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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 18, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones & Hedwig Kröner

An interview with the Amstel Gold Race podium

Confirmation for Di Luca, disappointment for Boogerd, satisfaction for Celestino

By Jeff Jones in Valkenburg

Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

There were, as always, mixed emotions among the three place getters after Sunday's 40th Amstel Gold Race, which finished in an uncharacteristic 30 rider bunch sprint on the Cauberg. But there were some similarities to last year's race, where Michael Boogerd was outgunned by a very strong Davide Rebellin in a two man sprint after Boogerd had led out from a long way out. This year, eventual winner Danilo Di Luca came off Boogerd's wheel with 150m to go, after the Dutchman had led out from 300m, and again made it look easy as he crossed the line with a few bike lengths to spare on Boogerd. And last year, Di Luca was fourth, whereas this year it was Rebellin's turn to finish fourth.

"It was very strange because we had a bunch at the foot of the last climb," Di Luca explained post-race. "I was in a very good position, almost in the lead. Boogerd started to sprint with 300 metres to go, I was on his wheel and it was absolutely no problem for me to pass him."

Both Rebellin and Di Luca said that their respective Amstel Gold Race wins were proof that they were back in business after previous seasons of health problems. "Of course [this was special] because last year I had a very bad year," said Di Luca. "In the Tour of the Basque Country, I was in excellent condition - the time trial there was the best one I have done since I was an amateur. So it was already a new start in the Basque Country, but today is really the day. I hope now for my future that it's on again."

Di Luca explained that in 2004, "I was feeling good at the start of the year. I was fourth in Amstel, second in Flèche, but then I was sick before Liege-Bastogne-Liege so I couldn't start. After that, my team wasn't accepted for the Tour, I wasn't in the national team for the World's and the Olympic Games, so it was really bad for me."

Click here for the full interview

Hamilton's defence: The vanishing twin?

By Susan Westemeyer, with additional reporting from Cyclingnews staff

With a verdict in the Tyler Hamilton blood doping case expected today (Monday), information has already started to leak out about the likely outcome of the case, and the nature of Hamilton's defence. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, it appears that the "vanishing twin theory" is being used to try to explain the mixed blood cell population in Hamilton's body. "A theme central to Hamilton's defence is the notion of a 'vanishing twin' who shared the womb when Hamilton was a fetus - a point on which there is much speculation but no proof," wrote the LA Times, which said it had "obtained key documents before the arbitration panel, including legal briefs, test results, and the transcript of the hearing six weeks ago where the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and Hamilton's defense team presented their cases." These documents likely did not come from the UCI or the USADA, who typically don't release these to the media.

The newspaper also released specific numbers for Hamilton's blood tests last spring. Riders are not be allowed to start a race if they receive a score of more than 133 in the Stimulation Index, a simple formula for profiling blood cell growth that takes into account haemoglobin and reticulocytes (immature blood cells). An explanation of the formula can be found in the footnote of Cyclingnews' Anti-doping measures get tougher article, published in July last year.

The average SI score for professional cyclists is 90. At Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year, Hamilton scored 123.8. It was up to 132.9 the next week by the Tour de Romandie, and with it came a hematocrit level of 49.7% (the UCI's nominal limit is 50%) and a reticulocyte index of 0.22 (which is below normal limits). Hamilton claimed that both the hematocrit test and the reticulocyte index taken at Romandie were inaccurate.

These readings caused the UCI to inform Hamilton that "he was going to be watched because his 'blood values showed strong signs' of 'a possible manipulation,'" according to both the LA Times and articles in L'Equipe in 2004. The warning letters that Hamilton received were like a red card in football.

Testimony given at Hamilton's hearing by Australian scientist Ross Brown said that "only reasonable explanation" for Hamilton's blood values was that he had undergone one, and possibly two transfusions: one near the start of 2004, and perhaps another in June or July, with the occasional "top up". At the hearing, Hamilton denied that he had had multiple transfusions.

