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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for November 22, 2007

Edited by Sue George

UCI considers 20 "wild card" team applications

The UCI announced the 20 teams that have requested "wild card" status by the November 15 deadline. Earning wild card status will give the recipient the right to be invited to races on the UCI ProTour calendar. All the candidate teams will also be registered UCI Professional Continental Teams.

Wild card teams must meet quality criteria, sporting results criteria, legal criteria, and financial criteria. They are also supposed to act in accordance with ethical criteria, particularly with regard to management and anti-doping activities. Wild card teams will have to participate in the implementation of biological passports, including contributing to funding for the project and reporting whereabouts documentation for its riders.

The new designation comes in response to a request from organizers, teams and riders for all participants in races in the UCI ProTour calendar to have to meet the same requirements, especially for anti-doping and ethical conduct. The new designation will not affect entries into the Grand Tours since they will not be part of the 2008 ProTour.

The UCI's license commission will make its selections by the end of January.

Candidate "Wild Card" teams for 2008
Elk Haus-Simplon
Team Volksbank
Topsport Vlaanderen
PSK Whirlpool-Author
Karpin Galicia
Ceramica Flaminia Bossini Docce
Group Navigare
Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo
NGC Medical-OTC Industria Porte
Tinkoff Credit Systems
BMC Racing Team
Slipstream Chipotle presented by H30
Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli

Predictor-Lotto suspends Leukemans after positive testosterone test

By Susan Westemeyer

Leukemans leads the chasers at Paris-Roubaix
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Björn Leukemans tested positive for testosterone in an out-of-competition doping control shortly before the World Championships in September. Team Predictor-Lotto immediately suspended him pending the results of the B-sample.

The team said that Leukemans notified them of the results. In a statement issued Wednesday evening, it said, "The team management, subscriber of the ethical charter, will take the necessary measures. In accordance with the internal ethical charter as well as with the regulations of employment, the rider has been immediately suspended. If the B-sample was to be positive, the ride would be immediately sacked. This isolated case has no influence on the normal operations of the team."

According to, his urine showed a ratio of 6 to 1 for testosterone/epitestosterone. The normal ratio is 4 to 1. Leukemans told that he has previously returned similarly high values, which "were accepted then by the doping agencies."

Team manager Marc Sergeant defended his rider, telling the Flemish public broadcaster VRT that "We are always 200 percent against doping. We cannot deny these facts and must suspend Björn, even though he swears up and down that he has done nothing wrong. Björn told us that in the past he already showed too-high values once. He naturally has higher testosterone values than others, and he thinks that this is such a case."

"I have 100 percent faith in Björn," Sergeant told "We have no indications that he would have done this. I therefore do not want to accuse him but we cannot deny this provisional fact."

Leukemans, 30, won a stage in the Tour of Austria this year, and finished fourth in Paris-Roubaix and 13th in the Worlds. He turned pro in 2000 and has been with Lotto since 2005.

Magnus Backstedt prepares for Slipstream season

By Mark Zalewski

Would you mess with this guy in a sprint?
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Big Magnus Backstedt is one of the veteran guns directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters hired to bring his Slipstream-Chipotle team to the next level in 2008. The Swedish champion recently attended the team's first camp in Boulder, Colorado.

The 2004 Paris-Roubaix champion, Magnus Backstedt, was all smiles last week at the Slipstream team launch in Boulder. A laughing and joking Backstedt might seem to be incongruent to his riding style and big stature, but it perfectly illustrated the mood surrounding the team building experience.

The 32 year-old echoed what his new team-mates were saying all week about the camp: "This is extremely well organized, beyond anything we have encountered before," he said. "It took me a few days to get over the jet lag, but it has been great to catch up with the old guys and meet the new ones. They are just a great bunch of guys!"

As one of the veteran riders on the team, and the likely leader in any of the Spring Classics, Backstedt knows that he has a responsibility to be a teacher. As well, even though the team has technically been around for years, this incarnation is virtually a new team in the European peloton – something that brings a new set of challenges.

"When you come with a new and smaller team you have to prove yourself, especially in the sprints," said Backstedt who will be the team's choice for fast finishes. "It is a little bit harder to do in the first races. When the others know that you have some horsepower behind you then it's easier to get in line – they make room for you. Whereas when you come in with a smaller team, you have to make the room yourself, and it gets a little hairier."

Of course, my response to this was likely yours too. "Right Magnus, I doubt someone your size has trouble 'making room.'"

"No, even for me! Until they see what we can do, because when you are out there riding you just see the kit and not who it is. I think we have enough horsepower behind our lead-out train to eliminate getting into any stressful situations this year."

