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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 8, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Valverde looking forward to season start

Says Unibet should get a start in Paris-Nice

By Shane Stokes

Alejandro Valverde (r) and Caisse d'Epargne team-mate Luis Leon Sanchez
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

2006 ProTour champion and Vuelta runner-up Alejandro Valverde has been working hard in recent weeks and says that he is looking forward to getting his season underway on Sunday on day one of the Challenge Mallorca races.

The Caisse d’Epargne rider is currently participating in the team training camp near Palma de Mallorca and had a good tune-up on Wednesday, riding for four hours with the squad and spending periods of time at racing pace. "I am feeling tranquil at the moment and I am looking forward to the start of the season," he told Cyclingnews afterwards.

"I think now I am 80 to 85 percent of my top form. This is normal for this time of year because at the moment things are tranquil and will be so until March, and then I will start training intensely to be good for the April Classics. Amstel will be my big goal there, as I was unlucky last year [he had hunger knock - ed.], and because I have already won Liège."

The 26 year-old had a very strong end of season, leading the Vuelta for much of the race and finally finishing just below Alexandre Vinokourov on the podium. He was then third in the World Road Race Championships and thanks to his consistency all year, was the clear winner of the ProTour title.

'El Imbatido' took one month completely off in order to recharge his batteries and then started swimming, going to the gym, doing some mountain biking and hill running. In mid-December he returned to the road bike and has been training well since then.

The Spaniard is planning to ease himself into the season rather than riding each of the five Challenge Mallorca stages. "I will do the first day, the third day and the fourth day. I don't expect to get a big result, my goal is to help my teammates that are very strong and who can do something in the overall classification."

Valverde was recently linked to talks with the German T-Mobile squad but, after a renegotiation of his contract, he finally opted to stay with Caisse d’Epargne for another four years. He is glad to be with the Franco-Spanish squad again in 2007. "I like this team and think there is a very good atmosphere this year.

"It is good with Pereiro on the team because both of us can share the responsibility in the Tour. There is less pressure that way so it is better for Oscar, and better for me. We are both very strong riders for that race and for the other contenders, it is more difficult to control when there is two rather than one of us.

"I’m getting to an age when you are at the best for the Grand Tours so I hope to show well. This year, I hope to have good luck and to finish the Tour, at least. A place in the top five would be good, then I will give 100 percent next year to try to win."

When asked, the ProTour champion gave his thoughts on the current stand-off between the UCI and the organisers of the three Grand Tours. "I think this is not good for cycling. It is a problem that needs to be solved as quickly as possible. I think we have enough problems in the sport without that happening," he stated. "I don’t know much about the details but I think if the ProTour is well planned and thought out, I don't think it is a bad thing for cycling. But there are a couple of things that do need to be changed.

"As regards Unibet, I think it is very important for them that they do Paris-Nice. It is a very important race. I don't think it is right that they are not allowed to enter, they should be able to ride."

A full interview with Alejandro Valverde will appear soon on Cyclingnews.

Landis and AFLD agree to delay hearing

By Susan Westemeyer and Hedwig Kröner

Floyd Landis has agreed not to ride the Tour de France this year, and the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) has agreed to delay their disciplinary hearing against him, which had been scheduled for today.

"Mr. Landis has asked the AFLD, in a letter read by his lawyer during the hearing, to have the possibility to first defend himself in front of the American disciplinary body (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency)," the AFLD said in a statement.

"He says in this very letter that he promises not to take part in any race in France until the end of 2007, in particular in the 2007 Tour de France.

"The AFLD subsequently decided to postpone the examination of his case to a date that will be set according to the course of the procedure before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency."

Landis said in his letter, "Let me assure you that I fully share the goal of preventing illegal doping...", while asking that the French case be postponed "In this case, and in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I agree voluntarily not to participate in any professional or amateur cycling event in France until December 31, 2007, and in particular the Tour de France 2007."

Meanwhile, French newspaper L'Equipe reported on Thursday that Landis refuses to let the American Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) carry out IRMS (detection of exogenous testosterone) tests on the remaining B samples that were taken from the rider at the Tour de France last year. Landis submitted urine samples six times during the 2006 Grand Tour, of which five came back negative for an elevated testosterone/epitestosterone ratio and were thus shelved. Now, the USADA asked Landis to approve the IRMS testing of these five B samples, which could be an important factor in the hearing in front of the Arbitration Commission currently scheduled for May 14, 2007.

"The World Anti-Doping Code allows additional analysis on B samples only [as the A samples have already been used - ed.] when there is a need for it in the procedure," said WADA legal director Olivier Niggli. Although the testosterone/epitestosterone ratios found in the A samples of the rider all were below 4 and thus considered normal, any use of exogenous testosterone could only be proved - or proved wrong - using the IRMS testing method.

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

Furlan back after hard two years

By Gregor Brown

Angelo Furlan (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Angelo Furlan scored a double yesterday by taking stage one and the overall lead of the Etoile de Bessèges. The 29 year-old Veneto rider topped the sprint into Palavas-les-Flots ahead of Cavendish and Marzoli. By doing so he has given his French team reassurance, after signing him this last fall, and boosted his own confidence.

