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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 14, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson, Les Clarke & Jeff Jones

Vuelta stage 16 wrap-up

Petacchi beaten by back to his best Bettini

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Unipublic
Click for larger image

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) just missed out on winning his fifth Vuelta stage in Valladolid, as an impressive Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) surged with 200 metres to go in the uphill sprint to claim a clear victory. Petacchi had to fight all the way to get past Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), but didn't have enough to reach Bettini. The Italian team now looks very solid for the World Championships in Madrid.

There were no changes to the general classification in what was a fairly flat, uneventful stage. A medium sized breakaway containing Jorge Garcia (Relax), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Marcus Ljungqvist (Liquigas), André Korff (T-Mobile), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues), and Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo) got clear after 17 km, but only managed to gain 40 seconds over the hard working peloton. Leon Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) and Francisco Perez (Illes Balears) bridged up after 67 km, but it was all back together at 75 km.

Liberty Seguros kept control of the peloton for the next 45 km until Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) and Nacor Burgos (Relax) attacked with 40 km to go. They gained a minute, but quickly lost it as several teams lifted the pace and it was all together with 15 km to go. Fassa led out the sprint again, but the uphill finish proved to be too much for Petacchi, who is nevertheless in very good form in light of the World's.

Also see:

Stage 16 full results & report
Live report
Stages & results
Start List

Two more triathletes wrongly accused of EPO use

Two more cases against triathletes accused of using banned performance-enhancing drug recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO) are about to be dropped because of doubts about the validity of the urine test for rEPO. At the Ironman triathlon in Lanzarote, May 21, 2005 women's winner Virginia Berasategui and Ibán Rodríguez (21st overall in the men's race) were tested for rEPO and initially returned positive readings. Both denied the accusation and maintained their innocence from the outset.

There were doubts about both cases from the beginning, according to Dr. Iñigo Mujika, Virginia Berasategui's coach and scientific advisor to both athletes in this case. Dr. Mujika told Cyclingnews, "First, there still is a complete lack of information on the whereabouts of the urine samples from the moment they were collected in Lanzarote immediately after the event until they arrived to the WADA accredited laboratory in Madrid - two days and seventeen hours later. Second, out of the ten samples analysed after the event, two were declared positive, one 'non detectable', three 'non qualifiable' and the remaining four negative. Very unreliable results for a test that is supposed to be qualitative."

Encouraged by the battle that was being fought by Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke against his own case of rEPO use, Berasategui and Rodríguez decided to look for the cause of their false positive results. They undertook additional tests under the guidance of the Belgian scientists dealing with Rutger Beke's case. All three triathletes were shown to have extremely high protein levels in their urine after strenuous exercise, which according to recent findings by Belgian and Australian scientists, is one of the main causes of false positive EPO tests.

On August 9, Beke was cleared by the Disciplinary Council of the Flemish Community in Belgium, who ruled, based on the report of an independent expert they appointed, that given the lack of reliability of the urinary rEPO test, there was no scientific evidence that Beke ever used rEPO. This sentence represented a major blow to the World Anti-Doping Agency's main weapon against rEPO abuse in sports. In addition, Beke announced a few days later his intention of suing WADA and the accredited labs of Gent (Belgium) and Cologne (Germany) for €125,000.

On September 8, Berasategui and Rodríguez received from the Spanish Triathlon Federation the proposed resolution to the disciplinary proceedings against them. In it, the case judge proposed to the disciplinary committee of the Spanish Triathlon Federation, "A stay of proceedings and definitive closure of the case".

According to the document, on September 5 the president of the Spanish National Anti-Doping Commission (NAC) sent a communication to the disciplinary committee of the Spanish Triathlon Federation. They were advised that WADA phoned its accredited laboratory in Madrid on August 31 to communicate new instructions to modify the evaluation criteria for the detection of urinary rEPO. As a consequence, the NAC ordered to revise any proceedings that were still open. As a result of the revision, the NAC considered that from a technical point of view, such proceedings should be closed.

