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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Edition Cycling News, July 3, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

"No mercy" for dopers at the Tour

Clerc refutes "Bruyneel/Armstrong penalty" in Astana exclusion

Patrice Clerc, President of ASO, promises a hard stance against doping
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

The Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) knows 2008 will be a crucial year for the biggest cycling race in the world. Tainted by doping scandals these past two years, this year's Tour is aspired to be one of the cleanest ever, and strong measures have been taken to ensure this. Not only the anti-doping controls carried out by the French Anti-doping Agency AFLD will hopefully deter the cheaters; also the 100,000 Euro fine hanging over the team's heads in case of a positive finding should have an effect on team managers to get a tight grip on their riders.

At least, this is what ASO president Patrice Clerc hopes for. "The teams should be the first ones to know what games their riders are playing," Clerc said to the Telegraaf on Wednesday. "Teams that are still taking a risk now [of selecting doubtful riders for the Tour - ed.] are doing great harm to their sport. Cycling is so much under pressure that any other incident now will do immense damage. We, too, realise that there will always be cheaters, in any sports, but the 100,000 Euro fine for any team that has a positive doping case is a signal. There will be no mercy. teams, that are taking risks now and are caught will not be welcome at the Tour in the next years."

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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ASO is determined to act against the use of performance-enhancing substances or methods, as the company has suffered substantial loss of credibility for its biggest event because of it. Still, Clerc said that the damage of doping had been greater to the sport of cycling as a whole than to the Tour de France itself, but, "if the Tour doesn't survive it, then the whole cycling sport will be destroyed."

Hence the Tour bosses' tenacity to eradicate any doubt cast over the event, which would have included inviting the Astana team, at the centre of two doping scandals tarnishing the Tour these last two years: Operación Puerto and the Vinokourov positive. "We will see next year if there really have been any changes," he said on the possible redemption of the squad now managed by Johan Bruyneel. And brushed off any allegations that the exclusion of Astana had any deeper reasons concerning the relationship between the Tour bosses and the team's manager, former sports director of Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner had stated this in a recent interview with procycling.

"Leaving [Astana] out is simply a decision [ASO] took as a Johan Bruyneel/Lance Armstrong penalty," Armstrong had alleged. "They have double standards by keeping in the CSCs and the Rabobanks, all the guys that have a laundry list of problems."

"We don't have anything against Bruyneel and Armstrong at all," Clerc assured, even though he criticised the Belgian. "Bruyneel says that Armstrong was bigger than the Tour. I think that is a rather arrogant opinion. There is no man that is above an event or happening. A chapter can never be more important than its book."

Tour director Christian Prudhomme and ASO president Patrice Clerc never want to experience a Rasmussen-like affair at the Tour again
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

As to the invitation of Rabobank, at the centre of last year's exclusion of the maillot jaune Michael Rasmussen, Clerc admitted that "Rasmussen should have never even been at the start; Rabobank's choice was irresponsible." Still, the Dutch team was admitted again to this years' race.

"Inside the Tour organisation, we discussed the invitation of Rabobank at length. It was not a unanimous vote. When Rabobank realised that the rider had lied on its whereabouts, they immediately took him out of the race. And on the very instant they became aware that the team manager could have had knowledge of the situation, he too was set aside. You cannot reproach Rabobank that they didn't take any action. That, ultimately, saved them."

Clerc also criticised the International Cycling Union (UCI) once again, as "they did not stick to their own rules and allowed Rasmussen to take the start." Meanwhile, the ASO president was not fearful of any new doping scandals leaked by the UCI during the Tour, as some observers have been suggesting.

"Everyone knows the situation. I cannot imagine that the UCI holds off any information until the Tour to harm the race. That would be too obvious. Everyone knows that they are trying to destroy the biggest event in their sport. It would be criminal behaviour. I think that the UCI would then be in a very distressful position."

But despite all its efforts to protect the Tour de France, organiser ASO knows that it does not have the means of the sports authority to chase the cheaters. "We are only a race organiser," Clerc added. "We don't make the rules and we don't have the competence of police and judges. Ultimately, we are powerless."

Schlecks to join Sastre in three-pronged attack

Andy Schleck and brother Fränk in the background
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

CSC's two brothers Fränk and Andy Schleck are aiming high in the 2008 Tour de France. They, along with Carlos Sastre, have the goal that one of the team will wear the final yellow jersey in Paris. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke to the Luxembourg duo in the lead-up to the race.

