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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for October 13, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

No Lombardia for Basso; Italian headed for Discovery Channel in '07?

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Ivan Basso (CSC)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Italian Olympic Committee's Anti-Doping prosecutor shelved the file related to Basso's supposed involvement on Operacion Puerto due to lack of any definite proof that the winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia was involved in the Spanish investigation. Now cleared to race after 105 days, Basso learned in a three and a half hour meeting with CSC boss Bjarne Riis on Wednesday afternoon in Switzerland that he would not start the Giro di Lombardia Saturday.

Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luca Gialanella, "No, I won't be racing. Now I'm a free person, but Riis has decided that right now, it's better that I don't race in Giro di Lombardia. I really wanted to and I'm sorry I won't be able to race. I've been training all this time so I could race again this season when the (Operacion Puerto) situation was resolved. Maybe it all came down too fast, just two days before Lombardia."

Basso pushed hard with Riis, but in the end, the CSC boss said no, not for any reason related to the (ProTour) Code of Ethics, but more for technical reasons, with Riis perhaps not wanting to have Basso on the same squad as his new rising star Fränk Schleck.

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Basso explained further that Riis told him, "Since it's not that clear what will happen in 2007, it's not that important that you ride the last race of the season with CSC." But Basso understands that the buck stops with Riis, saying "he's the one who decides, and who has to answer to the team sponsor."

A relieved and almost defiant Basso is still looking for a positive spin. "That means I'll go riding by myself (Saturday) on my own roads. For the first time as a free man...I've never had anything to be ashamed of in this thing, even if I was considered a bad guy for cycling and for sport. Now I have to get my head together calmly and move forward."

Despite all the negative media coverage, Basso has been gratified by the support of his tifosi. "(The support) has been nice. Lots and lots and lots of people have supported me and cheered me on during my training the last three months, even more than after I won the Giro d'Italia! My win in the Giro was not a surprise for anyone, with my four straight Tours up with the top riders. The reality is that I have always had a lot of support from the fans, from kids who ask me for autographs and wish me well."

Basso also spoke of his solid support at home, saying what has kept him going during his recent tough times was "my family and my love for this sport. To see the smile of your kids helps forget it all. Yeah, it was a bad situation but I never felt persecuted or a scapegoat. I would ride my bike and when I came home, I felt a lot better than before!"

Next step for Basso is to resolve the situation with Riis and CSC. The Giro winner has a contract through 2008 with the Danish team, but some insiders say that the breach between Basso and Riis is irreparable, while other say it's all media speculation. "I have another meeting with Bjarne Monday," said Basso. "As one might imagine, it isn't easy to put the pieces together again. There was a big embarrassment for everyone at the Tour and we haven't really spoken for almost four months when before, we spoke every day."

If a mutually agreed solution can be found between Riis and Basso for the last two years of the Italian talent's contract, Discovery Channel, Lance Armstrong's former team is reportedly ready to sign the 2006 Giro d'Italia winner.

Swiss to open hearings against Ullrich

Operation Puerto continues to cause confusion - while Italy has decided there is not enough evidence to continue the disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Basso at this time, the Swiss have announced they are planning to go ahead with hearings against Jan Ullrich, as reported previously. When asked if the hearings will be held, Lorenz Schläfli, director of Swiss Cycling, confirmed, but could not say when it would happen. "We have received the papers," he told German netzeitung. "But we must receive more. One or two additional pieces are missing." He denied that the UCI was holding up the papers, and said that the problem was the investigating judge in Spain. "He gives the documents away reluctantly, as his hearings are not complete."

According to L'Equipe, Antonio Serrano, the judge in charge of the Puerto trial is on a holiday until November 2. Serrano is currently replaced by Carmelo Jimenez, who told national federations that the Puerto documents could not be used against the riders on a sports-disciplinary level. Some observers seem to believe that Serrano, upon his return to office, could handle this differently than his colleague.

Back in Germany, Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Micheal Holczer doesn't believe that the affair will cease to cause repercussions in the sport. "I'm not worried that it will all come to nothing," he said. "The case is not closed."

Holczer cited the ProTour Code of Ethics, which prohibits the teams from signing riders under suspicion of doping. He also expected a case concerning Ullrich to come before the Court of Arbitration for Sports. "As long as Ullrich is not absolutely cleared, no team will allow itself to sign him," he said.

AG2R doesn't want Mancebo back

Paco Mancebo
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

While other ProTour teams seem ready to take on the riders implicated in the Operation Puerto affair if the circumstantial evidence gathered is not enough to ban them from the sport, French team AG2R is not willing to let Francisco Mancebo race again. "I don't want the public to think that we were accomplices," team manager Vincent Lavenu told L'Equipe. "(Making Mancebo race again) is not an option for us." The Frenchman continued by explaining that the team would try to negotiate Mancebo out of his contract, and if he refused, that they could also engage in a dismissal procedure.

