- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 02:16
- Cycling News
Lavenu concerned about team stability
Little-known rider Steve Houanard may have chosen to take EPO as a result of not having his AG2r La Mondiale contract renewed says team manager Vincent Lavenu. The 26-year-old was informed by team management at the Canadian WorldTour races, where he finished 22nd and 41st at GP Québec and GP Montéal respectively that he would not be continuing with the French outfit in 2013.
It was this news delivered in Canada and subsequent desperation to get results that may have caused Houanard to take EPO ahead of his final race of the year, the Tour of Beijing. Houanard had finished the Stage 1 in 21st-place just hours before the results of his positive test were published.
"I was with him [Houanard] in Canada and there I told him we do not keep him in the team. I had told him that the door is not 100% closed, but he knew it would be difficult to change our mind. I think this has triggered a reaction that he can no longer fool," said team manager Vincent Lavenu to L’Equipe.
The provisionally suspended rider was yet to win a professional race since his debut as a trainee with Skil-Shimano at the end of 2008 and with one WorldTour event left in 2012 it was his last chance to prove his place in the top-tier.
"When you know everything it takes to keep a team afloat, the number of people must be convinced to follow you...There is a French boy, went through our training center (Chambéry Cycling Training), it is a crazy thing and is frankly disheartening. We will apply the procedure, that is to say that Steve will be laid off as a precaution," said Lavenu.
"There are procedures to follow. We respect the labor laws in force. As a first step we put the rider aside. This is a safeguard procedure. Then he will be called to come and give explanations as every good French employee. There is no doubt that the controls are so serious and effective that I do not see an explanation," Lavenu told Sport365.
"We fight daily to convey values related to those of our partners. Run a professional cycling team, it is not easy. This requires huge investments and conviction of our partners to follow in a fierce global competition. When such mishaps happen in a team where, in addition, they are fighting to try to stay in the first division, I can tell you that everything can be questioned. The future of the team depends on it. Everything will depend on how the UCI interprets the case and how partners react. What is certain is that the balance is fragile," he said.
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 04:20
- Barry Ryan
Frenchman frustrated and disappointed after two years at Garmin-Sharp
Christophe Le Mével will move from Garmin-Sharp to Cofidis during the off-season, and as he brings the curtain down on his time in argyle, there is a sense that he harbours some regrets about how his two-year sojourn at the squad played out.
While his omission from the Tour de France selection for the second successive year perhaps precipitated his decision to leave the team, Le Mével admitted that he had already been concerned by his racing programme in the early part of the 2012 season.
"I was really very happy the first year," Le Mével told Cyclingnews in Beijing on Tuesday. "This year, I was satisfied too but I couldn't do all the races I wanted to do in the early part of the year, so it was a bit difficult for me at the start of this season. But all told it's been a very good experience for me these past two years."
Ninth at Flèche Wallonne in 2011 after a pugnacious showing in the finale, Le Mével had high hopes of making a fresh impact in the Ardennes classics this time around. Instead of racing in at the Tour of the Basque Country as preparation, however, he spent the first half of April training at home, and confessed that he was found wanting in the white heat of battle.
"I didn't do the races to prepare the Ardennes classics," Le Mével explained. "I trained at home but that was difficult to be prepared properly for the classics. As I arrived at my objectives without having done races beforehand, it meant that I wasn't quite at the level because I didn't have the right condition. I had trained very, very well at home, but I was missing a little bit in the races themselves.
"It was hard for me to accept that I was coming to my objectives without the level that I wanted. But after reflecting on it, I think it was because I hadn't done the races I needed to do as preparation beforehand, which made it a bit difficult for me this year."
Le Mével was able to laugh when asked to describe how it felt to miss out on the Tour for the past seasons, although one has the sense that - as Morrissey would have put it - he can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.
"It's certain that as a Frenchman in a team like Garmin, I would really, really like to have been at the Tour de France," Le Mével said diplomatically. "But when a team makes its selection for the Tour, there are those who are happy and those who are disappointed. I was one of the disappointed and it's true to say that I was very disappointed."
By his own admission, Le Mével did not anticipate making the Tour squad in 2011, given that he had just raced to 14th in a gruelling Giro d'Italia and, particularly given that Jonathan Vaughters was looking to build a selection to win the team time trial, a policy that would also delay Dan Martin's Tour debut by a year.
Come 2012, however, and Le Mével had centred his campaign around the Tour only to find that he was again surplus to requirements. For the 10th place finisher of 2009, the frustration was palpable.
