- Article published:
- November 13, 2011, 17:30
- Cycling News
German sprinter opening season for Lotto-Belisol at Tour Down Under
Andre Greipel would liked to have had more than eight victories this past season, but his first stage win at the Tour de France made up for this and whetted his appetite for more. The German hopes to open the 2012 season with more wins for the new Lotto-Belisol team at the Tour Down Under in January.
“Of course I would have liked to have won a few more races, but then, I wanted to win a stage at the Tour and I did,” he said in a video on his website. “But it wouldn't be bad to win a few more next year, or to build on my success and win other big races.”
The German will open his season at the Tour Down Under, as he has done so often in the past. “We are practically a newly-formed team, and it is always good to start the season with a win, and of course we want to try that."
He will look to Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Jurgen Roelandts to help him win those sprints next year. “When the four of us work together well, it will really be hard to get by us. I won four stages at the Vuelta in 2009 with Henderson and Sieberg. That lets us look forward to something good. I think we are a well-harmonized team.”
Greipel rode with Sieberg and Roelandts at Omega Pharma-Lotto this year, with Henderson and Lars Bak coming over in 2012 from HTC-Highroad, Greipel's previous team. “I think that is an important step in improving our sprint train.”
The break-up of HTC-Highroad might well make things tougher for the individual sprinters next year, he said. With the many successful sprinters from the American team splitting up, “the whole know-how is going to other teams and of course all the teams will try to use that. At any rate there will be some drag races next year.”
Video: Enrico Muax
- Article published:
- November 13, 2011, 19:00
- Daniel Benson
Signed contract as Sky felt like home
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has reaffirmed his commitment to the London Olympic Games, insisting that they’re the biggest aim in his 2012 season. The Welsh rider confirmed last month that he would skip the Tour de France, using the Giro and track world championships as Olympic preparation. Thomas is the first high profile rider from Great Britain to take the decision of missing the Tour de France, while his fellow Olympic hopefuls Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins chose to race in July.
“My best opportunity to win a gold medal in London is if I don’t ride the Tour because there would be quite a short turn around to get back up to speed on the track,” Thomas told Cyclingnews.
“The way the team pursuit is, it’s super fast and to give myself the best opportunity in London, the Giro would be the better preparation, similar to what I did before Beijing.”
“The London Olympics are a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Tour is an annual event, it’s still a massively difficult decision to make and I want to do everything, especially now with Cavendish is in the team but hopefully it will be worth it.”
Thomas and Sky are yet to finalise his spring plans, but with the World Track Championships being central to his Olympic aspirations, his desire to compete at the Classics again could also be put on hold. This season Thomas put in a number of strong performances in the spring, the highlight being his second place behind Nick Nuyens in Dwars Vlaanderen.
“The Classics clash with the track Worlds and it’s undecided if I’ll go do the Classics as well. I think if I rode them I’d want to do it full on and then take the Giro as it comes, but it’s all undecided for now.”
Although his immediate future is still to be worked out, Thomas’s long term plans have finally been settled after he signed a new contract with Sky. However he told Cyclingnews that although he agreed to the terms with the team and Dave Brailsford, and the team announced his signature during the Tour, he in fact only signed some time later.
“We made an agreement during the Tour but didn’t put pen to paper as we still had a few little things to sort out. It’s signed now. It all had to be done by October 20. It was just the finer points over contracts and doing commercial stuff outside of the team. It was all above my head and I just left it to the guys to sort out for me. I was happy with what I agreed with Dave and I left the other little bits to someone else.”
“But Sky was always home. It’s what I know and it’s working for me at the minute. There were a few other options and I definitely considered them. I would just discount anyone but Sky was what I was familiar with and it just seemed like the right decision to make.”
- Article published:
- November 13, 2011, 20:05
- Cycling News
Vacansoleil rider goes head-to-head with harness racer for charity
Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland is not faster than a horse. That became clear when he lost two of three rounds against the harness racer Arnold Mollema and his trotter Unforgettable in Wolvega, the Netherlands on Saturday.
The pair went head-to-head in three rounds over the 300 meters with the horse on the dirt track and Hoogerland on an adjacent paved walkaway. Hoogerland and Unforgettable each won one round, but the horse got the better of the cyclist in the final, decisive round.
