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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, April 26, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams

CPA President Vasseur wants democracy among riders

Race radio top item on the agenda

By Gregor Brown in Belgium

CPA President Cédric Vasseur
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Professional cyclists will have more of a say in the issues surrounding cycling following Friday's meeting of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) in Liège, Belgium, headed by its President, Frenchman Cédric Vasseur. The association moved to have riders better represented via rider representatives from each team, and at the top of the list of issues for the soon to be appointed representatives will be the right to use race radios.

"Today we had this meeting with the riders [of the riders' council] to inform them of all the new items," Vasseur, a former professional cyclist, told Cyclingnews Friday evening. "Particularly the ear pieces and the prize money of the Tour de France, which has been blocked for eight months, but also the solidarity fund that will provide money for retiring riders, those over 30, who have been riding for more than five years."

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According to Vasseur, the need for riders to be heard is paramount. However, in the CPA's current structure some are not given the chance to have their say. To that end, the association has stated it will have representatives from each team – both ProTour and Professional Continental – cast their vote any time there is a key issue.

"The riders were complaining that in the past the CPA was talking a lot and not making any real action," said Vasseur. "To make real action you must follow the wish of the majority, and it is currently impossible for me to get in touch with all the riders and make any decision about this or that. For the future, which is going to come next week, I will have direct contact."


The move will have each team's representative polling his team-mates before sending his decision into the CPA, which is based in Morges, Switzerland. "When we have to make a decision, like the [use of] ear pieces, we can make a fast meeting somewhere and each rider will have to say what is the decision of his team.

"We have to work like a democracy; if 55 percent of the riders say 'yes' to that then we have to follow, otherwise we will never move. [Currently] we always go one step right and one step left, and in this kind of working we never move. Today, the riders have the feelings that even when they say something nobody is following. Therefore, if we want to have a little bit of power we need to ask the riders what they think – like in a real democracy – even if you do not agree. But when there is 80 percent of the riders that think like that then you have no choice, you have to follow the choice of the majority."

The democracy would be run by 43 "superdelegates" – 18 ProTour and 25 Professional Continental – that would report to Vasseur and the CPA's Communication Manager, Pascale Schyns.

"All the teams are going to be registered by Pascale Schyns and we are going to send them an e-mail saying that they have to give us a guy who will be the reference for the team. Then, every time there is an item, we will send [the ballot] to that person, and if he does not give an answer that is the same as not voting."

Race radio

The first item likely to be voted upon is the use of race radios in professional races. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has recently banned the use of radios in Under 23 races this season and Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, is considering a ban in his race.

"Race radio is really at the centre of the news," said Vasseur of the communication device that was used by him until his last year as a professional with Quick Step in 2007. "The ASO has talked about removing them from the Tour de France and the UCI is making a study if it should or should not stop the use of radios. What we want is that we are able to say that the riders want that [to use or not to use the radio]. If what happens [with the ASO or UCI] is against the riders' decision then maybe we will take action."

The decision on race radio use is expected by the CPA within the next month. Vasseur explained, "This will come in two or three weeks, for sure. We have to hurry up and be ready by the middle of May, and for the Tour de France. Because if the decision is taken to remove the radio from the Tour, it will be taken for July. We want, as the riders' association, to be ready to face this."

If the decision is counter to the majority of the teams' representatives then the CPA would be ready to take action. "Why not strike in the Tour if the riders say they want the radio and they [ASO or UCI] said they don't have the right to use the radio – why not?"

Liquigas withdraws from AIGCP

One day after announcing the signing of Ivan Basso, the Liquigas team has withdrawn its membership from the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) – the teams' organisation headed by Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer. In a statement released Friday morning, Liquigas said it believes the AIGCP "doesn't represent all the sporting groups anymore and the programme we agreed doesn't satisfy the current needs."

The signing of Basso, currently serving a two-year suspension for his involvement in the Operación Puerto doping network, means that Liquigas is in direct contravention of the ProTour Code of Ethics, which states that a ProTour team must not sign a rider for four years after any suspension was issued. The AIGCP has previously stated that any team not respecting the Code of Ethics will be excluded from the group.

Discovery Channel found itself in a similar situation in June last year, when it withdrew from the AIGCP over disagreements regarding the group's lack of unity and future objectives. However, membership of the AIGCP is not compulsory for any team competing in ProTour races or the Grand Tours.

Other ProTour teams will likely be watching the Basso situation with interest, as the Italian's signing may well set a precedent for teams to contract riders returning from doping suspensions.

Basso: 'I can win Giro again'

Ivan Basso has been training hard
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After the news this week of Ivan Basso signing for Liquigas, the Italian has been quick to announce his hopes and expectations for the 2009 season. In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Basso said that his main aim was "to quickly become the winning Basso again," and has his sights set on the 2009 Giro d'Italia.

"It's been so long since I've raced and all my rivals have progressed a lot," said the 2006 Giro winner. "After three months racing I will know if I can hope to win the Giro again. But in my heart I'm convinced of it."

Speaking about his return to the peloton, Basso acknowledged that his presence may not be warmly received by some in the sport, but insisted that his character had been changed by "the ordeal" he'd been through.

"Some will take it well, others less so and some not at all," he said. "It's justified. But there are so many riders who have been suspended and who have returned to ride normally. I have the right to as well.

"What is important is to have the right attitude. I'm putting the past behind me and starting from zero. My place after two years has changed. I'm no longer among the front-runners. I have to show that I can come back."

