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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Friday, February 27, 2015

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UCI Requests Astana Pro Team License be Withdrawn

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) dropped a not wholly-unexpected bomb on cycling today when it asked that the License Commission withdraw Astana's Pro Team license, basically what makes Astana a WorldTour team. Astana had been the subject of an investigation after three of its riders were involved in doping cases.

Astana had been granted its 2015 Pro Team license with the understanding that the team was subject to an independent review. Included in the UCI's reasons for the request was the results of what's called the Padova investigation, a look into Astana team contact with Michele Ferrari, who is banned by the UCI from cycling after being found to have doped cyclists. It is said Ferrari had contact with Astana riders nonetheless.

The UCI made the request after an audit by the Institute of Sports Sciences of the University of Lasusanne. Astana's WorldTour status gives the squad automatic entry into the the most important races, such as the Giro, Tour and Paris-Roubaix.

Vincenzo Nibali with bernard Hinault

Astana rider Vincenzo Nibali with Bernard Hinault after winning the 2014 Tour de France

If the UCI request is granted, Astana would be relegated to racing third division, Pro Continental, and its riders would be free to find other teams. This also means Astana's guaranteed entry into the Giro and Tour would be lost and the team would need a wild card invitation. I don't see that happening.

Astana, based in Kazakhstan, has a powerful roster, including 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali plus Lars Boom, Luis Leon Sanchez, Lieuwe Westra, Dario Cataldo, Fabio Aru and several other superb racers.

The UCI issued this statement today (Friday, February 2015):

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) today confirms that it has now reviewed the audit produced by the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL) (1) on Astana Pro Team and its anti-doping culture, policies, structures and management systems. The audit was one of the conditions attached to the registration of the team in the 2015 UCI WorldTour.

After careful review of this extensive report, the UCI strongly believes that it contains compelling grounds to refer the matter to the Licence Commission (2) and request the Astana Pro Team licence be withdrawn.

The UCI considers that the ISSUL audit has, among other things, revealed a big difference between the policies and structures that the team presented to the Licence Commission in December and the reality on the ground.

In addition, the Italian authorities have provided the UCI with the sections of the Padova investigation which it has been authorized to share. As some evidence concerns Astana Pro Team members, the file has been passed to the Licence Commission as part of this referral.

For the sake of due process, the UCI is not in a position to comment further on the content of the audit report, nor the Padova investigation, until the Licence Commission has assessed the situation and rendered its decision. But this decision to refer the matter to the Licence Commission was reached taking all circumstances and potential consequences into consideration.

The UCI will not make any further comment until the Licence Commission has rendered its decision.

Background to the ISSUL audit:

The ISSUL audit was one of the conditions attached to the registration of Astana Pro Team in 2015. It was commissioned by the Licence Commission in December 2014 to look into the circumstances of doping cases in Astana Pro Team last year. The ISSUL audit has sought to determine whether and to what extent the Astana Pro Team and/or its management was responsible in doping cases concerning its riders, Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy (EPO), and Ilya Davidenok (anabolic steroids), a trainee with the Astana Pro Team since August 1st, 2014.

The ISSUL was asked to assess the team’s internal structures, culture and management systems to understand whether these are adequate to ensure that the highest ethical standards are upheld.

(1) The Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL), attached to the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences is a centre of excellence in training and research. The ISSUL produces numerous works, published in journals and publishers of reference, dealing with different aspects of sport practice (sociology, physiology, biomechanics etc). The institute often carries out assignments on behalf of national and international organisations.

(2) The Licence Commission is the competent body for issuing, reviewing, withdrawing and attaching conditions to UCI WorldTour licences and ensuring that licence-holders continuously comply with the terms of the licence. It is made up of 4 professionals who work independently of the UCI and its President is Mr. Pierre Zappelli, a former Swiss Court Supreme Judge.

The news stories I posted below are a bit of a departure from what I normally post, but they all involve bikes and I think you'll find them interesting.

Automated Manufacture of Carbon Rims

High-performance riders know a set of carbon rims can represent a substantial investment. A set of wheels can cost from $850 to thousands of dollars.

www.bike-eu.com reports that Velocite Tech, a Taiwanese maker of carbon cycling products, including wheels and frames, will begin producing carbon wheels using a process that should significantly lower their cost.

The system is called "automated continuous filament winding process" and it would replace manual hand lay up of the carbon fiber sheets.

Carbon wheels

Will quality go up and the price down?

Velocite Tech claims that because of the automated lay up process, overall quality will be higher because is removes the human errors that occur in the manual lay up process.

Velocite Tech will show products using the new process will be shown at the Tapei Cycle Show being run March 18-21.

UCI Upset Over E3 Harelbeke Poster

The promoters of the E3 Harelbeke (March 27) single-day race angered the UCI with their poster. The UCI issued the following statement: "The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) was extremely unhappy with the promotional poster of the 2015 E3 Harelbeke. We have reminded the organiser of its responsibility and the UCI Regulations and they have agreed to take off the poster from all communication platforms."

E3 poster

The poster probably came about because Peter Sagan pinched the bottom of a podium girl after coming in second in the 2013 Tour of Flanders

Cervélo Co-Founder and 3T Prez Buy 3T

3T ARX stemBicycleretailer.com reports that Gerard Vroonen, co-founder of Cérvelo, and René Wiertz, current president and CEO of 3T have bought the iconic Italian maker of handlebars, stems, seatposts, forks and wheels.

3T located near Milan, was founded in 1961, making its components first out of high-strength steel and then starting in 1970, aluminum alloys. The firm currently makes many of its components out of carbon fiber.

Vroonen is no longer a principle in Cervélo, having sold his share of the firm three years ago, but he does own a share of Open, an enthusiast's mountain bike maker.

Bike Theft Booming in Portland, Oregon

I recently moved to Oregon, which has a wonderful cycling culture. Everywhere, people travel by bike. Portland is nicknamed Bike City U.S.A. Six percent of Portland workers commute by bike. Not jaw-dropping to a European, but a big deal in the U.S.

Bike Commuter

But, this paradise seems to have a downside. Portland's big newspaper, The Oregonian, reports that bike theft has become a huge problem for the city. Last year thieves stole 2,100 bikes worth more than $1,000,000. And that's just the reported thefts. This is double what it was in 2007.

But...here's what is so infuriating. Arrests occur in only two percent of the cases.

To combat this epidemic, the police plan to create a taskforce made up of police and bike advocates, a system that has worked in other cities.

The police think it won't have to catch too many of the thieves to give cyclists some relief. They believe the majority of the thefts are being committed by just a few criminals. "The 80-20 rule applies, twenty percent of the criminals doing eighty percent of the damage," said Kevin Demer, Multnomah County deputy district attorney.

Because of the relatively low value of stolen bikes compared to car thefts and burglaries, few bike thieves are prosecuted. Unless a stolen bike is worth more than $1,000, at which case the crime becomes a felony, prosecutors rarely go forward with a case.

Here's the full article in the Oregonian

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