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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, November 2, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I intend to live forever. So far, so good. - Steven Wright

Story of the Tour de France Volume 2

Latest completed racing:

Open letter from Movement for Credible Cycling to World Anti-Doping Agency

I received a copy of this letter from the MPCC and thought it worth posting in full:

Paris, le 31 Octobre 2018

Dear Sir Craig Reedie,

Our Board would like to thank you for the lengthy response you granted us on such a short notice: this shows that MPCC is viewed as a major player of the fight against doping and thus deserves the full attention of WADA.

The movement acknowledges the content of your letter and does not content itself with it, despite the satisfaction you show about all of the topics we tackled.

On the topic of tramadol and corticoids,

You state that “there is not currently any consensus among WADA’s Prohibited List Expert Group that tramadol meets the criteria for inclusion on the List” and that “the Expert Group will continue to evaluate this medication and class of drug as new studies become available”. Since 2013, MPCC member teams’ doctors committed themselves not to prescribe tramadol. In the meantime, the movement made multiple request to WADA to ban the use of this substance in competition. Year after year, tramadol has been put on the Monitoring Program without further action, a quick temporary fix for a long term issue.

MPCC expects some courage from WADA’s Expert Group as they need to make a final stand on whether or not tramadol should be banned. The use of this substance is a big concern for the cycling professionals, which are very well represented within MPCC. They are waiting for a decision on the use of tramadol: should it be banned or not, and if so, for what reasons?

You claim that you “are supportive” of the UCI’s initiative to control the use of tramadol in cycling, “primarily for health reasons”. If this requires a support from WADA, then it is a proof that there is a big issue linked to this substance. MPCC will not rest until it obtains a final decision on this issue that endangers the health of the riders, and deserves a faster and more efficient response than a mere monitoring that WADA “experts” recommend.

You add that you “continue to evaluate this medication and class of drug as new studies become available” and “maintain an ongoing dialogue with UCI and continue to make every effort to explore options for the UCI in this matter.”. MPCC, since it was created in 2007, calls for setting up regulations on corticoids. The support of the UCI towards this goal is a huge step forward that now needs to be followed by tangible measures.

MPCC hopes that the “ongoing dialogue” between WADA and the UCI on this topic will speed up the process and not slow it down.

MPCC insists on how strong the concerns are for all the stakeholders in the world of cycling when it comes to the use of tramadol and corticoids. This issue, which involves both health and performance enhancement, is a key topic of the fight against doping, and extends way beyond cycling.

About the Puerto Case,

You consider that the stance of the MPCC members, who account for more than half of the 1st and 2nd division pro cycling teams, “demonstrates an astonishing lack of knowledge and understanding of what has happened to date”.

MPCC only states the obvious when saying that the handling of this case had a huge negative impact in terms of image on the sport in general.

MPCC wonders about the “lack of knowledge” WADA may suffer when it comes to cycling in particular and what this sport withstood since 2006 because of its inability to end a “sorry episode”. This is not an episode, it has been going on for 12 years now.

MPCC does not understand that WADA, whose missions are very clear, states that it “has done everything possible (...) in a way that secures justice for clean athletes”. Does WADA really think that the clean athletes represented by MPCC, as well as all the other who are contracted to non-member teams, consider that justice has been done?

A response from you admitting that the handling of the Puerto case was not fully satisfying would have been way more representative of the terrible reality of this affair. Expressing satisfaction on this topic is not acceptable, and so is the fact that you dismissed MPCC’s arguments on the sole basis of a so-called “lack of knowledge” on the topic.

About Russia,

MPCC respects the democratic nature of the decision that the Executive Committee took, considering that the decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was the result of a vote. Though, a very big contradiction lies when you claim that “WADA’s focus now is on finalising the process for accessing all the data from the Moscow laboratory, which is the missing piece of the puzzle, by the end of the year”. You are openly admitting that the puzzle is “incomplete”, yet accessing all the data should be a prerequisite to the reinstatement of RUSADA.

