News Shorts – 27th June

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Here’s what’s making headlines and a preview of what is coming up…

National Champions | Tinkoff returns to pro cycling | Armstrong bangs his fist on the table | Bruyneel opts out of Tour | LeMond expects Armstrong to lose Tour wins | National Champions, including Pellizotti | Schlecks starting a new team? | Scarponi & Pozzato didn’t get the memo | Giro to start in Naples | Jack Bobridge handed 8 month suspension for drink-driving incident

Cycling was busy over the past weekend with its many of its national championships taking place. Though Australia holds its championships early in the year, most other countries stage the title fight on the eve of the Tour de France. Sometimes we think they do this just so we’re thoroughly confused about the rider’s identity when he show up in his new kit at the Tour.

There are too many to mention, but a few results grabbed our attention. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) surprisingly won his first road title. Peter Sagan (Slovakia), not surprisingly, won his second title in three years professional.

Liquigas is trying to drum up a new sponsor for 2013. Sagan is due to stay onboard and the team, according to his spoof Twitter feed, will be called ‘Sagan’.

@TweeterSagan: “ANNOUNCEMENT: Liquigas-Cannondale also change name for Tour de France. Now please refer to as ‘Liquigas-Sagan’ or just ‘Sagan.'”

Ian Stannard (Great Britain) works faithfully for Sky team-mates Juan Antonio Flecha, Mark Cavendish and Brad Wiggins, so it was great to see him win the national title. On Sunday in Ampleforth, he won ahead of Alex Dowsett and took the jersey over from Wiggins.

Fans were delighted to see Tom Boonen (Belgium) win the title again, but maybe not so much with Franco Pellizotti (Italy). Besides being a good climber, Pellizotti is famous for being stopped by the international cycling federation’s biological passport. Because of strange blood and urine values, he was issued a two-year doping ban and stripped of his mountains classification title from the 2009 Tour. He only returned to racing in May with second division team, Androni.

“I don’t want to think of that time away,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “This jersey shows that I always worked.”

Danilo Di Luca, another cyclist back from a sanction, placed second. The riders were lucky to even race as the Italian cycling federation last June banned anyone who served a suspension of six months or more from competing in the national teams or at the championships. A federal court over-turned the decision in May. The decision allowed Pellizotti and Di Luca to shine at the expense of promising youths like Moreno Moser (coming in third).

Tinkoff returns to pro cycling

Russian businessman, Oleg Tinkov will return to cycling sponsorship with Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank team this season. They announced their partnership through 2013 on Monday, saying the team would be called Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank starting with the Tour de France.

Team Saxo Bank Press Conference with new co-sponsor CEO Lars Seier Christensen (L), Bjarne Riis, and Oleg Tinkoff (R). Photo Cor Vos

“We are proud to return to cycling and to be sponsoring this team,” Tinkov said. “And we are delighted to be joining our co-sponsor Saxo Bank, one of the most highly regarded businesses in the world of online banking.”

Saxo Bank also renewed its sponsorship through 2013 on Monday.

Denmark’s Saxo Bank offers brokerage services worldwide and Tinkoff offers Russians credit cards. Tinkov shifted his focus from cycling back to Tinkoff Credit Systems and his 12 micro-brewery restaurants in late 2008. It ended a three-year run in cycling, when he helped his third division team into the second division and races such as the Giro d’Italia. He left the team in 2008 after he sold the team to Russian Igor Makarov, who brought in sponsor Katusha for the next year.

He’s now back on top and on-level with Katusha. Riis’ team has had a difficult run so far, but that’s likely to change when Alberto Contador returns from a doping suspension in August.

Armstrong bangs his fist on the table

Lance Armstrong hit back after the USA’s anti-doping agency, the USADA opened a “formal action” based on doping claims.

His lawyer Robert Luskin responded in an 18-page on Friday, June 22. He said, the action “is long on stale allegations disproved long ago and short on evidence.”

The USADA said that Armstrong used, possessed, trafficked drugs and helped and encouraged team-mates to dope. It listed drugs EPO, testosterone and corticosteroids and banned methods, such as blood transfusions. It said the cheating took place from 1996, throughout his seven Tour wins and his comeback in 2009 and 2010.

Luskin wrote that the USADA gave no evidence to support Armstrong cheated.

The “USADA refuses to disclose its evidence,” he said. Its case “remains a secret.” He continued, “USADA must either submit the evidence it relies upon or the review board should summarily recommend that this matter be dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence.”

Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel, trainer Michele Ferrari and team doctors, Pedro Celaya and Luis del Moral, were listed in the formal action. An independent review board will look over the USADA’s claims and its request for a lifetime ban. The case could be heard prior to November and is expected to make its way via the appeals process to the sport’s high court, the CAS, in Switzerland.

