- Article published:
- February 28, 2013, 21:05
- Cycling News
French anti-doping agency will be allowed to carry out controls
The French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) has reached an agreement with the UCI to carry out additional testing at the Tour de France.
The agency has been at odds with the sport’s governing body in recent years, most recently over its obligations to provide medical supervision of controls at Paris-Nice. The AFLD refused to be involved with the UCI, citing the federation’s “serious mistakes” made in the past.
The organizers of the Tour de France, ASO, expressed a desire to have the AFLD perform controls at the Tour de France this year in order to have a “truly independent” anti-doping body involved.
The UCI has reached an agreement with the agency today, in which it will provide whereabouts information on riders and biological passport data so that the AFLD can perform random tests.
The independence of the UCI has been called into question repeatedly by the AFLD and ASO in the past. The ASO went so far as to hold its events outside the UCI's sanction in 2008, using the French agency to perform controls.
In 2009, the UCI was back in charge of controls for the Tour, but former president of AFLD, Pierre Bordry, accused the UCI of giving extra time for Lance Armstrong and his team to arrive for their doping controls.
The conflict led WADA to send independent observers to the 2010 edition, but it found no serious violations by the UCI. More recently, the dossier of evidence against Armstrong has again called into question the independence of the UCI.
- Article published:
- February 28, 2013, 22:53
- Stephen Farrand
BMC rider looking forward to Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico
Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team) tested his form and remembered the late Fabio Casartelli by going in the early break at the GP di Camaiore race in Tuscany on Thursday.
The American Classics rider and time trial specialist spent close to 175km out front with Stefano Agostini (Cannondale), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Alessandro Proni (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Pedro Paulinho (Ceramica Flaminia). They opened a 13-minute lead at one point but were caught by the leading contenders on the final climb of the race. Phinney went on to finish 50th, exactly a minute behind winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling).
"That was my first-ever European breakaway, the first time I've ever gone in a breakaway from the start," Phinney told Cyclingnews as he headed to the podium to collect the special Memorial Casartelli prize.
"I saw that there was a special intermediate sprint in memory of Fabio Casartelli and so I decided to go for it. I know his family pretty well, he was a close friend of some close friends of mine, like George [Hincapie], Jim Ochowicz and [team doctor] Max Testa, so there's a special link there. That gave me the extra motivation to go out there. I wanted to win it."
Phinney will travel to Siena on Friday for Saturday's Strade Bianche race. He revealed he will not have a leadership role within the BMC team but hopes to do well in the testing race on the dirt roads of the Chianti region.
"I don’t know if I'm in the right place with my weight to be able to handle it and do something but this ride was a good opener and a good test for Saturday," he explained.
"I felt quite strong on the climb. I'll be up there. I won't be a protected leader or anything but it's a beautiful race, so I want to do as well as I can. I've always wanted to do it."
After riding the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, the GP di Camaiore was the first of an important series of races that ends with Milano-Sanremo on March 17.
"I'm excited to be in Italy for the next three weeks," Phinney said, confirming his goals for early March.
"We've got the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday and then the final short time trial, which suit me. Then Milano-Sanremo is the last Italian goal before Belgium. There's a lot going on but I wouldn't have it any other way."
- Article published:
- March 1, 2013, 00:06
- Alex Malone
Orica GreenEdge sprinter involved in early fall on Stage 8
A crash in the opening kilometres of Stage 8 has ended Aidis Kruopis' Tour de Langkawi campaign. The Orica GreenEdge sprinter went down hard in the early part of the 164.5km stage from Kuala Terengganu to Tenah Merah and was forced to pull out.
Little information was available about the extent of the Lithuanian's injuries apart from some brief information supplied by the team. He was also seen picking himself off the ground holding a bloodied arm, clearly in a lot of pain.
"He [Kruopis] was forced to withdraw. He's okay. Just a bit battered and bruised," wrote his team.
Kruopis had been enjoying a consistent run of results in the bunch sprints at the 10-day Malaysian race despite having been involved in a fall earlier in the race.
The 26-year-old achieved his best biggest result to date at last year's Tour of Poland when he won Stage 4 and had picked up three third-place stage results at Langkawi before being forced out of the race.
