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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Date published:
February 08, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Sponsor Saxo Bank continues to support Riis' team

    The new Saxo Bank team kit was on show
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 12:37 GMT
    Cycling News

    Contador's ban has no effect on sponsorship, bank says

    Saxo Bank will continue to sponsor Bjarne Riis's team, even without Alberto Contador. The Spaniard's two-year ban for doping “is not something that affects our attitude toward sponsorship,” the bank said Monday.

    Contador's suspension will exclude him from riding the Tour de France this summer, but he is expected to take part in the Vuelta a Espana.

    “Of course we are disappointed about it here and I feel personally with Alberto, for I am sure he has not done anything wrong,” Saxo Bank Director Lars Seier Christensen told

    “But such is the system, and we must look ahead and there'll be winning races anyway.”

    The bank is estimated to pay 60 to 70 million Kroner (8 to 9.4 million Euro) to the team annually. It is not known whether Riis must pay anything back due to the loss of Contador. 

    "We will not comment on the detailed conditions in our contract,” Christensen said.

    The bank has sponsored the team since 2008. Its contract expired after the 2010 season, but the backer signed up for another year when Riis announced Contador's signing for the 2011 season. Saxo Bank renewed again for the 2012 season, with another one-year sponsoring contract.

  • Cavendish on Goss, rainbow jersey and Tour de France

    World champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 13:35 GMT
    Cycling News

    British rider holds press conference at Tour of Qatar

    2011 road world champion Mark Cavendish held a press conference at the Tour of Qatar on Monday night, where he elaborated on the illness that jeopardised his Team Sky debut, his preparations for the biggest summer of his career, who he fears most amongst his fellow sprinters and what it is about his new team that sets it apart from the others. And Cyclingnews was on hand to fire a few questions at him and record his answers...

    On the illness that almost kept him out of the Tour of Qatar:

    "It hasn’t fully gone. It will take a few days to get over a virus like that. I was in bed for something like 25 hours out of 30 and it knocked me back a bit so I’m still feeling the effects. I struggled a bit on stage one but today at the team trial I felt a bit better. I’m not feeling sick anymore - I might feel a bit weak for the next couple of days but day to day I should be feeling stronger."

    On who he fears most among his rivals:

    Matthew Goss is the only rider around who I fear could beat me in a bunch sprint. When he’s on form he arrives there fresh, he can climb well and he’s clever on the bike. I’ve known him a long time and raced amateurs with him. He’s the only man that I believe can beat me if I don’t make a mistake.

    On what it's like to wear the rainbow jersey and the pressure/responsibility that comes with it:

    "It’s nice. It’s not the first time that I’ve raced in the world championship jersey, I did a couple of races in it at the back end of last season. So I know what it’s like to wear it in the peloton. It’s great to start off with Team Sky wearing it and feel the support and honour that...

  • Concerns over closure of Federal investigation into Armstrong and US Postal

    Shades of Paris 2005. Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) addresses the crowd.
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 14:51 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Agencies received only short notice of closure

    US radio station National Public Radio (NPR) has raised concerns over the decision that saw the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles close down a two-year investigation into allegations of fraud and doping that involved the US Postal Service Team and Lance Armstrong. Armstrong has denied ever taking performance enhancing and welcomed the decision to close the case. He may still face investigation from USADA.

    NPR has alleged that sources in the FBI, FDA and US Postal Service were ‘shocked, surprised and angered’ and that federal authorities only had 30 minutes notice before the United States Attorney's Office released a press release to the media on Friday afternoon.

    According the NPR, sources indicated that charges were close to being brought against a number of individuals, which included fraud, witness tampering, mail fraud, and drug distribution. One source, NPR says, said there were ‘no weaknesses in the case’.

    However, NPR also adds that a person with knowledge of the decision said that US Attorney didn’t agree that there was sufficient evidence of crimes.

    Cyclingnews spoke to a source who had co-operated with the federal investigation. The source indicated that the NPR reports held weight.

    “I talked to someone within the investigation but the reason why the case was shut down was due to a one-man decision. The evidence against those involved was absolutely overwhelming. They were going to be charged with a slew of crimes but for reasons unexplained he closed the case saying it wasn't open for discussion,” the source said.

    A press release from United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. stated his office was "closing an investigation into...

  • WADA hopes for quick handover of Armstrong evidence

    John Fahey (right) with former WADA President Dick Pound
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 16:43 GMT
    Cycling News

    Information would be “very, very helpful”, Fahey says

    World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey is looking forward to receiving evidence from the closed US federal investigaiton of Lance Armstrong. “It would be very, very helpful if that information was handed over,” he said.

    Last Friday federal prosecutors abruptly closed a two-year investigation into Armstrong, his teammates and teams concerning doping.

    "There has been significant evidence taken on anti-doping areas, on what may have occurred in the way of doping. It would be very, very helpful if that information was handed over," Fahey told the AP.

    "The United States anti-doping organization is keen to get hold of that evidence and we would like to see that happen because there could well be some very relevant information there," Fahey said.

    Fahey said that in the Armstrong investigaiton, "we will never know in the criminal sense of what might have eventuated because they have dropped the criminal proceedings. Who knows, though, what might still be there."

    WADA's director general David Howman, said he hoped that the evidence "will be shared in the same way" as in the BALCO case, and that it happen before the London Olympics this coming summer.

    "It is important that that happen as quickly as possible, just in case there are athletes who might be looking at going to London and where there is evidence in relation to them," he said.

