Yesterday the Goulburn to Sydney should have been run and should have been won. Owing to the last minute cancellation in the name of rider safety, however, there was no celebrating. The events leading up to the cancellation of the Goulburn to Sydney remain murky, with the timelines provided by key stakeholders involved in the running of the event not quite adding up.
According to a variety of sources, it was made abundantly clear to Cycling Australia (CA) that anything other than a rolling road closure and the teams would not race. Drapac Cycling director Agostino Giramondo told Cyclingnews that that was certainly his understanding of the events.
"I said to them [Cycling Australia] at the forum in January, 'I don't care if I've paid for flights, I don't care if I've got accommodation. I could be on the start line and paid for a meal the night before and breakfast that morning, if I get to the start-line and the race goes down the highway, we're pulling out and going home.'"
Cycling Australia National Manager Sean Muir confirmed this in January in an interview with Ride Cycling Review when he said that "the teams made it very clear that it's a rolling road closure, or a fully closed road, or nothing."
Cyclingnews put a number of questions to Cycling Australia over why they had planned for the race to go ahead without a rolling road closure as sought by teams and what communication had existed between parties over the status of the race. Muir responded by stating that CA had been doing their utmost to secure a rolling road closure but were essentially at a dead end.
"The aim of the race organisers, Cycling NSW and Cycling Australia was to ensure that a quality event was implemented, catering for the safety of riders and commercial needs of sponsors involved," said Muir. "Efforts have been made since October 2012 to ensure the organisers and local authorities were aware of the safety concerns, and that all alternative options were investigated."
When asked by Cyclingnews about his recollection of events, however, Goulburn to Sydney Race Director Michael Gleeson believes he was not made aware of the requirement for rolling road closures until April 2013, haff a year later than CA claim.
"We only really heard about it [rolling road closures] at a meeting with Cycling Australia in April this year," he explained.
On a different note, locals have been left lamenting what many saw as an opportunity to improve upon the race by using sections of roads running parallel to the Hume Hwy instead of the national carriageway. This would have lengthened the race out to around 220km and added more interesting terrain to the parcours.
"All possible options were discussed, and investigated with local authorities and race organisers," explained Muir. "Unfortunately utilising back roads, to avoid racing along the freeway did not have the support of local authorities. This was due to the condition of the roads, including the width and surface quality of some of the roads that would be used."
Team managers consulted by Cyclingnews highlighted that the biggest let down over the Goulburn cancellation revolved around the lack of communication between CA and participating teams. Some teams were left pondering why it was not made clear to them that the race was not going to be going ahead as a rolling road closure whilst entry money was being accepted, and whilst accommodation and flights were being booked.
From a team perspective, Giramondo claimed that Drapac had heard nothing from CA despite the thin ice the race was skating on.
"Well, apart from our discussion at nationals early in January, there hasn't been a discussion," said Giramondo.
Muir acknowledged that communication from CA had fallen short.
"We cannot dispute that communication to teams about this event has been poor, and this is a matter that we recognise and must work to improve upon to avoid a repeat in future," agreed Muir. "Due to the ongoing uncertainty around the route and road closures the information to teams (and the wider racing community) was not acceptable. This situation allowed for speculation and misinformation which was most unfortunate. Despite this we still believe that, although the late timing was not ideal, the best decision was made in interests of rider safety to cancel the race."
And with admitted poor communication on CA's behalf, some teams that have been left out of pocket are wondering, why then, should they bear the costs? If they knew that the race was going ahead down the Hume Hwy without a rolling road closure as protested against, they would not have put plans -and money- in motion to travel to the race in the first place.
As Giramondo explains, the situation was indeed dogmatic for those intending to race.
"One of the teams I spoke to –which is not a high profile team- I just asked him I said 'are you going to Goulburn?' And he said 'yes.'
"I said 'you know it's on the highway?' And he said 'no, we're not going, if you're telling me it's on the highway, we're not going.'"
