First Edition Cycling News for March 8, 2007
Edited by Sue George
Unibet Team says it is fully legal
By Shane Stokes
The team is currently taking court action due to their dissatisfaction with Monday's settlement deal between the UCI and the three Grand Tours. General manager Koen Terryn said in an interview with Cyclingnews on Wednesday that the team had been left out in the cold by the deal and that they have applied to a French court for a ruling which would enable them to start Paris-Nice on Sunday.
Furthermore, he claimed that ASO is fully aware that the team will wear non-branded clothing in all French races, including the Tour de France, and that while this complies with French law limiting gambling advertising, the organisers continue to use the legal argument as justification for excluding the team.
At the press conference and in a press release issued afterwards, the team explained its position. "The Unibet Team has long left behind the legal issue with respect to sponsoring," it said in the communique. "As a matter of fact, in the first races of the season, the "GP de la Marseillaise" and the "Etoile de Bessèges", the Unibet Team has raced in a "neutral" outfit, upon prior dialogue with the representatives of the French police authorities and in entire agreement with various French Prefectoral decisions that had been issued.
"The Unibet Team is therefore perfectly entitled to participate in cycling races in France. The Unibet Team retains correspondence of both the UCI and ASO, in which this situation is explicitly acknowledged. More precisely, the Unibet Team has explicitly stated towards ASO that it would, if required, continue to participate in certain races with a "neutral" outfit, and ASO has acknowledged explicitly and in writing that in such circumstances, it would take into consideration the candidacy of the Unibet Team for its various races."
As a result of this, the team says that court proceedings will be taken if the organisers use this argument in the future. "Any further allegation of UCI or of ASO, RCS or Unipublic that the Unibet Team would be "illegal" or that it would not be allowed to participate in races in France, Italy or Spain is therefore an act of defamation against which legal actions will be taken."
The team also charges that it has been caught in the middle of the clash over the ProTour, being used by the Grand Tour organisers as a means to provoke the UCI in their conflict. "The Unibet Team was sometimes refused access for "organisational reasons", on other occasions the justification was based especially towards the press on "legal reasons."
"The Unibet team has sufficient material to refute these justifications, and refers to a copy of the writ of summons put at the disposal of the press. The justifications invoked are manifestly a cover-up. It is apparent that the Unibet Team has been refused access to several races on arbitrary grounds, and namely in order to provoke a conflict with UCI."
European Court of Justice ruling may open up European market
Meanwhile, a landmark court ruling by the European Court of Justice has raised expectations that companies such as Unibet.com could break free of the legal restrictions which are in place in many European companies.
On Tuesday, the ECJ found in favour of a claim by UK-licenced bookmaker Stanleybet International that Italian authorities were not complying with an existing EU law on freedom of businesses to provide services.
Last year, Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy began legal proceedings against ten EU countries, including France, Germany and Italy over similar issues. He is expected to shortly decide whether to pursue these as far as the European Court.
The International Herald Tribune referred to the example of Vienna-based Bwin Interactive, quoting a spokesman who said that this ruling would pave the way for a liberalisation of the market. In 2006, French authorities arrested two executives of the company for appearing at a news conference to announce a sponsorship deal with the soccer club Monaco.
"The kind of things that happened in France are now clearly out of the scope of European law," Bwin's Konrad Sveceny told the IHT. "It is clearly another big step toward opening up the European gaming market. In the light of this judgment, state monopolies are no longer tenable."
If the predicted revision came into force, Unibet.com would be able to use its regular jersey in races such as the Tour de France. Some observers within the sport had questioned if the company would stay involved if the current restrictions remained in place and unbranded clothing was required.
FFC President calls for Verbruggen's resignation
According to L'Equipe, the president of the French Federation of Cycling (FFC) Jean Pitallier called for the resignation from the UCI of Hein Verbruggen on Wednesday at the Federation's headquarters in Rosny-sous-Bois. Former UCI president Verbruggen was the man behind the creation of the ProTour. He still serves the UCI as vice-president along with Ray Godkin and Vladimir Holecek according to the UCI's website.
"It is necessary to draw the conclusions from the failure of ProTour," said Pitallier. "I ask that Hein Verbruggen, who is behind these problems, withdraw himself, just like his closest collaborators, and that he gives up his functions in cycling."
Pitallier's opinion of Verbruggen is not so different from that of Patrice Clerc, who implied in a past interview with Cyclingnews that Verbruggen was still very active behind the scenes.
Current UCI President Pat McQuaid was spared; no calls were made for his resignation.
Lawyer speaks for Unibet
Team Unibet.com is caught in the middle a political tug of war between the UCI and the Grand Tour organizers. Following Monday's meeting between the two dueling parties, the ProTour team called a press conference of its own Wednesday afternoon, to discuss the issues and its legal actions. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews met with the team's lawyer, Christoph De Preter, in Drongen, Belgium, home of the team's headquarters.
