Latest Cycling News, December 5, 2008
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
By Shane Stokes
The organisers of the Tour of Ireland have reacted positively to the news that Lance Armstrong is considering riding the race in 2009. The seven-time Tour de France winner said at a press conference on Thursday that he will consider taking part in the 2.1-ranked event.
"We are seriously looking at the Tour of Ireland," he told the media at the conference, which took place at the Astana team training camp in Tenerife. "Ironically enough I did that race in 1992 [when it was the Nissan Classic], which makes me feel very old.
"The timing works out really well," he added. The Tour of Ireland will run from August 19-23. Its project director Darach McQuaid said on Thursday evening that he was very pleased with the news. "The Tour of Ireland this year saw some of the world's best cyclists competing on Irish roads, including sprinting phenomenon Mark Cavendish.
"Having seven-time Tour de France winner Lance compete will bring the event to a whole new level. Even before Lance's statement of interest, we have had major world teams show interest in coming. We could not be more pleased at this new development."
Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 1996 but successfully fought the disease and returned to the sport, beginning his run of Tour successes in 1999. He indicated that measures such as the smoking ban are part of the reason why he would compete in the Irish race. "Ireland has been very progressive with regard to this issue of public health. I'd love to be back there, 17 years later."
Although Armstrong's return to cycling has not been welcomed by all - he has faced repeated allegations of doping and a French laboratory said that retested urine samples from the 1999 Tour showed the presence of EPO - McQuaid is convinced it is big news for the race.
"His comeback after three years of retirement is a big global sports story and we are delighted that he is seriously considering participating here next summer," stated the Irishman, brother of the current UCI President Pat McQuaid. He added that it would raise the profile of the event and make it easier to attract additional sponsors.
Astana's super-domestiques content
By Bjorn Haake
Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden... most teams would be happy to have just one of those Tour de France podium finishers as a captain. Astana has the luxury problem of fitting them all in, but there seem to be no problems between the four. It is all for one - the strongest rider.
Leipheimer simply wants to improve as a cyclist. "If you are around the best, you become the best that you can be. To be around champions like Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador makes me that much better," he said.
For Klöden, there was another important aspect to it. "This year we had so much fun in the team. We not only won many races, but we had fun doing so; that is very important to me."
Klöden also stressed that he and Leipheimer had his own chances throughout the year. He won the Tour de Romandie; Leipheimer took out the Tour of California. They get their chances for the smaller races, but have to be content with teamwork in the Grand Tours.
Leipheimer finished third in the 2007 Tour de France and second in the 2008 Vuelta a España to Alberto Contador. But the American also points out that he doesn't have the pressure at the races, like the highly-fancied Contador.
Klöden has spent many years in the professional peloton already, but welcomes Armstrong's presence. "I can still learn a lot from him. He is very, very professional." To see Armstrong work so hard for his comeback at the camp was amazing to see for Klöden.
The German did point out that there is always a chance. "Nobody is perfect and anybody can have a bad day." He will be ready to step in, should the need arise. He re-iterated that the team is very close, even after the non-invite to the Tour. "We stayed together and won both the Giro and the Vuelta. That was fun for me, too."
No mountain bike race for Vino
Alexandre Vinokourov is not welcome at the Beach Challenge race in Scheveningen, Netherlands, after all. After it was announced earlier this week that the suspended Kazakh rider would participate in the mountain bike race, race organiser Frank Boelé has cancelled his appearance.
Boelé said that he made no judgement on Vinokourov's suspension for blood doping, "but his presence brings us a lot of sensationalist attention. We won't put up with this," he told telesport.nl, after indicating that Vinokourov had been invited "behind his back".
Rini Wagtmans, Vinokourov's agent in the Netherlands, was not happy that his client must stay at home. "The organisation had previously ordered two tickets for him and now two days in advance he hears that his presence is not welcome."
Milram sponsor confirms for 2009
By Susan Westemeyer
There will continue to be a German ProTour team in the 2009 peloton, as Nordmilch AG announced Friday morning that it will continue to sponsor Team Milram.
The German dairy products company had announced earlier that in light of the lack of live Tour de France coverage on German television, it would review its sponsoring engagement, although it has a contract with team manager Gerry van Gerwen through 2010.
"We trust and expect improvements" in pro cycling, press spokeswoman Godja Sönnichsen told Cyclingnews. She acknowledged the contract with Van Gerwen's firm, Velo-City GmbH, but said "in the past we have not publicly discussed contracts and will not do that now."
