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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, June 12, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Boonen excluded from the Tour de France

By Jean-François Quénet in Saint-Paul-en-Jarez

Neither Tom Boonen nor Alberto Contador will be at the Tour de France this year
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen knew that his participation to the 2008 Tour de France was in doubt after the news of his positive test for cocaine broke. He and his Quick Step team hoped some time after the news would enable Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) to give Boonen consideration and allow him to participate in the Tour de France, but their approach didn't work.

ASO would have liked the Belgian team to decide to leave Boonen at home in July. However, the team's different decision forced the organization to ban the winner of Paris-Roubaix from the July Grand Tour. "We had to wait for their press conference," Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme explained. Decision makers in Paris and the Belgian rider and his team managers communicated by phone. "We wanted to hear Tom Boonen, Patrick Lefevere and Wilfried Peeters. We have told them it was not possible for Tom to ride the Tour de France this year."

However, ASO is not considering last year's green jersey winner as a doping cheat. "We are not confronted with a doping case," Prudhomme said about ASO's outlook. "He didn't take forbidden substances in order to win races. It's a private affair. But Boonen is a great and emblematic champion. He has to behave in an irreproachable way."

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Quick Step team said, "The team is sorry to have not been able to meet the representatives of ASO before the decision was taken, considering that the result of the test undergone by Boonen won't have any consequence on a professional and sporting level."

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Obviously, the Belgian camp would have liked to negotiate with ASO, but that option was out of question for the French organization. "Lefevere told us July 5th [the date of the start of the Tour de France in Brest - ed.] was still far away but with three weeks to go, the link is obvious. We have to get rid of the permanent suspicion. In reference to the contract signed between us and the participating teams, we have to preserve the image and the integrity of the Tour de France and the riders who will be lined up," Prudhomme said.

"Boonen was humble in the way he said he went off track," the Tour de France director said. "This incident reflects what happens in our society. Similar problems have affected so many champions from different sports." Prudhomme indicated he has no intention of banning Boonen beyond the 2008 Tour de France. "Anybody can make mistakes," he said.

Support and criticism for Boonen

By Susan Westemeyer

Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

"It is not easy to be Tom Boonen: the pressure on him is great," according to Patrick Lefevere, team manager of Team Quick Step. "Tom has made a mistake," he acknowledged on, "but there is a difference between the person Boonen and the cyclist Boonen. The man Boonen has made a mistake."

That is Quick Step's position in a nutshell: Boonen's positive test for cocaine is a personal matter and they will not allow it to interfere with his cycling career. Cocaine use is a sporting violation only when used during competition, and this was an out-of-competition control. Therefore, according to the team, there is no doping violation and thus no reason to sanction their star sprinter.

Not everyone agrees with that philosophy. Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme announced Wednesday night that Boonen will not be allowed to ride this year's Tour de France, saying, "Tom Boonen is a great champion, but a great champion also serves as a role model," according to Sporza. He added that the team is still welcome, and Lefevere indicated the Quick Step team will ride the Tour, "with or without Boonen."

Boonen has also been excluded from the Tour de Suisse, but the Ster Elektrotoer said Wednesday evening that he could ride there. After an internal discussion and conversations with sponsors on Wednesday, organizers will allow him to take the start of their race starting June 17 and running through June 21. "We are speaking here of a private matter and we do not want to nor will we make a judgment about that. As far as we are concerned, he is welcome in our race," said race administrator Huub Snoeks in a press release.

Team Quick Step is standing behind Boonen
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

However, both the team and the sponsors strongly indicated that they would continue to support Boonen and help him through this "difficult personal moment". In fact, main sponsors Quick Step and Innergetic both announced at Wednesday's press conference that they would extend their contracts for an additional three years. Both contracts were scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

"Both sponsors and the team have faith in Tom – we've had some of our most significant moments in the team's history with Tom. It is not a habit of ours to abandon our athletes. Tom is going through a difficult personal moment at present," said Lefevere in a team press release. "We'll be letting time pass by a little and then we'll start working again for the future."

Quick Step CEO, Frans de Cock, echoed that sentiment on behalf of the team. "Tom is and remains a great champion. For this reason we have great faith in him for the future. Things would have been very different if it was a doping problem. What happened is personal and private matter."

Lefevere said that he had been planning to call a press conference for this Thursday to announce the sponsors' extensions, but moved it up a day because of the Boonen situation. "Under the pressure of the circumstances we have had to advance the press conference. After discussions with our sponsors we definitely have to affirm our trust in Tom Boonen." according to

"The negative things that have happened, they are not good to talk about, but Boonen has also given us many beautiful moments over the last six years. We hope that he will continue to do so in the coming three years. Tom did something stupid, but what has happened, has happened."

