Observers of the Santos Tour Down Under have noticed the climbing skills of Kenny Elissonde. The 21-year-old Frenchman from FDJ who weighs just 51kg and is 1.69m tall finished 13th overall and fourth best young rider in a race dominated by a rider of his caliber – Tom-Jelte Slagter. Arriving in Adelaide, world champion Philippe Gilbert, who remains close to his first pro team, mentioned Elissonde as someone able to create a surprise in the South Australian event after winning a hilly stage at Paris-Corrèze last year.
“13th is not an exceptional result but I’m kind of happy with it,” Elissonde told Cyclingnews. “It shows that I’m starting my second pro year on the right path. I always heard that a solid winter training is the key to perform during the whole season. The ascent to Willunga Hill was a bit too fast for me. I prefer steeper sections and changes of rhythm.”
“Kenny’s Tour Down Under is definitely a successful one,” said FDJ directeur sportif Yvon Madiot. “Bearing in mind that the course wasn’t exactly the best for him as it made a nervous race, he did really well. He’s a pure climber like some Spaniards and Colombians that we’ve seen in the past.”
Also scheduled for the Tour of Oman, the Volta Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country, Elissonde will make his debut in a Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia alongside Arnold Jeannesson, who came 15th at the 2011 Tour de France and Sandy Casar, who has announced his intention to ride all three Grand Tours this year.
“Sandy took this decision during our training camp in December,” Madiot explained. “He’s been tempted by this challenge for a while, as he prefers long stage races than short ones where the pressure is higher with a lot more contenders for very few opportunities to deliver. In a Grand Tour, he knows which stage suits him and he seldom misses the right breakaway on that day. His goal is not only to participate but to win a stage in each of the Grand Tours. To achieve this, he’ll resume racing later than usual. At 34, he’s got experience and he knows his capacities. He’s a hard worker and very serious about cycling. He’s one of these guys whose career has been ruined by the dopers and now he’s got the feeling that the dark years of cycling are behind him.”
FDJ hired Casar in 1999 and always kept faith him. He has three stage wins of the Tour de France under his belt and a sixth place overall at the 2006 Giro d’Italia won by Ivan Basso. The team of the Madiot brothers is also known for developing young talents. The 2013 season looks promising for the four-leaved clover team, with the likes of sprinters Arnaud Démare and Nacer Bouhanni, classic hunter Yoann Offredo – who returns from a one-year ban for whereabouts violations, Dauphiné stage winner Arthur Vichot, former junior world champion Johan Le Bon, climbers Alexandre Geniez and Thibaut Pinot, who came tenth overall at the 2012 Tour de France at the age of 22. With Elissonde, FDJ now has even more strength in depth for the mountains. “Because of our philosophy of developing young riders, we need to build our team two years in advance,” Madiot said.
Inquiry into allegations in USADA report continues
Johan Bruyneel will not be present at a hearing at Belgian Cycling Federation headquarters on Tuesday to discuss the allegations outlined against him in the US Anti-Doping Agency’s report on the systematic doping system in place at Lance Armstrong’s former US Postal Service team.
Het Laatste Nieuws reported two weeks ago that Bruyneel was ready to cooperate with a Belgian federation inquiry on the matter but the RLVB said on Monday that the former US Postal and RadioShack manager had intimated that he would not be present at the Brussels hearing. Bruyneel, who faces a possible life ban, has previously said that he would continue to contest USADA’s charges.
“Mr. Johan Bruyneel has let it be known that he will not be able to be present at the hearing planned for tomorrow at the RLBV federal building, to which he was invited by the federal prosecutor,” read an RLVB statement. “The federal prosecutor will proceed with the inquiry and he will decide what further steps should be taken.”
Bruyneel was manager of the US Postal Service squad and is mentioned repeatedly in USADA’s dossier on the doping culture in place on the team. A nine-page section titled “Johan Bruyneel’s involvement in doping” includes rigorous detail of the Belgian’s organisation of the doping programme at the team and states: “The overwhelming evidence in this case is that Johan Bruyneel was intimately involved in all significant details of the US Postal team’s doping program […] He was on top of the details for organising blood transfusion programs before the major Tours, and he knew when athletes needed to take EPO to regenerate their blood supply after extracting blood.”
