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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, January 30, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Astana presents itself to North America

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Team Manager Johan Bruyneel during the Astana presentation
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

The new Astana team – taken over by ex-Discovery Channel Team Manager Johan Bruyneel – presented itself to assembled media during a pre-season training camp in the southwest American city of Albuquerque. Belgian Bruyneel spoke to the media yesterday, along side his first and third place finishers of last year's Tour de France, Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer, answering questions about the new programme and their hopes for the upcoming season.

"This is a completely new team," Bruyneel said bluntly. "The name of the sponsor is the same but the management has changed, the structure has changed, the riders have changed – and above all I think the philosophy has changed.

"I was surprised by the passion and the determination to keep this team going," he noted regarding the sponsor's willingness to continue after last year's scandals. Astana is a group of businesses based in Kazakhstan's capital city that first got involved with the sport in mid-2006 thanks to the successes of Alexander Vinokourov, who was thrown out of last year's Tour.

"It's been a big challenge, but I think it looked a lot bigger when I started then when I look back on it now. I'm very confident we will pull this off and make this like any other team."

That sentiment, to be just like any other team focused on winning races and not worrying about doping scandals, is easier said than done. And Bruyneel recognised this. "You cannot change perception from today to tomorrow; we have to prove things have changed."

The team chose this locale because of Bruyneel's recent association with the Belgian Cycling Centre, which has had a training base here for years. The new name of the Cycling Centre is the Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy.

A birds eye view of the day in New Mexico
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Bruyneel was also asked about recent press reports that the organisers of the Tour de France may decide to exclude Team Astana in the 2008 edition based on resent reports about the 2007 winner.

"You say it right, reports," he said. "What I have seen are reports in the press. I have not seen any official communication from the [Tour organiser] ASO that they want to exclude the team from the Tour de France. What they have said is that no team is a guarantee, that all teams have to meet certain standards. All teams have been invited to have a meeting with the people from the ASO, we have been there too, and had long discussions. From the time we walked out of that meeting until today we have met all the standards."

"Of course there are certain people that would want to see that, but I think it is based on one or two press reports that have snowballed. I really see no reason why we wouldn't be there. This team has nothing to do with what happened in 2007. The three of us sitting here were not part of that team – it's not their responsibility and not my responsibility. I cannot change what happened but I can change what is going to happen."

Check back with Cyclingnews for more coverage of the Astana camp, including photos and feature interviews.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jonathan Devich/

Tour de France insists on freedom of choice

Christian Prudhomme guards his Tour de France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The organiser of the Tour de France, ASO, insists it has the right to select the teams by its own set of rules, and not those put forth during a meeting this last weekend in Treviso, Italy. During the meeting – taken place at the Cyclo-cross World Championships – the International Cycling Union (UCI) and representatives of the national federations came to a make-shift agreement on a 'special calendar' for 2008, while also noting that the Tour was required to invite all 18 ProTour teams.

The interesting point of the new agreement was that the French Grand Tour was the only race that would be required to invite all ProTour teams, whereas the other 'special calendar' races (Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia) are not subject to this rule. "Only the Tour has to take the 18 ProTour teams, the other races on this new calendar can choose any team out of the 30 available teams," stated UCI President Pat McQuaid after the meeting.

"I was not informed of the details," said Tour Director Christian Prudhomme to L'Equipe. "What I can repeat is that the essential point for us [ASO - ed.] is the benefit of total liberty in team selection. We no longer want to be a prisoner of events like in 2007 [referring to the Michael Rasmussen case in particular - ed.]."

The heads of the Italian and Spanish federations still need to meet with their respective Grand Tours to obtain support for new proposal.

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

Shortened sentence for Basso?

30 year-old Ivan Basso would be happy with a suspension reduction
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Ivan Basso may be able to return to racing three months prior to his original suspension deadline if some Italians have their way. Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) President Gianni Petrucci promised to study the idea put forth over the weekend at the Cyclo-cross World Championships in Treviso.

The idea for a three-month discount for the suspension that is slated to run until October 24 was headed by Felice Gimondi, and supported by others, such as Francesco Moser and Vittorio Adorni. Petrucci is looking into the idea before it could be proposed to the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Basso was handed the suspension on June 15 by the Italian cycling federation (FCI) for his involvement in Operación Puerto. The 30 year-old Italian, who did not ask for the shortened sentence, admitted extracting the blood that was found in bags labelled 'Birillo' in Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes' Madrid offices but the rider denied ever re-injecting it. Out of the others implicated in Operación Puerto, Basso has been the most noted rider to serve a suspension. During his confession he refused to list the names other riders who might be involved with Fuentes.

A shortened suspension would allow Basso to return to racing shortly after the Tour de France and allow preparation time for the World Championships, which this year is being held in his hometown of Varese. However, even with a shortened sentence there is no guarantee that the rider could find a trade team or be selected for the Italian Worlds' team. National directeur sportif, Franco Ballerini, already has plenty of high-calibre riders to select from, riders who have been working since the past World Championships in Stuttgart to prove themselves as a viable squadra azzurra leader.

Two-time Giro d'Italia champion Gilberto Simoni expressed his disbelief in the idea of a shortened sentence for the rider who added to cycling's bad image. "I do not agree with this amnesty," he said to Tuttosport. "Basso is disqualified until October 24, until then he can he can play by rules. ... He made a mistake. It is we that are paying for his errors. This entire incident has had bitter and sad consequences for cycling and our movement."