The team still has Allan Davis in the race who finished in fourth-place, one spot behind his teammate Kruopis on Stage 7 with the team also looking to protect Pieter Weening's second-overall on the general classification.
Cyclingnews will update Kruopis' injury as more information comes to light.
- Article published:
- March 1, 2013, 01:15
- Laura Weislo
Tygart, Vaughters light the way forward
The "Spinning Our Wheels" panel discussion at Yale University offered little new information on the fight against doping in cycling, but panel participants Jonathan Vaughters and Travis Tygart gave some insights into what must be done to ensure clean sport.
Floyd Landis made his first public appearance since 2010, but was not at liberty to speak about the most pressing issue - his Federal whistleblower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel. He was addressed only a few times, once to clarify a statement made in an interview with Paul Kimmage, and only spoke in general terms about his history and his decision to come forward.
Yale professor Thomas Murray provided some context for the discussion by speaking about the "ecosystems" that enable doping. He compared the current situation in cycling to the state-sponsored doping in East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell, and noted that individuals who were involved in the doping regime fled to China and coincidentally athletes began to excel and test positive there.
It brought to light the main theme of the evening, which was that until the system that allows doping to occur is dismantled, it will be very difficult to ensure clean athletes get a fair chance.
Tygart spoke of the essence of sport, and he contrasted professional wrestling with Olympic wrestling - pure entertainment versus pure sport. "They have two entirely different purposes. You have to ask the question, if we open it up, or we don't use best efforts to ensure clean athletes can compete on a level playing field, you take a risk that sport is not going to maintain its essence - which is pushing human, not artificial, performances as far as you can."
Vaughters went on to describe how the EPO-fueled peloton in the late 1990s and 2000s was artificial, and how other kinds of drugs lacked the kind of power to create the kind of culture of acceptance that resulted from that era. He made the point that EPO caused the sport itself to be transformed, but it was the code of silence that was critical in perpetuating its use.
"In the early 1990s, with the advent of EPO, and at that point you had this drug that is so incredibly effective at enhancing performance that after a few years, you hit a critical mass. With that critical mass it became, at the highest level, essentially obligatory to use the drug, or else you were not going to be competitive - which is something that never happened in history of cycling before," Vaughters said.
"Where we went wrong in all that was with the reaction time. You could have asked me in 1996, where is this going to go? People weren't talking about this as a huge problem in 1996. I would have said, privately, this is the biggest problem in the sport. It's enormous, the undertow is incredibly strong here. That wasn't being acknowledged publicly. By public acknowledging, by saying this drug is causing the whole face of the sport to change, that could have caused a reaction."
Tygart described his investigation into the doping culture as being initially hampered by the distrust riders had in the authorities,
"Hearing the stories which at the time were allegations, we had a duty to follow up on those allegations. A common thread we heard was a distrust of the entities who were responsible for enforcing or protecting their right. We had the candid conversation that as long as you remain truthful and fully truthful - you can't just tell us information that protects your friends - then we are going to take that as the independent agency whose job it is solely, not to grow sport or be concerned about revenues, but to protect athletes and the integrity of sport.
"We are going to take that and hopefully use that to dismantle the system that allowed this culture to flourish, because we owe it to that next generation of athletes that they never have to walk into a culture that so easily allows people to justify cheating in the fashion that cheating was going on with these dangerous drugs.
"Its why we gave every rider including Armstrong the opportunity to come in and be a part of this solution, in order to try and dismantle the system."
Vaughters clarified that the cooperation of the riders was not to "go after Lance Armstrong". "What Travis said, and what FLoyd said, was we need to change what the sport is, we need to change the foundation it is built on, we need your help. It wasn't about any particular individual or team, it was about disrupting the system that was in place."
Has the system been dismantled? It was not a question posed or one that can be accurately answered, but Vaughters argued that the times up Alpe d'Huez which were quickest in the height of the EPO era, have dropped to 1989 levels, and riders with power-to-weight rations 10% lower than the previous years are winning Grand Tours.