"We made a mistake in signing him, but he was in contact with the dopers beforehand," said Lavenu, who did not want to comment on alleged contract negotiations of Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. "We did not participate in this, and today, we pay for it. A rider like Vogondy pays for it, too. He's without a contract and I have to wait to settle the Mancebo case to be able to sign him."

Lavenu is most concerned about the credibility of cycling. "Today, the solution would be not to sign the top GC guys of the Grand Tours," he added. "But where do we put the barrier? Sixth, seventh? I don't say this by chance, because Cyril Dessel was seventh in the last Tour. He rides in my team and I know I don't take any risks with him. But what do others think of that? That's where we're at now: One can not believe in our sport any more."

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

Gerolsteiner to Lombardia

German squad Gerolsteiner is looking forward to the last ProTour race of this season, the Giro di Lombardia next Saturday. Captaining the team will be Davide Rebellin, in excellent form after his victory in the Giro dell'Emilia last week, which had a similar course than the autumn classic in northern Italy - except that the Giro di Lombardia it 50 kilometres longer. "We want to achieve a lot and we think we're able to do so," said Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Christian Henn. "Davide Rebellin is part of the favourites - he is still really going strong. This will be exciting for us."

The team's complete line-up in Mendrisio will be: Torsten Hiekmann, Sven Krauss, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Matthias Russ, Georg Totschnig, Fabian Wegmann and Peter Wrolich.

Phonak's swan song on Saturday

At the Giro di Lombardia on Saturday on Lake Como, not only the second ProTour season will come to an end but also the era of the Phonak Cycling Team. During the finale of the classic, the peloton will mark the 100th running of the race.

"Of course this race will be a special challenge due to its longer distance and difficult profile," said Gregory Rast looking ahead to the 246 km-race, after having finished second in Thursday' Giro del Piemonte. The start to what will be Phonak Cycling's final race will be in Mendrisio, Switzerland, but soon after that the field will roll along Lake Lugano in the direction of Italy. Phonak has set itself the goal of having one of its men in a breakaway group, thus making its presence known one last time.

The Swiss line-up on Saturday will be: Martin Elmiger, Patrick McCarty, Steve Morabito, Victor Hugo Peña, Gregory Rast, Michael Schär, Florian Stalder, David Vitoria. Team management: John Lelangue, Adriano Baffi, Monika Zürcher.

Totschnig's future uncertain; Austrians looking to move

"The changes that I'll continue riding after 2006 are 50-50," is what Gerolsteiner's Georg Totschnig said last year. Whether the Austrian has made his decision to retire from his team has not yet been made public - that will come at a press conference he has called for October 16. Totschnig could continue, according to, which reports that he has at least three offers to consider, including one from Gerolsteiner. On the other hand, the 35 year-old has said that while he is physically well off, his long career has taken a toll on his psyche. "It's getting harder on him to leave the family," said his wife Michaela. In the meantime, he will be in action again one more time, in the Giro di Lombardia. The question is whether it will be his last race this year or his last race ever.

Meanwhile, Harald Totschnig, 29, younger brother of Georg, would love to participate in the Gerolsteiner family tradition and either ride with his brother there next year or be the Totschnig family's sole representative, if his brother decides to retire at the end of this season. While waiting to hear from the sparkling water team, Totschnig the younger is considering a contract extension with his current Continental Team Elk Haus.

Elk Haus teammate, 22 year-old Thomas Rohregger is also hoping to jump to the ProTour with either Saunier Duval or Unibet, but can fall back on his current team, which has offered him an extension. Also considering his options is 28 year-old Gerhard Trampusch, currently with Wiesenhof-Felt. Austrian team Volksbank Vorarlberg has made him an offer.

Hatton to Colavita

One of Australia's promising cyclists, Peter Hatton, has signed with American team Colavita for the 2007 season, after spending this year riding for Jittery Joe's. The move to the larger team will enable Hatton to continue his development, competing in more of the best races on the US circuit.

Dutch team looking for Australian riders

A Dutch cycling team is looking for a talented 19 or 20 year-old male cyclist to ride their Under 23 and Elite programs in 2007. The Under 23 program comprises the classics which are part of the Dutch Under 23 series, while the rest of the program offers the opportunity to ride in classics of up to a 1.2 UCI ranking throughout the Netherlands and Belgium (30 classics), as well as stage races, lucrative Dutch criteriums and Belgian circuit races ("kermesses").

The selected cyclist will receive free accommodation for the 2007 season (from March until October), as well as a racing kit. All race entry fees and the costs of going to and from all races will also be covered. In the last four years, nine Australian riders were part of the team, which also offers Australian companies several corporate packages to support the team and the selected riders. Interested companies are welcome to react at the e-mail address below.

Interested cyclists should send a letter of interest and a copy of their racing results to the team manager at the following e-mail address:

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)