The Col Collective climbs the Col de Peyresourde from the Bagnères-de-Luchon side.
Editor’s Note: This video is courtesy of The Col Collective. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily represent the opinions of VeloNews.com, Velo magazine or the editors and staff of Competitor Group, Inc.
The post Video: Col Collective climbs the Peyresourde (Luchon) appeared first on VeloNews.com.
Conditions were windy on stage 1, causing organizers to neutralize the first 14.5 kilometers of racing through narrow roads. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Gert Steegmans (Trek Factory Racing) crashed on stage one, and was taken away by ambulance with an injury to his right leg. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Giovanni Bernaudeau (Europcar) brought up the pace on one of the climbs of the day. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Danilo Wyss (BMC) did some work in an early breakaway group on stage 1. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Crowds were sizable, considering this three-day race happens on weekdays. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing) led the peloton to the top of one of the climbs. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The peloton passed by a World War I Memorial in windy conditions. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick-Step) tried his luck with an attack on stage 1. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
It wasn't until over 100 kilometers into the race before the main breakaway formed. Jarl Salomein, Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), Michael Reihs (Cult Energy), and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal), established that move. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) later joined the breakaway and was the only rider In the group without a teammate to share the work with on stage 1. Devolder finished in third place. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) put in a big effort to bridge to the leaders late in the race. Once he got accross, teammate Sven Erik Bystrom concentrated on the lead-out. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Bystrom and Kristoff worked in the break together to bring home a victory for Katusha. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Bystrom led the break into the final kilometer, setting up teammate Kristoff for the sprint in Zottegem. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Alexander Kristoff let everyone know who was the strongest rider of the day. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Kristoff was a bit suprised to take the stage 1 win at De Panne. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Kristoff leads Three Days of De Panne by two seconds over Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal). Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The post Gallery: 2015 Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, stage 1 appeared first on VeloNews.com.
Alex Dowsett (Movistar) has set a new date to attempt the hour record, at the start of May. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).
At the start of the year, Alex Dowsett expected to have the longest hour behind him by this point, but an untimely injury postponed his plans to take on the hour record.
Now, recovered from his January collarbone injury, the 26-year-old Briton is ready to make an appointment, and on Tuesday, his Movistar team announced that he’ll ride the hour at Manchester’s National Cycling Center in England on Saturday, May 2.
“I’m thrilled to be back on track to attempt the #PerfectHour,” Dowsett said in a written team press statement. “Breaking my collarbone whilst in such good form was a real disappointment, but I healed 100 percent and didn’t lose much form through it all. Manchester will be a fantastic location, and it’ll be an honor for me to attempt the record on the same boards as Chris Boardman.”
Dowsett will be up against a mark set by Rohan Dennis (BMC) at the start of February, 52.491km. Since the Australian set that world record, two other pretenders to the crown have tried and failed to break his record — Thomas Dekker and Gustav Larsson (Cult Energy Pro Cycling).
The few and the brave weathered the storm to line the start barriers in Deinze for the day's race. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
On their way to the sign-in stage, Ag2r La Mondiale riders tried to keep their sneakers dry. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Well under the radar, eventual race winner Luca Paolini took his time getting to the start stage, avoiding the rain as much as possible. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The line-up in Denize offered the riders no relief from what lay ahead on the parcours — this year's E3 Harelbeke winner Geraint Thomas (Sky) collected himself moments before the start. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The 2015 edition of Gent-Wevelgem will be remembered for the impossible winds and the massive dairy farm protests that took place along three points in the race course. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The peloton reached one of the first of many long and gusty straightaways on the course that would force the group into endless echelons and scattered disarray. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Riding into a constant stream of head-on rain and fierce crosswinds, many of the race favorites took whatever shelter they could within the bunch. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The peloton reached the base of the Diksmuide bridge where they would pass the IJzertoren memorial, which commemorates the Belgian soldiers killed on the Yser Front during World War I. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The marshy flatlands of De Moeren — the westernmost point on the course — is known for its strong crosswinds even on a normal day. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The front of the peloton struggled to stay upright in the winds at the tail-end of de Moeren while even the race motorbikes leaned into the winds. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) was one of several riders who were swept off the road in de Moeren. While his bike was pulled from the swampy shoulder, he received medical attention from the race paramedic team. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The face of Lars Bak (after crashing in de Moeren) clearly summed up the day so far. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) leaned into the winds in the last stretches of de Moeren, he would eventually abandon the race before the midway point. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Maciej Bodnar looked down the road as the end of the race disappeared into he distance. He managed to get a bike change from Tinkoff-Saxo staff and get back on the road. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
As the winds blew the peloton apart, fans hunkered down to wait for the race in a warm tavern at the top of Cassel, just across the French border. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Having caught the break, the front of the race arrived at the first portal to Cassel at 120 kilometers into the race. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The peloton, now whittled down to almost one-quarter of its original size, climbed up into Cassel again, passing through the iconic Porte d'Aire. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Up on the Kemmelberg, the fans were few and far between due to the cold rain and wind — and those that prevailed stood in the mud that the Flanders classics have not seen in many years. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
With so few riders left in the race, attacks were expected, and Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) launched a solo move just before the first climb up the Kemmel. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Having made his escape on the Catsberg, Tjallingii reached the summit of the Kemmelberg at kilometer 160. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The chase group was not far behind Tjallingii but clearly showed the strains of the day. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Fans couldn't ask for a more animated race on the Kemmel as Sep Vanmarcke climbed the wet cobbles. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Team staff peppered the race course throughout the day — offering spare wheels, warm bottles, and assistance. Once their man Tjallingii had escaped, the LottoNL-Jumbo staff watched the live feed between passes of the Kemmelberg. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
As the race reached the Kemmel's second pass, Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) took the lead to the crowd's applause and cheers. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) was in the mix until late in the race. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Luca Paolini brought up the rear of the now elite chase group that would bring the race to its final kilometers. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
En route to Ieper, the chase group came down to a six survivors. Merely 39 riders would cross the finish line less than 20 kilometers later. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Luca Paolini took the win solo in a race that normally comes down to a bunch sprint. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Paolini couldn't hold back the victory smile. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
The day concluded with riders soaked from the start until the finish — Paolini doused himself with champagne as Terpstra joined in. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
UCI president Brian Cookson is under increasing scrutiny to take a stand on doping in cycling, and the questions surrounding the Astana team are the latest controversy to test his resolve. Photo: AFP PHOTO | Mark Gunter (File).