"This year was a lot more disappointing because the Tour was my aim from the start of the year, whereas the year before, I was focused on the Giro - that was my objective was the Giro and I did well there," Le Mével said, before half-joking: "I also realised that - if things go as normal - there will be a team time trial at the 2013 Tour de France, so I think that if I stayed at Garmin, I wouldn't have done the Tour!"
Although he steps down to Pro Continental level with Cofidis in 2013, Le Mével was confident that his new team would earn a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France and the Ardennes classics. Without a Tour stage win since Sylvain Chavanel in 2008, Cofidis have been active in the transfer market, adding Le Mével, Jérôme Coppel and Daniel Navarro to their roster.
"It will be more complicated to get selected for the classics, but I'm crossing my fingers that we can get there for Flèche and Liège above all," Le Mével said. "I think Cofidis has made some good signings this year, there's Navarro coming too, so I hope we can make a good start to the season and ensure we get invitations to the races that suit us best."
At 32 years of age, the amiable Le Mével is something of a veteran in the Cofidis line-up, and he said that he was looking forward to marshalling the youthful pairing of Coppel and Rein Taaramae at the Tour, after pursuing his own ambitions in the spring.
"I will have more freedom at Cofidis. I won't be an uncontested leader, but I can be a good road captain and help Taaramae and Coppel to do as well as possible at the Tour de France, while in the Ardennes classics I can ride as a leader."
As he prepared for the start of the Tour of Beijing in the stirring open spaces of Tiananmen Square, Le Mével mulled over the highlights of his tenure away from French teams, ultimately opting for his attack on the Mur de Huy at Flèche as the stand-out moment of 2011.
Le Mével was somewhat more hesitant when it came to choosing a memory from 2012. "I don't know yet," he smiled after a pause. "Maybe here."
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 06:28
- Cycling News
RBS Morgans-ATS and Jayco-HoneyShotz discontinue in 2013
The management of the Australian National Road Series team search2retain has agreed to take over the Eclipse Pro Cycling program in 2013 according to a joint team release. The acquisition of the program that runs the senior RBS Morgans – ATS team and under-21 development Jayco-HoneyShotz squad brings added infrastructure to the Melbourne-based team that has been steadily building since its inception in 2009.
Search2retain most recently won the sprint classification at Tour of Tasmania with Neil Van Der Ploeg and is looking to grow the team in the years to come. Little is known about the actual agreement however, a number of Eclipse Pro Cycling sponsors and riders will most likely make the move to search2retain in 2013.
"I commend Eclipse Pro Cycling management for the program that they put together and for the opportunity that they have provided to a large number of Australian riders over the past 2 seasons," said Search2Retain Managing Director Peter Shandon. "We are really looking forward to working with the Eclipse riders and sponsors to create outstanding program that will deliver on our Vision for our team."
The demands of running two concurrent teams with 19 riders and various racing programs has proved too much for the management of Eclipse who cited financial reasons as their primary rationale for discontinuing next season.
"We are very grateful to all our sponsors for their infrastructure," said Eclipse team management. "Running a roster of 19 riders as we did across two teams in 2012 is not an easy task financially and one thing's for certain, we could not have got this far without our sponsors.
"The decision to discontinue is a commercial one, as the team is a non-profit operation," added Eclipse management. "There had to be a decision made on viability. If it were an emotive decision, we would say yes lets continue, yet for the directors of the team the commercial reality is that it's not personally viable to continue."
The Eclipse project had attracted numerous sponsors who would otherwise not being involved in the sport. The acquisition of Eclipse will hopefully mean a number of them including Audi West Brisbane, RBS Morgans and Flight Centre-Healthwise Active Travel remain with search2retain in the coming years.
Eclipse Pro Cycling made its debut on the Australian National Road Series for the 2011 season, claiming impressive victories at the Victorian Open Road Championship with Ben Hill, the gruelling Tour of Tasmania team time trial on Mt Wellington and the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic where Mark Jamieson posted the fastest time in the event's 51-year history.
In 2012, Eclipse partnered with Cycling Australia’s High Performance program to create a new Australian-based under-21 development team, Jayco-HoneyShotz, which raced to victory on four occasions over the National Road Series. The team fully-resourced a national squad to race at the UCI 2.2 Tour of Thailand where Mitchell Lovelock-Fay rode to general classification victory.
The senior team members continued their impressive run with Nic Dougall finishing 5th overall at the under-23 UCI 2.2 Heydar Aliyev Anniversary Tour of Azerbaijan while Ben Hill finished second overall in the mountains classification at the Tour of China I, adding to his dominant streak of results in the category in the NRS for RBS Morgans - ATS.
