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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Monday, March 9, 2015

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Today's Racing

We've got two stage races running today: the Tour de Langkawi and Paris-Nice. For those of you in the Western Hemisphere, I try to have the Langkawi results posted in the evening the day before, because it's already tomorrow in Malaysia.

Let's see what the teams have to say after three stage races, Langkawi, Paris-Nice and the final stage of Belgium's Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.

Long-Awaited UCI Reform Commission Report Released

The UCI, racing's international governing body, has released the long-awaited report of the Cycling independent Reform Commission. It was formed to examine the beliefs and accusations of many knowledgable people regarding corruption in UCI's rule of cycling, particularly during the time Hein Verbruggen (1984-2005) and Pat McQuaid (2005-2013) were the organisation's presidents. Brian Cookson, the current UCI boss, was behind getting the commission's investigation going.

First, here's the link to the report (in PDF form) if you want to read it yourself.

And below is the accompanying UCI press release. Given the importance of its subject, I have posted it in full:

If you want to skip it and go directly to team news posted below the UCI release, click here.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has today published the report and recommendations of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC). The CIRC’s Terms of Reference were to investigate “the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within cycling and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such practices”.

The CIRC was established by the UCI in January 2014 and has since completed a rigorous 13 month investigation wholly independent from the UCI. The CIRC was chaired by Dr. Dick Marty, a former Swiss State Prosecutor, supported by two Vice-Chairs - Prof. Ulrich Haas, an expert in anti-doping rules and procedures and Mr. Peter Nicholson, a former military officer who specialises in criminal investigations.

Pat McQuaid

Former UCI boss Pat McQuaid will probably not find the CIRC report pleasant bedtime reading, given that a lot of critical attention is given to his time of UCI governance.

During its investigation, the CIRC undertook 174 face-to-face interviews, some of which lasted for several days and took place in different locations across the world. Those interviewed included UCI personnel, teams, federations, medical practitioners, riders/former riders, anti-doping organisations, national law enforcement agencies, sponsors, event organisers and journalists. A full list of interviewees who have agreed for their names to be disclosed is present on page 224 of the report.

Commenting on the CIRC report and its recommendations, UCI President Brian Cookson said:

“I would like to thank Dick Marty, Ulrich Haas, Peter Nicholson and CIRC’s staff for all their extensive work in producing such a comprehensive and rigorous investigation. Very few, if any sports, have opened themselves up to this level of independent scrutiny and while the CIRC report on the past is hard to read for those of us who love our sport, I do believe that cycling will emerge better and stronger from it. I made a promise before I was elected that I would ensure as a priority that under my presidency a respected and fully independent commission would investigate the UCI’s past and I am pleased to have delivered on that promise, on time and on budget. We gave the CIRC access to all our files, a complete copy of all the electronic data which existed when I was elected and full co-operation from all our staff. I said from the outset that the UCI would publish the CIRC’s report and recommendations to ensure transparency and that is exactly what we have done today.

“It is clear from reading this report that in the past the UCI suffered severely from a lack of good governance with individuals taking crucial decisions alone, many of which undermined anti-doping efforts; put itself in an extraordinary position of proximity to certain riders; and wasted a lot of its time and resources in open conflict with organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). It is also clear that the UCI leadership interfered in operational decisions on anti-doping matters and these factors, as well as many more covered in the report, served to erode confidence in the UCI and the sport.

“Since I became President in September 2013, the UCI has not only completed this unprecedented exercise of openness and transparency, it has also:

Commissioned a full audit of its anti-doping operations by the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) and implemented their recommendations;

Established a strict internal governance process to ensure that the President or administration cannot interfere in operational anti-doping matters and that there is external oversight of all key decisions plus an audit trail of results management;

Ensured the complete independence of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) to plan and execute anti-doping tests on behalf of the UCI;

Ended the conflicts with key stakeholders and established a much stronger working relationship with WADA, USADA and other NADOs whose support and cooperation is essential for us to be effective in our anti-doping efforts;

Established an Anti-Doping Tribunal that will allow consistent, clear and fast decisions on cases for international riders, putting the UCI in line with almost all other international federations and ending the process whereby cases were referred to the rider’s national federation for judgement;

