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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 24, 2008

Edited by Sue George and Laura Weislo

Saunier Duval ends, Scott continues sponsorship

Saunier-Duval riders at the Tour de France before the team withdrew
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The riders of the Saunier Duval - Scott team had a day of ups and downs. After Saunier Duval announced that it was withdrawing its sponsorship effective immediately, co-sponsor Scott stepped forward and committed to sponsoring the squad for the rest of the 2008 season.

The news follows the stage four positive doping test from Riccardo Riccò and the confession of doping by team-mate Leonardo Piepoli as well as the subsequent withdrawal of the entire team from the Tour de France before stage 12. Both riders had won stages in this year's French Grand Tour. Two days ago, the remaining riders on the team issued a letter to sponsors condemning the actions of their former team-mates and requesting continued support.

Saunier Duval pulled out in response to the doping incidents involving the team and the company said it had never put any pressure on its riders to achieve results according to the AFP.

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Scott, the bicycle sponsor of the team, said it thought that the team and its managers "did everything they could" to avoid the consequences of what were individual choices by members of the team.

"To leave the team and seek for other sponsorship opportunities would be the easiest thing for us to do," read a statement signed by Pascal Ducrot, Vice-President of Scott Sports. "However, we trust the team's young riders and staff. They do not have to pay for the mistakes made by individual riders, and this is why we've decided to stand by the team. We'll continue to support Mauro Gianetti's men so that they can go on competing this season.

"We consider this tough situation as a chance to struggle against doping and we'll ask for anti-doping tests to be stricter in the future. All the riders in the team have signed the so-called biological passport, and we believe this is great a step forward to eliminate doping from cycling. We'll not leave the team, as all the people in it have done an excellent job in the past years. We want the young riders of the team to be given a chance"

According to AFP, Scott's contract with the team had been put in place through 2010, and for the rest of this season, the new squad will be called Scott unless other title sponsors come onboard.

CONI summons Riccò and Piepoli

Leonardo Piepoli is one of two former Saunier Duval-Scott riders summoned by CONI
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has called former Saunier Duval-Scott racers Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli for meetings with its anti-doping prosecutor. Both were fired from their team for "doping practices" during the ongoing Tour de France.

Riccò is scheduled to appear on July 30 at 12:30 pm regarding his positive "A" sample test and subsequent judicial activity following stage four at the Tour de France. After his positive test for third generation form of the blood boosting drug EPO, Riccò was fired by his team. He has denied using EPO.

Piepoli has been called to appear on July 29 at 11:30 am to report on recent news relating to him. Although no positive doping control was announced for Piepoli, the winner of stage 10, he confessed to his directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin to using EPO.

No positive doping control has been announced yet for Piepoli, but the team's manager, Mauro Gianetti, pulled the entire squad out of the race.

Riccò's positive not the result of secret molecule

By Laura Weislo

Contrary to earlier reports, Italian Riccardo Riccò's positive for EPO was not the result of a "secret molecule" being added to the drug to allow anti-doping authorities to more easily detect it. World Anti-doping Agency president John Fahey seemingly made the statement on an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday, but the agency's spokesman said his words may have been misinterpreted.

"No marker was inserted in the substance," the WADA spokesman said, clarifying that the tests which are being performed at the Tour de France are of a conventional nature. "Thanks to the fruitful cooperation of the manufacturer of this substance (Roche) and of WADA-accredited laboratories, which started in 2004, WADA received the molecule well in advance and was able to develop ways to detect it, including through the current EPO detection method."

A Roche spokesperson confirmed to Cyclingnews that the WADA president misspoke, and that there was nothing added to the drug to help its detection. However, news of a collaboration between the company and anti-doping authorities are true. "Roche has provided samples of Mircera and assay reagents to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to help ensure that WADA laboratories will be able to carry out reliable anti-doping testing."

Riccò's 'A' sample from the Tour de France stage four time trial in Cholet came back positive for EPO, and he and his entire team pulled out of the race. The rider and his team-mate Leonardo Piepoli were subsequently fired. The scandal led team sponsor Saunier Duval to withdraw its support of the team.

It has been widely reported in the press that the molecule found in Riccò's sample was a new form of EPO known as Mircera, or CERA. The drug, which is used to treat anaemia, stimulates the production of red blood cells. It is similar enough to previous versions of EPO that a patent dispute between Roche and its competitor Amgen has blocked the commercialisation of Mircera in the United States. Amgen's patents in Europe expired two years ago, allowing Mircera to be marketed there beginning in 2007.

CERA is a recombinant version of the protein erythropoeitin, a hormone which stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow, just like previous incarnations of the drug. It is distinguished from previous version of the drug by being longer acting, like Aranesp, Amgen's longer-acting drug, which was found in the urine of cross country skiers in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

The misunderstanding about the 'secret molecule' may have arisen from descriptions of Mircera, which called it 'pegylated', meaning that it contains a molecule of polyethylene glycol, a stabilising agent which allows it to remain active longer.

"Mircera can be differentiated in samples from both naturally occurring erythropoeitin and from all other traditional ESA products [Erythropoeisis Stimulating Agents -ed.]," a Roche spokesperson stated. "The molecule is designed to assist in advancing the management of chronic kidney disease, not detection of illegal use.

This 'pegylated' protein was rumoured to be undetectable, but cooperation between drug manufacturers and the anti-doping authorities have put detection a step ahead of the cheaters.

Mary Klem, a spokesperson for Amgen, a competitor of Roche which sponsored the Tour of California, told Cyclingnews that this kind of collaboration took place during the Salt Lake City Games, where Amgen scientific director Steve Elliott helped anti-doping authorities confirm that the skiers had Aranesp in their samples.

