First Edition Cycling News for April 30, 2007
Edited by Laura Weislo with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Di Luca completes his Ardennes collection
A dream come true in Ans
"The Killer" has returned to make amends to the missing piece from his magical 2005 season by winning Belgium's oldest Classic, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Italian Danilo Di Luca escaped with Fränk Schleck just after the Côte du Saint-Nicolas and then attacked the Luxembourger at 400 metres to go to add the third of three Ardennes classics to his palmarès. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown was in Ans to hear Di Luca's reaction to his win.
"I thought of this race for the past nine years - since I turned professional," said Di Luca, who turned professional with Riso Scotti in 1998. He had just captured the 93rd running of Liège in front of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Fränk Schleck (Team CSC).
After 262 kilometres of racing and more than six hours through the rolling Ardennes in Southeast Belgium, Di Luca noted that this race was one that was always on his mind. "I always thought that this was the most beautiful race and the one for me. Today I am very, very satisfied with what I have accomplished."
As in the Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, where he finished third in both races, Di Luca had the help of a strong Liquigas team. Riders like Franco Pellizotti and Alessandro Spezialetti were there helping him be positioned for the win.
"Danilo showed he was the strongest, I am happy for him after his miss two years ago," recalled the curly-haired Pellizotti after the finish. "It is also important for him after he was so close in Flèche Wallonne. The team worked very well and we did well in these Belgian races."
Di Luca was proud of his companions and repaid them in the best way, with a win in Ans. "I dedicate this win to all of my team-mates," continued Di Luca on the hot day in Ans. "They truly did a great job today."
Post Liège reactions
By Brecht Decaluwé in Ans
Schleck rides with cracked vertebra, happy with third
In a first reaction after the race Fränk Schleck was hammered. "It was so fast, so hard," Schleck sighed. When asked if Di Luca exploited his hard work in the final kilometre, Schleck wasn't angry on the Italian winner. "Di Luca had the right to ride like that. Anyway, if I would've been stronger I would've won," Schleck said to Cyclingnews at the finish line before heading to the podium.
Gerolsteiner did a good share of the work to bring back the breakaway late in the race, and had a good chance with Stefan Schumacher's attack, but had to be satisfied with Rebellin's fifth place. ""We can really be very satisfied with these results. For me, it was the strongest team performance to date. We have never had such a strong team here," said director Christian Henn.
Stefan Schumacher: "We can live well with Davide's fifth place. That was a good result to end up our strong week in the Ardennes." Schumacher, as to why his escape near the end of the race wasn't successful: "It's too bad that the others in my leading group didn't want to share the work and lead." He tried it on his own, "but in the end I just didn't have enough left."
"When I had [just] 30 seconds, I knew that it would be really, really difficult," he told Cyclingnews after the finish. "If I had some luck and if maybe there were some attacks from the favourites and they neutralized each other, then perhaps I would have had a chance. But in this situation, the race was very controlled and so many teams were working for their leaders."
Dekker: "Banning the earphones? We should really try it once!"
Erik Dekker, the current team director for Rabobank, was disappointed that while his team has a history of taking the initiative in races such as Amstel Gold Race, nobody did it in Liège. "The biggest problem is that the riders are too good. The Weening and Moerenhout riders of this peloton are too good and the best riders are waiting for the last climb. That's a huge deadlock," Dekker said.
The Dutchman has experience in this race, finishing fifth back in 2004. "Normally the race starts on the Côte de Wanne but at that moment we were trailing the front group by 16'. You can only start the battle when there's a battle possible. All the riders rode as if the foot of the St-Nicolas was their finish line, doing everything to deliver their leader to the front," Erik Dekker said.
Dekker said that he knew the race would remain deadlocked up until the final climbs right from the La Redoute. "If you reach the foot of that climb with 100 men, then you know that the race wasn't hard enough."
