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Latest Cycling News, October 9, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

One more time: sprinters' season ends in Tours

By Hedwig Kröner

Germany's Erik Zabel (Team Milram) – winner in 1994, 2003 and 2005 – faces his last race as a professional
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The 102nd Paris-Tours will take place this Sunday, October 12, in Northern France. The French Monument marks the end of the top sprinters' annual race programme, counting 252 pancake-flat kilometres from Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines to Tours.

There will be more 'adieux' said than usual on Tours' Avenue de Grammont this year. Three-time winner Erik Zabel (1994, 2003 and 2005) will end his professional career at the race this weekend. At 38 years of age, the German still has what it takes to compete with the best sprinters in the world, and will be making a final charge at the finish line in Tours with his Team Milram.

La Française des Jeux rider Christophe Mengin is also lining up for the very last time at the event, as well as French team Crédit Agricole, which will fold at the end of the year after 10 years of existence in the peloton.

The road cycling show must still go on, and so it will for many favourites currently on the start list of Paris-Tours. In the absence of the defending champion Alessandro Petacchi – race organiser ASO did not invite Petacchi's LPR Brakes team as it was not part of the biological passport programme – the men to beat are the above-mentioned Erik Zabel, as well as fast finish specialists Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Daniele Bennati (Lampre) and Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner).

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Australia's McEwen has particular reasons for a strong showing in Tours; he will leave his Belgian team and ride for the new Russian outfit Katusha next year. He has demonstrated many times in the past that he doesn't need a lead-out train to win in bunch sprints, as he masters to art of slipstreaming on the back wheel of his rivals and surging at the very last moment perfectly – just like Spain's Oscar 'The Cat' Freire.

Click here to read the full 2009 Paris-Tours preview.

Milram and Rabobank for Paris-Tours

For Erik Zabel's farewell race in Paris-Tours this week-end, his Team Milram has announced that the German will be supported by fellow countrymen Enrico Poitschke and Sebastian Schwager, Australian Brett Lancaster, Slovak Martin Velits, Ukrainian Andrey Grivko and the two Italians Fabio Sabatini and Marco Velo. The 38 year-old will try to crown his long and successful career with a fourth – and historic – win of the Autumn Classic before retiring from pro cycling.

Rabobank, on the other hand, has had to announce a change to its line-up for Paris-Tours, as Bram Tankink will have to miss the event. A rib injury suffered in the Circuit Franco-Belge last weekend has put an end to his season.

X-rays showed that the 29 year-old had not broken a rib, but that it is severely bruised and is still causing a lot of pain. Tankink will be replaced in the race by Marc de Maar.

Rabobank's line-up for the race is Jos van Emden, Juan Antonio Flecha, Rick Flens, Oscar Freire, Pedro Horrillo, Bram de Groot, Gerben Löwik and Marc de Maar.

Changes planned for Paris-Tours finish

Last year, Alessandro Petacchi won the sprint on the Avenue de Grammont
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Next Sunday, the Autumn Classic Paris-Tours will end on the Avenue de Grammont – probably for the penultimate time. As of 2010, the long road in Tours will not serve as a finishing straight anymore as the city plans the construction of a tramway.

The finale of the sprinters' race will thus be entirely revised, with a new finish on Boulevard Heurteloup one possibility. But Jean-François Pescheux, the man in charge of race routes at ASO, told that changes were going to be more far-reaching than that. In fact, the race organiser might revise as much as the last 60 kilometres of the event.

"We would like to put some climbs in the finale to increase the dynamics and intensity of the competition," he said. At the moment, four small climbs are included on the race profile: the Côtes de Crochu, de l'Epan, du Pont Volant and du Petit Pas d'Ane.

Lefevere considers Schumacher's contract as "void"

Patrick Lefevere, the Quickstep boss was surprised at Schumacher's positive text for CERA
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere has reacted regarding the recent signing of Stefan Schumacher, whose positive retroactive test for EPO this week revealed that he used the drug during the Tour de France. Lefevere and Schumacher had signed an agreement during the World Championships in Varese, Italy, but the Belgian said he was not considering taking on the German anymore.

