First Edition Cycling News, February 25, 2008
Edited by Greg Johnson, Laura Weislo and Bjorn Haake, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
UCI responds to Tour of California anti-doping complaints
By Kirsten Robbins in Santa Clarita, California
The International Cycling Union's Anti-Doping Agency has reacted after receiving word of a complaint from Quick Step rider Kevin Hulsmans, after a female anti-doping chaperone followed the rider onto the team bus. According to Hulsmans, the female chaperone was politely asked to wait outside while he changed into dry clothing and his seven team-mates finished their post-race showers, however she refused to leave the bus.
According to the UCI Anti-Doping Agency's inspector Pierre Blanchard, the agency's usual protocol is to have gender-specific chaperones at all times, except for unusual cases. According to Blanchard the reason there was a female chaperone during the Stage 4 post-race anti-doping protocols in San Luis Obispo was due to a shortage of male volunteers available to act as chaperone. Because there has been an extreme amount of testing conducted at the event, it resulted in a large demand for volunteers to take on chaperone duty.
"We don't have enough male chaperones to cover all of the tests we need to conduct because we are conducting more tests here at the Tour of California than what is required," said Blanchard. Furthermore, Blanchard acknowledged that the UCI Anti-Doping Agency adjusted the protocol to allow riders being chaperoned to go back to their team bus to get dry clothes where they would normally have to report directly to the anti-doping tent.
"It was a very special circumstance because of the cold and the situation of the race conditions," said Blanchard. "Yes, the female chaperone had to go on to the team bus, but that would not normally happen. They would normally go directly to the tent, but because of the extreme weather we didn't want the rider to freeze and that is why, we had to be imaginative and that is why asked the teams to be imaginative and respectful."
While Blanchard admitted that the gender-specific protocol needs to be polished to handle large amounts of anti-doping tests, extreme weather and shortage of volunteers, there also needs to be a mutual respect between the chaperone and the teams of the rider under testing. "The regulation does not specify this, but as a general rule we always have to have mutual respect from everyone involved," said Blanchard. "We have to follow the rules with respect and sometimes need to adjust to the situation when we have a chaperone that is female with male rider and visa versa also."
The contract of the chaperone, signed by the volunteers on the day of the event, describes a number of duties. One of them is that the observer is expected to remain at a respectable distance from the rider, acting only as an observer. The contract further states, "you must always remain in visual contact. If he goes onto the team bus, you must accompany him. At no time are you to be excluded from remaining in the riders presence, it is your duty to have the rider under observation at all times".
According to Blanchard, the Anti-Doping Agency had a positive discussion with the Quick Step team, along with other teams, to inform all parties that there is a shortage of male volunteers and that female chaperones will be utilized to ensure the quality and credibility of the anti-doping protocol. "We discussed that if this ever happens again that we can find a mutual solution and I think everyone understood," said Blanchard. "Obviously, right at the moment there were misunderstandings."
Rubiera readies for retirement
By Kirsten Robbins in Pasadena, California
Astana domestique Jose Luis 'Chechu' Rubiera confirmed his planned retirement at the end of the 2008 season. Known for his domestique skills in the mountains, the Spaniard spent seven years with the US Postal turned Discovery Channel between the years 2001 and 2007, having turned professional in 1995. Rubiera was one of several riders to move from the defunct Discovery Channel squad with team-manager Johan Brunyeel to the revamped Astana outfit.
Following many rumours, Rubiera was expected to retire at the end of 2007, but according to the climber he had always intended to compete in 2008, if a suitable contract presented itself.
"It was a misunderstanding that I was going to retire last year," said Rubiera. "Last year I couldn't find a team and at the end of the Vuelta, I was looking for a team. The situation of cycling was really bad and I was not able to find anything.
"I had a contract with Discovery, but thought that if I was not able to keep racing because I couldn't find a team, then I was prepared for retirement because there was no there option," he added. "Johan called me with the option of riding for Astana, but I have always planned I will retire after this year."
Rubiera feels his season to date with Astana has been successful, with a good start at the ProTour's opening round, the Tour Down Under, in Australia and now at the Tour of California.
With the season starting on a high already for Rubiera, the rider is hoping for one more piece of good news in the form of a Tour de France invite for his squad. Astana hasn't been invited to any of French race organizer ASO's races - including the Tour de France - but Rubiera is hopeful the decision will be reversed.
"The team is really going well and I've been having a good time at the races away from Europe," said Rubiera. "As of right now we are not invited to the Tour but I hope that will change, if not I will focus on competing in the Vuelta."
After 13 years of racing, Rubiera believes that physically it is feasible to continue for another two or three more years due to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for years. However the Spaniard wants to change his focus to starting a family in the next couple of years. "I'm 35 and healthy and so maybe I could do a couple of years at the same level and quality of racing I'm doing now," he said. "But I think it is also a good moment to stop and to enjoy life."
