Flecha claimed that as he was left to fend for himself he wasn't able to eat or drink during the French Spring Classic, which "helped break" him later in the race.

"It's a lie," said van Houwelingen. "What was written in the press was a lie. [Flecha] was talking to a friend and someone from the press was listening, but took the wrong conclusion."

While van Houwelingen admitted that the team's Paris-Roubaix result was bad luck, he confirmed there was no break-down of the team's radio communication system or anything like that. "After the forest [Wallers-Arenberg], there were only two team-mates in front of Flecha," said the Dutchman.

One of those team-mates was Sebastian Langeveld, who had an extremely impressive ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen a week earlier. After being in the first threatening break with George Hincapie (Team High Road) and Stjin Devolder (Quick Step), amongst others, Langeveld then stayed with the group of favourites and even attacked again before the Bosberg. Langeveld was caught in the Belgian race, but it was a good move to launch Flecha, who came within nine seconds of Devolder before fading to third place.

"I did not want to stop Langeveld," said Houwelingen. "If he wouldn't have crashed, he would have been in the top eight, for sure."

Langeveld to miss Amstel Gold

Rabobank's Sebastian Langeveld will miss this weekend's Amstel Gold Race, with the rider not fully recovered from last weekend's Paris-Roubaix. Langeveld sustained some injuries to his leg after a crash during the French Spring Classic.

"The wound on my knee is very deep," he told telesport.nl. "I have to take antibiotics and that costs energy. Personally, I still hope to start in the Gold Race, but the doctors of the team Wednesday let me know that I have to take [that idea] out of my head."

The injury is a blow to Langeveld, who has been riding solidly in recent weeks at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

2008 Deutschland Tour presented

A prologue in Kitzbühel, Austria will open this year's Tour of Germany, organisers revealed at the route presentation yesterday. The ski resort will also host the start of Stage 1, before the race ventures into Germany, taking in Munich and then heading to the south-west of the country.

"This year the route is again very challenging, but balanced, where any type of rider has a chance to shine," said Milram's Christian Knees. "It will stay suspenseful until the end. Especially the end of the race, close to our sponsor Milram, will be additionally motivating for us."

Neuss, near Düsseldorf, will host the finish of Stage 6. From there the riders head north to the 35 kilometre individual time trial in Bremen, which will conclude the only German ProTour stage race.

"The Deutschland Tour is the flag ship of German cycling, and therefore also an indicator for its state," said defending champion Jens Voigt. "The 2008 route stands for a great event and a suspenseful race, where you have to attack right from the gun. That is what I am going to do, as I would like, if possible, to win here one more time."

Race organiser Kai Rapp was happy to announce an interesting route with attractable stage towns. "Together with our sponsors and ARD, we will present an animated and suspenseful 2008 Deutschland Tour," he said. "This is especially nice taking into account that it's the 10th anniversary [the race is older, but was interrupted and resurrected ten years ago - ed.]" BH

The stages
Prologue - August 29: Kitzbühel 4km
1. Stage 1 - 30. August 30: Kitzbühel - Hochfügen 180km
2. Stage 2 - 31. August 31: München - Region Hesselberg 180km
3. Stage 3 - September 1: Herrieden - Wiesloch 195km
4. Stage 4 - September 2: Wiesloch - Mainz 170km
5. Stage 5 - September 3: Mainz - Winterberg 210km
6. Stage 6 - September 4: Schmallenberg / Bad Fredeburg - Neuss 195km
7. Stage 7 - September 5: Neuss - Georgsmarienhütte 220km
8. Stage 8 - September 6: Bremen (ITT) 35km

Yates' Olympic hopes dashed by past

Jeremy Yates will be denied the opportunity to represent New Zealand at August's Olympic Games in Beijing, despite having already served his full two-year ban for testing positive for high levels of testosterone in Belgium in 2004. The news comes as New Zealand Olympic Committee announces a tough stance on convicted dopers.

"We have no tolerance for them and we want to keep New Zealand as a drugs-free sports culture," NZOC secretary-general Barry Maister said. "If an athlete has a positive test at or around one Olympic Games, if they serve a mandatory two-year stand down after that, then they can just rock up to the next Games and nothing has changed.

"The NZOC feels that because the Olympic Games is a pinnacle event for these athletes that there needs to be some sort of sanction or penalty as far as we're concerned," he added. "Missing the next Games is the policy."

Yates wasn't informed until January that there could be an issue with his participation in China. The rider, who has been riding strongly in national events since returning late last year, was hoping to contest the event in support of New Zealand's top road rider Julian Dean.

"I love representing my country and ultimately I paid the highest price (two-year) possible for an athlete who is dedicated to his sport," Yates told Radio Sport. "I have served my ban and I – and my family – suffered because of that. I feel I have already paid the price."

While some believe the ban from participating in this year's Olympic Games is a second punishment for one crime, the NZOC sees it differently.

"As far as we're concerned, he is suffering one penalty, in missing out on the Olympic Games," said Maister.

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