- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 04:00
- Jean-François Quénet
Japan's cycling legend to coach La Pomme Marseille and build a Tour de France team
Shinichi Fukushima, the only Japanese rider to have won the Tour of Japan to date (in 2004), has put an end to a 17-year long pro cycling career riding the Japan Cup for Nippo-De Rosa on Sunday.
Born in September 1971, he was often introduced as the Asian version of Jens Voigt for his longevity and his combative riding style. "At age of 42, it is a little difficult to find time to study but I still want to learn new things from cycling while applying what I've learned," said Fukushima in an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews. "I guess this is my excuse to stop racing now."
Fukushima became a household name in France as well as in Japan for being a leader for most of his younger compatriots who have pursued their dream of becoming a pro cyclist in the past fifteen years. His pre-season training camps in Thailand, where his wife and mother of four is from, have become famous in the Asian cycling community.
"I started my professional career after winning a big amateur race [Circuit des deux provinces] in France at age 24," he recalled. "I had 17 tremendous years racing mostly in Europe and Asia. I was also very fortunate to have my brother Koji joining me later in my cycling career. I have some great memories racing together with him."
The Fukushima brothers were famous for entertaining the crowds at starting areas and attacking from the gun. Each of them was among the first Asians to win a stage at Le Tour de Langkawi (Koji in 2005, Shinichi in 2007).
"They are our most memorable victories," Shinichi said. "From my first participation to this race in 2001 to the last one this year as a member of the team winning the overall classification with Julian Arredondo, Malaysia has a special place in my heart. I've had Malaysian teammates [in the Terengganu team in 2011 and 2012] telling me they got their inspiration to cycling by watching us on TV racing Le Tour de Langkawi."
The comment includes Yukiya Arashiro who might not have had the successful career he's got with Europcar if Fukushima hadn't been there to help him. "I'm very proud of Yukiya, but I can't take credit for launching his career," the Nagano-born rider moderated. "I only gave him opportunities to start cycling and racing in Europe; after that, he achieved his results and moved up to next level with his own ability. Not only he adapted to racing in France, he also adapted to the local culture and learned French, established good relations with local people. I think that is very important for someone who wishe to become a big rider in Europe, it is not just cycling that he must learn but also the life abroad which can be harder than cycling. Yukiya is the best example for Asian riders."
Fukushima's duty as a teacher won't stop with retirement from racing. He's set to pursue his involvement in cycling by becoming an assistant coach for continental team La Pomme Marseille. "My ultimate goal is to create a professional team and get a start at the Tour de France," he added. "I did not have the ability nor the opportunity to do it as a rider but I want to take Asian riders to that level in the future."
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 04:48
- Cycling News
Saxo-Tinkoff director comments on 2014 Tour de France parcours
Team Saxo-Tinkoff director Bjarne Riis has played down the chances of his main charger Alberto Contador for next year's Tour de France and instead handed the tag of favourite to defending champion Chris Froome (Sky). Following the unveiling of the parcours for the La Grande Boucle Riis backed Froome to win his second Tour, but pointed to the five mountain stages stating, or hoping, that the good climbers in the peloton could put Froome under pressure before the time trial on the penultimate stage.
"All in all, I'm content with the route as it has a good dynamic. Froome is the main favourite but there are quite a few mountains along the way where climbers get a chance to take time and put him under pressure before the crucial time trial," said Riis.
In this year's Tour de France Froome was left isolated for the majority of the ninth stage after Team Sky were attacked left, right and centre by their opposition. Although it had minimal impact on the final GC the possibility was there to put Froome into great difficulty, and it is perhaps a similar level of aggression against Froome and Team Sky that Riis may be hoping to drum up for next year.
Riis also shared the concerns already expressed by Froome and Contador over the inclusion of cobbles in the 2014 Tour where riders will face a tough 15.4km of pavé over nine sections during the 156km fifth stage.
"Stage five with the cobblestones is definitely worth watching. As we know from the past, there are risks associated with the treacherous surface but it's a part of the game that we see as a challenge and Alberto is not bad on the cobbles.
