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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for August 1, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Riders excited about racing in the Big Apple

American style criterium racing takes over Lower Manhattan

By Mark Zalewski in New York

2003 winner Marty Nothstein (Navigators)
Photo ©: Jon Devich

Criterium racing in Europe is what celebrity golf is in America. But in the fast-paced, fast-food, instant gratification culture of the U.S., criterium racing is king. Referred to as "NASCAR on bikes," this short and technical style of racing fits well with American fans used to seeing sports presented on a field or court, and is usually the only way a promoter can get streets closed to hold a race. Heaven forbid if a soccer mom has to drive her land yacht three blocks more to get around a four cornered criterium course in suburbia! More and more, local races are forced to hold their races in parking lots of office parks.

So imagine what it takes to shut down a 1.2 mile course in the heart of New York City. For the third year in a row, the Pro Cycling Tour has been able to do just that, presenting the BMC Software New York City Cycling Championship. With crowds estimated at over 100,000, it's easy to see why defending champion Marty Nothstein (Navigators Insurance) calls this the 'Super Bowl' of American criterium racing.

"The venue is tough to describe - it's awesome," said Nothstein. "If you could pick a criterium anywhere in the world, you'd want it here in NYC. With the skyscrapers around you and the fans are just fanatical about it - it's electrifying to race down there. To me, it's like the super bowl of criterium racing in the world. Every American who's raced it knows that, and that is why I am here - it's a prestigious one to win!"

Most of the top American riders, along with a contingent of European racers, will contend for a $40,000 prize purse. And back after a one-year hiatus is a pro women's category, along with defending champion Sarah Uhl (Quark). Also on the schedule is a junior race, men's elite amateur race and the infamous BMC Bike Messenger Challenge, featuring some of the toughest bike messengers in the world. Squid, of last year's winning team, had some advice for the professional racers.

"Me and my team went down and rode the course beforehand, because New York is famous for its pot holes. Once you figure out where the pot holes are on the course you can avoid them or push another team into them!" But without missing a beat, a spokesman for the Mayor of New York chimed in, "The course was resurfaced, so you will see NO potholes!" (laughs) This reflects the excitement of the city to host a race like this, especially as it bids for the 2012 Olympics.

Favourites for the Pro Men's race include defending champion Nothstein, current USPRO Champion and winner in Trenton, Fast Freddy Rodriguez (Acqua e Sapone), Philadelphia winner and PCT points co-leader Francisco Ventoso (Suanier-Duval Prodir), Canadian Olympian Gord Fraser (Health Net p/b Maxxis) and former winner Ivan Dominguez (Colavita-Bolla).

Cyclingnews will be covering the race live starting at 12:30 EDT (local time)/9:30 PDT (USA West)/18:30 CEST (Central Europe)/02:30 AEST (Australia East).

Also see:

Pre-race comments from the stars
Full preview
Map
Men's Start List
Women's Start List

Van Petegem returns to fore

Belgian Peter Van Petegem returns to major competition this weekend with his participation in the HEW Cyclassics World Cup race. Van Petegem sat out the Tour de France, preferring to focus on the single day races in the second half of the season, notably the World Cup events and the Olympic Games. Van Petegem trails World Cup leader Davide Rebellin by more than 100 points, but remains a contender for the second half of the series.

"I feel pretty good on the bike," Van Petegem told La Dernière Heure. "We'll have to see how I can handle the distance, even if I have trained for it."

The outcome may change slightly this year as organisers of the HEW Cyclassics have redesigned the parcours to include five trips up the Waseberg climb, four of which come in the finishing circuits. Van Petegem's explosive power could keep him in contention as the pure sprinters struggle on the short but steep rise.

"The HEW Cyclassics almost always turns out the same way," he explained. "On the Waseberg eight to ten riders tend to get away from the peloton in the final phase of the race. It's a matter of staying attentive in the front of the group and not getting caught out."

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the HEW Cyclassics live from start to finish. Coverage starts at 14:30 CEST (Europe)/10:30 EDT (USA East)/7:30 PDT (USA West)/22:30 AEST (Australia East).

Also see:

Full preview
Map
Start List

hGH tests questioned

The long awaited drug test for human growth hormone still requires "full scientific validation" if it is to be used effectively at the upcoming Athens Olympics, some experts have said. Earlier this week, it was reported that the hGH test, which was developed in England with collaboration from several laboratories around the world, would be introduced at the Olympics, heralding a new weapon in the fight against drugs in sport. The test has an effectiveness of 84 days and is based on measuring biochemical changes in the body after the drug is injected.

The question remains, however, whether the test is good enough to stand up to a legal challenge if an athlete contested a positive result in court. Australian Professor Rob Baxter, of the Kolling Institute at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital which has been involved in the development of the hGH test, said that he was unsure of whether the biochemical changes could be directly attributed to injecting the drug.