But on the note of who should bear the costs, CA were unclear in giving an answer.
"Cancelling the Goulburn to Sydney is not an ideal situation for all parties involved," said Muir. "The teams and riders who had already booked their travel and accommodation, the race organisers who have got within two weeks of implementing the event, Cycling NSW losing a major event from their calendar and the wider cycling community losing a piece of Australia's cycling history. However, we value the safety of the riders racing in the NRS above all else and it was with this in mind that the final decision was made."
And on the note of safety, Muir and Giramondo are in furious agreement.
"At the end of the day, I'm not here to blame anyone, all I want is safety for the riders … my main concern as a DS is the safety of my riders and that I'm not going to compromise for anybody," said Giramondo.
Brian Cookson left the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC) exceptional general assembly in Zurich assured of 14 key votes for the election of UCI president and the growing conviction that a vital majority of the 42 delegates will vote for him and not incumbent president Pat McQuaid in Florence on September 27.
The UEC members who gathered in Zurich voted 27-10 in favour of Cookson, a bigger majority than his team expected. McQuaid may be confident of securing many of the African and Asian confederation votes but the backing from the UEC gives Cookson 33% of the 42 votes that will be cast in Florence by the different confederation delegates.
It is likely that the Americas confederation votes will now be play a vital role in the battle to become UCI president. Cyclingnews understands that Cookson spent several days in Miami last week courting key voters from the Americas with support from Mike Plant of the USA. Plant is now firmly on Cookson's side after years of being aligned with Hein Verbruggen, McQuaid, Lance Armstrong and Tom Weisel.
Cookson also has the support of Russian oligarch Igor Makarov, the boss of the Itera gas company, president of the Russian Cycling Federation and the owner of the Katusha team.
Many people have cringed at Cookson's links to Plant and Makarov but he denied striking up a combine with the Russian to beat McQuaid.
"I've met many people and Igor Makarov is one of them," Cookson said when asked about his relationship with the olygarch.
"I think I've met him as many times as Pat McQuaid has met him. Igor is the owner of one of the biggest professional teams, he's the president of one of the major federations and he's on the management committee. Yes, of course, I need his support. But have I made any commitments to him? No I haven't. Have I received any funding from him or from any of his associates? No I haven't. As far as I'm concerned, he's an important member of the UCI family and deserves respect and consideration just like anybody else."
No billionaire campaign budget
Although it seems Cookson decided to stand for UCI president after meeting Makarov in Moscow, he insisted that the billionaire is not funding his election campaign.
"I've been flying economy class," he said.
"My funding is coming from British Cycling. We have a small budget. It's being supplemented because we haven’t really spent that much. Most of this kind of funding comes from UK sport. I'm sure the costs will be covered by the budget we have available to us."
The worries of a secret ballot
Many of the national federation representitives at the UEC assembly have known McQuaid and Cookson for many years. Yet McQuaid seemed like the outsider rather than the current UCI president during the assembly, while lots of people appeared to be climbing on the Cookson bandwagon.
The final vote in Florence is a secret vote and McQuaid hinted not all 14 votes will go to Cookson. However the Briton said he trusts his European collegues.
"It's a secret ballot, but I'm sure the will of the congress, the democratic mandate that they've been given, will be respected," he said.
The UEC delegates also voted against propositions to change the UCI constitution before the presidential vote; changes that would allow McQuaid to be nominated despite not having the support of his home Irish Federation or that of the Swiss Federation, where he resides. If the UCI Congress also votes against the changes it would block McQuaid's hopes of a third term and leave Cookson as the lone candidate.
"I'm happy for there to be two candidates. If there are, then I'm confident that I can secure victory," Cookson said.
"If all the problems that Pat has had in finding a nomination fall apart for him and there is only one candidate, then as in the commitment I made (in my speech), I will still ask the delegates to vote yes or no for me. I'm confident I can win under those circumstances as well."
