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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, January 27, 2009

Edited by Greg Johnson and Laura Weislo

Cunego thankful for technical Giro time trial

By Gregor Brown

Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

Damiano Cunego previewed the Giro d'Italia's long time trial last week during a team Lampre training camp. The Italian believes that its technical aspects will keep him in the hunt for the overall race title, with Lance Armstrong (Astana) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas).

"I returned home satisfied with what I saw. It is hard, with two long climbs and then technical descents. It is certainly better than a flat and long time trial," Cunego told Cyclingnews from Team Lampre's training camp in San Vincenzo, Italy.

He made a trip during the camp to Liguria to preview the 61.7-kilometre time trial that will feature on May 21 in the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31.

Cunego won the Giro d'Italia in 2004 and he said he is near certain to line up in 2009 to try for win number two. The time trial will be a key turning point for Cunego, who is not as skilled at the discipline as Armstrong and Basso. However, with the climbs of Passo del Bracco and Passo del Termine he will remain in the overall battle.

Cunego escaped the cold of northern Italy earlier this month to train for his season's goals in Tuscany with his teammates. He will return for a week at home today and then return south for another 10-day training block.

"We are getting some good training in and the weather is not so bad. Sunday was the first time I rode for six hours this year; 205 kilometres with climbs, some specific work, and a little bit of motor-pacing at the end."

Cunego noted the early start of his Giro rivals because of their previous long periods without racing. Armstrong and Basso both did not race last year. Cunego had a full 2008 season that included wins in the Amstel Gold, Giro di Lombardia and, late in the year, the Japan Cup.

"It is still too soon to read their condition," Cunego said.

He waned they will be a dangerous pair by the time the Giro d'Italia begins. "They are both similar riders, with the same type of motors and it means that alliances will need to be made."

He indicated he may side with rivals like Gilberto Simoni.

Cunego will make his season debut at the GP Etruschi on February 7. Basso and Armstrong will continue their programmes with the Tour of California, February 15 to 22.

Damsgaard faces criticism over anti-doping programme

Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard
Photo ©: Sabine Sunderland/Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Doctor Rasmus Damsgaard has recently become the subject of public criticism by his former boss, who has questioned his ethics and independence in running the anti-doping programs of CSC/Saxo Bank and Astana in an interview with the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidene. Damsgaard was once heralded as the creator of the "best doping control program world-wide", but has now split with the hospital which helped make the program a reality.

One of the issues which drove a wedge between Damsgaard and Dr. Bo Belhage, the chief of medicine at the Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, was the return of Lance Armstrong and word that the American would be subject only to his own personal testing regime under Dr. Don Catlin.

Damsgaard, who began the testing paradigm in 2006 with then-Team CSC did so under contract with the Bispebjerg Hospital. Dr. Belhage helped start the programme, but began to have concerns about how Damsgaard was running it which culminated in the hospital refusing to extend its contract with Damsgaard. The latter subsequently took the programme and started his own for-profit company called Radar which is now in charge of testing riders.

Among Belhage's concerns were the payments to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the man at the heart of the Operación Puerto scandal, made by Frank Schleck "for training plans", a gift of an expensive team bike given to Damsgaard from CSC/Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis and, finally, the rumour that Astana's newest recruit, Armstrong, would not submit himself to the testing by the Danish doctors.

Belhage felt that it was imperative that Armstrong be treated like the rest of the team. "We must not only see his values - we must also take the samples. We should be the ones who are knocking on his door at two o'clock at night saying, 'Lance, now you piss in the pot.' That's it. ... I would not be involved if there was one Astana rider who had a free ride."

The Astana team emphatically countered the Armstrong rumour, stating that he would indeed be subjected to the same controls as the rest of the team in addition to those performed by Dr. Catlin.

"Lance Armstrong did not refuse anything. [I have] no idea who invents such things. He already underwent Damsgaard controls," Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews.

