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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, June 20, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo & Ben Abrahams

Holm happy with High Road performance

By Shane Stokes in Verbier

Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) won La Flèche Wallonne earlier this year
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road have had a good week, to say the least. Several days ago it was announced that the Columbia Sportswear Company had signed on for three years as the title sponsor, and then on Thursday Kim Kirchen won the sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse and took over as race leader.

The Luxembourg rider will start stage seven with a lead of 27 seconds over Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), while the overnight race leader Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is a further six seconds back in third.

Friday's and Sunday's stages could possibly end in bunch finishes, and so if Kirchen can pull out a good ride in Saturday's 25-kilometre mountain time trial, he could win the race overall.

Directeur sportif Brian Holm was consequently happy at the finish. "It was a good day for the team," he said. "Of course it was a bit complicated when the group went away. We had to consider what we should do, if we should let them stay at eight or nine minutes and just ride for the GC. Eventually we started chasing, helping Euskaltel with Vincente Reynes and Boasson Hagen. When the gap went down to five minutes we actually stopped riding.

"We saw quite easily what was happening, once the television coverage was on. We could see Jens Voigt stop riding in the front...anyone could see what would happen, that he would wait for Schleck who would attack on the climb. So we stopped riding.

"We saw that CSC tried to close the gap in the last ten kilometres, and they managed that. We then just crossed our fingers and hoped that Kim or Thomas had the legs for the final. Luckily he did. We weren't sure before he crossed the line because Klöden looked pretty strong as well."

The final climb up to the finish in Verbier was a very interesting one, with Philip Deignan (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mathias Frank (Gerolsteiner) pushing onwards from a long-distance breakaway group and try to get the stage victory. They were ultimately mopped up with approximately four kilometres to go, after which a number of favourites launched attacks. These included Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), the latter staying away until inside the final kilometre.

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Holm was asked if this two-man move made things nervous for him, giving that Schleck and Devolder's attack looked initially to be a good one.

"Honestly, from the start of the climb to the top was pretty nervous for us," he said, playing down the notion that it was only Schleck and Devolder who worried him. "We weren't sure how Fränk was feeling. Of course, we were hoping he could drop Anton but I never dreamt about the stage win before he was past the line.

"He has about 25 seconds now. Tomorrow will be a typical flat stage, a group will get five or six minutes and we will see what the sprinters' teams will do. I think he'll do a good mountain time trial on Saturday.

"That said, I have the feeling that the others will go well too, so we are not running around with our arms in the air yet. We will keep the feet on the ground, there are hard days to come for sure. But we are happy with the win today, as things looked a bit complicated on the climb."

Thürig eyeing the time trial of her life

Karin Thürig wouldn't have minded a team time trial
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Karin Thürig of Switzerland is tuning up her form at the Grande Boucle Féminine International, where she is eyeing Friday's time trial. But the race is just the first step toward the much bigger goal of the Olympics in Beijing, where she will aim for gold in her specialty discipline. Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake spoke with the Cervélo Lifeforce rider at the start of the race in Gent.

Karin Thürig knows the feeling of winning a major medal well. She has won the time trial World Championship title two times in her career, in 2004 and 2005. Additionally, she has been Swiss time trial champion in 2002 and from 2004 to 2007. But even this impressive list of achievements doesn't make her the favourite for Friday's race against the clock in stage five; her main competition could come from within her own team.

Fellow Swiss rider Priska Doppmann secured her 2005 Grande Boucle win in the final time trial that year, while Austrian Christiane Soeder won the bronze medal at the time trial Worlds in Stuttgart last year. Carla Ryan, a new addition to the team, is the 2007 Australian time trial Champion.

With such a powerful team, Thürig joked, the Cervélo Lifeforce team's best event would be a team time trial, "over 100 kilometres." With 40.1 kilometres against the clock looming on stage five, Thürig wasn't sure if the time trial would be the decisive part of the race given the stages to follow. "It is difficult to say. The stages on Saturday and Sunday have many vertical metres." But she admitted, "The time trial is important for me personally and I think also for Christiane and Priska. Otherwise, we try to do something as a team. We will look day by day."