"In addition, I'm looking forward to entering the Vosges Mountains that could easily create havoc in the peloton and as always, the Alps and Pyrenees offer some entertaining key stages. The long time trial is an advantage for the riders who have the most energy left in the tank after a long and tough race."
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 08:26
- Stephen Farrand
Three wild card invitations up for grabs in 2014
With the route of the 2014 Tour de France now confirmed, the battle for a place at the Grand Depart in Yorkshire is underway.
An agreement between organisers ASO and the UCI means the expected 18 WorldTour teams of 2014 will automatically be given a place in the Tour de France, while several Professional Continental teams will be hoping to secure one of the expected four wild card invitations -the golden tickets to cycling biggest race.
Team Europcar will likely step up from Professional Continental ranks to the WorldTour and the demise of the French Sojasun team means only Cofidis and possibly Bretagne- Séché Environnement remain as a likely home nation candidates for two of the wild cards. That means two other places are up for grab for Professional Continental teams outside of France.
I AM Cycling, NetApp-Endura, Colombia and MTN Qhubeka are all legitimate candidates for wild card invitations, with the UnitedHealthCare team of the USA also an outsider.
All the teams had representatives at the Tour de France route presentation in Paris to begin lobbying for a place.
The Swiss IAM Cycling team missed out on a place in a Grand Tour in 2013 but is in pole position for 2014 after signing Sylvain Chavanel, Jerome Pineau and Matthias Frank.
"If we're invited, we'd have a lot to do to get ready. We don’t have the winner of the Tour in our team but our guys would do everything they can to be in the action throughout the race," IAM Cycling directeur sportif Serge Beucherie told French website Cyclism’Actu.
Colombia team manager Claudio Corti was also in Paris. He is hoping to ride the wave of success by other Colombian riders in the peloton. Colombia was invited to Criterium International and Fleche Wallonne in 2013 but missed out on a place in this year's Tour de France.
MTN-Qhubeka set itself the goal of riding the 2015 Tour de France but could push for a place in 2014 as its crop of African riders mature. Team leader's Gerald Ciolek and Linus Gerdemann both have Tour de France experience.
NetApp-Endura rode the Giro d'Italia in 2012 and the Vuelta a Espana this year, with Leopold König winning a stage and finishing ninth overall. The German-based team has so-far signed Tiago Machado and young Irish sprinter Sam Bennet but lost Yorkshireman Russell Downing.
ASO traditionally announces the wild card teams in the spring with the 2013 teams announced on April 27 this year. Early success in 2014 could be vital for the wild card candidates and their attempts to convince ASO to invite them to the Tour de France.
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 11:43
- Stephen Farrand
Dutch champion to ride the Giro d'Italia
Johnny Hoogerland will ride for Gianni Savio's Androni Giocattoli team in 2014 after reaching a late agreement to join the Italian team.
The Dutchman rode for Vacansoleil-DCM this year but the WorldTour team has folded after being unable to find new sponsorship. Despite being known for his aggressive style of racing and being the current Dutch national road race champion, Hoogerland struggled to find a satisfactory offer from other WorldTour squads and so opted to join for the Italian-based Professional Continental team.
Hoogerland hit the headlines during the 2011 Tour de France when he was involved in a dramatic crash caused by a car passing the breakaway. He had scored enough KOM points during the stage to earn the polka-dot mountains classification jersey but crashed into a barbed wire fence and needed 33 stitches for his injuries. Nonetheless, Hoogerland finished the stage and ultimately completed the entire Tour.
This year he was hit by a car whilst training in Spain in February, suffering rib and spinal fractures, as well as liver damage. He returned to racing in late April and won the Dutch road title before riding the Tour de France. He was in talks with the Cannondale team but that option apparently ended when the team failed to reach a agreement with Tinkoff.
"Johnny is an important signing for us," Androni Giocattoli team manager Gianni Savio told Cyclingnews.
"He's the current Dutch national champion and has real character. I'm sure he'll do well. His character suits our team because we like to be aggressive in races and so does Johnny. We always go on the attack, as our record of 1680km on the attack at the Giro d'Italia proves, and Hoogerland is a natural born attacker."
