Latest Cycling News, November 28, 2008
Edited by Hedwig Kröner
Astana race programmes to be finalised
By Hedwig Kröner
Team Astana will be deciding on each rider's 2009 racing programme during the squad's first pre-season training camp held on the island of Tenerife from November 30 to December 8. The whole of the team's riders, including its stars Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, as well as Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, will be present to train together for the very first time.
"It's the first major get-together for the team, so all of the riders are coming," confirmed Astana directeur sportif Sean Yates to Cyclingnews. "We will be configuring the programme for next season with the directors and the riders, as well as doing some training. It's essentially the first occasion for everyone to meet."
A master plan will be put together for the team's racing schedules and goals, which also include the riders' own goals. "We will make the obvious choices of the guys that prepare for the Classics, and those who prepare for the Tours. We will sit down, and draw up a plan - which then is of course subject to changes throughout the year. Everyone gets the same amount of races, and we talk to them about their personal objectives," Yates said.
But Yates "doubted" that some light would be shed as to Armstrong's participation in the Tour de France next year. "Obviously, it's his comeback year after three years out, and his priority is to prepare for the Giro," he added. "We'll see from there. We know that Alberto is fully going for the Tour, and whether Lance will be there with him is going to be decided somewhere down the line. Maybe he's got an idea about that already, but in reality, he has to see how he's going to measure up against the opposition first."
Asked whether it would not be difficult for Armstrong to be 100 percent competitive at the Giro, and then return to his highest level again at the Tour - especially in his comeback year - Yates answered, "At this age, most riders prefer to do only one Grand Tour. But I think he's made his mind up to do the Giro. As he's never done it before, he would like to add that to his career. But we all know Lance is a phenomenon, and if his programme is suitable and he's got it in his mind that he wants to do both - I'm sure he's well capable of doing both at a 100 percent."
McQuaid confirms suspect cases from passport programme
The wave of doping cases in cycling may not be over. UCI president Pat McQuaid confirmed that "some" cyclists are being investigated under the results of the biological passport. More recently this month, UCI anti-doping commission head Anne Gripper had already revealed that the UCI is currently examining suspect profiles that could lead to the opening of a disciplinary procedure.
Speaking at an anti-doping conference in Berlin, McQuaid said that, "Based on conspicuous results from the newly-introduced blood profiles, there will be some positive cases," according to German press agencies. He indicated that the irregularities lead to the assumption that forbidden substances or methods were used. He did not say which riders may be involved, or how many it might be. UCI attorneys are still looking into the matter.
McQuaid further criticised plans by the German public television broadcasters ARD and ZDF to stop their live transmissions of the Tour de France. "That is the wrong message. It is not right and also not helpful to either the organisers or the German cycling fans."
Increased anti-doping tax for riders
The UCI's ProTour council (CUPT) has voted to increase the professional riders' contribution to the fight against doping as of next year. Until now, two percent of the riders' prize moneys in ProTour races had to be paid to the UCI to add to the financing of anti-doping measures. As of 2009, this 'tax' will be raised to four percent.
The decision did not please the rider representatives within the ProTour council, Dario Cioni and Cédric Vasseur, who voted against it. The two representatives of the riders' association CPA insisted that "the largest majority of riders were opposed to a taking away of four percent, but that they accepted a participation of two percent."
But the CUPT being composed of 12 members (six representing the UCI, two representing the race organisers, two representing the teams and two representing the riders), the two pro riders were overruled.
For all the races which are not part of the ProTour calendar, the riders' financial participation to the fight against doping remains at two percent.
Further to this, Spanish cyclist Imanol Erviti (Caisse d'Epargne) recently deplored that the press did not publicise the riders' efforts against doping enough. "The measures against doping are not given the same media attention than the positive doping cases," he said at the 13th Days of Pro Cycling held in Cuenca, Spain, from November 20 to 22. "It is not being said, for example, that the riders pay a percentage of their prize money to the UCI for the controls."
The rider, who won a stage in the last Vuelta a España, denounced doping, saying that "every case that is announced does great damage, because in the end the whole peloton seems guilty." But he also insisted that "cyclists do things to combat doping that seem incredible in other sports, like permanently being located by the UCI or give DNA samples," according to Marca.
Viagra on the doping list?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is currently examining whether or not the potency pill Viagra has a performance-enhancing effect in sports. The medication, which was initially developed for special heart diseases and is now mainly used to alleviate erection problems, could then be included in the list of forbidden substances.
"There have been statements to suggest that [Viagra] is performance-enhancing," said WADA president John Fahey to the press after a Foundation Board meeting on November 23. "That is being evaluated. Before any decision to put it on the prohibited list, there has to be a rigorous examination that allows the Committee to make a recommendation. No decision has been made."
The WADA president added that there was "no likelihood that there will be either a positive or a negative decision when examination is ultimately concluded."
The result of the study is expected in February 2009. The drug could be banned from use in high-level sports in September 2009.
Mission accomplished for Saxo Bank-IT Factory
Former Team CSC, Saxo Bank-IT Factory, has successfully finished its pre-season military-style training camp in Denmark. While the team's get-together is still ongoing, the survival test in Danish forests and salty waters conducted by former paratrooper B. S. Christiansen is completed.
The demanding assignments - both mentally and physically - included training every team member as an undercover agent with special skills and knowledge, in order to free the main sponsors, who had been taken hostage by an unknown enemy. This enemy attacked the camp, and chased the team through unknown territory for a total of 24 hours.
