- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 17:55
- Cycling News
NADA confirms investigations
Germany may have its next blood doping scandal, as a cyclist and a speed skater are said to be under investigation for having their extracted blood treated with UV light. A doctor at the Olympic training camp in Erfurt is said to have carried out the procedure.
According to the taz.de, a doctor identified only as Andreas F. was suspended by the Olympic committee and has been under investigation since April 2011. The Olympic camp is for speed skaters, cyclists and track and field athletes.
Public prosecutors in Erfurt are investigating whether the doctor was involved in the “illegal use of medical procedures for the purpose of doping,” spokesman Hannes Grüneisen said. The doctor refused to comment on the matter to the newspaper.
Dr. F is said to have possibly treated both speed skaters and cyclists with the UV light. The German National Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that an investigation into a female speedskater was opened last summer. There are also “other cases we are looking into,” rumoured to involve one or more cyclists.
The procedure involved taking blood from the athletes, treating it with UV light, or black light, and then re-introducing it into the athlete's body. This is said to help the oxygen in the blood. It was practised in East German sports in the 1980s.
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 19:16
- Cycling News
Sprinter hopes for revival of German cycling
One of the most experienced riders on the UnitedHealthcare team, German Robert Förster is entering his 12th professional year with the American Pro Continental outfit, but rather than rue the fact that he's no longer racing at the WorldTour level, the 33-year-old is delighting in his role as mentor for the young squad.
Förster made his claim to fame with stage wins in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, and has plenty to offer his young teammates in terms of advice. As captain of the sprint squad, he is working with young American hopeful Jake Keough, Dutch sprinter Boy Van Poppel and Australian Hilton Clarke to perfect the team's lead-out train.
At 33, Förster is having more fun than ever in the sport, and said that at this point in his career, winning isn't everything - it's equally as satisfying to launch his teammate to victory. "The guys are more together," he told Cyclingnews at the team's camp in Palm Springs, California. "I can say to Keough, 'we make the sprint for you'. I'm not pissed about that. I have a job, I can work with the young guys, they listen to me and it feels good."
The affable German described the team's well-rounded quiver of fast men, naming himself as the man for the high-speed sprints where the peloton comes into the finale single-file, while Keough is the man for the "crazy sprints". Clarke, he said, is good for the US races but is still unproven in Europe, while Van Poppel is a specialist for when the road tilts uphill in the final kilometer.
"Van Poppel, he's a fast guy, I think he's a little bit of a special sprinter. For him the uphill sprints are good, he's not a normal bunch sprinter for flat sprints. He's young and can learn a lot."
Förster is helping to steer the team on its steady, gradual upward trajectory, and while last year's foray into European racing was a bit rough, he expects bigger things this season.
"Last year was the first year for the team to ride in Europe and it was a big step. It wasn't everything perfect, we came with one or two cars, and we had to change in the rain. It was crazy, but it's part of cycling. We learned a lot last year, and we'll come back stronger. We have more better riders this year, and I think we can make a good presence in Europe this year."
The team didn't seek invitations to the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, but the Vuelta a España remains an outside possibility. However, Förster thinks the team should only go to a Grand Tour if they can prove they have the ability to perform there.
"It doesn't make sense to go to the Vuelta and not make a good performance. The first step is to go to Europe and be able to make the top five in the sprints, and have someone in the front. When we are strong in Europe and we see the results are coming, then we can think about the Vuelta.
"I've done nine Giros, four Tours de France and two Vueltas, I know what happens. But the young guys, to do three weeks it might be too hard. We will see, it's a step by step. It's too early to say we want to go and keep the pressure on, but when the time is right we will go."
After taking third to Alex Rasmussen and Peter Sagan at the Philadelphia International Championship, Förster is more focused on claiming victory there for himself or his team than on getting back to the Grand Tours.
"For sure for me to win Philly is a big goal. For me it will be great if I win Philly, but if I am the last guy in front of Keough and he wins, that's perfect. Philly would be a great race for us to win."
Hope for Germany with NetApp Giro invite
After six years with the Gerolsteiner squad and two with Milram, Förster has been personally impacted by the demise of German cycling as both teams disintegrated under the weight of heavy criticism from the press and a cynical attitude toward the sport following the doping scandals of the past ten years.
While the country is still rich in talent, the former powerhouse of cycling has just one professional team remaining above the Continental level: Team NetApp, which in a bright moment for German cycling just earned an invitation to the Giro d'Italia.
