- Article published:
- June 25, 2013, 16:05
- Cycling News
Katusha leader aware of challenges surrounding Grand Boucle
All going to plan, Joaquim Rodríguez intends to arrive on the island of Corsica for the start of the 100th edition of the Tour de France at the same level he displayed at the 2012 Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España. Team Katusha's leader makes his return to France after his most recent appearance in 2010 but this time he's more concerned with what he can control - his form.
To match his performances at the Giro - where he finished second overall and won two stages - and the Vuelta - where he won three stages and finished third overall - is no simple task but last year's number-one ranked rider in the UCI standings says if he performs at an equal level to 2012 and fails to finish on the podium in Paris, he will remain satisfied knowing that he gave everything possible.
"At the 2012 Giro d'Italia, I was at hundred percent and I hope to match it at the Tour. If cannot win or make the podium with that level, I will have to be content with the position I get," said Rodríguez to Europapress.
The reduced amount of individual time trial kilometres in this year's race will no doubt fall more in the favour of the explosive climber who lost the Giro lead in the final TT of 2012 but there are still 65 solo kilometres to contest along with a 25km-long team time trial which will undoubtedly put pressure on his position. Having spent time in the wind tunnel already this year, the 34-year-old remains optimistic about his chances.
"It is not at all unreasonable to think about stepping onto the podium. We are prepared to make a great Tour as we did in the Giro and the Vuelta and all I can do is hope to be at the same level," he added.
A seasoned grand tour contender 'Purito' is all too aware of the additional challenges thrown up at the Tour which extend beyond one of the most competitive GC fields seen in recent years.
"[Chris] Froome, [Alberto] Contador and [Alejandro] Valverde are not alone in the GC fight. For sure there will be many more like [Jurgen] Van den Broeck, [Tejay] van Garderen, [Cadel] Evans or Andy Schleck.
"There are many factors that make the Tour different, there's extra stress as riders know that being seen in the Tour could change your career. It's the biggest race of the year and followed by so many including the fans and sponsors etcetera."
- team leader
- Tour de France
- Giro d'Italia
- Vuelta a España
- Tour de France 2013
- Article published:
- June 25, 2013, 18:15
- Barry Ryan
UCI presidential campaign begins in earnest
A day after Brian Cookson formally launched his campaign to become president of the UCI in a press conference in Paris, current incumbent Pat McQuaid went on the offensive with a press release that focused on attacking his rival’s manifesto rather than making specific arguments in favour of his own credentials to be re-elected for a third term.
In a strongly-worded statement released on Monday afternoon, McQuaid dismissed Cookson’s manifesto as “half baked, fundamentally flawed and financially impractical.” McQuaid took issue with the Cookson’s stance on independent drug testing and a possible Truth and Reconciliation commission, as well as the costs of his proposals.
Cookson’s manifesto proposed the establishment of a “completely independent anti-doping unit in cooperation with WADA, managed and governed outside of the UCI,” pointing out that the existing Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation is “independent in name only” and located “down the corridor from the President’s office.”
However, McQuaid maintained that Cookson’s manifesto was proposing “nothing new on independent anti-doping, because the WADA Code simply does not permit the UCI, or indeed any other international federation, to create an independent anti-doping body.”
“What Brian is proposing, when you examine the detail, is simply to relocate the existing Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF) unit, which is as fully independent as the WADA Code permits, outside of the UCI building in Aigle,” McQuaid continued. “My own position, and that of the UCI, as we have said many times, is that we are in favour of independent anti-doping if WADA changes its Code to facilitate that for all international federations.”
Written in bullet points, McQuaid’s statement read at times like a PAC attack ad in an American election campaign, and each section concluded with a series of questions for Cookson.
“Brian must immediately explain: why he is proposing to establish a new anti-doping unit when the CADF already exists, whose independence he has vouched for, voted on and approved in numerous management committee meetings?” McQuaid wrote. “What is the fundamental difference between the independent CADF that exists and the new unit that he is now proposing?
“How far geographically must the UCI relocate the CADF away from its President’s office to guarantee its independence?”
Cookson’s second electoral pledge is to “embrace openness and transparency” and he has welcomed the possibility of a so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission that would also investigate allegations that the UCI was involved in covering up doping cases in the past, although he acknowledged that there are “a number of practical legal issues” that would need to be overcome.
