- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 14:03
- Pierre Carrey
Jérôme Gilbert dreams of racing as Philippe's teammate
This is not exactly a family business like the others, one of those pairs of siblings that cycling so likes to promote. Philippe and Jérôme Gilbert are not the same as Andy and Fränk Schleck, who both aim to win the Tour de France. Jérôme, the younger brother of the World's number one cyclist, is a beginner in the peloton and doesn't dream of challenging last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège's winner.
He has just signed his first pro contract for 2012. “Better a semi-pro contract,” he tells Cyclingnews, as he is moving to the continental squad, Geofco-Ville d'Alger. The new team, with a Belgian base and an Algerian license, will be managed by former pro Geoffrey Coupé and has hired Nico Mattan as directeur sportif.
So far, Gilbert has been a modest amateur rider in Belgium. His famous name in the peloton didn't help him – even if he “was proud of his brother” - but didn't harm him either – even if his rivals watched him more than the others and stuck more on his wheel.
But now that the media has started to follow “the other Gilbert” he can play with the situation a bit. “To be pro with Geofco-Ville d'Alger is a great deal for both sides”, he says. “I bring the team some advertising, they give me an opportunity to be a semi-professional.”
Gilbert knows time is running out: he will be 28 next season, almost two years younger than Philippe. However, a few months ago, the prospect of a pro career seemed an impossibility. He worked as delivery man and storekeeper in a hi-fi shop and only rode “for fun” twice a week.
Everything changed with a gruesome crash at the Tour of Faso, in October 2010. On stage two of the popular African race, where he was one of the European guests, Gilbert hit a pothole. Verdict: a brain injury, about eighty stitches on his ripped-up face and five months without any physical activity.
“Honestly, I sometimes thought I wouldn't recover,” he said. “The first three months I had blanks and words couldn't come. I still shudder just by talking about this period.”
On May 31, 2011, Jérôme Gilbert won his biggest victory: he is definitely safe to ride again and succeeded in his comeback to cycling. He even chose the toughest kermesse of Belgium: the Gullegem Koerse, where Philippe won.
The crash in Faso changed him. “Now, I know what it means to suffer,” he said. His body has changed too: his sprinter profile moves to that of an all-rounder. He can take seriously what people have told him since then: “If you are serious, you have the potential to turn pro.” Gilbert quit his job and dedicated his schedule to cycling, training with Leopard Trek's Maxime Monfort. In July he finished 20th in the hilly Tour de la Province de Liège, among the best Belgian amateurs.
As a semi-professional with Geofco-Ville d'Alger, Gilbert targets “a life experience”. One-and-a-half years after his accident he will go back to Africa, to Algeria, for a training camp next January. His schedule will be split between African and European events but he doesn't expect to see his brother often at races.
It's his dream to race with him. Or, better still, to race for him. “Basically I would love to be in the same team as Phil one day,” he said. “I don't pretend I will be a champion, I know I am not so young, but to be a good teammate for my brother would be a fantastic achievement for me and the family.”
This year, he supported his older brother as a spectator. “His victory in the Flèche Wallonne was really special to me because it's the Classic that suits him the least,” he said. In return, Philippe pushed his young brother, trained with him sometimes in Monaco or near the family home in Remouchamps, Belgium, a village at the foot of La Redoute climb.
Recently, Philippe sent an email to Jérôme: “You can have a ten year-career.” The younger Gilbert, who has already fulfilled his dream of turning pro, doesn't dare dream of a long cycling career. He might, though, follow the path of another kermesse rider in the 1990s, Ludo Dierckxens, who became a pro aged 29 and raced for eleven seasons.
- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 15:14
- Cycling News
Cyclingnews spoke to British star as he celebrated 2011 success
Mark Cavendish told Cyclingnews that Team Sky is "going to be the best team in the world" as he reflected on his success in 2011 at a charity dinner for Action Medical Research in London last week.
The British superstar, who is moving to Team Sky for 2012 after securing a memorable Tour de France Green Jersey/Road World Championship double in 2011, looks ahead to taking on both the London Olympic Games and the Tour de France in 2012. Cavendish also spoke to Mark Robinson about his pride at the prospect of becoming a father for the first time in April.
- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 16:04
- Cycling News
"Cannibal" has faith in Bruyneel not to commit tactical errors
Eddy Merckx has advised Andy Schleck to race the Giro d'Italia, where a victory would be more important than a second place at the Tour de France. Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, the greatest cyclist of all time also criticised Schleck's tactics in this year's Tour and said he believed that with the new super team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and its boss Johan Bruyneel, no errors of strategy will happen next year.
Asked whether a first place in the Giro mattered more than a second place at the Tour, Merckx said, "First in the Giro. But he has to race it, too, and win it, which you can't take for granted."
