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Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for May 25, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Italian paper reports Bartoli is 'Sansone'

Basso and Bartoli in 2002
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported in its Friday edition that retired Classics specialist Michele Bartoli was linked with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

The Spanish doctor at the centre of the Operación Puerto affair gave many of his clients pseudonyms based on their dogs' names. CONI's anti-doping prosecutors confirmed 'Birillo' was the name of Ivan Basso's dog and it is now speculated that 'Sansone', the third name listed on the Guardia Civil-issued dossier of 38 pages (June 27, 2006), is alleged to be Michele Bartoli. (Read EPO blood bags attributed to code names.)

The paper reports that Bartoli, who won the 1996 Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1997 and 1998 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and 2002 and 2003 Giro di Lombardia, had a dog with the name 'Sansone'. The rider, known by Italian fans as Il Gatto ('the cat'), is a friend of Basso and the two were teammates in Fassa Bortolo (2002 and 2003) and in Bjarne Riis' CSC (2004, Bartoli's final year).

In the investigators' documents, released by Spanish paper El País, there is evidence of an alleged doping program during 2002 and 2003. According to the Italian paper, there were references to Bartoli travelling to Spain to meet Fuentes, and his assistant José Merino Batres travelling to Italy.

In the first instance, Bartoli travelled to the Canary Islands to allegedly be prescribed Aranesp (a form of EPO) by Fuentes. In 2003 there were two reported trips to Italy: Fuentes was visited before the Milano-Sanremo and then Batres before the Ronde van Vlaanderen, where they were to make "two blood extractions and two transfusions". According to the documents, Fuentes noted, "The return flight was cancelled, and another one was bought for 600 euro. He [Bartoli] said to me that he would pay for it."

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

Milram to continue sponsorship

Erik Zabel
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In light of recent doping scandals and Erik Zabel's recent confession, Team Milram's sponsor Nordmilch AG will not be withdrawing its support for the cycling team.

"Nordmilch AG appreciates Erik Zabel's openness and his contribution to the reappraisal of the past," according to a press release, but left open questions about Zabel's future with the team.

"For us as a comparatively young cycling sponsor, any form of coming to terms with the past is important to be sure that we invest in clean cycling. [Zabel's statement] does not influence the decision on the continuation of the sponsoring engagement. According to our agreement, the cooperation will be continued.

"For our brand Milram, no kind of connection to the matter of doping is imagineable. We always made it clear to our riders that successes are only of value to us if they are achieved on a natural basis. We don't want sporting successes at any cost.

"Therefore a clear principle applies since the foundation of Team Milram. If anybody dopes, he is out. For us, a one-to-one conversation with Erik Zabel is important to decide how we can react appropriately to his declaration."

If Zabel should be let go by Milram, he may not have to look around long for a new job. Bob Stapleton, team manager of the T-Mobile Team, Zabel's former squad, told Cyclingnews that he would hire the sprinter "in a minute".

Brian Holm also admits EPO doping

Another former Team Telekom rider has admitted that he took EPO during the 1996 season. Brian Holm, who now works as a directeur sportive for Telekom's new-formation, T-Mobile, yesterday told Danish that he took EPO two times in 1996. In his book Smerten Glæden ("The Pain - the Joy"), Holm had already admitted that he had doped himself during his career as a rider, but he didn't give any details as to what he took and when.

"There was never any pressure from the team management, it was an individual thing and my own decision. There is no one I can blame for it, and no way can I excuse it," Holm said.

Holm welcomes the current developments in professional cycling and hopes that the confessions can lead to a clean sport in the future. He also asked his former teammate Bjarne Riis to speak out at the press conference that CSC is holding today in Copenhagen.

What does Godefroot know?

Will Walter Godefroot be the next to tell all he knows? The former Telekom team manager and current Team Astana advisor has indicated that he might do just that.

"The day will come, when I officially testify. And also about the Freiburg doctors," the Belgian told the German magazine Die Welt. He also indicated that he was aware of doping within his former team. "I am not deaf. Anyone who listened around could hear that it was spoken of openly in the peloton."

Le Boulanger: a generous Breton on the path of Louison Bobet

By Jean-François Quénet in Briançon

Yoann Le Boulanger (Bouygues Telecom).
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Former Tour de France winner Bernard Thévenet was a Giro d'Italia special guest in Briançon, for the conclusion of stage 12. He always likes to come back in the neighbourhood of the Col d'Izoard where he consolidated his yellow jersey the day after he dethroned the great Eddy Merckx in 1975. He remembers that he met Louison Bobet at the start of that stage. The winner of the 1953, 1954 and 1955 Tours, a Breton, told him, "You become a big champion when you climb the Izoard with the yellow jersey."

Thévenet did it as Bobet before. In the Casse Déserte of the Izoard, a double plaque remembers both Bobet and Fausto Coppi. Another Breton was almost the first cyclist of the Giro to pass nearby Bobet's memorial. Yoann Le Boulanger from Bouygues Telecom had escaped at kilometre 14 with his compatriot Christophe Riblon from Ag2r. The French riders looked motivated for entering first on home soil.

"We even wanted to win the stage, Bouygues Telecom's directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit explained. Unfortunately, the big riders started fighting half an hour too early for us. They rode hard since the beginning of the Colle dell'Agnello.

