- Article published:
- October 1, 2010, 22:23
- Les Clarke
Worlds gold a celebration of Australia's cycling future
Michael Matthews became the first Australian to win a gold medal in the nation's inaugural hosting of the UCI Road World Championships when he won the U23 men's road race in emphatic fashion yesterday.
In so doing, Matthews - who will ride for Rabobank's ProTour team in 2011 - became only the second man to win the event in his home world titles after Leonardo Giordani took gold in Verona in 1999.
The Australian was one of the hot favourites heading into the race, thanks to being runner up in the U23 Tour of Flanders, winning stages at the Tour de Langkawi, the Tour of Japan and the Ringerike GP, plus a host of podiums in Italian one-day races and a top 10 overall in the recent Tour de l'Avenir.
And judging by his reaction after the finish, winning the world championship on home soil increased the satisfaction of a season that had so many highs.
"I had a lot of pressure coming into this race - I had my whole team behind me and Australia backing me so it's unbelievable to come away with the result I'd been dreaming about since the start of the year," said Matthews. "All the pressure helped me, I reckon, it kind of pushed me to the finish line.
"Me winning this title shows that the level of cycling in Australia has just come up so much in the last five or 10 years. It's amazing that us Aussies are getting out there and just showing the world that we're actually good cyclists."
Matthews' manner of victory had fans and rivals in awe of his fast finish; five bikes lengths ahead of the powerful John Degenkolb of Germany was an indication of the 20-year-old's form and it had third-placed Taylor Phinney handing the Australian some big compliments.
"I don't think anyone could have beaten Michael Matthews today in the sprint - he was above and beyond anyone else," said Phinney; high praise coming from the reigning US national champion who took out Wednesday's U23 men's time trial.
While he knew he had the legs to perform well in the title decider, Matthews still couldn't believe his luck when he looked left and saw no one challenging him for finish line honours. "That look to the left... I couldn't believe it, really. I couldn't believe if it was real or I was dreaming... I had to pinch myself. But it was real, it was unbelievable," he explained.
Matthews is a product of the Australian Institute of Sport's Jayco-Skins development program, which provides young riders with valuable European racing experience. The rest of the well-drilled Australian squad also demonstrated its prowess in yesterday's victory, the significance of which wasn't lost on the winner.
"My team worked really well; I got them on the front with about three laps to go when Ben King was still off the front, because he's a bit of a threat, that kid. He just won the US Pro road championships so he was a bit of a threat being out there solo and we had to bring him back," said Matthews.
"We cooked up a couple of our teammates to bring him back but I still had two guys left at the end to help me up to the front and make sure I was up there for the sprint, making sure I had water and food and everything. It was perfect, really - I couldn't ask for much more from my team."
Matthews' victory also confirmed that the Australian has a bright future in road sprinting - earlier this year at the Tour de Langkawi, Matthews was hesitant to admit his status as a sprinter, preferring to be categorised as a time trialler. His approach to the finale demonstrated why this isn't the case anymore.
"With about three laps to go there were still a couple of French and Italian riders in the bunch - [John] Degenkolb was smashing it up the climb and I wasn't sure whether it was going to stay together for a bunch kick or not," he explained.
"I just sort of prayed that hopefully it was going to come back for a bunch kick. It did in the end and I made the most of it."
- Article published:
- October 1, 2010, 22:39
- Cycling News
Spaniard calls for reform of anti-doping regulations
Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador defended himself against from accusations that his positive doping test was the result of a blood transfusion, telling Reuters today that he never received transfusions during the Tour de France. A sample taken from the rider on July 21, during the Tour's second rest day in Pau, was found positive for Clenbuterol, it was announced this week.
While Contador and his scientific expert put forth the explanation that contaminated meat was behind the test result, several sources have speculated that the substance was in tainted blood which Contador re-infused on the rest day. L'Equipe reported today that his blood showed traces of a chemical that could support this theory, but Contador denied he had taken transfusions or any other drugs.
"If they want to test every sample I've given in the Tour, at as many different laboratories as they want, or if they want to freeze it for three or five years until other future tests are scientifically validated and then check it, they can do it," Contador told Reuters. "I have nothing to hide."
Contador tested positive for the banned anabolic agent but at a level 40 times less than the minimum required for authorised anti-doping laboratories to be able to detect. The 27-year-old Spaniard insists the positive test was a result of contaminated meat and that threshold levels need to be set for a positive test, not the mere presence alone of the substance.