Schleck has not participated in the Italian Grand Tour since 2007, when he got second and won the race best young rider jersey. Instead, he turned to the Tour de France, finishing in second place three times since 2009.
The 26-year-old and his new RadioShack-Nissan-Trek team have not established a race programme for 2012 yet, and with the Tour de France route including almost 100 kilometres of time trialling, the Giro d'Italia may also be an option. Merckx also said that Schleck's chances were slim should Alberto Contador appear at next year's Tour - but that there was also hope.
"Contador is more complete, Schleck always misses something," he said. "But Andy also has to race the Tour not aiming at second place. With Johan Bruyneel, he won't commit the tactical errors that cost him the Tour this year. Like when he went to chase Contador on the Galibier instead of putting all his chances on Alpe d'Huez."
In any case, even this would not have prevented Cadel Evans of winning the 2011 Tour. The Australian is an excellent time triallist and will be next year's biggest favourite if Contador has to serve a suspension for his clenbuterol positive at the 2010 Tour de France.
- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 16:25
- Daniel Benson
UCI says proposal was "unworkable"
Cyclingnews has learned that the financial group Rothschild put together a proposal for a cycling breakaway league in the early stages of 2011. The proposal is said to have minimised the influence of the UCI but lacked the cooperation of the sport's biggest race organiser, ASO.
The proposal was subsequently leaked to the UCI and President Pat McQuaid, who confirmed its existence to Cyclingnews. He also added that a second, less professional proposal also landed on his desk.
"One was put together by Rothschild but I don't know who put the other one together. It's not really for me to say where it came from. I don't want to say who gave it to me. It was given to me by someone it was presented to," McQuaid told Cyclingnews.
Cyclingnews reported in March that 11 teams were considering breaking away from the UCI over issues with the governing body's management of the sport, including its institution of rules banning race radios. The cooperation of the ASO was key to the idea as they run the sport's biggest race, the Tour de France.
It was clear by April that McQuaid was aware of the efforts, and in May, McQuaid threatened to charge teams for the cost of the biological passport programme should they conspire against the UCI to form a breakaway league, but at the time he was not worried that the concept - now known to be presented in the Rothschild proposal - would become a reality.
"It was unworkable because of the way it was presented and the financials. The whole project was unrealistic. I'd heard a bit about it before I saw it. We did write to Rothschild but we never got an answer from them."
"The second one was an even more naïve one. It wasn't worked out in a professional way like the Rothschild one was. The second one was just a Power Point presentation basically."
The details of the exact proposal are still unclear but one source, linked to an international race on the UCI calendar, told Cyclingnews that the proposal didn't involve ASO but did detail a restructure of the sport with teams and races and minimal UCI input.
Rothschild is one of the world's largest independent financial advisory groups but their proposal has been put together with the aid of the Gifted Group, a small London company that specialises in television rights bundling deals. They were unavailable for comment.
- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 21:40
- Cycling News
New race joins UCI Asian Tour calendar
2012 will bring the first-ever Tour of Borneo, the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) has announced. The five-day tour will run from April 27 to May 1 next year and will cover a total distance of 674km over its five stages and will feature dramatic scenery. The UCI has also confirmed that the event will be officially added to its Asian Tour calendar. Race organiser Sabah State Cycling Association (SCA) is expecting 20 professional teams from five continents to feature on the inaugural edition's start line.
“The five-stage race beginning on April 27 will start from my beloved hometown Semporna, an idyllic district renowned for its best diving spots like Sipadan, Mabul and Sitangkai,” said race patron YB Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Shafie bin Haji Apdal.
"From there, the riders will proceed to Tawau, Lahad Datu, and Sandakan before they face the grueling mountain highlands leading to Kundasang, the base of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia. The race will end in the West Coast of Sabah, on May 1, 2012, covering the district of Kota Kinabalu, Papar and Penampang. I believe the combination of these routes has been selected to bring excitement and challenge for the riders."
- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 22:30
- Cycling News
Briton takes Team Sky experience to Continental team
Russell Downing will take his “wealth of racing experience” to Endura Racing for 2012. The Scottish Continental team announced Tuesday that it had signed the British rider who most recently spent two years at Team Sky.
“The former British road race champion joins us from Team Sky where he picked up a stage victory at the Criterium International and a stage and overall win at the Tour de Wallonie,” according to the team press release. “Much of Russell’s 2011 season was spent in support of his team leaders and he put in a gutsy performance at the Giro d’Italia in May where he rode with several broken ribs to finish his first Grand Tour.”
