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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, January 15, 2010

Date published:
January 15, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • UCI women's race cancellations hit hard

    Race promoter Daniel Manibal with Amber Neben after her 2003 Grand Tour du Montreal win.
    Article published:
    January 14, 2010, 18:05 GMT
    Laura Weislo and Kirsten Robbins

    North American women left with few options

    The abrupt cancellation of three Canadian UCI women's races this week leaves just two world-class events in North America for women. The loss of the Montreal World Cup, Grand Tour du Montreal and Tour de PEI follows a steady decline in the number of international races for women on the continent.

    Former time trial World Champion Amber Neben expressed her disappointment with the news on Wednesday. "That is huge. There really is no reason for the European teams to come over now," she said. "It's really sad that a staple like the Montreal World Cup is gone."

    The sole remaining mass-start international race, the Liberty Classic, regularly attracted top European teams like Equipe Nürnberger and HTC-Columbia who headed across the Atlantic Ocean to compete in the World Cup, then traveled south to Philadelphia. Whether or not teams will still make the trip for one race remains to be seen.

    With the loss of these three events, women lose the opportunity to compete against the world's strongest riders in events which were unique in that they were not paired with men's events.

    "I think they were very important for helping to raise the level of cycling in North America. They were also races that were focused on the women and that was special," said Neben.

    The Canadian Cycling Association's CEO Greg Mathieu did not know why race organiser Daniel Manibal decided to suddenly retire, effectively ending the future for the events.

    There was some speculation that the search for sponsorship had been impacted by the addition of two new men's ProTour races in Canada this year. Mathieu said that this wasn't given as a reason for Manibal's withdrawal.

    "We don't know that there was a sponsorship deduction," Mathieu said, clarifying that it was the loss of Manibal which led to the races being canceled. "It might not have been an issue to carve out one of the races [if money was an issue]. However, the fact that the World Cup has...

  • Saxo Bank boys have fun in the sun in Fuerteventura

    The beach is that way: Frank Schleck shows off his muscles
    Article published:
    January 14, 2010, 19:32 GMT
    Cycling News

    Not giving up their day jobs for beach volleyball...

    It was not just "all work and no play" for the Saxo Bank riders at their team training camp in Fuerteventura. As well as putting in the training miles the riders were given the day off to relax with their management and gaggle of lucky sponsors.

    On the agenda for the day was a lunch by their seaside resort before a beach volleyball and water polo tournament.

    Both Andy and Frank Schleck took part in the games along with Matti Breschel and new signing Richie Porte.

    Bjarne Riis, meanwhile, decided to give the activities a miss and after a number team meetings decided to hit the golf course with former pro and team advisor Bobby Julich for bit of rest and relaxation.

    The riders will partake in a ride tomorrow and remain on the island for another ten days.

  • Breschel finds confidence for 2010

    Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) speaks to Cyclingnews while at a training camp in Fuerteventura.
    Article published:
    January 14, 2010, 20:05 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Danish star motivated for Paris-Roubaix

    Matti Breschel is hoping to finally win the Monument missing from his palmares and has his eyes firmly fixed on Paris-Roubaix in 2010. The Danish national road champion has long been described as a classy rider with potential. Despite racking up 24 wins by the age of 25, he is still without a Classics win.

    "2009 was a good season. I was pretty satisfied with the two top ten places in Paris Roubaix and at the Tour of Flanders. They were two big races I had been looking forward to racing. They're results I could build on for this year," he told Cyclingnews at Saxo Bank's team camp in Fuerteventura.

    "Right now though all I have in my head is Paris-Roubaix. It's what I think about when I close my eyes and when I'm out there doing six-hour ride. That's what I'm motivated for."

    Breschel doesn't believe that it's a case of now or never for his Classics win, and he will be taking a far more relaxed outlook on racing this season. "I'll just try and take my chance if it's there. How close am I to that big win? Well that's the one million dollar question. But the biggest thing is that I believe in myself. If that win comes this year, or next I don't know but I have to believe it will happen. I know I need that win for my career."

    With a team brimming with Classics specialists like Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O'Grady and the Schleck brothers, Breschel believes that strength in numbers is a positive aspect, not a hindrance on his chances, and that if each individual rides honestly and for the good of the team, he'll get his chance to kick on and shine in the spring.

