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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, August 2, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Time running out for Legeay

By Laura Weislo

Crédit Agricole exits the peloton at the end of the season
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

It's been more than a year since banking giant Crédit Agricole, decided to end its sponsorship of the oldest active team in the peloton, but despite searching and negotiating for months the quest has yet to be successful, and time is about to run out for manager Roger Legeay to keep the team going.

Legeay is going on 25 years as manager of the team, and before that, he rode for the team during his career as a professional cyclist. In that time, he has grown accustomed to uncertainty and the constant battle for funding. "I've been in cycling for almost 35 years and in all that time I've never had a contract for longer than two years," he told Cyclingnews. But this time, he fears that his run of good fortune may be over. "That is the problem with cycling - the team structure is very difficult. If you have a sponsor you exist, if you have no sponsor, you're finished. There is nothing in between."

The 58 year-old Legeay stepped up from the ranks of the Peugeot team into management upon retiring from racing in 1983. He stayed with the team as it evolved from Z-Peugeot, to Z, to GAN and finally Crédit Agricole - the sponsor which signed on before the brink of the Festina scandal of 1998 and stayed with the team for ten years.

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In that time, Legeay has built a reputation as being a staunchly anti-doping team manager. In 2004, he resigned from the French professional cyclists' organisation AC 2000 over the issue. Last year, he stepped down from his position as vice president of the AIGCP due to conflicts over the difficulties in enforcing the code of ethics. "Everybody knows about my very strong opinion against doping in cycling and in general. I'm very strict about that," he said.

Yet Legeay could not prevent his own team from being hit by the spectre of doping at the close of this year's Tour de France. Kazakh rider Dmitri Fofonov tested positive for a banned stimulant after taking a supplement he purchased on the internet.

But Legeay said that the case of Fofonov had little to do with the failure to seal a new sponsorship deal. "For the sponsor it's different; the decision is based on whether or not they want to come into cycling or not, and because it is a lot of money."

The fact that he faces unemployment after decades isn't topmost in Legeay's mind. He is not thinking about what he might do with himself if he's not circumnavigating the globe at the world's top bike races. Instead, he's most concerned with the riders who have been loyal to him and ensuring that they find a place.

"It's difficult because of the timing. I set a deadline of August 1 to let the riders know if there will be a new sponsor, and that passed today. But I am still going to work for the next few weeks to find a new sponsor and to continue the team," he said. "But it is difficult because for the next two to three weeks I can propose [to prospective companies] the same team with the same riders, but after mid-August, the strong riders will be signing with other teams."

Legeay said that he spoke to his riders and they expressed the desire to remain, and would call and let him know about any offers before signing new contracts.

But at this point, with just a few weeks to try to accomplish what he hasn't been able to do in more than a year, he is frustrated. "I'm frustrated now because when we lost Peugeot we got Z, and when we lost Z we got GAN, and when we lost GAN we got Crédit Agricole... I hope the team can continue because we have a very strong team.

"We're the best team in France, and one of the best in the world. In the last Tour we won two stages," he explained. "We're also a team for the future because we have so many good young riders - like Pierre Rolland, he is a very strong rider for the future."

Just as he wants to find a sponsor to keep his riders and staff employed, Legeay also is driven by a deep love of the sport. "I want to have a team and ride all the big races in the world," he said, not wanting to consider the possibility that budget problems might force him to downgrade his expectations. "I want to take a team to the Grand Tours and to the UCI's races. It's not important to think about what I might do [if there is no team]. It is important to find a sponsor and continue."

Hushovd out of Olympics

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd will not be heading to Beijing to contest the Olympic road race. The winner of stage two of the Tour de France cited illness as his reason to skip the Games.

"It is very annoying and very unpleasant, but I have to take care of my health," the 30-year-old told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

"It's better to give somebody else a chance, when the body isn't functioning properly. It's really irritating. I've thought about it a lot. The Olympics were a major goal for me this year," he said. Hushovd skipped his national championships after becoming ill, and then started the Tour de France in spite of not getting better. He won stage two, but then got sick again before the race hit the Alps, and had to take antibiotics, according to Alpenposten.

Hushovd also faces the dissolution of his Crédit Agricole team, which announced Friday that it had not been able to secure a replacement sponsor.

Colombians announce doping positives

The Colombian Cycling Federation announced Friday that six riders had returned positive doping controls during the Vuelta a Colombia in May.

