- Article published:
- January 24, 2013, 22:45
- Cycling News
Agency responds after Verbruggen admits to warning riders of suspect values
UCI president Hein Verbruggen admitted this week to initiating a UCI policy of warning riders who showed suspect blood values, and the World Anti-Doping Agency has replied, criticizing those actions.
Verbruggen was president through 2005 before the current leader Pat McQuaid took his place. Speaking to Vrij Nederland, Verbruggen justified having UCI medical director Mario Zorzoli or anti-doping commission member Lon Schattenberg meet with riders to inform them of suspect values, saying they did it to convince riders to stop doping.
“You might convince them not to use doping anymore or you might not,” Verbruggen said.
Tyler Hamilton, writing in “The Secret Race”, described meeting with Zorzoli and being informed that his doping controls showed evidence of blood transfusion. At the time, WADA had not yet approved the test. Hamilton went on to later test positive and serve a suspension for homologous transfusions after the test was approved.
WADA issued a statement today decrying the practice.
''This approach totally contradicts the purpose of an effective anti-doping program,'' the WADA statement read. ''Any (federation) that would do such a thing would leave itself open to criticism with regards to its impartiality and integrity."
The agency says that the situation would have been unique to cycling, as it has "no evidence of other international federations 'discussing atypical blood test results, or other test results' with athletes."
The UCI has come under criticism in recent months for its anti-doping policies, which were ineffective in deterring the kind of widespread doping which the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team unearthed.
The UCI has been accused of covering up a doping positive of Lance Armstrong in both 1999, when he showed evidence of cortisone use in a doping control and presented a back-dated prescription, which the UCI accepted, and in 2001 when the WADA lab director met with Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel to describe test results which supposedly showed suspect, but not positive values for EPO in Armstrong’s samples from the Tour de Suisse.
- Article published:
- January 24, 2013, 23:45
- Jane Aubrey
Second breakaway in as many days for Argos Shimano Australian
In 2012, Will Clarke claimed the biggest win of his career when he won the Stirling stage at the Tour Down Under in a solo move riding for the UniSA - Australia team. The additional laps around the 21.3km loop was no hindrance to Clarke making a similar attempt on Thursday, but after spending the majority of the stage off the front of the bunch, eventually finished 8:48 behind winner Tom Jelte-Slagter (Blanco) in 115th.
"It would have been nice to stay away and win the stage again," the Argos Shimano recruit told Cyclingnews. "That sort of stuff's always pretty hard to do but you've always got to try otherwise that won't happen."
Twelve months later, Clarke is back at his home WorldTour event after an unsettled season with Champion System. In his first race for his new team, Clarke has spent two stages at the front of the race, in breakaways - on the Corkscrew stage and then on Thursday. Frustratingly for Clarke, neither stint was deemed enough for him to be awarded the Most Aggressive prize.
"It would have been nice to get the most aggressive jersey today seeing as I've been in the breakaway twice in a row," he said.
"I'm quite pissed off actually; I don't know what else I've got to do to get it. Maybe go in the breakaway every day and then maybe I'll get one."
In Argos Shimano, Clarke has almost found his natural environment, with the 27-year-old rouleur having made escapes off the front his trademark.
"If I had a choice to join any team it would have been Argos Shimano," he explained. "They're always represented in the breakaways and in the big races they always show themselves and I think last year they won 40 races or something and they were Pro Continental so they already showed they could win big races.
"I like the efforts of the team also with their strong anti-doping policies. It's just pushing for a cleaner sport so it just gives guys like us more of a chance to win."
Clarke's season should be very different to what he experienced in 2012 where he raced in Australia, Qatar, Oman, Europe, Japan, USA, Canada and China. After the Tour Down Under, Clarke will be Europe-bound, having a short break before heading to Spain for a training camp. His racing program so far includes the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the Three Days of De Panne and on to the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
"I'm going to be based in Maastricht [in Holland] this year which will be nice with a couple of teammates and a soigneur so it will be nice to have that support," Clarke explained. "It will definitely help me a little bit more than travelling the world and living out of a suitcase."
- Article published:
- January 25, 2013, 07:52
- Alex Malone
Plenty to learn from director's story, says sprinter
Argos-Shimano director sportif Rudi Kemna deserves a place in cycling, according to one of his riders,, Marcel Kittel. Kemna recently admitted to using EPO during his career and will serve an agreed six-month suspension before returning to team duties.
