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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for June 30, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Di Luca responds and signs

By Gregor Brown

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

2007 Giro d'Italia Champion Danilo Di Luca was busy Thursday responding to his summons by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for in relation to the 2004 Oil for Drugs investigation and signing the UCI riders' agreement.

The 31 year-old rider has been further linked to the Oil for Drugs investigation based on new evidence (audio and video recordings) that were sent by Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) to prosecuting attorney Paolo Ferraro in the past days.

"I repeat, I am absolutely calm," explained Di Luca to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I have no problems, and I will repeat to [anti-doping prosecutor Ettore] Torri all that I know. I will say how the things are." He is scheduled to appear on July 5 at CONI's office in Rome.

"Certainly, I have seen the pages of the newspapers and the impressions they have given to the people, having lessened the credibility of all of us." (For more details on the Oil for Drugs, read NAS blitz nets nada and NAS raid Giro again from 2004.)

Di Luca revealed that he had signed the UCI riders' agreement that was released on June 19. "Appropriately, to demonstrate that I have nothing to hide from anyone, today, I have signed the UCI anti-doping declaration," he remarked on Thursday. "The UCI has not gone about this in the best way, but if someone has made a mistake it is right that they pay. It is a demonstration, yet one more time, of the willingness of the riders."

"I do solemnly declare, to my team, my colleagues, the UCI, the cycling movement and the public that I am not involved in the Puerto affair nor in any other doping case and that I will not commit any infringement to the UCI anti-doping rules," reads part of the statement that Di Luca signed.

Jaksche to tell all

A member of the Spanish Civil Guard handles blood bags
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Jörg Jaksche is expected to tell the world about doping in cycling and Operación Puerto on Monday. According to the AFP, the rider's lawyer Michael Lehner said Friday the German will reveal what he knows about doping to the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

Jaksche "will not just admit to doping himself, but will shed light on what really goes on in the peloton, and who the main (doping) protagonists are," said Lehner according to the AFP. Lehner also said Jaksche would be open to serving as a witness for the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), the UCI and other authorities involved in the ongoing Puerto investigation.

Jaksche previously rode for Liberty Seguros under Manolo Saiz, and was linked to bags of blood associated with the Operación Puerto investigation by a code name "Bella Jorg" that allegedly referred to him.

He was one of 13 racers prohibited from starting the 2006 Tour de France due to their connections with Operación Puerto. Spanish police had found bags of blood, illegal doping product, and names of cyclists in a raid of Eufemiano Fuentes' facilities in May of 2006.

In May of 2007, Jaksche was suspended from racing by his current team, Tinkoff, which he joined just one month earlier. Jaksche's move to reveal what he knows comes soon after the German Cycling Federation announced Thursday it would prohibit the racer from contesting the German national championships.

Jaksche has previously denied that he used performance-enhancing drugs or methods, but admitted that he was in contact with Fuentes. However, Jaksche has attributed the link to Fuente's ill child who could have benefited from contact with Jaksche's father, a renowned ophthalmologist. In a December interview with Cyclingnews, Jaksche said of his ties to Fuentes, "I have nothing to do with his alleged doping activities - if they are indeed true, which only the legal procedure can establish."

Jaksche has previously resisted the call to submit his DNA for testing. Attorney Lehner had put it this way: "Submitting a DNA sample would reverse the burden of proof on which our legal system is based on. The notion 'in dubio pro reo' [innocent until proven guilty – ED.] would be undermined. The law foresees that the prosecution must prove its accusations to be true - it is not for the accused to prove that he is innocent."

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

Discovery tunes in to Tour channel

By Mark Zalewski

Discovery Channel has reinvented itself
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel team boss Johan Bruyneel, and his tapped general classification rider American Levi Leipheimer, spoke to the media in a teleconference designed to announce the team's roster for the 2007 Tour de France. But with the nine-man squad revealed the questions quickly turned to the bigger issues of the day, ranging from doping to next year's sponsorship to predictions for the team's Tour performance post-Lance.

"I think personally that Levi is capable of finishing on the podium," Bruyneel said responding to why he chose Leipheimer. "He has been in the top ten three times and on the podium of the Tour of Spain. Last year I saw Levi really strong in the Dauphiné and the year before he finished sixth and the fifth place he only lost on the last stage into Paris to Vinokourov. Knowing that Vinokourov is now the [Tour de France] favourite I have to think that [Levi] is a serious candidate for the podium."

