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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

*Special Edition* Cycling News for April 1, 2007

Edited by the CN équipe Avril Imbécile

Dubai to host 'uphill' Le Tour prologue in 2009

Exclusive by Marek Woodstein

The site of the 2009 Tour de France prologue.
Photo ©: Mall of Emirates
(Click for larger image)

In a bold move to increase the globalisation of the sport of cycling, as well as the Tour de France, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced on April 1 that for the first time ever, a stage of the Tour de France will be held outside of Europe - with the location of Dubai, United Arab Emirates as the location. In a twist, the ASO announced that the prologue time trial would feature a unique uphill finish - something that is difficult to find in the desert country.

"This is really a sign of the times," said an ASO spokesman. "We have thought about this for a long time, and feel that this is the year to do it."

Rumors about holding the Tour prologue outside of Europe have been constant in recent years, with sites such as Quebec, New York City and fellow middle east country Qatar, home of ASO's Tour of Qatar, as possible contenders. It had been reported that the Emir of Qatar wanted the prologue in Qatar's capital of Doha. Doha was considered as a location, but the extremely high temperatures of the desert city was a prohibitive reason.

"Dubai won the bid with the unique idea to hold the prologue indoors inside the Mall of Emirates and finishing uphill on their indoor ski hill," he said. "It has everything, including hotel space for the entire Tour and a built in Tour village with the food court."

Workers show how the slope can be dried and overlaid
Photo ©: Ski Dubai
(Click for larger image)

UAE's cycling federation president Shaikh Faisal bin Humaid Al Qasimi, who recently sought the expert advice for increasing cycling exposure in his country, explained the planned parcours. "Because of the high temperatures, we decided to design an indoor course that would display Dubai's landmarks," he said. "The Mall of Emirates is one of the largest, single-building malls in the world, with 225,000 square metres. The length of the mall is around 3.3kms and the first part of our prologue course will use about 4.2km with turns."

However, the most unique part of the prologue will be the finale - an uphill climb up Ski Dubai, the mall's indoor snow ski area. "The ski area is directly connected to the mall, and there is a rideable link to the slope," said Humaid Al Qasim. "The slope itself is 85 metres high. This is as high as the Eiffel Tower in Paris! And since the slope is 400 metres long and 85 metres wide, we can design a winding finish of 600 metres. This will make the entire prologue 4.8km." This length makes it slightly longer than the shortest prologue in Tour history, besting the 1986 prologue of 4.6km Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris.

This is not the first alternative sport use of the ski area, with Maria Sharapova and Lindsey Davenport playing a tennis match to promote the recent Dubai Open. Humaid Al Qasim also cited the spectator-friendly aspect of the Mall as a reason for the selection. "Our capacity is 50,000 persons, so it will be one of the best prologues for spectators ever. But the riders might need long sleeve skinsuits for the finish!"


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

Images by Ski Dubai

Images by Mall of Emirates

Tech news: WADA says, 'suck on this'

This harmless looking device
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

A new tool rumored to have been developed by the Where Are the Drugs Agency (WADA) promises to take the battle against doping to a new level. Cyclingnews Senior Tech Advisor Dr Kim Lang gained exclusive access to agency insiders that insist that dopers now have nowhere to hide.

Carbon fiber frames and components are not the only realms of cycling that have benefited from recent advances in nanotechnology. Engineers at WADA are said to have employed the latest advances to develop a new testing apparatus that officials (unofficially) claim will clean up the sport now and forever.

In spite of its compact dimensions, the new as-yet-unnamed tester packs a serious punch that belies its innocuous appearance. The small handheld device closely resembles a digital thermometer, and coincidentally, is used in much the same manner: the rider in question simply places the tester in their mouth and waits approximately 30 seconds. At that point, the device will have accumulated enough data to confirm a positive or negative doping result, which is clearly displayed in a highly legible LCD panel on the unit's front face.

For the full tech feature on WADA's latest weapon, click here.