"Unforgettable never ran faster," Hoogerland joked afterward.
While Hoogerland did not emerge victorious, his exploits helped to raise 3,500 euros for the Jayden Foundation for childhood cancer, a charity for which he serves as an ambassador.
- Article published:
- November 13, 2011, 21:05
- Cycling News
Signing Downing not a possibility
In this exclusive video with Cyclingnews Rapha Condor-Sharp’s manager John Herety talks about the UK racing scene and strength of the UK peloton.
Herety pointed out the growing number of UK-based teams aiming for Continental status but stressed that one weakness from the UK scene was the lack of numbers to fill prospect squads.
Next year Rapha aims to mix things up and create an exciting new project for their main sponsors while still generating enough revenue to build solid foundations for the future.
The aim is to create a purely British team within five years that will complement the British Cycling Academy and offer up-and-coming British talent a clear pathway in terms of their career ladder.
One rider that Herety ruled out signing was Russell Downing. Despite two successful years at Sky rider was not offered a new deal for 2012 as still doesn’t have a pro contract. Although Herety admitted that he’d ‘love to sign Downing’ he ruled it out.
- Article published:
- November 14, 2011, 00:00
- Cycling News
Sheppard, King and Malone headline new arrivals
Plan B Racing has announced its full roster for the 2012 season, with nine new riders set to join incumbents Brad Hall, Logan Calder and Chris Beeck.
Tour of Indonesia winner Eric Sheppard headlines the new arrivals, and will likely be the team's biggest asset on the stage race heavy domestic calendar.
"I am sure we will see a lot more from Eric as we assist his development through the Asian and NRS tours next year, he's a rider with a bright future," said team manager Wayne Evans.
Alex Malone will also join the team officially after featuring in a number of races this year for Plan B.
"Alex raced for us in the Presidency Tour, Tour of Azerbaijan, and will form an integral part of our Asian racing program next season. I am sure for those that know Alex, he excels in the tougher conditions and long hard days, and we're happy to welcome him to the team."
Ben King and Daniel Furmston return to the team after some time racing overseas, while youngsters Alexander Smyth, Aaron Slavik, Luke Joyce and Theo Yates are strong development prospects.
Evans underlined Yates as a rider who could follow the same trajectory as highly touted Brad Linfield.
"Theo has previously won a national road title and has been a regular medalist at the national championships as a junior. We hope to assist him to the Junior U19 Selection Races so he can vie for a spot on the Australian U19 Team."
The team will target a number of Asian Tour and NRS races next year.
Plan B Racing for 2012: Eric Sheppard, Ben King, Alex Malone, Aaron Slavik, Luke Joyce, Alexander Smyth, Theo Yates, Daniel Furmston, James Ibrahim, Brad Hall, Logan Calder and Chris Beeck
- Article published:
- November 14, 2011, 04:30
- Alex Hinds
Donning the national jersey for the first time in the senior ranks "an honour"
Chris Sutton (Sky) could hardly have dreamt of a better season when he looks back over his 2011. An injury at the Tour Down Under which forced Sutton to abandon the race early was quickly forgotten when a month later he was standing on the top step of the podium at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. A Vuelta stage win, and a World Championship call-up made the year that much sweeter, and are fruits of the bit-by-bit improvements in the 27-year-old’s ability over the last six seasons.
"It’s like any apprenticeship," Sutton explained to Cyclingnews. "You start off at the bottom just learning and picking up the little details, and over time you start getting the opportunities to show yourself in the bigger races.
From his early years with Cofidis, Sutton has grown from a rider who picked up the odd result in smaller French races, to a genuine cobbled classics contender. Coming into Kuurne in February, a physically, but also mentally stronger Sutton had a distinctive feeling that he would win, and so did his team.
"The team and all the senior management had confidence in me, they had confidence that I could win. That was one of the reasons I didn’t do Het Volk the day before [so that I’d be at my best for Kuurne].
"Going into the race, the night before we were having a dinner with the team and I just had this feeling that I was going to win. A lot of the other guys were going good, but at that time of year us "ANZACs", with the Australian summer behind us are generally a little ahead.