"This is the first big step for German cycling. We have only NetApp in German cycling - it's an American sponsor, but the team is based in Germany. It's a good step that they can ride the Giro."
It's been over five years since Germany's biggest star, Jan Ullrich, was embroiled in Operación Puerto, and other riders such as Patrick Sinkewitz and Jorg Jacksche came clean about their doping pasts, but Förster hopes that a fresh crop of talent will eventually lure the sponsors back to his home country and create opportunities there.
"You have so many good German riders, you could make a very good team. When you see all the good Germans: Tony Martin, [John] Degenkolb, [Marcel] Kittel, [Bert] Grabsch - we can't believe that no sponsor would come to Germany and make a team there.
"I hope the time comes when the sponsors will come back to German cycling.
"I spent all my time riding for German teams and it was a great time. We have a lot of sportsmen there, and after the teams went under a lot of my friends lost their jobs."
For now, he is happy racing with an American team, but, Förster said, "when German teams come [back], it will be better for everyone."
- Article published:
- January 13, 2012, 21:09
- Jane Aubrey & Alex Hinds
Hopes his "healthy rivalry" with Meyer continues
Luke Durbridge (GreenEdge) would not be drawn into any suggestion that his elite men's time trial title would be the start of a long streak for the 21-year-old, but maintained that he wanted to return "each and every year" to the event out of respect for the green and gold jersey.
"I'm going to come here every year to do the nationals," said Durbridge. "I'll worry about next year, next year, and the year after that the year after that. For now I just want to take pride in wearing these colours."
Durbridge took the title with a thrilling ride over friend and teammate Cameron Meyer, who as the final rider down the ramp saw the title slip from his hands by just seven seconds. Durbridge, who also picked up the under 23 world time trial championship, explained that his growing rivalry with Meyer was not something that affected how they worked together or for that matter their long standing friendship.
"It's not like we don't talk to each other before the race or anything, it's not like that. We just do our own thing, and I think it's a really healthy rivalry. I won this year, but maybe Cam will take [the title] back next year."
Durbridge next heads to the Tour Down Under as a late replacement for Jack Bobridge before shifting his focus to the track as he builds toward team pursuit gold in London.
Watch the full interview with Luke Durbridge below:
- Article published:
- January 14, 2012, 06:30
- Jane Aubrey
Official kit, team song unveiled, as Merckx praises team ideals
Almost 12 months to the day from when Shayne Bannan fronted the Santos Tour Down Under media to confirm that he was in fact launching a bid for the first Australian WorldTour team, GreenEdge was today officially presented, days before the start of the 2012 season.
Fanfare was at a minimum however the excitement in the room was tangible. The results of the men's team's efforts in the recording studio was finally there for all to see and hear with their cover of Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down, the theme of the afternoon.
Members of both the men's and women's team, known as GreenEdge-AIS team lined up in an Adelaide hotel in the fluorescent green and yellow kit with Simon Gerrans' new Australian Champion's jersey the jewel in the outfit's crown.
Much has been made of the GreenEdge men's roster and the lack of a general classification contender for the Grand Tours however general manager Bannan maintained that in its inaugural season, it was the best position for the team to be in.
"Not having a GC rider makes you more flexible," he explained. "When you have a GC rider you tend to be very focussed [on the Grand Tours], as you should be, because you spend a lot of money on GC riders.
"Structuring the way we have, it gives us the flexibility to concentrate on most events. We'll definitely look at that being the focus for the first two years."
The women's team was presented first, having started 2012 with overall victory at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic through Melissa Hoskins and a clean sweep of the Australian Championships with Alexis Rhodes (criterium), Amanda Spratt (road) and Shara Gillow (time trial). Wearing team tracksuits, GreenEdge-AIS star recruit Judith Arndt did not hold back in her enthusiasm.
"I think one of the big things I get from these girls is with their youth there is so much energy," the reigning World Time Trial Champion said. "So much spirit. I only flew in last night but I'm already really affected by it. I'm looking forward to what we can do with this project."
The Tour Down Under, the WorldTour's first event of the season has been the domain of Lance Armstrong since 2009, but today it was Eddy Merckx who took centre stage. The prolific Grand Tour winner praised the position of the team with Australian DNA.
"I think GreenEdge is a great project for the global growth of cycling," said Merckx.
Merckx believes that is GreenEdge is the next logical step for the sport in Australia.
