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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for January 26, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Health Net looking fit for 2004

By Kristy Scrymgeour

The Health Net team
Photo ©: CN

Team Health Net presented by Maxxis is holding its training camp in sunny Solvang, California this week with a total revamp of the riders to make up a large 17-person team. Director of last year's 7UP-Maxxis team, Jeff Corbett, will direct the team this year with riders coming from everywhere and quite a few of them stemming from the defunct Mercury team. With a team full of fresh talented faces, the team is very positive about the year ahead.

Before a ride with the sponsors on Saturday, Cyclingnews caught up with Gord Fraser , who is very pleased with the way things have turned out: "The team is more than I hoped for," said Fraser. "The guys are all in good form and everyone's pretty excited to be in this program. I can tell that everyone's excited about how much vision there is for the team," he added.

Chairman and CEO of Momentum Sports Group, Greg Raifman, echoed Fraser's comments, explaining the vision the team had for the future: "We have long term ambitions that will take us internationally bit by bit," he said. "This year we are doing Tour of Langkawi and each year we want to do more and more races in Europe."

There was also talk among the team today of their hopes to do the Peace Race this year as a second international race and there are plans in place for a move to Division II status in 2005.

"We have a very committed group of guys," explained Raifman. "Clearly everyone knows that the former Mercury guys take the sport very seriously and we have a good group of younger riders who will learn a lot from the experienced riders in the team."

As for Fraser, he is confident about the season despite setbacks in his off-season. "I probably dug myself into the biggest hole ever this season. I had a couple of MTB crashes which set me back, but I've been training harder than ever and I feel like I'm back to normal now," said Fraser.

Health Net presented by Maxxis chose Giant bikes
Photo ©: CN

As for the team, Fraser is hoping that he and the other "older"guys will be able to wring out good results for the next few years and teach the younger guys as they go. "I want to use my experience to teach the younger guys and see them step up and assume responsibility, so eventually I don't have to be the guy who wins all the time. We have some great sprinters with Tyler Farrar, Greg Henderson, Hayden Godfrey and Dan Schmatz - it would be rewarding for me to see them do well.

Cyclingnews also caught up with Walker Ferguson, who has made the transition from MTB to the road this year. Ferguson may still do a local MTB race here and there, but is keen to concentrate on the road. "The last couple of years I've been getting more and more into the road and I've just been waiting to switch over," he said.

Like the other young guys, Ferguson is eager to learn a lot this year. "I've never ridden in a team situation like this," said Ferguson, "but this team is great because there are so many experienced riders that know so much." So far, the youngster is pleased with the atmosphere on the team and surprised that there are so many guys on the team who all get along: "If that's a sign of things to come, it will be a good year," he said.

Images by Kristy Scrymgeour/Cyclingnews

UCI health test extended to blood transfusions

The UCI will expand its health tests, which monitor certain blood parameters to make sure they are inside set limits, to include testing for blood transfusions, according to an AFP report.

Blood transfusions (blood doping) have made a comeback as a method of doping after they were superceded by EPO in the early 90's. Blood doping involves riders taking some of their own (or from someone with a matching blood type) blood, storing the red cells and re-injecting them before a major race, gaining an improved oxygen carrying capacity. Police phone tapping in the Cofidis affair has allegedly revealed that Polish physiotherapist Bogdan Madejak suggested to Marek Rutkiewicz that he use blood transfusions.

UCI president Hein Verbruggen said that cycling's governing body will use an Australian developed test to detect illegal blood transfusions this year. He said the test was nearly 100 percent reliable and could detect whether the rider had used their own blood or that of another person with the same blood group. The test will have an effectiveness of two to three weeks.

"In 999 cases out of 1,000, we will be able to tell if there has been manipulation," Verbruggen was quoted by AFP. But we cannot rely on that alone to sanction (the athlete), so we will do as we do for haematocrit."

Under current UCI rules, riders who have a high hematocrit are given a two week suspension from racing for "health reasons", although it is not treated as a doping case. A high hematocrit can indicate the use of EPO or other blood boosting substances, but it is not a definitive reason.

