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Latest Cycling News for November 13, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Rasmussen's deceit in detail

A member of the Vogelzang Committee presents the findings
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Michael Rasmussen deliberately misled the UCI regarding his whereabouts prior to the Tour de France, and should not have been allowed to start the Tour, an independent inquiry decided. The 48 page report compiled by the independent Vogelzang Committee set up by Rabobank was released on Monday, and in part two of a two part series Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer breaks down the facts.

(Part two continues from Rasmussen's deceit in detail - part one.)

The Rabobank Team

Michael Rasmussen was not the only one at fault, the Vogelzang committee found. Both Team Rabobank and the UCI came in for their share of attention in the report. The team has an elaborate structure, with a Supervisory Board, which oversees the Board of Directors. The Chairman of the Board, usually referred to as the team manager, was Theo de Rooij up until the end of July 2007.

The team has equally elaborate rules affecting different issues, as well as a "disaster scenario," which details who is to notify whom and at what point "in the event of a disaster. The plan focuses on, among other things, riders who become seriously compromised," such as through a positive doping control.

The team and the sponsor have a very strict doping policy: "an absolute zero tolerance policy ... This policy is an absolute condition, as well as an absolute commitment on the part of Rabobank and Rabo Wielerploegen B.V. to achieving the sport's objective of fostering a responsible and drug-free sports environment."

Such a statement is usually followed by a "however" clause, and this one is no exception, as the committee found, "the team management was insufficiently aware of the significance of the whereabouts policy." In addition, "the UCI, upon the implementation of the whereabouts policy, indirectly gave the impression that it did not take the policy particularly seriously. The committee further noted that the Rabobank riders, partly as a result of the UCI's relaxed attitude, were insufficiently aware of the necessity to provide very specific whereabouts information."

Much of the committee's report on the team deals with the question of who told who what and when, at various points. It faults the Board of Directors for allowing Rasmussen to start the Tour de France despite evidence of missed tests, saying the board "based its actions entirely on the response from the UCI that Rasmussen would be allowed to start and in doing so failed to calculate the reputation of Rabobank as sponsor and a cycling team in its deliberations regarding whether Rasmussen should be allowed to start in the Tour."

According to the report, "The Board of Directors consequently incorrectly failed to investigate the facts prior to the Tour and neglected its duty to inform the Supervisory Board regarding any of the facts. It is the opinion of the committee that this constitutes negligence both vis-à-vis the Board of Directors' own responsibility and vis-à-vis Rabobank's interests.

Read the rest of part two of Rasmussen's deceit in detail, continued from part one.

Rabobank reactions

By Susan Westemeyer

Rabobank Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink said he does not feel that he did anything wrong in his dealings with Michael Rasmussen this summer. An independent committee yesterday released a report criticizing the Danish rider, the team and the UCI, concluding that he should never have been allowed to start the Tour de France.

The report stated that Breukink knew that Rasmussen was not in Mexico on June 6, as he noted to the UCI, but was in Italy – the two met in Bergamo on that date. The Dutchman claimed that he did not know that Rasmussen had said in his whereabouts report that he was in Mexico. "I stand by that," he told Sportwereld.be. "It looks like I am involved, but that is not so. You can blame me for making a mistake, but June 6 didn't stick in my head. I don't feel bad."

He told Telesport.nl that "I was in no way involved in his 'whereabouts.' He is responsible for that, not me."

The Team Rabobank Board of Directors said that it has "taken notice" of the report and "is convinced lessons can be learned from this report," but wants to thoroughly study the report before commenting on it. However, on the team's website, the Board emphasized that it "wants to make clear that no member of the Board of Directors has wilfully given his assistance to the wrong and late reporting by Michael Rasmussen of his whereabouts to the UCI. On top of that, no member of the Board of Directors has had the knowledge that Rasmussen had not been in Mexico in the preparatory phase towards the Tour de France. Private matters that supposedly are at the bottom of this wrong and late reporting to the UCI have never before been known by the Board of Directors."

Bettini will make 2008 debut in California

Paolo Bettini racing in Milano
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini will make his 2008 season debut at the Tour of California, slated for February 17 to 24. The 33 year-old Italian of Quick.Step-Innergetic won a stage in 2007 edition of the USA race.

"The only thing that is certain is that I will debut in the Tour of California," said Bettini of his 2008 season in an interview with Ciro Scognamiglio of La Gazzetta dello Sport. Last year, he started his season in the GP Donoratico. "I am leaving the door open for GP Donoratico [February 2]."

He is uncertain if he will race the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France. "We will see. If I am thinking of the Olympics then the Tour comes to mind, if the Worlds then [I will race] the Giro. I need to give this some good consideration."

Bettini just wrapped up a four-day track event – Bikes4Show – in Milan with racing partner Marco Villa, and he is now looking forward to a vacation in the Maldive Islands.

The Vuelta includes the Angliru

By Monika Prell

The General Sport director of Asturias, Misael Fernández Porrón, has revealed that the Alto de l'Angliru will be part of the 2008 Vuelta a España. During an exhibition in Mieres, Spain, the Spaniard also indicated that Fuentes de Invierno would host as mountain top finish in the three-week Spanish race slated to run August 30 to September 21. Race organizer Unipublic will officially announce the entire route on December 5.

