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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for June 27, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

Petacchi heard by CONI over Salbutamol use

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italian Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi will be heard by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors after the UCI has announced his 'non-negative' result from the 2007 Giro d'Italia. The sprinter took his third of five Giro stage wins in Pinerolo on a rain-soaked day (May 23) ahead of a massive crash but afterwards his post-race control revealed high levels of Salbutamol (asthma drug) in his urine.

On June 12 three riders were discovered to have returned 'non-negative' controls during the Giro; Petacchi in Pinerolo, Leonardo Piepoli at Monte Zoncolan and Iban Mayo in Terme di Comano. The two Italians' urine samples were sent from Rome laboratories to Barcelona for further investigations while Mayo was cleared after tests confirmed that his high testosterone levels were of a natural origin, something that his team stated the UCI is aware of, and for which Mayo holds an exemption. Petacchi and Piepoli were heard by the UCI in Geneva on June 20 for their high levels of Salbutamol.

Lab officials in Barcelona were unable to confirm if the Salbutamol was injected or inhaled according to La Gazzetta dello Sport but the quantity (1320 nanograms) prompted the UCI to send notice, yesterday, to the Italian cycling federation (FCI) of the official 'non-negative' for Petacchi. The cycling federation has now passed the case to CONI's Ettore Torri for investigation.

"Maybe I did extra sprays that day," said Petacchi of the asthma drug. "However, I did not do anything wrong. In those days, I had felt like abandoning the Giro. ... I don't want to lose out on the Tour." The sprinter hopes to start in the Tour de France on July 7, when it departs from London. To speed up the process he and his lawyer, Giuseppe Pieraccini, have decided to skip the analysis of the B-sample that was taken and they have asked to be heard as soon as possible by Torri.

"What am I able to do to demonstrate my good faith? Why do I have to do something different from the other times?" questioned Petacchi.

The maximum limit of Salbutamol allowed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is 1000 ng/ml. Above this level, the athlete is investigated as per UCI rules stating that, "despite the granting of any form of Therapeutic Use Exemption [TUE], a concentration of Salbutamol (free plus glucuronide) greater than 1000 will be considered an Adverse Analytical Finding unless the athlete proves that the abnormal result was the consequence of the therapeutic use of inhaled Salbutamol."

Petacchi has suffered for years from asthma and has raced with TUEs for Salbutamol. The case is similar to that of Igor González de Galdeano, who in the 2002 Tour de France registered a reading of 1360. The UCI did not count this as a 'positive' and it allowed the Spaniard to continue racing. However it has more recently harmonised its anti-doping code with WADA.

"Petacchi is in possession of a therapeutic use certificate by the UCI," said his team, Milram, yesterday. "We have faith in Alessandro Petacchi. ... We will work with him to resolve the matter in a clear manner in time to participate in the Tour."

Italian National TT Champ 'Lupo' Ascani

Luca Ascani won the 42.8-kilometre time trial yesterday in Novi Ligure to become Italian National Time Trial Champion. The rider enjoyed an early birthday gift (24 this Friday) by finishing 25 seconds up on 2005 champion Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) and 27 over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).

It was his fourth victory as a professional for the Aurum Hotels rider; this year he won a stage and the overall of the Giro d'Abruzzo. "I finished fifth in my first year as a pro, fourth in the second year. This victory does not have to be considered a surprise," explained the third-year pro to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday.

Ascani is known as 'Lupo' ('wolf') in the peloton because his name starts with 'lu' but also because he enjoys his time alone. Solitary for the 1.88m and 71kg 'Lupo' can be found on the quite roads near his home in Castelfidardo, Le Marche.

"Two training sessions a day and then to bed early," he continued. "The crono is a massacre. You have to go at your limits on the tip of the saddle. You have to depart at full speed and keep it going at full speed to the edge of death, saying 'I am already dead,' but still continuing on the tip of the saddle."

