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News for October 28, 2000

World's news

Boardman's Hour

Nick Rosenthal reports for cyclingnews on some of the happenings at the World Track Championships in Manchester this week. Day 3 was full of excitement, one of the highlights being Chris Boardman's successful attempt to break the World Hour Record under new UCI rules. Boardman rode 49.441872 kilometres, beating Eddy Merckx's 1972 mark by just over 10 metres, after an incredible performance in the last three laps to come from behind.

Boardman, riding a regulation steel bike, with spoked wheels, non-aero helmet and drop handlebars, was apparently not aware that Merckx's distance was the one he had to beat. He believed (until about two hours before the attempt) that whatever he rode was to be the new record. It was merely a matter of principal and honour to go for 49.5 kilometres. A call from Hein Verbruggen to Roger Legeay corrected him of the notion, and suddenly he had a little more pressure than he would have liked.

He started well, averaging 49.7 kilometres in the first hour, but then started to suffer, falling off the pace until with 5 minutes to go he was 0.1 kilometres per hour behind schedule. Some thought he may have been putting it on for show, but it became apparent that this was not the case, as in the last three laps he was in agony trying to complete the ride - at that point, he did not care whether he was up or down.

It was a fine achievement in the end to break it, and at least established a benchmark for others to aim for. It was certainly the supreme effort of a cyclist against the clock but still brings into question the consistency of the UCI equipment rules (just wait until the next edition of letters...). Are we now going to standardize bikes in all track racing disciplines?

Food monopoly

There were many murmurings of discontent heard amongst the crowd at the World Track Championships after the organisers searched the bags of everybody entering the building, confiscating any food and drink that people were bringing with them. One security guard said that the only exception would be for people who could present a medical certificate to prove they needed to bring their own food or drink with them.

Whilst one can understand the organisers wanting to ensure that spectators spend money at the franchised refreshment stalls in the building, this rather draconian measure has caused a wave of resentment. Maybe it offends that infamous British sense of fair play.....

The organisers of the World's are responsible for this, and not the velodrome management, and they can expect a few letters after the close of the championships. At the moment, they seem to be very hard to contact to register complaints.

Clay finishes, Hayles annoyed

37 year old Jon Clay may have ridden his last race for Great Britain on Thursday in the men's 4000 m team pursuit, when he helped the quartet to a silver medal. The team were beaten by the powerful Germans in the final, but were at least able to add World Championship silver to their Olympic bronze this year.

There is a chance that Clay will compete in Sunday's points race, but if not the Yorkshireman will therefore retire from international racing, however he may still keep riding on the domestic circuit.

Rob Hayles is the man on the start list for the points race, however he is aiming to contest the individual pursuit, the finals of which would clash with the points race on Sunday. Hayles is reportedly livid about being prevented from riding the madison, because it clashed with his team pursuit commitments. However, Hayles was only a reserve for that event and never actually got to ride.

Festina: Day 5

The risks of doping

The fifth day of the Festina trial saw a series of medical experts being called to the witness box, where they were asked to comment on the advantages and pitfalls of modern doping. The whole push behind the UCI's (and other Federations') anti-doping stance is rider health: besides being cheating, drug taking can have serious consequences on the quality of life in the following years.

Professor Michel Audran, who worked on an EPO detection method in the mid-90's explained that EPO works by increasing the number of red blood cells, thereby improving VO2max and causing a drop in heart rate. He showed that EPO could raise the hematocrit of a sportsman from 42 to 47% in just 10 days, and the VO2max would steadily increase over the next few weeks. The maximum beneficial effect was realised after four to six weeks of taking the drug.

To increase it above the 50% "legal limit", it was necessary to take risks, with the possibility of a cardiovascular failure during the night while the athlete was resting. The heart related deaths of several Dutch cyclists in the late '80s are blamed on blood thickening caused by too much EPO. With the use of blood thinners, this became far less risky, however doctors then were worried about renal tumours.

