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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for July 25, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Bruyneel's eighth with Kid Contador?

Second placed Alberto Contador
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

As the Tour de France approaches its final five days, Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel is within striking distance of his eighth Tour de France win with Spaniard Alberto Contador. The 24 year-old is within two and a half minutes of the leader's maillot jaune with one heavy Pyrenean mountain stage and a time trial yet to be confronted. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown visited the American squad in Pau, France to discovery its strategy.

As a day of rest in Southern France greeted the riders of the 94th Tour de France, Discovery Channel enjoyed some relaxing moments in its Villa Navarre hotel in Pau - after a leisurely 90-minute ride, of course. The sun released its warmth on the villa's manicured gardens while the tall doors were left open to allow a gentle breeze into the wood-floored sitting room where the riders joked about and communicated with their families via phone or internet.

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Team director Johan Bruyneel is happy with Alberto Contador's second position on general classification, in addition to the Spaniard's stage win from Plateau de Beille, but he still has some goals in mind. Contador is only one step away from the Tour's top spot and his Belgian director would like his rider to vie for the team's eighth Tour win, tagging onto the seven Lance Armstrong (1999-2005) has already brought to the squad. Bruyneel came to the Tour with American Levi Leipheimer as the intended leader but it was Contador who rode into a commanding position after the transitional stages towards the Pyrénées.

Belgian Bruyneel has plenty to smile about
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

"I do not think about much else, then riding my best," said a quietly spoken Contador. He is not worried specifically about maillot jaune Michael Rasmussen but, rather, sees him as another competitor. "I am in the race and I want to fight against them all, Rasmussen also. "He is a climber like me so it is difficult to make a difference with him."

Contador received a confidence boost with his ability to put Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen on the ropes while the two battled up the Col de Peyresourde. "After the stage yesterday I feel stronger, especially compared to Plateau de Beille stage," he revealed. "I felt I had him in trouble a couple of times. I think that Rasmussen will have thought about the difficulties.

"He is a climber and in good shape," noted Contador. "It will be difficult. I think that if I start with one minute behind then I stand a chance. I think it will depend on the day, if I am good and if he is bad."

To read the full interview with the Discovery Channel team, click here.

Astana has Kazakh support

The Switzerland-registered Astana ProTour squad has counted claims that it's on the brink of collapse following the damaging news that star rider Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion at the Tour de France. A brief release from the organisation, which has honoured Tour de France organiser's request to leave the Tour, stated the team will continue with the full support of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation.

"Contrary to what some medias announced, the Astana Cycling Team goes on with its activities and will be at the start of the next two races : Sachsen Tour (July 25 - 29) and Brixia Tour (July 26-29)," declared the release from Astana's spokesperson Corinne Druey. "The team's management, still in Pau (Fra), just received the total support of the President of the Cycling Federation of Kazakhstan, Mr Danial Akhmetov."

The Kazak government has been a strong supporter of Vinokourov and the Astana team. The squad was formed last year following the collapse of Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros team in the fallout from Operación Puerto.

In an interview with Cyclingnews earlier this month, Kazakh Ambassador Erlan Idrissov said the significance of a Kazakh winner on the world stage cannot be overestimated. For the youngsters of Kazakhstan - a country where a rumoured 250,000 of the 15 million population are drug addicts - the example of Vino and Andrey Kashechkin is designed to be inspirational. "Many boys and girls will jump into cycling, they will stay away from drugs and bars and they will have something to devote their lives to," Idrissov said in the interview. "The message will be that they can also achieve success like this. And the government can support this message by building modern facilities for them."

Vinokourov repercussions

By Paul Verkuylen

The elimination of Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana colleagues from the Tour de France leaves many questions in regards to the overall classification. Additionally, the Kazakhstan rider's positive A sample throws the rider's two stage victories and the associated time bonuses into doubt.

The Tour de France's rules state that the organisers may "exclude any rider or team whose presence could taint the image of cycling, the organisation, or the race". In this case, ASO has asked Vino and his team to remove themselves from the race, which they have obliged.

