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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, December 5, 2019

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

When my cats aren't happy, I'm not happy. Not because I care about their mood but because I know they're just sitting there thinking up ways to get even. - Percy Bysshe Shelley

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BORA – hansgrohe starts the 2020 season with Ötztal as a new partner

The team sent me this announcement:

As part of the official team presentation in Kolbermoor at Auto-Eder, who is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a sponsor of Ralph Denk’s team, BORA – hansgrohe presented the region of Ötztal as a new partner.

After the most successful season in the young team’s history, BORA – hansgrohe has set ambitious goals for 2020. With five new signings and a total of 27 riders from nine nations, the team is heading confidently into the coming season. After the Classics, the Giro d’Italia is on the program for Peter Sagan for the very first time. Maximilian Schachmann will also be participating in the Italian stage race on the road to the Olympic Games, while Emanuel Buchmann’s season highlight will once again be the Tour de France. Meanwhile, Pascal Ackermann, who will be participating in both the Giro and the Vuelta, will be taking on two Grand Tours in his program for the very first time.

PAscal Ackermann

Pascal Ackermann winning 2019 Giro stage 2. Sirotti photo

“We have had the most successful season in our history and ended the year in second place in the World Rankings. We were able to improve significantly, in particular at the big stage races, and I’m really pleased about that. We are very satisfied with having achieved positions six, four and six at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta respectively. However, having accomplished this, we’re not going to rest on our laurels and we are already looking towards 2020. We have big plans for next year. Our goals are to take a podium result at a Grand Tour, win a Monument like we did in 2018, and of course we’re also aiming to become the number one cycling team in the world in the future. In order to achieve this, we need the right squad, the right people, and of course sponsors. I am fortunate to be able to work with incredibly passionate partners, who are 100% committed to our journey. I am therefore particularly pleased to have been able to announce the contract renewal of hansgrohe today. I am also just as happy about our new partner Ötztal, whom I welcome wholeheartedly into our cycling family.” - Ralph Denk, Team Manager

“We are pleased to be able to go on tour with this very strong BORA – hansgrohe team. Having a partner such as this squad, one of the most likeable teams in the WorldTour, we’re expecting to see wider media exposure in Germany, the home country of most of our guests, and even beyond. Ötztal has a strong affinity with the sport of cycling and offers a broad and diverse range of attractions for cyclists. On several occasions, we have featured as a stage finish town for the Deutschland Tour and the Tour de Suisse. Since 1982, the Ötztal Bike Marathon has taken place, an event that has set new standards. With this expertise, not only in elite sport, but also in recreational sport, it was a logical step to form a partnership with BORA – hansgrohe.” – Oliver Schwarz, CEO Ötztal Tourism 

“I’m really looking forward to taking to the start of the Giro for the first time. Like in previous years at the Tour de France, my Giro campaign will also be focused on stage wins. My race program has changed somewhat, for instance, I won’t be racing in Australia. In addition to the Giro, my goals will be remaining the same as every year: the Classics in Spring, and the Tour de France.” – Peter Sagan

“Once again, my entire focus will be directed towards the Tour de France. Everything else is secondary to this main goal. My race program will be similar to this year’s. That worked out quite well. I’m sure that I can count on a strong team in July. The course of the Tour should suit me quite well. There are many mountain stages, no team trials and the individual time trial is also something for the climbers. The aim will be to reach the podium, and if I can make a small step forward, then this will be a very achievable goal.” – Emanuel Buchmann

“I am very satisfied with my season. I had a few difficult years and often times a bit of bad luck in decisive moments. This year it was different, and I was able to show than I can compete with the best. I could have possibly netted a better result at the Vuelta and so I will do my utmost in my preparations in order to potentially be in the mix for the fight for a podium place in a Grand Tour in 2020. It would be a dream if I could pull this off at the Giro because I really love this race in particular. The fans are incredible and the atmosphere in Italy is sensational.“ – Rafal Majka 

“For me, Tokyo 2020 is definitely the ultimate goal. The course should suit me well and I am very grateful to the BORA – hansgrohe team for giving me a degree of freedom in my race schedule. Next year, after the Ardennes races, which should be the first highlights of my season, I will tackle the Giro. After that, I will prepare specifically for the Olympics.” – Maximilian Schachmann

“Of course, I would like to soon show my strength in the sprints at the Tour de France and contest stage wins. But the course doesn’t allow for too many sprint finishes. Besides that, Emu needs a powerful team for the mountains. Therefore, it made more sense for me to take on the Giro. Together with Peter, we are well- positioned in the sprints and will certainly be an extremely strong team. I will also ride the Vuelta. I could see what a positive effect my first Grand Tour had on my performance level and that’s why we have decided that in 2020 I will participate in two Grand Tours.” – Pascal Ackermann

Team Bahrain Merida becomes Team Bahrain McLaren

Here's the team's release:

Reflecting its new joint venture partnership, the Bahrain MERIDA Pro Cycling Team will compete in 2020 as Team Bahrain McLaren. Behind the new team name are a number of changes in the team’s structure – with the team’s vision and winning spirit stronger than ever.

As Bahrain MERIDA Pro Cycling Team we achieved many incredible results in the past three years, learned some valuable lessons and have immensely grown as a team. Together with our primary partner, MERIDA BIKES, we built a solid foundation and are now looking forward to continuing this incredible journey via a joint venture with McLaren, the renowned racing, technology and super car brand, where competition and racing is a part of the DNA. MERIDA BIKES is stepping back as the primary partner and title sponsor but continues to be our official bicycle supplier and valued technical partner, providing our team with the best equipment possible. MERIDA played an important part in the creation of the team, coming on board as our foundation partner for the debut 2017 season.

