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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 20, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Sue George

Contador "figure of the future" according to Bruyneel

Discovery Channel' Johan Bruyneel and Alberto Contador do the lap of honour on the Champs-Elysées
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

After closing its first team meeting in Javea close to Alicante, Spain, Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel has drawn positive conclusions. "It was a first contact meeting and served to get to know us all better," the Belgian told Spanish media. "At first, it was a bit strange for everyone as people came in from two different squads, but then the newcomers adapted well. Everyone returned home feeling confident because they saw a solid structure within the team."

The former Discovery Channel directeur sportif also revealed that if it hadn't been for the team's leader Alberto Contador, Bruyneel may not have continued as manager for Astana. "I had taken the decision to quit, as all my goals on a sporting level had been reached," he said. "But now, the challenge is to get this team going. Without Alberto Contador, I wouldn't have continued. He's a great basis to construct a new team - he is young, and amongst the best. Signing him convinced me of continuing."

The man who directed Lance Armstrong on the roads to seven Tour de France victories - and Contador to one - was full of praise for the Spaniard, but also weighed in that Contador had yet to improve certain aspects of his cycling talent in order to become a great champion. "Alberto is one of the best, but there are other riders that hold the same promises, the Belgian explained. "He has to show that he can win the Tour once again, and he can count on our full confidence to do this. He has all the factors on his side. He has the physical and capacity of a champion, and he still has a margin for progress. But he needs to improve his time trialling skills and learn to dose his forces well on a three-week race."

Bruyneel even added that Contador had "some things that remind me of Armstrong. He will be the figure of the future." The Spaniard will prepare for the big goal in July along the same lines as this year, as his racing programme includes the Mallorca Challenge for starters, followed by the Vuelta a Valencia, Paris-Nice, Vuelta a Castilla-León, Vuelta al País Vasco/Circuit de la Sarthe, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Dauphiné Libéré.

O'Bee returns to Health Net in last-minute deal

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Kirk O'Bee in the US Crit Champ jersey
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

A month ago Cyclingnews reported that US criterium champion Kirk O'Bee, who raced for Health Net-Maxxis in 2007, was without a team for the upcoming season. This was one of many examples of the sea change the domestic peloton was undergoing this off season, resulting in a flooded market of riders with less teams to handle them. However, Tuesday Health Net-Maxxis announced they had resigned O'Bee for the 2008 season, keeping the stars and stripes jersey in house.

"It is literally last minute," O'Bee told Cyclingnews. "They had to fax USA Cycling the contract just to get it there in time."

O'Bee previously said that Health Net-Maxxis was not even prepared to offer him a contract for 2008 as the team was downsizing – but then he had to go and win the stars and stripes jersey near the end of August, so the team felt obligated to scrape some money together, though it was much less than he was currently getting. "They knew what their budget was going to be, and they wanted their five or six core riders," O'Bee said in November. "I was one of those riders on the bubble, and they did make me an official offer, but it was literally half of what I was making this year."

O'Bee tried shopping around for a better deal, but it was too little, too late. O'Bee said the contract with Health Net-Maxxis is about the same as was offered to him earlier in the year, but with a few tweaks that will allow him to continue focusing on the track for Beijing. "They couldn't find any more money," he said. "But we came to an arrangement about what I want to do next year. I'll have a slower start to the season and race for May on so I can focus on the track. I won't have to worry about races like Tour of California so I can focus on the track. I think it will pay off in the long run, because it won't be as long of a season."

"The tough one for us was that we had made our decisions already," said new team director Mike Tamayo. "The contract season seems to start earlier and earlier, and guys were getting snatched up already in June this year! That left guys that started to shine in July and August this year, that left them out. That is the way Kirk's season played out."

While the track racing was originally more of a reaction to not having a team for 2008, O'Bee sees it as long-term investment in his racing beyond next year. "I'm keeping my foot in the door so hopefully things will pay off down the road. I still need to race and get results, so that is motivation after this stressful winter. I just went down to LA and raced at the talent pool qualification. I was kinda close in the pursuit, considering I hadn't done a pursuit in ten years. The mass start test, which is what I was focused on, didn't go as well. I did about the same time as I had done here in Vancouver, on a slower track and on training wheels."

"I have the six day coming up here in Vancouver – Kenny Williams and I will be partners," he said. "It's turned into the Canadian-American showdown! Then I am looking for a UCI track team so that I can get entry for LA."

Still, the weight off of O'Bee's shoulders was evident. "It is a relief," he said. "It is literally better than nothing."

Tour de France to start in Scotland?

Just days after the announcement that the Tour de France will start in Monaco in 2009, many were talking about a possible start of the French Grand Tour in Scotland.

"It would be amazing, and I think it is realistic," said Tour de France race veteran David Millar to the Glasgow Evening Times. "Logistics are always a problem, but where there's a will there's a way and if Ireland can do it then Scotland can. We could fly back to France - we've had bigger transfers than that within France."

Leon Thompson of EventScotland, a national events agency confirmed his organization had initiated discussions with ASO after this summer's start in London. "We've had early conversations about the possibility of hosting the Grand Depart in Scotland," Thompson said. "We haven't discussed possible years yet, or where it might happen. But all conversations are at a very early stage and we're really just looking at it. It's not something we were seeking to publicise."

