- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 05:42
- Cycling News
Hectic week for Movistar at Algarve, Haut Var-matin and Andalucía
Tomorrow marks the start of a hectic week for the Spanish Movistar squad which will have teams racing in three different countries concurrently. Rui Costa will lead the ProTeam at the next race at Volta ao Algarve in Portugal while Giovanni Visconti heads to France for Tour du Haut Var-matin for the two-day event. Meanwhile Alejandro Valverde will return to his home country in search of a second consecutive Vuelta a Andalucía crown.
"After its victorious European debut with Alejandro Valverde's win at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana in the Majorca Challenge, Movistar Team kicks-off on Thursday with seven hectic days of competition that will lead the telephone squad into ten racing days and three different countries," according to a team release.
Costa finished fifth-overall at Algarve in 2012, 0:58 behind the overall victor Richie Porte of Sky and will be supported by a all-rounder cast of Jonathan Castroviejo, Alex Dowsett ,José and Jesús Herrada, Vladimir Karpets and Enrique Sanz.
The two-day Tour du Haut Var-matin sees Visconti back to racing after opening his season in Australia at the Tour Down Under. It wasn't the best start for Visconti who crashed heavily near the end of Stage 2 at Down Under and moved into a support role for eventual teammate and eventual second-place overall Javi Moreno - who will be skipping the French race in favour of the 546.8km Vuelta a Andalucia - Ruta Ciclista Del Sol.
Finally, Valverde headlines Movistar best chance for overall success at Andalucía with the four-day race coming a little under two weeks since his last tasted podium champagne at Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana - the third race at Challenge Mallorca. It was a tight fought battle at last year's edition with Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) finishing within 10-seconds of the race lead to fill second and third overall respectively.
Movistar team for Vuelta a Andalucía - Ruta Ciclista Del Sol: Imanol Erviti (Spa), José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa), Javier Moreno (Spa), Ruben Plaza (Spa), Nairo Quintana (Col), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) and Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 08:30
- Cycling News
Italian champion, teammates and Bianchi bikes
Current Italian road champion Franco Pellizotti will lead the Androni Giocatolli - Venezuela squad this year as he embarks on his first full season since returning from a two-year suspension for abnormalities in his blood passport. The team has been rebuilt for 2013 with an emphasis on an assault at the Giro d'Italia.
Team owner Gianni Savio enlisted the services of the former Giro d'Italia stage and 2009 Tour de France KOM classification winner Pellizotti immediately after the Italian was cleared to race mid last year. It will be Pellizotti's first participation at a grand tour since 2009 when he lines up for this year's Giro.
Continuing with the squad for the third season is Emanuele Sella. The rider who tested positive for CERA at the 2008 Giro and was given an opportunity by Savio to return to the top level will likely form part of the support squad for the three week race.
Other notable riders on the roster include Mattia Gavazzi, who took the team's first win of the New Year on Stage 7 at the Tour de San Luis. Gavazzi is clearly making a strong return to competition after more than two years out of the sport following a cocaine positive control at the Settimana Lombarda on March 31, 2010.
The following gallery showcases the eclectic mix of riders put together by Savio for the coming season. The team is sponsored by Bianchi bicycles and will be using the Sempre Pro frameset while the majority of Vancansoleil-DCM riders are equipped with the Oltre XR.
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 10:26
- Cycling News
Colombian ready to help Wiggins in mountains
Seventh overall in the Giro d’Italia in 2012, Rigoberto Uran has said that he will enter this year’s event with the sole intention of helping his Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins take the maglia rosa.
last year Uran also claimed the white jersey of best young rider, while his fellow countryman and teammate Sergio Henao finished 9th in Milan. The two Colombians will be Wiggins’ key domestiques in the Dolomites this time around.
“This year will be different because I will be fully available to the team,” Uran told Biciciclismo. “I won’t be thinking about the general classification but maybe I can look for a stage win if it’s possible. Things are clear this year: we’re going to work for Bradley, as he can win the Giro. The task for me and Henao will be to help him in the mountains in a very hard final week.”
Uran also enjoyed considerable success in one-day races last year, taking silver at the London 2012 Olympics, winning Gran Piemonte and finishing third at the Tour of Lombardy. He will be hoping to continue that form at the Ardennes classics, although his first objectives will come at a pair of week-long stage races.
“The idea is to be going well for Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya, two WorldTour races that I know and where I want to be at the front,” Uran said. “I’m not sure if I’ll do the Tour of the Basque Country, but afterwards, I’ll do the three Ardennes classics and the Giro.”
