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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, August 13, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

McQuaid blasts Spanish officials

Asks for support, not criticism from WADA's Fahey

UCI president Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Pat McQuaid is treating comments by Spanish officials with "skepticism", after the European nation spoke sternly about convicting those involved with doping practices. The angry and annoyed Irishman cited the nation's history with doping to support his comments, before calling on World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey to stand by cycling's tough stance on doping, rather than criticise the fraternity.

"I'm disgusted and annoyed that a Spanish cyclist has been the first athlete to be found positive of doping at the Olympic Games," McQuaid told The Associated Press. "I'm very angry that it is cycling that is in the headlines of the world's media, despite all of the crackdowns we have been doing."

McQuaid's comments come after Spaniard Maria Isabel Moreno returned the first positive doping test of this year's Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Spanish sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky called on Moreno yesterday to name and shame her suppliers so Spanish authorities could prosecute those involved with doping practices.

"Any statements coming out of the Spanish federation dealing with doping, I would treat with a certain amount of skepticism," McQuaid added. "Because the Spanish federation have constantly defended athletes who have been involved in doping cases. They have been light in the way they've treated doping cases. How many Spanish athletes have been caught in Spain? I don't think anybody has been charged under that law."

Spain Minister of sports Jaime Lissavetzky, President of the Spanish Olympic Committee
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The UCI's head honcho referred to the handling of Operación Puerto, one of the world's largest anti-doping investigations which returned few convictions despite extensive evidence, to support his comments. Recent positives by Spaniards Manuel Beltrán and Moisés Dueñas at the Tour de France where further evidence of a doping culture, said McQuaid.

"[Puerto] has been badly handled by the authorities from the outset, they keep hiding behind the Spanish judicial system," McQuaid said. "There doesn't seem to be a real will to go after the athletes involved. It shows that there is a cultural problem in Spain if so many cyclists are ready to take doping products."

McQuaid will be meeting with WADA's new chief Fahey while in Beijing, and said he wants more support for cycling's tough anti-doping stance. Fahey indicated earlier this week that cycling, along with weightlifting, could be dumped from the Olympic line-up if its connections with doping continued.

"I'm sure we'll have plenty to discuss," McQuaid said. "But I would expect him to be more supportive. The UCI is comparatively small compared to athletics and football but we are at the forefront (of the doping fight), we have pioneered the biological passport scheme which is costing five million Euros to launch, and which is going forward."

While McQuaid acknowledged that WADA wasn't responsible for cycling's Olympic future - something that is the task of the International Olympic Committee - he said the sport is in a strong position.

"I don't believe you should punish a sport because it is finding cheats," he said.

Wood's family to miss Olympic curtain call?

Oenone Wood
Photo ©: Team High Road
(Click for larger image)

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The family of Australian cyclist Oenone Wood look set to miss the rider's Olympic Games curtain call today, as restrictions on family access to Olympic venues continues. While both the International and Beijing Olympic Committees are looking into the matter, Wood's family feels security around the time trial venue is going to be even tighter today than Sunday's road race.

Wood's family is just one of several high-profile Australian cyclists to have access issues to the Beijing circuit. Stuart O'Grady's wife was forced to watch the men's road race from her hotel room on Saturday, while Cadel Evans's wife Chiara defied security by climbed a wall to access the circuit. Similarly Wood's family had to 'make a scene' to get past two road blocks, to even be able to view the circuit.

"We are just at a dead end," Lynne Guthridge, Wood's mother, told "We saw her go past three times for about three seconds [on Sunday]. It's a long way to come...if we had stayed in Australia, we could have watched it on TV.

"If anything, they seemed to have tightened security [for the time trial]," added Guthridge.

Guthridge is one of five family members of Wood who is contesting her final Olympic Games race later today. The Australian women's road champion's 81 year-old grandmother is one of the family members that have travelled to Beijing to watch Wood's final Olympic outing.

Sireau: Britons won't match Worlds effort

By Jean-François Quénet in Beijing, China

France's Kevin Sireau is interviewed by a television
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

French sprint sensation Kevin Sireau is expected to be one of the Olympic Games track stars at the Laoshan velodrome in Beijing, China this week. The youngster doesn't believe his British rivals will be the force they were at the World Championships in Manchester, England earlier this year.

Sireau is the team sprint World Champion, along with starter Gregory Baugé and finisher Arnaud Tournant - who will be contesting his final Olympics this week if deemed fit. Sireau was second to Britain's Chris Hoy in the individual sprint at March's World Championships, but isn't concerned about having to take on Hoy for gold.

"I'm not afraid of anybody," he said. "I have beaten Hoy before and I'll beat him again. The only one I've not beaten yet is Theo Bos - I've only competed against him once.

"We are able to equal the Brits here," he added. "I hope they won't perform as well as the World Championships…they were at home [in Manchester]."

The 21 year-old is aiming for victory in the team sprint first. It will be the first event at the velodrome on Friday, August 15.

"It's my number one goal," he said. "In the individual sprint, I think I still have a room for improvement. I only want to think about winning anyway. It will be even more stressful than at the World Championships.

"So far, I don't feel the pressure," he added. "It was very emotional to be at the opening ceremony and I love to stay at the Olympic village, but I don't see myself as a star of the Olympics at all."

