Leah Kirchmann

Canadian Olympian I Professional Cyclist

Clean Sport

January is an exciting time of year in the world of cycling. Contracts typically start on January 1st, so riders are finally able to unveil their new team kit and equipment. You may have noticed quite a few “New year, new me, new team!” type of social media posts. The race season is also starting to literally heat up as racing in Australia got underway. Lots of speculation is starting up related to new team dynamics and which riders to watch this season. Things are also starting to ramp up for Team Sunweb and myself, as we start a new and what should be an exciting season.

Last month the entire team travelled to Berlin, Germany for the official team launch. I arrived early with the rest of the North American contingent and toured the city. This included a stop at the Berlin Wall Memorial where we were educated about the history of this previously divided city. It is crazy to think it was not that long ago that a wall even existed.

The team presentation took place in an industrial style venue in the city centre, close to the famed Berliner Fernsehturm (Berlin Television Tower). It was special to watch some of the opening videos that reflected on an incredible 2017 season for the team. I can’t help getting goosebumps when I re-watch those moments. From Lucinda Brand setting the tone for the year with her solo victory at Nieuwsblad, to Coryn Rivera winning Flanders, the men’s and women’s World Team Time Trial victories, to Tom Dumoulin’s Giro victory and finally to the men’s team claiming jerseys and stage wins at the Tour de France.

After we reflected on last season, some important team announcements were made looking ahead to 2018. The most significant announcement was the introduction of increased drug testing for all team riders, thanks to added investment from our lead sponsor Sunweb. This independent testing will be conducted by the Dutch anti-doping authorities, with all results shared with WADA (World Anti-Doping Authority) and the CADF (Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation).

Team Sunweb takes anti-doping very seriously, and in addition to being a member of MPCC (Mouvement pour un Cyclisme Credible), have established extra anti-doping measures into the structure of the team to ensure that every rider is training and competing in an ethical manner. This additional testing demonstrates the team’s commitment to being a front runner in ensuring cycling is a clean and fair sport.

It will be helpful to introduce and familiarise young riders early on to the ADAMS Whereabouts System and to start establishing baseline values for the biological passport from the very start of their careers. I have been part of the Canadian athlete testing pool and completing Whereabouts since 2012, but the UCI and the national anti-doping agencies all have slightly different criteria for when athletes are added to the testing pool and monitored by this system during their athletic careers.

Cycling’s anti-doping measures are already quite extensive and developed when compared to many other sports, but of course, systems can always be improved. Cost is one of the limiting factors in conducting frequent testing for a large number of athletes and Sunweb’s additional funding will be helpful in this regard.

I like how a sponsor has taken a lead role in ensuring additional testing, investing in improving the sport for future generations. Hopefully, other sponsors can see the logic behind this idea and will also consider investing in similar measures for other teams in order to protect the hardworking clean athletes in the sport.

There has been so much positive change in cycling in recent years that we need to continue this trend in a positive direction with efforts from all the stakeholders involved. Personally, even though the additional testing will take more of my time, I am willing to be slightly inconvenienced if this will help create credible heroes in the sport and change the culture for the best in the long run.

Filling out my Whereabouts has not been the easiest task with my latest travel stint from Los Angeles to Winnipeg, to Toronto, to Amsterdam, to Berlin, and finally to Valencia, Spain. I’m ready to stay in one place for a while now and to get back to a normal daily schedule. I will soon join the entire team for our first camp of the season in Calpe. I may be wearing leg warmers and a jacket here in Spain, but the weather here seems positively balmy after my winter stint in Winnipeg, Manitoba where it was colder than Mars over the holidays. The men kicked off their season last month at the Tour Down Under, and while there was a women’s race there as well, you will have to wait until Nieuwsblad to see the Sunweb ladies on the start line. We still have some training to do until then!

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