Another factor relating to this idea of proving oneself is the team's performance in the first races of the season, a burden that will be placed on the shoulders of Backstedt and the other veterans when looking at their scheduled races. "I plan to do Qatar to start off and then come over here [USA - ed.] for a week of camp before Tour of California. Then the pre-Classics like Paris-Nice. The Classics are still my number one goal of the season. That is what I live for."

When asked how this need for early season success might affect his personal goals, such as Paris-Roubaix, Backstedt said he will be prepared. "As long as I know exactly what I am doing, in terms of racing and training, I can always adjust for the plusses and minuses that come with the schedule. If we do a few less cobbles in the semi-classics, I'll stick a cobble camp in there and go for a few days smashing over the stones."

To read the complete feature, click here.

BMX Legend Dave Mirra to make rally car debut

Dave Mirra
Photo ©: Alex Cogger
(Click for larger image)

BMX legend Dave Mirra will make his competitive rally racing debut this weekend at The Rally of the Tall Pines, the last round of the 2007 Canadian Rally Championship, in Ontario, Canada.

Mirra drive a Monster Energy Subaru Impreza rally car as part of the Vermont SportsCar team. His team-mate for the weekend, in a second car, will be Ken Block, who narrowly missed out on winning the 2007 Rally America National Championship at the final round last month.

Mirra, who turned pro in 1992, holds the record for most X Games medals, (and most Gold medals), and has medaled in every X Games since they started in 1995. His current X Games medal count is 21.

"Going to my first rally and being able to do it with Ken Block is a priceless opportunity. Since this is my first rally I just need to finish and get the experience," explains Mirra. "If everything goes as planned, my goal is to race most of the 2008 Rally America National Championship and get my full Rally America license so I can drive a more powerful car later in the year."

Mirra isn't just jumping into his first event with no training. He's coming off a four-day Team O'Neil Rally School session and a private two-day training session with rally legend John Buffum, where he honed his newly learned skills even further. Mirra will drive an entry level specification Subaru Impreza with a non-turbo motor and limited modifications. Experienced Canadian Alan Ockwell will serve as his co-driver.

Mirra is enjoying the support of Block. "The reason for going to the Tall Pines Rally is to hang out with Dave Mirra for his first ever rally race. He is good friend of mine, ... so I want to try and help him get through his first event the best that I can," said Block.

Mirra is not the only cyclist to race rally cars. Team Giant's Carl Decker and Adam Craig, both mountain bikers, make regular rally car race appearances.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Alex Cogger

MTN saves the day for McLeod

MTN Cycling signed Ian McLeod, just one week after his contract with the French-based Le Française des Jeux was not renewed. McLeod was the only South African to race for a ProTour team in 2007. He'll race for the domestic MTN squad, with its UCI Professional Continental Team status in 2008, in mostly African and Asian countries.

"It was a no-brainer signing Ian. He's a high quality rider that's been on a ProTour team for the past three years. He doesn't have to prove himself. He will be a huge asset to our team," explained MTN Cycling team owner, Douglas Ryder, himself a former South African national team captain and 1996 Olympian.

"I'm really grateful to MTN and Douglas for the opportunity," said McLeod. "To have raced 2008 on my own would have been tough, especially in a team sport like cycling. I'm looking forward to adding some depth to the team, particularly in the stage races and tough one-day races."

The two-time Vuelta a España finisher has been dogged by injuries for the past two years. He tore a quad muscle in a crash in 2007, but related injuries followed and then he crashed and broke his collarbone in stage five of the 2007 Giro d'Italia.

"I'm riding pain-free again which is a great feeling and plan to achieve some good form for the start of the racing season in January," he smiled. "I'm excited about the Giro del Capo and the Tour of South Africa, which are both UCI-ranked tours. I believe we'll have enough depth and talent in the team to give the international teams like Barloworld a good go."

According to Ryder, McLeod has yet to reach his peak and is hoping that one year with MTN Cycling will give him a springboard to get back into the European peloton. "Talent like Ian's must be nurtured and not lost to South African cycling. I want to see him achieve his potential and hope that his time with MTN Cycling allows him to regather himself for another shot at a ProTour team contract in future."

Pagoto looking to a better 2008

Georg Totschnig and Andrea Pagoto in a break on the Ghisallo in 2006
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
(Click for larger image)

22 year-old Andrea Pagoto of the CSF Group-Navigare team is looking forward to a strong start 2008 and good performance at the Giro d'Italia.

"Since November 10, I've been training on my Colnago," said Pagoto, who is hard at work already for the upcoming season. "Sometimes I rode for four hours or more, switching the bicycle, in sunny days, and the gym, when it was raining. On winter, you know, it's always a good idea to draw advantage of the few times the sun shines."

