PIC BY T-MOBILE Unibet facing problems in France Belgian team Unibet.com may not be starting today’s GP d’Ouverture La Marseillaise in France because it is illegal under the current gambling legislation. French law allows the state-run Franaise des Jeux, PMU and casinos to operate, but no other gambling companies. Unibet is a Swedish-owned online sports betting firm. Last week, the team received a letter from the French Cycling Federation (FFC) saying that there would be problems with the French Ministry of Youth and Sport, which owns Franaise des Jeux. The team’s riders are allowed to race in France without advertising on their jerseys and team cars, but that almost completely defeats the point of having a sponsor. Before today’s race, team manager Koen Terryn was quoted by Het Nieuwsblad as saying, “We will see what happens. We are not officially up to date with the situation. It’s all to do with the nature of the sponsor. This is a problem with the company, not the cycling team, which has been accepted and invited by the organiser. It’s not up to the French Cycling Federation to concern itself with laws that will shortly be debated by the European Court.” The team was not prevented from racing in France last year, therefore Unibet.com’s team management asked its riders to start in their normal jerseys. In addition, the French have never prevented teams such as Lotto or ONCE from racing on their soil, despite their connection to lotteries in foreign countries. The French law is a another stumbling block in Unibet’s path to race in the top ProTour races. Although it’s registered as a ProTour team, Tour de France organiser ASO has refused it an invitation to Paris-Nice. Similarly, Spanish organiser Unipublic said over the weekend that Unibet.com wouldn’t be invited to the Vuelta a Espa¤a later this year. That doesn’t mean it will be excluded from the Tour de France, but it serves to highlight the dispute between the grand tour organisers and the sport’s governing body, the UCI. British duo ready for fast French finishes T-Mobile’s two new British recruits, Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish, are ready to kick off their European road campaign at the GP d’Ouverture La Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessges races in France this week. La Marseillaise is a one day outing on Tuesday, while the Etoile de Bessges runs for five days from Wednesday through Sunday. Hammond and Cavendish are looking for early results to show that they should be considered for the Tour de France, which has a strong UK focus this year. “It is really exciting to get my first opportunity to race as a full T-Mobile Team rider this week,” said Cavendish. “I have trained really hard over the winter and can’t wait to begin competition. Roger has been a fantastic mentor to me over the past few months and it is great that we both get to make our debuts in the same event. We are both obviously very keen to impress in France this week ahead of the start of the ProTour in March.” T-Mobile is taking an eight man lineup of sprinters and all-rounders to the two races on France’s Mediterranean coast. Three riders will be making their debuts for the team, as will director Allan Peiper. “The lads put in the hard work in training on Mallorca,” said Peiper. “Now I am keen to see how the training efforts pay off when the races begin.” Team roster: Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita), Mark Cavendish (GBr), Scott Davis (Aus), Andr Greipel (Ger), Roger Hammond (GBr), Axel Merckx (Bel), Marco Pinotti (Ita), Frantisek Rabon (Cze). Arvesen injured in California Norwegian rider Kurt-Asle Arvesen has been injured during CSC’s training camp south of San Francisco. Arvesen crashed during a ride on Sunday and broke his thumb. He described the accident on the team’s website: “After a long descent we made a turn into a fairly busy road and I hadn’t noticed the fact that there was quite a lot of gravel at the side. I was next to Sastre and didn’t have time to manoeuvre, when the warning came from up ahead. I lost control of my bike and rolled around a couple of times. When I got back on my feet the first thing I saw was the hood of a car and I heard the sound of screeching breaks right in front of me. You could say I had a pretty lucky escape really.” X-rays revealed a broken thumb for Arvesen, who will not be able to train with his teammates for the time being. “I’m going to do some time on my turbo-trainer indoors today and then we’ll have to see how long till I can join the others again,” he said. “The cast is all the way up to my elbow, but hopefully I should still be able to keep training – indoors to start off with. I’m definitely not going to sit still, that’s for sure!” “Nothing concrete” in Dedecker dossier Belgian paper Het Nieuwsblad has reported that politician Jean-Marie Dedecker’s ‘doping dossier’ will be dismissed by the courts. The ex-Flemish and Liberal Democrat senator announced last September, shortly before the country’s municipal elections, that he had information that three top Belgian riders had undergone a doping treatment in Italy in February, 2006. Dedecker did not name names, but both Quick.Step manager Patrick Lefvre and rider Tom Boonen felt damaged by the accusations, and commenced a lawsuit against him. The file was handed over to Johan Sabbe, a magistrate specialising in drug matters. According to HNB, Sabbe will report that, “We have found nothing concrete.” The paper also alleges that none of the riders in the ‘Dedecker dossier’ were from Quick.Step. Sean Yates forum chat Wednesday On Wednesday, February 7th, the Procycling forum will be featuring a ‘live’ chat/Q&A with Discovery Channel directeur sportif Sean Yates. It will take place at 16:00 GMT (11:00 EST/USA East, 08:00 PST/USA West). Forum members will be able to pose questions to Sean, so if you’re a guest lurker and want to participate, then please register. You can get in your questions early on this thread, or wait until the day itself. We anticipate that this will be the first of regular ‘pro’ forum chats. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.
Unibet.com may be the next cycling entity to fall foul of the law in France. Deal, or no deal? Also,