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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, February 14, 2011

Date published:
February 14, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Geox-TMC team presented in Padua

    The Geox-TMC team for 2011
    Article published:
    February 12, 2011, 23:15 GMT
    Cycling News

    Professional Continental squad looks toward the Giro with Menchov and Sastre

    In a gala presentation hosted by Geox president Mario Moretti Polegato at the Gran Teatro Geox in Padua, Italy, the 2011 Geox-TMC squad was presented to the public and media on Saturday.

    After a rocky start with no ProTeam status and no invite to the 2011 Tour de France, the Professional Continental Geox-TMC is looking forward to the Italian and Spanish Grand Tours in 2011. Although the team has not been officially invited to Italy's Grand Tour, team riders and management are optimistic that with the dynamic duo of Denis Menchov, winner of the Centenary Giro in 2009 plus the 2005 and 2007 Vuelta a España, and Carlos Sastre, winner of the 2008 Tour de France, will be at the Giro's start in Torino on May 7.

    Geox is one of the top footwear companies worldwide. Based in Montebelluna, Italy, the company makes over 20 million pairs of shoes annually with their patented breathing technology. Already present in sport sponsorships with special footwear for the Red Bull F1 team of world champion Sebastian Vettel, Geox-TMC has 23 riders captained by Russia's Denis Menchov and Spain's Carlos Sastre.

    "Menchov and Sastre are great team captains and great role models for our young riders," team manager Mauro Gianetti told Cyclingnews. "The average age of our team's riders is 26 years old and we have some great young talents, like the Slovenian rider Marco Kump, winner of the U23 Tour of Flanders in 2010, the Russian rider Dimitri Kozontchuk, winner of the U23 Roubaix in 2005, the Colombian Fabio Duarte, U23 World Champion in 2008, the dynamic Spanish rider, Rafael Valls and Fabio Felline, who won already last season as a neo-pro."

    A cheerful, relaxed Carlos Sastre, surrounded by his young teammates, told Cyclingnews, "I am feeling at home on the team and have had good training, even if it has been cold in Avila", where the 35-year-old former Tour de France champion lives. Sastre will begin his 2011 season at the Vuelta a...

  • Freire calls for life ban for Riccò

    Three-time world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) in action during the Trofeo Cala Millor.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2011, 10:40 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Spaniard unsure on Contador case

    Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has called for Riccardo Riccò to be banned for life. The Spaniard also admitted that he did not know what to believe in the case of his fellow countryman Alberto Contador.

    Riccò suffered a sudden kidney ailment last Sunday and is alleged to have admitted to doctors that he had performed a blood transfusion on himself. Contador returned a positive test for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France and has repeatedly claimed that the traces of the substance were caused by consuming contaminated meat.

    “I lived an era in which all of us were champions, now it’s the opposite,” Freire told AS. “Everyday you have more madmen in this sport. I hope that they ban Riccò for life. I don’t know if it’s that they don’t know the rules or that they don’t care about the risk. It’s very disheartening because the public think we’re all the same. And even though you see that it’s not like that, nobody believes you.”

    While Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been among those to publicly support Alberto Contador in recent days, Freire was more circumspect in his commentary on the case and was reluctant to speculate on the veracity of Contador’s claim that the positive test was caused by eating contaminated meat.

    “I don’t know,” he told AS when asked for an opinion on the matter. “It doesn’t look at all good.

    “According to him, yes [the positive was caused by meat consumption]; according to the people, no. And given what’s happening in cycling, I...

  • Kelly pleased with An Post-Sean Kelly progress

    Sean Kelly at the Tour of Qatar.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2011, 12:51 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Irishman offers balanced view of radio issue

    Sean Kelly is pleased with the experience his young An Post-Sean Kelly riders will have gained as a result of competing in the Tour of Qatar. The Irish Continental team were very visible throughout the week, and travel to the Tour of Oman with growing confidence. Kelly also revealed that his squad is open to stepping up to ProContinental level if sufficient sponsorship can be found.

    “It was great to have an invitation and just to get into these races for a team like us because this level of racing is a huge advantage at the beginning of year season,” Kelly told Cyclingnews. “It’s a great opportunity for us. We had our name in and they recognised that we’re trying to build a team and we’re trying to do the best possible with the budget we have.

