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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, June 1, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Tour de France to be sanctioned by FFC, not UCI

By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec

FFC's Jean Pitallier
Photo ©: AFP

In a press conference scheduled on Tuesday in Paris, it will likely be announced that the Tour de France, just like Paris-Nice this year, will be organized for the first time ever under the French cycling federation (FFC) without being sanctioned by the UCI.

FFC president Jean Pitallier confirmed the news at the GP of Plumelec. "No convention has been signed as for now", he underlined. "But the minister will be at the meeting, so I presume I have to be there as well." The conference will regroup ASO, the organizer of the Tour de France, the French secretary of sport Bernard Laporte and the president of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) Pierre Bordry.

Therefore, the fight between ASO and the FFC on one side, the UCI on the other will continue in the next few weeks, Pitallier reckoned. "I heard a new disciplinary procedure is going on against me by the UCI, but they have already cut my head and I have only one, so what else can they do?"

On Friday, both ASO and the UCI were received separately by the board of the FFC to explain their respective views on the same matter: the refusal by ASO to be imposed by the UCI that the 18 Pro Tour teams have to ride the Tour de France. Unanimously, the board voted in support of Pitallier.

"Since the UCI refuses the round table with all parties about the inscription of the Tour de France on the calendar of the historical monuments of cycling, there's no possible dialogue", Pitallier explained. "I cannot apply for the inscription of a race without the consent of its organizer. The UCI also pretends that I could refuse to sanction a race organized by ASO but I can't because it's an instruction by our Ministry of Sport. I can only respect what the French government tells me to do."

In the short term, Pitallier is not afraid of an eventual ban of the FFC by the UCI. "They cannot ban our athletes from the Olympics", he said. "They have no power for that and [IOC president] Jacques Rogge has already taken position. He doesn't want French athletes to be the victims of the war between the UCI and ASO. The UCI could only have prevented our athletes to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, had they been banned from the world championships, but it's too late now. The track and BMX World's have taken place already and our athletes have qualified."

The debate also concerns rumors about ASO's intentions to create another international federation. "Such will doesn't exist at all", Pitallier insisted. "But the UCI might pave the way to something like that, should they ban the FFC."

Bouygues Telecom proves ear pieces not necessary

By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec

Photo ©: Fabrice Lambert
(Click for larger image)

Last week, the association of the professional cyclists (CPA) released a survey conducted among their members: 70% of the riders declared themselves favorable to keeping the use of the ear pieces for communication between the staff and the riders, citing safety reasons. The 30% opposed to it, and suggested that bike riders would be able to take more initiatives and make more of their breakaways successful without them.

Many voices in cycling consider that ear pieces are largely responsible for making the races boring compared to what it was in the past. The organization of the Tour de France is also working on the option to hold some stages without radio communication between staff and riders as is the case in some car rallies.

Bouygues Telecom inaugurated this old and new kind of cycling at the GP Plumelec and they proved the radios to be unnecessary for tactical instructions since they came first, fourth and fifth with Thomas Voeckler, Jérôme Pineau and Mathieu Sprick. Many directeurs sportifs talk about it, but Philippe Mauduit of Bouygues Telecom did it.

"The briefing was excellent," Voeckler explained. "We started the race without any protected rider because we know that in French cup events, the tactic mostly depends on how many riders which team has in the breakaway. Riding without radios increased the solidarity between us. The team spirit was fantastic today. I managed to win because Sprick did an enormous work at the front for a very long time."

Riders should be prepared for cycling without instant instructions by the directeurs sportifs in case of new regulations being put in place at the Tour de France. The UCI might not be in a situation to prevent ASO from forbidding radios, should it be confirmed that the world's biggest race will no longer be sanctioned by the governing body of cycling.

Voeckler predicts dangerous opening Tour stage

By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec

There won't be any prologue at the Tour de France this year and the finishing line of stage 1 will be drawn just a few meters further down from the one of Saturday's GP Plumelec. Race winner Thomas Voeckler noted the dress rehearsal revealed the potential for a dangerous finish in the Tour. "This isn't a flat stage finish and there won't be any established classification before, that means about 150 riders out of 189 starters will be highly motivated for winning that," said Voeckler.

The Frenchman is excited about the idea of a Tour de France without a prologue or time bonuses. But he's also afraid of the finale in Plumelec, despite having taken his second career win there. "Prior to the finishing hill, there is a very narrow bridge to cross," he noticed. "Maybe some riders don't know what it looks like and there might be a massive crash with 1km to go."

Not many starters of the 2008 Tour de France were there last time when Erik Zabel won stage 3 in Plumelec in 1997. Voeckler is no stranger to the hill of Cadoudal, not only because he won the GP Plumelec twice. He was also a strong contender in the French championship won there by his team-mate Didier Rous in 2003 when the La Boulangère team was still mourning the death of their rider Fabrice Salanson who raced for the last time in Plumelec.

