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Here’s what’s making headlines in cycling and what’s coming up…

RIP Robbie Williams / Sanchez wins in San Sebastian / Indurain hits the lab / The Muur in August! / Vuelta a España / Teklehaimanot makes Eritrean history / Cav to leave SKY / Armstrong case delayed / Vaughters’ Mea Culpa / Tyler Hamilton to release tell-all autobiography / Leipheimer makes comeback in Utah / Haute Route Pyrenees announced

RIP Robbie Williams

The Australian cycling community was shocked by the news that Canberra cyclist Robbie Williams, 27, fell from his bike yesterday morning. Canberra Times reports that he is thought to have experienced an undisclosed medical condition, and was rushed to Calvary Hospital, where he later passed away.The exact cause of the death is unclear, and police will conduct an autopsy later this week.

Williams rode with DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed in Belgium before joining Drapac Porsche in 2007 where he won the biggest win of his career: the Goulburn to Sydney, Australia’s second-oldest bike race.

Our thoughts go out to Robbie’s family, friends, teammates. Horrible and shocking news.

Sánchez seizes San Sebastián win ahead of Gerrans

Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank), winner of a stage last month in the Tour de France, shot free to win the Clasica San Sebastián yesterday.

Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) won the sprint for second ahead of Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol), but was unable to stop Sánchez. The Spaniard escaped in the final few kilometres and held of Gerrans and co by seven seconds.

“Obviously it would have been great to sprint for the victory instead, but San Sebastian is my first race back after taking a short break after the Olympics,” Gerrans said in a press release. “I’m happy to stand on the podium as I begin the last part of my season.”

Full 2012 San Sebastian results here.

Indurain Lab tested 14 years after Retirement

Five time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain was tested in the lab as part of a study to gain some insight into ageing and detraining of elite athletes. As the test reveals, 46 year old Indurain has still got the goods after pushing 450w as his aerobic power output at 191bpm which compares to professional cyclists still in their prime.

As always more good commentary on this story by Inrng.

Miguel Indurain - a man who knew how to wear a cycling cap and can still smash it.

Age-related fitness declines in athletes can be due to both aging and detraining. Very little is known about the physiological and performance decline of professional cyclists after retirement from competition. To gain some insight into the aging and detraining process of elite cyclists, 5-time Tour de France winner and Olympic Champion Miguel Indurain performed a progressive cycle ergometer test to exhaustion 14 years after retirement from professional cycling (age 46 yrs; body mass 92.2 kg). His maximal values were: oxygen uptake 5.29 l.min-1 (57.4 ml.kg-1.min-1), aerobic power output 450 W (4.88 W.kg-1), heart rate 191 bpm, blood lactate 11.2 mM. Values at the individual lactate threshold (ILT): 4.28 l.min-1 (46.4 ml.kg-1.min-1), 329 W (3.57 W.kg-1), 159 bpm, 2.4 mM. Values at the 4 mM onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA): 4.68 l.min-1 (50.8 ml.kg-1.min-1), 369 W (4.00 W.kg-1), 170 bpm. Average cycling gross efficiency between 100 and 350 W was 20.1%, with a peak value of 22.3% at 350 W. Delta efficiency was 27.04%. Absolute maximal oxygen uptake and aerobic power output declined by 12.4 and 15.2% per decade, whereas power output at ILT and OBLA declined by 19.8 and 19.2%. Larger declines in maximal and submaximal values relative to body mass (19.4-26.1%) indicate that body composition changed more than aerobic characteristics. Nevertheless, Indurain’s absolute maximal and submaximal oxygen uptake and power output values still compare favorably with those exhibited by active professional cyclists.

The Muur in August

How cool was it to see the fans line the Muur on Sunday? Our old friend, the Muur-Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen normally sees the winning move of the Tour of Flanders (until this year), but over the weekend helped decide the Eneco Tour.

Italian Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) stormed up the climb to win the closing stage. Lars Boom (Rabobank), another classics hard-man, trailed at two seconds to take the overall victory

The Eneco Tour travelled from Holland to Belgium over its seven legs. Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Theo Bos (Rabobank) also won stages, with Orica-GreenEDGE conquering the team time trial.

The cobbled bergs and muurs are famous thanks to the Tour of Flanders. However, they often appear in various pro or amateur races. The steep Koppenberg climb also hosts its namesake cyclo-cross race, with the last edition going to Kevin Pauwels.

