Special Edition Cycling News, March 7, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo
Hushovd not afraid of hilly Paris-Nice
By Jean-François Quénet
On Wednesday, Thor Hushovd felt strong during his five hour long training ride. His morale was clearly not affected by the e-mail he received from the UCI 24 hours earlier, threatening him with a fine and a suspension should he participate in Paris-Nice this coming Sunday. "My team has to decide about my participation, not me," he told Cyclingnews. He chose to take part in "the race to the sun" after Crédit Agricole was not invited to Tirreno-Adriatico, the race he opted for as a preparation for Milan-Sanremo in the past two years.
"Paris-Nice is also very good for me before Milan-Sanremo, which is my first big goal of the year," said the Norwegian who came in third on the Via Roma in 2005. While Tom Boonen chose to ride Tirreno-Adriatico this year after seeing the hilly course of Paris-Nice, Hushovd reckons this isn't too hard for him with the Mont Ventoux to climb in the middle of the week.
"I think I can pass," he said confidently. His morale was boosted when he won his first race of the 2008 season on stage one of the Tour of the Mediterranean, although last year he had to wait for the Tour de France before claiming his first success in Joigny.
The large sprinter tested his climbing abilities when he attacked solo during the Tour du Haut-Var two weeks ago. "That's something we spoke about with my personal coach Atle Kvåslvoll," he explained. In past years, Hushovd's goal at this time of the year was to win the Classic Haribo, which he did in 2004 and came second in 2006. But the race sponsored by the famous candy brand is no longer, and the Norwegian had no choice that weekend but take part in the hilly Tour du Haut-Var. "We decided that since I was there, I should try to attack and see what happens. Nobody followed me, so I gave it go by myself. I felt really strong. I eventually got caught but I was happy with the race."
Hushovd went back to his traditional European early season program after opting for a start at the Tour Down Under in 2006 and the Tour of California in 2007. "I didn't want to wait for July to win again," he said. After his post-classics break following Paris-Roubaix, he'll also return to his old plan in the build-up to the Tour de France, resuming racing at the Four Days of Dunkirk in May and then riding the Tour of Catalunya and the Dauphiné. "I tried the Giro last year and it was an interesting test, but this race is a bit too hard after a long break," he realized.
Finishing third at the Het Volk confirmed the good condition he's having at the right time of the year. "At Paris-Nice, I'm hoping to win at least a stage," he announced. "The first two should suit me. Everything else will be a preparation for Milan-Sanremo." The Crédit Agricole team built around Hushovd for La Classicissima will stay in the south of Europe for a training camp based in Andorra on the Italian Riviera between Paris-Nice and Milan-Sanremo.
CAS to decide on Paris-Nice sanctions
In response to a call from the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) president Patrick Lefevere to have the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rule on whether the UCI can sanction riders over participation in Paris-Nice, the court has announced it would rule by Friday evening.
CAS general secretary Matthieu Reeb told Reuters on Thursday, "The international professional cycling teams have asked us to rule before the start of the race so we will make a decision by tomorrow evening at the latest."
Paris-Nice organiser ASO responded to the news, clarifying that the arbitration is only between the teams and the UCI. "ASO Understands and shares the concern of the riders and teams who, under the threat of the UCI, have decided to ask the CAS for an annulment of the ban on participation in the race which was made by the UCI," the organisation's statement read. It reiterated that the decision does not relate to the race organisation, and ensured that the sanctioning of the race by the French Cycling Federation was in accordance with French law.
The ASO statement "welcomed the change of attitude" from the UCI president Pat McQuaid, who indicated on Thursday that he is prepared to revisit the rules of participation for the Tour de France. The UCI's requirement to have all ProTour teams invited to the Tour de France has been a contentious issue since the inception of the ProTour four years ago.
The ASO also hoped that McQuaid would be "prepared to recognize the status of the 'historic' event, Paris-Nice", and would be willing to accept the mediation proposed by the French Sports Secretary, Bernard Laporte.
