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Third Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Date published:
February 08, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Czech national champion Bencik ends career

    Petr Bencik called a press conference to make the retirement announcement. He's been a professional rider since 2000.
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 11:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    36-year-old opts to not exercise additional year with Whirlpool-Author

    Petr Benčík (Whirlpool-Author) has decided to hang up the bike before riding a single event in 2012, the Czech announced in a Prague press conference that he felt the time was right to move on to other opportunities.

    Benčík is the reigning Czech national champion and has been one of the leaders of the Czech cycling community for over 10 years. Last year he took out arguably the biggest win of his career with the overall victory at the 2.2 rated Tour of Northern Austria, but an offer to take up a corporate role with Colnago prompted him to think about life after the bike.

    Whirlpool-Author, who Benčík had initially committed to riding with this year are currently considering whether to replace the 36-year-old in their roster for 2012.

    "By mutual agreement we decided to end things, and allow me to have a chance at new life outside of riding," said Benčík.

    "I would've like to continue, but my body was telling me otherwise, and then there was the financial consideration. The average football player has X times the salary of a top cyclist. I have not a dime of savings in the account - and if I ever had a month break, I would be broke. It was time to do something else."

  • Professor goes on hunger strike for Contador

    Alberto Contador on his way to speak to the media after CAS gave him a two-year ban for doping.
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 11:50 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    74-year-old says he will not eat until “unjust” sanction is overturned

    The Spanish media and bike fans have been almost universal in their support for Alberto Contador in the wake of the announcement of his two-year ban earlier this week, but one Contador fan has been so incensed by the verdict that he has gone on hunger strike. Unay Talara Robles, who is 74 and a retired professor of ethology, is staging a sit-in at his local town hall in Ayamonte, near Huelva.

    Describing the decision to ban Contador as “completely unjust”, Robles explained to EFE that he will continue with his hunger strike until the ban is overturned and Contador is allowed to compete normally once again.

    Robles has taken such an extreme stance because, he says, watching Contador race helped him through a difficult stage in his life. “He brought me out of the depression I was suffering with, I could only get over it when I used to watch him racing in the afternoons on the TV. I was very ill, but in my house they knew that each afternoon they had to put me in front of the television and let me watch Contador, and that that helped me to move forwards,” he said.

    Having read about the Contador verdict on the internet, Robles went to the town hall and took up residence in one of the offices within the building, insisting that he would not move and would not take in any food. However, when the town hall closed later that day the local police moved him out of the building into the square outside. Robles insists, though, that he will return to the town hall to continue his protest.

    Meanwhile, Contador’s brother and personal manager, Fran Contador, has confirmed that the rider’s lawyers are studying the CAS ruling in order to assess the pros and cons of making an appeal in the civil courts. He also said that he is...

  • Higher, harder route for 2012 Tour of California

    The 2011 Amgen Tour of California GC podium was all-American: Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cerv
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 14:15 GMT
    Cycling News

    Diablo, Big Bear, Baldy all feature

    AEG Sports, organisers of the 7th Amgen Tour of California, announced today the details of the 2012 route which goes higher and could prove far more difficult than any edition to date.

    "We take great pride in developing the route for the Tour of California, not only because it attracts the world's elite cyclists, but because it puts an international spotlight on California for eight days," said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports.

    The race takes in most of the climbs which have become iconic to the event - from the Coleman Valley ascent on stage 1, Bonny Doon Road on stage 2 to the summit finishes at Big Bear and Mt. Baldy, but local fans will be most excited to see the inclusion of Mount Diablo on the third day - one of the most frequently requested features in fan feedback - albeit not as a summit finish.

    "We spend countless hours poring over possible route scenarios and taking into account fan and rider suggestions before determining the final course; it is a true labor of love," said Bachochin.

    The race will visit a piece of California history in the preserved Gold Rush town of Sonora on the edge of the Yosemite National Park on the year's longest stage - 140 miles from Clovis, where the race will help this town celebrate its 100th anniversary.

