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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, February 11, 2011

Date published:
February 11, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Tests prove Riccò had blood transfusion, Dutch newspaper says

    Riccardo Riccò (Vacansoleil) saddles up for a day of training.
    Article published:
    February 10, 2011, 16:52 GMT
    Cycling News

    Examinations said to confirm he received poorly preserved blood

    Medical examinations prove that Riccardo Riccò underwent a blood transfusion, according to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. An examination of his blood “confirm that the Vacansoleil rider was administered poorly preserved blood,” the newspaper said.

    Riccò was admitted to hospital over the weekend with a high fever and in critical condition. Italian media reported that he told a doctor he had given himself a transfusion, but there are also reports that he has denied saying that.

    Both the Italian police, the Italian Olympic committee (CONI) and his Vacansoleil team are investigating whether illegal doping played a role in his medical emergency, and according to recent reports are looking for whoever assisted the Italian with the suspected blood transfusion. His partner Vania Rossi said she was not at home at the time of his collapse.

    The 27-year-old has not yet been personally interviewed by investigators. However, De Telegraaf said, the question is no longer whether he engaged in blood doping but whether he did it alone or with help.

    Meanwhile, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president John Fahey expressed disappointment that a rider who had already served a ban for doping would continue doping.

    "I'm very disappointed, it's tragic that someone can put himself in danger," Fahey said on Thursday. "It's dreadful to see an athlete recommit."

  • A second mountain top finish for Amgen Tour of California

    A lumpy profile for stage 5 to Paso Robles
    Article published:
    February 10, 2011, 17:17 GMT
    Cycling News

    Sierra Road climb is stage 4 finale, Solvang TT returns

    The Amgen Tour of California rolled out the details of stages 4, 5 and 6 today, confirming a second hilltop finish for the 2011 route, with the familiar Sierra Road climb providing drama to finish of stage 4 in addition to the already announced Mt. Baldy climax on stage 7.

    What stage 4 lacks in miles, only 81.8 from Livermore to San Jose, it more than makes up for in strenuous terrain. With a pair of sprinter-friendly stages under the peloton's belt, the focus returns to the GC favourites as three strenuous climbs, culminating with the first true mountain-top finish in Amgen Tour of California's six-year history, await on May 18.

    The riders first head out of Livermore on Mines Rd, a 25-mile long section of the parcours both hilly and winding and the perfect opportunity for a break to become out-of-sight and out-of-mind. In 2010, the riders enjoyed a long descent into a finish in Modesto off of Mines Rd. This year, there is no similar luxury as Mines Road becomes San Antonio Canyon Rd.

    After shaking things up with two more KOMs, the riders come face-to-face with the Mt. Hamilton - the Tour’s first hors catégorie climb. The two-mile ascent to the Mt. Hamilton Observatory (4,130') provides a spectacular view of San Jose and Silicon Valley and a hair-raising descent down the front side of the mountain.

    After a few miles of flat riding, comes a right turn onto Sierra Road, and what follows is a 3.5-mile ascent with a 10 percent average gradient and 1,700’ feet of climbing. The finish is simply a line across a narrow, exposed road typically surrounded by herds of cattle. Who will prevail and likely take over the leader's jersey?

    The Amgen Tour of California's fifth stage, 138.9 miles from Seaside to Paso Robles, provides a stunning trek down California's famed Hwy 1 through Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove and Big Sur. Most of stage five utilises the same parcours as the 2008 stage from Seaside to San...

  • Valverde trains with Movistar

    Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde was looking chilled out at the start.
    Article published:
    February 10, 2011, 19:16 GMT
    Cycling News

    Suspended rider joins former teammates in Mallorca

    Alejandro Valverde is keeping fit with his former Caisse d'Epargne teammates in Mallorca. The currently suspended Spaniard has joined a training camp of Team Movistar, the new squad managed by Eusebio Unzue that came out of Caisse d'Epargne.

    Valverde, sidelined from competition until the end of this year for his implication in Operación Puerto, was integrated with the team camp on February 2 after getting the green light from Unzue. "I'm very happy to be here and get in the kilometres with riders from the team, on top of taking part in the team's life," Valverde told Spanish media.

    "To be able to spend these days with them is important to maintain the impression of being part of a group. The feeling of belonging is very important to me. After all this time without seeing them, the first meeting was phenomenal."