Although Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) are regarded by many as the big favourites for the 2008 Tour de France, the CSC trio of Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck and Andy Schleck cannot be discounted. Sastre has finished third and fourth in the past two years. Schleck senior (Fränk) won the stage to Alpe d'Huez in 2006 and placed tenth overall, and his younger brother stunned the cycling world when he finished second in his debut Giro d'Italia last year.

The palmarès of Evans and Valverde suggest, on paper at least, that they look like bigger contenders for the race victory, but when the team strength of CSC is factored into the equation, nothing can be dismissed. If each are on form, their three-pronged attack could well shape the race and determine in which direction the battle turns.

The two Schleck brothers finalised their preparation for the Tour by riding the Tour de Suisse and then the Luxembourg national championships, where Fränk won the road race and Andy was fifth. Both had been happy with their form at the Tour de Suisse, feeling that they were moving in the right direction to be in peak condition at the Tour de France. "I am really happy," said 23 year-old Andy on the morning of the final stage. "I didn't think I was going to be as good. I came to the race with the main ambition of preparing for the Tour, my big goal of the season, but I felt better every day. It is pretty good, I am where I want to be for the Tour."

He finished second in the Giro d'Italia a year ago and could, realistically, have targeted the overall win in the race this season. However he decided not to do it, peaking once in April and then continuing a big build-up for July. "The whole season has been focused on the Tour. Of course, the first goal of the season was the Ardennes Classics. I think I did well there," he stated, referring to his fourth place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"Liège was the highlight. It was the biggest race and, for me, it is the hardest [one-day] race of the year. I missed the podium but it was still something special to be up there with my brother. After that, it was everything for the Tour. I had a good break, I did some training and before this, I have only done the Tour of Luxembourg as my first race. When I started the Tour de Suisse I didn't feel super, but in the last days I feel really good."

To read the full feature, click here.

Pereiro ready for Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro, winner of the 2006 Tour de France, finished third in last week-end's Spanish Championships road race, in which the Gold medal went to his team-mate Alejandro Valverde. A good sign for Pereiro's form prior to this year's Tour de France, where he and team captain Valverde will aim for top general classification spots in Paris three weeks from now. "It's an important result for me as well as for my team, which won the race with Alejandro Valverde, our leader for the Tour. It was a a very demanding race, held in high temperatures and with a very competitive line-up. Therefore, our results are even more promising," Pereiro told Cyclingnews earlier this week.

Before leaving to in Brest for the Tour start, the Spaniard was happy with his form. "I think I'm going to the Tour just in the right state of fitness," he commented. "I prefer to get to the start at 70 percent of my form - as to the rest, the competition itself, the passing of days and the kilometres will take care of it..."

His team leader Valverde, having already won the Dauphiné Libéré, seemed to be peaking just a bit too soon before the Grand Tour. But Pereiro brushed the thought away. "Every one has to prepare for the Tour differently. For him, it's very important to assure himself that he is in form, that he won races. And that is good, because whatever happens at the Tour, it's the victories that count in the end. Of course there is some doubtful speculation about how he is going to deal with the third week of the race, but he's matured and he has learned to overcome new goals, like winning the Dauphiné ahead of such important rivals and on a high mountains course."

Pereiro was excited to head into the Tour by Valverde's side. With two GC contenders, team Caisse d'Epargne will play a major role in the race. "I can see many options for him, as I will have mine," he added. "I will work hard for the team, for Valverde as well as for myself, to ensure that we are in front. And if I can win a stage doing that, even better!"

The pair will be most watched in the time trial stages and the high mountains, with the third week most crucial for the final outcome of the Tour. "The third week in the Alps will be very selective, as forces tend to fade by that time. there are less time trial kilometres, but we shouldn't forget the Pyrenean stages like Hautacam," said Pereiro about the key moments of the race, and went on to appoint Caisse d'Epargne's main rivals: "The usual suspects: Evans, Schleck, Sastre, Menchov, Cunego, Zubeldia... Evans will be the number one favourite because of his second place last year. It will all be about staying with them."

Tour lexicon

The ardoisier tells the breaks the gap
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Baffled by the foreign terminology of the Tour? Procycling explains the key words and phrases.