    "I think it works well with me, Fabien and Stuey. The more riders like that the better. But we all need to be honest, and if we have a bad day, we need to say so and just help. That applies to everyone. We're one of the strongest Classics teams in the world because of the way we ride not because of just one rider."

    For a long time, Breschel was a rider who...

  • Suspect samples destroyed in Guatemala

    The Guatemala National Team in action.
    Article published:
    January 14, 2010, 20:12 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Tour of Guatemala winner's additional test samples made unusable in attack

    Guatemalan police are investigating a report that test samples given by last year's Tour of Guatemala winner Nery Velásquez and another Guatemalan rider, Alfredo Ajpacajá, were destroyed during an attack on a parcel delivery van and its driver on December 21.

    According to Guatemalan daily Siglo XXI, the driver of the DHL van, Julio Eduardo López, was attacked by unknown assailants who destroyed samples taken by the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (COG) and being sent for testing in Canada. The report made to police also alleges that prior to the attack the two riders had gone to the DHL office looking for the samples.

    The destroyed samples had been taken on December 18 in the wake of previous tests made during October's Tour of Guatemala that indicated that Velásquez and Ajpacajá had used an anabolic steroid developed for veterinary use, Boldenone. Having already been banned for EPO use in 2004, Velásquez faces the end of his cycling career if a second doping offence is confirmed.

    This second round of testing was undertaken after Guatemala's Anti-Doping Commission highlighted inconsistencies in testing procedures during the country's national tour. As well as submitting to a the test on December 18, the two riders underwent another test on December 28.

  • Pro cycling global expansion to reach India in February

    Cycling in Mumbai is mainly for transportation, but a race in India could change that.
    Article published:
    January 14, 2010, 22:12 GMT
    Shane Stokes

    Mumbai Cyclothon will feature top pros and be endorsed by Eddy Merckx

    The first step in what is hoped will be an explosion in top-level cycling in India will take place on February 21st with the holding of the first Mumbai Cyclothon - Tour de Mumbai.

    The UCI 1.2-ranked event is the first major cycling race to be held in the country, which has massive numbers of people using bikes for transport, yet no real culture of competition.

    It is hoped that the race – and the presence of teams like Saxo Bank and the Cervélo Test Team – will spark the imagination of the press and public, and build the momentum to develop the sport there.

    An exemption to normal UCI rules is being sought for the event, as customarily x.2-ranked races are out of bounds for ProTour teams.

    Saxo Bank is expected to be sending Stuart O’Grady and Baden Cooke as part of its squad, while Cervélo should also have a strong line-up. Former Tour de France stage winner Jaan Kirsipuu will lead the CKT-Champion System team. Others such as Giant Asia, Fly V Australia, Jayco and the Indian and Malaysian national teams will also be present.

    A charity ride will precede the competitive event, with celebrities and the general public due to participate.

    “As a competitive sport, nothing much has happened before in India,” said Dr. Akil Khan, the Managing Director and Chairman of IDsports, the organising company.

    “Some small races in the Himalayan range are all the country has seen on an international level, but these have never featured any listed riders or teams. Ours will be the first of its kind, an international cycling criterium event with top teams from the world participating, and live television coverage on several channels.

    “Essentially, India lives on bicycles but has never looked up to this most challenging and exciting sport. We want to change that.”

    Khan said that promoting health amongst the Indian population is one of the targets of the...

  • Tour of Oman caters to the sprinters

    Belgian legend Eddy Merckx and Sultan Bin Hamdoon Al Harthi present the course with Christian Prudhomme.
    Article published:
    January 14, 2010, 22:18 GMT
    Cycling News

    Cavendish, Boonen, Farrar confirmed for new event

    The new Tour of Oman was presented in Paris on Thursday by the ASO's Christian Prudhomme, Belgian legend Eddy Merckx and Sultan Bin Hamdoon Al Harthi, the head of Muscat Municipality and the Municipal Council.

    The Tour of Oman (February 14-19), listed on the UCI Asia Tour, will be staged by Eddy Merckx and competes with the Tour of Algarve, another stage race scheduled in Europe at the same time.

    Despite having more natural changes in elevation than the Tour of Qatar, the six-stage Tour of Oman will hardly see a bump as it caters to the world's top sprinters.