Pagoto was born in Montecchio Emilia and now lives in Sant'Ilario d'Enza, where he passes by the headquarters of his sponsors CSF Inox and Navigare regularly during training. "I think also the sponsors will be pleased to look out the windows and see a rider with their colours training in that area," said Pagoto.

The young rider is coming off a tough season, his second as a pro rider. "This year I rode the Giro and I have to thank Reverberi family for this, because the first Giro is unforgettable. Unfortunately, I was neither at the 90% of my possibilities, but just competing in the Giro d'Italia was one of my main goals for the season. I would have liked to join a breakaway, but it's always so difficult in the Giro," said Pagoto.

"The Giro was a huge effort and, even if I tried to recover quicker than in the past, with some training sessions in the mountains, the fatigue was still there in the races I rode in August and September. In the Giro dell'Appennino, I thought I was in a great shape, but I quickly became aware that I couldn't actually do my best. Maybe, one of the reasons was the deviation of the nasal septum, which prevented me from breathing well: but now I hope to have solved this problem with a surgery I took in October."

The operation kept him off his bike until the end of the season, but he's more prepared for the 2008 season. "The surgery was necessary and it's better to drop a month, especially in a year which hasn't been so good for me, than to delay the training for next year... . My contract ends at the end of 2008 and I'd like to be strong in the early races, to show my abilities. Then, I hope to be able to take the start in the Giro d'Italia."

Arbitration panel picked for Landis appeal

After American cyclist Floyd Landis filed his appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), seeking to overturn his two-year suspension on doping charges, his defense team selected Swedish arbitrator Jan Paulsson for the panel which will evaluate his appeal. Landis's team and his opposition were permitted to each pick one arbitrator from CAS's list. CAS selected the final member of the panel.

While Landis picked Paulsson, who previously chaired a CAS panel that acquitted rider Iñigo Landaluze following a procedural error during Landaluze's positive doping test according to Eurosport, USADA selected New York lawyer David Rivkin and CAS itself picked New Zealand-based lawyer David Williams to head the panel.

"The parties will have until around the end of January to submit their statements, so it is very unlikely that the hearing can proceed before March," CAS General Secretary Mathieu Reeb said to Eurosport. A verdict could come as late as May, just two months before Landis would have celebrated the two-year anniversary of his 2006 Tour de France victory, had organizers not since awarded the win to runner-up Oscar Pereiro after the American Arbitration Association's (AAA) hearing outcome against Landis.

After losing his case before the AAA, Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win. He tested positive for testosterone following Stage 17. Lawyers will claim procedural errors were made during the testing of Landis' samples.

"We are optimistic the CAS will agree and stop the miscarriage of justice," said Landis's lawyer Maurice Suh regarding the upcoming appeal.

Lissavetzky wants credit for Spanish anti-doping efforts

CSD President Jaime Lissavetzky
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After the UCI and WADA lamented the lack of progress in the Operación Puerto case, Spanish Sports Minister Jaime Lissavetzky defended Spain's action in the Puerto and other doping-related cases.

"We have shown a clear desire to implement a policy of zero tolerance against doping in sport," Lissavetzky told Reuters in an interview. "We aren't going to backtrack and in time Operation Puerto will be seen as a milestone."

"If there had been no Operation Puerto we wouldn't be talking about this and the truth is if we wanted to hide things we would never have initiated an investigation like this. Operation Puerto caused the dismantling of a presumed trafficking network but because the operation was carried out before our new anti-doping law was introduced the judge ruled there was no crime."

More than 50 professional cyclists were named in the investigation conducted by Spain's Civil Guard, but the judge ended the case without pressing any charges. He decided that no crimes were committed under laws at the time. In response, the Spanish government appealed the decision and also passed more stringent anti-doping laws that could be used in future case

"How many other countries have carried out similar operations?" asked Lissavetzky. "We have passed a law in which the supply of doping products is now considered a criminal offence and there are only five countries in the world where that is the case and they are all European. If anyone has any evidence of anything else they must present it to us. No one should doubt the extraordinary effort we are making in this area. Our law is in the vanguard of European legislation in this area."

Caisse d'Epargne signs Pasamontes

The Caisse d'Epargne team signed Spanish rider Luis Pasamontes for 2008. The 28 year-old last raced for In 2007, he won stage one and the mountains and sprint classifications of the Tour de la Région Wallonne. He also took the mountains classifications of the Volta a Catalunya.

Bunde suspended for two years

31 year-old Jared Bunde was suspended from cycling for two years after he failed a doping test and tested positive for clomiphene on July 28 at the Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic. His suspension begins October 15, when he accepted the penalty. Bunde forfeits all results, prizes, points, and medals after that date.

According to the Associated Press, The US Anti-Doping Agency said clomiphene is an anti-estrogenic prohibited substance per USADA and UCI rules.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)