The team aspect is indeed very important and Doppmann is not necessarily the protected rider. Thürig explained, "We want to win as a team. Christiane is also very strong; Carla too. It is also difficult to say as we didn't have a race in a while, so you don't know where you are [in terms of race fitness level]." Having just returned from a break from racing, the Swiss rider said racing could be a bit difficult on the body for the first few days.

So it all depends on how things go. "We will take today's race [stage 1 - ed.] and then see where we are. Today is not a hard race. Then tomorrow, there are two stages. But even today something can happen."

Indeed, as predicted the race did break up a bit on its way through Belgium, and Thürig was alert enough, despite her break from racing, to make the front groups and was sitting in fifth overall, 34 seconds behind Diana Ziliute after three stages.

Continue to the full feature.

China cracks down on performance enhancing drug makers

With the Olympic Games less than two months away, the Chinese government has taken steps to clean up its pharmaceutical industry, which the United States claims has been a source for much of the world's performance enhancing drugs production. The Chinese authorities revoked manufacturing licenses for three companies and punished 125 more for producing, selling or distributing banned drugs.

According to a statement by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, most of the businesses which were punished were retail pharmacies, but did not list the names of the companies. Officials also said one person had been imprisoned for illegally distributing drugs.

China was named as one of the sources of the illegal drugs netted during the Operación Puerto raid of 2006. The deputy commissioner of the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, Wu Zhen, said that its country has been aggressive on anti-doping, especially since the second half of 2007. "We are determined to take the opportunity of the Olympic Games to reduce doping in China," he said.

The commissioner added that his agency's investigations had uncovered 151 enterprises involved in producing or distributing banned drugs such as anabolic steroids, Erythropoietin (EPO) or human growth hormone (HGH).

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration identified China as a major source of raw materials used to produce steroids, but the Chinese official denied that it was doing anything illegal. "If China's ingredients were used to produce performance-enhancing drugs and illegally sold after being legally exported, the importing countries should bear the responsibility," Wu said. "Most of such products were exported with company contracts, export licenses and warrants from the importing countries, and their use was clearly stated."

HGH: mind over matter

Human growth hormone (HGH) has been thought to be used widely in the professional peloton as a performance-enhancing drug for several years, but a new study suggests that riders might have been putting their health at risk for a benefit that was all in their minds.

A study funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Australian Anti-doping Research Program was presented at a meeting of the Endocrine Society this week, as reported by Medical News Today, showed that some athletes showed improvements in performance while believing they were using HGH, but were actually given a placebo.

Previous studies have shown little performance benefit with human growth hormone, a drug which has been banned by WADA. The drug also has some dangerous side effects which include diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and heart problems, abnormal growth of organs and a hastening of osteoarthritis. But neither dangers, the ineffectiveness nor the fact that the drug is banned has stopped some athletes from using HGH to try to boost performance.

Researcher Jennifer Hansen of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, led the study in order to find out if any performance enhancing quality comes from the drug or the athlete's belief that it works. "Athletes are doping with growth hormone to improve sporting performance despite any evidence it actually improves performance," said Hansen.

The 'double-blind' study, where neither researchers administering the drugs nor the athletes knew which person was given the active drug, was performed on 64 volunteers, all recreational athletes, over eight weeks.

The volunteers were subjected to tests measuring endurance, strength, power and sprinting ability at the beginning and again at the end of the eight week period. The subjects were asked at the end to guess if they were the placebo or HGH group.

The men were more likely to guess that they had received HGH than women, and the ones who were "incorrect guessers" who were given placebo but thought they had received the drug not only believed their performance improved, but also showed some actual improvement in jump height, a measure of power.

The researchers concluded, "The results of this study suggest that the placebo effect may be responsible, at least in part, for the perceived athletic benefit of doping with growth hormone for some people."

Tour of Pennsylvania set to challenge espoirs

120 of the world's most talented under-25 riders will gather next week for the inaugural American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania, and will face a challenging six day event. The course will traverse 420 miles of the state's roads, beginning in Philadelphia, the heart of Pennsylvania cycling and home of the famous Manayunk wall, and finishing in Pittsburgh to help celebrate that city's 250th anniversary.

