- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 09:56
- Susan Westemeyer
Freiburg matter still pending
Andreas Klöden has been offered the option of making a financial settlement with the Bonn prosecutor's office in Germany.
The Bonn prosecutors have been investigating Klöden for allegedly deceiving his former employer, T-Mobile. It also investigated Jan Ullrich and Rudy Pevenage on similar charges, and both have made payments to end the respective proceedings against them.
The offer gives Klöden the opportunity to bring to a close the prosecutor's investigation. Under German law, such a settlement is not considered an admission of any guilt.
“We have closed our investigation of Jan Ullrich and see no reason to treat Mr. Klöden differently,” Bonn's Senior Prosecutor, Fred Apostel, told the German news magazine Focus. Apostel said the investigation into Klöden had commenced approximately a year ago.
Focus said that the German rider would be expected to pay 25,000 Euro. “This is a normal offer,” Apostel said. “So for he has not responded.”
Should he accept the offer to close the Bonn proceedings, Klöden may still be under investigation by prosecutors in Freiburg, in connection with blood-doping during the 2006 Tour de France.
Both Klöden and his former teammate, Ullrich, have consistently denied having used doping products or practices during their careers.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 15:18
- Gregor Brown
Younger Schleck reflects on Tour's first week
Andy Schleck believes his chance to win the Tour de France lies in next week's Alpine stages. After nine days of racing, including three Pyrenean mountain stages, he trails rivals Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong by a minute and a half.
"The Alps will be greatly different," said Schleck on Monday in Limoges, during the Tour de France's first rest day. "We will see a lot of damage in stage 17 with the Col de Romme and the other four climbs."
Schleck, 24, finished 11th and won the young riders classification in the 2008 Tour de France. This year, he started the race as one of the favourites alongside Saxo Bank teammate and brother, Fränk Schleck, who finished fifth last year.
The younger of the siblings, Andy lost one minute in the opening time trial, 41" to Armstrong in the windy finale to La Grande-Motte, 40" in the team time trial and 21" to Contador on Friday's Arcalís mountaintop finish. He is currently 1:49 back on race leader Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), 1:43 on Contador and 1:41 on Armstrong. Fränk is 2:25 back and sitting in 13th overall.
"My mistake was not being up front when Armstrong went in the cross winds," said Andy. "I could have tried more and gone with Contador on Arcalís, but other favourites have more pressure. They will have to attack from first day in the Alps to gain some time back otherwise it is finished for them."
The Tour presents three difficult Alpine stages next week. Starting on Sunday, the riders face a 207.5-kilometre stage to Verbier, 159 kilometres on stage 16 to Bourg-St-Maurice and 169.5 kilometres to Le Grand-Bornand on stage 17.
"I am 1:40 behind Contador, it is a lot, but in the climbs that can change one day to the next. Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans are much further back and will have to attack. Carlos won't take time on the final time trial and to wait until the Ventoux stage  is risky."
Though Astana currently controls the overall classification, the tension between its two leaders should be an advantage to Team Saxo Bank. The team's close relationship helped them win last year's Tour with its former rider, Sastre.
"If Andy is going to be strong in the climbs, of course I am going to sacrifice myself. Further than that I would give my life for my family," said Fränk.
He is uncertain how much Armstrong and Contador's tensions will affect the team, but knows his relationship with Andy is much stronger. "Yes, that I can assure."
The Tour de France continues tomorrow with a 194.5-kilometre stage to Issoudun. It, and the following four stages leading up to Sunday's first alpine test are not expected to alter the overall classification.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 17:37
- Anthony Tan
A look at the decisive moments for Astana duo, so far
Make your own mind about the relationship between arguably the two best riders in the race, but with a less-than-selective opening week-and-a-half – albeit with a few selective moments – the Lance Armstrong-Alberto Contador dynamic has occupied the majority of the Tour de France talk so far.
Despite all that’s been said the past nine days, the former says he’s "only going to follow the team orders"; the latter says "he’ll let the road decide". Together, one could view the statements as either complimentary or contradictory.
Looking at the facts, these have been the key moments between the two so far:
In the 15.5-kilometre opening time trial in Monaco, Contador beat Armstrong by 22 seconds, and finished 18 seconds behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank in second place.
Two days later, on a windswept third stage to La Grande Motte, the Texan made a crucial break of 28 riders some 30 kilometres from the finish, along with two of his Astana team-mates – neither or which was Contador – with 25 of those men finishing 41 seconds ahead of a group containing the 2007 Tour champion. On the classement general, it left Armstrong ahead of Contador by 19 seconds.