"As a junior and an amateur in the north west of France, I also rode in Plumelec many times," he continued. "Manche-Atlantique finishing there as well is a famous race in March on the Breton amateur calendar and in the 1999 Tour de l'Avenir we did ten laps of this circuit." Even without the Tour de France, there are always thousands of spectators in the hill of Cadoudal where Bernard Hinault won the prologue of the 1985 Tour de France. Some stars of the 2008 Tour de France might be inspired to reconnoitre Cadoudal as much as they do these days for the mountain stages.

Sinkewitz ready but still team-hunting

Patrik Sinkewitz' doping suspension is nearing its end, and the 27-year-old is preparing to ride again. The problem is, he still has not found a new team. "Everyone praises me for my actions, but 'unfortunately' they don't have anything free at the moment," he told the German news service sid.

Sinkewitz had already crashed out of the Tour de France last summer when it was announced that he had tested positive for testosterone during a pre-Tour training camp. He was subsequently fired by T-Mobile Team . After co-operating with investigators, he received a one-year ban which expires July 17, 2008.

"If this treatment of rejecting those who confess continues, then that will be end of the whole cooperative witness concept, which everyone expected so much of," said his attorney, Michael Lehner. He said that he hoped one of the German ProTour teams, Milram or Gerolsteiner, would sign Sinkewitz. "That would be a milestone in the anti-doping fight. When a cooperative witness doesn't get a second chance, then we can just give up our idea of changing the system."

Meanwhile, Sinkewitz continues to train and said, "I think that I could immediately ride with the best, if none of them are doping."

Milram turns season around

Knees knows how
Photo ©: Florian & Susanne Schaaf
(Click for larger image)

After a season plagued by injuries, illnesses and the doping suspension of Alessandro Petacchi, the year hit a low point for Team Milram when it had to sack Igor Astarloa for irregular blood values. But the team rebounded to its second success of the season when Christian Knees nabbed the overall lead of the Bayern Rundfahrt following the stage four time trial.

The Milram team hadn't had a victory since Erik Zabel took a stage of the Vuelta a la Communidad Valenciana in February, and with a sponsor search in full swing, the yellow jersey of Knees, who took fourth in the time trial, coupled with the best young rider jersey of Niki Terpstra, who placed sixth has given the squad new life.

"I am incredibly happy and I think that our whole team has earned the yellow jersey with its performance," said Knees. "We are all pulling together and work very well together. Tomorrow we will do all we can to defend both jerseys. That surely won't be easy but if we continue to perform as we have so far in the Bayern Rundfahrt, then we will make it."

Knees leads the race by just three seconds over Volksbank's Andreas Dietziker, with Terpstra in third at six seconds.

"When you lead the overall and young rider rankings, then you can't help but be satisfied," said directeur sportif Jochen Hahn. "Tomorrow it obviously won't be easy to defend both jerseys. We must be especially alert at the intermediate sprints, since each has up to three seconds' time bonus. But I feel confident that we will accomplish it."

The Bayern Rundfahrt ends Sunday with the fifth and last stage from Bad Neustadt an der Saale to Erlangen . The 161 kilometers run over a lightly rolling terrain, and a bunch sprint finish is expected.

Arndt takes second World Cup

High Road's Judith Arndt took her second win in the Montreal World Cup in three years to extend her current lead in the series. Arndt attacked on the final climb of the race's last circuit and only last year's winner Fabiana Luperini (Menikini) was able to follow. Arndt won the two person sprint to take her second World Cup win this season.

"I love coming to Montreal," explained Arndt before the race, "even though I'm always really tired when I get here [after coming straight from Tour de l‘Aude]. It's a really great race and a great atmosphere."

"Today was hard, especially with the weather and the bumpy roads but our plan was to be aggressive and we did that. Ina [Teutenberg] was out there solo for most of the race and when she got caught, Chantal [Beltman] and Kim [Anderson] attacked."

The race started in pouring rain and was aggressive from the start. High Road's Teutenberg and Kate Bates followed several break attempts early in the race before Teutenberg finally attacked solo on the second climb of the day opening a convincing lead.

With the gap hovering between 30 seconds and a minute over the next six laps, Teutenberg managed to stay away until the climb on lap eight when Luperini attacked. Teutenberg was caught as the bunch shattered to pieces and at the bottom of the descent Anderson attacked. A move which was layer countered by Beltman.

Cervelo Lifeforce continued to chase, along with Specialized rider Emma Pooley and eventually the bunch of only 24 remaining riders came back together.

On the penultimate climb Kristen Armstrong attacked and split the small field again. A group of eight consisting of all the favourites held a small lead over the rest. On the final climb Arndt attacked, taking only Luperini with her. The pair managed to hold off a chase group of six riders to the finish.

"It just goes to show that even in the really hard races of attrition like this, it is still a team effort," commented High Road's director Petra Rossner. "All of the girls were amazing today and racing aggressively paid off for us again."

"It feels really great that we have won three World Cups this year," she added. "It's exciting to be a part of that."

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