McQuaid attacked Cookson for what he claims is a lack of consistency on the issue, citing an interview last week in which the Briton said he “wasn’t sure” if such a commission was necessary. “Brian must explain why he has two versions of where he stands on the subject of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid went on to criticise Cookson's pledge to increase the budget of the World Cycling Centre and to establish more World Cycling Satellite Centres, saying that it bore “no relation to the existing budgetary constraints and the financial resources available to the UCI." He complained that Cookson “has prepared his manifesto as if money were no object. This money has to be found and he has given no indication from where it will come.”
In a final section entitled “Other Issues,” McQuaid queried Cookson’s assertion that cycling has lost influence within the International Olympic Committee and alluded to his own involvement in sports politics in Switzerland.
In spite of receiving a lifetime Olympic ban for defying the anti-apartheid boycott and racing in South Africa in 1976, McQuaid became a member of the IOC in 2010. McQuaid is also set to be nominated to run for re-election by the Swiss Cycling Federation after Cycling Ireland recently voted against backing his candidacy.
“How can [Cookson] claim that he can affect policy within the Olympic Movement when he is neither an elected member of the IOC, nor well known by the membership?” McQuaid asked.
McQuaid also claimed that Cookson’s plans to promote the UCI’s globalisation and women’s cycling do not fundamentally differ from his own actions since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as president.
“How do his plans in these two areas differ significantly from what I have been doing successfully for the past eight years? And what is his credibility and track record in the globalisation of cycling and in promoting women’s cycling?” McQuaid said.
McQuaid’s statement concluded with a barb aimed at Cookson’s choice of location for the launch of his manifesto. Cookson held his press conference in Paris as it was the city in which the UCI was founded, but McQuaid decided to highlight that Britain was not part of the original body.
“It was launched specifically to replace the then International Cycling Association which these countries felt was too dominated by Great Britain, hence the choice of Paris. Britain was even specifically excluded from joining the newly launched UCI for a number of years,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid’s statement was sent on his behalf by Irishman Ian McClure, who until recently served as a PR advisor to the UCI and, specifically, McQuaid himself. Cyclingnews understands that McClure, who was hired by the UCI in March 2012, was closely involved in preparing McQuaid’s response to USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Lance Armstrong affair.
McClure said that he has now been appointed “in a private capacity” by McQuaid “to advise and assist him in managing and directing his campaign.”
Cookson's presidential campaign is being run by Vero, a London-based sports communications company.
- Article published:
- June 25, 2013, 21:30
- Cycling News
Irishman's son Nicolas faces "learning curve"
1987 Tour de France champion Stephen Roche has two different opinions of his two close relations who will be racing in the 100th edition of the Grand Boucle: nephew Dan Martin "is capable of anything", but his own son Nicolas Roche, who will be a super-domestique for a Tour contender for the first time faces "a very good learning curve".
Speaking to SkySports, Roche said that Martin is "capable of winning the Tour, more than capable of winning one, two, three stages, maybe."
Martin is expected to be named as a co-leader to Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky in only his second Tour de France since joining the Slipstream programme, now Garmin-Sharp, in 2008. Now 26, he has shown strong, steady progress over the past five years. Second in the Volta a Catalunya in his second WorldTour season, Martin impressed with a Tour of Poland overall victory a year later in 2010. In 2011, he finished on the podium of his first Monument in the Il Lombardia.
Martin made his debut in the Tour de France last year, and was the team's highest finisher in 35th place, and this year has the potential to progress further - especially considering his overall victory in Catalunya and a stunning win in Liège - Bastogne - Liège.
Roche sees Martin as playing a support role for Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro d'Italia winner and a rider who is superior to him in the individual time trials, but said Martin could be a factor if he slips into the right breakaway.
"Dan is one of those riders who you don't want to give too much time to," Roche said. "He's the kind of rider on his day who can rise to the occasion. If he gets in a lucky break and gets five, 10 minutes up, it would be very hard to get them back.
"They will underestimate him a little bit, but at the same time, Dan's the kind of guy that even if they do give him the recognition that he deserves, he can slip away."
Things have been quite different for Roche's son Nicolas, who was team leader in the Tour for the Ag2r-La Mondiale team until switching to Saxo-Tinkoff this season. He will be riding in support of Alberto Contador, a role which will be new for the 28-year-old.