A Scottish Tour de France start could happen as early as 2011.

"B" samples positive for Iban Mayo and Björn Leukemans

Iban Mayo

Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Iban Mayo's B sample returned positive for EPO in a test performed by the French national anti-doping laboratory (LNDD) in Chatenay-Malabry this Wednesday. After the A sample was found positive for the performance-enhancer at the Tour de France's second rest day last July by that same laboratory, the B sample was first analysed by a another accredited lab in Gent, Belgium. But scientists there found it to be "inconclusive", which made the International Cycling Union (UCI) ask the French lab to re-test the remainder of the B sample after the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) announced the probe to be "negative".

Anne Gripper, UCI anti-doping manager explained this discrepancy in October, saying, "In Gent, they use a slightly different technique [than the Paris laboratory]."

The case is thus far from closed for the former Saunier Duval rider, who will likely turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to argue his innocence if the RFEC suspends him. "Mayo will not admit the result, there could be a legal conflict," Eugenio Bermudez, RFEC secretary general had announced previously. On the other hand, if the RFEC decides not to sanction, the UCI will is bound to appeal that decision in front of the CAS, too.

Mayo's attorney José Rodríguez, who is the ex-president of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), insisted the counter-analysis by the Chatenay-Malabry lab was illegal. "We continue insisting that this analysis is a totally illegal control because it is not provided in the norms of the UCI, and so, this can not be valid when it comes to any sanction," said affirmed Rodríguez according to Marca.

Rodríguez indicated to L'Equipe that he will be evaluating "all possible options" for next steps, including an appeal to CAS, but said he has not yet had a chance to discuss with Mayo. "I don't know his reaction because he is not contactable," but the lawyer was betting Mayo would be unhappy to hear the results. "He may not have liked this news very much."

Björn Leukemans

Björn Leukemans' B probe also came back positive for artificial testosterone, the Belgian press reported on Wednesday. The test was conducted by the WADA-accredited lab in Barcelona, which confirmed the previous findings. The Belgian rider continued to proclaim his innocence and team Predictor-Lotto said that he would remain suspended.

Leukemans tested positive in an out-of-competition control on September 26. The lab in Gent, Belgium, indicated that his testosterone values were too high, and a lab in Cologne, Germany, certified the presence of artificial testosterone, which has now been confirmed by the Spanish lab.

The 30 year-old had previously claimed to have naturally high testosterone, and, alternatively, that he was having sex when the testers arrived, which would elevate his testosterone count. However, neither of these explanations would account for the presence of artificial testosterone in his urine.

"I am nevertheless innocent!" Leukemans said on his personal website. "These values are natural," he told Sporza. "It is not possible that I am positive. I risk a suspension of two years. My career is on the line. I continue to train."

His team suspended him when the positive A test was announced. In an official statement, the team said that it had heard the news of the B test only through the press and had not been officially notified. "A hearing is programmed for January 8, and this rider will be heard by the Flemish Community. In order to avoid any prejudice to the rights of the defense, the team will maintain the suspension of the rider until the results of the hearing are known."

However, team manager Marc Sergeant indicated to Sporza that if the report was true, the team would dismiss Leukemans.

Life-time ban sought for Marzoli

By Susan Westemeyer

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is continuing its efforts to crack down in the "Oil for Drugs" affair. Only days after announcing a life-time ban for Dr. Carlo Santuccione, CONI announced that it is also seeking a life-time ban against rider Ruggero Marzoli of team Tinkoff, as well as a three-months ban for Simone Masciarelli and two years for Francesco Di Paolo, both of Team Acqua & Sapone. The length of the bans is now up to the Italian federation's disciplinary committee.

Marzoli had previously been suspended in 1999 for the possession of doping products.

Danilo Di Luca has also been suspended for three months in connection with the affair, a ban which he is currently appealing.

Women's team Getränke Hoffmann stops

By Susan Westemeyer

Team Getränke Hoffmann will stop at the end of the year, team manager Wolfgang Schreiner has said. The German women's team existed for only one year, as the sponsor decided to end its engagement.

"It is bitter, but this development follows the current trend in cycling. The many negative headlines are destroying everything," said Sporting Director Torsten Wittig. Most of the team's riders have already signed with other teams. The only remaining riders are Steffi Pohl and Virginia Hennig. Pohl has had a number of successes in 'cross races, winning recently in Overijse.

The team did not respond to Cyclingnews' request for a comment.

Lastras eager to start season

Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears) won a stage at the 2005 Tour de Suisse
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
Click for larger image

Just before the Christmas holidays, Caisse d'Epargne's Pablo Lastras has started training again in view of next year's road racing season. "I just felt eager to commence training again," said the Spaniard from Madrid, who also recently attended a training course for directeurs sportifs. "Between the course and the team meeting [in Pamplona last week - ed.], where we did not take the bike, the truth is that I was getting a little late in my preparation, so now I need to get on with it."