The federation did not specify the substances which caused the adverse analytical findings for Rafael Montiel, Juan Guillermo Castro, Camilo Gomez, Carlos Ospina Hernandez, Hernan Buenahora and Giovanni Barriga.

Buenahora, who rode the Tour de France for Kelme in the 1990's, placed second overall in the event and won the stage eight time trial and stage 11. Montiel was the winner of stage six.

D'Ettorre called in as Beijing reserve

Alessandra d'Ettorre will take the place of world champion Marta Bastianelli on the Italian cycling team for the Beijing Olympic Games, the Italian Cycling Federation announced Friday. Bastianelli tested positive for a banned appetite suppressant and therefore lost her place on the team. She is scheduled to appear before the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) on August 5 to contest the decision.

Alessandra d'Ettorre will go to Beijing Olympics as a reserve along with Noemi Cantele (Bigla Cycling Team), Tatiana Guderzo (GS Fiamme Azzurre) and Vera Carrara (Fiamme Azzurre).

China: the last frontier?

The scenery in Qinghai rivals anything in France
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

As the cyclists of the world descend upon Beijing, one might not realize that many of these riders will have never set foot in Asia until they arrive for the Olympic Games. Some, however, might have taken in the country's biggest stage race as preparation for the Games. Cyclingnews' Paul Verkuylen was in the rarified air of the Tibetan plateau for the Tour of Qinghai Lake, and offers some insight on what it's like racing in China.

China is a relatively unknown country when it comes to bike racing, yet the nation with the most number of bicycles per capita is hoping to change that with races such as the Tour of Qinghai Lake. The event has steadily been growing in stature since its inception in 2002. This year the organizers had over 40 unsolicited requests from teams around the world interested in taking part in the event.

Racing in a far off eastern country can be somewhat daunting for the majority of the mainly western peloton, especially when the part of that country is as remote as the Qinghai region is in China. Set high on the Tibetan plateau the race makes its way around the largest inland lake in China, made famous for its use as a testing ground for nuclear submarines.

One of the main hurdles for any non-Asian team visiting the race is the culture shock. Yet despite the location, racing in China is not too different to the rest of the world.

Much like many European races, The Tour of Qinghai Lake takes in a variety of terrains. Flat stages suited to sprinters such as Alex Rasmussen and Allan Davis, who have taken nine stages between them in the last two years, are broken up by some of the highest mountains ever seen in a bike race. In fact Qinghai boasts the highest mountain pass in cycling; the Laji Mountain takes riders to a maximum altitude of 3880 metres.

What does set the race apart is the people and tradition, or in this case it's lack of it. China is well known for having made the bicycle a primary means of transport, so much so that they currently have over one billion bikes. However, the majority of their 1.2 billion inhabitants are lucky to raise a sweat as they make their way around on the utilitarian machines that dominate the streets. It is no surprise then that they are not known as a major force in road racing, yet they have chosen the sport as a means to raise the country's tourist appeal.

Continue to the full feature.

Team Columbia sends opportunists to San Sebastián

The US-based Team Columbia will send a strong squad of opportunists to attack the finale of Saturday's Clásica San Sebastián in Spain, the latest round of the UCI ProTour. The team's climbers will be on the lookout for a move to form on the race's most difficult climb, the Alto de Jaizkebel, which comes with 39 kilometres to go

"We won't be looking at getting in the early breaks unless they're 15 or 20-strong and looking really dangerous. The best policy at San Sebastián is always to wait for the Jaizkebel climb close to the finish," said directeur sportif Allan Peiper. "There's invariably a move early on, but the Spanish teams always calculate it so things come back together for Jaizkebel. So that's where we will plan to try and make our move."

The race will see German Linus Gerdemann, who is returning from injury, looking for a solid result in the Clásica. "It's important for [Gerdemann] to keep building up his confidence after such a long time away from racing," said Peiper. Gerdemann finished seventh overall in his first race back at the Sachsen-Tour.

The race will also provide an opportunity for the team's Olympians to tune up their legs before heading off to China. Kanstantsin Siutzou, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Michael Barry will all be heading to Beijing after the race. "San Sebastián represents an opportunity for them to shake off the cobwebs and have a good, full-on, test-out of their form before they head off to represent their country at Beijing."

Columbia for San Sebastián: Michael Barry, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Linus Gerdemann, Craig Lewis, Morris Possoni, Kanstantsin Siutzou

No Freire in San Sebastián

Oscar Freire, the winner of the green jersey in the Tour de France, will not take the start at the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday. The Spaniard caught a cold during the post-Tour criteriums, and will skip the race to recover in time to head to China for the Olympic Games road race on August 9.