Bruyneel went on to manage the RadioShack team, for whom Armstrong rode in 2010 and early 2011, but the team parted company with him in October, shortly after the publication of USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Armstrong case. In a recent television interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong confessed to doping to win his each of his seven Tours de France, which were rescinded in October.
The route of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico has been unveiled in Italy, with the opening 16.9km team time trial, a mountain finish at Prati di Tivo and final 9.2km time trial set to decide who takes home the trident winner's trophy.
Tirreno-Adriatico is traditionally a springboard for riders looking to win Milano-Sanremo. Most big-name sprinters are expected to fine-tune their form during the seven days of racing but this year's 'Race of the Two Seas' will see 2012 winner Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Chris Froome fighting for overall success.
The route is finely balanced between time trial and mountains stages. The opening 16.9km team time trial covers a flat and fast course near the Mediterranean coast and through the Bolgheri vineyards.
Orica-GreenEdge won the team time trial last year but Team Sky, BMC Racing Team and Team Saxo-Tinkoff will all be looking to gain precious seconds on their rivals, knowing they could be vital later in the race.
Stage two to Indicatore, near Arezzo, and stage three to Narni Scalo are both suited to the sprinters. Cavendish won here in 2012, wearing the rainbow jersey. Cavendish has reportedly been entered to ride Paris-Nice this year but his name was mentioned by the race organiser of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The key mountain stage is on day four with the climb up to the finish in Prati di Tivo in the mountains of Abruzzo. Last year, Vincenzo Nibali won alone at the Apennine ski resort, setting up overall victory. This year, stage five from Ortona to Chieti will also be decisive, with the 1310m high Passo Larciano peaking 40km from the finish of the 230km stage and then the steep uphill finish to the centre of Chieti.
Stage six heads into the rolling hills behind the Adriatic coast and will be perfect for riders who want to find the form to handle the capi that decide Milano-Sanremo. If the overall classification is still close after six stages, the final 9.2km individual time trial around San Benedetto del Tronto will allow the best time trial experts to pull back precious seconds.
Ivan Basso, Moreno Moser (Team Cannondale), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) and Tuscan resident Steve Cummings (BMC Racing Team) were at the route presentation.
Basso is likely to ride Paris-Nice this season but was tempted to change programme.
"It's a good-looking route. We decide our race programmes during the winter but now we'll weigh things up and decide," he said, admitting that the Cannondale team for Tirreno-Adriatico is likely to be built around Peter Sagan.
"It's difficult to predict who will win. The TTT could be decisive and anything could happen on the hilly stages if the race explodes."
Cunego confirmed he will ride, through the time trials will be a handicap for the diminutive Italian.
"I'll ride Tirreno-Adriatico this year. It's a complete race route, there's everything in it. It'll be difficult to say how the race will shake out but it'll be a goal for me," he said during the presentation.
Moreno Moser has replaced Cunego as the rising star of Italian cycling and his uncle, Francesco Moser, won Tirreno-Adriatico in 1908 and 1981.
"I won't have raced much before Tirreno-Adriatico and that's a pity but I'll give my best to do something. I hope to do something. We'll have a good team for the TTT. The mountain finish perhaps suits Nibali and Contador better than me but I'd love to go for the hilly stage to Chieti, where Sagan won last year.
"It's motivating going up against the big-name riders like Contador but when the adrenaline kicks in, you aren't afraid to take them on and give your best."
