RACE ORGANISERS HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY TOO

The Tour of Britain?s organisers sent out a press release this week, announcing that Team LPR Brakes would be riding the race next month.

The event?s technical director, Mick Bennett, said: ?I?m pleased to be able to welcome LPR to the Tour of Britain and am sure that their inclusion will benefit the race, as both Petacchi and Di Luca are more than capable of winning stages and possibly the overall too.

?Like everyone else I?m also excited by the prospect of seeing Alessandro Petacchi going head-to-head with Mark Cavendish in the sprints, which should make each day?s stage finish unmissable.?

Of course there is no mention in the press release that Petacchi is currently serving a suspension after exceeding the amount of salbutamol he was allowed under the terms of his Therapeutic Use Exemption for the substance. The Tour of Britain is set to be his first race back after his ban.

Petacchi said it was an accident, the Court of Arbitration for Sport didn?t agree and upheld the ban. Milram, his old team, sacked him, which was quite a bold move considering the fact Petacchi single-handedly kept them in wins.

Di Luca too, is a dubious character. Banned for three months last winter for his association with the suspended doctor Carlo Santuccione, who, it turns out, is the man Riccardo Ricco claims gave him CERA.

No mention of any of that in the Tour of Britain?s press release either, just as there was no mention of Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla or Santiago Botero?s past when Rock Racing were signed up to compete.

So should we be excited by the prospect of a team like this racing in the Tour of Britain? Hardly.

It is actually demeaning to Mark Cavendish to even put Petacchi in the same bracket. Petacchi is washed up, tainted, yesterday?s man and he was stripped of his stage wins at the 2007 Giro d?Italia.

It is all very well to say that these riders will have served their bans for their various offences and that they are eligible but the shadows they cast are long.

It is time race organisers took a lead on the anti-doping issue too, instead of trading on the names that bring the sport into disrepute.

In a couple of years time, when Emanuele Sella?s ban expires, will Mick Bennett express his enthusiasm for seeing the Italian win the king of the mountains jersey in the Tour of Britain?

The Tour of Britain ought to be careful with this strategy. There are people in the mainstream sports media with enough knowledge to ask questions about Petacchi and Di Luca.

And what of EON, the event?s sponsors. Has the company been made aware of the reputations of some of the riders invited to ride the event?

Does the Tour of Britain really want Alessandro Petacchi winning the stages and Danilo Di Luca wearing the yellow jersey? Have they thought about the implications of that?

As a race, it would make for an irrelevance as far as I am concerned. Because for as long as cycling welcomes these characters back with open arms, pays them money, trades on their ?big names? there is no chance of completing the ethical changes that have begun.

Will ASO invite the Scott-American Beef team to next year?s Tour de France? Not likely, especially not with the same management in place.

Shouldn?t the Tour of Britain take a similar stance over teams that have damaged the sport instead of airbrushing their history in the belief that no one will notice?

CW story: Petacchi and Di Luca for Tour of Britain

SELLA ON CERA? NOW THERE?S A SURPRISE

Least surprising news story of the week was the revelation that Emanuele Sella had tested positive for CERA.

The sample was taken in an out-of-competition test carried out on July 23.

So, what should we make of Sella?s sixth place and his three mountain stage wins in the Giro d?Italia? Consign them to the dustbin?

Perhaps Sella will say, like Riccardo Ricco, that he rode the Giro clean and that he only took CERA afterwards because he was tired.

Yes, and while you?re at it, you can pull the other one because it?s got bells on it.

There may well be a fair few riders out there who are nervous at the prospect of retrospective testing for CERA on their samples.

Perhaps riders should realise that today?s undetectable miracle drug is tomorrow?s rash of positive tests.

And look at how quickly that little weasel Ricco?s story has changed. At the Tour he was still protesting his innocence, but the dogged reporting of an Italian journalist, Eugenio Capodacqua, forced his confession to the authorities into the public domain.

You have to laugh at Ricco?s comment that he still owes Dr Carlo Santuccione money for the CERA but is refusing to pay because the doctor told him he would never get caught.

What a delightful world. And what a disgrace that some in cycling are still enticing young men to inhabit it.

CW story: Sella positive for CERA

McQuaid on catching Sella

TEAM GB?S ROAD DILEMMA

It?s fair to say, given the severity of the Beijing road race course, that Britain?s men had no chance of a medal regardless of who they selected.

But if there?s something British cycling fans love, it?s a team selection debate.

Whereas discussion over the make-up of the national football or cricket teams takes the form of pub banter, there is an added element of spice to the cycling equivalent.

Part of the problem is that National Lottery funding has forced British Cycling to quantify and justify every decision. On the track that makes sense because many of the disciplines can be quantified. On the road, that is not possible.

The policy adopted by the World Class Performance Plan is that athletes capable of winning a medal at World Championship or Olympic level now or in the future, which is the crucial aspect.

If that policy was adopted for the men?s road race, it is possible that Great Britain would have taken up none of the four places they qualified.