"This shows on the one hand the athletes' innocence, and on the other hand the lack of reliability of the test for detection of urinary EPO," added Dr. Mujika. "The criteria used until August 31 were established by WADA on January 15, 2005, modifying those that were in place since the creation of the test in 2000. Interestingly, Virginia's and Ibán's samples should have never been considered positive according to the initial criteria of 2000. In addition, we still have not received from the Spanish Triathlon Federation the information requested over and over again on the conditions of transport and storage of the urine samples from Lanzarote to the laboratory in Madrid, nor the above mentioned communication from the President of the NAC."

Dr. Mujika also pointed out that, "Athletes throughout the world are at risk of falsely testing positive for rEPO, given that the new criteria established by WADA are not known and the major issue with the test, which is the lack of specificity of the antibodies they use, causing cross reactivity with urinary proteins that have nothing to do with EPO, still remains. It all suggests that the change of criteria is just a desperate manoeuvre to save the urinary EPO test, despite the fact that it has recently been questioned by Belgian and Australian scientists."

Bettini takes a stage and looks ahead to worlds

After a solid win on stage 16 of the Vuelta, Paolo Bettini said he was "extremely happy" with the victory. " I've been looking for a win for some time after all of the physical problems that have unfortunately marked my season," said Bettini after the stage. The Italian has had an indifferent season in 2005, and after winning the World Cup and Olympic road race in 2004, he could be forgiven for being disappointed with his slim pickings this year.

"I dedicate this victory to a 'leoncino' who has overcome a difficult moment and also to myself," said Bettini in the moments after arriving in Valladolid. "With Petacchi I've been ahead of all of the greatest sprinters at least once during the last few years."

The Italian outlined his plan of attack for the day, run in difficult, windy conditions. The inclined finish suited him perfectly, and he knew it. "Today I decided I wanted to try my luck at the final sprint. I made my move about 400 metres from the finish line - no one was able to keep up with me," he said

Looking ahead at the World Championships, a race he would dearly love to win, Bettini indicated his chances might be slim, but he wasn't giving up hope. "I've been in good form at the Vuelta and have a good rhythm and I feel ready to face the World Championships in great form," he said. "In Madrid, the national team, rightfully, will be riding around Petacchi; as far as I am concerned I'll be looking to make the most of any and every situation that arises during the race."

Boonen to go under the knife again

The World Championships on September 25 will signal the end of Tom Boonen's busy season. He won't ride Paris-Tours, but instead will undergo more surgery for the stomach problem that he also had treated at the end of last season. "Before last year's operation, a few days after the world championships in Verona, I felt terribly ill. They took me to hospital, where doctors found out that I had a serious stomach and intestinal problem. The operation wasn't completely successful though. So it has to be redone," Boonen confirmed at his home in Balen.

Boonen may start in the GP Wallonie after his Quick Step team received permission from Vuelta organisers to start the classics star in the Belgian race. Rules don't permit riders to race somewhere else while the competition they dropped out of is still happening. "Maybe he'll start in Chaudfontaine. He can do the race, but won't be racing to win", said Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere.

Valverde will ride in Madrid

Alejandro Valverde will represent Spain in the World Championships in Madrid, September 21-25. After a season plagued by injury, the Illes Balears rider was in doubt for the race start in the Spanish capital; he hasn't competed since stage 11 of the Tour de France in July. By his own admission, Valverde's form of late hasn't been strong but Spanish national coach Francisco Antequera has included him in the list for the men's road race on September 25.

The Spanish senior men's squad for the World Championships is therefore:

Road race: Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Marcos Serrano (Liberty), Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears), Igor Astarloa (Barloworld), Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel) and Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval). Reserves: Angel Vicioso (Liberty), David Blanco (Comunidad Valenciana) and Luis Perez (Cofidis).

Time trial: Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears) and Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana). Reserve: Santos Gonzalez (Phonak)

Liberty Seguros busy on all fronts

Liberty Seguros - Würth riders Roberto Heras, Joseba Beloki, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Marcos Serrano, Alberto Contador and Luis León Sanchez will travel to Boston, USA on September 29 as guests of the team's principal sponsor, Liberty Mutual.

The riders, accompanied by the sports director, Manolo Saiz, will take part in the 'Rodman Ride for Kids', a charity ride to assist local underprivileged children, presented by Liberty Mutual. Before the ride, Alberto Contador and Luis León Sanchez will some work on aerodynamics in a wind tunnel in Boston.

