A close-up look at the Australian's purpose-built ride
Australian's 2015 Tinkoff-Saxo team bike
Winner of the 2015 Tour Down Under
New and old kicks and lids seen at WorldTour race
"Small number" of riders to provide medical explanation for abnormal readings
The International Cycling Union (UCI) is continuing its analysis of riders' blood values as part of the biological passport programme and has again pinpointed a "small number" of athletes with abnormal readings. Last year, five riders were identified as having manipulated their blood, namely Spain's Igor Astarloa, Ruben Lobato and Ricardo Serrano and Italy's Pietro Caucchioli and Francesco De Bonis.
UCI president Pat McQuaid revealed to Bloomberg that a handful of riders had been asked to explain their blood values to the independent expert panel that examines the biological passport readings. "We see no other reason other than a possible potential doping reason," said McQuaid.
A rule change within the wider biological passport guidelines, approved by WADA in December 2009, foresees that the athletes have 30 days to explain their abnormal readings to the UCI before the organisation can open disciplinary proceedings.
"Once an organisation has decided that a blood profile indicates the high likelihood of doping, then those athletes must be asked for an alternative pathological or physiological explanation before the organisation can open a potential anti-doping rule violation case," explained Anne Gripper, head of the UCI's anti-doping department, to Cyclingnews on Friday.
Gripper, who did not elaborate further on how many riders were involved, added that, "It's an opportunity for the riders which they may choose to take or not. An anti-doping organisation like us cannot possibly know the full medical history of an athlete through the blood parametres that we collect.
"Our independent panel of nine experts will then examine [the explanations provided]. They advise the UCI on all stages of the profiling process."
It is not known how long the examination of the riders' medical files, if provided within the next 30 days, may take. "That depends on the individual cases and circumstances. It varies from...
World champion to ride Saturday's GP Insubria
Cadel Evans begins his European road season at the GP Insubria on Saturday, just a few kilometres from his home in Switzerland and close to where he won the rainbow jersey in Mendrisio last September.
Evans is the leader of BMC Racing Team in the race and lives so close to the start that he could ride there.
"I actually rode to the hotel where we're staying to collect my new race bike," Evans happily told Cyclingnews.
"It's nice to be able race here in front of friends and family near my home away from home in Switzerland. The route of the race doesn't really suit me but I don't often get the chance to race in the Ticino area. It's actually the first time I've raced here since I walked off the podium in the rainbow jersey."
Evans will line up with Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Diomo), who makes his season debut in the race and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) who has recovered from his crash in the Ruta Del Sol. Favourite for victory is recent Trofeo Laigueglia winner Francesco Ginanni (Androni Giocattoli), who won the GP Insubria last year. Evans and most of the riders in Saturday's race will also ride the nearby GP Lugano on Sunday.
Happy with training and team
Evans made his season debut at the Tour Down Under in Australia. He then headed to California for a BMC training camp and returned to Switzerland just in time for his 33rd birthday on St Valentine's Day.
He will target overall victory in both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France this year but also faces the challenge of riding for a new team. 2010 will be a season of changes and new experiences but so far, Evans is happy with his form and with his decision to join BMC.
"There's been a lot of changes for me in recent months but they've all been good, Evans told Cyclingnews.
"I'm very happy with the way things are going at BMC. Not just with the team but with the whole BMC project.
Predict the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad podium
Win a Cervélo TestTeam musette bag and cap, signed by Heinrich Haussler. Cyclingnews is offering the prizes to the one who accurately predicts the podium of Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
The contest will be conducted in the Cyclingnews Forum. You will have to join the forum to take part.
The contest will open at 13:00 CET, and close promptly at 15:30 CET. One entry per person, and postings may not be edited. Please give the three names in the order you think they will finish.
Haussler himself is a good pick to finish on the podium of this opening race of the Belgian Spring Classics.
Also, be sure to follow along with Cyclingnews' live coverage of the race, starting at 13:00 CET.
Remaining spots to be awarded later
Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil have received wild card invitations to the Amstel Gold Race. Race organisers announced Friday that the two Dutch Professional Continental teams were asked to the race, which will be held April 18.
Last year a total of 23 teams rode in the race. As a ProTour event, all of the 18 ProTour teams are automatically included. The final three teams will be announced later, Course Director Leo van Vliet said.
Likely candidates for the remaining wild card spots include Professional Continental teams BMC Racing Team and Cervelo TestTeam.
Lance Armstrong is expected to start in this year's race for the first time in seven years. He finished second in 1999, and 2001, and finished eighth in his last appearance in 2003.
Lithuanian will assume director role at Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan
Women's cycling legend Diana Ziliute has chosen to retire one year ahead of schedule after a bout with mononucleosis disrupted her season's plans.