You are expecting the release of the data “by the end of the year”. If WADA fails to comply with this target, MPCC demands that WADA commit to what you wrote in your response to our open letter, meaning that you will make “RUSADA non-compliant again”. The end of the year comes in two months. The sporting world will very soon have a clear view on whether or not you can follow through on this commitment.

In addition, MPCC is glad to acknowledge that, on October 29th, the leaders of 18 National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) publicly condemned WADA’s decision to reinstate RUSADA. To these 18 National Anti- Doping Organisation, Sir Craig Reedie, dare you say that you remain “firmly of the view that it was the right decision for clean sport and that WADA is in a stronger position because of it”?

On the topic of the independence of WADA,

MPCC takes note of your answers, but also raises that fact that you explain that “WADA launched last year a governance review process”. You specify that “among the proposals of the multi-stakeholder working group are that there should be more independent members on our Executive Committee and that the positions of President and Vice-President should also be independent along with a long list of other proposed measures”.

You add “this process has clearly shown WADA’s willingness to adapt and that it wants to ensure it has the right governance structure in place to be fit for purpose in the years to come”.

This is the clear proof that the question of the independence of WADA is an important topic, otherwise such a working group would have no purpose. Thus, MPCC is legitimate to be concerned about whether or not WADA can demonstrate that it can act with full independence despite the nature of its funding.

The 18 National Anti-Doping Organisations involved in the press release of October 29th also took a stand on this topic. They openly expressed their support for the sport stakeholders who demand a complete overhaul of WADA, explaining that they want that “the President and the Vice-President of WADA not to have any affiliation with governments or international sports organisations, IOC included”

On the topic of Chris Froome’s abnormal control,

Our movement will once again repeat what it said in his open letter of October 24th : “MPCC laments the way sanctions are not applied equally and procedures are not followed equally, which is devastating for the credibility of the sport, for WADA itself, and thus is devastating for the confidence which athletes ought to have in the world’s anti-doping agency and its independence and integrity.”

What is the threshold set by WADA's experts on tramadol regulation: 1000, 1600 or 2000 ng/mL?

This is about credibility and image. What we need here is to fulfil a crucial mission consisting of not feeding suspicions about a case in the center of the media attention.

The evocation of winning “a significant victory for clean cycling in securing enhanced bans for three of (our) sport’s most notorious cheats” on the day MPCC sent its open letter to WADA cannot be used as an argument to the problematic handling of Chris Froome’s abnormal control.

These are two completely different matters. MPCC fails to understand why you deemed suitable to associate these two cases in your response to our open letter.

As a conclusion, MPCC asks WADA and you, Sir Craig Reedie, its President, multiple questions:

Most of the significant victories of the fight against doping since 1999, the year the World Anti-Doping Agency was created, came from police inquiries, journalistic investigations and testimonies from athletes.

Where would our sport stand had Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton not testified against the organized doping within the US Postal?

Where would our sport stand without Trevor Graham denunciations that allowed the reveal of the BALCO scandal?

Where would sport stand if, in 2006, the Spanish police had not set up a big operation against doping and picked up on the public accusation of Jesus Manzano, finally leading to Operation Puerto?

Where would our sport stand without the work of the German journalists on the state-sponsored doping case in Russia?

What would the records be? The primary purpose of WADA is to protect clean athletes.

Waiting for your answer, our Board convey to you, dear Sir Craig Reedie, President of WADA, our best regards.

Roger LEGEAY Président MPCC

Lachlan Morton signs with EF Pro Cycling 

EF Pro Cycling sent me this release:

Lachlan Morton is back. From the 2019 season, the 26-year-old will be on board with EF Pro Cycling. Morton comes over to the team after two years with Dimension Data and prior to that he rode with US continental team Jelly Belly. His previous wins have included general classification at the Tour of Utah and Tour of the Gila as well as top tens at Tour of California and Tour of Oman.

After a rocky 2018, which saw him out of action early season with a broken arm due to a collision with a car on a training ride, he is happy to put the pas season behind him and move forward.

