Latest Cycling News, March 5, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
ASO reacts to UCI threats
Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the organiser of Paris-Nice, which is scheduled to start on Sunday, has labeled UCI's reaction to hand riders sanctions and fines, should they ride Paris-Nice, as "out of proportion." It said that "Paris-Nice is being organised in conjunction with the FFC [French cycling federation - ed.] and conforms to the French law," ASO stressed in an official communication. ASO reminded everyone that "The French ministry for sport and the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) are helping us to organise the race. The Association Internationale Des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels [AIGCP] confirmed the determination of the 20 invited teams to start on Sunday, and agreed to the convention negotiated on Monday in a constructive spirit."
ASO has been asking for two "simple things: that Paris-Nice, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, remains as a major historical race on the world calendar (...) and that ASO be able to decide its teams selection system for the Tour de France. This system is open to sporting and ethical values and not according to the locked-in and arbitrary system of the UCI ProTour."
The organisation, headed by president Patrice Clerc, has deplored the threats against six European cycling nations, among them the most important ones from Italy, France, Spain and Belgium. Those cycling nations are in disagreement with the UCI about the ProTour in its current format.
The statement continued that "Given this situation, the UCI has launched threats against riders and teams that are totally out of proportion (fines, suspensions, exclusion). We don't want to defy the authority of the UCI, we simply want the UCI to assure the status of a major event that is recognised as such by the entire world, including the UCI, shown by its strong reaction. ASO regrets that the UCI has harmed the preparation of the race with its threats, thereby disturbing the sponsors and riders, and only contributing to the deterioration of the image of the sport," the statement concluded.
Some riders have chosen to switch from racing in Paris-Nice to Tirreno-Adriatico instead. Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins do not want to jeopardise their Olympic dream. The recent winner of Het Volk, Philippe Gilbert, may also go to Italy instead. His directeur sportif, Marc Madiot, does not want his rider suspended.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
USA Cycling weighs in on Paris-Nice struggle
USA Cycling has reacted to the ongoing battle between French cycling race organiser ASO and the international cycling federation (UCI) around the participation of teams in Paris-Nice. USA Cycling's CEO, Steve Johnson, said in a statement that "We are very concerned by the recent movement of certain professional cycling events away from the established international organisation of the sport. While we agree that the ProTour in its current structure should be revisited, we join the European Cycling Union in asking the French Cycling Federation to respect the established regulations of the sport, and implore all parties to return to the bargaining table to seek an acceptable solution in the best interest of professional cycling."
Johnson continued that placing Paris-Nice on the calendar of the French cycling federation "is effectively forcing riders to break the recognised rules that govern professional cycling." He especially cited the risks of penalties and suspensions, which could force riders to not be able to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the World Championships in Italy.
In terms of trying to put the WADA-based international anti-doping process in place, Johnson was concerned that "the removal of professional cycling events from the UCI calendar, and engaging the AFLD for doping control, is a move away" from that approach. He was also concerned that it is a blow for the "UCI's state-of-the-art biological passport program. This is clearly a step backwards with regard to anti-doping efforts in professional cycling."
The conclusion of USA Cycling is that "if cycling continues down this path it will only serve to create additional instability and uncertainty in our sport at a time when it most desperately needs some level of sensibility." Johnson stated that "Professional cycling cannot survive without teams, and teams cannot survive without sponsors." He pointed out that many teams are in renewal talks with their current sponsors right now. Other teams are actively seeking new sponsorships. For the future he thought that "Anything less than a united front with regard to the international organisation of professional cycling presents an additional obstacle in all of our efforts to attract the sponsors our sport needs to grow and flourish."
Kohl up in the air
Bernhard Kohl is planning to fly to France on Friday, but at this point has no idea whether he will be riding Paris-Nice or not. Currently, he can only wait and hear what Team Gerolsteiner tells him to do. "My employer is Gerolsteiner, and the team decides whether I start or not," he told sportnet.at. "I want to compete in the race, because I prepared for it this winter and Paris-Nice is my first season highlight."
The Austrian admitted he didn't really know what was going on. "I have no idea whether such sanctions are really possible," he said in reference to the UCI's threat to suspend and fine riders who take part in the race. "It's too bad, because the sport actually has enough other problems."
Di Luca date and protest set
Danilo Di Luca's hearing before the Italian Olympic Committee will be held on April 1, CONI announced on Tuesday. The committee is seeking a two-year ban of the Giro d'Italia champion for abnormal test results stemming from the Giro.
