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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Date published:
March 23, 2011, 00:00
  • McQuaid making power play with radio ban, Aldag says

    Rolf Aldag chats at the start.
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 10:07
    Cycling News

    Says teams' and riders' interests ignored by UCI

    UCI president Pat McQuaid is acting unilaterally in forcing through the race radio ban in spite of opposition not only from within the peloton but also his own organisation, HTC-Highroad Sport Director Rolf Aldag said. He accused McQuaid of unfairly exercising his power and acting like the “king of the castle”.

    “There is more than one functionary in the UCI who has been convinced by the teams' arguments, but McQuaid acts like the 'king of the castle.' With him it is clearly a question of power. There is no democracy to be found there,” Aldag told

    How the conflict over the ban will be resolved is “fully open”. The teams have threatened to boycott the Tour of Beijing in October, and Aldag explained why that race was chosen. “Other than the world championships, that is the only race the UCI organise themselves, so that they can profit financially.”

    “Why should we punish organisers in Cologne, Frankfurt, or wherever, who can't do anything about the situation, and who would also be threatened by the UCI with the cancellation of their race if the riders ride with radios.”

    As to why he finds race radios so important, Aldag said, “it deals with the riders' safety, but also for the thinking of team sport. How will the best one win, when he stands on the side of the road with a puncture and can't tell his team?”

    He added, “We have had radios for 15 years, and suddenly the UCI gets the idea of banning them. Did they need 14 years for analysis?”

    The larger question is not just about the radios though, but about the UCI's consideration of the teams' and riders' interests, Aldag said. “We had 0.0 per cent involvement in the composition of the race calendar and the approval of ProTeams, with the UCI making all the decisions without the teams and the riders.”

  • Alberto Contador: I have even more support now

    Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) leads Cadel Evans (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 10:24
    Peter Cossins

    Contador praises Riis and strength of Saxo Bank

    Like the rest of us, Alberto Contador is waiting to hear whether the UCI will appeal against the Spanish federation’s decision not to ban him after his positive test for clenbuterol. That decision is due by March 24, and in the meantime the Spaniard is focusing on his build-up to the Giro d’Italia, which continues this week with a debut appearance in the Volta a Catalunya.

    Speaking to Cyclingnews on the eve of the centenary edition of the Catalan race, Contador admitted that his form and his confidence in his Saxo Bank-SunGard team are growing rapidly. “I’m going better and better all the time now and over the last few weeks I’ve been training normally,” Contador said. “For the Volta I am hoping to be at a good level but I know that I will be lacking a bit of race speed. That’s normal, because my objective is still to do a good Giro d’Italia.”

    Contador has good memories of Catalonia going back to 2005, when he was the last rider to win the long-standing Setmana Catalana stage race. That event’s slot on the calendar is now filled by the Volta, a race that Contador has surprisingly not appeared in before. Consequently, he admits that he’s not lacking in motivation this week, especially as the level of competition is extremely high indeed.

    “Taking part in a race which I’ve never ridden before always provides an extra bit of motivation, even more so because it’s in Catalonia. But I’ve got plenty of rivals, so many in fact that I cannot name them all. Evans will be there on the back of his Tirreno victory, plus Menchov, Basso, Scarponi, Igor Antón and many others who I have forgotten to mention but will also have serious hopes.”

    Contador acknowledged, however, that this year’s Volta route does not play in his favour. “The fact that there is no time trial doesn’t make this an ideal race for me and I think that the third stage, which finishes in Andorra, will now be the one that will make the difference,” he explained.

    With a view on the longer term, Contador refuted widely made suggestions that his Saxo Bank team has been fundamentally weakened by the departure of so many big name riders during the off-season. He also admitted that the few months he’s spent with working with Bjarne Riis’s outfit have made him more relaxed than he has been for a long time.

    “I think we’ve got a great team, although perhaps one with fewer big names than we had last year,” he said. “But we’ve got riders of enormous quality. Over the last few weeks we’ve been drawing up potential line-ups for the Giro and Tour and I can tell you that we’ve got more than enough quality riders, which makes me feel very happy looking ahead.”