"It just can't be that positives for contaminated food stuff like mine are placed in the same category as a standard positive for doping," Contador told Reuters. "There has to be a limit set for substances like Clenbuterol so that quantities as tiny as those found in my body due to contaminated food do not count as a positive.
"There should be [a threshold set]... the norms have to evolve, just as they have done for other substances like caffeine, where they changed the regulations because they realised they weren't right. In the case of Clenbuterol, positives should be positives because of the quantity found, with a specific limit, not because of the substance itself."
Contador admitted to feeling immense stress as a result of the allegations.
"I feel like I'm at rock bottom. I feel really let down. I'm fighting against these accusations 24 hours of each day," he said. "What I want is for all of these doubts and suspicions, even the slightest ones, to be cleared up completely and permanently."
- Article published:
- October 2, 2010, 10:15
- Cycling News
Spaniard says he has suffered the last six weeks
Alberto Contador has said that he should probably have told Bjarne Riis earlier of his positive doping control from the Tour de France. The Spaniard was informed of the news on August 24, but didn't inform the Team Saxo bank owner until hours before the news was made public earlier this week. He signed a contract shortly after the Tour to join the Danish team for two years.
Contador could understand Riis's surprise. “It must have come as a big shock to him. Perhaps I should have told him sooner, but I decided ultimately that it was best for all parties not to say anything,” Contador told the Danish newspaper BT and its website, sporten.dk.
As to their future relationship, the 27-year-old said, “I hope for the best and good cooperation. And I hope that he will trust me and show confidence in me so we can get over this.”
“I know that those suspicions do not make me very popular in Denmark, but I will do everything in my power to have good relations with the Danes,” he said.
Contador, “on the verge of tears”, according to the newspaper, added that “I feel very bad. I'm so sorry, and words can not describe what I have gone through the past six weeks. I have not had anyone to talk to about it and it has been extremely hard to keep it to myself.“
- Article published:
- October 2, 2010, 11:22
- Daniel Simms
UCI World Tour yet to be embraced by all race organisers
The UCI today confirmed that Pro Tour licences will still be allocated for up to four years to a maximum of 18 teams. However, should some teams fail to make the top 20 of a complicated but fair evaluation system they could be relegated to the Pro Continental ranks.
Four criteria will be taken into account for the designation of the 18 Pro Tour teams: finance, administration, ethics and sporting values, with a major focus on the latter.
UCI road coordinator Philippe Chevallier explained: “There will be a sporting evaluation of each bidding team based on the results of the past two years at all the races from the world calendar, continental calendars and U23 races as well. From our internal points scale, we’ll count the points of the fifteen best riders of each team who will be part of their roster in 2011, based on the information provided by the teams on October 20. We’ll release the top 15 on October 25. The remaining three teams will be chosen according to the four criteria.”
Should riders like Fabian Cancellara sign for a new team after October 20, as Cadel Evans did for BMC on October 29 last year, their points won’t be taken into account for their new team and will remain with their old squad.
Chevallier also revealed that there will be bonus on offer as part of the sporting evaluation, but that points may also be subtracted as punishment for infractions. For example, RadioShack will receive a bonus for having won the teams’ classification of the Tour de France but they’ll be penalised for having showed up at the protocol with an illegal jersey.
“Ethics will not include only doping but also the general behaviour of the teams,” Chevallier said. Team managers caught cheating behind the bunch might lose their Pro Tour licence. “Their history with doping affairs will also come under scrutiny,” added the road coordinator.
World Tour hitting early obstacles?
Despite the news yesterday in which the UCI announced that 24 teams are currently bidding for the 2011 World Tour, the project has already hit a possible hurdle.
According to the announcement by the UCI, the 18 selected teams will have automatic entry to the Grand Tours and all other events of the World Tour. But Giro d’Italia organiser Angelo Zomegnan told Cyclingnews “that we already have an agreement that we signed in September 2008.” Under this agreement, the top seventeen teams of the 2010 world rankings would qualify for the Grand Tours, while all changes would first have to be discussed.
Cyclingnews understands that the launch of the World Tour was carried out without the consent or backing of Giro organisers RCS, while every race within the professional calendar was represented by ASO at the UCI congress this week, with Tour de France management member Jean-François Pescheux representing races over which he and his organisation hold no jurisdiction. Cyclingnews is unaware if races such as the Giro d’Italia, Tour de Suisse or Tour Down Under gave their consent to this.
Cyclingnews also understands that the UCI is frustrated that it needs to submit its rules to all parties in order to be discussed.
Finally, it appears that no organisation representing the riders was consulted on the World Tour plans.