Kittel has voiced his opinion in the past regarding supporters of Lance Armstrong however, the sprinter believes Kemna's story is an important one for people to understand. It's this type of experience that Kemna was exposed to, that has the potential to help the sport move forward.
"When they told us the story, of course in the beginning I was disappointed to hear it and also surprised," said Kittel to Cyclingnews.
"But once I heard the full story I could understand it better, why he did it. I think it's a really important story to hear also for other people to understand [why] a lot of riders doped. Not because they wanted but they culture directed them into this drug problem.
"I think it was very important Rudi said what he did and it's important to learn now for young riders how it happened, so they can avoid it in the future. We can learn a lot from it."
Asked whether someone such as Kemna, who has now admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during part of his professional career should be involved in the sport, Kittel says "yes".
"When we talk about Rudi, I know Rudi now and before hearing the story. I know what he really wants for cycling and that was never something bad. He always wants to improve cycling and to develop new ideas within cycling without doping.
"That's how I started to get in contact with Rudi. He showed me a lot. I'm absolutely convinced that people like Rudi deserve a spot in cycling," he told Cyclingnews.
Aiming at the Tour de France in 2013
While Kittel hasn't enjoyed the same success in Australia this year as in 2011 - when he won two stages at the Herald Sun Tour - it's still early in the season and the parcours of this year's Tour Down Under have perhaps been too difficult for his current form.
The main focus of the season will circle around the Tour de France but there is a long way to go before July. Until then, it's all about getting wins on the board.
"I think it's a nice start to the season. The organisation [at the Tour Down Under] is incredible. There's no stress. The stages are nice. Okay sometimes the sprint stages are a bit harder than what I expected, I have to be honest," he said.
"It's no problem, it's still a good preparation. It's all about getting back into the race rhythm and getting used to the intensity, to the kilometres on the bike."
Stage 4 at the Tour Down Under looked to suit Kittel but the frantic run-in to the line, where more than a dozen riders crashed meant the German didn't have the speed to follow the day's winner André Greipel. There's one more chance on Stage 6 for Argos-Shimano to launch Kittel to victory but if he misses out, it's the Tour of Oman where get the opportunity to capture his first race win of the year.
"I will go to Oman, said Kittel. "For me it's all about the sprints so the big classics are not my goal at the moment.
"On the way to the Tour I think there are a lot of good races that suit me, with sprints. My goal was not to have more wins that 2011, so it's the same this year. I want to improve the quality of my wins."
- Article published:
- January 25, 2013, 09:04
- Jean-François Quénet
Young Dutchman a favorite for Santos Tour Down Under overall win
Tom-Jelte Slagter of Blanco Pro Cycling got the first victory of his pro career ahead of Matt Goss and world champion Philippe Gilbert in the uphill finish of Stirling in the third stage of the Santos Tour Down Under. “Everybody at the Hilton Hotel told me that it looks good on the picture,” said a delighted Slagter at the start of stage 4 as he realized the impact of his superb rush on the cycling world.
“Wat a mooie aankomst [what a nice finish]!” he commented after winning in Stirling. “I couldn’t expect anything better for my first pro win. David Tanner put the hammer down with one kilometer to go, that was pretty far but he delivered me in a really good position to open my sprint with 350 metres to go.”
That effort put him in second position overall five seconds down on Geraint Thomas (Sky), with a true chance of winning the Tour Down Under atop Willunga Hill. “I’m in a good position on GC,” he said. “It would have been cool to have the ochre jersey, but at least I’m now confident to being one of the three best riders in this race.”
“The first goal of my season was to be good here,” the 23-year-old from Groningen told Cyclingnews. “I’ve prepared well to perform from the start with the new colours of the Blanco team. At the difference of my first two pro seasons, I won’t be doing the Giro d’Italia this year. My next goal will be to peak the form again for the Amstel Gold Race, the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. These three classics are in my mind.”
They all were won two years ago by the man Slagter beat out on Thursday. “I’m aware that Gilbert might not be at the top of his form right now,” said the climber nicknamed “T-J” by his teammates. “But it still feels good to beat the wearer of the rainbow jersey. It gives me confidence to challenge the riders of this caliber at the Ardennes classics. I’m not saying that I’m one of the best riders in the world but I’m getting closer and closer.”
