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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Edition Cycling News for January 23, 2007

Edited by Rufus Staffordshire

Belgian newspaper goes after Lefevere

- Quick Step-Innergetic director named in major doping story, anonymous sources quoted

By Brecht Decaluwé

Lefevere gets the front page
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé

Patrick Lefevere has reacted angrily to the publication today in the Belgian mass-circulation daily newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, of a series of articles alleging he has had '30 years in doping'.

As director of the Belgian ProTour squad Quick Step – Innergetic and president of the IPCT (International Professional Cycling Teams), Lefevere is one of professional cycling' most influential figures. He has already threatened to sue the newspaper for defamation and was on Belgian radio this morning, denying the accusations published in the three-page spread that has dominated the sports media.

The newspaper titled the series of articles: "Patrick Lefevre, 30 years of doping". The key sources for the articles are a former cyclist who raced with Lefevere in the '70s, but is now a convicted criminal serving time, and the director of the race, Driedaagse van De Panne (Three Days of De Panne). The other key sources have remained anonymous, and there are no revelations of previously unannounced positive dope tests from riders that Lefevere' managed.

The articles claim to review an alleged doping history starting from when the manager was himself a pro cyclist. One source told the newspaper, "Lefevere stopped racing because he was addicted to amphetamines himself" when describing Lefevere's cycling career in the seventies. Another claimed that Lefevere also dealt in doping products.

An Italian doctor that took care of Lefevere's riders during the years of the Mapei-team, featuring Johan Museeuw, also claimed that there was organised use of doping products. "Growth hormone came from the pharmacy, EPO was ordered online. If you wanted to ride a good season, you needed 20,000 to 30,000 euro, including products. Lefevere knew about it, saw it happening and approved it all", said one claim in the newspaper.

According to reporter, Maarten Michielssens, who is known for his investigations into alleged doping in all sports, the other sources for his articles wanted to remain anonymous because they feared possible consequences if they spoke on-the-record.

"The doctor said 'nothing' left on paper as they all feared house searches'," Michielsen explained on Belgian radio this morning. "The man was scared to death and it will be hard to convince him to witness in a possible trial."

Lefevere has strongly denied almost all accusations made by the newspaper. "I used amphetamines as a cyclist, all the rest is nonsense and bullshit," Lefevre - who wants to sue the newspaper - said to Sporza.

"These are heavy accusations and the bill that will be sent to them will be heavy as well. I’m someone who worked 25 years-long to end up where I am. I can't accept all of this as I quit racing being 25-years old because I was possibly a little more intelligent that the man they pass the word to, who's in gaol right now," Lefevere said about informant Luc Capelle on Belgian radio.

"The man is unreliable, he's in gaol for his third murder attempt. We weren't best friends but I can confirm we trained together," Lefevere said.

"These are all just foolish accusations. As an amateur I didn't know what an injection needle looked like but as a professional I tried amphetamines about seven, eight times... my doctor was the inspector at the race. Once I used deca-durabolin but my body rejected it. That I was a dealer? Complete nonsense. The few times I used doping, I had to buy it myself," Lefevere said.

Lefevere also reacted to the Italian doctor who claimed there was organised doping. "Since 1992 we work together with Doctor Van Mol, I co-founded the training centre of Mapei to keep talents like (Filippo) Pozatto, when he was a junior, out of the hands of Italian doctors. We wanted that the medical supervision was done by Mapei-doctors only," Lefevere said.

Het Laatste Nieuws offered Lefevere the chance to comment on the article and Lefevere rejected the opportunity. "The conclusion? I formally deny everything. I'm manager of a top team and I'm responsible for the future of the people that work for me. If this is in the newspaper then a trial will follow. If my image has been harmed then I'll react and there'll be high, very high claims!"
The two named witnesses in this case are Luc Capelle, and Roland Coolsaet. The first is in gaol (but claimed he sold doping products to Lefevere when they were riders in the '70s), while the latter is organiser of the "Driedaagse van De Panne".

Coolsaet didn't actually accuse Lefevere in the paper, but referred to an incident in the 1999 edition of his race, when the Mapei team was withdrawn after a raid by the police. The police were said to have found amphetamines, but Mapei was not formally charged. Apparently an Italian soigneur was alleged to have been responsible and was acting alone.

