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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for May 28, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Chipping away at Omerta

Some very big names have said Mea Culpa recently, baring their souls and admitting to doping within the sport. Bjarne Riis and Erik Zabel will be criticised by many for using banned substances, but in taking the step to admit their errors, they have moved things forward for cycling. UCI President Pat McQuaid gave his reaction to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes.

Manolo Saiz was implicated in the Operación Puerto affair
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Just over a year ago the Operación Puerto affair broke when Eufemiano Fuentes, Manolo Saiz and others were arrested in Madrid and charged in connection with doping in cycling. The time since has been an extremely turbulent one, with the enquiry implicating many big-name riders and bringing about the retirement of Jan Ullrich and the suspension of Ivan Basso.

The months since then have also seen Tour de France winner Floyd Landis being suspended and charged with doping during the race, with the outcome of his recent USADA hearing set to be delivered in the weeks ahead.

Apart from the Landis hearing, doping was in the news in recent days when a spate of riders connected with the former Telekom team confessed to using EPO and other products during the 1990s. Rolf Aldag, Udo Bolts, Christian Henn, Brian Holm and others admitted doping, with the two highest-profile names being current Milram rider Erik Zabel and CSC manager Bjarne Riis. Both said they took EPO during the 1996 Tour de France, which was won by the latter.

Pat McQuaid has been UCI president during perhaps one of the most rocky times for cycling. The Irishman acknowledges that recent months have been very difficult for the sport, but hopes that this process signals a change in mentality and will help bring about a better future.

"My reaction [to Bjarne Riis' confession] is the same as that to the two Germans [Zabel and Aldag] yesterday," he told Cyclingnews on Friday evening, speaking from the Pan-American cycling championships in Caracas, Venezuela. "It is sad that this has been the case, that they have had to resort to doping during their career. However, by the same token you have got to recognise that it was a brave decision of the three, Riis included, to do this."

Read the entire 'Chipping away at omerta' feature here.

d'Hont says he gave Ullrich EPO

By Susan Westemeyer

Jef d'Hont, former Team Telekom soigneur, said that he gave Jan Ullrich an injection of EPO. "I injected him with it one time in France," the Belgian said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag.

d'Hondt says he injected Ullrich with EPO
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"I never injected EPO in Germany, not Jan Ullrich and not any other rider. The doctors were responsible for that," he said. "I wasn't Ullrich's regular soigneur. In France I injected him with it one time. I shot it into his arm. That took about 10 seconds. It was like giving insulin to a diabetic patient."

d'Hont praised the German rider. "If they had all been clean, then Ullrich would have won the Tour 10 times. At least! I don't know if the wanted the doping or not. But he did it because everyone was doing it." He urged Ullrich to confess. "It would be good for him to lay his cards on the table, too. Then he would feel freer."

Ullrich has consistently denied ever having used any doping products. His manager Wolfgang Strohband has made various statements the last few days about whether the German would join those making confessions. In Sunday's Bild he is quoted as saying, "Jan Ullrich will have something to say about this, when he and his attorney Johan Schwen think it is right to do so."

d'Hont contradicted Bjarne Riis' claim that he introduced the Dane to EPO. "That is not true. He had pumped himself full before his time at Telekom. He told me that himself." He contrasted Riis to Ullrich, saying, "He became famous, because he doped. Otherwise he was just an average rider."

Not all the Telekom riders used doping. "Maybe one or two riders" didn't. He also explicitly said that soigneur Dieter 'Eule' Ruthenberg "knew nothing about it. The others did."

"I still dream of clean cycling, The lies have to finally stop," d'Hont said, noting that he was surprised at the many confessions and how quickly they have come. "But it is good," he said. "It is my hope that teams in other lands will also open up. Doping is part of what they do, too, I know that."

The Belgian has personally benefited from the recent controversy. "I feel better now than I did a month ago. My book has been number one on the best sellers list in Belgium for weeks. But especially, my conscience is clear again."

He wanted to confess earlier, he said. "But my son was still a soigneur at Team Telekom I didn't want to endanger his position. Walter Godefroot, the former team manager knew that, too: as long as my son worked for him, I wouldn't say anything. That's why he hired him."

d'Hont explained some of the details of how the doping scheme worked. The EPO came in ampules, which he kept in the refrigerator of his RV, with the riders' names written on them. "Usually we started three weeks before a big race like the Tour de France, some riders only one week. Some only took seven or eight ampules a year, others took 20.