How to keep the momentum and prevent the sport from slipping back into its doping ways, Vaughters said "is a delicate and tricky proposition", requiring all riders to work together as well as increasing funding for enforcement.
Interestingly, Vaughters revealed that the AIGCP teams association, of which he is the outgoing president, would support the teams financial contribution to the anti-doping effort, which is now just one per cent of most team budgets, but that there was an attitude of mistrust toward the UCI's use of the funds. "That is changing," Vaughters said. The UCI is considering moving its anti-doping efforts to an independent organization.
Both Vaughters and Tygart disagreed with the type of "zero-tolerance" policy implemented by teams like Sky, with Tygart advocating for a "limited amnesty" process as the only way to ensure riders will feel safe to come forward with information.
"If you know the consequences are you lose your job, [these policies] have the opposite effect. It continues to foster the code of silence. Nobody in their right mind who as bills to pay or families to raise and voluntarily come forward."
Tygart said that by offering limited amnesty, by giving athletes who doped a chance to come forward and tell the whole truth, that zero tolerance can then be expanded, "to impact teammates". He did not give details on this idea, but indicated that it would create a system of peer pressure not to dope, in sharp contrast to the previous culture of peer pressure to dope.
- Article published:
- March 1, 2013, 02:14
- Alex Malone
Australian yet to discover his calling in professional peloton
Entering the breakaway for the third day in a row at Tour de Langkawi not have delivered an outright result but just being back in the action has given Travis Meyer some much-needed confidence ahead of his 2013 European campaign with Orica GreenEdge.
Life as a professional hasn't been the easiest of paths for the 2010 national road champion Meyer. The Australian turned professional at the tender age of 20 with Garmin-Transitions and enjoyed a promising neo-year, taking results throughout his first season but lifting his performance after a strong start has been difficult.
It's been a number of years since the Meyer won his national title - his most recent victory - during his neo-pro year and believes he's still trying to find his calling in the upper echelon of the WordTour.
"I haven't had a lot of success since I've become a pro, it's been a bit of a struggle really," Meyer told Cyclingnews.
Meyer has been ridden a variety of races over his short professional career and was included in many of the semi-classics before realising he didn't have the power to match the pure classics riders. He's since been thrown a bit of a mixed bag since his first two seasons with Garmin, with his current Orica GreenEdge squad entering him in a huge number of WorldTour events in 2012, to build his still-developing engine.
"When I first joined Garmin I was sort of thrown in a bit of everything, more the smaller races but then when I went to Eneco Tour in August, in my first year (2010) I had a really good tour there and rode quite well in that style of racing," said Meyer.
"So, in the following year in 2011 I did more of the semi-classics but that's where realised there was a massive difference between the Eneco Tour and the proper classics. I was more of a worker but now I've sort of gone away from that area. I don't think I suit that style of racing 100 percent.
"I think I can be a good enough helper there [at the classics] but I don't think I would ever reach a high level in that field," he said.
Meyer has however, been enjoying his time in Malaysia with plenty of miles out in front. He enjoyed a solo escape en route to Genting Highlands on Stage 5, attacked inside 10km to go on Stage 6 and was again off the front on Stage 7 with just one other rider for company.
Getting in the breakaway for the third consecutive day has helped Meyer to drum-up intensity ahead of his European season where he is looking to reduce the amount of WorldTour races and instead focus on races in which he can go for his own result.
"It gives me a bit of confidence to get out there in front again. I haven't had the chance to do that for a fair while so that was nice - to just be involved in the bike race for once," Meyer told Cyclingnews.
"This season I'm doing a mixture of WorldTour and smaller races, probably more smaller races whereas last year I did a lot of WorldTour races. That's what the team wanted, to try and build my level up. Then I did the Vuelta but realistically I was struggling a bit at that level. Now I've dropped back down and doing some smaller races but then I can go for my own results.
"I'm sort of one of those riders who in stuck in the middle a little bit. I think the reason I went all right with the classic-type races was because I'm not too bad at positioning, I get in there and I can get away with it to a point. What I noticed in 2011 is really that when they put the foot down it's a whole other level on those cobbles. That's where I sort of got left behind," he added.