As to whether the sponsorship would continue through 2010, as contractually obligated, the firm said in its statement that in the coming season it would "continue to examine and evaluate the sporting developments and the media situation."
Pound criticises cycling's anti-doping efforts
Former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Richard Pound has again criticised the efforts made in the world of competitive cycling in the fight against doping. Speaking to German magazine Spiegel, Pound deplored the situations of German cyclists Jörg Jaksche and Patrick Sinkewitz, who told all about their mistakes but nevertheless found it difficult to come back to the sport. Jaksche did not find a new team for 2009, and Sinkewitz had to settle for a lower profile team from the Czech Republic, PSK Whirlpool-Author.
"The fact that Jaksche was unable to get a job again is a tragedy," said Pound. "It says everything about the sport they were involved in. What would have been normal is for the cyclists, team managers and officials to stand up for them. The fact that they are being branded as traitors shows that competitive cycling has no enthusiasm for doing anything about doping." Indeed, other pros who were caught cheating but maintained their innocence - or confessed but did not reveal their networks - have readily been given new contracts after sitting out their ban.
The Canadian, who led WADA from 1999 to 2007, moreover thought that the German public TV cancellation of the 2009 Tour de France Live broadcast was "a strong signal. If I were the head of a sport faced with that I would tell my riders and colleagues: 'Look, if we don't solve the doping problem, we're all going down the drain together. We can make the stages shorter. We can introduce rest days. Something has got to happen, otherwise we're finished.'"
Still optimistic about the fight against doping ultimately leading to an almost clean sport, Pound thinks that it is all about changing the athletes' attitudes rather than reprimanding doping as a crime. "When I got my driving license, cars with seatbelts didn’t exist," he continued, citing an example. "Then wearing a seatbelt was voluntary, and eventually it became mandatory. Now, you have to pay a fine if you don't wear one. But I don't put on my seatbelt nowadays to avoid being punished; I put on my seatbelt because I have understood that it is dangerous not to. And I attribute that much common sense to athletes too. It’s a question of changing their attitude. Perhaps we'll be there in 15 years."
As for the retroactive testing of the Beijing Olympic Games' samples on the presence of third-generation EPO, CERA, Pound did not think much would come out of the results. "CERA was used during the Tour de France, so I wouldn't rule out its having been used at the Games too," he said. "However since the Tour, since they caught Ricardo Ricco, the athletes know that we can detect CERA. So anyone who took it in Beijing must have an IQ below room temperature."
Vuelta a Valencia in danger
By Antonio J. Salmerón
The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana organiser Depergo needs 228,000 Euros after losing its main sponsor, local bank Bancaja, to be able to hold next year's race. The 67th edition of the Spanish five-day race is scheduled for February 24-28.
The president of Depergo, Manuel Perez Rubio, former national cycling federation president, admitted that it will be a very hard decision to cancel the race if he does not find an additional backer. Still, he refused to throw in the towel, saying that all stages have already been designed. "We've talked to all the local councils, and with the race sponsors. Now we need to have a sponsor for the Grand Prix. If we don't, we will have to cancel the event," he admitted.
Bancaja also recently refused to grant the extension of a loan to the Valencia Football Club. Although Perez Rubio thinks that this has nothing to do with the cancellation of the sponsorship of the Grand Prix in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, he lamented the lack of clarity in this matter.
"Instead of holding back like they have done, this should have been said a couple of months ago. That would have allowed us to seek other alternatives and avoid the possibility of having to cancel this edition," he said.
Perez Rubio has already negotiated the participation of up to 18 teams, amongst which are the Spanish ProTour teams as well as Astana, Cofidis and Lampre. This may lead to an impressive line-up, including such big-name riders as Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pereiro, Alessandro Petacchi, Daniele Bennati and Danilo Di Luca.
The budget for the 2009 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana amounts to a total of 783,000 Euros. The economic support of local governments as well as other sponsors such as Coca-Cola and El Aguila Beer is "very important" according to the organiser, but it will not be enough to finance the whole of the event.
Clerc latest addition to AG2R La Mondiale
French team AG2R La Mondiale has completed its 2009 team roster by adding one more rider - Switzerland's Aurélien Clerc. The 29-year-old Classics specialist, who signed a one-year contract, will be the squad's seventh newcomer for next season. Clerc achieved a second placing in Gent-Wevelgem this year.
The team, directed by Vincent Lavenu, will thus count 30 riders in 2009. Along with Clerc, Lavenu secured the services of Nicolas Roche, Alexander Efimkin, Sébastien Hinault, Guillaume Bonnafond, Blel Kadri and Gatis Smukulis. Leaving the team are: Sylvain Calzati, Philip Deignan, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Stijn Vandenbergh, Christophe Edaleine, Laurent Mangel and Alexandre Usov.
