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Latest Cycling News, December 1, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Team Saxo Bank - IT Factory sponsor declares bankruptcy

Team Manager Bjarne Riis faces sponsor problems
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The newly announced co-sponsor of Bjarne Riis' Danish ProTour Team, IT Factory, announced it will file for bankruptcy. Interpol is seeking the company’s director, Stein Bagger, for economic fraud of up to 500 million kroner (€67 million) after he disappeared following a trip in Dubai, according to a Danish television station.

"We do not intend to give up. We have just held a meeting with Saxo Bank, and we agree that we must get out and find a new sponsor," team owner Riis said to "The riders and staff know that we will not shut down. There is a guarantee that the cycling team will continue."

Riis announced in September that IT Factory would be the team's new co-sponsor alongside Saxo Bank as of the 2009 season. The contract, for three years, was said to be for about 40 million kroner (€5.37 million).

Saxo Bank is reportedly uninterested in being the team's sole sponsor.

The company's chairman and co-owner Asger Jensby confirmed the bankruptcy to the Danish news agency Ritzau. Bagger's wife contacted Jensby when her husband disappeared after the trip to Dubai, according to Jensby then checked the company's accounts, and the results drove him to file the bankruptcy Monday morning.

The team held its presentation, as planned, Monday morning. (SW)

Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending

Lance Armstrong promises anti-doping testing program
Photo ©: Chris Ayers
(Click for larger image)

Lance Armstrong's personal anti-doping controls with expert Don Catlin have not yet started. The American and seven-time Tour de France champion expects to have the programme in place with the results online by the time he starts the Tour Down Under in January.

"It's a tough thing to organize, but we will make it happen. All the stuff we said we were going to do will happen," Armstrong said in an interview with the Associated Press this weekend.

When he announced in September that he would ride for Team Astana in the coming season, Armstrong said that Doctor Don Catlin would run a personal programme for him. Catlin founded the University of California, Los Angeles, anti-doping laboratory and is now CEO of Anti-Doping Research Inc. The cyclist explained that he would be available "whenever and wherever" for testing purposes and that Catlin would post all results the internet.

Catlin acknowledged that he has not yet tested Armstrong and that there is not yet any signed agreement to place the results online. "We're interested in getting it going," Catlin said. "We have been chatting and are in negotiations."

According to Armstrong, he only received the testing proposal two weeks ago, and it has been difficult to find the time to organise all the planning and testing. "We're working as quickly as we can to get everyone coordinated, but it's not that simple," Catlin said.

"The programme we want to do is going to be intensive. And he's a moving target. He's very busy. Keeping up with him, testing him, takes a lot of planning and it hasn't all come together yet."

Armstrong is currently attending his first training camp with Team Astana on the Spanish island of Tenerife. (SW)

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback.

Sella's one year-ban upheld

Emanuele Sella given one-year ban
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italy's anti-doping tribunal suspended Emanuele Sella for one year at the request of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) prosecutor Ettore Torri. The 27-year-old Italian received a 12-month reduction for cooperation during the investigation that led to a new round of investigations in the subsequent weeks.

The hearing at the Olympic Stadium, headed by Francesco Plotino, lasted for one and a half hours. Sella was present with his wife and his lawyer.

Sella, formally of Team CSF Group, shot to fame with three stage wins – Alpe di Pampeago, Passo Fedaia and Tirano – in the high mountains of this year's Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1. The International Cycling Union (UCI) targeted Sella using its blood passport programme and, in an out-of-competition control taken on July 23, found him positive for the third generation EPO, CERA.

Sella met with Olympic Committee's prosecutor Torri in August. He admitted to doping and named suppliers and key references in a two-hour meeting. Torri should act on Matteo Priamo in the coming days, the ex-teammate who Sella named as his supplier of CERA.

Acqua & Sapone to merge with Fuji-Servetto?

Italy's Paolo Bettini brings in Acqua & Sapone
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The possible presence of Italian Paolo Bettini as manager in Team Fuji-Servetto opens the door for a merger with Team Acqua & Sapone. The Italian Professional Continental team of Palmiro Masciarelli could offer an important boost in riders for the Spain-registered ProTour team.

"With him [Bettini] I would make an agreement right away, also because the time to do such things right is narrowing," said Masciarelli to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Two-time World Champion and recently retired cyclist Bettini met with Mauro Gianetti, owner of Team Fuji, on Saturday to discuss becoming part of the team formerly known as Team Saunier Duval. The scope of Bettini's role is not clear, but it could involve a complete buy out of the team's managing company, GM Bikes.

