Archive for November, 2009

More Spanish scandal.

Walter Viru, the Peruvian former Kelme team doctor during  Alejandro Valverde’s time with the team is at the centre of the latest doping scandal.  Sadly Javier Ochoa is also implicated.

Brothers Javier and Ricardo Ochoa were Kelme riders in February 2001 when they were hit by a motor vehicle while training near Malaga. Ricardo did not survive and  Javier was for months in a coma and was left with brain damage.  In 2004 he took part in the Paralympics.  Another 2004 Olympic athlete under suspicion is race walker Paquillo Fernandez who took the silver medal.   Perhaps the most famous cyclist touched by this affair is Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, a luxury domestique of Alejandro Valverde at Caisse d’Epargne whose home has been searched but he has not been arrested or charged and it has not been suggested that any doping products were found.

The investigations of the Guardia Civil in to the illegal practices of the gang began in August when some people were caught in possession of EPO and growth hormone. The investigators were quickly on to Viru, a former assistant of Fuentes. He owns a diet clinic in Valencia . It was presumably convenient for his side line that his son is a pharmacist.

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Lifetime suspension for Pfannberger

The Austrian cyclist Christian Pfannberger has been given a lifetime suspension by the Austrian Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). The thirty year old Pfannberger was previously suspended from 2004 to 2006 for testosterone use.  In March this year he tested positive for EPO in an out of competition test and  you will not be surprised that he denied the allegation.

The news became known just before the start of the Tour of Italy where he was to lead the Katusha squad. The team immediately pulled  Pfannberger from the Giro and he was provisionally suspended. In late June his second sample was confirmed as also positive.

The Austrian turned professional in 2002 and in both 2007 and 2008 was champion of his country. His best spell was in the spring of 2008, with a 6th place in the Amstel Gold Race, a 9th place in the Fleche Wallone and a 5th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liège. That year he was 8th at the Worlds in Varese.

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Quick.Step to ride Eddy Merckx bikes

Eddy Merckx Cycles will supply Quick.Step with bikes for three years from 1st January it was announced at a press conference in Grand-Bigard.

Not the Great Man’s usual tipple!

“It happened so totally  unexpected,” said manager Patrick Lefevere . “We never had any problem with Specialized  but there were differences about vision. We decided to split two days ago and everything was then went very quickly … “

As Specialized have moved over to Astana it seems likely that they would have remained with Quick.Step had the team signed Contador as was widely rumoured. Clearly the US manufacturer sees a Tour de France win as worth far more than any number of wins in the Spring classics.

Lefevere was previously with Merckx when his Domo-Farm Frites team rode Eddy’s bikes in 2001-02.  The great former champion says he is proud and delighted:” It is a great honor to work with a team as prestigious as Quick.Step. My bikes are top quality, but cycling is not like Formula One.  It is the rider not the horse that makes the difference … ” said Eddy mixing his sports somewhat.

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Museeuw puts something back

It is a well worn cliche that retired sportsmen want to give something back to the sport that made them rich and in Johan’s case it may well be true. He has been to Mongolia and has chosen four cyclists to come to Belgium to try their hand at cyclo-cross.

Museeuw bikes are now sold in twelve countries but it is unlikely that there will ever be a market on the steppes of Mongolia for £3000 flax bike frames so we must take the Lion of Flanders at his word when he says that he is involved purely for the good of the sport.

The successors of Ghengis Khan are staying for three months in the town of Kobbegem north west of Brussels. “No vodka, cola and just healthy eating. And certainly not escapades with women” are the rules that have been laid down. Let’s hope they enjoy their stay.

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Did Ullrich deal with comic book heroes?

The German magazine Focus has revealed details of the relationship between Jan Ullrich and the Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes who is suspected of organizing a network of blood doping.

According to Focus, the German federal police found a CD-rom which contained the phone numbers of two contacts identified as Asterix and Obelix. These codenames, according to Focus, correspond to Dr. Fuentes and his assistant Merino Batres.

Moreover, the former rider Jörg Jaksche who has admitted his involvement in Operation Puerto has confirmed that Fuentes and Batres used the names of two comic book heroes.

Ullrich has always denied having any relationship with Dr. Fuentes. He retired in 2007.



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British Cycling Federation

Yesterday the annual report of British Cycling popped through my letter box. Normally it would go straight in to the recycling bin but as 2009 is the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the BCF (and also the 50th year of my cycling “career”) I thought I would take a look. And yes, the President, Preston’s own Brian Cookson, referred to the anniversary in the opening sentence of his address.

There is a nice graph showing membership figures. Now either this graph comes from the Gordon Brown school of statistics, ie it is all bollocks, or my assumption that cycling is a dying sport is seriously mistaken. The BCF starts in 1959 with 23,000 members and steadily declines to the early seventies when the nadir of 10,000 is reached. Incidentally this coincides with my racing career when there seemed to be a race locally every week end. From the low point it is steadily upwards until 2008 when the 1959 membership is finally surpassed with another 4000 members added in 2009.

All this seems remarkable and at odds with what I see, or think I see, out on the road. But perhaps it is not too surprising that membership now exceeds the 1959 level as I see from the report that 100 full time staff are employed in “Participation”! In contrast my 1961 racing licence was signed by G.T. Bassett “hon. secretary” and I suspect that the sole employee at BCF headquarters would be a typist. By 1964 however Len Unwin was general manager and presumably the staff had doubled to two.

I am sure it all makes perfect sense and I know that Brian Cookson is an honourable man. I just can’t understand why I don’t see more people riding bikes.

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Dimitri De Fauw dies.

It has been announced that the track cyclist Dimitri De Fauw has committed suicide. He was aged twenty eight.

De Fauw specialised in six day races and has also won several Belgian championships  on the track. On Wednesday, he had finished seventh in the Six Days of Grenoble teamed with the Dane Marc Hester.

De Fauw was also active on the road. He wore the jersey of Quick Step between 2003 and 2005. In 2006, he joined Jacques Chocolates and this year was with  AA Drinks.

It may be that the cause of De Fauw’s depression was his collision with the Spanish cyclist Isaac Galvez during the Six Days of Gent. The Spaniard hit the rail round the top of the track and died as a result of this fall. I believe it could be truly described as a freak accident as apparently Galvez broke a rib that then pierced his heart.

De Fauw’s friend Iljo Keisse said “I do not know what to say. I can’t believe it. I was with him all week in Grenoble and I did not notice anything.”

“He came home with me and Gianni Meersman. I drove all night and I did not notice anything unusual. I was planning to phone him this week to arrange a training ride.”

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