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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 24, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Bad blood between Manzano and Kelme

Former Kelme professional Jesus Manzano has spoken out about alleged doping practices within his team, describing at length his experiences which he claims left him seriously ill on two occasions in 2003. Manzano, who rode for Kelme between 2000 and 2003, was fired from the team during the Vuelta a España after sleeping with a woman during the race, thereby breaching team conduct. Some say that he is now seeking revenge on his former team, and his comments have gained a lot of attention in the Spanish media.

In an extensive interview with AS, Manzano explained that he and the cyclists on Kelme used blood transfusions to keep themselves "healthy" during the season. Before the Tour de France, he had a litre of blood removed and stored as two 500 mL portions. Manzano noted at the time, "One thing I did not see as normal was to leave the portions in a plastic tray without marking them, if you are going to extract from more people. The first thing you should do is to mark them and put them in a blood bank. We are not dogs, we are people and we have the right to be treated as such...Then I became aware that you must first do a cross check to see if it's your blood that is going to be put back into you."

Manzano said that he put in €3,000 at the start of the Tour to cover "medication", and he supposed that the other riders put in the same amount. But because by the end of the race the team's prizemoney was almost non-existent, they actually made a loss.

Manzano described the first part of the Tour as "normal" but things suddenly changed in stage 7. "It was the first mountain stage and in the morning they tested a substance that I had not experimented with. This substance was taken according to your weight. It is injected into a vein and the unique thing that it does is to keep your hematocrit low but raise your haemoglobin.

"In the morning they injected 50 ml of this product into me. Before the start I was in the village, I spoke on the phone with my girlfriend, Marina, and I told her: 'Prepare yourself, because I know today that I am going to ride well."

On the day's first climb, the Cat. 2 Col des Portes (km 50), Manzano and Richard Virenque set off to try and catch the early break with Paolo Bettini, Rolf Aldag, Médéric Clain and Benoît Poilvet. Virenque would not work with Manzano as he had Bettini in front, leaving Manzano to try and close the gap himself. But after three kilometres of climbing, "I started to have sensations of dizziness, with a lot of heat, very cold sweat, contrasts of hot and cold, but above all, a lot of cold. In spite of the July heat, I began to shiver and feel strange. Virenque looked at me and attacked. I went for another half a kilometre and there was a corner. It was so hot that the tar of the asphalt had melted...the only thing I remember was that I was dizzy and I could not longer ride straight, if I crashed, whether they would carry me off, where they would take me."

Manzano recalled his experiences subsequent to his crash, and said that he was given an injection in the ambulance as well as an electrocardiogram. "I felt strange, as if my tongue had swollen, as if I couldn't breathe. If they had put a hole in my throat I would have thanked them."

Manzano believed that whatever he took in the morning before the stage resulted in his near catastrophic dehydration. After the Tour, he began to get depressed and afraid, and lost his desire to race. One night his team director told him that he was going to do the Tour of Portugal. "I don't know if I am going to race any more," said Manzano, to which his director replied "If you don't race any more this year, you won't race next year." "Man, if I don't race this year, why would I want to race the next!" were Manzano's final words.

A few days later in Valencia, Manzano was asked to 'reclaim' his second half litre of blood. "It was July 25 I think. I was in Valencia, I slept in a hotel and the team personnel were already saying to me that there was a problem during the Tour that affected the team, that there was a positive case, but it was nothing to do with me."

Manzano got on a train to Valencia and met an assistant of the team doctor who gave him his blood. "There were no cross could have been the blood of Pepito Flores," he said. He was injected with 125 ml of blood and immediately "I started to feel very, very bad. Chills and shivers, even with the blankets they gave me I felt colder than if I was at the North Pole."

"If they had put in half a litre I would have returned in a pine box," he continued. "They put 125-175 ml in me and this happened...I understood that the blood was at the Tour and wasn't stored properly."

Despite feeling this way and still shivering, Manzano got in a taxi to go back to the station at Valencia. "I got on the train, went in first class and felt a lot warmer. My girlfriend went and asked if they could turn off the air conditioning. And they asked her if I would be able to survive until Madrid. The guard decided to turn it off and even so I asked him for a blanket, but they didn't have one. There was a man in front of me who said 'This boy will not last, he'll die.' The train wouldn't start unless I got off. The team manager called a doctor and he came. He took me on his shoulders and carried me back to the clinic. And they started to give me more Urbason [a Prednisolone derivative with anti-inflammatory action]."

Manzano passed a another terrible night and in the morning the team director called him to ask him not to tell anyone else on the team. "How could I not do it? It could have happened to someone else too."

