- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 00:22
- Alex Hinds
Colombia-Coldeportes team part of a broader plan to unite the nation through sport
Colombian Minister of Sport Jairo Clopatofsky has big aspirations for cycling and sport in his country. To win the Tour de France, with a Colombian rider in a Colombian team may still seem a dream, but it is something Clopatofsky is pursuing very seriously.
With the emergence of several riders in the last few years from Colombia, a cycling boom within the country seems to be well underway and Clopatovsky is eager to capitalise on that momentum. He recalls the years when cycling legends like Lucho Herrera brought hope to Colombia at a time, when corruption and crime were rife and that he still considers among the darkest in the South American country's history.
But it is not necessarily success that Clopatofsky is aiming for. Though of course he has high hopes for the new Colombia-Coldeportes team in to which he has invested significantly through the Ministry of Sport, Clopatofsky hopes to go further, by using cycling, and sport in general as a medium to unite Colombia.
"The power of sport is stronger than any other cultural force,” said Clopatofsky. "It is something that helps to unify countries – through peace rather than through conflict. It took me a long time to realize this. For a long time, I was convinced that force was the only way.
"But I have been inspired by people like Nelson Mandela. Mandela used Rugby in South Africa to help bring together a divided nation. I think we can do the same with cycling in Colombia."
Clopatovsky is not deterred by the challenge ahead, in fact he has earned a reputation for tackling the hard tasks within Colombia. He became paraplegic at the age of 20, but he rose above that setback to pursue a successful career in politics. He was a renegade in the early 90s when he tried to sway a culture of corruption in the Colombian political structure, and now as the newly appointed Minister of Sport he wants to put in policies that will set Colombia up for a long and rich era of sporting success.
"I'm not afraid of challenges, I'm not afraid of anything," said Clopatofsky. "Life has taught me that you can either face up to things that confront you, or you can wither away. When I was in a hospital bed, and the doctor told me that I could no longer walk I had to confront that, and I have never failed to face a challenge in my life since.
"I campaigned to set up a separate ministry for sport, and I was criticised for it," said Clopatofsky. "There was a time that I doubted whether I had made the right decision to do so. But since things have changed, we doubled our medal tally at the Pan American Games this year, and I hope with Claudio [Corti], who I have a lot of respect for we can do even more in Europe next year with Coldeportes."
"We will have the colours of Colombia on the jersey to represent the country. We want the team to represent Colombia on the international stage, and we want people to easily recognise that."
"I think with the riders in the team we can inspire the country again, that is my hope."
With riders of the calibre of Jhoan Esteban Chavez, who won the Tour de l'Avenir this year, and Fabio Duarte who was under 23 world champion in 2008, the future is bright, and perhaps the dreams of Clopatofsky will indeed become a reality.
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 08:42
- Sam Dansie
Gallery of the Swiss rider's season
Fabian Cancellara has said he is more motivated for success in 2012 than he was before last season in which he failed to successfully defend either of his two Monument wins and was outshined by Tony Martin in the big time trial rendezvous of the season.
The 30-year-old Swiss admitted that his 2011 season lacked the high prestige victory he wanted but he refused to see the past 12 months as unsuccessful.
He said: “The season shows that I’m human. In a way I think I won more this year than when I was winning races because I showed right until the end – even when I was exhausted on the bike, that I was fighting. And this, especially in the Belgian classics from the Belgian people earned me a lot of respect.”
Despite the scarcity of first places, Cancellara’s crowd-pleasing aggressive performances netted him podiums at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“The big win was missing,” he confirmed to Procycling. “Those situations in the races came because everyone was watching me or were against me and that makes it even harder to do a result. It’s easier to win races than to defend races.”
Elsewhere, there was no Tour de France prologue to target and in all major time trials where he rivalled German powerhouse Tony Martin, he was off the pace. In the individual time trials at the Tour, Vuelta and the Worlds, the Swiss conceded an average of 1min29sec to Martin’s blistering pace.
However the four-time winner of the world time trial admitted that he was far more focused on the Copenhagen road race. He finished fourth behind Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss and André Greipel.
“At the Worlds this year I prepared more for the road race than the time trial, and I saw the difference. I trained at home with the TT bike but I trained more for the road race and against the sprinters. That for me gave me a lot of respect for what I have done.”
Looking ahead he says the incorporation of Johan Bruyneel and large chunks of the RadioShack squad into the new, RadioShack-Nissan team has re-fired his enthusiasm.
“Now I must say I am more motivated than I was last year,” he said. “I didn’t really have that last year. I don’t have high expectations for next year, I just have high goals – that’s my motivation and for this I’m giving everything.”
His new manager Bruyneel’s chief duty will be guiding the Schleck brothers at the Tour, but it will also be the first time the Belgian has focused on the Classics too.
“The other challenge is with me in the Classics – a challenge he’s never had before. He’s had a few riders, but they were always mid-field and they were happy if they won a pre-classic or had a good result and were satisfied by that, but now they have a leader and it’s like full gas.”