"On paper it seemed like an easy stage," he recalled to "But the selection was made thanks to the wind and rain. We [Crédit Agricole] were present in the sprint of around 80 to 85 riders. I went into the last curve in eight position. It was very probable that out of all [of the riders] I was the one who had preserved the most energy [during the day]."

Not since the 2004 Coppa Bernocchi, when he road for Alessio-Bianchi, has Furlan been on the podium's top step. In 2005 the ProTour began and he spent the year with Domina Vacanze. He mustered two top-five spots in the Tour de France but at the end of the year the team disbanded, partly to form Milram, and Furlan took a step down to join Gianni Savio's Professional Continental team, Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni.

"They were two hard years that I just went through," he continued. "I cannot reprimand myself regarding the decisions. Unfortunately, every time that I would arrive in top form, like the 2005 Tour, there would be a bad crash or some other devious episode, leaving everything compromised.

"Here, at Crédit Agricole, I again have found a new way to approach cycling. I feel recharged with trust; at the team camp I felt in favour of all the riders signed. Here the courteousness and good spirits are never lacking."

His 2007 plans are for a solid build up to the Milano-Sanremo, followed by racing the Giro d'Italia. "I am a rider that in order to find my form I have to race a lot. My upcoming schedule consists of the Tour Méditerranéen and, with the Milano-Sanremo approaching, I will also race the Tirreno-Adriatico. Then we will continue with the other races that lead up to the Giro d'Italia, an important goal for us."

Furlan took a moment to thank his compatriot, Pietro Caucchioli. "This victory I dedicate to myself but also to Caucchioli," he said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The riders, both of whom are from near Verona, have known each other for many years, racing together on Alessio for four seasons. "He put my name into the team's list. I believe in good manners and education, and he demonstrated to me an ideal environment."

Qatar wants Tour de France start

By Susan Westemeyer

The Emir of Qatar has asked cycling legend Eddy Merckx to persuade the organisers of the Tour de France to hold the start of that race in the Arab state on the Persian Gulf. "Qatar has good roads, sufficient hotels and the climate is outstanding," Merckx told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. Such a prologue would mark the first time that any stage would be held outside of Europe.

ASO, which manages the Tour de France, also organises the Tour of Qatar. That relationship will continue through at least 2011, Merckx said.

A Tour de France start in Qatar would be feasible, he assessed. "You could transport all the material with an Airbus. It would be good for the globalisation of cycling." The logistical difficulties would be similar to those faced this summer when the Tour holds its opening stages in Great Britain, he pointed out.

How about the effect of the summer temperatures? The average high in Doha in July is 41° Celsius (106°F). This would just provide the ideal opportunity to hold the prologue in the evening, Merckx said, when the temperature is bearable. The average low in Doha in July is 28° Celsius (83°F).

Merckx also mentioned the possibility of holding the World Championships in Qatar, pointing out that the World's held in Zolder in 2002 were on a flat course similar to that in the desert land.

Fukushima delighted by stage 7 success

By Greg Johnson in Karak, Malaysia

Shinichi Fukushima will give his all during tomorrow’s decisive Genting Highlands stage following an impressive stage 7 victory in the Tour de Langkawi today. The Japanese rider was shocked during this afternoon’s press conference when he learned of his second placing on general classification from a Cyclingnews reporter.

"I’m second in the general? Really?" exclaimed Fukushima. "Oh! I must scramble tomorrow. I think I’m in good form, so I think I can do a good race [tomorrow]."

Fukushima was one of ten riders who broke from the peloton early, pulling out a gap of up to eight minutes before the main bunch reduced the margin. The Nippo-Meitan Hompo rider resisted calls by sprint jersey holder Alberto Loddo five kilometres from the finish to stay together, instead opting to bolt to the line with Tinkoff Credit Systems’ Elia Aggiano.

"It’s very, very big. This is the biggest race of the year [for me]," explained Fukushima of today’s win. "I always go to Europe every year, but I never start a high category race in Europe, I start only first category.

"This race is the top in Asia. I’m Asian so I am very happy to win the biggest race in Asia as an Asian rider."

Fukushima’s 2.45 minute victory over the main bunch not only elevates him to second on general classification, it places him and the Nippo-Meitan Hompo team first on the Asian rider and team classifications.

Shinichi was quickly congratulated by brother and teammate Koji, who took podium photos and was quickly on the mobile making phone calls following his sibling’s win.

Young spark Clarke ready for fireworks on Genting

By Anthony Tan in Genting Highlands, Malaysia

Jonathon Clarke ( won the Karak Classic in Australia in January
Photo ©: Mal Sawford
(Click for larger image) Jonathan Clarke ( wins the Karak Classic

A solid ride to Cameron Highlands four days ago has seen 22 year-old Jonathon Clarke the best-placed rider on his team, currently in 20th position on the overall classification.

