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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, September 13, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Armstrong return puts science in the crosshairs

By Laura Weislo

Armstrong announced he would return to racing
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In an extraordinary coincidence of timing, a debate surrounding a scientific paper on Lance Armstrong's transformation from one-day racer to Tour de France champion has erupted in the same week the seven-time Tour winner announced his return to the sport. The argument, which was played out in the pages of the Journal of Applied Physiology, re-ignites the debate over whether Armstrong made his leap to fame through post-cancer weight loss and more efficient pedaling, or if he made his gains through doping.

On one side is University of Texas researcher Edward F. Coyle, who authored the 2005 article, "Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures." On the other is physiologist Michael Ashenden. Together with Christopher Gore, Ken Sharpe and David Martin, the Australians have questioned the fundamental argument of Coyle's paper, that Armstrong made gains in efficiency from 1993, the year he became World Champion, to 1999, when he took his first Tour de France victory.

In between the two dates, Armstrong suffered from near-fatal testicular cancer, went through surgery and months of chemotherapy, and then made a come-back to the sport which inspired cancer victims worldwide. Throughout his seven Tour victories, Armstrong fought off allegations of doping. Coyle's research was widely cited by the press, television commentators and by fans as proof that Armstrong achieved his Tour victories clean.

The lines of scientific discourse have been blurred by the fact that both sides of the argument had crossed paths over Armstrong in a lawsuit by SCA promotions, the underwriter of a $5 million bonus for Armstrong's sixth Tour victory. SCA Promotions refused to pay the bonus after his 2004 victory until it could be proven that allegations in David Walsh and Pierre Ballaster's book L.A. Confidentiel of performance-enhancing drug use by Armstrong were false. When Armstrong sued the company for payment, Ed Coyle testified for Armstrong, while Ashenden appeared for SCA Promotions.

Continue to the full feature.

Valverde still aiming for podium

By Bjorn Haake in Comillas

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was fairly relaxed
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

Despite having realistically lost his chance at the overall victory in the Vuelta a España on stage 12, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde still has the podium in his sights, he said Friday on the race's second rest day in Comillas. The Caisse d'Epargne team leader lost over three minutes on Thursday's rainy stage, falling behind on the last descent of the day. When he lost contact with 50km to go, Astana and Euskaltel used the opportunity to ride Valverde out of the general classification, despite his entire team dropping back to help pull him back into the race.

A relaxed looking Valverde explained what happened. "I just got really cold on that descent. With one if my teammates I got some extra clothing." He had lost the contact with the group a bit and Astana and Euskaltel immediately went to work. Valverde explained that there was little he could do. "I like the sun better, I just can't deal with the cold weather. That's just me and I can't change that."

Valverde realised the GC battle is over for him, but he was still looking forward to the Angliru. "I will fight [for a stage win]. The race has changed now, I am no longer a contender for the overall."

Valverde confirmed to Cyclingnews his aversion against rainy weather. "I was on the trainer for 45 minutes today. I didn't go out riding on the road. It is too wet out there," he added.

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The Spaniard also thought he was still close enough to get onto the podium in Madrid. "We are talking minutes here. I am not very close, but not that far, either. I have recuperated well. Really, I am not feeling bad." The Caisse d'Epargne captain emphasised that he lost through a mistake, when he left too much of a gap, and he was paying for that. "I lost the race in the descent, not in the uphill."

Valverde may have lost the Vuelta but it won't bring sleepless nights to him. "I slept well last night. There is nothing I can do about it now." He was in fact a bit surprised about his high overall positioning until now. "So far the race actually had been going better than I thought."

Despite seemingly out of the overall picture, Valverde did not change his focus. "I am not thinking about the Worlds yet. We are at the Vuelta. Tomorrow will be a very hard stage, but if I feel good I will try something."

Columbia names provisional 2009 team

Mark Cavendish will be back with Team Columbia in 2009
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
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High Road Sports, Inc, the owners of Team Columbia, announced a provisional 2009 roster which includes few changes from the current season's successful crop of riders. The most notable absence on the list Gerald Ciolek, who was last known to be deciding between Columbia and Milram, and the additions of Mark Renshaw (from Credit Agricole) and Michael Albasini (from Liquigas).

