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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for May 26, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Saiz' team to continue racing

A member of the Spanish Civil Guard
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Despite the withdrawal of its main sponsor, the team formerly known as Liberty Seguros-Würth will continue racing until the end of this season, with Manolo Saiz still involved, the Spanish press reports. Saiz was arrested earlier this week on doping charges as part of an anti-doping operation carried out by the Spanish civil guard. However, he was released after questioning, as police considered him merely a 'client' of the doping ring, and not one of the ringleaders. Four others, including former cycling team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, remain in custody.

After his release, Saiz, together with his associate Pablo Antón, who co-own the team's management company Active Bay SL, indicated that the team will continue until at least the end of the season with Würth as the sole sponsor. However, the available funds will be dramatically reduced, as Liberty Seguros contributed approximately 70% of the €10 million/year budget. The team currently employs 52 people, including 29 riders.

"I haven't planned to stop the team," said Antón to Europa Press. The team's press officer Jacinto Vidarte confirmed to, "The future of the team is assured until the end of the season, at least, even if Liberty disappears from the jerseys."

Team rider Koen de Kort commented in his Giro d'Italia diary, "What is exactly going on now, I don't know; we are actually getting very little information here. What I do know as that the team will continue. I have my contract with a company called Active Bay and not with the sponsor itself. What happens to myself and all of us here now, we have to wait and see."

Manolo Saiz' continuing involvement with the team will likely depend on how the case unfolds. Saiz will be required to appear before the investigating judge at some stage in the near future. If he is formally implicated in this doping affair, then the Spanish cycling federation could start proceedings against him, which could result in a two year suspension, as well as the revocation of his ProTour licence. That of course will have implications for the team's racing program for the rest of the year, including its participation in the Tour de France.

Fuentes says it was old blood

A member of the Spanish Civil Guard
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor who has worked with the Kelme team, among others, retired from cycling at the start of 2005 in order to spend more time with his family. He has since taken up practicing as a gynaecologist. He was one of the doctors named in the Jesus Manzano case, as one of those overseeing Kelme's alleged doping program. Fuentes denied this and gave evidence in the Manzano case to that effect.

In the current investigation the UCO is claimed to have substantial evidence implicating Fuentes and José Luis Merino Batres, who is in charge of a blood transfusion laboratory in Madrid. The UCO is reportedly in possession of four months worth of telephone, photographic, and video evidence showing athletes entering and leaving Fuentes' flats in Madrid, from which approximately a thousand doses of anabolic steroids and hormones were seized, along with two hundred packets of blood, products to manipulate it, machines to freeze it and material to perform transfusions.

Fuentes has denied that he was involved in doping athletes, and according to El Pais, his explanation for the products found in his flat was, "It is blood for private analysis; dirty blood, to throw away, and the majority of the medicines, the growth hormones and everything else, are old and worthless." He was silent when asked about the telephone, photographic and video evidence.

Comunidad Valenciana stays calm

Comunidad Valenciana's assistant sports director José Ignacio Labarta has also been implicated in "Operacion Puerto", after his flat was searched by the UCO (the drug trafficking cell of the Spanish civil guard). However, neither his team manager Vicente Belda nor sponsor Comunidad Valenciana have reacted hastily. Belda has taken the simple step of suspending Labarta from his duties until the investigations have finished. Comunidad Valenciana has a wild card for the Tour de France.

The Comunidad Valenciana team has links to Eufemiano Fuentes: he was the former doctor of Kelme, which was the predecessor of Comunidad Valenciana. His sister Yolanda Fuentes is the team's current doctor, according to L'Equipe.

The others who remain in custody are Jose Luis Merino Batres, and ex-mountain bike rider Alberto Leon.

Zabel, Holczer and Wüst comment on the Spanish affair

"I find it good that Spain has instituted a new policy of 'zero tolerance', said Erik Zabel, one of Milram's top sprinters, to Eurosport. "Now we have to wait and see what the reports say. If there is something in there, it should be laid on the table. It is too bad that cycling is making negative headlines again, but it also gives a chance to all the riders who try to do things the honourable way."

Hans-Michael Holczer, Gerolsteiner team manager, came down hard, saying, "If the allegations are right, then the affected persons must be removed from cycling for many years."

