Austria’s anti-doping agency ban Pfannberger after EPO positive Christian Pfannberger has been given a life-long ban by the Austrian National Anti-Doping Agency, after his second doping violation in March this year. The Austrian, who has consistently denied ever having doped, has indicated he will challenge the ban. Pfannberger, 30, tested positive for EPO at an out-of-competition control in March. He had previously served a two-year ban from 2004 to 2006 after testing positive for testosterone. “This is what we expected, since he has been caught twice,” Herbert Kocher, Vice President of the Austrian cycling federation (Österreichischen Radsportverband, ÖRV) told Cyclingnews. “We are a federation that fights against doping with our full force and are therefore satisfied with the results.” Pfannberger turned pro in 2002 with the German Team Nürnberger Versicherung and rode for Team Volksbank Ideal in 2003. His first violation came in 2004 when he was riding for the Czech team eD System-ZVVZ. When he returned, he rode for the Austrian team Elk Haus-Simplon (2006-2007), Barloworld (2008) and Katusha (2009). The Austrian was Military world champion in the road race in 1999, and won the Under-23 International Thüringen Rundfahrt in 2001. As a pro, he won both the Austrian national road title (2007, 2008) and the mountain title (2006). He finished 23rd in the road race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Spaniard Joaquím Rodríguez will have the opportunity to race the Tour de France for the first time in his career next season. He met with his new team, Katusha, last week to discuss his 2010 schedule.
“It will be like a dream to be at the start,” said Rodríguez in a press release. “I intend to approach it as I did the 2008 Giro: calmly and looking for a stage win.”
Rodríguez finished 17th overall at the 2008 Giro d’Italia and placed third on two stages.
Last month, Tour organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) presented the 2010 Tour de France route. It starts in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on July 3 and will end in Paris on July 25. Its first mountains come in the Alps, at Morzine and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Four Pyrenean mountain stages will feature in the race’s final week, with a stage to the Col du Tourmalet only four days before the finish in Paris.
Rodríguez also planned his first half of the season leading up to the Tour de France. He will start at the Volta a Mallorca in February and then race the Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico. At the Tirreno-Adriatico, he will target the stage he has won the last two years in a row, to Montelupone.
He will then race Spain’s Volta a Catalunya and País Vasco prior the Ardennes Classics in April.
“Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be the season’s highlights for me,” Rodríguez continued.
He finished second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year and has helped his former-Caisse d’Epargne teammate Alejandro Valverde win the event twice. Last season, he finished eighth in all three Ardennes Classics.
After the Classics, he will race the Tour de Luxembourg and Tour de Suisse. He plans to lead Katusha on the mountain stages at the Tour de Suisse, his last preparation race prior to the Tour de France.
Rodríguez ended four years with Caisse d’Epargne at the Japan Cup last month. He signed a contract earlier this year to join Russian team Katusha for 2010.
Italian Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) is moving closer to his dream of winning
. He looks ahead to next season and another chance at winning Italy’s biggest one-day sprinters’ classic.
“Sanremo was a dream of mine when I was younger and saw Mario Cipollini winning on the Via Roma. Now I am there racing, and I have the possibility to realise that dream,” Napolitano told Tuttobiciweb.
He placed fifth in 2006 and 11th in 2007, and this year’s results show he can be back at the top next year. He won four times this season and 11 times finished second.
“It has been a positive year,” he continued. “It would have been better to have turned some of those second places into wins, but I am happy nonetheless. I will try for more in 2010.”
Napolitano shares the role as sprint captain on Russia’s Katusha team with Aussie Robbie McEwen and 2006 Sanremo winner, Italian Filippo Pozzato. The trio accounted for 11 of Katusha’s wins this season.