The Rabobank director said there were no attacks before that last climb except for the effort from Schumacher. "He did a great effort, but the chance that he would make it was very small. I was never worried by him because he had to work so hard on the descent that he couldn't survive the ultimate climbs, even if he would've had forty seconds," Dekker explained. When someone asked if a ban on radio communication for the riders would make sense, Dekker loved the idea. "We should really try it once!"
No results but progression for Thomas Dekker
Rabobank's young talent Thomas Dekker (no relation to Erik) showed great things in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He was in the big front group at the foot of Saint-Nicolas, but he was still there with about seven other riders after the first acceleration, when Bettini attacked. "You just try to follow everyone and just before Schleck attacked there was a Boogie [Michael Boogerd - ed.] attack. I was riding in eighth position, just hanging on when Schleck attacked," the young Dekker explained.
There was no response on the Schleck/Di Luca attack until Dekker tried to bridge up on his own. "I could see them riding but I couldn't close the gap," Dekker said. "The roads in Belgium aren't good and I was rattling down the St-Nicolas, if this would've been in the Tour de France it would've been easier. Also, if I could've reacted to that attack a split second earlier then I could've made it," Dekker said to Cyclingnews.
"Then I would've stayed on the wheels, even if that would end up in a third place. It didn't happen like that though, and I was brought back in the final kilometre. I noticed that Schleck was pulling hard so it was just impossible against two men for me," Dekker realized.
"I'm happy with my performance; I'm riding between these big names at this young age. It makes me feel even better that I can ride away from them after 260 kilometres. Nevertheless it's a pity that I can't pull off a decent result [Dekker finished 34th - ed].
"Last year I finished 19th, but that was in another style. Now I brought back Bettini and reacted to those two leaders. I can look back with a big smile on my performances during the Ardennes week: in the Amstel Gold Race I crashed but still managed to finish 12th, in Flèche Wallonne I was brought back at the foot of the Mur and today I was brought back during the final kilometre again," Dekker reflected on the past week. "I don't have to blame myself for anything so I'm only to the future, now I want to be good in Switzerland."
Race style not in Horner's favour
Last year Predictor-Lotto's Chris Horner was in the front group that sprinted for the victory, but this year he was unable to fight for the win. "A top-20 was possible though, and on Saint-Nicholas I tried 100% to get back to the leaders as there was a small gap, but I had at least five guys on my wheel.
"First I thought that it was great and that we would work together to get back to the leaders but they stopped working! You've got to be crazy," Horner was disappointed by the lack of help. "I went really hard on that climb, averaging 40km/h during two uphill kilometres," Horner said.
Horner found that there were too many fresh legs in the peloton at the finish, "The race was a bit too easy, it had to be faster for me. Cruising at the back and then smashing up the final climb is not my cup of tea," Horner said to Cyclingnews. "A team had to do something to make it harder, but nobody drilled it. Having such a big group at the foot of the final climb is like sitting behind a truck, that isn't too hard. Riding behind a car is better, then there are less people following," Horner laughed.
Basso meets Spanish lawyer
Discovery's Bruyneel in Madrid before critical C.O.N.I. hearing
By Tim Maloney-European Editor
Late last week, embattled Discovery Channel rider Ivan Basso travelled to Madrid, Spain to meet Spanish lawyer Juan Zernoza, who previously represented Jan Ullrich in an unsuccessful attempt to block the transfer of the German riders blood bags from Operación Puerto in Spain to German prosecutors in Bonn.
After the meeting with Zernoza, Basso also met with Discovery Channel sports manager Johan Bruyneel. According to the Corriere della Sera's Paolo Tomaselli, Bruyneel and Basso discussed the upcoming May 2 meeting with the Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri. Bruyneel and Tomaselli speculated that Basso may also have discussed with Bruyneel the fact that his contract with Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team has a zero tolerance clause that calls for the immediate firing of any rider found guilty of a doping offence.