"It was a bit funny going into the final kilometres, Matt Hayman came up to me and said ‘are you sure you can do it, are you really up for it?’ and I assured him that I could, ‘I can win’ I said to him. Hayman had that look in his eyes that he was going to kill me if I didn’t win. Luckily it all worked out."
"It’s a race I’d always dreamed of winning as a kid. To finally win and breakthrough -it was like ‘wow’. To win any cobbled classic is an amazing thing. Winning on the first weekend of classic’s season was a dream."
Though a Tour call-up may have been beckoning for Sutton after his Kuurne triumph, the bounty of riches at Sky and the focus on the general classification bid with Bradley Wiggins meant he had to go another July watching the race on television. Missing the Tour may have been a blessing in disguise however for the Australian, with the time off the bike in July crucial to reinvigorating him ahead of his August, September and October performances.
The Vuelta, and debuting with the "Cyclones"
Rated by many as a pre-requisite to a good ride in the world championships, the Vuelta proved perfect for Sutton. He put some "good sensations" to full use, when he anticipated the sprint brilliantly to take a classy win on stage two to Playas de Orihuela.
Though Sutton was of course elated with the win he remained focused on keeping himself in good condition for a possible national team debut in Copenhagen. That focus was vindicated on September 12 when selectors released the final list of nine to compete in the road race with the Australian's name on it.
"To make an Australian team in anything is hard. We’re such a competitive nation - and to be selected as part of the final nine man team, when you look at who was in the mix, was such a big honour."
"When we got to Copenhagen, Heinrich and I were rooming together. We used to race juniors together, and to pull the jersey out of the packet. The smile on both of our faces was just priceless."
"Some may criticize the selectors, but to be part of a team that wins a silver medal is nothing to be ashamed of. We did really well, and Mark [Cavendish] was just better on the day."
Speaking of Cavendish, the Manxman will be a teammate of Sutton’s next season at Sky. The team already boasts plenty of sprinters, with Appollonio, Swift and Boasson Hagen but to name a few all vying for a few opportunities. Sutton however played down any tension arising from the team’s significant sprinting depth.
"Well I mean it’s great that Mark has decided to come over to the team and lead me out," joked Sutton. "But in honesty I don’t think there will be any problems. He’s so professional; I think the vibe and the morale he brings to the team will only further help us.
"We’re all a close bunch of guys, if we do well we’re all happy and get on well, if we don’t we still all get on really well, it’s a great team to be a part of and I don’t see that changing."
"I’m just looking forward to stepping it up another level next year."
- Article published:
- November 14, 2011, 10:16
- Cycling News
Gianetti and Matxin in South American country since last week
Spanish team Geox is hoping to secure new sponsorship before the UCI Professional Continental license attribution deadline of November 20. After the shoe manufacturer's sudden exit from pro cycling, riders, management and staff may have found a new backer to continue the team throughout 2012: a Venezuelan tourism programme called "Venezuela País de Sueño" (Venezuela, the country of dreams).
According to various news sources including Biciciclismo, the team's manager and directeur sportif Mauro Gianetti and Josean Fernández Matxin have travelled to the South American country on Thursday last week for a series of meetings to secure the desired contract with the Venezuelan authorities. "I hope this will be the beginning of a great project! The dream can become reality in this land of dreams!" Matxin wrote on his Facebook account as he published a picture of one of the meetings.
Several Venezuelan riders have been supporting the two European directors, including the winner of the UCI America Tour ranking Miguel Ubeto, who is set to join the squad if it continues. "Venezuela País de Sueño will be a professional team in which we will survive and win and with which we'll be able to promote our home country. Venezuela País de Sueño will be training athletes, coaches, mechanics, masseurs, and the whole of cycling will benefit. Please support us!" Ubeto tweeted most recently.
Should the sponsorship come to life, not only a professional Continental team is reported to be planned but a complete cycling project encompassing all levels and disciplines.