Bruyneel opts out of Tour

Johan Bruyneel said that he’ll skip the Tour and leave his RadioShack-Nissan team in the hands of the sports directors. The decision was made after the US anti-doping agency turned on the heat by listing him in its “formal action.”

The agency claims that Bruyneel possessed, trafficked and administered drugs, and that he helped cover up his riders’ drug use.

Bruyneel said, “I dearly wish to be there but my attendance in light of the recent USADA allegations against me would be an unwelcome distraction to my team, and to all those participating in and supporting the Tour.”

The Belgian, who rose to fame directing Armstrong to his first Tour win in 1999, added that he hopes to prove his innocence.

LeMond expects Armstrong to lose Tour wins

Greg LeMond, who won the Tour de France three times, expects that his fellow American, Lance Armstrong will lose his seven wins.

“Yes because there is so much evidence,” LeMond told Dutch magazine, AD Sportwereld. “He deserves no special treatment. There are other riders who lost their big wins, including Tour victories.”

LeMond and Armstrong have long been at odds, helped by LeMond’s comments in 2001 on Armstrong’s relationship with banned trainer Ferrari.

Armstrong “is poison, it is poisonous,” added LeMond. “It’s not just cycling, it is also about power. Anyone who says anything about him, something pointed out, is punished. Therefore, it is good that this happens. If USADA works well, Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel will never return to the sport. But the real problem is that someone like Ferrari not punished.”

Michele Ferrari is banned from working with athletes in his home country Italy since 2002. An ongoing investigation in Padova, Italy, has produced evidence that has linked him to cyclists Filippo Pozzato and Michele Scarponi. The evidence was also shared with the initial Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation and the USADA.

Schlecks starting a new team?

Andy and Fränk Schleck, second and third in last year’s Tour, maybe starting a new team for next season. According to France’s L’Equipe newspaper, they may start a team based in Germany with long-time sports director Kim Andersen.

Trek bicycles and a German company may be the title sponsors, according to the newspaper. Trek sponsored Schlecks’ team when it began as Leopard-Trek for last season. It lost out on title sponsor rights when Bruyneel brought along RadioShack and Nissan for this season.

Bruyneel and the Schlecks have gone back and forth over Bruyneel’s management style. The brothers maybe upset with him and his initial decision to leave Kim Andersen home for the Tour.

As with 2010, when the Schlecks left Riis’ Saxo Bank team, an official announcement will not come until after the Tour.

Scarponi & Pozzato didn’t get the memo

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) just didn’t get the message: You can’t work with Ferrari. Despite a very public trial in 2006 and a ban on Ferrari working with athletes since 2002, they allegedly sought the Italian trainer’s help.

Last Tuesday, according to the La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, Pozzato admitted to Italy’s anti-doping prosecutor that he received training plans from Ferrari from 2005 to 2009, the years he raced with Quick Step, Liquigas and Katusha.

Scarponi, again according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, saw Ferrari for two tests in September 2010 when he raced with Androni. He’s scheduled to meet with the anti-doping prosecutor today.

Pozzato faces a ban of six months and Scarponi a lifetime ban due to his past suspension stemming from Operación Puerto.

Francisco Conconi and Michele Ferrari. These two are a whole other story...

Giro to start in Naples

The Giro d’Italia organiser announced on Monday that next year’s Grand Départ will be in Naples. The race is scheduled to start under the shadows of Vesuvio on May 4, 50 years after its last visit in 1963.

“I’m very happy that the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia will be in my city because we’re working hard to rebuild the image of the city through sport,” said the mayor, Luigi De Magistris. “This summer we’re going to unveil the biggest bike path in the south of Italy (20km long) and that signifies how much the Naples council cares about cycling.”

The Giro d’Italia is also rumoured to end one of its stages next year up the Galibier in France. Organiser RCS Sport will announce the parcours in the autumn.

Jack Bobridge handed 8 months for drink-driving

Orica-GreenEDGE’s Jack Bobridge has been fined €700 by a Spanish court and suspended from driving for eight months after a drink-driving incident in the resort town of Lloret de Mar, Catalonia last Tuesday. Bobridge and team pursuit squad member Michael Hepburn who was a passenger at the timehave been fined for their part in the incident which comes only month before the London Olympics. Bobridge was driving a car that was involved in a minor collision a car park near Girona where he lives.

Cycling Australia (CA) found Bobridge and Hepburn guilty of misconduct, but they will stay on the Australia Olympic Team as they are its best chance at a gold medal. CA fined Bobridge $2500 AUD, with $2000 of the penalty suspended, and is now on a 12-month good behaviour probation. Hepburn is also on a 12-month probation and received a $1000 AUD suspended fine. The pair have also been banned from alcohol consumption when on duty with the national team in both training and competition.

“Jack has been reckless and irresponsible and he is fortunate he has escaped without serious injury to himself or others,” said Graham Fredericks, CEO of Cycling Australia. “There is no excuse for drinking and driving and we endorse the action of Spanish authorities,” he added.

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