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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, December 21, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Sue George

Valverde looks to season's second part

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) will focus on the 2008 Tour de France
Photo ©: David Reinhardt
(Click for larger image)

Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde, who will become a dad to twins in the next few days, is looking forward to the 2008 season - especially the second part. As many top level cyclists will do, the Spaniard has also decided to shift his focus on the later months of the season as 2008 will again be an Olympic year with the Beijing Games looming on the horizon.

"In 2008, I will especially concentrate on the second part of the season, which will be indeed be very busy," Valverde said from his home in Murcia, Spain. "That doesn't mean that I will neglect the first part, because Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are races that I like very much, but it is clear that if I want to be at the top before the Tour de France - my main goal of the season - the Olympic Games, the Vuelta and the Worlds, it will be necessary to reduce my spring programme. The public may ask: where is Valverde? But Valverde will be training and preparing himself to realise a great second part of the season, with the hope to be in the mix on those crucial days."

Looking back on this year, the 27 year-old was satisfied with his performances even though he did not score the same amount of victories as in previous years. "It's obvious that I didn't obtain the victories which the public and perhaps myself awaited from me," Valverde said about his 2007 season. "Of course I would have liked to win more, but this year I proved once again that I can be with the best riders during the greatest part of the season and that is also something very important."

His biggest disappointment was to lose out to Danilo Di Luca in the last edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "My best day was in April, the day of Liège-Bastogne-Liège," he explained about his 2007 peaks of form. "It was one of the main objectives of my season, after I already won it in 2006. This year I felt extremely well too, but Di Luca was the first to attack and then it was impossible to catch him."

But the month of July made it up to the Spaniard as he was able to finish the Tour de France for the first time in his career. "I left London with the desire of learning and I believe that after three weeks on the French roads, I actually learned a lot," Valverde said. "In 2008, the Pyrenees will precede the Alps, which should be better for me. I prefer that. The reduction of the number of kilometres in the time trials is also an advantage for me. It is obvious that everything will depend on the beginning of the season, but if all goes to plan, I hope to be able to do a great Tour de France. To win it will be very difficult, but I believe that finishing on the podium is feasible."

In the meantime, Valverde is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family and waiting for a very special present this year: "Indeed! These days - we do not know yet if it will be at the end of December or at the beginning of January - my wife Angela will give birth to twins. That will be a great joy, something very special. From then on I will be another man."

Furious Mayo believes in conspiracy

By Monika Prell

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

"I don't know what to do. What does the UCI want? What are they looking for? I have the impression that since July I am living a nightmare." Those were the first words Iban Mayo said in an interview published in Deia one day after the second B sample of the Basque cyclist was found positive for EPO in the French Chatenay-Malabry laboratory. "I expected this, but nevertheless I am very furious and doubt everything around this last counter-analysis, proceeded to illegally. I also doubt that they analysed the urine at all because there wasn't a lot left."

Mayo and his attorney did not send any representative to supervise the re-opening of the sample in France, because for them, "it was an illegal analysis that didn't serve anything." The Spaniard was nevertheless mentally prepared for the positive result, "not because I am guilty, but because it was clear that the result would be one the UCI would like to have. Could you imagine that the UCI would admit that a third counter-analysis could also have been negative?"

The B sample of Mayo's first, positive A sample analysis was analysed twice: once by a laboratory in Gent, Belgium, which found it to be "inconclusive", and last week again by the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory in Paris, where the original analysis had been made. Still, the 30 year-old believed that the International Cycling Union (UCI), who asked for the re-opening of the B sample, was looking to prove something. "I don't know if it is the obstinacy of the UCI or a personal problem," he continued. "I think that if this counter-analysis had been negative, the UCI would lose credibility - if it still has any.

"I also thought that they want to demonstrate something, that they want to demolish the generation of cyclists I belong to. They are playing with the life of a person, with the sporting career of a rider that dedicated 30 years to it. This is something that nobody can take lightly, because the rules have to be respected," Mayo added, explaining that he thought the UCI did not stick to the rules in his case. "They accuse me of being a cheater? Of not having respected the norms of the Tour de France? So they are doing the same."

UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest meanwhile explained the procedure's legitimacy. "The analysis in Gent did not give a result, neither positive nor negative, so it is therefore logical that a second analysis was carried out," he told L'Equipe on Thursday.

