Latest Cycling News for April 5, 2007
Edited by Gregor Brown
T-Mobile boss reacts to Ullrich's DNA findings
T-Mobile has led the way in setting up programs to ensure a cleaner sport inspired by last year's Operación Puerto. The connection of its former rider, Jan Ullrich, to the Spanish investigation led to the reshaping of the Germany-based team from top to bottom. Bob Stapleton spoke with Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown to give his reactions on Ullrich's DNA linking to Eufemiano Fuentes and the positives that can come from this situation.
On Tuesday afternoon, German public prosecutor Fred Apostel told sports news agency sid that the comparison with a DNA sample taken from Ullrich's saliva demonstrated "without a doubt" that the blood seized by the Guardia Civil last year during the raids of Fuentes' offices belonged to the now-retired German cyclist. Before this, the bags marked with "Jan", "number 1", or "Hijo Rudicio" ('son of Rudy') could not be clearly considered to contain the blood of Ullrich, but now it would seem the situation has changed.
"My initial reaction was not of surprise," said Stapleton from his home in California as he prepared to take his child to school. "I guess the only thing that has been surprising is how bad this has been handled by Jan's advisors."
He brushed off any ideas that the blood had been somehow manipulated by Spanish investigators during their work. "I think this conspiracy theory is putting a bitter end on what was a pretty remarkable career that Jan had," he said. "I prefer to remember Jan as an outstanding bike rider that made some mistakes. To see him advised in this unusual and increasingly unrealistic public position is really painful."
Read the full interview with Bob Stapleton.
Benna returning to form
De Ronde threat?
By winning Three Days of De Panne stage 2, Daniele Bennati scored his fifth win in 2007 and his first since being knocked out by an intestinal virus. The Lampre-Fondital sprinter from Arezzo was setback befor the start of Milano-Sanremo, a race he has wanted to win since his Grandpa Gino gave him his first road bike, but now seems to be firing again.
"The virus cut off my legs," the 26 year-old quipped yesterday afternoon in Belgium to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna. "At Sanremo and Harelbeke [E3 Prijs] I was not myself but here in De Panne, already from the first stage I have felt my form returning. I am not yet the same person that battled [Alessandro] Petacchi but this victory gives a lot to my morale."
Sunday, in Ronde van Vlaanderen he will have a chance to put the Sanremo's setback behind him. Bennati believes that he will have his chances for victory while working with teammate Alessandro Ballan.
"I don't how I can finish in Flanders. I think that I have demonstrated myself well on the bergs. Ballan will attack; I will stay covered, marking Boonen." The two will encounter dangerous rivals, some of which are compatriots, like World Champion Paolo Bettini and Liquigas' Luca Paolini and Filippo Pozzato.
"Then there is also Gent-Wevelgem... It is important not to think of Sanremo anymore."
Paolini confident from De Panne
Luca Paolini of Liquigas gave himself a huge confidence boost for the coming races by winning Three Days of De Panne stage 1. The 30 year-old rider from Milan took victory in Zottegem and moved into the overall lead in the process.
Yesterday, clad in the white leader's jersey, he placed sixth in the sprint, preferring not to risk himself in light of Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. He thinks he will have one more chance in De Panne but he is still undecided on the overall.
"I have the leader's jersey and so I flung myself up in the sprint, but without risking myself," he noted to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Paolini currently leads the race by nine seconds over Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) after two stages of racing.
"In stage three, the first semi-stage, I might be able to get a result, then I will decide what to do for the time trial [afternoon stage]."
One thing is certain, Flanders has given him the edge to co-captain the team, with Filippo Pozzato, in De Ronde. "I have faith for Flanders. The legs are there."
Gabriele Balducci of Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo is satisfied with his placings in Belgium, including yesterday's fifth spot in Three Days of De Panne stage 2. The Tuscan sprinter finished the day well but was no match for his countryman, Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital).
"From the start of the season I have been there, even if it has been a string of placings," he noted to La Gazzetta dello Sport in Koksijde, after yesterday's stage finish.
The team, an Italian Professional Continental formation, is relying on wild-card entries into cycling's biggest events. Balducci's teammate, Frank Vandenbroucke was the key to enter Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen but unfortunately he is not in-form and will be racing in Italy, thus the team has not been invited.
"The problem is that we are not able to do Flanders without Vandenbroucke. I would have liked to."
The 31 year-old will try his luck again today in stage 3, 119 kilometres, finishing in De Panne.
Petacchi preps for Gent-Wevelgem in Köln
The next goal for Alessandro Petacchi is in Belgium, at the Gent-Wevelgem. The rider from La Spezia (Tuscany), last seen in action on March 27, in the Coppi e Bartali, will make his return to racing this Monday in the Rund um Köln.
Milram will be divided in two parts, one team focusing on Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen and another, supporting Petacchi, in Germany. Ale-Jet will be linked with some of his trusted mates, like Fabio Sacchi, when he travels to Belgium after Monday's race.
Milram for Rund um Köln will be Dennis Haueisen, Christian Knees, Martin Müller, Enrico Poitschke, Elia Rigotto, Sebastian Siedler and Marco Velo, with Bergamasco Vittorio Algeri as the Directeur Sportif.
Rubén Plaza to Caisse d'Epargne
Alicante cyclist, Rubén Plaza, has made a commitment to join Caisse d'Epargne. The 27 year-old rider had spent the last three years with Comunidad Valenciana but was left searching for 2007 after the teams demise.
Plaza will make his debut in Caisse d'Epargne colours this next week according to todociclismo.com. It will be a bit of a reunion when the 2003 Spanish Champion races again under the direction of José Miguel Echavarri and Eusebio Unzue, he spent his first three years as a professional with them, when the team was known as iBanesto.com.
Valverde likes Vuelta al País Vasco route
"I will arrive to the Vuelta al País Vasco after placing third in the Critérium International, where I had hoped to win but when Jens Voigt attacked us, we let him take two minutes of advantage, and then it was impossible to reached him," Valverde expressed to diariovasco.com. The 26 year-old will start in the País Vasco this Monday, running from April 9 to 14.
The Caisse d'Epargne leader was satisfied with the role he played in the French race. "I finished second in the time trial stage, and that is a clear sign of my improvement in this speciality." In fact, Valverde won his first time trial stage in the Vuelta a Murcia early this year. "This season I have changed my handlebars, and also other important changes were already made."
In the Vuelta al País Vasco he will find many rivals and climbs, but "I want to win one stage at least."
Valverde does not have a clear favourite for the País Vasco. "Samuel Sánchez is building in his career, [Alberto] Contador went well at Castilla y León, and [Danilo] Di Luca went very well in the Coppi & Bartali. Also [Davide] Rebellin in Paris-Nice and Fränk Schleck in Critérium International." He sees his biggest threat from Saunier Duval, with its riders Koldo Gil and José Angel Gomez Marchante. "Saunier Duval is a very solid block."
He noted that the usual bad weather will toughen the race. "Rainy and cold weather will make the race harder."
The second stage, with 191 kilometres and eight climbs, "will be very complicated". Eusebio Unzue has suggested to his charge to go and preview the parcours. "I will feel comfortable on this terrain, because it is selective and it suits me."
In his four appearances of the Basque stage race he has won five stages, a number he hopes to increase in 2007.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)