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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for March 30, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

WADA may appeal Hondo's lifted suspension

By Anthony Tan

Judging from a recent statement released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the case of Danilo Hondo and the suspension of his two-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by a Swiss civil court is far from over.

While WADA acknowledges the decision made by the Court of Appeal in Lausanne, Switzerland, a little over one week ago, the civil court placing a temporary suspension on Hondo's two-year ban for testing positive to the prohibited substance Carphedon at last year's Tour of Murcia, their statement notes that "the athlete has not yet submitted his brief on the merits of the case to the Court of Appeal" and "WADA may, at some stage, request the President of the Court of Appeal to reconsider the court's position on the suspension."

"To date, the athlete has only requested the suspension of the CAS award while his appeal is pending," the statement read.

"The suspension of the CAS Award was granted by the President of the Court of Appeal of Canton de Vaud, pending resolution of the appeal. This decision is not based on the merits of the case (which have yet to be filed by the athlete), and does not pre-judge the final outcome of the appeal. It is therefore misleading to claim that this latter decision from the Court of Appeal constitutes either an annulment of the CAS decision, or the raising of fundamental questions on the World Anti-Doping Code."

As a resident of Switzerland, Hondo is one of only a minority of athletes able to challenge a CAS ruling in a civil court; for non-Swiss residents, appeals against CAS rulings can only be made at the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland's highest court, and only if the case has been run contrary to the general principles of law.

"It's regrettable that we have different treatment for athletes based in Switzerland and athletes based outside," CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb told The Associated Press. "This is really a concern. We hope that the decision of the local court will not open a door, an invitation, to all athletes to establish their domiciles in Switzerland."

Cycling's governing body, the UCI, has indicated Hondo is able to start racing from April 1, 2006, but the 32 year-old is yet to find a team. Furthermore, the UCI's Code of Ethics prevents ProTour teams from hiring riders found guilty of doping infractions for up to four years; this includes Hondo, who was riding for Gerolsteiner at the time of his infraction.

"Everything went perfectly" for Eisel

Well, almost...

Bernhard Eisel (Francaise des Jeux)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

After riding "foolishly" in the first stage as he describes it, Francaise de Jeux's Bernhard Eisel made things right in yesterday's second stage of the Driedaagse van De Panne, winning the bunch sprint to take his third victory of the season.

However, Eisel said the stage didn't start out particularly well for him: "I had a mechanical problem, right on the first climb, and a team-mate gave me his bike," he wrote on "On the descent there was a terrible mass crash, involving a lot of the favourites. I had to get off my bike, go around the crash through the pasture, and got into the third group."

From there, the Austrian worked his way up until 80km before the finish, when he tried to escape. "But the group couldn't get away," he said. "Then I knew directly that it would be a mass sprint. Which it turned out to be."

Continued Eisel: "It worked out perfectly for my team in the finale; my colleagues brought me perfectly into position and Lampre opened the sprint too soon. When Baden Cooke tore past me 200 metres before the finish line, I just hung on to his rear wheel and passed him 50 meters before the finish. Unlike yesterday, everything went perfectly today!"

Well, not quite everything. "It had rained all day, and I didn't want to go the winner's ceremony in my wet shoes," he said. "But my masseur hadn't brought my sneakers, so I had to borrow some from Discovery Channel, otherwise I would have had to stand on the podium in my bare feet."

Courtesy Susan Westemeyer

Barredo out of Flanders & Roubaix

Another name to add to the growing sick-list in De Panne is Liberty Seguros-Würth's Carlos Barredo, who suffered a fractured radius in his left arm during yesterday's second stage of the KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde, with the initial prognosis suggesting he will need four to six weeks to recover. The Spaniard's hopes of riding this Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix next weekend have now been dashed, which has depressed the 24 year-old no end. Team-mate Javier Ramirez Abeja was also a victim of the crash and was lucky to come away with haematomas, but no broken bones.

"The fall happened in a cobbled section on the descent," Barredo began to explain as he walked out of the hospital with his arm in a cast. "I was in the first 25 in the pack and we fell with around 30 or 40 other riders. I am deeply depressed... so much time thinking about these races and so much work for nothing. I feel impotent."

Despite his injury, Barredo tried to continue with his team-mate Abeja before a policeman ordered them both to abandon. "I took a new bike and wanted to think that it was nothing. I had to change the seat, which also broke, and we continued to race for another 40 kilometres, but I could neither brake nor hold onto the bars."