In all 10 Eclipse Pro Cycling riders have represented Australia in some way in 2012.
Further details regarding the specific nature of the agreement will be available in the coming weeks.
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 09:26
- Cycling News
French media speculates on route
With the official unveiling of the 2013 Tour de France still weeks away speculation mounts as to the route details with a time trial to Mont Saint Michael now predicted in the second week of the race. French media claims to have details on portions of the course, which is scheduled to be officially presented on October 24 in Paris.
The race will start June 29 on the island of Corsica, with three stages there, to be followed by a team time trial in Nice. It is then predicted that the race will enter the Pyrenees, before hitting western France.
According to ouest-france.fr, the first rest day will be Monday, July 8, in Loire-Atlantique. On the next day, the stage will possibly start in Saint-Nazaire and run to Saint-Malo. Wednesday, July 10, will then see the race's first individual time trial, from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michael.
The race will then leave the region in a stage from Fougeres to Tours.
Mont-Saint-Michel is a small island, less than 1 square kilometer, off of the northwest coast of France. It is connected to the mainland, about 1 kilometer away, by a causeway which is not affected by the tidal waters.
The third week of the race is said to include Mont Ventoux and two climbs of L'Alpe d'Huez, possibly on the final stage.
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 11:09
- Cycling News
Spanish track rider Teruel to Movistar
Sergio Pardilla has signed with the MTN-Qhubeka team for 2013 and 2014. The South African team, which has applied for Professional Continental status, announced the signing of the Spanish climber on Wednesday. Pardilla is leaving Movistar Team, which in turn announced the signing of Spanish Olympic track cyclist Eloy Teruel.
Pardilla, 28, is known as a climber and breakaway specialist. He won the mountain jersey at this years Vuelta a Burgos, was second overall at the Tour de l'Ain, and 18th overall at the Giro d'Italia. He has 11 wins in his career, having turned pro in 2006. He joined Movistar in 2011.
He said that MTN-Qhubeka's charitable projects were an important factor in his signing. “Team MTN-Qhubeka is not a normal team. I mean results are important as they are in any other team but Team MTN-Qhubeka also has other goals which are supporting African riders to make cycling a more popular sport on the continent and taking part in charity projects to reduce poverty in Africa through Qhubeka.”
“It is fantastic to have a stage race rider and super climber like Sergio join our team. We have been looking for a rider that will be able to lead Team MTN-Qhubeka in stage races next year and into the Grand Tours in the very near future,” said team principal Douglas Ryder.
Teruel, 29, finished ninth in the Omnium and sixth in the team pursuit at the 2012 London Olympics. He rode for Spanish Continental and Professional Continental teams from 2006 to 2009, and has ridden as an Elite-2 since them. He was twice national time trial champion for Elite men without pro contracts in 2010 and 2102, only beaten in the championship time trial by Luis León Sánchez and his future team-mate Jonathan Castroviejo.
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 12:50
- Cycling News
Belgian turns 42 in December
Veteran sprinter Nico Eeckhout has decided to keep on racing for another year. The Belgian, who will turn 42 in December, has extended his contract with AN Post-Sean Kelly for one more year.
"During the Championship of Flanders in Koolskamp mid-September I fell and sustained a back injury,” he told the Belga news agency Tuesday at the start of Nationale Sluitingprijs Putte-Kapellen. "Immediately I had to cross out such interesting races for me as Omloop van het Houtland and Franco-Belge.
“I can still ride Putte-Kapellen, but without much ambition since I was forced to take such a long break. After I take some rest, then I will prepare for the new season.”
Eeckhout turned pro in 1992. Over the past 20 years, he has ridden for Collstrop, Varta, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass, Palmans, Lotto-Adeco, Chocolade Jacques-T Interim and, since 2009, An-Post-Sean Kelly.
He was Belgian national champion in 2006 and won Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2005 and 2006, amongst others.
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 15:10
- Barry Ryan
German takes advantage of late-season form
Twelve months ago Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) all but sealed overall victory on the opening day of the Tour of Beijing, building up an unassailable lead in the stage one time trial.
With no such test included in this year’s rather hillier race route, and with a number of teams desperate for UCI WorldTour points, it was easy to assume that Martin had simply returned to China to fulfil an obligation as defending champion before winding down his season.
So much for conventional wisdom. On a rugged stage through the fringes of the Xi Mountains, Martin proved to be one of the day’s principal aggressors, carefully tracking the moves on the stirring climb to Mapoaquan, riding generously to help ensure the break fended off the peloton, and ultimately powering clear of his companions on the rapid descent towards the finish at Mentougou.
