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Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali staunchly defended his Astana team’s battered reputation, and hinted he might race the Giro d’Italia ahead of a Tour de France defense in 2015.
Speaking to the Spanish daily AS over the weekend during the Critérium of Saitama in Japan, Nibali said a pair of EPO positives involving the Iglinskiy brothers, and another case from a stagiaire, does not reflect a deeper problem for his team’s ethics.
“This is a case involving one family, who has recognized their mistake, and a rider that’s not even part of our team, but from a continental team,” Nibali told AS. “Just because two riders have made an error doesn’t mean all the others are doing it as well. That wouldn’t be fair. I already said during the Tour that my goal is that people can respect what I have achieved in a legitimate manner, and that I’ve enjoyed my success thanks to the biological passport and the controls.”
Nibali’s comments come in the wake of new questions about Astana’s commitment to clean racing. After a string of positives that were revealed inside a month, the UCI has promised a review of the Kazakhstan-backed team managed by ex-pro Alexander Vinokourov, who previously served a suspension for doping.
Last week, UCI president Brian Cookson told VeloNews that the UCI license commission would review Astana’s situation in the coming weeks.
“It’s safe to say that everyone was very disappointed by this turn of events,” Cookson told VeloNews. “But if we assume that there have been three cases, that’s something that’s obviously very, very serious, and that’s why we’ve referred it to the licensing commission, asking them to look into all the issues around that and make recommendations as to what impact these issues should have on the license of Astana. That’s the right and proper process.”
Astana management has insisted the team races clean, and that the Iglinskiy positives are isolated cases, and do not reflect deeper problems within the team. The team pulled out of the Tour of Beijing earlier this month to abide by “self-suspend” rules imposed by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), a volunteer advocacy group among teams promoting a more credible peloton that backed Astana in recent meetings in Paris.
Nibali, who turns 30 next month, finds himself in the awkward position of having to defend his Astana colors when new doubts have arisen about the team.
“I don’t believe they will take away our license, I am convinced of that. Astana suffers due to its past, for things that happened in another era,” Nibali continued. “Vinokourov wasn’t even the manager when the team signed Jakob Fuglsang, Fabio Aru, and myself, precisely with the objective of changing the image of the team and earning some credibility. Since then, we apply the biological passport, we are members of the MPCC, and we do internal controls. What else can we do? The sponsors in Kazakhstan are very angry with the Iglinskiys, and I strongly believe that our sport is cleaner today compared to other times in cycling.”
Possible Giro start for 2015
Nibali, who remains under contract with Astana through the end of 2016, said he wants to focus on new challenges, which includes a defense of the yellow jersey and perhaps a start at the Giro d’Italia, which he won in 2013. Nibali also emphatically shot down the notion promoted by Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov of racing all three grand tours in the same season.
“It’s impossible to complete this triple of the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta [a España],” he said. “Everyone knows how tiring a three-week grand tour is, and how tired you are after winning one. Obviously, I am going to defend the yellow jersey, but I haven’t discounted a possible start at the Giro. But if you go all out for the [Giro], it would wipe you out for the [Tour]. We’ll talk about this later at a meeting of the sport directors.”
Nibali also defended his yellow jersey against suggestions that it “came easy” without such riders as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) at the line, or the sudden departures of top rivals Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Sky) due to crashes.
“I wanted to take them on, including Quintana, in a head-on confrontation. Either way, I’ve already beaten them in other races,” Nibali said. “Crashes are part of the game. You never know what’s going to happen, and things can happen to everyone in the peloton, from first to last.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Nibali likes the look of the 2015 Tour route, which is short on time trials, long on mountains, and includes another stage over cobblestones. After riding so well across the cobbles in 2014, Nibali is hoping for more of the same next year.
“I like the cobbles, but maybe next time, you’re not so lucky. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a man for Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, despite the fact that things went so well over the cobbles in the Tour,” he said.
“I like the Tour route a lot. In the first week, there are two ‘walls,’ the nerves that come with the Tour, and the cobbles again,” he continued. “In my opinion, l’Alpe d’Huez will have the last word, a mythical climb to decide the GC just a day ahead of Paris. Perhaps the organizers were thinking as well of young French climbers, such as Thibaut Pinot or Romain Bardet.”
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After a year of surprising upsets and consistent results, Team SmartStop has finalized its roster for the 2015 racing season, supporting 13 riders for the upcoming year.
U.S. national champion Eric Marcotte and USA Cycling National Racing Calendar winner Travis McCabe will return to Team SmartStop in 2015.
SmartStop will also bring back Canadians Rob Britton, team captain Zach Bell, and U23 Canadian time trial national champion Kristofer Dahl.
Jure Kocjan, winner of the 2014 UCI America’s Tour, will return in 2015, bringing his experience and leadership to the squad.
Sprinter Shane Kline, all-rounder Travis Livermon, and climbers Julian Kyer and Flavio De Luna round out the group of returning riders.
In 2015, Team SmartStop will welcome three new faces to the team. Time trial specialist and WorldTour veteran, Evan Huffman will be joined by Bobby Sweeting, another strong time trialist, coming off time with the 5Hour Energy team.
