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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, October 7, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Les Clarke

German federation reacts swiftly to Schumacher positive

Stefan Schumacher
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR) will today open proceedings against Stefan Schumacher following his positive doping test announced yesterday. The national federation will seek a suspension lasting at least a two years, while a fine and compensation for damages will also be seriously considered.

The reaction from Germany's national federation has been swift and strong, indicating that Schumacher's representative career may be over. Add Hans-Michael Holczer's comments to the mix, and the 27-year-old may be forced to call an early end to his time as a professional rider.

"This is a shock," said BDR President Rudolf Scharping. "But it is also good news. Hardly anyone now can slip through the net of the doping investigators," he added, emphasising that, "Stefan Schumacher will never again be nominated by the BDR. Only if he explains everything and provides the names of those who must have helped him." (SW)

Three strikes spell end for Schumacher?

Despite collecting a swag of wins in the last three seasons, Stefan Schumacher has also been involved in plenty of controversy over the same period. A positive test for Cathine in 2005, abnormal blood values before the 2007 UCI World Road Championships in Stuttgart, Germany and traces of amphetamines in a police sample following an accident just a week after those championships had already cast Schumacher's performances at this year's Tour de France under a shadow of doubt. Enough doubt for the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) to target the German and seek tests of his blood.

This year's Tour time trials were dominated by Schumacher. He won in Cholet and Saint Amand Montrond, to the surprise of some observers. It was enough to raise the suspicion of AFLD, and when it sought blood to test after urine testing was inconclusive, Schumacher's number was up. The values recorded in his pre-race blood samples did not match those taken after his two time trial victories at this year's Tour.

Schumacher himself said last year that, "I can understand that people think 'he must have a skeleton in his closet'. And as an outsider I would probably also believe that it can't all be a coincidence...I'm not dumb. I know it looks bad."

The German had considered throwing in the towel in January this year after the UCI World Road Championships incident and turning his back on professional cycling. With the latest drama to rock German cycling still in its infancy, it's not yet known if Schumacher will re-visit the possibility of walking away from the sport should the positive prove too difficult for him to overcome.

Holczer to sue Schumacher

By Gregor Brown

Gerolsteiner general manager Hans Michael Holczer
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Germany's Stefan Schumacher betrayed team Gerolsteiner with his performance in the Tour de France, according to Hans-Michael Holczer. The team's manager plans to take his former rider to court for financial damages as a result of a positive EPO control.

"These are the two points that I can say; he cheated the whole team, especially me, and I will sue him until the last cent I have in my pocket," said German Holczer to Cyclingnews.

Schumacher tested positive for a third generation of EPO - Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator (CERA) - at the Tour de France, July 5 to 27, where he was the winner of both time trial stages and the holder of the maillot jaune for two days. The French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) tested blood samples from the race this week after urine samples were inconclusive.

"I heard the news a few minutes before - I read the report on L'Equipe and I got a phone call from [Tour Directeur] Christian Prudhomme," said Holczer.

Holczer criticised the internal testing carried out by teams such as Team CSC-Saxo Bank, Garmin Chipotle - H30 and Team Columbia. He stated it is unable to detect CERA and it helps riders avoid controls.

"You would not have found CERA with an internal test," he said. "I am still convinced that internal tests are the first steps for cheating. It does not help."

Holczer warned that even the International Cycling Union's (UCI) biological passport may not meet the grade. "We are going to see how many of the riders are positive because he was tested nine times for the biological passport," he added.

The relationship between Holczer and Schumacher was to end with 2008, when Schumacher was expected to join Quick Step-Specialized. Holczer was unable to find a replacement sponsor for Gerolsteiner and his star rider had to look elsewhere for a contract. The two have now separated paths sooner than expected and Schumacher's future remains in the balance.

"I don't call him," Holczer added. "I don't see any necessity to talk to this man again. This is a final shame that he brought over the team."

More changes to come at Caisse d'Epargne

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Eusebio Unzúe
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Eusebio Unzúe has announced some of the changes for Caisse d'Epargne next year. "The staff roster isn't finalised, and there are still some pending matters remaining. For the time being there are some 25 or 26 cyclists on the provisional roster."

The only two additions at this stage are Costa Rican rider Andrey Amador from the Navarre Lizarte squad, and promising young Frenchman Arnold Jeannesson (Auber 93).

Four riders have left the Spanish team: Joan Horrach and Vladimir Karpets (both heading to Katyusha), Patanchon and Jose Rujano. Mathiu Perget, León Sánchez, Txente García, Pablo Lastras, Daniel Moreno, Francisco Pérez and Luis Pasamontes have already extended their contracts while Unzúe said that Rojas has also recently extended his stay.

The acquisition of Team CSC-Saxo Bank's Gustav Larsson is still on the table despite Bjarne Riis' new offer to the Olympic silver medallist. "Yes, the acquisition is still in the air," said Unzúe. "And we expect to resolve this matter quickly."

