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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, July 23, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Holczer tight-lipped after teams' working group meeting

ProTour name could stay in 2009

By Gregor Brown and Brecht Decaluwé in Jausiers, France

Team manager, Hans-Michael Holczer
Photo ©: Florian Schaaf

The ProTour name could continue into 2009, a member of the teams' working group has revealed, however that will depend on the International Cycling Union's willingness to co-operate. Silence-Lotto's Geert Coeman, one of five team representatives in the working group, admitted they wished to continue under the UCI and its ProTour name if the governing body is willing to accept a new structure to the series and its rules.

The teams' organisation went forward with a second meeting during the Tour de France, revealed Hans-Michael Holczer. Despite confirming the meeting took place, the Gerolsteiner team manager remained coy on what was discussed and any progress which may have been achieved.

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"I had some meetings, but I don't recall what was said," said Holczer to Cyclingnews one day after the meeting in Cuneo, Italy.

Holczer, one of the five-member working group formed to create a teams' organisation for 2009, would not go into detail on the meeting. It was the fifth meeting held to create a new project which is expected to replace the International Cycling Union's (UCI) ProTour in its current form.

"The group never said it wanted to leave the UCI or that they want to create a new system outside of the federal frame," Holczer said.

Following a meeting on the Tour's first rest day in Pau, a joint statement was released that revealed the teams' refusal to renew their ProTour license for 2009.

The planned meeting in Cuneo was to map out detail on new teams' organisation that would involve its own set of races and race invitation rules. The meeting in Pau on July 15 was attended by 17 of the 18 ProTour teams, but the meeting in Cuneo was attended by a five-member 'working group'. The group is made up of Holczer, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Eva Parera, CSC-Saxo Bank's Carsten Jeppesen, AG2R La Mondiale's Vincent Lavenu and Coeman of Silence-Lotto. It will report its findings to the teams and UCI.

"The five members met on the behalf of the 18 ProTour teams," he said. "The UCI ProTour teams are all informed about what we are doing and what we are planning. There will be no decision made without consulting all of the teams.

"We have some clear determined proposals," he added. "This morning we again informed the UCI's president [Pat McQuaid] that we want to go along with the UCI and there is no alternative to that at this moment."

Coeman travelled to Cuneo on Monday to join the working group's meeting. The Silence-Lotto representative confirmed the teams group wanted to continue to work with the UCI, despite the governing body's ongoing claims of a rival international governing body.

"It was good," said Coeman. "We talked about the insults of the UCI who didn't like what the professional teams are doing right now. Despite that we want to keep working with the UCI, and actually we want to keep the name ProTour for the series we want to ride.

"If the UCI doesn't want to take part in the plans, then so be it," he added. "We will continue with our plans anyway."

The UCI, in addition to running the controversial ProTour, governs international cycling.

Pereiro: I thought I was dying

This image shows just how far Oscar Pereiro fell
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Spanish cyclist Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) thought he was going to die in his Stage 15 crash at the Tour de France. The 2006 Tour champion had a horrific crash on the Col Agnel's descent, 80 kilometres into the stage, which saw Pereiro hit a barrier and fall nearly 10 meters onto the road below.

South African Robert Hunter (Barloworld) had fallen on the fast approach to a switchback turn, causing Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Pereiro to take evasive action. Pereiro sustained only a broken left humerus (upper arm) in the fall, which could have been much worse.

"I fell faster than the others," he recalled. "I think that Cunego was a bit afraid. He suddenly made a sudden movement, which I [caused me to be] evasive.

"I reached the safety barrier and saw the enormous drop," he added. "The next thing I remember I was laying on the ground. When I fell I thought was dying."

The rider was moved from an Italian hospital to one in Spain on Monday, where he was to undergo surgery for his injuries yesterday. Pereiro was recently named to Spain's team for the Olympic Games in Beijing, and was hoping to target the Vuelta a España, but will now be out of competition for up to two months.

Lefevere looking beyond '08 Tour

By Daniel Benson in Jausiers, France

Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere believes the team's lack of results at this year's Tour de France is to be expected. While the seasoned director admitted to being disappointed, he said with the team missing star riders Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini and now Stjin Devolder, who dropped out of the Tour this week, it is to be expected.

"Of course it was hard to plan without Boonen being in the team," he said. "Everyone understands that, along with Bettini, they are the two that take charge of the team and hold the most responsibility. They are the real leaders.

"But for the others it has been a chance to prove themselves, but so far it hasn't paid off," he added. "Today and tomorrow Carlos Barredo and Matteo Carrara will have to look to get in a break-away."

The result follows a super successful 2007 Tour for the Belgian squad, where it produced four stage victories and the green jersey.

"So far it has been a bit disappointing," he said. "Last year we were very spoilt, as you know. But Boonen isn't here and Devolder, who we brought here for the classification, has now gone home too."

Quick Step won't be the only squad to leave this year's Tour without a victory. To date 11 teams are still without stage wins, thanks in part to the super successful run by Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) who dominated the sprint stages.

"There will be many attacks, half the bunch will want to get away," said Lefevere. Perhaps we also have one more secret weapon for the Paris in Steegmans."

Germany set to snub Saunier Duval-Scott

Saunier rider discuss the events
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Saunier Duval-Scott is unlikely to contest the upcoming Tour of Germany, with the event's organizer planning on leaving out the Spanish team. The ProTour team withdrew from the Tour de France after stage winner Riccardo Ricco tested non-negative for a new type of EPO.