Verbruggen would also not be drawn into comment on the Cofidis affair. "There are cases that I consider isolated, individual," he said.

ASO reiterates doping stance

The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Tour de France, has issued a statement condemning doping in all its forms in the wake of the Cofidis affair. "Doping insults the ethical values of sport and the Tour de France," declared the ASO. "It is not necessary to make an amalgamation of all the doping affairs: there are no common measures between organised doping such as the Festina affair in 1998, real mafioso trafficking, and the recently discovered behaviour of certain racers or soigneurs in the peloton who, having cheated, will have to answer for their acts in court."

In 2001, the Tour instituted a 10 point anti-doping code that took into account ethical concerns, efficacy of testing, support of scientific research, and information and prevention programs aimed at young riders. In the past three years it has reinforced the code, even taking measures such as excluding the Saeco team in 2002 after top rider Gilberto Simoni tested positive for cocaine during the Giro, although he was later cleared by the Italian cycling federation.

Without naming any specific team or rider, the ASO issued a warning to teams that wished to be invited (or keep their invitations) to this year's Tour. "The behaviour of cheats and the constant drifting of certain riders in the peloton cannot be tolerated since they degrade not only the image of cycling but equally that of the Tour de France," stated the ASO. "While leaving it up to the authorities to investigate, we equally reserve the right to take all the necessary steps to oppose those who, in cheating, do not respect their engagement of honour with respect to the Tour de France."

Vandenbroucke's car burned

A car belonging to Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke has been burned outside his home in Nieuwkerke, Belgium. Firemen extinguished the fire before it spread further. The incident was reported by the Belga newsagency, citing police and judicial sources as saying that it was "without doubt malicious."

America's Cycling Team presented by UPMC

The America's Cycling Team presented by UPMC (ACT-UPMC) has announced its roster for 2004. The team consists of seven riders, and will compete in events throughout the United States, Latin America and other countries. "At present, the team is capable of winning both shorter stage races and one day events," said team director Mike Fraysse.

Click here for the full roster.

Shelby Criterium cancelled

The Shelby Criterium, one of the better known criteriums in the USA, has been cancelled for 2004. The race, usually held around April/May, has been struggling with a lack of a title sponsor for the last two years. "Our local economy is not strong and while we have had great support for our race, we have not had a title sponsor for the last two years. In each of those years the race has lost money. Unfortunately we have not been able to turn things around and therefore have no choice but to cancel the race," organiser Mike Keeley told Cyclingnews.

Keeley added that, "Shelby is grateful to the sport of cycling and all the professionals who visited our town over the last nine years. Being a small town, we felt especially proud of our being able to host so many talented athletes. Hopefully we will be back."

2nd Tour d'Afrique

Photo ©: Tour d'Afrique

The second Tour d'Afrique bicycle race left the Giza pyramids on Saturday, January 17 with 31 participants from nine countries: Canada, USA, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Belgium and UK. The 100 day, 11,500 km Guinness-recognized 'on and off road' race is the longest bicycle race in the world, passing through 10 African countries: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and ending in South Africa.

This year's participants include double amputee and Paralympian Armin Koehli from Switzerland, who hopes to be the first handicapped person to complete the whole race. Another participant, David Sylvester, is a personal trainer and a fitness guru who lost a friend in the September 11 attacks. In his memory, he has set up a Kevin Bowser Scholarship Foundation and is using the Tour d'Afrique to raise funds for college scholarships for young men and women from the Afro-American community.

The Tour d'Afrique was created with the three fold mission that it a) be open to both amateur and professional cyclists b) foster international goodwill and c) raise funds to promote environmental, ecological and educational programs throughout Africa.

"This is not a trip for those weak of body or spirit, but all participants are guaranteed a remarkable and personally satisfying journey across a continent with an overabundance of exceptional attributes," said organiser Michael De Jong.

More information: www.tourdafrique.com

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