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Special Edition Cycling News, February 14, 2008

Date published:
February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
  • Teams react to Astana ban

    Jonathan Vaughters
    Article published:
    February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Jonathan Vaughters (Team Slipstream) "It's such a multi-faceted and difficult situation to fully...

    Jonathan Vaughters (Team Slipstream)

    "It's such a multi-faceted and difficult situation to fully understand. We as teams, the media, and the public don't even get to see a glimpse of all the information that went into this decision. I think because of this complexity and uncertainty, ASO is just taking a 'wait and see' attitude with Astana, not condemning them. I don't think the decision is prejudiced or permanent, its just ASO allowing some time to pass before reassessing the situation."

    "By hiring Dr. Damsgaard, I really feel Johan has made a good faith effort to help change things in cycling. Its nice to see - and I hope this latest news will not discourage him from continuing. And I know that Rasmus will do the best possible job. I'm guessing ASO just wants to see the fruits of this effort, first. So, I think Astana will be back in the fold soon.

    "A lot has happened in cycling these last couple of years and everyone is trying to solve the problems in different ways. I just hope it all works out."

    Hendrik Redant (Silence-Lotto)

    "It is hard for those guys. I know that Bruyneel has done a lot of work to clean up the team, so this must come as a blow to them I bet. It must be tough to have worked so hard only to see all that work come to nothing."

    "There is a positive and a negative to every story, and the positive for us is that we have lost two of our biggest competitors for the Tour. The problem is it will now put a little more pressure on us as, they were such a strong team, and having two guys there that can collaborate means that they were able to control the race much more. This is really going to change the Tour this year. We will have to wait and see how it is ridden."

    "They [Astana] had lots of problems last year with doping, but they worked hard to clean up the team. They are a team that was built to ride the Tour so it must be hard when you are not granted a...

  • Contador rages in Mallorca, may target Vuelta

    Alberto Contador
    Article published:
    February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    News of the ASO's snub reached the 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador during stage four...

    News of the ASO's snub reached the 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador during stage four of the Volta a Mallorca. Charged with emotion, Contador attacked the peloton, catching the two-man breakaway of Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Jesús del Nero (Saunier Duval) which had been away for much of the stage, and charged away solo up the category two final climb. Clearly angry, he yelled to the television camera, "Astana in the Tour!". Ultimately, his effort was reeled in by the sprint-hungry bunch, but after the race, the 25-year-old Spaniard was close to tears describing his dashed hopes for a second Tour victory.

    "My objectives for this year were to win the Tour again," Contador said. "The Tour is a race that I've always dreamed about, that I've always hoped to do before and again in the future. My objectives this year were to win it again, but I may not be given the possibility. This isn't a good moment to speak about this."

    The Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme made it clear that the decision was made not as a personal slight against Contador, but as a reflection on the Astana team's past history. "If Contador changes teams, then he can take part," Prudhomme said. "This decision was not made against him."

    The Spaniard expressed concern for the Astana team's Kazakh sponsors now that the Tour de France invitation had not been secured. "I thank our sponsor who stays behind us, but I'm afraid other sponsors can leave cycling because of what happened today. It is a sad day for cycling."

    The Vuelta a España director Victor Cordero told Marca he felt the ASO's decision was excessive but justifiable, and that the team would be welcome to race in the Vuelta. Last year, Astana did not race the Vuelta after the doping positives of Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, but Cordero said he has confidence that the team has changed.

    ...

  • Bruyneel disappointed: "incomprehensible"

    Johan Bruyneel
    Article published:
    February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    The ASO decision has generated a stinging response from the director of Astana, Johan Bruyneel, who...

    The ASO decision has generated a stinging response from the director of Astana, Johan Bruyneel, who was also the director of the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel squads that secured some eight TdF victories with Lance Armstrong (1999-2005) and Alberto Contador (2007).

    Bruyneel came out of a very short retirement to be the new director of the Astana team, which is sponsored by a conglomerate of companies from Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. Last year, the team was expelled from the 2007 Tour de France after its star rider, Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping.

    "Since breaking with the ProTour, Tour de France is free to issue its own invitations," Bruyneel said in an official team statement. "After the non selection for the Tour of Italy [Giro d'Italia], we knew that there would be a chance that ASO as well could consider not to invite us," he said. "The Giro argument, that we do not come to the race with our best riders, is no longer valid. With Tour number one and three of last year, Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer, and with two times runner up Andreas Klöden, we maybe have a too strong team now?"

    Bruyneel grappled to find reasoning behind the decision, wondering as well, "Is Astana this year a victim of the war between UCI and ASO?" in a reference to the ongoing battle between he sport's ruling body and the owner of cycling's biggest races.

    "ASO asked us in December [for] open communication. We communicated a lot but never got a reply. ASO has probably the right not to invite us", he said. "They want to augment the credibility of their races after the happenings of last year. Unfortunately, Tour the France will lose now much of its credibility by not letting participate some of world's best riders, who even were never were implied in doping scandals [sic]. The name of Alberto Contador was sometimes linked to the famous Puerto affair. A Spanish judge cleared him. Even afterwards,...