The 33-year-old turned pro in 1999 with Linda McCartney, and since then has ridden with iTeamNova.com, Recycling.co.uk, Driving Force Logistics, Health Net, Pinarello Racing Team and CandiTVs/Marshalls Pasta, before joining Sky in 2010. His two years with Sky were his only time at a top-ranked team.
“I'm really excited about joining Endura Racing for 2012 after a couple of great years with Sky,” Downing said. “I've been speaking to Brian Smith [Endura Racing's General Manager] for several months now about the team and it's great to finally put pen to paper.
"Endura Racing has an impressive looking race schedule for 2012 and I'm looking to get back to winning ways, to help build on what the team achieved in 2011. I've enjoyed riding at UCI World Tour level and have gained a lot of experience at some of the biggest races in cycling. I'm looking forward to passing that experience on to the younger riders on the squad.”
According to Endura Ltd director Jim McFarlane, “His individual talent obviously adds even more strength to the team for next year but we're also looking forward to having his input in nurturing and developing young talent in the team so they can benefit from his experience.”
Downing deserved to continue to ride in the WorldTour, “but I think Endura Racing is the perfect team for him,” Smith said.
“Russ is a winner and I am hoping he can lead the team by example by winning in Europe. We want to keep building on our performance levels and to have someone with the experience and respect of Russ I'm more than confident 2012 with be a hugely successful year for Endura Racing. The path from a Scottish club team to a UCI Professional Continental team is looking more likely now.”
- Article published:
- November 15, 2011, 23:41
- Pierre Carrey
French newspaper defamed FC Barcelona in 2006, court rules
The French newspaper Le Monde was fined €15,000 after the Spanish supreme court decided its 2006 report linking FC Barcelona to the doping investigation Operación Puerto amounted to defamation.
In 2009, a Spanish court had fined Le Monde €300,000 for naming FC Barcelona in relation to the case. At that time, the author of the feature, Stéphane Mandard, said, "I hope Spanish justice will have courage to see the truth come out".
In this week's appeal case, the Supreme Court decided to cut drastically the fine but confirmed the legal fault of the newspaper.
In December 2006, Le Monde published a report that linked Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor who ran a Madrid clinic at which police found large quantities of banked blood and doping products, to Spanish football teams FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, FC Valence and Seville's Real Betis.
Dr Fuentes himself confirmed in the media that he had worked with athletes from several sports, including tennis, athletics, boxing, football as well as cyclists. Officially closed in September 2008, Operación Puerto has been said to involve more than 200 athletes, but only cyclists have been named as clients. To date only Ivan Basso, Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi have been officially sanctioned by the UCI in relation to the case.
While Fuentes did not name football players or teams, Mandard said he had obtained from unnamed sources several documents allegedly showing doping programs for players on the 2005-2006 FC Barcelona team. That year was the most successful for the "Barça", which captured the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup.
- Article published:
- November 16, 2011, 00:15
- Alex Hinds
The tough road ahead for Australia's domestic racing series
Sean Muir is the road program coordinator for Cycling Australia, and among other things is charged with the difficult task of improving the standing of the domestic racing scene in Australia. Muir's biggest project to this end is the National Road Series, which both he and Cycling Australia hope will grow into a concrete development pathway for the next generations of cyclists, in extension to the existing, though limited AIS high performance program.
In 2011 we've seen a number of riders graduate successfully from the NRS which is no doubt a positive sign, but the series is still young, and by Muir's own admission is far from perfect. Muir talked to Cyclingnews about the NRS's current state, the transformation that has taken place already, and its future.
AH: What would you describe to be the mission statement of the NRS, and do you believe it is fulfilling it at the moment?
SM: The goal of the NRS is to create a breeding ground for cyclists to step through from the domestic scene to forging professional careers overseas. We are finding there are a lot of riders who are reaching a point in time where they they fell they need to go overseas, perhaps prematurely. We want to help them get overseas, but we also think we can provide a stronger platform here to allow riders to stay in Australia longer.
We're working with promoters, teams and the riders to create an atmosphere which they are keen to compete in. We're looking to build the series in every aspect to draw the riders and the teams and of course the sponsors along with it.
AH: If you contrasted the structure of the national calendar today, to that of say a decade ago, what have been the major changes in that period?
SM: I think that ten years ago there were a lot of one-off promoters out there. Now Cycling Australia has taken a little bit more of a directive approach. We sat down with five of the major promoters just last Friday, for many of them that was the first time they'd met eachother. We discussed the direction of the NRS and that's something that's never taken place before, and it can only do good to the series. I think if we can continue to work towards bringing together everyone's expertise and ideas we can create a better product.
The level of racing, the quality of the teams, the depth, and the financial side have all improved significantly in recent years. I think the gap between the top and bottom is closing as well, which is making the quality of racing better for both riders and spectactors.