Hoogerland is expected to be part of the team's Giro d'Italia squad alongside other new signings Manuel Belletti, who join from A2r-La Mondiale. Androni Giocattoli won the Coppa Italia series and so secured a wild card invitation to the Giro d'Italia.
Androni Giocattoli will have an 18-rider roster in 2014, with two further places remaining to be filled. Riders confirmed for 2014 include sprinter Mattia Gavazzi, Marco Frapporti, Emanuele Sella, Patrick Facchini, Matteo Di Serafino, Antonino Parrinello, Carlos Ochoa, Jackson Rodriguez and Diego Rosa.
Neo-pros include Yonder Godoy the Venezuelan Under 23 champion, Italy's Nicola Testi, Andrea Zordan and Gianfranco Zilioli.
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 13:10
- Daniel Benson
Kroll enlisted to help Cookson uncover alleged wrongdoing
Pat McQuaid has fired back at a report in the Financial Times which claimed that his laptop computer was seized within minutes of Brian Cookson winning the UCI presidential election last month.
In a message sent to Cyclingnews late Thursday evening, McQuaid wrote, “That story is bullshit - my laptop was with me in Florence and came back to Switzerland with me - a week later I gave it to the UCI to clear my UCI files and the laptop is now back with me!!”
Within an hour of winning the UCI election Cookson and his campaign staff had sent an email to the UCI’s employees, in which he confirmed that Kroll, a private investigation firm would be collection data from the UCI staff’s computers.
Kroll specialises in fraud, financial, bribery and other investigations with an expertise in computer forensics.
The letter states that, “I asked Kroll, a data collections and investigations company to make a copy of our servers and some computers over the weekend. This data will be secured and the legal agreement we have with Kroll is that no-one will have access to it. The data will be transferred to the independent commission when it has been established and its terms of reference agreed. I want to reassure you that this is purely for the purpose of investigating serious allegations only, of the sort that appeared in the USADA Reasoned Decision. This preservation of data is for this specific purpose only. It will not be used for any other purpose.”
Kroll was founded in the 1970s and has offices all over the world, including Switzerland, where the UCI is based. They have been previously described as the Wall Street’s “private eye.”
Cookson had told the Financial Times that "Kroll had to secure the computers. They took all the back-up tapes and all the IT stuff. They were available to make sure that nothing was destroyed that shouldn't be destroyed."
Kroll told Cyclingnews: “We specialise in Data Recovery, we are the World Leader in the field and do approximately 50,000 recoveries a year Worldwide. We work with a cross section of both (multi-national companies and individual users), we have services to meet the needs of the majority of people who request our service.”
Kroll would not supply a list of their international clients. “Unfortunately I cannot due to data protection and our Non Disclosure agreements. We do work with the Government and the Police, along with many FTSE 100 companies”.
However it’s public knowledge that the firm has worked with the Reichmann family surrounding false allegations of collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War. Other investigations involved money cover ups for Saddam Hussein and Italian banker Roberto Calvi.
Cookson told Cyclingnews during the Tour de France presentation in Paris that he is set to unveil more details relating to the investigation into the UCI in the coming days but has confirmed that WADA are cooperating with the project.
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 14:55
- Barry Ryan
ASO launches new venture in Japan
In spite of the impending arrival of Typhoon Francisco off the coast of Japan, the inaugural Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France takes place on Saturday, with Chris Froome (Sky), Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and world champion Rui Costa (Movistar) among those lining up in the end of season showcase.
The event takes place on a 2.6km circuit in Saitama City, 20 kilometres north of Tokyo, and consists of two points races – based loosely on the great Japanese tradition of the keirin – and a straightforward 20-lap scratch race.
ASO president Jean-Etienne Amaury has described his organisation’s new venture as a “union between Japanese and French culture.” To that end, an exposition of French produce has been arranged in Saitama to coincide with the race, but above all, the criterium is a very visible effort to export France’s grandest sporting tradition, the Tour, to a large and increasingly attentive audience in the Far East.