2012 offers numerous opportunities for Cancellara to shine. As well as target the cobbled classics, Cancellara suggested he may target the hilly Amstel Gold Race, before preparing for the Tour and Olympics. At the London Games he will defend his 2008 time trial title and look to improve on his second place in the road race. Earlier this month, he visited London to recce both the time trial and road course with Bruyneel.
He says his current plan is to finish the Tour, but given as the road race occurs just six days after the three-week grand tour, Cancellara left open the possibility he might withdraw before Paris.
“The first thing as the Classics and from there it’s a new plan. I will have support from Johan for sure. In 2008 I did the whole tour but it was not really planned. It depends on the shape, on everything.”
At RadioShack-Nissan’s first training camp early December in Spain, Cancellara was confined to his room with the ‘flu.
A full feature on Fabian Cancellara appears in next month's edition of Procycling magazine.
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 09:57
- Cycling News
Anti-doping agency concedes to federation decision
The French anti-doping agency has closed its case against Jeannie Longo, going along with the decision by the French cycling federation. The federation dismissed doping-related charges against the 53-year-old last month.
The FFC and the AFLD opened an investigation of Longo earlier this fall after she violated the “whereabouts” requirements three times, between May 2010 and June 2011. Twice she provided insufficient information, and the third time she missed a doping control.
However, the FFC dismissed the charges in November. Under French law, athletes must be notified annually that they are included in the out-of-competition anti-doping test pool, and Longo was not notified for 2010 or 2011. She was therefore not required to submit her whereabouts.
Longo now has the possibility of riding in her eighth Olympic games in London next summer.
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 10:48
- Peter Cossins
Spaniard set for sweet start to new year in Peñalver
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) is set to take part in one of the more unusual engagements of his career in the New Year when he will receive his own weight in honey at a ceremony in the small town of Peñalver, to the east of Madrid. The town’s mayor,
José Ángel Parra, has announced that Contador will receive the award in the town’s central square on January 7.
Adding to the bizarreness of the ceremony, Contador will be weighed with the six bikes on which he won his grand tour titles. According to the mayor, Contador, who tips the scales at 60kg, is much lighter than those usually honored with the award. Consequently, said the mayor, “as an exception it has been decided to weigh the cyclist with the six bikes on which he achieved his greatest victories because we don’t want to be seen as being stingy.”
Speaking at a press conference in the honey-producing centre, the mayor explained that Contador will be weighed using an ancient set of scales. The Saxo Bank rider and his bikes will be held tight by two people on one side while kilos of honey are added to the other side until the two sides are evenly balanced.
Past recipients of the award include Camilo José Cela, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, and Spanish football’s World Cup-winning coach Vicente del Bosque.
Mayor Parra reminded those at the press conference that Cela and Del Bosque were among those who have gone to achieve great things in the wake of receiving the award. “This makes me believe that the honey acts as some kind of ‘talisman’ for them and it could be that Contador’s fourth Tour win will soon come his way,” said the mayor.
Following the ceremony, which is due to take place at 12.30 in the afternoon in Peñalver’s Plaza de España, a huge paella will be made for those present. However, the mayor added that it is unlikely that Contador will try the dish “because he is wary of the food he’s given nowadays”.
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 11:57
- Cycling News
American team announce 2012 squad
BMC Racing Team has two objectives for the 2012 season: to again win the Tour de France and to be competitive in the Classics. Defending Tour champion Cadel Evans is poised to take care of the first objective, while newcomers Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd will aim for the latter. The US-based team announced its final 26-man line-up Friday morning.
“We go into 2012 with an arsenal of riders who are competitive in any endeavor in professional cycling," said team president and general manager Jim Ochowicz. "Our goals and objectives are realistic. We are not going to claim we will win this race or that race. But we should be competitive in every race we enter. That's what we want to do. If we win, then that's great, too."
For the Tour, “we want to make sure that in July we have the strongest team there to defend the title," said sport director John Lelangue. "We have acquired riders who will be very strong teammates for Cadel who are classic-type riders. Our objective in the classics is to again take a proactive role. We want to go into each race with the objective that we can do something, and this year we have leaders able to animate the race. In the classics last year, we were present from the first moment to the last."
Evans was pleased with the prospects for the new season. "As a team, we are looking forward and it's clear what our ambition is – to repeat our result at the Tour de France. We go in with an even better, stronger team. I'm looking forward to that challenge.”
The major addition to the team was Philippe Gilbert, who had 18 wins last season, and finished the year as the number one ranked rider in the world. His stunning wins in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Wallonne, and the Amstel Gold Race set him up as top favourite for the Classics again his year, but he remained modest.
"I know it was incredible, but I had the support and confidence of a team – which I already have with the BMC Racing Team," he said. "I know that sometimes you can do your best and still come in second, third, fourth or fifth. But I'm ready for this. If I don't win, we as a team will still have done our best to win."
While Gilbert looks to the Ardennes Classics, fellow newcomer and former world champion Hushovd will concentrate on the earlier Classics. "I want to do well at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix," he said. "It's always been my dream to win Paris-Roubaix and now it's even bigger goal since I'm on such a strong team with a good supporting cast."
George Hincapie is returning for another season at the age of 38, and he is looking to make history by being at the start of his 17th Tour de France next summer. "My career is a lot longer than I could have imagined," Hincapie said. "I've learned not to take anything for granted in the sport I love. That's probably why I've been able to do it so long."
