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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, July 18, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo & Ben Abrahams

ASO wants cheaters out

By Brecht Decaluwé in Narbonne, France

ASO president Patrice Clerc
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The directors of the Tour de France came out in harsh criticism of the Saunier Duval-Scott rider Riccardo Riccò and his team manager Mauro Gianetti after it was announced Thursday that Riccó failed a doping control taken after the stage four time trial in Cholet. However, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) leaders insisted that the Tour's third failed doping test is a sign that the sport is becoming cleaner.

The start of the Tour's twelfth stage in Lavenalet was plunged into chaos when the police arrived to escort a devastated Riccò, winner of stage six and nine, away from the race and into custody following news that he had tested positive for EPO. Riccò had to endure the booing of the crowds while being led away. Public opinion on the rider, who idolized the late Marco Pantani, canted towards disbelief after his remarkable performances in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour's ninth stage.

The Saunier Duval team subsequently decided to leave the Tour de France and suspend itself from further competition until the situation could be assessed. Some riders had to return to the team bus, since they were already lined up at the start despite the departure of their leader Riccò.

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At a press conference near the stage finish in Narbonne, ASO's president Patrice Clerc and Tour director Christian Prudhomme confirmed they had received notification from the French Anti-doping Agency AFLD of the test result. Both directors expressed satisfaction with the anti-doping work of the AFLD, while Prudhomme also cast doubts over the performances from Leonardo Piepoli and Juan Jose Cobo on Hautacam, and questioned the credibility of Saunier Duval team manager Mauro Gianetti.

"It's a rough day for cycling. We continue to deplore the stupidity, and there is no other word, which is to defy the rules that have been established," said Clerc. "But I also believe that it is not surprising that we have caught them."

Continue to the full feature.

Evans criticizes the critics, Cavendish still passionate about cycling

By Gregor Brown in Narbonne

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
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Following the conclusion of stage 12 both maillot jaune Cadel Evans and stage winner Mark Cavendish faced a series of questions regarding the big story of the day: Riccardo Riccò's failed test for EPO. Evans was quick to praise the efforts of race organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and cycling's governing body, the UCI, for their work in tackling the problem, while both riders insisted catching cheats be viewed as a sign of the sport being cleaned up, rather than a damning indictment of its current state.

Evans had witnessed Riccò's power up close after watching him ride away on the Col d'Aspin to a solo victory in Bagnères de Bigorre. Twenty-four hours later, the two finished in the same group at Hautacam, where Riccò's team-mates Leonardo Piepoli and Juan José Cobo had ruled the day.

"I hope that the cheats have been caught and the sport has really been cleaned up in a fair and transparent way, which is a lot more than I can say for other professions in the world," said Evans. "What frustrates me the most is the focus on the negative issues when the federations, the UCI, the ASO are trying to do to do the right thing - clean up the sport. They are trying to do the right thing, but they are being criticised for it.

"It is something that is very unfair. Our sport is doing the right thing and we are being crucified for it. What are we supposed to do it, let it be a free for all like other professions? Or are we going to be complimented for it?"

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team Columbia's Cavendish, whose third stage victory was the most of any British rider in a single Tour de France, said the events surrounding Riccò did not affect his plans for the stage. "When I woke up this morning, before I knew anything about it, I was up for the win and the news did not make a difference," Cavendish said.

Like Evans, Cavendish reminded the media that catching riders cheating is not a bad sign, but a sign that the anti-doping processes are working. "It shows the sports changing for the best," he said. "I have only been professional for one and a half years and I want to be professional for many more - I am going to love this sport. I would like these changes to carry on - it is a good thing."

Cavendish was then asked how the public can believe any rider who says he races clean at the Tour de France, when the world's biggest race has seen three of its 198 participants caught using EPO in the last seven days.

Cavendish attempted to explain, following an uncomfortably long pause. "I am in a sport that I love," he said. "I believe in hard work, and to get the best out of yourself takes hard work. I don't want to challenge the sport I love. I know that the majority feel the same way as me.

"Cycling is not just a job, but a passion, people that resort to doping don't have the passion I have. It is not just this case in cycling, but in every aspect of life. The tests are catching people and for me that is a good thing."

Cunego says there's hope for the future

By Gregor Brown in Narbonne

Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) remained optimistic about the future of cycling, despite the news of fellow Italian Riccardo Riccò's failed drugs test. "Even if this moment seems very difficult there is the hope the future can be better - Riccò has been rightfully stopped," said Cunego at the start of stage 12, moments after Riccò had been taken away by French police.