The following day in Montepellier, Armstrong and Contador are among six Astana riders who blitz the 39-km team time trial, the best team by 18 seconds from Garmin-Slipstream and 40 ticks of the clock quicker than Saxo Bank. Cancellara and Armstrong find themselves on equal time, the American missing out on wearing the Golden Fleece by 22 hundredths of a second. Contador remained 19 seconds back. Four of out the six best riders on GC are from Astana.
Agritubel’s Brice Feillu triumphs on Stage 7 to Arcalis, but 3:26 behind the Frenchman is Contador, whose solo attack in the closing kilometres saw him finish 21 seconds ahead of the next group behind containing Armstrong and the rest of the GC favourites. Contador now leads Armstrong by two seconds, and is six seconds off the maillot jaune, now worn by AG2R’s Rinaldo Nocentini.
Since then, and going into a quartet of transitional stages in the coming week, the leaderboard has remained status quo.
"There’s not really been any big selection," Armstrong conceded. "We had the selection of the opening time trial; we had the selection of the team time trial. The day in the wind [Stage 3] we had a little selection, and then Arcalis – the time differences weren’t that big."
"I think it’s [the overall standings] closer than we expected," he said.
Asked how he felt after nine consecutive days of racing, Armstrong said his legs are a lot better than at the Giro d’Italia, where he finished 12th overall, 16 minutes behind Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, the Russian conversely is struggling at La Grande Boucle, currently 27th overall and five minutes off the race lead.
"Not bad," said Armstrong. "I think we got through how we wanted to. I think the team time trial set the order of the favourites, and now we’re going to have three or four days that probably won’t change the classification. I think all the favourites and considering Verbier [Stage 15] the next big test."
Given what’s happened so far, though, with both riders attempting to steal a few seconds here and there, it would be presumptuous to say nothing’s going to happen to the best-placed riders over the coming days.
Or that Contador and Armstrong will indeed follow orders. Armstrong’s move on Stage 3 definitely wasn’t a team directive – according to the 37-year-old American, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time – and after Contador’s attack on Arcalis, Astana sport director Johan Bruyneel admitted no such order came from the team car, nor was it premeditated.
Nonetheless, after the final Pyrenean stage Sunday, Armstrong told reporters: "If there’s a situation where the team tells us to be in front and it’s windy or it’s hilly and I make a selection, I’ll do it. But I’m only going to follow the team orders."
"The leadership is secondary for now," Contador said. "The most important is to have the yellow jersey the last day in Paris. At the moment, we are interested in going quietly and AG2R can be a bit calmer, though as the differences are so small, we have to work because our team is more powerful."
Don’t expect Armstrong to say how he’d ride if he were Contador – though in an interview with French television Sunday, he said "Alberto is strong, and he's very ambitious" – but he did say that if he were a GC leader from a rival team, he would play the waiting game.
"If I were those guys I would wait. I think this race is going to get a lot harder, and our team won’t look the same or feel the same in the third week as it does now. It’s still too close [on the overall classification], and honestly, if I was Cadel Evans or Andy Schleck or Carlos Sastre, I would be waiting."
But wait for how long, Lance?
"I’d wait for my moment in the Alps, or on Ventoux," he said.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 19:12
- Richard Tyler
Italian's Giro test results not under suspicion
Danilo Di Luca and the International Cycling Union (UCI) have denied claims made on Monday that the Italian is being investigated under the UCI's biological passport program.
Spanish sports daily AS reported that the UCI was investigating results of doping tests undertaken by Di Luca at May's Giro d'Italia that did not match data complied as part of the rider's biological passport.
Di Luca, a winner of two stages and second overall at this year's Giro, said he was unaware of any investigation taking place. The Italian told Cyclingnews that he had been in contact with the UCI over the matter and that they had confirmed to him that there were no problems with his test results from the Giro.
President of the UCI, Pat McQuaid, denied on Monday afternoon that the sports governing body, as far as he was aware, was placing Di Luca under any scrutiny.
Di Luca has instructed his lawyers to contact AS in relation to their allegations.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 20:05
- Richard Tyler
Alonso rumoured to be starting new cycling team
Alberto Contador could race for a team backed by compatriot and Formula 1 driver, Fernando Alonso, in 2010, according to reports on Monday.
Amid the ongoing speculation over Contador's position at Astana in the wake of Lance Armstrong's return to cycling, La Gazetta dello Sport reported that Alonso is keen to create a new team, with the 2007 Tour de France winner as captain.
Alonso, like a number of Formula 1 drivers, is a cycling enthusiast and was a notable presence at the Tour's Grand Depart in Monaco on July 5. Spanish daily Marca reported that Alonso had already spoken to Contador in relation to the two working together on a new team.