Uran began his 2013 campaign with three days of racing at the Trofeo Mallorca, and he now lines up at the Volta ao Algarve, which gets underway on Wednesday. With a 34km time trial preceding the summit finish at the Alto do Malhão, Uran admitted that making a serious impact on general classification might prove difficult.
“I think the time trial will define the race and there are strong riders like Tony Martin there,” he said. “But we’ll try on the mountain stage.”
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 11:53
- Daniel Benson
Head of British Cycling says WADA's backing is essential
British Cycling president and UCI management committee member Brian Cookson has reiterated that any investigation into cycling’s past must be sanctioned and backed by WADA. Cookson, who has been previously been mooted as a potential candidate for the UCI presidency has also reacted to the news that the UCI biological passport panel never analyzed Lance Armstrong’s data after May 2009.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of restoring credibility to a number of the bodies involved in the sport,” Cookson told Cyclingnews.
“Cycling can hold its head up in that it’s generally leading the way in the fight against doping, I believe. Other sports are going to go through this process in the next few years. The media are starting to understand that this isn’t just an issue with cycling. WADA are too.”
The UCI has faced a barrage of criticism in recent months. The USADA’s Reasoned Decision, coupled with the UCI’s dogged resistance to investigate the past has weakened the body’s credibility, with accusations of corruption and collusion rife. The situation has worsened in recent weeks with former UCI President Hein Verbruggen confirming that riders were often tipped off if they were close to testing positive. Verbruggen currently serves as the honorary president of the UCI.
However, the UCI’s current president, Pat McQuaid, has taken the most flak. As Verbruggen’s successor, he has overseen a number of important changes in the sport, including the globalisation of cycling and the introduction of the biological passport – a programme that cycling pioneered with the backing of WADA. That work has been overshadowed by the case against Armstrong, however, and not helped by the UCI’s refusal to cooperate. The dissolution of an independent commission that the UCI had set up intentionally to investigate allegations of corruption was another embarrassment .
McQuaid has stated his intention to stand for a third term as president with elections later this year, but there are rumblings that all is not well within the UCI and that new candidates may appear before September’s election. Cookson has been quick to distance himself from any speculation, stating that the UCI currently needs unity.
“The public confidence in the UCI has taken a number of knocks in recent months and we need to do a lot of work to restore that,” Cookson acknowledged.
“I think McQuaid has being doing a good job in many ways and he has my support. Pat is showing all the signs of wanting to continue. There are number of months until the election. If there are other candidates, we need to see who they are and so on. At the moment, I think he’s been doing a good job. There have been a number of knocks and controversies. I think we can improve the performance of the UCI in a number or areas but Pat has faced a lot of unfair criticism too.”
One way in which the UCI is attempting to restore faith is by setting up a new investigation tasked with delivering a form of truth and reconciliation. Any such plans will need the backing of WADA – something that the original commission sorely missed.
“We’re absolutely convinced that we need to carry on the fight against doping. The feeling amongst the management committee is that we’re making good progress in comparison to other sports, something that we’re not given credit for, but there’s a lot of work still to be done and we need to make sure we move forward in the right sort of way.
“We’ve got to look at all of these issues and have a proper investigation that satisfies all our other partners and stakeholders, including WADA. That’s why we want a system that is appropriate and acceptable to WADA because if they don’t accept it then I think it’s never going to be accepted by the wider world either.
“The problem with the first commission was that it clearly failed to gain the credibility and support of WADA and without that, it was a waste of time, so it’s back to the drawing board really."
“In terms of looking backwards, frankly we know most of what went on. We know most of the riders and what they did. Most have been caught and sanctioned one way or another over the years. But let's have a look and try and get things out in the open so we can get to the point where stakeholders and fans can trust the integrity of those governing the sport. We need to investigate accusations of collusion from the past. We need to do that quickly and effectively.”
Armstrong’s passport checks
In the last few days the UCI has been hit by more negative comments with Michael Ashenden criticising the passport programme and the UCI’s management of the doping situation during the American’s comeback. Ashenden had originally claimed that during his service on the passport panel he had never analyzed Armstrong’s data. The UCI quickly responded, proving that Ashenden had seen data prior to the Giro in 2009 and that he has passed the profile off as 'normal'.