Vuelta al Pais Vasco-Euskadiko Itzulia

By Martin Hardie

The Vuelta al Pais Vasco, or Euskadiko Itzulia as it is known in Basque, will travel the green hills of Euskadi for the 44th time during April 5-9. Starting in the Guipuzkoan town of Begarra, neither Armstrong, Ullrich or Beloki will be there, but the list of stars is impressive and extensive.

The top ten UCI teams gain automatic invitations to this Hors Category event - Fassa Bortolo (with Aitor González and Dario Frigo), Quick.Step-Davitamon (Virenque and Mercado), T-Mobile (Vinokourov and Klöden), Saeco (Simoni, Di Luca and Petrov), Illes Balears (Aitor Osa and Denis Menchov), Gerolsteiner (Rebellin who is hurt and is doubtful), Cofidis (with a Basque trio heading the team of Astarloa, Bingen Fernandez and Iñigo Cuesta), Rabobank (Boogerd and Leipheimer), Liberty Seguros (Heras, Igor Galdeano, Nozal, Vicioso and Serrano) and US Postal (Azevedo and Beltrán).

Along with them are six teams from the Spanish state: Euskaltel-Euskadi (Mayo, Zubeldia, David Etxebarria and Samuel Sanchez), Cafés Baqué (Cárdenas and Buenahora), Valencia-Kelme (Valverde and Odriozola), Paternina (Del Río, Ormaetxea and Elgezabal), Relax-Bodysol (Alberto Martínez and Santi Blanco) and Saunier Duval (with Domínguez and Piepoli).

The wildcard invitations have gone to: Phonak (Hamilton, Sevilla and Pereiro), Lampre (Casagrande, Garate and Vila), CSC (Basso, Sastre and Julich) and Chocolade Jacques (Bruylandts and Aranaga).

Although Euskaltel's Iban Mayo is the defending champion, the team has listed Haimar Zubeldia, David Etxebarria and Samuel Sanchez alongside him as captains. Cafes Baque will also be out to prove itself on local roads, with Peio Arreitunandia being touted along with the team's Colombian spearheads Cárdenas and Buenahora.

The route will cover 28 mountain passes in its five stages and 764.5 kilometres. The mountains include two Cat. 1's, 11 Cat. 2's and 15 Cat. 3's. But as is in the case in Euskadi, a stretch of flat road is not often seen. The furthest mountain from the finish line in any stage is 13 kilometres, while the Azpiroz comes just three kilometres from the finish of the queen stage to Lekunberri. The wall of Azpiroz which is short (3.3 km) but sharp, averaging over 8%, was where a six man group of including David Etxebarria, Michael Boogerd, Francesco Casagrande, Dario Frigo, Bingen Fernandez and Marcos Serrano ripped the race apart in 2001. But in that year, as is often the case, the Itzulia comes down to the short but tricky time trial that concludes the final day. Rumsas picked up the race here in 2001, Aitor Osa just held on to his lead from David Etxebarria in 2002 and Mayo held off Hamilton to win last year.

A new date for Henninger Turm?

The German one day race Rund um Den Henninger Turm, which is traditionally held on May 1, may have to change its date if it wants to be incorporated into the UCI's new Pro Tour. Unlike most other races, the Henninger Turm is always held on the same date [the May Day holiday] rather than on a certain day of the week. The race even formed part of the World Cup in 1995, even though May 1 was a Monday.

"We have ensured the UCI in writing that we are ready," race organiser Hermann Moos was quoted by as saying in a press conference on Tuesday. The race would take place on the first weekend of May in order to fit into the Pro Tour calendar, which will consist of around 30 races. The Tour of Germany and the HEW Cyclassics Hamburg are also probable Pro Tour candidates.

This year's event will attract German stars such as Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel, as well as last year's winner Davide Rebellin, Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire, and other top sprinters Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo).

French children regard doping as normal

A report carried out by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France has found that the majority of young children believe that it's normal to take performance enhancing drugs in sport. "Children of six years find it just as legitimate to take drugs to improve sporting performance as it is to take them to cure a sickness," professor Roland Jouvent was quoted by AP as saying. "This 'pre-doping' is as important as doping itself...the national education should be concerned with this."

The research was authorised by ASO, the company that organises the Tour de France and has since 2001 initiated a 10 point plan to combat doping in cycling. Part of this plan includes funding research into doping in sport.

Professor Jouvent is expected to release his final conclusions on the study by the start of June this year.

Clerc out for the spring

Aurélien Clerc (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will miss all of the spring classics after breaking his wrist in last Wednesday's Nokere Koerse.

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