The team manager confessed to, "I was really very frightened Monday evening when I heard the news. Tom called me up and asked if he should come by, but I refused. I just wanted to be alone."

Read the complete news feature.

UCI ProTour Council changes ProTour schedule

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) won in Plouay last September
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

The UCI ProTour Council (CUPT) met Wednesday in Snekkersten, Denmark to discuss the ProTour series calendar for 2009 and beyond. The council made several decisions in light of the Tour de France no longer being on the UCI's calendar.

In the future, the CUPT is looking to balance the worldwide development of cycling while also supporting traditional events with a ProTour license. Furthermore, the Council expressed its desire to support teams by granting better visibility for team sponsors.

The Inaugural ProTour edition of GP Sochi event in the Sochi region of Russia will take place May 20-24, 2009. Beginning in 2009, the Tour of Poland, which has hitherto taken place in September, will move to the first week of August, beginning on August 2 for next year. The Plouay Grand Prix will take place on August 23 instead of in September.

The CUPT reported that the UCI Road Commission was currently studying the possibility of moving the UCI Road World Championships to the end of August, beginning in 2012. The conclusions of the study will be announced when the CUPT and Management Committee meet in Varese, site of this year's road World Championship, this coming September.

In 2008, the CUPT will not hold a high-level finale event for the ProTour; however, negotiations for such an event are in progress with several candidates for 2009. The Council's decisions are contingent upon events being granted a UCI ProTour licence by the Licensing Commission.

Finally, the Council decided to modify the nationality rule for ProTour team in order "to give teams the flexibility they need while ensuring that riders enjoy working conditions that meet the criteria laid down by the UCI, and guaranteeing consistency in terms of nationality within the teams."

Valverde wins stage and assumes overall lead at Dauphiné Libéré

By Jean-François Quénet in Saint-Paul-en-Jarez

Valverde chats before the ceremony
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde powered to the win in the 31-kilometre stage three time trial, putting in a stunning performance to beat Levi Leipheimer (Astana). Valverde excelled in the difficult and rainy time trial, taking 19 seconds out of the American. Silence Lotto's Cadel Evans was runner up by one slim second. The Australian took no risks in the slippery conditions. The ride pulled Valverde into the lead in the overall classification, where he now sits 23 seconds ahead of Leipheimer.

The time trial was raced around Saint-Paul-en-Jarez and featured two climbs, a third category up Chavanol and a fourth category up Doizieu. With his stage win, the Murcian Caisse d'Epargne racer took over the general classification lead of the French race from Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).

"This morning I went together with Oscar Pereiro to train on the course, and we were really surprised when we discovered how difficult it was," said Valverde. "But for me it was better like that because the first twenty kilometres looked more like a mountain time trial and after that the downhill was a very technical one, and that is more in my advantage."

With his significant win, Valverde took charge of this year's event. "It was a very, very hard course," the Spaniard said. "Our directeur sportif Yvon Ledanois went to see it yesterday and described it as hard but when I saw it this morning, it appeared to be even harder. The rain made it slippery and very complicated.

"I have been feeling very good since the prologue, and I really believe that I am doing well in my preparation for the Tour de France," said Valverde. "Now that we have the yellow jersey it is obvious that we will try to defend it. It will not be easy because we have very good rivals here and the mountain stages are still to come."

Rodríguez becomes a dad

Alejandro Valverde shared his Caisse d'Epargne team's joy for the day with Joaquim Rodríguez. "This is really a happy day for our team," said Valverde, "because this morning my team-mate, Joaquím Rodríguez became a father for the very first time. This morning his wife Yolanda gave birth to a son, Pablo!"

Pablo weighed in at 3,100 grams and measured 49cm. He was born in Barcelona. "Everything went very well and fast. We entered the hospital at eight in the morning and he was born at eleven," said Rodríguez. Mother and baby are doing well.

AG2R waits for the mountains

Team AG2R's best rider in stage three of the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré was Vladimir Efimkin, back at 2'43" in 20th place in the 31km time trial. Cyril Dessel was just two more second behind in 22nd place. Director Vincent Lavenu wasn't exactly thrilled with his riders' performance in the time trial, but considered the results a small disappointment as he looked forward to the more mountainous stages to come.

"I thought that one of our riders could do better, but it is like that sometimes," said Lavenu. "Often the races against the clock are not our strong point, but last year was like that and we did well in the remainder of the Dauphiné. I hope that in the mountains, our riders will be at a better level."

Grivko rides well despite crash

Milram's Grivko
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Despite a crash on wet cobblestones during the fourth day of racing at the Dauphiné Libéré, Team Milram's Andrey Grivko still finished in the top ten with a strong performance.

