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Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for October 17, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

ProTour: Vinokourov decision could prolong the suspense

By Shane Stokes

Vinokourov in Albi TT
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The possibility of a ProTour series victory by Cadel Evans increased on Tuesday due to the news that current leader Danilo Di Luca had been suspended for three months due to his links with controversial Italian doctor Carlos Santuccione, but it's possible that the final outcome of the season-long contest may not be known for several months.

Evans is currently 15 points behind Di Luca and needs to finish sixth or better in Saturday's Giro di Lombardia in order to end the year with a higher points total. However the current doping investigation into Alexandre Vinokourov may also play a part, due to the fact that Evans finished second behind the Astana rider in the stage 13 time trial at the Tour de France.

Vinokourov took ten ProTour points for the victory but stands to lose these if he is found guilty on the charge of homologous blood doping. He was tested after his time trial success and ejected from the race when those results came back positive. Evans told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that this made the current situation less than straightforward.

"The ProTour is certainly a target. I think to win it is prestigious, to come second isn't a big deal, it seems," he said. "But it is also a bit complicated. For example, take the points from the Albi time trial stage – do I get them or not? Things like that make it a bit strange."

UCI ProTour manager Alain Rumpf confirmed to Cyclingnews on Wednesday that the result may be revised and thus play a part. "If Vinokourov is disqualified from the Tour de France, Cadel will be declared the winner of the Albi time trial and get an additional five UCI ProTour points. However, we have to wait until the procedure against him is over to have a confirmation of the above."

Evans finished second in Albi
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In the event that Evans does receive five extra points, seventh in Lombardia would see him ultimately finish with a five-point advantage over Di Luca. Given that Vinokourov's disciplinary process is likely to take at least several months, it makes it theoretically possible that the winner of the 2007 ProTour would not be known until some point next year, echoing the delay which existed in determining the winner of the 2006 Tour de France.

A tie between Di Luca and Evans is possible and in this situation, Rumpf said that a count back system would be used to determine who the winner is. "In the case of a tie in the final classification, the rider with the greatest number of first places, second places et cetera on the classification of the races of the current year, whichever his placing, shall take precedence. The riders are first separated by first places and then it only goes to second places if there is still a tie."

In this case, the ProTour victory would go to Di Luca due to his wins in 2007. He triumphed in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and then took two stage victories plus the overall classification in the Giro d'Italia. Evans' points have been achieved through a number of high placings, including second in the Tour de France and Dauphiné Libéré, plus fourth in the Vuelta a España. He hasn't taken a ProTour victory, although he could gain one if Vinokourov is ultimately removed as the winner in Albi. Evans will be consequently aiming for a win or high placing on Saturday in order to remove any doubts.

Could Di Luca be disqualified?

However, as reported yesterday, the UCI will this week study the reason for Di Luca's suspension and this may further affect the situation. "We are currently investigating the consequences of today's decision of the CONI on Di Luca's status in the 2007 UCI ProTour rankings," said Rumpf on Tuesday. "As we have not yet received the official decision of CONI, we do not expect to come to a conclusion before tomorrow [Wednesday]."

Di Luca's links to Santuccione relate to previous seasons, so it is unknown if this could impact on his ProTour lead. However, it is believed that CONI studied the results of his anti-doping results at this year's Giro d'Italia. The Liquigas rider was one of those named in June as returning abnormally low hormone values after the stage to Monte Zoncolan on May 30.

Di Luca responds to sentencing

Danilo Di Luca at GP Cimurri
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Danilo Di Luca was suspended for three months yesterday for his involvement in the 2004 Oil for Drugs case. The winner of this year's Giro d'Italia is prohibited from competing until January 17, however he assured that he will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and that the case is not about doping.

"There will be no Giro di Lombardia for me, there is not time to appeal to CAS," the 31 year-old from Abruzzo said to La Gazzetta dello Sport following yesterday's hearing in Rome. "I am very disappointed, yes. However, I believe that no one can place doubt on my success at the Giro d'Italia. ... Doping does not figure; I have not doped, and I won thanks to the natural characteristics given to me by my mother. I will continue to win. ... It is completely absurd; I don't have to pay for anything, not even one day."

Due to the hearings in Rome, Di Luca was unable to attend the funeral of Vito Taccone, who passed away on Monday. "However, I will go and leave a maglia rosa [from the Giro d'Italia] on his grave – we were very close," he continued. Taccone, winner of four stages in a row in the 1963 Giro and the 1961 Giro di Lombardia, was from the same region as Di Luca.