Worked with the professional teams and independent experts to establish clear new internal operational requirements for teams (the “cahier des charges”) to ensure that all riders are properly supported and supervised and that the right structures are in place to prevent riders doping;

Actively established an unprecedented number of intelligence and information sharing agreements with National Anti-Doping Agencies;

Introduced new Anti-Doping Rules with longer sanctions (4 rather than 2 year standard ban) and stricter obligations in line with the new WADA Code and put in place a new regulatory framework (the “Testing and Investigation Regulations”) which further promotes effective and qualitative testing and investigation;

Introduced innovative and far reaching sanctions on teams with riders who are found to have doped (suspension from competition plus a fine of 5% of the team budget);

Invested more than ever in staffing and resources allocated to anti-doping;
Launched a process of revising and updating the UCI Constitution in order to improve the good governance and transparency of the UCI at all levels, especially with regards to the UCI Presidential election;

Established important new governance measures including a newly reinvigorated Ethics Commission, a Remuneration Committee to set senior remuneration and delivered on the commitment to provide more transparency on financial matters.
“I am absolutely determined to use the CIRC’s report to ensure that cycling continues the process of fully regaining the trust of fans, broadcasters and all the riders that compete clean. I committed to this process before I was elected President and I'm pleased to see the CIRC complete its work. I shall be giving some more detail on how we will implement recommendations from the report during the course of this week.

“Lastly, I would like to thank WADA whose support was essential in establishing the CIRC and also all the NADOs, in particular USADA, who have contributed to the strengthening of anti-doping in cycling.”

The CIRC's Terms of Reference under which it operated included:

The main focus of the investigation was to determine the processes and practices in professional road cycling that allowed the culture of doping to perpetuate over a sustained period of time, in particular to discover the main providers and facilitators of doping in cycling especially in the period 1998-2013. Investigation into UCI past wrongdoings was also a core part of the CIRC mandate;

The investigation’s primary objective was not to punish anti-doping offences by single riders, but rather to identify and tackle the practices and networks that have instigated and/or facilitated doping in cycling over the relevant period;

The final objective of the investigation was the production of a comprehensive report illustrating the causes of, and responsibility for, the doping practices that took place within the relevant period and to make targeted recommendations to the whole cycling family;

The members of the CIRC operated on a completely independent basis and did not take any instructions from the UCI in the course of their investigation;

The report as published is exactly the one delivered by the CIRC to the UCI President. In the entire report, a small number of lines have been obscured following external legal advice.

Dr. Dick Marty is a well known political figure both in Switzerland (as a member of the Parliament) and in Europe (as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe). He holds a doctorate in law from the University of Neuchâtel. In 1975, Marty was nominated state prosecutor of Ticino, in which post he was specially noted for his energetic activities fighting organised crime and drug abuse. In 1987 he received an Award of Honour of the United States Department of Justice and a special award of honour by the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. In 2005, Marty was appointed to lead an investigation by the Council of Europe into alleged illegal CIA secret prisons in Europe. On 14 December 2010, the Council of Europe entrusted Marty with investigating alleged inhuman treatment of people and killing of prisoners with the purpose of removal and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo, involving politicians currently in power.

Prof. Ulrich Haas, a German national specialised in anti-doping rules and procedures has been Professor of Civil Procedure and Civil Law at the University of Zurich since January 2008. He studied law at the Universities of Regensburg and Lausanne, and after obtaining his Ph.D. and qualification as a university lecturer at the University of Regensburg, he became a professor at Martin Luther University in Halle and subsequently at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Mr. Haas' work and research has been concentrated on international civil procedure (including arbitration), company insolvency law and sports law. He is the editor of numerous publications in these areas and has worked for many years as a consultant and arbitrator. He is a highly respected arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Deutsches Sportschiedsgericht and the Deutsche Institution für Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit eV (DIS).

Mr. Peter Nicholson LLM MBA is an Australian national, a former Army officer, and since then a specialist in criminal investigations. He has extensive experience as a senior investigator and analyst in both national and international jurisdictions. Mr. Nicholson was recently advising varying levels of government in Afghanistan on ministerial strategic leadership and policy development of the police forces, and on matters of governance in part to counter corruption, fraud and intimidation. Beforehand he advised the government of Pakistan on policy development in counter-terrorism issues. He was a United Nations Independent Commission Chief of Investigations in Lebanon investigating terrorism cases, and investigated crimes for the International Criminal Court in Uganda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was a team Leader at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and an investigator on the Srebrenica genocide case and others.

Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen Notes

This came from Cult Energy:

A breakaway consisting of seven riders formed the dangling carrot in front of the pack on today’s second and 184 kilometer long stage of the Belgian stage race, Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem. The difference from yesterday was that the survival rate of the breakaway group dropped to zero on the local circuit.

17 riders bridged the gap to the front group entering the final 30 kilometers of the stage but going under the ten kilometer kite, 50 riders were in the front of the race and the stage was concluded in a raging bunch sprint where Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory) was the fastest of all.

DS, Luke Roberts reported no CULT Energy Pro Riders among the strongest today: “This is the most important time of the year for the Belgian riders and they are on top form at this moment. At the same time, we have to face the fact that our boys still have to get used to the pace at this level. None of our riders simply had the legs to compete today but the experience will make us stronger for the coming races and hopefully we'll find the rhythm,” says Roberts.

Yves Lampaert

2015 Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen winner Yves Lampaert

Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick Step) won the race overall.

Paris - Nice Comments

Tinkoff-Saxo had this to say about stage 1 of Paris-Nice:

Paris-Nice got off to an intensive start at the 6.7km prologue in Maurepas, as the time trial specialists competed not only for the stage win but also for the overall GC lead. Michael Kwiatkowski won the stage, while Tinkoff-Saxo, without outright prologue specialists in the squad, had to settle for placements further down the list of results.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s climber Robert Kiserlovski finished 83rd and was, in spite of the average result, satisfied with his performance and sensations on the bike.

“Actually, I feel okay with my result today. I’m not a time trial specialist and I’ve, more often than not, performed worse than today. I felt good on the bike, which I take as a good sign ahead of the coming stages in the mountains”, says Robert Kiserlovski and elaborates: “Today, was perhaps not the best result overall for the team. However, I feel that the motivation is high and we’re definitely ready to support Majka, once we get into more mountainous terrain”.

Robert Kiserlovski

Robert Kiserlovski racing the Giro in 2014 for Trek.

The 6.7km prologue in Maurepas featured a classic parcours with several sharp turns, which made for an intense opener to this year’s edition of Paris-Nice. After numerous changes, the leaderboard was finally settled, as Michael Kwiatkowski powered his way to the win just edging out Rohan Dennis(BMC), while Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) finished third.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka crossed the line as 94th on the prologue - 36 seconds behind Kwiatkowski. Leading sports director at the race Sean Yates noted that the team captain could have performed better but was not on home turf on the short, powerful prologue. “It’s not an ideal starting position, but we knew that we would lose time to guys like Kwiatkowski and Dennis. If all the guys had gone ten seconds faster it would have been a good result, but it was not the case today. So now, it’s a matter of looking ahead, protecting Rafal and being ready as soon as we hit his kind of terrain on stage 4”, comments Sean Yates.

Young Danish champion Michael Valgren was the best-placed Tinkoff-Saxo rider in 61st position. Yates tells that Valgren produced the power but wasn’t technically at his best. “Looking at Michael’s power output he did a fine stage, but he struggled in some of the turns, where he lost time. On a route like this it’s a matter of finding the rhythm straight away, so he obviously has the potential to do much better as he’s a strong rider”, says Yates and adds: “On the contrary, I believe that Robert did well considering his previous time trials. This bodes well for the mountain stages ahead, as he will play an important part in supporting Rafal later on. As I’ve said, we’re here with ambitions, and the guys will do their best to realize our goals”.

Tomorrow’s almost pancake flat stage to Contres is expected to become a sprinter’s duel, as the usual wind and rough weather in early springtime Northern France has been replaced with milder conditions.

And this came from BMC:

Maurepas, France - World hour record holder Rohan Dennis of the BMC Racing Team was edged out by 0.31 seconds in Sunday's prologue at Paris-Nice, finishing runner-up to world road champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step).

Starting 55th of 160 riders, Dennis was 20 seconds faster than anyone else to that point when he piloted his BMC timemachine TM01 to a time of 7 minutes and 40 seconds on the 6.7-kilometer course. But Kwiatkowski, the 16th rider-from-last to start, pushed Dennis into the BMC Racing Team's ninth second-place result of the year.