However Vinokourov has not yet been disqualified from the Tour, as so far only his first sample has been declared positive for a homologous blood transfusion and like any rider he has the right to request his B sample be tested. For his disqualification to take place, both samples must be declared positive, or non-negative in correct terminology.

The UCI rules state that if a rider is disqualified before a race has been sanctioned (a race is sanctioned when the official results are released) then all classifications will be adjusted. That means every classification - points, mountains, young rider, team and general classifications - will be adjusted to accommodate for the rider being disqualified.

In the case of Vinokourov, if he were to be disqualified, the stages that he won or contributed towards for his team - for instance during a stage when his time was included in the teams prize, or if he took mountain points or sprints - have all been sanctioned, meaning these classifications will not be altered.

In the case that the results have been sanctioned, the UCI rules state that only the general individual classification shall be adjusted and only for top 20 places. Meaning that again if Vino is disqualified the GC will not be altered, but as he has already been removed from the race, all riders will inevitably fall into their rightful positions at the end of Stage 16 - where he will register a 'Did Not Start'.

In the case of Vinokourov's win in the time trial and Stage 15, the UCI rules state that if a rider is disqualified for a violation committed during a stage that he won, then the second rider on that classification takes first place. This then means, should he get disqualified for a positive test in the TT, that Australia's Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) will be declared the winner of the stage. Whether such a ruling applies to subsequent stages, like his Stage 15 win, remains to be seen, but if that were the case then second placed rider, Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), would be awarded the win.

However the rules fail to state if the rider who inherits the victory is also awarded the associated time bonuses. The Tour's rules state that the first three riders who cross the line in each stage, barring the time trials, receive 20, 12 and 8 seconds respectively. This will not affect Evans, as his second place was in a TT, but it will only be known when the Tour reaches Paris if it will affect the final classification for Kirchen.

Vinokourov's potential disqualification from the Tour will not affect the other classifications, as he was not leading any of them. Astana was leading the team's classification but will quickly move from the top spot by the end of today's stage.

Unfortunately, the answers may not come until long after the Tour has finished, as it is not yet known when the test results of the B sample will be released and infact whether or not the result will be positive. In the case that the B sample returns negative, then an even larger batch of questions will arise - especially from Andreas Klöden and Andrey Kashechkin, who will have effectively been robbed of likely top 10 finishes due to the squad's withdrawal.

Petacchi set to return, UCI to investigate

Team Milram's star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is free to return to racing with immediate effect, after being cleared of suspicion of doping by the Italian Cycling Federation's disciplinary commission. The 32 year-old was cleared despite the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) calling for Petacchi to be handed a 12 month ban.

"It's one of the most beautiful wins in my life," Petacchi said. "I don't wish anybody to suffer like I did, it was the worst experience of my life."

However the sport's governing body is preparing to request documents regarding Petacchi's case, and could launch an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport 'within days'. Petacchi recorded a 'non negative' during May's Giro d'Italia, prompting an inquiry by CONI's Ettore Torri.

"The UCI will ask for the file and we will then study it once we receive it," said UCI chief Pat McQuaid."We don't know all the details of the Italian federation's decision, but we will be making a request for the file in the next 24 hours."

"It is a possibilty that we appeal," he added.

While Team Milram hasn't yet announced a date or event in which Petacchi will return to racing, the team is glad to have its star sprinter back in action.

"I am very relieved about this result," Team Milram commercial manager Gerry van Gerwen said. "What remains is a damage to his image and to that of the team. Furthermore, we missed the chance for possible successes at the Tour de France. But I am glad that this nightmare is over for him."

T-Mobile to consider future

By Susan Westemeyer

Patrik Sinkewitz's positive doping test could prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back, with a Deutsche Telekom AG spokesperson admitting the organisation will consider whether its T-Mobile division's support of the ProTour team "still makes sense". After year's of turmoil surrounding the T-Mobile name, including the exclusion of Jan Ullrich from the 2006 Tour de France after being named in the Operación Puerto scandal, 2007 has been another difficult season for the squad which has pledged to fight doping unconditionally.

