Thursday, November 25, 2004

Manolo Saiz was in a good mood at Paris-Nice, 2004

Liberty Seguros team director Manolo Saiz must be thinking, "Sooner or later, they all come back to me."

First Jorg Jaksche, who rode for several years for Saiz's ONCE teams, returned after a year away at Team CSC.

Jaksche at 2003 Paris-Nice; he won the event in 2004 with CSC

Now, Spanish sports paper Marca is reporting that Joseba Beloki, also formerly with Saiz's ONCE teams, has a verbal agreement to return to ride for Saiz at Liberty Seguros for one season.

Beloki in the 2003 Tour prologue

If Beloki can return to his pre-crash (Tour 2003) form, a big if, this would give Liberty Seguros another huge option alongside Roberto Heras and Izidro Nozal for the Grand Tours, the Tour de France in particular.  Jaksche will be a real asset for the ProTour as well.

For more at Marca (in Spanish) on the Beloki signing:

Beloki to sign with Liberty Seguros

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Michele Bartoli in the 2004 Paris-Nice prologue

Italy's Michele Bartoli, one of the greatest one-day riders of the past decade, announced his retirement today.  Bartoli won the Tour of Flanders (1996), Liège-Bastogne-Liège twice (1997, 1998), Amstel Gold Race (2002), Tour of Lombardy twice (2002, 2003), two World Cup overall titles, and numerous other races.

Bartoli also competed in the Tour de France five times, finishing twice.  (19th overall in 1996 and 33rd in 2001).  He won two stages of the Giro d'Italia (1994, 1998).

Bartoli's best years were before I started covering cycling in 2003 but he remained a big draw at races.  Here he simultaneously handles autograph requests from both sides of the aisle during the teams presentation at the 2004 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Hobbled by injuries, Michele Bartoli finished 82nd of 93 classified riders in the Mont Ventoux stage of the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré.

For more:
Bartoli calls it a career

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Tyler Hamilton:  "I have been losing the 'PR' war"

It's impossible to know for sure what to make of the timing of today's statement by Tyler Hamilton.  But given that Tyler's team, Phonak, was in Lausanne yesterday pleading its case to the UCI license commission in an attempt to get back its ProTour license, it's not unreasonable to conclude that the team and Tyler have decided it's now or never to lay everything out on the table ahead of next Tuesday's verdict from the commission.  The team and Tyler have a common interest here, though it's unclear right now to what extent they are moving forward together.....

The following press release was issued today by Tyler Hamilton:

As an athlete I realize that sometimes you may have to lose a few races to gain the knowledge on what it takes to win. Relating to my doping charge, I will say that, up to this point, I have been losing the "pr" war--partially because I naively thought that if I stated whole-heartedly that I have never and would never engage in blood doping or any form of cheating - and waited for the process to exonerate me, I would be fine. I also naively thought that officials within the various "anti-doping" organizations would wait for the due process before passing judgment on me publicly--again I was wrong. I know now that if I wait to discuss at least a few points of fact with the public, by the time I am fully exonerated and I know I will be exonerated; my reputation may be jeopardized.

So with that being said, I would like to dispel some things that have been said inaccurately in the media.

1. Despite indications to the contrary my A sample from the Olympics, the one that first brought on this issue, was initially determined to be negative for blood doping--when it was re-analyzed and I am not sure why it was re-analyzed - it was again deemed negative. It was not a clearly positive test as it has been characterized-- Instead, the results of both "negative" tests were reviewed by a "panel of experts" and then apparently deemed positive. This much review of one sample calls into question the validity of this test which has been criticized by many very reputable scientists as being inaccurate and unreliable. To this day, I have not been provided any paperwork from the IOC that states my A Sample was positive.

As blood testing is a fact of life for a professional cyclist, it is critical that tests are reliable and proven. On that note, I have been tested over 50 times throughout my career and this is the first time I have ever even been questioned--so again this is new and beyond upsetting to me. Everyday throughout the world somebody gets news of a false medical test result. Fortunately, in most of these cases the "false positive" is correctable.