Di Luca was assured of his spot in the Italian Team Liquigas through the end of 2007. "This is not about doping; this is important. I have just talked with the president of Liquigas, Paolo Dal Lago... They have assured me my salary through December 31 – if it was doping it would be another story."

The Oil for Drugs case started during the 2004 Giro, when Di Luca rode for Saeco. May 26, Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) raided several teams' hotels, however its search of riders who were allegedly linked with Doctor Carlo Santuccione did not yield evidence. This July, Di Luca was further linked to Santuccione via documents supplied by NAS that were published in the Italian press.

Di Luca hopes to have his contract for 2008 and beyond signed in November. "Tomorrow my agent will meet with [Giuseppe] Saronni, who is awaiting a response for a second team sponsor," he continued yesterday. "I don't believe that this absurd suspension could influence the negotiations. I want to have it all determined before November 4, when I go on my vacation."

Jason McCartney signs with Team CSC

Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel) powering to victory
Photo ©: Unipublic
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American Jason McCartney has signed with Team CSC through 2009. The 34 year-old, winner of the Villacarrillo stage in this year's Vuelta a España, signed a two-year agreement with the Danish ProTour Team.

McCartney has been with Team Discovery Channel for the last three seasons, but the American outfit is ending its operations at the end of 2007. The cyclist found his new home in the team managed by Bjarne Riis.

"I've always been drawn to Team CSC's way of doing things, and everyone in the peloton is aware that it's an extremely well organized team," said McCartney via "I'm very much a team player myself, and look forward to becoming a part of Team CSC. It's a very international team and I think I'll fit in well with my future colleagues.

"As far as my role on the team goes I first of all see myself as being able to help in the stage races and at the same time maybe make some results of my own if the opportunity should come along."

"Jason's profile fits perfectly with the team," commented Riis. "He has a lot of experience as a rider and he'll be a major asset to us in the big stage races. He's already impressed with his results this year, and it's no big secret that we've had our eye on him for quite some time now. Apart from being an all-round rider he also has a personality, which would fit in really well with the rest of the team."

Fränk Schleck: Motivation running strong

Schleck at the Worlds
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Fränk Schleck demonstrated that his form is on target for the end of the season when he made the elite five-man selection at the World Championships. The 27 year-old of Team CSC is determined to push on through the end of 2007 for one of his three favourite Classics, the Giro di Lombardia. Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews spoke with the Luxemburger in Stuttgart, Germany, prior to his fourth place finish.

In 2005 Schleck helped put Luxembourg on the map when he rocketed away from all the favourites in the 2006 Amstel Gold Race while wearing his national championship jersey. By leaving riders like Bettini, Boogerd and Rebellin behind with 10 kilometres to go, he also put himself on cycling's map as a marked rider in the Classics.

That win as well as his Tour de France stage win at l'Alpe d'Huez would have been hard to top in 2007, but while Schleck has just one win this season, a stage of the Tour de Suisse, he's a strong favourite for the final race of the season, the Giro di Lombardia. Should he succeed in winning the 'race of the falling leaves', he will have bagged two of his three favourite Classics, with only Liège-Bastogne-Liège missing from his palmares.

Giro di Lombardia: Fränk's race

Schleck showed that he has the form to tackle the season finale in Lombardia this Saturday with a strong performance at Worlds, where he made the final move but just missed the podium.

"My morale is good because I have always wanted to ride a very good season finale, especially the Lombardia race," to Cyclingnews on a cool German morning as the rain beat down and the elite men were prepping for the Worlds Time Trial. Finishing the year strong is a high priority for the 27 year-old. "I like to finish my season with a good result and in good shape so I can really enjoy my winter. It is a lot easier for me to go into the winter with a nice result instead of just finishing the season with decent shape. If I would finish with good form I will be very satisfied with myself and I can really, really enjoy my winter."

Read the full Fränk Schleck interview.

Astana update: Yates confirms but Contador unsure

By Susan Westemeyer

2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador may not be joining Team Astana after all. Manager Tony Rominger has said that signing with the Kazakh team "might damage his image."

French media sources quote Rominger as saying that "He's currently looking at other possibilities," according to "Right now he is closer to other horizons than he is to Kazakhstan." The 24 year-old Spaniard has also been linked to Rabobank and Caisse d'Epargne.

