Latest Cycling News, January 8, 2008
Edited by Gregor Brown
Traces of amphetamine found in Schumacher's blood
By Susan Westemeyer
German Stefan Schumacher of Team Gerolsteiner, who finished third in the World Championships in his hometown of Stuttgart in September, is having a hard time coming out of the negative headlines since that time. The winner of last year's Amstel Gold has now admitted that traces of amphetamines were found in his system after an auto accident in October.
The 26 year-old's series of problems began after the Worlds in late September, when it was disclosed that he had "irregular blood values" before the race, which he said were due to a bad case of diarrhoea.
A week after the Worlds, he celebrated with friends at a Stuttgart discotheque and after taking a taxi home to find his girlfriend absent, he climbed into his car to find her. He crashed into a garden fence, and left the scene of the accident "under shock," but returned to the scene within minutes. A test at the scene showed he had 0.07% blood alcohol content, which was above the German limit of 0.05%. Schumacher admitted to having been under the influence of alcohol.
At the time, the German tabloid BILD claimed that Schumacher had also tested positive for a "recreational" (as compared to performance-enhancing) drug in a blood test taken at the scene, which the cyclist vehemently denied. However, in a press release issued yesterday evening, he said that "I have now been informed that the police control showed that a slight amount of amphetamines were found in my body."
"My problem is that I haven't the slightest idea how it could have gotten there. I can't say anything else although I know that this is not a good statement. The only thing that I absolutely know: I did not knowingly take any drugs."
While he further noted that the use of amphetamines outside of competition is not on the forbidden list, the dpa press agency reported that the International Cycling Union (UCI) put amphetamines on the forbidden list in 1967. That is the same drug for which Jan Ullrich was suspended for six months in 2002, after a positive unannounced test while he was recovering from a knee injury.
The question as to whether this is a "doping case" remained unanswered, since the test was conducted by the police and not by an anti-doping authority. The Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR, German federation) issued a statement saying, "Our attorneys are investigating the matter. It will not be swept under the carpet."
Schumacher emphasised that this situation was a personal matter and not one that affects his profession. Team Gerolsteiner declined to comment on the matter, but there was already speculation that the team would have to fire the rider.
"That has absolutely nothing to do with doping," said Schumacher's attorney, Michael Lehner. "For me it is not an athletic case," and the whole thing has "no athletic relevance."
Schumacher, who is currently training on Mallorca, has lost his driver's license for 10 months and must pay a fine of 10,000 Euro to settle the accident charges.
It would not be Schumacher's first experience with such doping questions. During the 2005 Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, in which he won three stages and the overall title, he tested positive for norpseudoephedrine (cathine), a stimulant and appetite suppressant, although the charges were ultimately dismissed.
Bennati aims for spectacular season at Pozzato's side
The transfer of Daniele Bennati from Lampre-Fondital to Liquigas during the off-season had some pundits shaking their heads, but as the 27 year-old sprinter from Arezzo, Italy, explains it was a matter of further fortifying an already a solid team. 'Benna' will find himself sharing the captain's role with 'Pippo' – Filippo Pozzato – however, he sees no problems and looks forward to staking claim to his first Giro d'Italia stage win.
"As far as I see there is no problem. Liquigas took me on as sprinter to reinforce the team. It is a role that I am up to after the wins last year in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. Pozzato will not want it any different," said Bennati to Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport.
However, it was Pozzato who was battling head-to-head with Bennati during last year's Tour de France, where Liquigas' new recruit took two sprint wins to Pozzato's one win (in Autun). It is the attacking style of the longhaired rider from Sandrigo that sets the two apart, and will likely avoid any problems.
"In this team there is a team manager [Roberto Amadio] and the directeur sportifs that will decide," he continued. "I believe that I have never taken the cake from anyone else. Last year at [Tour of] Flanders I arrived strong, but I happily supported [Alessandro] Ballan. I don't see why we can't have the same in this team.
"I have respect for Pozzato. He has already won Milano-Sanremo, and in that race he will be our leader. However, if the sprint arrives and I am at one hundred percent I will want to contest the sprint."
'Pippo' will want the same for himself, and this could cause slight issues like what was seen when he raced for Quick.Step-Innergetic. "Honestly, I consider myself faster than him. Pozzato can attack on the Poggio, like he did in 2006 when he won."