March 6: Stage 1: San Vincenzo-Donoratico TTT 16.9km
March 7: Stage 2: San Vincenzo-Indicatore (Arezzo) 232km
March 8: Stage 3: Indicatore (Arezzo)-Narni Scalo 190km
March 9: Stage 4: Narni-Prati di Tivo 173km
March 10: Stage 5: Ortona-Chieti 230km
March 11: Stage 6: Porto Sant'Elpidio-Porto Sant'Elpidio 209km
March 12: Stage 7: San Benedetto del Tronto- San Benedetto del Tronto
Team Sky rider says the Armstrong's confession offers a chance for change
Chris Froome has told Cyclingnews that he is ready to shoulder the pressure and responsibility of leading Team Sky at the Tour de France, believing he has the ability to take on Alberto Contador and target overall success thanks to this year's mountainous route.
In a video interview recorded at Team Sky's media day in Mallorca, Froome also claimed that his second place in the 2012 Tour de France was a clear statement that cycling has changed. The Kenyan-born Briton sees Lance Armstrong's demise as an opportunity for the sport to find new role models people can admire.
Froome claimed his relationship had been sensationalized and is confident Bradley Wiggins will work for him in July, just as he helped Wiggins at the 2012 Tour de France.
"It's been sensationalized a lot. We're not best friends but we've got a working relationship and I think we'll both do exactly what's asked of each for the team, so we can achieve the team's goals," Froome told Cyclingnews.
"I think every team needs to go in (to the Tour) with contingency plans like I was last year's Tour. That guy will be the last help in the mountains if you like and the way its shaking out at the moment, Bradley would play that role for me this year."
In a change of programme, Froome will begin his 2013 season alongside Wiggins at the Tour of Oman on February 12. After that his programme will include Tirreno-Adriatico but then focus on being at his best for the Tour de France.
"It sounds like a lot of the big hitters are going out there (to Oman) but it's still very early days and hard to take real truths out of the results. It'd always be good to get one up on Contador," he said, seemingly relishing a battle with the Spaniard come July.
"I think he's definitely my biggest rival at the moment, he knows what he's doing in the big tours. I'd like to think my time trial is better than his and then stick with him in the mountains. However the Tour is so mountainous this year, if anyone has a bad day, that could potentially be minutes lost there. To me it looks like the race is going to be won or lost in the mountains at this year's Tour de France."
Being a role model
Froome did not shy away from questions about doping or Lance Armstrong. Like most riders he is looking to the future and believes he can is a role model for the future of the sport.
"It's disappointing, it's shocking. It came as no surprise to me. But I think everyone in the cycling world knew it was going to come out. But to actually hear him say the words that he doped and that he doped to such a scale, is shocking," Froome said of Armstrong's partial confession to Oprah Winfrey.
"It's something that I hope will help the sport move forward and close the door on that era of cycling. The sport has definitely developed. It's no longer the case of guys doing blood bags and transfusions, etc. If they are, it's a very minority, the guys who are losing their contracts or just trying to take chances. They're the guys who are getting caught."
"Cycling definitely has transformed. And for me, coming second in last year's Tour de France, was a clear statement to say: 'Yes, the sport has changed'. I would never have been able to do that if doping was still prevalent in the sport."
"I think it presents us with an opportunity. The sport needs new figures to look up to, clean winners who aren't going to get their titles stripped. Personally it gives me a lot of motivation, it gives me a goal, something to aim for and hopefully inspire people, knowing that the sport has changed."
Grischa Niermann has become the latest former Rabobank rider to confess to doping. The German, who retired from racing at the end of 2012, has been handed a six-month suspension by the Dutch Cycling Federation.
Niermann joined Rabobank in 1999 and spent 14 seasons with the squad. He has admitted to using EPO between 2000 and 2003, and said that he will furnish the relevant authorities with further details.
"Thanks to the people around me I realised in 2003 that banned substances was not the path I wanted to follow,” Niermann said, according to the Dutch federation website. “That’s why I stopped and for the past 10 years, I tried to set an example for the young riders at Rabobank as being honest, hardworking and professional.”
The 37-year-old Niermann accepted a coaching role with the Rabobank Continental squad following his retirement after last year’s Vuelta a España. The Dutch bank withdrew its sponsorship of the professional team – now operating as Blanco – but continues to support the Continental and women’s squads.
“To rekindle that dark period is very painful for me, but it also reinforces the decision I made in 2003 to draw a line under it,” Niermann said. “I will share all further relevant information with the anti-doping authorities.”