The race will begin with an individual time trial prologue and evening criterium in Philadelphia before embarking on the trans-state journey.

"The number one goal was to trace the Forbes Trail as best we could," explained Jerry Casale, chief operating officer of Tour of PA, LLC, the company hired by Pittsburgh 250 to run this first-year event. "This is the same route George Washington and John Forbes used 250 years ago. Along the way we'll pass through a lot of the places that were founded that same year – Bedford, Ligonier, Latrobe. They are all celebrating their 250th and that was a very important aspect of designing this course."

The second day will be a mostly flat 91-mile run from Downingtown to Carlisle, will take riders through the heart of Amish country, while day three will hit the hillier terrain between Camp Hill and Bedford. The 104-mile route will include the race's first KOM sprint atop the 3.5-mile climb to Tuscarora Summit, followed by Sideling Hill, a 3-mile grind with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. From there it will be a mad dash to the finish, as riders hit speeds of 50 mph during the rapid descent to Bedford.

The fourth day will be a relatively short trip from Bedford to Latrobe, but the 60-mile stage will have plenty of climbing, making it one of the most difficult days of the Tour.

"What's going to make it tough is that within about the first 10 miles the climbing starts," explained Robin Zellner, the Tour of Pennsylvania's technical director. "That's the day that will reveal who the true climbers are. There are two major climbs in it, plus a couple of wild descents."

The stage will head over Bald Knob Summit, a 5.5-mile grunt with grades nearing 15 percent and Laurel Hill Summit, a 2-mile climb with 15-percent grades.

The final two stages include an 83-mile ride from Ligonier to Pittsburgh, and then a 50-mile criterium in the Steel City itself.

"Overall I think it's going to be a great course," concluded Chauner. "It will be challenging and I think you'll see a lot of attrition. It can be very hot in Pennsylvania that time of year, and there's also the chance for lots of headwind because we're going east to west most of the time. My prediction is that there will only be about 80-90 guys left at the finish."

For the top survivors, the payoff for pain will be a share of the $150,000 total prize purse, the richest in the world for an Espoir-class event.

World Series of Bicycling kicks off in T-town

The Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania will host the World Series of Bicycling presented by Rodale, beginning with the International Keirin Cup on June 20. The seven-race series will also include UCI ranked Festival of Speed, Fastest Man on Wheels and Madison Cup XXXII along with three other nights of top level racing.

A short list of riders scheduled to attend this first event are world champion Roberto Chiappa from Italy, Argentinean National Team member Leandro Bottasso, Pete Fitzpatrick of Australia, Haseem Maclean from Trinidad and Tobago, Simon Van Velthooven and Eddy Dawkins of New Zealand, Junior World Championship bronze medalist in the Keirin, Monique Sullivan of Canada, Verducci team rider Liz Reap-Carlson and T-Town favorite, Ben Barczewski.

Gates will open for the International Keirin Cup on June 20 at 6:30 pm and racing will begin promptly at 7:30 pm. For a full schedule and information regarding ticket prices for the World Series of Bicycling please visit

Andreu to lead ZteaM in Tour of Pennsylvania

Former US Postal rider and director Frankie Andreu has been named to lead the ZteaM for the upcoming American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania Espoirs Race, which begins on June 24. The ZteaM squad will include two U23 US National Team members, Eric Riggs and Chad Beyerr, along with 2007 Mount Hood mountains classification winner Stefano Barberi, triathlete Justin Lane, and Californians Nate English and Shawn Rosenthal.

Andreu, who left his post as the Rock Racing team director earlier this year, recently led the ProMan women's team at the Commerce Bank Triple Crown and the Nature Valley Grand Prix, is one of the most popular and well-respected names in American professional cycling. He retired from racing at the end of 2000 after a 12-year professional career. During his racing career he competed in the Tour de France nine times, represented the United States in two Olympic Games and once was captain of US Postal. Andreu is now a commentator for Versus TV.

For more information about ZteaM, please visit

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