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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, October 12, 2013

Date published:
October 12, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Huff, Jones join Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies in 2014

    Carter Jones (Bissell) spent another day going hard in the break.
    Article published:
    October 11, 2013, 22:10 BST
    Pat Malach

    US Continental squad adds sprinting, climbing talent to roster

    Former Bissell Pro Cycling rider and 2013 Amgen Tour of California mountains classification winner Carter Jones will ride for Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies next season, team performance director Jonas Carney told Cyclingnews this week. Also joining the US-based Continental team for 2014 is new recruit Brad Huff, the former Jelly Belly rider who announced his move Thursday on a podcast with retired Optum rider Mike Creed.

    "I've been at Jelly Belly for six years, and you get to that point where you need to change, you need a little spark to get your motivation going in a different direction," Huff told Creed on his Open Mic podcast. "So I'm super excited about it. I'm smarter with my training, and I know what needs to be done."

    Huff said Optum made him an offer during the Tour of Utah.

    Jones, the former Bissell rider who was also 8th overall this year at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and 11th at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, should help fill the hole in Optum's roster left by the departure of Chad Haga to WorldTour team Argos-Shimano. Optum also lost sprinter Ken Hanson to UnitedHealthcare, leaving an opening for another sprint specialist like Huff.

    Jones started his pro career in 2010 with Jelly Belly for one season before moving to Trek-Livestrong in 2011 and then Bissell for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Aside from the results in 2013's three big US tours, Jones was third at the San Dimas Stage Race in...

  • Matthews rues missed opportunity at Tour of Beijing

    Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 0:15 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Orica-GreenEdge sprinter went too early on first stage

    Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was left disappointed after finishing fifth in the sprint finish at the opening stage of the Tour of Beijing. BMC's Thor Hushovd prevailed in the sprint finale after finding a late gap.

    Orica-GreenEdge had led the peloton into the final couple of kilometres, with Matthews tucked safely behind the train. The 23-year-old Australian hit the front with 200 metres to go, but lost out on the line in a close finish.

    "The team did a perfect job for me but, in the end, I think I went a little early in the sprint," he said after the stage. "Usually from 200 to go I'm pretty good, but today there was a bit of a headwind so it was pretty easy to stay on someone's wheel while they were sprinting. If I was to do it again I would delay the sprint until a little bit later."

    Matthews, who favours the tougher sprint finishes, didn't go into the stage with high ambitions. "We have another sprinter Leigh Howard, but he got ill leading into this race so I have to take over these sprints too," he explained.

    "It's not the perfect sprint for me, but you've always got to try in these sorts of races and maybe you can pull it off or maybe you can't. It's always practice in the end."

    This season Matthews has carved a place himself as one of the lead sprinters for his Orica-GreenEdge team, with four victories to his name. His enjoyed his biggest moment this season when he claimed two victories at the Vuelta a España, including the final stage into Madrid.

    He's hoping to add to that tally in the...

  • Gilbert appeals to Cookson for easing in number and difficulty of races

    All smiles for Philippe Gilbert (BMC) as he awaits the start of stage 15 at the Vuelta
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 2:22 BST
    Jono Lovelock

    Current calendar is "all a bit much, if not wrong."

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has issued a statement on his website addressing race organisers and the UCI saying that "there is a clear discrepancy between what the riders are able to manage and what is presented to us." Gilbert referenced the snow of Milan-San Remo and the extreme heat of the Tour of California whereby fans "were urged to stay put at home and not to make unnecessary journeys."

    But riders on the other hand, "were urged to be offering the spectacle the audience was expecting from us, despite the clear and apparent risks to the health of an entire peloton."

    Gilbert's statement comes shortly after the recent airing of the UCI's proposals to reform professional cycling. With plans to shorten the racing calendar, decrease the number of days raced at WorldTour level and reduce the length of non-Grand Tour stage races, the UCI's manifesto is sure to be met with approval from the former World Champion.

    Gilbert also addressed his own personal season thanking fans, and specifically journalists, for criticising him and in turn providing him "with an additional source of motivation to sacrifice even more and train even harder."