"This is a decision of the government of the principality [of Asturias] in consultation with the town mayor of Aller," affirmed Fernández Porrón, according to as.com. "We think that it's a very interesting way to show the ski region of Fuentes de Invierno in the Spanish and international media."

The fact that a stage of the Vuelta finishes in Fuentes de Invierno is "a way to make publicity, and will generate an economical activity for the zone," noted Fernández Porrón.

The 12.55-kilometre climb to Angliru last featured in the 2002 Vuelta, and is renowned for its stiff gradients – there is a sector of 23.6 percent in the final three kilometres. Spaniard Roberto Heras won five years ago, and before him it was Italian Gilberto Simoni (2000) and the late José Maria Jiménez (1999).

Franzoi crosses from Lampre to Liquigas

By Susan Westemeyer

Franzoi signs with Liquigas.
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Enrico Franzoi has switched from one Italian ProTour team to another for 2008, leaving Lampre-Fondital for Liquigas. Lampre was said to be unhappy that he continued to ride cyclo-cross in the off-season, according to sporza.be. 25 year-old Italian signed a two year contract.

Franzoi has been the Italian national cyclo-cross champion since the 2004-2005 season, and was the U19 and U23 national champion from 1999-2000 through 2003-2004. He was World U23 Champion in 2002-2003, and is a favourite for the upcoming World Championships in January.

Franzoi was impressive on the 'road' this year as well, helping Lampre captain Alessandro Ballan win the Ronde van Vlaanderen. In that race, he was in part of a three-man escape group which stayed in the lead for some 220 kilometres. (Read Going the distance.) Shortly thereafter, he was in an escape group in Paris-Roubaix. Stuart O'Grady attacked out of what had once been a 30-man strong group, including Franzoi, who finished eighth.

Di Luca's case unlikely to be appealed to CAS

The likelihood of Danilo Di Luca appealing the three-month suspension of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is doubtful. CONI made its ruling in the 2004 Oil for Drugs case on October 16 due based on the Italian's relations with previously sanctioned Doctor Carlo Santuccione.

"There is a basis for appealing," noted Di Luca's lawyer, Federico Cecconi, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "There was no resolution for why Santuccione was able to take a new sports medicine license after his sanction [1995 to 2000 - ed.]. There is however a risk that a decision from CAS would come after the suspension period has passed; therefore it would be without benefit."

Di Luca will likely make the final decision on whether or not to appeal after he returns from his vacation, in one week.

Piil doing what he can

By Katharina Schulz

Danish veteran Jakob Piil definitely hasn't had the best of seasons this year – most of it was marred by the trouble his right knee has been giving him. After a successful operation in July, the 34 year-old still hasn't been able to return to top form because the knee continues to give him pain during training. Subsequently, Team T-Mobile decided not to renew his contract for next season.

Piil is not willing to give up just yet, but the decision depends on how his knee develops. "I haven't taken a final decision yet. But now I'm going to decide within the next 14 days whether to carry on or end my career," he told Danish TV2 Sporten.

He is still doing all he can to put his career back on track, but his body is not fully cooperating. "I'm still training, but my knee still isn't perfect," Piil noted.

Serramenti Diquigiovanni-Androni

Bertolini winning for the team
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Mario Androni will return to the sport of cycling as a co-sponsor of Gianni Savio's Italian Professional Continental Team. Androni Giocattoli ('Androni Toys') will replace Selle Italia for the coming 2008 season, which will also see two-time Giro d'Italia champion Gilberto Simoni amongst those on the team's roster.

The Italian manufacturer of saddles, Selle Italia, will remain onboard as a technical sponsor. Guerciotti and Santini will continue to sponsor the team with bikes and clothing, respectively. (See our EICMA section for more on Guerciotti frames for 2008.)

This year the team was very successful with 32 wins, including the Giro dell'Appennino, Coppa Agostoni, Giro del Veneto, Trofeo Melinda, Coppa Placci and the final classification of the Coppa Italia and UCI Europe Tour, both won by Alessandro Bertolini.

Sixteen riders will form the 2008 team: Italians Gilberto Simoni, Alessandro Bertolini, Santo Anzà, Denis Bertolini, Emiliano Donadello, Gabriele Missaglia, Leonardo Moser, Manuel Belletti and Francesco Ginanni, Colombian José Serpa, Swede Niklas Axelsson, Moldavian Ruslan Ivanov and Venezuelans Carlos José Ochoa, Richard Ochoa, Jesus Perez and Jakson Rodriguez.

Hunter to help out Homeless Talk

Robert Hunter will join his Barloworld team-mates in South Africa for the Pick 'n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge while helping to raise money for the Homeless Talk Preschool. The mass-participation event takes place in Hunter's home country on November 18.

Barloworld's Hunter, Mauricio Soler, Paolo Longo Borghini and James Perry are not racing to win but to give something back to society through the sport they love. They are riding for the Homeless Talk Preschool, the official Pick 'n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge charity. All cyclists are welcome to join the Hunter bunch at a cost of R1 800 (€81) per entry. All the money raised will go to the school.

More than 50 people have already entered to ride with the Barloworld boys. Entries will remain open right up to race day.

"It is important for me to give something back and I always enjoy cycling with the fun riders and listening to their perspectives on the sport," said the winner of this year Tour de France stage to Montpellier. "The Cycle Challenge is definitely one of my highlights on the local cycling calendar."

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