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Photo ©: Schaaf

Special Edition Cycling News for April 1, 2006

Edited by the Cyclingnews April 1 team

ProTour scrapped

Even more complicated, unfairer system proposed

By Jeff Jones

The UCI, in conjunction with ASO, RCS Sport, Unipublic, the AIGCP and Dick Pound, has decided to put an end to the ProTour, world cycling's governing body announced on April 1. After nearly two years of wrangling between the UCI and the grand tour organisers, it was agreed at a meeting in Aigle that the ProTour and the road cycling reform was too much, too soon, and it was best to put it on the backburner.

"It's disappointing, yes, but there was no way forward," a UCI source told Cyclingnews. "Basically, no-one understood how it worked, and the big race organisers thought we were treading on their toes. That wasn't the intention, but you can only lead a horse to water."

The points system caused a fair degree of angst among the riders, who felt that some races were not given their full worth. Winning 20 stages of the Tour de France - no mean feat - was barely worth more than a classic. Combined with this was the system of five continental tour rankings, which had to be calculated each month and caused major problems if a rider was retrospectively docked 30 seconds in a race, which moved him three places down on GC (or worse).

Then there was the whole Oceania jersey disaster, which led to a bizarre situation whereby the first leader in that tour, i.e. the best placed Australian rider in the national championships in January, couldn't wear the jersey for eight months. If indeed he was still racing then.

"Yes, that wasn't one of our best laid plans," said the source, who went on to explain the new points system that will come into effect today.

"We're doing away with the ProTour and Continental Tour points systems completely. They're too unequal and they're too hard. Instead, we're introducing a more egalitarian system whereby each rider gets a point when they receive a licence. They keep that point throughout the season, unless sanctioned, and we tally everyone's points up at the end to see who really is the best cyclist in the world.

"To make it easier for us, and the cycling following public, we have placed a restriction on the number of points that a rider can score in races. It's still work in progress, but we decided that it was only fair that no points be awarded at all, because not all riders have access to the best races. I like this approach - it's simple and impartial."

The professional teams association (AIGCP) has applauded the move, saying that it will eliminate intra-team bickering about UCI points and allow the top riders to focus even more on winning races, which is what they are paid to do. The grand tour organisers are also happy, as there are now no restrictions on inviting teams. It is possible - theoretically, at least - that the Vuelta field will be entirely composed of Spanish teams of varying talents.

The last word went to WADA president Dick Pound, who in a rare moment of agreement with the UCI, said, "I think this is a positive step, and it will eliminate all doping in cycling by 2007."

2007 Tour to Include UK-France Time Trial

By Mark Zalewski

With the 2007 Grand Départ announced for London, as well as subsequent stages, the organisers of the Tour de France, Amaury Sports Organisation, have announced an addition to the race -- a 55km time trial from Cheriton in Kent, the United Kingdom, to Coquelles near Calais in northern France, utilizing the middle access tunnel of the Channel Tunnel or 'Chunnel.'

"It is really a matter of economics," said an organisation representative. "It's just a lot easier to move the race back to France this way -- having the riders race the distance on their bikes instead of loading everything and everyone onto TGV trains."

Some critics of this move include the television media, which say their aerial coverage via helicopter will be limited. But organisers responded saying the intricate network of closed-circuit security cameras along the 50km section of tunnel will be made available to broadcasters. "Besides, the time trial is rather boring," said the same representative. "All that really matters is the start and finish, which will be outside of the tunnel entrance and exit."

New direction for UCI track racing

By Mark Zalewski

The UCI track cycling commission announced on April 1 a new format for UCI track races for next year. All races sanctioned by the UCI taking place in the northern hemisphere will now be run in a clockwise direction, to negate the Coriolis effect on the riders.

The UCI commissioned a study in 2005 to quantify any positive or negative effect this phenomenon has on track riders, and found a significant advantage for track racing in the southern hemisphere, where the rotation effect is in alignment with the track racing direction.

"We found that this explains why the Aussies are so good at track racing," said an unnamed UCI official. "That is really the reason why this study was commissioned -- to figure out how we can slow them down. They train in that condition and their times are subsequently faster."

While it will take some time for rider to adjust to turning right instead of left, the UCI feels that a more level playing field will help track cycling as a whole.

Armstrong film searching for new star

By Cheyenne Spokes

The heavily-rumoured casting of Hollywood heart-throb Matt Damon as Lance Armstrong in the forthcoming biopic about the seven time Tour de France winner has come to nothing after the 35 year old decided to dramatically quit the project in favour of another screen role.