For-profit venture raises ethical concerns

The ethical concerns with Damsgaard's new company run deeper for Belhage, who ensured that the payments from the teams were kept "at arm's length" from the testers when the system was run through his hospital. The original agreement called for the team to pay the hospital, which would then pay Damsgaard, and that there were to be no money, gifts or other benefits to be passed directly to Damsgaard by the team.

Belhage found that Damsgaard, by accepting the bike from the team, violated ethical standards and compromised Damsgaard's objectivity. Now that Damsgaard has created his own company, Radar, of which he is 100 percent owner, there is a direct economic connection between the team and Damsgaard which jeopardizes the project's legitimacy.

The teams, however, do not share this concern, and Damgaard and his new company are now directly employed by Saxo Bank, Astana and two more teams, according to the Danish story.

Damsgaard defended himself in a separate report in the same paper, saying, "I have never concealed the fact that I am not doing this for philanthropy. I have accumulated a lot of knowledge. And yes, I make money at it ." He also claimed that the results go first to the UCI before he even sees them.

The concept is not unique to Radar, as the Slipstream/Garmin and High Road/Columbia programmes were both run by the now-defunct Agency for Cycling Ethics in 2008 and by Catlin's Antidoping Sciences, Inc., both of which are for-profit concerns.

Saxo Bank spokesman Brian Nygaard didn't see a problem with the change. "Rasmus has set up a private firm to continue his work. It is not a novelty. There was also a private company working for Columbia and Slipstream, before it went bankrupt. And the fact that it went bankrupt tells me that this is not something people do to make a lot of money."

As to whether or not he should have taken the bike, valued at approximately $8,000 (6,000 euros), from Riis, Damsgaard did not see the problem. "I do not think there is any problem in it. It does not change my job."

Bordry says Schumacher case proceeding normally

Pierre Bordry
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

A day after Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere threatened to sue the French Anti-Doping Agency, AFLD, over non-action, the agency's head, Pierre Bordry, said that it has held its hearing concerning Stefan Schumacher's positive controls for CERA last week and "the procedure is going on in the normal way".

Schumacher, who won both of the time trials in the Tour de France, was contracted to Lefevere's Quick Step team until he tested positive in the AFLD's post-Tour analysis of blood samples with its newly developed procedure for detecting the new version of the blood boosting drug erythropoeitin.

However, Schumacher, through his attorney Michael Lehner, denied using the drug and threatened to sue the AFLD for slander.

With the season already underway and no sanction yet handed down, Schumacher announced he had applied for his 2009 license, which Lehner said should be issued since there was not a procedure underway against him.

The pronouncement seemed to create massive confusion, as the German federation said that it had questions which must be answered before deciding to issue a license to Schumacher, and Patrick Lefevere of Team Quick Step threatened to take Bordry to court to find out what was happening in the case.

What was not reported until Monday was that a hearing concerning Schumacher's case with the AFLD was actually held the day after Schumacher's inflammatory pronouncements. Interviewed on, Bordry said that the case has been progressing, and that a final decision is being discussed.

The agency informed Schumacher of the positive tests on October 7. Bordry confirmed that the B samples have not yet been opened, since Lehner said on October 21 that his client did not want them analysed. Bordry thereupon requested Schumacher to let the UCI send the AFLD the results from his biological passport. "He received my letter but never responded."

The AFLD issued a complaint against Schumacher on November 14, which he received on November 20. Lehner came to Paris on November 21, Bordry continued, and looked at the files.

The next step was the hearing, which was held last week. Schumacher was informed of the date and had Lehner appear in his place. "We held the hearing on January 22 and have, as the Code requires us, informed the UCI, the WADA and the [German] NADA [anti-doping agency] of it on that same day by fax."

"Now we are discussing the matter and will make our decision," Bordry said. (SW)

Bobridge's efforts earn Sanders' praise

Jack Bobridge (Uni-SA)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Australian cycling coach Dave Sanders has sung the praises of Jack Bobridge, following the rider's ProTour debut. Sanders directed Bobridge as a member of the Australian National Team UniSA at last week's Tour Down Under.