After reaching the coastline, everyone jumped into freezing cold water to be rescued by small speedboats and brought to safety onboard three larger boats. The next assignment was to set sails, navigate through the Danish sea during night time, cook and get everyone safely to the destination. The final day everyone competed against each other in a match race under difficult conditions.
The team sees these extreme challenges as tools to find out each member's qualities and work together more efficiently. This also applies to racing. "A prerequisite for everyone working together to reach the predetermined goals is knowing exactly what each individual team member is made of and capable of," explained Christiansen. "Next you determine a strategy and tactics and when everyone contributes their absolute best there's a big chance of success."
Contentpolis-Murcia will go on
Contentpolis-Murcia will continue in 2009. The problems created through the pending budget decision have been solved. The main sponsor, the government of Murcia, has been able to react to the ultimatum of UCI, cycling's governing body. The Council of Tourism and Sport of the Government of Murcia has started the process of contract signings of all riders for 2009.
The team has sent all the pending paperwork to the UCI. The Spanish federation gives us its support to formalize its registration with the UCI as a professional continental squad.
Sources close to the local government informed Cyclingnews on the new development. "The UCI will receive all the necessary documents in the following hours." Murcia's government is committed to completing the budget. "The team will have the necessary economic resources to tackle the next season and also to aspire to race the Vuelta a España. This includes the biological passport programme", the source said.
The team will keep the co-sponsorship of AMPO Cooperative Society. The team will likely be named Murcia-AMPO and will count on 18 riders. The locals riders Eloy Teruel, Sergio Domínguez and Jesús Buendía were already on the team this year. Also returning are Adrián Palomares, Julián Sánchez Pimienta, Manuel Vázquez and Oleg Chuzhda. AMPO adds four Basque riders with Dionisio Galparsoro, Aitor Pérez, Mikel Gaztañaga and Gorka Izagirre.
French exchange at Meitan Hompo
By Steve Thomas
Continental Team Meitan Hompo has spent their main racing seasons based in southwestern France, returning to their native Japan only for major races. The team, managed by Akira Asada, occasionally raced in other regional Asian races, too. It often worked to help develop younger riders.
The team has grown slowly but surely in stature and strength over the years, and hopes to continue growing still further in 2009. Asada himself was one of the first Japanese riders in the European peloton. His experience and in-depth knowledge of the mainstream pro scene has played a huge part in the team's structure and progress.
For many years the Fukushima brothers, Shinichi and Koji, were very successful on their own in France. Then Fumyuki Beppu got a contract with Discovery Channel. The Fukushimas joined forces with Asada, and gradually more and more Japanese riders began to make the big step into Europe. The Japanese presence is increasing, with Meitan Hompo's former National Champion Yukiya Arashiro graduating in 2009 to the Bouygues Telecom Pro Tour team. He is only the second Japanese rider signed to a ProTour team.
In the past two seasons the Meitan team has stretched out to include other talented Asian riders too. That trend is set to continue in 2009 when they take a Korean rider on board, another first in pro cycling. The rider has yet to be named, but it is said to be Joon Yong Seo, who rode as a “trainee” with the team in late 2008.
The team has high hopes of building an Asian ProTour level team over the next years, and has also taken the unusual step of signing three French riders for 2009, whose names will be confirmed soon.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Steve Thomas
New French Continental team launched
Even if a French ProTour team is folding at the end of this year (Crédit Agricole), French cycling will receive a boost of new talent as a new Continental cycling team is being created for 2009. Besson Chaussures-Sojasun, under the management of former French champion Stéphane Heulot, has the ambition of developing talented young riders under the guidance of former top professional riders.
The new team counts 12 riders, with some experienced pros coming down from ProTour or Pro Continental teams - like Cédric Coutouly (Agritubel), Laurent Mangel (Ag2r La Mondiale) or Jimmy Engoulvent and Yannick Talabardon (both Crédit Agricole).
Heulot, who also manages a U23 team, SuperSport 35-ACNC, sees the new squad as a step up for his younger riders - "but not automatically," he told L'Equipe. "The priority will be to include the young amateurs of our club. These last ten years, we have formed six professional riders. But this year, they did not have the level yet."
The team manager thus recruited riders from other national division squads. The other riders are: Cyril Bessy (CR4C Roanne), Jérémie Galland (Auber 93), Fabrice Jeandebosz (Vendée U), Jean-Marc Marino (Crédit Agricole), Romain Mathéou (UC Nantes-Atlantique), Florian Morizot (Auber 93), Julien Simon (Crédit Agricole) and Benoît Sinner (Agritubel).
On a long term, Heulot not only wants to prepare young riders for their lives as pros, but also take the whole Continental team to another level. "The objective is to grow, but not at any price, to become a possible candidate for the Tour de France," the 37-year-old said.
Now online: 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll
It's that time of year again... the 2008 Cyclingnews reader poll is now online. Each year, we give you the chance to select the riders, teams, races, moments, equipment and photos that have really stood out from the pack in the last 12 months or so. To keep things simple, we'll be asking you to vote from a fixed selection in each category, as well as some 'free text' fields, so the survey should take you less than 10 minutes to complete.
As an incentive, we'll be giving away a pair of Zipp's 81mm deep 808 tubular wheels on the new 88/188 hub to one lucky entrant... So if you want to fly Fabian Cancellara this Christmas, let us know your thoughts on the rider of the year!
(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)