Marcel Wüst was similarly disappointed by the affair, telling Cyclingnews, "It seems that police and government pressure are the only things that work. A sad day for our sport, especially when people pretend to accept the anti- doping rules, and then continue to cheat. It will be harder and harder to convince fans and sponsors that cycling is a great and fair sport."

Ludewig: concentrating on the Giro

"Of course the new doping affair is being discussed here in the race and between colleagues," says T-Mobile's Jörg Ludewig. "If what's being reported is all true, then it's a hard blow to cycling's image. Here we are exerting ourselves to the limit, it's a super race with a great atmosphere - and then suddenly, because of such crud, everything is brought into question and our sport once again gets negative headlines. You hear lots, but there is hardly any sure, sound information. Besides which, after two and a half weeks of the Giro, you are so physically involved, that you have enough to do with yourself and your problems. That makes this new scandal right now to a side issue. I'm much more concerned about the next two stages." (

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

No mistakes for Tom in Belgium

By Gabriella Ekström

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen exacted revenge for yesterday's missed sprint when he took advantage of a school book leadout performed by his teammates and won the second stage of the Tour of Belgium to Knokke-Heist. This was Boonen's third win in Knokke in as many attempts.

"Yeah, it's three out of three. Nice," Boonen said after the stage. "I came to the front early in the sprint, and there was also a lot of headwind. But it was slightly uphill and a power sprint is perfect for me and I did the job well. My family is here, so if I didn't win, I would have got a beating," he added jokingly.

Skil-Shimano's Maarten Tjallingii remains the race leader, and will start this morning's time trial in the black leader's jersey. There he will have to chase a strong-looking Boonen who said of the time trial; "I'll go full gas, and whatever happens, happens. I hope that I can surprise myself, but I feel that I am a bit in the dark."

Click here for the full results, report and photos of stage 2

Montreal World Cup gears up

By Mitch Friedman

Riders wait
Photo ©: Mitch Friedman
(Click for larger image)

The 9th running of the UCI Elite Women's Road Cycling World Cup of Montreal will take place this Saturday on the challenging Mont-Royal course.

This year the Montreal World Cup has the support of the City of Montreal with the City sponsorship of $CAD100,000 will allow the event to offer an international race of high level and to host the best cyclists in the world, as well as to confirm the importance of the Montreal in the international cycling field.

This year the Montreal World Cup is the seventh round of the 12 round series, and the only one on the North American continent. Also this year the famous Mount Royal course is now more then 1 km longer, stretching to Avenue du Parc. According to Daniel Manibal race promoter, "The new course allows the public to view the race from different vantage points, although the Mount Royal lookout and summit remain the choice spots to watch the event unfold." Daniel Manibal also wanted to thank the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough for agreeing to welcome the new part of the course.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Mitch Friedman/

Dublin or Meath for the team prize in FBD Ras?

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

The weather has certainly not been kind to the participants and it has also been a major talking point to date in this year's FBD Insurance Ras. There has been tremendous interest in the various classifications, especially in the county teams section, which looks as though it will come right down to the wire in Skerries on Sunday.

In recent years that classification for the county competitors has been a big bonus, and the rivalry has been intense. Realistically, only Dublin and Meath are in contention after six days of racing, with the minimum of time separating these two teams. On the football field, both counties enjoy similar rivalry and are always a huge draw and a big talking point. Similarly in cycling, the competition is intense, and this week both sets of team members have been at their best.

Dublin, sponsored by Usher Irish Road club, can thank Tommy Evans, a former winner of the Ras in 1996 for keeping them in contention. Likewise, Brian Kenneally is keeping alive the hopes of the Meath squad sponsored by

Up to the start of the 'Ras' both Tommy and Brian had not been figuring prominently in domestic events, but in recent days both have been the cornerstone of their respective counties' dominance. Evidently they have both focused their ambitions on a good showing in Ireland's premier cycling event.

If Meath succeeds, it would be a huge bonus to their new co-sponsor,, who only last month joined forces with long-time sponsors "Believe you me, success in the county section of the event would be a real bonus. You can observe the fascination that the rivalry between the teams is great," said Aidan Crowley, who only a week ago was in doubt of racing in the eight day event because of illness.

The 54th edition of the Ras finishes in Skerries on Sunday afternoon after 1,000 plus kilometres of racing, where the foul weather was the talking point, both amongst the competitors who braved the conditions and the officials.

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