Basso's lead attorney, Italian Avv. Massimo Martelli told La Republica's Eugenio Capodacqua "We'll see on May 2nd what the truly new elements are that the authorities have. Many of the elements were already in the previous dossier, the one that was previously shelved by C.O.N.I," explained Martelli, "the phone call between Fuentes and Labarta; the money that 'Birillo' was supposed to pay [Fuentes], etc. Regarding the SMS that Ivan allegedly sent, he says he never sent it; for the bags of blood, we'll have to see."
However, Capodacqua points out other potentially damaging information for Basso: a yet unverified telephone call between Fuentes and his alleged collaborator, ex-mountain biker Alessander Kalc, who according to the documents collected in Operación Puerto was a courier who brought blood to Number Two (allegedly Ivan Basso) at the 2006 Giro d'Italia.
With the evidence stacking up against Ivan Basso, will the Discovery Channel riders strategy be to fight to the finish or look to find an accommodation where some collaboration to find a solution with C.O.N.I. investigators happens. Until his meeting Wednesday afternoon with Italian Olympic Committee anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri, Basso's fate is still up in the air.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
T-Mobile responds to 1996 doping charges
By Susan Westemeyer
T-Mobile Team is not taking the newest charges of doping in the team's past lightly. "Those are serious charges. We will look carefully at the evidence," said Sport Director Rolf Aldag to sid. "We aren't interested in just getting out of this matter. It must all be explained."
Jef D'Hont, a former soigneur for the-then Team Telekom, has claimed that in 1996, when Bjarne Riis won the Tour de France for the team, there was "systematic doping" within the team, administered by the team doctors, who still work for T-Mobile. In a book to be published shortly, he further claims that the former team manager Walter Godefroot organized and financed the doping system.
Aldag, who was a member of the Telekom team at that time, said that it was "unimaginable, that there was systematic doping," and claimed to have a clean conscience and never to have doped. He was supported by team manager Bob Stapleton, who said, "I trust Ralf 100 percent, and also our experiences with the doctors from (the University Clinic) Freiburg have so far been positive."
The two doctors named in the book, Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, still work for the team and administer the team's highly-vaunted, newly-introduced anti-doping plan. Stapleton admitted that it would be a major blow to the team and the program if the claims were proved to be true. "That would destroy our program. We will take out time and see which information is true."
Heinrich denied the charges through the T-Mobile press office, but did not make a public statement. "The University Clinic Freiburg will be very interested in clearing up this matter," Aldag noted. Stapleton added that if the charges come to nothing, then the doctors could turn to the courts for satisfaction.
Godefroot told Spiegel magazine, which is publishing parts of the book, that he does not want to have his name associated with the book. He specifically denied to the magazine "that I have told someone to use a forbidden substance or that I would organize something like that." The Belgian, who is now a consultant to Team Astana, told rp-online.de "Well, he's writing a book and needs money."
Udo Bölts, now a directeur sportif for Team Gerolsteiner, was also a member of the T-Mobile squad in 1996, and rejected the claims out of hand. In his time as a rider he "never noticed anything like that" he said, adding, "I don't want to comment on this absurdity."
D'Hont claimed that during the Tour in 1996, "in the evenings after the massage there were new EPO units given every two or three days." He specifically claims that Riis and Jan Ullrich, who finished second in the Tour, both received EPO shots, with Ullrich also getting growth hormones.
D'Hont quite his job with Telekom after the 1996 season, saying he "could no longer bear the stress and the doping system," according to "Spiegel". He changed to Française des Jeux. During the Festina doping scandal of 1998, he was charged by an anonymous source, and ultimately sentenced to a nine months suspended sentence. He claimed that during this time, his wife feared a search of the house, and destroyed all his evidence concerning doping and Telekom.