    “If there are breaks going that look like they’re going to be out there for a long time we try and get somebody into them.”

    While veteran Belgian Niko Eeckhout led the line in that regard in Qatar with some aggressive racing off the front, Kelly was also happy to see some of his younger charges get a taste of riding in the echelons that marked the race, which augurs well for the team’s aspirations of moving on to ProContinental level.

    Kelly explained that the possibility had even been floated ahead of the 2011 season, but that the team would require a bigger budget in order to so.

    “Last year some sponsors approached us looking to know what our ambitions were for this year and we had some meetings, but the budgets of the people we talked with weren’t big enough to go ProContinental,” Kelly said. “But we’re always open. If a sponsor comes forward and we can put a good budget together early enough so that we can build a nice ProContinental team, then we will do that because I think the riders we have would be ready to go...

  • Merckx predicts a climber will rule in Oman

    Eddy Merckx shares some advice with Tom Boonen.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2011, 15:20 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Legendary Belgian claims Arabian races are perfect classics preparation

    Eddy Merckx has predicted that the Tour of Oman will be decided on the steep uphill finish to Jabal al Akhdhar on Friday, with climbers such as Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) likely to gain enough time to defend their lead on the following day's roller coaster 18.5km time trial.

    Merckx is the race organiser of this second edition of the Tour of Oman and true to his cannibal character, he seems to have enjoyed toughening up the route. Most of the riders who raced in Qatar will also ride the Tour of Oman but Merckx is convinced this second race on the Arabian peninsula is definitely not for the sprinters.

    "I think this race will be totally different to Qatar because the course is a lot harder. Last years all the roads weren't built and the riders asked for more climbing, so I think this year they will have more climbs," Merckx said at the official race presentation in the Omani capital Muscat on Sunday.

    Jabal al Akhdhar means Green Mountain in Arabic and it is the highest peak is Eastern Arabia at almost 3000 metres. Fortunately for the riders, they only have to climb the first six kilometres but even that is at an average of 10.3%.

    "You can't do all of the Green Mountain in February, because it's 18km long but we'll do the finish after six kilometres and I think that's enough," Merckx said.

    "It's at ten percent average and there are parts at 17 or 18%, so it'll be very tough. Also the day after is the time trial. It's nine kilometres of climbing and nine kilometres downhill. It’s up and down."

    The steep finish is expected to make a huge selection amongst the 128 riders in the race and Merckx picks three main favourites, while also refusing to rule out the likes of Taylor Phinney and...

  • Casar calls for ProTeam licence clarity

    Sandy Casar (FDJ) in Al Wakra during the Tour of Qatar.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2011, 16:30 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    FDJ rider says UCI needs to make its ranking criteria public

    Sandy Casar has admitted that FDJ’s absence from the WorldTour has made it difficult for the team’s riders to draw up their race programme. The triple Tour de France stage winner was also critical of the UCI’s failure to outline clearly their criteria for awarding ProTeam licences.

    “It’s a big problem for us,” Casar told Cyclingnews. “Our sponsor signed on for another four years and put more money in and gave us a bigger budget in order to be at ProTour level, but as of today, I only know my programme as far as Paris-Nice. It’s making it a bit complicated for us riders to have a proper programme established for the rest of the season.”

    As expected, FDJ successfully secured a wildcard berth at the Tour de France, but they are still not guaranteed a place at a number of the spring’s biggest events.

    “We know that we’re doing certain Classics, but we don’t know if we’re doing the Tour of the Basque Country for instance,” Casar said. “So with all that and a roster of 27 riders because we were set up to do ProTour, it’s a bit complicated to find races for all the riders.”

    One of the teams that secured a ProTeam licence ahead of FDJ was Vacansoleil-DCM, which includes Riccardò Riccò and Ezequiel Mosquera in its line-up. Riccò is alleged to have confessed to blood doping after being hospitalised with kidney problems, while Mosquera returned a positive test for hydroxyethyl starch at last year’s Vuelta a España and is awaiting to hear if he will be sanctioned.

    Casar is critical of the fact that the criteria used by the UCI to draw up its ranking of ProTeam...