However, Ashenden has always claimed that Armstrong doped during the 2009 Tour, an allegation Armstrong has denied. On Tuesday Ashenden took a further step, releasing Armstrong’s biological passport number to the press and calling on other experts to clarify whether they had analysed the rider’s data. The UCI volleyed back almost immediately with a press release stating that Armstrong’s data had not been checked by the passport committee because it had not been flagged up as abnormal.
“As I understand it, no warning bells sounded in the examination of the specifics on those samples,” Cookson said.
“Again as I understand it, those samples, those tests are all done anonymously so no one would know if Armstrong’s test had been examined until after the process. What’s happened, is that those test have been within the acceptable parameters during that period. I’m not saying Armstrong wasn’t doping, he may have been flying under the radar in some way, and that may mean we need to tighten up the parameters.
“I’m pretty confident nothing was covered up as it were, but that doesn’t meant the science can’t be improved as people can find ways of flying under the radar. We need eternal vigilance.”
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 15:21
- Cycling News
Former UCI president lashes out at WADA, USADA
Hein Verbruggen, president of the UCI from 1991 through 2005 and an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has sent a letter to all 15 members of the IOC Executive Board in which the Dutchman denies the UCI covered up doping positives by Lance Armstrong, according to insidethegames.biz. Verbruggen also lashes out at anti-doping agencies such as WADA and USADA, wondering why there's no suspicion on their behalf regarding what Verbruggen calls a "flawed system" which failed to catch the doping activities of Armstrong and his US Postal teammates
Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France victories, from 1999 through 2005, took place during Verbruggen's reign as UCI president. Following an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Armstrong was stripped of all his Tour titles and banned for life from sports adhering to WADA code. Armstrong did not contest WADA's findings and later confessed on Oprah Winfrey's talk show to doping during all seven Tour victories.
"I have been frequently accused that during my UCI Presidency, my Federation would not have been too serious in its anti-doping policy and that - in particular the Armstrong case - the UCI and myself would have been involved in covering-up positive tests," wrote Verbruggen, as reported by insidethegames.biz.
"Cover-ups never took place. Not only this would never have been allowed, but also since the there simply was nothing to cover-up. Armstrong, nor his teammates ever tested positive."
Verbruggen, however, did admit that Armstrong tested positive for cortisone during the 1999 Tour de France, but brushed aside any hint of wrong-doing regarding the back-dated Therapeutic Use Exemption.
"There was a finding for cortisone in 1999 (a time when only the UCI was testing for corticosteroids) that was declared as negative also by the French AD [anti-doping]-authorities that conducted the test, since it was the result of the use of an (allowed) ointment," wrote Verbruggen, as reported by insidethegames.biz. "That case was made public immediately and the UCI issued a press release explaining how the case was resolved."
Testimony provided to USADA's investigation by Armstrong's US Postal teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton stated that suspicious test results from Armstrong at the Tour de Suisse suggested EPO use, but Landis and Hamilton testified that Armstrong met with the lab and UCI and nothing further came of the test results. Armstrong denied meeting with the UCI and lab during his confession to Oprah Winfrey.
"There further was a suspicious test for EPO in 2001 but definitely NOT declared positive by the laboratory," stated Verbruggen in his letter.
In his letter, Verbruggen also calls into question WADA and USADA, wondering how the anti-doping agencies are free of suspicion.
"Any suspicion about USADA? About WADA?" Personally, and I am not the only ones, I find that there is a heavy responsibility of WADA since they 'force' the world of sport to spend some US$0.5 billion (some US$600,000 per sanctioned positive test!!) for the fight against doping, while declaring themselves that THEIR (!) whole system is totally flawed."
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 17:05
- Peter Cossins
Ex-Kelme rider claims he was obliged to dope and collapsed twice as a result of treatments he underwent
During more than three hours on the stand at the Puerto trial in Madrid on Wednesday, Jesús Manzano provided detailed and sometimes shocking testimony about blood transfusions and doping practices he underwent during his four seasons on the Kelme team. Manzano claimed that the team forced him to take banned products and threatened him with dismissal if he refused to do so, explained the damage done to his health by doping practices, and alleged that doping products were bought by Kelme’s management out of the team’s budget.
Manzano’s evidence looked particularly damning for four of the defendants on trial for crimes against public health. The ex-Kelme rider said he had never had any link or relationship at all with former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz, but he made numerous allegations relating to Saiz’s fellow defendants, Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, Dr Yolanda Fuentes, Vicente Belda and José Ignacio Labarta.
