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Latest Cycling News for January 9, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Spanish paper suggests link between Valverde and Fuentes

By Shane Stokes

Alejandro Valverde
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

The fallout from Operación Puerto continues to rumble on, with the Spanish press today stating that ProTour 2006 winner Alejandro Valverde is one of several high profile riders circumstantially linked to the controversial Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.

According to the paper ABC, when Fuentes was arrested in Madrid last May 23rd he had in his possession a black wallet which contained one clearly identifiable name; that of Valverde. When police searched it they found nine credit cards, a card from 2004 bearing the names and numbers of the Liberty Seguros team, business cards belonging to Mario Zorzoli (medical chief of the UCI) and Emilio Lamparero, who the paper reported has worked as a psychologist with football club Real Madrid. Most interestingly, there was also a card from the hotel Silken with the names "Ale," "Manc," "Vino," "Popo" and "Valverde" written on it.

The paper states that riders often stay in the Puerta de Madrid, part of the Silken chain. Apart from Valverde, ABC does not speculate on the identities of the riders listed, but the fact that the names correspond with nicknames of some of the biggest riders in the sport will have attracted the attention of the investigators.

According to the writer Jose Carlos Carabias, this evidence has been given the code number of 42.748.448 in the Operación Puerto investigation. He also states that Dr. Fuentes used ten different mobile phones in the course of his business.

The Guardia Civil, the Superior Council of Deportes and the Real Spanish Federation of Cycling always have denied any link between Alejandro Valverde and Operación Puerto. However ABC makes a connection between this latest news and the mention of someone named "Valv." (Piti) in Fuentes' notes. It claims that the Murcian newspaper La Verdad and other papers have said that he has, or had, a dog named Piti; investigators have long theorised that Fuentes used pet names as codewords for some of the riders.

ABC also said that Valverde was given the code number 18 and draws a link between this and the bags of blood found to contain elevated levels of EPO (Erythropoietin) by the analysis laboratory at the Hospital del Mar de Barcelona on November 15. Eight of the 99 bags were deemed suspicious, with the newspaper saying that three of these corresponded to rider 5, Sevillano (alleged to be Oscar Sevilla). The others were connected to the aliases "Klaus," "Falla," "Mari," "Gemma" and "number 18."

Valverde has stated that he worked with Fuentes when he was the official doctor of the Kelme team, but has always denied that he was given any doping products.

In recent days rumours have been rife that the Spaniard was set to join the T-Mobile team. However yesterday T-Mobile press officer Stefan Wagner denied that there had been any recent talks with the Vuelta 2006 runner-up.

"Last year, the team management drafted a list of interesting riders, and we tried to talk with everyone on this list to see if there could be a general fit with our team and its philosophy. A third party informed us of interest from Valverde in joining the T-Mobile Team," he said.

"So Bob and Rolf met him in early December in Murcia for the first and only time. They had a discussion with him for a couple of hours to see if there could be a general fit with our team, and more specifically with the team philosophy and our commitment to clean and fair sport. After this meeting, there was a follow-up phone call a few days later and we sent him a proposal with several conditions."

These conditions included DNA testing, a cash-back clause, routine medical checks and blood volume testing - but also confirmation that Valverde has had no contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of Operación Puerto, nor links to the aforementioned investigation. "We haven't heard anything from him or his manager since this phone call. At no time was there direct contact with his team," Wagner stated.

Today's ABC newspaper quotes T-Mobile's Christian Frommert as saying that reports the team was about to sign Valverde was "absolute nonsense."

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

More on Valverde - financial problems for Caisse d'Epargne?

By Susan Westemeyer

Was T-Mobile ready to shell out 10 million euros for Alejandro Valverde? That's what the Spanish newspaper has claimed. Two million would be to buy out his contract from Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears. The other eight would have been his salary over three years -- some 2.6 million a year, or about double what he is now apparently earning. Plus bonuses for good results, of course. T-Mobile has denied that such sums of money were ever mentioned.

Caisse d'Epargne may be taking the threat to the star more seriously than they want to let on. Team manager Eusebio Unzúe apparently met Monday in Murcia with Valverde and his two representatives, Francisco Sánchez Sabater and Antonio Sánchez Martinez, a father and son pair who usually represent football players. Unzúe has requested several days to prepare a counteroffer to the alleged T-Mobile offer, saying it would be a "disaster" for the team to start the season without its leader.

But the problem for the Spanish-French team may well be where to find the money to pay that leader. According to AS, Illes Balears ended its sponsorship last season, but orally agreed to continue through May 2007, if not through the entire season -- but nothing has yet been signed or made official. And the French bank, Caisse d'Epargne, does not seem inclined to increase its share, the newspaper reported.

The team hopes to conclude its negotiations with Valverde as soon as possible, so that it will know by the end of the week whether he will stay with the team or not. Valverde signed with the team in October 2004, when it was Illes Balears who then bought out his contract from the smaller Kelme team.

Basso continues in Armstrong's footsteps

Sponsorship deal with American sportswear firm

Basso adjusts to Discovery Channel
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Ivan Basso has agreed to help promote Nike sportswear for the next two years. The 29 year-old Italian signed a contract estimated at 1.5 million per year for 2007 and 2008, which will see him in gear by the American firm both on and off the bike; a lot like his ex-rival, Lance Armstrong.

Basso signed for Armstrong's former team Discovery Channel this last November and has since grown even closer to the Texan. By linking himself with Nike he becomes only the fourth member on the team to have a personal sponsorship agreement with the colossal sports company; joining George Hincapie, Tom Danielson and other new-signing, Levi Leipheimer.

