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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 3, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams

Valverde: "I'm not afraid to be a favourite"

New Spanish Champion Alejandro Valverde, 28, not afraid to be favourite number one for the Tour de France.
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

With a newly earned Spanish championship jersey and a win in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, Alejandro Valverde's name has been pushed onto the list of Tour de France favourites. Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet talked with Valverde about his ambitions for the coming French Grand Tour.

It's 'Viva España!' in the world of sport these days. Spain won its first football European Championship in 44 years, and Alejandro Valverde donned the first Spanish champion jersey of his career. After finishing second twice, once to Francisco Mancebo in 2004 and another time to his team-mate Joaquím Rodríguez last year, Valverde will now wear the gold and red jersey in this year's Tour de France in place of his black and red Caisse d'Epargne strip.

Had he been riding ten years ago, Valverde might not have had the chance to hold that title, as it was not fashionable in the Spanish teams to have the national champion jersey. Until he authorised Laurent Jalabert to become the French champion in 1998, famous Spanish director Manolo Saiz had forbidden his riders to win the national title because he wanted everybody to look the same under the colours of ONCE. It was similar at the rival team of Banesto; Miguel Indurain started the 1992 Tour de France with only the colours of the Spanish flag on his arm bands because the sponsor wanted the maximum exposure.

Nowadays, national pride has been restored, and the Caisse d'Epargne squad, which was built out of the same staff as Banesto, has no problem with its riders replacing its colours with the national jersey. The team not only won in Spain, but came close to the win in France as well with Arnaud Coyot finishing second to Nicolas Vogondy.

Valverde the unbeaten

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In his young days, Valverde was nicknamed 'the Imbatido' ('The Unbeaten') because he won almost all the races he took part in. His winning ways have certainly resumed this year: he took Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the second time in his career, won the Dauphiné Libéré, took a rest and then returned successfully with a win at the Spanish Championship.

While his physical preparation should be spot on, Valverde's mental approach of the Tour de France must also be perfect. However, Valverde, 28 years old and in his eighth professional season, doesn't rank himself as the star of Grand Tours as he actually hasn't won any yet. "Well, Alberto Contador has won two Grand Tours in two years," he said of his compatriot. "He is the number one for the three-week long races. I'm not there yet."

Valverde feels sorry for Contador, part of the temporarily banned Team Astana, who is not able to defend his title at this year's Tour de France. "I get on well with Alberto, we're just rivals when we're racing, some of the aficionados [fans - ed.] cheer for him, others cheer for me, but there's no war between the two camps, it's pretty quiet actually."

Continue to the full interview with Alejandro Valverde.

Rock Racing confirmed for Tour of Britain

Tyler Hamilton could be coming to the UK
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Controversial American squad Rock Racing will make its first appearance in the UK this September, as Tour of Britain organisers announced that the team will ride the 2008 race. The Los Angeles based Continental outfit, backed by clothing company Rock & Republic and its outspoken owner Michael Ball, are the 12th team to be confirmed for this year's race after recent announcements by Team Columbia and Barloworld.

According to a press release from race organisers issued on Wednesday, Rock Racing's provisional line-up will include sprinter Fred Rodriguez, former Tour de France yellow jersey Victor Hugo Peña and Tyler Hamilton. They will be supported by world team pursuit champion Peter Dawson and the in-form Rahsaan Bahati.

Despite the team's somewhat rebellious reputation, Tour of Britain technical director Mick Bennett was pleased with the addition. "We're delighted to be able to confirm Rock Racing for this year's race," said Bennett. "The team will no doubt be bringing the same glamour and rock and roll feel to The Tour of Britain that they have been doing to races in America so far this season.

"I'm also sure that they will make a fantastic addition from a racing point of view," he added, "as they have a number of riders who should be able to win stages and possibly compete for the overall classification."