Two teams unconfirmed for Paris-Nice, Saunier Duval signs on
The Paris-Nice organiser ASO was still awaiting rosters for two of the teams invited to the start on Sunday in Amilly as of Thursday evening. The Saunier Duval team was the latest to submit its roster before the Saturday evening deadline.
The ASO confirmed Thursday afternoon that it had received 17 of the 20 rosters, and said the Liquigas team was planning to submit its roster on Friday morning during the race technical meeting. Still missing is list for the the German team Gerolsteiner and the Belgian Silence-Lotto team.
The Saunier Duval team will be led by Jose Angel Gomez Marchante, and will include fellow Spaniards Juan Jose Cobo, Josep Jufré, Arkaitz Duran, Alberto Benitez, Jesus del Nero, Benat Intxausti as well as Italian Manuele Mori and Frenchman Aurelien Passeron.
Riders, teams stand up to UCI
In the days following a threat by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to suspend or fine riders if they participate in Paris-Nice, several organisations of teams and riders have come out in support of mediation toward a resolution to the long-running feud between the sport's governing body and the race organisers. The Italian Professional Riders' Association (ACCPI) and the Association of International Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) today responded to Tuesday's e-mail threat by the UCI.
Calling the riders the "most exposed and least protected victims in the controversy between the UCI and the ASO," the ACCPI called for a meeting between the UCI, national federations, organisers, teams, directors, doctors and riders to solve the conflict which as put riders in a no-win situation. Its statement cited the UCI's own regulations in defense of the riders.
"In reference to Article 2.15.139 of regulation for the UCI ProTour teams and Article 2.16.052 of regulations for UCI Professional teams - cyclists are in fact employees of their respective teams," the ACCPI statement read. "If, in order to avoid sanctions from the UCI the riders decided not to take part in the race against the will of their team, they may run into even more severe sanctions imposed by the same sports groups."
The statement also pointed out that the UCI's own regulations also handle the participation in "forbidden" events by riders, which carries a one month suspension and 50-100 Swiss franc fine, far less than the six month ban and 10,000 Swiss franc fine mentioned in the e-mail.
AIGCP calls sanctions "illegal"
The AIGCP responded to a request by the professional riders' association (CPA) president Cédric Vasseur which urged riders not to participate in Paris-Nice without written permission from their team in order to protect them from possible repercussions from their teams should they be sanctioned by the UCI for racing the French event.
AIGCP president Eric Boyer said that the contract between the Paris-Nice organiser ASO and the riders has been finalised, and "meets all the legitimate demands of the riders," according to AFP.
Boyer dismissed the threats of the UCI as illegal under the governing body's own regulations. Citing the same regulations as the ACCPI, Boyer stressed that the French Federation gave the ASO "permission to organize this event, in accordance with French law. (...) The UCI's threats, unjustifiably contrary to the riders, keep them in a state of intimidation."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
Double controls for Paris-Nice
The French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) is prepared to perform twice as many blood and urine tests at the upcoming Paris-Nice as were done in 2007, the agency's president Pierre Bordry announced Thursday. The AFLD was made responsible for anti-doping controls at Paris-Nice when the race organiser, ASO, placed the event under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation.
The AFLD raised concern when it added hair samples to the list of collections taken from the riders during Paris-Nice, but Bordry clarified that hair "will be analysed only if the urine or blood is positive," according to AFP.
The AFLD has also decided to accept Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) which the UCI used to document riders who need to use normally banned substances because of a medical condition. Citing the short time given to prepare for the organisation of the event, Bordry explained that he had "no problem with the UCI" and that the AFLD is "not the arm of ASO."
The plans for the Paris-Nice event will also include some unique features. "We are not going to systematically monitor the winner and the leader in the overall," Bordry revealed. "It must not be that someone who does not want to be controlled arranges not to be," he suggested.
Bordry added that any sanctions taken by the AFLD against a rider with a positive test would be automatically be recognised by the UCI by virtue of both being a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)