Still no Unibet in P-N; Pitallier: Verbruggen should quit; T-Mobile wins in NZ

Unibet isn't among the 20 teams invited to Paris-Nice, and it isn't happy as Jeff Jones reports for

Unibet isn't among the 20 teams invited to Paris-Nice, and it isn't happy as Jeff Jones reports for
PIC © TIM DE WAELE Still no Unibet in Paris-Nice Paris-Nice organiser ASO has confirmed the list of teams that will take part in the 'race to the sun', which runs between March 11th and 18th. Just as before, Unibet.com hasn't been granted a spot in the 20 team lineup. The other 19 ProTour teams, including Astana, have been granted starts, with Agritubel getting a wild card. At a press conference yesterday, Unibet.com reiterated its stance on the battle between the UCI and the grand tour organisers, which it feels that it is caught in the middle of. At the heart of the matter is the fact that the UCI never got the organisers to agree to join the ProTour. The whole system has so far been based on the organisers' willingness not to rock the boat. That has now stopped. "Since UCI and the organizer have now mutually agreed that Unibet has no right to start in this race, the Pro Tour competition is not representative at all and has lost all credibility," said Unibet in a statement. "UCI on its side, has reluctantly had to admit that it has sold an 'empty box' to the Unibet Team since there is no legal basis to enforce the participation of the Pro Tour teams in the races organized by the 'Grand Tours' organizers. Ultimately, UCI has chosen to enter into an agreement with these organizers, thereby preferring not to lose face rather than to respect its contractual obligations and to protect the future of the cycling sport." Team Unibet claims that it can legally race in France in unbranded jerseys, and has requested an quick decision from a French judge to be allowed to compete in Paris-Nice. "The legal issue in France is only related to the field of sponsoring, and not related to the team itself. The validity of the applicable French legislation is, moreover, heavily contested on a European level." The latter refers to EU laws dealing with the freedom of businesses to operate. The International Herald Tribune reported on Tuesday that sports bookmaker Stanleybet International won a case in the European court of justice. The ruling prevents Italy from prosecuting bookmakers based in other EU countries. The European Commission is putting pressure on several countries, including France, because "they are potentially in violation of rules seeking to create a single market in goods and services across the EU, for public- and private-sector providers alike," wrote the IHT. This may help the Unibet team in the long run, but for the moment its status in the major races is still up to the organisers, who say they are not bound by ProTour rules. The team claims its contractual rights have been "blatantly violated" after the UCI bowed to pressure to ensure that the major races on the 2007 calendar go ahead. But Unibet also complained that ASO, RCS and Unipublic were not transparent in their reasoning to refuse the team access to their races, and that this is also contrary to European law. "The Unibet Team will therefore undertake the necessary steps to enforce its rights, both in summary proceedings as in proceedings on the merits," the team concluded in its statement. Challenging course With or without Unibet, Paris-Nice promises to be the first taste of quality European stage racing this season. It starts on Sunday with a tough 4.7 km prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux and ends with a challenging stage around Nice the following Sunday. It's not a sprinter-friendly race, as even the flatter stages have difficult finishes. Stages 1 in Buzanais and 3 in Maurs will suit the fast men, but stage 2 in Limoges rises 70m in the last 2.5km - never an easy task for a pure sprinter. Stage 4 finishes in Mende on the category 1 climb La Croix Neuve (Monte Laurent Jalabert). This 3.1km climb at 10.1% will play a big role in shaping the general classification. The next two stages, to Manosque and Cannes, are lumpy but shouldn't separate the GC riders too much. The final stage, a 129.5 km loop around Nice featuring three cat. 1 climbs, is usually a race of attrition. Although it's a difficult stage, it's rare that the leader loses the jersey here. The strongest GC teams look to be Discovery Channel (Leipheimer, Popovych, Danielson, Contador, if he is recovered from his crash in Valencia) and CSC (Frank Schleck, Kroon, Julich). Cyril Dessel and Simon Gerrans (Ag2r), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) are others to watch. The early sprints should be between Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) and Daniele Bennati (Lampre). Stage list Prologue: Sunday, March 11th: Issy-les-Moulineaux individual time trial, 4.7 km Stage 1: Monday, March 12th: Cloyes-sur-le-Loir - Buzanais, 186 km Stage 2: Tuesday, March 13th: Vatan - Limoges, 177 km Stage 3: Wednesday, March 14th: Limoges - Maurs, 215.5 km Stage 4: Thursday, March 15th: Maurs - Mende, 169.5 km Stage 5: Friday, March 16th: Sorgues - Manosque, 178 km Stage 6: Saturday, March 17th: Brignoles - Cannes, 200 km Stage 7: Sunday, March 18th: Nice - Nice, 129.5 km Teams: AG2R Prevoyance, Agritubel, Astana, Bouygues Telecom, Credit Agricole, Cofidis, Discovery Channel Team, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel - Euskadi, FDJeux.com, Gerolsteiner, Lampre, Liquigas, Predictor - Lotto, Quickstep Innergetic, Rabobank, Saunier Duval - Prodir, Team CSC, T-Mobile Team, Team Milram Pitallier calls for Verbruggen to quit The president of the French Cycling Federation, Jean Pitallier, has called for the resignation of UCI vice-president Hein Verbruggen. "It's necessary to take responsibility for the consequences of the ProTour," Pitallier told AFP. "I ask that Hein Verbruggen, who is behind these problems, resigns along with his closest collaborators, and that he abandons his function in cycling." Verbruggen headed the UCI until September 2005, when Pat McQuaid took over. One of his last decisions was to unilaterally introduce the controversial ProTour. He still sits on the ProTour council and is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. More success for T-Mobile in NZ T-Mobile won its second stage in a row in the women's Tour of New Zealand on Thursday, with Oenone Wood taking the stage win in a bunch sprint and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg holding on to the yellow jersey. The stage between Martinborough and Masterton was raced over 94 km and included two climbs. On the first of these, a break went clear with Judith Arndt (T-Mobile), Susanne Ljungskog (Flexpoint), Leigh Hobson (Cheerwine), Olivia Gollan, Carla Ryan and Lorian Graham (Australian National Team), Toni Bradshaw (Trust House New Zealand) and Gina Waibl (Samsung New Zealand). The break did not succeed, being brought back by Cheerwine with 4 km to go. T-Mobile took over at the finish with Alex Rhodes and Ina Teutenberg combining to give Wood a perfect leadout for the victory ahead of Joanne Kiesanowski (Trust House New Zealand) and Loes Markerink (Flexpoint). "The team did an awesome leadout in the final kilometres," said Wood on t-mobile-team.com. "So there was not much left for me to do except cross the line." Friday's third stage is a four lap circuit race for a total of 120km - a relatively flat day before the mountain stage on Saturday. Stage 2 results 1 Oenone Wood (Aus, T-Mobile) 2:46:20 2 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 3 Loes Markerink (Ned, Flexpoint) 4 Jenny Macpherson (Aus, Australian National Team) 5 Nikki Egyed (Aus, Australian National Team) 6 Laura Van Gilder (USA, Cheerwine) 7 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned, Flexpoint) 8 Olivia Gollan (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 9 Annette Beutler (Swi, Flexpoint) 10 Leigh Hobson (Can, Cheerwine) 11 Vicki Whitelaw (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 12 Charlotte Becker (Ger, German National Team) 13 Peta Mullens (Aus, Infinity Solutions) 14 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe, Flexpoint) 15 Gina Waibl (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 16 Catherine Hare (GBr, Infinity Solutions) 17 Judith Arndt (Ger, T-Mobile) 18 Candice Sullivan (Aus, Australian National Team) 19 Tiffany Cromwell (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 20 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger, T-Mobile) 21 Toni Bradshaw (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 22 Sara Carrigan (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 23 Catherine Cheatley (NZl, Cheerwine) 0:00:07 24 Madeleine Sandig (Ger, Flexpoint) 0:00:07 25 Amy Mosen (NZl, Wellington Star Mercedes Benz) 0:00:07 26 Alex Rhodes (Aus, T-Mobile) 0:00:07 27 Tracy Clark (NZl, Wellington Beds) 0:00:07 28 Betina Hold (Can, Cheerwine) 0:00:07 29 Linda Villumsen (Den, T-Mobile) 0:00:07 30 Michelle Hyland (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:00:07 31 Larissa Kleinmann (Ger, German National Team) 0:00:19 32 Carla Ryan (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:00:19 33 Sarah Ulmer (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:00:19 34 Graham Lorian (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:00:26 35 Kerr Louise (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:00:40 36 Jocelyn Loane (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:00:40 37 Virginia Hennig (Ger, German National Team) 0:00:40 38 Rosara Joseph (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:00:47 39 Brooke Ourada (USA, Cheerwine) 0:00:47 40 Brei Gudsell (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:00:07 41 Jennifer Fay (Irl, Infinity Solutions) 0:06:02 42 Tara Allerton (NZl, Wellington Beds) 0:06:02 43 Yvette Hill-Willis (NZl, Wellington Star Mercedes Benz) 0:06:02 44 Lauren Webb (NZl, Exodus Gym) 0:06:02 45 Amanda Spratt (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:06:04 46 Michelle Kiesanowski (NZl, Wellington Star Mercedes Benz) 0:06:04 47 Rushlee Buchanan (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:06:04 48 Marina Duvnjak (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:06:04 49 Tracey Herbert (NZl, Wellington Beds) 0:13:14 50 Nicola Cox (NZl, Exodus Gym) 0:15:39 51 Rachel O'Connell (Aus, Cheerwine) 0:17:54 52 Sophie Ruderman (GBr, Infinity Solutions) 0:20:03 53 Amy-Kelly Horsfall (NZl, Exodus Gym) 0:22:54 54 Kerri-Anne Torckler (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:25:39 55 Annelies Basten (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:29:19 DNF Gabrielle Bahler (NZl, Wellington Beds) General Classification after Stage 2 1 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger, T-Mobile) 3:56:24 2 Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:00:04 3 Laura Van Gilder (USA, Cheerwine) 0:00:04 4 Charlotte Becker (Ger, German National Team) 0:00:06 5 Nikki Egyed (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:00:10 6 Leigh Hobson (Can, Cheerwine) 0:00:10 7 Judith Arndt (Ger, T-Mobile) 0:00:10 8 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned, Flexpoint) 0:00:10 9 Susanne Ljungskog (Swe, Flexpoint) 0:00:10 10 Catherine Cheatley (NZl, Cheerwine) 0:00:17 11 Oenone Wood (Aus, T-Mobile) 0:00:38 12 Loes Markerink (Ned, Flexpoint) 0:00:44 13 Toni Bradshaw (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:00:48 14 Jenny Macpherson (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:00:48 15 Candice Sullivan (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:00:48 16 Annette Beutler (Swi, Flexpoint) 0:00:48 17 Sara Carrigan (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:00:48 18 Tiffany Cromwell (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:00:48 19 Olivia Gollan (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:00:48 20 Vicki Whitelaw (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:00:48 21 Gina Waibl (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:00:48 22 Catherine Hare (GBr, Infinity Solutions) 0:00:48 23 Peta Mullens (Aus, Infinity Solutions) 0:00:48 24 Michelle Hyland (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:00:55 25 Betina Hold (Can, Cheerwine) 0:00:55 26 Alex Rhodes (Aus, T-Mobile) 0:00:55 27 Linda Villumsen (Den, T-Mobile) 0:00:55 28 Madeleine Sandig (Ger, Flexpoint) 0:00:55 29 Tracy Clark (NZl, Wellington Beds) 0:00:55 30 Amy Mosen (NZl, Wellington Star Mercedes Benz) 0:00:55 31 Sarah Ulmer (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:01:07 32 Carla Ryan (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:01:07 33 Larissa Kleinmann (Ger, German National Team) 0:01:07 34 Graham Lorian (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:01:14 35 Kerr Louise (Aus, Australian Institute of Sport) 0:01:28 36 Rosara Joseph (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:01:35 37 Jocelyn Loane (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:01:48 38 Jennifer Fay (Irl, Infinity Solutions) 0:06:50 39 Marina Duvnjak (NZl, Trust House New Zealand) 0:06:52 40 Amanda Spratt (Aus, Australian National Team) 0:06:52 41 Rushlee Buchanan (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:06:52 42 Michelle Kiesanowski (NZl, Wellington Star Mercedes Benz) 0:06:52 43 Brei Gudsell (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:06:57 44 Virginia Hennig (Ger, German National Team) 0:07:30 45 Brooke Ourada (USA, Cheerwine) 0:07:37 46 Lauren Webb (NZl, Exodus Gym) 0:09:32 47 Yvette Hill-Willis (NZl, Wellington Star Mercedes Benz) 0:12:52 48 Tara Allerton (NZl, Wellington Beds) 0:16:12 49 Rachel O'Connell (Aus, Cheerwine) 0:18:42 50 Nicola Cox (NZl, Exodus Gym) 0:19:09 51 Tracey Herbert (NZl, Wellington Beds) 0:20:04 52 Sophie Ruderman (GBr, Infinity Solutions) 0:20:51 53 Kerri-Anne Torckler (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:32:29 54 Amy-Kelly Horsfall (NZl, Exodus Gym) 0:33:04 55 Annelies Basten (NZl, Samsung New Zealand) 0:36:09 Got a comment? 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