“This is the first event outside of the Tour de France to bear the name of the Tour de France,” Amaury pointed out. “We want to try and recreate in Saitama the ambience of sporting competition and popular fete that we see at the Tour.”
Thanks primarily to the achievements of Fumiyuki Beppu and Yukiya Arashiro, who in 2009 became the first Japanese riders to finish the Tour, the race’s profile and the amount of live television coverage have already increased considerably in Japan in recent years, and Saturday’s criterium is an attempt to buttress that growth still further.
“It’s important to explain what the Tour de France is to the public, because in Japan, cycling usually means keirin,” said Beppu, who lines up for Orica-GreenEdge on Saturday.
Just like at a post-Tour criterium in France or the Netherlands, Froome will line up in the yellow jersey and Sagan will ride in green, while the Tour’s super combatif Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and newly-crowned world champion Rui Costa were also enticed to make the long trek east.
Indeed, in a further bid to familiarise the watching public with the classifications and jerseys of the Tour, race director Jean-François Pescheux has somehow conjured up a king of the mountains competition on the seemingly flat circuit, based around a small rise around the midway point.
The cultural exchange goes in both directions, of course, and on the eve of the race, the 32 riders from internationally-based teams – Sky, Movistar, Ag2r-La Mondiale, Cannondale, Orica-GreenEdge, Europcar, FDJ.fr and Argos-Shimano – were invited to a sumo exhibition at a local high school.
After observing the teenage wrestlers in action, Froome, Sagan, Rui Costa, Riblon and Marcel Kittel later joined in the training, although one wonders if the ceremonial belt, the mawashi, was ever intended to be worn over bibshorts.
Undeterred by their attire, Kittel and Sagan, in particular, threw themselves wholeheartedly into their training bouts with the teenage wrestlers, though mercifully there are no points on offer for artistic merit within the confines of the dohyÅ.
“We’ll have to fly them out to our next camp in Tenerife and see what they’re like on a bike,” Froome joked when asked about his opponents in the ring. “I was surprised to see how flexible they were from the training.”
Froome was pragmatic when asked about his approach to the tight, city-centre circuit in Saitama on Saturday. “I’m not going to try and hide the fact that my form isn’t the same as it was at the Tour, but at the end of the season, most of us are in the same boat,” he said. “I’d like to try and fight it out by I don’t know how realistic that will be with guys like Sagan.”
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 17:30
- Stephen Farrand
Russian businessman ready to create his own team for 2015
Oleg Tinkov has revealed he is likely to create his own team for 2015 after negotiations with Cannondale about team ownership ended without an agreement.
The Russian businessman has successfully floated his Tinkoff Credit Systems credit card business on the London Stock market, boosting his personal wealth by several hundred million pounds.
He confirmed to Cyclingnews in this exclusive interview that he is ready to invest up to 15 million Euro a year of that money into cycling but wants direct control of his investment.
"Right now we're not talking to anyone. I imagine after this interview some people will call me because a lot of teams are really desperate for cash, but right now I don't want to sponsor a team, I want to own 100 per cent of a team," Tinkov told Cyclingnews from Thailand where is on vacation with his family.
"If someone out there wants to sell their team, they should call us and call my Italian lawyer Stefano Feltrin, but I don't want 55 or 75 per cent, I want 100 per cent of the structure. Tinkoff Credit Systems is ready to fund a long term project, I'm talking about a three- to five-year project. We're ready to spend up to 15 million Euro, that's the budget of the bank right now."
After deciding to end his support of Bjarne Riis' team, Tinkov makes it clear he is not ready to pay any price to stay in cycling in 2014. He knows that the sport will undergo major changes for the 2015 season and is ready to sit out for a season and even create his own team from scratch.
"Some of the team owners are maybe ready to sell and we could buy them out, but I know they'll want money even if they don't have any value or assets, except for some old buses…" he said.
"There's no rush and so we may now be better off to wait and set up our own team in 2015 under the new rules and structure the UCI are working for next year."
