First Edition Cycling News, February 9, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo
Gerrans: Crédit Agricole can win Langkawi
By Greg Johnson in Alor Setar, Malaysia
Australia's Simon Gerrans believes his Crédit Agricole squad is in good shape to defend the Tour de Langkawi title won by Frenchman Anthony Charteau last year. Charteau, who is riding for Caisse d'Epargne this season and won't be defending his title, won last year's event after claiming an insurmountable lead following a break away on Stage 3.
"I think as far as Crédit Agricole's overall chances there's probably myself and Nicolas Roche, and I'm in good condition because of the Australian summer - plus Nicolas seems to be going well in training the past few days," said Gerrans, who finished 45 seconds down in last month's Tour Down Under.
The French squad is just one of three ProTour outfits at this year's race, but has one of the top rosters with Gerrans, a former Tour Down Under winner, and Roche giving the squad a double pronged attack at this year's event.
Gerrans believes the opening stages will play out similar to this year's Tour Down Under, with bunch sprints providing a close race through to the Fraser's Hill climb next Saturday. The rider then expects the race to open up, as the TDU did following the Willunga climb on the penultimate stage last month.
"As far as the overall titles goes I think it will probably stay pretty quiet over these first few sprint stages," he explained. "With so many sprinters here I think you can expect a lot of teams working to ensure a bunch sprint during the first week of the race.
"It'll come down to Fraser's Hill," he added. "From what I hear there's not a lot of elevation per kilometre but hopefully it's difficult enough that we can make the race and split it up a little on the climb so that we don't end up with too many guys and another bunch sprint at the top."
While Gerrans is pinning the French squad's hopes in the Fraser's Hill climb, the rider has yet to see the Genting Highlands replacement and won't know until the day what may be possible.
"It really depends how difficult this climb is and whether it's long enough to still have a race at the finish," he said.
Despite the decline in ProTour teams from five to three, Gerrans believes they will still play a vital role in the way the nine stage race unfolds.
"I think we can definitely see a strong enough break away stay away," he said. "But each of the sprinter's teams are going to have to have a rider represented and be happy for that rider to go for the stage win. But in saying that each of those ProTour teams here has a sprinter so as soon as a team is represented at the front you're going to see a team chasing behind."
The 13th Le Tour de Langkawi gets underway later today, with the 182.6 kilometre stage from Alor Setar to Kepala Batas.
Teams oppose boycott
The International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) will not back a possible boycott of the Grand Tour organizers events, the group's new president Eric Boyer said Friday. The possibility of a protest was raised earlier this week by the ICPT (International Professional Cycling Teams) following an announcement by RCS Sport which left four ProTour teams (Astana, Crédit Agricole, Bouygues Telecom and Team High Road) out of the Giro d'Italia.
Nine of the 18 ProTour teams (Astana, Team High Road, Rabobank, Milram, CSC, Quickstep, Lampre, Liquigas and Saunier Duval) hinted of a boycott if the Grand Tour organisers continue down the path of excluding ProTour teams from their events, but Boyer was strongly opposed to the idea. "A boycott is tantamount to crippling its own riders," he told AFP. "It is a bad idea."
"The teams are more or less the victims of the situation, the disparity of views between the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and the three organizers (ASO for France, RCS Sport for Italy, Unipublic for Spain)," said Boyer. "Two years ago we realized that the ProTour has not worked. For two years, everybody has shown good will. Now, in 2008, we are at an impasse."
The UCI granted the three companies their wish of being left off the ProTour calendar this year, but that did not end the dispute. The national federations suggested a new calendar which placed the races of these three organisations on a separate class, but this suggestion has not moved forward as of yet. "It is necessary that the rules of participation are suitable for everybody, teams, organisers, federations," said Boyer.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
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UCI wants Rasmussen punished
The UCI sent a request on Friday to the Monaco Cycling Federation requesting that it open disciplinary proceedings against Dane Michael Rasmussen, who holds his license there, for violations for the UCI's anti-doping rules. The sport's governing body hopes to see a two-year ban imposed on the rider for violations of its whereabouts rules.
Rasmussen was kicked out of the 2007 Tour de France while wearing the leader's jersey when it was revealed that he had filed false whereabouts information to the UCI on at least one occasion. While the rider claimed he did so for personal reasons and not to evade the doping controls, the UCI's statement said it "believes that Michael Rasmussen violated Rules 15.3 and 15.5 by evading controls in a premeditated manner and preventing controls being undertaken."
(For the history on the case, see Rasmussen's deceit in detail.)
WADA hopes Puerto case is re-opened
The World Anti-doping Association's legal director Olivier Niggli said Friday that he hopes the Spanish court will re-open the Operación Puerto case. The doping affair, which began in 2006 had been shelved by the judge in charge of the case in 2007, but WADA, the UCI and the Spanish sports council appealed to the courts to pursue the case which may involve hundreds of athletes.