Upon his arrival at the hospital in at Oudenaarde, it was confirmed Barredo had a fracture of the third distal in his left radius that would require a plaster cast, which would see the 24 year-old out of competition for four to six weeks.

On a brighter note, Luis León Sanchez moved into third overall and is just 35 seconds behind new leader Bernhard Eisel, the Française des Jeux rider winning yesterday's stage into Oostduinkerke. Today's split stage concludes with a 12 kilometre time trial, and with only five riders within a minute of the leader, Sanchez is tipped - and has tipped himself - as one of the favourites to win overall.

Cox looking to go one bigger

By Anthony Tan

Ryan Cox (South Africa)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

One would have thought good early season form always bodes well for the rest of the year, but for Ryan Cox, that hasn't been the case. "The last two years, I've had two good years early on," he says, "but maybe raced too well early in the season. I just said [to myself] I can't afford to have a good early season and do nothing the rest of the year, and that is what's pretty much happened."

The 26 year-old has made a name for himself at southeast Asia's premiere cycling event, the Tour de Langkawi, finishing second overall in 2004 before victory a year later. Having 'been there and done that', coupled with his change of plans, Cox has been happy to play a support role up till now, which has seen him largely at the service of his former Barloworld team-mate David George.

However, with George scoring an eleventh hour deal with Spanish outfit Relax-Gam and his own contract up for renewal at the end of this year - not to mention the change of team manager from fellow South African John Robertson to hard-nosed Italian Claudio Corti - Cox should now be thinking about his own personal interests.

"I think he's [Corti] good for the team and the team wants to go forward, so we will see, time well tell," said Cox to Cyclingnews, still having mixed emotions about the management overhaul at the end of last year. "I'm sure it will be good; the planning's good, the structure's good, and already the planning of the team has been a lot better this year. Already, we are seeing things, just little things, that have been a lot better than it had been before, so that also helps."

Cox said these words back in early February, when Barloworld was still banking on a spot at the Giro d'Italia. However, wildcards for all three Grand Tours have now been announced - and Barloworld wasn't in any one of them. Should the team or any of its riders wish to secure a place on the next year's ProTour, it has now become all the more important for each member to perform consistently throughout the season.

The good news is that Cox's form has improved of late. Solid riding mixed with natural aggression led to a third place finish at the Giro del Capo, before forging the winning break at the Commonwealth Games road race last Sunday, again with George, but unfortunately for the South Africans, Australian Rabobank rider Mathew Hayman was unstoppable that day.

"Yeah, it's a big year for a lot of us; not only me, but cycling at the moment," Cox conceded. "There are a lot of teams knocking at the door and if you're not in the ProTour, it's really hard to get in. So a lot of guys want to be in there, be in the ProTour and do those big races. And that's exactly where I am at the moment, so it's a big year for me in Europe and I just hope I can do something there and get into the bigger teams."

Look for the feature interview on Ryan Cox next week on Cyclingnews.

Boonen 'strongly denies' being sick

Contrary to earlier reports by his team director Rik Van Slijcke, defending Ronde van Vlaanderen champion Tom Boonen denies he's ill, saying that it's been a case of mitigating risk during 'training' at the Driedaagse van De Panne.

"I didn't want to take any risks in the lead up to the Tour of Flanders. Apparently everyone wants to win here and that causes serious wriggling," Boonen was quoted on as saying, having failed to participate in the sprint finish for the second day running.

"My goal has been reached today. I could pull through two, three times, another test for Sunday. I hear people say I'm sick, but I strongly deny that. I'm having a bit of discomfort of the bronchial tubes, but that's it, nothing serious," he said.

Courtesy Sabine Sunderland

Klöden returns home

T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden has returned home after surgery on his injured shoulder after a training crash last week. "Although I have had a number of injuries in the course of my career, I can definitely say that this one was the most painful ever," he said on his website,

Continued Klöden, "The timing of the crash was particularly irritating. I had just begun to really get into shape after the first races and could see the results of my intensive training over the winter." In about ten days' time, the stitches will be pulled and he will be able to begin with physical therapy and light indoor training. "When I can finally get on the road again is not known at this time, but I haven't lost sight of my goal of the Tour de France," he said.

Courtesy Susan Westemeyer

Griepel's difficult start to the season

T-Mobile's Andre Greipel has only been a pro for a few months, but that short time has been full of ups and downs. His biggest success this year were as a lead-out man for Olaf Pollack in the Tour of California, where Pollack won the last two stages.