"Amgen has - and continues to - actively support efforts to help develop effective tests to detect doping. We recently provided a scientific research grant to develop new and improved methods for EPO testing."

Pereiro undergoes operation

Team Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro underwent surgery after crashing during stage 15 of the Tour de France and withdrawing from the race. Pereiro fractured his left humerus.

Dr. Martinez Sayanes conducted the operation on Wednesday morning at a hospital in Vigo, Spain, where he affixed a plate to Pereiro's arm. His team reported the operation was "successful".

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. He had hoped to target the Vuelta a España, but will now be out of competition for up to two months.

Ballan eyes last two chances: Saint Étienne and Montluçon

By Gregor Brown in Alpe d'Huez

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went too soon
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

With the Tour de France's high-mountains over, Italy's Alessandro Ballan eyes his last two chances for success – Thursday's stage to Saint Étienne and Friday's to Montluçon.

"Tomorrow and the day after are both days that suit me and I will try in both of them," said Ballan, a 28 year-old racer for Team Lampre, to Cyclingnews.

Ballan, winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Hamburg Cyclassics last year, had his closest chance in this year's Tour on stage 11 to Foix. He made the escape group and contended in a group of three for the sprint only to come up with third.

Thursday and Friday are Ballan's only chance as Saturday is a time trial and Sunday usually ends in a bunch sprint.

"I am going well and I hope to at least have another chance to make an escape to try to battle for a win. Tomorrow will be very trying because there is not one metre of flat. We will see who comes up and who is in condition."

LPR presents Petacchi

Petacchi previously rode for Milram and was their winningest rider
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

LPR Brakes held an official presentation Wednesday morning for its new rider Alessandro Petacchi, who was signed in early July. The Italian sprinter will return to racing effective September 1. He has two objectives: the Tour of Great Britain and Paris Tours.

Already looking to 2009, Petacchi's longer term objectives include Milano San Remo, Tirreno, the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. "Returning to racing this year is already a beautiful victory," said Petacchi to He was welcomed by new team-mates and team support staff at the start of stage one of the Brixia Tour.

"When I heard that Petacchi was negotiating with the LPR, I was just very pleased," said Danilo Di Luca, "not only because we are friends. His arrival is very important, since he is the strongest sprinter in the world. For the rest of this year, we will be even stronger with him. For next year having Petacchi will be an advantage for me, too, because he is a man who assures 15 to 20 wins per year so we will have a more relaxed first part of the season. He can only help the team be stronger."

Petacchi spoke highly of his interactions with the team from the time they first spoke through his signing and Team Manager Fabio Bordonali called Petacchi's signing "icing on the cake".

Petacchi was suspended from racing though August 31 after being found positive for excess use of Salbutamol (asthma drug) during the 2007 Giro d'Italia. (For more details of the Petacchi read Innocently Guilty – the Petacchi case.) He previously rode for Team Milram.

KBS / Medifast heads to France for pair of races

The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team is heading to France this weekend to tackle two UCI stage races and continue building the squad's international racing program started last year. The races, both ranked UCI 2.2, include Kreiz Breizh Elites in Brittany, on July 26-28 and Le Tour des Pyrenees on August 5-10.

The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast first raced internationally last year at the FBD Insurance Ras in Ireland and the Vuelta a Chihuahua in Mexico. The roster for both upcoming races includes Justin Spinelli, who raced solo a couple of weeks ago at the Fitchburg Classic and still took overall second place on the GC, plus Jonny Sundt, Nick Waite, Dan Bowman and Andrew Bajadali.

"The team is very excited for these two great events in France," said performance director, Jonas Carney. "Spinelli, Baj and Bowman have been climbing really well all season so we're looking forward to seeing how they fare against some really strong European racers. It will be a great way to prepare for the difficult races at the end of the US schedule."

"We are beginning to work hard at building our international schedule," said Carney. "This year we will do these two events in France, return to Chihuahua in the fall, and finish our season with one more trip to France. It's our full intention and plan to use this experience to then expand our international schedule even further in 2009."

Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast for Kreiz Breizh Elites & Tour des Pyrenees: Andrew Bajadali, Dan Bowman, Justin Spinelli, Jonny Sundt, Nick Waite.

New Zealanders to battle at Auckland 1000

A clutch of the New Zealand's top domestic-based road cyclists will battle it out at the Pro-Velo Auckland 1000, the opening race in BikeNZ's National Road Race Points series at Karaka on Sunday. Gordon McCauley and Jason Allen, who rode on the same pro-team in England last year will be the mainland's top representatives, while North Island honours are likely to be upheld by Aaron Strong, Karl Murray and Jeremy Yates.

McCauley, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in the time trial at Melbourne two and a half years ago won the inaugural Auckland 1000 in 2005 and is a multi-time national champion. Allen, who was on the final short list for the Olympics track squad, also rode at Melbourne and while he is better known as a trackie, will be one rider to watch if the 125km race comes down to a bunch sprint. Murray won the race two years ago while former junior road world champion Yates won both the Auckland and Club national titles last year. Meshy Holt of Te Awamutu, time trial and road national champion, is the hot favourite for the 78km women's event.

This is the first of 11 rounds in the New Zealand national series which will finish in April of 2009.

Leipheimer to host online video Q&A session

Levi Leipheimer
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Team Astana's Levi Leipheimer will appear in a live online video Q&A session on Thursday, July 24 at 12:30pm ET (US). The two-time Tour of California winner and US National Champion will answer questions posted by readers about racing, training, or something else entirely.

Hosted by Cyclingnews and The Road Diaries and brought to you by SRAM, Trek and Astana, you can post questions to be considered for the Q&A session in advance or tune in on Thursday to participate in a live chat session.

Post your video or written question in advance of the broadcast. The hosts reserve the right to remove any submissions that we consider inappropriate.

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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