Niggli told AFP, "If the magistrates decide the case has to be re-opened it will be handed over to the chief investigating magistrate and the bodies appealing for the affair to be fully investigated, notably WADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI)."
The case, which began in May, 2006, when police raided the clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes, turning up hundreds of bags of stored blood, doping products and other evidence. Niggli feared that if the case were to be closed for good, his organization and the UCI would "risk losing a huge catalogue of evidence", because the property in the case would be returned to its owner: Fuentes.
Niggli said that among the evidence is, " bags of blood, the famous red powder, hard drives... there is little that can be done if Fuentes decides to throw everything down the toilet. All the paper documentation is one thing, but if the final piece in the puzzle goes missing ..."
The case has so far only caught three riders in its net: Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi, who confessed, and Jan Ullrich, who was linked by DNA evidence. Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador have also been linked to the affair to varying degrees.
"It's no secret there's a lot of circumstantial evidence against Valverde," Niggli continued. "But to prove that, we need to carry out a DNA of the bag of blood (linked to the rider)."
Niggli is hoping that the Spanish courts, which declared that there was no evidence of a crime against public health - the only punishable offense which could be applied to the case, would agree with WADA's view to the contrary.
"I'm reasonably optimistic because the whole medical argument of the case is rock solid: you can't argue that the use of blood transfusions on people who don't need them can not be considered a danger to public health."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
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Baden Cooke: Finding the power
The start of Australian Baden Cooke's season will be about finding his power. After a bad luck with his team in 2007, the 29-year-old hopes that he can get over his leg numbness and back to his winning ways. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews spoke with Cooke while he was at the Barloworld's pre-season camp in Marina di Bibbona, Italy.
Baden Cooke started his career back in 2000 with Mercury, and has learned from both the good and bad experiences along the way. Though the team structure of Mercury was seen overall as a failure, it gave the then 21-year-old his start in cycling and opened the door to some eventual wins, including a stage win and the overall points competition in the 2003 Tour de France.
"Is it?" Cooke questioned when 2008 was noted has his ninth professional season. "It has been an adventure, I am living my dream. When I was 11 years old and started racing bikes this was my dream, and I feel very blessed. It is a very hard sport, and over the last years I have had some very hard times."
The hard times started with Mercury and continued last year with Unibet.com's ProTour-status struggles. "Mercury was still great for me, I had become pro – my dream. Even though the team went pear-shaped, I was on cloud nine and happy to be there. Even if the older guys were not happy because they wanted to be paid. I had good memories of being on that team, and there was great morale.
"In Unibet, I was not swimming in the river of denial, but I was just doing my thing," he continued on last year's season. "There were things I could not change, so I just concentrated on winning races, even if it was not racing in the Tour. Some of the races I wanted to target I did not get to do, and then I had the crash in [Volta a] Catalunya when I was really [in form].
"That was the only time I got down a bit; all the s**t was going on with Unibet, and I was sitting at home with rods in my back." Cooke voice returned to a positive tone, "However, I started racing again in Tour Région Wallonne at the end of July. I was ready to come back, and I love racing. Cycling has always been about winning, and secondary is the contracts and money – the contract will follow afterwards."
Gerolsteiner for Mallorca Challenge
Team Gerolsteiner is sending 12 riders to the Mallorca Challenge next week, a series of five one-day races. The German team will feature sprinter Robert Förster and Amstel Gold winner Stefan Schumacher.
The entire line-up includes: Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Thomas Fothen, Sven Krauss, Sebastian Lang, Volker Ordowski, Matthias Russ, Ronny Scholz, Stephan Schreck, Stefan Schumacher, Tom Stamsnijder, and Carlo Westphal. Christian Wegmann will serve as Directeur Sportif.
Uran gets surgery
Caisse d'Epargne's young Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran underwent a successful surgery this week in Brescia, Italy to remove plates in his elbows and left wrist which had been put in place after his crash in the Tour of Germany last year.
"The surgical operation proceeded perfectly and I have no pain at all," explained Uran. "In about ten days from now the doctor will remove the suture points and I will be operational again. My mental is very good and I hope to realize a great season in order to deserve the confidence and the hopes of my team Caisse d'Epargne," concluded Uran.
The rider will return to Colombia on Saturday where he will stay for a few weeks before returning to take part in the European calendar.
Australian team for Copenhagen
Cycling Australia today confirmed the members of the Australian team to contest the fourth and final round of the 2007-08 UCI Track World Cup series to be raced in Copenhagen from February 15-17.
Sprinters Mark French and Shane Perkins, Matthew Goss, World Cup points race leader Cameron Meyer, Travis Meyer, and Luke Roberts will make up the team in the World Cup finale.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)