Giro d’Italia: Welsh Government in talks host stage of Grand Tour cycling race

Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin of the Sunweb Team won the 2017 Giro d'Italia

Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin of the Sunweb Team won the 2017 Giro d’Italia

Wales could host a Giro d’Italia stage after “positive discussions” between the Welsh Government and owners RCS.

Representatives from RCS attended the Tour of Britain finale in Cardiff last weekend, as part of early negotiations.

A Welsh Government spokesperson told BBC Sport Wales: “We are continuing the very positive discussions with RCS about hosting the Giro d’Italia.

“This visit was an excellent opportunity to showcase Wales, to start building relationships.”

The Welsh Government has long been keen to bring a Grand Tour event – the Giro, Tour de France or Vuelta a Espana – to Wales.

Economy Minister Ken Skates revealed in June 2017 that initial talks had been held with Tour de France organisers.

Welsh cyclist Geraint Thomas, who has helped Team Sky leader Chris Froome secure four Tour victories, is also keen to see French cycling’s Blue Riband event come to Wales.

But there are no opportunities with the Tour in the immediate future and the Giro has now emerged as the leading contender of the three major multi-stage road races to come to Wales.

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Welsh ‘sporting heritage’ could help Giro bid

“We have made clear our ambition to host a future Grand Tour event,” the Welsh Government spokesperson said.

“In recent years we have made contact with the owners of all three events and have been keen to explore options.

“The ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, have advised that there are no short-term opportunities for Wales to host a Grand Depart of the Tour de France.”

The Giro takes place mainly in Italy but has often held stages in other countries, especially neighbouring San Marino, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia and Slovenia.

But RCS has been happy to go further afield, with the 2018 race set to start in Israel while the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Greece and Denmark have also held stages.

In 2014, Belfast hosted the first two stages, and the Giro continued from Armagh to Dublin in stage three before heading on to Italy.

The Yorkshire bid spent more than £10m in bringing the opening two stages of the Tour de France in 2014, while in the same year Belfast spent around a third of that figure for the privilege of bringing the Giro d’Italia to Northern Ireland.

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Pat McQuaid lobbying against me, says UCI president Brian Cookson

Cookson Lappartient

Brian Cookson, left, is being challenged in the UCI presidential election by David Lappartient

The head of cycling’s world governing body has expressed “grave concern” that his predecessor is “actively lobbying” against him.

The sport’s most powerful figure – Briton Brian Cookson – is being challenged by Frenchman David Lappartient in next week’s UCI presidential election.

Cookson says he has been shown “proof” the man he deposed in 2013, Pat McQuaid, is trying to influence the vote.

In an increasingly bitter fight, Cookson also said Lappartient would take the UCI in a “devastating direction” if he wins.

Lappartient responded by saying the claims were a “clear sign of despair from Brian Cookson and his languished campaign”.

McQuaid was among those heavily criticised in a landmark report published in 2015 into the sport’s troubled recent history.

Cookson had criticised the Irishman’s handling of the Lance Armstrong scandal, prior to beating him in an acrimonious presidential campaign in 2013.

McQuaid has called Cookson “a fraud”, and has publicly backed Lappartient.

McQuaid has left cycling politics. But one UCI voting delegate – who does not wish to be identified – has told the BBC that he received an email purportedly from McQuaid urging him to back Lappartient.

‘No respect’


Pat McQuaid was president of the UCI for eight years

In the email said to be from McQuaid – obtained by the BBC – he says that “cycling stakeholders; teams, riders, organisers have no respect for UCI under Brian.

“Having been president for eight years I know what is involved and how a president should act and lead his sport.

“Unfortunately I haven’t seen any of this from Brian these past four years. Indeed, he has abdicated his responsibilities.

“They have a big communications machine behind them which gives the impression everything is rosy but behind the scenes I am aware it is not.

“Brian hasn’t made it to any board such as the IOC… and so UCI has little clout in the larger international sporting world.