For this, Lastras confronted cold temperatures which have taken a hold not only of Northern Europe at the moment. "It's not easy to train in winter, especially on days like these: a minimum of 0°C, and a maximum of 5. Fortunately, the sun is out and the group is going 'tranquilo'. Still, we're all out in the fresh air," he added.

His Caisse d'Epargne team will make its season debut at the Tour Down Under in Australia, the first 2008 ProTour race which will take place from January 22-27. Lastras has the objective of reaching a first peak of form there before continuing his season schedule with a team training camp in Mallorca. This will be followed by the Vuelta a Valencia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix, another training camp in altitude and the Giro d'Italia.

"This first part of the season programme will be a change for me, but it's always only to race more," smiled Lastras, who will be turning 32 years of age on January 20.

Mayoz signs with Karpin Galicia

By Monika Prell

Iban Mayoz' future career is assured. The 26 year-old from San Sebastián has signed a contract with the Russian-Galician Pro Continental team Karpin Galicia.

Mayoz became a pro in 2004 with team Relax and then went on to race with Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2006. That's where he had the opportunity to participate twice in the Giro d’Italia and to collect experience in the ProTour, a fact that benefited the decision of Karpin Galicia, as they wished to sign experienced riders, reported Diario Vasco. The team has one big objective: the Vuelta a España, where Ezequiel Mosquera - fifth of the 2007 edition - will be one of the leaders in 2008 together with David Herrero and Carlos Castaño.

After his dismissal at Euskaltel-Euskadi, Mayoz would have liked to re-sign with his former team Relax-GAM. But in the end, he opted to join Karpin Galicia, as the future of Relax is more than doubtful.

Mayoz joins the team after sport director Álvaro Pino made his riders work out already during the last week of November and the first week of December. During the training camp, the team covered a part of the 'Camino de Santiago' (St. James Way) by mountain biking from Ponferrada to Sarria and from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela in two days. The third part of the meeting took place in Fragas de Eume, where they continued to train, so that they should be prepared for the first races of the season, the Tour de Langkawi and the Vuelta a Mallorca.

US team selected for World 'Cross Championships

Katie Compton (Spike Shooter)
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling selected its first round of nominations for the US National Team headed to the 2008 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Treviso, Italy on January 26-27. Sixteen riders were picked from the elite women's and the elite, U23 and junior men's ranks based on their performance during the past year.

Katie Compton (Spike Shooter), who won silver at the 2007 World Championship, topped the list with her automatic nomination. Compton is currently ranked second in the world behind Dutch woman Daphny van den Brand and earlier this year captured the biggest win of her career with a victory at the third round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in the Netherlands.

Rachel Lloyd (Proman-Paradigm), Kerry Barnholt (Tokyo Joe's-Van Dessel), Sue Butler (River City Bicycles) and Amy Dombroski (Velo Bella-Kona) earned discretionary nominations.

Top-ranked American in the USGP of Cyclo-cross Georgia Gould (Luna) had also received an automatic nomination, but she declined participation. Gould told Cyclingnews in an interview in early December that she would not participate in the Worlds so she could focus on the upcoming mountain bike season. Gould is one of the favorites for making the US Olympic Mountain Bike Team.

Bjorn Selander earned the only men's U23 automatic nomination by winning his division at the National Championships. He will be joined by the silver medallist in last year's Junior World Championship Danny Summerhill and collegiate national champion Jamie Driscoll (Fiordifrutta). The final two U23 riders will be Chance Noble (California Giant) and Nichloas Weighall (Rad Racing Northwest).

Luke Keough (CL Noonan), Steve Fisher (Rad Racing Northwest), Eric Emsky (Rad Racing Northwest), Gavin Mannion (Hot Tubes) and Zach McDonald (Oh Boy Oberto) earned nominations to the junior men's squad.

The elite men's nominations will be announced on January 14 following the next two rounds of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Belgium and France.

US National Team for 2008 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Treviso, Italy

Elite Women
Katie Compton
Georgia Gould*
Rachel Lloyd
Kerry Barnholt
Sue Butler
Amy Dombroski

U23 Men
Bjorn Selander
Jamie Driscoll
Daniel Summerhill
Chance Noble
Nick Weighall

Junior Men
Luke Keough
Steve Fisher
Eric Emsky
Gavin Mannion
Zach McDonald

*declined nomination

AFLD bans Landis from all French competition

Landis will likely appeal to CAS
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) announced Wednesday that American Floyd Landis was banned from all races in France, including those not sanctioned by the UCI.

Then Phonak rider Landis tested positive for testosterone in July 2006 during the Tour de France, and he was banned for two years by the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) in September. The USADA ban prohibits him from competition in UCI races and those of affiliated national federations.

Given the ongoing dispute between the UCI and Tour de France organizers ASO, the new ban will cover events like the Tour de France, even if they happen without UCI or French Cycling Federation sanctioning.

"The AFLD has suspended Floyd Landis for a two-year duration from all competitions in France," said Pierre Bordry, AFLD president to Reuters. Landis' ban began January 30, 2007 and will run for two years, although he has the right to appeal the decision to France's Conseil d'Etat.

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