2. Again, Contrary to what you have heard in the media, my B sample from the Olympics was not accidentally frozen. I have no idea why an official would lie about this procedure but for the record, the protocol is for the B sample to be frozen when the A sample is negative--this was the case with me after my A Sample was deemed negative and is why the lab froze the B sample, as opposed to a lab "mistake."

Moreover, comparing my "test results" from Athens to "test results" from Spain reveal serious inconsistencies, which could mean that 1) the test itself is invalid; 2) the test method was not followed; or 3) that one of the samples is not my blood. On this note, I have asked numerous times for my blood to be DNA tested--I have been turned down and also not been allowed to have independent scientists review the findings. In addition, repeated requests to review the raw data and the testing protocol have been thwarted or denied. -- doesn't that sound odd?

To conclude, these are only a few points of the many that I will be bringing up during the examination process of my case, but I wanted people to have these facts to consider.

I know we are living in an age where we unfortunately hear about athletes who cheat and I have to admit that, prior to this, when I saw something on the news regarding doping or some kind of cheating, it seemed very black and white. I have now learned that drug testing is very complicated, and mistakes can be made. I have always admitted when I have made tactical mistakes in races, and I hope that when this case is over, the testers and the agencies involved will admit to their mistakes as well.

I also believe that it is important to keep sports clean and wholly understand that testing is a necessity and will continue to adhere by the rules. This is why it is all the more important that we have a process exposing doping/cheating that works-- we need to have officials who protect the process --which includes reserving judgment until all avenues are explored and validated, and utilizing tests that are absolutely accurate. It is unfair to work through the kinks on new and unproven tests with athletes who have trained a lifetime and whose whole livelihood can be eliminated with an inaccurate test.

In the end, I am not a lawyer, scientist or a publicist so I am learning how to win this particular race fairly in the only way I know, with the truth; what I am is a guy who loves to ride his bike and compete and I have done so for 10 years without ever bending the rules.

Tyler Hamilton

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Swiss Army knife team?

Phonak got their hearing before the UCI license commission today.  (In case you didn't get the pun, Phonak sells hearing aids)  They, along with the French AG2R and Belgian Mr. Bookmaker teams, have been told that the final decision regarding who (if anyone) enters the ProTour as the 20th team will be announced November 30.

A lot of people in Switzerland will be anxious for another week:  Phonak is the only major Swiss cycling team.  The 2003 Swiss national champion (Daniel Schnider, pictured above in full national champion kit during the 2004 Paris-Nice prologue) and 2004 champion (Gregory Rast) both ride for Phonak.  And of course the UCI is based in Switzerland.

It's easy to understand that the stakes are quite high for Swiss cycling, perhaps right down to the youth level.

It cannot be an easy time for new Phonak transfers Floyd Landis and Victor Hugo Pena either.  And Oscar Sevilla has got to be glad he got out of this mess; he had already transferred to T-Mobile.

UCI decision set for 30 November

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Phonak Cycling team is anxiously awaiting their chance Monday to appeal to the UCI license commission to get their ProTour license re-instated.

Phonak, Switzerland's only major professional cycling team, has said the continued existence of the team depends on being included in the new ProTour next season.

Click this link for more:

Swiss team Phonak plead for licence reinstatement

Meanwhile, the Italian Acqua e Sapone and French AG2R Prévoyance teams will also be in Lausanne Monday hoping for a chance at Phonak's spot in the ProTour.

Can Mark Scanlon bring the "luck of the Irish" to help AG2R's slim chances of entering the ProTour?

Unfortunately for AG2R, their top two riders Laurent Brochard (France) and Jaan Kirsipuu (Estonia) have already departed for Bouygues Télécom and Crédit Agricole, respectively, two teams already in the ProTour.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Jonathan Vaughters (at left) and the OLN (Outdoor Life Network or Only Lance Network to some fans) crew, having lost track of Lance Armstrong at the 2004 Critérium International, aren't sure what to do

Just kidding guys.  You do a great job.