David Arroyo, Anthony Charteau, Arnaud Coyot, Mathieu Drujon, Inmanol Erviti, José Iván Gutiérrez, David López, Alberto Losada, Óscar Pereiro, Marlon Pérez, Nicolas Portal, Joaquín Rodríguez, Rigoberto Urán, Alejandro Valverde and Xabier Zandio will continue to ride for the team in 2009 and have all cemented their positions contractually.

Unzúe also expects another sponsor will join Caisse d'Epargne next year, saying: "It would be desirable that [the sponsor] was Spanish, but for now there is still nothing," he concluded.

Boonen in for Paris-Tours, Tankink uncertain

Tom Boonen
Photo ©: Florian Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will contest the Paris-Tours this weekend while a decision on Rabobank's Bram Tankink's participation will wait until Wednesday. Boonen had a fall at the weekend's Circuit Franco-Belge and the Belgian rider underwent x-rays at the Herentals Clinic on Monday, to examine the impact of the fall.

While cleared of any major injuries, Boonen will have his hand braced over the coming days as a precautionary measure. The rider will be training in Monaco this week ahead of Sunday's race.

Tankink has been cleared of a broken rib but is suffering from discomfort after his accident. "Tankink did not break a rib, he will try to make it to Paris-Tours, and we are going to decide together after Wednesday's training if that is feasible or not," Luuc Eisenga told Cyclingnews.com.

Vandenbroucke wants another comeback, again

The enigmatic Frank Vandenbroucke has reportedly begun working on another comeback, according to Belgian news agency Sporza. The 33 year-old former winner of Paris-Nice and Liège-Bastogne-Liège recently explained that he is planning a final racing return.

"I will live as a priest," he said from south-eastern Flanders. "Last year I trained a whole winter with knee pain, although I didn't say it at the time, because they don't really believe any longer.

"My left leg was missing 36 percent of its strength and in June I wanted to operate on it for the last time," he said. "I have now been working on my body for more than a month. The muscle mass is not yet totally back, but doctor De Clercq guarantees me that the knee will come good again."

Vandenbroucke started his professional career with Lotto back in 1993, before a move to Cofidis in 1999 saw his career really take of with Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory and two Vuelta a España victories adding to his Paris-Nice win the previous year. The rider has suffered a more troubled recent history, with a separation from his wife and attempted suicide well publicized throughout European media.

"In the next six months I'll try to make something from this preparation," he said. "I want to live as a priest, train and then look for a team."

The man who was once the darling of the Belgian public has undergone plenty of change in his private dealings, but he believes he's now found more focus in that area of his life. "Everything is good with my children," he said. "I may see my daughter again in Italy and I want to travel there for the last week of each month. I can train there too."

"I am now a bachelor," he added. "After my relationship with Sarah I had four or five months where I was seeing another woman, but nothing came of it. I live for myself now."

He added that he has plans for life in retirement, whether his comeback is successful or not. "After my career I want to remain involved in the sporting environment," he said. "As a manager in football, for instance. I want to make a second part of my biography after my first one sold 20,000 copies."

Team Specialized Designs for Women stops

Emma Pooley (Team Specialized)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Team Specialized Designs for Women is ceasing operations at the end of the year, the team announced Monday evening. The team cited financial problems and the sport's image problems as causes.

"A step forward was planned for the future. The goal was to firmly establish the team among the world's best," a team press release said. "Unfortunately, the team management was not able to find the necessary financial resources in the time available."

"The current Swiss economic situation in general and the damaged image of cycling in specific made the search for new supporters more difficult," it continued. "For this reason, the team will stop at the end of the season."

The team had operated under various names for seven years. It had its greatest successes this year with the win of a World Cup race in Italy in March and Emma Pooley's silver medal in the time trial at the Beijing Olympic Games in August. (SW)

Levi Leipheimer: A memorable season Part II

Leipheimer gained the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Levi Leipheimer had a remarkable 2008 season, despite starting it out rather badly. The non-invite of his Astana team to the Tour de France meant a shift in focus for the year. A week's notice to the Giro d'Italia was also not the best, but Leipheimer told Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes why 2008 can still be called a success.

Leipheimer had a very strong year, taking a number of important results. He's clear about his personal highlights. "California was one– winning there again as defending champion was pretty special," he stated. "Then I would say that for me personally, Beijing [where he took bronze in the time trial] and the two stage wins in the Vuelta were season highlights."

Leipheimer is also clear that he loves being a good companion to his leader. "I don't know if many people are aware of it but I am kind of proud that I am the only teammate that was there to see Alberto win all three Grand Tours. That is pretty cool. To be third in the Tour and second in the Vuelta with him is pretty cool. I am proud of it."

His final race of the year was the world time trial championships in Varese, Italy. His two wins against the clock in the Vuelta boosted his confidence and made him dream of gold, but it was not to be. The close proximity of the Spanish race to the Worlds meant that he was not fully recovered and he finally placed fourth, 13 seconds behind the bronze medallist Dave Zabriskie.

To read the second part of Cyclingnews' Levi Leipheimer feature, click here.

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