"If you think back to the days of Phil Anderson, when there were very few Australians to now when you have a Tour de France winner in Cadel Evans, a professional team in GreenEdge, and Classics winners in Stuart O'Grady and Matt Goss – the sport is bigger and bigger in Australia."
"And I think the team is doing everything right, they have strong riders, good staff and a solid backing. I think they can be very successful."
Speaking with Cyclingnews, GreenEdge's financial backer businessman Gerry Ryan admitted that he and Bannan may have some emotional moments just prior to the Tour Down Under getting underway.
"I said to the internationals at the team dinner, I thanked them because they don't know who I am and probably just even Shayne and his profile on the international scene is pretty slim - to believe that we were going to make it happen; we were going to get a UCI licence; that we were going to try and put the best support staff together to help them become better riders."
- Article published:
- January 14, 2012, 06:45
- Alex Hinds
No sponsor, team happy to focus on building the brand
It was the moment everyone had been waiting for. After what seemed an almost interminable wait which included the launch of a prototype kit to whet the appetite of fans for the Jayco Bay Classic series, and the recent Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships, GreenEdge finally produced the colours the team will be riding in for the 2012 WorldTour.
There had been several hypotheticals, but the result lived up to expectation in every way, with a simple but distinctive look being unveiled at an official ceremony in Adelaide today.
To the tune of the team’s official song ‘I Won’t Back Down’ the full Tour Down Under team as well as director Matt White were presented on stage, with the kit officially launching ahead of the opening WorldTour event.
More green than the prototype kit, the official strip continues on the "green and gold theme" combined with some black which Robbie McEwen joked "will keep New Zealander Julian Dean happy."
"We think we look pretty good," said McEwen. "But the best way to look good is to have the hands in the air across the finish line. We look the part, now we just need to walk the walk."
The two national champions in attendance, Simon Gerrans and Fumiyuki Beppu also showed off their unique kits. Gerrans was beaming in his freshly earned Australian jersey, with the simplicity of the traditional green and gold stripe on a white background the fitting symbol of his achievement.
"I’ve been dying to put it on all week since the win last weekend," said Gerrans.
Beppu’s meanwhile pays homage to the Japanese red and white with a subtle green colouring on the shorts.
All about the brand: GreenEdge still insistent on no rush to find sponsor
In the lead-up to the kit unveiling, rumours had started to circulate that the launch would also coincide with a headline sponsor announcement. Indeed, in the official press invitation to the event the phrase "and other major announcements" had led many to believe that a sponsor – the one thing GreenEdge seemed to lack – had been found.
Alas, no such announcement eventuated, and Shayne Bannan coolly played down the necessity of the sponsor search with a line he has time and time repeated.
"We’re happy to focus this year on building the brand. That’s been the plan from day one. That’s not to say we don’t expect to announce a sponsor before the Giro or Tour – we’d welcome that opportunity, but for now – it’s about the GreenEdge brand."
Back in October, Bannan had previously stated to Cyclingnews that a sponsor for the GreenEdge team in its first year had been unlikely, and the search for one had "not been as aggressive because of the team’s focus on building the brand."
"We don't want to be desperate and go and knock on everyone's doors. Gerry, in his generosity, is really keen to develop the brand, develop the team which I think will put us in a good situation this time next year."
- Article published:
- January 14, 2012, 09:23
- Jane Aubrey
Legend believes 95 per cent of the peloton is drug-free
Cycling legend Eddy Merckx has suggested that the much-hyped performances on the mountain stages of the 2011 Tour de France being due to a cleaner peloton is in fact false.
Post race, many were of the belief that the less explosive performances on the decisive mountain stages for last year's Tour de France was evidence of the Grand Boucle being one of the cleanest the sport had witnessed. Fatigue appeared to be more obvious and any attacks were less destructive.
"The speed is nothing to do with the controls," Merckx, fresh off the plane in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under, said. "It depends on also the weather – headwinds or backwinds. If you look at the Galibier stage and what kind of wind it was, it was a headwind, it was strong, and Andy Schleck won the stage. I don't think they go slower now than before."
Schleck (Leopard-Trek) won the 18th stage of the Tour after attacking on the slopes of the Col d'Izoard and soloing his way to take the stage win atop the Galibier and moving up into second place overall. His brother and teammate Fränk sprinted to second place with Cadel Evans (BMC) third. Schleck (25 minutes) made it up the steep 8.3 kilometre climb nearly two minutes slower than those in pursuit who put the hammer down in the final 10 kilometres of the 200.5 kilometre stage.