  • Merckx deplores "excessive" punishment in Contador ban

    Eddie Merckx is in Adelaide as a guest of the Santos Tour Down Under
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 17:42 GMT
    Cycling News

    Legendary Belgian surprised and upset at CAS verdict

    On Monday, the news of Alberto Contador's two-year ban spread quickly across the globe and triggered a variety of reactions. At the Tour of Qatar in the Middle East, race organiser and all-time champion Eddy Merckx was baffled at the CAS decision, blaming not Contador but sporting authorities for the bad news.

    "It's very sad for him and for cycling in general. It's as if somebody wanted to kill cycling," Merckx told Eurosport. "I'm very surprised and disgusted. It's bad for everyone, for the reputation of cycling, for the sponsors."

    He continued by insinuating that cycling's efforts to combat doping were excessive and that other sports did not apply the rules in the same way. "I think it's going too far - when a test result is like this one, 0.0000... it's only in cycling that this sort of thing happens.

    "I'm the first to say that we need controls, but I think that we are going too far in cycling."

  • Riis continues to support Contador despite ban

    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 18:55 GMT
    Cycling News

    Updated: Contract between Contador and Saxo Bank over

    Saxo Bank general manager Bjarne Riis reiterated his unflinching support of Alberto Contador following the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to hand him a two-year ban and strip him of the 2010 Tour de France title.

    However, the Danish ex-Tour champion stated that because Contador is no longer able to race, the contract between him and the Saxo Bank team will be annulled.

    "When Alberto is not able to ... ride for the team, the contract cannot continue. I think that's pretty obvious," Riis said at a press conference in Madrid. Later, he added that he would be happy to work with again Contador in the future.

    Contador said in his statements that while the contract is over for now, he would give Saxo Bank the first chance to sign him when he returns to competition on August 5, but that he is now a free agent.

    Riis said that while he and the team had hoped for a different outcome of the arbitration, he did not think they could have done anything differently in handling the case.

    "We have asked ourselves many times during this case, could we as a team have done things any differently? I really don't think we could have done things differently than what we have done trying to support every one of our riders," Riis said.

    Contador had signed a contract with the Saxo Bank team prior to learning of his positive test result for clenbuterol in a sample taken on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour. He was provisionally suspended by the UCI until the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) decided not to punish him for the positive on...

  • Contador maintains innocence regarding doping violation

    Alberto Contador on his way to speak to the media after CAS gave him a two-year ban for doping.
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 19:45 GMT
    Cycling News

    Spaniard thanks supporters, vows to return to racing

    Alberto Contador, accompanied by his spokesman Jacinto Vidarte and Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis, conducted a press conference today in his hometown of Pinto, Spain to discuss Monday's CAS decision in which the Spaniard's positive doping violation from the 2010 Tour de France was upheld.

    Contador was banned for two years, backdated to his positive result in 2010, and will be eligible to compete again on August 5, 2012.

    "The way I feel right now is deceived," said Contador. "My dreams have collapsed and my morale right now is very confused. There hasn't been one morning when I haven't asked myself how this happened.

    "The hardest thing for me is how it's touched my family, people saying I'm guilty and talking of justice and injustice."

    Contador continued to stress his innocence and expressed bafflement about the verdict to ban him for doping.

    "I can't understand the final verdict," said Contador. "I've gone through everything, spent hours going over things. If there's anything I can do to prove my innocence I'll do it. There are many things that I cannot understand about this decision but for the moment I want to keep them to myself. I'm not an expert."

    Contador was effusive in his praise of the support he's received since his positive test came to light in 2010, from family, friends and his team.

    "I'd like to express my satisfaction will all the support. It's unbelievable all the support I've had since this has started. There have been months when I couldn't sleep, months where I wanted to stay at home and not ride a bike.

    "There are many things I could say, but it's a decision that each of you has to decide on this verdict. This is going to follow me for many, many years."

    The Spaniard was...

  • Contador's ban may affect whole of Saxo Bank

    Alberto Contador Velasco Team Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    February 07, 2012, 23:16 GMT
    Cycling News

    Case points out a fundamental flaw with UCI points system

    With the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to ban Alberto Contador and strip him of his results onward from and including the 2010 Tour de France, the entire Saxo Bank team stands to be punished for the Spaniard's doping offense even though it occurred when Contador rode for Astana.

    At issue is the team's "sporting value", a measure of the points of the team's recruits for the upcoming season which is used to calculate which teams will be included in the WorldTour. That honour comes with automatic entry to the three Grand Tours and all of the other WorldTour events - and this can be critcal for a team's survival.

    However, since Contador was responsible for better than half of Saxo Bank's value toward its 2012 WorldTour license, and he has been stripped of those results, the UCI can now, under its own rules, reconsider the team's inclusion in this year's WorldTour. Without Contador's points, the team would have been 18th.

    Only the top 15 teams are taken automatically, while the next five teams are weighed against each other in terms of ethical, financial and administrative criteria and three are chosen at the discretion of the UCI licensing commission. That commission's president, Pierre Zapelli, explained the situation to today, but said his commission has yet to be asked to reconsider Saxo Bank's license.

    "If a team is between 16th and 20th in the ranking, we must decide which of those are licensed. We issue only 18 licenses, so we must exclude two of the teams. If Team Saxo Bank did not have Contador's points, they did not have enough points to compete among the best 20 teams, and they would not have received a license," Zappelli...