First Edition Cycling News, February 26, 2008
Edited by Greg Johnson and Paul Verkuylen with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
UCI threatens ASO over Paris-Nice actions
UCI president Pat McQuaid has written to all professional teams to inform them that this year's Paris-Nice will not be regulated by the sport's world governing body, warning that there will be "far reaching consequences" if race organizer Amaury Sports Organization continues on its current course of action. The Irishman's letter comes after the French Cycling Federation agreed to a request from ASO, which also organizes the Tour de France, to run the 75 year-old race as a national calendar event "under the exclusive jurisdiction of French law".
McQuaid was clearly upset with ASO's actions, as the war of words between the sport's international governing body and the Grand Tour organizers enters yet another chapter.
"The current organizers are behaving in a very irrational way," McQuaid told Associated Press. "It's about power and it has nothing to do with sport. We cannot allow this to happen."
Describing ASO's actions as "utterly irregular", the UCI has threatened to have no involvement with the first major European race of 2008. It said that no international or national commissaries would be authorized to work at the event as it will not be governed by the UCI rules if ASO continues to organize the race as a national calendar event.
"The UCI wished it to be known first of all that, under the chosen format (event on the national calendar, under exclusive jurisdiction of French law), the UCI rules do not permit Paris-Nice to be considered an event on the French national calendar," read a release from the UCI. "Consequently, if the FFC insists on maintaining this position, the race will take place entirely outside the regulatory and organisational structure of the UCI.
"Responsibility for this breach of the rules would therefore lie in the first place with the FFC, which would be contributing to the organisation of a purely private event, with no links to organised sport or to the Olympic movement, of which the UCI is the sole organ of reference for all disciplines of cycling
"The UCI therefore wishes to make it clear that it will not be involved in any way in the organisation of Paris-Nice under the above-mentioned conditions," added the release. "This means that, as far as the International Federation is concerned, this event will have no classification and no winner, and no points will be awarded for it. Moreover, no anti-doping controls will be carried out by the UCI, nor will it be involved in the management of any tests which may be carried out under national law."
The latest political situation in the UCI/ASO power play is a reverse of the events that took place just 12 months ago. Then, the UCI was threatening to ban the Paris-Nice race from the ProTour if ASO didn't comply with the rules of the ProTour by inviting all 20 ProTour teams to participate.
During the 2007 saga, ASO approached the FFC about running the event under its governance as the UCI threatened to cut the event lose. While the dispute was said to be over the organiser's inability to invite Unibet.com to participate in any French events due to the nation's gambling laws, it was widely accepted that the new ProTour team became a pawn in the UCI Vs. Grand Tour battle. Despite the political uproar in the lead-up to last year's race, the event went ahead following a 'crisis meeting' - without the Unibet.com team.
While McQuaid hasn't said whether the UCI would move to sanction any teams participating in the event, he has requested that in the interest of the sport they refuse to take part in the March 9-16 race. "The UCI trusts that, recognising the seriousness of the situation, the teams will refuse to take part in Paris-Nice, as, regardless of the sanctions to which they would be subject, such participation would compromise the image and stability of cycling.
"Given that it is the role of an International Federation to safeguard the general interests of its sport from the influence of commercial groups, the UCI invites all the members of its extended family to stand by it in what will most certainly be difficult times ahead, and to oppose the unacceptable insubordination of ASO and its allies," continued the release. "These irresponsible attitudes threaten to undermine the remarkable efforts recently made in cycling, in particular with the biological passport, which the UCI reserves the right to apply as a priority to those of its partners who abide by its rules."
While tensions had seemingly simmered earlier this year when the UCI proposed a special calendar for the events run by the three Grand Tour organizers, the boiling pot's temperature again rose when ASO announced earlier this month Astana wouldn't be invited to contest the Tour de France, or any of its other 2008 races. While ASO said it would consider the team in future years, McQuaid was upset that the organization had singled out Astana, which has been completely rebuilt under new management since last season, and not French squad Cofidis, which was also thrown off last year's Tour after one of its riders registered a positive doping test.
The UCI closed its statement with a plea to the FFC and French Secretary of State for Sport, asking them to reconsider their decision with regards to Paris-Nice.
"The UCI asks the FFC and the Secretary of State for Sport, as a matter of the utmost urgency, to re-examine and reconsider their decision to support a position taken by a private company with the apparent aim of promoting its own commercial interests, with scant regard to the fair, open and universally respected rules defended by the UCI."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
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Rebellin Paris-Nice favourite once again
Italy's Davide Rebellin will again be one of the men to watch in two weeks time, when the "Race to the sun" will be getting under way from Paris to Nice in Southern France. Aged 36, the Gerolsteiner rider proved that his current form is excellent by taking the victory in Sunday's Tour du Haut-Var in front of the likes of Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Fränk Schleck (Team CSC), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), who recently won the Tour Mediterranéen.