Italian cycling federation president Renato di Rocco has criticized the UCI’s handling of the Astana case, the Reuters wire service reported Tuesday.
Di Rocco, a member of the UCI’s management committee, wrote a letter March 27 to UCI president Brian Cookson outlining his concerns over how the cycling governing body is trying to revoke the team’s WorldTour racing license. Reuters published excerpts of the letter:
“In all the mentioned cases (Olympics, women cycling) we, as management committee members, have been directly involved,” Di Rocco wrote. “However, concerning the License Commission withdrawal of Astana this procedure was not followed. On Feb. 27 we had received only a press release which informed us the UCI requested the withdrawal of the Astana pro team (WorldTour) license.”
Citing concerns following an independent audit of Astana’s license, Cookson is pressing the UCI License Commission to revoke the team’s license.
Astana officials are scheduled to appear before the License Commission on Thursday, and a verdict on the team’s fate could come within two weeks.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Kazakh cycling federation revealed just days ago an agreement with the Italian cycling federation to develop “domestic cycling.”
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Alberto Contador and Bjarne Riis' four-year working relationship came to an ignominious end this week when Oleg Tinkov fired the Tinkoff-Saxo sport director. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).
ZOTTEGEM, Belgium (VN) — Far from the race drama unfolding across the fields of Flanders, and even further removed from the back-room politics that led to the ouster of Bjarne Riis from Tinkoff-Saxo, Alberto Contador is now confronting the biggest challenge of his career — the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double — without his mentor and confidante.
Contador and Riis were joined at the hip since 2011, when the Spanish star joined Riis’ outfit. Riis stuck by Contador during his controversial clenbuterol case, and Contador, following his two-year, backdated ban, paid back Riis’ trust with victories at the 2012 and 2014 editions of the Vuelta a España. Contador, 32, recently signed a one-year contract extension to keep him in a Tinkoff-Saxo jersey through 2016, in large part due to his trust and confidence in Riis.
And just as fast, Riis is gone — pushed off the plank by Russian team owner Oleg Tinkov on Sunday — leaving Contador unsure how the team’s instability at the top will affect the action when it’s rubber to the road.
Speaking to journalists in Spain during a fundraiser event with his development team, Fundación Alberto Contador, he admitted he remains in the dark about why Riis was forced off the team.
“I’ve seen that they’ve reached a mutual agreement, but I don’t know how that unfolded,” Contador was quoted by the Spanish wire service EFE. “[Riis] has been a very important person in my career, and even though he won’t continue, my relation with him will remain excellent.”
Contador said he doesn’t know much more than what’s been written in the press, but said he hopes Riis’ departure doesn’t affect the team’s performance in what will be the most important weeks and months of the racing season.
It’s difficult to gauge how much Riis’ departure from Tinkoff-Saxo will mean for Contador. Although he’s working closely with sport director Steven de Jongh as well as with first-year director Patxi Vila, Riis remained Contador’s closest consultant and ally within the team structure. Contador was said to trust Riis’ racing acumen and experience more than any other director he’s worked with.
And with Riis gone, no one knows who will take his place, if anyone. There have been suggestions in the media that current Tinkoff staffer Ricardo Scheidecker or Italian Omar Piscina, who worked with Tinkoff Credit Systems, could slot into the role of team manager. Stefano Feltrin, one of Tinkov’s longest allies, could also take over the day-to-day operations of the team. As of Tuesday, the team had not yet named a Riis replacement.Tinkov: ‘Times of Riis are over’
As part of the mutual agreement hammered out by Riis and Tinkov, all parties have agreed not to publicly comment about the Dane’s departure. Riis released a statement, via his son’s Twitter account, that said he would not give any interviews, and suggested he would step away from the sport to reconsider his options.
On Tuesday, Tinkov posted a long comment on his Facebook page about his vision for the future of cycling, calling for more solidarity among teams, as well as a new business model to allow the sport to become more relevant. He also mentioned Riis, saying managers like him “are over,” and suggested he’s in no hurry to find a replacement.
“Cycling has to change. The times of [Manolo Saíz], [Johan] Bruyneel, and Riis are over. They were stuck in the 2000s, and that is not necessarily about doping,” Tinkov wrote. “They just don’t get some obvious things, and don’t know how to manage teams in [a] modern way. Managing a team is not just about issuing instructions from a car radio or about casting a spell over the riders, at which Riis was unsurpassed, for example. Managing a team is about boring, monotonous work in the office.
“It is for this reason that I am not considering the torrent of offers of ‘Riis replacements’ that I have been inundated with from all over the globe,” Tinkov continued. “We don’t need this. This is the old way of thinking, and it is no longer viable.”
But there is no question that Riis’ departure comes during the most important part of the racing season for Tinkoff-Saxo. The team enters a critical week during the spring classics, with new arrival Peter Sagan under heavy pressure to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) this weekend.
And Riis’ exit comes just as Contador has finished up his first block of racing, which featured solid, but less-than-spectacular results, with a stage win and second overall at the Ruta del Sol, fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico, and fourth at Volta a Catalunya.
Contador won’t race again until he starts the Giro in early May. Soon, he will head to Tenerife to train at altitude. And then, he probably will not race until the Tour in July, assuming he finishes the entire Giro.Contador: ‘Giro-Tour double is my challenge for season’
Despite the off-the-road turmoil involving the team, Contador remains optimistic about his goal of targeting both the Giro and Tour in the same season. The last rider to achieve the milestone was Marco Pantani in 1998.
