Latest Cycling News, March 6, 2008
Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Tour de France participation rules revised?
In the conflict opposing the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the Tour de France organiser ASO, which has reached a new peak of hostilities these days with the departure of Paris-Nice taking place on Sunday, the UCI seems to be bending to the wishes of the Grand Tour organiser ASO as concerns the participation rules to the Tour de France.
On Wednesday evening, UCI president Pat McQuaid sent a letter to Patrick Lefevere, president of the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT), asking the ProTour teams to tell him if they wanted the automatic entry to the Tour de France to be changed. "This rule was introduced in September 2007 at the request of the International Association of Professional Cycling Groups (AIGCP). The UCI adopted this rule, which is justified and protects the legitimate right of the concerned teams and their sponsors. If, however, the concerned teams themselves renounce to their right of participation (...), they have to express this clearly to the UCI," the letter read according to French news agency AFP.
"If the AIGCP sends the UCI a request from the teams to revise this rule, the UCI is ready to proceed to a revision on the basis of the proposals that will be made."
The ProTour teams' association and the sponsors of the squads will thus play a major role in the conflict, while the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has been asked by IPCT president Lefevere to rule on whether or not the ProTour teams can participate in Paris-Nice without its riders getting punished by the UCI.
According to various sources, the IPCT also sent an e-mail to both UCI and ASO on Wednesday morning, proposing a compromise: ASO concedes that Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours remain on the international calendar, while the UCI gives up on the automatic entry for the ProTour teams to the Tour de France.
But ASO does not want another interim solution. President Patrice Clerc explained to L'Equipe that, "I'm surprised at this late awakening of the IPCT, even more so because this same move had been tried last year with the success that we know [a last-minute peace deal was signed five days prior to the 2007 Paris-Nice, which foresaw a long-term agreement to be found within six months - ed.]. We were supposed to find solutions of good will, and there never were any. So, I don't get the impression that this [attempt] is based on a true will of finding a solution. I want an agreement that lasts. If they tell me OK for this race and we'll see about the rest in a month or two, that's not serious at all!"
Meetings of the IPCT and the AIGCP will be held in Paris today to discuss the situation. Tomorrow – Friday – the Tour de France organiser will meet with the teams. Meanwhile, a decision by CAS may take longer than expected. "Of course we were asked to rule before the departure of the race, but it's not certain that we will be able to honour this request," said Matthieu Reeb, CAS secretary general.
ASO insists that a real mediation has already been put forward to the UCI by France's state secretary for sport, Bernard Laporte, but that UCI president McQuaid refused to meet with Laporte to consider it. "Even if some points don't satisfy me, I'm ready to accept [the proposal]. The minister proposes solutions to carry out the 2008 season while finding a long-term solution. I just hope that the UCI president will accept the meeting that he just refused! If he doesn't, then he's just doing the same manoeuvres than the ones we have been victims of for the last four years, in my view."
Three teams yet to name Paris-Nice line-ups
The Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), owner of the historic Paris-Nice stage race, is still waiting for three teams to enter their respective line-ups to the event, which is planned to get underway this Sunday. Because of the ongoing quarrels with the governing body of the sport, some teams are waiting until the very last minute to submit their selections, or have changed line-ups to include less prominent riders out of fear of the UCI's possible sanctions.
Gerolsteiner, Liquigas and Saunier Duval have not announced their participating riders yet, while Silence-Lotto communicated its line-up with Cadel Evans, Yaroslav Popovych and Dario Cioni in a press release, but not directly to the organiser.
Rabobank also confirmed Juan Antonio Flecha and Robert Gesink in its team taking the start line in Amilly this Sunday. But American team High Road changed its initial selection this week and removed George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Roger Hammond and Bradley Wiggins from its list sent to the organiser.
The big names (probably) racing this upcoming Paris-Nice are: Philippe Gilbert, Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego, Daniele Bennati, David Millar, Cadel Evans, Jens Voigt, Fränk Schleck, Thor Hushovd, David Moncoutié, Christophe Moreau, Oscar Pereiro and Sylvain Chavanel amongst others.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
Contador re-focuses on Olympics and Vuelta
Team Astana's Alberto Contador is trying to get beyond his squad's exclusion from the 2008 Tour de France. Currently racing the Vuelta a Murcia, the 2007 Tour winner doesn't have a choice but to find new objectives for this season – amongst which the Olympic Games and the Vuelta a España.
"I try not to think about my exclusion of the Tour too much these days – to the contrary, I think that the best races are the ones I'm in, for instance the Vuelta a Murcia," Contador told Marca's Josu Garai. "I will probably feel less good about it further along in the season, but right now – except for Paris-Nice, which I swapped with the Vuelta a Murcia – I'm sticking to my objectives.