A bloc: English-speaking riders now tend to prefer to say they gave it "full gas" when describing their full-on effort at a crucial moment. A bloc is the French equivalent.

Ardoisier: The men on the motorcycles indicating the gaps between the breakaway groups and the peloton. They are still around but less useful in the times of race radio.

Autobus: See Gruppetto.

Baroudeur: Translates as a "battler" or "adventurer", and used by the French to describe those riders who spend large amounts of time and energy trying to escape from the peloton. CSC's Jens Voigt is the most effective baroudeur, the German having the nous and power to pick the right time for breakaway moves, so much so that many riders wait for Voigt to move and then go with him.

Bonk or knock: The former is guaranteed to get a guffaw from non-aficionados, the latter a look of mystification, but they are both bad news for cyclists who haven't eaten enough and find themselves dropping off the pace and even out of the race. Once riders have "bonked", they are sometimes said to have met "the man with the hammer". See Fringale.

Bunch: See peloton. Flatter stages tend to end with bunch sprints, known in French as a sprint massif.

Caravane publicitaire: This precedes the race proper and is made up of a vast fleet of race sponsors' floats, manned by enthusiastic students throwing free corporate gifts out to the crowds, who can never get enough of them.

Casquette: The cotton cap that all pros used to wear, but which is seen less these days thanks to the compulsory helmet rule, although some riders still wear them under their helmets, especially on rainy or colder days.

To read the full Tour de France lexicon, click here.

Milram and Gerolsteiner to Tour of Austria

This coming week-end, yet another important national tour besides the Tour de France will be get underway. On Saturday in Brest, riders will set out on the Grande Boucle through France, and one day later, teams will be at the start line of the highly demanding Österreich-Rundfahrt (Tour of Austria).

Strong rivalry and a challenging route at the historical tour through the Alpine Republic, granted Hors Catégorie status by the UCI, await the riders. A total of nine ProTour teams are sending contingents to Austria: Quick Step, Silence-Lotto , Gerolsteiner, Milram, Lampre, Astana, Team CSC, Rabobank and Team Columbia.

The anniversary tour begins on Sunday with a short prologue in Klausen, South Tyrol. Following the race start in Italy, the third stage features a hard mountain top finish at the Kitzbüheler Horn for the peloton, which may see the general Classification decided one day later with the race crossing the Grossglockner summit. After an individual time trial around Lake Neusiedl on the penultimate day, the riders will be happy to arrive in front of the City Hall in Vienna after a total of 1,082 kilometres raced.

"For the big teams, the Tour of Austria is very important," said Milram Team Manager Gerry Van Gerwen. "Besides the Tour de France, we have the opportunity to participate in a very demanding stage race including a strong line-up. Especially our young riders can take advantage of that."

The focus of Team Milram at the 60. Tour of Austria lies therefore on its young hopefuls. Leading the charge will be Matej Jurco, who will be wearing the jersey of Slovakian Champion for the first time. German riders include young talents Artur Gajek, Christian Kux, Dominik Roels and Sebastian Schwager. The full line-up is: Andriy Grivko, Christian Kux, Artur Gajek, Dominik Roels, Luca Barla, Martin Velits, Matej Jurco and Sebastian Schwager.

As for Team Gerolsteiner, the German team will be led by Davide Rebellin and Paco Wrolich. They will be accompanied by: Oscar Gatto, Tim Klinger, Volker Ordowski, Matthias Ruß, Stephan Schreck and Tom Stamsnijder.

The 2008 Österreich-Rundfahrt stages are:

July 6, 2008 - Prologue (ITT): Klausen/Chiusa (ITA), 3.3 km
July 7, 2008 - Stage 1: Klausen - Toblach/ Dobbiaco (ITA), 171.2 km
July 8, 2008 - Stage 2: Toblach - Kitzbüheler Horn (AUT), 169.6 km
July 9, 2008 - Stage 3: Kitzbühel - Prägraten am Großvenediger, 183.7 km
July 10, 2008 - Stage 4: Lienz - Wolfsberg, 212.8 km
July 11, 2008 - Stage 5: Wiener Neustadt - Bad Vöslau, 179.7 km
July 12, 2008 - Stage 6: Podersdorf on Lake Neusiedl (ITT), 25.9 km
July 13, 2008 - Stage 7: Podersdorf on Lake Neusiedl - Vienna, 128.5 km

Total: 1.081,9 km

McMurdo disappointed with case handling

By Greg Johnson

Hilton McMurdo has responded to the ASADA's acknowledgement of his two-year ban from Cycling Australia after a positive test at the Tour de Perth in 2007. McMurdo said he was disappointed with the time it has taken for tests to be carried out and for results to filter back to him.