Before his removal, Riccò was leading the young rider competition, the same one that Cunego won in his first Tour de France in 2006. The two riders often lock horns in races, such as the Giro di Lombardia last fall when Cunego got the better of Riccò.

This time, Riccò was not the only one who suffered a loss, but Cunego and the whole of cycling. While Riccò spent his day in the custody of French police, the cycling world was left to deal with the mess he left behind.

"All of this does nothing for our movement," added Cunego. "What can I think? It is like we are always at the same point. It seems like cycling is taking the right road. Evidently, it will not be like this. Every once in a while, this happens and our progress is halted. Today, I will continue to race and manage this day by day."

Nibali leads young rider classification following Riccò dismissal

By Gregor Brown in Narbonne

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali moved into the maillot blanc of best young rider and top-10 of Tour de France following the dismissal of Riccardo Riccò for a failed drugs test. Despite capturing the jersey, however, Nibali was not pleased with the way in which it had been awarded to him.

"It is bad news," Nibali said to Cyclingnews, moments after Riccò had left the race escorted by French police officers.

Nibali, 23, came to the Tour de France to build experience. He had already dealt with Liquigas team-mate Manuel Beltrán leaving the race after failing a test for the same form of EPO as Riccò, but continued racing well. He finished stage 10 to Hautacam 3'40" back after animating the stage with several attacks.

Following the stage to Hautacam, he revealed it would be difficult to take the maillot blanc because Riccò was riding so strongly. Nibali was 1'49" behind Riccò in the standings before Riccò left the start of stage 12 in disgrace.

"What can I say, I don't have words. I don't know how to describe this day. It is bad for cycling and bad for the people."

Journalists' reactions: Riccò case is a catastrophe, but not a surprise

With Thursday's headlines dominated by the news of Riccardo Riccò's failed test for EPO, Cyclingnews Gregor Brown went in search of some reactions from inside the Tour de France press room. While many of the sport's closest followers agreed it was no surprise, the sight of Riccò being escorted from the Tour by French police left several journalists wondering just how low the day ranked among previous dark days at the Tour.

"It is a catastrophe," said Marco Pastonesi of La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Riccò re-ignited the enthusiasm of the Italian fans, and so the news of his doping signifies that maybe the enthusiasm was there prematurely and it could possibly put an end to this sport.

"Until there is a positive test, I want to give credit to any cyclist who merits it - and Riccò was one of those cyclists. However, every time there is a glorious exploit performed in an illegal way, I find it harder to believe. Still, until there is proof [of doping] we must not jump to conclusions."

Pastonesi said that Thursday's events may have even eclipsed Marco Pantani's ejection from the 1999 Giro d'Italia and Ivan Basso's admitted involvement in the Operacion Puerto case. "Nine years after Pantani - yes. Maybe worse than Ivan Basso, because he was calculating while Riccò was a hero."

For L'Equipe's Philippe Brunel, Riccò's departure was further damage to the Tour's already struggling credibility. "It is a scandal, like we have seen over and over for the last 50 years - the death of Tom Simpson, Michel Pollentier, the Festina Affair, Floyd Landis - it is another dark moment, and it has to be decided if it is just another one, or one too many. Because at a certain moment fans no longer have trust.

"It was not a surprise for me. Journalists do their work, but when you don't have proof you are not able to do anything. If you write in a subjective manner, then you too become a judge or a policeman, so you have to watch everything and when the proof arrives, then you write."

Pollock still in the hunt for Qinghai win

By Paul Verkuylen in Xining, China

Riding his fourth Tour of Qinghai Lake, Australia's Rhys Pollock (GE-Marco Polo) is currently still within striking distance of the overall win in the 2008 edition after seven stages. Just 27 seconds down in sixth place, Pollock could steal the jersey away from the more fancied riders such as Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) and current leader Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical Team).

"I am feeling pretty good. The first few days I thought I would just see how it goes and if I was in the hunt for a good GC I would try hard on the climbs," he explained to Cyclingnews.

When the race finally turned uphill on stages five and six, Pollock was not only climbing well, he was finishing in the front group. He attributed this feat to the knowledge built up riding the tour each year since 2005.

"Knowing that it comes back on the descents because they are so long is an advantage," he said. "Yesterday I went over the climb in a reasonably good position and was able to have a bit of a go on the descent and catch the front guys. With some other strong riders like David McCann and the Polish guy [Marek Rutkiewicz] we were able to stay away to the finish."

