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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 28, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Teams decide in favor of Paris-Nice

AIGCP's Eric Boyer
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image) Eric Boyer the team manager of Cofidis
After consulting with its member teams, the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) announced Wednesday that a unanimous decision had been reached to support participation in Paris-Nice. The decision, another round in the ongoing dispute between the UCI and Grand Tour organisers, comes after the UCI asked all professional teams to boycott this year's event, which it is not recognizing on its calendar.

"The AIGCP made this decision while thinking only of the sporting interests of the riders and the teams' sponsors. The conditions of participation proposed by the organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) will be discussed by a directing committee on Friday, February 29," read a statement signed by AIGCP President Eric Boyer.

The AIGCP said it has informed UCI President of its decision and made an appointment with the international cycling federation at the beginning of next week to discuss the ongoing crisis within the sport.

Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) is planning to run the March 9-16 race under sanctioning of the French Cycling Federation instead of the UCI and "under the exclusive jurisdiction of French law."

On Tuesday, Boyer had indicated that the AIGCP "decision will determine how we will race (other events) the rest of the season." Although the AIGCP did not comment specifically Wednesday about participation in other events put on by Grand Tour organizers ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic, its decision seems to put more pressure on the UCI and may be an indicator of how the AIGCP's teams will act in the future.

McQuaid: Teams have the power to resist

By Shane Stokes

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

Speaking prior to the announcement of the AIGCP that the various teams would indeed go ahead and ride Paris-Nice, UCI President Pat McQuaid stated that these teams themselves could, if acting in a united fashion, set themselves up as major players.

"These organisers, and ASO in particular, have power because they have money and they have an event that the teams want to ride," he told Cyclingnews on Wednesday afternoon. "So that is power. The UCI doesn't have power as such – we have authority and we regulate, but we don't have power over the teams.

"In actual fact, the people with all of the power are the teams themselves, because they could turn around to the organisers and say that unless they put their race on the UCI calendar, they will not be riding it. Even if 10 or 12 teams decided to do that, they could force things."

Ultimately the teams decided to act otherwise. The move is predicable as a short-term one, but in siding with ASO it creates an uneasy situation in the sport. The race and others later in the year will be organised outside the aegis of the UCI, with the governing body have no say over the rules and regulations, nor which teams can take part. It appears to further move the sport into a civil war situation, and also gives organisers far more control in determining which teams can or can not take part in events such as the Tour de France.

McQuaid said that there was no logical reason for Paris-Nice not to have been put on the UCI calendar, save for ASO aiming to deliberately create conflict. "Prior to last year's Paris-Nice they were fighting [with the UCI] because they didn't want to be in the ProTour. That was the argument 12 months ago, but this year they have no such argument; there was no reason why Paris-Nice could not go on the calendar. It was not like we are fighting over Astana riding because there was free participation in Paris-Nice. There was no reason, they have just done it to cause a showdown."

"It is going far too far to think that an organiser can come along and dictate things, not respect the regulations and put serious pressure on teams that they themselves don't respect those regulations. The UCI cannot accept that…my management committees are completely behind me on this and indeed are the federations as well. I have had a lot of letters of support from Federation presidents around the world in the last week or so... every one of them has the same message, saying that we cannot allow our regulations and our constitution to be undermined by an organiser."

In the end, that is what happened. The UCI is yet to react to the developments, but the teams' decision to side with ASO will create further tensions and uncertainties in the sport.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split

Did the Vuelta's date change hurt the race?

By Hernan Alvarez

Did the Vuelta's move from April to September harm the race?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In 1995, the Vuelta a España organizers and the UCI decided to change the dates for the Spanish race from April and May to the current August-September spot in order to attract a higher quality, more international field. France's Laurent Jalabert was the first to win the late summer edition, and for a time, the change brought the race higher prestige. But in recent years the quality of the race has been slipping. Opinions vary as to what is the cause and how it can be fixed.

The dispute about whether to race the Vuelta in the spring or the summer is on the table of Spanish cycling, and there are many opinions. Some are in favor of things remaining as they are now with the Vuelta in September and others think of changing in back to April. Cyclingnews reached the race director, one rider and two journalists to find out what they think about this issue.

The Vuelta a España's current director Victor Cordero is of the side which favors the spring timing for the race. "I'm convinced that it's better in the spring," said Cordero. However, he explained, the reasons for moving the date in the mid 90s were valid. "Taking into account a global vision, maybe it's better for the rest of cycling to have a longer season, as it is now.

"The original objective of moving the Vuelta to September was that the teams would then have more than three to four months to perform, and could race from April to September. Previously [the season] was from April to the end of July with the Tour de France. For the Vuelta, the April-May dates were better, no doubt about it."