Bruyneel agrees with the popular pick of Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov as the pre-race favourite and even sees similarities to the seven years in which he directed the winner's team. "I see Vinokourov as the number one favourite and Astana as strong to support him," noted Bruyneel. "I think it will be like when Lance [Armstrong] was with us and we were the big favourite - with everyone looking and trying to follow hoping for him to have a weak moment, but I don't think Vinokourov is as far ahead of the competition as Lance was."

"Vinokourov is a rider with a very aggressive style, attacking at moments when he was not expected to attack," he added. "But also he has never been in the role of the number one favourite. I'm convinced that he will still be aggressive but he won't be able to go in the long breakaways. I expect him to be more conservative and he will attack when everyone expects him to attack - on the last climb or when one of his rivals is in trouble."

Leipheimer was his usual reserved self, even when describing his feelings for being tapped with the team's GC hopes. "It definitely does mean a lot to me," Leipheimer said. "I started my career with this team and now to be back with Johan and with riders like George it is like a dream come true. And to go in as the leader of the classification is something to be proud of for me."

To read more on Discovery going into the Tour de France, click here.

Astana suspends Mazzoleni

Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The Astana Cycling Team announced in a press statement Friday that it will "suspend temporarily its Italian rider Eddy Mazzoleni in order to protect the team and to respect the [ProTour] ethical code in force."

The suspension is in effect while the team awaits results of the CONI investigation. Mazzoleni, third in this year's Giro and a former member of the 2004 Saeco squad, will be heard by CONI on July 4.

CONI has evidence allegedly implicating Mazzoleni in the form of documents that are recorded SMS messages associated with the Oil for Drugs scandal. The rider from Bergamo sent messages to doctor Carlo Santuccione mentioning Danilo Di Luca and hormone use. "Hello it is Eddy I wanted to ask you when next week I am able to come for the three trainings... Bye and thanks," read one SMS message from Mazzoleni that Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) believes refers to illicit products.

For more details on the Oil for Drugs, read NAS blitz nets nada and NAS raid Giro again from 2004.

Waiting for Petacchi

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

The Milram team named sprinter Alessandro Petacchi to its Tour de France squad, despite having placed the rider under suspension following a 'non-negative' doping control from the Giro d'Italia. Petacchi, who has permission from the UCI to use the asthma drug Salbutamol, tested above the WADA limit of 1000ng/ml for the drug during the Giro. He is due to have a hearing with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) as early as Monday to argue that the results were due to a medical need for the drug, and find out if the committee will allow him to continue racing. Milram, following the ProTour code of ethics, temporarily suspended the rider until the investigation is completed.

The team will target stage wins with their sprinter-heavy squad. Former green jersey wearer Erik Zabel will celebrate his 37th birthday at the Tour prologue. Not a man to suffer from triskaidekaphobia, Zabel is going into his 13th Tour de France with a fearless attitude after a heart-heavy spring confession to doping in the 1996 Tour. "I want to be a full part of Team Milram and celebrate successes together with my team at the Tour de France," said Zabel.

Marcel Sieberg and Enrico Poitschke are making their debut at the Tour, and with a strong first half of the season, Sieberg was one of the squad's first picks. "Marcel integrated himself into the team very well," said manager Gianluigi Stanga. The 25 year-old sprinter who took second in sprints at a stage of the Tour of Qatar and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will be an excellent foil for the team's better known sprinters. "I’m excited about the whole event," Sieberg said. "I always dreamt of being at the Tour de France. I am especially resolved to do good work for the team and to finish in Paris. Maybe I can even show myself in a break or two."

Christian Knees and Ralf Grabsch both will start their second Tour de France this year, and Knees, who had a particularly aggressive 2006 Tour, wants to repeat that tactic. "One of my personal goals is to be in a break again and maybe even to get through. But the first priority is to work for the team," said Knees.