    And what about his first impressions of working with Riis?

    “My relationship with Bjarne is very good, we’ve got a good rapport and I have to say that I feel so good about this team that I’m more relaxed than I’ve been for a long time. I’ve got a huge amount of confidence in him.”

    Contador also admitted that the response he has had from his peers and fans since returning to competition at the Volta ao Algarve last month has lifted him. “My colleagues in the peloton have welcomed back completely normally, which has been perfect for me,” he said. “With regard to the fans, their reaction has been incredible, and I even think that I’ve got more support now than I had before if that’s possible.”

  • Guardini returns to action at Settimana Coppi e Bartali

    Andrea Guardini (Farnese-Neri) after the finish.
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 11:25
    Barry Ryan

    Italian neo-pro rested for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo

    Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) lines up at the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali on Tuesday after being rested for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo.

    The Italian neo-pro sprinted to five stage wins at January’s Tour de Langkawi and followed that up with victory on the final day of the Tour of Qatar. After another solid outing at the Tour of Oman, Guardini was sidelined by his team in recent weeks to allow him to recuperate from his early-season exertions.

    “It’s a decision that I agree with,” Guardini told “After such a gruelling month, it would really have been too much to go and ride Tirreno-Adriatico. I’m young and I know my limits.”

    While Guardini’s early spate of success was in keeping with his recording-breaking tally of 19 wins in his final amateur season, he has already had a stark illustration of one of the key differences between the professional and amateur ranks, namely the length of the season.

    “Last year, I started my season on February 28. This year, I’ve done 22 days of racing before February 28!” Guardini exclaimed. “That’s huge for me. I needed a period of rest. I would have really liked to have participated in Milan-San Remo, but it would only have been for the experience. I should have the chance to race it next year.”

    The Settimana Coppi e Bartali sees the 21-year-old ride his first professional race on home roads, and he arrives at the start with high ambitions.

    “There are two stages suited to me – the very first one, on Tuesday morning, and the one the day after,” he said. “I’m even more motivated because the race takes place in Italy and even in the Veneto, which is to say at home. My new fan club will be there. I’m going there to win, that’s clear.”

    Guardini is hoping that his performances in the next few weeks will be enough to secure him a berth on Farnese Vini-Neri’s Giro d’Italia roster, and he will have another chance to make his case for selection at April’s Tour of Turkey.

    “After that, we’ll make a decision with [team manager] Luca Scinto, based on my state of form,” Guardini explained. “If I do the Giro, I will only do the first ten or twelve stages, which already seems very difficult to me, especially with the route this year. Of course I really want to do it, but I know that you need to go there well prepared. We’ll see.”



  • McQuaid says UCI yet to decide on Contador appeal

    UCI President Pat McQuaid attended the Leopard-Trek team presentation
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 12:35
    Barry Ryan

    Defends UCI stance on earpieces and Vacansoleil's ProTeam licence

    UCI president Pat McQuaid has said that cycling’s governing body is still deliberating on whether it will appeal the Spanish federation’s decision not to sanction Alberto Contador after he tested positive for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France. The UCI will make an announcement on the matter in the coming days.

    “We have thirty days to study the dossier submitted by the Spanish federation, that is to say, we have until March 24 to decide whether to appeal or not,” McQuaid told Ouest France. “Our lawyers have been very busy in recent weeks before the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS]. Nothing has been decided yet. We will make an announcement on Wednesday or Thursday.”

    McQuaid explained that the UCI’s decision on the matter will conform to its anti-doping policy, which is “to defend the riders who don’t cheat.”

    “We’re seeking out the cheats so that our sport can be credible,” McQuaid said. “In every doping case, the UCI evaluates the strength of the dossiers. “I’ve been worried by the credibility of our sport since my election [as UCI president]. Not only in this Contador affair. There’s also Riccò and Sinkewitz, there are always cheats. The young riders who are coming know that doping isn’t the answer.”