The Vuelta has had a few tough years
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Veteran cycling journalist Chema Rodriguez also gave his opinion about this matter. Rodriguez is against bringing the Vuelta back to April. "I lived the controversy about the date changes intensely as a director of a specialized media [Spain's Meta 2Mil magazine]. In fact, from the very beginning I was one of the few journalists who was in favor of the change from April to September. And I remember that little by little, as years went by, most of the Spanish media were changing their minds and recognizing the improvements that the change made," said Rodriguez.

The main reason for the 1995 shift was the absence of the great names on the Spanish roads. "When the former owners of the race accepted the proposal of the then president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, they didn't do it in a capricious way," continued the journalist. "The Vuelta in April couldn't attract the great international stars. After winning his first Tour [de France] in 1991 Miguel Indurain never raced the Vuelta in April again. And the man from Navarra wasn't the only one absent among the great stage race riders." A major factor for the race is the weather. "The climate was another factor to consider: Spain is much rawer in April than it is in September when there are still people enjoying their [summer] holidays," said Rodriguez.

Read the complete feature.

Danilo Di Luca faces possibility of another suspension

CONI considers two-year suspension for 2007 Giro winner

By Gregor Brown

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italian Danilo Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, faces another possible suspension if the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has its way. Based on the findings of doping controls taken the night following the Giro stage to Monte Zoncolan, May 30, CONI's anti-doping prosecutors have prepared documents that will be reviewed by its expert panel, and could result in a two-year ban from cycling under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code 2.2.

CONI suspects that the 32 year-old rider was subjected to injections that altered his hormone level in the time between the International Cycling Union (UCI) anti-doping control following the stage (he finished fourth - ed.) and the surprise – and controversial – control by CONI later on that same evening. The rider from Abruzzo, who went on to win the Giro by 1'55" over Andy Schleck (Team CSC), was heard by heard CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri in December in relation to the Giro findings. Any judgement made by CONI would need to be approved or denied by the Italian cycling federation (FCI) disciplinary commission.

In an unrelated case, Di Luca was suspended for three months over the winter in relation to the Oil for Drugs affair of 2004.

Over the winter Di Luca changed teams from Liquigas to LPR Brakes, and has the full backing of his new steam. "I have trust in Danilo," said LPR Brakes' Team Manager Fabio Bordonali. "For this reason I can't wait for the day of justice, to close this matter quickly and return to taking only of racing.

"I spoke with Danilo and I found him to be more or less relaxed," he continued. "He knows that he did nothing wrong, and so can't wait for justice to run its course."

President of the FCI, Renato Di Rocco, was not pleased with his country's latest case. Just last May, the 2006 Giro winner, Ivan Basso, was suspended due to his involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes as part of the Operación Puerto investigation.

"I am very sorry, like all of us, for this submission [by CONI]," stated Di Rocco. "... I don't want and I am not able to enter into the merit of this decision taken by the CONI prosecutor. ... Italian cycling has shown to be in the lead against doping, a widespread and complex problem."

CONI could be in a rush to make its decision as the Italian elections are nearing. In April a new prime minister will be selected and could upset the balance of the Italian Olympic Committee.

Volksbank gets only Tour de Suisse wildcard

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Volksbank has been awarded the one and only wild card invitation to the Tour de Suisse, it was announced Wednesday. The Austrian Professional Continental team also rode the race in 2007, with captain Gerrit Glomser finishing eighth overall and Florian Stalder taking the sprinter's jersey. "We want to improve on these results," said team manager Thomas Kofler.

This year's Tour de Suisse features a mountain time trial on the penultimate stage, 25 km on the Klausenpass. "It is an advantage that there is no normal time trial, and that is good for me," said Glomser, 32. "I will be looking to make the Olympic qualification at the race. My goal is a stage win."

"The Tour de Suisse is a big challenge which we gladly accept and to which we look forward optimistically," said Kofler. "Our motto is to ride actively and cleverly. We want to take every opportunity we can to be worthy representatives of Austrian cycling."

Stalder, who is Swiss, is particularly looking forward to the race, in which he hopes to score his first pro win. "As a Swiss citizen, the race is my season highlight. It would be my ultimate dream to win in my home land. If we all work together, we can accomplish that," the 25 year-old said.

Calvente signed by Contentpolis-Murcia

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Contentpolis-Murcia signed Manuel Calvente according to his manager Antonio Vaquerizas. Referring to the former CSC and Agritubel rider, Vaquerizas said, "Manuel Calvente has reached a contractual agreement with the continental Contentpolis Murcia [team]." The squad is formerly known as Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia; its name has not yet been updated on the UCI website.

"I still have a couple of years as a professional cyclist," said the 31 year-old Spanish climber, born in Granada, told Cyclingnews, although he admitted to having gone through times of uncertainty and low morale "upon leaving the French Agritubel after two seasons." He called signing with Contentpolis-Murcia "a very motivating thing for me and for my family".