"I went all out but he was the strongest," said second-placed Pinotti, who will ride the road championships this Sunday. "I am getting better every year," said 22 year-old Nibali. "Complements to Ascani."

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) finished in fourth and Luca Celli (Team LPR) in fifth.

Relax tenses fight for Vuelta spot

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Pérez in 2004
Photo ©: Unipublic
Click for larger image

Spanish Pro-continental team Relax-GAM intends on making its voice heard for the participation in the 2007 Vuelta a Espańa and thus will attend the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) meeting in London on July 5. Vuelta Directeur Victor Cordero announced the teams that will participate in this year's edition of the Spanish three-week race; he selected 19 ProTour teams (leaving out and two Pro-continental wildcard teams, Karpin-Galicia and Andalucia-Cayasur.

Last week, Cordero indicated his reasons for not selecting Relax. "The decision of not inviting Relax-GAM was taken because it did not give us total guarantees on its acceptance of the Code of Ethics." The team had signed questionable riders like Santiago Pérez and Oscar Sevilla, both of whom had been linked to doping investigations.

Yesterday, Relax-GAM assured that it has "always accepted the Ethical Code", and insisted in its, "commitment to respect it." Team representatives will attend an AIGCP meeting to be held in London. "We will be present in the next meeting of the AIGCP on July 5 in London, in which we will support the resolutions that will be passed there."

Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Today, Cordero indicated to La Nueva Espańa that there is no problem with Pérez riding in the team and that the rider only needs to indicate that he is not connected to Operación Puerto. "Santi Pérez has already finished his two-year suspension for blood transfusion. The only thing he needs to do is clarify that his name is not linked to Operación Puerto with the Spanish Federation."

Cordero insisted that, "Pérez would not have problems to race the Vuelta, and in fact, he was listed by Relax-GAM [in its preliminarily list of riders that it had to submit to the Vuelta - ed.]." However, Cordero stated adding a 22nd team in the Vuelta would be "impossible" because of "logistic difficulties."

"It is not the same with other sports, in cycling there are many people who want to show us as sinners," said Pérez. "There is a need to finish the Operación Puerto investigation in Spain and then begin from kilometre zero with greater sincerity in the investigations."

Grupo Nicolás Mateos adding Pro-continental team?

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The former technical advisor to the now defunct 3 Molinos Resort team, Ginés García, told local radio Onda Regional de Murcia "to have designed a plan for a future Pro-continental cycling squad sponsored by the Grupo Nicolás Mateos," although it will not be linked to the current continental squad directed by José Luis de Santos. In fact, the Spanish sponsor has already announced to its team management that the contractual agreement for two seasons (2006-2007) will not be renewed, according to close sources asked by Cyclingnews.

"The Grupo Nicolás Mateos wants to continue sponsoring a cycling team, but also needs to continue growing," Ginés García explained.

The Spaniard assured that "there are also a junior, an under-23 and an elite (amateur) squad projected." The only thing in doubt is its budget. "At the moment we are still negotiating with other sponsors and with the regional government," García concluded.

The new Grupo Nicolás Mateos Pro-continental formation will give preference to the local riders, such as Eloy Teruel and José Antonio Bańos (GNM continental) and Jesús Buendia (Barbot), among others. At the same time José Luis de Santos will continue as directeur sportif.

Vandenbroucke case to go before the Constitutional Court

The world of Frank Vandenbroucke remains restless. The proceedings against the rider from March 14 this year, where he was acquitted by the Brussels Court of Occupation in the case against him for possession and use of illegal drugs, will now go before the Constitutional Court of Belgium.

According to article 44 of the Flemish decree, a sportsman who has been found guilty of using banned substances and has already been punished may not be punished by any other body.

The case that must conclude within a year has been put to the Constitutional Court because the public prosecutor-general went against the acquittal. According to the public prosecutor, a Flemish decree cannot take precedence over a Federal law, and the Constitutional Court must decide which of the two, the law or the decree, has priority and thus which of the two will decide Vandenbroucke's fate.

