First Edition Cycling News for March 14, 2007
Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams
Grand Tour directors react to Operación Puerto dismissal
Outraged industry demands action
By Greg Johnson
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has lead the charge in a raft of reactions from Grand Tour organisers and other ProTour identities after residing Spanish magistrate Antonio Serrano formally dismissed the Operación Puerto case on Monday. Prudhomme questioned the point of the damaging investigation, which lead to several leading riders being sidelined from last year's Tour, given the outcome.
"My first reaction is, for sure, asking 'what is the use of all this?'," Prudhomme told French newspaper L'Equipe. "If it were the case that there will be no sporting sanctions, we would be the first victims, cycling would be the first victim.
"These people were caught red-handed and it is inconceivable that they return to the world of cycling," he added. "I cannot imagine that the International Cycling Union will let them return."
Prudhomme was joined in his comments by Vuelta a España director Victor Cordero who insisted that the UCI not let the issue settle.
"We can't put our heads in the sand. The problem of doping will not be resolved by closing the case," Cordero told the Reuters news agency. "It continues to exist and we have to tackle it."
ProTour team Ag2r also weighed into the issue with team manager Vincent Lavenu blasting the decision, saying: "It's scandalous. There are people who have cheated and now they won't be punished."
Serrano handed down his 21-page ruling on Monday, as predicted by Cyclingnews, which revealed that while doping practices had taken place, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute on the grounds of endangering public health. The ruling outlined that the allegations against doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, Manolo Saiz and others "do not constitute a criminal infraction."
While the nation's authorities moved to legislate against those who supply and/or administer drugs in sport during February, the lack of such laws when the charges were brought about last May ultimately lead to the case's dismissal.
"The fact that the blood to be injected belonged to the person themselves minimised the risk," noted Serrano. "The medications involved were not out of date nor had they deteriorated nor were they administered outside medical control.
"The conclusion is that the events cannot be considered to be criminal according to the law in operation at the time."
While the case was dismissed, clearing those accused, pending an appeal by the prosecutor, Serrano outlined: "these proceedings have taken place because of the lack of clean play, at the least."
Meanwhile implicated director of the defunct Liberty Seguros team Manolo Saiz moved to reminded the media that it wasn't only cyclist's lives that have been ruined in the wake of the Spanish Civil Guard's investigation.
"There has been a lot of collateral damage from this investigation," Saiz told the media. "People only think of the cyclists who are now without a job but there are many other people as well. Two teams have disappeared, two businesses that employed mechanics, masseurs and secretaries etc."
UCI president Pat McQuaid stated yesterday that the sport's governing body will wait until the three-day window for the prosecutor to file an appeal has closed before deciding what, if any, action it will take from here.
Manzano: Operación Puerto dismissal a farce
By Monika Prell
Former Kelme rider Jesús Manzano has blasted the dismissal of the Operación Puerto case by magistrate Antonio Serrano, saying that the decision is a farce. Manzano, who has retired from the sport, has been an outspoken identity in the ongoing doping issue, with the Spanish rider making accusations against his former team and doctor Eufemiano Fuentes - a key figure implication, but cleared on Monday, in the Spanish authorities' investigations.
"It's a farce. No one can tell me that, for example, a growth hormone that increases the risk of cancer, isn't a danger to the public health," Manzano told smh.com.au.
Manzano also claimed on todociclismo.com that he was offered a financial incentive to cease his involvement with the case, saying: "At the beginning, they offered 180,000 euros to my lawyer, Santiago Lucas, for getting me out of the process, but I refused because I wanted to get on."
Despite Manzano's claim, newspaper El País published an article last Sunday which alleged the Spaniard's lawyer had sent a letter to Manolo Saiz lawyer, former judge Carlos Bueren, denying that such an incentive had ever been made. The article also claims that Manzano's lawyer has refused to go on defending him.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
Unibet.com granted Milano-Sanremo start
Giro d'Italia next?
By Gregor Brown
In a twist of events, Milano-Sanremo organisers RCS Sport announced on Tuesday afternoon that embattled ProTour team Unibet.com will now be granted a start in the race's 98th edition on March 24. It will be the seventh wildcard invite, adding to teams Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo, Astana, Barloworld, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, Team LPR and Tinkoff Credit Systems.
