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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for November 12, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rabobank report: Rasmussen purposely lied

By Susan Westemeyer

Michael Rasmussen at his press conference
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Michael Rasmussen purposely lied about his whereabouts in the period before the Tour de France, making himself unavailable for doping controls, an independent committee announced on Monday in Utrecht, Holland. Rabobank Team Manager Theo de Rooij was right to remove the cyclist from the race, it said, but he should never have started in the first place. The 33 year-old Dane was sent home following stage 16 to the Col d'Aubisque.

The committee also rejected Rasmussen's claim that he lied for personal reasons, saying "it does not deem this explanation to be credible."

The sponsor Rabobank asked the independent committee to investigate "the events and facts before, during and briefly after the Tour de France '07."

In April, when there were already suspicions concerning the Danish rider, the team sent him an e-mail concerning tickets for a training period in the Pyrénées, according to He responded that he would like for that trip to be kept "quiet," because he would say that he was in Mexico at that time. De Rooij told the rider that he would not participate in such a cover-up and that Rasmussen would have to supply the correct information to the UCI. "The responsibility for this lies completely on you," de Rooij said in an e-mail.

Rasmussen (centre) in strange company this weekend – with Davide Cassani (r), who spotted the rider in Italy when he was supposed to be in Mexico.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The committee further found that the team's Board of Directors and its Chairman de Rooij "did not adequately assess the importance of multiple signs concerning Rasmussen's conduct prior to the Tour '07," and failed to properly notify the team's supervisory board of the true state of affairs. In so doing, "the Executive Board endangered the reputation of both Rabo Cycling Teams and the Rabobank." De Rooij resigned his position in August.

The report added, "The Committee has not, however, until now been presented with any evidence that would suggest unethical conduct or a lack of integrity on the part of the cycling team's Board of Directors or medical supervision staff."

The International Cycling Union (UCI) also came in for a share of criticism in the report, which said that "The UCI must attain a higher level of professionalism with regard to the formulation, enforcement and monitoring of its own doping regulations."

In addition, the report recommended that the team improve its own whereabouts notification program.

In a statement issued Monday, sponsor Rabobank said that it agreed with the report and noted that "the main conclusion of the report is that Rasmussen was rightly expelled from the competition and later dismissed. He demonstrably lied about and tampered with his whereabouts. There is no evidence that Rasmussen used doping."

Referring to de Rooij, it added "serious errors of judgement were clearly made, primarily by the Chairman of the Board of Directors. When viewed from this perspective, the Chairman's decision shortly after the Tour to accept responsibility for the consequences ensuing from the resulting crisis is a respectable one.

"It is patently obvious from the information known now that Rasmussen should not have been allowed to start in the Tour de France," the bank's statement noted.

A full report on the independent committee's findings will follow on Cyclingnews.

Schleck brothers stay together

By Susan Westemeyer

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

Andy and Fränk Schleck have extended their contracts with Team CSC, and are now looking forward to riding the Tour de France together in 2008.

"I'm in no doubt that Team CSC is able to provide me with the best possible opportunities and of course it also means a lot to me that I get to be on the same team as my brother," said Andy on the team's website, "I'm happy that my future is settled and I look forward to next season, where I'll get to try Tour de France for the first time. Along with the Olympic Games it'll be my main goal next year." The 22 year-old finished second overall in the Giro d'Italia this year as well as winning the maglia bianca of best young rider.

His older brother Fränk, 27, said, "My team-mates and everyone around the team mean a lot to me, and that's the most important thing for me really. I've got high ambitions for myself for the next few years and I feel ready to take on a lot of responsibility." (Read Motivation running strong for more on Fränk.)

There were two brother pairs in this year's Tour de France. Germans Bert and Ralf Grabsch rode the Tour for T-Mobile and Milram, respectively, while Frenchmen Sébastien and Sylvain Chavanel represented Française de Jeux and Cofidis.

d'Hont "simply defending himself"

By Susan Westemeyer

When Jan Ullrich won a court order prohibiting former soigneur Jef d'Hont from speaking publicly about performance enhancing drugs he allegedly gave the cyclist, d'Hont's lawyer said that his client would explore all legal avenues in fighting the decision. The Belgian has now announced that he will write a book about Ullrich and has turned over tapes of conversations with the cyclist's mentor, Rudy Pevenage, to both the media and German investigators.