In Hamilton's defence, both the chimera (naturally occurring mixed blood cells) and 'vanishing twin' argument was put forward by David Housman, a genetics expert and MIT professor, who presented expert testimony. He claimed that cells can transfer from one to unborn twin to another in the womb, "and bone marrow cells can persist for life." Both USADA and WADA have dismissed this theory, which could be easily verified by further testing on Hamilton.

Hamilton's lawyer Howard Jacobs suggested in the hearing that there were problems with the test, one being that it "doesn't produce an objective standard", i.e. there is either a mixed blood cell population or there isn't - there are no percentages; and the other being that it doesn't prove that the subject had a blood transfusion, only that there was a mixed blood cell population present. This raises the question of other things, such as the 'vanishing twin' or human chimera theories, that might cause false positives.

No Georgia

Whatever the verdict, it's highly unlikely that Hamilton will race in the Tour de Georgia - for Phonak or any other team. Hamilton was sacked by Phonak last year and has yet to sign for a new team. According to UCI rules, he would need to have done this at least three days before the start of a race in order to be present on their team roster, even as a reserve. In addition, the UCI would have to approve his inclusion on a team.

Phonak's press officer Georges Lüchinger told Cyclingnews that he did not know whether Hamilton would ride in Georgia, nor if Hamilton would win his case. If Hamilton is cleared, or is given a sanction of less than two years, then Cyclingnews understands that the UCI will certainly appeal the decision.

Liberty announces Giro and Tour roster

Liberty Seguros-Würth team manager Manolo Saiz has announced his selection of riders for the upcoming Giro d'Italia. Although the quarrel with Giro organiser RCS Sport over the reimbursement of travel expenses is not yet settled, the Spanish team seems sure that it will be taking part in the Giro in 19 days. Liberty Seguros-Würth will probably line-up the following riders at the start on May 7: René Andrle, Dariusz Baranowski, Joseba Beloki, Giampaolo Caruso, Koldo Gil, Jan Hruska, Javier Ramírez Abeja, Nuno Ribeiro and Michele Scarponi, the latter being the team's general classification leader. Carlos Barredo, Koen de Kort and Jesús Hernández are on the reserve list.

Saiz has also made public the names of the 13 riders, from which he will select nine when the time is ripe, for this year's Tour de France: René Andrle, Dariusz Baranowski, Joseba Beloki, Alberto Contador, Allan Davis, Igor González de Galdeano, Roberto Heras, Jan Hruska, Jörg Jaksche, Isidro Nozal, Luis León Sánchez, Marcos Serrano and Ángel Vicioso.

Flèche Wallonne team line-ups and news

The following teams have announced their respective rosters for the next ProTour race, Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, April 20.

Davitamon-Lotto will start in Charleroi at the Flèche Wallonne with the following riders: Serge Baguet, Christophe Brandt, Cadel Evans, Bjorn Leukemans, Axel Merckx, Koos Moerenhout, Preben Van Hecke and Wim Van Huffel

In next Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Davitamon-Lotto will start with Serge Baguet, Christophe Brandt, Cadel Evans, Bjorn Leukemans, Axel Merckx, Johan Vansummeren and Wim Vanhuffel, with an eighth rider to be decided.

Mario Aerts will not race this week for Lotto, as he and the team believe that he has not completely recovered from a broken collarbone sustained in training last week. He expects to be back in the Tour de Romandie.

AG2R-Prévoyance: Mikel Astarloza, Sylvain Calzati, Iñigo Chaurreau, Philip Deignan, Cyril Dessel, Simon Gerrans, Stéphane Goubert and Ludovic Turpin. Mikel Astarloza crashed heavily in stage one of the Tour du Nord Isère last week, and had to get six stitches to his eyebrow. Astarloza will decide on his participation today. The team will be composed of the same riders also at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Phonak Hearing Systems: Santiago Botero, Ignacio Gutierrez, Santos Gonzalez, Alexandre Moos, Uros Murn, Oscar Pereiro and Tadej Valjavec. For Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday, the team will line-up Santiago Botero, Ignacio Gutierrez, Santos Gonzalez, Miguel A. Perdiguero, Oscar Pereiro, Johann Tschopp, Tadej Valjavec and Steve Zampieri.

