- Article published:
- February 7, 2013, 16:16
- Daniel Benson
Former pro says Riis blood doped in 1996
Along with supporting the prospect of a truth and reconciliation programme within cycling, Tyler Hamilton has encouraged two of his former directors to come forward and share their knowledge of doping. Hamilton rode for Johan Bruyneel at US Postal between 1999 and 2001 before moving to Bjarne Riis’s CSC team for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
Bruyneel is currently embroiled with a USADA investigation and faces charges relating to doping that could see him banned for life. Lance Armstrong, who was the leader of US Postal team at the centre of the investigation, has already confessed to doping during parts of his career.
Riis on the other hand, has been spared any longstanding investigation despite a string of his riders being implemented or involved in doping. Along with Hamilton, Alberto Contador, Frank Schleck, Jörg Jaksche, Michele Bartoli, Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, and Michael Rasmussen have all either faced doping suspensions or admitted to doping while riding under Riis’s care.
Riis has confessed to his own doping as a rider, and penned his autobiography, "Stages of Light and Dark" in 2012. In the book he admits to his own individual choices but Hamilton confirmed to Cyclingnews that Riis had a blood transfusion during the Tour de France in 1996. Riis won the event but only confessed to taking EPO.
“If they [Riis and Bruyneel] come forward and tell all then why not give them another shot. They shouldn’t just get a free walk. Everyone has to have some sort of consequence,” Hamilton told Cyclingnews.
As for Riis, Hamilton said, “There’s obviously more that he needs to open up about. He should be given that opportunity with some sort of knowledge that he’ll get another chance. If not it will remain the same and secrets will remain in the peloton.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, will give testimony in the ongoing Operacion Puerto trial later this month. He will give evidence from the US, visiting the Spanish embassy in Washington. Hamilton was client of Dr. Fuentes.
“I go in and I’ll be doing it at the Spanish embassy. They can ask any question and I’ll answer it all honestly. There’s a lot of history there, but I don’t think there will be any smoking guns. I’m not really preparing for anything, I’ll just answer the questions truthfully. The more information we can find out about the past the better the sport of cycling will be in moving forward.”
- Article published:
- February 7, 2013, 17:25
- Barry Ryan
Terpstra to the fore for Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Mark Cavendish has underlined his early-season form by winning three stages in as many days at the Tour of Qatar, the first time he has put together such a sequence since he won the opening three stages of the Tour of Ireland in August 2008.
Back then, Cavendish was piloted by the Columbia-HTC team, an outfit whose mastery of the art of the lead-out train surpassed even that of Mario Cipollini's "red guard" at Saeco in the 1990s. At the 2013 Tour of Qatar, however, Cavendish has been feeling his way into life at a new team and, understandably, his nascent train at Omega Pharma-Quick Step is still very much a work in progress.
That said, Cavendish currently operates at a level where a straightforward lead-out is simply a useful advantage rather than an outright necessity [something he demonstrated most famously in winning the world championships in Copenhagen in 2011], and he duly used his own expertise to navigate the final 500 metres to win stages 3 and 4 in Qatar.
On Thursday in Madinat Al Shamal, however, Cavendish was given an armchair ride to the finish by his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, and he duly snaffled up his fourth win of the season, seeing off the challenge of Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
"They gave me a lead-out and it was like they'd been doing it for years," said Cavendish, who retained his overall lead with one day still to race. "I've always had commitment from the guys these last two days, but it's about getting it together. Today they were just incredible. They rode like a unit like I know Quick Step can do, and I was so proud to be at the back of that."
Matteo Trentin had been charged with being Cavendish's lead-out man earlier in the race, but the Italian had never quite managed to link up with his sprinter in the finale, and instead Cavendish had been left to fend for himself once Niki Terpstra dropped him off shortly beyond the red kite on stages 3 and 4.
On Thursday's stage 5, it was Terpstra himself who was Cavendish's lead-out man, and he delivered him to the final 250 metres at the head of the race. The Dutch champion had already led Cavendish out for the intermediate sprint with 26km to go, and even had the wherewithal to police a dangerous move from Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Bernhard Eisel (Sky) in the finale before resuming his role in the Omega Pharma-Quick Step train.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step directeur sportif Brian Holm explained that Terpstra had acted as lead-out man simply because Trentin had been called upon to help pull back the attacks in the finale. "Normally it would have been Trentin, but when the break went with Phinney and Eisel, Terpstra followed, which meant Trentin had to work a bit so they swapped over in the final," he said.
