After finishing eighth in the Tour de France, Spain's Alejandro Valverde has two races that are definitely on his calendar for now: the Clásica San Sebastian and the Vuelta a España. But although he has won both in the past, the Movistar rider says he will not be doing either "with any kind of pressure to produce results."
"I will do them both like I did them in 2012" - where he took 26th in San Sebastian and second overall in the Vuelta - "simply going in there in good condition, but to see what I can do," Valverde told Cyclingnews as he waited outside the team hotel in Paris for for a taxi to take him to the airport.
"With what I've achieved so far this season, and what I've helped the team do in the Tour de France, I think I have done everything that has been asked of me. Now it's just going to be a case of seeing what more I can get, but without pressure."
"The Colombians [Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao - Sky], Joaquim [Rodriguez - Katusha] and Nibali (Astana) will be the main rivals. We'll have to see if [defending champion] Alberto [Contador - Saxo-Tinkoff] decides to come too."
Valverde even tried briefly to get in a breakaway on the Champs Elysées on Sunday, "although we pretty much knew it was mission impossible. It was a nice way to round off the race."
"In any case, we've really had a brilliant Tour, with Nairo [Quintana], the stage wins and so on. If I hadn't had that puncture on the day of the cross-winds, it might have been two of us on the final podium, but that's the way things work out at times in cycling."
The Vuelta a España, cycling's third grand tour, starts on August 24th in Galicia, with a 27 kilometre team time trial. The equivalent event was won by Movistar last year, with Alejandro Valverde moving briefly into the lead three stages later. Will iit be the same this time round?
Kittel identified himself as having undergone treatments in 2007 and 2008
Marcel Kittel received more good news the day after winning the closing Tour de France stage on the Champs Elysees, as the Court of Arbitraiton for Sport ruled that the black light blood treatments he and other athletes underwent in 2007 and 2008 could not be considered doping.
The German National Anti Doping Agency had opened proceedings against an unnamed cyclist, charging that the treatments were blood doping. The German sports court ruled last fall that the method of removing blood, treating it with ultraviolet light and then re-infusing it, did not violate rules in effect at the time, as it has been specifically banned only since January, 2012. The NADA took that decision to the CAS.
Although the cyclist in question was not named publicly, it was widely considered to be Marcel Kittel, now with Argos-Shimano and the winner of four stages at the recently-ended Tour de France. German television identified him as the rider and he told Cyclingnews that he underwent the treatment “a few times” while training as an 18-year-old at the Erfurt, Germany, Olympic training center.
The CAS decision has not yet been publicly released, but the NADA said that the court ruled that the procedure could not be considered a forbidden method under the WADA rules in effect at the time.
According to the CAS, the WADA forbids blood manipulation only when it serves to increase oxygen transfer, an effect which is not proven in this case, and therefore does not meet the requirements for a forbidden method.
The CAS also ruled that the athlete involved did not act negligently or deliberately.
Orica-GreenEdge rider hangs up wheels after Tour de France
The Orica-GreenEdge team announced today that Australian Stuart O'Grady is retiring with immediate effect. Last month, O'Grady stated that this year's Tour de France would not be his farewell, and that he intended to complete his 18th Tour in 2014, but explained today's change of plans.
“I’ve always wanted my career to end with something truly special and this year’s Tour de France has given me that,” O’Grady said in a press release. “We’ve had a great race, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished. Winning a stage and standing on the podium with all my teammates after the team time trial in Nice was a dream come true for me this late in my career, and to be able to defend the yellow jersey for Simon [Gerrans] and Daryl [Impey] was special. I’m extremely happy to have had a chance to do that one more time before I retired.”
O'Grady has started every Tour de France since 1997, racing the majority of his career in an era now clouded by the spectre of EPO use and blood doping, but has always denied that cheating was an option.
In 1998, he won a stage in the Tour and wore the maillot jaune for three days. A report commissioned by a French senate anti-doping investigation is set to release the names of the riders from that Tour de France whose doping control samples were found to contain evidence of EPO use in a research study conducted in 2004.
O'Grady's Tour success continued in 2001 when he wore the yellow jersey for six stages and was part of the winning team time trial with Crédit Agricole.
He was part of the gold-medal Madison team in the 2004 Olympic Games with Graeme Brown, and won Paris-Roubaix in 2007. Yet he also had a bad history of crashes, the worst of which came in the 2007 Tour, when he fractured three vertebrae, among other bones.
“I have a lot of great memories to look back upon, and I’m happy to pull the pin at a point where I still feel strong, healthy and competitive,” said O’Grady. “I’ve had some bad crashes along the way, but it’s the great moments – like this year’s Tour de France – that I’ll always remember. Above all, I would like to thank all the fans, my team and my family for always cheering for me and for all the great support throughout my career. It has made me feel appreciated and has given me profound joy for simply doing my job.”
While his compatriot Robbie McEwen retired mid-season last year and moved into a leadership position with the Orica squad, the team made no such mention of O'Grady following suit.
“We respect his decision and even if we wanted to keep him, we knew that he had been thinking this after the team time trial win,” general manager Shayne Bannan said. “Bowing out after a legendary career like his has been a hard decision for him, but we’re proud to say that he was part of starting up this team and set the bar for high ambitions from day one.”
Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has indicated they are open to a return of a women's Tour de France as a petition campaign fronted by world champion Marianne Vos gains momentum.
Bloomberg reports that the organisation has discussed the possibility of a women's race returning but comments by ASO chairman Jean-Etienne Amaury indicates that such an event was unlikely to occur as soon as 2014 as the petition calls for.
Vos, former world champion Emma Pooley, world champion ironman triathlete Chrissie Wellington and Kathryn Bertine have published a letter to ASO and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme with an accompanying petition outlining the reasons they believe that women should have an event running in conjunction with the men in what is the most recognisable cycling event in the world.
Tour Féminin, a French grand tour for women, ran from 1984 through 2009 albeit with considerable difficulty and three years where it was disbanded (1990, 1991 and 2004). Among the issues were unpaid prize money, excessively long transfers and stages, scheduling issues, poor sponsorship, and a legal battle with ASO subsidiary Société du Tour de France over its then-name, the Women's Tour de France.
The lobbyist's petition, in operation since July 12, has now attracted the support of close to 70,000 people.
"We need to work out the right economic model, get the media on board and discuss with public authorities about closing the roads," Amaury told Bloomberg. "All these parameters need to be planned. It's not likely to happen next year."
Plans to revive the women's Tour de France have attracted a mixed response. UCI Presidential candidate Brian Cookson said last week that he did not believe that the current plans were "realistic." Cookson was supportive of the concept "but I think it needs to be over modified distances, modified number of days and so on," he said.
German rider Gerald Ciolek has extended his contract with his current team, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, through 2015. The Milan San Remo winner will continue racing for the first African-registered Professional Continental team, though 2015.
"We're delighted that Gerald has extended with us," team principal, Douglas Ryder. "He's made a huge impact on our team not only with his results but also with mentoring the younger riders. They're excited to have a captain that is down to earth and takes the time to share his experience. We now look forward to increasing our race program as we build towards our first Grand Tour."
The team hopes for a wild card invitation to one of the Grand Tours in 2014.
"I always said I would like to stay with this team," Ciolek said. "As a professional cyclist you always look for other options but in the end I am really happy that I can go forward with this team. When I first found out about the team last year, I discovered a great team with great character and performing on a high level and I really like this.
"I think we had a really good year and now we want to build to go to an even better level next year. We are very ambitious as a team and want to grow and become the first African team to race the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France."
The 23-year-old Slovakian will be joined by David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), a Sky squad that includes Ben Swift and Chris Sutton and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge)
The race has a strong African feel too. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge), who became the first African to wear the Tour de France yellow is set to ride the 140-mile race that starts at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and will likely to finish with a thundering sprint on the Mall in the shadow of Buckingham Palace.
And Germany's Gerald Ciolek who won this year's Milan-Sanremo in frigid conditions will lead MTN-Qhubeka, the first ProContinental team from Africa.
Sagan won fame for his wheelie pulling salute on the Mont Ventoux and for dying his goatee and hair green for the finale on the Champs Élysées last Sunday.
"This star-studded field, headed by Peter Sagan, in the first year of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic is testimony to the international standing of the event and our ambitions for the future," said Race Director Mick Bennett.
The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey is the flagship event in a weekend of cycling in the capital on 3-4 August. Other events include a 100-mile sportive, a professional women’s criterium and the Freecycle, where an eight-mile loop will allow families to visit some of the capitals most famous landmarks on traffic fee roads. More than 50,000 people are expected to take part in the Prudential RideLondon Freecycle alone.
Commission expected to name riders caught for EPO in retroactive testing
Despite numerous requests opposing the decision, most lately from the International Professional riders association (CPA), the French Senate is expected to reveal the names of the riders who's urine samples from the 1998 Tour de France were found to contain traces of EPO as part of a detailed report into the effectiveness in the fight against doping.
The results and the report was initially expected to be published on July 18, the day of the Tour de France stage to Alpe d'Huez but was delayed until Wednesday after riders held talks with French sports minister Valérie Fourneyron.
The French Senate has interviewed a series of key people in cycling and other sports including UCI President Pat McQuaid and former rider and French national coach Laurent Jalabert.
French newspaper L'Equipe reported before the Tour de France that Jalabert was one of the riders whose urine had contained traces of EPO during retroactive testing done the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD in 2004. He was vague about doping during his career when he gave evidence to the Senate and was forced to give up several lucrative media contracts due to the L'Equipe report.
According to French media, 44 of 60 urine samples that were retroactively tested contained traces of EPO. In 1998 there was no test for the banned blood-boosting drug. The late Marco Pantani won the 1998 Tour de France ahead of Germany's Jan Ullrich and Bobby Julich of the USA.It was also the year of the Festina Affaire, when the team's soigneur was caught with a car full of doping products and the whole team was forced to leave the race.
The results of the tests cannot be used for disciplinary action because they were not done following an anti-doping protocol. However the publication of the names would highlight the widespread abuse of EPO during the nineties.
The Senate report is expected to include several ideas that can improve the effectiveness of anti-doping control in cycling and sport but these will be overshadowed by the names from the 1998 Tour de France.