Rebellin started his winning move on the Côte des Tuilières with 15 kilometres to go. Only Botcharov and Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2R-La Mondiale) were able to follow, as Gilbert, Schleck and Valverde could not close the gap to powering Italian. "For me, this is the first high level race of the season," said Rebellin to L'Equipe after the race. "It's perfect for me, it completely corresponds to my abilities. The parcours is similar to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with a series of not-too-long climbs. Of course, the Ardennes (Classics) are still far away, but this was a good test."
His Gerolsteiner directeur sportif, Christian Henn, also felt that Rebellin's form was promising and made him a favourite once again for Paris-Nice. "Last year, Davide lost only because of a few seconds," he said. "Now, with his current fitness, it would be difficult not to make him one of the favourites."
But Rebellin himself played down his chances in the upcoming French stage race. "The parcours is more difficult than last year. The Ventoux might be a bit too hard for me. But, if I have the legs, who knows?"
Even more than Paris-Nice, the Italian of course focuses on the series of Spring Classics in Belgium and the Netherlands this upcoming April. Last year, the winner of all the three events in 2004 (Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège) placed second in Amstel, won again in Flèche and came fifth in Liège. "I want to be at the top of my form in April," Rebellin reiterated this Sunday. Winning against such contenders as Gilbert, Schleck and Valverde will certainly help him staying focused on that goal.
Mattis unable to qualify for the American Olympic team
By Paul Verkuylen in Geelong, Australia
Katheryn Curi Mattis (Webcor Builders) took the biggest win of her career on Sunday in Geelong, Australia, when she became only the second American women to ever win a round of the UCI World Cup since Dede Berry first won ten years ago in the World Cup's inaugural round in Sydney. But even with that win, Mattis' chances of representing her country at the Olympic Games have not improved.
Mattis is one of the top female riders in the United States of America, but was not one of the top five American riders in the UCI rankings at the end of 2007, and therefore was not named to the "long team", which is USA Cycling's pre-requisite for Olympic selection.
"I had a really good year last year and finished it off with a third place at the Tour of Ardèche in France and then raced hard at the world championships," she said of the build up to her biggest victory to date. "That gave me a lot of confidence going into the off season. I did a lot of great training; we had a lot of good weather in California."
Clearly, Mattis is on form and heading for a strong season, but even if she had been part of the long team, the win in Geelong would not have given her an edge over the other five women on the long team list – Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, Tina Mayolo-Pic, Mara Abbott and Christine Thorburn. Mattis was reluctant to speak about the selection procedures, saying "I am not currently on the long team, let's just leave it at that".
USA Cycling changed the selection procedures for the Olympic Games this year, introducing the "long team" concept as a way to allow riders to tailor their season leading into the Games rather than fighting all season to make the team and then going into the Games fatigued.
Andy Lee, spokesman for USA Cycling, explained to Cyclingnews: "The long team allows riders to pre-qualify for the Games, based on the UCI rankings as of December 31, 2007. The top five riders in the UCI rankings were named to the women's long team". Lee was impressed by Mattis' results, but explained the situation in regards to selection for Beijing.
"It's a phenomenal win, it's a great result for her, and probably the best result of her career," he said. "She's had plenty of good results – in Ardèche, Redlands – and clearly is a strong rider, but as it relates to Olympic selection, it won't do anything for her due to the long team aspect of the rules."
Even if Mattis had accumulated enough points to make the long team, her World Cup win wouldn't have gained automatic selection, as the criteria state that only European World Cups qualify riders for the Olympic team. "It's based on European World Cups because typically the fields are weaker in the non-European races," explained Lee. "The European World Cups are more indicative of the talent you'd see at the Olympic Games."
Selection through the World Cups is not the only way the women compete for the final three spots which will take them to Beijing. They can also have placed top three at the 2007 world championships in either the road race or time trial, or win a 2.9.1 category race prior to June 2, 2008.
The procedure is a labyrinth of clauses and exceptions, but ultimately the positions on the squad will be at the discretion of the selection panel. The panel includes some high-profile ex-Olympians such as Jim Ochowitz and Alison Dunlap, who have the power to either choose or drop an athlete.
Even former World Champion Kirstin Armstrong, who fulfilled one of the automatic qualification criteria with her second place in the 2007 World Time Trial Championship, could still be dropped from the squad should the panel decide that her form is not up to scratch as the event draws near.
