Latest Cycling News for March 7, 2007
Edited by Gregor Brown
Unibet.com takes legal action against ASO over Paris-Nice start
Team also to claim compensation from UCI in courts
By Shane Stokes
As the days tick down to Paris-Nice, the Unibet.com ProTour team has taken legal action against ASO, organisers of the race, in order to ensure they get a start on Sunday.
Speaking to Cyclingnews on Wednesday morning, general manager Koen Terryn said that the team will know the outcome in two days time. "We have taken a case against ASO and the results of this will be coming out on Friday afternoon. We went to court in France yesterday evening to try to have a judge say that ASO needs to invite us to Paris-Nice.
"I don't know the exact term in English, but it is a special case where the judge needs to make an announcement in the first 36 hours or so. As we are a ProTour team, if we are not allowed to enter the ProTour races then the competition is not valid and we will be damaged. If we can't start a certain races, we can't get points."
He also confirmed that they are taking a court action against the UCI. "We are attacking the UCI in the courts but that will take us one to three years. The reason for that is because we are asking for a large amount of money.
"We are very frustrated by what has happened," he continued. "This is not the way of doing business, telling somebody you have a license, then we go and attract riders, cars, the bus and a lot of other stuff. Then once we give all the riders contracts etc then they say, 'sorry, but you don't have your license anymore.'
"It is not the way of doing business, so we are going to court to attack the UCI and at least get a lot of money back."
ASO has regularly used the argument that Unibet.com is illegal under French anti-gambling laws, most recently yesterday.
The team has however been able to race – and win – in France this year, wearing non-branded jerseys to avoid any legal complications. Terryn says that ASO are fully aware that they are willing to compromise in this way, but that the Tour organisers refuse to take this into account.
"The ASO are always telling the press that we are illegal. Firstly, we have already informed ASO that they need to make a difference between Unibet as a sponsor and the Unibet cycling team [when making such statements].
"Secondly, the team is willing to ride in France with the jersey without the name of Unibet.com. ASO knows this very clearly. We sent them an email, fax, we telephoned them but they are still persisting in saying that we are illegal in France. This isn't the case. If we are willing to ride with a neutral jersey, they can't use this reason anymore to attack us. But they still keep doing it.
"Of course, this is all because ASO don't like the ProTour. They like other teams to ask them if we can please take part in their races. That is the heart of the dispute between the UCI and ASO."
When Cyclingnews asked if the team would be willing to ride without Unibet.com on their jerseys in the Tour de France, Terryn is straight up. "Of course, of course. And don't forget, that apart from Unibet, the team needs to defend Canyon, for example, which is our bike sponsor, and Bioracer, the clothes sponsor. We have other sponsors as well, rather than just Unibet. So of course we would like to ride with a shirt with Canyon, with Bioracer, and as long as Unibet don't have a license in France, we won't mention Unibet.com on the shirt. That is not an issue."
Unibet.com will hold a press conference in Drongen, Belgium, at 2 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Cyclingnews will report from this conference and also feature a full interview with Koen Terryn soon.
RCS Sport: "license system is dead"
After days of negotiations and a meeting on Monday, that lasted into the late evening, the UCI ProTour and Grand Tour organizers have come to a partial agreement that will allow cycling to continue with its important races, even if the question of team selection has not yet been fully answered.
Paris-Nice, the first event entitled as a "ProTour" race, starts this Sunday, but three days after, running almost simultaneously, is the Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian race, run by the same organizers as the Giro d'Italia, RCS Sport, still refuses to allow Unibet.com to race, after initially snubbing them in February during its wild card selections.
"We do not form part of the ProTour system," declared Angelo Zomegnan, events director of RCS Sport, after Monday's meeting to Rai Sport. RCS Sport owns Tirreno, Milano-Sanremo, Giro and Giro di Lombardia, and has taken a stance with its French counterpart, ASO, against the ProTour system.
"We have contacted the best 18 teams in the world [18 of 20 ProTour teams, lacking Unibet.com and Astana, but the latter is in on a wild card invite - ed.] but, in regards to the Grand Tours, we are able to invite another four teams via wild cards. For us the license system is dead," concluded the director from Lombardia, referring to the current upper-tier teams' rankings, ProTour.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
Ballan returns in Tirreno
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) was involved in a crash last Saturday in southern Switzerland. During the GP Chiasso the 27 year-old rider from Veneto crashed and, subsequently, has had to take time off the bike. There were no fractures, but he is still experiencing pain in his legs and backside while trying to pedal.
Ballan will be forced to skip the Milano-Torino this Saturday, where he finished fourth in the 2006 edition, and hopes to return strong in the Tirreno-Adriatico, March 14-20.
By Susan Westemeyer
Andreas Klöden didn't get off to a good start in his first season with the new Team Astana - health problems held him back at the team's Majorca training camp in January. In order to make up for lost time, he returned to the island for three weeks of additional training along with teammate Matthias Kessler. They were also joined by Danilo Hondo for part of the time.
The slender German was finally able to open his season at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. "The race was very demanding; at times and there were some long stages," said Klöden on his website, andreas-kloeden.com. "In five days we rode nearly 1000 kilometres. Perfect conditions to work on the basic training."
Bad weather at his home has sent him to southern Switzerland, where he is again training with Kessler. Klöden's next test will be Tirreno-Adriatico, starting on March 14. "I hope that everything goes perfectly and that I can use Tirreno to continue building up my condition for the Tour de France," he concluded.
