January 26, 2005
DJ Mellow Johnny spinning the hits Sunday nights
Lance Armstrong joins Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, Bode Miller, Johnny Moseley and others who host shows on the Sirius satellite radio network.
Armstrong's "Live Strong Radio" airs at 9 pm Eastern on Channel 28, Radio Faction (to the Extreme!). Looks like Armstrong will follow the channel's model, telling stories, chatting with guests, and playing music.
January 24, 2005
CSC unveils 2005 squad
Team CSC also had its official unveiling on Monday, with a decidedly American accent to the new introductions. Joining Bobby Julich will be Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde, who is likely to make sure all his papers are in order.
They'll join Ivan Basso, Jens Voigt, Carlos Sastre, and Jakob Piil on what was probably the most aggressive squad at last year's Tour, placing Basso 3rd overall. Basso said Monday that the Giro is the initial goal of his season.
Arveson, Guidi, Peron and Luttenberger also return, but Jorg Jaksche is now with Liberty Seguros, and Michele Bartoli has retired.
Millar awaits results of drug suspension appeal
David Millar made his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport today, arguing that he should have been suspended for 1 year, rather than 2, and that his suspension should have started the day he confessed rather than the date of his disciplinary hearing.
Millar claimed that new rules adopted only 1 week after his hearing should be retroactively applied in his case, which could put Millar back in the sport as soon as this summer.
If the panel agrees only to date Millar's suspension from the date of his confession, Millar would be able to return to racing just in time for the 2006 Tour de France, expected to kick off in London.
The panel's decision is expected in 2 to 4 weeks.
Armstrong to go for the hour record?
Lance Armstrong has mentioned several times that he might go for the world hour record. John Markoff, the business/technical reporter for the New York Times, covers some of the early planning of Armstrong's corporate team and coaches.
One of the interesting problems is exactly which hour record to pursue. In the early '90s, there was renewed interest in the record, as Graeme Obree used his Superman position and Chris Boardman a more conventional full-aero bike to ratchet the record up to almost 54 kms, a mark smashed in about 2 months by first Miguel Indurain and then Tony Rominger, who clocked a 55.291 km hour in November 1994. Boardman in 1996 broke even Rominger's record by more than a km, clocking a 56.375 km.
Debate stormed, with the traditionalists arguing that all the records since Eddy Merckx (24 years before!) were tainted by advances in bike technology. At about the same time, road rules were updated to forbid the use of different-sized wheels and radical frames, so the "official" record was rolled back to Merckx '72, at 49.431 kms. Boardman's 1996 record was relabeled to "Best Hour Performance." Boardman promptly went out and broke the Merckx record (now also called the "athlete's record") on a "clean" bike (by 10 meters!), so the official record stands at 49.441 kms.
Given the technological bent to many of Armstrong's sponsors, and the public's appetite for big numbers, it seems they would want the biggest record possible, the "Best Hour Performance." But the UCI is unlikely to recognize or promote that record, which might explain why Armstrong's team talks about two attempts, one at sea level and one at altitude: Maybe one would be on a '72-style bike (shooting for 50 kms) and one on the lightest, stiffest, most aero frame ever created, shooting for the Boardman 1996 record.
"I think it would be an amazing spectacle," said Morris Denton, an executive for Advanced Micro Devices, one of Mr. Armstrong's sponsors. "If you look at the crowds Lance draws in the United States and you think about what would happen if you put some kind of marketing effort behind this event, it would be immense."
Ullrich in shape, confident for Tour
Jan Ullrich is said to be in better shape than last year at this time, Andreas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov are still on board, and now they've hired Oscar Sevilla from Phonak and Olaf Pollack from Gerolsteiner, to support Erik Zabel, whose final sprint is starting to grow less fearsome.
Any of Ullrich, Vinokourov or Klöden could be back on the podium this year, and manager Olaf Ludwig says that focuses the team on one goal:
"When we've got three cyclists aiming for a top-three finish there's only one objective - and that's to win the Tour."
Ullrich himself says his prospects are improving daily:
"The Tour is the race I want to win," said the T-Mobile rider, who has finished runner-up five times but could only manage fourth in 2004's event.
"I'm in training to be the best in the world and I want to once again prove something to myself."
During T-Mobile's official team presentation today, the company announced that it will extend its sponsorship by two years, through 2008.
January 23, 2005
Armstrong osteopath: no trace of doping
Lance Armstrong's osteopath told a doping inquiry he's never seen any sign of injections "or other doping practices" when examining or treating the 6-time Tour de France winner.