In the Northern Classics, 'Benna' believes it will be the pavé that will make the deciding factor. "On the pavé the selection is natural, and to have up front two riders like us is only a good thing. Last year, Pozzato raced with [Luca] Paolini, and he went on to finish third [in the Tour of Flanders]."
After the early season, Bennati will take on the Giro d'Italia, which he usually skips. "I will go to the Giro for my second time, and I have a great desire to win my first stage. At Lampre they always denied me [a spot in the Giro]. At the Tour it would be wonderful to win again in Paris and conquest the green jersey."
Kessler hearing scheduled
By Susan Westemeyer
Things have been quiet concerning Matthias Kessler's positive doping control for testosterone, but there may soon be an announcement. "The Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Committee for Doping Cases has set a date for the main hearing and a decision is expected shortly," spokesman Marco Steiner told Cyclingnews yesterday morning.
The 28 year-old German, who raced for Team Astana in 2006, tested positive for testosterone in a surprise doping control April 24 before La Flèche Wallonne, in which he finished fourth in the race. He was suspended when the result of the A sample was announced the end of June, and fired when the B sample confirmed the findings.
Kessler denied having used doping, and through his attorney put the blame on four packages "with Chinese writing on them" which he received from his alternative health practitioner. He ingested the contents, assuming they were food supplements.
Grillo dreams of recovery and Giro start
Paride Grillo is recovering from his New Year's Day scare resulting from crashing his BMW Z4 Coupe into an electrical box. The Italian sprinter of Team CS Group Navigare has been in Como's Sant'Anna Hospital for the last seven days, but hopes for a return that will see him race in the Giro d'Italia this May.
"I remained trapped in the car for a half an hour," recalled the 25 year-old to La Gazzetta dello Sport of the crash that occurred around 8:00 near his home in Appiano Gentile. "My chest was smashed against the steering wheel. From the incident I can only remember that they had to rip off the top of the car."
The worst fears have passed and Grillo remains with cuts and pains, but considers himself lucky. "Now I have a little cut in my head, nasal septum and two broken ribs... My left ring finger is all stitched up and my right leg is completely black from hematoma. My right knee worries me the most. I am waiting for the magnetic resonance – I can't sleep; I hope that they don't have to operate.
"After the incident I thought that I was unlucky, then I saw the photos of my car and that frightened me. I understood that I was very lucky. Maybe someone was watching down on me and wanted the best for me.
"My parents have probably lost 20 years of their life from their preoccupation. The only colleague who came to visit me was Luca Paolini – he was very alarmed."
The Giro d'Italia departs from Sicilia on May 10, and Grillo dreams of being race-ready. "I thinking about it a lot," stated Grillo of his bicycle. "I wanted to start off strong in Malaysia and repay the team with a victory.
"If anyone thinks that I have a hot head and I don't have the life of an athlete then they are mistaken. Maybe they judge me from my haircut. I can't wait for when I am able to return to training. I not trying to create illusions for myself, but I am dreaming to be ready for the Giro."
Olympic year adds extra heat to Aussie nationals
By Greg Johnson
With the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on the horizon, Australia's top cyclists will be out in force in Victoria's Ballarat for this week's Australian Open Road Championships as they vie for not just their respective titles, but also the opportunity to move closer to a possible berth in the Australian Olympic squad.
As a result of the Olympic qualification points on offer - not to mention the national champion jersey bonus made available to many of the Europe-based professionals from their trade teams - the national titles will feature a star-studded lineup this year.
Though limited to riders primarily from one country, it can seen as the unofficial 'start' of the professional road racing season, given there are UCI points on offer and the depth of talent lining up on the weekend.
The events will feature a whopping 367 riders across the six races, with nearly all of Australia's top riders and some international riders taking part in the event. The prospect of a tough showdown in every category has event organizer John Craven excited about the week ahead.
"Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen are the only big names not there," Craven told The Courier. "The depth in Australian cycling is phenomenal. It's an overwhelming response."
"It's going to be a stunning spectacle," Craven added. "All the ingredients are there for some wonderful racing by Australia's best men and women," Craven said.