Asked if Schumacher was still coming into the team in 2009, Lefevere told the Gazet van Antwerpen, "There is no way. The contract that he signed on the eve of the Worlds in Varese will take effect on January 1, but I consider it as null and void. I have already written a statement for the moment that I will be officially informed about his positive test."

Lefevere had been taken by surprise after French laboratory Châtenay-Malabry as well as the anti-doping lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, had found Schumacher's blood samples from the Tour de France showed evidence of the use of the performance-enhancing drug. "Of course I was surprised," he said, especially since "all the teams screen possible newcomers for doping. In the case of Schumacher, the screening was even more thorough, because there always had been rumours about him. [Team doctor] Yvan Vanmol asked the UCI for all sorts of data on him. But even blood values apparently don't reveal everything."

Manufacturer helped WADA with CERA test

The manufacturer of third generation EPO, CERA, is helping the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) track down illegal use of the drug by athletes. Roche Holding AG said that it has collaborated with the WADA since 2004. "We were very pleased that this collaboration with WADA has been productive," Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt told the Associated Press.

So far, three Tour de France stage winners have tested positive for CERA – or Mircera – under a new blood test: Stefan Schumacher, Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli. This week the International Olympic Committee said that it would use the tests on doping samples from the Beijing Olympics.

The Swiss company developed the drug four years ago, to help patients with kidney disease. "At that time it was in clinical development and WADA was thinking it could be a new doping product," Schmitt said. "We immediately jumped in to help. We provided data and sent them samples of Mircera so they could work and develop the test."

Athletes liked the drug because its is effective longer than EPO and must therefore not be injected as often. It also lasts for up to 134 hours, instead of 40 hours for EPO. "This is also the reason why it has helped WADA to detect it more easily," Schmitt noted.

"We are really not happy to see Mircera misused for doping, or to see it in the sports world," Schmitt said. "It is very clearly labelled for the use in patients with certain kidney diseases or anaemia. Maybe now with the sports world knowing that it can be tested for, demand (in sports) will decrease."

German races endangered

"Keine Macht dem Doping" – "No power to doping". Germany is fed up with dopers
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Stefan Schumacher's positive doping tests from the Tour de France have delivered another blow to German cycling and the future of racing in the country.

German race organisers have been battered over the last few years with scandals ranging from Jan Ullrich and Operación Puerto to the Freiburg University Clinic to Patrik Sinkewitz. The Friedensfahrt, the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, Rund um die Hainleite, the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt and the Hessen Rundfahrt have all fallen victim to the sport's controversies.

Other races – major events – have been able to hang on by their fingertips, but now their existence is threatened, too. "The Schumacher case might be the drop that causes things to overflow," German cycling federation president Rudolf Scharping told the dpa press agency.

Especially endangered are the Regio-Tour through southern Germany and Rund um den Henninger Turm in Frankfurt. Regio-Tour organiser Rudi Renz said that Schumacher's positive tests "are the icing on the cake of the whole doping story. It couldn't have hit us harder. We might just totally disappear form the scene."

The Henninger Turm had already lost its main sponsor, the Henninger Brewery. Organiser Bernd Moos-Aschenbach said that the news hit him "especially hard", because he is in "very promising talks with a sponsor."

Even the Deutschland Tour is threatened. If the public German television broadcasters ARD and ZDF cancel their plans to carry the Tour de France, they will probably also cancel broadcast of the D-Tour.

Two German races have good news. The Hamburg Cyclassics will definitely be held in 2009, and Rund um Köln is "not in acute danger", according to organiser Artur Tabat, who is nevertheless still searching for a new sponsor. "The doping stories have pulled the rug out from under our feet," Tabat said.

Garmin-Chipotle becomes ProTour team

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has announced the attribution of a ProTour license to American team Garmin-Chipotle Presented by H3O. The team directed by Jonathan Vaughters will thus participate in the calendar's events for the next four years.

