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Category: Cycling

Start of Stage 2 of Amgen Tour of California is delayed, relocated due to weather

Tour_250 The start of Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California on Monday has been pushed back and relocated due to uncertain weather and road conditions.

The race will start in Nevada City at 12:15 p.m., a switch from a scheduled earlier start in Squaw Valley. The riders will travel about 61 miles to Sacramento, then pick up the original Stage 2 route

After entering Sacramento at about 3 p.m., the riders will complete three circuit laps and finish in front of the Capitol at around 3:30 to 3:45.

The changes were made a day after snow caused the tour to cancel Stage 1 of the eight-stage race. It was the first time in the event's six-year history that a stage had been canceled.

More information can be found on the tour's website.


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-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Team RadioShack's Levi Leipheimer, left, Markel Irizar and Ben King take a training ride before the 2011 Amgen Tour of California in South Lake Tahoe, May 15, 2011. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

It's snow at Amgen Tour of California: Stage 1 delayed

Amgen1_350 The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race was supposed to start Stage 1 in Stateline, Nev., at 10:30 a.m. Sunday but -- Look out the window! That's snow!

There was an accumulation of a couple of inches of snow overnight, more up higher where the riders were to face three climbs, and so the start was postponed until 1:15 p.m. and the course shortened from 118 miles to 50 miles.

And it will head only up the west side of Lake Tahoe. The plan was still for the race to finish at Northstar Lodge in North Lake Tahoe, but that was contingent on not too much more snow. The Lifestyle Festival at the finish will still open at noon, with the Amgen Breakaway Mile also remaining on schedule for 2:30 p.m.

Andrew Messick, president of AEG sports and presenter of the Amgen Tour of California, said, "Due to severe and unsafe weather conditions in the Lake Tahoe area, the start of Stage 1 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California has been delayed."

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Three-time champion Levi Leipheimer heads Amgen Tour of California field

The preliminary start list for the 2011 Amgen Tour of California was released Wednesday morning and, as expected, three-time champion Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack will try to win back the title he lost last year to Australian Michael Rogers.

Leipheimer finished third last year.

The race, with 140 riders from 18 teams, begins Sunday at Lake Tahoe and ends May 22 with a stage from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks.

Besides Leipheimer, who finished third at the Tour de France in 2007, the other Tour de France podium finisher in the field is Andy Schleck, who finished second in 2009. Schleck, of Luxembourg, rides for the new Leopard Trek team, which withdrew from the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday after one of its riders, Wouter Weylandt, was killed in a crash during a descent Monday.

Besides Leipheimer and Schleck, there are nine other Tour de France stage winners in the field, including Americans George Hincapie (BMC Race Team) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions).

Current U.S. national champion Taylor Phinney (Garmin-Transitions) is also scheduled to ride. Phinney is the son of former Olympians Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter.


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-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Levi Leipheimer rides during the time trial stage of the Tour de California in 2006. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

Alberto Contador gets one-year suspension for failed doping test [Updated]

Contador_300 The Spanish cycling federation has suspended Tour de France champion Alberto Contador for one year over his failed doping test in the 2010 race, the newspaper El Pais reported Wednesday.

The Spaniard was informed of the decision by the federation's competition committee and has 10 days to appeal it before a final decision is made, the paper said without identifying the source of its information.

[Updated at 2:08 p.m.: Contador confirmed Wednesday that the Spanish cycling federation had proposed banning him for one year. “Alberto Contador has received today a notification of a one year ban proposal by the competition committee of the Spanish federation,” said a statement released by the cyclist's spokesman.]

-- Reuters

Photo: Alberto Contador. Credit: Jaime Reine / AFP/Getty Images

Alberto Contador claims innocence in doping case during emotional TV interview

Contador_250 Alberto Contador has reiterated his innocence over his failed doping test at the Tour de France in an emotional television interview in Madrid.

"I don't doubt (my innocence) for one second because I did not do anything irregular at any time," the 27-year-old Spanish cyclist said in an interview broadcast Thursday by TVE.

Contador is facing a two-year ban and risks losing his third Tour title after testing positive for the banned drug clenbuterol. He claims contaminated meat was to blame.

