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by Shane Stokes
April 16, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
One day after a date was announced for Roman Kreuziger’s hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, his Tinkoff Saxo team has confirmed that he will continue racing in the meantime and will next compete in the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.
The Czech rider will be joined by Michael Valgren as leaders on the squad for the Dutch event.
“We are going to Amstel with a good lineup,” said directeur sportif Sean Yates. “We aim to be active, show the team colours and initiate our race strategy and then we’ll see how it materializes during the race, where you constantly have to be on your toes.
“We have Kreuziger, who is a previous winner, however he’s primarily targeting Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But the guy I actually think the race suits the most is Michael Valgren. So it will be a big occasion for him to step up.”
The duo will be joined by Manuele Boaro, Ivan Rovny, Jesper Hansen, Evgeny Petrov, Robert Kiserlovski and Chris Anker Sørensen.
A victory by Kreuziger in either the Amstel Gold Race or Liège-Bastogne-Liège would be controversial. The 2013 Amstel Gold Race winner came under scrutiny when it emerged last June that his biological passport showed indications of possible doping.
While he was later cleared by the Czech Olympic Committee after a hearing last August 20, the UCI and WADA were both unhappy with that outcome and launched appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Kreuziger’s questioned data runs from March 2011 until August 2011 and from April 2012 until the end of the 2012 Giro d’Italia. He was part of the Astana team at the time, but subsequently moved to Tinkoff Saxo.
He insists upon his innocence, something the UCI and WADA clearly don’t accept.
Last month Kreuziger said he wanted a quick decision. “I would like to believe that no one has an interest in the hearing clashing with the compulsory tests before the Giro d’Italia, which take place on 7th May.”
However that wish didn’t materialise and his hearing will now occur on June 10.
He could in theory ride the Giro d’Italia, which ends nine days before that hearing, although it remains to be seen if the race organiser would protest, given the uncertainty surrounding him.
Either way, it’s clear that he will ride the Amstel Gold Race. Yates believes they could be successful.
“We will naturally be ready for a move like when Roman won in 2013, but the decisive moment is the last time up Cauberg, where Valgren has the capacity to go hard for a short while,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about in Amstel, combined with a constant awareness of positioning in the pack.
“For Valgren, maybe this year’s is a bit too early against the likes of Rodriguez and Gilbert but he has power and he will receive support from the rest of the guys, who will make sure that him and Roman conserve as much energy as possible,” adds Sean Yates.
Danish road race champion Valgren has took the under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège twice in 2012 and 2013.
He said that he was looking forward to the Amstel Gold, having found it ‘very cool’ when he competed in it twelve months ago.
“I think I can do a good result if I hit the day and I have a role on the team where I can try. Then I just hope that the legs are where they should be. Amstel suits me well, as I might have to drop a few kilos to be really competitive on the longer climbs of Liége. However, in Amstel you don’t get a single chance to relax and it can even be a fight to get something to eat.”
He knows that the latter is crucial to success, saying that without refuelling the necessary energy will run out before the finish.
Also see: Kreuziger’s public defence raises further questions about doping case