Introduced by Cyclingnews as “the new Purito in the making” during the 2012 Giro d’Italia after he claimed seventh place behind Joaquim Rodriguez at the uphill finish of Assisi, Slagter had some nice words in South Australia for his idol who has an uncertain race program after Katusha’s exclusion from the WorldTour. “I like Purito and I respect him a lot”, said the Dutchman. “We spoke a few times and he’s been very friendly with me. I wish him to be back at the same level he had last year when he won the Fleche Wallonne.”
- Article published:
- January 25, 2013, 10:04
- Alex Malone
Garmin-Sharp rider explains frantic finish to Stage 4
With Rohan Dennis' challenge for overall victory at the Tour Down Under ruled out before the race begun, it was up to last year's 11th-place finisher Jack Bauer to take the leader's role. With just 15 seconds separating himself and race leader Geraint Thomas (Sky) coming into the penultimate stage, Bauer says the plan up Old Willunga will be quite simple: "hang on".
In this video Bauer explains the frantic finish of Stage 4 in which a number of riders were involved in crashes that occurred in the final kilometres. Riders are not respecting the hierarchy within bunch sprints and are riding where they shouldn't, according to to the Garmin-Sharp rider.
"There are some people doing some pretty stupid shit here," said Bauer to Cyclingnews. "People cutting left and right with 300m to go.
"People have fresher legs with a day like today. It's a shorter course, the break went early so we didn't have such a hard day. So, that means when there are fresher legs, there are a lot more people at the end who shouldn't be there.
"A lot of people who aren't sprinters can't control their bikes in the finale and we see what happened today."
Bauer adds that his initial plans for Down Under were to support Dennis. Now that he's the number-one rider on the general classification it's up to him to deliver precious WorldTour points for the team.
"Our plan was to come here in support of Rohan Dennis for the overall classification. With him not even starting the race I had to do what I could over Corkscrew on Stage 2 and try and move into the top ten on GC.
"Obviously being a WorldTour race here at Down Under the points are up for grabs. They are pretty significant with car placement in the first part of the year going into the early classics."
- Article published:
- January 25, 2013, 11:15
- Cycling News
British team opens its doors in Spain
Team Sky has again created a permanent training base on Mallorca so its riders can travel to the Spanish island for key blocks of pre-season training.
The British team likes to work discreetly on the local roads and climbs but opened the doors of the Vanity Golf hotel to the media on Thursday to counter any doubts and suspicions about the team and why it so successful.
Geraint Thomas and most of the other riders from the so-called 'Classics Project' squad are racing successfully at the Tour Down Under, but most of the riders who will form the squads to support Bradley Wiggins at the Giro d'Italia and then Chris Froome and Wiggins at the Tour de France were at the camp, clocking up quality training blocks under the careful eye of coach Tim Kerrison, performance manager Rod Ellingworth and team manager Dave Brailsford.
The camp was the first time Wiggins and Froome had spent any real time together since the Olympics last August. Their comments during the winter have done little to play down their personal ambitions and rivalry. They posed for photographs and followed Team Sky's carefully scripted message of non-belligerence when answering questions but their body language indicated they are far from best buddies. A change of Froome's early season race programme will see them race the Tour of Oman together but the real test of their relationship will come at the Tour de France.
All the 27 riders at Team Sky are closely followed by the team's coaching staff but are free to drop in and out of the camp. Most of the riders spend at least a week at a time on the island, doing blocks of specific training, divided by rest days. The Team Sky chef means they can follow special diets and soigneurs (the team calls them carers), mechanics and staff are on hand to give them full support.
The weather is not always perfect on Mallorca and heavy rain disrupting Thursday's scheduled rest day. The riders got in several hours on Wednesday but they were forced to ride on the rollers on Thursday morning before heading out for a spin later in the day.
Only Wiggins went out in the rain, wrapping himself up in team clothing and riding alone for several hours. He has personalised his training programme, riding more during the week and then heading home to the UK to spend time with his family. He will be back on the Mediterranean island on Monday and is set to make his season debut at the Challenge Mallorca race series early next month.
- Article published:
- January 25, 2013, 12:45
- Cycling News
Former Rabobank team doctor investigated on doping suspicions
Dr. Geert Leinders appeared before the Royal Belgian Cycling Federation for three hours on Thursday. His attorney said that Leinders, who is no longer involved in cycling, was cooperative, but no details were released.
Leinders has been named by various sources as providing EPO to riders at the former Rabobank team. He was most recently a team doctor at Team Sky, but his contract was not renewed. He has denied any involvement in doping.