Contador says it is too early to decide if he would quit the sport if found guilty, but "I can't say for sure that I'll continue."

He hopes his case will be resolved before the end of the year.

--Associated Press

Photo: Alberto Contador: Credit: Eloy Alonso / Reuters

Cyclist Alberto Contador stands by tainted-meat claim

Contador_300 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador's lawyers on Wednesday challenged a reported World Anti-Doping Agency document that concludes his positive Tour de France test could not have been caused by tainted meat.

El Pais newspaper said a WADA team visited the slaughterhouse and butcher's shop in Irun, Spain, that provided the beef Contador contends led to the positive finding for clenbuterol. The newspaper also said it obtained a WADA report that determined the clenbuterol in Contador's sample "could not have come from possibly contaminated meat" and also ruled out asthma medication as a cause.

"None of the inspections and none of the tests on samples of meat found traces of clenbuterol, a banned drug used to fatten cattle quickly," El Pais said.

In a statement released by Contador spokesman Jacinto Vidarte, the rider's legal team said that after studying all the material it received from the International Cycling Union -- including the WADA report -- "“it is impossible to determine that the meat was not contaminated."

Contador's legal team argued that WADA's investigation "lacked strength" because it did not investigate all the possibilities of food contamination and was limited to questions -- rather than actual analysis -- related to the slaughterhouse and ranch where the meat came from.

"The European Union's present system of monitoring meat is not perfect nor sufficient enough in detecting fraud where it exists," the Contador statement said.

WADA spokesman Frederic Donze declined comment to the Associated Press.

Contador, a three-time Tour de France champion, remains provisionally suspended. He risks losing his latest Tour title and faces a two-year ban if found guilty of doping.

The WADA report was passed on to the Spanish cycling federation from the UCI. The Spanish disciplinary committee is investigating Contador's case and will issue a ruling.

The 27-year-old cyclist, who has threatened to quit the sport regardless of the outcome, said he would be willing to submit all materials from his team's own investigation to the Spanish federation and to meet with the panel in the coming days.

According to El Pais, WADA's report said Contador's "main problem" in proving his innocence is that "his entire defense rests on the involuntary ingestion of the meat contaminated with clenbuterol in such a tiny amount that it had no effect on his performance."

WADA referred to a 2008 European Union study in which 300,000 meat samples were tested and traces of clenbuterol were found in only one. It added that farmers will not slaughter their cattle until at least 20 days after the last dose of clenbuterol has been administered to avoid being caught and allow the steroid to have its full "fattening-up" effect.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Alberto Contador flashes three fingers for his third Tour de France victory. Credit: Christophe Ena / Associated Press

Tour de France winner Alberto Contador to be investigated for doping

Contador_400 Spain's Alberto Contador could be stripped of his 2010 Tour de France victory and likely be banned from competition for two years if found guilty in an investigation by the Spanish cycling federation.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said Monday it asked for the investigation after deliberating with the World Anti-Doping Agency since the three-time Tour winner was provisionally suspended for testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during this year's race.

"At the end of a long and meticulous inquiry entrusted to highly qualified, WADA-accredited experts, and considering all the information currently in its possession, the UCI has concluded that disciplinary proceedings should be opened against Alberto Contador," the organization said in a statement.

The statement also said that due to the small traces of the banned substance found in Contador's urine sample, additional tests were performed on all of the rider's blood and urine samples during the period in question. "Alberto Contador still benefits from a presumption of innocence,” the statement said.

Contador has denied doping and has said the traces of the banned substance came from contaminated meat.

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Photo: Alberto Contador. Credit: Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters

Lance Armstrong isn't done with bicycle racing yet

Lance Armstrong will race in the Santos Tour Down Under, the first major international cycling event of the 2011 season, Jan. 16-23, according to a press release from race organizers sent Saturday evening.

When Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, came out of retirement in 2009, the first race he committed to was the Tour Down Under, which is raced in and around Adelaide in South Australia. Armstrong and South Australia premier Mike Rann have a good relationship and Armstrong received strong fan support in 2009 and 2010.

