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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, June 11, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Boonen apologises for cocaine fiasco and takes racing break

Formal punishments avoided in what Quick Step views as personal issue

Belgian Tom Boonen, 27, during the press conference regarding his positive test for cocaine
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Belgian Tom Boonen will not be sanctioned by his team for his positive cocaine test, it was announced Wednesday morning at a press conference in Wielsbeke, Belgium. The 27 year-old Quick Step rider apologised for his actions and said that he would take a short break from competition. The team continued to show its support for the sprinter, as did the sponsor, which prolonged its contract.

Boonen, winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix, did not address the issue of whether he had used cocaine, but read a written statement, which said, "Lately, my name has appeared several times in the news in a negative manner. I realise that with this I have hurt my family, my friends, my team and my fans. I wish to apologise for that. But I am not perfect. I will accept the consequences. You will understand that in spite of everything that has been written, rightfully or wrongly, I am not here to defend my conduct."

The 2005 World Champion tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition doping control three days before the Tour of Belgium last month. He does not face any sporting sanctions by the International Cycling Union (UCI) nor his national federation.

Boonen, 2005 World Champion and winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix, did not answer questions
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"I will take it easy the coming days and get control of my emotions. Fortunately, I know that I can still count on a lot of support. I know that I can count on the confidence of my team, for which I am very grateful. I also hope for the support of my fans. I assure them that I will stand on my own two feet and that they can count on my unconditional commitment."

He indicated that he would take a short break from racing, but did not state how long that might be, and did not make himself available to answer questions.

"Nobody is perfect," said Team Manager Patrick Lefevere. "We will keep a close eye on Tom but he will certainly remain with the team." He then announced that Quick Step had prolonged its sponsoring contract for an additional three years. "The sponsors continue to have confidence in the team and in Boonen," he added.

Belgian Lefevere was not clear as to how Boonen's racing calendar would be affected, saying that would be settled in the next few days. He gave Boonen the option of not racing or of racing as planned and made no mention of any possible sanction by the team.

The Tour de Suisse announced yesterday that the sprinter was to be excluded from the race, but the manager indicated that he did not believe the race had the right to refuse him a start. "We could easily overturn the decision to impose a prohibition on his start at the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS - ed.], but it is better that he keep a low profile right now." (SW)


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Perfect timing: Sunderland on Saxo sponsorship

By Gregor Brown

CSC Sports Director Scott Sunderland was delighted with the Saxo Bank news
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

The announcement of new backer Saxo Bank came as welcomed news for Bjarne Riis' team as its main backer, CSC, was set to leave the sport at the end of this season. The Danish investment bank, with operations worldwide, will start as co-sponsor for 2008 and take over full sponsorship from 2009. CSC Sports Director Scott Sunderland was delighted with the news and considered it perfect timing as the team is readying for the Tour de France.

"It is a global and multinational sponsor. ... They have headquarters all over the world. It is a concept similar to the team – with 17 languages and 15 nationalities," explained Sunderland to Cyclingnews. "We also do a very global programs and it suits them very well. ... They see how we work with Bjarne's philosophy – his values of teamwork and commitment – and this is what they want to instill into their work force and show their clients as to what they are about. They came to Bjarne Riis, without them [CSC - ed.] going to them."

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Sunderland and the riders of the Danish team, which includes Milano-Sanremo winner Fabian Cancellara, were faced with the news of CSC leaving the sport this March. The sponsor had backed the team since 2001.

"When I had the meeting with the guys in Tirreno-Adriatico, I said, 'Guys, you have CSC as the name on your jerseys, but you are the team, and what this is all about,'" Sunderland continued. The team went on to win the race with Cancellara, in his build up to the Milano-Sanremo and Spring Classics. "We were all very confident, and they just had to continue winning bike races and doing what they do best. Bjarne, [media officer] Brian Nygaard and [managing director] Trey Greenwood were very busy and we were always confident.

"The timing was perfect, just after the Giro d'Italia and not having to wait until the eve of the Tour de France or after the Tour. However, the riders were all prepared to wait until after the Tour before they started signing up for other teams."

The French Grand Tour is typically the time when riders make contacts with other teams for the coming season, but with Saxo Bank onboard the team directors can start to renew contracts and the riders can focus on racing.

"The riders can now concentrate on what they need to be doing, and that is riding fast and winning bike races. From my prospective as a Team Director, that is great. Life is going on for the rest of the staff as well; people want to build houses and start families, and now they know the team is going on for the next three years and possibly five years, with the two-year option. Things are feeling secure, and that is good for everyone."