Pollock was not expecting to have such good form for the Chinese race after recently finishing the Tour of Japan-Korea. He is also just one of three riders left in the race from his Marco Polo team.

"I didn't think that I would be in this position before the start of the tour. I am a pretty big guy and not a super climber, but I always seem to be able to climb well at this race.

"I like the high competition. I get a little bit of extra motivation and push myself that little bit harder. I don't have any other strong climbers in my team that can help me out in the climbs.

With just three stages remaining, two in the mountains before the final circuit race in Xining, the race is still wide open. Pollock hopes that his strong showing here will open the door to bigger things in the future. "I am on the hunt for a bigger team for next year so that I can race in Europe," he explained.

"Hopefully this tour can show that I can be a good rider in the longer tours."

Olympic selections finalised for Russia, Sweden and Slovakia

As the days tick down to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, three more countries have announced their rosters for the cycling events. From Russia, Astana's Vladimir Gusev and Sergey Ivanov will join Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) adn Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale)

Slovakia will be represented by Roman Bronis (Dukla Trencin Merida), Matej Jurco (Milram) and Jan Valach (Elk Haus-Simplon).

The Swedish team will consist of Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia), Gustav Erik Larsson and Marcus Ljungqvist (CSC).


Milram, AG2R bring in youngsters

The Milram and AG2R La Mondiale teams have brought in young riders to their ProTour squads. Milram announced Thursday that it will bring German Mitja Schlüter up from its continental team for the August Rothaus RegioTour. The 22 year-old will join Simon Geschke and young Dutch rider Arne Hassink as stagiaires (temporary riders) for the event.

"It is important to us to support the German Espoir riders, which is why we want to give young talents the chance to prove themselves in the pro ranks as stagiaires," said Milram manager Gerry van Gerwen. "Schlüter... captured our attention recently and shown that he is a man with perspective. We are eager to see how the young riders will present themselves."

Schlüter took third at the U23 Henninger Turm race in Frankfurt, and 15th at the German Elite Championships. Geschke, 22, of the Berlin TSC, finished sixth overall in the Grand Prix du Portugal and won the Scan-Haus-Cup Marlow as well as the U23 Erzgebirgs-Rundfahrt.

Hassink, 23, of Cyclingteam Jo Piels took third in the first stage of the Fleche du Sud in Luxembourg.

AG2R announced that it has signed a two year contract with French rider Blel Kadri, who won a stage and took second overall at the Ronde de l'Isard.

Your chance to win in the Cyclingnews-Felt TdF competition!

You can win this!
Photo ©: Felt
(Go to the competition page)

Here's your chance to win some great prizes while the 2008 Tour de France is underway, featuring a prize roster of kit that is being tested in the world's greatest bike race by some of the world's leading cyclists.

Our lead prize is the 2009 model Felt AR road frame, currently being ridden in the Tour de France by members of the Garmin-Chiplotle professional cycling team, as well as supplementary prizes from Craft - manufacturer of team clothing to CSC-Saxo - and eyewear from BBB, supplier to Team Barloworld.

The US-based Felt Bicycles is becoming one of the world's leading bicycle manufacturers, with its bikes now being raced by the USA's Garmin-Chipotle in the 2008 Tour de France. The team are riding the 2009 model Felt AR, which combines Felt's expertise in time trial and track bike technology, while maintaining the necessary ride and handling characteristics of premium road bikes.

But wait! There's more. All entrants in the Cyclingnews-Felt 2008 TdF competition will also go into the draw to win great supplementary prizes from our friends at Craft and BBB. Cyclingnews also has four 2008 model Team CSC jerseys, designed and made by Craft, one of the world's leading technical clothing manufacturers, as well as 10 sets of BBB's BSG-29 Attacker eyewear, the exact eyewear used by riders from Team Barloworld in this year's TdF.

Our thanks to our friends at Felt, Craft and BBB for providing such awesome prizes. Hurry and enter now to be in the draw. Good luck!

Stage video highlights and podcasts

Just can't get enough of the Tour? Well fear not because Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you video highlights of every stage plus daily podcasts courtesy of and Procycling magazine.

Our video comes directly from Tour de France owners Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and will be online shortly after the finish of each stage. We've also got highlights from classic Tours of the past so click here to see the full archive.

Check out the podcasts page in our Tour de France section for a full round-up of news and views from the Tour.

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