    Even though he still has to wait one year before he can make his comeback in the peloton, the Spaniard looks forward to it with motivation. "The most important thing now is to not lose rhythm and to have the best possible preparation when I'll be able to compete again. To be here in Mallorca with other teams and to see that everybody is with me also motivates me a lot. It helps me to work more and better."

    In fact, Valverde's form is as good as any other European pro rider at the moment. "Even though I haven't raced for a while, my form is on a good level, almost the same as last year when I came here to prepare the 2010 season," he said.

    Watching his former teammates and riders of other squad participate in the Mallorca Challenge, Valverde was hopeful that his personal training camp would help him remain focused throughout the year. "I will come out of this training camp more motivated to continue training before returning to competition. Once the weather is...

  • Contador ban to be overturned?

    Alberto Contador during his press conference as he tries to explain how his urine sample became contaminated with clenbuterol
    Article published:
    February 10, 2011, 20:03 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Spanish adjudicators were convinced by Contador’s tainted meat defence

    According to Spanish newspaper El Periódico, the Spanish cycling federation’s competitions committee that recently recommended a one-year ban on Alberto Contador after his positive test for clenbuterol is considering overturning the decision due to legal considerations.

    The paper has reported that some members of the committee were convinced by the arguments made by Contador’s legal team that the three-time Tour de France winner had ingested clenbuterol by eating tainted meat. The committee's final decision was due February 9, but has not yet been officially announced.

    The paper adds that the Spanish federation has said in its judgment on the case that Contador’s positive test was caused by “extenuating circumstances” and not by “negligence nor responsibility”, which has provided the Spaniard with the opportunity to launch a legal challenge against his ban.

    According to El Periódico, the Spanish federation was convinced that Contador did not use a medical product containing clenbuterol, nor had he undergone a blood transfusion that contained the product, nor had he been microdosing with the product.

    The paper suggests that Contador’s legal team will make a case for the ban being overturned due to the judgment that effectively states that his positive test was due to factors beyond his control. It also states that members of the federation’s competitions committee are ready to change their verdict of a year’s ban based on this argument.

  • AFLD looking to partner with UCI for Tour de France doping controls

    The doping control van isn't hard to miss.
    Article published:
    February 10, 2011, 20:45 GMT
    Cycling News

    French anti-doping agency in discussions

    The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) is in discussions with the International Cycling Union (UCI) to partner with the sport's governing body in performing the doping controls at Paris-Nice and the Tour de France.

    New AFLD president Bruno Genevois confirmed today in a joint press conference with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) head John Fahey that negotiations are in the beginning stages.

    "Contacts have been renewed and we can hope for a good outcome in March," Genevois said, according to AP. "Discussions between the AFLD and UCI are still ongoing and I can't tell you more for the moment, but we are hopeful."

    With the exit of the AFLD's former president Pierre Bordry, the two agencies have an opportunity to mend the contentious relationship which erupted over the past few years.

    In 2008, due to a number of factors, the Tour de France organizer (ASO) chose to run the race outside the control of the UCI, using the French cycling federation as the sanctioning organization and the AFLD for doping controls.

    That year, the AFLD successfully uncovered several riders using CERA, a new form of the blood booster EPO, and found seven riders positive for doping during the race.

    When the UCI and ASO mended fences in 2009, the UCI and AFLD cooperated in the anti-doping efforts at the race, but Bordry was highly critical of the UCI's efforts after the event, accusing the governing body of preferential treatment of Lance Armstrong's Astana team and calling UCI's controls "predictable and ineffective".

    UCI president Pat McQuaid issued a 12-page report to WADA defending the programme, and in a less delicate statement to the press, called Bordry's accusations "pure bullshit".

    The UCI then tried to block the AFLD from performing additional testing at the 2010 Tour, but after a compromise brokered by WADA, the French agency was ultimately allowed to order a number of targeted tests based upon information it had gathered....

  • Renshaw grabs Qatar opportunity

    Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) takes stage four of the Tour of Qatar
    Article published:
    February 10, 2011, 21:59 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Australian happy to take leading role

    Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) has built up a deserved reputation as one the peloton's finest exponents of the complex art of the lead-out but the Australian proved that he is equally adept at finishing the job himself with a thundering sprint win on stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar.

    After the stage, the new gold jersey Renshaw admitted that he has to bide his time for opportunities to chase wins for himself given the depth of sprinting talent at his team. However, with the Australian clearly in better condition than Mark Cavendish at this early stage in the season, he has been handed the conductor's baton on the past two stages.

    "I don't get the opportunity very often," Renshaw said afterward. "At the start of this week when I was still second on GC the plan was to try and get a result for Cav. Luckily he's not on the best form so that gave me an opportunity."