Lachlan Morton

Lachlan Morton (shown at the 2016 Tour of Utah) will be wearing EF Pro colors in 2019.

“I'm sort of itching to get back into it to be honest,” he said about 2019 and his move to the team.

“Lachlan’s return to the team is something we’ve been excited about for some time. His climbing talent is quite clear, and his racing style can be very aggressive and fun to watch. I’m particularly keen on exploring some alternative races with Lachlan,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “A couple of years back, he dropped into Leadville when we sent Joe Dombrowski. That’s the kind of stuff we’ll be doing more of, and Lachlan will be a key part of that. We haven’t nailed down the exact alternative program yet, but it’s going to be a fun way to get to the races and interact with different groups of fans and racers.”

Before signing a two-year contract with Garmin-Sharp back in 2014, Morton had been a part of the Slipstream development program, a team back then known as Chipotle-First Solar Development Team. He has a long history with Slipstream as it has moved through its different iterations.

Morton is excited to tackle the alternative race program that is going to be set out for the 2019 EF Pro Cycling race schedule. Through the long-distance trips that he and his brother Gus have undertaken and produced the documentary series “Thereabouts” about, he believes the unique races are a great way to connect with fans.

“A lot of people have connected with me through the Thereabouts stuff because it’s relevant to them. I feel like a lot of the time when I'm racing I don't feel like I'm really relevant to a lot of cycling fans,” Morton said.

He sees travelling by bike as a great way to broaden horizons and already has a strong connection with new sponsor in ‘19, Rapha. When Morton heard of EF and Rapha partnering up in ‘19, he called it  “a perfect match.”

“I think the most exciting thing is they [EF Education First] really see the untapped value that's sitting there in cycling. A lot of other sponsors haven’t really been able to tap into it. EF are really committed to growing it and in turn they'll grow the sport as a whole,” Morton said. “I hope that we can successfully create that connection that makes World Tour cycling more relevant. And personally, I hope to be able to be competitive and get results in races from say, the likes of Dirty Kanza, way up to the likes of the Tour of Spain, that would be really cool.”

After leaving the team four years ago, which was then under the banner of Garmin-Sharp, he’s mostly looking forward to being back with old friends.

“They’re just a good group of people who have a pretty broad understanding of the world outside of cycling, which I think is important and motivating to be involved with, and what I'm looking forward to most if I'm honest. It looks like they're having a lot of fun while they're out there racing. They’re performing at a really high level.  I think those things go hand in hand, and I'm excited to be part of that.”

Lotto Soudal: DS Bart Leysen on the Giro d'Italia 2019 course

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

Yesterday, the route of the 102nd edition of the Giro d’Italia was unveiled. The first Grand Tour of the year starts on Saturday 11 May 2019 in Bologna and ends on Sunday 2 June in Verona. The first and last stage are individual time trials, just like the stage ahead of the first rest day. The sprinters have at least six opportunities and there are seven summit finishes, twice at the end of a time trial. Lotto Soudal sports director Bart Leysen has already taken a thorough look at the course.

Bart Leysen: “This Giro starts with a short, but tough time trial. On this type of course many specialists won’t be able to take the win. It could even be that a GC rider takes the first pink jersey. Next, the GC riders can keep calm for one and a half week, because it lasts till then before they head into the mountains. Ahead of the first rest day there are some long stages, of more than 200 kilometres. The first week is a combination of sprint stages and hilly stages; a bit like Tirreno-Adriatico. The day before the first rest day, there’s another time trial. During the first week, there will be many contestants for the pink jersey.” 

“After the first rest day, there are two more flat stages before the battle for GC can begin. The sixteenth stage, which takes the riders over the Gavia and Mortirolo, will already be decisive. I don’t think the closing time trial will be exciting for the overall victory. This Giro is made for Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome.”

“We don’t have a GC rider and so it will be necessary to start with a team full of aggressive riders. The long stages in the second and third week could be an opportunity, as it could be difficult for the teams of the GC riders to control those stages.”

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