"Matteo had been working," Cavendish said later. "It's a different type of sprint [to the previous two stages.] I was contemplating sprinting in the saddle at one point, we were going that fast."
The versatile Terpstra has been one of the most impressive performers at this Tour of Qatar, and Cavendish paid tribute to his efforts in the finale, particularly his vigilance immediately after the second intermediate sprint, when he tracked Eisel and Phinney.
"Just after the sprint, I had Niki telling me to go with him, but just after a sprint, I'm a little bit on the limit," Cavendish said. "He's strong like that and he's up there on GC as well, so we have options."
The safest option, of course, is Cavendish, who now leads the general classification by 15 seconds ahead of Brent Bookwalter (BMC), with Friday's final stage to Doha Corniche to come. Even with that buffer, however, Holm was circumspect in his assessment of the overall situation.
"Of course, of course, it looks like he has a fair chance to win, we cannot deny that," Holm said. "Without punctures, crashes and bad luck, I think we have a fair chance."
- Article published:
- February 7, 2013, 18:10
- Barry Ryan
Team races in Qatar in the meantime
While Katusha's legal team prepares to put its case to be reinstated to the UCI WorldTour before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne on Friday, the Russian outfit's road team has been getting about the business of racing at the Tour of Qatar.
Uncertainty has enshrouded Katusha ever since the UCI's surprise announcement on December 10, 2012, that the team's application for a WorldTour licence had been denied. A leaked letter from the UCI published in Gazzetta dello Sport said that the omission was for ethical reasons, while team leader Joaquim Rodriguez is already edging towards the door should the CAS appeal fail.
The team thus finds itself operating in something of a limbo: while their 2013 kit defiantly bears the UCI WorldTour insignia, Katusha are currently registered as a Pro Continental team, and have already been overlooked for wildcard invitations to the Giro d'Italia and Paris-Nice.
"I have to say the morale is quite good here right now in spite of everything," directeur sportif Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Qatar. "It's important to get off to a good start, and we're preparing the season as normal in the hope that this decision will be taken as quickly as possible. It's a difficult moment, but the boys are doing the best they can."
Katusha's ethical record is understood to be the reason for its exclusion from the WorldTour, and the team's lengthy rap sheet includes positive tests from Toni Colom, Christian Pfannberger and Denis Galimzyano, links between some of its riders and Dr. Michele Ferrari, and allegations that Igor Kolobnev sold victory at the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
However, Piva, who arrived at the team last season after HTC-Highroad folded in late 2011, claimed that, to his knowledge, Katusha had yet to be formally informed of the reasons for its demotion.
"We don't know anything beyond what came out in the UCI's official communiqué, so we don't know any more than anyone else," Piva said. "We haven't had any clearer information than that so we still don't know why they turned us down for the licence."
As the legal machinations rumble on in the background, Piva and the sports directors are charged with the task of arranging programmes for 30 riders on a rather more limited diet of events than previously imagined.
"We're fortunate right now that we've been invited to quite a lot of races so far, apart from the Tour Down Under," Piva said. "We'll be at the first Classics and at Tirreno-Adriatico before that. The only problem for now is not being invited to Paris-Nice, but we'll try to do training camps to keep the riders in condition and we just hope that the decision arrives soon."
Though Joaquim Rodriguez has already raced at the Tour de San Luis and Trofeo Mallorca in Katusha colours, and is also due to compete at the Tour of Oman, he is already preparing the ground for his departure if the CAS appeal fails. The bigger question, of course, is whether the Katusha team itself will continue if it fails to obtain WorldTour status through the courts.
"Up to now, we've had the support of our sponsors and they support the team 100% even if we don't get the licence," Piva said. "We're convinced that we're in the right but if we don't have a licence then that's always the risk."
- Article published:
- February 7, 2013, 19:45
- Cycling News
Race route couldn't be properly secured
The Tour Méditerranéen organisers announced today that Friday's third stage from Marseille to Saint Rémy de Provence has been canceled.
"There are logistical problems beyond our control," said the race organisation.
According to La Provence, Friday's parcours in the finishing locale of Saint Rémy de Provence couldn't be secured and after failing to find an alternate route, the stage had to be canceled.
Lars Boom (Blanco Pro Cycling) took over the Tour Méditerranéen leader's jersey today after winning stage 2, a 24km time trial from Cap d'Agde to Sète featuring a 15 percent climb in the route's finale. Boom leads Maxime Monfort (RadioShack Leopard) by 22 seconds and Anthony Roux (FDJ) by 36 seconds on general classification.