"After such a successful season, we don't want to make a lot of changes within the team," says Team Manager Rolf Aldag. "Our riders showed a lot of courage and motivation throughout the season and we saw the team grow closer together as the season went on. We want to stay focused on developing young talented athletes under the direction of experienced veterans, with the ambition of having just as much success as we have achieved in 2008."

Not on the roster are Roger Hammond, who has been rumoured to be joining the new Cervélo TestTeam, Scott Davis, Andreas Klier and Servais Knaven. Also missing is Olympic gold medalist Bradley Wiggins, who is listed on as joining the Garmin-Chipotle squad.

"The team is not final and we will see a few slight changes over the next month, but we are very happy with the line up so far and we are already looking forward to 2009," added Aldag.

Columbia for 2009 (as of mid-September): Michael Barry, Marcus Burghardt, Mark Cavendish, John Devine, Bernhard Eisel, Linus Gerdemann, Bert Grabsch, Andre Greipel, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, George Hincapie, Kim Kirchen, Craig Lewis, Thomas Lövkvist, Tony Martin, Marco Pinotti, Morris Possoni, Frantisek Rabon, Vicente Reynes, Michael Rogers, Marcel Sieberg, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Mark Renshaw and Michael Albasini

The women's team, currently ranked number one in the world and leading the women's UCI World Cup Series will also make very few changes. The ten riders currently confirmed for 2009 are Mara Abbott, Kim Anderson, Judith Arndt, Kate Bates, Chantal Beltman, Emilia Fahlin, Luise Keller, Ina-yoko Teutenberg, Linda Villumsen and Alex Wrubleski.

Angliru necessitates gear changes

By Bjorn Haake in Suances

The Angliru, with pitches of up to 23.5%, will present a formidable obstacle for the riders in Saturday's epic stage 13 of the Vuelta a España, and it will require some unusual measures on their behalf if they hope to ascend to the finish without walking. Several riders have admitted that they will use fairly extreme gearing to conquer the shocking grades. Tea saucer-sized inner chainrings in the front, just 34 teeth around, with pie-plate sized rear cogs with 28 or 29 teeth seem to be the popular gears.

It is an unusual choice for professionals, who prefer a 39 or 42 as their smallest chain ring, and rarely exceed 23 teeth in the rear cog. David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) and Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) all said they would be riding the tiny gears.

There was one rider who chose differently: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who lost the overall battle in the rain yesterday. He will put on a 36x29, trying to outfox his under-geared rivals. Saturday will show who has made the better choice.

Mosquera ready for the Angliru

By Bjorn Haake in Viveda

Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) used the rest day
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
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Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) is currently lying in fifth place overall in the Vuelta a España. Tomorrow's stage will see if he can confirm his current GC position. The winner of the Clasica a Alcobendas in May, Mosquera moved himself into fifth overall with two strong performances in the mountains on stage 7 and stage 8.

The 32-year-old told Cyclingnews that had the perfect plan to get ready for Saturday's battle on the steep final climb of the Angliru. "I rested a lot today to get ready for tomorrow. I only rode and hour and a half, maybe two hours." This was the right mix for him. "Just enough to not lose my rhythm, but to still have some rest." There was no question to do some steeper hills, either. "There is a three-kilometre climb here, but it is very mellow."

Mosquera will opt for a gearing that he generally doesn't use. "I will have either a 34x29 or a 34x28. It will be tough as there may be some problems with the traction, too. You have to make sure to use the gearing so you can get the climb up while being seated." The Angliru is steep enough that simple sounding problems can become quite decisive.

Mosquera usually prefers the rain, but was hoping for different weather on Saturday. "For tomorrow, I hope it won't rain, as it makes the descents really treacherous. Just it being cold with the roads dry would be good enough," he smiled.

