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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, February 7, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Indurain shares impressions in Australia

By Paul Verkuylen

Miguel Indurain
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Miguel Indurain was an extraordinary man on a bike, but despite all his fame, he remains the humble son of a farmer. During his illustrious career, Indurain experienced many changes, from the influx of non-European riders to the change in the structure of the racing calendar. The retired racer shared his thoughts on the ProTour and the impact he believes it may have on cycling.

Indurain became the first rider to win five consecutive Tours de France in the 1990's, putting himself onto the list of cycling legends by dominating his rivals in the time trials and limiting his loses in the mountains. After winning the Tour from 1991-1995, he retired from professional cycling shortly after abandoning the Vuelta in 1996, which he was forced to ride by his Banesto team. Since that time, he has remained close to his roots, happily living in Pamplona, just five kilometers from his birth town of Villava.

"It was a bit difficult at first [retiring]. But since then life has been good and I am happy," he explained.

Indurain has taken a less pronounced role in his retirement than other living legends like Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, preferring to lead a quiet, simple life running a sporting goods store in his home town while putting time into furthering the sport. On top of working in the ProTour commission for the UCI, he also writes for Marca, one of Spain's leading newspapers, as well as making time to ride his bike on occasion. "But only during the summer, a couple of times a week," he stressed.

During his decade in the peloton, Indurain saw plenty of changes in the professional cycling. He witnessed the rise of the UCI's World Cup, which replaced the old Super Prestige series in 1989. At one stage of his career, Indurain was able to use the Vuelta as preparation for the Tour de France, before it was moved from the spring to its current time slot in late summer. Since his retirement in 1996, Indurain has remained active in the sport, and was in Australia in January to witness the first step in the UCI's attempt at globalising the sport: the Tour Down Under, the first ProTour event ever held outside Europe.

Indurain believes that countries outside Europe have a place on the calendar alongside the more traditional countries of France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Holland. "I think that cycling has to change, so I am a supporter of the globalisation of cycling," he said. "It is not easy to say what exactly needs to be changed because it is still just the start of the change, but I think that there are a lot of things that need to be done."

'Big Mig' never had a chance to race in the Australian or American races which emerged on the calendar since his retirement, but he supports the addition of the Tour Down Under to the professional calendar for the riders as well as the fans. "Cycling is growing, so I think that it is important that cycling is also accessible to those nations," he said.

While the UCI's ProTour has encountered plenty of difficulties during its development over the past four years, Indurain said that the problems are by no means new to the sport, but stem from resistance to change. "These are not just a problem of today, the problems started a long time ago," he explained.

Read the complete feature.

Ballan clarifies position to CONI

By Gregor Brown

Alessandro Ballan
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Ballan of Lampre travelled to Rome to meet with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri, to clarify his position regarding last week's visit of anti-doping inspectors to the team's camp. "It went well," said the 28 year-old Italian – winner of the 2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen – after the meeting.

He requested the visit to clarify his position after inspectors visited Team Lampre's training camp last Monday evening, starting at 23:00, and lasting until 3:30, Tuesday morning, January 29.

"I clarified myself with the head prosecutor, Ettore Torri and I am calm," explained Ballan to Agr. He was accompanied by Lampre staff, Doctor Carlo Guardascione and Directeur Sportif Maurizio Piovani.

"I clarified the misunderstanding that existed over sending in the accountability form. I thought that the ones sent to the UCI [International Cycling Union - ed.] were sufficient. Anyway, it is now all okay."

To further clarify the late-night controls, the Association of Italian professional riders (ACCPI) has asked a CONI representative to speak during its meeting this Friday in San Vincenzo (Toscana).

McQuaid calls out problems with Grand Tour invitations

UCI president Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

UCI President Pat McQuaid reacted Wednesday to the omission of four ProTour teams from the Giro d'Italia start list by race organizer RCS Sport. He said it was like "taking a step back 20 years."

"I do not understand" said McQuaid to the AFP. "The organizer of Giro (RCS Sport) knows the event is one of the greatest tests, but he does not include the best teams. The 18 ProTour teams are the top 18 teams in the world. Ok, the organizers have the right to invite whom they please, but everyone knows there is a hierarchy of races and also of teams."

McQuaid termed the team choices arbitrary, citing economic and national reasons and contrasted the selections with the UCI's work to look out for the whole sport.

"In my opinion, it will be necessary to return to rules about participation. The organizer must have responsibilities for the organization for his race, not for the participation," said McQuaid.

McQuaid pointed out an additional problem with the selection. One of the invited teams, the Swiss LPR, had not met wild card requirements with the biological passports.

The UCI is expected to announce this weekend the list of teams eligible for the wild card label. Grand Tour teams are expected to take part in the blood passport program, regardless of whether the team or the organizers finances it.

