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Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, February 28, 2014

Date published:
February 28, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Gianni Meersman leading OPQS at Classic Sud Ardèche and La Drôme Classic

    Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) wins the Trofeo Muro
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 9:24 GMT
    Cycling News

    Jan Bakelants set for first race since Tour Down Under

    With Omega Pharma-Quick Step sending strong squads to the cobbled classics in Belgium, Gianni Meersman will lead the team in two races to take place in France over the coming weekend. Meersman returns to the 200km Classic Sud-Ardèche, a race where he placed sixth in 2013, on Saturday and then quickly turns his attention to the following day's race, La Drôme Classic. The 197km La Drôme Classic features nine punchy ascents with a parcours that favours all-rounders such as Meersman.

    "Most of the guys who will take part in this race came from a training camp that the team organized in Algarve last week," Sport Director Davide Bramati said. "Also, Michal Golas was one of the strong riders in support of Michal Kwiatkowski at Volta ao Algarve last week.

    "He is motivated from his victory at Trofeo Platja de Muro not long ago. It was the earliest he won a race in his career. We have a good team ready for the short and steep climbs, who are ready for any race scenario, and we will do our best for good results in this pair of French races."

    Carlos Verona and Jan Bakelants have been training in Spain after starting their season in Australia at the Tour Down Under and will be on hand to help out Meersman.

    OMQS squad for Classic Sud Ardèche and La Drôme Classic: Carlos Verona, Gianluca Brambilla, Gianni Meersman, Jan Bakelants, Julian Alaphilippe, Michal Golas, Pieter Serry and Serge Pauwels

  • Xenon gas should be banned, says Garmin-Sharp doctor

    Prentice Steffen has a long career in cycling
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 10:46 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Team discussed use but felt it crossed the line

    Xenon gas, the latest drug to hit the headlines after allegations that Russian athletes used the substance at the Olympic Games in Sochi, should be added to WADA’s banned list, says one leading WorldTour doctor.

    The gas, which stimulates the production of EPO, and increases heart and lung capacity, is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) banned list and although the agency has recently stated that it will discuss the matter during a post-Olympic meeting, one leading WorldTour physician believes that it constitutes doping and should be banned.

    Prentice Steffen MD, head physician at Garmin-Sharp, told Cyclingnews that although the team he worked for looked into the idea of using the Xenon, they were quickly put off. Although not on WADA’s banned list the use of the gas by humans has very little research attached to it. The fact that it stimulates the effects of doping, despite arguably still a legal substance, crosses an ethical boundary too, according to Steffen.

    Earlier this week former WADA president Dick Pound told WDR that. "Let us realise without doubt that this is doping and it is impossible to say in this process that the rules are not clear."

    However the matter remains ambiguous to some, Vladimir Uiba, the head of Russia's Federal Biomedical Agency, stated that there was "nothing wrong" if the Russian team used the drug. "We use what is not illegal, is not destructive and does not have side effects,” he added.

    Steffen, who was instrumental in the UCI’s adoption of the no needle policy within the peloton told Cyclingnews that, “We looked into Xenon, honestly, but we had several concerns about it and we ultimately decided not to use it. There’s really nothing good in terms of safety or athletic enhancement and then you throw in the ethical considerations. I personally feel that it crosses a line and that it’s unethical so we decided not to...

  • Michael Rasmussen settles with Rabobank

    A defiant Michael Rasmussen wins at the Col d'Aubisque hours before Rabobank finally excluded him from the 2007 Tour de France.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 10:56 GMT
    Cycling News

    Dane hoped for more than he got

    Michael Rasmussen and Rabobank have settled their court case, Ekstra Bladet reports. The Dane and his former Dutch team disputed the dismissal of Rasmussen after he was forced to leave the Tour de France in 2007. Rasmussen can't disclose the exact nature of the agreement but said "The result is not as good as I hoped but not as bad as I feared."

    Rabobank fired Rasmussen when it was revealed that he was not at the location he had claimed to be. While he told his team he was training in Mexico to prepare for the 2007 Tour de France, he was seen in Italy by Davide Cassani.

    Rasmussen took legal action against Rabobank while serving a two-year suspension for his whereabouts violations. In 2008, a court in Utrecht found that there had not been sufficient grounds for dismissal and Rasmussen was awarded €665,000 in damages. Both parties appealed this decision with Rasmussen asking for €5.6 million in compensation for earnings he would have had as a Tour de France winner.

    However, the appeal court in Arnhem found in favour of Rabobank, that the dismissal had been justified, and has ordered Rasmussen to repay a sizeable part of the €665,000 that were paid out to him in the first instance.