Rabobank’s withdrawal from sponsorship came in response to former manager Theo de Rooy’s admission in May that doping had been tolerated on the squad up until 2007.
In recent weeks, Danny Nelissen, Marc Lotz and Thomas Dekker have admitted to doping during their time at Rabobank, while Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported that the team had first instigated a formal doping programme ahead of the 1996 Tour de France.
Fuentes testimony postponed as world's press descends on Madrid
The Operación Puerto hearings got underway in Madrid today, but the long awaited testimony by Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor who ran the blood doping clinic, was postponed until Tuesday.
Since the USADA case against Lance Armstrong, the case caught the attention of the world's mainstream media, and Fuentes was mobbed by photographers as he arrived at the court on Monday morning.
Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, ex-Liberty Seguros director Manolo Saiz, the trainer and the director of Comunidad Valenciana, José Ignacio Labarta and Vicente Belda, are facing charges of crimes against public health. Charges against José Luis Merino Batres, who assisted Fuentes in the clinic, were dismissed for health reasons, as he suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Fuentes ran the Madrid clinic that was busted by the Guardia Civil in 2006. Police discovered over 200 blood bags, performance enhancing drugs and other evidence including coded documentation with links to dozens of cyclists and athletes from other sports.
Only cycling has taken up the cause of investigating the case for anti-doping rule violates, despite Fuentes admitting that he treated professional footballers and tennis players. Details of the operation were given in Tyler Hamilton's book, "The Secret Race" as well as in sworn affidavits which were part of the Armstrong case.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has called for investigators to release information about the identity of athletes from other sports, but has met with resistance from the Spanish authorities. "We want people to share that information through Interpol or some other means so that everyone can benefit from it. We were told it wasn't just one sport. But we've never been given the follow-up data. This has so far proved to be a very unfair caricature of one sport, where there were others involved," the agency's director general David Howman told the Guardian.
The Italian Olympic Committee suspended Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi as clients of Fuentes, and the UCI successfully pursued Alejandro Valverde in connection with the case.
"Manzano pulled out of professional cycling as a consequence of these practices," Carlos Suarez told reporters according to the Associated Press.
"Under examination is the raising of hematocrit levels in blood, and in particular the conservation, extraction, transfusion and the transport of the plasma and the blood. All this carries a risk for the athlete."
Because doping was not a crime in Spain in 2006, the case hinges on proving that the practices risked harming the health of the athletes involved.
USA Cycling has announced its 2013 National Racing Calendar (NRC) and National Criterium Calendar (NCC), including a date change for one of the few UCI one-day races, the Bucks County Classic, which moves from September 14 to September 7.
Race director John Eustice explained to Cyclingnews that the original date fell on Yom Kippur. “The community felt if respectful and proper to move the event forward a week for 2013 only, as there are no more holy days on our original weekend for many years to come.”
The Bucks County Classic Criterium, which will still take place on September 8, was removed from the NCC due to the conflict with the new Tour of Alberta.
“Since the purpose of NCC is to allow the Pro Continental teams, and since chances that they will be attending are slim due to our conflict with the Tour of Alberta, the sponsors decided to hold off on the added expense of the NCC until 2014,” Eustice said.
USA Cycling also removed the Tour of Vail Criterium, which was scheduled for August 17.
Even still, the NCC has grown by six events, with the incorporation of the USA CRITS series events. New on the calendar are the Old Pueblo GP on March 9 in Tucson, Arizona, the Delray Beach Twilight in Florida on March 23, the July 6 Iron Hill Twilight, Chicago’s Prairie State Cycling Series July 18-21 and the USA CRITS finals in Las Vegas on September 19. Additionally, the USA CRITS Speedweek has been split into two events: the A-series from April 27-May 1 and B-series from May 2-5.
