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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, January 24, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Student Offredo on a mission in Australia

By Jean-François Quénet in Hahndorf

The three break away riders in action during stage two of the Tour Down Under
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

The Tour Down Under, with its 26 French riders - more than the 21 Australian riders - is an opportunity for French neo-pros to show off and gain some experience. 21 year-old Yoann Offredo, a new signing for Team Française des Jeux, is one rider who couldn't wait to launch his professional career after getting a taste of it at the end of 2007, during which he finished a convincing second place in the Tour de la Somme.

"I want to win a stage and there are only two ways of doing it: attacking from far out or sprinting," said the ambitious Offredo after riding away from the bunch for most of stage two. He fought hard to stay in the bunch after being caught and ended up in sixth place overall.

"Since I'm not a good sprinter, I had to attack from far out. I wanted to do it yesterday, and I was frustrated that I didn't get the opportunity, so I attacked from the gun today. My roommate Christophe Mengin had noticed attacking early gave the opportunity to go for the hot spot sprint and the King of the Mountains (KOM) classification."

Offredo waited for the two other Frenchmen who jumped away from the bunch after him: Bouygues Telecom's Nicolas Crosbie and Ag2r's Stéphane Poulhiès who beat him at the KOM in Mount Barker. "Fortunately I grabbed some points to help Philippe Gilbert to keep the lead," said the Parisian rider.

Yoann Offredo (Française des Jeux)
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

"I'm new in the team but I enjoy riding for someone like Gilbert who is an extremely kind person, and I'm lucky to room with Mengin who is happy to share his experience." Turning 40 years-old later this year, Mengin is the second oldest rider in the Tour Down Under. He was born just three months after Lampre's Fabio Baldato in 1968.

"I'm here to learn the codes of professional cycling," Offredo said. "For example I can see that Robbie McEwen has an easy job in the bunch, nobody prevents him from going to the front when he wants to. In the amateur ranks, the breakaway commands the race but with the pros, it's the opposite; the peloton decides what will happen."

Offredo should learn quickly. He is one of these newcomers within professional cycling who hasn't given up his studies to only train and race. Following the examples of his team-mate Jérémy Roy who successfully completed his degree in engineering last year, he is still keeping his eye on his books. In fact, Offredo fell in love with Australia as soon as he landed in Adelaide. He went to the university and decided that he'll be back here after the cycling season in the capacity of a student between his two seasons as a professional cyclist. That will not prevent him from producing spectacle on the roads.

Tour of California organizers announce breakthrough anti-doping program

By Kirsten Robbins

Racing in Long Beach at the 2007 Tour of California
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Organizers of the 2008 Tour of California professional cycling road race assembled late Tuesday to unveil and discuss a new anti-doping protocol which will be introduced and administered during the upcoming race beginning February 17. Presenters of the Amgen Tour of California, AEG Sports president, Andrew Messick along with USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson spoke candidly about the new anti-doping program as being the most comprehensive anti-doping program in cycling history.

The program is said to exceed a cost of more than one hundred thousand [US] dollars and is funded by the organizers. It will include a summary of blood samples taken from every rider entered in the event prior to the start of the race and tested for blood manipulations and EPO along with urine samples of thirty percent of the riders. The samples will be tested for banned substances like steroids, hormones, diuretics and various masking agents.

Daily, each stage winner, current general classification leader and three additional riders will be earmarked for post-race screening for steroids, hormones, stimulants and various masking agents. In addition, there will be three riders selected for testing during each morning and evening, totalling eight riders tested per day or three more than the normally required in standard competition testing protocol.

Furthermore, all participating teams will be required to be clear of any doping investigations. A roster of riders will be submitted to the UCI and USA Cycling to confirm that none have an outstanding open investigation. Should any be found, the rider's team will be asked to withdraw or replace him.

Results of the blood tests will be incorporated into the newly introduced UCI biological passport program, an individual electronic file for each rider in which all of the results of blood doping tests are accumulated over time. The samples will be analyzed by two accredited WADA labs, blood samples will be taken to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing laboratory at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Urine samples will be analyzed in Los Angeles at the UCLA Olympic Analytical laboratory.

Team High Road's Bob Stapleton
Photo ©: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

"AEG believes in fair and honest competition and we have a responsibility to do what is necessary to ensure that the Amgen Tour of California is clean and that the best rider wins," said Messick. "The sad truth is that we can't talk about elite cycling without addressing incidences of performance enhancing substances. We are here to talk about what we intend to do to ensure the athletic integrity of our race. We are pleased to say that the program that we have developed is a collaborative effort between all of the stakeholders in elite cycling: UCI, USA Cycling, USADA and our European friends at the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, riders, teams, race owners, sponsors, drug testing agencies, national and international governing bodies for our sport. As a group we are unanimous that this is a powerful step to a clean sport."

17 teams have been invited to compete in the Tour of California including ten European and six domestic squads. USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson said the American national governing body feels a profound challenge ahead with regard to cleaning up doping problems to ensure a fair playing field. "Cycling is committed to zero tolerance," said Johnson. "It's critical to ensure that up and coming riders can realize their dreams without the obligation of confronting the temptation to cheat."

