Doping scandals mar cycling year—again

Monday, December 27, 2010 0 comments
PARIS (AP)—In many ways, cycling’s year was summed up by two key days. The first was when Alberto Contador took the Tour de France lead with a clever attack on a steep uphill climb in the Pyrenees. The other came just 48 hours later, when drug testers took a urine sample from the future Tour winner that contained traces of a banned substance.
In what was regarded as the defining moment of the Tour, Contador’s attack helped him drop runner-up Andy Schleck in the very tough climb of the Port de Bales during stage 15.
Schleck actually attacked first, but his chain came off and the three-time Tour winner sped ahead—taking the yellow jersey from his Luxembourg rival and gaining a 39-second advantage that would become his exact margin of overall victory a few days later on the Champs Elysees.
Many observers criticized the move, saying Contador had broken the sport’s unwritten rule about not taking advantage of unlucky breaks a rider can’t control—especially when he was wearing yellow.
The epic battle between Contador and Schleck during arguably the most thrilling Tour since Lance Armstrong won the fifth of his record-seven titles in 2003 at the expense of Jan Ullrich, was widely seen as the birth of a new great rivalry.
Fans and pundits cheered for the two champs and were bracing for a mouthwatering new era for a sport still reeling from years and years of doping scandals. But the celebrations didn’t last for Contador.
Only two months after triumphing in the heat of the French summer, the news broke that Contador, who also won the Tours of Spain and Italy in 2008, had been provisionally suspended by cycling’s governing body after small amounts of the banned muscle-building and fat-burning drug clenbuterol where found in one of his Tour samples.
It later emerged that a urine sample taken from Contador also showed abnormally high levels of plastic residues that could indicate he received a transfusion of his own blood during the race.
A tearful Contador denied everything, claiming his positive test resulted from eating contaminated meat. Whether or not he is eventually convicted of doping, great harm was done.
If Tour officials do strip his title, Contador would be just the second cyclist to be forced to relinquish it. The first was American Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title after a positive test.
UCI president Pat McQuaid continued to claim that cycling is the “cleanest of all sports,” while Italy’s anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri said in October he is convinced that all cyclists are doping.
A decision on whether Contador doped is expected early next year. But WADA and the UCI could appeal if they feel that justice was not done. That means Contador’s case could end up with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Should Contador be banned, next year’s Tour could be deprived of its two most influential figures after Armstrong said last summer’s Tour was his last.
The American got off to a strong start but blew a tire on cobblestones in stage 3 then failed to recover in time from three crashes during the eighth stage, just before the tough Alpine climbs.
“With the first crash, my body never felt the same after that, and the second was the nail in the coffin,” Armstrong said. “So you could look at it like that, and yeah, it was one (Tour) too many.”
Armstrong finished in 23rd place, nearly 40 minutes behind Contador. He has not officially retired and will compete in smaller races next season as an ambassador for the fight against cancer.
Armstrong’s last ride in the race which made his name and wealth started amid controversy following accusations by Landis, his former teammate, that he had used performance-enhancing drugs to win.
The allegations against Armstrong and others ignited a federal investigation in the United States that reached new heights last month when American agents traveled to France for two days of talks with police officers and other officials from various European countries.
Armstrong has denied using drugs and his lawyers said the investigation is a huge waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
Despite the years of drug scandals, the Tour de France still attracted massive crowds, worldwide television audiences and reported increased income. In Luxembourg, a new team found big sponsors and a budget big enough to lure away some of the sport’s biggest stars from rival squads.
The new outfit reunites the Schleck brothers and Fabian Cancellara, and their main objective will be victory in the Tour de France.
Cancellara was accused in 2010 of using an electric bike after his wins in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but nothing was proven. The accusations prompted the UCI to implement bike checks during the Tour, and Cancellara, who was cleared and escaped sanctions, eventually won a fourth time trial world title in September in Australia, where Thor Hushovd powered to victory in the road race.
Also worth noting in 2010 was Ivan Basso’s victory in the Giro d’Italia for his first major title since returning from a two-year doping ban. Several other riders who served doping-related suspensions, including Denmark’s Michael Rasmussen and Italy’s Riccardo Ricco, are set to return next year.
Ricco, who tested positive for blood-booster CERA at the 2008 Tour de France after winning two stages, signed with the Vacansoleil team.
“I’ll just say that the leaders of this team were naive,” McQuaid said. “If I am the sports director, Ricco never joins my team.”

Team Radio Shack Munches on Quiznos

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 0 comments

DENVER (AP)—Lance Armstrong’s team has signed up to race in Colorado’s inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge.
Race organizers announced Wednesday the first five teams to sign up for the event, which will be held in August. Lance Armstrong’s TeamRadio Shack is led by manager Johan Bruyneel, who has nine Tour de France victories as race director.
The other teams who have committed are HTC-Highroad, BMC Racing Team, Slipstream Sports/Team Garmin-Cervelo, all of the United States, and Liquigas-Cannondale of Italy.
Armstrong was instrumental in establishing the new race. It features seven stages through 11 cities, including Vail, Aspen and Denver.

Vanspeybrouck best of 'Boonen & friends' charity race

Sunday, December 5, 2010 0 comments
Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen) won the second edition of the charity cyclo-cross event 'Boonen&Friends' around the Silver Lake in Mol, Belgium.

The 'Boonen&Friends' cyclo-cross race collects money for the project 'Move to Improve' which supports people with physical disabilities caused by brain damage. Last year they raised 40,000 Euros at the event.

The extreme cold of the last week turned the course into a toboggan-run but that didn't keep the riders from racing. Last year's winner Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) finished second ahead of Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step). The all-star race was won by triple cyclo-cross world champion Erwin Vervecken.

The Belgian won ahead of Dutch former professional and Sky directeur sportif Steven de Jongh and former CSC-Tiscali rider Koen Beeckman.

Tom Boonen, who has been training for the start of the 2011 season after a year wrecked by injury, started with a bang. He led the field from the start but quickly noticed the course was rather slippery and dropped back. After a flat tyre for last year's winner Wynants, the road to victory was paved for Vanspeybrouck. The latter is a former junior Belgian cyclo-cross champion.

Vervecken had to work hard for his victory in the all-stars race which was held just before the pro's race. De Jongh fired away after the start and for a long time it seemed he would win the race of retired cyclists. “Everybody expected me to win because I retired only recently.

When De Jongh created a gap right after the start I didn't think I would be able to close it down. I died twice during the race but in the end I managed to catch him,” Vervecken told

Big names like Michael Boogerd, Johan Museeuw, Eric Vanderaerden, Tom Steels and motorcross star Stefan Everts felt far less comfortable on the frozen course and finished at long distance from winner Vervecken.

Museeuw had a severe crash. He went over the handle bars and crashed in the snow. The former Spring Classics specialist abandoned the race little later.