The signing of a multinational company is seen as a positive sign given cycling's recent tribulations. "It shows that even over the rough times with cycling in general – and in the team with Bjarne and T-Mobile last year – that with great business and dedication sponsors like this will still be attracted to the sport and it is the new way to go with the sport. ... These are serious people and they are not going to be gambling on something if it is not worthwhile."

Damiano Cunego tests Tour stage

Italian Damiano Cunego, 26, tested his legs on the Tour de France stage 15 parcours
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italy's Damiano Cunego, winner of the 2004 Giro d'Italia, spent some time yesterday testing the final kilometres of Tour de France stage 15, July 20, 183 kilometres from Embrun to Prato Nevoso. The stage marks the race's only visit outside of France when it travels into Italy and Cunego believes it will be great day for his home fans.

"This finish will be of particular importance because it would be wonderful to have a good result in front of the Italian fans," remarked the winner of this year's Amstel Gold Race.

Cunego decided to skip the Giro d'Italia this year to focus on the Tour de France, a race where he won the young riders competition in 2006. As such, the 26 year-old and Italian Marco Marzano started from Chiusa di Pesio to reconnoitre the last 40 kilometres. "It was definitely an interesting day, which will be useful when we arrive here for the Tour de France," commented Cunego, who rode under grey, but dry skies. "The climb does not have a prohibitive gradient, the road rises steadily but, if there is a high speed, it could cause trouble for those who are not at their best."

Cunego will return to racing this Saturday with the Tour de Suisse, June 14 to 22, and then the Italian Championships, June 29.

Vos to push Olympic time trial selection

Marianne Vos has asked her attorney to look into forcing The Netherlands national team to nominate her for the Olympic time trial, according to her manager Orlando van den Bosch. The 21 year-old, who last year won the Women's World Cup, was notified last week that she had not been selected for the time trial, but would be nominated for the road race and the track points race.

National Coach Johan Lammerts said that she should concentrate on the points race, where her chances are better, but Vos countered, "They can't ignore my versatility like that." There are four days between the two races, and "That is enough time for me to recover," she told "I even think I need the time trial in order to be good in the points race. Before the road race, I will have no competitions for two weeks, and without the time trial, I would have another eight days without competition. I am a rider who needs to race to be good. I understand nothing of this decision. Others are now deciding what is right for me."

She added that Lammerts had previously indicated to her that she would ride. "In our conversations the last few weeks, he said that my participation would be no problem. It's crazy – we have been given two start places, but only Miriam Melchers will ride. It's not as if I would be taking the place of someone else."

Vos indicated that after hearing the news last Friday she had considered totally calling off her participation in the Olympics. "But the Games are only held once every four years. I have prepared myself for them for months. I can't just throw that all away." (SW)

Alberto Rodríguez back on the bike

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alberto Rodríguez of Team Contentpolis-Murcia is back on the bike following a crash in the first day of the Euskal Bizikleta. The 25 year-old Spaniard came down at kilometre 110 and was taken to the Galdakano hospital for a medical check that revealed no fractures, despite bangs to his head and chest, and a cut on his eyebrow, which required stitches.

"After more scans and X-rays, and any problems being discarded, my feelings on my bike are good," indicated Rodríguez to Cyclingnews. "The only serious thing is the scar on my face, although the injuries continue to cause me some pain. But all of that does not prevent me from trying to recover the smooth pedal stroke that I had at the Euskal Bizikleta. Having had good sensations, I am interested in returning to the competition as soon as possible in order to face the national championships." The Spanish Championships will take place in Talavera de la Reina, June 28 and 29. His brother, Joaquím 'Purito' of Team Caisse d'Epargne, won the road race in 2007.

Rodríguez is also looking further into the season. "Yesterday, I received the calendar for the coming months and there are some interesting races, such as the Regio Tour. I am very excited about an intense August and, above all, to know that we will travel to Mexico and Chihuahua," Alberto Rodríguez added.

The team will not be able to contest the Vuelta a España as it was not invited. "Unipublic are fully wrong," Rodríguez continued. "Contentpolis-Murcia is proving on the road it deserves to be in Granada [the start - ed.] because our results have been very good; in addition, we have demonstrated to have ambitions and a fighting spirit, despite our youth. I hope that Unipublic will change its decision."

Volksbank joins Movement for a Credible Cycling

Team Volksbank has been accepted as a full member of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) it announced this week. The Austrian Professional Continental team was provisionally accepted into the group in April on three-month probation.

"We satisfactorily fulfilled all of the Movement's requirements," said team manager Thomas Kofler. "The MPCC honours our credible actions in the fight against doping. We are on the right way to give cycling a clean image." (SW)

(Additional research and assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer).

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