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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Anti-doping’s state of play examined; Team Sky doctor hearing adjourned indefinitely; Adam Yates to Tour de France; Pinot talks of Preidler’s ‘treason’; Strade Bianche startlist taking shape. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Anti-doping’s state of play
Cycling was rocked this week by news of a new blood-doping ring, with Austrian cyclists Georg Preidler (Groupama-FDJ) and Stefan Denifl ensnared by an anti-doping investigation that began in Nordic skiing before spreading to other sports. The doctor at the centre of the scandal? Mark Schmidt – a former team doctor for Gerolsteiner and Milram.
The probe is being led by a Munich prosecutor, Kai Gräber, who is head of an office specifically tasked with digging up doping offenses. “We expect that several athletes, including from other sports, can be identified here as well,” Gräber said, noting that the arrests so far are a “drop in the ocean.” Can we expect to see more cyclists named? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it raises an ugly and all-too-familiar spectre.
CyclingTips editor-in-chief Caley Fretz examines the current state of play in anti-doping efforts – where they have succeeded, where they have failed, and how the update of anti-doping laws in certain jurisdictions to make doping a criminal offence are the new front line in cleaning up our sport.
Read the full article here.
Beauty of Cycling
One of our favourite races of the season, Strade Bianche, will be held this weekend. Last year, there was arguably no race that better encapsulated the beauty and suffering of road cycling than the hilly Italian race, held along the dirt roads of Tuscany.
To whet your appetite for the weekend’s racing, check out our photo gallery from the 2018 men’s race here.
Team Sky doctor hearing adjourned indefinitely
The long-awaited hearing related to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman’s delivery of testosterone patches has been adjourned indefinitely.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing, which was set to scrutinise the embattled British doctor’s conduct, was originally scheduled for early February, but was delayed to March. Now, in a private hearing, the case has been pushed back again. In a statement from the MPTS, a spokesperson said “The tribunal hearing case of Dr Freeman has adjourned the case to be considered by a new tribunal at a future date. It will be listed by the MPTS in due course. The tribunal announced its decision today in private session, and a public version will not be made available.”
Owing to the challenges of scheduling a new hearing, this likely means that Freeman will have a reprieve until later this year, or potentially even into 2020.
Damian Collins – the British MP who chaired last year’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee’s investigation into doping, which was scathing of Team Sky and British Cycling – has expressed frustration at the latest delay, suggesting that it pointed towards a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth.
“We should be concerned that there is a concerted effort to make sure that Dr Freeman never has to give evidence, and we should rightly question why that might be the case,” Collins said.
Team Sky – who are on the hunt for a new sponsor, and are no doubt relieved to dodge scrutiny at this sensitive time – offered no comment.
Adam Yates to target Tour de France
Following news last week that twin brother Simon will head to the Giro d’Italia this year, Adam Yates has outlined his Grand Tour goals for 2019, centred around a pitch for the podium at the Tour.
Yates came in fourth overall in 2016, claiming the white jersey of best young rider in the process, but was unable to reach those heights again last year, finishing 29th overall.
“I’m super excited to go back to the Tour this year. Last year we made some mistakes that cost us and it was a big disappointment, so it’ll be good to go back and rectify that,” Yates said in a Mitchelton-Scott statement. “Obviously 2016 was a highlight for me personally, riding almost two weeks in the white jersey and eventually finishing fourth on general classification was an amazing experience and confirmed to myself that I can ride at the highest level for three weeks.”
The team’s sport director, Matt White, believes the climb-heavy route of the Tour this year will play to his rider’s strengths. “It is an interesting course with limited time trial kilometres and some very high passes, which [we] have not been seen before in the Tour de France,” White said.
“Adam … had a very solid Giro in 2017 (ed. he finished ninth overall) and even though last year didn’t go as we had planned, we are heading back this year with ambitions of Adam challenging for a spot on the podium come July.”
Yates’ build to the Tour will continue this month, lining up for Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya.
Pinot rattled by ‘high treason’ of Preidler
In a raw interview with l’Equipe, Thibaut Pinot has spoken about his reaction to the news that Groupama-FDJ teammate Georg Preidler has confessed to blood extraction, labelling it an act of “high treason”.
“I can’t digest it, I’m trying to understand. Yesterday I wasn’t able to train. This morning, I went and did two hours on the bike, but I didn’t think about anything other than that because I have so many questions with no answers. It’s running around my head,” Pinot told l’Equipe.
“I didn’t expect that at all, especially coming from a guy like that. It was really difficult. I even shed a tear, because for me, it was high treason.”
Preidler – who was brought to Groupama-FDJ to serve as one of Pinot’s key climbing domestiques – raced alongside Pinot at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana last year, and helped him to a win at last week’s Tour du Haut Var. The two weren’t just team-mates, but became friends as well.