"One ampule cost 25 Euros. I gathered the money from the riders, then gave it to Walter Godefroot." Godefroot has denied being involved in any way.

The cobra strikes at Giro

By Jean-François Quénet at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Since Riccardo Riccò started making headlines in March this year when he won two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico, it was questionable whether or not the 23 year old from Formigine in Emilia was overly confident. After Riccò's win of the 15th stage in the 2007 Giro D'Italia, the answer is clear - he's not just an attraction who got the nickname of the cobra; the Saunier Duval rider is a true champion.

"It was a dream for me to win the hardest stage of the Tour of Italy," Riccò said. Riccò says the team gave him the green light early in the day. "On the first hill of San Lugano, it was Gilberto Simoni telling Leo (Piepoli) and I: 'guys, go for the stage win'. So we asked the team to make it hard on the San Pellegrino. We went really strong. David Cañada did a good job on the false flat section as well."

Riccò and Piepoli made it into the leading break of the long stage with Panaria's Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio and Ivan Parra from Cofidis. The two South Americans were former stage winners in the Giro. "Their cooperation was close to zero," said Riccò, who was the only one from the front group who had yet to win a Giro stage in his career.

"As soon as we were away, Leo and I made an agreement: 'if we arrive together, it's your turn', he told me. "Parra accelerated with 800 meters to go. I chose to go steady and sprint at the end."

Despite his notorious vocal confidence, Riccò had nothing but humble comments after the stage. "This is the most beautiful day of my life," he said. "I'm only 23, there is still a long way to go in my career, and many other Giri d'Italia to ride."

"No later than next year," he added, "I hope to ride the Giro for the overall win," he said, adding that Simoni has already told him that he doesn't want to do another Giro as captain of the team. It's also rumoured that Riccò is being courted by other teams (among them Milram) but he's under contract with Saunier Duval for one more year with a buyout option.

Mazzoleni is Di Luca's new rival

By Jean-François Quénet

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

Danilo Di Luca managed to put time on the dangerous Marzio Bruseghin during the brutal 15th stage of the 2007 Giro D'Italia before the Italian Time Trial National Champion could threaten Di Luca's lead heading into the final week of the Giro but he quickly found a new rival in Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana). Mazzoleni had been a virtual leader of the Giro when he was in between the four man breakaway and the group of the maglia rosa with three and half minutes advantage.

"My action was born at the foot of the Giau," Mazzoleni, Ivan Basso's soon-to-be brother in-law (Elisa Basso is his fiancée) said after the stage. "I had nothing to lose so I went by myself."

Di Luca says that even though Mazzoleni had the virtual advantage in the race, he felt that his team had the situation under control. "I knew the finale of the stage very well," the 'killer' explained. "I raced economically and managed to do a good final climb." The killer was optimistic about his result on the day "I gained time on all my adversaries except Mazzoleni - who is the strongest time trialist of all the guys who are close to me on GC."

Being a GC threat is a new situation for super-domestique Mazzoleni, who had ridden with Saeco, Polti, Tacconi, Vini Caldirola, Saeco again, Lampre, T-Mobile and now Astana since he turned pro in 1996. "It's the first time I can ride as a team leader," he said.

Schleck holds on to white jersey

By Jean-François Quénet

Andy Schleck (Team CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andy Schleck is a revelation at the 2007 Giro. On Stage 14 to Bergamo, which used the route of the Tour of Lombardy, Schleck showed that not only did he talent but he also posessed the serenity of a champion.

Schleck crashed behind Evgeni Petrov during the race but didn't panic; he simple re-mounted his bike and limited the damage. During Stage 15 up the legendary Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Schleck should have been even more fearful of his hold on the white jersey but the young Luxemburger has turned out to be a cool guy who doesn't stress without a major reason.

Schleck says he came to the Giro without any idea of what he'd be able to achieve and after fifteen stages, he's in a position to finish on the podium but says the white jersey is the goal he aims for at the moment. "It bothered me that Riccò was in the front but my directeur sportif Alain Gallopin calmed me down and told me to wait and see what happens," he said after getting the white jersey once more when he finished with the maglia rosa group.

Schleck maintained a 43-second advantage over stage winner Riccò in the white-jersey competition. "I'm happy that I haven't lost more time on Riccò," he said. "I don't think he'll take more time on me now." Which means the fight for the best young rider category may be contested in the time trial on stage 20. On paper, Schleck looks to be a better cronoman that his Italian rival.