"I am very disappointed with the story that has been released by ASADA," said McMurdo. "I tested positive to testosterone or a testosterone hormone on May 26, [2007, ASADA] notified me in early November. The sample was tested in Australia and was then sent to Germany for testing as it was not conclusive.

"They had the results back from Germany for a few months before notifying me there was a problem," he added. "I asked for the B sample to be tested which took 'till February to be informed. Towards the end of 2007 the A sample result was somehow leaked."

McMurdo originally intended on appealing the two-year ban he was handed, but decided not to proceed due to the expense of a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing. The 46 year-old believes medication he was taking for a back problem at the time could have caused the adverse analytical finding.

"I have spent many thousands of dollars putting my case forward but have had to stop this as it appeared to be a waste of money and any appeals were going to cost me a lot of money," he said. "I have not taken anything to enhance my performance and am gutted by this decision and the way the findings have been sensationalized."

The rider was disappointed with ASADA's announcement earlier this week, which said he had tested positive for anabolic steroids. He added that he had effectively been handed a 30-month ban, once the stripped results are taken into consideration.

"There was never any mention of anabolic steroids from in finding reports from any of the labs that tested the samples A and B," said McMurdo.

Cunego 'dopingfree'

Lampre's Damiano Cunego will race the Tour de France wearing a stick-on tattoo on his left arm, which says 'I'm dopingfree', according to Sportwereld. The Italian wants to support the action taken by Marco Guadagnini, who wants to eradicate doping from the sport. "Not only bike riders, but also other sports men that put the tattoo on their arms, are sending a clear message," he said.

The fake tattoo, a smiley featuring the message, can be bought on

Hunter becomes a dad

Team Barloworld's Robbie Hunter became a father today after his wife Claudia gave birth to baby girl Mandy at 4:30am on Thursday morning. The baby weighs 2.888 kg and was born in Switzerland, where the Hunters have lived for several years.

Only due on the 19th July, the anniversary of Hunter's 2007 stage 11 Tour de France stage win, like father like daughter/son the young Hunter had to arrive earlier than the bunch. "I am ecstatic. This is both the proudest and most humbling moment of my life," said the excited new father.

The birth went well and Hunter will join up with his Barloworld team mates today in Brest for the start of the Tour de France.

It's Tour time - and Cyclingnews is bringing you all the action

By Gerard Knapp

With only a few days until the start of the 2008 Tour de France, Cyclingnews can your whet your appetite for action with the first of 10 video clips on previous Tours de France that we will present over the next few days.

Then when the Tour kicks off this Saturday, we will present video highlights of every stage just after the stage finish. The video clips are being sourced from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the owners of the Tour de France, using footage provided by the host broadcaster.

This video content will complement Cyclingnews' unrivalled online coverage of the world's biggest bike race, with our reporters at the race, covering all the race action, plus news, colour stories, rider diaries and our regular Tech Updates of all the latest kit that will be used over the three-week Tour.

The first of our 'Best Of' clips is a wrap-up of the Tour's most dominant rider in recent years, Lance Armstrong. This clip provides a re-cap of his extraordinary reign in France, securing seven straight victories from 1999 until 2005.

The next clip takes a look behind the scenes of the Tour, as we join the race's promotional 'caravan'. We may see the Tour as a sporting event, but it's also a huge business and this video shows how the caravan weaves its way through the French countryside on every stage of the Tour, distributing some 60 million promotional products. The caravan itself stretches for 20 kilometres along each stage, and takes the best part of 40 minutes to pass, providing spectators with ample opportunities to collect free souvenirs.

Our next clip on today's menu is a review of Miguel Indurain's five victories in the Tour de France (1991-1995). Who can tire of watching the great Spaniard in full time trial mode? Indurain's feats in the TTs were superlative and this clip covers some of his most memorable efforts.

Stay tuned for more clips to be available as he head into the start of this year's Tour de France.

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