“…I do think David Lappartient could do a much better job and be a real leader of UCI. So I ask you to support David…”

What Cookson says…

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Archive: Cookson denies ‘culture of fear’ at British Cycling

In a statement, Cookson said: “I am aware of the rumours that Pat McQuaid has been actively lobbying on behalf of UCI Presidential candidate David Lappartient.

“I have of course seen the declarations Pat McQuaid has made recently in support of David in the media and I have also been shown proof that Pat is actively lobbying on David’s behalf.

“Only they know if Pat has been offered a senior role at the UCI, which would be a grave concern for anyone who can recall the disastrous situation that the UCI was in just four years ago under his leadership.

“I am focused on running my own campaign with the support of people who have contributed to restoring trust in our sport, to take cycling forward and build on the great achievements we have had over the past four years.

“It is, however, disappointing that David Lappartient has not come out renouncing the support of Pat McQuaid, but having hosted Pat and other former executives at the first Elite European Road Championships in France last year, I am not surprised.

“It speaks volumes for the devastating direction David would take the UCI in if he wins next week’s election.”

What Lappartient says…

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Archive: Cookson leadership ‘not at the level expected’

Lappartient responded to Cookson’s claims by saying the UCI chief’s “regrettable action” was part of his campaign strategy and was “false information”.

In a statement, he said: “Campaigning doesn’t mean be ready to do anything and everything.

“From information I gathered, it has been reported that Mr McQuaid has sent an email to a couple of delegates, whom he knows, by telling them his personal opinion about Brian Cookson and therefore calling on them to support my candidature.

“This was a personal act of McQuaid and not on my demand. By saying “Only they know if…” seems to me, once again, Brian Cookson is certain of nothing. Making false comments like these is unsportsmanlike behaviour.

“To set the records straight, during the Elite European Road Championships in France last year Brian Cookson is referring to, McQuaid called and asked if he could stop by since he was nearby. I immediately informed Brian Cookson, then McQuaid was of course given access to see the race as he asked to.

“It is pitiful that Brian Cookson is not concentrating his time and energy on explaining any vision he may have for cycling development in the next four years. That is what delegates are expecting, and not to delve into and hide behind old stories from four years ago.

“This act is undoubtedly a clear sign of despair from Brian Cookson and his languished campaign.”

Election too close to call

Cookson, who has been in office for the past four years, had hoped to be re-elected unopposed for a second term.

But his reputation has been dented by negative headlines about British Cycling, which he led for 17 years, and the country’s leading pro-cycling operation, Team Sky.

Lappartient admits the UCI has made progress on tackling doping, promoting women’s cycling, growing the sport in new territories and improving its status within the Olympics, with extra cycling events added to the 2020 Olympic programme in Tokyo.

But he believes these areas can still be improved, pledging in his manifesto to overhaul the race calendar, ban corticosteroids, and cap team budgets to prevent teams from dominating the sport.

Both Cookson and Lappartient say they are confident of victory in an election that appears too close to call.

McQuaid could not be reached for comment.

There is no suggestion that he has broken any rules.

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Road World Championships: Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas in Team Sky line-up

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas wore yellow at this year’s Tour de France after winning the opening individual time trial in Dusseldorf

Geraint Thomas will compete for Team Sky in Sunday’s team time trial at the Road World Championships in Bergen, despite having pulled out of the Great Britain team for the road race.

Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Froome, Owain Doull, Vasil Kiryienka, Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon are also selected.

Team Sky’s Brett Lancaster said: “The guys are going to be really motivated after the Vuelta win.”

The championships begin on Sunday.

Thomas was the highest-placed British rider at last week’s Tour of Britain, his first race since breaking his collarbone in the Tour de France in July.

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British Cycling head coach Iain Dyer said on Tuesday that the withdrawal of riders, including the Welshman, from his GB squad was “unfortunate but understandable”.

