- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 06:38
- Cycling News
Champion System continues European campaign
Champion System Pro Cycling Team's first foray into the European racing scene has been nothing short of a learning experience, General Manager Ed Beamon said.
Asia's first pro continental team is readying for a pair of Belgian one-day races – Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and GP Pino Cerami on Thursday – followed by Rund um Köln in Germany next Monday. For GP Pino Cerami, the Champion System provisional roster includes five riders from Asia: Kun Jiang and Jiao Pengda of China, Anuar Manan and Adiq Othman of Malaysia, Mart Ojavee of Estonia and Kin San Wu of Hong Kong.
Beamon said Scheldeprijs, which is considered the unofficial "world championship for sprinters" provides an opportunity for Aaron Kemps. The Australian was a team-best 12th on the final road stage of Three Days de Panne last week and said he has been getting close to a breakthrough result.
"The boys are taking good care of me but we’ve just been coming up a little short," Kemps said. "It takes time with a new team and getting the feel of the bunch finish. These sprints are crazy and Matthias [Friedemann] and I have to work hard to stay together. But Clinton [Avery] had a great ride in Stage 3 of De Panne so it seems he’s healthy again. With him and Matthias in the train, I think we can give it a good crack Wednesday."
Friedemann, who is also part of the Rund um Köln roster, has been one of Champion System's most consistent riders, with recent top 25 finishes at Nokere Koerse (14th), Ronde van Drenthe (19th) and the Handzame Classic (22nd). The German said he is finally shaking off the effects of a sickness that slowed him at De Panne.
"I feel better and I’m really motivated to help Aaron at the finish in Schedleprijs," he said. "Of course Köln is a big race for me as it is the team’s first event in my home country. I’m really looking forward to it and I think we have a strong team."
Champion System will also bring Ojavee, the Estonian national champion, to the start line for all three races while Craig Lewis will race for the first time in Europe since his crash at the Giro d'Italia last year. The American stage racing specialist finished 18th at the Tour de Langkawi last month.
Beamon said Schedleprijs provides an opportunity for the Champion System team to showcase its sprint train.
"We’ve been working on the sprint dynamic in each race and slowly getting it better," he said. "Aaron has very good form and we add Anuar Manan to the mix again this week. With Clinton and Mart healthy again, I think we can take good care of Aaron and give him good position. Scheldeprijs is a favorite of mine and we’d really like to see a good result here. But I know the competition is always very high and we’ll have to pay attention as it’s always possible for a big split in that race."
Champion System Cycling Team rosters -
Scheldeprijs: Clinton Avery, Matthias Friedemann, Gorik Gardeyn, Kun Jiang, Aaron Kemps, Anuar Manan, Mart Ojavee, Kin San Wu.
GP Pino Cerami: Joris Boillet, William Clarke, Kun Jiang, Anuar Manan, Mart Ojavee, Adiq Othman, Jiao Pengda, Kin San Wu.
Rund um Köln: Clinton Avery, Will Clarke, Matthias Friedemann, Gorik Gardeyn, Aaron Kemps, Craig Lewis, Anuar Manan, Mart Ojavee.
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 08:15
- Cycling News
Klöden loses time, Zaugg attacks and Voigt laughs
Defending Tour of Basque Country champion Andreas Klöden must bury his hopes of winning again this year. The RadioShack-Nissan rider lost over five minutes on the first stage not being at the top of his form following illnesses that prevented him from racing. The good news for the team however was Oliver Zaugg's escape attempt near the end of the race, and veteran Jens Voigt said he was pleased with the work he did on his suntan during the stage.
“I am suffering, but this is logical,” Klöden said on the team's website. “I was sick after Paris-Nice. I had a fever and then later stomach problems. I had to miss Criterium International because of that. So I miss racing in my legs. Pais Vasco will be hard for me but very useful, too.”
Zaugg, who won the Tour of Lombardy last fall, took off in the finale with Saxo Bank's Daniele Navarro. They were unsuccessful and a mass sprint followed, but the Swiss rider was nevertheless satisfied.