Jaksche gives up the fight

Jörg Jaksche has given up his fight to return to the professional peloton. The German rider has been searching in vain for a team, and has now decided to hang up his racing wheels. "My career is finally over," he told German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. "If I don't find something in Germany, then I won't find something anywhere."

After discussions with Milram in January, Jaksche thought that he had a chance to sign with the team when his doping-related suspension ends on June 30. However, the newspaper said Milram told him on Friday that there was nothing for him there. He had continued to train, "sometimes like a fool," in the hope of returning to racing.

"If there is nothing for me at Milram, then that was it – that's it, it's all over. I won't wait any longer, because they won't want me next year either," he added.

Meanwhile, the 31 year-old had seen the news that Ivan Basso, also suspended for his involvement in Operación Puerto, had signed a two-year contract with ProTour team Liquigas, effective when his suspension ends. "They welcome a Basso with open arms," said Jaksche. "But you yourself have to run from pillar to post and in the end you're like a leper. Basso did it more intelligently."

Grajales sidelined in Georgia

By Kirsten Robbins in Dahlonega, Georgia

Grajales on the climb of Brasstown Bald in 2004
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Rock Racing's climber Cesar Grajales is noticeably absent from the Tour de Georgia due to a severe case of knee tendonitis that emerged after using a bike too small during his team's January training camp held in Malibu, California.

"My bike did not arrive from the flight into camp and so I had to use a spare bike that was really too small for me," the Columbian native told Cyclingnews at the Stage 5 finish line in Dahlonega. "This race has always been very important to me and was really where I became recognised as a climber here in America."

According to Grajales, doctors' orders were to take several weeks off his machine in order to cure the tendonitis in his knee. However, it has taken much longer than expected, forcing the 2005 Brasstown Bald winner to sit on the sidelines for this year's event. "I'm really disappointed about this and I really just started to ride my bike again a week ago," said Grajales, who suffered an untimely broken collarbone when leading the Redlands Classic before last year's Tour de Georgia.

The humble Athens, Georgia resident made his US debut racing for Jittery Joe's when he beat Lance Armstrong atop the tour's queen stage to Brasstown Bald by 17 seconds. The stage typically known as the race decider ends in a five-kilometre climb with pitches as steep as 25 percent. "I ended up in seventh overall that year when I was racing for Jittery Joe's," recalled Grajales, who has continued his climbing success throughout the NRC calendar since 2005.

"I have been here watching every finish in the Tour de Georgia because I love this race," he said. "I will be the first one at the top of the Brasstown Bald tomorrow to see them climb to the top."

Grajales hopes to be back racing at the upcoming Mt Hood Classic starting May 13.

Boonen a little too fast

Tornado Tom Boonen has proved to be too fast on the road, and will now have to get around on just his bike for a while. The Quick Step rider was clocked driving at 120 km/h in a 70 km/h zone in Mol, Belgium on Thursday night and as a result has lost his driving licence for 14 days. The police confirmed that they caught the former world champion in a radar trap.

"I drove too fast and I will pay for that," Boonen told SportWereld. "It was a very successful police action because they stopped many people. The difference is that those people will not be in the newspapers the next day, and I will. But wrong is wrong, I have no problem with that."

According to Belgian law, Boonen will have to forfeit his driver's licence for 14 days, and had to be driven home from the incident. After a police investigation it will be decided whether there will be additional sanctions, such as a further driving ban, a fine, or a driving course.

USA Crits Series ready to roll

Ten races taking riders as far east as New York, as far north as Vancouver, and as far west as Nevada will make up the 2008 USA Crits Series which gets underway this Saturday in Athens, Georgia with the Athens Twilight Criterium. The series has a total prize fund of $500,000 with the finale scheduled for Las Vegas on September 25.

More than 25 different teams will compete in the men's series, while at least 17 will feature in the women's event. 2007 men's champion Frank Travieso of the Toshiba-Santo Pro Cycling Team will be back again this year and is ready to defend his title.

"The USA Crits Series is a great opportunity for teams to showcase their best riders in the best criteriums in America," said Travieso. "The race in Vegas was exactly what this series is about – high-paced racing, exciting atmosphere. We are ready to defend our titles heading into Athens and the rest of the series in 2008."

Joining the series this year is the Harlem Skyscraper Classic in New York for its 35th edition, plus events in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Vancouver, British Colombia.

The full USA Crits 2008 schedule:

Athens Twilight Criterium, Athens, GA - Saturday, April 27
Tulsa Tough, Tulsa, OK - Sunday, June 1
Harlem Skyscraper Classic, New York, NY - Sunday, June 15
AT&T Austin Criterium, Austin, TX - Saturday, June 21
Iron Hill Twilight Criterium, West Chester, PA - Saturday, July 5
BC Cancer Foundation's Tour de Gastown, Vancouver, BC - Wednesday, July 16
Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium, Boise, ID - Saturday, July 19
Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium, Charlotte, NC - Sunday, August 2
Chris Thater Memorial, Binghamton, NY - Sunday, August 24
USA CRITS Final, Las Vegas, NV - Thursday, September 25

AG2R for Trophée Grimpeurs

French team AG2R La Mondiale has announced its lineup for the Trophée Grimpeurs on May 4, a round of the Coupe de France series. The race will depart from the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil at 13:40 and cover 16 laps of an 8.3 kilometre circuit. The team will send Renaud Dion, Stéphane Goubert, Tanel Kangert, Julien Loubet, Christophe Riblon, Nicolas Rousseau, Jean Charles Senac and Blaise Sonnery.

(Additional reporting and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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