Roger Hammond did a great ride to get seventh in Athens four years ago, but this course will not suit him. Steve Cummings is developing into an excellent all-round road rider, but he cannot compete over 250 kilometres.

Of those who could also have been considered, David Millar is ineligible for the Olympics because of the BOA ban. Even if Mark Cavendish were not concentrating on the track, there?s no opportunity for him to use his sprint on the road in Beijing. Kenyan-born Chris Froome?s clearance to race for Britain did not come through in time and Charly Wegelius, perhaps the best suited for the course, has still not healed the rift with British Cycling going back to the Madrid World Championships when he defied team orders to ride in support of the Italian national team.

It is trickier to justify the exclusion of the national road race champion, Rob Hayles, although even he admits he?d not be able to do anything in the Beijing road race.

By opting for the young riders Jonny Bellis and Ben Swift, British Cycling is looking to the future, even if it?s impossible to guarantee at this stage whether either will feature in future World Championship or Olympic Games teams. Bellis and Swift are on the verge of professional careers but they are completely untested at this level. Hopefully they will find something positive to take from the experience.

It could be argued that Ian Stannard, who is likely to be a key part of the Mark Cavendish Team GB lead-out train at future Worlds and Olympics, would have benefited from the experience and, had the course been less mountainous, perhaps he would have gone.

This road race is going to be as hard as Liège-Bastogne-Liège or a mountainous Tour de France stage and Britain simply does not have a rider capable of making the podium at the moment.

So then it came down to compromise. Roger Hammond goes as the most seasoned and experienced one-day rider we?ve got. Steve Cummings goes because he can take the time trial place and because he?s developed into a strong all-rounder who can cope with the climbing, as we saw in the Giro. And Bellis and Swift go with an eye on the future.

ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS LOSES HIS TEAM

It seems that Roger Legeay is going to be unsuccessful in his search for a sponsor to replace Crédit Agricole.

He has told his riders they are free to negotiate with other teams, signaling the likely end of a team that can trace its roots back 50 years to the earliest days of the Peugeot squad.

This is a real shame. Legeay is one of cycling?s good guys.

From speaking to people who know him, Legeay was extremely hurt by the news of Dmitriy Fofonov?s positive dope test at the Tour de France.

It is sad to think that Legeay?s last experience as the manager following his team down the Champs-Elysées was tainted by the selfish, stupid actions of one Kazakh cyclist who decided to take a banned stimulant. After all, as Legeay said, there was no pressure on Fofonov from the team, no requirement to finish 19th overall, or whatever it was.

Legeay turns 59 this week and his career in cycling has been a long one. He was a professional in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was no more than a domestique but he rode for a decade, finishing his career with four years on the Peugeot squad.

That was the team that had been run by the Velo Club de Paris since the late 1950s.

As soon as he retired, Legeay went into management, at around the time that the Peugeot team was the first port of call for promising British and Australian professionals who had learned their trade at the legendary Parisian club, ACBB. Graham Jones and Phil Anderson were among the first and they were followed by Sean Yates, Robert Millar and Allan Peiper.

When Peugeot scaled back its investment in the team, Roger Zanier, the flamboyant owner of the French child?s clothing store Z came in with enough money to allow Legeay to sign Greg LeMond. The American won the Tour for him in 1990.

Then French bank GAN came along and Legeay?s relationship with British cycling continued as he signed Chris Boardman. Legeay was one of the few who saw the potential in having a prologue specialist like Boardman and he was rewarded at the 1994 Tour de France.

GAN withdrew in summer 1998, right after the Festina Affair, but Crédit Agricole came straight in as a replacement. Legeay was among the first to adopt an anti-doping stance, not because it was fashionable but because he saw the harm an entrenched reliance on drugs was doing to the heart of the sport he loved.

It is notable that a talent such as Thor Hushovd stuck with Legeay, citing the manager as the main reason for his loyalty, despite offers from bigger, more glamorous teams. And Boardman always called him The Boss, such was his respect for the man.

It may already be too late, but perhaps a company will come in to allow Legeay to continue his involvement. After all, if he goes, it will be cycling?s loss.

CW story: Crédit Agricole fails to find a sponsor

BEFORE THE GOLD RUSH

The Olympics are almost here and British fans will no doubt be setting the alarm clock for half past six on Sunday so they can see how Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws get on in the women?s road race.

This is Great Britain?s first chance of a medal and an opportunity to give the track squad a huge boost before they start their campaign a week on Friday.

It can barely have escaped anyone?s attention that there is a tremendous sense of anticipation surrounding the team. Britain now expects an armful of medals from the cyclists.

CW has tried to keep a sense of perspective by predicting where Britain may be successful but as we have said in a comment article in this week?s issue of the magazine (on sale on Thursday), it?s important not to see silver and bronze as failure.

Olympic medals are not easy to come by. There?s only one chance every four years to get one. So, in the clamour for gold, let us not overlook the achievement of those athletes who come away with a medal of a different colour.

CW story: How many medals will Great Britain win?

PREVIOUS COMMENTS

The Wednesday Comment ? July 30

The Tuesday Comment ? January to July 2008