The 24 year-old Ukrainian went down shortly before the finish of the 31-kilometre time trial in Saint-Paul-en-Jerez, and lost valuable time. Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) went on to win the stage and take over the overall lead. Second was Levi Leipheimer (Astana), ahead of third-placed Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto).

"Unfortunately the luck just wasn't on our side," said Jochen Hahn, Milram's Directeur Sportif. "Andrey was going very well. Unfortunately the crash cost him about 45 seconds, otherwise he might have finished much higher." Grivko is the team's highest placed rider in the GC, in sixth.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage three of the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré.

Barloworld plans for 2009

With the Tour de France rapidly approaching, Team Barloworld is already looking ahead to the 2009 season. Planning for the future, Manager Claudio Corti forged an agreement with Geraint Thomas, Steven Cummings and Francesco Bellotti for next year. Mauricio Soler, whose contract also ends this year, has already reached an accord to remain with the squad.

The two British riders are both successful track riders and have proved to be excellent team players. Cummings won a stage at the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria, while Thomas won the world title in the team pursuit at the World Track championships. Bellotti, who suffered the misfortune of quitting the Giro d'Italia after breaking his elbow in the race, has proved his worth to the team, especially in hilly races.

Former US Pro champion Rodriquez to Harlem

Rock Racing's Fred Rodriguez
Photo ©: Richard Schofield
(Click for larger image)

Harlem will Rock with world-class sprinters, including Rock Racing's Fred Rodriguez, this Father's Day, Sunday, June 15, at the 35th Annual Skyscraper Cycling Classic at Marcus Garvey Park in New York City.

Former three-time US Professional Champion "Fast Freddy" Rodriguez will be coming off a third place in this past weekend's Commerce Bank Philadelphia International Championship. His good form will be backed up by team-mate Rahsaan Bahati, a former US Elite Criterium Champion and winner of the USA Crits Athens Twilight.

The pair will be challenged by Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita-Sutter Home). The Argentinean fast-man is known for a long and powerful sprint. Australia's Jeff Hopkins, the USA Crits Series Leader and a former World Junior Track Champion, won the Skyscraper in 2000. The Team Inferno sprinting star is still looking for his first big win of the season.

Cuba will be represented in force in Harlem with Yosvany Falcon, a multi-time Cuban National Champion was seventh in the 156-mile race Sunday in Philadelphia. His Toshiba-Santo team-mate, Frank "The Tank" Travieso, a former Cuban National Team member and winner of the inaugural USA Crits Series last year, will provide a second point of attack for the Athens, Georgia-based racing team.

For more information on the race, visit

Barla replaces Rigotto in the Netherlands

Team Milram will have to do without Italian sprinter Eila Rigotto in the Delta Tour Zeeland set for June 13 -16. The 26 year-old is suffering from stomach problems resulting from a gluten allergy. Rigotto will be replaced by his landsman Luca Barla in the three-day Dutch race. In addition to the Italian, Directeur Sportif Raoul Liebregts will direct the three Germans, Markus Eichler, Dennis Haueisen and Artur Gajek, as well as Volodymyr Diudia of Ukrania and Barla's landsman, Alberto Ongarato.

The inaugural race starts Friday in the southwestern Netherlands, near the Belgian border with a prologue time trial of three kilometres in the city of Hulst. On Saturday, the peloton will take on 180 kilometres from Middelburg to Goes. It will cross the North Sea twice on long and windy dikes, from the mainland to Schouwen-Duiveland and then back. The race ends on Sunday in Terneuzen after a total of 357.8 km.

Milram for Delta Tour Zeeland: Alberto Ongarato, Artur Gajek, Dennis Haueisen, Elia Rigotto, Markus Eichler, Volodymyr Diudia under DS Raoul Liebgregts

Gerolsteiner for Tour de Suisse

Gerolsteiner will be on the line at the Tour de Suisse when it begins on Saturday in Langnau. It will bring along three Swiss racers including Markus Zberg, Kletterer Oliver Zaugg and young Mathias Frank, who celebrated his first victory last weekend at the GP Triberg-Schwarzwald. Sprinter Robert Förster and Stefan Schumacher and Markus Fothen will race with an eye toward the overall classification. Oliver Zaugg will be ready for the mountain stages where his climbing prowess will be an advantage for him and his team. The Tour de Suisse will run nine stages over 1411 kilometres.

Gerolsteiner for Tour de Suisse: Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Mathias Frank, Ronny Scholz, Stephan Schreck, Stefan Schumacher, Oliver Zaugg and Markus Zberg under DS Hans-Michael Holczer and Reimund Dietzen.

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