Merckx steered away from airing his thoughts on the Alberto Contador case apart from that he hopes "he will be free," with a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision due to be handed down in coming days.
"I'm not a doctor, I don't know what happened," the 66-year-old said. "Mentally it would be very hard for him because it's [the decision] been a long time. I know he was training in Israel and he said he was feeling good.
"To give an answer [regarding guilt or innocence] you have to know everything about the case of Contador and I cannot answer. It takes a long time for the experts to give an answer and I am not an expert."
Merckx maintained that cycling will never be completely free of doping but it was no different to other facets of life.
"No sport is 100 per cent clean," he stated. "I think 95 per cent of the cyclists are clean. In the normal world, not everybody is clean."
- Article published:
- January 14, 2012, 10:47
- Cycling News
Riders amongst those listed as witnesses in Fuentes hearing
Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso are amongst those expected to testify at the trial for Operacion Puerto, the Spanish media has reported.The trial stems from the blood doping scandal around Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, which was exposed in 2006.
The EFE news agency reported that the judge of instruction, Antonio Serrano, “has already received the prosecution and and defense arguments”, which will be referred to the criminal court. The court will then “decide what evidence is allowed before setting the final date of the hearing.”
In addition to three-time Tour de France winner Contador and two-time Giro d'Italia winner Basso, who has already served a two-year ban for his involvement in the affair, witnesses are expected to include a doctor and a former employee of the Spanish cycling federation.
While it was not explicitly stated which side was requesting their appearance, the EFE said that the prosecution has asked that all members of the Liberty Seguros team and Michele Scarponi also appear as witnesses. Scarponi has also served a ban because of Operacion Puerto.
In November, the Court of Instruction issued an order to bring the case to court. Prosecutors have indicated they will seek prison sentences for Eufemiano Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, doctors José Luis Merino and Alfredo Córdova as well as team managers Manolo Saiz, José Ignacio Labarta and Vicente Belda.
- Article published:
- January 14, 2012, 11:36
- Mark Robinson
World champion speaks exclusively to Cyclingnews
Cyclingnews caught up with Mark Cavendish yesterday at the Team Sky preseason training camp in Mallorca, and the current world champion and holder of the Tour de France green jersey spoke frankly about his career to date, his hopes for 2012 and how his new team has exceeded all his expectations so far.
Cyclingnews: You're about to enter the new season with a reputation as the best sprinter in the world, and in Great Britain you are fast becoming a household name. Looking back to where it all began, as a child starting out on your BMX did you think that you would be in this position by your mid 20s?
Mark Cavendish: If I’m honest, then yes. At that point though I didn’t think that cycling would become so big in the UK. I didn’t start off wanting to be famous or wanting to be a celebrity but I always wanted to be successful. I didn’t just want to settle for being the best in the Isle of Man or the best in the north west of England. And I didn’t want to stick with being the best in Great Britain or the best in Europe either – I wanted all along to be the best in the world. I knew back then that I just had to keep progressing. My detractors were more numerous than my supporters in the early days. But I’ve had great people around me who have helped me a lot since I was young. They’ve encouraged me and also kept me focussed.
CN: And how does it feel to have achieved so much at a relatively young age? Do you feel any pressure because of that? It's often said in sport that it's easier to get to the top than stay at the top.
MC: I think that's true in any job, not just in sport. But I don’t really think about it that much. I’ve been successful since I turned professional and so I don’t know any different. I don’t know anything other than winning bike races so I don’t feel pressure because I’m still young and have achieved a lot, I just feel the pressure to win. If other sprinters win it’s a big thing for everyone else and if I don’t win it’s an issue for everyone else. That’s the real pressure, irrelevant of my age.
CN: How have things been off the road since you won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on the back of an amazing 2011? Are people noticing you more when you try to sneak out for a newspaper or a pint of milk?
MC: Yes, absolutely. It started last year really. When I was out and about in town people started recognising my face rather than just the helmet and glasses, which was a big change. Now, when I’m out on the bike, I get people in their cars pulling over and taking photos. Kids will lean out of the window and wave at me. If I’d predicted it I’d have said that it would be annoying, but since it’s happened it’s really the opposite. It warms me that people are interested in cycling and get excited about seeing a cyclist. It fills me with pride.
CN: You enjoyed a huge amount of success over a number of years with HTC-Highroad and had a good relationship with your colleagues there. What is the main thing that you miss about your time there as you start a new chapter in your career with Team Sky?