Moving into the Ardennes
The West Australian doesn't appear under pressure at his Orica GreenEdge team with his sports directors throwing him a mixed bag of races which he hopes will eventually lead down the races with shorter and punchy climbs like those featured in the Ardennes races.
"How I see it, where I want to go is more into that Ardennes-type races. Buninyong [the location of the Australian road championships] is different to the Ardennes but it also has similarities with the amount of climbing through the day and the shorter climbs.
"It's made me look at a different avenue. When I was younger I was more of a climber and never really considered myself for the flatter, cobbled races so that's the avenue I sort of want to go down but there is still a lot of work to do in that area as well.
"Even a tour like this I can't climb with the best guys here so I'm stuck in the middle. I don't know, I'm still looking for what I'm good at. At the moment I just float between both races as a helper but I'm hoping I can change that a bit this year and go for my own results as well.
Grand tour opportunities
Lining up for another grand tour is definitely on the agenda for 2013 but Meyer immediately ruled out starting the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France. Another chance at the Vuelta is likely but it all depends on his season leading up to the final three-week tour of the year. It may take him more than a few seasons before he's able to call the shots but for the moment Meyer is focussed on the task at hand in Langkawi - protecting Pieter Weening's second-place overall and then getting ready for Volta A Catalunya, where he's committed to showing his true strength.
"I think I can go down the grand tour line as well. Not as a GC guy at all at the moment. I can't sit here and say I want to do that when the difference between me and those guys is huge. I'd like to be involved in teams where I can do grand tours each year, either as a domestique or over the years as I get better to be an opportunist.
"I trained really, really hard before coming here. My form here is quite good. I think I'm lacking a little bit of race legs but I think for Cataluyna I think I should be going well.
- Article published:
- March 1, 2013, 04:07
- Cycling News
Current contract nearing conclusion
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that European camping holiday operator, Vacansoleil is currently assessing whether to continue its sponsorship of the UCI ProTour team.
A decision will reportedly be made in April.
John Gerards, senior marketing manager with Vacansoleil, made clear that the assessment was not due to recent doping controversies within the sport, but rather the current five-year sponsorship contract with the team was coming to an end.
Team management had reason for concern late last year with new recruit for the 2013 season, Grega Bole named in USADA’s Reasoned Decision documents in a conversation between Leonardo Bertagnolli and Dr Michele Ferrari, which is part of Bertagnolli's sworn statement to Italian police. Bole was cleared of any wrong-doing by an internal investigation by the team in late December.
The team was founded in 2009, first in the Professional Continental ranks before joining the UCI WorldTour in 2011.
The team reached arguably its greatest success in 2012, with Thomas De Gendt placing third overall at the Giro d’Italia.
- Article published:
- March 1, 2013, 05:12
- Jane Aubrey
Rare opportunity comes Australian's way
In a Sky line-up that's dominated by Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and their respective grand tour ambitions, Richie Porte is relishing the opportunity coming his way at Paris-Nice but it comes with some trepidation.
"I'm a little bit nervous I guess, to have the team riding for you," he told Cyclingnews before the course au soleil.
Porte, 28, has been gifted the lead role courtesy of the fact that Wiggins won't be defending his 2012 Paris-Nice title. The tables have turned somewhat from 12 months ago, where Porte was coming off his first stage race win at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, with the support of Wiggins who finished third on GC. Porte then went into battle for the then-future Tour de France victor at Paris-Nice. Essentially, in the rock-star line-up that is Team Sky, Porte is happy to accept his role as one of more than a few bass players to Wiggins' frontman. It's part of what makes his upcoming ride at Paris-Nice so special.
"I've done Paris-Nice the last three years so I know what to expect going in to it," Porte said. "It's nice to have an opportunity to ride for myself. It doesn't happen that often in Sky."
Being at the forefront of a team's ambition is not a new experience for Porte. He was of course thrust into the spotlight in 2010 with three stages in the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia, and in the GC's top 10 for the duration of the race, eventually claiming the best young rider classification - all as a neo pro for Saxo Bank. But this 71st Paris-Nice is set to be an altogether different experience for the über-relaxed Tasmanian.