AH: How do you and they see the series changing in the next ten years? What are at least the short-term steps that you will be implementing to further professionalise the series?
SM: One of the big changes already implemented in terms of a new direction was the inaugural women's series which kicked off last year. We're also finding there's a shift towards more team focused racing. With both the men's and women's events we've made all NRS events team based, and done away with the individual entry system [formerly anyone could enter NRS level events, now you must enter as part of a registered team - this guarantees a certain standard to the racing]. That has gone ahead leaps and bounds in the men and the women's series had seven teams at the start of this year which was positive, but we're looking to build on that.
Cycling Australia has also recieved a 'women in sport grant' from the Australian Government which will mean the women's series will be broadcast next year.
We're also working with promoters to bring in minimum standards for racing at the NRS level, so that teams, riders, spectators can expect a minimum level of service. Things like convoy support, medical service, neutral mechanics. We're looking to bring all those things across the board.
We're in the process of drafting a policy document at the moment and I think there are plenty of areas that can be streamlined.
AH: Scott Sunderland mentioned earlier this year that he would like to see a compulsory team participation in all events, is that something that is in the pipeline?
SM: From our point of view we would love to see that happen. If we had 20 teams register at the start of the year and all 20 were able to take part in every event. But at the moment I don't see that as possibility, at least in the next 12 months. There are so many small teams that can put up there hand to take part in half the calendar, but don't have the budget to double that.
We had a couple of new teams come on this year, Erdinger and John West and they went to a number of races which helps build the series. We have to be cautious though to not make the barrier of budgetary requirements too big too quickly. It is something we're working on though.
AH: To what extent have you looked at other sports within Australia's models? Does the AFL, NRL or the A-League offer a template worth pursuing?
SM: In planning meetings we've definetely looked at their models. The A-League managed to go along way in a short period of time, particularly in now attracting high calibre athletes to the League, and they've managed to win an impressive TV rights deal.
AH: Is that something that the NRS can pursue?
SM: When the TV rights deal came up for re-negotiation a couple of years ago Cycling Australia went out to the market to see what interest there was for the NRS. At the time however there wasn't much out there. I think then at the time the NRS was still seen unfairly or not as not a particularly cohesive series as we discussed before. Again as we further professionalise the series I think that we can change that.
In terms of other funding sources Cycling Australia is looking to finalise an overall sponsor deal for next year. At least a part of that will go to helping events, and hopefully to helping teams get to events.
AH: Can some funds from the high performance programs or the national team program be re-allocated to the NRS instead?
SM: The high performance program's funding is seperate and comes from directly from the Government. Those funds then have to be used in the AIS program and the national team programs, which is unfortunate for us, but it's not an option to pursue, I've tried!
We are continuing to pursue grants from the Australian Sports commision directly though. We've been working hard to bring on additional funding sources for the last three years, since I've been involved and with the women's grants and the overall sponsorship deal set to be announced we're moving in the right direction.
AH: There's been talk in some circles that the focus on criteriums and the lack of hillier style races on the NRS creates a one-dimensional development platform, is that something that worries you at all?
SM: I think you've got to work with what you've got. At the Tour of Toowoomba this year, partly because of the flooding, but also to address just that organisers went out and looked for some climbs in the surrounding areas to make the race more challenging. I think a lot of promoters are looking to extend the distance of stages wherever possible even if climbs aren't forthcoming.
There are climbs in Victoria, and Tasmania's great for climbing. But there's certainly a case there, and I think promoters are working to address it.
AH: Do you think a National Road Series is incomplete without the inclusion of two of Australia's biggest races, the Sun Tour and the Tour Down Under?
SM: This year all the continental teams [Drapac, Genesys, Budget Forklifts, V Australia, Jayco-AIS] were part of the Sun Tour. We're trying to get more teams registered at the continental level, and we're assisting teams in that process, which is quite complex. For Sun Tour you need that registration to compete.
We've tried very hard to get the UCI to change their regulation with regard to the Tour Down Under, but they haven't budged.
One thing we are working on though is to get a few more UCI events within Australia. At the moment in the Oceania region as a whole there's only the Sun Tour and the Tour of Wellington. If we can expand our UCI event calendar in Australia it makes it more attractive for teams to go to sponsors saying we need X budget to compete at these globally rated races.
That would be in addition to the exisiting NRS series, we wouldn't want to exclude teams on the NRS based on not being able to qualify for UCI events, but it would create a pathway for riders and the bigger domestic continental teams to expand their Australian racing calendar.
AH: Sean Muir, thanks for taking the time to talk to Cyclingnews.
SM: A pleasure Alex, thanks for taking an interest.
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