Di Luca finished fourth in the 17th stage last year, a climb up the Monte Zoncolan, and was tested directly after the stage. A surprise doping test later that evening showed hormone levels below normal, or equivalent to those of a child, but did not show any banned substances. CONI speculated that he received injections between the end of the stage and the tests, which altered his hormone level.
Di Luca, who signed a one-year contract with Team LPR for this season, served a three-month suspension over the winter for his involvement in the "Oil for Drugs" scandal. He has indicated that he will appeal any conviction to the Court of Appeal for Sports (CAS) in Lausanne.
His fans are not taking the situation lying down. According to the Reuters news agency, his fan club plans a sit down protest. The fan club told Italian media that it will protest outside of the prosecutor's office on March 11 against the "unjust accusations."
Brown takes the lead in Murcia
By Susan Westemeyer
Rabobank's Graeme Brown won the first stage of the Vuelta a Murcia and took the first leader's jersey by doing something he could not have done two years ago, according to team leader Frans Maassen. "The course was not as heavy as indicated by the course profile, but it was still extremely tricky. Graeme would not have been able to do this two years ago. Now he knows how to ride up a hill and he is also a master in riding in an echelon, which was very useful today because of the hard winds."
Maassen praised the whole team for contributing to the Australian sprinter's success. Denis Menchov and Tom Leezer prepared the sprint, while Dmitry Kozontchouk and Jan Boven "worked to keep the two escapees within arm's length. It was very tense up to the end because those two rode tremendously," Maassen said on the team's website, rabobank.nl.
"Our starting point was to win a victory, and now we have done that already," he noted, and hoped for more. "I said before we started that we would have to strike in the first, third, or fifth stage. Tomorrow there will certainly not be a mass sprint, but there will be on Thursday."
Team Barloworld gets double win
Team Barloworld got their 2008 Giro del Capo campaign off to a flying start by winning the first stage, through Christian Pfannberger. The Austrian went solo in the end and preceded his team captain and strong sprinter, Robert Hunter, who won the sprint of a breakaway that formed after 60 kilometres of racing.
Barloworld took lessons from Quick Step's dominating performance in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and placed the whole team in the break that developed at the category one climb at Bains Kloof, going straight into a headwind. The break stayed away and Pfannberger left the break to get a solo victory. Daryl Impey made the result almost perfect for Barloworld, only narrowly missing out on third place to Hanco Kackelhoffer (House of Paints).
Hunter received the King of the Mountains jersey. Pfannberger has now a one-minute lead in the overall and is wearing the pink leader's jersey. Naturally, Barloworld also leads the teams classification.
Claudio Corti, Team Barloworld manager said, "I am very happy with the team's performance today. The wind played a huge factor and the team showed their good condition by working together to control the breakaway and attack. Despite the wind and strong competition from the other cyclists, Pfannberger showed very impressive form on both the hills and flats and he and the rest of the team are very motivated to do well at the Giro, in the home country of our sponsor."
The Giro del Capo still runs until March 8. Full results of the first stage are here.
Saunier Duval – a boost to young guns
Once again this year, the Saunier Duval U23 team will be hitting the road in order to train its youngsters, with the hopes of adding them to the professional team in the future. This will be the 13th straight season that the Cantabria-based team will work with some of the best amateur riders in Spain. Coached by former pro Enrique Aja, 17 riders will make a group where they'll start shaping their future careers as professionals.
Results show that Saunier Duval's work in this field has borne fruit. Over the years, 60 of Saunier Duval's amateur riders went on to become professionals. Nine of them signed up with Saunier Duval itself, while the rest entered other professional rosters. Saunier Duval's 2008 amateur squad includes Ran Margaliot (Israel) and former junior rider Adrián Sart (Valencia), as well as Óscar Abad, José María Alcaraz, Víctor Cabedo, José Luis Cano, Toni García, Rubén García, Mario Gutiérrez, José Manuel Gutiérrez, Gonzalo Hevia, Alberto Ibáñez, Ángel Madrazo, Floren Márquez, Lluis Guillermo Mas, Sebas Padilla and Vicent Rodrigo.