    Gilbert's message to the UCI

    I would also like to address race organisers and the UCI. I hope the new UCI President is open to feelings that currently live among the riders. That alone would be quite a change, as well as a major step forward for the riders.

    The way road cycling seasons are...

  • Report: 2014 Tour de France to include cobbles?

    Frank Schleck's Tour de France ended on stage 3.
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 5:18 BST
    Jono Lovelock

    Prudhomme gets busy in the North of France

    French newspaper La Voix du Nord reported on Thursday that the presentation of the parcours for the 101st Tour de France on October 23 could include three stages in the North of France and cobbled sections may feature.

    Already revealed are the three stages that will kick off Le Grand Boucle in the United Kingdom, with Yorkshire to host the opening stage with a road race from Leeds to Harrogate. Once the race returns to France, a foray into the North and a possible excursion into Belgium are on the cards.

    With Prudhomme spending time on Wednesday, along with fellow ASO employees, at the Grand Palais in Lille planning for next year's Tour, previous speculation over the possibility of including cobbled sections in one of the stages has been further fuelled.

    The Tour last included cobbles during the third stage in 2010 where Thor Hushovd won the stage and Frank Schleck lost any hope of contesting the general classification after he crashed out.

    Prior to that stage,12-time Tour de France stage winner, Robbie McEwen, explained the difference between including cobbles in a Spring Classic such as Paris-Roubaix, and in a Grand Tour stage.

    "At Paris-Roubaix there is a natural selection of the rider who actually wants to ride on the pavé and who knows how to ride on it," he said. "Then in the race there's the natural selection of the race too. At the Tour we'll have the classics riders wanting to win the stage, the overall contenders trying to make sure they don't lose time and then all their domestiques, some who won't have a clue about the cobbles, doing everything they can to help them. It's going to be carnage."

    Carnage did ensue, and for viewers, it was a...

  • Contador and Riis ride Box Hill

    In a show of force Team Saxo-Tinkoff forced a separation in the latter portion of stage 13, enabling Alberto Contador to make up time on Tour leader Chris Froome
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 9:29 BST
    Ellis Bacon

    Contador reiterates: "I'm on the best team to win the Tour again"

    Anyone riding up Box Hill in the pouring rain on Friday afternoon might well have done a double-take if they'd noticed two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and his Saxo-Tinkoff team manager Bjarne Riis tackling the climb that was the main difficulty in the London Olympic road race.

    In London on the last leg of their 'European tour' of main sponsor Saxo Bank's various offices, the pair took the opportunity to stretch their legs on one of the UK's best-loved climbs in the backyard of British rivals Team Sky.

    Contador's visit to south-east England came the day after he'd accompanied Riis and Saxo Bank CEO Lars Seier Christensen to a Madrid press conference to announce that the company would next season take up the slack after having lost 2013 co-sponsor Tinkoff Bank, and that the team would be known as Team Saxo Bank in 2014 — unless a new replacement co-sponsor was to come aboard.

    "The last time I was here was for the start of the 2007 Tour de France, in London," Contador told Cyclingnews. "But this is my first time riding Box Hill — a climb I saw on TV during the Olympic road race.

    "Today's rain made it quite hard, but it's not too difficult a climb," he continued, his familiar dancing-on-the-pedals style having helped him make short work of two ascents of the famous 2.5km-long Zig Zag Road.

    "What makes a climb like that so tough is when you have to climb it lap after lap."

    Together with a number of Saxo Bank employees, two laps were, given Friday's weather, quite enough — but the 30-year-old Spaniard will need to up his intensity if he wants to unseat reigning champion Chris Froome at the Tour de France next summer.

    "Froome is very, very...

  • Video: Thomas Dekker on his return to cycling

    Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Sharp)
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 11:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Broken bones, weight loss and the 2014 Tour de France

    Thomas Dekker is now two and half years into his return to the top level of world cycling with Garmin Sharp. Banned from the sport between July 2009 and 2011 Dekker made his return in the latter half of 2011 when he was offered a second chance with Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin Sharp squad.