Milano-Sanremo lengthened - 400km by 2009?

Varese welcomes La Classicissima

By Gregorivich 'Tinkoff' Marronevic

Varese-Sanremo presented for 2008.
Photo ©: TuttoMilano
(Click for larger image)

The Milano-Sanremo will be lengthened for 2008 to celebrate the race's 99th edition and the running of the 2008 World Championships. Instead of its usual starting city, Milan, the race will start in Varese, home of the 2008 Worlds and many professional cyclists.

The distance is expected to be no less than 360 kilometres, 60 kilometres longer than the current distance (294km in 2007), and it will require use of a major tollway.

"We expect if the riders start at 8.30 [on a Saturday] they should not encounter much traffic," said a source.

As there are problems in completely closing a major Italian tollway, the riders will have a dedicated lane and will not be forced to stop and pay tolls; this will be left to the second team car to handle.

The ongoing row between the Grand Tour organizers and the ProTour may be heightened by the new route proposal, which is well beyond the distance allowed for a one-day race in modern cycling. UCI President "Pat McQuaid feels that RCS and [its events director Angelo] Zomegnan are currently not following the agreed upon rules," a UCI source told Cyclingnews Saturday morning. "He noted that RCS and ASO 'do what they want anyway.'"

"We are open to other cities hosting the race start as long as it continues through Milan," continued our source. "We hope to further expand the race to 400 kilometres by 2009 to celebrate the 100th edition. We have already received letters of intent from Verona and Trieste."

Virgin on the ridiculous?

By Heather Milksop

The Virgin Group, the British conglomerate owned by flamboyant adventurer and buisnessman Sir Richard Branson, is to become the new title sponsor of a current ProTour team, Cyclingnews has learned by way of idle chatter overheard in an exclusive London gentlemen's club.

Sir Richard told close friend Sir Paul McCartney that Virgin is now adding cycling to its long list of interests, which ranges from airlines to credit cards to space tourism. Sir Paul, who has some experience with a bicycle team, advised that "the cycling business has a few unpleasant things in common with the music industry", while other members of the club thought it to be a serious tilt at the newspaper delivery business.

However, Sir Richard explained that bicycles without newspaper baskets were also used for racing, and the sport was popular among the common folk. It's understood the adventurer identified the USA's ProTour squad, which is in need of a new sponsor for 2008, because he liked the sound of Virgin-Discovery.

Points race added to Paris-Roubaix finale

By Rufus Staffordshire

A 15km points score will be added to the end of the Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic from 2008, it has been announced by the race organisers. From next year, as the weary leaders enter the velodrome in Roubaix after pounding their way across some of the worst cobbles in northern Europe, they will have the opportunity to swap bikes and climb aboard track bikes, or continue on their muddy road machines.

If there is a solo rider in the lead, he will have to complete 45 laps of the track, with intermediate sprints every five laps offering offering a one-minute time bonus for the first rider across the line. When the remainder of the peloton enters the velodrome, the field will become completely integrated and sprint against the leader, virtually ensuring the winner will come from a major team.

While traditionalists are expected to be outraged, Cyclingnews has learned it's part of a secret plan to improve TV ratings, and make the race a 'breakthrough' event in key markets. According to an American TV executive who negotiated the changes with the organisers, "the aim is to ensure that blonde guy ... Boner, is it? ... wins the Queen of the Classics".

"If we know who is going to win, regardless of what actually happens on the road, then we can really sell it in these new markets. This race has lots of pile-ups and mud. Even if it doesn't rain, we'll make sure there's mud. And then we can have more carnage on that NASCAR-looking concrete thing and the blonde guy wins! Awesome!"

The unnamed executive said the race organisers were inspired by recent races where rules were abandoned so a local hero could win. "Take the Tour of California," he continued. "They neutralised a stage finish because the hometown hero, Levi .... er, something, was caught behind a major crash. He would have lost his lead had the rules been properly applied.