Johnson cited greater risks and lower benefits as incentives for riders not to cheat. "The UCI and USA cycling are one hundred percent committed to this program. We want to move aggressively in that direction so that the opportunities to cheat are less. This is a higher standard than even the Tour de France...with the extra blood sample and the use of the blood passports. We can assure that no rider who is cheating will start this race."

Dr. Steve Elliot spoke on behalf of the event's title sponsor Amgen, one of the largest biomedical manufacturers. He noted that while his company manufactures medicines like EPO for people with debilitating diseases, it does not promote the inappropriate use of the substances. "It's unethical and we need to teach our young athletes that sport is fun, exciting and competitive without doping," said Dr. Elliot, who added that his company was excited to be part of what it believes to be the "cleanest and most excited race ever".

Team High Road owner Bob Stapleton has been at the forefront of anti-doping program with his former T-Mobile squad and will continue his effort into the coming season. He called the new anti-doping programs a progressive step forward for all sport for three reasons. "This shows unity and purpose to make progressive change in the sport where the stakeholders have come together to create what I think is a unique protocol that makes the sport better and is an example to sports overall in terms of acting together to make change."

"Secondly, it's a bit of a new paradigm and with the profiles and tests that will be created that will make future events better because the tests that are done here will be saved in profiles and stored," added Stapleton. "Lastly, it's important to have a level playing field. Every athlete wants to win, and we are proud to participate in a race where everyone has a fair chance."

Wyman swiftly does it

By Ben Atkins

Heading to another World Cup podium in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands
Photo ©: Mark Legg
(Click for larger image)

With consistent top tens in the women's Cyclo-cross World Cup races turning to consistent top fives, British champion Helen Wyman surely can't be too far away from her first major victory.

Her season so far shows that she's now knocking on the door of a big result. "Definitely," she predicts confidently, "last year I got two thirds in the World Cup series, this year I've got a second, so that's really good. We kind of did it a bit different this year, because last year I got third in the first World Cup and then third in the last one, but I was quite tired in the middle. I'd come into it quite quick and then levelled out a bit; I didn't really have a peak during the season. This year we're trying to make it so I'm stronger towards the end, where last year I wasn't quite so strong, and it's working I think!"

Working indeed. So much so that her first target of the year - Round 6 of the World Cup - turned out to be that career best result: "Milan was the first race that we'd planned for me to go really well at - and I did - so I was really happy with that. We've still two World Cups and the Worlds after the Nationals..."

Her increasingly strong results, coming into the beginning of 2008 and two of her biggest targets had given Wyman great confidence heading towards the UK National Championships - a race that she aimed to win for a third successive year. Seemingly, her major problem heading into the championships was the fact that all of her racing for the past few years has been in Europe while almost everyone else in the field races exclusively in the UK. All except one rider - potentially her biggest competition would be someone she knows very well.

Read the complete feature.

Tour de France extends deal with French TV

By Jeff Jones

The peloton in the Tour de France in 2007
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)
The Tour de France will be broadcast on French public television until at least 2013. The deal will extend to all events run by the Amaury Sport Organisation, including Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and several other classics, as well as the Paris-Dakar Rally.

The agreement comes some 10 days after a proposal to remove all advertising from French public television. This would almost certainly hurt France Télévisions' in bidding against commercial TV for the rights to show sports events.

"I'm delighted with the happy outcome of the negotiation," said Patrick de Carolis, president of France Télévisions in a statement. "The agreement signed between France Télévisions and the organisers of the Tour will allow viewers of the public service to continue to benefit from the best possible coverage of what remains the most popular sporting event in our country."

The contract renewal is opposite to the tack that was taken by German public TV (ARD and ZDF) last year, when they stopped broadcasting the Tour in protest against the doping scandals (German TV has agreed to broadcast the event this year).

"We have decided to join forces [with ASO] to fight doping," said Daniel Bilalian, France Télévisions' head of sport.

Vázquez injured after collision with bus

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Nicolas Mateos-Murcia climber Manuel Vázquez was hit by a bus Wednesday afternoon while he was training on the outskirts of Granada, where he lives. He was immediately taken to the hospital where he was examined by doctors. X-rays revealed a sprained left knee, a heavy blow to the left hip and several bruises. Doctors advised several days of rest for Vázquez before returning to training.

"The bus passed me before taking a curve, and I almost closed [the gap] before it stopped. When the bus stopped and was going to pass me [again] on the left, it hit me. The bus driver did not see me," said Vázquez to Cyclingnews about what happened. ""Fortunately someone shouted to the bus driver, and stopped the [driver's] maneuver; had it not stopped, the bus could have driven over me."

"I will see how the injuries evolve in the coming days," he said. "What worries me is the knee."

Last year's winner of the Volta the Alentejo is confident in his recovery. "I do not suppose it will cause major setbacks. I am at an advanced stage of training preparation, ready to go out strong in the first race of the season like I did last year." Vázquez intends to open his season with the Challenge of Mallorca.