The Muur was a fitting end to the Eneco Tour since Flanders organisers overlooked it this year in favour of a circuit finish in Oudenaarde. Traditionalists were upset with the move, which saw the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg repeated three times.

Ballan relived one of his biggest career wins. In Flanders in 2007, he bolted clear with Leif Hoste on the climb and took the two-up sprint in Meerbeke.

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) marked his return from a doping ban with the Eneco Tour. He placed sixth on the Muur and fourth overall. He races the Vuelta a España next

Vuelta a España

Cycling’s third of three Grand Tours starts on Saturday in Pamplona. It races entirely in the country’s north, closing with the mountain stage to Bola del Mundo, where Vincenzo Nibali clinched his 2010 overall win. Madrid, near Contador’s home in Pinto, hosts the final leg on September 11.

Contador tops the bookies’ sheets at 3:5. Chris Froome (Sky), second last year and second in the Tour last month, is at 15:4. Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), defending champ Juan José Cobo (Movistar) and Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) round out the top spots with 10:1, 18:1 and 20:1 odds, respectively.

You should also keep an eye on Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), Rigoberto Urán (Sky), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) for the overall victory.

Orica is fielding Simon Clarke, Allan Davis, Mitchell Docker, Cameron Meyer, Travis Meyer, Wesley Sulzberger, Julian Dean (New Zealand), Pieter Weening (Netherlands) and Daniel Teklehaymanot (Eritrea).

Richie Porte will help Sky’s Froome and Adam Hansen will be there for Van den Broeck.

Teklehaimanot makes history

Daniel Teklehaimanot will become the first Eritrean to race in a Grand Tour when he starts the Vuelta a España on Saturday.

“He’s potentially a very good climber. He has the ability to TT as well, he’s the African TT champ,” Orica’s team manager said in an interview earlier this year. “It’s a long term project. We don’t expect anything from him this year, just experience and racing.”

Teklehaimanot also became the WorldTour’s first black African when he turned professional this year. Last month, he had a good showing in the Tour of Poland, placing second in the mountain’s classification. Shabait.com, which prides itself on “serving the truth”, points out that he was only 40 seconds away from a gold medal in London.

Cav to leave Sky?

It might be just gossip, but World Champion Mark Cavendish may leave team Sky according to various credible sources. British newspaper The Telegraph reported that in the next few weeks Cavendish will meet with Team Principle David Brailsford to determine his place in the team.

Grand Tour classification riders, Brad Wiggins and Chris Froome dominated the Tour de France. Cavendish still came away with three stage wins. However, it was around half of as much as his usual haul.

The Telegraph resounded rumours that Cavendish may link with many of his former team-mates and DS Brian Holm at OmegaPharma-Quick Step. First, though, he would have to settle up the remaining two years in his contract and decide if it’s worth leaving his home team.

Armstrong cased delayed

Lance Armstrong clings to his last straw of hope for another week as a Federal district court in Austin, Texas, delay its ruling. The seven-time Tour de France winner sued the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to block it from continuing its case.

On June 12, it charged Armstrong with doping as part of the “US Postal USPS Conspiracy” from 1998 to 2010. The agency said Armstrong trafficked, possessed and used banned drugs and methods. It is pushing for a lifetime ban and if successful, could see his Tour wins annulled. If the Austin court allows USADA’s case to go ahead, Armstrong will have to accept the charges or face an arbitration panel.

The USADA wrote, “Numerous riders, team personnel and others will testify based on personal knowledge acquired either through observing Armstrong dope or through Armstrong’s admissions of doping to them that Lance Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and hGH through 1996.” It added that its witnesses will testify that, “Armstrong gave them, encouraging them or assisted them in using doping products and methods.”

Armstrong says that he is innocent. He argues the agency lacks jurisdiction in his case and violates his constitutional right to a fair trial. After a hearing on Friday, Judge Sam Sparks delayed his ruling and allowed both sides to file more documents.

“Mr. Armstrong agreed to play by the same rules that apply to every other athlete and we believe he should not be allowed to create a new set of rules that apply only to him,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement after the hearing. “The rules already in place have protected the rights of millions of clean athletes both famous and anonymous for more than a decade … From the beginning our investigation has been about ridding sport from anyone in the system that uses their power or influence to encourage or assist athletes in using dangerous performance-enhancing drugs.”