“I think everything hasn’t come out yet and maybe one day he’ll write to me, but, well, I’ve been betrayed. I also think about this poor boy who’s screwed up his life. He had everything to succeed. He was in a healthy team, he was surrounded by good people,” said Pinot. “He wasn’t looking for glory or money, he just wanted to help me.”
“In cycling, I’m not just looking for performance, it’s also about the bonds of friendship. This goes beyond cycling, it’s the betrayal of a friend. When that happens to a guy you don’t know, you tell yourself that it’s good enough for him. But this is something else.”
Guarnier to return to racing with Tibco-SVB
Megan Guarnier, one of the most acclaimed racers of her era, has been lured out of retirement by a role as mentor at US team Tibco-SVB. Guarnier – whose considerable palmares includes stage race wins at the Giro Rosa, Tour of California and the Tour de Yorkshire, as well as Strade Bianche and the overall title at the Women’s WorldTour – spent five years with the Boels-Dolmans squad before retiring in 2018 to spend more time with her family. However, an offer from Tibco-SVB owner Linda Jackson has enticed Guarnier back.
“Spending so much time away from my family was very difficult over the past few years when I was racing full time in Europe,” Guarnier told CyclingNews. “Linda and Team Tibco provided me an opportunity to continue within the sport in a role where I will not have to spend so much time away from home while still being able to pursue my passion.”
Team Tibco – the longest running US women’s professional team – will benefit from Guarnier’s considerable experience at races in North America and mentoring of younger riders. “”I hope to contribute to the team’s success through mentoring on and off the bike, and provide tactical insight in races to help each rider continue to achieve their goals and develop their strengths,” Guarnier said.
Strade Bianche startlist taking shape
One of the more loved one day races of the year, Strade Bianche, takes place this weekend, and the startlist is starting to take shape. To briefly summarise some of the notable riders heading there:
-Greg van Avermaet will lead CCC, heading back for his eighth attempt at the race with aspirations to win.
-Deceuninck-Quickstep has a predictably strong squad lining up. It will be led by Julian Alaphilippe, who’s making his Strade Bianche debut, and Zdenek Stybar – winner of last week’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and 2015 Strade Bianche champ.
-Mitchelton-Scott is sending Luke Durbridge and Christopher Juul-Jensen to the race as co-leaders. Both have finished in the top-10 previously.
-Defending champion Tiesj Benoot’s participation was in doubt, following a heavy crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on the weekend. However, the Lotto-Soudal rider has recovered sufficiently to allow him to race.
-Astana are sending a strong squad, led by Jakob Fuglsang and recent Tour of Oman winner Alexey Lutsenko. Fuglsang’s strong mountain biking pedigree may prove a powerful advantage as he seeks to better his 11th place of 2016 – his only prior participation at Strade Bianche.
-Bora-hansgrohe are resting Peter Sagan, opting to send him to Tirreno-Adriatico instead as his lead-up to Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Their experienced team in Tuscany will include Daniel Oss, Oscar Gatto (a ten-time participant with three top-10 finishes), and Maciej Bodnar.
Valverde to miss Strade Bianche, Milan San Remo
World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will be sitting out this weekend’s Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, having become ill after the UAE Tour.
Valverde’s revised schedule will see him returning to race at the Volta a Catalunya, where he’ll hope to build form in preparation for a tilt at Tour of Flanders.
“One of the most important races for me is the Tour of Flanders,” Valverde told Marca at the UAE Tour. “I would love to win it, it’s a beautiful race. I’ve always been excited about it but I thought it was out of my reach. I know it’ll be very difficult to win it and especially at my age but I’m going to try. It’s my penultimate great challenge, although it may be too late.”
The other ‘great challenge’ Valverde is targeting: Olympic gold at Tokyo.
Tweet of the day
Given Deceuninck-QuickStep’s seemingly unstoppable run of race results – most recently capped by Florian Senechal’s debut pro win – this seems particularly apt…
“If I don’t show up for these pro races, there are no other black women in them. I’m going to keep showing up.”
A powerful video about Ayesha McGowan, who has ambitions to be the first African-American professional cyclist.
Rapha joins the custom clothing market
Rapha has dabbled with a few custom kits and collaborations over the years, but public access to such a service was never available. That changes with Rapha’s newest product, simply named Custom. With minimum orders starting from five pieces, and the best online design tool we’ve seen yet, the British company is clearly making a big push into the custom kits market.
“We believe there is massive potential to grow the Custom market by making the design process easier and more accessible,” said a representative for Rapha.
Read the full story from tech writer Dave Rome here.
Happy Birthday to …
Servais Knaven (48), winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2001.
Nelson Oliveira (30), four time Portuguese national time trial champion and 2015 Vuelta a Espana stage winner.
Tomas Marczynski (35). The Polish veteran is best known for his two Vuelta stage wins in 2017, and is a three time national champion in the road race.
In case you missed it …
Feature Image: Gravel cycling paradise in Kyrgyzstan through the lens of our photographer, Tim Bardsley-Smith. See our feature ‘The price of progress: Riding the Silk Road before it changes forever’.