Soeder named Austria's Cyclist of the Year

By Susan Westemeyer

Christiane Soeder (Austria) did a gutsy ride and finished third.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Christiane Soeder has used her third place in the World Championships time trial to win the title of Austria's Cyclist of the Year. She is the first woman ever to win the award, voted on by officials, trainers and journalists.

The 32 year-old, who is also a doctor, didn't turn pro until 2005. Her Worlds' medal was the first for an Austrian woman and only the second ever for Austria. The men's four-man team won bronze in 1987.

Soeder won the award with 512 points, far ahead of 'cross rider Elisabeth Osl (345 points) and Christian Pfannberger of Team Elk Haus (342 points). Fourth was Team High Road's Bernhard Eisel (310 points) and fifth place went to paracycling time trial World Champion Wolfgang Eibeck (224 points).

Gould fights for gender equality in cycling

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Georgia Gould (Luna)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Days before the US cyclo-cross championships began in Kansas City, Kansas, word that an online petition regarding equality in race prize pay-outs between men and women was circulating. The author of the petition, mountain biker and cyclo-cross racer Georgia Gould (Luna Chix), was amazed by the quick response from the community – saying it gave her the inspiration to follow-up with a more formal proposal to the UCI.

"I've been super impressed by the response – not just from other woman racers but from men, from promoters – some people didn't even know it is so unequal," she told Cyclingnews "I think there is some good momentum and I hope I can get something accomplished."

A frequent knee-jerk reaction to this idea is that men's racing brings in more spectators, and subsequently more sponsorship money, than women's racing. Gould does acknowledge this, but she is not asking for total equality down the prize lists. More specifically, Gould is asking for the top five spots in any UCI race to have equal prize minimums between the men and women.

"It isn't about taking anything away from the guys, it's about being equal at the very top," she said. "And these are just for the UCI minimums. If a promoter wants to pay one more than the other, above the minimum, then fine – as long as the minimums are equal. It's really a no-brainer."

"People use circular reasoning to justify how it is. Like, 'Look at the women's field, it is not as big – that is why the purse shouldn't be as big.' But like the battle between me and Katie [Compton], they have been working that just as much as the guy's race. Sure, pay the men out deeper, but the top five is just as competitive."

Gould cited numerous examples, including a recent one. "At the USGP races, the women got more from winning the SRAM most aggressive rider prize than the [US]$237 from winning the race, while the guys were getting like $600 for winning. The reason you have a UCI race is to attract top riders, but if you want us to come, you need to pay us equally."

When asked about potential backlash, such as a promoter deciding to simply cut the women's category from a race rather than increase the prize money, Gould said that it is a possibility, but hopes promoters will see the logic in her reasoning. "I think that would be really disappointing, because we aren't talking about thousands of dollars. At the end, this should make the promoters more accountable. Right now they can say the UCI's rules, so this is why I am trying to go to the UCI directly."

For now, Gould is going to collect her initial wave of support before heading to the top. However, some promoters are already voluntarily supporting her idea. "I am going to write a longer proposal and get letters of support. There are some promoters that are totally all about this. The NORBA series made the top five equal this year, and other promoters doing that is a huge step. It's really commendable for people to do it without having to."

"I've been thinking about it for a while, and it was just time to stop complaining and try to do something," said Gould. "If you try it and it doesn't work, at least you can say you did something."

More information about the petition can be found here.

Unibet becomes Cycle Collstrop

By Susan Westemeyer

Jacques Hanegraaf and Hilaire Van Der Schueren, the former directors of team, will return to the peloton in 2008 with a Professional Continental team to be called Cycle Collstrop.

The team will have a budget of some two million Euro. Collstrop, a Belgian company which produces wooden garden accessories, has been involved in sponsoring cycling teams off and on for many years.

Philip Roodhooft will be the new manager, and Van Der Schueren will be team director. Hanegraaf will deal with the sponsors.

So far, the team has thirteen riders under contract, most of whom are former Unibet riders: Tom Criel, Gilles Suray, Kenny Van Der Schueren, Matthé Pronk, Sergey Kolesnikov, Sergey Lagutin, Marco Marcato and Lucas Persson. A big name rider is also expected to sign soon: "We already have a verbal agreement with Jimmy Casper," Van Der Schueren told Sportwereld.