"After the Tour we will think about whether a further engagement still makes sense or whether we should drop out immediately," said Christian Frommert, Director of Sports Communications for the parent firm, Deutsche Telekom AG.

In addition to Sinkewitz's positive test, the squad has already released Serhiy Honchar from its ranks this season, with the rider recording irregularities in blood tests earlier in the season, and the T-Mobile name has also been linked with high-profile admissions from former riders including Erik Zabel, Bjarne Riis and the team's current director sportif Rolf Aldag.

Frommert said that T-Mobile has to ask itself whether T-Mobile's much-vaunted anti-doping program is effective "or whether we have failed", according to sid. T-Mobile's current sponsorship contract runs through 2010.

"It's a hysteria at the moment, there are too many speculations," Frommert told Cyclingnews. "We will sit together after the Tour and make a decision. We have a responsibility and we will look at all the facts.

"We won't take any action without analysing the situation," he added. "There are many things we have to think and talk about. That's important for the team and for cycling in general."

Di Luca to lead Liquigas while preparing for Worlds

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) enjoys the moment
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca will lead his Liquigas squad at this year's Brixia Tour. It's the Italian's first race since taking out the prestigious Grand Tour in May. "I am looking forward to starting again," said Di Luca. "The celebrations followed the victory of the pink jersey, even if exhausting, did not take me away from my next aims. On the contrary - the killer goes on with his typical determination- the victory at the Giro is a starting point, surely not an end."

After a long rest following his hard slog in Italy, Di Luca is now focusing on the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany in September. Di Luca has already completed a reconnaissance of the World Championship route with some of his teammates."It is the route I was waiting for - hard and selective. Even if the difference in height of 5,000 metres, it seemed to me fastest than expected," he said. "The slight ascent arrival is cut out for me, less for sprinters who could make the final sprint in the wrong way."

Liquigas for Brixia Tour: Leonardo Bertagnolli, Dario Cataldo, Francesco Chicchi, Francesco Failli, Matej Mügerli, Andrea Noč and Alessandro Spezialetti.

Oh yeah, there is a race on...right?

By Paul Verkuylen

Behind all the controversy surrounding the Astana team, there is still a Grand Tour underway and as the final mountain stage today, possibly more than any other stage so far, will prove decisive in the final order of the '07 Tour. This year riders will be especially eager to return to their bikes and leave Pau, putting the talk of doping behind them.

Amid the hype, it's easy to forget that while Vinokourov's A sample tested positive, he was not leading the Tour and was over 28 minutes down in 23rd spot after Stage 15, meaning his departure will have little bearing on the general classification. The departure of his team-mates, however, will see two riders removed from the top 10, shuffling the order a little. Despite being over five minutes down, Andreas Klöden held fifth place and Andrey Kashechkin was a further two minutes back in eighth when the squad quietly departed the event.

Today's Stage 16 is the last real mountain stage - another tough trip through the Pyrenees finishing on the Col d'Aubisque - and with just five days remaining, it will be now or never for those riders needing to make up time. The stage, which makes a brief journey into Spain, includes two hors catégorie climbs - the first and the last climbs of the day - allowing pure climbers another chance to attack in search of valuable seconds.

The favourites will need to go on the offensive early in today's stage in order to build up some time before the last climb, if they are to stand a chance against Rabobank. As in the past few stages, the tempo set by Rabobank on the final climb has been much too high for anyone, with the exception of Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), who will likely continue to show his climbing prowess against the yellow jersey today. Other hopefuls will need to attack long before the last climb in order to wear down the Dane and his team.

Team Discovery may send Levi Leipheimer up the road early on, if it can get the American to agree to the tactic and work for his younger Spanish team-mate. Alternatively the American ProTour team could send Yaroslav Popovych in to attack, but the rider, who's currently 12 minutes down, may not cause concern to Rabobank which has consistently pulled back gaps of seven minutes on the final climb.

