With news this week that Andy Schleck will ride the Tour Down Under there’s no word on his older brother. The update on the Frank Schleck case is that there is no update. He tested positive in the Tour de France 120 days ago now and he’s yet to be cleared or convicted of an anti-doping violation. The case should be a black and white case because the rules say any rider who tests positive for the banned substance in question gets punished unless they can prove to comfortable satisfaction where it came from and that ingestion was wholly accidental. But when the news broke Schleck said he didn’t know where it came from, throwing this defence out of the window. Therefore a two year ban awaits.
But the delays are also caused by international structures. Normally there is a UCI calendar to handle cases but this one has been passed to ALAD, the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency and they are a national agency and not subject to the UCI’s rules, unlike, say, the Luxembourg Cycling Federation. Therefore it can take its time. Plus we speculate that ALAD is a modest bureaucracy and sanctioning one of the country’s most high profile stars is a massive deal and so they’ll be extra cautious to proceed.
Tour de Pologne
The Polish national tour looks like quite a race in 2013. With the bizarre start in Italy it will tackle the climb to the Madonna di Campiglio on the opening stage and then the giant Passo Pordoi awaits on Stage 2. Sylwester Szmyd is already getting excited, his home tour as long been a festival for the sprinters but 2013 seems almost designed for him. To the point where he was planning to go to a Depeche Mode a few days before the race but is returning the tickets so he can rest in time. But if he has a good chance of success at the start of the race, winning it overall looks hard given a 42km final time trial around the Wieliczka salt mine.
Sky’s New Coach
Team Sky have hired Shaun Stephens, the Australian national triathlon coach. He’ll fit into the gap left by Bobby Julich but also marks the team’s willingness to go outside the sport of cycling, adding to Tim Kerrison the former swimming and rowing coach.
No Coach Nibali
In a recent interview with La Gazzetta Vincenzo Nibali said he’ll probably coach himself for his new year with Astana, adding he’s experienced enough. I find this interesting, clearly an experienced athlete should know their body well and a millionaire rider like Nibali will hopefully have some sports science back up even if he decides how to train. Still, it’s shows the variety of models in pro cycling, even amongst the biggest teams and top riders.
In the same interview he’s asked what will make him from a good rider into a great rider and his response is “la fortuna” or luck. Some might say he needs more tactical skills, to avoid his trademark solo attack launched too far from the finish. But luck can play its part, he’s just got married but the honeymoon in the Maldives did not suit The Shark… his new wife Rachele fell ill and had a strong fever.
Nutella is a popular read on here and seems to be a hit with many cyclists. But the French are moving to tax it. Actually this is not true but the media in France are calling a government plan le taxe Nutella and the Nutella amendment. But it’s not a tax on Nutella, nor hazelnut nor chocolate but instead the palm oil that forms much of the oleaginous paste. This ingredient certainly isn’t Euro and comes essentially from Asia and Africa where its production is leading to a lot of deforestation and environmental destruction, although helping locals too. The irony here is that Nutella’s success is in part due to tax because in the mid 19th century a tax on chocolate in Italy led enterprising confectioners to exploit hazelnuts as a substitute and from this Nutella was eventually born.
VCDL – Brian Smith Interview Part II
I mentioned the good interview with Brian Smith, the man behind the Cervélo Test Team and the Endura Team on the VC Don Logan Podcast the other day. Part II is available and equally worth listening to for Smith’s take on his brief time with Lance Armstrong but also his other experiences as a rider and his plans as manager, he’s now part of the merged NetApp-Endura team and planning more surprises for 2013.
UCI Doping Hotline
Something audio that’s proving more amusing is the idea of the UCI’s anti-doping hotline. In a letter sent to pro riders President McQuaid mentions the UCI is looking at setting up a “confidential hotline”.
This has generated a lot of laughs, along the lines of “Press 1 to be labelled a scumbag by President McQuaid, Press 2 to make a donation.” But the serious point is that if riders do have suspicions there must be a way to report this and it could be a vital intelligence gathering tool.
Tchmil Makes His Move
Paris-Roubaix winner and ex-Katusha manager Andrei Tchmil has announced his bid to stand for President of the European Cycling Union and to unite it with several federations from Eastern Europe and beyond. The UEC is not a big name in the sport but represents many European federations and the president, currently Igor Makarov, gets an automatic seat on the board of the UCI’s Management Committee, roughly the executive board.
It’ll be worth watching, especially as Tchmil is Makarov’s man. If Tchmil wins by definition Makarov steps down… unless he steps up to become UCI President in the elections to be held later this year. One to watch.