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Latest Cycling News, August 5, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Sella and CSF Group face difficulties

By Gregor Brown

Emanuele Sella, 27, facing difficult days following yesterday's EPO doping-related announcement
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

CSF Group Navigare and Emanuele Sella face hard times following the announcement of the cyclist's positive doping control for EPO-CERA yesterday by the International Cycling Union (UCI). Sella, 27 years old from Vicenza, Italy, will likely serve a two-year suspension and risks losing his stage wins in the Giro d'Italia.

Sella, winner of the three most difficult stages and the climber's maglia verde in the Giro d'Italia, was caught positive for EPO (Erythropoietin) in an out-of-competition test administered by the UCI on July 23. Many pundits were not surprised to hear the result given Sella's rocket-like rise in the Giro's final days of racing. He won back to back mountain stages in the Dolomites – Alpe di Pampeago and Passo Fedaia – and then stole the final mountain test in the Alps, stage 20 to Tirano.

UCI President Pat McQuaid pointed to Sella's performances as an indicator that something was wrong. He explained to Cyclingnews that the UCI's anti-doping branch tracked the rider, including which races he pulled out off. Sella was due to make his racing return at the Trofeo Matteotti, July 20 – three days after Riccardo Riccò tested positive for EPO-CERA at the Tour de France. Sella pulled out at the last minute due to tendonitis of his left knee, but he started in Carnago (August 1), Arona (2) and Appennino (3) – he did not finish in all three.

There is not proof that Sella used EPO during the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1, but there is the possibility McQuaid will order his Giro samples tested in the same Paris lab that detected CERA in the July 23 control.

CSF Group was one of the standout teams at the Giro, despite the non-start of Ariel Richeze for the use of steroids. Fortunato Baliani and Domenico Pozzovivo played key rolls in Sella's stage wins. In addition, Italian Matteo Priamo won a stage of his own to Peschici. Mid-Giro, Priamo defended accusations from Germany's Andreas Klöden, who said the team was not under the same internal controls as his Astana team.

"Obviously, I hope that all is resolved for the best," said Bruno Reverberi, Team Manager of CSF Group, of Sella. "If it is proved true I would hope that Sella assumes responsibility and also supplies the names of others implicated. The athletes are responsible, but it is also justified that we go after those at their back."

Riders react to Beijing air quality

USA track riders arrive in masks

A USA rider wearing a face mask to protect against Beijing's smog
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Four USA track cyclists arrived in Beijing Tuesday wearing masks over their noses and mouths to protect themselves from pollution. United States Olympic Committee (USOC) lead exercise physiologist Randy Wilber recommended that the riders wear the masks on the airplane and whenever they went outside. Although the USOC had distributed the masks to the athletes, officials criticised the riders for wearing them, saying it could offend the Chinese.

The four riders were Mike Friedman, Sarah Hammer, Bobby Lea and Jennie Reed. Two of them wore the masks on the flight, while the other two put them on before exiting the plane.

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"This is really a surprise, because I didn't think it was going to be such a big deal," Friedman said, according to the New York Times. "Why we wore the masks is simple: pollution. When you train your whole life for something, dot all your i's and cross all your t's, why wouldn't you be better safe than sorry? They have pollution in Los Angeles, and if the Olympics were in Los Angeles, we would probably wear these masks, too."

Fisher and Lea said that an unidentified USOC official criticised them for walking off the plane with the masks on, saying it could embarrass the host nation.

"They told us that the Chinese were mad and that this is a politically charged issue, but we didn't mean to offend anybody," Friedman said. "When they handed us these masks, they never said, 'Here they are, but don't wear them.'"

Lea added, "It's disappointing, because I was under the assumption that the mask was approved for use because it was issued by the USOC."

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said the riders would not be reprimanded and it was thought the athletes would wear the masks around the Olympic Village. "We've said all along that it is the athletes' choice whether to wear one if they feel it's necessary," he said. "I'm no scientific expert, but walking through an airport doesn't seem like the place where it would be necessary to wear them."