Although the Tour has only once finished atop the summit of the Col d'Aubisque, in 1985 when Stephen Roche won, it has been used 42 times since 1947 - making it the second most contested climb in the Tour. Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans was the first across the top when it was last contested in 2005. The Australian is on route to claim his first podium place in Paris, but will need to claw back two minutes or more today if he's to be a genuine yellow jersey contender. As Evans is unable to match the acceleration of the pure climbers, he will need to start the final climb with a buffer of around three minutes in order to gain time.

Team CSC's Carlos Sastre has received little attention throughout the Tour but the Spaniard has been riding as he always does - consistently. The climbing sensation is within three minutes of the podium and has shown take it takes a mighty effort to pull him back once he gets a gap, and today is likely his last chance to take back time.

If precedent is anything to go by, Contador will attack Rasmussen today. The Spaniard seems to be on a vendetta to dislodge the Dane from the top spot, and if his final climb of Col de Peyresourde during Stage 15 is an indicator then it should make for an exciting stage finale.

Discovery saves Gadret

Camaraderie - it still exists in the world of cycling. Just ask the French cyclo-cross star John Gadret who is participating in this year's Tour de France. The Ag2r rider has been suffering with an achilles problem for some time and was treated for the problem by Discovery Channel's own specialist on the Tour, Jeff Pierce, according to Sports Wereld.

Pierce is a specialist with such injuries and kindly offered to tape it for Gadret before Stage 15. Gadret promptly repaid Discovery Channel by joining Vinokourov in the main break of the day.

Gerolsteiner in Brixia Tour

Defending Brixia Tour champion Davide Rebellin will be leading Team Gerolsteiner in the event this week, but more attention will likely be paid to the squad's other Italian. Andrea Moletta will make his return to racing after recovering from serious injuries incurred in March in Milano-SanRemo.

As Cyclingnews reported exclusively, the 28 year-old has recovered from his broken thigh and subsequent surgery. At the time of his accident, he told team manager Hans Michael Holczer that he would return to racing this season.

The race runs from Thursday to Sunday and coves 678 km across northern Italy.

Gerolsteiner in Brixia: Johannes Fröhlinger, Oscar Gatto, Tim Klinger, Andrea Moletta, Davide Rebellin, Marcel Strauss, Beat Zberg, and Markus Zberg.

Volksbank for Sachsen Tour

The Austrian Professional Continental Team Volksbank will be looking to German rider Rene Weissinger to lead them in the International Sachsen Tour. "The Tour is new to me," the 28 year-old all-rounder said. "But I am healthy and well prepared, so I am confident that things will go well."

Volksbank for Sachsen: Christian Lener, Werner Riebenbauer, Philipp Ludescher, Patrick Riedesser, Christian Pömer, Sven Teutenberg, Rene Weissinger, and Mariusz Witecki.

Job offers for Basso?

Ivan Basso already has two offers to ride when his suspension is ended in October 2008, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. He is being discussed as the leader of a team to be formed by the former Italian health minister Umberto Veronesi, the paper said.

Veronesi wants to establish the Team FUV (Foundation Umberto Varonesi), which would be active in fighting doping. "This team should be a guarantee for honesty," he said. "We have to establish new values to work for a new beginning for cycling."

The manager of the team would be Davide Cottafava, the former Sport Director of Marco Pantani's Team Mercatone Uno, according to the report. Gazzetta also reports that Team Barloworld has also offered Bassso a contract for when his suspension is over.

According to Tuttobiciweb.it, however, Basso denies the rumors of the Veronesi contact. He said that he has read about it in the media, but knows nothing about it and has not spoken with anyone about it.

Lampre-Fondital's rider hits a car

Lampre-Fondital rider Massimiliano Mori hit a car while out training on roads near his home in Tuscany. The rider collided with a car that was parked on the side of the road and broke his pelvis and suffered head wounds and a light concussion.

Mori was taken to hospital where he was held overnight for observation. It is not yet known when the rider will be able to resume training.

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