The anonymous Italian doctor quoted in the articles claims that Dr Van Mol was not that well informed on the practices within the team. "There were six doctors in the team, but after the Festina affair the doping was (allegedly) handled by external doctors like Ferrari and Cecchini, helped by some Belgian sports doctors. Van Mol and Lefevere were bunglers," the Italian doctor told the newspaper.

Van Mol reacted to these statements by saying, "I don't know anything about organised doping use, and I've learned that I shouldn't react on anonymous data.".

Despite the nature of the articles, which are seemingly based on hearsay, the publication has created a major controversy in the cycling-mad country, especially at a time when there is little racing to report on. At the time of writing, Lefevere had not commenced proceedings against the newspaper.

Luttenberger responds to employment claims

By Susan Westemeyer

Austrian climber Peter Luttenberger has responded to a story that appeared last week on Cyclingnews
that stated that he was having difficulties finding a contract for the coming year, based on his demands for salary and extras.

"Actually, I was ready to retire after the World's in Austria last September, but there were a few teams who wanted to know how much it would cost to bring me to their teams," he told Cyclingnews.  "I told them I was open to offers, but the team must be on a certain level, or the management must have the 'will' to bring it to a good international level. An international race program and a right salary are the fundamentals for me to be motivated in my 13th year as a pro cyclist."

Noting that one of his demands had been to fly to races and not to drive, he said, "The fact that you can't do an international race program 'by car' is pretty obvious."

"I have been in many teams in many countries, speak six languages and know everything about cycling. Not only riders but also management could profit from my experience. It would be a new motivation and fun to bring this knowledge to a motivated new team and help them to bring it to a higher international level, but I will not do it for free."

"Cycling is a very demanding sport, not only for the rider himself, but also the whole family has to sacrifice a lot, and so I am not ashamed to ask for the right salary," he said.

Luttenberger believes his prospects look good. "Team managers have told me they will try to find some extra sponsors to pay my salary. Right now I am on 'stand-by’, but an answer should come in the next few days."

New UCI rankings to impact cyclo-cross world' start positions

By Brecht Decaluwé

With only days before the Cyclo-Cross World Championships are held in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium, this weekend, the UCI has announced its new rankings that will have a direct impact on starting positions.

Significantly, the new rankings also have an affect on the Americans expected to line up this weekend.

As imagined, Belgian Sven Nys (Rabobank) comfortably leads they way, ahead of fellow Belgian and number two Bart Wellens (Fidea) by almost 1000 points.

Current world champion Erwin Vervecken remains in third. Further down the list there's only one change in the top-10 of the UCI cyclo-cross rankings, as in-form Swiss rider Christian Heule has overtaken Klaas Vantornout at number seven.

Vantornout abandoned the World Cup race in Hoogerheide early on while Heule finished fifth in The Netherlands. Another man in form is Czech champion Petr Dlask who continued his move forward from 14th to 11th place.

Italian champion Enrico Franzoi took a little break after a heavy road and cyclo-cross season but he has now moved eight places forward to become twentieth, after good results in Zonnebeke and Hoogherheide.

US champion Ryan Trebon moved one spot forward and is the first US rider in at 21st place, while Jonathan Page took another big step forward - overtaking compatriot Timothy Johnson - and he's currently 32nd.

Rankings as of January 22, 2007

1 Sven Nys (Bel)                           3500 pts
2 Bart Wellens (Bel)                       2512
3 Erwin Vervecken (Bel)                    2205
4 Gerben De Knegt (Ned)                    1957
5 Francis Mourey (Fra)                     1718
6 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel)                1708
7 Christian Heule (Swi)                    1575
8 Klaas Vantornout (Bel)                   1550
9 John Gadret (Fra)                        1475
10 Bart Aernouts (Bel)                     1331
11 Petr Dlask (Cze)                        1295
12 Kevin Pauwels (Bel)                     1181
13 Thijs Al (Ned)                          1160
14 Richard Groenendaal (Ned)               1069
15 Simon Zahner (Swi)                      1026
16 Kamil Ausbuher (Cze)                     971
17 Radomir Simunek (Cze)                    941
18 Zdenek Stybar (Cze)                      833
19 Niels Albert (Bel)                       791
20 Enrico Franzoi (Ita)                     761
21 Ryan Trebon (USA)                        751
22 Maarten Nijland (Ned)                    715
23 Davy Commeyne (Bel)                      697
24 Marco Bianco (Ita)                       641
25 Steve Chainel (Fra)                      629
26 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel)                     619
27 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita)              608
28 Wilant Van Gils (Ned)                    566
29 Zdenek Mlynar (Cze)                      542
30 David Willemsens (Bel)                   497

See full rankings for men and women here.

