First Edition Cycling News, January 29, 2008
Edited by Greg Johnson
Contador and Valverde not guaranteed Tour start
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said he could make no promises over the participation of defending champion Alberto Contador or Alejandro Valverde in this year's race, after the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recently re-opened its enquiries into Operación Puerto.
"Today I cannot say that Valverde or Contador will not be in the Tour," said Prudhomme, speaking at the Tour of Qatar in Doha. "It is still early, we are not going to exclude individual riders, but instead not invite an entire team."
While the teams for this year's Tour de France are due to be announced in two weeks time, UCI president Pat McQuaid said that the Tour was the only race to which all 18 ProTour teams should be invited, under new proposals agreed with various European cycling federations on Saturday. "All 18 ProTour teams have to take part in the Tour de France, the ASO can then add wildcard teams from the list of 12 who are using the biological passport system," said McQuaid. But he added: "There's no indication if [Tour de France organisers] ASO will accept this or not."
Prudhomme revealed he had talked with Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel, requesting the Kazakh squad sign a contract with ASO affirming its commitment to clean cycling. "Thus, if the team had any problem relating to doping we could exclude them directly," said Prudhomme. "Today I am not going to say whether or not Astana will be at the start of the 2008 Tour, but if there is one thing that is true it's that this team has damaged the image of the Tour."
Andreu reacts to Leogrande revelations
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Rock Racing's now former director Frankie Andreu's 2006 mea culpa about his involvement with doping during his time on the US Postal team made him a credible mentor to younger cyclists about the dangers of doping. And Andreu felt that his previous mistakes warranted him to speak to his group of young riders, frequently. But with the revelation that one of the riders on the team during his tenure, which Andreu confirmed is Kayle Leogrande, is under investigation by the U.S. Anti-doping Agency (USADA), Andreu could only say that he did his due diligence to prevent it.
"I had conversations with everyone, multiple times," said Andreu. "But so has Bob Stapleton and Bjarne Riis with their riders, and you see what happened there."
When asked how much this specific instance of the Rock & Republic sponsored team affected his decision to part ways with the team in December, Andreu responded that it was more the reaction by the team owners – or more specifically the lack of reaction – that gave him a sour taste. "There were a combination of things [in my decision,] but the non-reaction by Rock & Republic was certainly part of that. I knew [the investigation] was in the development. I didn't know about the lawsuit, but I knew there were rumours of the test. "
Leogrande's alleged test in question, the circumstances of which makeup an anonymous 'john doe' lawsuit against USADA, came from the 2007 Superweek race series. Andreu was not present for these races. Cyclingnews did speak at length with Andreu a month after the Tour of Elk Grove, in which he explained his position on doping to his riders.
In that interview, Andreu said: "I speak to them, not every day, but I've had conversations throughout the year. Everything that is happening now, you can't take anything. You can't go to GNC and buy anything. It's not tolerated now. For sure we don't want to have something come down with Rock & Republic and hurt the image of the company. Especially with me being involved now. I'm the director and my head is on the line too; I can't have any of it, either."
Andreu said he did not learn about the USADA investigation until in November. "I didn't find out about it until like November, that is when [Rock & Republic] told me. I was kind of hurt, because I had talked to all the riders through the year that this was not something we wanted to mess around with – this was a new cycling trying to move forward."
According to USADA statistics, Leogrande was tested three times in 2007 and once in 2006 – the year he won his elite amateur national criterium championship. Representatives from Superweek told Cyclingnews that they had not been contacted by USADA or USA Cycling about test results from the 2007 series.
Media representatives from Rock Racing said that Leogrande’s alleged involvement with any lawsuit or USADA proceeding was still speculation. Rock & Republic wasn't available for comment at the time of writing.
Boonen happy with form
By Shane Stokes in Doha, Qatar
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) took his first individual win of the 2008 season on Monday and found himself in a familiar position, namely leading the Tour of Qatar. He and the rest of the Quick Step team put the hammer down early on in the stage and ripped the peloton apart. He then out-sprinted six others to take the stage victory and succeed team-mate Matteo Tosatto as leader of the race.