Agence France-Presse says Benoit Nave has treated Armstrong since 2002, and testified before the inquiry investigating allegations from the 2004 book "LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong." Separately, Armstrong is suing the book's authors for defamation.
The osteopath told AFP: "I have seen Armstrong undressed because of his sessions with me. I have never seen any trace of doping practices or injections on his body. People are out to get him and I have evidence to counter all that."
January 22, 2005
McEwen takes 3rd stage, Sanchez the crown down under
Robbie McEwen continued his red-hot early season, with his third sprint win in the 6-stage Tour Down Under Sunday. Luis Sanchez, 21, of Liberty Seguros took a major step up to win the overall tour, as well as the Under-23 category.
The final stage decided the race's King of the Mountains, won by Australia's Gene Bates, and of course, McEwen took the sprinter's jersey.
Italy's Paride Grillo of Panaria was 2nd to McEwen on Sunday, with Allan Davis of Liberty Seguros 3rd on the day.
2005 Giro route announced
The route for this year's Giro d'Italia was unveiled on Saturday.
Of note is the "prologue" May 7th: It's 1.15 km long. That's not a misprint -- the Giro will kick off with every rider giving his all for 2 minutes.
Last year's winner Damiano Cunego, whose Saeco team has morphed into Lampre-Caffitta, told Yahoo! Sport he thinks the profile is well-suited to a title defense:
"I can only say that on paper I like this Giro, but I will need to go and have a look at it to get a better idea," said the 23-year-old. "It seems to me like the tour will suit the climbers, but we'll see."
There are 5 big climber's stages, 2 ITTs (plus the prologue), and 10 sprinter-friendly stages already marked on Alessandro Petacchi's calendar.
Over at Cyclingnews, Tim Maloney tips a battle between Cunego and CSC's Ivan Basso, who hasn't ridden the Giro in 5 years. Maloney gives longer odds on Stefano Garzelli, or Discovery's Paolo Savoldelli, nursing a broken collarbone.
Sanchez pads lead at Tour Down Under
Liberty Seguros took the top four places in Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under Saturday. The stage win went to Alberto Contador, coming back from brain surgery late last season.
Race leader Luis Sanchez was second, followed by teammates Allan Davis (at 22 seconds) and Javier Ramirez (at 25 seconds), who was accompanied by two-time Tour Down Under winner Stuart O'Grady of Cofidis and United Water's David McPartland.
Sanchez now leads his teammate Allan Davis by 35 seconds, and O'Grady by 47 seconds, with one stage to ride, 81 kms on a 4.5-km circuit through the streets of Adelaide on Sunday.
Former rider Laurent Roux busted in 'Belgian Pot' ring
Can't beat Eurosport's lead graf:
A French court announced Saturday that six people -- including former French pro Laurent Roux -- have been arrested for their involvement in a drug trafficking ring specialising in 'pot belge,' an insidious mix of heroine, cocaine and amphetamines.
Roux is the only rider or former rider implicated, but police are questioning nine others, and have charged 5 others, with trafficking doping products.
There's very little on the English-speaking web on the effects of 'Belgian Pot', but many, many stories in other languages.
January 21, 2005
Millar appeals seeking eligibility for 2006 Tour
When David Millar was caught doping last year, he was immediately suspended (starting June 24th), but wasn't banned until a hearing that took place August 6th. On Monday, Millar will appear before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, asking that his 2-year suspension date from June 24th, rather than August 6th.
Complicating the appeal a bit is that the World Anti-Doping Agency changed its rules in mid-August 2004, so that suspensions from that date forward are measured from the date of confession, instead of the date of the hearing, as they had previously been.
If his appeal is accepted, Millar could return to the peloton in time for the 2006 Tour de France.
Quoth The Scotsman:
Millar has been keeping a low profile since news of his appeal emerged in September. Though plans to go to university in Manchester were abandoned, he has moved back to the UK from Biarritz, and is currently living in London. He was a spectator at the recent World Cup track meeting in Manchester, and is said to be keeping fit - he even contested a 10km run in London in late November. But he has refused to discuss his appeal, and has similarly elected to draw a veil of silence over his plans for the future - perhaps until he knows when he would be permitted to race again.
Lance: I'll cooperate with doping probe
Lance Armstrong said he would cooperate with French magistrates investigating doping allegations raised in last year's book "LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong."
"I will make myself available anytime and anywhere to meet with the investigators," said Armstrong.
"I do not use - and have never used - performance-enhancing drugs."