    The race then returns to Bakersfield, last visited in 2010 this time for a challenging 18.4 mile individual time trial that incorporates the same climb up China Grade which brought so much drama to the 2010 edition.

    With the pain of the time trial still in their legs, the riders will then face the first of two major mountaintop finishes: stage 6 from Palmdale to Big Bear,...

  • Legal expert rates Contador's chances of a successful appeal

    Alberto Contador enters a press conference on February 7, 2012.
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 14:42 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Less than 30 days for Spaniard to decide

    Alberto Contador has less than 30 days to appeal the CAS decision that handed him a two-year suspension doping. However, one legal expert has pointed out that such a move has little chance of success. Jonathan Walters, a Solicitor with the Sports & Media Group at Charles Russell LLP told Cyclingnews that Contador has little in the way of legal precedent to back up an appeal.

    If Contador does decide to appeal, he must lodge his document with the Swiss Federal court within 30 days of the CAS ruling. However, the chance of the court even hearing his appeal is limited as typically courts of such nature refrain from intervening in sports case.

    “It all depends on if Contador has the appetite to continue, but his reaction in terms of maintaining his innocence was what I expected from yesterday’s press conference.” Walters said.

    “There’s only one option with appealing and that’s to refer it to the Swiss Federal Court, but what CAS says will typically stand.”

    “There are limited circumstances in which he could appeal and conceivably he could be successful, although statistically that doesn’t look very likely as there’s only been one semi-successful appeal to the Swiss Federal Court from CAS.”

    That was in the case involving Guillermo Cañas. The former tennis player was banned by his sport’s governing body, the ATP. CAS reduced his ban in the first instance but Cañas went to the Swiss court, which ruled that CAS had...

  • Tour of California 2012: Mt. Diablo debuts

    The views from Mt. Diablo are stellar
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 15:08 GMT
    Bruce Hildenbrand

    East Bay climb just one of many on stage 3

    The Amgen Tour of California will take in a new climb for 2012: the East Bay landmark of Mt. Diablo will feature on stage 3, but will be just one of several climbs on the route from San Jose to Livermore on May 15.

    Livermore hosted the start of stage 4 last year, but it is the first time a stage will finish there, while San Jose has hosted either a start or finish in every edition of the Tour of California.

    Unlike last year when the Sierra Road climb became the race's first ever summit finish, where Chris Horner's solo win sowed the seeds for his final overall victory, the category 1 ascent will not feature in this year's stage 2.

    Instead, the race will head straight to Calaveras Road, roll along past the Calaveras Resevoir and up Highway 84 before dropping into Livermore at about mile 30. This will be the first opportunity for the locals to glimpse the flying peloton which will then head northwest on Highland Ave, Camino Tassajara and Blackhawk Road before hitting the slopes of Mount Diablo.

    The stage will miss the summit, which can be seen from across the San Francisco Bay, climbing only 1600 vertical feet up South Gate Road (average grade 4.5%) before heading down North Gate Road.

    Local pro Roman Kilun (Kenda-5h Energy) was excited to hear that his stomping grounds on Mt. Diablo would be included, but didn't think it would be a critical point in the stage.

    "South Gate is a beautiful climb and has some steep sections but should not be decisive. At race speed it should not take much more than 20 minutes. While there are some steep sections they are split up by faster flat sections that will provide recovery. There is also a little downhill stretch in the middle. The last 2km is...

  • E3 Prijs Vlaanderen wildcards announced

    The E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke podium: Jurgen Roelandts (2nd), Fabian Cancellara (1st) and Vladimir Gusev (3rd)
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 15:45 GMT
    Cycling News

    Invitations mirror those for Gent-Wevelgem

    There were no surprises as the wildcard invitations for the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke were announced on Wednesday, with the race organisers opting to invite the same seven teams that earned wildcard berths at Gent-Wevelgem.

    Accent.Jobs-Willems Veranda's, Landbouwkrediet-Euphony, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Project 1t4i, Europcar, Cofidis and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia are thus confirmed as the wildcards for the E3 Prijs, which takes place on March 23.