He added: “We are coming to the end of a long season for the road riders and injury and illness becomes inevitable so their decisions to withdraw themselves from selection are respected.”

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Road World Championships: Froome to compete in time trial but Cavendish out

Chris Froome

Chris Froome is only the third cyclist to win the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in the same year

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome will compete for Great Britain in the individual time trial at the Road World Championships in Norway.

However, 2011 champion Mark Cavendish, who broke his shoulder during July’s Tour, and Geraint Thomas have withdrawn from selection for the road race.

Lizzie Deignan, world champion in 2015, goes in the women’s road race having had her appendix removed in August.

The World Championships take place from 17-24 September in Bergen, Norway.

British Cycling’s head coach Iain Dyer said he was “delighted” to see Froome included after the 32-year-old became the first man to follow a Tour victory by winning the Vuelta a Espana in the same year.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him in action on a course which suits his strengths,” added Dyer, referring to the 31km route that features a 3.5km climb to a summit finish.

Froome had said immediately after winning the Vuelta in Madrid on Sunday that he would “put my feet up” after racing in Sunday’s team time trial at the Worlds for Team Sky.

Dyer added: “Lizzie will be supported by a full strength women’s team which is testament to how much women’s cycling is growing in this country in general but also the investment we have made in developing our best female road riders.

“There are some notable omissions from the squad, such as Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas, which is unfortunate but understandable.

“We are coming to the end of a long season for the road riders and injury and illness becomes inevitable so their decisions to withdraw themselves from selection are respected.”

Elite Men

Time trial: Steve Cummings, Chris Froome.

Road Race: Adam Blythe, Mark Christian, Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Pete Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Scott Thwaites.

Elite Women

Time trial: Elinor Barker, Hannah Barnes.

Road Race: Elinor Barker, Alice Barnes, Hannah Barnes, Lizzie Deignan, Dani King, Mel Lowther, Hayley Simmonds.

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Russian cyclists take legal action against Wada

Kirill Sveshnikov

Kirill Sveshnikov won bronze at the World Track Championships in 2013

Three Russian cyclists have taken legal action against the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and Canadian doping investigator Dr Richard McLaren.

Kirill Sveshnikov, Dmitry Strakhov and Dmitry Sokolov were unable to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics after Russian athletes were banned.

The McLaren report, an independent study commissioned by Wada, found evidence of state-sponsored doping.

The cyclists allege they were “unfairly implicated”.

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Having initially been selected for the men’s team pursuit in Rio, the three were banned after McLaren’s report into doping in Russia found that positive test results had been covered up.

They all deny cheating, but lost an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) before the Games.

The McLaren report did not name Sveshnikov, Strakhov and Sokolov but the cyclists say that they “suffered great reputational harm” and have filed a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, claiming damages.

“Together, Wada and Dr Richard McLaren prevented us from reaching our lifelong goal of participating in the Rio Olympics, the pinnacle of our sport, and we allege that they wrongly associated our names with cheaters and doping,” said Sveshnikov.

“We are asking the court to review all of the evidence and to vindicate us.”

Wada declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Last week McLaren denied reports by the head of the Russian Independent Anti-Doping Commission that he had dropped allegations of a state-sponsored doping programme, and insisted he “unequivocally stands by the results” of his investigation.

What was the McLaren report?

In May 2016, McLaren was tasked by Wada with investigating allegations of doping in Russia.

He published the first part of his report in July 2016 – stating Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme from 2011.

His 144-page independent study concluded more than 1,000 Russians benefitted from the doping programme across 30 sports.

As a result, Wada recommended all Russian athletes be banned from competing in the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.

But the International Olympic Committee chose not to impose a blanket ban, instead leaving decisions on whether Russians could compete to individual sporting federations. In terms of cycling, the decision was made by governing body the UCI.

Russia eventually took 271 athletes from an original entry list of 389 competitors to August’s Olympics Games.

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