“I figured it was a good moment to try something,” he said. “One of my goals this season is the Giro d’Italia, so step by step I think I am getting there. After Catalunya I worked really hard. Now I am in better shape. I can see that. But my role here is to be a helper and I’ll only try things like today when it is a good moment to go.”
Jens Voigt, 40, had his usual good time despite punctures, crashes and getting dropped. As he so colourfully tweeted, “Urrgh- what a first day!! Started awesome with beautiful sunny weather. I covered the first attacks- all good. But then it started... Franky Schleck punctured and I changed wheel with him, then waited for car, chased back on, delivered some water bottles...and then I crashed. Nothing bad happened in that crash but needed to change front wheel and back into chasing the bunch.
“Finally got back on bottom of last climb. Right in time to get dropped like a useless s**tkicker, and then just finished in a little group. Used all energy for the whole race today!!
“But hey- on the positive side I have to say I did work on my suntan a lot today!!! Hahaha Can only go uphill from now on!!! :-))”
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 09:08
- Cycling News
RadioShack-Nissan rider to give press conference on Tuesday
Following the successful surgery of his quadruple collarbone fracture on Sunday evening in Switzerland, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) is recovering both physically and mentally from his unlucky crash in the Tour of Flanders. Slowly getting back his morale, the Swiss powerhouse is announced to return to racing by the end of May. He will hold a press conference on Tuesday.
"Depending on Fabian's state of health, we will try to take up training again on Tuesday, at least in the gym," the team's doctor Andreas Gösele explained to Swiss television. Dirk Demol, Cancellara's sports director, has meanwhile indicated to newspaper La Matin de Lausanne that the rider is planned to come back to competition at either the Tour of Bavaria (May 23-27) or the Tour of Luxembourg (May 30-June 3) at the soonest.
Meanwhile, 'Spartacus' is overcoming his disappointment in crashing out of contention in the Spring Classics at a time when his form was at its peak. "Rumour has it that where I hit the ground in the feedzone of the Tour of Flanders, there is a big hole now, they must repair the tarmac," he tweeted on his personal account on Monday. "Just a joke, a late April Fools joke. Tell you I hit the ground hard though, really hard. Lucky I haven't got more injuries. Details will come in my press conference in Switzerland."
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 10:00
- Cycling News
Restored cobblestone sections still bound to be slippery
These last few years, conditions have always been warm and dry for the riders of Paris-Roubaix, but the 2012 edition could turn out quite different. The French weather forecast has predicted rain in Northern France as of Wednesday, and the wet weather could well continue over the weekend, including Sunday's race. Temperatures have been announced to range from 3-12°C on the day.
Of course, predictions will get more precise towards the end of the week, but teams may be up for some rain drops on their recon rides, starting Thursday. The 257.5km-course, unchanged from last year, will again include 27 cobblestone sectors on a total of 51.5km. Once again, several of these sectors have been subject to restoration. Local high school children have worked to renovate certain portions in Viesly (after 104 km), Aulnoy-lez-Valenciennes (after 142 km) and Millonfosse (after 178.5 km).
Furthermore, two of the decisive sections of Paris-Roubaix have been restored professionally: the famous Trouée d'Arenberg and the Mons-en-Pévèle section, where the instability of the cobbles could have been a threat to the riders' safety. The cost of the works have been reported to be 55,000 Euros per 100 meters of cobbles. Despite these efforts, Paris-Roubaix could still be a slippery race if the weather forecast turns out right.
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 10:46
- Cycling News
Riders relieved to know team can retain WorldTour licence
Bjarne Riis can finally start making concrete plans for the 2012 season, as he learned Monday night that Team Saxo Bank will retain its WorldTour licence for the remainder of the year. However, he still faces the problem of getting enough UCI points this season to secure a licence for 2013.
Having the licence will make a possible future cooperation with Contador easier, he told Ekstra Bladet. “Of course it means something in relation to Alberto and the team. It means everything to us all that we have a license.” says Bjarne Riis.
He was however not ready to address the question of how the team would achieve the necessary points without Contador, who provided two-thirds of the team's points in 2011.
