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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 26, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Slipstream on the road to 2008 Grand Tours

By Hedwig Kröner in Paris

Jonathan Vaughters thinks of 2008 season
Photo ©: Beth Seliga
(Click for larger image)

Three weeks prior to Team Slipstream Sports/Chipotle's official launch in Boulder, Colorado, manager Jonathan Vaughters spent a week in Paris, France, to attend the international Anti-Doping summit and hold talks with Tour de France organiser ASO, lobbying for the squad's inclusion in the 2008 Grand Tour. However, not much work was really needed as the American team known for its strong stance against doping has made important new rider signings lately, and relations with ASO officials have been good.

"I think we'll have a great team next year, and as long as we perform to our capabilities in the first part of the season we'll do the Tour de France," Vaughters told Cyclingnews just before the 2008 Tour de France route presentation. "There is certainly no signed document at this point, but I'm confident that we'll get an invitation. There will probably be four or five wildcards, and I assume Barloworld will get one, as well as Agritubel."

Giro Race Director Angelo Zomegnan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The young American team manager is not particularly interested in getting a ProTour licence at the moment. "For us, the most important part right now is to get the race invites we want," he continued. "As for the ProTour, we still don't know where it is headed at this stage. Will there even be a ProTour in the next few years? Still, we talked to the UCI about it, and they were actually positive about us. But then the ProTour council decided that there were only going to be 18 teams, so we didn't apply for a licence. And it's good for them to actually leave it at 18, because it gives the Grand Tours more flexibility for their race invitations. Then, in 2009, there will be a big shift as most of the teams' ProTour licenses come up – so we will know how it goes then."

However, it would seem that at the moment that Slipstream/Chipotle does not need a ProTour license to be included in next year's Grand Tours. Vaughters revealed that the week spent in France really was worth the travelling, as Giro d'Italia organiser Angelo Zomegnan also suggested that the team would be welcome in the Italian Grand Tour. "He came up to me this week and said that they'd love to have an American team in their race," Vaughters continued, excited about the prospect. "I was really flattered and surprised, but he was very interested and told me that he had spent time in Boulder, Colorado, when he was young. I'm very excited about that race."

So it was all good news for Slipstream/Chipotle leaders David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, Magnus Backstedt, Christian Vande Velde and Julian Dean – the perspective of at least two Grand Tours in 2008 for the team based in Girona, Spain, is definitely an interesting one, also for the fans of the squad, which has made the fight against doping one of its first prerogatives. Watch out for more news from Jonathan Vaughters and his opinion of the new biological passport on Cyclingnews at the beginning of next week, also ready a July interview with him, Slipstreaming with Le Tour in sight.

Bruyneel confident about Tour invite

By Hedwig Kröner in Paris

Prudhomme with Contador at Tour 2008 presentation
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

As one of the key players – or perhaps the key player – for the next year's Tour de France, newly-appointed Astana team director Johan Bruyneel could of course not miss the fancy unveiling of the 2008 race route in Paris on Thursday. Although the long-awaited retrospective film of this year's Grand Tour did not include any of those spectacular duels between his team captain and 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador and now-persona non grata Michael Rasmussen in the mountains, the Belgian already drew up next year's strategy plan for his riders.

Meanwhile, the tactician cannot even be certain about the participation of his 2008 team, which has to re-build its credibility after the events surrounding former Astana leaders Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin this summer. Meanwhile, Tour de France organiser ASO still standing firm against the International Cycling Union (UCI), keeping team selection in its own hands.

Alberto Contador yesterday in Paris
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

However, Bruyneel felt confident about the inclusion of the 'new' Astana team. "The organisers have the right to decide participation to their races," the mastermind of seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong told Cyclingnews after the presentation of the 2008 parcours. "[ASO president] Patrice Clerc said that none of the teams should feel sure about their participation. Now, we [the teams] are all on the same level and have to prove our eligibility. We at Astana might have to prove this a bit more than the other teams.

"I can't erase what happened at Astana this year, but now we are starting a new project with a new philosophy, a new idea and a new structure," Bruyneel continued, saying that he is taking 80 percent of the Discovery Channel team staff with him to Astana. "I have to prove that it's a new team which will be ready for the Tour de France."

In order to substantiate this and convince ASO of Astana's good faith, the new director of the possibly strongest squad in the peloton next year announced that he would unveil the team's anti-doping programme in the next couple of weeks. "And we will have actions follow our words," he insisted. "I'm very confident for our participation."