On February 23, RCS Sport events director Angelo Zomegnan said: "We will go on to have our races without Unibet. In my house we invite who we want, not who the UCI says." Times have changed, however, and following the IPCT truce meeting on March 6, Unibet.com's lawyers showed proof to Zomegnan that they were legal to race in Italy.
"We are working with the lawyer in Italy as well and there we have proved to the organiser of the Giro [RCS Sport - ed.] that we really have a license in that country," said Unibet.com General Manager Koen Terryn on March 10 to Cyclingnews. "So our problems in Italy should be solved. We may miss Tirreno-Adriatico for organisational reasons, but Mr. Zomegnan was really helpful. He saw that we are not illegal so that will be to our advantage."
Now with the team racing in La Classicissima there will be high hopes that Zomegnan gives the nod for a start in the Giro d'Italia. The team has a contender in new signing José Rujano, who finished third in the 2005 Giro.
The 100th year of the Sanremo will feature 25 teams of eight, making for 200 riders starting from Piazza Sant'Ambrogio in Milan.
Teams for Milano-Sanremo: Ag2r Prévoyance (Fra), Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo (Ita), Astana (Swi), Barloworld (GBr), Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Caisse d'Epargne (Spa), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare (Irl), Cofidis (Fra), Crédit Agricole (Fra), Discovery Channel (USA), Euskaltel-Euskadi (Spa), Française Des Jeux (Fra), Gerolsteiner (Ger), Lampre-Fondital (Ita), Liquigas (Ita), Predictor-Lotto (Bel), Quickstep-Innergetic (Bel), Rabobank (Ned), Saunier Duval-Prodir (Spa), T-Mobile (Ger), Team CSC (Den), Team LPR (Swi), Milram (Ita), Tinkoff Credit Systems (Ita) and Unibet.com (Swe)
The future of German Cycling: Marcel Sieberg, off to a flying start
Marcel Sieberg missed much of last season with Team Wiesenhof due to mononucleosis, but still did well enough to earn himself a spot in the ProTour with Team Milram. In his first season in cycling's big league, the tall young German has managed to get off to a flying start. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with the fast moving sprinter to review his first few races.
Marcel Sieberg's first race was the Tour of Qatar, where he supported captain Alessandro Petacchi. Milram finished second in the opening stage, a team time trial, allowing 24 year-old Sieberg to take the young rider's jersey, which he held for two stages.
Qatar was dominated by Quick-Step, who nearly won all the stages with Tom Boonen four and the team taking the team time trial. Milram came up a tad short in the race, taking five second places, including the time trial. But only three of those second places belonged to superstar Petacchi, the other was for Sieberg.
That was the fifth stage, where a 10-man group made a successful escape. Sieberg saw his chance and went for it. "When Wilfried Cretskens made his move 400 meters before the finish line, I could only think, oh not, not another one from Quick-Step," Sieberg said at the time. "Sure you think about winning. It could have happened. But this is something to build on."
Looking back on it, he said "Quick-Step was in the lead 800 meters before the finish and nobody followed. On the home stretch I thought something has to happen. It was a spontaneous reaction. I started and overtook the Quick-Step rider. However, then Avermaets passed me by again. Looking back, I'm a bit disappointed, and I ask myself what I could have done better."
For the full feature on Marcel Sieberg, click here.
Volksbank: The Austrian team
By Susan Westemeyer
With a total budget of 1.3 million euros - nearly double that of last year - Austrian Professional Continental squad Team Volksbank has big ambitions for the 2007 season, announced at the team presentation in Vienna on Tuesday. "We are the Austrian team," said team manager Thomas Kofler. "We want to go to the Tour de France."
Volksbank will be led by Austrian pairing Gerrit Glomser and Gerhard Trampusch, and have secured invites to the Österreich Rundfahrt and the Tour de Suisse. "We are the only Professional Continental team that received an invitation to the Tour de Suisse," Kofler noted proudly.
"We have a strong team with young riders," added team rider Harald Morscher. "The team has grown over the years. We want to continue that and we want to move up."
Volksbank's most noted new member was not there however. It was announced at the end of last month that Jan Ullrich would join the team as an advisor, but according to press agency apa, further developments concerning Ullrich's legal problems must be observed before the main sponsor makes a final decision on whether to hire the 1997 Tour winner. The team is expected to announce within two weeks exactly what role Ullrich would fill.