“It is not the time right now. Now we welcome this. We know what we need and how the system works. We must solve a series of tasks, and we'll cope.”
Contador could return to the team as soon as August this year, but a new UCI rule states that riders returning from doping-related suspensions cannot score any points for their team license for another two years following their come-back.
For now however, knowing that the licence is secure this year may help the team, which has only two wins this season, both from Jonathan Cantwell in the Tour de Taiwan. “Now we have peace. But we would like to deliver results. We know we are not at the top of the list, but we also know we have been unlucky.”
Most importantly, Riis now knows what he has to do. “We know the tasks that face us at both the sporting and business plans. It's easier now, now we can start to do something.”
Riders relieved and ready to work
Michael Mørkøv called the UCI announcement “really good news, it's the news we have all been waiting for a very long time. It means a lot that we can be in the races we planned for, but it also means a lot for the team to remain in the first division. That is where we all really want to be and compete.”
He was convinced that the riders would rise to the occasion and bring in the necessary points. “Absolutely. So far we have not scraped together as many points this year, but we struggle every day to do. We are doing everything we can.”
Nicki Sorensen was pleased to have the ordeal over. “We've really gone and been nervous. It has been a nightmare where you are constantly thinking through all the scenarios,” he told spn.dk.
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 12:00
- Cycling News
Spaniard will not fight suspension in front of Swiss Federal Court
Alberto Contador has not appealed the Court of Arbitration's decision to suspend him from racing due to his positive result for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France. The Spaniard had 30 days as of the CAS ruling to bring the case in front of the Swiss Federal Court, but decided not to do so. The deadline for submitting an appeal ran out on Monday, April 2.
"According to my lawyers, it made no sense to appeal the case, as it would have ended up again at the CAS anyway. Meanwhile, I have lost all faith in sports law," Contador told El Mundo.
The 29-year-old grand tour specialist has taken up training again for his comeback as of August 5 this year. His positive sample for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France triggered one of the longest doping case decisions in the sport, as it took 18 months for a definite ruling to decide on the rider's fate.
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 13:01
- Cycling News
Rising French sprint star suffers wrist injury
FDJ rider Arnaud Démare will have to wait another year to discover the pleasures of riding Paris-Roubaix. Scheduled to make his first experience of the 'Hell of the North' this weekend, the new French sprint star is suffering from a wrist injury sustained at a crash in the Three Days of De Panne, and therefore will not race until further notice.
"Arnaud has hurt his wrist, but there is no fracture, just a muscle strain," the team announced on its Twitter account on Monday. He will therefore not race Wednesday's Scheldeprijs, either.
The 2011 U23 world champion has already achieved four victories this season, notably a stage at the Tour of Qatar, the GP Samyn, a stage of the Three Days of West Flanders and the GP Cholet. The 20-year-old will however not race the Tour de France this year yet, but he is scheduled to take part in the Giro d'Italia. "We will wait and see what his wrist injury is exactly and then we'll make up a new programme for the next few weeks. But he will be in the Giro d'Italia," FDJ team manager Marc Madiot told Eurosport.
- Article published:
- April 3, 2012, 16:30
- Andy Shen/NYVelocity.com
Blood expert decries UCI policies on confidentiality
The following extract comes from an interview carried out by Andy Shen from nyvelocity.com with anti-doping expert Mike Ashenden. The full interview can be found over at nyvelocity.com.
Andy Shen: I understand that you'll no longer be on the panel for the Biological Passport Program. Can you explain your reasons for resigning your position?
Michael Ashenden: That's correct insofar as I will not be an expert on Lausanne's Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU). I do intend however to remain a member of WADA's Expert Panel. As well, Dan Eichner at the Salt Lake City lab has also convened their own APMU with a truly formidable panel of experts, and I've accepted their offer to participate on that panel. I'm enthusiastic about the prospects for that to grow and establish itself in the future.
From the beginning of 2012, Lausanne have been managing cycling's Passport program, so it means I will not be interpreting rider's blood profiles any longer. The reason I have resigned comes down to an issue of freedom of speech.