Racing will resume on Saturday with a 151km stage from Rousset to Toulon. With a mountain finish atop Mont Faron at the stage's conclusion, the Tour Méditerranéen's general classification winner will likely be decided. Racing concludes on Sunday with a 192km stage from Bandol to Grasse.
- Article published:
- February 7, 2013, 21:37
- Cycling News
Italian cites wind as likely cause
Marco Pinotti (BMC) broke two ribs and injured his shoulder after crashing heavily during today's 24km time trial stage at the Tour Méditerranéen. Despite his injuries the five-time Italian time trial champion rode the final four kilometres to the finish, which rose sharply at a 15 percent average gradient.
"It was a tailwind on that section and I crashed a couple meters after the corner," Pinotti said. "It was probably the wind because I didn't crash exactly on the corner. I was still coming out of it, turning left and the wind was coming from the left.
"It was really painful to breathe, but after five or six minutes I decided to finish the race because it was only four kilometers." Due to the crash and subsequent injuries Pinotti finished in 163rd place for the day, more than 13 minutes off the winning time of Lars Boom.
Pinotti, winner of time trials last season at the Giro d'Italia and Tour of Austria, suffered an abrupt end to his 2012 campaign after he crashed during the time trial world championship and broke his left collarbone. While the 36-year-old Italian again came down hard on the left collarbone in today's crash, it appears not to be fractured.
"He injured the collarbone at the same site where he injured it before," said BMC Racing Team Doctor Scott Major. "The ribs he broke are more like hairline fractures and are not displaced, so he had no injuries to his lungs, kidney or spleen. He does have a lot of abrasions on his left side: his back, his shoulder and his hip.
"He will probably be off his bike for seven to 10 days and then the medical team will re-evaluate things before we decide how quickly he can start training again."
- Article published:
- February 7, 2013, 22:11
- Cycling News
Six teams granted provisional membership
The Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) has announced via its twitter feed that a team of "legal experts" are considering mounting a legal case against Lance Armstrong deeming that the American "disfigured" the image of cycling as well as the Tour de France.
The group held a general assembly meeting in Paris on Thursday with new teams being admitted membership and six teams granted a period of provisional membership.
President of MPCC, Roger Legeay said that it was time for the sport's stakeholders to take action against Armstrong, who last month confessed to doping following years of denials and attacks on those who publicly raised suspicions regarding the former seven-time Tour de France winner.
"Following the confession of Lance Armstrong, I have instructed our legal services explore the possibility of engaging with all stakeholders an action for damages for breach of cycling's image, for fraud or any other proceedings that can be raised," said Legeay.
He also indicated that Armstrong may not be the only target of litigation, including their own members.
"There is no denying that MPCC teams have doped," he said. "They must pay."
Legeay said that it was not solely the responsibility of teams within the MPCC to take action.
"Hopefully the makers of cycling go in this direction, it seems difficult to overlook, start over with a clean slate while huge sums were at stake," he said.
Internal regulations of the MPCC allow for: "Any person punishable by a sports authority or court for acts constituting a violation of the image of cycling and its partners (doping, use and / or trafficking of prohibited products, ...) may be sued in the courts by 'MPCC' to obtain damages."
Meantime, Androni Venezuela, Astana, Katusha, Blanco, Lampre Merida and Vacansoleil DCM were granted a provisional membership to the group which could remain in place until October, at Thursday's meeting. All of the teams above have been embroiled in doping allegations and stories in the past.
The 11 founding teams of the MPCC - Ag2r, Argos, FDJ, Garmin Sharp , Lotto Belisol, Bretagne - Seche Environnement, Cofidis, Europcar, IAM Cycling, Netapp - Endura and Sojasun - took part in the secret ballot.
Founded in 2007, the MPCC imposes stricter anti-doping measures on its members that go beyond the World Anti-Doping Agency Code, including additional testing to combat the use of corticosteroids. Member teams also do not allow their riders to race while they await decisions regarding anti-doping procedures.
- Article published:
- February 8, 2013, 00:48
- Barry Ryan
Dutch sprinter chasing Cavendish
Asked to assess Barry Markus, his closest rival on stages 3 and 4 of the Tour of Qatar, Mark Cavendish admitted that he had never heard of the Vacansoleil-DCM youngster before this week. Yet for his part, Markus has been gauging himself against Cavendish from his very first pedal strokes as a professional.
