Tuesday 3 April 2012

News Digest 03.04.12

Tour of the Basque Country - Top blood-doping expert quits in "muzzling" row - Contador will not appeal CAS decision, attacks anti-doping movement - Fabs back at the end of May - Vos will race in Energiwacht Tour

Stage 2 (click to enlarge)
(image credit: Diario Vasco)
Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco Stage 2
“I didn’t come into today’s stage expecting to win. We were riding for Allan. When I found myself with the gap, I decided to take it. The boys worked so well early in the race and held it all together in the sprint. It’s a massive victory -definitely the biggest moment in my career.” (Daryl Impey)
Today brought us Stage 2 of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, better known in Britain as the Tour of the Basque Country - and it was a tough, hilly 165.7 km ride from Güeñes to Vitoria-Gasteiz. Stage 1's selection of mountains (five Cat 3s, one Cat 2 and 1) looked harder than today's 5 Cat 3s and single Cat 2; but today's were higher with the race reaching 810m at the Alto de Zaldiaran, which was climbed twice. (Steephill map here)

It was a very different sort of parcours, however, and not least because of the cold and rain that persisted through most of the day. Whereas the last of the climbs were over and done with plenty of flat terrain running up to the finish line yesterday, the peloton reached Zaldiaran's summit for the second time with only 9.3km to go today; then faced a long descent before the last very short flat section. That made it difficult for teams to arrange themselves into lead-out formations in an effort to get their sprinters into position. As expected, the earlier part of the stage was dominated by a break - Jérôme Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat) and Mads Christensen (SaxoBank) were off up the road after just 7km. A couple more riders joined them 25km later and the merry band worked well together to build a lead of seven minutes before that last Zaldiaran climb proved too much and they fell back into the peloton like spent fireworks.

Daryl Impey
(image credit: darylimpey.com)
Wesley Sulzberger (GreenEdge), Alexsandr Dyachenko (Astana)  Dominique Nerz (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Edvard Vorganov (Katusha) were the next to go, taking their chances on the climb and reaching the summit first. It wasn't long until the peloton followed them onto the last descent and, shortly afterwards, caught all of them except for Nerz who managed to stay out for a little longer until Astana brought him to heel - unfortunately, in doing so they used up too much of their own energy and rapidly began to show signs suggesting they were out of contention for this one. As the 1km to go point approached GreenEDGE took over the reins in a movement that is rapidy becoming as familiar as it is effective, keeping the pack in check as their man Daryl Impey leaped away to line, closely followed by team mate Allen Davis for second place by no more than two bike lengths. Sky's Davide Appollonio led the pack and took third; the next 94 riders crossing in quick sucession and all taking the same time as Impey.

  1.  Daryl Impey GreenEdge 04:10:07
  2.  Allan Davis GreenEdge ST
  3.  Davide Appollonio Sky ST
  4.  Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil Movistar ST
  5.  Michael Matthews Rabobank ST
  6.  Daniele Ratto Liquigas-Cannondale ST
  7.  Francesco Gavazzi Astana ST
  8.  Fabian Wegmann Garmin-Barracuda ST
  9.  Gianni Meersman Lotto-Belisol   ST
  10.  Daniele Pietropolli Lampre-ISD ST 

The full results are here. Best British rider was Sky's Luke Rowe in 115th. Cyclopunk's two top tips for today? Ah, well... Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was 15th, Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) was 155th.

The Basque EITB TV station is covering the race and will provide a legal, free online stream each day from 14:15 BST.

Tour of the Basque Country: 1 (video) / 2 (video) / 3 (video) / 4 (video) / 5 (video) / 6

Doctor quits anti-doping body in "muzzling" row
Dr. Michael Ashenden, who is considered to be one of the world's top experts on blood doping, has declined to take up his new position with the Athlete Passport Management Unit, a new body that will take over much of the responsibility for anti-dope tests from the UCI and International Association of Athletics Federations, saying that new contracts issued to panel members - which include tight confidentiality clauses - are an attempt by the APMU to "manage the message."

"It seems to me that too much emphasis is being placed on controlling what the media are told. There should be nothing to hide, so why stop the experts from talking?" Dr. Ashenden told the BBC. "We constantly struggle to overcome their omerta, their refusal to tell us what is happening in their sport. We want them to blow the whistle on their colleagues. And yet here Lausanne is imposing its own omerta."

Dr. Ashenden acted as expert witness in the trials of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, and has been a vocal critic of biological passports after discovering the system can be cheated by microdosing. The new clause demands that panel members must seek permission from the APMU whilst representing them and for a period of seven years after stepping down, effectively giving the Unit the power to silence members as and when they choose - which would allow them to prevent a member from voicing his or her concerns. "I believe it's important media have the opportunity to ask hard questions. Unless they're well informed about how the passport operates, they won't know which questions to ask," he says. (More from the BBC) (NYVelocity have a must-read interview with Dr. Ashenden here)

Contador will not appeal
Alberto Contador has confirmed he will not appeal the CAS decision to uphold the two-year ban he received following a long-running doping case. The announcement comes as a surprise since an appeal was widely expected, especially in the wake of a Belgian Court of Appeal judgement that ruled the UCI had acted unfairly in banning Iljo Keisse under broadly similar circumstances and ordered cycling's governing body to pay the Belgian rider €100,000.

Contador had stated previously that he might appeal in the Swiss courts. However, talking to the Spanish El Mundo newspaper, he said that his legal team see little point. "I have lost confidence in the sports courts. I have not doped and I am punished," he added, also complaining that the anti-doping movement has become "a business... a source of revenue for laboratories, TAS, lawyers, researchers, doctors, cheats."

Other News
Fabian Cancellara, who suffered a quadruple fracture of the collarbone at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Fabs is not a man who does things by halves), plans a return to competition by the end of May. Fans have been treated to some absolutely top quality Fabianese since the crash, which has been blamed on discarded bidons...
Fabian cancellara ‏ @f_cancellara
The rumours are were i have touch it the ground on the feedzone in the #rondevanflanderen they must make new asphalt,there is a big hohle

 (More on Fabian and his upcoming press conference at Cycling News)

Rabobank's Marianne Vos is reported to have recovered from the 'flu that kept her away from the Ronde van Vlaanderen, leaving her free to race in the Energiwacht Tour which begins on Wednesday. Rabobank annonunced the good news on Twitter...

Rabosport Wielrennen ‏ @rabowielrennen
Marianne Vos is hersteld van griep. Start woensdag in Energiewacht Tour. Selectie: Vos, Slappendel, Van Vleuten, Düster, Kitchen, Antoshina. (Trans: Marianne Vos has recovered from flu. Starting Wednesday Energiewacht Tour. Selection: Vos, Slappendel, Van Vleuten, Duster, Kitchen, Antoshina.)

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