Why Tinkov wants to own a team
After working with Bjarne Riis in 2013 and negotiating with several other team managers, Tinkov is emphatic that he wants direct control of his team. He is tired of being just a sponsor, the cash-cow that covers most of the cost of major teams.
"Why do I want to own a team? The answer is very simple," he explains.
"We all know that cycling has had a lot problems and I hope things will get better in the near future as we see more professional people involved. For me its fundamental that the owner of the team should be the one who pays the bills. It's about control and responsibility.
"The problems of cycling today is that the teams are usually managed by former riders and former sports directors who don't have any of their own money. They go begging to sponsors for funding and yet the sponsors pay 100 per cent of the bills but don't have any leverage on the running of the team. That's absurd. A team manager should run the team, not worry about the budget. If Bjarne had spent more time coaching Contador instead of looking for sponsors perhaps he'd have done better at the Tour de France…
"With teams not getting any of the TV rights, the managers are victims of the system. At the moment team managers only have sponsors as a source of income and so they often try to steal money, allow doping to be successful and treat the riders badly when they get desperate. We need to change things."
"If you are just a sponsor you have no control on running of the team. If I pay 10 million of Euro, I want to make sure I get 10 million of Euro of exposure. I don't want my brand diluted if the team brings in another sponsor or signs riders that aren't good. I want to have my say because I put in the money."
Tinkov calls on the UCI to create a new structure for the sport that will encourage business and investors to own and control the teams instead of team managers.
"I really hope the UCI and new president Brian Cookson makes the changes that are needed," he says.
"We need more businessmen involved and we need more bike brands such as Cannondale or Trek to own the teams. They'll make much more responsible decisions and cycling would be run more like a business. Katusha, BMC, Cannondale are the right model. Where the people who own the team pays the bills and where a skilled manager runs the team but does not have to worry about the money."
Taking to Twitter
Tinkov has often taken to Twitter to have his say on the sport of professional cycling. He confirmed his divorce with Riis via Twitter in the summer. He also openly criticised Alberto Contador after his disappointing Tour de France and lamented when Contador decided not to ride the Vuelta.
On July 22nd he tweeted: "His salary doesn't match his performance. Too rich and isn't hungry, that's my opinion, and I deserve it. He must work harder."
On July 29th he tweeted: "He is not riding Vuelta- he is tired), LOL, what the fu*k Conta is tired from one race? He isn't tired to receive monthly HUGE check, though."
Not surprisingly the tweets angered many of Contador's fans and damaged his relationship with both Contador and Riis. But Tinkov is unrepentant.
"It's my Twitter account and so I can say what I want," he tells Cyclingnews from Thailand where is on vacation.
"It's a kind of an alter ego. I like to joke on Twitter. Sometimes I put nonsense and bullshit on my Twitter account but that's how I feel social media should be used. It's just fun, it's not serious. This is a serious interview. Now I'm being serious.
"I never got any complaints directly, from Bjarne or Alberto. In that particular instant, I was indeed pissed off with him for a number of reasons. But I respect Alberto and he knows that. I tweeted after the Tour de France, not during the race to not affect his performance, but I did it because I wasn't happy with him. For the money he's getting, he should have done two Grand Tours and he should have done better than fourth."
Dream team for 2015
Tinkov may have burnt his bridges with Contador but he has his eye on several riders for his own team.
He explains how he wants to enjoy watching his riders win races from the team car or even ride part of each stage during a Grand Tour. Owning a team would help promote his Russian credit card brand but that is not why he wants to invest in the sport.
"Life is all about fun. That's why I want to own a team, because it's fun," he said.
"I want to be like Roman Abramovich (the owner of the Chelsea soccer team) and enjoy owning the team. I want to be in the team car and ride my bike at race. I want to enjoy it. Now I'm looking for my Jose Mourinho to be the best coach in cycling and for my star striker.
"Lots of riders are under contract but if I could, I'd love to have Fabian Cancellara in my team. I like him as a rider and for his personality. Peter Sagan is a great talent for the future, too. I'd want lots of good riders in my team because I'd want to do well in Grand Tours, too. I want to do well in all the races, from the classics to the Japan Cup."