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis as he celebrated winning the 2015 Tour Down Under

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said missing out on a win by fractions of a second was "the worst result. I think this would have been an important victory for the team today," Ledanois said. "Rohan and Tejay van Garderen and all the guys did a good job. But for the team, it is the worst result. If you have three, four or five seconds between first and second, that's OK. But we wanted this victory. So it is a big disappointment."

Kwiatkowski's teammate, German national time trial champion Tony Martin, finished third, seven seconds off the winning time.

Dennis said he had personal goals to do well on the first and last stages of the race - both individual time trials - in his first major race since setting the world hour record at 52.491 kilometers Feb. 8 at Velodrome Suisse. He was also looking to add to his stage win and overall title at the Santos Tour Down Under that earned him the No. 1 ranking in the WorldTour standings in January.

"The goal the rest of the week is to try and find my legs and do as well as I possibly can for the team," Dennis said. "I am pretty sure Tejay has some good form after Oman. He has been looking at this race for awhile now."

Van Garderen finished 11th, 14 seconds back, and said he was pleased with his result in his first outing since finishing runner-up at the Tour of Oman last month.

"I think today was a success," van Garderen said. "I feel bad for Rohan, missing out on such a narrow victory. That would have been a nice win for him. But as far as both of us are placed, we are right there with some of the GC (general classification) guys and we even put a lot of time into some of the contenders."

Lampre-Merida sent this note:

The Spanish rider Rubèn Plaza, who joined Lampe-Merida in 2015, is the best rider for the blue-fuchsia-green in the time trial prologue of Paris-Nice.

The time trial specialist covered the 6,7 flat km in Maurepas in 7'56", at an average speed of 50,672 km/h, obtaining the 16th position, at 16" to the best time that was recorded by Kwiatkowski.

The day did not start in the best way for Rui Costa, who had a little crash while he was training on the course of the prologue. Despite some abrasions, the Portuguese cyclist could take part regularly in the race and he was 29th, at 21" to Kwiatkowski.

Rui Costa

Lampre-Merida rider Rui Costa racing in the 2014 Coppa Agostini in his rainbow kit.

After the prologue, it's long distance time: 196,5 km in the 1st stage from Saint Remy les Chevreuse to Contres that are suitable for the sprinters, such as the blue-fuchsia-green Bonifazio and Cimolai.

Tour de Langkawi Notes

This came in from Tinkoff-Saxo:

While Tinkoff-Saxo has returned to Europe for the big WorldTour spring races, a part of the team has traveled to Malaysia for the Tour of Langkawi taking place in tough, tropical conditions. The eight stage race got off to a quick start, as the sprinters battled on the short 99km parcours. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Nikolay Trusov finished 8th after stage winner Andrea Guardini.

On his way from the island of Langkawi to the Malaysian mainland, Tristan Hoffman, sports director on Tinkoff-Saxo, elaborated on the first day of racing.

“It was a very short stage, which saw five guys go in the breakaway. Our riders stayed calm and it was up to the sprinter’s teams to chase down the break. In the finale we moved up in the front of the peloton, as we had both Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov, who could participate in the sprint”, says Hoffman and adds: “Unfortunately, we had some punctures with five kilometers to go and Pavel Brutt and Michael Kolar couldn’t make it back to the peloton. Trusov was in a good position in the final kilometer and managed to finish eighth after a fairly long sprint”.

Stage 1 finish

Andrea Guardini wins stage 1

Stage 1 made a complete 99 km circle on the small island of Langkawi with both start and finish in the city of Pentai Cenang. The stage was carried out under the cover of the morning dew so to avoid the more extreme afternoon temperatures. Despite the morning racing, acclimatization is still an important factor.

“It is very hot and especially really humid. It takes time to get used to these conditions. We’ll continue to look for our chances during the coming stages and take it day-by-day”, finishes Tristan Hoffman.

The stage was decided in a bunch sprint, where Astana’s Andrea Guardini took the win in front of Orica GreenEdge’s Caleb Ewan. Guardini also leads the race with one second ahead of Liam Bertazzo (Southeast), who collected 9 bonus seconds on the stage.

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