“A lot of people don’t believe it’s possible, but I don’t believe that’s the case,” Contador said. “I am going to try it because I believe that things remain impossible until someone achieves it, and that’s my challenge for the season.
“I’ve also delayed my season a bit, and I believe that things are going in the right direction, and I hope that within 40 days, when I will be at the Giro, that the legs are where I want them to be,” he continued. “[The 33 days between the Giro and Tour] are not very many to recover, especially after the effort one has to make during three weeks in a race as hard as the Giro, so we’ll see in what conditions I can arrive to the Tour.”
Whether the back-room drama and internal turmoil will unsettle Contador remains to be seen. The Spaniard has been known to overcome setbacks before, and even return stronger to the peloton.
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Katusha's Alexander Kristoff claimed his sixth win of the season in the first day of racing in De Panne. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) sprinted to a win and the overall race lead at Dreidaagase de Panne-Koksijde on Tuesday, after bridging up to a small breakaway move in the closing kilometers of the 202km race.
“I saw we had Sven [Erik Bystrom] in front, but I know he didn’t really have the best sprint,” said Kristoff. “It was not perfect, but he did a very good race. I could bridge up; I made it up to the first group, and we worked full-gas to make it all the way to the finish.
“I did not know how fresh [Jens Debusschere] was at the end. … He went just when I wanted to go so we went at the same time. I had a little more speed in the legs at the end, so I could take him.”
Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto-Soudal) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) went off the front with a little under 50 kilometers left to race in the stage from De Panne to Zottegem, Belgium.
“It took a while before a group got away,” said Debusschere. “I was part of that breakaway, although that wasn’t the plan before the stage. I was riding at the front of the peloton and jumped along; it was safer than in the bunch, and my teammates didn’t have to work. I also tried to save energy. When Lars Bak bridged to the front we set up a duo time trial.”
The two were joined by Sean De Bie (Lotto-Soudal), Sven Erik Bystrom (Katusha), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), and Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) with 22 kilometers to go.
With 10 kilometers left, the lead group of six hit the Eikenmolen climb with a 40-second lead over the peloton.
Bystrom went to the front and whipped up the pace, but the break remained together.
A few riders from the pack tried to give chase at the crest of the final hill, but their efforts were for naught, as Katusha was sure to infiltrate the attempt to bridge. The gap held at around 40 seconds.
Heading into the final five kilometers, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) did a big turn at the front of the peloton. The gap was 35 seconds.
Stefan Kueng (BMC) attacked the peloton with 2.2km left, trying to bridge the 26-second gap.
With the finish imminent, Bystrom whipped up the speed in the break, leading out the sprint for teammate and fellow Norwegian, Kristoff.
De Bie moved to the front before the final sweeping right-hand corner.
Debusschere challenged but he couldn’t come around Kristoff in the finale and settled for second place. Devolder finished third.
Kueng held on to finish just ahead of the peloton.
The race continues Wednesday with a 217km stage from Zottegem to Koksijde, with Kristoff wearing the leader’s jersey, something he hadn’t expected.
“It was not the plan this morning. We’ll see how it is tomorrow,” the day’s winner said.
“It never hurts to win an extra victory, I’m really happy now. I felt it was the best team effort we had so far this season.”
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Good shifting is only as good as how a drivetrain is set up, as one reader discovered. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.comDiagnosing a mysterious shifting problem
I have a shifting problem that has baffled everyone. Recently I had a new carbon road frame built up with NOS Shimano 7800 components. The frame has internal cable routing. The wheels are Dura-Ace 9000 11-speed. I only put 350 miles on it when the first chain stretched and was replaced. The shifting has never been perfect and somewhat noisy at best. My shop diagnosed it as a faulty rear derailleur. We installed a new 7900 derailleur with the same results. The shifting on the rear “ghost shifts,” sometimes jumping 2-3 gears at a time. I am running an 11-25 cassette. The problems occur mainly on the big ring. The problem gets more vexing when going from the 53 to a 39 or back, as this completely throws the rear shifting off.
The shifting issues occur typically when going from one gear to the next. It’s slow to change and then it typically slams into gear. Going down the gears is typically worse than going back up. [Rear gears] 21-25 are unusable on the big ring.
In the last week, we have tried three different wheels, various cassette spacers, new cassettes, replaced the shifter cable and housing, and four different rear derailleurs. Nothing works.
Is it possible that the frame could be out of square from the factory? If so, how can this be checked? Could it be that the internal cable routing is hindered some way inside the frame?
It sounds to me like the front and rear derailleur cables might be twisted around each other inside the frame.
Have you checked for this? You might see some movement of the opposite derailleur when pushing a shifter.
Cable crossover in down tube was very obvious to the new shop I took it to, combined with the fact the original mechanic had also installed too short a chain (they had installed a chain for triple ring which also added to the problem). Thanks for helping out; everything seems good now.
I just bought a TT handlebar set with brakes and Microshift Index TT shifters (10-speed), and was wondering if I’d be able to use the shifters with my SRAM 10 (-speed) rear derailleur? One of the shifters is non-index and is supposed to be used for the front derailleur. If the index shifter does not work with the rear derailleur, I should be able to use the non-index shifter, right?
That shifter is designed to work with Shimano derailleurs, and the shift actuation ratio of a Shimano road 10-speed rear derailleur is 1.7 — quite a bit different from SRAM road’s “Exact Actuation” ratio of 1.3.
In other words, no, the indexing would not work. The Microshift 10-speed right TT shifter should pull, like a Shimano 10-speed lever, 2.3mm of cable with each shift. The lateral movement of the rear derailleur is equal to the cable pull for each shift times the actuation ratio, which would be 2.3mm X 1.7 = 3.91mm. The cog pitch (distance between the centers of the teeth on adjacent cogs) on Shimano and SRAM 10-speed cassettes is nominally 3.95mm. (Round both off to the one-decimal-point accuracy of the other two measurements, or 3.9mm.)