    The seven teams join the 18 WorldTour teams, who are automatically invited to the race. The E3 Prijs is part of the WorldTour calendar for the first time in 2012, and moves from a Saturday to a Friday. Gent-Wevelgem takes place two days later, with the Tour of Flanders the following weekend.

    With the exception of Cofidis, the remainder of the E3 Prijs wildcards have also been invited to the Tour of Flanders. The wildcard invitations to Paris-Roubaix have yet to be announced.

    Fabian Cancellara took his second consecutive victory at the E3 Prijs last year.

    Wildcards for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke: Accent.Jobs-Willems Veranda's, Landbouwkrediet-Euphony, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Project 1t4i, Europcar, Cofidis and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia.

  • Leipheimer on Santa Rosa stage at Tour of California

    Levi Leipheimer is in town
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 16:50 GMT
    Bruce Hildenbrand

    American to line up as favourite once again

    With three overall victories and two other podium places, Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) is undoubtedly the king of the Amgen Tour of California. Each season the Californian stage race has been one of his primary objectives and with strong time trialling and climbing he has delivered the goods.

    This year, with the race starting in his adopted hometown of Santa Rosa, the motivation meter should be pegged. Leipheimer's highly successful King's Ridge Gran Fondo is also headquartered in Santa Rosa and provided inspiration for the race's opening stage.

    "I know stage 1 is going to be pretty awesome. Carlos [Perez] and I came up with a course which takes in most of the [King's Ridge] Gran Fondo. It goes through the redwoods and out Highway 1 and by the Pacific Ocean and the vineyards, so I think it is really a great postcard for Sonoma County," Leipheimer told Cyclingnews.

    The stage start is a bit of a novelty, heading out of Santa Rosa for a short circuit through the local vineyards before returning downtown for an intermediate sprint. After that, the riders will head out towards Occidental, then Guerneville and the tiny hamlet of Cazadero, before tackling several steep climbs on Fort Ross Road.

    The race intersects the route of the King's Ridge Gran Fondo at the start of Meyers Grade Road. "The top of that climb is really where you are going to get the best pictures of the whole week. You are over 1500 feet above the ocean and looking south along the coast. It is an amazing view from there. I think it is going to be a great way to open up...

  • Bonny Doon returns to Amgen Tour of California

    Rock Racing leads the main group on Highway 1.
    Article published:
    February 08, 2012, 19:13 GMT
    Bruce Hildenbrand

    Grassroots effort brings Santa Cruz county into mix

    After a year's hiatus, the popular San Francisco to Santa Cruz stage returns to the Amgen Tour of California, bringing with it the Bonny Doon Road climb, which has proven decisive for the overall race classification in the past. The climb comes this time in a less pivotal role coming some 42 miles from the finish in Aptos.

    The 120-mile stage 2, which includes about 8,000 feet of climbing, starts under the Golden Gate Bridge and, as before, highlights both the California coast and the redwood forests, but that's where many of the similarities end.

    Rather than begin at Ocean Beach, far away from the city center of San Francisco, this year's course will roll out from the Marina Green, not far from Fisherman's Wharf and in the shadows of one of the most famous man-made structures in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Winding up through the Presidio, the race will make its way down Highway 1 straight to Santa Cruz County, rather than twisting up into the redwoods of Tunitas Creek Road as it has in the past.

    What makes the finish town unique is that, while City of Santa Cruz put up the money for the race's finish in 2009 and 2010, it declined to submit a proposal for the 2011 edition citing budgetary concerns and a lack of discernible increase in tourist traffic on the day of the race.

    Enter Maura Noel, who served as a course marshal in 2009 and 2010 and had a broader vision for the race's impact on the area. "I have always thought it was bigger picture. Television coverage of the race coming down West Cliff Drive into Santa Cruz was so beautiful that day [May 2010]. It was like a Mediterranean setting. How can you not see the appeal as a marketing point to get people to come to this area?" said Noel.

    So Noel approached the County of Santa Cruz, rather than the city, with an offer that was hard to refuse. "I proposed to them if I could raise the...