"The alternatives to the Tour, as everybody knows, are the Olympic Games, if the national coach decides to count on me, and probably the Vuelta a España," he continued. "But in my situation, all the races are important."
Contador also did not believe that the Tour de France organiser ASO would re-assess his team and allow them to enter the race. "I think that would be complicated, even with the support of all the other riders and the fans... I see maybe a 0.5 percent chance that the Tour reconsiders its decision, and that's being optimistic."
Asked if he really did think he could do a good cycling season without racing in the Tour, the young Spaniard replied, "Well... it's possible, even if, for a rider like me, having won the Tour, the logical objective is to try and defend that tile. But as I can't do that, I don't have any choice but to find other goals."
Still, Contador insisted he didn't regret having signed with the Astana team, which will be boycotted by the Tour organiser for having had major doping problems in the last two seasons. "I don't regret anything. The team showed me a new project; I saw that everything was different, that they included an internal anti-doping system and so I enrolled with them. Everything was so serious and professional that it appeared to me to be safer to sign with them than with other teams. Now, I can't regret something that I thought about so intensively."
'Maniac' enters Milano-Sanremo
It is now official that there will be one additional climb in this year's Milano-Sanremo, le Mànie (mania). As Cyclingnews already reported Tuesday, the change was made necessary by a landslide and a temporary road closure, near Noli. The climb is about 100km from the finish, preceding the hilly finale with all the Capi, the leg breaker of the Cipressa and the final decision maker of the Poggio. This change will make the race four kilometres longer. Already being the longest classic with 294 kilometres, it may hardly matter that the racers will now have to tackle 298 kilometres.
In addition, the final sprint of the 99th edition is no longer in the Via Roma. Instead, it will be at the Lungomare Italo Calvino, near the Piazzale Dapporto. This is bad news for any breakaway hopefuls, as it adds one kilometre from the end of the Poggio descent to the finish line.
Not everybody thinks it's a bad idea. Italian sprint star Alessandro Petacchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport that "the new finish is certainly different and has some pros and cons, compared to the old finish. The pro is that there is an additional kilometre after the descent, to catch potential breakaways; the disadvantage is that the finish is flat and subsequently easier than the one at the Via Roma, where the street went uphill and surely the strongest wins."
Petacchi couldn't find much pros about the climb, le Mànie, which is used in Milano-Sanremo for the first time. "I rode the last 100 kilometres of Milano-Sanremo. Especially, I wanted to see the climb that they added and the new finish."
Some of the other Italians who hope to do well include Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott), who put in a strong attack on the Poggio last year, together with Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), the recent winner of Het Volk. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) is also already in good shape, having conquered the Tour du Haut Var and finishing second at the GP Lugano in Switzerland.
Some riders will use the upcoming Paris-Nice race to get ready for La Classicissima.
Amstel Gold issues three more wild-cards
The Amstel Gold Race has issued the last three wild-card invitations to Professional Continental teams Landbouwkrediet, Barloworld and Slipstream Chipotle. They will join the 18 ProTour teams in the Dutch Classic on April 20, as well as Topsport Vlaanderen and Skil-Shimano, which were named last month.
The race will thus feature 23 teams and 184 riders. The ProTour rules allow up to 25 teams to start in Amstel, but race director Leo Van Vliet limited it to 23 for security reasons.
Cooke leads Barloworld in Eroica
Team Barloworld will send a team around Baden Cooke to the dirt roads of the Monte Paschi Eroica on Saturday. The "new classic" race which winds "through the Chianti vineyards will test the riders suited to the spring classics", the team noted. The British-registered Professional Continental team will follow the race up with Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta ao Santarem before heading to Milano-Sanremo.
Barloworld for Eroica: Baden Cooke, Francesco Bellotti, Diego Caccia, Patrick Calcagni, Gianpaolo Cheula, Marco Corti, Paolo Longo Borghini and Carlo Scognamiglio.
Brabantse Pijl announces teams and course
22 teams, including 14 ProTour teams will take to the start of the 48th Brabantse Pijl on March 30, and they will face a shorter but tougher course. The race is now 30 kilometres shorter than in previous years, but features a total of 21 "hellingen" or climbs.
The race now starts and finishes in Leuven, and consists of a 109,7 km loop, followed by five laps of a 16,6 km round course. The new climbs are the Rue de la Montagne in Ittre and the Beerselenberg in Beersel, and the Bruineput will be climbed six times instead of five.