"It was a weak moment, but I am aware that attempting to dope is the same as doping," Basso noted at the time of his confession. "I will serve my sentence and return to the work I love."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

ACCPI supports Lampre after late night controls

Damiano Cunego not happy to be tested at midnight
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team Lampre was subjected to anti-doping controls Monday evening that kept some riders awake until 3:30. The Association of Italian professional riders (ACCPI) has followed up on the controls that were issued by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) prosecutor, asking for respect of the riders.

The Italian ProTour team was visited by four testers during its training camp in San Vincenzo (Toscana), which is acceptable for the pre-season but the timing was questionable. Management of the Hotel Riva degli Etruschi confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport that the testers arrived after 23:00 while the rides were sleeping in their rooms.

The first rider tested was Giro di Lombardia champion, Damiano Cunego, and following the Italian climber were Alessandro Ballan, Marco Marzano, Patxi Vila and Sylvester Szmyd. The last ones, Marzio Bruseghin and Paolo Tiralongo, returned to their rooms after 3:30.

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, tests have to be carried out between the hours of 7:00 and 22:00. "The controls are fine, but there is all day to do them. It is not normal to be woken in the night during a camp. I was worried because I had to go training the next day," stated Cunego to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

ACCPI President Amedo Colombo backed Cunego and his team's concerns with a press release that was issued yesterday. He noted the off-timing of CONI's testing and called for respect of the riders.

"We need to respect the riders, which is one of the fundamental requirements for an honest sport," stated Colombo. He saw it as an "incursion" on sporting justice.

Only ProTour teams to the Dauphiné?

By Susan Westemeyer

No Christophe Moreau at 2008 Dauphiné Libéré?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Will Christophe Moreau be unable to defend his title in the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré this year? The race organisers have indicated that, due to finances, they may only be able to invite ProTour teams, which would exclude last year's winner – Moreau – who this year is with the Professional Continental Team Agritubel.

Race organiser Thierry Cazeneuve indicated that the race must pay so much for the anti-doping programme that it can only take the 18 ProTour teams. "It is an economic problem," he told L'Equipe. "I expect to pay 45,000 euro to the French agency [AFLD - Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage - ed.] for controls and to the UCI for the biological passport system. As compared to paying nothing in 2006. 45,000 euro, that is about the cost of two and a half teams.

"It is an aberrant system," he continued. "As the organiser of an international race, I must pay the AFLD for controls. But at the same time, the doping controls for professional football are paid by the state!

"This is not directed against Moreau," Cazeneuve noted. The French rider rode last year for Ag2r Prévoyance, and his new team, Agritubel, took the news philosophically. Sports Director Denis Leproux said, that if the team is not invited, "We will have to adapt by finding another race or by organising a training camp. We did not ride it last year and still had a good Tour de France."

Hainleite to become part of Thüringen U23

By Susan Westemeyer

The Radklassiker Hainleite (also known as Rund um die Hainleite) in Erfurt, Germany, will not be held this year as a race for the professionals, but will become the final stage of the Under 23 Thüringen Rundfahrt, organisers announced Tuesday. It is the third German race to be cancelled so far this year, joining the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt and the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt, with the 3-Länder Tour (formerly the Hessen Tour) on the brink.

"The Hainleite is not dead," proclaimed race director Jörg Werner, but it will change its character. "We want to establish the Thüringen Rundfahrt as a race that is unique in Europe." He is not afraid that changing the rank and age of riders will mean a decrease in public interest. "It is no question that they will stay home just because they want to see a Jens Voigt or other stars, and don't have any other interest in cycling. We see the real cycling and sports fans. It was like that last year."

As the closing stage of the race, which will be held June 10 to 15, the Hainleite will run its traditional course of 180 kilometres over the Kyffäuser climb, ending with five laps circuit in Erfurt.

The stages of the 2008 Internationalen Thüringen Rundfahrt der U23:
Stage 1: Gotha circuit, 90km
Stage 2: Bad-Blankenburg - Bad Blankenburg, 150km
Stage 3: Masserberg - Masserberg (mountaintop finish), 130km
Stage 4: Gelenkwelle Stadtilm - Waltershausen, 160km
Stage 5: Bad Berka TT, 36km
Stage 6: Radklassiker Hainleite in Erfurt, 180km

Club Extremadura prepares for season

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Spanish Professional Continental Team Extremadura-Ciclismo Solidario continues to prepare thoroughly in what will be its first season in cycling's second tier category. Its team manager and director, Alfonso Rodríguez, has already completed the early-season calendar for his 16 riders.

Extremadura-Ciclismo Solidario – led by 27 year-old Rodrigo García – is also sponsored by a cycling wear and bike components company, Spiuk, but the rest of the budget is provided by the team members, who have formed a kind of club. This 'club' will be presented with the team's sponsors on February 6 in Zafra (Extremadura), Spain.

The team will debut in the Challenge de Mallorca (February 10 to 14) after the conclusion of its training camp in the same area (February 5 to 9). Rodríguez expects that Carlos Torrent, José Antonio Arroyo Ramirez and Ángel Rodriguez will be recovered from their respective injuries.

See our team database for a full team roster.

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