Armstrong said he was "disappointed" the judge had launched the investigation without interviewing him.
January 20, 2005
Sanchez in lead down under
Luis Sanchez of Liberty Seguros went on a 20-kilometer flyer with Belgium's Johan van Summeren, and took Thursday's stage and the overall leader's jersey at the Tour Down Under.
Liberty Seguros manager Marino Lejarreta, winner of the 1982 Vuelta a España, hailed Sanchez as a rising star of world cycling.
"He is one of the best talents in Spain," Lejarreta said. "It's only his second year, but even in his first year as a professional he did things that showed he has amazing class and potential.
"Like Miguel, he still has to improve his climbing, but it is early in his career. You could say they are twins in some ways."
Stuart O'Grady, who rode near the front all day, was outnumbered by a group of Sanchez' Liberty Seguros teammates, who covered O'Grady every time he tried to make a move.
"I was pretty marked there at the end," he said. "I had quite a few goes with young Gene Bates to get away, but constantly had two or three Liberty guys on the back wheel. It makes it a bit hard."
Robbie McEwen, who won the tour's first two stages, was among about half the field that lost more than a half-hour on the day.
The Quickstep team had to "run laps" today; after every team rider (including Aussie Michael Rogers) missed a key breakaway, the team had to do 100 extra kms as punishment.
Petacchi to skip Tour, focus on Vuelta and World's
The world's fastest closer will skip the Tour de France this year.
Alessandro Petacchi, who won 4 stages of the 2003 Tour but faltered in 2004, will instead focus on winning the biggest one-day race in the world, the road World Championship, this year in Madrid. Petacchi will also race (but probably not finish) the Vuelta a España, which finishes one week before Worlds.
Petacchi, who set a record last year with 9 (!!!) stage wins at the Giro d'Italia, will also contest the Italian grand tour in May.
O'Reilly drug claims launch Armstrong doping inquiry in France
Allegations made by Lance Armstrong's former masseuse, Emma O'Reilly, in last year's L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong have led French narcotics police to start an inquiry into the 6-time Tour de France champion.
A story in Thursday's editions of Le Parisien (I can't find the referenced story online) claims that O'Reilly was flown in from Liverpool to testify to French officials.
Eurosport, quoting the newspaper, also has a quote from a "mystery doctor" based in Annecy:
...yes, I worked with Lance, but I'm sworn by patient confidentiality. The only thing I can say is that I've never met anyone as professional as him. Everything he does, he does infinitely better than his opponents.
Magistrates in Annecy, conducting the investigation, stressed that it's far too early in the investigation to draw any conclusions one way or the other.
January 18, 2005
Aussies 1-2-3 Down Under
Robbie McEwen is off to a screaming start this year, taking the Australian national championship, and now the first stage of the Tour Down Under.
McEwen outsprinted Allan Davis of Liberty Seguros and Stuart O'Grady of Cofidis.
VeloNews | McEwen wins Tour Down Under opener (with Graham Watson photos):
With the new format of the race, McEwen gained a six-second time bonus for his win, and leads Davis by 2 seconds in the overall classification.
And while his early-season form has been without peer, McEwen said he was not about to predict an overall victory with five days and 669km still to race.
"I'll try, but if it doesn't work, then at least I've had a good start. I've got the national jersey, I've led the tour, won a stage, so the pressure's off us, and we can race the rest of this race and the rest of the season relaxed."
Phonak, AG2R to round out Tour?
CyclingNews.com quotes this story (in French) from VeloMania.net suggesting Tour boss Jean-Marie LeBlanc is leaning toward 21 teams in the 2005 Tour, and that AG2R and Phonak will get the provisional slots when they're announced sometime before January 31.
If that comes to pass, it will be interesting to see how Phonak's season shakes out: You can't just dump Santiago Perez and Tyler Hamilton with no ill effects. It would also appear that Floyd Landis would be well-placed to take the team lead in the Tour. On a related note, PezCycling has a report from Phonak's training camp in Mallorca.
January 17, 2005
O'Grady, Simoni headline Tour Down under
The Tour Down Under kicks off tomorrow, with six stages through South Australia.
Among Tour-level riders, Aussies Stuart O'Grady, Cadel Evans, and newly crowned Aussie champion Robbie McEwen (and newly dethroned Aussie champion Matthew Wilson, for that matter) will be racing close to home, while Gilberto Simoni headlines the visiting cast.
Given the time difference, racing should be kicking off in just a few hours.