Race organisers are still to announce the remaining four teams who will start this year's event. Besides the high-profile ProTour teams, domestic squads Rapha-Condor-Recycling, Plowman Craven and Pinarello RT have been confirmed on the start list. The 2008 route has been extended with the addition of an extra day, and will start in London on September 7 before heading to Glasgow before heading back south to finish in Liverpool on September 14.

WADA lab defends EPO test

By Laura Weislo

The director of a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory has strongly criticised a recent scientific article which cast doubt on WADA's urine test for Erythropoietin (EPO), calling the study "scientifically unacceptable" and asking for its retraction. In the paper, which appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology (JAP), Danish researchers describe inconsistencies in the results of urine tests for recombinant human Erythropoietin between two different WADA-accredited laboratories.

Wilhelm Schänzer, director of the Laboratory for Doping Analysis in Cologne, Germany, said that the results of the study were "factually wrong, demonstrate great ignorance regarding the criticised method and the operations of doping control laboratories, and are based on a serious lack of careful examination of provided data".

In the report, two WADA labs (A and B) were sent samples from athletes before EPO administration, during a "boosting" phase (5,000 IU of EPO every other day), during a "maintenance" phase (dose given every 7th day) and post-treatment after the EPO administration had ceased.

Laboratory A found all boosting phase, six maintenance phase and two post-treatment samples to be positive for EPO, while Laboratory B failed to declare a single sample to be positive. The study was widely interpreted to mean that athletes could dope with EPO and escape detection.

Schänzer emphatically denied the accuracy of the study, saying that the Danish scientists misrepresented why the samples were being sent to "Laboratory B". In a letter to the editors of the JAP, he explained that the lab was not aware that the results would be published, and was under the impression that the samples did not come from athletes. The results, he said, "were not obtained by means of the accredited method for urine analysis," which means they were not subjected to the normal procedure for anti-doping controls.

The samples were only subjected to a "screening" analysis, according to Schänzer. The lab did not report any positives because a full procedure including the inspection of the results by a second laboratory would have needed to have been performed to declare a sample positive. Instead, samples which showed the presence of EPO were deemed "suspicious" - 15 samples were given this designation.

A true anti-doping control would be given either a negative, adverse, or atypical analytical finding, and Schänzer explained that the term "suspicious" is not used in a doping control analysis report. That word was used to underscore the fact that the results were not an analytical finding.

"Obviously the authors (and reviewers/advisors) were not familiar with rules and wordings commonly applied in doping control laboratories. This ignorance has led to wrong interpretations of results and caused a serious damage to the reputation of the rHuEpo detection method, the doping control system as well as laboratory B," Schänzer complained.

Eurovision buys Tour broadcast rights for three years

As the build-up continues towards the 95th Tour de France, race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has announced a new partnership with the Eurovision TV Network for broadcast rights until the end of 2011. The Eurovision Network is part of the European Broadcasting Union, an organisation designed to facilitate cooperation in international broadcasting through member organisations across the world.

"The agreement sets out conditions for dissemination of races organised by ASO in the territories of Eurovision," read a statement from ASO. These races include the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Wallonne, Paris-Nice, Paris-Tours, Critérium International and Tour de l'Avenir.

Deputy director of ASO Yann Le Moenner told AFP: "We welcome this agreement, which shows the support of long-time Tour de France broadcasters and their confidence in ASO."

The contract, whose exact amount was not made public, will also provide rights to the Eurosport network in over 60 countries. Production of TV coverage will remain the responsibility of France Televisions for events held in France and RTBF in Belgium.

The agreement follows the renewal of recent partnerships with the France Televisions and U.S. network Versus for the period 2009 to 2013.

Gerolsteiner still seeking replacement sponsor

Hans Michael Holczer
Photo©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

After nine months of searching, Hans-Michael Holczer, team manager of Gerolsteiner, has not secured a title sponsor for next season when the German mineral water company ends its involvement with the squad. Holczer has not yet abandoned all hope of finding a financial backer, and hopes a successful Tour de France will convince several interested parties.