Since May, though, Armstrong has appeared to be the focus of a federal grand jury investigation into possible doping in cycling. Several former associates and teammates of Armstrong when he raced for the United States Postal Service team have testified in front of a grand jury in Los Angeles.

After this pastsummer's Tour de France, Armstrong said he would not race on European soil again, and in the press release Rann said, "This is an amazing opportunity for cycling fans across the globe to head to Adelaide and be part of history as Lance competes in his farewell ride as a professional on international soil."

Armstrong said in the release: "I'm excited to be competing in my last professional ride outside the U.S. at the Santos Tour Down Under. It will be my third time to the event and I'm sure I will enjoy it as much as I have the first two times."

Interesting that in both quotes the point was made that the January event would be Armstrong's last international race. That seems to leave open the possibility of another race in the United States, the biggest of which is the Amgen Tour of California.

-- Diane Pucin



Versus to live-stream Tuesday's announcement of 2011 Tour de France route

Tour_200 It is always a major production when the new Tour de France route is announced. It's scheduled to happen Tuesday, and this year the Versus network is offering free live-streaming video of the news conference from France. The coverage will begin at 2:30 a.m. PDT, and after the announcement, at 8 a.m. PDT, Versus will host a live chat with analyst Bob Roll and Garmin-Transitions cyclist Christian Vande Velde to analyze the route.

There has been plenty of speculation on what the next Tour might look like, including a theory that cyclists will twice climb the signature l'Alpe d'Huez with its signature 21 switchbacks.

Usually on hand for the announcement are team managers as well as the defending champion and key riders from most teams. The 2010 defending champion Alberto Contador, however, has said he will not attend unless the international cycling federation, UCI, has concluded its investigation into his failed doping test from the 2010 race.

A Contador sample failed a test for the substance clenbuterol. It has been reported as well that tests detected the presence of plasticizer, a component of bags used in blood transfusions. Although there is not an official World Anti-Doping Agency test for plasticizers in use, WADA has wide latitude in putting together doping cases based on several types of evidence.

This will be the first time since 2008 that Lance Armstrong won't be in the race. After last summer, he retired for a second time when he was unable to contend after a series of first-week crashes. He is still a member of the Radio Shack team that will be represented at the announcement by director Johan Bruyneel, who has come out in support of Contador and the Spaniard's contention that he ingested clenbuterol through contaminated meat. Several associates of Armstrong have been questioned by or turned over documents to federal prosecutors who are conducting a grand jury investigation into cycling.

-- Diane Pucin

Image from

Lance Armstrong's family gets bigger with baby Olivia

Armstrong_200 Lance Armstrong announced via Twitter on Monday that the baby he had been referring to as @cincoarmstrong during the last few weeks had arrived and that his fifth child (second with girlfriend Anna Hansen) is a girl named Olivia Marie.

Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, also has a son Max with Hansen as well as a son Luke and twin daughters Grace and Isabelle from his marriage to Kristin Armstrong. He is the subject of a federal investigation that seems tied to possible illegal doping during  the time when he rode for the United States Postal Service team.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Lance Armstrong. Credit: Bas Czerwinski / Associated Press

Host cities announced for 2011 Amgen Tour of California


The host cities for the sixth annual Amgen Tour of California professional cycling road race were announced Thursday morning.

The event  will cover more than 800 miles from May 15-22, including a first-ever visit to Lake Tahoe. Here's the schedule:

• Stage 1: Sunday, May 15 -- South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe-Northstar at Tahoe Resort
• Stage 2: Monday, May 16 -- North Lake Tahoe-Squaw Valley USA  to Sacramento
• Stage 3: Tuesday, May 17 -- Auburn to Modesto
• Stage 4: Wednesday, May 18 -- Livermore to San Jose
• Stage 5: Thursday, May 19 -- Seaside to Paso Robles
• Stage 6: Friday, May 20 -- Solvang individual time trial
• Stage 7: Saturday, May 21 -- Claremont to Mt. Baldy
• Stage 8: Sunday, May 22 -- Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks

Watch the Fabulous Forum for more details.

-- Melissa Rohlin

Photo: Lake Tahoe. Credit: Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times


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