Manzano dropped an early bombshell when he produced his UCI health card from 2003. This, he said, showed that he had a working relationship with Eufemiano Fuentes, who had previously testified he had no relationship with Manzano. The card bore Fuentes’s signature, indicating he was the rider’s doctor. Although the doctor’s lawyer attempted to have the card struck out as evidence, the judge overruled this protest and Fuentes confirmed the signature was indeed his.
Manzano went on to say that he had been given EPO by Fuentes in 2000, 2001 and 2003. “There were two types of treatment – taking it intravenously or subcutaneously,” he explained. “During races, Eufemiano, Yolanda, [Kelme doctor] Walter Virú or [Kelme doctor] Alfredo Córdova would give us EPO. When we were at home we would do it ourselves.”
Manzano said that Belda oversaw the planning and coordinated these treatments. “The team used to plan out how we would pass the controls, so that those of us who had a high haematocrit would present ourselves [to the UCI’s testers] the latest… When the UCI were carrying out tests we would take serum or human albumin and get our haematocrit down that way,” Manzano explained. He went on to say that the only rider on the Kelme team who didn’t dope was José Miguel Cuenca.
Manzano declared he had been given a variety of different products, naming Actovegin, testosterone, cortisone, nandrolone, Oxyglobin, haemoglobin and female hormone that was prescribed by Eufemiano Fuentes in the name of Yolanda Fuentes, but given to the Kelme rider.
Asked about the administration of Actovegin, which is extracted from calves’ blood and is used to enhance aerobic oxidation in mammals, and Oxyglobin, which is used to treat anaemia in dogs, Manzano said that the riders “used to joke about it. Some days we would go out barking and others we would go out mooing.” He also explained that an infusion of 50ml of Oxyglobin had led to his collapse on the Morzine stage of the 2003 Tour de France.
“The collapse at the Tour wasn’t the result of heatstroke because it came nearer to the start than the end of the stage,” said Manzano. “I felt cold, nauseous and fell to the ground semi-conscious. When I came around I was in an ambulance… When I was in the hospital in France we told them not to do any blood tests because if they had we could have gone to prison.”
Having abandoned the Tour, Manzano said he was sent by the team to Valencia to undergo a transfusion in preparation for the upcoming Vuelta. “Belda sent me there and Virú carried it out. I began to feel unwell and started shivering. I took a taxi with my wife to the train station and when I was on the train I was so cold that she was asking the other passengers for clothing. They stopped the train from leaving, but they wouldn’t let Virú get on because he didn’t have a ticket,” said Manzano, who was eventually helped off the train and returned to see Virú for treatment.
Manzano described how “carrier pigeon” Alberto León would transport the riders’ blood in Tetra-Paks designed to hold wine. He also said that Fuentes would transport it in the back of his Porsche, claiming that Fuentes did exactly this when he carried out transfusions on the Kelme riders in one of the team’s hotels during the 2003 Vuelta. “Yolanda and Eufemiano were taking it in turns to transfuse the blood because there were so many riders having transfusions,” he stated. “You just had to trust that they were giving you your own blood. They never told me about the risks.”
Asked to compare transfusions done by the team and blood testing carried out by the UCI’s inspectors, Manzano said: “The UCI’s inspectors only used to take two vials of blood from you, but Eufemiano used to take between half and a full litre. That’s not the same thing at all.”
Manzano claimed he never paid for any of the medical assistance he was given. “Kelme used to pay for it. During the 2003 Tour Belda asked us for a donation for the ‘carrier pigeon’ who was transporting the products in France. We were afraid when we were in France, but not when we were in Spain,” he said, later alleging that the late Joan Mas, manager of the Kelme team, provided the money to buy doping products.
He said that his introduction to doping had begun when Belda had taken him to a room in the team hotel so that he could be given “some little things fix up his engine”. He claimed that he was given EPO and that both Fuentes and Labarta were present. He added that Belda had told him. “If you say that you won’t take it, you’ll get the sack.” On the same theme, he later added: “I took the medication because the team forced me to. I never did it voluntarily.” Pressed on this by Fuentes’s lawyer, Manzano insisted: “I was obliged to take the products because on one occasion I said
I wouldn’t and Yolanda went off to look for Belda.”
Manzano ended his long period in the witness box by making a claim for damages of 180,000 euros against Eufemiano Fuentes, Yolanda Fuentes, Belda and Labarta.