Milan Erzen, Joint Managing Director commented:
‘This moment marks an exciting new phase in the history of our team. We’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved as Bahrain-Merida, and delighted that we can now combine that experience with our joint venture partner McLaren, to innovate together in this great sport. Cycling is developing into an increasingly technical sport, and as Team Bahrain McLaren we will be well placed to compete with the best – and to work with our many partners to challenge the status quo.’
Our new name, Bahrain McLaren, reflects the new partnership and the whole team, from riders to staff, is looking forward to representing our new team brand. We are certain that the new partnership will bring fresh motivation and accelerate the team’s ambitions to compete at the top. McLaren will contribute greatly to optimizing technology, managing human high performance and developing strategic marketing and communication activities with the goal of building a lasting and successful brand in pro cycling.

To achieve this, we have optimized not only our 28-rider line-up, but also our management structure. Joining us on our exciting journey is John Allert as Joint Managing Director, Rod Ellingworth as Team Principal, Roger Hammond as Performance Director and Charlie Pym as Marketing Director, as well as numerous talented additions to our teams in Medicine, Therapy, Sports Direction, Coaching, Nutrition, and Mechanical Services.

Our new Joint Managing Director, John Allert, is excited about the upcoming challenges:
‘We are delighted to have formalised our joint venture partnership with Bahrain World Tour Cycling Team. As Bahrain-Merida, the team quickly established its credentials in the most elite form of road racing – the UCI WorldTour – becoming the only team ever to score a Grand Tour podium in its debut year, and most recently winning two stages of this year’s Tour de France. As Bahrain McLaren we are excited to build on that legacy, and to work with a variety of technical partners, including Merida, to write a new chapter of success.

McLaren’s racing pedigree is founded on decades of performance in the most technologically advanced sport in the world. We now look forward to applying this knowledge to elite cycling, for the benefit of our riders, our partners and fans of this exciting and rapidly growing sport. We are confident that professional cycling is entering a great new era, an era in which passion and technology will combine to unleash exciting new possibilities. This is what Team Bahrain McLaren is all about.”

MPCC alerts UCI to the urgency of going even further with the fight against blood doping

The MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) sent me this:

During the General Assembly that took place on last October 16th, Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot and Sunweb manager Iwan Spekenbrink informed the Movement of an interview they had earlier this fall with Georg Preidler, former member of both teams. On March 4th 2019, the Austrian rider, who was a member of MPCC as an individual, confessed his involvement in the operation Aderlass (Cross-country skiing and cycling) and offered his resignation to the Groupama-FDJ team. A few months later, the information he provided to his former employers were transmitted to MPCC. The Movement then sent a letter to the UCI.

Several measures suggested to the UCI

MPCC wanted to draw UCI’s attention on the necessity to increase the number of blood tests, especially outside of competition. This proposition relies on the information we gathered, which hints on the existence of mafia doping protocols outside of the teams’ structures.

Furthermore, in MPCC’s opinion, the way these tests are carried out must be redefined. A formal request has been issued, aiming at running these tests closer to the start of the race and as soon as possible after the finish. Georg Preidler’s testimony is a clear warning sign on this issue.

MPCC also advises UCI to be even more vigilant during the holiday periods of the riders, or during the long breaks they may take in the middle of the year.

In its response to MPCC, issued on November 5th and signed by its president David Lappartient, UCI reminds that it is “known as the anti-doping organisation which draws the bigger number of blood samples, following the biological passport guidelines” and that CADF (Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation), a UCI-appointed entity, “draws as many samples they can, within the limits of its budget, while favouring targeted tests”.

Regarding the timing of the tests, UCI says that in 2019, several tests were carried “on the departures’ sites, with all the trouble it implies”. MPCC obviously supports this process and hopes to see it develop further more. MPCC teams will always support such tests despite the logistical constraints they require.

MPCC hopes that WADA is following the issue closely and welcomes its new President Witold Banka to ask MPCC for any information.

In its response, UCI also reminds that “UCI’s anti-doping regulation states that any athlete can be tested at any time and any place” and that “it is obvious that CDAF makes use of this opportunity and carries out tests during the periods” highlighted by MPCC.

While maintaining its full confidence in the UCI on the fight against blood doping, MPCC wants to remind that none of the riders who were part of the Aderlass operation were ever tested positive. These unfortunate revelations came from the police’s hard work only.

MPCC asks for more impact in the way controls are carried out.

Georg Preidler’s testimony, transmitted by his former employers Marc Madiot and Iwan Spekenbrink, caused a great worry among the members of MPCC, a concern that translated into the formal request for these tests to be carried out more aggressively by UCI and CADF. Teams, riders, technical staff, agents, federations, organizers and sponsors: more than 700 of them are members of the MPCC and support this increased aggressiveness.

On the basis of the testimonies it gathered, MPCC asks for a formal enquiry to open regarding the alleged use of a “powder” (Aicar-based?) that could be used by some teams or riders on the final parts of races. UCI responds that CADF not only investigates the use of Aicar but also any substance that could be broadly used within the peloton.

MPCC members are troubled by the question of sporting fairness on the biggest cycling races of the world that they take part in. They want the cheaters to be troubled in turn by what the fight against doping has in store for them. This fight will only be more effective if it feeds on any fact or intel that are provided to the bodies that lead it.

President Lappartient hails our actions, as MPCC is thankful to the UCI to be attentive to its recommendations and suggestions.

MPCC also reminds that the movement is still waiting for some answers: - From WADA regarding tramadol being added to the list of the forbidden substances - From WADA regarding thyroid hormone being added to the list of forbidden substances - From WADA regarding new regulations on corticosteroids - From UCI regarding the set-up of cortisol test. MPCC also gives serious thought to the ketones issue, a very important topic in the 2019.

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