Look forward to the Tour de France invitations, McQuaid said, according to Reuters, that Tour de France organizers should invite Astana. He noted the ProTour team's completely new management, calling it blameless for past problems. "They're doing everything that is needed and doing even more. They should be given credit for that," said McQuaid.

Bretagne Armor-Lux hopes for Tour start

Since Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme mentioned in mid-January the Bretagne Armor-Lux team in the same sentence as the start of the Tour de France, the team has been hoping it might be on the list of invitations for the Grand Tour's start July 5 in Brest. One of the team's financial partners is linked with the Brest regional council.

The team may be encouraged by the latest developments in the ongoing spat between the UCI and Tour organizers. Non ProTour organizers now have the prerogative to choose the teams invited to their races. No longer are the organizers compelled to invite all ProTour teams plus some number of wild cards. RCS Sport, organizers of the Giro d'Italia, may have set a precedent last week for the other Grand Tours by inviting teams like the Swiss squad NGC Medical while declining to invite four ProTour teams.

"Christian Prudhomme opened a door mid-January to us," said Joël Blévin, the team's President according to the AFP. "We have asked ASO what are the rules, ethical and medical, for officially presenting our candidacy [for entry into the Tour]."

"We always do what is necessary for our riders, exactly like the teams of the ProTour, who have also obtained biological passports," said Blévin, who does not believe ASO's interest is solely due to the geographic ties of his team. "ASO was allured by our program and its details. The program closely follows the riders. We are pioneers with it."

The team got off to a good start this year when it won two stages of the Tropical Amissa Bongo in Gabon. According to the AFP, Blévin recognized it would take a combination of circumstances for his team to get picked for the Tour de France, but he noted that whatever steps he is taking are worth it "even if we only have one chance out of ten. Even if we don't go in 2008, it will be useful for the future."

Bäckstedt back training

Magnus Backstedt is back
Photo ©: Megan Backstedt
(Click for larger image)

After suffering the misfortune of a broken right clavicle just before the end of stage five of the Tour of Qatar last week, Magnus Bäckstedt showed his Viking strength and spirit just days afterward when he resumed training.

Only a few hours after lifting himself off the tarmac in the desert, the big Swede was on a flight back to the United Kingdom, where he went under the surgeon's knife to repair the damage. Now with a scar to match his left shoulder and still nursing the other cuts and bruises from hitting the deck at high speed, Bäckstedt is back to training.

With his major objective still Paris Roubaix on the second Sunday in April, the Slipstream-Chipotle rider took his first ride on the turbo trainer Monday.

"Its a setback, but only that. Not a disaster. When your life is spent at the head of the race coming into sprints like the one in Qatar, these things happen," said Bäckstedt. "You can't race scared. If you have fear, then you may as well pack up and go home.

"I'll never change the way I race."

Looking ahead, the obviously motivated rider said, "As far as my collarbone is concerned, I am comfortable enough to be able to start on the turbo and believe me, I'll be fit for Roubaix."

PSK Whirlpool starting season in Mallorca

Ondrej Sosenka
Photo ©: Jan Kruta
(Click for larger image)

The new professional continental team from Czech republic PSK Whirlpool-Author has plans to start its season at the Trofeo Mallorca on February 10. The team's riders are already at a training camp in Mallorca.

Former Czech road cyclist and Team Manager Vladimir Vavra signed 17 riders for the team, including two from Germany: experienced sprinter Andre Schulze and youngster Patrick Keller. Rene Andrle is serving as team captain after several years on the Spanish teams Once and Liberty Seguros. He'll be supported by Petr Bencik, Tomas Buchacek, Czech national road race champion Stanislav Kozubek and Martin Mares who is formerly of the Italian Naturino Sapore di Mare team.

Perhaps the most notable signing is Ondrej Sosenka, the one-hour world record holder in 2005 (49.7 km). The 32 year-old has twice won the Tour of Poland and also the Course de la Paix.

"He is excellent time trialist and a kind of rider we need," said Vavra of Sosenka.

After Mallorca, the team will race the Trofeo Cala Millor, Trofeo Pollenca and Trofeo Soller and the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.

Sean Kelly Cycling Academy signs Fleeman

Another rider who was slated to be a member of the Pedaltech - Cyclingnews team has found a contract after the Pedaltech team launch plans fell through. British rider Dan Fleeman has signed for 2008 with the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy, alongside former DFL-Cyclingnews team-mate Daniel Lloyd.

Fleeman was also aided by personal sponsor Warren Bailey of "As you can imagine finding a team at this late stage is incredibly difficult and I would like to thank Sean Kelly and the team for taking me on, but also to Warren for his financial backing [for 2008]. Without him I wouldn't have been able to continue," said Fleeman.

He will start racing with the Irish continental level team in March and is looking forward to the season with renewed enthusiasm.