"I wanted to do it. I wanted to race another year," said Ziliute. "I was clinging to the handlebars until the other day ... the toil, sweat, the tactics in the race, the sprint, the wind in my face have always been part of my life. It seemed impossible to me having to give up all this to face a different life. Eventually, though I had to face facts: I am done with competitive cycling. Now it is final."
She explained that she recently had a persistent fever, and doctors diagnosed her with mononucleosis, which meant several weeks of forced rest, pushing her season start well back. It was then that she decided to call quits to her long and storied career.
The 34-year-old has been a professional since her first senior season in 1995. Coming in as the '94 Junior World Champion, Ziliuite made a steady rise to the top of the sport, claiming the U23 time trial in 1997 before winning her two World Cups the next season and the 1998 elite road title.
The Lithuanian wonder then went on to become a fearsome stage racer and World Cup contender, winning the 1999 Grand Boucle, the 2000 World Cup overall, Giro d'Italia Femminile and a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games.
She continued to be a force in the women's peloton over the course of her career, regularly taking stage wins and World Cup victories and her national title in 2004 and 2006.
Throughout her career she remained loyal to the Safi Pasta Zara Manhattan team of Mauritius Fabretti, and she announced her intentions to remain with the squad as a directeur sportif.
German wins in Sardegna after sprint pile-up
Lampre-Farnese Vini rider Danilo Hondo says he is grateful to have claimed his first race win of the year, even if it was more accidental than planned. Hondo managed to avoid an incident that brought down teammate Alessandro Petacchi at the end of fourth stage of the Giro di Sardegna before sprinting through for victory.
At the fourth stage on Friday, things were being set up for another mass sprint finish, with Petacchi looking to take his second straight stage win. However, a fan leaned too far over the barriers in the finish straight and changed everything.
“We had prepared the sprint well,” Hondo told Cyclingnews Friday night. “I led from 450 metres to go. Alessandro sprinted by me with 150 metres to go, when a fan stuck his arm out to take a photo, and knocked Alessandro right off his bike.”
“Since everyone behind him was at full pace in their sprint, they couldn't react any more. Of course I was surprised, too,” the German continued. “Somehow I had the presence of mind to fully accelerate again and was able to still bring in a victory for our team.”
Petacchi was taken to hospital for examinations, but came away with only bruises. He has already said he will be at the start again on Saturday.
No matter how it came about, Hondo is happy to have the win. “A victory always gives you self-confidence. However, our hierarchy is very clear – everything for Petacchi in the sprint.”
Not always, though. “Of course, there will also be races where I will have my chances, but everything comes at its own time.”
This year marks Hondo's return to the ProTour level for the first time since riding for Gerolsteiner in 2005. Since then, he has been through a doping suspension and confusing court battles. 2010 is his third full season back, his second with an Italian team and his first with Lampre, where his main duty is to act...
American says he wants to help others outside sport
US time trial specialist Tom Zirbel has decided to retire from cycling after receiving a two year ban from the United States anti-doping Agency (USADA).
The 31 year-old learnt in November that he had returned a non-negative test for DHEA at the 2009 USPRO TT championships, where he took his second consecutive silver medal behind Dave Zabriskie. This result was subsequently confirmed by B sample analysis, as disclosed by Zirbel on his blog one month ago.
Since then the USADA has reached its decision, giving him the usual, full two-year ban for a first offence.
“I officially received a two-year sanction notification from USADA today. No big surprise, right? I alluded to this weeks ago,” Zirbel wrote on his blog. “But my reaction is a surprise. Call it the straw that broke the camel's back – I don't know. Whatever the trigger, I've decided to walk away from the sport.”
Zirbel said that he hadn’t discussed his decision with anyone, and realises that it may appear to be a rash announcement. He explained that he originally planned to return to the sport, but decided very soon afterwards that he wanted to call it quits.
“I've been watching the Olympics these last few days and it has been really inspiring for me,” he continued. “For the first time, I can see myself standing on the podium, bowing my head to receive my medal. This is a breakthrough for me. It helped me affirm to myself that I need to come back from this ordeal and rise to the top and accomplish greater things in the sport of cycling.”
That didn’t last long. “Today, I started asking “Why?”. Why do I 'need' to come back? Well, because I've felt this burning in my gut these last two weeks, propelling me to work harder and become faster than I ever have before…. Maybe it's because I've grown accustomed to the cycling spotlight and people looking up to me. Maybe it's...
Classics opener gets underway in Gent
The 2010 Classics season has officially commenced with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winding its way out of Gent, Belgium on Saturday morning.
Cyclingnews was there at the start to capture some images of the always electric atmosphere in the cycling-mad region of Flanders.
The peloton will spend a chilly day touring the region before returning to Gent for the finish. You can follow all the action with Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2010 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.