"This year he's riding for Contador, so it's going to be more difficult for him to play his own personal card," Roche said. "He's never ridden for a leader; he doesn't know what it's like to be a worker."
Nicolas Roche has frequently been in the top 20 of Grand Tours, finishing as high as seventh in the Vuelta a España in 2010, but has never managed to pull together the consistency to get a higher finish.
Roche senior said that "riding for Contador is a very good learning curve for him," adding, "If Nicolas finishes 10th overall in the Tour this year, we'll be saying, 'Deja vu, we've seen it before'.
"If Nicolas finishes 15th or 20th and wins a stage, we'll be saying, 'Nicolas has improved'," but said that a top placing is not important for him this year.
"His aim this year is he helps Contador win the Tour and a stage win for himself."
- Article published:
- June 25, 2013, 22:14
- Cycling News
21st Century Fox backs team in time for the Tour de France
Team Sky announced a long-term commitment from News Corporation, which will put the 21st Century Fox brand prominently on riders' kit and team vehicles in time for the start of this year's Tour de France.
21st Century Fox is the proposed media and entertainment company that will be formed following News Corporation's separation into two distinct publicly-traded companies.
News Corporation and its subsidiary Sky Italia have been partners with Team Sky since the team first raced in 2010. The partnership announced today will extend and increase this support for the team, which will continue to be known as Team Sky and operate as Sky Procycling.
"We're excited to have this long-term commitment and to welcome 21st Century Fox on board," said Dave Brailsford of Team Sky.
"It feels like great recognition of the strength and value of the partnerships we've developed. 21st Century Fox is a perfect fit and is an appealing global brand that will be great to work with. We're looking forward to racing on their home soil, at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, this summer."
Confirming the move, James Murdoch, News Corporation's Deputy Chief Operating Officer, said, "It's a great time to increase our commitment to Team Sky and to add the support of an exciting new entertainment brand. We're proud of the team's success so far, its professionalism and its approach to attracting new fans to the sport and increasing grassroots participation in cycling."
The team is hoping to continue the success it has experienced during the past four years. During that time, Team Sky has risen to number one in the world rankings, taken 129 victories. Its star rider Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour de France, in 2012.
According to a study commissioned by Cyclingnews and performed by Repucom, last season Team Sky gave more media value to their partners and sponsors than any other cycling team, delivering over $550m in advertising value; the highest achieved by any professional team.
Wiggins will not be at the Tour de France start in Corsica on Saturday, but Team Sky will be represented by Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Pete Kennaugh, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Kanstantin Siutsou, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas.
- Article published:
- June 25, 2013, 23:28
- Cycling News
Banned Italian maintains he is telling the truth
The UCI has responded to Riccardo Riccò’s twitter claims that more riders tested positive to EPO at the 2008 Tour de France than has previously been released, with the governing body denying any cover up.
"Riccò, Stefan Schumacher, Leonardo Piepoli and Bernhard Kohl all returned positive tests at the 2008 Tour," said the UCI press statement. "But Riccò claimed on his Twitter account that more riders had tested positive.
"This unsubstantiated claim is totally untrue. In the 2008 Tour de France, the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) was solely responsible for carrying out all anti-doping testing. The UCI was not involved in the testing as the 2008 Tour de France was not on the UCI calendar but was organized as a national event.
"However, any adverse analytical finding from a test that was carried out during the 2008 Tour de France was reported by the lab directly to AFLD with a copy to UCI and WADA and was seen and reviewed by AFLD, UCI and WADA. It is simply not possible for a positive test to be covered up."
Riccò, currently serving out a 12 year ban, continued to assert that he was telling the truth via social media on Tuesday evening, claiming that the list of 48 positive tests "arrived at his home by mistake" and that it was "easy to refute my statements…"
- Article published:
- June 26, 2013, 00:57
- Jane Aubrey
Mental strength at a new level in 2013, says Orica GreenEdge opportunist
Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) is set to make his Tour de France debut this weekend, the first grand tour the Australian has ridden since his mountains classification victory at the Vuelta a España in 2012.
For Clarke, riding the Tour always seemed to be on the cards but a short-term racing calendar has been his reality.
"I know my program well enough in advance," Clarke told Cyclingnews during a lengthy interview in April. "To be prepared for a race you need six weeks and I get my program six weeks in advance. So it's not a help, benefit or discomfort knowing your program three months in advance because there's nothing you can do about it.