Tinkov owned his own team back in 2007 and 2008 before selling it to fellow Russian Igor Makarov, who created the Katusha team.
The Tinkoff team signed Tyler Hamilton as team leader after he served his ban for blood doping along with Jörg Jaksche, Danilo Hondo, Mikhail Ignatiev, Evgeni Petrov, Pavel Brutt, Salvatore Commesso and Vasili Kiryienka also in the squad.
The team was invited to the 2007 Giro d'Italia but Hamilton and Jaksche were suspended from the team after evidence in Operación Puerto indicated they were clients of Dr Fuentes.
Despite the murky past of his team and comments from Hamilton accusing him of turning a blind eye to doping back in 2007, Tinkov now insists he is against doping.
"I want to be clear. I was in the sport for two years and we had zero doping cases in the team. Maybe there were former dopers in the team but they served their bans, were able to race and so I hired them, just like other teams did," he told Cyclingnews.
"I'm against doping. I'm totally against doping. I raced when I was young and won 40 races but I never, ever doped.
"The people who dope now are really stupid, they don't understand that cycling has changed. Unfortunately people take risk for money, for fame and success. Some do it in a basic way and get caught. Some do it in a more complex way like Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel did. They did it to get money. It seems like there was an organised doping machine there. I would never allow an organised doping programme in my team."
- Article published:
- October 25, 2013, 18:01
- Cycling News
Sky manager hopes Wiggins will be part of the Tour team
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has named Vincenzo Nibali as Chris Froome's biggest rival for victory at the 2014 Tour de France, describing the Sicilian as "a real racer".
Nibali was close to joining Team Sky back in 2010 but ultimately decided to stay with Liquigas. He joined Astana this year and went on to win the Giro d'Italia and finish second behind Chris Horner at the Vuelta a Espana. In 2012 Nibali was Team Sky's biggest rival at the Tour de France, finishing third overall behind Bradley Wiggins and Froome.
Nibali has confirmed he will target the Tour de France in 2014 and Astana is building a team to take on Team Sky, setting up a duel between two of the sports biggest teams next July.
"Nibali is our main rival. I've no doubts about that after seeing the route of next year's Tour de France," Brailsford told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"The thing I like about Vincenzo is that he's a real racer. He's a fighter, he's aggressive and never gives up. He can transform a stage into a trap, he's creative and courageous."
"He always gives 100%. You can see his talented and has a modern way of racing. Just think what he can do on the difficult stages and there are a lot of them. On the pave where he's definitely better than Froome. I've seen him ride on the dirt roads at the Giro and then look how good he is on the bike on the descents when it rains."
Brailsford and Team Sky intend to carefully analyse the Tour de France route before deciding on their race strategy and nine riders for the race.
"Nibali is the most complete of Chris' rivals. He could take advantage of the position of the only time trial because it's on the penultimate day," he said.
"The race tactics will change completely and mountain stages will be talked differently. You can't wait too much, you'll have to take risks, It'll produce an aggressive race that will be spectacular for who watches it and so excellent for our sport."
Brailsford is convinced that Froome has to secure victory in the Tour de France by taking time on his rivals in the mountains.
"I've always believed that Chris is much more of a climber than a time trialist and so he's got to gain time in the mountain," he said.
"That will be his mission, without waiting for the time trial. It'd be too risky to put everything on one day. There are five mountain finishes and Froome certainly isn't penalised by that."
Will Wiggins ride the Tour?
Brailsford was diplomatic about Wiggins riding the Tour de France in support of Froome in 2014. However he would like as many British riders in the starting nine as possible for the Grand Depart in Yorkshire but insisted the most important thing is to in a third consecutive Tour de France.
"We haven’t decided yet. The Giro d'Italia? It's unlikely but I won’t exclude it. The Tour with Froome? We'll be starting at home and so I'd like that all the British riders are in the team and Wiggins is one of them. But when you decide a team you don’t look at riders' passports or nationality. The goal is to win and that's it."