Four Liberty Seguros riders will represent Spain in the World Championships on September 25, including Marcos Serrano and Ángel Vicioso, who are on the list of substitutes for the road race, with Eladio Sanchez and Jose Joaquín Rojas to represent Spain in the Under 23 race. Sanchez will ride both road race and time trial, and Rojas the road race.

Spanish national coach Paco Antequera wants to add Joseba Beloki to his team list due to the Spanish climber's great Vuelta a España, which could provide a boost for Spanish chances in the road race.

Other Liberty Seguros riders competing for various countries in the Worlds include Jörg Jaksche (Germany), Allan Davis and Aaron Kemps (Australia), Jan Hruska (Czech Republic) and under 23 Carlos Abellán (Costa Rica) and Yong Li (Malaysia).

Liberty Seguros riders were involved in four falls during the second stage of the Tour of Poland, but fortunately without serious consequences. David Etxebarria and Carlos Barredo were involved in the first massive fall, and with four laps to go of the finishing circuit, Jörg Jaksche fell, and later Jan Hruska as well. Both rejoined the race without too much damage to themselves or their general classification aspirations.

Threshold denies board of directors, money troubles

By Mark Zalewski, US editor

Race promoter Threshold Sports has confirmed that teams are still waiting for payment of prize money from the Wachovia Series races in early June, but Threshold president and CEO Dave Chauner says that Health Net-Maxxis and T-Mobile riders will get their money and have agreed to wait.

T-Mobile management told Cyclingnews that Threshold Sports had sent an email to all teams that were owed prize money explaining that payment was pending upon the return of the on site drug testing, a policy consistent with many other races. However, to date, the tests have been completed and the payments have not been processed.

According to Chauner, the payments are coming but is currently on hold until some new sponsorship deals are done. "We spoke to the teams and we will pay the prize money later than we usually do," he said. "We are waiting on some sponsorships to come in and we talked to the teams and they said okay."

Chauner also denied that Threshold had recently dismissed members of its board or asked them to stand down as a results of financial mismanagement. "We did not dismiss the board," he told Cyclingnews. "But we are definitely putting on some new investors so there will be some change for sure. [Some] members of our board offered to step down to open advisory opportunities for possible new investors and partners. All remain investors, helpful advisors, and friends of the cause. 'Dismissal' is both untrue and misleading and I'm sure comes from the cycling rumour mill."

Driver charged over death of Israeli champion

A man has been charged over the July 16 death of Israeli cycling champion Golan Shalmon. Bus driver Nizar Gerumnah was charged Tuesday at Nazareth District Court with causing Shalmon's death, according to

Gerumnah is accused of "criminal negligence" and of driving "irresponsibly and with indifference, ignoring the possibilities of causing the accident and its consequences." Prosecutors allege that Garumnah was driving too fast at the time of the incident.

Prosecuting attorney Shalve Levine said that Garumnah had seen Shalmon, who was training for the national time trial championships, and the car accompanying him, but did not slow down and was not concentrating on his driving as he was busy changing radio stations.

Canadian mountain biker suspended for EPO

Canadian national team mountain bike rider Chris Sheppard has been suspended for two years after testing positive for the use of recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO) in an out-of-competition test.

Sheppard was tested at his home in Kamloops, BC, on May 29, 2005; the presence of rEPO in his A-sample was communicated to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport on June 15, and confirmed in his B-sample on July 4, according to an announcement from Canadian Cycling.

In addition to being prevented from racing for two years, the ban means Sheppard is permanently ineligible to receive funding from the Canadian federal government.

Snowy Wilson Handicap

Some of Sydney's best club racers (and probably one or two pros home for the southern hemisphere summer) are sure to be in action on October 29 at this year's Snowy Wilson Memorial Handicap. Run by Randwick Botany Cycling Club, there will be graded and handicap races, and even a penny farthing race. Events start at 8.30am with the women's races, and conclude with the Bryan Martin Memorial Handicap at 1.00pm. Entries close October 16, contact Helen Vella for details.

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