The complete AG2R La Mondiale roster will meet for the traditional team camp in Temple-sur-Lot, France, from December 9-18.
High stakes for USGP of cyclo-cross finale
By Laura Weislo
The last two races of the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross in Portland, Oregon this weekend will have much more at stake than just UCI points. For the elite men, the weekend will decide the series champion in a contest which is still wide open. In the women's race, it is a battle between teammates Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash (Luna), who have traded blows in the first four events.
The weekend races will also be decisive for the junior men's field, who will not only earn UCI points, but will have the eyes of the USA Cycling coaches on them as the two races are one of the criteria which will be used to select the junior team for the world championships.
The under-23 men will race with the elites, but like the juniors, the Espoirs will also be strutting their stuff for the national selectors.
With 50 points for the winner each day, there are six or seven riders in the elite men's field who could take the series title this weekend. Todd Wells (GT) took only one win on the second day in New Jersey, but consistent high placings put him into the lead with 147 points. Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) lies in second with 132 points, while his teammate and national champion Tim Johnson is in third with 123.
Johnson missed out on the second race in New Jersey after he injured his knee, but is still in the running for the series after coming in second place last year. He's trailed by last year's series champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) who dropped out of the second race in Louisville, Kentucky after taking the win in the opening round.
Read the full preview.
Bartko out of Cali World Up
Robert Bartko has had to cancel his appearance in the track World Cup meet in Cali, Colombia, on December 11-13, due to a case of the flu.
The German team is scheduled to fly to Colombia on Friday to prepare for the event. Bartko, 32, had planned to use the meet as preparation for the World Championships in Poland in March. The cancellation "messes up my whole winter planning," the German pursuit champion told the sid news agency.
Singapore hand sling
By Steve Thomas
Just a few months back Formula 1 motor racing made its debut in the island nation of Singapore with the world's first ever nocturnal F1 event taking place, something which was a huge success for the country and the sport. Now Singapore prepares to play host to its biggest every cycling event - the OCBC Cycle Singapore.
The various events will take place on February 22, 2009 in central Singapore. There are a number of mass participation rides taking place, starting with a 5km kids event and progressing to the longest open ride, covering 50km around some of the city's main highlights. The event, sponsored by the country's oldest local bank (OCBC), is designed to promote cycling in Singapore, a state that has a thriving cycling and racing scene, but only few "quiet" roads or trails.
Following the country's first open road mass participation events will be a number of criteriums that will be held on a 2km circuit with the start/finish at the F1 pit building. The racing will start with various age groups and open categories, culminating in an elite level criterium.
The rider and team line-up has yet to be released, but organisers are promising a field that will include national champions, past and present world champions, and Olympic medallists. With the race taking place just a week after the Tour de Langkawi, it is quite possible that some teams or riders may be lured to hang around in the sunny half of the planet for one more week to compete in this pioneering event.
For details check out www.ocbc.cyclesingapore.com.sg.
Now online: 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll
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 like Fabian Cancellara this Christmas, let us know your thoughts on the rider of the year!
Bike raising for Namibia
The Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia (BEN Namibia), founded by Australian Michael Linke in 2005, is providing more and more bicycles to the Southern African country of Namibia, thereby improving the lives of rural people with affordable and sustainable transportation.
The donation of bicycles provides income-generating activities for community-based organisations as well as assisting rural people in need of emergency transportation. To date, 80 bicycle ambulances and nine bicycle workshops have been financed by BEN Namibia, which has partnered with 51 community-based organisations mainly focused on home-based care services for people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children. With the national HIV/AIDS infection rate remaining around 20 percent, and maternal mortality rates doubling in Namibia in recent years, the need for locally-managed medical transport is more pressing than ever.
In 2008, BEN Namibia celebrated its 7,000th distributed bicycle. The organisation hopes to celebrate its 10,000th bicycle next year - as it plans to receive more than 3,500 bicycles from its donor partners from around the world. In 2009, this will include a shipment of bicycles from Bicycles for Humanity Melbourne.
With support from an Australian organisation, Global Development Group, BEN Namibia has announced that it now has tax deductible status for Australians wishing to donate to this project. Second hand bicycles are also collected by BEN Namibia partner Bicycles for Humanity in Canada, Australia, the US and UK and delivered in the containers that they are shipped in, which become the storage and workshop space.
More information can be found on benbikes.org.za/namibia.
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)