On the other hand, that shifter would move a SRAM 10-speed rear derailleur laterally 2.3mm X 1.3 = 2.99mm (or 3mm, rounded off). So, the shifting would be abysmal or non-existent on your 10-speed cassette, because the derailleur would only move about three quarters as far as it should with each shift.
Yes, you could in theory use the non-indexed shifter with the SRAM rear derailleur, but I suspect it would be finicky to shift and difficult to fine-tune to run noiselessly.
After using Shimano for the last 10 years, I decided to switch to SRAM Red 10s this season. I know that Shimano and SRAM 10-speed cassettes are compatible, but I am wondering what combination of spacers are needed so that when you swap a wheel there are no adjustments to the derailleur?
I only ask because I put my new SRAM cassette on my Mavic Ksyrium wheel with the 1mm spacer and 2-ish mm spacer that I have always used with my Shimano cassettes and the SRAM cassette stuck out further than the lockring on the axle.
I’d like to be able to rotate between three sets of wheels on my bike without having to adjust the derailleur every time I switch from a wheel with a Shimano cassette or a SRAM cassette.
I am finding mixed information on the Internet. Some say the 1mm spacer is not needed for a SRAM cassette on a 9-speed freehub.
Is it true that SRAM 10-speed cassettes are the same width as Shimano 9-speed cassettes?
Cassettes from those two brands should be completely compatible. Shimano and SRAM 10-speed cassettes both have a nominal 3.95mm cog pitch, and Shimano and SRAM 9-speed cassettes both have a nominal 4.35mm cog pitch. They should be similar in total width, but whether a 10-speed cassette from either brand is exactly the same width as a 9-speed cassette of either brand is something I’m not entirely sure of and, being on vacation in Mexico, can’t check right now. But I will do my best to calculate it.
The total width of a Shimano or SRAM 10-speed cassette should be 9 X 3.95mm + 2mm (for the thickness of one cog) = 37.6mm, while the total width of a Shimano or SRAM 9-speed cassette should be 8 X 4.35mm + 2mm (for the thickness of one cog) = 36.8mm. So, the total width of a Shimano or SRAM 10-speed cassette may be about 1mm wider than that of a Shimano or SRAM 9-speed cassette. That could be the 1mm you found discussed on the Internet. So I’d try leaving off that 1mm spacer on the Mavic freehub (and still leaving the Mavic 2mm spacer behind the cogs; you only take that out to put on an 11-speed cassette).
I’m not clear from your question if you’re switching to SRAM 10-speed from Shimano 10-speed or Shimano 9-speed. I’m guessing it’s the latter, and that 1mm difference could be part of the issue.
One thing I’d wonder about if I were you is the shape of the cassette lockring. I’ve found many times that SRAM’s domed 10-speed aluminum lockring sticks out further than a flat steel Shimano lockring; I’ve had bikes where the SRAM lockring dragged on the dropout, and if I switched to a Shimano lockring, the wheel spun freely. Perhaps that could account for the cassette sticking out beyond the end of your axle.
The USA Pro Challenge returns to Colorado this summer with a women's event. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The USA Pro Challenge announced Tuesday it will hold a three-day elite women’s race in conjunction with the men’s race in August.
The route for the women’s event will overlap with some parts of the men’s race, and the women will compete for the same daily prize money as the men, according to a press release.
The three-day race is slated for August 21-23; the men’s race is scheduled for August 17-23.
“We are very excited to support women’s cycling in the U.S. and bring more of an awareness to these incredible athletes on a large stage in Colorado with world-class crowds,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge. “The women bring an entirely new dynamic to our race and we are confident the fierce skills of these riders will impress and inspire all of our passionate fans.”
The women’s race will start with a time trial in Breckenridge, Colorado on August 21, the same day the men will race a TT in the mountain town. The women will conclude their three days of racing in Golden; the men’s final stage takes them from Golden to Denver that same day.
The second stage is in Fort Collins, according to the release, which said the official routes will be “confirmed in the near future.”
Boulder resident Mara Abbott, who races for Wiggle-Honda, is looking forward to the race.
“I am beyond thrilled to have a chance to compete at the Women’s USA Pro Challenge this year,” she said. “I think to be able to race on your home turf is special for any racer and especially for me because Colorado holds the majority of my heart. When the men finished up Flagstaff, only two blocks from the house where I grew up, I avoided the race entirely because I was jealous and sad. To get a chance to compete in the Colorado mountains is a dream come true.”
Connie Carpenter-Phinney, who won the 1984 Olympic women’s road race in Los Angeles, has pushed for a women’s event at the USA Pro Challenge since the men’s race was first held in 2011.
“This is great news for women’s cycling that the USA Pro Challenge has added a women’s division in 2015, which has been highly anticipated by the racers and the fans,” she said. “I know Colorado will embrace the women’s race and 2015 will mark the start of a new era in women’s racing!”
The Oakley Jawbreakers are larger than the average sunglasses and offer more features than what meets the eye. Photo: Logan VonBokel | VeloNews.com
Mark Cavendish may be one of the most neurotic professionals when it comes to selecting his equipment. He’s been known for riding non-sponsor equipment and switching between his Specialized S-Works shoes and his long-discontinued Nikes. There’s even rumors of him switching frame sizes.
So when someone as picky as Cavendish puts his head together with designers from a brand like Oakley, the results are sure to be attention grabbing. And sure enough, the Oakley Jawbreaker is unlike anything we’ve seen from Oakley since the 1980s, when Oakley launched its first sunglasses, the Eyeshade.
The new Oakley Jawbreakers are, at face value, not all that different from other shades in the California-based brand’s lineup. The Jawbreakers are made from the same highly durable plastic frame and impact-resistant lenses. The Jawbreaker uses Oakley’s Switchlock lens changing technology, which is similar to the RadarLock and the RacingJackets. Of course, the Jawbreakers look and wear nothing like anything else in the current Oakley lineup.