"What we don't know is whether the changes that we see in response to hGH are so unique and so statistically valid that they would stand up in a court of law," he told ABC Science Online. "You could almost certainly detect someone who had been taking hGH but whether you could provide evidence that would allow them to be convicted legally is another matter."

Baxter added that sports drug testing had to have more stringent standards than the diagnosis of disease, to ward off the potential of an expensive legal challenge from "extremely clever lawyers and extremely highly paid athletes who will spend any amount of money to stay in the game...you might need a 99.9% level of certainty just to convict somebody," he said, but added that, "Tests are well along the way to development and it's highly likely that stored blood samples taken during competition will be able to be tested within weeks to months of the Games."

The much discussed option of freezing blood samples and retrospectively testing them once there is a test in place has also not been validated.

McEwen signs for two years

Robbie McEwen has signed a contract for two years to ride with the new Omega Pharma-Lotto team, which will be part of the Pro Tour. The Australian sprinter confirmed this to Cyclingnews today, adding that "Apart from signing the contract I had a very positive discussion with Marc Coucke [CEO of Omega Pharma] and look forward to being a part of Omega Pharma-Lotto."

McEwen expects that Nick Gates, Henk Vogels and Aart Vierhouten will sign contracts in the coming week, and "hopefully [Thierry] Marichal can also get a place."

He added that "none of the above mentioned are 'taking' anyone's 'spot' in the team, as has been suggested by riders without a contract. These riders are to join me next season for the simple fact that they do their job well. I'm in this position now of team leader, jointly of course, because I know what works for me and who works for me."

Omega Pharma-Lotto also hopes to sign Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) and Björn Leukemans (MrBookmaker.com-Palmans) next week.

Popovych still negotiating

Although Belgian sources reported earlier this week that Yaroslav Popovych is "as good as certain" to join the new Discovery Channel team, the Ukrainian is apparently keeping his options open for next season. His contract with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago comes to an end this year, and his management said that he is "still desired by many sporting groups of the highest category."

As far as Discovery Channel is concerned, Popovych's management stated that, "The probable transfer of Popovych to the side of Lance Armstrong is neither denied nor confirmed," adding that negotiations with the team are "advanced".

Return of Rumsas

After a one year suspension for a positive test for EPO, Lithuanian Raimondas Rumsas will return to the peloton in the colours of the Italian Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo team.

Before his positive dope test, Rumsas was already the subject of great controversy after his wife Edita was arrested by French customs officers on the final day of the 2002 Tour de France. As Raimondas climbed to the third step of the final Tour podium that year, Edita was found with a number of banned substances in her car, which she denied were from her husband. She was held in custody for more than two months before eventually being released.

Piil out of Olympics

Team CSC has reported that Jakob Piil will be unable to represent Denmark at the Olympic Games road race in Athens due to his injured knee. Piil will be replaced by another CSC man, Nicki Sørensen, with teammates Lars Michaelsen and Frank Høj, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) and Bo Hamburger (Acqua & Sapone) rounding out the team.

"It's really bad," Piil said on the team's website (team-csc.com). "I sustained the knee injury in the spring season, so I had to focus on the Tour de France, Tour of Denmark and the Olympics. But then I reinjured my knee and had to abandon the Tour, withdraw from the Olympics and I'll likely miss the Tour of Denmark as well."

Dajka leaves Germany

Australian sprinter Jobie Dajka will be leaving the Olympic Team's training camp in Buttgen, Germany "as soon as possible," according to a statement from Cycling Australia. "This decision of Cycling Australia is consistent with our policy," said Cycling Australia's CEO Graham Fredericks. "That policy is that athletes not nominated or endorsed for the Olympic Team do not stay in residence at the pre-Olympic training camp.

"This is why Ben Kersten did not travel to Germany prior to his nomination and why Sean Eadie left the Rockhampton camp when his nomination was withdrawn (Eadie has since been reinstated and endorsed by the AOC, and Kersten has now been endorsed by the AOC)."

Dajka is appealing his omission from the Olympic team to the Australian Olympic Committee at the moment. He also faces a disciplinary hearing convened by Cycling Australia and a separate action by the Australian Sports Commission over his involvement in the "French affair", where he recently admitted to self injecting in French's room after having denied it in front of two inquiries into the affair.

Stagiaire contract for Weylandt

Up and coming Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt has earned himself a stagiaire contract with Quick.Step-Davitamon, beginning September 1. Weylandt will ride the GP Rik Van Steenbergen and GP Jef Scherens with the team. In addition, Weylandt's current team Bikeland Bornem could become a feeder team for Patrick Lefevere's Quick.Step-Davitamon squad when the Pro Tour starts next year.

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