Meanwhile, German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke has joined the fray. He has filed a complaint with prosecutors in Freiburg, charging Heinrich and Schmid with violating drug laws and bodily injury, according to Netzeitung.de. "It is a major scandal, that a German university clinic is being publicly accused of supporting doping-doctors with the continued misuse of medical products - and that for criminal purposes, as well as bodily injury - and all at the expense of the taxpayers," he said.
McQuaid, Lefevere and Prudhomme to meet
By Brecht Decaluwé in Ans
"The CONI clears Basso, and six months later they re-open the case. Same thing with the ASO, they wait six months and now - two months before the Tour de France - they expect us to take quick decisions. Why can't the organizers take decisions themselves, in their rule books there is a rule that gives them the possibility to exclude riders with a bad reputation. Everybody's always passing on the chore to us," Lefevere said at the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, however. "Anyway, the good thing is that on May 4 there's a big meeting scheduled with [UCI president Pat] McQuaid, [ASO director Christian] Prudhomme and myself," said Lefevere, "That should deliver something."
Stapleton disappointed by other teams
Bob Stapleton, team manager of T-Mobile, is disappointed by a lack of action and interest by the other ProTour teams in the Fuentes affair. "I have the impression that some people are afraid, personally and politically, to take any action," he told the sid press agency.
The team managements met Saturday in Liège, to develop a joint strategy to ensure that the blood bags taken in Operación Puerto are turned over to the appropriate authorities. They are scheduled to meet again this week with race organizers and representatives from the UCI before presenting their plan publicly on May 4.
Stapleton said that it was urgent that something be done. "If need be, we can force action," he said. "That can also happen from outside, through pressure from the sponsors."
Roger Legeay, manager of Credit Agricole, said that at the upcoming meeting, "we will discuss what measures to take. A country cannot simply sit on 200 bags of blood," according to the sid. He added that the bags must be opened and tested to find out which athletes they belonged to, and which sports were involved.
Gerolsteiner for Romandie and Henninger Turm
Team Gerolsteiner is looking to climbers and newcomers Bernhard Kohl and Oliver Zaugg to do well in the Tour de Romandie, which starts Tuesday. Markus Fothen is also on the team and will try to win the 20.4 km time trial which closes the stage race.
Meanwhile, Gerolsteiner's Ardennes Classics team will cross the border from Belgium to Germany. Davide Rebellin and Stefan Schumacher will lead the team in Tuesday's Rund um den Henninger Turm in Frankfurt.
Gerolsteiner for Romandie: Robert Förster, Markus Fothen, Johannes Fröhlinger, Torsten Hiekmann, Bernhard Kohl, Marcel Strauss, Oliver Zaugg and Beat Zberg.
Gerolsteiner for Henninger Turm: Heinrich Haussler, Tim Klinger, David Kopp, Davide Rebellin, Ronny Scholz, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann and Markus Zberg.
Volksbank for Henninger Turm
Rene Weissinger and Florian Stalder will lead the Austrian Professional Continental Team Volksbank in Rund um den Henninger Turm Tuesday.
"To hit the target in Frankfurt, the guys wil have to ride cleverly and budget their strength," said team manager Thomas Kofler. "They have trained well and are very strong."
Volksbank for Henninger Turm: Florian Stalder, Pascal Hungerbühler, Sven Teutenberg, Rene Weissinger, Gerrit Glomser, Andreas Matzbacher, Patrick Riedesser, and Harald Morscher
Milram for Romandie
Team Milram's Sergio Ghisalberti finished ninth overall last year in the Tour de Romandie, and the team is hoping he will repeat it this year - if he has overcome back problems.
Also on the team's squad is Fabio Sacchi, who is recovering from severe bruising received in Gent-Wevelgem. "The race is very important for riders like Fabio Sacchi to test their condition," said Directeur Sportif Vittorio Algeri.
Milram for Romandie: Alessandro Cortinovis, Matej Jurco, Mirco Lorenzetto, Fabio Sacchi, Sebastian Schwager, Sergio Ghisalberti, Brett Lancaster, Martin Müller
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)