The 14 ProTour teams include Rabobank and Oscar Freire, who has won the race for the last three years, Quick Step, CSC, Liquigas, Saunier Duval, Silence-Lotto, Lampre, Astana, Gerolsteiner, Credit Agricole, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Milram, and Française des Jeux. They will be joined by Barloworld, Tinkoff, Landbouwkrediet, Topsport Vlaanderen, Mitsubishi-Jartazi, Cycle Collstrop, P3 Transfer-Batavus and Team Sean Kelly.
Volksbank to Driedaagse
Team Volksbank will continue its adventures in Belgium racing this weekend with the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. The team will be led by sprinter Olaf Pollack, who skipped the last few races to train for the upcoming track world championships.
"We will start with a more experienced team than last week," directeur sportif Gregor Gut told Cyclingnews. "With Olaf Pollack, we have a rider there who will surely be able to play a role. It is up to us to support him. Daniel Musiol is looking forward to the race and Rene Weissinger is over his cold. We will appear in West-Vlaanderen as a tight-knit team and not hide ourselves. The team is surely good for at least one top ten placement."
Volksbank for the Driedaagse: Josef Benetseder (Aut), Pascal Hungerbühler (Sui), Philipp Ludescher (Aut), Harald Morscher (Aut), Daniel Musiol (Ger), Olaf Pollack (Ger), Peter Presslauer (Aut) and René Weissinger (Ger).
Equipe Nürnberger for the weekend races
Equipe Nürnberger will be making its 2008 European debut this weekend with two races in Switzerland and Italy. Giro d'Italia winner Edita Pucinskaite will lead the women's team in the Premio Brissago Lago Maggiore and the GP Città di Cornaredo.
"After the first races abroad, we are looking forward to the races in Europe," said Jens Zemke, the teams sporting director. "The riders will use the upcoming races as a test for the difficult challenges in Spring. The end of the month starts a hard race programme, with five World Cup races in five weeks. We want to be well prepared for that."
The Gran Premio Brissago Lago Maggiore is on Saturday, March 9, and runs 91 km. The GP Citta' di Cornaredo will be held for the first time on Sunday, March 10, and consists of nine laps of a 13 km-long round course.
The team will send Edita Pucinskaite, Christina Becker, Claudia Häusler, Marlen Jöhrend, Larissa Kleinmann and Modesta Vzesniauskaite to the first race, and they will be joined by sprinter Regina Schleicher for Sunday's event.
CSC donates equipment to SA cyclists
Team CSC has donated more than 450 items of top brand cycling equipment to South Africa's Life Cycling Academy (LCA), which will be used to train black elite cyclists participating in the LCA's acsis competitive cycling programme.
The Life Cycling Academy (www.lifeacademy.co.za) uses cycling to create opportunities for youth living in South Africa's disadvantaged communities.
"Opening the many boxes was an unforgettable experience for the acsis elite riders who can't wait to put the disc wheels, time trial handle bars, helmets and other items to good use," said Sipho Mona, manager of the LCA's acsis project based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
The goods were shipped to South Africa a mere three months after LCA CEO Glyn Broomberg attended the annual Team CSC teambuilding in Denmark. "At the end of last year I was fortunate to present the work of the LCA to the entire Team CSC and its sponsors and used the opportunity to outline the needs of the Academy in terms of funding, intellectual capital and equipment," Broomberg said. "Receiving a container-load of equipment within weeks of that meeting is proof, once again, of the commitment of Team CSC and its sponsors to transforming the sport of cycling and helping the LCA achieve its vision."
Togetherm, Team CSC and its sponsors, Cervélo and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), have raised thousands of Rands for the LCA and its Velokhaya initiative.
More details on the funds raised and the Velokhaya initiative are available at www.velokhaya.com.
Boston Bike Film Festival calls for entries
Organisers of the Fourth Annual Boston Bike Film Festival have asked filmmakers with a cycling habit to submit their work to be shown October 17-18, 2008 at the historic Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, USA. The event is a fundraiser for local cycling advocacy groups, including Mass Bike (www.massbike.org). Film concepts from last year's festival ranged from home moving by bike, to a group of roving BMXers looking for the ultimate empty pool to ride in, to guerrilla bike mechanics.
Among the benefits available to acclaimed and amateur filmmakers, the Festival continues to offer a chance to get their films in front of audiences who are intrigued and influential to the quality of cycling nationwide. "We keep tweaking it every year, and this year, we’ve even lowered our ticket prices, based on audience polls," said Cat Bryant, executive director of the BBFF. "I think we have found our niche; the Boston bike community has shown so much enthusiasm for this event."
Types of films shown at the BBFF include animated shorts, digitally enhanced clips, and feature length documentaries.
Festival information and details for submissions can be found at www.bostonbikefilmfest.org, which will soon include clips from last year's festival.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)