"We are negotiating to form a professional team that will feature in all disciplines (road, track, MTB and BMX) to be able to fly our national flag high up on all continents. The idea is to create a professional team that will make history abraod," added Tomas Gil, another Venezuelan rider. Both the continuation of a high-level team in Europe with up to 10 Venezuelan riders is envisaged, as well as a Continental team that would race events in South America.
Gianetti and Matxin have less than one week to finalise a contract that would save the team which still includes 2011 Vuelta a Espana winner Juan-José Cobo amongst others. Both directors have nevertheless a vast experience in saving their outfit in the very last minute. In 2008, after Saunier Duval opted out of cycling due to doping scandals, the team's managing comany Bike Live secured American Beef to continue as second sponsor before getting the support of Fuji and Servetto. In 2010, the team's name changed again to Footon-Servetto before becoming Geox-TMC this season. Now, the withdrawal of Geox again puts the outfit against the wall.
- Article published:
- November 14, 2011, 23:35
- Pierre Carrey
FFC to to reveal outcome of her case against French anti-doping agency
The verdict from the French Cycling Federation (FFC) in the case of French cycling icon Jeannie Longo is fast approaching with a deadline for a decision set for no later than November 23. Longo is accused of 'no shows' in the anti-doping tests run by the national French agency, the AFLD. If the cyclist is cleared, it would mean a harsh defeat for the credibility of the latest rules and set a legal precedent that athletes accused of 'no show' could use again in the future.
While Longo didn't attend the FFC's disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, her two lawyers were present, with both criticising the AFLD for using 'unfair and illegal' methods.
The 53-year-old cyclist is accused of reaching the limit of three missed anti-doping tests out of competition (the "no shows") in a period of less than 18 months: the 5th of May 2010, the 25th of October 2010 and the 20th of June 2011.
Longo has been part of a 400 to 500 athlete-group, targeted by the AFLD, with the support of some international federations. The athletes use the same programme as the cyclists do with the UCI: they give notice of their schedule three months in advance, in one hour blocks, from 6am to 9pm, and a location where they are available for an anti-doping test.
Longo was technically not part of this 'target group' however as her lawyers protest. They are citing an AFLD rule, decided last May, which states that an athlete who belongs to this group one year automatically stays in the program the year after. It didn't seem to take into account that the duration is more than two years. Longo seems to have joined the program in 2008 while her third 'no show' was in 2011. Her lawyers say this last missed test is illegal and are calling on the French Federation to clear Longo of charges. They consider it's 'a legal monstrosity in term of substantive law' to maintain an athlete in a 'target group' with no end limit.
Bruno Ravaz, one of the two Longo's lawyers, says his client "is not contesting the AFLD or the ADAMS system". He told Cyclingnews on Monday:
"Jeannie Longo is certainly not keen on the new technologies like mobile phones or computers, but she correctly uses the ADAMS via a registered letter".
Ravaz added that Longo's case "might improve the conditions of anti-doping fight, as this recent law is really restrictive for the altheltes. It should notably respect the people's rights".
AFLD: No comment on a pending case
In an email sent to Cyclingnews, AFLD declined to comment: "The agency, which is likely to evoke the case at an ulterior stage of the process, has to avoid any prejudgement". This policy sticks with the arrival of the new president, Bruno Genevois, who succeeded the more outspoken Pierre Bordry.
At this point, it's impossible to know if the AFLD made a technical mistake by targeting Longo in 2011, or if they used another rule and are right to do this, or if the numerous current anti-doping laws are not clear enough and can get differently interpreted.
On Thursday Sports Minister David Douillet refused to support either side, telling L'Equipe: 'There is perhaps a mistake, a legal loophole or a different view of things. But lawyers have to decide.'
AFLD has already faced controversies about its methods, as in 2010, when the 'Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionnels' appealed against their footballers being part of the 'target group' of the AFLD. They appealed to the National Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights to contest 'the violation of a person's home' and the 'restriction of freedom'. Their request was denied last February by the State Council, the French administrative court of last resort.
Last Summer, AFLD's role was in the spotlight again, after rugby player Yoann Huguet was suspended and denied a place at the World Cup for three 'no shows'. He admitted his faults, however, and didn't blame the agency.
According to AFLD's reports, two athletes were convinced of "no shows" in 2009 and three in 2010.