John Fahey to head WADA

Australian John Fahey is poised to become the next World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Chairman on November 17, replacing Dick Pound. His placement was made all the more secure when WADA Vice Chairman Jean-François Lamour resigned from his role on October 16. The Premier of New South Wales expects a challenge but sees progress already being made.

"That's something I totally disagree with," Fahey told The Sun-Herald of Australia regarding some suggestions that drugs should be legalised in sport.

The paper had printed pro-drug remarks from some sports figures following the Marion Jones fiasco, and Fahey does not want to see this type of sport that would be contested by pharmacists. "Sport is about a contest in a true and fair way, that's what underpins sport. It will wither unless there is a belief from those in sport that a particular contest is a fair contest.

"If sport comes down to a common denominator of who has got the best pharmacist, no one will turn up, sport will die," Fahey continued. "The Marion Jones expose is testament to the success WADA is having. Clearly it serves as a deterrent to others who may be considering cheating."

Pound represented the organisation in an anti-doping summit earlier this week in Paris with French minister for sport Roselyne Bachelot, ASO (Tour de France organizer) and the International Cycling Union (UCI). Fahey was pleased with the progress that will not only affect cycling, but all sports.

"It's an enormous challenge and I'm looking forward to giving it everything that I can to further that objective we all have – that's to have confidence that sport is being played and executed fairly," Fahey concluded.

Kashechkin says doping controls violate human rights

By Susan Westemeyer

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andrey Kashechkin is ready to present his case that doping controls violate basic human rights. The Kazakh rider, who tested positive for blood doping in August, has a hearing before a Belgian court on November 6 to challenge the right of sport officials to conduct doping tests.

In an interview with the AFP news agency, his lawyer, Luc Misson, said that he will base his argument on article 8 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which says that only public authorities can interfere in people's private lives, and that "the sports authorities are not the public authorities." Even collecting blood samples violates human rights, he said.

Misson said that he was prepared to take Kashechkin's case all the way to the highest court. "If we lose, we will go to the court of appeal, then the Supreme Court of Appeal, then the European Court of Human Rights," he said. "And then we will be in a very good position. At the human rights court it would lead to a [favourable] decision at a world, if not a European level."

He was also the attorney for Jean-Marc Bosman, a Belgian soccer player, who basically ended the payment of transfer fees in professional football under EU law. At the time, Bosman's contract had expired and wanted to change teams from the Belgian to the French League, but the teams could not resolve their differences about how much the transfer sum would be. The subsequent court ruling allowed freedom of movement of players in the European Union.

"The Kashechkin case, as regards [the] anti-doping [rules], could be viewed in a similar vein as the Bosman ruling," Misson stated.

Sinkewitz claims T-Mobile blood doped in 2006 Tour

By Susan Westemeyer

T-Mobile riders continued to use blood doping during the Tour de France 2006, Patrik Sinkewitz is alleged to have told the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR, the German cycling federation). According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, some of the riders were involved with blood doping at the University of Freiburg Clinic, which provided medical support to the team until this spring.

It had previously been reported that Sinkewitz had testified as to "the art and manner that doctors and team doctors administered doping products."

On the day before the 2006 Tour began, Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage were all suspended from the team on suspicion of being involved with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The remaining seven riders were Andreas Klöden, Giuseppe Guerini, Serhiy Honchar, Matthias Kessler, Eddy Mazzoleni, Michael Rogers and Sinkewitz.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, part of the team was in Freiburg for treatments three or four days before the Tour started. Sinkewitz is said to have alleged that there were "repeated" autologous blood transfusions during the Tour.

The reduced team did well in the Tour. Klöden finished third overall and Rogers tenth, and the team took the team title. Kessler won a stage and Honchar won both time trials, and wore the leader's jersey for three days.

Of the seven T-Mobile riders, only two are still active: Klöden, with Team Astana, and Rogers, with T-Mobile. Guerini retired at the end of the 2007 season. Kessler, who also transferred to Astana this year, tested positive for testosterone, as did Sinkewitz. Mazzoleni left Team Astana this summer after being associated with the Oil for Drugs scandal, and Honchar was released from Team T-Mobile this summer after "irregularities" in his blood tests turned up.

Christian Frommer, head of sponsoring communications for Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, "Looking back, this unscrupulousness leaves me speechless." He added that, "the new findings will surely not be just swept away. We will speak internally over the possible consequences."

The University of Freiburg Clinic provided medical coverage to the team for many years. The coverage was stopped this spring, after doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich confessed to having provided team members with doping products during the 1990s. All previous claims had indicated that the doping activity stopped the end of the 1990s. However, Doctor Werner Franke, German anti-doping crusader, told the Badische Zeitung, "According to what I know, Sinkewitz had several blood transfusions in the year 2006, at least one of them at the Sports Medicine Department at the Freiburg University Clinic." Sinkewitz is alleged to have said that he was primarily handled by Heinrich.

