Sunday Shorts

Tropicale Amissa Bongo

AICAR test in place – Dutch doping amnesty – Steven de Jongh passes go – Europcar to quit? – Big teams for Bongo – Grand Tours and breakaway cities – ASO vs RCS

AICAR is short for 5-Aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide. If you knew that you’ll also know that clinical tests suggest the molecule can make mice improve their endurance, able to run on a treadmill for longer. It’s not just in the lab as persistent tales talk of its use in sport and cycling. Only maybe it’s time to stop the whispers because there’s a valid test in place meaning it can already be detected. Thanks to an alert reader, it’s all set out on the PubMed database and in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, April 2010, Volume 396, Issue 8, pp 2899-2908. The next question is how often the labs are testing for it.

Dutch amnesty?
KNWU logo
The top three teams in the Netherlands and the KNWU, the royal Dutch cycling union, will announce a common approach to tackle past doping problems. As we know tales of doping from the past 20 years are like unexploded land mines, just waiting for someone with big feet to step on them. Things have become comical with the likes of ex-Rabobank rider Michael Boogerd forced to react to every claim with twisted denials. The summary take is that those who have a skeleton in the cupboard from before 2008 can count on leniency from the federation. We’ll learn more next week.

De Jongh’s new job
One Dutchman who’s already made his admission is Steven de Jongh and it’s turned out nicely. Built like a lumberjack he was the kind who scares cobblestones. He’s since been working as a team manager. He’s joining Saxo Bank-Tinkoff as a manager for 2013. He left Sky at the end of last year as part of the team’s zero tolerance drive after admitting to EPO use. It was said those leaving collected large settlements but the contractual small print is not known. It means it’s possible de Jongh has “passed Go” on his way to signing with the Danish squad, collecting money on his way out from Sky before joining Saxo. As such admitting to doping could make him wealthier than he was before, collecting a pay off and now a new salary. But the point is not de Jongh’s net worth. Rather Sky are happy to have got rid of him whilst Saxo want him in the team car: both teams win. We’ll see which of these competing ethical approaches works.

Europcar to quit?
On the subject of money, Team Europcar needs some. The team’s presentation took place last Friday as the French squad starts the third and final year of the sponsorship agreement it has with the car rental company. The company could renew or team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau might be lining up a replacement but Europcar stepped into save the team at the eleventh hour, in fact the clock had started chiming midnight and Thomas Voeckler had a contract with Cofidis ready to sign but that’s history. With the team’s future uncertain expect to see some lively racing.

Big teams for Bongo
Europcar’s first race is the Tropicale Amissa Bongo which starts tomorrow in Gabon, an oil-rich nation in central Africa with fertile forests full of wildlife. The nation’s wealth means a lot of well-surfaced roads too.

Albertine Amissa Bongo was the daughter of the late President Bongo and she died in 1993 and since 2006 the stage race race is run in her memory. It’s got UCI 2.1 status – which means points – and some big foreign teams are coming. World Tour team Lotto-Belisol and second division Europcar, Lampre, Cofidis, MTN-Qhubeka and will take on several national teams from Gabon, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Last year’s race was held in April but it’s on an earlier slot. But the race is the same adventure. Like the grand tours the race has air transfers. Unlike the grand tours the race uses military transporters.

Breakaway cities
The Giro is to start in 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland and hopefully the race can the city in a different light to the one TV news reports show. Hopefully Euskaltel-Euskadi’s orange clothing doesn’t start a new riot.

We have the Tour starting in Corsica and last year’s Vuelta started in Pamplona on the edge of the Basque region. Is there something about separatist or strong local political currents that attracts grand tours? Barcelona is still trying to land the Tour and the Catalan region is seeing rising demands for greater autonomy within the Spanish kingdom too.

The news of the Giro’s Irish start was broken on the website of L’Equipe, the French sports daily. L’Equipe of course belongs to Amaury Group and therefore sits under the same corporate umbrella as ASO and the Tour de France. Meanwhile the Giro belongs to RCS Sport which also owns La Gazzetta Dello Sport, the Italian daily. How do you say rivalry in French and Italian?

20 thoughts on “Sunday Shorts”

  1. Interesting stuff – worth noting that the AICAR test talked about endogenous (ie naturally produced) levels of the substance.

    From that paper:

    Due to endogenous production of AICAR in healthy humans, considerable amounts were present in the circulation and, thus, were excreted into urine. Considering these facts, the present study was initiated to fix reference values of renally cleared AICAR in elite athletes.

    If I’m interpreting things right (and I remain open to correction!) t looks like that test was about trying to determine normal levels, much as a normal range has been established for hematocrit, etc. These ranges can be quite broad, unlike the detection of substances which never naturally occur in the body.

    If my reading of the paper is correct, it falls short of implying doping with the substance was detectable then – EPO is also naturally produced in the body, and the introduction of a successful EPO test only happened when a way was found to differentiate between endogenous and exogenous (natural vs externally administered) sources.

    Similarly, unless a firm test for exogenous AICAR has been established since then, it seems that the paper referenced above may imply that determining someone may have taken AICAR would depend on them having values notably greater than those natural occuring…

    • You laugh but there was a movement a couple of years ago to try and set up a Yorkshire parliament. Given that it has a greater population across all four ridings than Wales you can see the appeal of wanting to self govern.

      Fortunately there isn’t the same level of fervour for the idea here and most people just thought it was stupid.

  2. Seems strange to think that Europcar has been in the peloton for such a short time.
    The team has animated the TdF over the previous two editions, as well as other races like the Bongo, it seems even stranger to think of a peleton without Europcar.

    As for Giro d’Irlanda, lets hope people can tell the difference between the Tricolour and il Tricolore.

  3. There’s been no mention of the 2014 Vuelta start yet has there? Anyone car to lay odds for Wales? Or possibly Edinburgh, after they lost out on the Tour?

  4. It would be real sad to see europcar go for sure, they are basically the only team to enliven the last two Tours. It will be interesting to to see what Natnael Berhane does with them, being the best african cyclist and Bryan Coquard their new kid sprinter.

  5. Team Europcar, and its previous incarnation B-Box, has had its way with The Tropicale Amissa Bongo lately, Anthony Charteau winning the last 3 editions of the race and his teammates winning several stages. This year, however, the competition looks a lot stiffer and I hope to see Adrien Petit finally come into his form and win some sprints.
    Minor quibble with your article: Lampre is in the World Tour as well.

  6. Do you know if anyone has ever tested positive for AICAR? If not, then this test must be pretty shitty, because I know many cyclists are using it…

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