The UCI also announced that three races were awarded ProTour status for that same period of time: the Vattenfall Cyclassics (Germany), the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré (France) and the Tour de Suisse (Switzerland). These races therefore join the 2009 UCI ProTour calendar alongside the Tour Down Under (Australia), the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (Spain), the Tour de Romandie (Switzerland), the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (Spain), the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian (Spain), the Tour de Pologne (Poland) and the GP Ouest France-Plouay (France). Other license requests are currently being studied by the Licenses Commission.

Wiggins and Cavendish make up

Wiggins to concentrate on road next year

Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) did not live up their expectations on the track in Beijing
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The last time Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish saw each other, they had just finished a very disappointing ninth in the Madison at the Olympic Games in Beijing, and left the arena without speaking to each other. Now, nearly two months later, the two are in contact again, at least via text messaging.

The British pair had won the World Championship in that discipline in March, and had expected to repeat their success. But it didn't happen, and as Wiggins said earlier, "I came off the track and downed a couple of beers straight away. He went the other way and so I proceeded to get blind drunk with my wife and friends. It was a disappointing end to a fantastic Games and I like to think he doesn't hate me now."

So Wiggins finally sent his 23-year-old teammate a text message. "I said 'Hi, do you remember me?' and he replied, 'Ha, ha, of course I do.' We've agreed to get together soon," he told the British newspaper The Telegraph. "I love Cav like a brother, it's just that we were so disappointed, we both wanted that gold medal so badly and it just didn't happen on the day."

Having done so well on the track this year – three golds at the World Championships and two at the Olympics – Wiggins, 28, is now looking to shine on the road in 2009. He is leaving Team Columbia and will ride for Team Garmin-Chipotle next season.

Wiggins decided to skip the Track World Championships. "I missed the Tour last year and you could see from the TV coverage that it was a much cleaner race," he said. "I see it as a positive development every time the cheats are exposed. They aren't getting past the testers now and clean riders will become much more competitive."

Wichmann retires

Anke Wichmann of Team Columbia Women has announced her retirement after 25 years in cycling. "My inner voice told me that now was the time to take care of my professional future. Cycling has been the center of my life since I was eight years old. That is enough," the 33 year-old told the Lausitzer Rundschau.

Wichmann turned pro in 2005 with Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung before joining T-Mobile (now Columbia) in 2007. This year she won a stage in the Holland Ladies Tour.

Before turning pro, Wichmann rode for the German Army and considered retiring when she left the military. But she accepted the offer from the Equipe, and said, "It was worth it – in the last four years I have seen and experienced a lot."

She hopes to return to cycling as a physiotherapist, the profession in which she has already received her training. Wichmann had wanted to start directly with Team Columbia, "But they advised me to take a year away."

Wichmann has been co-commenting the women's races of the World Championships on German Eurosport TV in recent years.

Cyclingnews online production editor required - Australia

Work on the world's leading cycling web site

Cyclingnews, the world's leading cycling web site, is expanding and is looking for a full time online production editor based in Sydney, Australia.

The position requires applicants to have a keen interest and thorough knowledge of competitive cycling, as well as editorial or writing experience with excellent English skills. The position will involve producing reports, results, photos and features from the world of cycling, so fluency in a second language is also an advantage, as is a familiarity with online production techniques, experience in journalism and attention to detail.

The applicants will need to be self-starters as the position involves regular liaison with production editors in all Cyclingnews offices. As Cyclingnews is a 24/7 daily news operation, the position will require regular weekend work. The weekend duties are handled on a rotating shift basis with other production editors, so the applicant must be flexible in their work schedule. However, the majority of work will be done during normal business hours on week-days.

The online editors will be required to have familiarity with online production applications (a good working knowledge of HTML and Photoshop are important skills) and could also be required to attend major cycling events in each region. However, the primary responsibility is the production of content for publication on the web site. Training in online production techniques can be provided to the right applicant, ability to handle the technical processes involved and an ability to communicate are required.

Please send your CV with a covering letter via e-mail to with "Cyclingnews online editing position - " in the subject line. Deadline for applications is October 15, 2008.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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