That stage provided a good indication of his potential to reach his goal of a top-10 finish, given he was one of a number who suffered from a bout of diarrhoea the night before. "I was happy with my ride," said Clarke, "although I was looking to get in the break that day, but with the diarrhoea, that wasn't possible.

"I've had it before when I went to China for Qinghai Lake; it just seems to be one of those things at these races - you get it, it goes through you, and then you're back to normal."

Speaking with Cyclingnews on the eve of the crucial stage to Genting, the diminutive though tenacious rider says now that his bowels are back in order, he's quietly confident on his chances tomorrow. During the off-season, Clarke says he's been working a lot on his climbing - which was evidenced by his eighth place at the Australian road championships in Ballarat, Victoria, held on a very hilly parcours - and while admitting it's hard to train for a 17 kilometre-long monster of a climb, climbing is what he's good at.

"I'd really like to get a top-10 on GC. The last couple of days have been fairly easy, but with the wind, you still have to be on the ball, and the legs have felt good. I'm feeling fairly confident... yeah, I'm confident," Clarke said, reassuring himself, also motivated by the fact that 11 years ago, countryman Damian McDonald won the inaugural edition of this race, at the 1996 Tour de Langkawi.

"For sure, that motivates me, but right now, the whole team is motivated," he said.

Carney impressed with Australian standard

By John Michael Flynn in Sydney

It was almost lost in all the hype surrounding the Victorians last night at the Australian Track Cycling Championships, but the performance of the man in the stars and stripes, Jame Carney, should not go without special mention.

The thirty eight year old veteran track legend rode like a man half his age against the young Australians in the scratch race - and held on for a very impressive silver medal, after being outgunned by Zak Dempster in the sprint.

When Cyclingnews caught up with Carney post race he was singing the praises of his Australian opponents. And with one of the best resume's in the business, he should know. "It's an honour to be allowed to race and to be able to place at your guys nationals is incredible," Carney said. "You're the number one cycling nation in the world, no matter what anyone says."

The de facto Tasmanian is in better condition than when Cyclingnews touched bases with him at the Tasmanian Christmas carnivals where he was suffering from a severe bout of bronchitis. "I'm really happy given I had a crappy Christmas. Did a lot of dirt road riding (in Tasmania) and I'm pretty fit right now," Carney said.

The American needs to be fit given his packed program at the Australian championships as both a rider and coach. As well as racing, Carney has been keeping an eye on the progress of fellow American Erica Allar and Tasmanian Laura McCaughey, who was most impressive in last night's quarter finals of the women's sprint.

For full coverage of the Australian Track Championships click here.

Most OP suspects in Spanish teams

By Monika Prell

With which teams did the suspects of Operación Puerto sign after the informations of the judicial investigation could not be used in sports-disciplinary proceedings? According to Spanish newspaper AS, 51 cyclists were interrogated about their relation with Eufemiano Fuentes and 43 of them found a team for the season 2007. But the majority had to cut back and to accept to sign for a squad that is not part of the ProTour.

Especially two Spanish Pro Continental teams seized the chance to sign well-known cyclists for few money. Relax-Gam strengthened its roster with Paco Mancebo, Oscar Sevilla, Santi Pérez, Angel Vicioso and the Czech Andrej Hruska. But the team who signed most of the OP suspects is the new team Fuerteventura Canarias. Team manager Vicente Belda took along many cyclists from his former team Comunitat Valenciana, amongst them Ballester, Bernabéu, Bonilla, Lloret and David Muñoz. Nevertheless, some of the riders chose to emigrate, like the Gutiérrez brothers (to Swiss team LPR), Ángel Edo (to Portuguese team Gilhabreu) or David Blanco (to Portuguese team Duja-Tavira).

Some of the ProTour teams defied the new ethical code and signed allegedly implicated riders, but only six cyclists have the chance to ride for a ProTour team in 2007. The signing causing the biggest polemic was the one of Ivan Basso and Discovery Channel. Portuguese Sergio Paulinho will also be racing for the American team. Saunier Duval has kept Koldo Gil and Carlos Zárate and Caisse d'Épargne Constantino Zaballa, even if the team management chose not to make him race at the moment. The Italian Giampaolo Caruso will ride for the Italian team Lampre.

Left over from the doping affair, and still without a team for this season, are Jan Ullrich, Rubén Pérez, Joseba Beloki, David Etxebarria and the Osa brothers.

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

Team Elk Haus to Italy and France

Team Elk Haus-Simplon will also be at the start this weekend in the GP Costa degli Etruschi in Italy, opening its 2007 season. The team will then go to France, where the same line-up will race the Tour Méditerranéen.

Elk Haus will be looking to sprinter Jochen Summer in the Italian race. "I've never ridden this race before but the course is good for me. It's hard to say just where you stand before you even ride your first race, but I feel strong," Summer said.

Thomas Rohregger will be captain at the six-stages race in France. "I won't be riding for GC," he said, "because there is a team time trial, which is new ground for us. But I'll surely try my luck on one or two stages."

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