Beloki to announce future plans

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Armstrong avoids Beloki at the 2003 Tour de France
Photo: © AFP

Joseba Beloki, who has finished three times in the top three overall at the Tour de France, will announce Friday morning his future plans. Beloki, without a team, did not compete in 2007

The Basque rider whose name has been linked allegedly to the ongoing Operación Puerto said to the Meta2Mil newspaper, "I am not sanctioned, but the silly thing is that I cannot race because no one wants to sign me. I do not understand anything, but the worst thing is that I never wanted to leave cycling."

The 34 year-old rider has began racing as a professional in 1998, when he debuted at age 26 with the Euskaltel-Euskadi. He's ridden with Festina, and ONCE-Eroski. Beloki finished in the second place in the 2002 Tour de France and third in 2000 and in 2001. In 2003 he suffered his famous crash, in which he was seriously injured, in the ninth stage during the descent off La Côte De La Rochette.

In 2006, when Beloki returned to the Liberty Seguros team after a fleeting passage through Brioches La Boulangere, his name appeared in an Operación Puerto report and he was excluded from the Tour in 2006.

AG2R training camp

Vladimir Efimkin leads at the 2007 Vuelta
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

French ProTour team AG2R-La Mondiale is currently finishing its pre-season training camp in Temple-sur-Lot in Southwestern France. The squad directed by Vincent Lavenu has 30 riders on its roster for the 2008 season, including eight newcomers. Amongst them also are the two new leaders of the team, Slovenian Tadej Valjavec and Russian Vladimir Efimkin, winner of the Lagos de Covadonga mountain stage in this year's Vuelta a España.

"It's important that the riders get to know one another as some of them will practically only see each other during the training camps," Lavenu told L'Equipe. "[Valjavec and Efimkin] have already integrated well. Valjavec already speaks French and Efimkin turns to his dictionary every day."

Besides the training rides and photo sessions, the team has to make important technical adjustments this year as AG2R changed its bicycle and helmet supplier. The French team will next year race on BH bikes, which is why all seven mechanics of the outfit are present in Temple-sur-Lot. As for the riders, only one is missing: René Mandri, who was operated on the iliac artery three weeks ago.

Aune to Uniqa-Graz

Swedish Karin Aune has left Menikini-Gysko and signed for Austrian team Uniqa-Graz for the coming season. This will be her third year as a pro, after her debut in Michaela Fanini-Record Rox in 2006 at the age of 31. Before that she studied for a PhD in Forest management directed on viability models for forest cryptogams.

"Uniqa is a smaller team than Menikini, but that was a deliberate choice from my part. I will get a fairly free role and will be able to take my chances, which I think suits me better. This past season has been mostly about helping others. It will be fun and exciting to race with this team next year," said Aune.

The team will have its first training camp in February in southern Spain or Portugal. The team has its headquarters in Graz in Austria.

Leukemans' positive due to doctor failure?

By Susan Westemeyer

Björn Leukemans' positive test for testosterone was due to a product mistakenly prescribed by a team Predictor-Lotto doctor, according to the Belgian newspaper De Morgen, which further reported that the team has fired the doctor. It was, however, unclear as to why the rider was given the product in the first place.

The newspaper claimed that the doctor, whose name is not given, gave Leukemans the product Prasteron, which contains the steroid DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone). DHEA is similar to testosterone and is on the forbidden list.

"It is terrible thing from a young, dedicated doctor with an impeccable record," an unnamed team source told the newspaper. "However, it was an enormous mistake."

"I have faith in someone who has studied for seven years," Leukemans stated. "I asked him if he could have a problem with this. He said no."

Even if Leukemans depended on the doctor's word, he is still not in the clear. Under the WADA code, an athlete is responsible for what is in his body.

The further question remains why the doctor may have prescribed this drug to Leukemans. DHEA is a natural steroid hormone, which the body converts into androgen and estrogen, hormones which affect sexual development and function. According to the Mayo Clinic, DHEA has been shown to be effective in treating adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labour, and lupus (especially in women).

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc. says that "DHEA's effects on the body are similar to those of testosterone." It adds, "Theoretically, DHEA may result in breast enlargement in men and hairiness in women and may stimulate the growth of certain prostate and breast cancers, but these effects have not been substantiated," and specifically warns, "DHEA should not be used by children attempting to build muscle or enhance athletic performance."