    "We settled this in January already but nobody asked about the matter so it was not made public," Rasmussen told Ekstra Bladet. "It is not a secret that the case is over but we agreed that the contents of the deal will be kept confidential."

    In January of 2013 Rasmussen confessed to having used banned substances for most of his career. The 39-year old Dane is currently suspended for two years, until February of 2015. When his suspension ends he wants to work with the Christina Watches team, the team he last rode for. Team manager Claus Hembo indicated last year that he is welcome to work with the team.

  • Froome cautious on winning run ahead of Tour de France

    Chris Froome (Sky) in action at the Tour of Oman.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 12:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Plots small steps in progress

    Chris Froome (Team Sky) started his 2013 season with victory in the Tour of Oman and went onto win every stage race he finished, including the Tour de France. This year the Team Sky captain has already won in Oman but plans on a different approach to his big goal of repeating his Tour de France victory.

    "Certainly not," he told Eurosport France when asked whether the plan was to win every race he started ahead of the Tour. "The goal is to progress steadily and be on top form 15 days before the Tour starts."

    The 28-year old rider prepared his season in Kenya and South Africa before heading to Oman where he won the decisive stage on Green Mountain and subsequently the overall classification.

    "It was important to be in Africa this winter because it enables me to cut myself away from Europe. But more importantly, I am convinced riding on the roads I once started riding on, is a good way to get to my best possible form to start the season."

    The 2013 season marked the definitive breakthrough for Froome by winning the Tour de France. "Yes [it did surprise me] because a victory in the Tour is never certain beforehand. You can never know what happens during the race. It was only at the finish that I said, yes I won this race and now I can relax."

    Froome will use Tirreno Adriatico to continue his build up towards the Tour de France. It was the only stage race he lost before the Tour in 2013. "Paris-Nice doesn't have uphill finishes and the stages are shorter than in Tirreno. I think the race has a better level so I prefer to start there. The time trials are the most interesting, one individual and one team time trial. That's an opportunity to see how the team works. The individual one gives me the possibility to see where I stand compared to last...

  • Pompeiana out of Milan-San Remo

    Milan - San Remo podium: Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Gerald Ciolek (MTN - Qhubeka) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack - Nissan)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 13:56 GMT
    Cycling News

    Climb removed from race route

    Milan-San Remo organisers RCS have confirmed that the Pompeiana will not be included in this year’s race route due to poor weather conditions.

    The ruling was made in conjunction with the the Province of Imperia, the Anas and the Traffic Police.

    "The roads to the top of the Pompeiana are already closed and there simply is not enough time to repair the damage on the roads and make sure they are ready for 23rd March when the "Classicissima" is due to take place, especially since the weather conditions are continuing to be bad," read an RCS press release.

    It means that the route will remain with the Cipressa and Poggio in the race finale, while there will be no return of Le Manie, with the route almost identical to the one on which Oscar Freire claimed victory on in 2007.

    RCS Sport had added the Pompeiana, a five-kilometre climb, to the finale of the traditional race route in an attempt to shake-up the outcome of the race and avoid the traditional sprint finish.

    Mauro Vegni, Head of RCS Sport Cycling, said: "We met our interlocutors of the Prefecture and the Province of Imperia, to work out whether it would be possible to keep the original race route, including the ascent of the Pompeiana."

    "In view of the current weather conditions, and also considering the damage that the bad weather has caused in recent months, we felt that there was no way we could secure the roads in time for the race.

    "I'd like to thank the Institutions for their help. Thanks to their work, we've been able to announce the route change today so that riders, teams and everyone involved in the event has time to take on-board the alterations.

    "The race route planned for this year (including Pompeiana climb), will be repeated in the next, hoping not to encounter the same problems even in 2015."


  • Wildcards announced for Paris-Roubaix, Flèche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Sylvain Chavanel in his new team colours of IAM Cycling
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 15:10 GMT
    Cycling News

    UnitedHealthcare, MTN-Qhubeka in ASO Spring Classics

    The Amaury Sport Organisation today announced the teams which have been awarded wildcard invitations to their Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix, La Flèche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    In addition to the 18 WorldTour teams, seven Professional Continental teams were invited to each race.

    The French team Cofidis, Solutions Crédits, the IAM Cycling team of Sylvain Chavanel and the Belgian squads Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise and Wanty-Groupe Gobert were awarded wildcards for all three races.