"The programme will be at a similar level to the one I raced last year. It does however include more stage races, which suits my style. I'm really motivated and looking forward to joining up with the team," said Fleeman.

Alfred sanctioned for life

Stephen Alfred received a lifetime period of ineligibility according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency. USA Cycling will carry out the sanction which went into effect Monday.

According to USADA's website, it was Alfred's third offense when the 40 year-old refused to participate in an out of competition test on November 26, 2007. UCI and USADA rules consider non-compliance with out of competition testing "without compelling justification" as a violation of anti-doping rules.

At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Alfred tested positive for norandrosterone. He also tested positive for exogenous testosterone or its precursors and for an elevated testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio in an out-of-competition test conducted on May 28, 2006. Most recently, he tested positive for hCG on June 10 at the Pan American Cycling Championships in Brazil. The latter two offenses were counted as one by the World Anti-Doping Code.

Johnson on track for Geoff Thomas Challenge

By James Pope

Ex-England Rugby captain and sports celebrity Martin Johnson will take on Geoff Thomas in the Geoff Thomas Pursuit Challenge at the next Revolution cycling event on Saturday, February 23.

The 2003 World Cup winner will swap his rugby jersey for Lycra as he takes to the track in a feature Italian Pursuit race, which is slightly different than a normal team pursuit as seen in the Olympics. Johnson will lead a team of six riders who will set off at the opposite side of the track to Thomas's team of six. Johnson and Thomas will set the pace racing the first lap when they will peel off after an intense 250m effort. Each subsequent rider will lead the team for one lap until there is only one rider left on each squad who will sprint it out for the line and glory on the final lap. Olympic kilometer champion Chris Hoy and kilometer world record holder Arnaud Tournant will be the anchor men on their respective squads.

The race is being held to raise awareness and funds for the Geoff Thomas Foundation, which helps provide resources to develop new medical treatments to fight leukaemia. Thomas has previously attempted to ride the full Tour de France route as a fundraiser. He hopes Johnson's involvement will spread exposure for the foundation beyond cycling.

"I am really grateful to Martin for giving up his time to support us, and I'm sure we'll have a great night whatever the result of the race!" said Thomas who has been training with Johnson at the Newport Velodrome.

"Having never ridden a bike on the track before I'm quite keen to have a go before the main event," said Johnson. "The lack of brakes is the main concern and I don't want to make a fool out of myself so we will have a few sessions at the Velodrome."

Cyclists raise a record AUS$1.1million for diabetes research

Team Macquarie Group
Photo ©: JDRF
(Click for larger image)

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) raised a record AUS$1.1million at the recent Ride to Cure Diabetes. Held as the official charity event of the Tour Down Under, the Ride to Cure Diabetes involved 270 participants from all over Australia cycling a 35km, 80km or 160km circuit through the beautiful Barossa Valley. The ride is one of the major fundraising events of the JDRF, a charity dedicated to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes through the support of cutting-edge media research.

Local resident, David Barrett, was part of a Macquarie Group team of 21 riders, who raised almost 10 per cent of the total sum. "Our team raised $53,000, which was matched by the Macquarie Group Foundation, taking our total contribution to $106,000."

"This result is an absolutely outstanding achievement and we are truly grateful to all the riders who made this event such a success," said JDRF CEO Mike Wilson. "All of the funds raised at this event will go towards funding the best Australian research into type 1 diabetes."

Team HPC goes national

After three years of regional racing, Team Hefler Performance Coaching (HPC) is expanding and stepping up to compete in the full National Racing Calendar (NRC) for 2008. Backed by new title sponsor, the Altarum Institute, a non-profit health systems research institute, the team formerly known as HPC/LIST Women's Cycling Team has a reputation for producing the Mid-Atlantic Best All Around rider for two of the past three seasons.

CEO Linc Smith explained how Altarum identified with cycling. "We hope they will inspire others to become healthier and more physically active. On top of that, we have found in this team a group of like-minded systems thinkers. Bike racing is a great example of a system, with each player on the team interacting with others to achieve a defined result. As a group of health systems researchers, all of us at Altarum thought the affiliation was just a natural fit."

The national-level squad will include Jenette Williams; Kristy Scheffenacker, three-time MABRA champion and former Colavita Bolla Professional Women's Cycling Team member; Susan Hefler, Team Director and former Navigator's and RONA Professional Women's team member; Michele Bote, a savvy stage racer with over 15 years of racing experience; Lorena Candrian, a climbing dynamo and top finisher in NRC events; Kate Flore, a sprinter and promising all-around rider; and Jennifer Rasmusson, a powerhouse and developing track talent.

In conjunction with LIST, the team continues to also sponsor a women's regional team, a men's mountain bike team and multisport athletes.

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