Two positive controls at the 2008 Tour de France with then team members, Leonardo Piepoli and Riccardo Riccò, hit the team hard. Gianetti formed Team Fuji late in the year after the loss of sponsors and key riders from the old Saunier Duval team. Though he has a renewed ProTour licence for 2009, he lacks riders to challenge for victory in the top-level races, which brought about a proposition to Masciarelli around three weeks ago.

"I responded to him [Gianetti] that I understand and I am very sorry for the situation in which he finds himself, but I won't make an agreement with him. For now his image is tarnished. With Bettini the situation is different," said Masciarelli.

Acqua & Sapone has a number of quality riders, including close friends of Bettini, Stefano Garzelli and Luca Paolini. An agreement between Bettini and Gianetti is expected this week.

Tour de France goes Belgian?

The Tour de France will be spending a lot of time in Belgium in the coming years, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. The French Grand Tour will visit Brussels, Spa and Visé in 2010, while the race will start in Liège in 2012.

The 2010 Tour is to start in the Netherlands, and the first stage will end at the Atomium in Brussels, as it did in 1992, when Laurent Jalabert won the stage. The next day will be a tribute to Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx, in honour of his 65th birthday and the fortieth anniversary of his second overall win in the Tour, in 1970. That stage will end in Spa. The next stage will start in Visé and head across the border to France.

The province of Liège will warm up for the Tour by hosting a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2009. After that, according to the newspaper, the province will pay the Amaury Sports Organisation €2.3 million for the honour of hosting the start of the Tour in 2012. That will include a stage from Liège to Seraing, with the organisers definitely wanting a stage and not a prologue.

The next stage would then start from another city, probably Huy, which last hosted a stage in 2006. From there the race would head towards Ypres in the Flanders region.

Liège plays annual host to one of cycling's top one-day races, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. This year the 94th edition was won by Spaniard Alejandro Valverde. (SW)

CERA's shadow casts doubt

Riccardo Riccò kicked off the CERA circus during this year's Tour
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

This year's Tour de France was almost certainly not the first time CERA has been used. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes finds out that this latest generation of EPO may have been influencing results in major events for at least a year before le Tour 2008.

The first widespread knowledge of the use of the Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator (CERA) drug Mircera in sport occurred when the Italian Saunier Duval-Scott rider Riccardo Riccò was ejected from the Tour prior to the start of stage 12. It followed earlier positives for 'standard' EPO by Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) and Barloworld rider Moisés Dueñas.

Contrary to suggestions made at the Tour, the third generation EPO agent - Mircera - was commercially available for almost a year prior to its first detection as a doping agent. It means that CERA could have been used in the 2007 Vuelta a España and world championships, in addition to other major events.

At the time of Riccò's explusion from the race, many statements were made by WADA, the UCI and other parties - that testers were ahead of the game and had already determined a method to detect CERA before its widespread use in the peloton. WADA spokesman Frédéric Donzé said immediately after Riccò's positive test that the news was, "a further indication that the net is closing on those athletes who still take the risk to dope. Thanks to the co-operation of the manufacturer of this substance (Roche) and of WADA-accredited laboratories, WADA received the molecule well in advance and was able to develop ways to detect it."

Read the complete Cera's shadow casts doubt feature.

Vuelta a Valenciana loses sponsor

The Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana lost its main sponsor, according to newspaper Levante. Regional bank Bancaja supported the five-day early-season Spanish stage race for the last 29 editions.

Race organiser, Depergo, is searching for similar economic support for its 2009 edition, scheduled for February 24 to 28. The local government of Valencia could assume responsibility of the event.

The 2008 edition was won by Spaniard Rubén Plaza. (AS)

French wins legal suit

Mark French won a libel suit against an Australian radio programme, which had made statements concerning his doping case from 2004, according to the AP. The court awarded him $227,500 Aus plus expenses.

The Australian Olympic Committee gave French a two-year ban in 2004 after packages of banned products were found in his room at a national training academy in Adelaide. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ruling, saying there was no evidence that he had used or trafficked in illegal substances.

The 24-year-old track rider rode in both the team and individual men's sprint events at the Beijing Olympics.(SW)

Now online: 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll

(Click for larger image)

It's that time of year again... the 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll is now online. Each year, we give you the chance to select the riders, teams, races, moments, equipment and photos that have really stood out from the pack in the last 12 months or so. To keep things simple, we'll be asking you to vote from a fixed selection in each category, as well as some 'free text' fields, so the survey should take you less than 10 minutes to complete.

As an incentive, we'll be giving away a pair of Zipp's 81mm deep 808 tubular wheels on the new 88/188 hub to one lucky entrant... So if you want to fly Fabian Cancellara this Christmas, let us know your thoughts on the rider of the year!

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer and Antonio J. Salmerón.)

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