Despite having just nine victories listed on his palmares since turning professional in 1995, Rubiera is one of the sport's super-domestiques. In addition to the Spaniard's efforts to sure up Levi Leipheimer's second Tour of California win last week, Rubiera was seen as a large contributor to some of Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories.
"I think it was a long career and I was lucky with my health, but I wanted to take the time to do different things with my life, to stay with my family," he explained. "Time at home and try to find a career using my past studies as an engineer. I don't have children and that is another big reason for my retirement."
After turning professional in 1995 with Artiach, Rubiera claimed his first major victory two years later by conquering the Giro d'Italia's Stage 19. The Spaniard claimed his second Grand Tour stage victory three years later when he returned to Italy's Giro and won Stage 13. The 2000 win would be Rubiera's final Grand Tour win, despite coming close again when he finished runner-up on the Giro's 202 kilometre Stage 3 in 2006.
Rubiera also enjoyed glory on American soil when he claimed the Tour of Georgia's mountains classification in 2005. Rubiera's latest victory came in Asia during Discovery Channel's final season, where he won the Tour of Qinghai Lake's Stage 8.
Contador focused on 2009 Tour
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador seems resigned to missing this year's Tour de France, after the event's organizer ASO didn't invite his Astana squad to contest the event. While other members of the Astana outfit have hopes the French race organizer will reverse its decision, comments made by Contador on Spanish radio indicate the 2007 winner has already come to terms with ASO's decision not to invite Astana to this year's event.
"I am very optimistic and when they see that it's an exemplary team that has nothing to do with last year's team they will change their mind," the Spaniard told EFE radio. "I am not talking bout this year, as that is very complicated, but next year."
Astana, under a completely different team structure and management, was thrown out of last year's Tour after Alexandre Vinokourov returned a positive anti-doping test. Despite the team's complete restructure, which has seen former Discovery Channel boss Johan Brunyeel take over the squad, ASO has adopted a wait and see approach to the outfit.
While ASO waits for Astana to prove itself, Contador and his team-mates will be forced to sit out all of the French organiser's events, which include some the Europe's largest and most prestigious races.
Despite the conundrum that will see the defending Tour champion watch the 2008 edition on television, Contador says he's not for a second considered moving to another, invited team. The Spaniard believes that even if such a move was contractually possible, he wouldn't consider it an option.
"I have a contract to begin with and even if I wanted to leave it'd be practically impossible," he said. "But additionally it [has] never occurred to me because I am a man with principles. I understand that the decision to sign with Astana was a bit risky, but I am responsible if I have done the wrong choice.
"Here is a team that... depends on me," he added. "What I cannot do is to let them down just because they haven't invited us to the Tour. I understand that many fans want me to change teams, but I think they will understand my position."
Contador said that while he fails to understand ASO's decision, he's ready to prove the organizers wrong and give them reason to invite his squad to the world's largest cycling event. "I am surprised and I don't understand that they don't invite us to the races with a team that is completely remodeled," he said. "But we have to wait for the time being and leave the doubts behind."
Eisel, Devolder celebrate Algarve victories
Bernhard Eisel (Team High Road) has won his fourth stage in the Volta ao Algarve since 2005, taking Sunday's closing stage, while Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) wrapped up the general classification victory. Despite being a sprinter, Eisel did not let it come down to a sprint, instead he broke away from a small lead group to claim a solo three second victory over Portugal's Rui A. Costa (Benfica).
"After 30 km I was able to get away with a Barloworld rider," explained Eisel on his website eisel.com. "Then seven riders came up from behind and joined us, and the field was never able to catch us. Quick Step pushed the peloton, but we were able to hold a slight lead to the end."
The Austrian decided not to out-sprint his fellow escapees, opting for the solo victory instead. "1000 metres before the finish line I attacked, made it through, and got my first stage win of the year," he said. "Two years ago I won a stage in Algarve and in 2005 I won two. But this win today means the most to me."
The 27 year-old will now turn his attention to the spring classics, with the Omloop Het Volk on March 1 being his next race, followed by Paris-Nice. "My form is right, I was very strong today," he noted. "That motivates me for the [Spring] Classics; Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix and so on."
While the Quick Step team wasn't able to completely control the final stage, Belgian Devolder managed to hold onto the lead he claimed after a commanding victory in difficult conditions on the Stage 4 Individual Time Trial. Devolder held out a 22 second margin over Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis Credit Par Telephone) while Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) took third overall just 10 seconds further adrift.
"Everything went well," said Devolder. "The team has been strong and all the guys gave their best. It's really a team victory."
The victory in Portugal was the 13th of Devolder's career, with the Belgian having claimed overall classification wins at Drie Daagse Van de Panne in 2005 and last year's Tour of Austria. The Portuguese event was Devolder's first with Quick Step, having signed with the ProTour outfit following the closure of Discovery Channel at the end of 2007.
"This victory allows me to face with serenity the next important appointments," said Devolder. "This race has been a good test to understand at what point is my condition."
Gerolsteiner's Italians shine in Haut Var
Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) took his first season victory by winning the Tour du Haut Var on Sunday. He broke away with two others on the last climb of the race and then outsprinted his two companions to win the race, which he also won in 1999.