The Clinic did not comment on the specific charges. Hans-Hermann Dickhuth, leader of the Department for Rehabilitative and Preventative Sports Medicine, told the Badischer Zeitung that "if that all that [concerning the blood transfusions] is true, then who ever did has lost his mind. If that is true, then I am appalled."

Riis not present at Tour presentation

By Katharina Schulz

As the route for next year's Tour de France was presented yesterday in Paris, it was Directeur Sportif Kim Andersen who was there to represent Team CSC, and not the team's owner and boss Bjarne Riis. After his doping confession in May, the Dane had fallen out of favour with the Tour's organisation and his name was struck from the result list of the 1996 Tour de France, which he had won.

The relationship seems to be on the road to recovery, however, "There were no statements from the organisation saying that now they'd be happy to see Bjarne again. But of course they are softening up in comparison to the attitude they showed this summer," Andersen told the Danish newspaper B.T.

Reason for this is most probably the fact that Team CSC has one of the strictest anti-doping programmes in cycling today, which is the best precondition for getting an invitation to the world's most important cycling race. "There were no names mentioned as to which teams or riders were unwelcome, but there are clear signs that you should have the right ethics if you want to start in the Tour," Andersen continued.

Should he be welcome, Riis might well be the only Dane at the Tour, along with Kim Andersen. The country's hottest contender for the Tour, Michael Rasmussen, is currently caught in limbo, and it is unclear if he will ever be seen at the Tour again. The gap could however be filled by CSC themselves.

"I can easily see several of our Danish riders take part in the Tour, even if it is very early to make any statements. If I should point out someone, I would say that Nicki Sørensen is always a good choice, Lars Bak could be another, and maybe Matti Breschel is a possibility, if he keeps on developing as well as he has so far," he told Berlingske Tidende.

Loddo and Pedra confirm with Tinkoff for 2008

Loddo early in 2006, at Langkawi
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Alberto Loddo and Walter Pedraza have signed a contract to race with Tinkoff Credit Systems for the 2008 season. The duo makes its way from Gianni Savio's team of Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia to join the Italian Professional-Continental squad of Oleg Tinkov.

Loddo, 28 years-old from the Italian island of Sardegna, has conquered 18 wins in his six years as a professional. The sprinter captured eight this wins this year, including four stages and the points classification of the Tour de Langkawi.

Pedraza, 26 years-old from Bogotá, Colombia, has four wins in the last two years, including the mountains classification in the same race that Loddo took the sprinters' classification, Langkawi. The climber also has the 2005 national road race title in his palmarès.

The team is expected to announce its entire 2008 line-up in the coming months.

Langkawi secures its dates

The Tour de Langkawi has secured its days for the 2008 running of its stage race. The 13th edition of the race will be run from February 9 to 17 – one stage shorter than the 10 in the 2007 edition.

"Instead of the normal ten stages, [it] will comprise of nine stages next year," confirmed Chief Operating Officer Datuk Naim Mohamad to Cyclingnews.

"Once again the government has reiterated its full support to make the tour a great success. ... The traditional sponsors have come forward to lend their support and we promise all cycling fans a good race if not better than 2007."

Many teams use the event to score important early season wins and build form for the European races. This year the event could take on a larger scale as the Tour Down Under was nominated as a ProTour race, and runs prior to the Tour de Langkawi, January 22 - 27.

"Since most of the teams are now preparing their training and competition schedule, I am busy communicating with most of them to include Malaysia as part of their programme. For those teams that have been familiar with the Tour de Langkawi, they have made requests to come back and we look forward to some new teams participating next year."

Firenze-Pistoia marks last Italian race of 2007

The 21st Firenze-Pistoia time trial will mark the end of the 2007 Italian road racing season. The 35.5-kilometre test will be run tomorrow from the Tuscan capital, finishing in the city to the west that is home to many professional cyclists, such as Vincenzo Nibali, originally from Sicily. Last year's event was cancelled due to organization problems.

Amongst the 25 riders lining-up will be seven of the riders that formed the Italian team at the World Championships last month in Stuttgart. Other than two-time World Champions Paolo Bettini, there will be his Quick.Step team-mates Andrea Tonti and Giovanni Visconti, Alessandro Ballan of Lampre-Fondital, Filippo Pozzato and Nibali (Liquigas), and Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia).

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