Should Petacchi be able to race, he will join fellow sprinter Erik Zabel, Ralf Grabsch, Christian Knees, Enrico Poitscke, Marcel Sieberg, Alberto Ongarato, Alexander Cortinovis, Brett Lancaster. If CONI decides against Petacchi, Andry Grivko will take his place on the team, to be led by directors Antonio Bevilacqua and Vittorio Algeri.

Marchante out of Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Ulcerative colitis, a form of the inflammatory bowel disease was diagnosed in Saunier Duval racer José Ángel Gómez Marchante Friday morning. The condition will sideline him from competition during the Tour de France.

The Spaniard has been experiencing health problems since he took part in the Vuelta al País Vasco. Recently, symptoms, which often include intermittent diarrhea mixed with blood, appeared during the final stages of the Tour de Suisse.

Marchante is undergoing medical treatment and further tests. In the meantime, he will be replaced by David Cañada for the Tour de France. Saunier Duval said it expects Gómez Marchante to be back to participate in the Vuelta a España.

Sastre, Schleck to lead Team CSC in Tour

Carlos Sastre (CSC) in the 2006 Tour
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC announced its nine riders for this year's Tour de France. They include Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck, Jens Voigt, Stuart O'Grady, Fabian Cancellara, Inigo Cuesta, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Christian Vande Velde, and David Zabriskie.

The team's two top overall riders will likely be Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck. Schleck won stage four of the Tour de Suisse and took third in Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year. Proven performers Sastre and Schleck finished fourth and eleventh in the 2006 Tour de France.

"As always, it's been a very difficult decision," said manager Kim Andersen. "We have tried to select a broad group of riders in order to make our mark throughout the entire race. In this way we will be able to make a difference in the general classification and at the same time we also have riders, who will be able to go for stage wins in all kinds of terrain. In Sastre and Schleck we have two great contenders for the general classification and of course we will be putting up a fight for the first yellow leader's jersey in London."

Liquigas ready for road nationals

Team Liquigas will show its presence at national championships in Switzerland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, and Bielorussia on Sunday, July 1.

Filippo Pozzato will lead the charge in Italy along with Franco Pellizotti, returning from a good Giro d'Italia, Enrico Gasparotto, former Italian champion, and Vincenzo Nibali, bronze medal winner during Tuesday's time trial. Leonardo Bertagnolli also rejoins the race scene after a period of rest.

Meanwhile, fans will see Michael Albasini and Patrick Calcagni in Switzerland; Magnus Backstedt in Sweden; Roman Kreuziger in the Czech Republic; Matej Mugerli in Slovenia; and Aliaksandr Kuchynski in Bielorussia.

London to shut streets to cars

On September 23, the city of London will close 14km of roads to all traffic except bicycles. The move is part of a year-long effort to encourage cycling in the city. If successful, the event may become an annual occurrence.

"In London's year of the bike, this will be the best day of all,'' said Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the legislative assembly according to Bloomberg.com.

The vehicle free zone will include Victoria Embankment, Westminster and St. Paul's. The number of trips by bike in London has nearly doubled in recent years and is up to 480,000 per day.

But perhaps the most high-profile cycling event in London will be the opening 8km Tour de France prologue on July 7 on a flat, fast course through the heart of London, beginning in Whitehall, past the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, past Queen Elizabeth in her majestic Buckingham Palace, then back to the finish through Hyde Park.

The prologue is set for the day exactly two years after a series of bombs struck London's public transportation system, including three Underground trains and a bus at rush hour, killing 52 commuters and four suicide bombers. More recently, police successfully defused a bomb in car parked near Piccadilly Circus on Friday.

Toyota-United team ready for Cougar Mountain

Ivan Dominguez and Henk Vogels will lead a four-person Toyota-United team at the Infineon Cougar Mountain Classic July 6-8 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County, California.

Dominguez, a native of Cuba and Toyota-United's top sprinter in his second year with the squad, will spearhead the team's effort in the NRC crit and circuit races. The events will be conducted on part of Infineon Raceway's twisting road course. So far this year, Dominguez has earned multiple wins and two fourth places in the Tour de Georgia, and he'll be aided at the Cougar Classic by former Australian national champion and ace leadout man Vogels as well as Jose Manuel Garcia and Caleb Manion.

In addition to the crit and circuit race, the weekend will also feature pro and amateur competition in the Super D, cross country, and downhill.

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