Rund um Köln organiser aims for ProTour status

After the UCI has upgraded the German Rund um Köln event to the Hors Categorie (HC) status, the race has taken "an important step in the direction of the ProTour, the 'Champion's league' of cycling", said the race organisers.

"This is an honor for our classic race and an acknowledgement of our hard work the last years," Artur Tabat said, who also thanked his main sponsor, DEVK Versicherung, an inurance company, for increased support.

Tabat believes an improved start list for his race - traditionally held on Easter Monday, and set down for April 9 - will attract more ProTour teams.  Meanwhile, the German racing scene will be well represented, with Gerolsteiner, Milram, T-Mobile and Wiesenhof-Felt all having already agreed to participate.

Simoni starts season in Argentina

By Gregor Brown

Gilberto Simoni will be the first of the likely Giro d'Italia contenders to start his 2007 season when he takes to the start line of the Vuelta a San Luis, in Argentina. At 20.00 local time he will start the six-day, 606-kilometre race with a 3.7 kilometre prologue.

It may seem that the rider from Veneto only just ended his season, which is true. Gibo was competing in mountain biking and track events up through November. He was encouraged by Saunier Duval-Prodir's bike supplier, Scott USA, to ride off-road and also the desire to make the most of every minute in the twilight of his professional career.

It worked and he won the Italian Marathon Mountain Bike Champion in Costa di Folgaria (Trento). "I am only doing this for fun," said Simoni after the win to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia is looking to take the most out of 2007 by starting off with the South American event, which runs though Sunday.

The Vuelta, also open to amateurs, is UCI a classified 2.2 event and should be considered a climbers' event, with a 11 kilometre time trial on stage three to Mirador (Potrero de los Funes), at 1248 metres. Simoni won't be alone in Argentina; he will be accompanied by compatriots Riccardo Riccò, Guido Trentin and Manuele Mori. The three will join Spaniards Rubén Lobato and José Angel Gomez Marchante to back up the 35 year-old as he builds his training base in view of the 2007 Corsa Rosa.

The Sierras Grande may be a long way from the Alps and Dolomites which will dominate the Giro but, although he won't be giving everything for stage wins and the overall, the climbing will provide plenty of kilometres at altitude, just what is needed for the Italian captain of the Spanish-Swiss team.

The Saunier Duval-Prodir team will be Rubén Lobato, Manuele Mori, Riccardo Riccò, Gilberto Simoni, Guido Trentin and José Angel Gomez Marchante.

Mancebo starts season

An interesting name on the startlist for the Vuelta a San Luis is Francisco Mancebo. The 30 year-old Spaniard, implicated in Operación Puerto, left out of the 2006 Tour de France and released by Ag2R Prévoyance, has signed with Relax-GAM for 2007. Paco will captain the team in Argentina before returning to Spain for a fistful of Spanish races. The Relax-GAM team for the Vuelta a San Luis will be Francisco Mancebo, Jan Hruska, Nacor Burgos, Ángel Vallejo, Mario De Sárraga and Daniel Moreno.

Haselbacher and the Tour de France

By Susan Westemeyer

Rene Haselbacher and the Tour de France seem to have a love-hate relationship. His not being nominated to ride the Tour the last two years was one of the main reasons he changed teams - to join a team where he knows he probably won't be nominated to ride the Tour.

The Austrian did not like the way he was handled at Team Gerolsteiner the last two years.  "I focused myself totally on the Tour de France," he said on his website,  "And then two times I wasn't taken. That was told to me only a week before the start."

He knows that he doesn't have a sure place on the Team Astana Tour team. "I can work with that. Of course I want to go. But when an Andreas Klöden or an Alexander Vinokourov rides for the win, then he needs a helper in the mountains." As a sprinter, Haselbacher said he has "not much chance. That is logical."

"But Gerolsteiner didn't have a man for the overall classification the last years,” he said, seemingly oblivious of Levi Leipheimer' 13th place in GC in last year' Tour. "The goal was stage wins."

So it was time for him to move on, he said. "After eight years at Gerolsteiner I had been stuck in drawer, which I couldn't get out of. I am better than I have been allowed to show the last few years."

'Hasi’ will open his season with the Tour of Qatar before taking on the Volta ao Algarve, Het Volk, Tirreno-Adriaticao, Milan-San Remo, Ronde von Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

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