    At a team camp in 2011 Vaughters' confirmed that Dekker's signing was on the back of a myriad of testing that convinced him that Dekker was clean. He also re-stated his ethical stance on signing riders with a tarnished past.

    "Should I turn down an athlete who's in the top five per cent of guys from a physiological standpoint because he got caught [doping] when many others in his generation didn't get caught? That's a wrong decision," said Vaughters. "It is ethically wrong to toss aside someone for something they did because they got caught, but to welcome people who've done the same thing in their past and simply didn't get caught. It's an attitude that's taken far too often in cycling.

    "He [Dekker] was scared, he came here [to a late-2011 training camp] without a contract at the beginning of camp," continued Vaughters. "He stood up in front of the team and said this is what I did and it was wrong, and I want a second chance. It's not an easy thing to do."

    Dekker told Cyclingnews recently that over the last three years "it was great to come back in the sport, especially in a team like Garmin Sharp, a really open minded team [with] lots of nice guys."

    Although Dekker had a hard time in 2013, with results below his own expectations, a broken...

  • Brammeier still without a contract for 2014

    Matt Brammeier (Champion System)
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 12:21 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Irish rider hoping Champion System can be saved

    Time is running out for Matt Brammeier as he searches for a contract for next season. He joined the Chinese Champion System squad this season, but news that they will fold at the end of the year means that he is on the look-out for a deal for 2014.

    Brammeier is yet to put his signature to a contract and the Tour of Beijing is likely to be his last chance to impress a potential employer. “Most of us still need to find a team. We’re all trying to do something,” Brammeier told Cyclingnews. “I’ll be looking to get into some breakaways and take my chances when they come.”

    There are a few opportunities for Brammeier to make his move, but it will involve an element of luck. “Maybe on the third stage, when it is tougher, where a small group will suit me better,” he said. “With the team we have here, we can’t really have control of the race. We just have to follow the pattern of the race and take our chances.”

    There is one possible ray of light for Brammeier and the rest of the Champion System squad. Manager Ed Beamon is still scouting out potential sponsors and believes he may be able to keep the squad running. “It’s not 100% over, there is still a chance,” says Brammeier. “Ed, our director, is trying very hard to find some potential sponsors over here. It would be nice to save the team. As long as I’m riding my bike next year, I’ll be happy.”

    The four-time Irish national road race champion was in a similar situation last season, when he only discovered via a newspaper article that Omega Pharma-QuickStep wouldn’t be re-signing him. He finally secured a...

  • Tramadol abuse in the cycling peloton

    The peloton in action during stage 1 at the Tour of Beijing
    Article published:
    October 12, 2013, 13:17 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Pain killer abuse on WADA’s radar as MPCC push for change

    It is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned substances but tramadol, a pain-killing opioid, has once again made it onto the agency’s Monitored List for 2014. It’s been there since 2012, and with riders, team doctors and the MPCC all stating their fears of the substance’s abuse in the peloton, WADA has also confirmed that a ‘significant’ number of tests have shown traces of the drug.

    What does it mean for the peloton and what effects could the drug provide?

    Cyclingnews spoke to one high profile rider in the peloton about tramadol. The rider, who did not want to be named, told the website that, “It’s not illegal but it is on the screening list [WADA’s Monitoring List]. That said, some teams won’t give it out while some do. Some riders are out there training on it though.”

    That final sentence could be the most alarming. If riders are effectively taking pain killers during training then they’re generating a similar effect provided by amphetamines, one team physician has told Cyclingnews.

    Prentice Steffen MD is the head physician at Garmin-Sharp. The part-time team doctor, part-time emergency room physician was a major leader when cycling introduced a no-needle policy in the peloton two seasons ago. He has petitioned the MPCC, who have in turn requested that WADA add Tramadol to their banned list.

    The MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) is made up of professional cycling teams and was created in 2007. Not every WorldTour or ProContinental team are members but since February of this year the movement, led by Steffen’s guidance on the issue, has lobbied for tramadol to be banned.

    “The MPCC has gotten behind my request to ask WADA to fast track it from the Monitor List to the banned list. We got a letter back from WADA saying that they were going to continue to watch for it and that they were getting a lot of...