Savoldelli breaks collarbone during early-season Discovery training
VeloNews reports that Paolo Savoldelli broke his collarbone in three places on a training ride on Saturday.
Savoldelli, 31 and new to the Discovery Team, missed most of 2003, riding with T-Mobile, after a crash during training camp, and most of the 2004 season after a bad crash at the Rund um Köln last April that left him with a broken collarbone, skull fractures, and a broken arm.
Savoldelli's best career result was a win at the 2002 Giro d'Italia.
January 15, 2005
Levi Leipheimer on new team, Discovery rumors
After last year's Tour, rumors all over the place had Levi Leipheimer jumping from Rabobank over to Discovery, becoming a co-leader of the team during one or more of the ProTour grand tours this year.
Instead, he wound up in a similar role at Gerolsteiner, where he and Georg Totschnig will be the team's primary marked men.
VN: You've been twice top-10 in the Tour, does that carry more weight than third at the Vuelta?
LL: No, because I got to stand on the podium, that's something. When you talk about the physical aspects, if you can put apples to apples, maybe eighth place is a bigger achievement. But I still think standing on the podium is a good thing, it outweighs an eighth place.
Part two of the interview has been posted. Leipheimer discusses his jour sans at Plateau de Beille in last year's Tour, and why he thinks he has an honest shot at a Top 5 finish this year.
January 13, 2005
French police investigate Cofidis leaks
French police seized computers during searches at two French newspapers today.
Police are investigating leaks during the probe of the Cofidis team last year, and are "trying to determine whether narcotics investigators had illegally given information about the probe to journalists at Le Point and L'Equipe."
That's going to put a big hole in al-Jazeera sportscasts
Lance Armstrong announced that he'll skip the Tour of Qatar at the end of January.
The race is sponsored by the Amaury Sport Organization, the parent company of the Tour de France.
Armstrong cited a family conflict:
"...[T]he January 31-February 4 race clashes with a week when he is looking after his children from his marriage to now-separated wife Kristin."
This year's Hell of the North will bypass the Arenberg trench, probably the most famous cobbled section in the race, because a section of the road badly deteriorated:
"Organisers have decided not to ride on the 2,400m of the famous Arenberg trench for safety reasons," said a statement from organisers.
"The condition of the road has seriously deteriorated in recent years and a 200m section has collapsed and turned into a pool."
Magnus Backstedt scored probably the biggest win of his career in last year's edition. This year's race is scheduled for April 10.
Adios, Tour of Texas?
The inaugural "United Texas Tour" is being postponed. Organizers say they were "reluctant to seek sponsorship money" while so much is being directed toward tsunami aid, but the tour joins plenty of others that planned big, but never got off the ground.
The race organizers say they were halfway to the $4.5 million required for the race, and will refund existing donations. The race would have been run the second week of September, with 11 stages circumnavigating west Texas.
I'm not-so-secretly pleased, since this will help keep the Tour of Georgia the biggest race on the American schedule. I'm also pleased to see that, so far at least, the threatened Tour of California still doesn't appear on its organizer's schedule.
By the way, over at the Tour de Georgia site, Dave Towle mentions that Tyler Hamilton is putting in time on the fixed gear, which he interprets as "Tyler intends to compete this year." He goes so far as to wish for an "exonerated Hamilton and his Phonak team at the 2005 Tour de Georgia. Call me a dreamer, but I really hope it happens."
Team Discovery: Take it away, Discos...
The Discovery Team had its official unveiling on Monday.
Jan Ullrich says he's sure Armstrong will ride this year's Tour:
"He will want to defend his title. I believe he still targets the Tour - if it wasn't his goal anymore, he'd stop."
Ullrich has one Tour win under his belt - in 1997 when Armstrong did not compete - and would prefer to have the American in the race.
He said: "It would be good for the sport and it would be good for me too.
Armstrong himself vows he'll ride the Tour again, but won't commit to this year:
"The deal is that I will do a Tour, if not more. That could be in 2005 or 2006, but I'm fully committed to doing it."
The cyclingnews.com story on the Discovery unveiling mentions the possibility of Armstrong going for the hour record, which has apparently progressed to Armstrong considering tracks. He mentions two possibilities: resurfacing and covering the Colorado Springs velodrome, or building a one-off facility in "Salt Lake City or somewhere like that."
Administrivia: Welcome to TDFBlog for 2005
I usually roll the site over right on January 1st, but I've had a lot going on, and am, like the pro teams, just kicking off my preseason training.
Expect posting to return almost to normal.