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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, August 1, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Riccò suspended, Piepoli denies

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The tale of Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli, the two Italian cyclists on the former Saunier Duval-Scott squad who were kicked off the team during the Tour de France, continued Thursday with punishment for Riccò and a denial by Piepoli. Riccò, 24, who precipitated the entire scandal which lost the team its title sponsor when he tested positive for EPO, confessed to having taken the drug and received a suspension Thursday from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

Piepoli, 36 years old, who had not tested positive but, as the room-mate of Riccò during the Tour, was sacked by his team for violating the code of ethics "denied everything" after being questioned by CONI.

Both riders were part of a hugely successful first week of the Tour de France for Saunier Duval-Scott. Riccò won stage six in Super Besse, stage nine, and wore the jersey of best young rider for four days before his positive was announced.

Piepoli broke away on stage ten with his team-mate Juan Jose Cobo to give the team a one-two finish on the first major mountain top finish at Hautacam.

All that changed when Riccò, who reportedly tried to evade the anti-doping escort, tested positive for a next-generation EPO called Mircera – a drug which hadn't been detected in anti-doping controls until the Tour.

He initially denied doping, despite being detained by the French authorities and indicted on charges of "use of poisonous substances." But after being interviewed by CONI prosecutor Etorre Torri, Riccò took responsibility for his actions, admitting that he had taken the drug before the Tour. He refused the counter-analysis of his sample.

Riccò insisted that this was the only time he had doped, and that his results from the Giro d'Italia were achieved without drugs, a fact which will be checked by the anti-doping laboratory in Rome. The lab did not have a test for Mircera during the Giro, and intends to re-analyse the samples.

After admitting to using the drug, Riccò said he had been subjected to many doping controls during his time at the Tour de France, but that most of them came back negative, calling the effectiveness of the test into question.

As happy a Leo: Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval - Scott)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Upon firing both riders and withdrawing the entire squad from the Tour de France, team manager Mauro Gianetti said, "I have personal doubts about Piepoli: after talking with him I felt that he could not be trusted." Piepoli reportedly confessed to having "done the same as Riccardo," a statement which the team's directeur sportif later denied.

Piepoli was called as a witness in the case of Riccò, and said he denied everything when questioned by reporters after his interview with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on Thursday. "I had nothing important to say with regards the hearing. I denied everything," he said according to AFP. "I was questioned only as a witness. I said what I had to say, nothing more, nothing less."

This wasn't the first time Piepoli was taken out of competition under the team's code of ethics. In June, 2007, he tested 'non-negative' for a too-high level of asthma medication in his urine. He was suspended by his team pending the outcome of that investigation.

He was later cleared by the Monaco cycling federation after the Barcelona laboratory failed to determine if the drug was inhaled or injected, and he returned to competition.

Bossoni, Carini positive for EPO

Two Italian cyclists tested positive for EPO in June, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) announced Thursday. The first, Giovanni Carini (Pagnoncelli NGC Perrel), tested positive after winning the Elite without contract category at the Italian Championships in Boltiere. The second, Paolo Bossoni (Lampre), returned a positive the following day after the elite men's road race.

This is the second consecutive year the Italian championships have been tainted by an EPO positive. In 2007, Luca Ascani controlled positive for the blood booster and was stripped of the elite men's time trial title.

Bossoni, who placed sixth in the race which was won by the outspoken anti-doping rider Filippo Simeoni, was suspended by his Lampre team. He will not take part in the upcoming Clásica San Sebastián, and no substitution will be made for that race.

Peña cleared by CAS?

Aketza Peña was declared not guilty of doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday, according to a statement by the rider reported in Marca. The Spaniard tested positive for nandrolone at the 2007 Giro del Trentino, and was suspended from his Euskaltel-Euskadi.

He had received a two-year suspension by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) in August, 2007. His contract with Euskaltel-Euskadi was not renewed and he abandoned his cycling career.