"I've only done one grand tour so far so to do that again, that would be awesome," he grinned at the suggestion of riding the Tour de France. "I had a great time there [at the Vuelta]."
In announcing Clarke's Tour de France berth, Orica GreenEdge sports director Matt White said that the 26 year-old had laid the foundations with his performance in Spain and would be charged with an opportunistic role in the nine-man squad from June 29.
"In addition to capitalizing on personal opportunities in the medium mountain stages, Simon is a fantastic teammate who can do whatever sort of work we might need on days that are better suited to another rider on the team," White explained.
While climbing his way into the polka dot jersey at the Vuelta was very much a case of realising that an opportunity was there for the taking, off the back of his stage victory on Stage 4. A solid pre-race preparation meant that Clarke knew he would be in with a shot for a stage win, but he still never expected it. Sure, there was luck involved when it came to retaining the jersey but at the same time when the Vuelta reached the pointy end, Clarke left nothing to chance.
Holding a two-point margin over his rivals for the polka dot jersey heading into la Vuelta's penultimate stage, 170.7km from La Faisanera to Bola del Mundo where points would be up for grabs in the classification for the final time. Clarke made it into the 20-man breakaway and went on the attack, earning himself the prize for the stage's most combative rider. The stars aligned for Clarke and he took maximum points on the first three climbs to wrap up the competition but at the same time, he knew that Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) would collect points at the finish.
"Once that [stage win] happened, automatically I had a level of tranquillity that I'd already succeeded in my goal for winning a stage in a grand tour after four days," Clarke told Cyclingnews. "Even if I went home after day five I still would have been happy with my grand tour. When you can race with a clear mind and a relaxed mind, actually a lot of the time you perform better.
"At the end of the day to win a jersey, I don't know the exact averages, but you have to be in at least four of five breakaways in a grand tour and that's a lot of hard days. Not only do you have to be in them but you have to be over the top of the hill first in virtually all of them."
Clarke's approach to his Vuelta adventure illustrated much about the type of rider he is. On first look, there is that sense of opportunism but in actual fact, there is a careful calculation to his actions and the perfect example of that can be found back in 2009 at the UCI Road World Championships. In Mendrisio, Clarke was charged with the job of protecting eventual winner and roommate, Cadel Evans and not once took a backward step, continually fighting for his team leader.
"When I'm in a situation where I know I can learn and benefit from that myself… I suppose cycling's a pretty selfish sport," Clarke explained. "In a way I was helping Cadel but I was also helping myself. You can't get much more of a better experience, apart from winning, than helping the guy who does win. The experience I got out of that and how he went about the race that day, the things that he did, was a real insight in how to race seven-hour bike races which is a pretty hard thing to do. Experiences like that are second to none."
That experience solidified the pair's friendship and they live not far from each other near the Swiss-Italian border. While within Orica GreenEdge Clarke follows the movements of Simon Gerrans closely on the bike, it's the actions of Australia's first winner of the Tour de France, Evans, that Clarke monitors.
"It's not like I grill him, I just absorb," he said. "Just being around guys like that you don't need to ask questions. You just look at what they do or when you race with them you're watching what they're doing. You can't hide what you have to do to go well in a race like that so as long as you pay attention and learn from it you can really benefit from that.
"He's got amazing discipline," Clarke said of Evans. "To an extent, a level of selfishness that you need to prepare yourself to get to that next level and not let anything distract you. His training ethic is just unbelievable."
The build up to the Tour
With Clarke's success at the Vuelta, came his own realisation that he could be successful at a WorldTour level. It was not that he had doubted himself previously, but it was more that Clarke finally had something tangible to cling to on his palmares. 2013 became about taking his racing to a whole new level.
"In terms of my racing goals, nothing's really changed, the aspirations in particular races are elevated," Clarke admitted. "As far as I'm concerned, it's still a big learning curve for me in the really big races. Learning the roads and the climbs and getting that experience to one day be competitive."