Since Ricco's failed A-sample test results the rider has been sacked, along with fellow stage winner Leonardo Piepoli. The team's manager had said after speaking with Piepoli, who hasn't returned any non-negative samples from the Tour, he didn't feel the rider could be trusted.

"There is absolutely no question of having Saunier Duval on the starting line," German race director Kai Rapp told Suddeutsche Zeitung.

While every ProTour team has the right to start ProTour rounds such as Germany, Rapp believes he has the right to deny the squad a start. Under International Cycling Union (UCI) rules a squad can have its licence withdrawn if it has brought the sport into disrepute.

"In Saunier Duval's case I think they (Saunier Duval) fill that criteria 100 percent," said Rapp.

It's unclear whether fellow ProTour squad Liquigas will receive similar treatment. While the Italian team continues to contest the Tour, it also had a rider test non-negative to EPO on the event's first stage.

Riccò attempted to evade anti-doping officials

Disgraced cyclist Riccardo Riccò
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) chief Pierre Bordry has claimed Italian cyclist Riccardo Riccò attempted to evade his staff after the Tour de France's fourth stage. The Saunier Duval-Scott rider, who tested non-negative for EPO after his test on the stage, allegedly attempted to avoid a chaperone.

"When he knew he was going to be tested, he went off, and it is the escort who caught him up," Bordry said. "He found himself blocked off. There was a traffic jam of cars and he could not get through the cars."

Just days later Riccò was escorted from the Tour by French police after news of his non-negative sample broke. His Spanish squad withdrew from the Tour immediately and has since fired the Italian along with fellow stage winner Leonardo Piepoli.

AFLD staff demanded an apology from Riccò according to Bordry. The French agency said the rider's actions drew a target on his back.

"We asked him to apologize to the agency and the staff, which he did along with his team director," said Bordry. "We told him that, because of his behavior, we were now going to test him after each stage. He put a target on himself."

Riccò has denied using a third generation EPO which authorities believe the Italian had used.

Quick Step firms '09 roster

Belgian ProTour outfit Quick Step has firmed up its 2009 roster after announcing the re-signing of Wouter Weylandt. The Belgian sprinter is the only confirmed rider in the latest batch of rumoured signings by Patrick Lefevere's team.

Italian media has reported the signing of Australian sprinter Allan Davis, who was runner-up at this year's Milan-San Remo and Cofidis rider Kevin De Weert for 2009. Under International Cycling Union (UCI) rules ProTour teams are prohibited from announcing signings from rival teams this early in the season, meaning teams like Quick Step can only announce re-signing of existing riders like Weylandt.

Weylandt has renewed with the Belgian squad for two seasons. "We're satisfied with the agreement," said Lefevere. "Wouter is one of the most interesting young riders on the international cycling scene. He started his professional career in 2004 as a stagiaire in our team.

"His contract renewal is a sign of our continued trust, which we are sure Wouter will know to reciprocate with performances at the height of his potential," he added.

21 levels of hell: L'Alpe d'Huez

The Dutch fans swarm Alpe d'Huez
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Neither the steepest nor the longest climb in any Tour de France, Alpe d'Huez easily qualifies as the most famous mountain of the race. From the thousands of fans that line its slopes to cheer on their heroes, to the twenty-one numbered switchbacks each labelled with the names of former winners, Alpe d'Huez symbolizes the passion that is the Tour de France. Cyclingnews' amateur historian Stefan Rogers looks back at the history of the famed climb in the Tour and how it determined the outcome of the race.

1952 - L'Alpe d'Huez changed the face of the Tour de France when it became the first ever mountain top finish. At the end of a 266 kilometre stage 10 beginning in Lausanne, the unpaved ascent proved to be the launching pad where Fausto Coppi would return from two rather lacklustre years to take his final Tour victory. Coppi stormed up the mountain in 45'22" - a record which would hold until 1989 - took the yellow jersey from Italian Andrea Carrea and never relinquished the lead.

Surprisingly, twenty-three years went by before the Tour would return to the mountain, and the epic battle which ensued would make the Alpe a fixture of the race.

1976 – On the Tour's second visit to Alpe d'Huez, the 258 kilometre stage nine beginning in Divonne-les-Baines, Joop Zoetemelk and Lucien Van Impe treated the fans along the slopes to an duel all the way up the mountain. Yellow jersey Freddy Maertens was left behind as the top G.C. challengers including Raymond Poulidor, Francisco Galdos, Raymond Delisle, Van Impe, and Zoetemelk battled on the lower slopes of the Alpe.

Zoetemelk and Van Impe would eventually leave everyone else and battle it out in a sprint. The Dutchman took his first of two victories at the top of Alpe d'Huez, while Van Impe would take the yellow jersey and go on to win the Tour overall. Zoetemelk would finish the Tour in second, something he ultimately did six times, but his victory started an unusual run of Dutch wins on Alpe d'Huez. To this day no country has more victories on the Alpe, and the Dutch fans usually outnumber all others on the mountain in July.

1977 - In the Tour which may most closely parallel this year's standings, Bernard Thévenet went into stage 17 to Alpe d'Huez (184.5 km from Chamonix) with three men hot on his heels in the overall classification: Dietrich Thurau at 11 seconds, Lucien Van Impe at 33 seconds, Hennie Kuiper 49 seconds back, and Zoetemelk 1'13.

Urged on by the Dutch fans, Kuiper put in a gutsy ride up the Alpe and took the day ahead of an equally courageous Thévenet, who held onto his yellow jersey by just eight seconds at the top of the mountain. The final time trial only extended his lead to 36 seconds, and until Greg LeMond's win in 1989, this year would stand as the closest Tour de France in history.

Continue to the full feature.

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

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

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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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