UCI president Pat McQuaid countered Zomegnan reaction by saying, “If he doesn’t want the best 18 teams, his races shouldn’t be on the world calendar. I can’t see why race organisers wouldn’t accept the rules. We have taken their wishes into account. I would hope they accept it.”
Cyclingnews has tried to contact ASO but nobody from the organisation was available for comment.
- Article published:
- October 2, 2010, 11:45
- Les Clarke
Evans says teamwork critical to Australia's chances
The attention of the cycling public now turns to the elite men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong, Australia, and defending champion Cadel Evans believes his team's preparations will stand it in good stead tomorrow.
Evans says the team's experience in previous world titles will serve it well, adding that the form of some key riders is strong after spending the last fortnight in the national capital of Canberra.
"We had pretty good training there [in Canberra] this week and I think staying away from here [Geelong] has been better; our job is to come here and race our bikes, not for public relations things. That's why I do events like Amy's Ride when you have time to deal with people," Evans told reporters ahead of Sunday's race.
Whilst the team has stayed in Canberra for training, most of its riders won't see the finished course until tomorrow's 260km event. Evans isn't worried about that however, explaining that everyone in the nine-man squad had seen the parcours at some stage in the last year.
"As far as seeing the course, everyone came and rode it in January. Simon Gerrans has probably ridden it the most, most recently. He was on it two weeks ago - I don't even think the bridge was open then," said Evans.
As far as the form of his teammates is concerned, the 33-year-old was upbeat, with several riders impressing him during the squad's training sessions.
"A couple of the guys are going really, really good - I won't say who right now. We had a pretty hard ride on Wednesday and they were going surprisingly well, which was nice to see," he explained.
"I think we've got a good group, especially after the result last year - we've proven we can win it. We're going in with that mentality and whether we can win on the day, we'll have to wait to find out that one.
"I think we're going to have a couple of guys who could be there in the finale to really play our cards - that's looking good at this stage. If everyone can act in the best interests of the team, which most of the guys have shown in past world championships or Olympics that they can and will do that, that's probably the most important thing for us," he added.
There's also the appearance of Evans' personal trainer Also Sassi at the world championships - the former Mapei manager is seriously ill and the Australian says it will add another element to his ride in tomorrow's race.
"Having him [Sassi] here will be pretty special - we've been working together since 2002; he has four untreatable tumours in his brain and for him to just make the trip out here was pretty special.
"He's a big part of Mapei and that company is a sponsor and supporter of the world championships. He was also here for the anti-doping conference - he wanted to be there and make a speech and have his opinion heard."
- Article published:
- October 2, 2010, 11:47
- Greg Johnson
Women’s medallists say course can go either way
The circuit that will decide tomorrow’s elite men’s UCI Road World Championship will be as hard as the peloton chooses to make it, according to the women who medalled on the course today. Debate has raged since the route’s announcement over one year ago as to whether the course would suit a sprinter or whether the climbs would prove too difficult.
After Italian coach Paolo Bettini visited the course last month, consensus leant toward a breakaway victory. However, with both the Under 23 and elite women’s races being decided in sprints, the door is now firmly open to riders like Mark Cavendish.
Women’s champion Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) believes the course can go either way, meaning that it will come down to how the peloton rides tomorrow’s race. With two opening laps void of action followed by a solo breakaway in the women’s event, only the final three laps of the course were at high intensity, which allowed a pure sprinter like Bronzini to survive.
“The hardness of the lap depends on what the teams do in the race,” said the Italian. “If they go strong for the whole lap, for sure for the sprinter it’s impossible to stay in the front.
“The girl today who did five laps so easy was good for me,” Brozini added. “Only three laps for me were hard, but not so hard that I didn’t stay at the front.”
Sweden’s Emma Johannson, who finished third in the women’s race, said the descent between the 15.9 kilometre course’s two climbs and a long run to the uphill start/finish straight gave plenty of reprieve to riders more suited to pure sprint courses. Johannson was one of the women’s events’ most aggressive riders on the climb but her attempts to break the race apart failed.
“We thought it would be harder in the race,” she said. “The climb is hard but then with the descent and the part after the descent, it’s a long way to go to the finish.”
Simon Gerrans (Australia) is one rider expecting a more intense race in the elite men’s category. He expects that the race will break apart, and it will need to if Australia has a hope of securing back-to-back titles, given that sprinters like Robbie McEwen and Mark Renshaw were left off the squad.
“I don’t think we’ll see such a big group together at the finish for us,” said Gerrans. “It’s quite often that in the under-23 race, they’ll come together [in] quite a decent-sized group, whereas in a professional race or the elite men it will break up a bit more. I’m expecting a much smaller group at the finish on Sunday.”