He had no comment after the interrogation. “The investigation is confidential, so we cannot talk about the content,” his attorney Johnny Maeschalck told Het Nieuwsblad.
“My client does not want to be active in cycling and has no license for this season. But he wants to cooperate with the investigation. There were ten questions asked during the interview and we have therefore responded.”
The Federation announced earlier this week that it had opened the investigation of Leinders, a “former licensee”. It said that after hearing Leinders, “the federation prosecutor will then decide what further steps should be taken.”
- Article published:
- January 25, 2013, 13:03
- Jane Aubrey
A world of difference from Tour of Beijing
It was during Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under when Andy Schleck's happiness and relief at being back on the bike was evident for all to see. In the last 12 months he's been handed a Tour de France title in a way in which he did not want it bestowed, and been to hell and back with injury. It was time to ride and it wasn't just about staying out of trouble in a nervous peloton, nor was it a training exercise.
"Why should it always be Jens [Voigt] that is riding [on the front]?" Schleck had told his RadioShack Leopard teammates during the pre-stage meeting. "I can ride as well. Riding in the front in the wind, suffering; that is what makes my shape better and stronger so that's the main goal. I won't hesitate the next day to do the same. I like it. I ride in the front and of course it hurts. Sometimes when I am really hurting, I hope that the guys behind are hurting also. I like to do it and I'm really, really happy to be back in the bunch again in the peloton. It's something different when you can do something like I did today."
It's Schleck's first appearance at the Tour Down Under after years of gentle nudging from former teammate, Adelaide local Stuart O'Grady. It's only now, as part of his build up to full competition following his crash at the Dauphine last June which left him with a fractured pelvis, that the Australian WorldTour event has been an option. Schleck's return began at the season-ending Tour of Beijing.
"Beijing was hard because I knew that I'd go back there and I probably had better shape when I was a junior than when I went to Beijing," he told Cyclingnews. "It was terrible but I went there because I want to race. It was not a good idea I found out after three days but still I finished the stage and I was happy. The positive thing about it was that it was the kick off for my new season again.
"To come here, mentally it was easy, really easy. I was counting the days to come here. Beijing was really different..."
The schedule Schleck has to have
Schleck's 2013 calendar is packed in the lead-up to the 100th Tour de France. After the Tour Down Under the 27-year-old will race the Tour of the Mediterranean, Tour du Haut Var, GP Nobili, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International and the Tour of the Basque Country.
From there, he will probably head to the Tour of California and wrap up his preparations with the Tour de Suisse, before heading to Corsica for the Tour's Grand Depart.
That's a lot of racing for someone essentially starting from scratch, but he's unconcerned about it potentially being a case of too much, too soon.
"I think I have pretty wide shoulders on that kind of [thing]. I am not afraid of that," Schleck. "People ask me, 'You might be over trained?' I don't know one guy who is over trained. For me it's a myth so ..."
The time is now
Schleck will turn 28 this year, an age that he admits is make or break for the rider that he could potentially become.
"I am definitely going to improve," he said. "The best age of a cyclist is between 28 and 32. That is what they say. I hope I am not an exception, or I'm not different. But it's also kind of ... cycling is mentally a really hard sport. My last year, 2012, made me mentally a lot stronger because I realised it is really, really what I want to do - it is winning bike races. Mentally I have no doubt ... it was not good last year. I'm still recovering to come back and be good and be in front in the final of a race. That will come. But I am happy to be here and have a bike number on my jersey and compete."
Returning to the peloton means more clashes with the likes of great rival Alberto Contador (Saxo - Tinkoff) at the grand tours. The Tour de France which he missed in 2012 saw Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome rise to the occasion for Sky and Schleck wants to pit himself against them all.
"For me now I can tell you 100 names I have to beat first! Wait I was 89th today [Wednesday] so 98 now!" he joked. "I go with of course big ambitions into the season but I know it's going to be a bumpy road until I am where I want to be because it's not easy, you cannot build up shape in three months, it's simply not possible. Maybe some say so but no, if you ask me, not."
But for now, Schleck is all about getting back to the normal and it's not just about racing the big events, it's also about rediscovering the confidence he needs to just be able to sit in the peloton.
"I am a little, I won't say scared, but I think it's also normal because you have to get used to riding in the peloton again. I rode in Beijing but that was more like behind the peloton than in the peloton so ... it worries me a little bit, honestly but it just takes time."