“Sunglasses,” doesn’t seem do the Jawbreaker design justice. The sheer size and its features make “sport shield,” a more apt descriptor. So let’s discuss the size of the Jawbreakers. They’re some of the largest, if not the largest, sunglasses I’ve tested. Something everyone I rode with also noted. A couple of friends remarked that the Jawbreakers look like something a baseball player from the 1990s might wear.
On one’s face, the Jawbreaker feels large, but not heavy or obnoxious. The coverage is excellent. Better than any other pair of sunglasses on the market today. Though the increased coverage does not come at the expense of ventilation. I wore the Jawbreakers on multiple mountain bike rides, which better simulated higher temperatures, and slower, strenuous climbing. The Jawbreakers never fogged, and while the lens uses Oakley’s hydrophobic coating, I did find that sweat would still dry in the center of the lens on occasion.
The Jawbreaker’s size is also its weak link. While we’ve celebrated other Oakley models, such as the RadarLock, for looking good on a range of different face sizes, the Jawbreaker’s size make it look out of place on smaller faces and without a helmet on, they look even more out of place.
While the size and shape of the Jawbreakers harken back to Oakley’s Eyeshade, there are similar options on the market today. The Poc Do Blade we reviewed last year is similar in size, shape, and price, but the Do Blades are still hard to find available at retail.
The Jawbreaker’s lens is swapped out by lifting the nose-piece, which releases the clip over the center of the frame, and then the bottom half of the frame rotates down. The mechanism is reminiscent of the RacingJacket design, but a bit more elaborate because of the Jawbreaker’s one-piece lens design, though not harder.
The lens quality is exceptional. With the added field of view with the larger lens, the frame’s top doesn’t interfere with line of sight, even when in an aggressive position on the road bike. We tested the Cavendish edition with Oakley’s Prizm Road lens, which is designed to better bring out the undulations of a paved road. We cannot confirm whether it does or doesn’t, but the lens quality is nothing short of exceptional.
The earpieces of the Jawbreaker are adjustable by lifting a piece of the arm and sliding the earpiece in and out, giving the wearer three different positions from which to choose. I decided on the mid setting, as it was most secure over my helmet retention system.
The Jawbreakers did not play nice with all helmets when they needed to be stored. They fit fine in the new Giro Synthe, a design that works with nearly every pair of sunglasses, even when the Jawbreakers were stored during rough mountain biking. However, the Jawbreakers did not store as securely on the Lazer Z1, even when riding on the smoothest road. The Jawbreaker is also hard to store behind the helmet, as the large lens pushes up against the bottom of the rear of the helmet.
The helmet interaction could vary with different sizes. This is, of course, a small sampling of the market, but I’d recommend taking your helmet to your local Oakley dealer to see how the Jawbreaker interacts with your helmet of choice.
When Cavendish puts on the Jawbreaker, he claims that he feels like he’s “putting on armor.” While I cannot recommend you enter a joust with naught, I would say that the Jawbreakers are a unique piece of kit. They offer solid coverage and with a price tag starting at $200, they’re certainly expensive, but the lens quality and durability will be sure to hold up for the long haul. You’ve always wanted to dress up like a modern Greg Lemond in a futuristic pair of Eyeshades, haven’t you? Well, the Jawbreaker would be your ticket.
Suggested retail price: $240
We like: Best coverage and ventilation make for a dangerous tag-team
We don’t like: Not the most versatile eyewear when it comes to looking good on a variety of face sizes
The scoop: Performance — and the price tag — we’ve come to expect from Oakley
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Tom Boonen wants to race Paris-Roubaix in two weeks, but team officials say that the odds are slim. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).
ZOTTEGEM, Belgium (VN) — Belgian Tom Boonen could race Paris-Roubaix on April 12, but the possibility remains small. With a return to racing yet to be officially announced, the four-time Paris-Roubaix winner will train on the Ronde van Vlaanderen parcours Wednesday with his Etixx-Quick-Step teammates.
The 34-year-old ‘Tommeke’ fell and dislocated his shoulder in the first stage of Paris-Nice on March 9. It required surgery and ostensibly wiped him out of the classics, which for the Belgian were the races from Milano-Sanremo on March 22 through Paris-Roubaix three weeks later.
“Our sponsor Marc Coucke said last night that he gives Tom a one-percent chance of racing in Paris-Roubaix, and that’s a small chance,” Etixx-Quick-Step’s spokesman told VeloNews.
“Given the problems he’s had, he’s improving quickly. He was stretching and in the gym right away, but we are taking things day by day, which means the recon of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the following day’s press conference with the team.”
Coucke, CEO of pharmaceutical company Omega Pharma, met with Boonen last night at a company party. During the event, he posted a photograph of himself with Boonen and wrote on Twitter that the star cyclist could race in Paris-Roubaix.
“Breaking news,” he wrote, “@tomboonen1 has to train hard, 1% chance that he’s at #ParisRoubaix!”
Coucke added, Boonen would preview the Paris-Roubaix course and decide later about his participation. He wrote, “#hopespringseternal”
Etixx-Quick-Step team officials would not say whether or not Boonen was trying to return in time for Paris-Roubaix, but that he wants to train with Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar, and the team’s other stars Thursday on Belgium’s cobbled roads.
Boonen will ride 140 to 160 kilometres with part of the Ronde team three days ahead of the race. They will take in most of the climbs and important cobble sectors to prepare for the monument.
The Ronde van Vlaanderen leaves one week or seven days until Paris-Roubaix, which Boonen won in 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2012. The race cuts through northern France, covering 253 kilometers over small farm roads before the Roubaix velodrome.
Since finishing third in 2002, Boonen raced every edition of Paris-Roubaix except in 2013 when crashes in Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde ruled him out.
“Having something to aim for will help his recovery and keep his hope alive,” said the team.
“Training on the Ronde course is good for both Tom’s head and for his teammates. Terpstra, Stybar, and the others look up to Tom and look to him for advice.”