Fassa Bortolo: Massimo Codol, Mauro Facci, Massimo Giunti, Volodimir Gustov, Kim Kirchen, Vincenzo Nibali, Roberto Petito and Kanstantsin Siutsou.

Euskaltel Euskadi: Iker Camaño, Unai Etxebarria, Koldo Fernandez, Markel Irizar, Iñaki Isasi, Iñigo Landaluze and Samuel Sanchez.

Fassa and Lampre for Giro del Trentino

Fassa Bortolo will be represented at the UCI 2.1 classed Giro del Trentino by the following riders: Andrus Aug, Marzio Bruseghin, Francesco Chicchi, Claudio Corioni, Andrej Hauptman, Alberto Ongarato, Fabio Sacchi and Julian Sanchez Pimienta.

Lampre-Caffita's Gilberto Simoni is looking forward to the stage race taking place from April 19-22. "I am full of confidence in my abilities," Simoni said. "I feel fine and want to be a leader from the first stage on. The first two stages are two mountain finishes - I think that they will decide the classifications. They are not impossible, but they are difficult. I will try to be there."

'Gibo' will be helped in this task by the following teammates: Enrico Franzoi, Marco Marzano, Andreas Matzbacher, Evgeni Petrov, Marius Sabaliauskas, Michele Scotto d'Abusco and Andrea Tonti.

The stages of the Giro del Trentino:

Stage 1 - April 19: Mori-Ronzo - Chienis, 175 km
Stage 2 - April 20: Arco - Marcena di Rumo, 179 km
Stage 3 - April 21: Revò - Salò, 175 km
Stage 4 - April 22: Puegnago del Garda - Arco di Trento, 62 km

American debut for Irish road champion David O'Loughlin

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

David O'Loughlin the current Irish National Road Race Champion will make his debut for the Navigators Insurance eight-man squad in the Dodge Tour de Georgia in the USA on Tuesday.

He has been racing and training with the team in various parts of the globe, but Tuesday marks his presence in the conspicuous jersey of Irish champion in the third edition of this event, which is growing in stature, mainly thanks to the involvement of teams from the European continent.

Of course, the presence of six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is sure to have far reaching effects on the numbers that will come to view the event which runs for six days, ending next Sunday, April 24.

O'Loughlin has already had a win under his belt this year when he convincingly won the Carrick Hotel Challenge in Carrick-on-Suir, which is the town associated with one of Ireland's national heroes, Sean Kelly.

Unfortunately because of his American commitments, 2004 Shay Elliott winner O'Loughlin will be an absentee from this year's edition, which is scheduled for this Sunday. The race is sponsored by Murphy & Gunn for the second year. Initially they were a subsidiary sponsor, but they felt that the event which has a 1.2 ranking on the UCI calendar deserves the support of a top Irish company. Last year, David set in train of high profile victories after he won the 'Elliott', and was also successful in becoming a member of the Navigators team.

Another interesting competitor at Georgia will be Andrea Tafi (Saunier), who is bidding farewell to the professional ranks after a highly visible campaign in the peloton. Wherever he goes, Andrea is always sought out by children for that elusive autograph. He is fondly remembered in Malaysia, where he participated in many Tours de Langkawi, for his availability to the public who have taken LTDL to their hearts.

The Tour de Georgia will be the Navigators Insurance squad's first team event in the USA in 2005, after spending most of the early season in Western Europe. "This is the first significant event on the domestic race calendar in the U.S.", said team Director Sportif, Ed Beamon, "and it is a very important event for us. I think we are sending a very strong and capable team, and we will be looking for results. The team has been racing since January, and should have very good condition, and we are looking forward to representing Navigators Insurance, Colnago bicycles, and all of our sponsors on home soil."

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