"But it was important for ratings that he kept his lead, and that race had its own rulebook. They even forgot to do proper drug testing."

Cipollini dismisses brothel rumours

By Cheyenne Spokes

Retired Italian super-hero Mario Cipollini made many headlines during his cycling career but he is now in the news for a very different reason. According to several sources, the renowned ladies' man was questioned by the carabiniere in recent days after police swooped on what they said was a suspected brothel in the Tuscan countryside. They took him temporarily into custody on suspicion that he was running the red-light business.

During his career, the 2002 world champion was renowned for his antics and self-confessed womanising, with Cipollini once stating that if he wasn't a top rider, he would like to work in the porn industry.

Cyclingnews contacted the Lucchese lothario for comment about the latest allegations. He laughed off reports that he was in charge of a massage parlour, saying that it was all a big misunderstanding. When asked how it was that he was found in a building with 274 scantily-clad females, he said that there was a simple explanation.

"For my 40th birthday [22 March - ed.], I rented out a chateau and held a big bash there," he said. "And, to make it special, I invited some of my ex-girlfriends to be present for the weekend. That's all there is to it.

"It's obvious that one of the many past conquests I didn't ask called the police and spread these rumours. Ah, it's incredible what jealousy can do."

Cyclingnews understands that the police have now ended its investigation. "Rather than prosecute the matter, we have had a look at things and decided instead to ask Signor Cipollini for some tips," said one senior officer.

NASCAR looking to create new US pro team

By Mario 'secret cycling tragic' Andretti

In an effort to expand its cross-promotion efforts, the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) announced today that it is looking to be a title sponsor of a US cycling team. The team, tentatively called Team NASCAR, is building its programme around the criterium racing circuit in the US. "It's a natural fit - criterium cycling and stock car racing!" said Buck Bretherton, vice president of promotions for NASCAR.

Though Bretherton declined to comment specifically as to whom the new team was looking to fill its roster, he did indicate what the criteria would be. "We are talking with current pros who fit the 'image' of NASCAR - both in terms of look and racing style." Along those lines, rumors as to likely candidates have circulated through the pro peloton. The recent talk is that Aussie sprinter Jeff Hopkins, currently racing for the Jittery Joes team, is high on the list with his trademark mullet. An inside source told Cyclingnews that original plans were to offer the team directing job to Viatcheslav Ekimov -- until the Russian trimmed his mullet.

Cal Naughton, Jr., senior vice president for marketing, also said NASCAR is looking to launch a criterium series tied to its racing series. "We want to have races going in the speedway parking lots while the fans are arriving. That will help them get them in the mood."

Two more names have also surfaced in the search, with Bretherton only eluding to the two having an interesting history which is why the team is interested. "That is exactly the type of rider our fans want to see racing," said Bretherton, "Remember the old NASCAR saying, 'Rubbin' is racin'!"

Riders are are encouraged to submit resumes for possible spots on the team.

Guys like us the basis for new Pro Conti squad

By Monika Belluci

Juan José Hernández Fernández and José Juan Sánchez Pérez, two rich Austrians, will form a new professional continental cycling team in 2008 consisting of riders who have the same name. They already signed two Hernández: Aitor (Euskaltel) and Jesús (Relax); two Fernández: Bingen (Codifis) and Alberto (Saunier Duval), two Sánchez: Eladio (Fuerteventura Canarias) and Julián (Relax- Gam).

The team have also joined eight Pérez: Aitor and Fran (both Caisse d'Epargne), Luis and Luis (both Andalucía - Cajasur), Jorge and Santiago (both Relax Gam) and Rubén and Alan (both Euskaltel).

The friends are also talking to Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel) and Luis Fernández (Karpin Galicia). The leader of the team will be Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne), who will sign a two years contract on Friday, 13th of April, and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel Euskadi), who will make a decision after the Vuelta al País Vasco. Besides them, Koldo Fernández will be the sprint star of the new created team.

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