"It was very hard, very hard," he said afterwards. "The wind was perfect to make a big mess today. Immediately from kilometre zero, the entire team attacked. There was a battle for 60 kilometres, and then a big bunch got back and it was a little bit quieter with the wind in a different direction. Then in the last 30 kilometres, we just exploded everything. Everybody was completely full gas. It's always fast here but its better when you attack yourself. In that way, you're sure that you're at the front."
Boonen would undoubtedly be happy if he or one of his team-mates wins the race overall. Quick Step has taken the past two editions, with the Belgian winning in 2006 and Wilfried Cretskens coming out best last year. However his bigger target is to ride very strongly in the Spring Classics.
"I still have potential to improve my condition this season. This winter I did as much kilometres as last winter, but I rested a bit longer. Now my next big goal is Milan San Remo. In recent years it went wrong for a few seconds during the race [thus affecting his result] but to win there is my big dream. Qatar is the perfect preparation for it.
"Australia [the Tour Down Under] has more beautiful views, but here it is more ideal to prepare your sprints," he added.
Sutton aiming high
By Shane Stokes in Doha, Qatar
Chris Sutton (Team Slipstream) was one of the six breakaway riders beaten by Tom Boonen at the end of the 137.5 kilometre second stage of the Tour of Qatar but, rather than being disheartened, he came away from the race relatively confident that he can land some glory later in the week. Sutton was fourth on the leg from Al Zubarah to the Doha Golf Club and said that it was a very difficult day in the saddle.
"It was pretty hard out there," the young Australian stated. "I just checked my PowerTap and I averaged 55 km/h. It was a solid day. I had a maximum speed of 71.5 km/h and there's no downhills here! It was just flat and windy.
"It wasn't an easy day for anyone," he added. "The boys in my team rode really great. Dave Millar and Julian Dean helped and then I ended up in the front group with Magnus."
After the team time trial Millar, Dean and directeur sportif Johnny Weltz all tipped Sutton for a strong ride in the race. Each said that he was in good shape, and so it turned out.
"I tried to have a go in the sprint there at the finish but Tom Boonen is pretty strong and I ended up running fourth," he said. "The whole team rode very well today, Maggie was driving it at the finish but I guess he ran out of a bit of gas at the very end."
'CJ' Sutton had started the day in the jersey of best young rider, but Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) nipped past him due to time bonuses received for his second place on the stage. He wants the jersey back, as well as aiming for another target.
"As regards the rest of the week, it's important to stay at the front because you don't know what is going to happen with the winds and all that," he explained. "I wouldn't mind trying to get the young rider's jersey back, I think I am just a couple of seconds behind the guy from Lotto so I will be watching him. I wouldn't mind trying to win a sprint, either! I was close today with Boonen so I will try to get up there and win a sprint.
"We will see," he continued. "There is no pressure on us or anything, we are just still trying to work out how we all ride. We all click together really well but we will work on the sprint finish, we will get it right and I reckon we could have a win before the end of the week."
Millar bides his time
By Shane Stokes in Doha, Qatar
David Millar was surprisingly chirpy after the second stage of the Tour of Qatar. The Scot crossed the line as part of the main bunch, 8.12 minutes down, but wasn't worried about losing time. He wants to be hitting good form in Paris-Nice, and so is content to just log some early racing miles in the 2.1 ranked race.
Sunday's team time trial was a priority for the Slipstream Chipotle squad, but when the hammer went down on Monday's first road stage, he was satisfied to let the Quick Step train go.
"That was f***ing savage," he said after the finish. "It was just mega fast. I was expecting it to be hard, but that was quite a bit harder than I expected! It was full on right from the beginning, they went sprinting off and I was way above my threshold for the whole first hour. Eventually I decided that I was digging way too deep and that is when I pulled off.
"I have a horrible feeling it will be like that for the week," he added, smiling. "Everyone is going to be very nervous now. But it is good, it is a good first race and form finder. I haven't raced before in January so I am already ahead of the game."
Captaining the Slipstream ship
If Jonathan Vaughters ever gets tired of this whole 'cycling' thing, he could probably find a job as a sea captain, since he has become well-versed in navigating uncharted and potentially rocky waters – building an entire team from the ground-up, and moving it from a small developmental team to become, at least on paper, a contender for just about any race in the world. Of course Vaughters does not take sole credit for this work. Actually, he only credits himself with one thing, picking the right people for the various jobs.