Marca also indicated that financial backing for the team may come from worldwide Spanish banking group, Santander, whose current vice-president is Alfredo Sáenz.
Sáenz served as president of Banesto from 1993-2002. Banesto sponsored Miguel Indurain's team throughout the five-time Tour de France winner's career.
Contador is contracted to Astana until the end of the 2010 season, however the future of the Kazakh squad was cast into doubt following comments made by Alexandre Vinokourov at the start of July. The Kazakh indicated that he was preparing to restructure the team upon his return to the sport.
Vinokourov is expected to return to competition in August, after serving a two-year ban for blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 20:12
- Gregor Brown
Three minutes down after nine days
Cadel Evans questioned Monday whether he can win the 2009 Tour de France since he is already far behind after nine days and faces a powerful team Astana.
"At three minutes back I would say my work is cut out for me. I will need a lot of luck and for the stars to align," Evans said in Limoges on the Tour de France's first rest day.
Evans finished second overall in the last two years of the Tour de France. He started this year's race last Saturday in Monaco as one of the favourites to win, but after nine days team Astana has placed four riders in the top 10 - Evans is 18th.
Seven-time race winner Lance Armstrong and 2007 winner Alberto Contador lead Astana. Contador is in second at six seconds behind overall leader Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Armstrong at eight seconds in third. Teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden are in fourth (at 39 seconds) and sixth overall (at 54 seconds) respectively.
Working in Evans favour is the possibility that Astana could fail due to lack of team unity. Armstrong confirmed after yesterday's stage that there is tension between him and Contador. Some experts say that Astana could be misleading the media.
"I don't think they are playing a game," Evans said. He does believe, however, that the team looks impressive on the road.
"Those nine guys all riding on the front and the peloton in one long line...It is not easy to be in the position behind them and not even easy to be in a position in front of them."
Evans lost the majority of his time to the favourites on day four's team time trial in Montpellier. He and his Silence-Lotto teammates finished 2:35 down to stage winner Astana.
"I think that we have a very good team and it is performing. Astana has come with a team this year that, if is not the strongest team in the history of the Tour de France, it is certainly one of the strongest teams. No team is at their level so far."
Evans looked desperate when he tried to escape in Saturday's stage to Saint-Girons. He attacked early in the stage, but his escape companions refused to cooperate because they knew the teams of the other favourites would chase. Evans eventually returned to the Astana-led group.
Behind Astana, but ahead of Evans are Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) at 46 seconds, Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC) at 1:00, Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) at 1:24, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 1:49, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 1:54 and Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 2:25. Evans would form an alliance with his rivals to put Astana in trouble.
"It would be logical if some teams would want to try to cooperate. If not, let's just give Astana the podium flowers now."
The Tour de France, July 4 to 26, continues tomorrow with a 194.5-kilometre stage to Issoudun. The overall classification is unlikely to change until Friday's stage to Colmar or when the race enters the Alps Sunday.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2009, 21:46
- Richard Moore
Rest day reflections on team atmosphere and Armstrong
After a two-hour ride in the morning of the rest day in Limoges, Bradley Wiggins reflected on the first nine days of the Tour, which have seen him emerge, for the first time, as a rider who can live with the best in the mountains.
In particular, the Englishman, who is fifth overall, spoke about the environment and atmosphere in his new team, Garmin-Slipstream, which he said has been an important factor in his transformation from track superstar to possible Tour contender.
He admitted that, in deciding to switch his focus from track to road, he was inspired by Christian Vande Velde's performance in last year's Tour, in which the Garmin-Slipstream leader finished fifth overall. The inspiration came, said Wiggins, from "just the fact that I know he's clean," and so it opened his eyes to "what you can do on bread and water."
That had particular resonance for him, given that his last Tour, in 2007, ended prematurely when his Cofidis teammate, Cristian Moreni, tested positive for testosterone, and the entire team withdrew as a result. "I left the Tour in 2007 saying I'd never come back," said Wiggins. "But watching it on the telly last year, seeing people like Christian and Cav [Mark Cavendish], was a breath of fresh air from the previous years."
In comparing his current team with previous squads - from the ill-fated Linda McCartney to Francaise des Jeux, Credit Agricole, Cofidis and Columbia-High Road - he said that some experiences had been less than perfect, though he also blamed his own attitude, particularly following the 2004 Athens Olympics, for what he called "the lost years of 2005 and 2006."
"I didn't have the work ethic then," said Wiggins. "I was coming off the back of being Olympic champion at the age of 24, and I thought I was it, to be honest. I thought I'd made it.