Sireau is so new to track cycling he has no memory of his famed predecessors Florian Rousseau- and Tournant's exploits. "Four years ago I had no interest in the Olympic Games, I didn't even watch it and I never did when I was a kid," said Sireau, who hails from the center of France.

A former football player, Sireau switched to cycling to take up an individual sport, he said. "As soon as I was initiated to track cycling, I discovered how exciting sprinting is and how much adrenaline it brings," added Sireau.

After the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 Sireau started taking cycling seriously. He moved to the pôle France of Hyères, in the south of the country, under the advice of Daniel Morelon. Sireau's arrival at the highest level marked the revival of the team sprint for France, a specialty won by the riders in blue, white and red for many years in a row.

France collected only two medals four years ago in Athens, and neither were gold.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jean-François Quénet

Gasparotto aiming for Worlds selection

By Gregor Brown

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

Italy's Enrico Gasparotto will contest races in Denmark and Portugal to prepare himself ahead of selections for his home World Championships squad, with the event being held this September in Varese. The 26 year-old Barloworld rider hopes that the form he obtains will help earn him a spot on Italy's highly regarded national team - the squadra azzurra.

"I felt like I had good legs in the Tour of Denmark. I finished 10th in the general classification," Gasparotto told Cyclingnews while on the team bus, winding its way through southern Spain, towards the start of the Volta a Portugal.

An escape on the final day of the Tour of Denmark to Frederiksberg spoilt his chances of stage result, as the team looked out for British team-mate Steve Cummings. Gasparotto made a brief appearance in his home country, at the GP Camaiore before being called to race in Portugal.

"We flew from Bergamo, landed in Sevilla [Spain] and are driving from there to Portimão, where the tour will start," said the winner of stage three and the overall in the Ster Elektrotoer.

Barloworld returned from the Tour de France last month without big results and with the threat that its sponsor will leave as a result of Moisés Dueñas' doping case. While Gasparotto had planned to spend the month of August near his new home base of Carnago in Varese, due to the team's limited numbers it called up Gasparotto, who recently signed with Lampre for 2009, to contest the Portuguese race.

"At the beginning of the year, the plan was that I would be in Italy for the Trittico Lombardo [on August 19-20 - ed.]. I wanted to do those races; I think that to go to the Worlds is important to have good results in Italy - not in Portugal."

Gasparotto hopes the 12-day Volta a Portugal will improve his form for his return to Italy. "Certainly, I will try to win some stages," he said. "My main objective is to try to win Giro del Veneto, Coppa Placci or Giro della Romagna. Those are the three races that are very important for going to the Worlds - to win, not to arrive second."

If all goes according to plan for Gasparotto, Italian National Directeur Sportif Franco Ballerini will call Gasparotto to race as part of the nine-man squadra azzurra in Varese next month.

Firing for French gold

Frenchman Grégory Baugé
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Sprinting is in his nature. Not content with wins at the French and World Championships, 23-year-old Grégory Baugé has his sights fixed on Beijing… and he wouldn't mind running the 100 metres too. Les Woodland talks to him about riding, running, and the racism that has plagued him on his way to the top of the track sprinting hierarchy

Procycling: We've always thought of you as a track rider, so we were surprised to find out that you started on the road and that your first win was in a cyclo-cross race.

Grégory Baugé: Yes, well, I started when I was nine. I learned quickly and won that cyclo-cross race just six months later. It was at Conflans, in the Yvelines region. Cyclo-cross is a form of racing that I still love. I can't ride it any more because of the track season, but if I get a chance to see a race, whether it's the youngsters or the stars, I go along. I rode cyclo-cross until I was 16.

I was 10 years old when I won that first race. It was superb. Your first win brings a special joy - seeing your family there, your friends, all of them happy. I didn't have a chance to raise my hands in the air that time, but I won three times in a row, riding in plimsolls.

Procycling: That must have pleased your family because it was your father who pushed you into cycling, wasn't it?

GB: I'm not sure "push" is the right word. When I started, he was hesitant because I'd already been doing football for a while. When I said I wanted to take up cycling, there was the question of getting a licence to sort out, which was fairly expensive. Then we had to buy a bike… I had to justify myself. And that's how it started. But from the day I started, my dad always supported me, accompanied me to races and took me on all the long journeys. He was always there beside me.

Procycling: You had a future as a cyclo-cross rider, or perhaps a roadie, but you changed - you became a pistard…

GB: I wasn't inspired by the track in the beginning. There weren't many races and it was hardly ever on television, so for a youngster like me, it was hard to have idols on the track. Not like on the road, though, with the Tour de France and races like that…

Procycling: Your hero used to be Jan Ullrich, didn't it?

GB: [Laughing] Yes, for me it was Jan Ullrich. I grew up with him as my hero, never mind what happened to him later… [Ullrich retired in 2007, still maintaining his innocence of links to the Operación Puerto doping scandal].

But things weren't going so well for me on the road. The races weren't going the way I wanted them to. So I went to the track, just to see. That was when I was about 13 years old. It was a sprint championship at the Cipale track here in Paris - the national cadet championship. I really enjoyed it - and I came second. Even though I didn't win, it gave me a lot of pleasure. And that's how my track career started. I made my choice. My father [was all for it] because he recognised that I wouldn't face the obstacles I would on the road, like doping and maybe the colour of my skin. Et voila!

To read the full interview, click here.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)