"He is a phenomenal talent, he has a heart as big as a lion," said Sanders.

Bobridge gained a reputation as a relentless attacker during the event, with his efforts in the pre-Tour Down Under Cancer Council Classic criterium just a demonstration of what would follow. The rider's efforts earned the 19-year-old the praises of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who he attacked the peloton with on one stage of the race.

"He doesn't need to go professional this year, he is only 19; maybe Pro Continental, with the Australian National team," said Sanders, before adding that Cycling Australia will be looking after the rider. "We hope to have something in place so we can look after him. There has to be plans from Cycling Australia to look after these guys, so we can keep them in the team. He is on his way."

Sanders said while Bobridge has already have professional teams knocking at his door, the rider's short term future is mapped out.

"He has already had knocks on the door, don't worry about that, his future is planned for the next two or three years," he said. "He is targeting the next Olympic [London in 2012] and we have to protect him from doing things too early. He is still only a 19-year-old kid, his future is assured if he keeps doing what he is doing, he just needs to moderate over the next couple of years."

Earlier this month Bobridge won both the Australian Open Road Under 23 road race and time trial titles.

Allan Davis: Better than ever

Allan Davis took the ochre jersey on stage two
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Allan Davis' return to the fold of pro cycling and the Quick Step team paid dividends in Adelaide as he took out the Tour Down Under. Cyclingnews' Les Clarke finds out that some hiccups in the past should fade into insignificance for this Classics contender in 2009.

There's a quietly confident aura surrounding Allan Davis this year. Whether it's following yet another Tour Down Under stage win or in the packed bar at Adelaide's Hilton Hotel following his overall victory, the boy from Bundaberg in northern Queensland finds himself in a different predicament as the 2009 season begins.

It's not just his general classification triumph in Australia's premier stage race, of which he's contested every edition since its inception in 1999. Three stage victories and a 25-second margin over local hero and two-time victor, Stuart O'Grady, is just the beginning of what could be Davis' biggest purple patch since becoming a pro with the Mapei team in 2002.

The 28-year-old has shown ample promise during that time, and was riding the Tour de France before many of the Australian stars we now see on France's roads in July. Various events conspired to make the road ahead a tough one, although you get the feeling the possibility of giving up the sport during these challenging periods never really crossed his mind.

An alleged association with the Operación Puerto saga, followed by claims and counter-claims that he was indeed one of Dr. Fuentes' clients came about due to the fact he rode for the Liberty Seguros team in 2006 when its director Manolo Saiz was arrested for his involvement in the Spanish scandal prior to the Tour de France. Davis vehemently denied being involved and had to fight to save his name in 2006 and then again in 2007 after the UCI tried to block his entry into the World Championships in Stuttgart.

He's come back to the pro ranks twice after effectively being 'blacklisted', although he says that might have worked in his favour. "I've worked extra hard, and although I've had some bad breaks I'm not trying to think about it too much and look to the future," says Davis.

To read the full feature, click here.

Auber 93 launch '09 team

Auber 93 was launched
Photo ©: Daniel Schamps
(Click for larger image)

French Continental squad Auber 93 has launched its squad for 2009, at a ceremony at the Espace Renaudie in Aubervilliers in the north of Paris. The squad will primarily race in France throughout the 2009 season.

Stéphane Javalet's team will start its season at La Marseillaise this weekend. Its season also includes Trophée des Grimpeurs, 4 Jours de Dunkerque, Tour de Picardie and Circuit de Lorraine, among other events.

Auber 93 for 2009: Fabien Bacquet, Niels Brouzes, Morgan Chedhomme, Tony Gallopin, Nadir Haddou, Dimitri Le Boulch, Julien Mazet, Maxime Mederel, Johan Mombaerts and Jonathan Thire.

Webcor women's team ramps up for 2009

Former world champion time trial bronze medalist and Olympian Christine Thorburn has retired, but the 2009 Webcor Builders Women's Professional Cycling Team is pumping up for the future. Olympians Erinne Willock and Gina Grain have returned for another season.