Austrian shocked by "awful" air

Thomas Rohregger's first breath of Olympic air was not what he expected. "I hadn't thought that it would be so bad," the Austrian said after his first training ride. "Really awful, my lungs and even my eyes are burning."

Rohregger rode only the flat stretch of the road race course and didn't get into the climbs. "That's why I tried to ride a bit faster. But the pressure on my lungs was nearly unbearable. Three hours of training felt like six hours," said Rohregger to Austrian television sender ORF.

To make matters worse, the riders are transported to and from their training rides in the 33°C heat and high humidity to their air-conditioned lodgings in air-conditioned buses. "They mean it well. But we athletes are very sensitive to such things. I already have a bit of a sore throat and wear a heavy sweater indoors," Rohregger noted. (SW)

Riders land for Olympic test

By Greg Johnson

Training hard? German cyclists enjoy a bite to eat.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Riders from around the world have converged on Beijing, China, ahead of the Olympic Games which commence this Friday. While some athletes have caused a stir, like the United States of America squad showing up wearing face masks, many have been busy taking in the sights around the Asian host city.

Unlike many athletes at this year's Games, the Olympic road cyclists have had little time to settle into the Olympic village. The road events commence this Saturday, just one day after the opening ceremony, forcing many do their reconnaissance work of the challenging road course early.

While some riders have opted to skip the opening ceremony, in order to keep out of the well publicized polluted Beijing air, some riders have flown in early to enjoy the full Olympic experience and acclimatise themselves. Great Britain's Chris Hoy is one such rider who has already arrived in Beijing, despite the track events not starting for another 10 days.

There's been plenty of serious business going on in preparation for the road race, but that doesn't mean the riders haven't had a chance to let down their hair. The Spanish team, which features Alejandro Valverde, was seen out snapping photos with locals yesterday while the German squad of Stefan Schumacher enjoyed a meal at McDonalds – one of the International Olympic Committee's eight key 'international partners'.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

Squadra azzurra sample Beijing road course

The Italian national team training before the 2007 tester
Photo ©: Francis Cerny
(Click for larger image)

The Italian national team of defending champion Paolo Bettini previewed the Olympics road race course – scheduled for this Saturday – with Directeur Sportif Franco Ballerini on Tuesday. The five-man team – Bettini, Davide Rebellin, Marzio Bruseghin, Vincenzo Nibali and Franco Pellizotti – rode 70 kilometres of the 245.4-kilometre parcours.

"The plan consisted of a run over the course with a test on the climbs and the section near the finish," said an official Italian team – squadra azzurra – statement.

The team's youngest member, Nibali, has the most experience on the parcours. He was part of the six-man team that contested the Good Luck Beijing Invitational last year – he finished third in the road race behind team-mate and winner, Gabriele Bosisio, and fourth in the time trial.

Tatiana Guderzo, a member of the Italian women's team, joined the five men. Noemi Cantele, Vera Carrara and Directeur Sportif Edoardo Salvoldi arrived in Beijing today. The women team's final member, Alessandra D'Ettore, will arrive tomorrow.

Spanish champion leads team's Olympic charge

Alejandro Valverde smiles
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Five top riders means that one squad stands out as favourite for the Olympic road race. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes looks at the powerful Spanish men's road race team, where Alejandro Valverde will likely be the go-to man for the medals.

Undoubtedly one of the strongest teams – arguably the strongest – in next Saturday's Olympic road race will be that of Spain. Tour de France winners Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador will be there, and will be joined by triple world champion Oscar Freire, Samuel Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde.

All are proven winners and have – with the exception of Sanchez – shown world-beating form this season. Sastre won the Alpe d'Huez stage of the Tour de France and went on to land the overall title. Contador and his Astana team were prevented from riding the race, but the Spaniard has nonetheless racked up several important wins; he took the Giro d'Italia in June, and also triumphed in the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Vuelta a País Vasco. He took two stage victories in both.