BMC Racing Team for 2012: Alessandro Ballan (ITA), Adam Blythe (GBR), Brent Bookwalter (USA), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Stephen Cummings (GBR), Yannick Eijssen (BEL), Cadel Evans (AUS), Mathias Frank (SUI), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), George Hincapie (USA), Thor Hushovd (NOR), Martin Kohler (SUI), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Steve Morabito (SUI), Taylor Phinney (USA), Marco Pinotti (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Tim Roe (AUS), Mauro Santambrogio (ITA), Ivan Santaromita (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Johann Tschopp (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Tejay Van Garderen (USA), Danilo Wyss (SUI).
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 13:04
- Cycling News
Spaniard to concentrate on Tour de France, Olympics, Worlds
Oscar Freire is eager to put 2011 behind him and bring in at least one more good season before retiring. The Spaniard, who will ride for Katusha in 2012, will therefore ride a fuller schedule in the coming year, according to BiciCiclismo.
Freire had only two individual wins last season, both of them stages at the Ruta del Sol in February. He continued to be plagued by nasal and sinus problems, which have held him out of racing much of the last few seasons. He left Rabobank after nine years with bitterness.
In his desire to return to the form which brought him three World Championships and a win at Milano-San Remo, the Spaniard will ride a full schedule, including much of the Spring Classics season. His main priorities will be the Tour de France, Olympic games and world championships. Freire will not ride he Vuelta a Espana in 2012.
Oscar Freire's race schedule for the first part of 2012:
Tour Down Under (January 17-22), Vuelta a Andalucía-Ruta del Sol (February 19-23), Strade Bianche (March 3), Tirreno-Adriatico (March 7 -13), Milan-San Remo (March 17), E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke (March 23), Ghent-Wevelgem (March 25), Tour of Flanders (April 1), Rund um Köln (April 9), Amstel Gold Race (April 15) La Flèche Wallonne (April 18), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 22), Bayern Rundfhart (May 23-27), Tour de Suisse (June 9-17), Spanish national championship, Tour de France (June 30-July 22) and London Olympics (July 28).
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 13:44
- Cycling News
Build team morale by dumping your riders in a Belgian sewer
The Accent.Jobs - Verandas Willems team began a bizarre set of pre-season bonding exercises that took them from the testing lab to the sewer system of Kortrijk to a boxing ring.
On Monday the riders started with physical and medical tests in Hiko, the medical center of the team Ninove. That night the riders were dropped into the sewer system and had to make their way through a 7 kilometer maze back to the surface.
During the rest of the week the riders spent their evenings in the boxing ring at "Golden Gloves" in Ghent.
After a solid warm up the riders were thrown into the ring with none other than Belgian boxing legend Freddy De Kerpel.
The team were planning on training over the 2012 Tour of Flanders route but bad weather hampered their attempts.
Accent.Jobs-Willems Veranda's is still looking for additional sponsors in order to attract more riders for the 2012 season.
- Article published:
- December 16, 2011, 14:07
- Peter Hymas
First meeting for new US-based UCI Continental squad
The BMC-Hincapie Sportswear Development Team kicked off their preparation for 2012 with its first pre-season training camp in Nassau, Bahamas, home of team sponsor Mark Holowesko.
The new, US-based UCI Continental team, serving as a development squad for the ProTour BMC Racing Team, gathered for the first time from December 8-11 in a mixture of training rides and team building activities for its roster comprised entirely of U23 riders.
Training camp included a couple of four-hour rides around the island, a boat ride to a nearby island, open-ocean swimming, scuba diving in 35 feet of water plus plenty of time to get to know new teammates and staff.
"It was great to get the team together at a really remarkable place and start the process of becoming a team," said sports director Thomas Craven. "We were able to ride, have some great food, enjoy fantastic weather on the water with Mark [Holowesko] and during our diving adventure we all learned a valuable lesson...don't hold your breath, keep breathing."
Veteran US professional George Hincapie (BMC), a driving force behind the creation of the development team, joined the riders in the Bahamas for their training camp. "The focus of this first camp was all about everyone getting to know each other and to start working as a team through some off-the-bike adventures," said Hincapie. "Most of the riding we did was at a casual conversation pace. However, the boys did turn it up a couple of times the last few days to put me in the red zone.
"I'm super excited about the mix of riders we've put together. They each have unique skills on the bike and personalities. It's going to be fun to watch them work together in bike races and develop into champions as a team."
Team member Larry Warbasse expressed the enthusiasm and high morale fostered at the squad's first gathering of the season. "The camp in The Bahamas was probably the most enjoyable team camp I have ever attended in my years spent as a cyclist (not that there have been that many)," said Warbasse. "I am sure there aren't any other Under 23 teams who get to have an experience like we did this past weekend. There are probably very few ProTeams who do as well. I think I can speak for everyone on the squad when I say I feel very fortunate to be a part of this great organization."
The team will return in late January, 2012 to compete in the Tour of the Bahamas followed by a 10-day training camp at the team's base in Greenville, South Carolina in early February.