After a successful season on both the road and track, Katusha’s Ben Swift is looking forward to 2010. It’s a year he hopes will build on a season that saw him take his first pro win and complete his first Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia in May. Swift won his first race at the Tour of Britain this year, as he finished first on a sprint stage into Yeovil. However, it was the Yorkshireman’s all-round abilities that have drawn praise from many quarters. He picked up a number of top-ten placings at May’s Giro and most recently performed as part of Great Britain’s successful team pursuit squad at the World Cup in Manchester last weekend. “This year has been an amazing experience. It sounds like a cliché but I really have been living the dream, as they say,” Swift told Cyclingnews. “At he start of the year I just wanted to get as much experience as possible and go to as many different races as I could. If the results came, then great, but it was all about getting as much experience as I could.” Swift’s 2009 season began at the Tour of Qatar in January, where he shared a room with team leader Filippo Pozzato. “He speaks a bit of English and I speak very little Italian, but it was good rooming with him at Qatar. It was strange and unreal being with someone of that class at my first pro race,” said Swift, who along with Robbie McEwen, were the only English-speaking riders on the Russian team. “I spoke to Robbie quite a lot, and he was a great help. Unfortunately we didn’t get to race together as he was injured quite early on in the year.” His move to Katusha at the start of 2009 was a surprise to many, but Swift saw it as an opportunity to develop as a rider, away from the attention he may have received at other, smaller teams. “I was a stagiaire with Barloworld in 2007 and did a lot of races with Tinkoff, and obviously they noticed me. Max Sciandri was involved and played a part in my signing, but I was speaking to a few teams. Katusha were the only ones that put any money on the table straight away.” With one year left on his contract there has already been plenty of speculation linking Swift with a move to Sky for 2011, where he would team up with a whole host of British riders, including team pursuit and former Barloworld teammates Geraint Thomas and Stephen Cummings. For now, Swift would prefer to brush the conjecture aside and focus on racing. Contracts, as he says, can wait. “I want to get a few more wins under my belt in things like Pais Vasco, where I had a few good results [this year] and I want to prove myself again in a Grand Tour, maybe not the Giro. I got in the top-ten a few times, but I want to back that up. Hopefully I’ll get more support. It’s obvious that everyone is talking about the transfer rumours, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got one more year then we’ll see.”
Russia’s team Katusha is in Desenzano, Italy, this week for an informal meeting ahead of the 2010 season. It is a chance for the new riders and staff to get to know one another, according to Director Sportif Serge Parsani
“The riders are not even going out on rides,” Parsani told us. “For example, the riders played a game of football yesterday.”
The complete 2010 team is in Desenzano, along Lago di Garda, including new signees Kim Kirchen and Joaquím Rodríguez.
“We are taking photos for next year, performing tests, talking about next year’s race schedules and handing out clothing,” continued Parsani.
The camp started Monday and ends tomorrow.
Katusha will begin its 2010 season at the Tour Down Under 2010, January 19 to 24. It will meet again for another training camp, likely in southern Italy, at the start of the year.
Gert Steegmans has returned to racing for the first time since June, finishing eighth in a criterium in Wolvertem, Belgium, this weekend. Steegmans wore the kit of his private sponsor BBB, a bike parts company, and has been linked to Mark Cavendish’s Columbia team for next year.
Steegmans announced last week that he and Team Katusha had agreed to cancel his contract for the remainder of the season. However the team had denied that and claimed that the contract was still valid, after placing the rider on inactive status for refusing to sign its anti-doping charter.
Steegmans‘ manager Paul De Geyter is due to return from holiday today, “and I suspect that he will immediately get into action. I don’t want to find just find any new team . I don’t need to race any more this season.” The most important aspect, Steegmans said, was to find a team , “where I feel at home.”
The two teams rumoured to be interested in his signature are Bbox Bouygues Telecom and Columbia-HTC. Alan Peiper, Columbia Directeur Sportif, told La Derniere Heure, “We don’t see him as part of the Cavendish sprint train, but rather as a candidate for the Spring Classics.”
The 28-year-old didn’t comment on either team, saying, “I do not respond to the names I’ve seen appearing in the press. But occasionally I have a good laugh over one or the other.”
For now, Steemgans just seemed happy to be racing again: “It was a pleasure to wear a race number again,” he told the Gazet van Antwerpen.
Gert Steegmans is being supported financially by Dutch cycling component manufacturer BBB while he looks for a new team, following a possible contract annulment with Team Katusha on Wednesday. The Belgian has also claimed that the Russian ProTour team put too much pressure on him to return to racing after a back injury in May.
“We are glad to help Gert in his distress,” according to Davy Daniëls of BBB. It plans to sponsor him as an independent in upcoming criterium races. The company has previously provided Steegmans with equipment sponsorship.
Katusha denies the Steegmans‘ contract has been annulled. Press spokesman Andrea Agostini told us that team manager Andrei Tchmil is waiting to talk with his cyclist.
Steegmans refused to sign the team’s anti-doping charter, and has not ridden competitively since the Dauphiné Libéré in June. “I consider this a completely lost year,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
Although he had two wins earlier in the season, he says that he did not bring in the expected results because of “one big problem: my back. Only when that problem was out of the way, did things get better.” But, he said, Tchmil pushed him too hard in May. “You cannot expect that if the doctor says the problem is solved that I am immediately in form the next day,” Steegmans said.
Although he was placed on inactive status by Katusha in June, he has continued to ride. “I am still cycling but training is something else. There is always the uncertainty, “ he said. Steegmans added that despite some concern he remains highly motivated.
Steegmans is rumoured to be close to signing with the French team Bbox Bouygues Telecom, but he would not confirm that. “I won’t say much about my future. We’ll see. I hope that my concerns will soon be over.”