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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, November 24, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Kohl receives two-year ban

Bernhard Kohl, 26, receives two-year ban from cycling
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Bernhard Kohl received a two-year suspension this afternoon in Vienna for having used EPO-CERA at the Tour de France. According to press reports, Austrian Kohl did not have any comment on the sentence.

He had hoped that his full confession would bring him a reduced sentence of one year.

Kohl testified Monday morning for two hours and forty minutes at the House of Sports in Vienna. The Legal Committee of the National Anti-Doping Agency, under the direction of Gernot Schaar, immediately started discussing a suspension.

"I made my statement and was honest," Kohl said to the APA.

Kohl had finished third overall in this year's Tour de France and won the mountains overall classification. The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) re-tested his and other riders' Tour controls this fall. His blood samples returned two non-negatives from July 3, before the Tour started, and July 15, the rest day in Pau. He subsequently admitted to the use of CERA.

His teammate Stefan Schumacher also tested positive for CERA, but is fighting the charges. (SW)

Riccò returns to France, faces criminal charges

Italian Riccardo Riccò, 25, returns to France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

A judge questioned Riccardo Riccò Friday in Foix, France, regarding the doping substances that led to his positive control this past July at the Tour de France. He faces three years of prison and a financial penalty of €45,000.

The Italian from Formigine left the Tour de France on July 17 after the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) announced he tested positive for EPO-CERA following stage four. It was later revealed he tested positive on two other occasions at the Tour, as well. He spent the night in police custody in Pamiers and faced interrogation the next day in Foix. He denied charges and was released and sent home.

Riccò confessed to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor on July 30. The sporting tribunal issued him a two year suspension, through July 30, 2010. He appealed the length to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) this month.

French judge Stephanie Furcy questioned Riccò in a pre-trial phase. She pardoned him for his initial false statements, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The court has until the end of the year to decide to shelve the case or proceed with criminal charges. Riccò is accused of importing, buying, transporting, holding and using illegal substances.

Kirchen, Schlecks up for Male Athlete of the Year

Kim Kirchen nominated for Luxembourg Male Athlete of the Year
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Luxemburger sports press representatives nominated Kim Kirchen for Luxembourg Male Athlete of the Year this weekend. He won the title in 2007 and faces competition from, among others, Fränk and Andy Schleck. The three cyclists dominated the election the last few years.

Kirchen of Team Columbia won in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Fränk Schleck won the title in 2006, and his younger brother Andy, both of Team CSC Saxo Bank, was second in 2007.

The press group will announce the winner December 11, as well as the best female athlete and best team.

Kirchen, 30, won five times this year, including the Flèche Wallonne. He wore the leader's yellow jersey for four days in the Tour de France.

Fränk Schleck, 28, won two times and wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for two days. He finished sixth overall in the Tour. The German press linked him to Operación Puerto's Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes at the end of September. His team placed him on inactive status and he confirmed that he wired nearly €7,000 to Fuentes' bank account for training plans. He is under investigation by the Luxemburger Anti-Doping Agency.

Andy Schleck helped his team win the Tour de France and won the young rider's maillot blanc for himself. He also was part of winning time trial team at the Tour of Poland. (SW)

Ballan: Captain and domestique

Alessandro Ballan
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Ballan maintains his helper mentality despite becoming World Champion in September. The Italian of Team Lampre expects to lead in his favourite races and fill a domestique role other events on the 2009 calendar.

"There are those who expect that I will now become a captain. However, in the Northern Classics of the last three years, I was already the captain," Ballan said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ballan started his career slowly, but his win in the 2007 Ronde Van Vlaanderen put his name amongst the greats. The 2007 and 2008 seasons continued quietly with frequent wins, cumulating with the win in Varese, Italy, on September 28. He topped off Team Italy's dominance and took the World Champion's rainbow jersey.

"I won't change. Champions are born and remain protagonists, even in self-serving competitive aspects. But, as in my case, you can become a champion. If you have started off as a domestique, inside of you remains that instinct to put yourself at the service of others when it is not your race or when it is not your day, like when I helped [teammate] Damiano Cunego at the Giro di Lombardia."

Ballan will join his Lampre teammates at the first of the team's 2009 season training camps. The Italian ProTour team meets December 9 to 12 in Boario Terme, Italy.

Sørensen "overwhelmed" by first two years

Chris Anker Sørensen "overwhelmed" with CSC years
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Chris Anker Sørensen's first two years at Team CSC Saxo Bank were better than the Dane expected. He revealed in an interview with the team that he is "overwhelmed" with 2007 and 2008.

"I had high hopes, but I can't say I saw this coming at all," he said.

The 24-year-old had only two wins this season, but they were big ones: the queen stage in both the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and the Österreich-Rundfahrt. He also finished in the top 20 in both Olympic races and the World Championships road race.