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 17:43
- Peter Hymas
Europe's cobbled Classics soon to commence
While members of the European peloton frequent sunny, balmy locales throughout the winter to build fitness for the 2013 season, there's still no substitute for putting in punishing training miles on the cobbled roads which comprise the upcoming Classics and semi-Classics in Belgium.
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the traditional start to the Europe's cobbled campaign and key members of Garmin-Sharp's Classics squad have been putting in the miles on the 199km route to dial in their bikes and familiarise themselves with key sectors of the parcours.
Nick Nuyens, a new member of Garmin-Sharp for 2013, joined teammates Johan Vansummeren, Tyler Farrar, Martijn Maaskant, Sebastien Rosseler and Thomas Dekker as they rode key climbs, such as the Taaienberg and Molenberg, plus pave sectors, including Haaghoek, in preparation for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 23.
Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), too, was also out training on the route and joined his former Garmin teammates in reconning sectors of pave.
- Article published:
- February 13, 2013, 19:50
- Barry Ryan
Back in peloton, FDJ rider takes aim at Classics
Yoann Offredo made his return to competitive action at the Tour of Qatar last week after serving a one-year suspension for violating the whereabouts system, but the FDJ rider admitted that he was still frustrated by what he feels was the severity of his sanction in relation to others handed out since.
Offredo’s year-long ban was double the sanction handed to Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie, Michael Barry and George Hincapie, who belatedly confessed to partaking in a systematic blood doping programme during their years at the US Postal Service team (later Discovery Channel).
“I committed a fault and I had to be sanctioned, but it should be proportionate: I got a year for an administrative error but other riders only got a few months for actually doping,” Offredo told Cyclingnews. “Personally, I find that pretty bizarre, but that’s the way things are. Maybe giving six months to guys who contribute information can help to fight doping, but for me it was a bit shocking to see that. Still, there’s no point in complaining about it at this stage.”
While Offredo is careful to insist that he was banned for an administrative oversight rather than doping, he is more than aware that the wider public will not share that distinction and that his name has been irrevocably tarnished.
“When my mother was going to work on the metro in Paris, she saw a headline in a newspaper that said ‘Offredo escapes three controls’, as if I had fled from three controls after races,” Offredo said, shaking his head. “In fact, I submitted my whereabouts information late on two occasions and the third time, the team changed my race programme at the last minute and they didn’t modify my whereabouts.
“People who know cycling know how easily that can happen. But I know that people who don’t know cycling and just see all these doping cases will just have said, ‘shit – another suspension, another doper.’”
In the early part of his suspension, Offredo contemplated leaving cycling behind altogether, a phase he says lasted for two months. “I realised that I wanted to see it out, and I told myself it would be a shame to end things over something so stupid,” Offredo said.
Instead, Offredo returned to training in May of last year, and began following a training programme tailored to the peculiarities of his situation by FDJ coach Fréd Grappe. “He helped me a lot during the year, especially when it came to compensating for missing out on competition,” he explained.
Offredo marked his comeback by attacking in the finale of the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar and admitted afterwards that the simple act of signing on beforehand had been “quite emotional.” By the week’s end, Offredo had finished the race in 30th place overall but he acknowledged that Qatar was simply a test site ahead of the spring Classics.
Offredo last shone in the Classics at Milan-San Remo two years ago, when his escape on the descent of the Cipressa precipitated a breathless finale. It was a performance that promised much, but a crash at Gent-Wevelgem the following week interrupted his progress. After sitting out last spring in its entirety, the 26-year-old Offredo is eager to make up for lost time in 2013.
“It’s funny because when I stopped my studies in 2010 [he has a diploma in management], I said, ‘ok, I’m all about cycling now,’ but since then, I’ve had the crash in 2011 and the suspension last year,” he said. “But the Classics are the races I love and I’m very motivated. It was very important for me to go to Qatar to find my place in the peloton again and get used to it, before getting to the Classics themselves.”
Offredo’s pre-Classics build-up continues at the Trofeo Laigueglia, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Paris-Nice. During the off-season, he had already led an FDJ delegation to reconnoitre the routes of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and he calculates that he has spent 45 days in the last two months in training camps.
“I like the new Flanders route a bit less than the old one, although a lot depends on the weather conditions. I would prefer if the weather isn’t that good to be honest, because that might help the race settle a little more quickly,” he said.
“In any case, I really love the Tour of Flanders because it’s a race where you really have to fight and I love racing in Belgium. But I love Milan-San Remo too because it’s a very, very long race and it suits me because there aren’t many riders who can cope with that kind of distance.”