MC: There are a lot of guys that have gone and that I won’t be riding with anymore – the likes of Tony Martin for example, which is really difficult for me. But a lot of the guys on Team Sky are the people that I grew up with. Half the peloton seems to be ex-HTC-Highroad, and a lot of this team at Sky are my ex-teammates. I lost them a few years ago and now we’re back together so it’s just the way things have evolved. You’re always going to miss people who you spend a lot of time with and enjoy success with.
CN: Back in November you told Cyclingnews that you thought Team Sky was going to be the best in the world. Now training has started and you're a fully integrated member of the team, are you even more confident in that prediction?
MC: To be honest, back then I underestimated how good it was going to be here. You hear from other people how it is, but until you see it first hand you never really know. It’s incredible. Rod Ellingworth has been my coach for the last seven years anyway so I knew how the technical and coaching side of things would go. But the structure in place is like nothing I’ve seen before. Away from the racing, from what I’ve seen so far it makes me feel like I was on an amateur team in the past compared to how it is here. It’s exceeded my expectations. Everything here, down to the tiny details, is geared towards getting the best out of yourself and it’s so refreshing.
CN: Here in Mallorca you're experiencing your first training camp with Team Sky. How happy are you so far with what you've been showing? And how does it compare to training camps you've been on in the past?
MC: I’ve never been going this well in January before. In the past I’ve trained but haven’t felt the need to step it up this early. Before I was only focussed on the Tour de France but now I am focussed on wearing the rainbow jersey and I want to do it proud this year. So I’m looking at the season as a whole and I’m in great shape. The training rides go quickly and they’re brilliantly structured. It’s not just about getting kilometres in, it’s about specific work that involves the whole team. So that means that a bond develops between you all and it’s not just about a physical effort.
CN: How's it been rooming with Ian Stannard? And how have you filled your downtime here when you're not training? Do you get bored?
MC: Ian's a great lad and the perfect roommate. He’s really tidy and organised. We’re training for six hours a day so there’s no time to get bored. By the time you’ve had a massage, had dinner, a few games of pool and watched a film it’s time for bed. I haven’t left the hotel apart from our training sessions. I’ll admit that I did get bored during our December stint here though. There were more rest days then, and it’s on rest days that you can start climbing the walls.
CN: What's your relationship like with the boss, David Brailsford? Have you seen a scary side to him yet?
MC: No, he’s sound. It’s not like he’s a dictator or anything. The management here at Sky can take a lot of the credit for making me what I am. They gave me the structure when I was a young lad and it’s actually been quite difficult for me being elsewhere since Team Sky started as they’ve all known me since I was a kid. It’s been hard working for another team as their rivals and seeing all these people that I actually care about in another team. So it’s more than just a worker/management relationship as they’re like friends and family to me. It’s nice to finally be here with them. In a way it feels like I’ve come home.
CN: You've spoken recently about your desire to win Milan-San Remo this year in the rainbow jersey. But what are your other big early season targets?
MC: I’d like to win Gent-Wevelgem. I’ve been close before there. Not close enough, but I’ve been in positions from which I should have won. Five years ago when I turned pro I sat down with Rod Ellingworth and made a list of seven things I wanted to achieve in my career. I’ve achieved five of them and there’s two left. I’ll level with you and tell you that one of those is Gent-Wevelgem. I’m not telling you what the other one is though.
CN: One issue that the media and cycling fans are talking about is that of your leadout man at the Tour de France. Mark Renshaw filled that role for you brilliantly in the past with HTC-Highroad. The obvious man at Team Sky would probably be Geraint Thomas, but he's skipping the Tour to focus on the Olympics. Have you discussed this issue with the management? Does it concern you at all?
MC: We’ve talked about it, but things will evolve naturally. There’s a lot of guys here who could physically and technically fill that role. Guys who have all the attributes on paper to do that job. But you need to develop a bond with people too. I’m not concerned by it at all.
CN: You have a baby on the way in April. In the future, when you're bouncing your grandchildren on your knee, what would you prefer to tell them about 2012 - that you won another green jersey at the Tour de France or that you won Olympic gold in London?
MC: Well unless I have a son I’m not having grandchildren! But there is no preference. Both are completely different things. I’m setting out to do them both and I believe that I can win them both. The fact that the Olympics are in London does make it extra special. But only extra special over other Olympic Games in the future – not over the Tour.