    Covering 687 km over six stages, the route largely avoids the country's hills which can extend up to 600m above sea level - higher than most countries in the Middle East. The flat course is aimed at easing the riders into the difficulties of the season amid weather which is more favourable than that of Europe in February.

    The race will attract many of the same top sprinters who will take part in the Tour of Qatar the week before, including Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) as well as Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo), Gerald Ciolek (Milram), Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank), Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) and Jimmy Casper (Saur-Sojasun).

    Also confirmed are Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Philippe Gilbert (OmegaPharma), Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo), Servais Knaven (Milram) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).

  • Armstrong considers backing up Farrar at Worlds

    Lance Armstrong during Team RadioShack's December training camp.
    Article published:
    January 15, 2010, 0:15 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Participation contingent on Tour performance

    Lance Armstrong reckoned he might pay two visits to Australia this year rather than one after arriving in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under. Since there is no other bike race in the country on the 2010 UCI calendar, the World Championship in Victoria is the only option. "I've definitely thought about it," he said, although his last participation in the event he won in 1993 at Oslo, Norway, was in Valkenburg, The Netherlands, where he finished fourth back in 1998.

    "I need more information about the course," Armstrong said. "Initially I heard it was for sprinters, so it was out of question that I'd do it but then I read Robbie McEwen's comments saying there was a pretty nasty climb. It's unfortunate that coming to Adelaide we don't have the opportunity to go and see the course." In fact, Armstrong's private jet N7LA will fly out of Adelaide to the US straight after the last stage on January 24.

    "While I'm here I'll take the opportunity to talk to Robbie, Stuey [O'Grady] and Patrick Jonker about the circuit of the world championship," the Texan said. "There could be two reasons for me to participate: to ride for winning myself or to put together a group of strong US riders to ride in support of Tyler Farrar.

    "I'm a big fan of the world championship not being in France, Italy or Spain," he continued. "It's good to take it to Australia, China, South America or wherever. This is an event for the whole cycling world."

    Armstrong also emphasised his race program has yet to be finalized after the Tour of Murcia (March 3-7). He mentioned the Tour of Flanders (April 4) as a possibility, the Tour of California (May 16-23) as a sure thing and then a choice to be made between the Dauphiné (June 6-13) and the Tour de Suisse (June 12-20) in the lead up to the Tour de France starting on July 3rd in Rotterdam. "I wouldn't be sitting here today if I didn't think I can win the Tour de France," he said.

    Armstrong insisted his...

  • No Valverde decision until March

    Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was one of the stars of the show.
    Article published:
    January 15, 2010, 1:01 GMT
    Shane Stokes

    Spaniard free to race for now, but global ban still one possible outcome

    With the hearing in Lausanne now concluded, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has this evening confirmed that a final decision in the Alejandro Valverde hearing will not be given until sometime in March.

    The three-day appeal was initiated by Valverde’s legal team, which was seeking to overturn the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI)'s decision to ban him for two years from racing in Italy. It had sanctioned him as it believed he had links to the Operación Puerto doping affair.

    A statement issued by CAS this evening gave no indications as to what should be expected. It commented simply on efforts made to increase the penalty that Valverde could face if he is unsuccessful in his appeal.

    "The Panel considered that the requests filed by UCI and WADA to suspend Alejandro Valverde world-wide for a period of two years could not be entertained by the CAS given that they were outside the scope of the present arbitration procedure (regarding [the] validity or not of the suspension of Valverde on Italian soil)."

    This has led to confusion, with some media headlines reporting that CAS has effectively ruled out any global ban for Valverde. However, the use of the phrase "present arbitration procedure" and CAS’ own underlining of ‘on Italian soil’ makes it clear that the court is speaking about this hearing only.

    Valverde is also set to face another CAS appeal in March, which is an action taken by the UCI and WADA against the Spanish cycling federation for not sanctioning the rider. If CAS rules in favour of the two bodies, the rider could be forced to take a long break from the sport.

    Could an upheld Italian ban be converted?

    However, that aside, it appears that the UCI’s own rules can allow for the expansion of a national ban. According to the Spanish newspaper AS, if CAS upholds the Italian suspension, the UCI will seek to convert this to a worldwide...