    Cavendish slipped out of the leading group in the closing stages for the second consecutive day, but Renshaw explained that there was no room for jealousy inside the HTC-Highroad camp.

    "He's more than happy for me to get my results," Renshaw said. "I work so hard for him all year, so I'm sure he's happy."

    On the frenetic run-in the finishing sprint, Renshaw was able to count on Bernhard Eisel's support before taking full advantage of the Leopard Trek lead-out train.

    "The final kilometre was very fast but I had the perfect wheel in Bennati," Renshaw said. "He had two teammates that led him out so it was really fast.

    "I looked behind and I saw Boonen jump and I knew that was the moment I had to start my sprint. I'm really happy that I had the power to hold off Tom Boonen."

    Renshaw put himself in a strong position to challenge for overall honours...

  • Rapha Condor Sharp kick off season in South Africa

    African Road Champion Dan Craven (Namibia) is congratulated by UCI President Pat McQuaid
    Article published:
    February 11, 2011, 1:38 GMT
    Cycling News

    Craven aiming for top honours on home turf

    Rapha Condor Sharp will be escaping the grey skies of Europe to start their season in the first-ever Cell C Tour of South Africa which begins February 19.

    The British-based Continental team will be lead by Namibian Dan Craven, who came seventh in the recent Tropicale Amissa Bongo. Joining him will be former British National Road Race Champion, Kristian House, Australian Zak Dempster and Brits Graham Briggs, Ben Greenwood and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke.

    The Cell C Tour of South Africa starts as an 8-day UCI 2.2 race, with plans to become a 9-day, 2.HC event within five years. Twenty teams from five continents will compete in the seven stages, with stages two and six being particularly hilly.

    Craven, a former African Road Race Champion, will be aiming for the General Classification, as well as a stage win, and he has his eye on the stage for him.

    "Stage 6 is a dream come true for me - although the climbs might be on the long side for my strengths, the roads that are used were all part of my regular training routes during my four years at Stellenbosch University. I have always dreamed about racing along some of these roads and really hope to put in a special showing on 'home turf'".

    "Stages four, five and six all include a number of long climbs and I foresee the climbers coming to the fore and ripping things apart. Stage five's big climb is too far from the finish so it might actually come down to a bunch sprint, but stages four and six will certainly be contested from very small groups".

    Team manager John Herety is confident that the race will not only provide opportunities for his riders, but will also be a solid base for the team’s European season.

    "Our objectives for the race are two-fold, we have a very realistic chance of a stage win or top ten on G.C. with Dan Craven, who is highly motivated for this tour. We also want to come out of the race with some solid unhampered preparation for what is in...

  • Scinto calls for reduction in number of ProTeam licences

    Luca Scinto with Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) the Tour of Qatar.
    Article published:
    February 11, 2011, 4:40 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli manager suggests more wildcards be given to ProContinental teams

    Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli manager Luca Scinto has called for the World Tour to be reduced to 13 teams and for greater guarantees to be given to ProContinental teams to ride the biggest races in their own countries. After missing out on Giro d'Italia selection in 2010, Scinto's men have made the cut this time around, but he believes the system needs to be changed in order to keep smaller sponsors and teams in the sport.

    "There should be 13 ProTeams, no more than that," Scinto told Cyclingnews in Qatar. "There are very few teams that deserve the budget to be in the WorldTour. Not everybody can do the WorldTour.

    "I think that if there were 13 ProTeams, then you could have a performance-based classification of the ProContinental teams. There would be more wildcards, and the teams that deserve to go to races would be invited. It would allow ProContinental teams who work well the possibility of growing and becoming WorldTour teams later on."

    Scinto does not believe that the existing system is without its merits, but he feels that there should be a smaller quota of elite teams guaranteed invitations to all of the major races on the calendar.

    "It should be quite like what they're trying to do now, but with 13 teams instead of 18," Scinto explained. "Those teams should also have a budget upwards of 7-8 million euro, and not 4 million as it is now."

    Wildcard invitations for home teams: saving the saveable

    While Scinto is relieved that his Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli team has earned its berth to this year's Giro after missing out last season, the Tuscan explained that the lack of guarantees given to teams at the beginning of the season make it difficult to convince sponsors to enter the sport. His solution would be to effectively guarantee ProContinental teams entry to the major races in their own country.

    "After a year without doing the Giro, our sponsors have been lucky this year," he said. "But in...