Developing laws in France have stated that no other gaming institutions can advertise in its country other than the state's selected institutions, like Française Des Jeux, which also happens to sponsor a French team. The team said at the conference to Cyclingnews that this is not entirely correct, in that a team like Française Des Jeux can race outside of France without facing similar legal problems that now face Unibet.com. It further stated that the team is suffering as a result of disagreements between the ASO and UCI.
In 2005, the team existed as MrBookmaker, so what has changed? "That is a very good question; I don't think anything has changed," noted De Preter. "Over the last three years, the team was sponsored by an online bookmaker and suddenly this year, the organizers of the Grand Tours and the UCI have considered this to be a legal problem.
"We are of the opinion that this whole legal debate is actually just a cover-up for something much more fundamental, which is the struggle that is going on between the UCI and the organizers of the Grand Tours to gain control over the cycling community and of the ProTour system."
To read the complete feature, click here. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for an upcoming feature about how the Unibet.com team situation fits into the larger, ongoing ProTour / Grand Tours conflict.
ASO announces Paris Nice squads
Just two days after Paris Nice organizers and the UCI worked out a deal to allow the 18 original ProTour teams to compete, ASO announced a full list of teams for the March 11-18 event. The 19th ProTour team, Astana, was included, but Unibet.com, was not.
Traditionally, the race serves as an early season chance to see how teams stack up against each other. Past winners like Jacques Anquetil, Eddie Merckx, Sean Kelly, Miguel Indurain, Laurent Jalabert, Alexandre Vinokourov and Floyd Landis have tended to do well continuing on into the season.
Organizers have suggested fans look across the Atlantic for potential favourites. Last year's winner of the Tour of California, Floyd Landis also took the spoils at Paris-Nice. That puts Discovery Channel racer Levi Leipheimer in the hot seat for this year.
Other favourites expected to challenge the likes of Leipheimer are CSC's Franck Schleck and Bobby Julich; T-Mobile's Patrick Sinkewitz and Axel Merckx (TMO), Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans, Astana's Antonio Colom, and François de Jeux's Philippe Gilbert.
Sprinters like Tom Boonen, look to make their mark. Already with six victories this year, Boonen is a proven success at Paris Nice (three victories in 2006, two in 2005). The Italian Daniele Bennati seems most likely to counter Boonen next week, but look out also for Cyril Dessel, Sylvain Calzati, and Pierrick Fedrigo.
20 teams will be competing.
Milram on Paris-Nice
By Susan Westemeyer
Team Milram will be at the start of Paris-Nice this coming Sunday, the team announced Wednesday.
The compromise that was reached at Monday's meeting now allows the team to start in Paris-Nice," the team said on its website, team-milram.de. If a solution to the conflict not been reached, then the team would "probably" have followed the ruling of the UCI.
"UCI ProTour teams may not participate in a race that is on a national calendar," according to Milram Commercial Manager Gerry van Gerwen. "If Paris-Nice had been removed from the racing calendar and declared a 'free race' on the French calendar, then no UCI ProTour team would have been allowed to take part."
Lampre-Fondital for Paris Nice
Lampre-Fondital has set their team for Paris Nice, and director Guido Bontempi commented on the upcoming race.
"We want to realize good performances in this race that last year gave us satisfactions such as Paxti Vila stage victory and his second place in the overall standing. There will be many strong teams because this is the first very important race in this season; for the overall standing we have Vila and Tadej Valjavec. Bennati will work with the aim to prepare in a perfect way Milano-Sanremo and to observe closely his opponents for the (Milano-Sanremo) Spring Classic."
Riders: Fabio Baldato, Daniele Bennati, Claudio Corioni, David Loosli, Massimiliano Mori, Daniele Righi, Tadej Valjavec, and Patxi Vila. Guido Bontempi and Maurizio Piovani will serve as director sportifs.
Saunier Duval-Prodir for Paris Nice & Tirreno Adriatico
Saunier Duval-Prodir announced its roster for the first ProTour event on the calendar. Under the guidance of Joxean "Matxin" Fernández and Sabino Angoitia, the racers will be David Millar, Francisco Ventoso, Iban Mayo, Jesús del Nero, Alberto Fernández, Iker Camaño, Christophe Rinero, and Remmert Wielinga.
Next week, Pietro and Matteo Algeri will lead the following riders at the Tirreno Adriatico race: Manuele Mori, Luciano Pagliarini, Leonardo Piepoli, Ángel Gómez "Litu", Peter Mazur, Rubens Bertogliati, Raivis Belohvosciks and Riccardo Riccò.
Local hero Valverde against the others
By Monika Prell
Fans and also the organisers of the Vuelta a Murcia would like to see their local hero Alejandro Valverde win the race. But the cyclist, born in Murcia, will have strong rivals. Andrei Kashechkin (Astaná), Marcos Serrano (Karpin Galicia), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Stefano Garzelli (Aqua Sapone), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval), and Víctor Hugo Peña (Unibet.com), are, among others, the riders most likely to endanger his chances of winning.