Weather will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome of this week's events, with the riders expected to be greeted with fine and hot conditions, starting with an anticipated 34 degrees C for Wednesday's Elite Women and Under 23 Men's Time Trial events.
Similar conditions are expected for the road races, with the U23 men and elite women's events to be held on Saturday, January 12, and then the elite men's 162.3km race on the Sunday.
The 10.2km Buninyong circuit is highly selective and the hard-fought road races almost invariably end with a select bunch fighting it out for the win. This year looks like it will be no different.
Craven said he's expecting a strong crowd to make the trek out to Ballarat from Melbourne, about a one hour drive north of the Victorian capital.
To read the full Australian Open Road Championships preview click here.
WADA remembers marathon-man Boogerd
By Susan Westemeyer
Michael Boogerd may have taken his leave from the professional peloton with his retirement and farewell race in October, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) hasn't forgotten him. In fact, they paid him a visit on Christmas Eve for another doping test.
While the former Rabobank rider was out picking up his son from school, two WADA testers came by his house for an unannounced out-of-competition doping control. When the 35 year-old was home again, he submitted the sample. "It wasn't difficult, " he told telesport.nl with a laugh, "but in 2008 the doping hunters won't come in again."
Meanwhile, he is still staying athletically involved. He plans to run the Rotterdam marathon on April 13, as preparation for the RopaRun, a three day event from Paris to Rotterdam which raises money for charity. "It is for a good cause, and now that I have stopped racing I still need do something to keep my condition on a good level," Boogerd said. "I now try to run an hour each day. It does me good. Later this year, I want to run the New York marathon."
His training partner is Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel, who ran the New York marathon in 2007. "I asked him and Michael was enthusiastic," she said. "After my cycling career, I found running to be a new sport where I feel good. I think that running will also be good for Michael."
CSC takes on a bigger presence
Team CSC will present its the new 2008 team kit shortly and it has been announced that team's main sponsor, CSC, opted to increase focus on their website csc.com. CSC will be overtaking the very visible spot on the side of the rider's shorts.
"Enhancing the link between our sponsorship of Team CSC and our core business, Information Technology, couldn't be more important to us, says Richard Gorman, Director, Global Sponsorship Programme Office.
"Our website, www.csc.com, is the single most comprehensive place people can go to learn about the technology-enabled business solutions we create for clients in government and industry all over the world. Promoting this key communications tool through our Team CSC sponsorship is a natural decision."
Roulston returns to defend Tour of Wellington title
Defending champion, Trek-Zookepers Café Team, led by 2006 and 2007 winner Hayden Roulston, is set to return to this month's 21st Trust House Cycle Tour of Wellington, January 29 to February 2.
Team director Ron Cheatley has put a formidable team together to help Roulston to a hat trick of tour victories. Only one other rider has won three consecutive tours in its 21 year history; Brian Fowler won the event four times from 1989 to 1992.
Roulston, who won this 2007's Tour of Southland and a gold medal at last month's Oceania track Championships, is sure to be one of the front runners for the 2008 event. Alongside him will be one of the toughest road riders in New Zealand, Gordon McCauley. McCauley will provide help to Roulston but also to take the chances if any opportunity arises.
Roulston defied his doctors last year to win the New Zealand road title after being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition.
Other members of the Trek-Zookeepers Café Team include Sam Bewley, a member of the New Zealand track cycling squad who represented his country in the teams pursuit event at this year's World Championships. Bewley won the gold medal at the 2005 World Junior Championship. He's now made his mark on the road racing scene winning this year's national time trial and the criterium championship.
Paul Odlin from Nelson is the fourth member of the team. Paul is a work horse who was vital in Roulston's win in this year's Tour of Southland and will do everything he can to get Roulston and MacCauley to the front of the race in the closing kilometres of every stage. The final member is up and coming rider Michael Torckler from New Plymouth.
"With Hayden and Gordon in the team, they have two potential tour winners," said race director Jorge Sandoval. "Unfortunately for them, there will be some other top riders who will do anything possible to win the race, especially the Australian riders."
Cyclingnews reader poll: Best product and team bike
Thank you to all who voted, and look for the winner of the Zipp carbon fibre goodies: the 570g VumaQuad crankset, the SLC2 handlebars and Zipp's 145 stem, to be announced at the week's end.
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