Boonen will meet the press in a conference for the first time after Paris-Nice’s disaster. Friday at Quick-Step’s headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium, he should explain more about his recovery and possible return to racing.
The UnitedHealthcare women's criterium squad delivered a dominant performance at the Sunny King Criterium on Saturday. Photo courtesy of UnitedHealthcare.
Over the weekend, the UnitedHealthcare team’s array of talent was on display both in the U.S. and Europe at two very different “criteriums.”
Stateside, at the Sunny King Criterium, in Anniston, Alabama, Heather Barnes won the first stop on the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar (NCC) ahead of teammate and criterium national champion Coryn Rivera.
“I couldn’t be happier with how today’s race went, the team rode a near perfect race, taking control when they needed to, and executing a textbook lead-out to take first and second,” said Rachel Heal, the team’s sporting director.
UnitedHealthcare’s men’s crit team also delivered a strong performance in Alabama, putting Luke Keough and Hilton Clarke into a seven-rider breakaway that lapped the field. Keough would go on to finish second behind winner Ty Magner (Hincapie), with Clark in third place.
Meanwhile, at the two-day, three-stage Critérium International in Corsica — a race quite unlike American-style criteriums — UHC’s Marco Canola won the mountains classification after making the breakaway on Sunday’s stage 3, a 189.5km race from Porto Vecchio to a mountaintop finish at Col de l’Ospedale, 3,100 feet above the Mediterranean. Canola secured the polka-dot jersey by claiming six of the seven available KOM sprints on the stage.
The team’s international squad seems to have a taste for mountains classifications, as American Kiel Reijnen claimed the climber’s jersey in Tour de Langkawi earlier in March.
Looking ahead, UHC’s domestic, criterium-focused squad has a full slate of racing ahead, as the NCC runs all the way through September. Their European counterparts head next to Route Adelie-Vitre in France on Friday, with their spring swing focused on La Flèche Wallonne in Belgium, April 22.
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Using a digital wind tunnel to design the 795, Look utilized a new manufacturing technique to create optimum aerodynamic shapes without adding weight. As a result, the 795 is an incredible bike over any terrain, as effective climbing mountain passes as it is on descents or on flat roads into the wind. The integration is ahead of its time, too, lending a unique look that we’ve grown to love.
Frame: Carbon fiber; NACA-inspired tubes
Fork: Carbon fiber; integrated brake
Component Highlights: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2; Dura-Ace Direct- Mount rear brake; Look Aerostem; Zed 2 one-piece carbon crankset; Mavic Aksium wheels (not pictured)
Weight: 2,400 grams (frame, fork, stem, seatpost, and crankset)
Global Mountain Bike Network compares three different bikes on the same trail to see which is quicker.
Editor’s Note: This video is courtesy of Global Mountain Bike Network. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily represent the opinions of VeloNews.com, Velo magazine or the editors and staff of Competitor Group, Inc.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) suffered through 100km of rainy, windy racing at Gent-Wevelgem before withdrawing from the race. He'll take aim at more spring racing this week in Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. Photo: AFP PHOTO | BELGA PHOTO | ERIC LALMAND
LONDON (AFP) — Britain’s world and Olympic time trial champion Bradley Wiggins will continue his classics campaign at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne) this week, after abandoning Gent-Wevelgem early on Sunday.
Wiggins is building up for a tilt at the prestigious Paris-Roubaix spring classic in just under two weeks time to close out his professional career with Team Sky.
He started Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, but in dreadful conditions, with driving rain and gusts of up to 90kph (56mph), he climbed off his bike after less than 100km of the 239km race. His Sky teammate Geraint Thomas went on to finish third.
Wiggins was ninth at Paris-Roubaix last year and his crack at this year’s race will be his last in a Sky jersey before returning to the track to focus on the team pursuit for next year’s Rio Olympics. He has yet to notch a win in 2015, and so far, his only other result in a spring classic was 44th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, a race that his teammate Ian Stannard won.
De Panne is a three-day, four-stage race in West Flanders that takes in some of the course used in this coming Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
Thomas, who finished eighth in Flanders and seventh at Roubaix last year, will be one of the favorites on Sunday, having won E3 Harelbeke, the first of four cobbled classics in northern Belgium, last week.
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Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem saw scenes of incredible carnage as the peloton was lashed by 50mph winds, causing many crashes and 160 DNFs. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
GENT, Belgium (VN) — The cold winds off the North Sea gusted up to 50mph Sunday and ripped the Gent-Wevelgem peloton to bits, essentially shaping the outcome of the 239-kilometer classic.
Only 39 cyclists officially survived the battle through the Flemish fields to finish in Wevelgem, the rest, 160 cyclists, waved the white flag to surrender or simply were forced to a stop in the brutal conditions.
Some cyclists landed in muddy ditches or cold canals. Some, like Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, gave up early to avoid danger.
Riders piled into team cars if there was space. Others asked locals for directions and took the main road back to the safety of the hotel.
Luca Paolini (Katusha) from Milan, who looks more like a pirate than a cyclist with his red, bushy beard, navigated the storm best. He crashed twice, re-joined the race, and shot free from a ravaged leading group with six kilometers left in Sunday’s classic.
With his win, he may have been the happiest cyclist yesterday after six hours and 21 minutes of racing.
“I’ve never raced in wind like that before. It was unbelievable,” Sky’s Geraint Thomas told VeloNews.
“We knew it was windy, but that was chaos, it was just hard to stay on the road. It’s just unbelievable.”
The Welshman survived a gust that blew him off the narrow back roads that the Belgian races often use. It pushed him right and on the grass. He unclipped his right foot to balance himself, but could not control his bike and somersaulted through the air to land on his left shoulder.
Like many cyclists, he climbed back on his bike and continued. He returned to the lead group and managed to finish third after a desperate chase behind Paolini with 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step).
“It was extreme,” Paolini said. “The wind was so violent that we could not form into echelons. I saw so many riders falling on the side of the road.”