    McQuaid moved to quash rumours that Vacansoleil-DCM’s ProTeam licence could be in danger in light of the recent scandal involving Riccardo Riccò, who suffered a kidney ailment that was allegedly caused by blood doping. The Dutch team gained entry to the WorldTour for 2011 after signing Riccò, although they have since parted company with the controversial Italian.

    “Riccò had come back a year ago in a modest team [Ceramica Flaminia] without problems,” McQuaid claimed. “Vacansoleil recruited him afterwards. The team were perhaps naïve, but they couldn’t have known that Riccò was continuing to dope.”

    McQuaid said that the UCI was in favour of introducing heavier sanctions for riders who test positive, but admitted that four-year suspensions could be difficult to implement.

    “It’s already possible in WADA’s new anti-doping code, since last year,” McQuaid said. “But it’s true; it’s ambiguous and difficult to apply. We can request this heavier sanction according to the gravity of the infraction, in relation to various parameters.

    “We in the UCI propose sanctions to the federations, but the rider can still contest this criterion of gravity before CAS. We have restrictions when faced with this possibility. CAS understands well that this rule isn’t easy to apply. When cheating is premeditated, I think that there needs to be a four-year suspension.”

    “When the French government wants to lower the speed limit, it doesn’t ask the citizens”

    McQuaid stood by the sentiments he expressed in an open letter he wrote to riders last week on the debate over the use of radio earpieces. “Everybody must understand that cycling is in danger if we don’t change the rules,” he said. “Television stations don’t want to show races where there are earpieces. After fifteen years of earpieces, they’ve noted a loss of interest.”

    The teams’ association AIGCP has been critical of what it feels to be the UCI’s unilateral stance on the matter, but McQuaid moved to reject claims that the decision to ban earpieces had been taken without consultation.

    “It’s the UCI who has the competence to change the rules,” McQuaid said. “Secondly, there were discussions in workshops with representatives from the teams, then the management committee took its decision. When the French government wants to lower the speed limit, it doesn’t ask the citizens. It’s the same situation.”

    McQuaid reiterated his belief that racing is a better spectacle without race radios, and used Saturday’s dramatic Milan-San Remo as an example, even though, as a WorldTour event, riders were allowed use earpieces during the race.

    “Without earpieces, uncertainty comes back into it [racing],” McQuaid said. “There are young riders who want to attack but their directeurs sportifs stop them from doing so, because they need to protect the leader.

    “They constantly want to reduce the chances of bad luck, but did you see Milan-San Remo on Saturday? It was a great race, because of bad luck and crashes. There were 60km of intensity.”

    McQuaid also confirmed that if riders make a protest against the radio ban by wearing earpieces at the weekend’s non-WorldTour races, they will face sanctions.

    “If there are 80 riders without earpieces, we’ll do the race with 80,” he said. “The commissaires were ready to leave to race at Het Nieuwsblad if the riders hadn’t complied.”

  • Nielsen not sanctioned for Clenbuterol positive

    The colour of the Vuelta a Mexico peloton
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 15:45
    Cycling News

    Dane tested positive at Vuelta a Mexico

    The Danish Olympic committee has ruled that cyclist Philip Nielsen will not be sanctioned for his positive doping control last year for Clenbuterol. The Doping Board found that the substance came from contaminated food and that Nielsen was not negligent or at fault.

    Nielsen, then riding for the Continental-ranked Team Concordia Forsikring – Himmerland, tested positive for Clenbuterol after the last stage of the Vuelta a Mexico. He consistently denied having used the illegal product.

    “Philip Nielsen did not know then, in April 2010, that there was a risk from eating meat at the cyclists' hotel in Mexico. He did it in good faith and therefore it makes no sense now to suspend him for doping," said Torben Jessen, chairman of the Danmarks Idræts-Forbund Doping Board.

    The ruling is similar to the one issued last week by the Dutch cycling federation for mountain biker Rudi van Houts, who tested positive for Clenbuterol after returning from a trip to Mexico. Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was also recently cleared of Clenbuterol doping charges by the Spanish federation.