The elite men’s race will start in Melbourne, with the peloton covering 83 kilometres of road between that location and the start of the Geelong circuit. Once on the 15.9 kilometre Geelong circuit they will contest 11 laps of the circuit, one more than the U23 men’s event won by Australia’s Michael Matthews.
- Article published:
- October 2, 2010, 12:25
- Greg Johnson
Gallery as 123 of the best ready for battle
Australia’s Geelong has put on a spectacular day for the elite women’s road race after days of wind, rain and generally cool, overcast conditions. The 123 elite women starting today’s race should face temperatures up to 22 degrees Celsius, while a breeze of 20km/h should start to blow in from sea towards the end of the day’s action.
There are several strong teams lining up in today’s field but perhaps none more so than the Australian women. Not only is the team set to battle on home soil for the rainbow jersey but it’s also riding on a high after yesterday’s victory in the U23 event by teammate Michael Matthews.
They’re not the only team that’s tasted success this week, however, and the Great Britain squad also has the riders to do the job today including Nicole Cooke and time trial winner Emma Pooley. The United States of America is also fielding a strong roster and has already claimed a gold and bronze medal this week, but the traditional cycling nations like Italy and the Netherlands will also be keen to prove they can dominate the sport on either side of the equator.
So buckle up and follow our live coverage while you check out our images from the start line.
- Article published:
- October 2, 2010, 13:00
- Les Clarke
UCI President says recent positive tests unacceptable
UCI President Pat McQuaid has hit out at the Spanish authorities following the recent positive doping cases emanating from that country, including Vuelta a España runner up Ezequiel Mosquera and Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
Speaking during the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong, Australia, McQuaid was highly critical of the lack of work done by the Spanish Government to decrease the number and frequency of doping cases and called for increased efforts on its behalf.
"We have, over the past month for instance, sanctioned four big Spanish riders; that started with [Oscar] Sevilla, and then in recent days includes Mosquera, David Garcia Dapena and today, [Margarita] Fullana," McQuaid told reporters.
"I don't want to stigmatise Spain but what I do say is that I hope that the Spanish government, with the laws it has - which along with France and Italy, has the strictest law against doping but to my mind up until today hasn't been properly implemented - that they would take note and realise that something needs to be done."
Spanish cycling has been the focus of McQuaid's attention during past road world championships. The case of Alejandro Valverde and his involvement with Operacion Puerto - that eventually saw the Spaniard banned for two years - was central to the plot of the 2007 world titles, with Valverde originally prevented from competing but later reinstated in the national team following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Irishman explained that as he sees the situation, the integrity of Spanish cycling would be enhanced by increased efforts to quell the flames of doping in the sport. "Cycling's an important sport in Spain. The sport deserves the support of the government into trying to ensure they can completely clean their act up," he said.
Team management to blame
McQuaid also pointed the finger at team managers, saying that in some cases their responsibility to ensure riders remain within a controlled environment are not met, resulting in behaviour that may lead to doping practices and hence a possible sanction for using performance-enhancing methods.
"I think by and large the teams have learnt and are aware that it's over - the doping culture is over, the doping practise is over and that they've got to move forward.
"Quite a few of the team management - team managers and team directors - are maybe not taking their responsibility [seriously] enough. They tend to leave the responsibility to the athlete. They say: 'These athletes are living in different parts of Europe or different parts of the world, we can't control them 24 hours a day'.
"I don't fully accept that - they do need to control their athletes more and I think they do need to know who their athletes are meeting with, they need to know even more during events what their athletes are doing and if things like blood transfusions are going on within the team ultimately I think the manager is to blame for that. He should have more control over the riders in the races.
"In relation to Spain again - and we could have a very good Spanish winner tomorrow from whom I don't want to take away anything from his victory at all - I think there is a problem in Spain because a large percentage of our doping cases come from Spain.
"There doesn't seem to be the will, so far, to tackle the problem in Spain. And that really then needs to come from the Government."
And whilst the damage done to cycling by doping is apparent, the influence on due process and the sport's reputation of leaks - witnessed in the Alberto Contador case - is also significant. McQuaid explained that the UCI is "following the results management process as it is in the rules" but admitted that leaks about doping cases is an ongoing discussion he has in his role on the board of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
"I don't have any specific information about any specific leaks - it's a discussion I've had and I'm on the executive board of WADA. It's a topic I've brought up with the board of WADA; they do their best to ensure those leaks don't happen. Other than that I can't comment," he explained.