Damon, star of hit movies such as Ocean's Eleven, the Bourne Identity and Saving Private Ryan, was long considered the prime choice of Armstrong.

Indeed Armstrong's dramatic recovery from a near-fatal illness seemed both the ideal Hollywood plot and a perfect vehicle for Damon's talents. Although the two look nothing alike, the movie star was reportedly in heavy training for the role, going on long bike rides with Armstrong in a bid to lose weight, gain fitness and build the technical skill to convincingly portray the multiple Tour champ on screen.

"Man, I'm even shaving my legs," Damon reportedly said in an as-yet unpublished interview with celebrity reporter April Fibbs.

Details are still sketchy about what happened to his involvement with the project, but according to the unrivalled journal of record, National Enquirer, Damon and Armstrong failed to see eye to eye in a number of areas. These rumours include reports that:

  • Damon INSISTED that Michelle Pfeiffer play Armstrong's mother.
  • He DEMANDED that Jessica Alba play Armstrong's former wife Kristin, and
  • He EXPRESSED A STRONG preference for the casting of Vanessa Paradis as Sheryl Crow, despite the fact that the singer is not actually French.

Cipo & Hondo introduce hair care product line

By Susan Westemeyer

"Pro Flair Hair Care" is the newest line of products designed especially fot pro cyclists, and by none other than two well-known examples of well-coiffeured cyclists, Mario Cipollini and Danilo Hondo.

The two men modeled their products at a fashion show/press conference on April 1. They hope to expand their "Pro Flair" product line into toothpaste ("For a dazzling winner's smile!"), shaving cream ("especially designed so you can shave that three-day beard and still have that three-day beard look!") and skin care ("Smooth as silk for the podium girls to kiss!"). The prices have not yet been announced, but look for them soon at a pharmacy near you.

Tech: HED launches descending special

HED Stalingrad wheels
Click for larger image

Wheelmaker HED has announced a new pair of wheels that represents a radical departure for the aerodynamic and lightweight specialist.

Following on from HED's Bastogne wheels, announced a few weeks ago, the Stalingrad wheels continue the theme of toughness in battle, but in a very different vein. The battlefield here is the mountain descents of the Alps and Dolomites and to help speed you to the bottom, the HED Stalingrad is the world's first cast iron wheel.

"Ever wish you could soar down a mountain like Paolo (Il Falco) Salvodelli?" asks HED. "Are your descents as slow as Beloki's and equally as frightful? Well fear not. Adhering to his philosophy of "optimal wheel choice tailored for the factors inherent to each particular race" Steve Hed has once again forged ahead in developing a revolutionary new approach to wheel design. The Stalingrad."

Forged from iron smelted from finest Minnesota ore, each Stalingrad weighs almost 47 lbs, allowing you to instantly add as much weight to your bike as if you'd eaten several thousand Big Mac Happy Meals and spent six months on the couch. "You'll descend like a Russian submarine" says HED. "And when riders hear you rumble up behind them - demanding their surrender - you'll surely hear them mutter "... get the hell out of the way, this guy is nuts...!"

Click here for more information.

Tech: SRAM silences environmental critics with new fully biodegradable drivetrain

By James Huang

Component maker SRAM has developed a wholly new, and ultra eco-friendly, component group creatively dubbed RE-cycle, partially in response to some environmentalists who have expressed criticism of the company's decision to use plastic packaging for some of their high-end componentry. Not surprisingly, the new group is aimed squarely at the commuter market and will consist of a single-chainring crankset, front and rear hubs with internal drum brakes, and a rear derailleur and corresponding shifter.

European automakers have long been praised in heralded in the eco-community for having long been labeling individual components with universal material codes that ease recycling upon the end of a product's useful life. However, SRAM has elected to go one step further with RE-Cycle by actually making the group 100% biodegradable.

Using similar technology to that found in cornstarch-based packing materials, SRAM engineers have managed to form all of the individual elements of the group from a high-density compression-molded version of the material. According to SRAM engineers, their proprietary molding process imparts enough mechanical strength and rigidity to the normally weak material such that highly functional components can be reliably formed.

A SRAM PR and product testing guru, said, "dude, you can also now eat your bike parts to keep from starving in the event that you get lost or stranded somewhere".

If RE-cycle actually makes it to production, it certainly may have far-reaching impact on how other companies develop product and may also set a new standard for environmental responsibility within the industry.

We at Cyclingnews certainly have high hopes for the new technology, and stay tuned for a complete road test of the new group as soon as it becomes available.

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