"I think when you go into it knowing that the team's going there to help you, it's a little bit more nerve-wracking than rocking up as a neo pro with no pressure and things just happening out on the road," Porte explained.
"But having said that I think I'm in quite good form now. If it comes down to a climber's race then I think I should be around the mark. But it's Paris-Nice (laughs) and there's a surprise around every corner, or a cross-wind or bad weather around every weather."
Porte has some quality support in his bid to take honours in the eight-day stage race, with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (or "Jonny three names" as his teammate dubs him), along with Belarusian pair Vasil Kiryienka and Kanstantsin Siutsou. And he'll need it with the likes of Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Jacob Fuglsang (Astana), Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R), along with perhaps Andreas Klöden (RadioShack-Leopard) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) all in the GC mix.
The high-stakes nature of racing on offer at Paris-Nice means that it's a WorldTour event that Porte doesn't necessarily enjoy and he knows that there is not one stage where he'll be able to relax should he be on course for a result. He rates his own form as being better this time last season, but at the same time he's in a much better position health-wise leaving him with an overall positive outlook for the race.
Friday's Queen Stage mountain-top finish on the Montagne de Lure is certainly key to any hopes that Porte may have but at 6.6% gradient, he doesn't rate it as being "that hard". Instead with his time trial form often a window into his own bigger picture, Sunday's Col d'Eze chrono will be telling.
"I think I've done some good work with my time trial bike on the road but it's not a normal time trial is it. It's an uphill time trial," Porte said. "Col d'Eze is in my backyard and I've been doing it quite a lot in the last couple of weeks so if I don't have a good time trial there it's not because I don't know the roads."
- Article published:
- March 1, 2013, 11:03
- Alex Malone
Orica GreenEdge, Blanco, Astana hit by suspected food poisoning
It was a smaller bunch that rolled out for the penultimate day at Tour de Langkawi as illness had ripped through the peloton on Thursday night, with suspected food poisoning the most likely cause for the mass exodus from the race. Ten riders in all failed to either start or finish the stage with Orica GreenEdge, Blanco, Astana, Europcar, UnitedHealthcare and a number of other teams all reporting stomach ailments of varying degrees.
Orica GreenEdge has been one of the worst affected in final few days of the race after Aidis Kruopis was forced to withdraw in the early part of Thursday's stage after crashing inside the opening kilometres. The Australian squad was delivered more bad news on Friday morning with Wesley Sulzberger and Luke Durbridge failing to sign on.
Team director Matt Wilson told Cyclingnews that Durbridge and Sulzberger had been sick throughout the night prior to stage 9.
Kruopis' injuries had also been assessed with the Lithuanian sprinter in better condition than had been originally feared. Kruopis pulled himself off the ground after crashing, but with a bloodied left arm and damage to his left knee, it became immediately apparent that he would not be finishing the race. He had been a consistent finisher in the bunch sprints, picking up three third-place finishes before being forced out.
"He landed directly on his knee and immediately he couldn't bend it at all and thought he couldn't continue," Wilson told Cyclingnews.
"Getting back to the hotel [last night], he hasn't broken anything, he's ok. We have our doctor here who checked him out and said: 'he's ok', [gave him] a couple of stitches and that was it. He's still here but is heading back to the hotel."
The team was started the second-to-last stage with just three riders: Pieter Weening, who lies in second-overall, Travis Meyer and Stage 9 podium finisher Allan Davis.
The supposed food poisoning also saw neo-pro Steele Von Hoff (Garmin Sharp) fail to finish the stage into Kuala Berang while his teammate Caleb Fairly was unable to start. Stage 6 winner Tom Leezer (Blanco), teammate Jos Van Emden reduced the Dutch team to three after having lost Theo Bos.
Points leader Andrea Guardini (Astana) appeared a reluctant starter and did not contest the sprint at the end of the stage. Francesco Chicchi's (Vini Fantini) second place sees him move to within five points of taking the jersey from the 12-time stage winner.
The remaining riders failing to start were: John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare), Cyrille Gautier (Europcar) and Takeaki Ayabe (Aisan Racing Team).