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Lastest Cycling News for May 1, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Basso "at peace"

Ivan Basso at peace
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

"I am at peace," said fallen Italian star Ivan Basso to La Gazzetta dello Sport in regards to his leaving Discovery Channel and an advancing investigation by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

"Anyway, I am not going to be at the Giro. Even with the consensual separation with Discovery, I had already decided not to race it," continued the 29 year-old from Varese.

Tomorrow afternoon he will meet with CONI's anti-doping lawyer in Rome, who has opened the case that was shelved last October.

"In the last five days I have not trained and I certainly don't have the head to think of defending the Maglia Rosa. I hope to ride again on Thursday, after returning from Rome."

Amadio applauds Di Luca's Liège performance

Giro without Basso will be "equal and open"

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

This last Sunday, Danilo Di Luca added the final of three Ardennes Classics to his palmarès by winning the 93rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In 2005 the 31 year-old Liquigas rider won the Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, before going on to finish fourth overall in the Giro d'Italia, but narrowly missed out on La Doyenne. Now, like two years ago, 'The Killer' looks to be a serious threat for the Giro d'Italia (starting May 12 in Sardegna).

"At this point we have to believe in him," said Liquigas Team Manager Roberto Amadio to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The win in Liège gave him more security, and we were already very convinced by him. This calmness will be a favourable point for Danilo and Liquigas."

Amadio considers this Giro to be open and suited towards the characteristics of the rider from Abruzzo. "Without counting the time trial in Verona and the mountain time trial of Oropa, this Giro is not for the specialists. He will be able to aim for the Maglia Rosa."

After yesterday's news of the Ivan Basso and Discovery Channel divorce the Italian believes that the Giro won't be controlled by one person. "Without Basso there will not be one rider or one team to dominate. It will be an equal and open Giro. I see Di Luca on the same level as Damiano Cunego, Gilberto Simoni and Paolo Savoldelli."

Yesterday, 'The Killer' returned to his home town of Pescara to celebrate with his friends and family. Tomorrow he will go to preview stage 17, with its finish on the feared Monte Zoncolan, and stage 15, finishing on the Tre Cima di Lavaredo.

Italian National DS, Franco Ballerini, was equally impressed with Di Luca's performance in Belgium. "He has great condition, that has arrived at the right time and he is still able to grow," said the Tuscan, who directed Di Luca at last year's World Championships. "In 2005 he started to win with the País Vasco and then he started the Giro with the aim of stage wins; only in the third week was the Maglia Rosa considered. This year he will be able to concentrate only on the third week."

WADA considers allowing agencies to make public comments

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is considering changing its rules and allowing its member agencies more freedom in responding to public criticism.

According to WADA Chairman Dick Pound, the proposed change to the gag rule would allow USADA to respond publicly when it believes athletes are making false or misleading statements about an ongoing investigation, according to the press agency AFP. The agencies are currently not allowed to comment on cases under investigation.

"If something is completely nonsense where someone is challenging evidence by saying there is no reliable test for X and there is, then it would be nice to be able to say the test is reliable," Pound said. The proposed changes are scheduled to be discussed at the World Conference on Doping in Sport next November.

Over the weekend, Floyd Landis accused the USADA of using "criminal tactics" in its case against him. However, Pound denied that this was the basis for the proposed change. He said, "The consultation process started last fall. We are going to decide whether or not to amend the code. If there is stuff being made public that is misinformation then you can decide to respond to it so the public and athletes are not confused."

Oscar Pereiro in the Tour de Romandie

By Monika Prell

Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Spring Classics have ended and now the tours begin, heralded by the Tour de Romandie. The Swiss races starts today with 3.5-kilometre prologue through the streets of Fribourg.

Top contender Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), the winner of last year's edition, will try to defend his title. Saunier Duval is represented by Koldo Gil and José Angel Gomez Marchante, CSC will participate with Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck, Denis Menchov will show the colours of Rabobank, Paolo Savoldelli, one of the favourites for the Giro d'Italia, will be present, and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), who will be the unique leader of his team after Alejandro Valverde's decision to take a break and to come back in the Dauphiné Libéré.

Pereiro will be supported by Joaquím Rodríguez, who at the moment is in top form, the Frenchmen Florent Brard and Nicolas Portal, strong climbers David López García, Francisco Pérez and Xabier Zandio and the sprinter Vicente Reynes.