But Riccò hasn't given up. "I came to the Giro with the goal of winning this white jersey," the stage winner said. "But I have encountered a Schleck who is going extremely well. We'll see on the Zoncolan if I can beat him. I still believe I can, especially after seeing how good I went today."

Karpets confident of TdF success after Volta victory

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The race leader,
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Caisse d'Epargne rider Vladimir Karpets says he is ready to do “as well as possible" in the Tour de France,” after winning the general classification of the 87th Volta a Catalunya. The Russian dedicated his triumph to his deceased ex teammate, Isaac Gálvez and thanked his teammates for their efforts in making the victory possible.

Karpets will take now part in the Tour of Switzerland, which will be his last test before disputing the Tour de France, in which has expressed his desire to “be among the ten best riders in the Tour de France and if it's possible, to be in the podium.”

Sánchez on top of the world

By Monika Prell

Even if Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) said yesterday that he is a bit run down from the racing season so far, he was able to win the last stage of the Volta a Catalunya on Sunday. At the mountain-top finish on Tibidado, a second-category mountain, Sánchez was able to beat Alexander Vinokurov (Astana) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) to the line

Sánchez was very happy after the stage. "During the entire Volta, I felt well," he said. "I tried several times to win a stage - from the beginning or as surprise just before the finish line - but for some reasons I wasn't able to reach my goal. Today I knew that it was an good day for me, with a course that fitted well my abilities.

Sanchez says he didn't take the win for granted though. "Winning is difficult here. The Volta is a ProTour race. I had serious rivals. I waited for my moment in the ascension to the Tibidado, I managed the climb and worked hard so that I could overcome Vinokurov in the final meters."

The 29 year-old said that "I have had a good season; very constant. I had a stage win and a podium place in the Vuelta al País Vasco. A new victory in another ProTour race is a positive balance of the first part of the season 2007."

Sanchez says he will now save himself "until the Euskal [Bizikleta]. That is a very important race for us; it's our home race. I would like to do a good Euskal and then rest a little bit in order to prepare the second part of the season.

German Olympic doctor admits doping involvement

By Susan Westemeyer

A German Olympic team doctor has admitted providing testosterone to riders in the 1980s, and the German national U23 coach has been accused of providing doping products to U23 riders in that same time period.

Georg Huber admitted that he gave cyclists testosterone between 1980 and 1990. He was directly suspended by the BRD (the German cycling federation) and the University of Freiburg, where he worked.

Huber was team doctor for the German summer Olympic team for six Olympic games. He has been the team doctor for the German national team since 1972.

The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" reported that Huber and national coach Peter Weibel were both named by two former U23 riders, Jörg Müller and Christian Henn. Henn confessed last week to having used EPO while riding for Team Telekom in the 1990s.

"It didn't start in 1995 at Telekom but a lot earlier," Müller said. In 1987 he says he was personally given Andriol by Weibel during a stage race in France and the trainer gave the riders other medications. "I don't know what they were; also injections."

The West German team reportedly found the doping necessary, in order to compete with the East Geman team. "It was clear to us that the eastern riders doped -- so we had to take something, too," Müller said. "The whole thing was run in agreement with Professor Huber of the Freiburg University.

Henn confirmed Müller's story, saying that he received Andriol and cortisone from Weibel.

Henn is currently sports director at Team Gerolsteiner. The team's business manager, Renate Holczer, told "We were surprised by this news. At the moment we are not considering separating from him, but this is certain something that we will have to talk about."

No consequences for Godefroot and Kummer at Astana

By Susan Westemeyer

Walter Godefroot and Mario Kummer have nothing to fear from Team Astana management about their connection to the Telekom 1990s doping scandal, according to team general manager Marc Biver.

Godefroot, who currently serves as technical advisor to Astana, was team manager of Telekom at the time. At his press conference Friday, Bjarne Riis said that Godefroot had turned a blind eye to the doping practices. Biver told the "Neue Züricher Zeitung", "As long as I don't have any evidence, I won't fire anyone." He said that he had spoken with Godefroot, whose contract with the team runs until the end of the Tour de France, and who has assured him that he had never organized doping.

Mario Kummer is now Directeur Sportif for Team Astana and rode for Team Telekom in the 1990s. He allegedly told Biver that he had been involved in the doping practices at that time, the newspaper reported. "This confession is enough for me," said Biver.

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