Freire took his sole victory on stage 14 of the Tour de France and won the green jersey classification. Earlier successes this year include two stages and the points competition in Tirreno Adriatico, the Gent-Wevelgem Classic and stage one of the Tour de Suisse. And while Sanchez hasn't hit the same level of form yet, he took a solid seventh overall in the Tour.

Of those on the team, a strong argument can be made for Valverde having the best chance of success. He's an explosive climber, a good tactician and a strong sprinter. As his victories in this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the recent Clásica San Sebastián showed, he has the characteristics necessary to win on tougher courses.

Read the full Valverde feature.

Surgery for Dietziker after criterium crash

The post-Tour de France criteriums are supposed to give the riders a chance to greet the public, have some fun and earn a little money – not to be injured. But that it just what happened to Team Volksbank's Andreas Dietziker last weekend in Rankweil, Austria. Two riders in front of him collided with one another in a curve, and Dietziker, "totally surprised by the situation," went fully into them and fractured his right little finger.

Surgeons put two screws into the finger and Swiss Dietziker, 25 years old, will be able to train with a special cast on his hand. On Thursday, he will get a specially fitted cast, which will protect his hand from bumps on the road.

"Certain movements could cause the the screws to come out, which is the worse danger next to another crash, and could cause the finger to totally splinter," according to Dietziker.

However, he plans to make his comeback – "if it heals well and the doctors allow me" – at the Tre Valle Varesine on August 19, and definitely plans to be at the start of the Deutschland Tour, August 29 to September 6. (SW)

Aussie living in UK wins Felt-Cyclingnews Tour sweepstakes Tour de France sweepstakes winner
Photo ©: Martin Houston
(Click for larger image)

Martin Houston, an Australian living and working in London, has won the Tour sweepstakes. Houston, who correctly answered the qualifying question, was chosen randomly from more than 16,000 entries. He will receive a 2009 team Garmin-Chipotle AR road frame valued at more than $3,000 USD, thanks to our friends at Felt Bicycles.

"I am stunned," Houston said after receiving notification of his win.

35-year old Houston said he has raced road and track at club level back since his teens. "I trained when the weather was good (which is most of the time in Australia) and have obsessively read daily since I found it online several years ago. (My boss will attest to this)."

Houston says he fell out of the riding habit when he and wife Adriana moved to the UK. "After virtually not touching a bike in two years, due mainly to work commitments, I have just recently joined my local club (Welwyn Wheelers) with the intention of getting back into riding. The club has been very supportive of the efforts of a desk-bound man-mountain in getting back into the cycling groove, and I hope that I will be able to start racing in the club colours soon."

The Australian father of a four year-old daughter – and soon to be a second child – will be upgrading his current road bike with the AR frame and it will complement his current track bike – "a 2008 Felt TK2 (Amazing co-incidence really), which I really enjoy taking to the club track sessions."

Houston commented he's enjoyed watching the Garmin-Chipotle team's rise in recent years. "Like most people I have been following the development of the Garmin-Chipotle team and hope that they (like a couple of the other majors) will help to bring cycling forward away from the media-history of the last few years. Christian Vande Velde's efforts – in particular in his effective comeback to the top of cycling – indicate that the team is a great place to ride."

Once again, thanks to everyone who entered the sweepstakes. The correct answer to the qualifying question of 'what leading USA track cyclist and 2006-07 individual pursuit world champion is also sponsored by Felt?' was, of course, Sarah Hammer.

We'll be announcing the CSC-Saxo Bank team jersey and BBB Attacker sunglasses winners in the next few days. And stay tuned to for upcoming sweepstakes as soon as we line up the prize sponsors.

Review the Tour de France with Cyclingnews' videos

The biggest bike race in the world may now be done and dusted, but that does not stop you from re-living the magical three-week Tour de France. Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you post-race video highlights.

Video highlights - 2 is the second of three post-race videos that will be presented by Cyclingnews. If you still need more you can review past videos and the podcasts page in our Tour de France section.

(Additional editorial assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer.)

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