Pereiro will use the Tour de Romandie mainly as preparation for the Tour de France. "I hope I will be able to win a stage, even if I know that I first I will have to find my ProTour rhythm to be at hundred percent in the Dauphiné Libéré and then in the Tour," he said.

Until now, he only participated in one stage of the Volta a Mallorca and the Vuelta a Castilla y León but he is very confident. "I will take the start of the Tour of Romandie in good condition, and for sure better than last year at the same period. My sensations are good and I am anxious to test myself in the mountains as well as in the time trial.

"It is a beautiful race which I like very much. ... I am really motivated."

Subida al Naranco

By Monika Prell

The 61st edition of the Subida al Naranco (Asturias) starts today. It will be raced over 166 kilometres, between the area of "Tartiere Auto" in Lugones and the Alto del Naranco. The cyclists will tackle some serious mountains, including the Collada de Arnicio (1st category) and the Alto de La Colladona (2nd category), which dangerous descent could be decisive like in last year's edition if the predicted rain showers arrive.

20 kilometres before the finish waits the third climb, El Padrun (2nd category), and only eight kilometres after the riders will have to climb on La Manzaneda (1st category). After crossing the capital of Asturias, Oviedo, begins the final ascent; 5.5 kilometres with an average gradient of seven percent.

The peloton will consist of three ProTour teams;, Euskaltel – Euskadi and Saunier Duval-Prodir. Besides, there will be four foreign teams; Barloworld, Acqua e Sapone, Selle Italia and Benfica, which will include Portuguese José Azevedo. The other Spanish teams will be Andalucia-Cayasur, Fuerteventura-Canarias, Karpin-Galicia, Relax-GAM, Grupo Nicolás Mateos, Orbea-Laukiz F.T., Extremadura-Spiuk, Viña Magna-Cropu and the Spanish National amateur team.

Relax-GAM will bring favourites Oscar Sevilla, who won last year's edition of the Vuelta a Asturias, Francisco Mancebo and Santiago Perez. Other favourites are Eladio Jiménez and Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia), David Bernabeu (Fuerteventura-Canarias) and Dionisio Galparsoro (Euskaltel – Euskadi), who rode a very strong Vuelta a la Rioja, finishing fourth in the overall classification.

Sponsor backs Bjarne Riis

By Katharina Schulz

Team CSC's boss Bjarne Riis, who has come under attack through former Team-Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hont's new book Wielerverzorger, still has his main sponsor's backing.

Ole Egeblad, the Scandinavian head of sponsorship for the IT company CSC, told Danish news agency Ritzau that the new allegations don't change anything for them right now. "We have a sponsorship here that gives the company CSC a lot of value for money, both in Denmark and on an international level, and this doesn't change anything about that," noted Egeblad.

"We talked about it, and our attitude is that we cannot comment on these speculations. Speculations abound, and we cannot express an opinion on everything. We have full understanding for the fact that Bjarne [Riis] doesn't want to spend an awful lot of time on it if someone who has a personal interest talks about something that happened ten years ago," Egeblad continued.

The team has a sponsoring contract with the IT company until 2008.

Operazione Athena not over for Paolini

Paolini (l) in Ronde
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

30 year-old Luca Paolini is still being questioned regarding the evidence found during the raids of homes and gyms in Italy, last fall. 22 people were arrested (none cyclists) and evidence worth six million euro was sequestered during an investigation dubbed Operazione Athena (named after a gym in Lombardy, 'Athena,' were one of the raids were made - ed.).

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport in the coming weeks the anti-doping lawyer of Bergamo, Maria Cristina Rota, will close the investigation but she will not shelve the particular case against the Liquigas rider. His case could be sent back to the justice system.

"Regarding Elisa Basso [sister of Ivan Basso - ed.], there was not elements to support the accusations," said Rota. "It is a different situation for Paolini, which will be defined in these coming days. I don't consider this to be the moment to shelve the case. His case is more serious and there is serious circumstantial evidence."

The homes of Basso and Paolini were part of the raids last fall, just prior to the running of the 2006 Worlds. "The search of Elisa Basso's [home] turned up nothing. I am not able to respond in regards to Paolini."

Paolini went on to help long-time friend, Paolo Bettini, win the rainbow jersey for Italy. Last month, he finished third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

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