"Davide made a very good impression," said Gerolsteiner sports director Christian Henn. "He felt good and could make something out of that." The 35 year-old Italian said modestly, "My form is very satisfactory," and he also praised his team-mates. "That was a very strong team performance."
"We had the race in our hands," Henn said. "It looked great." Andrea Moletta led an escape group, and shortly after it was absorbed, his countryman and team-mate launched his successful bid.
4 Jours de Dunkerque Time Trial canceled
The 4 Jours de Dunkerque will lose one of its decisive stages with organisers announcing that the Individual Time Trial of this year's edition has been canceled. The Time Trial was supposed to be held on the race's final day, Sunday, May 11, but opposition from the village of Coudekerque-Branche, which would have seen six kilometres of the stage in its city limits, forced director Joël Huysman to remove the stage altogether.
The Time Trial was to be part of a split stage day, after a 97-kilometre half-stage. The morning's road race will instead be extended to 128 kilometres, and will finish with 10 laps, instead of the original seven, of a 6.5-kilometre circuit in Dunkerque.
The 53-year-old race's woes began in November, when it announced it was having a hard time finding villages that were interested in hosting stage starts or finishes. This put the organisers' time table behind schedule by some five weeks.
4 Jours de Dunkerque stages:
Broken collarbone for Gusev
Vladimir Gusev (Astana) became the latest victim of California's infamous 'Bott's dots' on Stage 6 of the Tour of California. Gusev had gone back to the team car for a last-chance feed with 26 km to go to the finish in Santa Clarita when his front wheel hit one of the raised lane markers, and he lost control of his bike.
Gusev fractured his right collarbone in the resulting crash, and underwent surgery at the Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica to repair the break. The doctors inserted a plate and screws to stabilize the fracture and ensure a quick recovery.
Gusev, one of the team leaders for the classics, is expected to resume training in 10 days, and is hoping to return to competition within a month's time.
Gollan competes for final time on home soil
By Paul Verkuylen in Geelong, Australia
One of Australia's best known and well liked female cyclists, Olivia Gollan, contested her final race on Australian soil before retiring at the weekend's Geelong Women's World Cup. Gollan was called to the stage by her Menikini-Selle Italia team-mate Nathalie Bates shortly after the winner's presentation, for a special presentation.
Rumors of Gollan's retirement were riff, but the politely-spoken member of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games team was hoping not to make a huge fuss over the personal decision to leave the sport.
"I am not really sure what to say, I was hoping to make a very secret exit from the sport," Gollan said, holding back the tears. "I am very pleased to have raced my last in Australia here in Geelong, with some of my good friends and family around."
Bates presented Gollan with a book containing a photographic record of her achievement over the past six years, compiled and printed entirely by her colleagues. An emotional Gollan confirmed to the crowd that she would retire from the sport after this month's Women's Tour of New Zealand.
"It has been an awesome time representing my country over the past six years and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved," she said. After receiving the gift from Bates, Gollan was congratulated by many of her soon-to-be former colleagues.
Gollan first came in to prominence on the women's cycling scene in 2002. At the time still learning how to race, Gollan took part in many of Australia's biggest one-day races including the Grafton to Inverell, which at the time didn't have a separate category for the women. She finished ahead of some of her more accomplished male counter parts and after realizing her talent became a regular on the national team.
Hailing from Maitland, some 30 km inland from the NSW coastal town of Newcastle, Gollan won the Australian Open Road Championship in 2004 before moving onto a professional contract with Nurnberger in 2005.
During her short but illustrious career Gollan represented Australia both at the Olympic- and Commonwealth Games, taking gold medals in both the 2004 Olympic- and 2006 Commonwealth Games Road Races. Gollan finished second at the 2003 women's Amstel Gold Race and has won such prestigious races in Europe as the Trophée D’Or Feminine and the Tour de Berne.
Gollan, who won the inaugural Women’s Geelong Tour in Australia in 2003, also claimed a top 10 finish at the 2006 Women’s Giro d’Italia, finishing in ninth spot, and has represented Australia at six World Championships.
Milram's star sprinters to pair up in Valenciana
Team Milram will be putting both of its sprint aces on the roster together for the first time this season in the Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana. Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi will challenge for the overall classification in the sprint-friendly race. In 2005, Petacchi won the overall classification and took three stages, while last year he took just one stage win, after being beaten by Italian Daniele Bennati on three stages.
"Erik and Alessandro have already showed in their first races this season that they are already riding at a very high level," said team manager Gerry van Gerwen. "The Volta a Valenciana is an important preparation race for the whole team around our two captains, in looking to our first season highlight of Milano-Sanremo."
Petacchi has already scored a total of four wins this season, including three in the Vuelta a Andalucia.
Milram for Volta a Valenciana: Erik Zabel, Alessandro Petacchi, Alberto Ongarato, Brett Lancaster, Christian Knees, Igor Astarloa, Marco Velo and Volodymyr Diudia.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)