Lee admitted that no selection process is perfect, but said he felt that this year's procedure was working well, and that most of the ahtletes were satisfied with it. In regards to Mattis' position, he said that it's more a factor of the small number of spaces available to women at the Olympic Games. "The strength of our women's road team is phenomenal, and when you've only got three spaces to fill, it's hard," he said. "Three is the maximum number of spots we could have gotten [for the Games], and if we could have more spots to fill it would only increase our chances of winning."
With assistance from Laura Weislo.
Tournant misses French Worlds team sprint spot
Multiple world champion Arnaud Tournant is unhappy after not been selected to ride for France in the team sprint in the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester on March 26 - 30. Despite the disappointment, the Roubaix-born rider is happy that he's recovering from the shoulder injury sustained in a recent crash.
"My shoulder injury is almost better," said Tournant. "It has improved a lot since the last World Cup in Copenhagen and I am very pleased with the recovery.
"My federation has decided the team sprinters for the World Championships will be Bauge as first man, Kevin Sireau in second with Bourgain in third," he added. "I am only a substitute and I don't understand it."
Tournant won the gold medal last year riding with Mickael Bourgain and Gregory Bauge but the French selectors have decided he will not be defending his title in Manchester this year. He has won the event an amazing eight times in the World Championships and in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
"I made the podium in four World Cups this season and I won in Los Angeles," said the 29 year-old sprinter. "For me the decision is very strange. It is my best event and I have won nine gold medals in it.
"I am very happy for my friends but it is very difficult for me," he added. "I have been selected for the Keirin, but it is the team sprint where I have a long history of success."
Tournant will have to work hard if he is to beat Britain's Chris Hoy in the Keirin. The flying Scotsman had put 24 consecutive wins together in world class events recently and is the reigning World champion in the specialist discipline.
"I won in Los Angeles and finished second in Beijing," continued Tournant. "I think I have a good chance. Chris has got a fabulous record…and I hope that it's me who breaks it."
Devolder suffering from crash injury
Quick Step's Stijn Devolder is worried about the affect a crash at the Volta ao Algarve will have on his upcoming races. The Belgian was one of four riders from the Quick Step team to crash on the Portuguese event's final stage, while defending the yellow jersey worn by Devolder.
After winning the event by 22 seconds over Cofidis' Sylvain Chavanel, Devolder started feeling pain in his right wrist while flying to Brussels on Sunday evening.
"I'm a little worried," said Devolder. "Yesterday evening the pain was really strong; today it feels a little better. I trained for about an hour, but just to recuperate better from the flight.
The Algarve event was Devolder's first with the Quick Step team, with the outfit signing the Belgian after the closure of his former squad Discovery Channel at the end of 2007. Devolder claimed the race's Individual Time Trial on Saturday, taking the general classification lead which he held through the following day's final stage.
"I'm mostly worried about the cobblestones we'll be confronting in the next races," he added. "The training on the Het Volk course Wednesday will be a very important test."
Mauro Facci, Wilfried Cretskens and Davide Viganò were also involved in the Quick Step crash on Sunday's stage. Viganò was taken to hospital for a precautionary check up, but was later cleared of any injury, while the remaining trio continued the race to ensure the team took the overall victory.
Van Avermaet out for the weekend
Silence-Lotto's Greg Van Avermaet will likely miss the opening weekend of the Belgian season due to an inner-ear infection, the Belgian ProTour team announced Monday evening. The Belgian rider knew that he would be unlikely to ride in Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kurrne this coming weekend, with the team confirming the situation in an official announcement on Monday.
After a few more days of rest it is hoped that the 22 year-old will be able to start training on the roller the end of this week. "If all goes well, he will soon be able to train on the road and will be fit to start at Paris-Nice [on March 9]," the team said optimistically.
Haynes signs with Yawadoo
Former British Road Race Champion Hamish Haynes has signed with Belgian amateur squad Team Yawadoo, following the collapse of the Pedaltech squad. Haynes had hoped to find another Professional Continental squad to ride for this season, however the late announcement of his previous team's fate meant the 33 year-old was unable to find a new team with most team already having completed their rosters.
"Team Yawadoo is a small but ambitious outfit, they have one of the best program of any Belgian Amateur Team, including all UCI 1.2, interclub, Pro-Kermis and stage races in Belgium, such as Beverbeek Classic, Omloop van het Waasland, Tryptique Ardennais and Tour de Liege," said Haynes. "Last year they were a continental team and the infrastructure has been brought through for 2008 providing good support for the riders."
Haynes season will start on March 1 when the Briton contests the UCI 1.2 Beverbeek Classic.
"I am very determined to prove a point, of course to secure a Professional contract again and win beautiful races for Team Yawadoo," said Haynes.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)