He explained his two stage wins were "fantastic," but added, "I'm also proud of my efforts at the Olympics and the World Championships. I'm extremely happy with the bronze medal, which Denmark won through Matti Breschel. Both he and national trainer Lars Bonde were quick to thank me for my efforts. ... It's been ages since a Danish team has worked as hard for each other as we did."

Sørensen has ridden two Grand Tours, the Vuelta a España in 2007 and the Giro d'Italia this year. He is now aiming for the Tour de France in 2009. "The route looks like it would suit me well with relatively few time trial kilometres and many climbs, where my skills should come in handy for the team." (SW)

Changing partners a common theme for Six Day racers

By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium

Austin Carroll (l) and Guy East in Gent, Belgium
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

Having a long time partner in Six Day racing helps to discover the best way to exchange and how to ride the time trials the fastest possible way. But things don't always pan out. Australia's Luke Roberts was riding with Dane Marc Hester, when the latter had to leave the Gent Six Days after a crash. Roberts had to sit out all the team events until the final day.

He paired with Nicky Cocquyt for the final Madison, the same rider who was involved in the crash that ended the Six Days for Hester.

German competitor Andreas Beikirch admitted that for the professionals it is easier to switch partners. "It is sort of a well organised circuit. You know the quirks of the other riders." But it is different for the U23 riders – Brits Luke Rowe and Andrew Fenn paired up in a last-minute deal, as well as American Jackie Simes and Brit Peter Williams.

"I was supposed to ride with Mark Christian, but he broke his collarbone in the World Cup in Manchester," said Rowe. "We are used to each other's styles of riding, so it was a change to ride with Andrew, but it has been good.

"It was a tough week and a big learning curve. We were ninth after the first night, then slowly climbed the leader's board."

The British pair ended the Six Days in sixth place, equal on points with fifth-placed Belgians Thomas Sprengers and Simon Verhamme. Rowe will return to racing with Christian in the Rotterdam Six Days after Christmas, before heading to the World Cup in Copenhagen.

Simes also had to scramble to get a new partner, after another deal never materialised. Simes was hopeful for a good repeat performance. A year before he had won the final night in Gent with USA's Guy East. The pair also took the fifth night in Copenhagen.

"Being used to your partner is definitely part of it," said Simes. He also had more prep-time last year that allowed him to able to get more Six Day races in before Gent. "It's been a little bit tough this year, with not having been able to race the track in while."

East proved that getting used to your partner is helpful. He has been riding together with compatriot Austin Carroll for the past year and the two progressed from competing for sixth place in 2007 to competing for the wins in 2008. "Winning in Dortmund was such a great feeling and experience," said Carroll.

Uzbekistan, China and Doha invited to Langkawi tour

The National Teams of Uzbekistan, China and Doha were invited to participate in the 2009 Tour de Langkawi, February 9 to 15. The organiser announced its decision today.

"This time around we invited the best teams not simply to fulfil the quota but to have a more challenging cycling tour," said race executive chairman, Tuan Haji Abu Samah.

It will be the first time for the Uzbekistan and Doha national teams to compete in the event. Next year will mark the 14th year of the hors catégorie stage race, which was won in 2008 by Team Diquigiovanni's Ruslan Ivanov.

Abu Samah pointed to the performance of the Uzbekistan and Doha teams in the Governor Cup's Cycling Championship of Melaka and the Tour of Negeri Sembilan this year as an indication of their value.

"These two teams have the capability to compete and challenge other Asian riders or even the ProTour's riders. ... We hope that their participation this time around will entice and attract more cycling enthusiasts locally and abroad to follow the tour," he said.

Team Doha is expected to line up its best riders, such as Abdelbaset Hannachi, Omar Hasanin, Khaleel Abduljanan and Afif Abdullah. Uzbekistan will likely bring Sergey Lagutin, Vadim Shaekhov, Temur Mukhamedov, Azamat Turaev, Yaroslav Malakhov and Ruslan Karimov.

The Tour de Langkawi will consist of 20 teams of six riders. Abu Samah explained that nine teams will be selected from the ProTour and Professional Continental circuits.

The 2009 is organised by Kementerian Belia dan Sukan (KBS) along with Malaysia National Cycling Federation. The seven-stage race parcours will be announced soon.

Joachim to Differdange

Benoît Joachim will ride for Differdange – Apiflo Vacances next year, a Continental team in his native Luxembourg. He will sign a one-year contract, the team announced Sunday.

Joachim, 32, rode for Discovery Channel from 1996 to 2006 and for Team Astana the last two years.

After the one-year contract is up, "who knows, maybe Ben will continue to help us after that," said Team Manager Gabriel Gatti. "The most important thing right now is that he is a good captain and that he will lead our young riders well." (SW)

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)

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