Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali wants to send a message that there is “no space” for doping in the world of cycling after three of his Astana team-mates were found to have failed drug tests over the past two months.
Brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy failed tests for EPO while fellow Kazakh Ilya Davidenok tested positive for steroids, which has placed the Astana team under review from the UCI, world cycling’s governing body.
Maxim was part of the nine-strong Astana squad that helped Nibali pedal to the Tour de France title last July and the Italian was in shock and rage when he heard the news about his team-mate.
Speaking at the unveiling of the new 2015 Dubai Tour route in the UAE yesterday, Nibali insists there is zero tolerance for doping in his team.
“The message is that there is no space at all (for doping) and of course my team, Astana, is now taking a clear stand against doping, and all the precautions just to show even more that we are clean,” Nibali told Sport360°.
— Dubai Tour (@dubaitour) November 10, 2014
“Of course there are a lot of controls nowadays… and we are showing it because the people who cheat are found out. But again, there is no space for doping.”
Astana’s doping problems have not discouraged Nibali from planning his attack on the new season, which he confirmed he will be kicking off in Dubai.
Nibali, who is currently in the city on holiday, is one of only six riders to achieve the Grand Tour triple crown, having claimed the Vuelta a Espana title in 2010, the Giro d’Italia last year and the Tour de France this year.
The 29-year-old shed some serious doubt on his participation in the 2015 Giro d’Italia, predicting his team will be backing a different rider, but said he will be lining up for the Tour de France, where he’ll attempt to defend his title.
Asked whether his motivation has waned after achieving the triple crowd, Nibali said: “No my motivation is not decreasing at all. I want to be there year after year and try to compete as much as I can.”
Organisers of the Dubai Tour today announced the course for the 2015 event, which will this year celebrate being given a higher grade by cycling's governing body, the UCI.
The four stage route will test the limits of the competitors and take in some of the city's most iconic landmarks and landscapes.
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The Dubai Tour is a stage race divided as following:
The cycling scene in the UAE is growing in size and stature and the Dubai Roadsters have been one of the first groups to infuse their passion of the sport in the region.
Ever since visiting Dubai in 2000, co-founder Wolfi Hohmann has strived to spread his love of cycling. There was already a small community of cyclists that regularly rode in groups of five to 10, but the group slowly disbanded.
In stepped Hohmann, who owns a bicycle shop in his native Germany, by opening up the now famous Wolfi’s Bike Shop in Dubai in 2002 and consolidating the remaining riders to better establish the already-created Roadsters.
“It was simply that I wanted to train and I wanted to train with friends and I wanted to make sure more people get into cycling,” said Hohmann. “Obviously the idea of opening a shop is to sell bikes, but as well as establish a bicycle scene. We were trying hard to speak to everyone and get people interested in cycling, which was successful at the end of the day.”
While many people play sport to harness their competitiveness, Hohmann finds an inner-sanctuary on his bicycle.
“Being in Dubai, at the time of the day when it’s early morning, the city is fairly quiet, the sun rises, you have kind of that motion where you’re running or cycling, you have that repetitive motion of your body,” Hohmann said. “It’s almost like a meditative exercise where you get into your rhythm and I can say after like 20, 30 minutes on the bike, I’d almost call it magical things are happening in my body. It clears my mind, lifts my spirits and gets me in a different mood.”
Though he’s cycled in different parts across the world, Hohmann attributes the growth of the Roadsters to the openness of Dubai.
The club are able to cycle all year round thanks to the mild winters, and even in the most extreme season of summer, they compensate by riding early in the morning before the sun becomes an issue.
“I can ride my bike more often than I ever could in Europe,” said Hohmann.
“We have a lot of internationals here as well and they say, ‘I never thought of Dubai as a place where I could cycle so well and so well organised.’”
The construction of Dubai’s roads also helps. Not only are most of the roads relatively new, but they’re wider with more lanes than in places like Europe.
The terrain is also flat, compared to the hillier roads elsewhere, allowing riders of all levels and abilities to keep up with the more experienced cyclists.
That factor is important in maintaining the group mentality the Roadsters have.
They encourage anyone interested to join for free by contacting the Roadsters, or by simply showing up to one of their weekly rides, as long as there’s prior cycling experience.
A good fitness level is recommended, as well as a strong handling of a bicycle.