USA Cycling names Olympic "Long Team"

Amber Neben is among those named to the Long Team
Photo ©: Team Flexpoint
(Click for larger image)

USA Cycling named 35 athletes as potential mountain bike, road and track Olympians. The federation selected eligible athletes per its nomination process for the men's and women's mountain bike and women's road cycling disciplines as well as picking a "Talent Pool" of track athletes from which this summer's Olympic Team will named.

The five automatic selections for the women's long road team were 2007 UCI Road World Championship silver medallist Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, Tina Mayolo-Pic, Mara Abbott and Christine Thorburn ranked ninth, 18th, 34th, 29th and 62nd respectively in the UCI Road Rankings.

Kori Seehafer and Alison Powers were also added as discretionary picks. Seehafer showed strong mid-season form with career best performances at La Route de France Feminine in which she won a stage, wore the leader's jersey for three days and finished 18th overall. Powers finished last season ranked 103rd after winning gold in the time trial at the Pan American Championships, finishing third at the Memorial Davide Fardelli Time Trial in Italy and a seventh overall at Le Grand Tour du Montreal.

The five top-ranked male mountain bikers made the cut based on their UCI rankings including Adam Craig (16th), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (28th), Todd Wells (32nd), Jeremiah Bishop (37th) and Michael Broderick (59th). Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont.) received the only discretionary nomination.

Michael Friedman exchanges with Colby Pearce (Slipstream) in the madison at the Los Angeles World Cup
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

On the women's side, the four automatic nominations were Georgia Gould (ranked sixth) and Mary McConneloug (seventh), Willow Koerber (11th) and Heather Irmiger (26th) with Sue Haywood as the sole discretionary nomination She finished the year ranked 47th in the world as the next-best American.

Following the third round of the 2007-08 UCI Track World Cup Classics circuit in Los Angeles last weekend, the final Talent Pool roster was picked.

The women's endurance squad consists of two-time individual pursuit world champion Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch, Lauren Franges, Christen King, Becky Quinn, and Kristin Armstrong as well as two sprinters Jennie Reed and Liz Reap.

Male sprinters named were Michael Blatchford, Adam Duvendeck, Andy Lakatosh and Giddeon Massie while selected endurance riders were Michael Friedman, Brad Huff, Bobby Lea, Colby Pearce and Taylor Phinney.

The men's Olympic road team selection process does not including the naming of a Long Team. Instead, riders will be picked based on results at major international events throughout the 2007 and 2008 season. To date, Levi Leipheimer is the only automatically qualified man based on his third-place overall finish at the 2007 Tour de France.

Boonen to lead Team Quick Step in Qatar

Tom Boonen
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)
Tom Boonen departed with his Team Quick Step mates on Wednesday from Paris for Qatar, where they will take part in the Tour of Qatar, a brief stage race in the Arab country. The race will start in Doha on Sunday, January 27 with a six-kilometer team time trial and finish on Friday, February 1 after six stages over 710 km.

After the victories of the past two years, the 2008 edition will be the ideal testing grounds for Boonen and his team as they prepare for the season's next big events.

Team Quick Step for Qatar: Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretsckens, Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Matteo Tosatto, Jurgen Van De Walle, Wouter Weylandt, Maarten Wynants under D.S.Wilfried Peeters

Soler joins Barloworld team-mates in Tuscany

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) dons polka dots in France last summer
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After overcoming visa problems in Columbia, Mauricio Soler finally joined his team-mates at the Team Barloworld training camp in Tuscany, Italy.

"I've had a busy but fruitful winter. I recharged by batteries but also worked hard to resolve several minor physical problems that affected by racing last year," said the 2007 polka-dot jersey winner at the Tour de France. "I'm optimistic and full of enthusiasm for the new season. There's a great atmosphere in the Barloworld team and at the training camp."

"We've already created a good team spirit and I'm pleased to see that the new riders are quickly feeling an integral part of the team," said Team Manager Claudio Corti. "Barloworld is a good team with an excellent team spirit. It's an important factor in professional racing because it's the foundation for the results we've achieved so for and for those we want to achieve in the future." Corti is part of the management team, which also includes Directors Alberto Volpi, Valerio Tebaldi and Flavio Miozzo. The managers have been busy teaching riders how to interact with the media and fostering team spirit among the riders.

Andalucía-Cajasur holds early season training camp

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The 2008 season is already under way for the pro-continental team Andalucía-Cajasur, which is in the midst of a training camp that will run until next Sunday in Córdoba in the south of Spain.

Throughout this week, Fran Ventoso, Jose Antonio Redondo, Jose Francisco Martinez, Manuel Ortega, Juan Olmo, Antonio Piedra, Jesus Rosendo, Cecilio Gutierrez, Luis Angel Maté, Jose Antonio Carrasco, Jose Luis Carrasco, Jose Ruiz, Jose Antonio Gil Lopez, Javi Moreno, Javier Estrada and Claudio Casas will be under the direct supervision of the Andalucía-Cajasur manager Antonio Cabello, as well as the rest of its technical staff including Juan Martinez Oliver and Francisco Cabello.

In addition to training, all 16 riders will undergo medical tests and the official photo sessions. The team is preparing for its first race, the Challenge de Mallorca.

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