In their terms of agreement, Lausanne inserted an additional confidentiality clause that precluded an expert from making any public comment or giving any personal opinion on any aspect of their role as an expert on the panel. Not just now, but for eight years after the expert leaves the panel.
In my opinion such a clause is ludicrous. Perhaps an employer can insist that their employee signs such a contract, but us experts are not employed by the APMU, and in fact their contract states that we must at all times exercise the greatest care to ensure that we do not become dependent to the APMU. In other words, they see independence as being of paramount importance. So it comes down to the APMU squashing the freedom of speech of a person who by their own charge is completely independent of them, and I refuse to be a part of that.
Of course, I am willing to sign confidentiality clauses which preclude me from sharing any information I encounter in my role as an expert, and that is precisely the clause and contract I signed to be on WADA's Expert Panel. However I am not willing to go further and allow the APMU to censor the expression of my personal opinions about non-confidential matters.
In my opinion, that clause can only serve one purpose, which is to muzzle us experts from giving interviews to the media. I think it's important to have transparency and accountability in all facets of sport and antidoping. As meagre as our role might be, we experts are an independent entity within the Passport program which means we can serve as a canary in the mineshaft, a crosscheck.
As I said earlier, I consider the media's role to be pivotal to maintain antidoping vigilance, and unless the media has access to expert interviews that vein of information will be strangled and eventually expire. We understand the Passport, how it works, and what it can and cannot do. Our opinion and contribution to media is vital. I cannot condone that role being snuffed out, thus I have refused Lausanne's offer to be a part of their expert panel.
I sought to find a compromise with Lausanne but with no success. That was certainly disappointing, but I find it unconscionable that an antidoping entity would seek to impose an omerta on us experts. Particularly where cycling is concerned, because we have struggled for years to break the rider's omerta, and asked riders to speak out about their peers who are cheating the system. Yet Lausanne takes that omerta one step further and prevents its experts from speaking out not just via an unspoken code but also reinforced with a legal contract.
I am distressed that this has led to me no longer being involved in cycling. I have been involved in their program since day one when Anne Gripper first sought out my participation. The UCI have certainly broken new territory, and at the same time there is still a long way to go. However at the end of the day, I seek to live by my principles, and I intend to do so not just now but in the future as well.
AS: Even though the Contador case was specifically about Clenbuterol, you were brought in as WADA's expert witness because they had a theory that the Clenbuterol entered his system as a result of blood doping?
MA: Depending on how you choose to look at the Contador case, it was either drop dead simple to resolve, or impossible to address. Quite honestly I sometimes waver within those two extremes myself. But at the end of the day, the presence of clenbuterol had been established, and there was no proof available to establish how it entered Contador's system. From that perspective, it seems quite straightforward that it would lead to a two year sanction.
I think the enormous volume of public debate muddied the waters. As well, Contador made a persuasive case in the court of public opinion that unless WADA could establish how it entered his system, the only reasonable thing to do was to accept his proposal that it came via a steak. What concerns me about that argument is why Contador should be treated any differently to any other athlete, for whom the reverse has always been true. As succinctly summarised in paragraph 265 of the ruling, the athlete has to establish how the prohibited substance entered their system, rather than the other way around. I don't think the number of races you've won, or whether or not the Prime Minister is in your corner, should change how your case is adjudicated.
When the first hearing took place in Spain, that RFEC panel was only presented with Contador's evidence that the clenbuterol had come from a steak, and no other alternatives were put before it. The RFEC concluded that on the evidence placed before it, the clenbuterol came from steak. When the UCI and WADA appealed that decision, they argued that the clenbuterol might not have come from a steak but instead from, for example, a transfusion or a contaminated supplement. As I understand it, the CAS panel needed to decide whether the evidence put before it indicated that it was more likely that it came from steak than from any other possibility. My role at the hearing was to help the panel evaluate, based on the evidence available, whether a transfusion could have taken place. Experts from WADA attended the hearing to help the panel understand whether, if a transfusion had taken place, it could have led to the clenbuterol concentrations found in Contador's urine.