But when he got back home, things started going bad. "It wasn't the 30 degree temperature difference between California and here that laid me low," he told the Schweriner Volkszeitung, "but the air-conditioning on the long flight home." The result: bronchitis, which was so severe it cost him his place in Tirenno-Adriatico.

Now fully recovered, Greipel headed off to the Belgian races, where he didn't find any happiness, either. A crash in Dwaars door Vlaanderen cost him a good placing, but things got worse after a crash yesterday in de Panne, which saw him sent him to hospital with a concussion and bruises on the left side of his body.

According to T-Mobile, the good news is that his helmet protected him well and he can probably start light training again today.

Courtesy Susan Westemeyer

Health Net/Maxxis locks in first European itinerary

The Health Net presented by Maxxis team will make its first foray to Europe as a UCI Professional Continental team in late April, beginning with the Trophée des Grimpeurs.

"We've had a lot of success competing against the major European teams on our soil," says directeur sportif Jeff Corbett. "We're looking forward to the test of racing over there this spring. We'll go into these races the same way we do with races in North America - with the intent of winning."

The team will open the schedule on April 30 with the UCI 1.1-rated Trophée des Grimpeurs in France. The 134 kilometre circuit race features a significant amount of climbing as the race's name suggests, taking 16 trips around an 8.3 km circuit just outside of Paris, with the finish atop the climb of the Côte de l'Ermitage, a 300 metre hill with a gradient of 13 percent. But rider Kirk O'Bee, having raced numerous times on the European Continent before, says it's not a pure climber's race: "The circuit has one major climb, but it's more of a power climb.

"It's more of a race of attrition. It's a good course for someone like Hayden [Roulston] or [Mike] Jones," said O'Bee, who himself finished in the top 20 in the 2002 edition of the race and recently took overall victory at the Tour of Taiwan earlier this month.

Three days later, the team will start the Four Days of Dunkirk (4 Jours de Dunkerque; UCI 2.HC), also in France, from May 3-7. Unlike its name, however, Dunkirk is actually a five-day, five-stage race, and is considered a sprinter's race, with the overall title often being determined on the difficult fourth stage. However, O'Bee notes that the race can be unpredictable, with occasional stretches of bad road, bad weather and notorious crosswinds off the English Channel.

"The race attracts a lot of good teams and riders, and the early stages are really aggressive, with a lot of fighting for position near the front of the race," O'Bee said. "The opening stages normally end in bunch sprints, but it's not uncommon for the race for the overall title to be decided on the first stage if a break can get away in the winds and stay off the front to the line. I think our team has a good opportunity to take some stage wins at Dunkirk. We should do well."

Health Net will finish off its first European trip in the Peace Race (Course de la Paix; UCI 2.HC), which begins in the Czech Republic on May 13 and goes through to May 21. The nine day race, which has a storied past that began as a race among the former Soviet Bloc countries, is known for its long, varied and difficult stages. But with nearly a week off before the Peace Race, O'Bee believes the team will be well rested, and have the strength and talent to do well there, too. "We should be working very well together by then," he said.

Team roster for Europe, Spring 2006:

Greg Henderson (NZl)
Mike Jones (USA)
Karl Menzies (Aus)
Kirk O'Bee (USA)
Doug Ollerenshaw (USA)
Hayden Roulston (NZl)
Mike Sayers (USA)
Alberto Tiberio (Swi)

Schedule for Europe, Spring 2006:

April 30    Trophée des Grimpeurs (UCI 1.1), France
May 3-7     Four Days of Dunkirk (4 Jours de Dunkerque; UCI 2.HC), France
May 13-21   Peace Race (Course de la Paix; UCI 2.HC), Czech Republic

Irish sports council continue Rás backing

By Shane Stokes

The organisers of the FBD Insurance Rás announced on Wednesday that the Irish Sports Council (ISC) will once again back the best young rider's competition in the 2.5 ranked race. The funding will be given to the race via Cycling Ireland as part of the ISC's core grant allocation process, but is specifically earmarked to fund the white jersey in the Irish tour.

Commenting on the funding, Irish Sports Council Chief Executive, John Treacy, said that he is "pleased that the Irish Sports Council is associated with the recognition of young talent in such a tough international event as the FBD Insurance Rás." Treacy, a former double world cross-country running champion, also praised FBD Insurance for its continuing support for Irish sport.

This year's FBD Insurance Rás will begin in Dublin on May 21 and feature stage finishes in Enniscorthy, Cobh, An Daingean, Listowel, An Cheathru Rua, Westport and Clara. It will conclude with a road race into the town of Skerries on Sunday May 28. First details of the international teams to take part will be announced later this week.

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