  • Gripper concerned over bio passport publishing

    Anne Gripper spearheads the biological passport.
    Article published:
    February 13, 2011, 23:59 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Former UCI anti-doping boss recalls payment made by Armstrong

    Anne Gripper, the former head of the Anti-Doping Department at the UCI, has warned professional riders about the pitfalls of publicly publishing their biological passport data. Gripper, who left her post in March 2010, was reacting to the news that Floyd Landis had questioned Bradley Wiggins data 2009 Tour de France. Landis's remarks were later removed from the Versus website, where they appeared in January.

    Landis claimed that his own blood values from the 2006 Tour de France were similar to that of Wiggins's, who released his data in the aftermath of the 2009 Tour in a bid to quash any speculation that his fourth place finish was down to anything but hard work and a strong period of form.

    "I'm sure Landis wouldn't consider himself an expert in the analysis of blood profiles," Gripper told Cyclingnews.

    "He's making probably what is a legitimate comment for him - he's saying 'Ok, that profile looks like mine, and here's the conclusion I draw'. I haven't actually seen his comments, but if that's what he's saying, then it's legitimate on one level, because he's saying in his opinion, it looks like his, but what that means, and is there any relevance, any scientific validity to that, I'm not sure."

    Wiggins's data was released by Slipstream Sports less than a week after the 2009 Tour de France and were backed up by team's ethos to race with full transparency. In 2008 they performed a similar act, releasing Christian Vande Velde's data after the American also finished fourth.

    "I had quite a few conversations with Jonathan [Vaughters] before Bradley released his results, but it really wasn't about the profile at all, it was more just about the working precedent," Gripper said.

    "I cautioned Jonathan about whenever you release anything like that you'll always have amateur armchair haematologists and...

  • Roulston opens European season at Tour of Oman

    Hayden Roulston (HTC-Highroad) in his new 2011 New Zealand champion's jersey
    Article published:
    February 14, 2011, 8:38 GMT
    Cycling News

    HTC-Highroad New Zealander with an eye on the Spring Classics

    Hayden Roulston is ready to start off his European season, lining up in the Tour of Oman before heading to the Spring Classics. He will split his time between looking for his own chances and supporting HTC-Highroad sprinter Mark Cavendish.

    “The training has been going very well, I’m feeling good and really excited to get my European season started,” Roulston said. He opened the season in his homeland, winning the New Zealand national road title, and then riding the Tour Down Under.

    “I know I’ve been at a good level for a while now and I want to have a crack and nail some major results this season. I know I’m at a good level physically and mentally, and I have had the classics as a goal for some time now.”

    The 30-year-old specifically has his sights on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Although he was sick last year, he finished tenth in “the Hell of the North”, and looks to improve this year.

    “I had a good result in Paris Roubaix last year when I was really sick and know I could have gone much better than the 10th I got – it showed I can mix it with the best on those big one day classics and I am really looking forward to mixing it up again this year full fit.”

    His first races after Oman will be the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. A two-week break will be followed by Tirreno-Adriatico, the traditional build up for Milan-San Remo, where he will hope to help Cavendish take a second victory.

    “After a break for a few years this is my third season back racing the pro tour in Europe and I know I’m ready for a big season this year. I’m really enjoying being part of the HTC...

  • Contador doping case decision due today or tomorrow

    Alberto Contador in the Saxo Bank colours
    Article published:
    February 14, 2011, 9:44 GMT
    Cycling News

    Announcement expected Monday or Tuesday

    The Spanish Cycling Federation is expected to announce its decision in the Alberto Contador Clenbuterol doping case shortly. Spanish media have issued conflicting stories, saying the announcement is due either Monday or Tuesday.

    The Spanish website said that the decision to issue a one-year ban will be announced on Tuesday.

    Earlier this month, the RFEC said that it would recommend a one-year ban. Contador said that he would not accept that and submitted an appeal, with new support for his defence. Since then, there have been reports that the RFEC might acquit him and not issue any ban.

    The International Cycling Union said through its spokesman Enrico Carpani on Friday that it has “full confidence” in the Spanish federation, while noting that the presence of Clenbuterol in a doping sample usually entails a two-year ban.

    No matter how the RFEC rules, the decision is expected to be appealed to the Court of Appeal for Sports, by either the UCI, the World Anti-Doping Agency, Contador, or all three.

    Contador has received high-powered support, with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero late last week saying, “there is no legal reason to sanction Contador.”