"Had the breakaway been a four or five-man group it would have changed the situation, because Yoann could have started the Izoard with two or three guys swapping turns. He was on a false rhythm, not totally sure of how hard he had to push."

The Breton was climbing well though. He was awarded the special Cima Coppi prize that designates the rider passing first at the highest climb of the race, the 2744-metre Colle dell'Agnello. Bouygues' team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau was impressed by that. "So, this is the equivalent of the Henri Desgranges trophy in the Tour de France!" he realized.

On his way back from the podium ceremony, Le Boulanger was congratulated by Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme who said he was hoping for him to keep his seventh place on the stage. "I was happy that I was able to stay with Stefano Garzelli for a while", Le Boulanger said. He's now 27th on the general classification and could discreetly move into top 15 as Patrice Halgand from Crédit Agricole did last year.

Petrov soldiers on

Tinkoff Credit Systems team leader Evgeni Petrov survived the battle of one of the hardest high mountain stages of the 90th Giro d'Italia and held on to his top-10 in the general classification.

"It was evident to everyone that Saunier Duval would attack," said the Russian, who today celebrates his 29th birthday, to Tinkoff's Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov after the stage. "They had proved themselves two days before, with three of them making top-six. But few could anticipate they would attack so hard right from the beginning of the longest climb, Colle dell'Agnello."

Petrov tip his hat to Riccò and Piepoli's work. "When Riccardo Riccò gave that nasty pull, the peloton simply ceased to exist. I was ready for high tempo, but not ... so far from the finish, so I had to go on the defensive and keep my pace.

"We rode for quite a while with Marzio Bruseghin, I know him well from last year, and I knew he was aiming high overall, so I was sure he wouldn't falter," continued the rider who rode with Lampre in 2005 and 2006.

"I think we were in luck with the weather, not too cold at the top (at 2700 metres it could have snowed) and just a few drops of rain on Col d'Izoard on the way up. ... I hoped to find a good pack with which to shave off some seconds on the descent, but the race was all to pieces, riding in pairs or groups of three."

Petrov looked ahead. The "mountain time trial, is an event I basically like, and I hope to win back some time in the general classification. I saved myself in this gruelling Alpine stage and I have something left in me for the third week."

Juan José Cobo faces Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Photo ©: Christine Grein
(Click for larger image)

"I am very happy because all my work is getting good results," Cobo said yesterday to TVE. After winning the Vuelta al País Vasco last April, the Saunier Duval-Prodir rider is hoping to offer solid support for Gilberto Simoni and Gómez Marchante in the next Tour de France.

"They have communicated to me that I have many possibilities, so if it is true, I have to be in my best form soon, but we have to take into account that I had a rest after disputing the April Classics," he added.

The promising Spaniard is currently racing the Volta a Catalunya. We could see him in the last kilometres of 'queen stage' of the Spanish ProTour race, when he was helping to his teammate, David De La Fuente. "I feel very well, but there are other teammates better than me, such as De La Fuente," Cobo concluded.

An uncertain future for Team Wiesenhof

What does a team do when its sponsor announces that it is pulling the plug? Admit to being shocked, accept the decision and then wonder what to do next, is what Team Wiesenhof's general manager Raphael Schweda is doing.

Gruppe Wiesenhof announced Thursday morning that it would end its sponsoring as of the end of this year, citing "the current situation in professional cycling."

Schweda said he was sorry to hear the news. "It came as a surprise to us. The image of our team is outstanding and ... the team was and is on the best way to climb up into the top league.

"Under the current circumstances, I can understand this step by a nationwide undertaking and of course I respect their decision, also in light of their year-long engagement in cycling. At this point I cannot say what will happen with the team in the coming season," he concluded.

Zárate asks for help

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Zárate, who was signed by Saunier Duval from Comunidad Valenciana in 2005, has sent a letter to the UCI in which he expressed that he would perform any necessary tests. The 26 year-old Spaniard wants his name to be cleared from the Operación Puerto affair.

He is in a shade of the suspicion since he made his professional debut in 2004 with the Comunidad Valenciana. He was allegedly linked with some of the team’s riders and technicians to the Spanish investigation.

In his official letter, Zárate declared that, "he has never had any relationship with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes." Regarding his current team, he continued, "in the Saunier Duval, I have not been able to work as normal."

At the same time, Zárate lamented that, in his native town, Puertollano, his countrymen consider him "drugged" and a "cheater," and as a consequence his family and close friends are also suffering.

Kelly Benefit team sees international success

The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro team got its first taste of the international podium this week when Ryan Roth took third place in stage two of the 54 year-old FBD Insurance Rás. Roth held a top ten finish before stage five's hilly 131 kilometre jaunt from Dungloe to Buncrana, and is now 17th overall.

Director Jonas Carney was proud of the team's performance, saying, "This is what we came here to do - To test our guys and push for results in one of the toughest fields there us. We had a little bad luck with two riders flatting less than 5km from the finish line in stages two and three, but that aside, we're in a great position to do well here and the team is highly motivated."

Making the stage podium was a big achievement for the team. "Our goal was to get on the podium at a major international race," says Charles Aaron, Managing Director, Circuit Global Sports Management, the management arm of the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro team. "It's all the sweeter that we made this happen at the FBD Insurance Rás in Ireland."

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