The Redwood City, California team announced its 2009 official roster, building off of last season's success of four Beijing Olympians. According to team director Karen Brems, this year's goal will be to reassert the team's dominance on the North American stage and road racing scene as it builds towards medal capability at the 2012 London Games.

"The Webcor Women's Cycling Team is a shining example of an organization that breeds success," Grain said. "Everyone involved, from riders to staff, demonstrates dedication, passion, determination, drive, perseverance, hard work, and a positive attitude."

Willock and Grain are joined once again by Katheryn Curi Mattis, who made history in 2008 by becoming only the second US rider ever to win a International Cycling Union (UCI) Road World Cup event. Winning the Australia World Cup as part of her trade team sent the clear message that Webcor riders were competitive on the world stage.

Also returning are three rising talents who benefited immensely from racing at the highest level in Australia, New Zealand and Europe with their more experienced Webcor teammates in 2008. They are Rebecca Much, 2008 U23 US National Time Trial Champion, Amy Dombroski, 2008 U23 National Cyclocross Champion, and Janel Holcomb, second overall in the 2008 Green Mountain Stage Race.

International firepower for the 2009 team comes from Australia, with Nikki Butterfield (nee Egyed) and Alexis Rhodes.

"Butterfield's daring solo breakaway at the 2008 World Championships Road Race and seventh at the Tour de Berne World Cup showed she will be a force on both the North American and international scene in 2009," Brems added. Meanwhile, Rhodes jump started her 2009 season, just missing her claim on the Australian National Time Trial Championship by a mere .6 seconds.

Thorburn retired from cycling after the 2008 world championships in Varese, Italy. Like her training mentor Eric Heiden, Thorburn has become a doctor.

"While (Christine) will be missed, the legacy of strong teamwork and striving for perfection that she instilled in the team over the past five years will live on," Brems said.

Mentoring newer riders in the sport has always been a Webcor tradition.

"The mix of senior and development riders has always been a blast and we all enjoy the give and take that comes with teaching and learning from each other," said Willock, the student turned teacher, who is now a four-year Webcor team veteran and Olympian. The team has a strong history of Olympic qualifications in 2004 and 2008.

Over the last five years Webcor Builders has consistently been at or near the top of the National Racing Calendar and Women's Prestige Series rankings. It has also taken North American Women's Team of the Year awards. In 2008, they stepped up to become the only North American registered UCI Professional Women's trade team. Racing the most competitive events in world against the best riders in the world helped the team attain its lofty goal - qualifying four riders for the Beijing Olympics.

Webcor 2009 roster: Karen Brems, team director; riders: Amy Dombroski, Nikki Egyed Butterfield, Gina Grain, Janel Holcomb, Katheryn Curi Matthis, Rebecca Much, Alexis Rhodes and Erinne Willock.

Lip Smacker's women squad launched

Anne Samplonius (Cheerwine)
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Professional women's squad Lip Smacker has announced its roster for 2009. The roster is led by Canadian Anne Smplonius, who is joined by riders from North America, South Africa and New Zealand.

The squad is an evolution of the America's Dairyland team from 2008, and will again be directed by Melissa Thompson. "I spent the last year directing the pro development squad America's Dairyland and as an elite coach and the experience gave me a sense of what type of riders we needed to build a winning team," said Thompson.

The team will ride Specialized road and time trial bikes during this year's National Racing Calendar in the United States of America. Lip Smacker was a partner of the America's Dairyland squad last year, before increasing its involvement for this year.

"The Lip Smacker brand and the Bonne Bell Company have a long history of supporting women's sports" said Buddy Bell, chief executive office of The Bonne Bell Company. "We are proud to sponsor the 2009 cycling team and are pleased to promote and be part of the world of women's bike racing."

Lip Smacker 2009 roster: Anne Samplonius, Carla Swart, Toni Bradshaw, Amanda Miller, Kate Ross, Anna Young, Hillary Billington and Kacey Manderfield.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer.)

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