Basso has renounced his personal sponsors of Sidi and Fuerteventura to make the deal happen with Nike, although he, like the rest of the Discovery Channel team members are tied to an eyewear contract with Rudy Project.

"Basso is an exciting rider; with lots of appeal," said Margie Wargo of Nike to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "They know him in Italy, but also in America for being Lance's only adversary in two editions of the Tour de France. That created a great connection between him and Armstrong and a sponsorship collaboration that we were excited to have."

Part of this agreement will have Basso in Armstrong's signature gear, marked "10/2" (for the date he was diagnosed with cancer 2 October, 1996). It is possible that the stakes of the sponsorship would rise, even to include a specific Basso line of gear, if he is to win the 2007 Tour. The 2006 Giro d'Italia champion would could even have his 1.5 million contract rise to 2 million; based on extra in come from image rights and relatives that would follow from a Tour win.

"It is will be our aim for catalogue and internet publicity," continued Wargo on the planned immediate use of Basso's image. "For now we don't see a promotional campaign or line of sportswear dedicated to him, but that will depend on how the Tour goes."

It is up to Basso to make the best out of this 2007 season; after a 2006 that included an extreme high (Giro win) and extreme low (Operación Puerto), he is ready to try to move forward. After spending the winter in Italy (New Year’s at the house of Michele Bartoli), Basso will return to the USA for the team's training camp in Solvang, California, from 22 January to 3 February. Then he is expected to make his season debut in the Tour of California, starting 18 February and running to 25 February.

Ullrich training and negotiating

By Susan Westemeyer

Things are looking up again for Jan Ullrich. The German rider is training full-time from his home in Switzerland, both on the road and in the gym, his spokesman Michael Lang told Cyclingnews Tuesday.

Ullrich still plans to head for a training camp, but will wait until he signs with a new team. That signing will be sometime the end of January or beginning of February. Talks are currently underway with five teams, two ProTour and three Pro-Continental, most recent being Acqua & Sapone.

Roulston in training accident

New Zealand cycling national champion Hayden Roulston was involved in a training accident in Christchurch earlier today (January 9). While riding with three other cyclists he clipped the wheel of a bike ahead of him resulting in him coming off his bike.

Roulston suffered severe lacerations and abrasions to one side of his body and is now in Christchurch hospital recovering. He received no broken bones. A decision on whether he will start at the elite road championships in Upper Hutt on Saturday will be made nearer the time and will depend on his recovery.

Roulston is not available for comment today and is focusing on achieving a quick return to cycling.

Minister of sport Andrei Tchmil

Former pro cyclist Andrei Tchmil is the new minister of sport for Moldova. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev appointed the 43 year-old to help lead the country's sports program.

After the fall of the USSR, Tchmil held different nationalities, including Moldavian, while going on to win such grand one-day races as the Milano-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Treviso 2008 Worlds presentation

Several former cycling champions in Belgium

During the next cyclo-cross world championships to be held in Hooglede-Gits (Belgium) on January 27 - 28, Treviso's organizing committee will be fully present in the event to promote 2008 championships. After the impressive promotional success in Zeddam, Italian staff will arrange a promotional stand to inform supporters about the 2008 event and tourist opportunities; a VIP hospitality will be set-up close to the finish line.

On Friday, January 26, Treviso's organizing committee will officially present the 2008 Championships in an "Italian soiree" scheduled in Kortrijk. All the main Italian authorities will attend the official gala, as well as organizing committee sponsor and several cycling former champions, such as Francesco Moser, Freddy Maertens, Silvio Martinello, Adrie Van der Poel, Renato Longo and Daniele Pontoni.

Raleigh International takes over Univega

Nicole Cooke signs for Raleigh
Photo ©: John Pierce
Click for larger image

Raleigh International has taken over the women Univega pro cycling team. The team will start this year under the name of "Raleigh Lifeforce Creation Pro Cycling Team." The traditional English bicycle maker returns to professional cycling after running the glorious Ti Raleigh Creda Team in the 1970s. The team's co-sponsors are Lifeforce Immune System Bank, Creation and carmaker Skoda.

The Team rooster 2007: Priska Doppmann (Swi), Sarah Düster (Ger), Patricia Schwager (Swi), Joanne Kiesanowski (NZl), Emma Rickards (Aus), Annelies Heard (GBr), Tanja Slater (GBr), Pascale Schnider (Swi), Christiane Soeder (Aut), Sereina Trachsel (Swi), Karin Thürig (Swi), Nicole Cooke (GBr), Caroline Steffen (Swi) and Larissa Kleinmann (Ger)

The Team will be present at all major races and is leaving January 15 to Melbourne, Australia for a two month training camp. One day after the Bern world cup, May 15, will be the team's presentation.

2007 Veterans Classic race series

The Australian townships of Tanunda (Barossa Valley) and Hahndorf (Adelaide Hills) will be greeted with veteran road racing as a prologue event prior to the Tour Down Under. Never before in the association with the Tour Down Under has the Classic Veteran seen such extraordinary entries.

Tanunda will host a criterium on Wednesday, 17 January. With a record number of 170 entries starting under the Tour Down Under archway on Murray Street, the veteran riders will need all the experience of their racing years to master the tricky road course.

The next day, in Hahndorf, residents and visitors will view even more racing, with the riders using Main Street on three occasions. This is the Veteran's first time appearance in Hahndorf and coincides with a record number of entries. The challenge is on for the 200+ entries on the demanding course selected by the race organizer Wolfgang Harder.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)

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