Mosquera is one of the riders who knows the Angliru well. Many don't even want to train on it, but Mosquera sought it out. "I have done it at the end of July in training. It is very tough. I don't know the Mortirolo or other mythical climbs, but it is definitely the hardest climb I have ever seen."

Despite having done the climb and having had a good Vuelta so far, Mosquera made no predictions on what he could do. "I don't know. It really depends on how my legs are and how the other [riders] are doing. If you feel good you will try to storm the race, otherwise you will just want to finish as well as you can."

His good performances in 2008 have put Mosquera into the pre-selection of the Spanish National Team for the Worlds. But if he will make it in the end, he wasn't sure. "The final selection will be made after the Vuelta. We will see then."

It certainly isn't easy to get selected into the Spanish team these days, with such a large group of top professionals. Although Mosquera thought that it is really in the stage races where Spain shines. "We do have some specialists for the one-day races, like Valverde or Freire. But generally, I think those races suit the riders from the northern European countries more."

Antón taking over at Euskaltel

By Bjorn Haake in Comillas

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Egoi Martínez may have held the Vuelta's golden jersey at the second rest day, but his Euskaltel-Euskadi team will be changing its focus over to team leader Igor Antón for the coming stages as a hope for the overall win in Madrid. 15th overall in 2006 and 8th last year, Antón has a promising future ahead of him.

Martínez was the first to admit that his golden days are counted. "I won't carry the jersey much longer. But I hope it will go from my shoulders over to Igor Antón... He has confirmed his talent here at the Vuelta, climbing with the best."

Antón for his part knows there is a lot of pressure on him, but he seems to be able to handle it. "It takes confidence [to ride at this level]. Tomorrow is one more day in a 21-day race, and I hope I can do well."

His form is certainly there. "Currently, I am feeling well. So far, each day went fine, now I just have to keep it up." To do well, he will have to closely watch what the others do and he already noted one thing. "The attacks by Contador are very impressive."

But Contador wasn't the only rider on Antón's watch list. "There is also Sastre, who appears to be struggling a bit, but he is tough. And also Robert Gesink is a good climber, even though he weighs a bit more." Following the others is important when a stage win is the goal, but measuring one's efforts carefully is also important. Antón was hoping that the steady, even if steep, climbing towards the top of the Angliru may benefit him. Yet he acknowledged that in the end, everybody will have to try to find their own rhythm. "I hope I can be there at the end, but I don't know."

At least Antón has done his homework. "Yes, I know the Angliru. It is a very impressive climb. I will ride a 34x29 or 28."

Teammates will play a minor role and it is unlikely that Martínez will be able to provide much assistance once the final kilometres are reached. The gradient won't let much play for tactics. It is every man for himself, at his own rhythm. Antón said that usually climbs are done fairly fast, where the kilometre banner in the end come reasonably quickly. "You see five to go, four to go... But on the Angliru it seems to never end. The last 6.5km are the hardest and I think it will take more than half an hour."

The Euskaltel captain wasn't quite sure what he preferred, the stage win or getting into the top three overall. "Both are difficult, but I think winning the stage there would be quite an achievement."

He did know about the best way to prepare for such a hard set of mountain stages. "For me it is better to have a rest day before the mountains. True, some are saying you can lose your rhythm a bit. But I get to recuperate. Given that the stage is over 200km for me a rest day is definitely better."

Moncoutié ready to defend KOM lead

By Bjorn Haake in Santillana del Mar

France's David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

The Vuelta a España king of the mountains, David Moncoutié (Cofidis), spent an easy rest day and is now ready to fight in the tough Asturian climbs to hold on to the red jersey.

The rest day was mostly spent relaxing and getting the massages to help with recuperation. There was a little training, too, but not too much. "We went out for an hour. There were intermittent rain storms, but we managed to stay fairly dry." Moncoutié may have enjoyed the landscape more, had it not been such foul weather. "It is really pretty here, but a tad too wet. Well, that's why it is green here, unlike the interior from the start in Granada..."

The undulating landscape – Moncoutié called it 'Wallonian' – helped in testing out some gearing for tomorrow. "We already put on a 34x29, to see how it goes for tomorrow."

