Tom's a good citizen
Tom Boonen has already won six major Classics, but the Quick Step rider has been shut out of the biggest Belgian race of the year - the Tour of Flanders - since he took back-to-back victories in 2005 and 2006.
This year, the Belgian star (smiling like a cheshire cat, right) will have an edge in the cobbled race thanks to some unique cross training over the winter.
He likes to party - a fact that has been well-publicised over the past two years - and last year tested positive for cocaine in an out of competition test. But Boonen was able to make the most of a bad situation this winter by completing his community service sentence for the offence by working on rehabilitation projects on sectors of pavé (or kasseien in Flemish) used in the Tour of Flanders.
Boonen, who kept the work a secret from his competitors, lost some 10kg thanks to the hard work digging up the ancient roads and re-laying the stones on some 10km of the route. He not only benefitted from increased core strength and tougher hands that will help him float with ease over the cobbles, but the close inspection of the surface allowed him certain advantages for the race.
"I may or may not have placed a few stones at odd angles to throw my rivals off their line and maybe cause a puncture on the Kapelmuur," admitted Boonen. "Only I know the perfect line to take! It may just be what I need to finally capture my third Ronde!" (LW)
Keeping it in the family...
With Saxo Bank pulling its sponsorship from the team at the end of the year, the future of Andy and Frank Schleck is still uncertain.
And while the talented duo is allowing Bjarne Riis some time to find a replacement, they have also been talking to some high-level backers in a bid to establish their own team.
But according to one rider, who preferred to remain anonymous, the reality of setting up their own team may be closer to fruition than first thought.
"Yes, but they're only going to employ brothers. Why are you looking at me like that? It's true," the rider said.
"They've already signed those Feillus for a Tour place each, and the only thing the Efimkins wanted was matching dressing gowns.
"As for Peter and Martin Velits... let's just say that those Slovakians believe the old adage of, 'the family that shares, cares'."
The Schlecks are also closing in on the Gutierrez brothers for some much-needed domestique duties (their mother recommended them on their CVs), with Miguel and Prudencio Indurain set to take over as director sportifs. (DB)
Cattle class or nothing, folks!
In light of Pat McQuaid's recent announcement concerning technology parity in track cycling, the UCI has declared a war on all endeavours aimed at increasing the comfort, and hence performance, of athletes. That includes their mode of transport.
"Business and first class flights are not permissable," said the UCI President in a press release. "Sky beds are illegal performance-enhancers, as are many of the airlines' current perks for the frequent flier. What about nations who can't afford that extra leg room... we need to ensure everyone is at risk of deep vein thrombosis"
He added that any athletes found to be travelling either first class or business - to be tested by conducting random ticket butt checks - will face severe penalties.
And while there's still contention in some quarters as to the benefits of compression garments for riders, McQuaid unequivocally condemned the use of such recovery clothing, saying it, "wasn't in the spirit of international competition".
Frustrated representatives for two prominent compression garment manufacturers preferred to use humour in the situation, asking Cyclingnews: "What do you get when you cross an Irishman and a Swiss organisation? Damned if we know, but they sure aren't banning our clothing!"
Meanwhile, McQuaid also hit out at suggestions that this latest crackdown will be detrimental to track cycling's appeal, despite events already being removed from the Olympic schedule. "Have you seen those BMX dudes? They're freakin' radical! Bar twists, backflips and 360s are the shizz," he said. (LC)