Although that might seem like the same argument made twice, in fact there is an important distinction. Both steps would be necessary to explain clenbuterol at the concentrations found. Each argument was considered separately, with me being responsible for helping the panel evaluate the first but not the second argument, and vice versa for WADA's experts. It is therefore not surprising that Contador's legal team sought to rebut each of those arguments separately, and they brought different arguments to bear in each case.
AS: So you were called to evaluate Contador's passport profile. How were you able to establish his ‘normal' values, considering that he's suspected of blood doping?
MA: First I need to clarify a misconception - when you say I was there to evaluate his passport profile, in fact this was not an Athlete Passport case. I realise the confusion has been propogated by the panel's use of the abbreviation ‘ABP', which they mistakenly apply whether talking about actual Athlete Biological Passport data (which is the correct use of ‘ABP') or blood data in general. I was there to evaluate his blood results, period. Whether those data came from his passport profile, or somewhere else, was not relevant provided that the data were reliable. As you can see in paragraph 351, which describes the blood data I based my opinion on, I incorporated data from as far back as 2005 which predates the beginning of WADA's ABP.
Because Contador had previously applied to the UCI for an exemption for high haematocrit, during 2006 he had spent several days at the Lausanne antidoping laboratory who collected some very carefully controlled blood tests. Those data were obviously considered to be reliable - Contador had been granted an exemption based on the validity of those data thus it would be very difficult for him to turn around and suggest those data could not be relied upon. I used those data to establish to my satisfaction what his natural values for haemoglobin and reticulocytes were.
AS: Based on that baseline data, what were you able to establish about Contador's '10 Tour test data?
MA: His 2010 Tour data definitely attracted my attention. As described in the panel's ruling, my testimony was that his reticulocytes were higher than I would have expected. Not just a single result, but every result during that race was equal or above the carefully collected results he'd provided to the Lausanne lab in 2006.
At first I thought this could have been due to the analyser used during that Tour. If the analyser had been reporting results slightly high, that would have explained why Contador's values were higher than expected. However I cross-checked the results of other riders, and it was not due to the instrument.
My second thought was that perhaps this signature was just typical of how Contador's body responded to the competition of a major stage race. Again I was able to cross-check this with his other results during previous victories at major Tours, and that did not explain the 2010 Tour values either. In fact his 2010 Tour results were higher than any other value he'd provided during any of his previous major victories.
The inescapable conclusion was that his reticulocyte results were unusual for him. In fact, neither his own blood expert nor myself could conceive of any naturally-induced circumstance that could explain his elevated reticulocyte results during the Tour. I was surprised to read paragraph 359 of the ruling, which in fairness only refers to written submissions that had preceded my opportunity to address questions to Contador's expert. However what that paragraph does not reflect, which the court transcript can establish, was that during the hearing itself I categorically asked Contador's expert whether he had any natural explanation for Contador's reticulocytes during the 2010 Tour, and he did not. Both of us also agreed that some forms of doping, for example a microdose EPO regime, could yield higher-than-expected reticulocytes.
During the hearing, I helped the panel to objectively evaluate for themselves just how unusual Contador's reticulocyte results were during the 2010 Tour. They refer to this in paragraph 368. I presented a probabilistic evaluation which replaced my subjective opinion with mathematical odds. The calculation found that the probability of Contador's four highest results occurring at a single race was less than 1 in 7000. However, the panel concluded that probability calculations, which had been scrutinised by two colleagues each with a PhD in statistics, were not a sufficiently secure method of establishing inconsistencies.
As I explained earlier, I regard haemoglobin and reticulocytes as separate entities and when I examined Contador's haemoglobin values during the 2010 Tour I found his results to be more or less what I would have expected. However since I already had his data from previous major victories in hand, I went ahead and compared his 2010 haemoglobin results with those other races and I was concerned that I was not able to see consistency between races. In very general terms, you'd expect the same rider to show the same response each race. There is a dilution of the haemoglobin as the cumulative impact of multiple days of stage racing leads to an influx of water into the circulation. Whereas I would have been reassured to find the same characteristic signature in Contador during every one of his victories, I did not.