  • Evans more firmly in the frame?

    Cadel Evans
    Article published:
    February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    By Gerard Knapp The expulsion of Contador and Astana from this year's Tour de France would seemingly...

    By Gerard Knapp

    The expulsion of Contador and Astana from this year's Tour de France would seemingly place Australian rider, Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto) as the odds-on favourite for this year's race. Evans finished only 23 seconds behind the young Spaniard last year, and has been completely focused on making up for that loss in the 2008 edition.

    Earlier this year at a press conference in Adelaide during the Tour Down Under, he was asked for his comments on how he would ride if Astana was not invited to the TdF. At the time, he jokingly said that he hoped that Astana would be in this year's Tour de France as there needed to be "a strong team to control the race".

    Indeed, even a hostile Bruyneel pointed to Astana's strength, with the 2008 team featuring Contador, Levi Leipheimer (third in the 2008 TdF) and two-time TdF runner up, the former T-Mobile rider Andreas Klöden. "We maybe have a too strong team now?” Bruyneel said in response to the ASO decision.

    It's likely that all the attention come July will now focus this year on the Belgian squad, placing additional pressure on Evans, the Australian rider who's been able to steadily improve at the Tour and largely sneak under the radar of the world's media. Evans has gone from eighth, to fourth and last year, second overall, as he has consistently improved in the world's biggest bike race.

    The Silence - Lotto team has been bolstered for 2008 with the hiring of 2007 Discovery Channel rider Yaroslav Popovych, the Ukrainian strongman who rode consistently at the front of the peloton in the 2007 edition of the Tour de France. 'Popo' was a key team rider for both Contador and prior to the young Spaniard's short reign, Lance Armstrong. It looks like 'Popo' and the rest of the Silence - Lotto team will be facing a strong test of race leadership come this July.

    Silence-Lotto directeur sportif Henrik...

  • Paris-Nice invitations indicative of ASO plans for 2008?

    Article published:
    February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    By Gerard Knapp It was actually the announcement of team invitations for the upcoming Paris-Nice...

    By Gerard Knapp

    It was actually the announcement of team invitations for the upcoming Paris-Nice stage race, to be held from March 9 - 16, 2008, that included the decision by ASO to not invite Astana to this race, and any other race it's organising in 2008. Astana's roster includes Alberto Contador, the defending champion of the 2007 Paris-Nice as well as the Tour de France.

    ASO invited 20 teams to participate in Paris-Nice, and among these are the two American squads, Team High Road and Slipstream - Chipotle. Although High Road is listed as a German team by the ASO, it is actually registered in the USA and it was recently in the headlines as it appears to have missed the selection to the first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d'Italia.

    Earlier this year on February 2, the organisers of the Giro d'Italia, RCS SPort, announced the teams to race in the Giro, and it left out the ProTour teams Astana, High Road, Crédit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom. RCS said its decision was made difficult by a large number of requests for race entries, and it reviewed team histories (with particular regard to doping) as well as if the teams had put in a strong performance in previous editions of Italy's Grand Tour when formulating the invitations.

    Of those four teams excluded from the Giro, it would seem that High Road remains in contention - among many other teams - to secure a start in the Tour de France, if ASO's decision on Wednesday is any indication of its preferences. High Road is the team formally known as T-Mobile, which is under new management.

    However, in the 2007 Tour de France, a then T-Mobile rider, Patrik Sinkewitz, was expelled from his team and the 2007 Tour de France for returning a positive test for testosterone from an out of competition control in June. Another team invited to Paris-Nice is Rabobank, and this Dutch squad was also at the centre of the...

  • Astana in disbelief over ASO decision as Leipheimer vows to fight back

    Astana's riders will have to refocus their season
    Article published:
    February 14, 2008, 0:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    By Laura Weislo The Astana team was given a resounding vote of no confidence on Wednesday when the...

    By Laura Weislo

    The Astana team was given a resounding vote of no confidence on Wednesday when the Tour de France organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation, announced that the team would not be invited to any of the ASO's events. This means its star, Alberto Contador, will not be able to defend his titles in either the Tour or the upcoming Paris-Nice.

    The decision was met with shock from the team's manager, Johan Bruyneel, who has been pushing to convince the world that his 2008 squad is completely different from the squad which was forced to exit last year's Tour after Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping following his win in the stage 13 time trial.

    "That the happenings of last year in Tour de France prompted the Tour organizers to leave Astana out of the season's most important race sounds understandable," admitted Bruyneel. "However, Astana Cycling Team 2008 has nothing to do with the team of last year. We have done everything to change the dynamics of the team."

    Bruyneel took the general manager position with Astana this year, succeeding Marc Biver, who had taken over the squad after the Liberty Seguros manager Manuel Saiz after Saiz had been arrested in connection with Operación Puerto. When the sponsor pulled out, the Kazakh government stepped in to support its stars Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, and the team continued as Astana-Würth.

    Biver, like Bruyneel, put into place anti-doping measures as well as an ethical charter for the squad, but after both Kashechkin and Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping, and Matthias Kessler for testosterone in 2007, one could say the policies...