In addition to the reserve team in Spain, Saunier Duval-Scott has created a network of amateur teams throughout Europe, thus keeping a close eye on the strongest young guns in the non-pro peloton. An agreement has been signed with Team G.S. Brunero-Vallauris, whereby the French-Italian team will carry "Saunier Duval" in its designation. G.S. Brunero-Vallauris is a powerful group made up of 12 cyclists from different countries (France, Italy, Spain, Ukraine). They include Spanish twins Pedro and Jesús Merino, with the latter winning the Trofeo Industriales, in Toledo, last Sunday; additionally, Italian former pro Miculà De Matteis (who also had a victory last week), and Frenchman Etienne Pieret, a junior world champion in 2006. The squad's 2008 calendar includes a careful choice of events, including the UCI U23 Nations Cup (former World Cup) and several races alongside pro teams.
In Switzerland, the Atlas-Römer's Hausbäckerei continental team will again be wearing the same colours as the red birds, while in Italy, cooperation agreements have been signed with Team C.S. Spercenigo and Team Grassi-Scott, coached by a former man in the yellow squad, Andrea Tafi.
The following riders passed directly from the amateur to the professional Saunier Duval team: David De la Fuente (in 2003), Juan Jose Cobo Acebo, Francisco José Ventoso and "Litu" Gómez (2004), Javier Megías Leal, Arkaitz Durán Aroca and Alberto Fernández (2005), Raúl Alarcón (2006) and Héctor González (2007).
CSC's injuries not serious
Team CSC's Marcus Ljungqvist and Stuart O'Grady were not as seriously injured in a Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne crash as was originally reported, the team has said. Ljungqvist was not unconscious nor did he suffer a concussion. "If that had been the case he would never have been able to go on afterwards, which he did," said CSC team doctor Piet De Moor, adding, "Marcus is fine. He's had some stomach problems over the weekend, but that's all."
"Stuart hurt his knee in the crash, but as far as we could tell afterwards it was only superficial," the doctor continued on the team's website, team-csc.com. "That can be very painful as well though, which is the reason he chose not to go on after the feed zone. I haven't heard anything from Stuart since then, so I presume the diagnosis was correct."
Benetseder eager for more Belgian racing
Josef Benetseder of Team Volksbank doesn't believe the stories that pro cycling is in a decline. After his first experience racing in Belgium on Saturday in the Omloop Het Volk, he said, "Cycling is surely not dying here." He was thrilled by the reactions of the fans. "Some even wanted my autograph, they even knew my name." He talked about the race being hard, but offering good experience. The Austrian added that "The race was a hard one for everyone. Always fighting for position and [there were] numerous crashes. It was an uneasy feeling, that increased as the race went on."
The 25 year-old didn't make it all the way to the finish, but that didn't bother him. The problem was "The cobblestones. It hurt like hell. 50 kilometres before the finish I was done."
He is nevertheless looking forward to his next Belgian appearance, starting Friday in the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen. "The mood in the team is great. I am sure that we will bring in lots of successes this year. And if not in Belgium, then elsewhere."
Michael Boogerd ambassador of Dutch race
Dutchman Michael Boogerd may be retired, but besides still working for Rabobank he is now also the ambassador for the 2.1-ranked Ster Elektrotoer race in the Netherlands. The five-day event will be held from June 17 to 21.
His role will be to help and advise the organisers. Boogerd, who rode that race last in 2004, has said that it "was one of his favourite courses."
Grandview Cycling Classic keeps title sponsor
Germain Automotive Group renewed its title sponsorship of the Grandview Cycling Classic, coming up in June, in Ohio. The event will be called the Germain.com Tour de Grandview. The two-day event features top-level US and international professional cyclists from the US as well as from other countries around the globe. Besides the race action, there are several other events and activities for spectators.
Besides the name branding, Germain will also provide the officials' race cars. "We're thrilled to have Germain with us once again for the 2008 Tour," said Tour sponsorship committee chair Jeff Shaw. "They have been exceedingly supportive, and we couldn't put on such a professional event and attract such a world-class field without their generous investment."
The professional races will feature men's and women's races. The criterium courses will cover a number of the hilly, tree-lined streets on either side of Grandview Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare. Among the events tied to this year's Tour will be a Kids' Sprints competition, an Ohio Series Criterium race on Saturday afternoon; a Saturday night street party with food, drinks, live entertainment and children's activities; and a final set of criterium races on Sunday afternoon.
An international field of over 300 professional cyclists is expected to make it to central Ohio, as well as thousands of cycling enthusiasts and spectators. Celebrating its 16th year in 2008, the Tour is organized by the non-profit Grandview Community Association with the support of the City of Grandview Heights, local volunteers, and sponsoring businesses. More information is available at www.tourdegrandview.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)