"I do have a crack staff, that is for sure!" he said. "They are smart and don't necessarily come from a cycling background, they are just hyper-perfectionist people from a business background. My biggest part is that I'm really good at picking people. At the end of the day I can only do so much – I bring a leadership and emotional component to things. I'm not an organized person myself, but I have good vision and pick people who are organized. That is the most bragging you will ever get out of me!"
If a theme of the 2008 Slipstream-Chipotle team could be extracted, it would be this: everything about it is different, from the organization, to the logistics, to the personnel, to even the mood of the riders – which is one of the best indicators that the differences are working. All of this begins and ends with the team support staff, and how they are working is also different.
"From a staff perspective, their year would end usually after the bike shows, take a break and then slowly ramp up at the beginning of the year," said Vaughters regarding previous years. "But I said let's just work through it. With the pace of the build-up that we are doing and the learning curve we can't afford it.
To read the full interview with Jonathan Vaughters, click here.
Albert, Nys honoured in Tremelo
Under 23 World Cyclo-cross Champion Niels Albert and Sven Nys, who finished third to Lars Boom and Zdenek Stybar in the weekend's Elite Men's race, have been honoured in the Belgian Provence of Tremelo, where the pair live. Both riders were picked up by limousine and welcomed by family and hundreds of supporters at the council chambers.
Tremelo mayor Vital Van Dessel congratulated the two riders on their achievements. "Tremelo has always been known for its great cyclists, with old as well as recent glory such as Pé Verhaegen en Benjamin Vanitterbeek," he said. "A hundred years ago we also had a world champion in Pater Damiaan."
Museeuw opens fitness center
Former world champion Johan Museeuw has opened a fitness center called Indoor Cycling. Museeuw opened his first fitness center under that name last weekend in Gistel, Belgium. It offers workouts in groups and cycling to music, with each individual setting his or her own resistance and speed.
About 30 riders participated in a "spinning marathon" to open the center.
"The bikes have 32 kg fly wheels and polyband drives, which make the bikes extremely stable and ensures that there is not more resistance that required, which can be easily regulated," Museeuw told sportwereld.be.
The center offers programs "both for the starting athlete and for the practiced cyclist".
Additional information can be found at www.museeuwfitness.com
Women's Tour to start in Gent
The Tour de France is returning to Gent this summer, following the announcement that the women's version of the famed Grand Tour will commence in the Belgian city. In 2007 Quick-Step's Gert Steegmans won ahead of his more famous team-mate Tom Boonen when Stage 2 of the Tour arrived in Gent. But this year the Belgian city will be the site of the team presentation and departure of the first stage of La Grande Boucle Feminine, the women's Tour de France.
The participating teams will be presented on June 16, with the first stage departing from Gent the next day.
Sørensen signs for three years
Team CSC has announced the extension of Chris Anker Sørensen's contract with the Danish outfit. The Dane's contract has been extended by three years, seeing Sørensen stay with the outfit until 2010. "It's only natural for us to extend Chris' contract, because he's really impressed in his first season as a pro," said team owner Bjarne Riis. "He's a big talent and he's already able to compete in the toughest races. His abilities as a climber are obvious to anyone and he's also proved to be a valuable and loyal helper as well as a great team mate.
The 23 year-old finished second in the Deutschland Tour's young riders' competition and the Tour de Romandie's mountains competition last season. The youngster rode for Team Desgina Køkken during 2006 before moving to Team CSC last season. "I have no doubt that he has the potential to be at the very top in the biggest stage races," added Riis.
Sørensen is happy with the announcement that will see him ride for his nation's only ProTour team through to 2010. "I'm happy to have my future at Team CSC in place so I'm now able to focus 100% on developing as a rider," he said. "I've never had any doubts that this is the right team for me and here I'll get the opportunities to become a better rider.
The young rider is turning his attention to the Grand Tours in 2008, with the aim of building towards a Tour de France assault over the coming years. "This year my ambition is to get a top-10 spot in Giro d'Italia to hopefully pave the way to the Tour line-up within the next couple of seasons," he noted.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)