Women's race a casualty of UCI controls

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 07:00 11/12/2012

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Lance Armstrong's sins have caused Jorge Sandoval to call off his women's cycle tour of New Zealand.

In an effort to clean up the sport, cycling's governing body - the UCI - have tightened doping controls around the world and now deem Drug Free Sport New Zealand incapable of maintaining the spotless record of Sandoval's races, which stretches back 26 years.

Next month's men's tour of Manawatu will continue as scheduled, but Sandoval has had to reluctantly postpone his women's event, which was due to take place in February.

The UCI want to send their own inspector to Sandoval's races, import testing devices and then have samples tested in Australia. That was due to cost Sandoval $30,000 for each event, as opposed to the fee of $8000-$10,000 he previously paid Drug Free Sport New Zealand.

With teams and riders having paid to ride the men's race, Sandoval is committed to staging it. But paying an additional $30,000 for the women's event, at short notice, was too much. "I totally agree with the UCI trying to stamp out drug cheats but everybody, in every sport, knows those people are at the top, not the bottom," Sandoval said.

"We target New Zealand and Australia's best up-and-coming riders [for the men's race] and none of those guys have ever been found positive here. I agree with the UCI, but all those resources should be used where they're needed most. New Zealand is a little country and the UCI is treating us like any country in the world and that includes great cycling nations like France, Spain and Italy, but we are not."

Sandoval's men's event is the only race in the country with full UCI status, so he has to be careful exactly what he says.

But he is not impressed at having to pay their new testing fee at the expense of his women's race.

His hope is that by postponing it a year he can generate sufficient sponsorship to be able to reinstate it for 2014, despite advice from others that he should flag it away entirely.

"I'm a battler and I don't give in, I don't give up . . . I've worked really hard to get the event where it is today and I won't go backwards," he said. The irony is that it's his women's race that actually attracts quality fields. It just doesn't generate the sponsorship the lesser-calibre men's one does.

Fifteen riders at this year's women's tour went on to compete at the London Olympics, including Kristin Armstrong who retained the individual road time trial gold medal and Judith Arndt claimed silver.

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- The Dominion Post

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