Robbie Hunter will be retiring from pro cycling after 16 years, revealing he does not have a team for the coming season. The 36-year-old, who was the first South African to ride the Tour de France, has ridden for Garmin-Sharp since 2012.
“Guess it's time to hang up the wheels,” he tweeted on Sunday. “16 years in Europe not a bad run..now new things to look forward to.”
“I'd happily race another year to do my 10th TDF and I know i got the legs but guess teams don't think so.”
Hunter turned pro in 1999 with Lampre-Daikin, and has also ridden for Mapei-Quick Step, Rabobank, Phonak, Barloworld, Garmin-Transitions, and Team RadioShack. he joined Garmin again in 2012.
He has started the Tour de France nine times, finishing three times. In 2001, with Lampre, he became the first South African to start in the race, and in 2007 won a stage in the race. Hunter has also ridden the Vuelta a Espana, winning two stages along the way, and rode the Giro d'Italia four times, including this year.
Thanks to his powerful sprint finish and aggression, Hunter won the Tour of Qatar in 2004, with two stage wins, and also took the overall titles in the Volta ao Distrito de Santarem and the Tour de Picardie, both in 2007. He has also won many individual stages. He was South African national road champion in 2012.
Spanish newspapers AS and Marca have reported that Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) has missed a surprise out of competition anti-doping test in Madrid after the testing officials were unable to locate him early on Monday morning. However the RadioShack-Leopard team has said the anti-doping testers went to the wrong hotel, after Horner changed his ADAMS whereabouts information on Sunday before the final stage of the Vuelta.
According to reports anti-doping inspectors from the Spanish Anti-doping Agency were asked to do the test by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) but when they arrived at the Hotel Princesa in Madrid, where the rest of the team was staying, Horner was not there. They apparently visited a second hotel but were unable to find the American rider.
The RadioShack-Leopard team has reacted angrily to the reports in the Spanish media, saying that Horner updated his whereabouts information before the start of Sunday's final stage, specifying he would stay in a different hotel. It seems that Horner opted to stay in another hotel in central Madrid with his wife rather than stay in the hotel with the rest of the team. The team say Horner specified the name of hotel and even his room number when he updated his ADAMS information.
The team suggested the Spanish anti-doping inspectors failed to use latest ADAMS whereabouts information and went to the wrong hotel rather than Horner missing an out of competition test.
“There is no problem. The USADA went to the wrong hotel. They went to the team hotel but he is in another hotel. He had mentioned this in his ADAMS. They should do their administration more correctly than they did. They need to check their whereabouts too,” press spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews.
Cyclingnews understands that Horner is now traveling back to the USA with his wife via Valencia.
RadioShack-Leopard said they angry about the leak to the Spanish media and plan to issue a full statement as soon as possible.
Under anti-doping rules, if Horner is unable to explain and justify the missed test, it could be officially declared a 'no-show'. Under anti-doping rules, three 'no shows' in a period of 18 months can lead to an athlete being banned.
Australian race to follow on from the Tour Down Under and New Zealand Cycle Classic
The Herald Sun Tour will move to February and be ranked as a UCI 2.1 race, in a bid to attract a more international field. The Australian race will be held February 5-9 in 2014.
The new date allow riders to stay in the southern hemisphere for several weeks and ride up to three races. The WorldTour ranked Tour Down Under is January 19-26, followed by the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic (January 29-February 2).
The Sun Tour was first held in 1952. As of 2000, the race was held in October, and in 2005, received a UCI ranking for the first time. In 2009, organisers recommended that the 2010 race not be held, and that it resume in 2011 in February. The race returned in October 2011. It was held as a three-day National Event in January 2013, which excluded most professional teams.
Now the UCI "has agreed in principle to the date change and classification upgrade, with the UCI Road Commission likely to ratify the decision at a meeting later this month," according to SBS.com. The race dates will be confirmed by the UCI at the road race world championships in Tuscany.
"As an iconic event in Australian cycling we congratulate the UCI in sharing our ambitions to not only keep the Herald Sun Tour alive, but see it prosper," said race organising committee chairman Tom Salom.