Speaking of OLN, if you have access to it don't forget their upcoming Thanksgiving marathon coverage of the 2004 Tour de France.  Click on the OLN TV link at left for the schedule.


- ESPN Classic Sport in France showed Stage 2 of the 1997 TDF late last night.  Super Mario Cipollini in yellow won the sprint finish ahead of Erik Zabel (Telekom), Jeroen Blijlevens (TVM) and Frédéric Moncassin (Gan).  According to my TV schedule, they are showing it again tomorrow (Sunday) night.

- Today's L'Equipe Magazine showed a photo of Oscar Freire's recent victory against........a horse-drawn chariot.

You can see that photo here:

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hey people, there's a bike race going on.  Hello?

That's Laszlo Bodrogi of Hungary competing in Dieppe in the 2003 Grand Prix des Nations, a long time trial event.  He is wearing his country's colors on his jersey as national time trial champion.

Bike racing in the streets of France is so common that if you are not a big fan of the sport then you just go about your business.  (the exception is the Tour de France; if the Tour comes through your town, then everyone becomes a spectator)  In most places in the U.S., chances are just about everyone out and about would be a curious onlooker!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tyler Hamilton on Mont Ventoux during the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré

The heat is on but at this time Phonak remains behind its team leader, Tyler Hamilton, who is facing allegations of blood doping.  Tyler seemingly has a tough road ahead if he's going to succeed at clearing his name.  The Hamilton/Phonak camp are trying to show that the newly-deployed (in sport) test is unreliable.  Hopefully truth will prevail.  There is a lot at stake here for Tyler, for Phonak and for the sport.

Here's a hot link, for a story by Samuel Abt of the International Herald Tribune that will actually appear tomorrow, Friday, November 19.  Phonak begins its first 2005 season training camp next week and Tyler will be there:

Revolution could bring down Phonak

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Paris -- So this is my "blog" (or "web log").  I should really call it a photo blog since it will be built around my photos from the world of professional cycling.

Paris is of course a great city.  It's a particularly great base from which to cover professional cycling.  When this adventure began for me in 2003, largely by accident and mostly on weekend day trips, I never imagined how popular this sport is from spring to fall.  Along the way, I've criss-crossed much of France, from the English Channel to the French Ardennes to the Atlantic coast to Provence to the Alps.  I've also found myself "off to the races" in Belgium and Luxembourg.

From Paris-Nice in March to Paris-Tours in October, with races such as the Critérium International, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Trophée des Grimpeurs, Four Days of Dunkirk, Tour of Belgium, Tour of Luxembourg, Dauphiné Libéré, Tour de France, Grand Prix Eddy Merckx, Tour de l'Avenir, Grand Prix des Nations and other races in between, I've gained a deep appreciation for this beautiful sport.

I've sampled cheese at Paris-Camembert, stood in the rain with my camera at Tour de Picardie, narrowly avoided falling rock on the Galibier and marvelled at the view from the top of Mont Ventoux.

I've learned that if a race is called Paris-something, it most certainly does not actually start in Paris.  I've also learned that the race called "Four Days of Dunkirk" is actually raced over five days (and six stages!).  And the "Critérium International" isn't really a criterium.

There have been the sprint finishes, successful breakaways, mountain stages, individual, two-man, and team time trials.

The drama.  This sport has everything.

What isn't there to like?

Well, along with everyone else, I've been dismayed by the doping scandals that threaten the sport's integrity.

Never a dull moment in this sport.

Along with photos, photo essays, wallpaper and such, I'll post commentary from the races and some links to what's happening in cycling.  I hope someone out there finds this useful.

And here's the first link:

Hooked up with the wonderful folks at the Daily Peloton to cover the 2005 Tour de France presentation in Paris late last month.

Click on the collage at right to go to the DP.


Also at Daily Peloton, some photos of what was announced as the last edition of the Grand Prix des Nations.



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