“I noticed a consistent weakness,” said team director Michael Creed, “We were inconsistent in our time trials, but with the addition of Evan and Bobby we have made up for that.”
SmartStop’s final new hire is promising climber Chris Butler. After putting in a top performance at the Tour of Utah earlier this year, Butler aims to help SmartStop grow its GC prospects and climbing abilities for the upcoming season.
2015 Team SmartStop roster
Flavio De Luna
In its inaugural year, the UnitedHealthcare women’s team consistently put up impressive results across both the domestic and international calendars. Sweeping all three of the American road titles between Alison Powers and Coryn Rivera, UnitedHealthcare brought a mix of young riders and experienced veterans to the races in 2014 and plans to build upon its success next year with its 2015 roster.
Sprinters Rushlee Buchanan, Hannah Barnes, Cari Higgins, and Coryn Rivera will be staying on in the coming year, continuing to refine what they call the ‘Blue Train.’ Team captain Lauren Tamayo will be joined by climbing star, Katie Hall and all-rounders Ruth Winder, Scotti Wilborne, and Alexis Ryan.
The team adds some promising new riders for 2015. Linda Villumsen will bring her experience as a three-time winner of both the Dutch road race and time trial championships. Abby Mickey, a promising young American climber, is also coming aboard. Lastly, Olympic bronze medalist and time trial specialist Laura Brown will ride for UnitedHealthcare in 2015.
“We have a well-rounded and tremendously capable squad assembled for 2015,” UHC general manager Michael Tamayo said, “One that represents the talented riders of today, as well as the up-and-coming talent of the future. We’re excited to hit the road and start racing.”
2015 UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team women’s roster:
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Should Lance Armstrong be allowed back into the realm of professional cycling?
That, of course, depends on who one asks. The one-time seven-time Tour de France champion is currently banned for life, after an exhaustive effort by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) dropped reams of affidavits from former teammates, who admitted to their own doping and implicated Armstrong.
UCI President Brian Cookson has a nuanced take on the man who was once the sport’s biggest star and who has given information to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) panel, which is investing the systemic doping culture that existed in professional cycling.
“I think that there is potential for redemption for him and anyone, really. I think it all depends on what [Armstrong] said to the commission and if he was prepared to talk about his or other people’s involvement and whether he’s genuinely contrite and deserving of redemption,” Cookson said. “I think it has to be said that what Lance did, not that he was the only one or only one involved, but it all depends on what Lance said to the commission and what they come up with. … we have to acknowledge and approve of any redemption in the sentence in the sanctions that he got. I think that [USADA CEO] Travis Tygart has been saying the same sort of thing anyway and I don’t think there is any conflict there between USADA, but let’s see what Lance has been saying to the commission.”
The CIRC commission is expected to make its findings known and release a report in January of 2015. The CIRC efforts dovetail with the work already done by USADA. Eight active riders were sanctioned after the anti-doping agency’s “reasoned decision” came down. Of the eight total, six were American riders. Did they pay a higher price than others of their era, many of whom have neither confessed nor been caught? Cookson is measured in his response.
“I think that is a narrow way of looking at it. The American rider [Armstrong] was also the biggest rider in the world, and was also the only one win seven Tours, he was the one who climbed highest and ultimately fell the lowest. If you look around as well, there were people who gave evidence and received reduced sanctions, so that arrangement was worthwhile from their point of view,” he told VeloNews in a lengthy interview.
Cookson said some have paid more than others, given the fact that “Armstrong and U.S. Postal weren’t the only team involved in doping,” he said. The UCI president has also asked the CIRC panel how those involved in past cheating should be dealt with now, in the modern iteration of the sport. For example, Cookson wants to evaluate how those with previous doping issues function on teams now.
“I want to be able to look at that again, in light of what comes out of the independent commission. All of the information that comes out of that will be helpful going forward. We need to have a mechanism that can look at the sport and decide who can stay in the sport and who needs to be thrown out,” Cookson said. “And when we have that mechanism, it needs to be robust and sustainable in court, and I can guarantee that if we excluded someone from their main source of income, that they’ll challenge it. So we need to make sure that what we do is truly defensible.”
Cookson also said the current relationship with USA Cycling is solid. The connection between the American organization and the UCI strained as the sport’s governing body found itself at odds with USADA; USA Cycling attempted to stay in the middle.
“It’s very strong,” Cookson said. “ … I don’t think there are any problems there at the moment. We have a few Americans on our commissions, so all of those people contribute very positively and I think that the USA is a very major part of cycling now and we need places like the USA to help the sport and I’m glad that we have a very good working relationship with them.”
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- Don’t know what hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is? That’s probably a good thing unless you’re trying to get pregnant. Familiar with its use by athletes ... The post USADA & PCC: New Research Promises Improved hCG Doping Tests appeared first on Cyclocross Magazine -...
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After losing out to Mike Garrigan (Van Dessel-POC) in Saturday’s national championship race, Geoff Kabush (SCOTT 3Rox) came to the line hungry for a win at the Manitoba Grand Prix on Sunday.