DHEA is commonly used in the bodybuilding scene, with frequent references to the fact that athletes use it to boost their testosterone levels. However, scientific studies are unclear on this point. The Mayo Clinic says that "DHEA can, in theory, raise testosterone and estrogen levels in your body."

Predictor-Lotto did not respond to Cyclingnews' request for a comment.

Two years for Fertonani

By Susan Westemeyer

The disciplinary committee of the Italian cycling federation has suspended Marco Fertonani of Caisse d'Epargne for two years. The 31-year-old tested positive for testosterone after the Tour Mediterranean in February. The team suspended him in July when the test results were made public.

Fertonani turned pro in 2002 with Team Phonak. In 2005 he rode for Domina Vacanze before transferring to Caisse d'Epargne in 2006. He won a stage in the Vuelta Castilla y Leon in 2006 and one in the Tour of Qinghi Lake in 2004. He finished fourth in the Tour Med this year.

Milton back on the bike

Michael Milton breaks the Australian record
Photo ©: John Veage
(Click for larger image)

Australia's fastest skier turned cyclist, Michael Milton, will ride in the 2008 Johnny Warren Jamberoo Classic (JWJC), his first charity event since being diagnosed with cancer in July. The winner of eleven Paralympic medals (six of them gold) and a world speed skiing record holder, Milton, who lost one of his legs to bone cancer when he was 14 years old, is determined to regain his fitness and qualify for the Paralympic Games cycling team.

"I love the idea of combining cycling, raising money for cancer research and remembering a legendary Australian sporting figure," said Milton, one of the best known athletes in the country. "I also see the ride as a good test in my quest to get back my fitness."

Milton has organised a group of friends to make the trip to Loftus on January 6, 2008, to ride with him in the fifth annual 96km JWJC. His recovery from Oesophageal Cancer is ongoing and, although he won't be officially cancer-free until he gets the all-clear at the five year mark, the results have been good.

"Life throws so many challenges at us - some we choose and others are thrust upon us," Milton said. "Some you have a bit of talent for and others you don't have any talent for. I'm yet to conquer my tax return so that's probably one of the biggest challenges I face," he added, laughing.

Milton will join the Kersten brothers (Josh and Ben) and an estimated 200 other cyclists taking part in the JWJC which raises money for the Sydney Cancer Centre Foundation. The event will include a football juggle-off that will take place as riders arrive at Stuart Park in Wollongong.

Event organiser and Johnny Warren's nephew, Jamie Warren, explained that members of the local Johnny Warren Football Foundation will juggle footballs for cash. "We really wanted to incorporate a bit of football in the 2008 event. The boys will be trying to set new juggling records as the cyclists arrive."

Participants are reminded that the JWJC is not a race but made up of mainly experienced cyclists. Riders are encouraged to pre-register by emailing organisers at

USAC awards cycling center grants

USA Cycling awarded nine regional athlete development programs with US$27,500 in cash grants through its Centers of Excellence program. Wednesday's winners were the Young Medalists Cycling Team, Lehigh Wheelman Future Champions, Fulton Flyers Cycling Club, Tri Star Cycling Team, Rad Racing, Orlando Road Club, Des Moines Cycle Club, Team Swift, and Northern California Cycling Foundation.

The Young Medalists Cycling Team, operating under the Lehigh Valley Cycling Club (LVCC) in Pennsylvania, won its first grant. Formed in 2006, the relatively new development team, which collaborates with the Lehigh Wheelmen Future Champions, features 23 young athletes focused on qualifying for international racing activities through National Championship results. Two of its riders won a combined five medals at the US National Championship events in the past two years and one rider, 17 year-old Lanell Rockmore represented the US at the Junior World Championships in 2007.

The Fulton Flyers Cycling Club of Atlanta, Georgia, and the TriStar Cycling Team, based in Nashville, Tennessee were also named first-time grant winners. Both focus on junior and U23 riders. The Fulton Flyers has 23 athletes participating in road, track and cyclo-cross competitions, and collectively this group scored eight top-10 finishes in National Championship events in 2007.

As a larger club, TriStar had 108 licensed members, with 26 under the age of 23 in its development programs. This year's "elite" junior team of nine riders attended the Fitchburg-Longsjo Cycling Classic, national camps and the National Championships. The squad promotes the annual Edgar Soto Memorial Stage race and a Share the Road campaign. The team plans to expand its numbers in 2008.

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