Cunego ready for Murcia
Yesterday, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) tested his legs on the Vuelta a Murcia's time trial parcours, stage 4, March 10. Il Piccolo Principe will be able to ride against the clock for the first time this season, and against key rivals, in the Spanish stage race, running today through Sunday, March 11. Slated to start in Murcia are Italians Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffč Mokambo); Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).
"It is flat for the first 18 kilometres," said the 25 year-old after the test ride to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "While the last three are hard, like a mountain time trial. It will be a good test for the Giro, I will go at my maximum and I am curious to measure myself against the others."
Read Damiano Cunego wind tunnel testing with John Cobb for more about Cunego's time trialing
VDB hoping for the Giro d'Italia
By Susan Westemeyer
Frank Vandenbroucke is in the middle of physical therapy for the knee which was operated on last month and can't race again until the end of April, but he is already planning his season. "My intention is to be ready for the start of the Giro," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "There are still 70 days, so it must be possible.
"I can forget the spring," he said. "As long as my muscle mass hasn't returned to normal, there's no point in pushing the training."
VDB now rides for Acqua & Sapone-Caffč Mokambo, and said that the team knows that there is no guarantee on his knee. "I've got their full support. There is no pressure from them. They said if I wanted to continue riding, I should. And I want to. But it's not getting easier.
"I was tip-top shape in my head and my legs. And now this. I am 32, the years are flying by," he concluded.
Jai Crawford: Taking the silk road to Europe
Australia's Jai Crawford is aiming to re-write all the rules by making it to the ProTour via the Asian cycling scene. The Tasmanian sat down with Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson after his stellar performance at the Tour de Langkawi.
Jai Crawford is hoping to become an Australian pioneer by forging a new route in the path to cycling's elite level. The Tasmanian is aiming to reach the heights of cycling via the Asian scene, rather than the traditional European route.
Crawford may well be a little-known Tasmanian in the world of cycling, but he's hoping that by posting big results in 2007 the sport's power brokers will be forced to sit up and take notice. Le'ts set the future aside for a moment and look at the route that has led Crawford to this point.
Like a growing number of Australian road cyclists, Crawford comes from a background in mountain biking. In fact, it was his mountain biking prowess that saw the now 23 year-old offered a scholarship with the Tasmanian Institute of Sport in 2002.
But, despite some success in the discipline that included competing at the World Championships in Lugano, Switzerland , Crawford's exposure to road racing through the TIS program was ultimately the path that he would follow. In 2004, the decision was made - Crawford had his scholarship transferred from the TIS MTB team to its road squad.
"I didn’t have the technical skill to compete at the highest level in most XC MTB races," Crawford said in an interview at the time, "so the choice to try the road became an obvious one after many frustrating, poor MTB results."
The youngster's swap to the black-top kicked off a rapid spurt in his career that landed Crawford in a British UCI Continental team just 12 months later. At 21 years of age, already in a European squad, the path to a ProTour contract looked clear, but it was in fact the beginning of a downward spiral in his career. Read the full interview with Jai Crawford
Botero returns to racing with a win
By Susan Westemeyer
Another rider linked to the Operación Puerto investigation has returned to action. Santiago Botero, formally with Floyd Landis at Phonak, won a mountain time trial in his native Colombia this weekend. It was his first race since being suspended by Phonak in June of last year.
After winning the Clasica Rionegro, Botero said, "I had to use all my strength and experience, but I am very happy about this start," according to Radsport-news.de.
Botero signed this year to ride with UNE Orbitel, which rides the South American Continental circuit. However, he has his sights set on something bigger; "I want to fly over to Europe again," he said. "For the World Championships in Stuttgart."
Impey beats Hunter by one second
Tuesday, March 6, Daryl Impey of MTN Microsoft took the lead in the Cape Argus Pick 'N Pay Giro del Capo in South Africa. He rode the 5.5 kilometre prologue in 7.23, one second faster than native South African Robbie Hunter of Team Barloworld, who was returning to the race after a 10-year absence. He took the points award jersey, and Barloworld won the team ranking, with four riders in the top 20, according to the team's website, teambarloworld.com.
The prologue was held in Paarl, Cape Town, and "a chilly south-easterly wind blew into Paarl from late afternoon, making the course far more difficult than expected." The winds are expected to continue through the week, and "the riders may have to rethink their strategy, as the winds will not be to their advantage," the website noted.
Trial date set for Museeuw
Johan Museeuw, Mario De Clercq, Jo Planckaert and Chris Peers will have to be in court in Kortrijk, Belgium, on Monday, April 2, for a doping-related trial. They had requested that the charges be dismissed, but that appeal was overruled in January.
In a case dating back to 2003, the cyclists were charged with possessing EPO and Aranesp. Former World Champion Museeuw is accused of possessing drugs acquired through a veterinarian. Although he never failed a doping test, he was banned by the Belgian federation for two years for his alleged offence, and has recently admitted to doping.
Bartko leads German Track Worlds team
Pursuit World Champion Robert Bartko will lead the German team in the Track World Championships in Palma de Mallorca, March 29 to April 1. The Bund Deutscher Rundfahrer on Tuesday announced the 21 riders who will represent Germany, a team consisting of 13 men and eight women.
Sprint Events: Robert Förstemann, Matthias John, Maximilian Levy, Stefan Nimke, Michael Seidenbecher and René Wolff.
Sprint Events: Jane Gerisch, Dana Glöß, Christin Muche and Miriam Welte.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)