The flat farmlands in northern Belgium, battlefields in both great wars, are known for windy weather. Together, with the narrow cobbled roads and climbs, it helps make the racing so interesting.
Snow and freezing temperatures overnight forced the organizer to move the start of the race two years ago in 2013. This year, it was warmer, about 46 degrees, but the wind blew the rain in every direction at the start. Cyclists shrugged off the conditions as normal for Belgian racing when they stepped off their team buses.
The situation, however, radically changed 73 kilometers later when the course turned south and travelled along both sides of the Belgian/French border. The wind, at a reported 80 to 90kph, rocketed from the West and into the right side of the cyclists.
As Paolini said, cyclists tried to fan out into echelons. They did, but the formation was too hard to hold.
Belgian Gert Steegmans (Trek Factory Racing) grew up racing on the roads, but found it too much. He lost control and tumbled into an adjacent canal.
A crash involved Mark Cavendish and sent his Etixx-Quick-Step teammate Martin Velits to the hospital with a broken collarbone. Several others also fractured bones, including 2009 winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka).
The early escape ran out of steam and the winning group took shape on the French roads before the climbs even began. The madness continued.
Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) struggled to take off his rain cape in the gusts. His teammate tried to pull it off for him but helplessly gave up. Australian Mat Hayman had it worse, he lost control and fell into a muddy irrigation ditch.
New Zealand’s Jack Bauer (Cannondale-Garmin) came to a screeching stop when a rival’s jacket flew backward and became tangled in his spokes. Frustrated, he lifted his bike and threw it into the ditch.
“That was a moment of unsportsman-like conduct by myself,” Bauer told VeloNews. “I really have to apologize to the team, to the mechanics, to the fans, and to everybody watching; that’s not something anyone should do. It was just a moment of frustration.
“I don’t think I ever raced in a race like that before. There was so many really fast sections where the wind just dictated what happened, you just hand to keep your balance, and most of us didn’t manage to do that.”
Creating an extreme weather protocol is the hot topic these days in cycling. After high winds and heat in the Tour of Oman this February and a snow-blanketed Monte Terminillo summit finish in Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race this March, calls became louder to put in place a set of rules.
Some insiders said that the cyclists would have forced the Gent-Wevelgem classic to a stop had the conditions continued any longer yesterday. What it lacked, they said, was statesmen like Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara — both out with injuries — to take control and lead a strike.
Others said that the wind was extreme, but not too much, and helped create the hard conditions that help make the northern classics so famous. The president of cycling’s governing body, Brian Cookson, agreed.
“What at epic, a real classic race. All the strong men came to the front,” Cookson told VeloNews
“The conditions were very difficult, but not impossible. It’s what makes cycling beautiful. A race like this is a real classic. This one will go down in history for years to come.”
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Although athletes are often alone when they hop on the bike, their support staff plays an invaluable role in getting them to that point, and are often under-recognized, says Carmen Small. Photo: AFP PHOTO | LOIC VENANCE
Lying sick on the bathroom floor in a hotel is probably one of the worst feelings. But that’s where I was, three days before the world track championships, last month in France. It was like a wave washing over me — cold, chills, goosebumps, nausea. I hadn’t felt very good a few hours before, but I chalked it up to hunger. I soon realized it was much worse than that. I went back to my room still in denial that I was going to be sick. Then I curled up in my bed and prayed.
When it struck, I couldn’t believe the timing. This was happening days before one of my most important races.
We, as elite athletes, are always on the verge of getting sick. We push our bodies to the limit every day and try to do everything in our power to stay healthy. The majority of the time, we can maintain this rigorous physical routine without succumbing, but sometimes our bodies can’t fight illness. This can happen at the most inconvenient time, and lately, that has been my luck.
So the question becomes, what keeps us going? What keeps our spirits up besides our sheer determination? … TEAM STAFF! A cycling team’s support crew is the most underrated, under-appreciated, but important, part of that team. Riders get the glory, the press, the medals. And staff gets, well hopefully, a lot of “thank yous,” sometimes a salary, but certainly not enough for all that they do. They are the backbone of the team, and I don’t believe their amazing efforts get enough recognition.
During my recent bout with the flu, I had Andy Sparks and Neal Henderson in my corner. Andy’s natural sense of humor had him commentating my sickness: “It’s Carmen and her teammate, Tamiflu, goal one is to kick the flu’s a— … hashtag go time!” His humor helped as much as any medication. Neal and Andy cheered for me on the sidelines, took care of me, brought me food, and there’s no doubt it helped speed up my recovery.
By the next day I was feeling better, still quarantined and not moving around much, but I had graduated to eating “food with color.” By that evening I was thinking it was possible to still race on Thursday. I would miss the qualifying round on Wednesday, but I could make it for the finals. I woke up on Tuesday, went down for breakfast (a big step) and realized I had some strange-looking bumps on my arm. I had Neal look at them. We took a picture to show the doctor at the track so they could report back. I rode the rollers that morning and noticed a small red streak had started migrating up my arm. Not good. I went to the French hospital and was completely shocked.
To paraphrase the doctor’s words, I was told to take antibiotics and come back in the morning. If it’s not better then we do surgery.
Thankfully, I had Karissa, my team manager, with me. Otherwise, I think I would have had a complete meltdown. Once again, the staff was there to support me and navigate these treacherous waters at my side. Karisssa made sure I had a smile on my face and we joked … What could go wrong … In the morning we will just have some arm surgery … No problem! That’s normal for some spider bites or a rash. … Right!?
She helped take the edge off with sarcasm and a bit of cursing. After all, it wasn’t like I was at the world championships and not getting to race. I had done all the hard work and no reward. Even in my darkest moments the staff was amazing, they did everything they could think of to keep my spirits up. But above all, they truly cared about how I was doing. And that’s a great feeling, a feeling of family. It’s hard enough to be violently ill, let alone in a foreign county. Having caring people around me made the ordeal so much easier.