"Unfortunately we have not yet found a company to take over the role of Gerolsteiner in 2009," Holczer told Sportwereld.

A final decision on the possible disbanding of the team would take place after the Tour, to allow riders enough time to find new employment. If Holczer's team were to leave the sport, Milram, whose sponsorship runs through the 2009 season, would be the sole surviving German ProTour team, after T-Mobile withdrew in November 2007 and was re-launched as High Road.

Valverde, Contador and Freire to Beijing

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Following the Spanish championships last weekend, national selector Francisco Antequera has already selected winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) along with Óscar Freire (Rabobank) and Alberto Contador (Astana) to form the core of Spain's road race contingent at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

However, Antequera has decided against the inclusion of national time trial champion Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and also Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing), who took silver behind Valverde on Sunday. Giro d'Italia champion Contador and Euskaltel-Euskadi leader Samuel Sánchez are likely to ride the time trial, along with José Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne).

The remaining candidates for the Spanish Olympic squad are Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) and Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank), with Antequera waiting until after the Tour de France before making a final decision.

Rochester Twilight expands into daylight

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

While some races are finding the current economy a hurdle in expanding or even maintaining their current status, there are some events still growing. In just its fifth year, and second on the UCI calendar, the Rochester Twilight has transformed from an evening criterium to a three-stage omnium, with a time trial and road race sandwiching the traditional speed criterium from August 8-10. Race director Todd Scheske said the impetus to grow the event was in response to the amount of fans watching the racing.

"The popularity of the Saturday night race has grown from 5,000 the first year to 30,000 people watching last year," he told Cyclingnews. So we decided to take it bigger. We have plans to make it even bigger in the future."

The format this year will be an omnium that is run like a typical UCI stage race, but using points to calculate the overall. The racing starts with a 6.5km out-and-back time trial from the Port of Rochester on Friday, the twilight criterium on Saturday in the downtown and finishing with a 162km point-to-point road race with finishing circuits downtown. "We will run it under stage race rules but based on points, and break ties based on UCI rules," said Scheske.

Though there are two more stages, Scheske said the criterium is still the main event. "The criterium will still be the biggest payout to keep that the highlight race." And though the three-day event is for the pro men only, there will still be category racing for the criterium.

Despite the focus on the criterium, the road race will likely have a major say in deciding the overall winner, with a tough rolling course around the Finger Lakes area. "We've got the typical east coast climbs, short and steep of 2-3km of 10-12 percent. They are mostly in the first half and they keep coming at you, so it should be an interesting team strategy.

"If we could construct the race the way we wanted to, we would put the climbs at the end, but Rochester is in a flood plain! But we do have closing circuits with a bunch of turns and rolling hills."

Past champions return at Fitchburg Longsjo Classic

By Kirsten Robbins in Fitchburg, Massachusetts

The 49th annual Fitchburg Longsjo Classic will kick off through the Independence Day holiday weekend from July 3-6 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The long running four-stage event has returned to the NRC calendar and has recently become a key event in the New England Race Week.

Since the first edition in 1960, organisers have continued to expand its visibility in memory of Arthur M. Longsjo, the first American athlete (cyclist/speed skater) to compete in both summer and winter Olympics in the same year. Longsjo was killed in an automobile accident in the prime of his career.

The non-profit memorial event has attracted a strong field this year including three past champions: 2005 winner Jonathan Page (Batley-Harley Davidson), 2006 winner Shawn Milne (Team Type 1) and defending champion Jake Rytlewiski (Rite Aid).

Other notable riders from the 140-rider professional men's field include Scott Zwisanski and Aaron Olson (Bissell), Alejandro Borrajo and Anthony Colby (Colavita/Sutter Home), Justin Spinelli (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast) and John Murphy (Health Net-Maxxis).

To read the full preview, click here.

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