Contador himself said in the last few weeks that it is "likely" that he would sign with Astana, and he had indicated that he would like to stay with Johan Bruyneel, who was his team manager at Discovery Channel and who will take over next season at Astana. However, the comments from Rominger – a close friend of outgoing Astana team manager Marc Biver – taken together with the fact that Contador's name did not appear in the Kazakh Cycling Federation press release announcing Bruyneel's signing, cast doubts on the Spanish rider's future.

Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that Sean Yates would join Astana as a directeur sportif, a role he also filled at Discovery Channel. "Of course Astana has had some bad press," he told the BBC. "But Johan Bruyneel has never had a positive test with a team he has been involved with. And I am confident that we will not have any problems in the future."

The BBC article also states, in contrast to Rominger's statements, that Contador will join the team, as will Levi Leipheimer, who is also not confirmed. "We have a very strong team for the Tour [de France]. Not only with Alberto [Contador] but also Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden]," the Englishman continued. "On paper we are head and shoulders above the rest."

Ullrich prosecutor speaks out

By Susan Westemeyer

The German prosecutor who is investigating Jan Ullrich says he thinks things will be wrapped up by the end of the year. He does not dismiss the possibility of closing the case without filing charges against the German cyclist, but only if Ullrich confesses and cooperates.

In an interview with the Bonn General-Anzeiger, chief prosecutor Fred Apostel said that Ullrich would have to "earn" the closing. That would involve the payment of a fine, as well as a confession to having doped and his active cooperation in exposing the doping network. Ullrich's attorney had offered last March to pay a fine in exchange for closing the investigation, but "That was too little for us then and it is still too little for us today," Apostel said.

He added that he is still waiting for further documents to be delivered from Switzerland, and has not given up hope on receiving five computer hard drives from Spain.

Apostel is investigating Ullrich for fraud, but not in his role as a rider for the former Team Telekom and as an employee of Olaf-Ludwig-Cycling GmbH, but rather for his supplementary contract as a public representative for sponsor Deutsche Telekom. He indicated that he assumes that the Deutsche Telekom board of directors was unaware of doping practices in the cycling team and did not condone them.

The Bonn, Germany, prosecutors' office is also conducting investigations of Ullrich mentor Rudy Pevenage, for violating prescription medicine laws, and of Patrik Sinkewitz, for defrauding Bob Stapleton's team, which holds the team license.

Sastre, Sánchez and Edo, in Escalada a Montjuïc

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The traditional Escalada a Montjuïc, organized by the Esport Ciclista Barcelona, will return on Sunday. The hill climb race, southeast of Barcelona's city centre, was cut short last year because of construction. This year's event will feature Samuel Sánchez and Carlos Sastre.

The professionals will face a road race of 24.4 kilometres (five circuits) and a time trial of 10 kilometres.

Winner of three stages in the Vuelta a España, Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), will race with team-mate Igor Antón. Sánchez won the race in 2004 and 2005. He will face-off with Joaquím Rodríguez and Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Oscar Sevilla (Relax-GAM) and 2007 Volta a Portugal winner Xavier Tondo (MSS).

Locals Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Angel Edo (Vitória-ASC) will likely ride to the race. Edo has participated in the event 23 times, and will end his professional career with the race.

It will be the last Elite UCI-ranked race on the 2007 Spanish calendar. The race also includes events in the categories of veterans, charity, Under-23 and tandem, as well as a downhill competition.

David Veilleux signs with Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast

USA Team Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast announced that Canadian David Veilleux has joined for 2008. Jonas Carney's squad will also feature reigning junior USA Time Trial and Road Race Champion, Ben King.

"David is not well known on the NRC circuit yet, but I've been watching his results for some time and have wanted him in our program since its inception," said Performance Director Carney. "We have a long range plan for the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast program. Part of that plan is to bring the most talented young athletes into our program early and give them the best possible training and racing environment and team-mates. Bringing on riders like David Veilleux and Ben King ensures the long-term success of what we're trying to do here."

Veilleux has been a member of the Canadian national team at the World Championships for three years running, and in 2006 was both time trial and road race U23 Canadian champion. The year before in 2005, he took first place overall GC in the Tour de L'Abitibi.

"I know the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast team will suit me well because there is such a good mix of young and more experienced riders," stated Veilleux. "Next year the race calendar will be very interesting with more international races. I'm also looking forward to participating in more important UCI races in the US, and I think that even at my young age I can maybe bring something more to an already excellent team."

Also new to the 2008 roster are Andrew Bajadali and Alex Candelario, plus new sponsor Bioforce Inc., makers of MyoMed, who recently joined the team at Interbike in Las Vegas.

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