The course does not have too many mountains, two third category climbs ins in the first stage, two second category ones in the second stage, and two third category ones in the third stage.
For the first stage, a massive sprint is expected, according to the Spanish newspaper AS. For day two, the two mountains, the Alto de Espuña and the Collado Bermejo with the Cima Marco Pantani, will likely not be decisive as they were in other editions because after the second climb, cyclists will still have 100 kms remaining to the finish in Fortuna.
Saturday's stage will probably be most decisive. It features a 23km individual time trial in the mountains. It's new for such a short race, but the racers approved its inclusion.
US Open still alive
The new organizer of the US Open Cycling Championship confirmed Wednesday the Virginia event will take place on April 7 despite challenges of finding a last-minute title sponsor and losing its executive director, who resigned last week.
"The U.S. Open Cycling Championship is still a go," said Dick Durishin, president of Red Five Sports Group, Inc. to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Former director Tim Miller resigned because of "financial circumstances within the company. It was not able to support me anymore. I've got a family to think about." Durishin has replaced Miller by hiring John Eustice and his company, Sparta Cycling, to serve as executive director for the event. Eustice has also been a commentator for the Tour de France.
Although the leadership problem is now solved, the search for a title sponsor continues. "I don't know that we're going to find one," Durishin said to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "What is critical is that we have enough sponsors who come on board, regardless of the level, to pay for the event." Yesterday, organizers announced that Anheuser-Busch had signed on as a major, albeit not a title sponsor. Organizers have already lined up two hours of TV coverage.
The elite men are scheduled to race 125 miles from Williamsburg to Richmond, Virginia, while the women will race a course in Richmond prior to the arrival of the men's race.
McGee to miss Paris-Nice
By Jean-Francois Quenet
Française des Jeux (FDJ) will line up at Paris-Nice without Bradley McGee who had high ambitions for Sunday's prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux where he took third last year. The Australian is struggling with sinus and ear infections since he returned from the world cup track event in Manchester two weeks ago.
He plans to resume racing in Cholet-Pays de Loire on March 25. FDJ will be built around Philippe Gilbert, Sandy Casar and Thomas Lövkvist for the Race to the Sun.
T-Mobile in Belgium
T-Mobile Team is continuing its Belgian racing program one man short this weekend. It will be sending only seven riders to the Record Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, all of whom started Wednesday's Le Samyn.
Only Roger Hammond will not be riding the weekend race, because he is scheduled to start in Paris-Nice on Sunday. "We had originally planned to use Andre Korff for the Belgian week, but he didn't recover in time from a cold," said Directeur Sportif Jan Schaffrath. "If we do draft another rider, it will be a last-minute call."
T-Mobile for the Record Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen: Eric Baumann, Mark Cavendish, Scott Davis, Andre Greipel, Adam Hansen, Aaron Olson, and Frantisek Rabon.
Milram for Milano-Torino
Team Milram will be sending two former winners to Milano-Torino on Saturday. Mirko Celestino won in 2001 and 2003, while Fabio Sacchi won in 2005. It is the oldest race in the calendar, having first been run in 1876.
Milram for Milano-Torino: Mirko Celestino, Alessandro Cortinovis, Volodymyr Diudia, Sergio Ghisalberti, Elia Rigotto, Carlo Scognamilgio, Fabio Sacchi, Fabio Sabatini
Triple Crown series set for southeastern Pennsylvania
Three cities in southeastern Pennsylvania will draw some of cycling's top road pros for a week of racing known as the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling. The series includes the Lancaster Classic on Sunday, June 3, the Reading Classic on Thursday, June 7, and the Philadelphia International Championship on June 10.
The June 10 event in Philly celebrates its 23rd running of the men's race and the 14th annual Liberty Classic for the women. The men's race was formerly the USPro Cycling Championships until they were moved to Greenville, South Carolina last year.
Over 300,000 spectators are expected to watch 400 athletes from 23 countries. Racer will tackle climbs that have been American cycling icons like the Manayunk Wall & Lemon Hill.
Trips for Kids signs 50th chapter
Trips for Kids celebrated a milestone with the formation of its 50th chapter in Rochester, New York. Friends Helping Friends, the newest chapter, will provide underserved youth a chance to experience the joy and challenge of mountain biking in the woods, something inner-city kids would not typically get to do.
Existing chapters span the US and Canada. They take low-income, inner city and otherwise at-risk youth out of the city for mountain bike rides, which often turn out to be "the ride of their lives." Trips for Kids estimates that it has served 33,500 youth during its 19-year history. They aim to build confidence, empower young people to reach their full potential and, at the same time, teach them about environmental awareness.
Friends Helping Friends already runs a "Bikes for Youth" program to donate bikes to disadvantaged kids. Operating as part of the national organization, Friends Helping Friends will receive a start-up set of mountain bikes, helmets, equipment and tips and guidelines on how to lead safe and successful rides. Funding for Trips for Kids National comes from grants, individual donations and the bicycle industry.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)