The Week That Was
Last week saw the beginning of the European racing season. Nicki Sorensen (CSC) took the Grand Prix d'Ouverture La Marseillaise, the first race on the French calendar, by winning a 19-up sprint. Freddy Bichot (La Francaise des Jeux.com) won the first stage of the Etoile des Besseges and held on to win. This coming week, the Mediterranean Tour and the Ruta del Sol will begin. On February 26, the Omloop Het Volk, the first classic, will take place. Hang on! The riding will be action-packed!
Not all of the action is or will be on the road. Swiss squad Phonak has been admitted to the Pro Tour. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overruled the International Cycling Union (UCI), which excluded Phonak after three of its riders, including Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton, failed doping tests in 2004. The CAS overruled the UCI because two of the riders, Hamilton and Santiago Perez, had not completed their appeals. Because of the suspicions against the riders, however, Phonak will receive a Pro Tour license for two years instead of the usual four.
One of Phonak?s riders will have a hearing in the next few weeks. Tyler Hamilton?s hearing before the United States Cycling Foundation (USCF) will take place between February 28 and March 3. According to http://www.tylerhamilton.com/, ?The panel has been selected and we are working toward solidifying a date to present my case. Originally we thought it might be in mid-February, but it is looking more and more like it will take place in early March. That would mean a verdict would be delivered by mid-March.? Hamilton?s teammate Santiago Perez will have longer to wait. The Spanish cycling federation will not hear his appeal until May or June of this year.
Andrea Tafi will soon reach the end of the road. Tafi will hang up his racing bike after Paris-Roubaix on April 10. The former Italian champion (1998), who won the Hell of the North in 1999, has also won the Tour of Lombardy (1996), Paris-Tours (2000), and the Tour of Flanders (2002). He hopes to shine once more in his favorite race.Keep up with the Mediterranean Tour, the Ruta del Sol, and other early season races by checking in at www.roadcycling.com!