The triple world road race champion will be replaced on the Rabobank squad by Gerben Löwik.

New Dutch pro team forms

A new professional continental squad will enter the peloton in 2009 with the name Vacansoleil Cycling Team. Sponsored by a camping vacation company, the squad will be built upon the existing P3 Transfer-Batavus European Continental team, and will be run by current team manager Daan Luijkx. 18 riders have been signed to the squad, including up and coming riders Bobbie Traksel and Aart Vierhouten.

A statement issued by Vacansoleil laid out the team's ambitions. "The mission of the Vacansoleil Cycling Team is to create a solid base and close team during 2009 with a view to expanding the number of Pro-tour races in 2010 and participating in a major race in 2011."

The company signed on for three years as title sponsor "with its contribution increasing throughout the period". Bicycle manufacturer Batavus is also said to have made a three-year commitment. "For 2009 the Vacansoleil Cycling Team will work with a budget of between three and four million euro. This will increase significantly each year. With this level of support the Vacansoleil Cycling Team will be a European team that will be able to compete internationally for victories."

Vacansoleil previously sponsored football teams, but wanted to expand its focus to cycling in order to reach several countries with one team. It was not put off by the doping problems within the sport. "Cycling is a sport which is very close to the people; a sport which is very popular in many European countries. However it is also a sport which has had difficult times in the past few years. We believe that things can move forward again and are convinced that with Daan and the cyclists he selects, we have made a good choice. They will show that cycling is a great activity that can be sporting, transparent and ambitious and that can be practiced in a positive way. With this message we hope to make contact with many of the people of Europe."

Scott-American Beef signs stagiaires

The former Saunier Duval team, now known as Scott-American Beef following the Tour de France, as signed on three stagiaires for the remainder of the season, the team announced Friday.

The team's more seasoned riders will line up for the next round of the UCI ProTour, the Clásica San Sebastián, on Saturday. Juan Jose Cobo, José Ángel Gómez Marchante, David de la Fuente, Josep Jufre, Jesús del Nero, Iker Camaño, Rubén Lobato and Alberto Fernández de la Puebla will represent the team.

They will also tackle the Subida a Urkiola, a UCI 1.1 race, where Gomez Marchante will defend his title with the same line-up.

Three young riders will join the team for the rest of the season: Ángel Madrazo, Rafael Valls (members of the affiliated amateur team), as well as the Swiss rider, Marcel Wyss (member of the continental team Atlas-Romer's). Ángel Madrazo, 19, is only in his second year as an amateur but racked up five victories this year. Rafa Valls, 21, won a stage of the Spanish U23 Nations Cup as well as the Coupe de l'Avenir.

Marcel Wyss, 22, won the Swiss 23 time trial championship.

Madrazo will start with the team at the Tour of Burgos, and Wyss and Vall at the Tour of Portugal.

Denver fundraiser to support junior cycling

Slipstream Sports will be hosting a fundraiser for its junior cycling team, 5280/Felt at the Denver restaurant Table 6 on August 19. The event, which will be attended by riders and staff of Team Garmin-Chipotle and Team 5280/Felt, will commence with a rose champagne toast to pay homage to the Maglia Rosa and will include a five course meal accompanied by unique artisanal wines correlating with the regions of the Tour de France. Only 50 tickets are available for the event.

The evening will include an auction of Christian Vande Velde's autographed pink jersey from the Giro d'Italia as well as items from this year's Tour de France. In addition, fans will be given the opportunity to sample wines from regions visited in the 2008 Tour de France, selected by Todd Mathis, National Sales Manager for Martine's Wines and a Masters of wine candidate, and Slipstream CEO and wine geek extraordinaire, Jonathan Vaughters. Members of Team 5280/Felt and Team Garmin-Chipotle presented by H30 that are tentatively expected to be in attendance include Danny Pate, Will Frischkorn and Jonathan Vaughters.

"When I originally started what is now Team Garmin-Chipotle, I made a commitment to developing the next generation of cycling champions. Team 5280 gives young riders the unique opportunity to train alongside the pros and benefit from their experience and knowledge," said Vaughters, CEO of Slipstream Sports and Director Sportif of Team Garmin-Chipotle presented by H30. Team 5280 takes its name from Denver's 5280 Magazine, which in 2003 was the first sponsor of the program that became Slipstream Sports.

Tickets for the event are available for purchase for $500 each and may be obtained by calling 303-444-7500 or by sending an email to For more information, go to:

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