"If there is no time trial, you have to do your own one,” Martin said of his winning effort after the finish. “I had a very, very small chance today but I took it and I am very happy and proud of this.”
The German’s opening had come about almost by chance. After the leaders had traded blows on the final climb to Dong Gang Hong Tunnel, a brief stalemate ensued as the descent began. Martin drifted towards the front of the group and when he looked around two corners later, he realised that he had opened a gap.
“Suddenly there was a gap behind me to the other guys. I knew there were only 20km to the finish so I decided to try and take my chance,” said Martin, who realised that the remnants of the break would struggle to agree whose responsibility it was to chase. “As for me, I could just go full gas as I’m in really good shape and that’s why I could win today.”
No sprint finish
Before the start, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) told Cyclingnews that he was optimistic of a bunch finish in spite of the ruggedness of the terrain, but those hopes were jettisoned as soon as Euskaltel-Euskadi missed the early break and strung out the peloton to bring it back. By day’s end, the average speed was some 43.678kph, which helped a remarkably fresh Martin to make the difference in the finale.
“We expected a hard race today,” Martin said. “Some guys were expecting a sprint, but we knew it would be hard and Euskaltel were making it hard. At the end, I just tried to attack. I knew that I’m not the strongest in the sprint and I had to ride alone. It was a bit of a risk, but everything is good now.”
By his own admission, Martin had salvaged his season by retaining his world time trial title in Valkenburg last month. But at the end of a long campaign that also included a training crash in April, an early abandon from the Tour de France and a bittersweet Olympic silver medal in London, Martin said that he was determined to take advantage of the final weeks of the season.
“I was lucky that I had a goal after the Worlds,” he said. “I was training really hard after the Worlds so I’m still really motivated. I also had a fantastic experience from last year and I really love this race. That’s why I wanted to come back here to China, I had already decided back in the spring. It’s not easy for me because there’s no time trial and I have to look for my chance in the break but today I could bring a nice gap from the others. It’s a really nice situation.”
- Article published:
- October 10, 2012, 15:27
- Laura Weislo
Evidence more than just rider testimony
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will release to the public its "reasoned decision" document today, detailing the evidence it has amassed against Lance Armstrong and his US Postal Service team associates who engaged in what USADA calls "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen".
Armstrong's attorneys yesterday sent a letter to the agency railing against USADA's action, stating that its evidence was manufactured based on the testimony of "serial perjurers" Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
But in a press release issued this morning, USADA states that its 1000 page dossier not only includes testimony from 26 individuals, including 15 riders "with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team (USPS Team) and its participants' doping activities", but also "direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong".
After being accused by Armstrong's attorneys of wasting taxpayer dollars on a "witch hunt", USADA fired back stating its evidence "confirm[s] the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding."
Armstrong was charged with anti-doping rule violations by USADA in June along with his then-US Postal Service team general manager Johan Bruyneel, his trainers Dr. Michele Ferrari and Pepe Marti, and team doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis del Moral of not only using performance-enhancing drugs such as EPO, growth hormone, testosterone and methods such as blood transfusions, but also providing these substances and methods to other members of the team.
Although some of the charges date back to the 1990s, USADA avoided the eight-year statute of limitations by proving that the conspiracy to cover up the doping activities ran into Armstrong's comeback years. Armstrong's attorneys vigorously objected to this, calling it an "unfair burden of having to defend against stale charges after memories have faded or been jaded and exculpatory evidence is lost".
The taxpayers and cycling fans from around the world will later today be able to peruse the documents and decide for themselves. USADA states it will "reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy". The documents will be available at www.usada.org.
USADA claims the evidence will demonstrate that the 'code of silence' regarding drug use in the sport "has been shattered" by these revelations, "but there is more to do".
"From day one, we always hoped this investigation would bring to a close this troubling chapter in cycling's history and we hope the sport will use this tragedy to prevent it from ever happening again."
"Of course, no one wants to be chained to the past forever, and I would call on the UCI to act on its own recent suggestion for a meaningful Truth and Reconciliation program. While we appreciate the arguments that weigh in favor of and against such a program, we believe that allowing individuals like the riders mentioned today to come forward and acknowledge the truth about their past doping may be the only way to truly dismantle the remaining system that allowed this "EPO and Blood Doping Era" to flourish. Hopefully, the sport can unshackle itself from the past, and once and for all continue to move forward to a better future."