"[In 2005] I was in a team that I disliked, surrounded by people that disliked me. In 2006 I just wanted to do the Tour [for the first time] to say I'd done the Tour. I didn't think I'd come back; I thought I'd lose my contract at the end of 2006, so I just wanted to say I'd done the Tour.
"I grew up in teams where the French had a real funny attitude towards everyone else," Wiggins continued. "There was this sense of, 'there's no way we can compete with those guys because they're doing other stuff, but we're French and we do it right, and we have croissants and baguettes, and we can sleep at night with a clear conscience and can't control what other people are doing.' Even if you were near [the top guys] on a stage, the attitude was: 'that was fantastic, look how well you did.' And you were feted for doing quite little things.
"It wasn't until I changed to Columbia that I realised the different mentality."
Yet Wiggins left Columbia at the end of last year, because, he said, "It was starting to become the Cav show a bit. I also felt the vibe in the team was very artificial.
"I always liked JV [Garmin-Slipstream manager Jonathan Vaughter]'s relaxed friendship, and I've had a good relationship with him over the years, since he was a rider.
"I might have had the same year if I'd stayed at Columbia, but they were definitely building a team around Cav for the sprints. They've got so many riders who can win bike races, you almost just become a number there. I wanted to blend into a team of similar riders with similar attitudes, and this team gives you the freedom to be who you want to be.
"We're much more of a family, without shouting about it. People want life contracts here. It's just like a close knit friendship, without going on about it. It's a relaxed atmosphere, and there's no pressure to get results, which suits me."
Being at the sharp end of the overall classification has brought Wiggins into daily contact with Lance Armstrong, and he admits he has spoken to the American "quite a bit." He said, "We had a good chat yesterday morning about the press, which was interesting.
"I've been getting the arse, to be honest, with a few of them, especially the French journalists," he continued. "It was really helpful, and nice to hear it from him." But he added: "I'm not going to tell you what he told me."
Wiggins, renowned for his dry wit, also offered his verdict on the power struggle between Astana teammates Armstrong and Alberto Contador. "I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen between those two, to be honest.
"There could come a point when they get off the bike and start fighting each other - it could get as messy as that. They both look as strong as each other: Lance looks superb. And Contador looks brilliant as well."
- Article published:
- July 14, 2009, 10:56
- Daniel Benson
Path clear for President’s second term
Pat McQuaid will stand uncontested for the International Cycling Union (UCI) presidency this September, cycling’s governing body revealed on Monday. According to the rules set out by the UCI all candidates must be nominated by June 27, 90 days prior to the date of the election, but no other candidates were forthcoming, with McQuaid expressing a desire to be elected for a second term in office.
Possible candidates for the presidency are nominated by their national federations but the lack of competition means that unless McQuaid has a change of heart he will serve for at least another four years.
“It’s true that I wanted to be re-elected, as there’s still a lot of work I’d like to do,” McQuaid told Cyclingnews. “It’s also true that I’m the only candidate, so from that point of view I can start planning the next four years.
“I’ve got to get to September, which is when we have the UCI Congress and I’ve got to stay alive between now and then, and the way some of the teams are coming for me at the moment I might not be alive tomorrow,” he added.
McQuaid was elected in 2006 with the backing of the then out-going president and controversial figure Hein Verbruggen. He has endured a difficult period in office with Operacion Puerto, the Floyd Landis case, rifts between the UCI and the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the ProTour and the delay in ushering in the Biological Passport, all clouding his first four years in office.
However the Biological Passport – which is supported by professional cycling teams at a cost of 4-5 millions Euros a year - was supposed to signal a new dawn in catching drug cheats. In June the UCI made its first tentative steps to rid the sport of doping under this new banner by starting legal proceedings against the first five cases of riders who had irregular blood values. This was followed by the high profile case of Tomas Dekker (Silience Lotto) for the same crime.
Many felt that the success of a biological passport and the UCI’s testing programme at this year’s Tour de France would be McQuaid’s platform for a possible re-election and a barometer of his success, but with the no opposition McQuaid believes that he now has the profile and platform to deliver on his long term goal of cleaning up cycling.
“I think it’s healthy that there’s only one candidate as it shows that the other continents outside of Europe are satisfied with how the UCI is working, and that the most important continent, Europe, is also satisfied and doesn’t want division,” he said. “That’s what happened four years ago when there was a very a dirty campaign. Now Europe wants to show it’s united.
“I’ve been very strong on anti-doing in the last four years and I don’t think our sport could do more that what it’s doing so we must find new strategies to fight doping,” added McQuaid. “Everyone has to remember that I spent three years in major conflict with some of our major stake holders. Now that these problems have been resolved the future looks a lot clearer and healthier.”