In an interview with Focus magazine, which published the transcripts, d'Hont said that the reason he did it was simple: "I am only doing it because Jan Ullrich is forcing me to defend myself any way I can."

He repeated his claim that the 1997 Tour de France winner used EPO. "On Rudy's recommendation and after discussing it with the doctors, me, and the then team boss Walter Godefroot, Ullrich started with EPO."

d'Hont also continued to claim that he injected Ullrich with EPO, and that he can prove it. "There are witnesses and evidence. Right now I am gathering material and statements, in case Ullrich wants to pursue his case against me. My lawyers think I have a strong case. It is unbelievable, how Ullrich is reacting. Why doesn't he confess like all the other Telekom riders?

"Rudy organized everything for him," d'Hont continued. "Ullrich is not at all the type who could do something like that alone. Pevenage did all the research. He even looked up the effects of growth hormones and other banned products in reference books. He understood the proper mixtures of products and knew exactly how long a doping substance was detectable and when not."

Most of the EPO injections were given by team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, he said. "But when they weren't there, others did it. Vitamins were injected, but also EPO and growth hormone."

Godefroot was also involved in the payment for the banned substances, d'Hont claimed. "I was instructed by Godefroot to gather the money from the riders and give it to him. Apparently he paid the official bills from Freiburg [the Freiburg University Clinic] from the team's funds. Products like EPO, growth hormone or banned products were probably declared as normal medications. Godefroot then paid out the money to Schmid and all the other doctors. There seem to have been two sets of books."

D'Hont concluded by noting that Godefroot had said in June that he would file a lawsuit against him, that had not yet happened. "He is probably afraid that then much more could come out about him."

Lissavetzky will defend country's anti-doping fight in Madrid

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Spanish sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

"The revision of the Code is necessary. We must work for the athlete in areas such as scientific certainty and legal security," President of Spain's Superior Council of Sports (CSD) Jaime Lissavetzky said in an interview published today by El País regarding the upcoming anti-doping conference in Madrid, November 15. He represents a country that was at the centre of one of cycling's largest investigation, Operación Puerto.

"There has been built a very useful model, but sometimes inflexible," he continued on how anti-doping laws have changed in the Iberian Peninsula. "We must find the balance between flexibility and efficiency. It is a relevant discussion beyond the case [Andrey] Kashechkin. We want to be against doping in sport and protect the health of the athlete, but also respect their fundamental rights, as contained in the anti-doping law in Spain."

The legal aspects in Spain have moved slowly due to a lack of previously existing anti-doping laws in the past. "The law marks a turning point, and I am pleased with its development because it was not simple; it involves four ministries, decrees needed development ... We have already set up two committees, health and doping, which have already launched athlete health cards", Lissavetzky assured.

"Through the National Plan for Research, and only in 2005 and 2006, 12 doping research projects were funded with €1.9 million: genetic doping detection of EPO, synthetic hormones ... In 2006, Spain has been made more than 10,000 inspections, including the 42 to 43 percent out of competition. In cycling, for example, there have been more than 2,000 doping controls and more than 700 for health, which has cost us more than €200,000," Lissavetzky justified the anti-doping fighting in Spain.

"Let no one think that there are magic solutions. ... I will continue to implement the principle of zero tolerance for doping," he concluded.

International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid will also be present for the anti-doping conference.

Soler heads south

Mauricio Soler, winner of the maillot blanc à pois rouges of best climber at the 2007 Tour de France, will head to South Africa after two operations over the off-season. The 24 year-old Colombian will take part in the Pick' n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge this Sunday.

"I am a bit better," explained Soler in a recent Cyclingnews interview after surgery on his nose and wrist. He spoke with some difficulty as his nose was not completely recovered. "Today [October 27], they took out the stoppers I had in my nose and it seemed everything went alright. I am trying to recover; I already feel better today. Maybe in three days I hope to be almost completely recovered."

Soler will take part in the large race/ride that saw 27,000 participants in 2006. The Barloworld rider will soon be testing a new Bianchi, as it was announced recently that the team of Claudio Corti would ride on the famous Italian bike for 2008.