“Coming up just short yesterday is frustrating and I wanted to be a bit more aggressive [today],” Kabush said after the race. “It’s a tough course to get too aggressive on because it’s so fast and tactical you can waste some energy, so I certainly wanted to be at the front and kind of dictate the pace and split it up a bit more.”
True to plan, he sat third wheel as Jeremy Durrin (Neon Velo) took the holeshot. Durrin dabbed in the same place as Rochette in the women’s race earlier that day, but quickly recovered to join the fastest men. A group of six leaders soon formed with Durrin, Kabush, Michael van den Ham (Trek Red Truck p/b Mosaic Homes), Garrigan, Aaron Schooler (Focus CX Team), and Andrew L’Esperance (Norco Factory Team) from Halifax.
Durrin took charge at the front with Kabush. Midway into the race, a front flat left Durrin with a long trip to the pit. Vancouver’s Craig Richey (Trek Red Truck p/b Mosaic Homes) chased. Garrigan, tired from the previous day’s solo ride, got shed by the leaders with L’Esperance.
The second half of the eight-lap event was all about the fight for first between van den Ham and Kabush which ensued as gray clouds rolled in, bringing cold gusty winds. The large raucous crowd chanted “Michael, Michael” when the two reached the sand pits together.
Kabush put in some digs but couldn’t shake van den Ham. The pair built a gap of almost 10 seconds to Schooler, who chased alone ahead of Garrigan and Richey.
Halfway into the final lap Schooler came within a few bike lengths of the two leaders. He caught them a couple of times and then tailed off.
Coming into the finish, Kabush tapped his 22 years of racing experience to beat van den Ham in a sprint. Garrigan got fourth after Schooler who rounded out the podium.
“I caught them and then they cranked it up for the sprint, and then I just got a little bit gapped,” Schooler said. “I was basically sprinting with them; I’m just not a good sprinter.”
In the end, tactics won the race as Kabush had predicted. “It just came down to positioning the last couple of laps and saving a little bit of energy for the sprint,” Kabush said. “I’m happy. It’s been really exciting racing here and a great weekend, and it’s certainly nice to get a win under my belt for this ‘cross season. Michael [van den Ham] was really strong. I’m probably not going to be popular in Manitoba now, beating the hometown hero. But I want to win as much as Michael does.”
Van den Ham’s result came on top of third place in Saturday’s nationals. “One of my goals for this season was to get a top five at nationals and get a podium at a UCI race. So to get both of those and more in the same weekend, it’s fantastic,” the 23-year-old said.
“I’m very happy that I managed to be battling with Geoff for the win. … With his race experience he might have outsmarted me a little bit, but I have a few years to get that tactical sense.”
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Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) won the elite women’s race at the Manitoba Grand Prix of Cyclocross by slipping away from her rivals in the final minutes of racing. The UCI C2 race wrapped up the three-day Shimano Canadian Cyclocross Championships in Winnipeg.
The battle for UCI points and the win got started when Maghalie Rochette (Luna Pro Team) rode away with the holeshot for the second time of the weekend. Pendrel, who had claimed her second Canadian cyclocross championship the day before, slotted into the front group.
The course’s tricky off-camber turns claimed their first victim early in lap one when Rochette lost traction and put a foot down. The mishap sent her back to seventh in a twisty grass section and helped Gabby Durrin (Neon Velo) take charge of the group that began to distance the field.
Durrin gained some separation over Pendrel, Ellen Noble (JAM Fund Cycling Team), and Mical Dyck (Stan’s NoTubes). In the first pass through the sand pits, riders slowed, holding up Pendrel, allowing Durrin to peel away. Rochette and Natasha Elliott (Cycle-Smart) chased.
In the second lap, Pendrel escaped from her group to pursue Durrin alone. The Canadian nibbled away at Durrin’s 10-second lead and caught her with one lap to go. Rochette, who had moved up to third on course, trailed 20 seconds behind, riding alone ahead of Noble.
At the end of the back-to-back double sand pits, Pendrel got the jump on Durrin in the last lap. “At the concrete steps by the sand, she cut in a bit faster and was able to power away,” Durrin said. “I never quite got back on her, and then she was gone.”
Pendrel won her second race in two days with just a four-second advantage over Durrin. Rochette, the best U23 rider at the finish, arrived 30 seconds later. Noble held on for fourth ahead of Dyck.
In the end, Durrin felt content with her effort, saying, “It’s great to race with Catharine [Pendrel] because she’s a super champion. I felt good. I was thinking of what Mike [Garrigan] did to win yesterday and thought, ‘Maybe it will work, maybe I can stay away.’ But when you’ve got Catharine who is super strong coming up behind you, it’s tough.”
Pendrel said she fed off the energy from the crowds cheering for their Canadian riders.
“Definitely when I went to the front, the crowd got a lot louder so that was a really cool experience,” the Luna rider said. “It was fun to win the national championship and then race other nations and have Canada come out on top. That was a really neat aspect of today.”
Pendrel will compete at the Cincy3 Cyclocross Festival in Cincinnati next weekend.
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