There's been plenty of time away from home, training at altitude both in Australia and also Tenerife in the build up to his start in the 100th Tour de France. There's also been a hefty race schedule that's so far included the Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Ardennes Classics, Bayern-Rundfahrt and then the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"When you race pro for however many years and you come close to winning races but you just never win you just... it leaves that question – are you good enough?" Clarke explained. "Finally when it happens you realise that you are and it's not an issue. You just train to win as opposed to just training to maybe have a chance of winning. It takes your mental strength to a new level, where you're able to, I suppose be more quietly confident that if you do the preparation like I did leading into the Vuelta where I know that if I get to a situation like that again I can win. To go into the races this year knowing that gives you a bit of extra confidence."
Clarke to win? Bet on the Tour de France with William Hill
- Article published:
- June 26, 2013, 03:11
- Cycling News
Spaniard ready to attack Sky and Froome
Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) riding his first Tour de France since 2011 says he doesn't buy in to the theory that Sky's dominance over the 100th edition of the Grande Boucle is assured, warning that he's ready to light up the race.
Contador and Chris Froome both name each other as the rider to beat at the Tour de France, which begins on Saturday on the island of Corsica, however the Spaniard said that anyone expecting a repeat of the type of performance Team Sky put in last season – where Bradley Wiggins rarely if ever looked under threat – will be disappointed.
"I've no intention of being a conformist in this race. Not in the slightest," he told The Independent.
Much has been made of the so-called predictability of Sky's racing style but Contador said that there was only so much that you could plan for and that the parcours of this year's Tour, without as much focus on time trials, would also have a considerable bearing on any race tactics.
"Cycling is not all about mathematics," he said. "You have to see what your rivals are doing. Fortunately, we're not machines and circumstances inside a race can change so fast. This sport isn't one that you can control as easily as others. This Tour, in particular, could continue to be wide-open right up until the final mountain top finish at Annecy on the second last day."
The last occasion that Contador and Froome went head-to-head in a grand tour was at last year's Vuelta a España where the former was returning from his ban for clenbuterol. Contador and Saxo-Tinkoff won that battle with Froome fourth overall and over 10 minutes down. The pair's last meeting was at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month, where Froome reigned supreme, Contador 10th overall a position solidified with a poor result in the time trial.
"I would split my season into two parts," Contador said, "in the first part, aiming for my first peak of form, things didn't really work out as I wanted, although it's also true that I planned things out differently to other years, and with a much stronger team I was no longer under such pressure to win.
"I then started to build things up at the Critérium du Dauphiné and I was actually happy with how it went. I got stronger and stronger as the race went on and I'm now, form-wise, where I want to be."
Contador believes that the line-up selected for Saxo-Tinkoff is "way stronger" than anything assembled previously with Michael Rogers, Roman Kreuziger, Nicolas Roche, Matteo Tosatto, Daniele Bennati, Sergio Paulinho, Jesus Hernandez and Benjamin Noval all in support. Unconcerned with form-guide or labels of favouritism, the 30-year-old has just one thing in mind when it comes to the 2013 Tour de France.
"I'm going to be thinking about winning it," he said.
Contador to win? Bet on the Tour de France with William Hill
- Article published:
- June 26, 2013, 05:15
- Cycling News
Retired Frenchman speaks out
Recognised as a clean rider over his 16-year career, retired Frenchman David Moncoutié claims that almost every winner of the Tour de France during the 90s was probably using performance-enhancing drugs.
It's a sentiment echoed by Lance Armstrong when he confessed to using drugs throughout his career in January this year, where the American said that it would not have been possible to win the Tour during his reign without the use of performance enhancers.
"Almost every winner of the Tour de France was probably using this substance," Moncoutié told Euronews of the 1990s. "Maybe some cyclists in the peloton were clean, more so in recent years, but I think the majority of them were cheating."
A test for EPO only became available for the Olympic Games in 2000. Earlier this week, L'Equipe reported that Laurent Jalabert tested positive for EPO from a sample taken at the 1998 Tour de France.
Moncoutié retired at the age of 37 following the Vuelta a España last year, with two stage wins from the Tour de France highlighting his palmares.
The former Cofidis rider said that despite previous eras that have been clouded by doping controversies, the increased efforts in anti-doping meant that it could not be said that "all cyclists are cheating" and that the number of riders using illegal substances has decreased.
"In my opinion, it is possible to take part in the Tour de France without cheating just as I did and I don't think I am the only one. However to actually win the competition is a different matter. Some cyclists have special skills and we are all well trained but one rider usually stands out. We would all like him to be clean."