Calvente's debut will likely come in the Vuelta a Castilla y León. "I started training – albeit late relative to other years and my colleagues. I am working very hard now to get ready as soon as possible, especially now that I have this wonderful opportunity to continue as a professional rider."

Calvente has logged some noteworthy performances throughout his career. He raced for Pinturas Banaka and Avilas-Rojas in U23 category and then made his professional debut with Jazztel-Costa de Almeria in 2001. The following year, CSC signed him, and there he gained the confidence of Bjarne Riis. Calvente stayed with the Danish team until 2005.

"It was my big mistake to leave CSC, where I always felt very good," he said. "I signed by Agritubel in search of greater freedom. It was another great team, but I did not find the necessary motivation and results did not come anyway."

Reinforcing Calvente power in reaching the main goal for the Contentpolis-Murcia in 2008: to be in the Vuelta a España.

US picks track worlds team

USA Cycling selected nine athletes to represent the US at the upcoming track worlds in Manchester, Great Britain at the end of March. Automatic nominees are Sarah Hammer (individual pursuit), Jennie Reed (sprint and keirin), Michael Blatchford (sprint), Michael Friedman (scratch race) and Taylor Phinney (individual pursuit) while discretionary nominees include Becky Quinn (points and scratch races), Adam Duvendeck (sprint), Bobby Lea (omnium) and Colby Pearce (points race). Pearce will also team with Friedman for the men's Madison.

US Team for 2008 UCI Track World Championships
Michael Blatchford (men's sprint)
Adam Duvendeck (men's sprint)
Michael Friedman (men's scratch race & Madison)
Sarah Hammer (women's individual pursuit)
Bobby Lea (men's omnium)
Colby Pearce (men's points race & Madison)
Taylor Phinney (men's individual pursuit)
Becky Quinn (women's scratch race & points race)
Jennie Reed (women's sprint & keirin)

Grabsch and Eichler to lead Milram to Belgium

Led by Ralf Grabsch and Markus Eichler, Milram will be opening its spring racing season in Belgium with the 63rd Het Volk and 61st Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne this weekend.

All arounder Grabsch, from Cologne, Germany, has big plans for the upcoming Spring Classics. "The coming weekend is the grand opening of the Classics season," the 34 year-old said. "Both races will establish where everyone stands at the moment. Everyone will see how he stands in looking forward to the highlights of the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Paris-Roubaix."

"I always enjoy riding the opening Belgian races and will test my form in both races, look for my chance and see what I can do in the finale." After his solo escape in the "Hell of the North" (Paris-Roubaix) in 2007, he is looking to do even better this year.

Eichler will be another rider to watch in Flanders. Riding last for, he gathered important experience in the Spring classics, finishing fifth in the Belgian half-classic Nokere Koerse and eighth in the Driedaagse van De Panne.

Team Milram for Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Ralf Grabsch, Markus Eichler, Enrico Poitschke, Martin Müller Dominik Roels, Artur Gajek, Niki Terpstra, Martin Velits under Directeur Sportif: Jochen Hahn.

Kona expands AfricaBikes support

In its third year, Kona's will double its previous donation of 500 bikes for the AfricaBikes project, which seeks to provide durable, easy-to-maintain bikes to healthcare workers to assist in the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. The bike manufacturer intends to donate 1,000 additional bikes.

"There is a sense at Kona that cyclists are becoming more aware of their role in the world and how bicycles can contribute to the well-being of people everywhere," said Kona Chief Jake Heilbron. "The idea that we can help in Africa has clearly hit a nerve in the minds of cyclists everywhere."

Last year, Kona's adopt-an-AfricaBike program raised more than US$10,000. Among those who helped the project were 10 year-old Quinn Freedman, who raised $1,500 by completing a solo 25-mile "Bike-a-thon" in the San Juan Islands last November, and Virginia Tech senior Christine George who is currently spearheading a fundraiser with the goal of raising $10,000 for the project.

Kona will be making at least three trips to Africa in June and August to help deliver bikes in places like Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa

Armstrong to advocate for Wisconsin smoking ban

Lance Armstrong is keeping plenty busy in his retirement. On Tuesday, March 4, the seven-time former Tour de France winner will travel to Madison, Wisconsin, to advocate for a ban on smoking. The trip supports his foundation's cancer advocacy effort, including highlighting the causal link between smoking and lung cancer.

"He's a great advocate, obviously a fabulous athlete, and we're honored to have him come speaking about this bill," said Allison Miller, on behalf of the American Cancer Society to the Badger Herald.

A cancer survivor himself, Armstrong is scheduled to meet with Wisconsin's Governor Jim Doyle in order to express support for legislation to ban smoking in all work settings, including eateries and bars.

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