"The return to UCI 2.1 level status will enable the participation of the international World Tour teams and international riders who will once again mix it with the best Australian domestic teams."
Race director John Trevorrow says that responses from the WorldTour teams and riders has been "overwhelmingly positive. Many are keen to extend their summer racing and training in Australia before they return to Europe for the spring Classics and they are already expressing a strong desire to participate."
The Oceania Cycling Federation also praised the step as a a "crucial" one for developing riders. "For national and continental teams to be able to ride alongside the WorldTour teams and riders provides a great opportunity and that mix is what makes the Herald Sun Tour a crucial component of the global cycling calendar," said Confederation president Tracey Gaudry.
The RadioShack-Leopard team has criticised the Spanish anti-doping inspectors and intends to seek compensation after they apparently leaked information to the Spanish media, claiming that Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner had missed an early morning out of competition test requested by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
The team claims that Horner did not miss the test but the problem occurred because the Spanish anti-doping inspectors had the wrong hotel address. They arrived at the team address, while Horner stayed a different hotel with his wife. It seems that by the time the correct hotel was located, the testing window had already been missed and Horner was on the way to the airport.
The team issued a screenshot copy of an apparent email exchange between Horner and USADA that shows Horner correctly updated his ADAMS whereabouts information on Sunday morning before the start of the final stage of the Vuelta, detailing the name, address and even room number of the hotel where he would stay.
It indicates that Horner wouldl travel home to Bend, Oregon in the USA, where he will be available for testing from September 17.
The statement said the communication between the Spanish Anti-doping Agency and the media violated Horner's privacy and said they will seek compensation for this matter with the responsible anti-doping agencies.
"The anti-doping inspectors from the Spanish Anti-doping Agency that were asked to do the test by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) showed up at the wrong hotel in Madrid, where the team was staying but Horner was obviously not to be found," the statement reads.
"The team believes the communication between the Spanish Anti-doping Agency and the media is a violation of the privacy of Chris Horner, especially since it comes down to a clear mistake by the tester."
"The team asks the media to report correctly on this matter and will seek compensation for this matter with the responsible anti-doping agencies."
Italy also named the other teams for the world championship, with Noemi Cantele, Giorgia Bronzini, Elisa Longo Borghini and Tatiana Guderzo leading the strong Elite women's team.
Bettini, twice a world road race champion during his own career, confirmed that Marco Pinotti and current Italian national time trial champion Adriano Malori will ride the Elite men's time trial on Wednesday September 25.
Bettini has named 11 riders in the Italian Squadra, with the final nine and two reserves to be decided closer to the road race.
The 11 are: Giampaolo Caruso and Luca Paolini (Katusha), Vincenzo Nibali, Simone Ponzi and Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Filippo Pozzato, Michele Scarponi and Diego Ulissi (Lampre Merida), Ivan Santaromita (BMC) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar).
"I'm Tuscan and so this is a special world championships for me, for (fellow Tuscans and former national coaches) the late Franco Ballerini and Alfredo Martini, who wishes everyone good luck," Bettini said in the press conference reported by Tuttobiciweb.
"The road race route is hard but not super hard, it will all depend on how it raced. Nibali is without a doubt point of reference for us but we know he's not fast (in a sprint) and so there has to be an fast finisher with him who can win if a small group of riders reaches the finish."
Bettini hinted that Pozzato could be an alternative team leader after finishing fifth at the Gran Prix Cycliste de Montreal in Canada on Sunday.
"I've often criticised Pozzato, we all know he's got huge potential and he's had a roller coaster career. He's going well now and I've never seen him so focused. He was perfect in Plouay and rode well yesterday on a tough course."
Italy seems worried about the strength of Peter Sagan and several other illustrious names.
"To win we’ve got to beat them all," Bettini said.
"Sagan is a phenomenon and proved it yesterday (by winning alone in Montreal). There are also riders like Gilbert and Cancellara…."