While the NCC has grown, the NRC has been decimated – it shrinks from 10 events to seven with the cancellation of the Liberty Classic, American Cycling Open and Keystone Open. The Tour of the Battenkill organizers pulled their event from the UCI calendar and replaced the pro men’s race with a gran fondo. The women’s Exergy Tour is also not listed on the NRC for 2013, but is still on the UCI’s website as a 2.HC event.
USA Cycling has also modified its points tables for the series, giving more weight to UCI-sanctioned events and adding points for winners of the mountains and sprint classifications.
The NCC will be broken into two tiers, with more points given to races meeting criteria such as prize purses, equal payout for men and women, audience size, live stream or television production.
2013 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar
April 4-7: Redlands Bicycle Classic
Apr. 25-28: Joe Martin Stage Race p/b Nature Valley
May 1-5: SRAM Tour of the Gila
June 12-16: Nature Valley Grand Prix
July 16-21: Cascade Cycling Classic
Aug. 2-4: Tour of Elk Grove
Sept. 7: Thompson Bucks County Classic
2013 USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar
9-Mar: Old Pueblo Grand Prix
16-Mar: Cigar City Brewing Criterium
23-Mar: Delray Beach Twilight Festival
13-Apr: Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium
20-Apr: Sunny King Criterium
April 27-May 1: USA CRITS Speed Week "A"
May 2-5: USA CRITS Speed Week "B"
5-May: Dana Point Grand Prix of Cycling
11-May: Tour de Grove
18-May: Wilmington Grand Prix
27-May: Middle Earth Tour of Somerville
30-May: Base Camp Intl. p/b Verizon Wireless
1-Jun: Glencoe Grand Prix
June 7-9: Saint Francis Tulsa Tough
June 8-9: Air Force Cycling Classic
16-Jun: Skyscraper Harlem Cycling Classic
June 20-23: Tour of America's Dairyland
7-Jul: Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix
13-Jul: Exergy Twilight Criterium
29-Jun: Herman Miller Brickyard Classic
6-Jul: Iron Hill Twilight Criterium
Aug. 24-25: Chris Thater Memorial
Sept. 21: TD Bank Mayor's Cup
July 18-21: Prairie State Cycling Series
Sept. 19: USA CRITS Finals
Truth and reconciliation process to take its place
The UCI has announced that it will scrap its Independent Commission in favor of a "truth and reconciliation commission" (TRC).
UCI president Pat McQuaid blamed the decision on the refusal of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and US Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA's) refusal to cooperate with the investigation unless a TRC was on the table.
The UCIIC itself recommended the incorporation of a TRC to ensure it would be provided with "the most complete evidence available" in its hearing, which was set for April.
“As I said last Friday, we have listened carefully to the views of WADA, USADA and cycling stakeholders and have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way to examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past and to clear the air so that cycling can move forward," said UCI president Pat McQuaid.
The UCIIC was formed to investigate the allegations made by USADA that the UCI acted improperly and insufficiently to combat doping, allowing Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team, and by all accounts the majority of the peloton, to engage in performance enhancement unchecked.
However, WADA and USADA both questioned the independence of the commission and objected to the lack of inclusion of an amnesty program. The UCI began negotiations with WADA to incorporate the TRC in the past few days.
“Over the weekend I spoke to John Fahey, President of WADA. He confirmed WADA’s willingness to help the UCI establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as well as saying that WADA had no confidence in the existing Independent Commission process.”
The UCI had initially objected to the TRC process, objecting to cycling being singled out for what it believed to be a process that was not consistent with the WADA Code. During the weekend's meeting with the UC Independent Commission, the UCI expressed concern over who would fund a TRC.
“Given this development, the UCI Management Committee today decided that the federation could no longer fund a procedure whose outcome is likely to be rejected by such an important stakeholder," McQuaid said. "We have therefore decided to disband the Independent Commission with immediate effect.
The UCI will now focus on establishing a TRC, "with which we expect WADA to be fully engaged, to look at doping in professional cycling, as well as the allegations contained in the USADA reasoned decision. The work that has so far been undertaken by the Independent Commission will be shared with the TRC.”
The UCI stated it would launch the TRC "later this year" and once it was complete a report would be published "in full".