Vaughters’ Mea Culpa

Jonathan Vaughters rode with Armstrong’s US Postal team from 1998 to 1999 and is said to be one of the USADA’s witnesses. Over the weekend, he admitted to doping during pro career.

“I chose to lie over killing my dream,” he said in a New Your Times column. “I chose to dope. I am sorry for that decision, and I deeply regret it.”

After Vaughters retired, he started a small team that grew into Garmin-Sharp. This year, his team won the Giro d’Italia with Ryder Hesjedal. He wrote that this is part of his way of trying to help clean cycling.

“The guilt I felt led me to retire from racing and start a professional cycling team where that choice was taken out of the equation through rigorous testing and a cultural shift that emphasized racing clean above winning. The choice for my athletes was eliminated.”

He praised the testing, such as the biological passport that helped show Franco Pellizotti doped.

“As I watched the Olympics these past two weeks, I was a bit envious, as I know that huge strides have been made by many since my time to rid sports of doping. Athletes have the knowledge and confidence that nowadays, the race can be won clean,” he added. “If the message I was given had been different, but more important, if the reality of sport then had been different, perhaps I could have lived my dream without killing my soul.”

Hamilton to release tell-all autobiography

Tyler Hamilton will detail the dark side of his career and his years with Armstrong in an autobiography due out September 18. The former US cyclist teamed with Dan Coyle, writer for New York Times and author of Lance Armstrong’s War.

Hamilton testified in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against Armstrong. The USADA may have also tapped into his story.

“No one’s ever had a ticket behind the wall of silence, behind locked doors, onto the team bus,” Coyle said. “Tyler has given me complete access to his story. To verify and corroborate his account, I’ve also talked to numerous independent sources, including former teammates, several of whom are going on the record for the first time. This is a classic tale of human ambition and the consequences of trying to win at any cost.”

Hamilton admitted to doping in May 2011 in TV show 60 Minutes. Armstrong said it was a publicity stunt aimed to sell books and the month after, threatened him in a restaurant.

“I kept it all inside for way too long and I realized it was a story that needed to be told,” Hamilton explained of the book. “I think when people learn how it really was – how it worked, how we did it, what it felt like – they’ll see that this story is bigger than any one individual in the sport.”

Leipheimer takes comeback win

Levi Leipheimer (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) completed his comeback to win the final mountain stage in the Tour of Utah in the USA on Sunday. Leipheimer fractured his calf bone when a car struck him in training on April 1.

He made promising strides in the following months. Only one month later, he placed sixth overall in the Tour of California. In June, he place third overall in the Tour de Suisse.

Last year, he won overall classifications in Suisse, Utah and Colorado. His next race is in Colorado, where he aims to defend his title against the likes of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). The race runs August 20 to 26.

The Utah win also helped erase some of the bad publicity. He reportedly testified in the Armstrong case and confessed to doping. In July, a Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, said that he, George Hincapie, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde would face six-month bans. When asked about it, Leipheimer continually said, “No comment.”

Haute Route Pyrenees is launched

A year after the Haute Route cyclo-sportive was established, the organisers on Friday announced the Haute Route Pyrenees for next year.

“The formula that has contributed strongly to the success of the Haute Route Alps will be replicated for the new Haute Route Pyrenees,” Organiser OC Sport said in a press statement. It will be “a multi-day cyclo-sportive consisting of timed stages, featuring a carefully chosen selection of world-famous cols and ascents, with a limited number of participants to ensure the quality of the event and unique atmosphere amongst the riders who will be ranked as both individuals and teams.”

Calendar 2012-2013:
Haute Route Alps 2012 (second edition): August 19 to 25, 2012
Haute Route Alps 2013 (third edition): August 18 to 24, 2013
Haute Route Pyrenees (first edition): September 1 to 7, 2013

This year’s Haute Route, the second edition through the Alps, takes the around 600 cyclists from Genève to Nice. Over seven days, the riders will cover 19 of cycling’s famous cols, 21,000 metres of climbing, including the Alpe d’Huez twice. A Cycling Tips delegate (Gregor Brown) will ride along this year as part of Two Wheel Tour’s nine-man team.

Read more on Haute Route’s website or check out a video of last year’s ride.

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