A product of the Rabobank Continental stable, Markus was snapped up by Vacansoleil as a stagiaire in late 2011, and one of his first races with the team was that year's Tour of Britain. Barely 20 years-old, Markus placed fourth in the first bunch sprint in Dumfries, where Cavendish was the winner. Within two weeks, Cavendish was the world champion, while Markus was only setting out on his apprenticeship as a sprinter.
Like Cavendish, Markus has received a sizeable amount of his grounding on the track, and so it's perhaps no surprise to learn that he favours short, explosive sprints rather than longer, steadier efforts.
"Last year I was Dutch Madison champion and this year I did two six day races and I the points race in the national championships too," Markus said, adding that he treads the boards purely to complement his road training and that he has no intentions of riding track at the world championships or Olympics: "I like it during the winter, but only for that."
Both of Markus' second place finishes in Qatar came in particularly chaotic finales, where no single team was able to organise the peloton to its liking in the closing kilometres. Jumping from wheel to wheel in search of the right lead-out, Markus' bike handling skills came to the fore in particular on stage 3.
"It's dangerous in the finale but I try to stay on the wheel of Cavendish or my teammates [Juan Antonio] Flecha and [Kenny] van Hummel. They bring me to the front, and then in the last 200 metres, I do my sprint," he said matter-of-factly.
The softly-spoken Markus hails from Hoofddorp, near Schiphol Airport on the fringes of Amsterdam, and while he grew up a follower of Ajax Amsterdam, he swapped the ball for the bike during his teenage years. He graduated to ride for Rabobank's Continental squad, but all the while, Vacansoleil directeur sportif Michel Cornelisse was keeping a watchful eye on his progress.
"I've known him for a long time. He was in the same club as me in Holland," Cornelisse said. "He joined Rabobank Continental, where maybe people didn't see him so often because they do a lot of hilly races. But we knew that he was a very good sprinter, so we took him early, at 20 years of age."
Markus' stand-out performance in his first full professional season came at Dwars door Drenthe, where he was narrowly beaten by Theo Bos - by centimetres, Cornelisse lamented - and he is aiming to continue his development in 2013.
"I'm not doing the big classics but I'll do some smaller races and some stage races, and I hope I can win something," said Markus, who shyly confided that he had been a sprinter from the moment he began racing.
That rapid finish first came to the fore on the international stage as far back as 2009, when he outgunned Arnaud Démare in a bunch sprint for the silver medal at the European junior championships. The result is indicative of Markus' pedigree given that Démare has since gone on to win the under-23 world title and clocked up seven wins in his debut professional season with FDJ last year, but the Dutchman was reluctant to read too much into it.
"Racing with the juniors is not the same as with the professionals, finals are much harder and it's difficult to stay on the front but every year is going better," he said cautiously.
And as for the lofty goal of getting the better of Cavendish, Markus is similarly modest. "Every year I'm getting better and I'd like to beat him," he said. "But right now he is too strong for me."
- Article published:
- February 8, 2013, 02:41
- Cycling News
Prudhomme dismisses return of national teams at Tour de France
The Amaury Sport Organisation has indicated that it is hoping to secure the services of the French anti-doping Authority (AFLD) for testing procedures starting with this year’s Paris-Nice as well as other events run in France.
"We would like the AFLD to be there and more generally but obviously it won't just be for this year," Christian Prudhomme told AFP. "We need to have a truly independent anti-doping body which has nothing to do with federations and which oversees all disciplines.
"It's difficult to be both judge and jury," he said.
Such a move harks back to 2008 when the AFLD was brought in at the Tour de France to manage doping controls as opposed to the UCI. That year the AFLD uncovered the use of a novel blood booster known as CERA, and was able to find a number of riders positive during and after the race.
When the UCI took over the following year in 2009, then-AFLD president Pierre Bordry was critical of the UCI's controllers, accusing them of favoritism toward Lance Armstrong's Astana team.
The UCI responded by allowing the independent observers in the 2010 edition. The only doping positive from the 2010 event was Alberto Contador who last year after a long legal battle was finally stripped of his yellow jersey.
Prudhomme also mooted the possibility that WADA could oversee testing within the sport.
Meantime Prudhomme has ruled out a return of national teams to the Tour de France following a proposal from the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
"I'll say it again, we're fond of our sponsored teams," said Prudhomme. "There are now some sponsored teams that resemble national ones. For me, a return to national teams is a bit of an old chestnut.
"It was great but I'm not convinced that it's a solution for the future."