Growth hormones are another problem, and there is no current verifiable test for them (except for being caught with a vial in your luggage). According to the medical experts, growth hormones can lead to diabetes, brain damage, and excessive bone growth e.g. chin enlargement, leading to dental problems or a change in foot size. There have been cyclists noted for exhibiting these features.

In addition, anabolic steroids can cause sexual or liver problems, and corticosteroids can reduce immune system capability. Of course, if more than one drug is used, then the liver and kidneys are placed under considerable stress.

Former Festina trainer, Antoine Vayer (who also made the comments about Lance Armstrong on Tuesday) said that doping makes champions into superhumans. "If it is considered that the maximum oxygen consumption of 85 is exceptional, I saw some well in excess of 90 - humanly impossible," he said.

"In the 1999 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong rode with a power of between 450 and 455 watts for over an hour in the time trial. On the climb to Hautacam at the end of the stage, that same rider, like Bjarne Riis, put out more power at the summit than at the foot of the mountain," added Mr Vayer who was also surprised at the relatively large size of the riders in the past 10 years who were climbing at the head of the peloton.

"It is the same as the Spanish marathon runners who increase their speed every five kilometers instead of showing signs of tiring, like their predecessors," added Vayer whose conclusions were supported by the other medical experts present.

Virenque explains

On Friday afternoon after a tumultuous first week of the Festina trial, Richard Virenque gave his reasons as to his confession on Tuesday after two years of denial. "At the beginning (in 1998), nobody would have understood why I did not want to be the example. I was just like the other riders. Today, I understand things better and it became logical for me to speak, it was good for my conscience," he said.

He had previously said that the Festina lawsuit was "of benefit" to the sport and wished that cycling could become healthy once more. "But it is necessary to go there tomorrow - we are all in the same boat. If it is not regulated within the next few weeks, then it will never be so," he said.

After hearing all this medical evidence, Virenque commented that he was "afraid for his future...I will see the consequences of doping later. I hope that for the second part of my life , which will start without the bicycle, I will be able to see the growth of my children."

"The bicycle requires a permanent sacrifice. 11 months out of 12 of riding hard, 110 days of racing whatever the weather conditions," said Virenque, adding that stage racing certainly was a superhuman effort. "At one point the suffering becomes hard. You oscillate between 140 to 180 beats per minute for several hours. It is not like climbing. You can overcome the suffering with care (doping) and with the support of the public", he said.

"Very early in life, I realized that I did not have good intellectual prospects, so I therefore worked very hard on the bicycle. During adolescence, I did not smoke, I did not go to discos like 95% of other young people."

Bruyneel comments

US Postal team director, Johan Bruyneel, is currently in Spain to attend the 20th awards of the Principality of Asturias in Oviedo, where he is picking up a prize for Lance Armstrong, who is unable to attend. He was asked to comment on the Festina trial, and Thomas Davy's recent accusations against Banesto.

In an interview with Spanish newsagency EFE, He felt Davy's presence as a witness in Lille to be a little strange, as he wasn't one of the accused. It seemed as though it was a manipulation to save Festina's reputation. He recalled that Davy had won the Tour de l'Avenir and rode well in the Tour de France while with Castorama, and was picked up by Banesto in 1995 as a result. However, once he reached Banesto he failed to perform, and was eventually dismissed.

"If all the team was on drugs as he says, why did he ride well before and not with them?," questioned Bruyneel.

He then said that "in all sports where there was a great deal of economic interest and prestige, there will always be things that are not strictly honest and doping is one of them, although I believe that cycling has an opposite image to what he thinks. It is the victim of being too sincere and honest sport."

Bruyneel (a former ONCE rider) also commented on the charge against ONCE doctor Nicolas Terrados, who was accused of importing illegal substances and violating customs laws. He described Terrados as a "very professional, and strictly prudent doctor and his image has been hurt by the happenings of the 1998 Tour de France."

Terrados has been taken off the Festina case, but he is still under accusation of violating the customs law by bringing medicine into France. "Any travelling doctor should have the right to bring his emergency medical kit," said Bruyneel.