Di Luca and Bertagnolli withdraw from Tirreno-Adriatico
Danilo 'the Killer' Di Luca, who showed fine early season form by winning last weekend's Milano-Torino, will have to wait a bit longer to get his chance at another victory. The Liquigas rider and his teammate Leonardo Bertagnolli caught the flu this week, and will be sitting out the upcoming Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.
Instead, Francesco Failli and Finn Kjell Carlström will serve as last-minute replacements to ride in support of Filippo Pozzato, winner of last week's Omloop Het Volk.
The bug will cut into Di Luca's preparation for his early season goals, the April classics Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as well as the Giro d'Italia.
Caisse d'Epargne's Vicente Reynes was forced to pull out of the Paris-Nice prior to the second stage after suffering a nephritic colic, an acute kidney pain. The 25 year-old was transported to the Châteauroux hospital prior to the second stage's start, where he underwent testing.
While the tests confirmed the colic there were no other complications, which allowed the Spaniard to re-join his teammates at the hotel last night.
Euskaltel-Euskadi for the Volta a Santarém
Euskaltel-Euskadi has announced the roster that it will campaign in Portugal's Volta a Santarém in Portugal, on March 14-18. The team, which will be lead by director Xabier Carbayeda, is aiming for a stage victory with its lead sprinter Aitor Galdos.
The event opens with a tough 206 kilometre opening stage from Fátima - Torre Novas tomorrow, followed by a 187 kilometre stage from Abrantes-Cartaxo on Friday. Saturday will feature a 17.8 kilometre individual time trial before the UCI 2.1 event wraps up on Sunday with a 166 kilometre stage from Golega - Santarém. MP
Euskaltel-Euskadi's complete roster: Joseba Zubeldia, Aitor Galdos, Dionisio Galparsoro, Lander Aperribay, Iban Iriondo, Andoni Lafuente, Unai Uribarri and Amets Txurruka. Dionisio Galparsoro will debuted his season after a operation of the knee in January.
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon presented
By Antonio J. Salmerón
A total of 16 teams, seven of them ProTour, have been announced for the 2.1 ranked Vuelta a Castilla y Leon at the official presentation in Valladolid, Spain on Tuesday. The 22nd edition, introduced to the media by 1988 Tour de France winner Pedro Delgado, has a total budget of 610,000 euros and will mark the 2007 debut of Oscar Pereiro. Other notables expected to start are Ivan Basso, Jose Luis Rubiera, Haimar Zubeldia and Vladimir Karpets.
Starting with a 10km time trial in Zamora, the race then proceeds south to Salamanca on stage two for a relatively flat by potentially windswept 157km with stage three being more of the same - 147.6km from Salamanca to Valladolid. The overall standings should be well and truly shaken up after stage four which ends with the cat 1 ascent of Navacerrada. The final 162km leg between Osma and Soria also includes two first category climbs: Santa Ines and Piqueras.
Teams for the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon:
Archer GP ready for a battle
One of the UK's most prestigious one-day races, the Archer Grand Prix, looks set for one of its best years ever with entries pouring in already from top domestic riders. Former Tour of Spain green jersey winner Malcolm Elliot is still going strong at 45 years of age but will face stiff competition from previous winners John Tanner and Kevin Dawson plus other leading riders Chris Newton, Tony Gibb, Joel Stewart, Mark Wordsworth and Dean Downing.
"With all the riders who are entered in this year's race, it really does look like a return to the halcyon days of UK cycle racing!" said Race organiser Stuart Cook. "I'm sure that any one of the riders could win the race but it would certainly be a deserved winner."
This year's race, to be held on April 15, features an undulating course around the Chiltern Hills and includes primes at the top of Longdown Hill and the fearsome Whiteleaf Hill plus sprint primes at the Wheel pub in Naphill and the Hit and Miss pub in Pen Street.
Kelly Benefit team announces new sponsor
Just weeks out from the beginning of its 2007 season, the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team has announced the addition of a new sponsor at its pre-season training camp. Materials Processing Corporation, a technology recycling company, has joined the team's list of sponsors for 2007.
"We're excited to be on board for what's turning out to be a very busy first year season for the team," says MPC president David Kutoff. "Cycling attracts a more affluent, educated demographic that cares about the larger community, and with the team's heavy riding schedule all over the country, we get to spread our message in a lot of different communities. As well as see some fantastic racing, of course."
The new squad uncovered its team kit, jerseys and car at its training camp.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)