As an athlete, I couldn’t reach my full potential without having great support. Our job is to train hard, take care of ourselves, and race fast. I couldn’t do any of this without the staff. Whether it’s track racing or road racing, or any other discipline, they are a crucial part of a team. I want to thank the staff for all that they do for the athletes. We should celebrate them more, because without them, teams and riders alike wouldn’t be successful.
Not to mention all the needless “arm surgeries” we might have to endure.
Vincenzo Nibali's defense of his 2014 Tour de France win would end before it begins if Astana loses its racing license. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
GENT, Belgium (VN) — Last week, Astana posted two press releases on its website that largely went unnoticed. The embattled Kazakhstani-backed squad announced new links to cycling federations in Italy and the United Arab Emirates, moves that normally wouldn’t draw much attention if the team’s future wasn’t on the line.
What did attract attention was a story published Monday morning by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that reported via unnamed sources that the UCI had all but made up its mind on Astana’s future, and would relegate the beleaguered team via the License Commission to the Continental Division, a decision that would be a kiss of death for the team of defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali.
On Monday, just days ahead of its Thursday meeting before the four-member License Commission in Switzerland, Astana officials cried foul.
“Either the story is wrong, or the UCI has already made up its mind about Astana even before the License Commission hears us,” an Astana team official told VeloNews. “If we lose before the License Commission, we would immediately file an appeal to CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport], which is truly an independent body.”
By Monday afternoon, the UCI hastily released a statement to the media, stating that claims in the news report that Astana, now one of 17 WorldTour-level teams, would be relegated to continental status are untrue.
“Following a misleading article published today in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) would like to clarify that no hearing has yet taken place in the Astana case and therefore no decision has been made,” the statement reads. “The UCI won’t make any further comment until the License Commission has rendered its decision.”
Later that day, Astana officials released this comment: “Astana Pro Team has every reason to believe that our 2 April meeting with the UCI License Commission will be a properly conducted legal hearing which fully observes due process, and is not a foregone conclusion. We welcome the UCI’s clarification on this matter this morning. At this hearing, Astana Pro Team intends to present clear evidence that not only is Astana Pro Team in full compliance with the UCI’s ethical criteria, but we are also taking proactive steps to enhance the role our team plays in the global fight against performance-enhancing drugs in cycling.”
The Monday flare-up is just the latest in a long-stewing feud between the UCI and Astana. Problems began last fall, when the Iglinskiy brothers both returned positive tests for the banned blood booster EPO. When it was later revealed that three more riders in Astana’s development team, one of them riding as a stagiaire with the pro team, also tested positive, the administration of UCI president Brian Cookson was under heavy pressure to “do something.”
Cookson publicly revealed his uneasiness with the team’s situation, but under the banner of transparency and fair play that was a key part of his electoral manifesto that led to his victory against Pat McQuaid in 2013, he left the team’s future in the hands of the UCI’s License Commission, an independent panel that reviews the financial health, ethics, and professionalism of cycling’s top teams.
Last fall, Astana was issued a license with the caveat than the team’s past and present would be examined in an audit. When the findings came back from a Lausanne-based institute over the winter, Cookson made the publicly brave decision on February 27 to call for the License Commission to revoke Astana’s license.
In short, Cookson had seen what he believed were some unsavory elements within the Astana structure, and wanted the team out. It’s a high-stakes gamble that is playing out this week.
Astana is scheduled to appear Thursday before the License Commission to present its side of the story. Until the De Telegraaf story broke Monday, Astana officials said they were hoping for a fair hearing.
“We’ve stayed quiet during the entire time because we wanted to respect the process, and we wanted to make our case before the commission, not in the headlines,” the Astana official said.
The UCI countered Monday, insisting the matter remains in the hands of the commission, and that no decision has been made.
Astana officials said they continue to prepare what they promise will be a “robust” defense. The team will bring representatives from team management, sport directors, the team’s medical staff, sponsors, and perhaps even riders to provide information to the panel. A decision could come in as soon as 10 days.
And those press releases last week on Astana’s website? Those revealed how Astana is bolstering its political support with such powerful cycling federations as Italy and the UAE, which is emerging as an important new player on the cycling landscape.
There is no question Astana has proven to be a lightning rod of controversy ever since it stepped in during 2006 to take over the sponsorship deal for Liberty Seguros, the Manolo Saiz-managed team that sunk in the wake of the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
Astana riders Alexander Vinokourov, now the team’s general manager, and Andrey Kashechkin both tested positive for blood doping during the 2007 season. Now-banned sport director Johan Bruyneel took over the team in 2008, and banned-for-life Lance Armstrong raced in an Astana jersey during his 2009 comeback season.
Following the doping scandals last season, coupled with the team’s sometimes-dark history, some believe the team should be ostracized from cycling, and made an example of. Others, however, believe the team is no different than others with historical links to the EPO era, only that they’ve bungled the PR campaign, and that it’s unfair that an entire organization that includes staff as well as riders should pay the price for the sins of a few.
Astana faces a momentous test this week. Hanging in the balance is not only the team’s racing license, but its future as well. In short, if the License Commission decides to revoke Astana’s WorldTour license, and it loses an appeal to CAS, the team of defending Tour champion Nibali could go down in flames. That would produce more negative headlines for the sport, throw its riders and staff onto the street right in the heart of the racing season, and see the departure of a big-money team sponsor from an important emerging market.
A similar case in 2012, when the UCI tried to revoke Katusha’s racing license, ended in a CAS decision in favor of the Russian-backed team in early 2013. Astana will be hoping history repeats itself, if it appeals the case.
If Astana succeeds, the decision could prove not only embarrassing to the UCI, but undercut Cookson’s credibility. These allegations of backroom deals and shadowy characters is just the kind of image that Cookson finds so abhorrent. The case also reignites the debate on how cycling should deal with riders and team managers who were involved in the doping culture of the past, and what guidelines, if any, should be in place for the present and future.
There is no question the stakes couldn’t be higher for both the UCI and Astana. Like a good bike race, it’s going to down to the wire.
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