So long as the Constitutional Court does not have an answer to this dispute, the case against Vandenbroucke in the Brussels Court of Occupation cannot hand down a sentence. Until it is decided, Vandenbroucke will be unsure whether he will have to face the courts for the third time for the same case.

Andreas Klöden optimistic for Tour

Andreas Klöden
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden (Astana) goes with a positive attitude into the last week and a half before the Tour de France start in London. The optimism stems from his performance in the Tour de Suisse where the German could really test himself in the last three stages.

The Astana rider wrote on his website that "the final time trial gave me important hints on certain alignments on my time trial machine. A few more adjustments and it should be perfect."

Klöden was very happy with his second place in the final time trial behind Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara (CSC). "I would have liked to win but probably spent more energy than Fabian the previous day. The first part of the time trial was great, but I lost some time in the rollers later on."

He will spend the time until the Tour with his coach Thomas Schediwie for the final preparation ahead of the season's highlight in France. He doesn't want any distraction, which is why he won't give any interviews until the start of the race in France.

Klöden had a good word to say about the Swiss organizers as well. "I want to emphasize here that the organizers reacted quickly so we weren't exposed to any unnecessary dangers."

Ceremony to honour Jef Planckaert

Stage three of the Tour de France, will pass through Otegem, the town where Belgian Jef Planckaert resided when he passed away earlier this year on May 22 at 73 years of age. On the same day five times Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault will conduct a ceremony to honour the former professional cyclist, according to Yves Goemaere of the local organizing committee.

During the ceremony, the Tour de France organizers will pay tribute to "one of the greats of the sport, who helped write the history of the Tour de France."

Jef Planckaert was one of the top Belgian cyclists during the 1960’s. In his most successful season, 1962, he won Paris-Nice, Ličge-Bastogne-Ličge, the Belgian championships and was second overall in the Tour de France, behind another legend of the sport, five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil.

Hinault will also honour Jef Planckaert’s widow Williane Verhellen during the ceremony, which takes place around 11.30am on July 10.

French Cycling Federation may get into financial trouble

The French Cycling Federation (FFC) was ordered to pay 1.35 million euro to former track rider Patrice Sulpice, who is paraplegic since an accident at the Worlds in Bogota in 1995. Sulpice was 21 at the time. He had collided with a teammate at high speed during a training session.

The FFC will appeal the decision, but it was ordered Tuesday to pay half of the sum immediately. "To pay this we would have to sell our main office and lay off the staff," FFC's president Jean Pitallier told AFP. "This is obviously a tragic situation, but we ask for a reasonable delay until the appeal's court decision has been made," Pitallier added.

French cycling lawyer Paul Mauriac said, "we proposed a payment scheme that lies within the possibilities of the Federation." Should the former rider not accept this proposal there will be additional legal proceedings.

In 2001 a court in Chambéry had ruled that the FFC and the UCI (International Cycling Federation) were responsible for this accident by not coordinating the training sessions properly." In 2004 the court did rule that it was an unintentional accident, but faulted the federation for not informing the rider of additional insurance that would have covered the accident.

Patrice Sulpice, 32 years of age today, told RTL that "I reconstructed my life and I am independent. I'd like to live just like anybody else. The world of sports disgusts me."

Manuel Lloret ready for Spanish Nationals

Manuel Lloret, one of the most successful riders of Spanish team Fuerteventura-Canarias in the current season, is a favourite for winning the national time trial championships, which will be held this Friday in Cuenca (about 150 kilometres east of Madrid).

Lloret has finished eight in the race against the clock in the Clásica de Alcobendas, was fourth Murcia time trial and second in Alentejo (Portugal), where he lost by only one second to Vladimir Karpets, recent winner of the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Suisse.

Practically, the whole squad will take the start Sunday for the road race. Ukrainian teammate Oleg Chuzhda has already headed to his home country to dispute both the time trial and the road race.

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