  • Quiznos Challenge may not go through Colorado National Monument

    The logo for the Quiznos Pro Challenge looks as if it was designed by the same people who did the NBA logo.
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 17:39
    Cycling News

    National Park Services says race not appropriate to park purposes

    The National Park Service will not allow the Quiznos Pro Challenge race to run through the Colorado National Monument in 2011. Congressional and state leaders, as well as race organisers, had pushed for a stage in the park.

    "Closing the park to accommodate the needs of a commercial bike race goes against our management policies, would adversely impact park resources, and would deny access to the park and other visitors," NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a press release.

    "Federal law and NPS policy restrict commercial activities in national parks to those that are 'necessary and appropriate' to park purposes. This bike race is neither necessary nor appropriate in the park.”

    Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo had earlier ruled against the race, warning of its potential impact not only on the environment but also on the wildlife. According to the New York Times, Colorado politicians joined with the race organisers to urge the NPS to reconsider that decision.

    Located in central western Colorado, the Monument is a 32-square mile park which features canyons, sandstone, and rock formations. The Coors Classic race ran through the part in the 1980s.

  • Breschel undergoes further minor knee surgery

    Matti Breschel (Rabobank) chats with race leader Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 20:00
    Cycling News

    Rabobank rider off the bike an additional two weeks

    Matti Breschel of Rabobank has undergone another minor operation on his left knee, which will keep him off the bike for two more weeks.  The Dane had surgery on the knee last November and has barely ridden this season.

    After the surgery last fall, he returned to racing at the Tour of Algarve, which he had to abandon when his knee pain returned.

    The Dane had signed with Rabobank this season to lead the Dutch team in the Spring Classics, but will miss them entirely this year.

    Breschel was re-examined Tuesday after continued pain. Extensive investigation disclosed a problem with connective tissue, the team said, which required removal under local anesthesia.  He is expected to stay in hospital for one night.

    He can resume training again in two weeks.

  • Lefevere says it's "too early to judge" Quick Step

    Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere and Tom Boonen.
    Article published:
    March 22, 2011, 22:38
    Daniel Benson

    Team boss refuses to panic ahead of spring campaign

    Patrick Lefevere is refusing to panic despite Quick Step's sluggish start to the 2011 season. The Belgian team has racked up just two wins but as yet have not scored a single point in the WorldTour rankings, leaving them rock bottom of the team listings after three months of racing.

    With the Belgian Classics about to move into full swing the experienced team boss is adamant that he and his riders should be judged after the spring campaign.

    "I can't deny we have zero points. It's too early to judge us though. We have a lot of injured riders, two of them crashed in Paris-Nice, Chavanel was ill and Boonen was ill. You can't read too much into the season so far," Lefevere told Cyclingnews on the eve of Dwars Vlaanderen.

    "I remember back in 2001 when we were in a similar position and we ended up getting first second and third in Paris-Roubaix. Don't judge us before the Classics finish."

    Lefevere's belief in the likes of Tom Boonen will be put to the test over the coming weeks. Although he is one of the favourites for nearly all the one-day races he enters in the spring, Boonen has not won a monument since Paris-Roubaix in 2009 and in 2010 he was outclassed by an unbeatable Fabian Cancellara.

    Quick Step also lost the services of several riders in the off season, including double Flanders winner, Stijn Devolder.

    "Why should we change things after so many years? For the last 15 years we've been winning at least one major Classic every year so I don't need a need make a difference," Lefevere added.

    "I get asked if we are as strong as last year all the time. Of course there are some good riders who have gone but it's all about money and budget but please don't make final decision about our team now. Call me after Liege and we'll talk. I've had to repeat that answer every year for the last 15 years."

    While Lefevere was quick to defend his riders and his recruitment policy he did add that as the sport has developed so had team budgets and that although his squad received a cash injection at the tail-end of last season, they're still scrapping in the transfer market while bigger teams flex their financial clout.

    "Of course we're still confident but we're working as hard as we can. I've always put quality over quantity. I don't think we're one of the strongest teams and it's hard to fight against teams that have 50 per cent more budget than we have. If someone has five million more than you it changes things."