Onto matters of next year, Bruyneel said that Lance Armstrong is very motivated for the 2001 season, especially with the reinforcements of Heras, Rubiera and Peña who will be there in the mountains. He added that Rubiera's hiring is "more than a substitute" for Kevin Livingston. The team will look to extend their focus to races other than the Tour.

He finished with a comment on the controversial Roberto Heras buyout. According to Bruyneel, Heras made the first contact with US Postal and had already decided to leave Kelme. "Since then, we always have been in contact but with the condition that he must solve his own situation. We were not going to push to him to break his contract with Kelme. For me, he was already in our team. I was talking to him and planning his season, but he had to resolve it with Kelme. I only contract riders who are free, although now the situation is more complicated because Heras is a great champion and I can't ignore that."

Spanish anger

Spanish newspaper, Marca, published a story today reacting strongly against the accusations/insinuations of former Banesto rider, Thomas Davy, against five-time Tour de France winner, Miguel Indurain. They called it a "personal revenge campaign" after Davy had said that systematic doping was common in the Banesto team in 1995 and 1996 (when he was there), and Miguel Indurain could not be excluded.

"Without proof, no-one may touch Miguel Indurain," said the article. "He undertook a hundred doping controls throughout his career that showed him to be clean." However as has been pointed out previously, there were no reliable EPO tests at that time so the posturing is false, whether Indurain took EPO or not.

Eusebio Unzué categorically denied everything that Davy had said on Thursday during the trial, and said that he was "surprised" by the claims. "Perhaps Davy wanted revenge because we got rid of him for being unprofessional."

Current Festina cyclist, Angel Casero was also a member of Banesto from 1994 to 1997 and he shared the same doctor as Davy (Sabino Padilla). "We knew at all times what the medicines were that entered our body," said Casero, adding that the accusations were just "personal opinion to which it is not necessary to pay more attention."

Similarly, Oscar Freire said that the rumours were just creating controversy. "I only know that Indurain was a great champion and for that reason he won five Tours de France," said Freire.

Next week

On Monday and Tuesday, testimonies will be heard from sporting authorites: UCI president Hein Verbruggen, Société du Tour de France head, Jean-Marie Leblanc, former president of the Professional Cycling League, Roger Legeay, and Daniel Baal, president of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).

Judge Delegove said that he will question them, "without kindness, eagerness and calmly. They will give their explanations."

Durand to FdJ

33 year old Jacky Durand will ride for La Française des Jeux next season, after finalising negotiations with the team yesterday. The move was confirmed by Marc Madiot, directeur sportif of the French team. Durand leaves the Belgian Lotto team, where he has not been happy this year.

Van Poppel stops

Successful Dutch women's coach, Jean-Paul van Poppel (38) will retire from his job at the end of the year, bringing to an end three years with the team. The KNWU director Peter Nieuwenhuijs said that "He wanted to stop", and wants to stay in cycling in future.

Van Poppel said that, "Three years with a lot of success was nice."

Peace Race 2001

The parcours for the 54th edition of the Peace Race has already been decided, however one of the hosting towns is still trying to come up with the necessary funds. The German town of Gera needs DM 175,000 ($US 75,000) to host stage 9, a 96 kilometre leg from Plauen to Gera. They have until November 11 to come up with the funds, and the town council are adamant that they will do so.

The stages

Stage 1 - May 11: Lodz circuit race, 145 km
Stage 2 - May 12: Lodz - Czestochowa, 165 km
Stage 3 - May 13: Czestochowa - Kudrawa Zdroj, 182 km
Stage 4 - May 14: Bystrzyca Klodzka - Olomouc, 182 km
Stage 5 - May 15: Olomouc - Zdar nad Sazavou, 167 km
Stage 6 - May 16: Zdar nad Sazavou - Plzen, 233 km
Stage 7 - May 17: Plzen - Zwickau, 220 km
Stage 8 - May 18: Greiz - Plauen ITT, 26 km
Stage 9 - May 18: Plauen - Gera, 96 km
Stage 10 - May 19: Schkeuditz - Potsdam, 155 km