Moncoutié is also unfamiliar with the final climb of tomorrow. "I don't know it at all. I will discover it tomorrow..."

His overall positioning won't allow him much tactical manoeuvring for the mountain points. A break to gobble up some points seems out of the question. "I am less than five minutes behind. I guess I will wait for the Angliru."

The climbs in Asturias will be decisive for the mountains jersey. Moncoutié will evaluate his GC position after the weekend. "Monday, or even Sunday if I lost enough time on the Angliru, I can try to get into a break to get more points."

Caucchioli moves to Cunego's side at Lampre

By Gregor Brown

Pietro Caucchioli, fifth in the recent Deutschland Tour, will ride for Team Lampre for the 2009 to help Damiano Cunego in the Grand Tours. The 33 year-old from Verona, Italy, leaves Crédit Agricole after four years. "It makes me happy that they gave me faith," he said to Cyclingnews Friday afternoon. Lampre Team Manager Giuseppe Saronni signed Caucchioli to help Cunego, winner of the 2004 Giro d'Italia, in the Grand Tours.

Caucchioli, 10 years as a professional, had to look for new team when Roger Legeay, Crédit Agricole's Team Manager, was unable to find a replacement sponsor for the outgoing French financial backer. However, Caucchioli had other reasons to go on the job hunt. "Uncertainly, after the season this year, I had to find someone else to give me faith. The races that I was able to do well I could not. Because I was not there physically, I was left at home by my team."

Crédit Agricole signed Caucchioli in 2004 to help with its internationalisation in light of the newly introduced ProTour. "The first two years went well," Caucchioli continued. "[Directeur Sportif] Serge Beucherie decided he did not have faith in me and left me at home for the most important races [this year], the ones most suited to me."

The team search and desire to prove himself yielded in a strong performance in the Deutschland Tour. He placed fourth in the stage one, the queen stage, second in stage two and fifth in the overall classification.

"I showed I can be up front. I have always only had results, more or less, in the big Grand Tours. This was the first year in my career that I did not race a Grand Tour. I want to show myself at the first occasion – next year at the Giro d'Italia. ... I will help Damiano Cunego ... [José Luis] Rubiera and [Roberto] Heras showed the same thing when pulling for [Lance] Armstrong in their later years."

Caucchioli believes fellow Veronese Cunego will face a strong challenge in 2008 for the Giro or Tour de France. "He has already won a Grand Tour and he can do it again. I don't know about next year, I know Ivan Basso has a strong desire for the Giro and at the Tour there will be Armstrong. Armstrong is not returning for nothing, if he returns it is because he believes he can win the Tour for an eighth time."

Manuele Mori and Enrico Gasparotto join Caucchioli as recent Lampre signings.

CONI wants two years for Bastianelli

The Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping prosecutors have recommended a two-year ban for Marta Bastianelli for the use of banned substances, the organisation announced on its web site Friday. Bastianelli, the reigning women's world road race champion, tested positive for the stimulant flenfluramine at the European under-23 championships in July.

The 21-year-old claimed that she took the drug as part of an appetite suppressant, and did not attempt to enhance her performance.

Cervélo TestTeam announces directors

The Cervélo TestTeam revealed the names three new signings on Friday. Theo Maucher, currently a directeur sportif for the Gerolsteiner squad, will take the position as administrative manager. Joining the team as directeur sportifs are Dutchman Jean Paul van Poppel and German Jens Zemke, both of whom come from running top women's teams.

Van Poppel, a nine-time Tour de France stage winner is the current manager of Team Flexpoint. Zemke, 41, has been coach and directeur for the team Equipe Nürnberger Versicherungen since 2002. Under his direction the team has won two World Champion titles, one silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. "The change to the Cervélo TestTeam is the next logical step for me," said Zemke. "It's a dream come true where I can contribute my skills to help establish a new top class team."

Maucher, the team's new administrative manager is supportive of the new TestTeam philosophy, "I'm pleased to work and to help build up this new team," he said, "where the success in the cycling sport is important but not only goal."

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