    The American UnitedHealthcare team will race in Paris-Roubaix and Flèche-Wallonne, and the African MTN-Qhubeka squad has been invited to compete in Flèche-Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège.

    Bretagne-Séché Environnement only made the cut for Paris-Roubaix, while Team NetApp-Endura will race Paris-Roubaix and Liège - Bastogne - Liège.

    The Colombia team was invited to the two Ardennes races which better suit its diminutive climbers.

    WorldTour teams:
    AG2R La Mondiale (Fra)
    Astana Pro Team (Kaz)
    Belkin-Pro Cycling Team (Ned)
    BMC Racing Team (USA)
    Cannondale (Ita) (Fra)
    Garmin Sharp (USA)
    Lampre-Merida (Ita)
    Lotto Belisol (Bel)
    Movistar Team (Spa)
    Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team (Bel)
    Orica GreenEdge (Aus)
    Team Europcar (Fra)
    Team Giant-Shimano (Ned)
    Team Katusha (Rus)
    Team Sky (GBr)
    Tinkoff-Saxo (Rus)
    Trek Factory Racing (USA)

    Wildcards for Paris-Roubaix:

  • Savio: Briceño has no chance of a contract with Androni Giocattoli

    Jimmy Briceño (Loteria Del Tachira) wins the stage
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 16:33 GMT
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Contract negotiations halted after rider recorded 63% haematocrit

    Gianni Savio says that Jimmy Briceño has no chance of securing a contract with his Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela team, after he recorded a haematrocrit level of 63%.

    Briceño was going through preliminary medical tests with the Venezuelan Federation when he recorded the high level, 13% higher than the UCI's upper limit of 50. As a result, the UCI refused the 27-year-old entry into the biological passport programme and Savio called an immediate halt to the contract negotiations.

    "Jimmy Briceño, I will never ever sign with him. For me, it is easy the question. Never will Jimmy Briceño ride on our team." an adamant Savio told Cyclingnews ahead of the second stage of the Tour de Langkawi.

    The Italian team has long had links with the South American country, through their sponsorship deal. When the Venezuelan government came to Savio at the beginning of the year requesting that the team sign a further two of the country's riders, he and the national federation decided to plump for the top two riders at the Vuelta a Tachira, Briceño and Carlos Galvez.

    Savio was again adamant on the point that he had not signed anything with either rider before he received the test results. Happy with what he saw on Galvez's results the rider will join the team upon completion of the Vuelta a Dominica. Briceño will have to look elsewhere if he hopes to move up the ladder, with Savio stating that he is done with second chances. While he has former dopers Franco Pellizotti and Emanuele Sella on his squad, the team manager says things are different now.

    "I want to study what is their position in the medical test. In the past I have offered a second...

  • Gallery: 5-Hour Energy-Kenda reboots for 2014

    The 2014 5-Hour Energy/Kenda team's Jake Keough and Sam Bassetti
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 17:59 GMT
    Pat Malach

    Loss of Mancebo refocuses team on race, stage wins

    This season will mark another reshuffling for the 5-hour Energy-Kenda team as it adjusts to the loss of Francisco Mancebo, the three-time National Race Calendar overall winner who left for the Continental team Skydive Dubai. Director Frankie Andreu is hoping several key roster additions and a looser leash on the returning riders will provide the wins this year.

    "We've been very one dimensional, and now this year I think our riders are going to have a lot more opportunities to ride for themselves and a lot more opportunities to showcase their own strengths and their own talents with an open style of racing," said Andreu, who in five years as director has weathered multiple sponsorship and management changes leading to the current 5-hour Energy-Kenda team.

    This year, more than half the roster will be new. Aside from Mancebo, 2013 roster stalwarts Nate English, Shawn Milne and Max Jenkins are gone. Returning riders Christian Parrett, Jim Stemper, Bobby Sweeting, David Williams and Taylor Shelden will welcome six new additions, led by former Pro Continental riders Jake Keough from UnitedHealthcare and Chad Beyer from Champion System.

    Andreu got a chance to check out his 2014 riders this week at training camp when the team gathered for the second straight year in Dahlonega, Georgia, a small college town on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains south of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Training rides varied from three hours to six hours and covered many of the climbs that were featured in the former Tour de Georgia.

    "The biggest part of the reformulation is that we've got Jake Keough, who I think is a phenomenal sprinter," Andreu said of his 2014 team. "Having Jake changes things compared to how the team would ride before. We still have Chad Beyer, Gavin Mannion and a young guy named Jon Hornbeck, who are all good climbers and guys who can go for the general classification, but it's going to be a bit tougher and a bit more strategic...