Nicolás Mateos-Murcia and Extremadura confirm members

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The newly re-formed Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia Professional Continental Team will be on the roads next season with 16 riders. It will be led by climbers José Miguel Elías and Julián Sánchez, coming from the Relax-GAM, and the ex-Andalucía-Cajasur rider Manuel Vázquez.

In addition, the Spanish squad will count with promising riders such as José Herrada Lopez (from Viña Magna-Cropu), Javier Etxarri Marin and Eloy Teruel Rovira (Grupo Nicolás Mateos), Oleg Chuzhda (Fuerteventura-Canarias), and neo-professionals Sergio Domínguez (U-23/Soctec), Rubén Reig (U-23/Würth) and Rafael Serrano (U-23/Saunier Duval). The Grupo Nicolás Mateos-Murcia is completed by Alberto Rodriguez Oliver (Viña Magna-Cropu), Jesús Buendía (Barbot-Halcon), José Carlos López (U-23/Soctec) and Jorge Sánchez Pimienta. It will be directed by Ginés García and Manuel López.

The team has as its main goals the Vuelta a Valencia and the Vuelta a Murcia, in which it will try to convince Unipublic that it deserves a wildcard spot for the 2008 Vuelta a España.

Spanish Professional Continental Team Extremadura will be led by the local Rodrigo García (from Fuerteventura-Canarias), who will be mainly supported by Carlos Torrent (Viña Magna-Cropu), Jaume Rovira (Elite/Diputación León) and Aitor Pérez Arrieta (Caisse d'Epargne). Ignacio Sarabia Diaz Sarabia, Jesus Ramirez Torres, Josu Mondelo, José Antonio Arroyo Ramirez, Israel Pérez, Sergio Herrero and Ángel Rodriguez have been renewed by Team Manager Alfonso Rodríguez.

Also joining the team are Xabat Ochotorena (Orbea-Laukiz F.T.), Jaime García, Francisco Terciado Sacedo (Relax-GAM) and Gonzalo Zambrano.

The team management will announce the second sponsorship in the following days. Obviously, being based in Granada, the Vuelta a España is its main goal in 2008.

Carlos Sastre wins Criterium de L'Hospitalet

By Monika Prell

Carlos Sastre of Team CSC won the Criterium Ciclista Ciutat de L'Hospitalet in Catalunya over the weekend. The event was held in honour of Pedro Zamora and Manuel Ortega Yest, and served as an opportunity for Angel Edo to say good-bye to cycling.

The race took place in the centre of Hospitalet, the little town southwest of Barcelona.

Sastre collected bonification points which were given every fifth circuit, with laps 15 and 30 offering double points. He was victorious ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Josep Jufré (Predictor Lotto), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom), the Spanish champion Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Angel Edo (Vitória-ASC).

Francisco Pérez (Caisse d'Epargne) won the elimination race. He beat Sastre in the final sprint, third was Pérez's team-mate Valverde, as reported El Mundo Deportivo.

Edo rode his last race ever after 16 years as professional rider. He was honoured by the organisation and the fans. He will still be linked to the professional cycling, as riders' manager and counsellor.

Record participation in Euskaltel-Euskadi's Fiesta

By Monika Prell

The fifth edition of Euskaltel-Euskadi's Fiesta de la Bici was a complete success. According to the team, 2015 people participated in the celebration that was held in front of the Euskaltel-Euskadi building in Derio (Bizkaia). The presence of the president of the Basque Government, Juan José Ibarretxe, two legends of cycling, Miguel Indurain and Claudio Chiappucci, and the entire squads of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Orbea-Laukiz F.T. and Naturgas Energia surely added to the high participation.

The Euskaltel-Euskadi cyclists and the invitees, together with the children of the Mountain Bike School of BTT Naturgas Txorierri, met at 10:00. The young and old fans had the possibility to take some photos of their heroes. After this reception, the Fundación Euskadi had organised a small ceremony in honour of Indurain and Chiappucci. Miguel Madariaga handed them a trophy in form of a Lauburu ('Basque cross') with the inscription "Los niños agradecen tu presencia" ('The children are thankful for your participation'). Ibarretxe was honoured by the Sindic de Val d'Aran de Lleida.

Shortly after, everybody got on their bikes and completed a little ride of eight kilometres through the Technological Parc of Zamudio. Sunny conditions helped to make this celebration a real success.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)