Doping at the heart of the problems
Judging by the throngs of people following the Henninger Turm - traditionally held on May 1, Labour Day in Germany - from the side of the roads, one would not imagine that the race is troubled. Yet, race organiser Bernd Moos-Achenbach has not found a main sponsor yet and his race appears to be the latest in trouble of continuing, as Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake reveals.
The race Rund um den Henninger Turm ('around the Henninger tower') has been a mainstay in German cycling ever since its inception in 1962. The race has resisted pressure to move its traditional May 1 date in a quest to get added to the World Cup series in the past. And it still features not only a professional event, but races for all categories, all the way down to the under nine kids, which had an early start of 7:15 this year.
A total of 16 races make it a unique event and even a 'roller skater vs. bicyclist' competition has been incorporated to entertain the spectators while they wait for the professional cracks to arrive. It sounds like a no-brainer for sponsors to support the event, but the doping discussion has made potential money backers prudent, at least in cycling. Germany is currently feeling the brunt of it, with three races (Niedersachsenrundfahrt, 3-Länder Tour and Friedensfahrt/Peace Race) already cancelled and the Regio Tour having to go back to its original amateur format, starting with the 2009 edition.
Moos-Achenbach is currently lacking 250,000 euro in his budget. Despite the funding problems he reasoned, "The race is very important for the Rhein-Main area [urban economic area defined by the two rivers - ed.]. We also want to continue to ride through the Taunus [hilly area to the north east of Frankfurt - ed.]. That is why I don't think this race should vanish." He also pointed out after the event, "Today, we had again an unbelievable amount of spectators. It would terrible if this race wouldn't happen in 2009, but I am hopeful that we will find a sponsor."
He has plans to talk with a couple of potential supporters in the next couple of weeks, so the race is not completely scrapped yet.
Despite the fact that the race is trying very hard to support any anti-doping programme, it is very difficult to attract sponsors. The organisers for the Frankfurt race have launched a nine-point plan in the fight against doping and immediately reacted to the news that Liquigas had signed Ivan Basso, who was suspended in the connection with the Eufemiano Fuentes Operación Puerto affair. Moos-Achenbach revoked the invitation to the Italian team as soon as the news about the Italian's signing surfaced.
When Liquigas revealed it wanted to leave the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) in a recent meeting by the association, a strong discussion started, with Liquigas at the centre of the attention, having violated the voluntary rule of not signing a rider into the ProTour for four years from the start of his doping suspension. Liquigas Team Manager Robert Amadio then offered to leave the AIGCP, which Eric Boyer, president of the AIGCP, answered by saying, "You are excluded." Gerolsteiner's manager Hans-Michael Holczer added, "This was great [by Eric Boyer]. But that is all we can do. They have not violated any laws." The German explained the difficulty of the complete fight against doping, as long as there are teams who will not honour the Code de Conduite, referring to the voluntary ethics code of the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Find out more about the future of German's trademark one-day race.