No official communication from the CAS has been released, but the rider's statement claimed that the results were declared invalid due to "irregularities committed by the Anti-Doping Laboratory in Athens." The court also ordered the RFEC to pay Peña 3,000 Swiss francs to defray the costs of his defence.

Gusev to sue Astana, ride Olympics

Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Russian Vladimir Gusev announced Thursday that he intends to take legal action against the Astana Team which earlier this week fired him for 'irregular blood values'. The team, using the data collected by its anti-doping program manager Dr. Rasmus Damsgaard, said that Gusev's values "exceeded the normal parameters" and were "not compliant with the strict agreement signed by all the riders," but stopped short of saying that he had doped.

In a statement issued to, Gusev called the allegations "unfounded" and said he would challenge the legality of the team's actions. "This important and serious decision taken by the treasonous team against me is unexpected and not correct," he said. "Since I adhered enthusiastically to the anti-doping rules within the team to work for a new credible cycling, and know that I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs, I wonder what may be the suspect values referred to in the communiqué of the team Astana."

Gusev concluded by assuring his fans that he would compete with the Russian National Team in the Beijing Olympic Games in both the time trial and the road race.

AA Drink changes focus to 'cross, track

The Dutch AA Drink squad has pulled together its winter sports program into one team under Manager Michael Zijlaard for 2009 and dropped its support of the women's road racing team.

Former world cyclo-cross champion Richard Groenendaal will head the 'cross team along with Thijs Al, Stef Boden and Tijmen Eijsing. They will be joined by the track team of six-day riders Danny Stam and Robert Slippens, kilometer world champion Teun Mulder and former world points race champion Peter Schep.

The sports drink maker has been involved in several cycling sponsorships this season. It sponsored Groenendaal and Mulder as well as the Six Days of Rotterdam, but its main focus was on the women's squad, which was one of the world's most successful. Kirsten Wild chalked up wins in the Omloop Het Volk, a stage and second overall at the RaboSter Zeeuwsche Eilanden, three second place finishes in the women's Giro d'Italia and a podium at the women's Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

The new formation will continue supporting the 'cross and track programs with Shimano and BeOne as co-sponsors. The AA Cycling Team will begin competition on January 1, at the Grand Prix Sven Nys in Baal, Belgium, and on January 2 at the Six Days of Rotterdam. The season will be Groenendaal's last as an active racer, and he will continue with the squad as a director after his retirement from competition. In that position he will focus on the development and training of young cyclo-cross talent.

Transfer news

Luis Leon renews with Caisse d'Epargne

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Luis Leon Sánchez, a winner of a stage in this year's Tour de France, has renewed with the Caisse d'Epargne team for two more years, through 2010. The winner of the stage to Aurillac as well as the final Paris-Nice stage had been in negotiations with the squad for weeks, and reached an agreement this week. "We have reached a satisfactory contractual agreement for all of us, both in the sporting and economic aspects; something that we have been trying to close in the last month, but now has been culminated with a contract for two years," he said.

Sánchez became the Spanish time trial champion in Talavera de la Reina in June, besting two veterans specialists Rubén Plaza (Benfica) and his team-mate, José Iván Gutiérrez. The 24-year-old said that this win in particular was important in the lead-up to the Tour de France. "It was something very special for me because I had long been looking for this victory. Additionally, it arrived at a very good moment, just before the Tour. It validated my participation and gave me moral support – showed that I was ready and willing," he told Cyclingnews from his home in Mula (Murcia).

He arrived to Brest on July 5th with the singular task of supporting the Caisse d'Epargne team leaders, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro, but he did not have to sacrifice a taste of victory. "The Tour de France is my proving ground, my favourite race, but the team had a unique and very ambitious goal: to win the race or climb onto the podium."

He worked to be near Valverde and Pereiro to protect them at all times, but the team lost Pereiro to a crash on stage 15. "The fall of Pereiro affected us deeply, especially me, because I had to wait for him," he said. "But that happened after achieving my first victory in the Tour. Afterward I was in the breakaway on the stage which passed over the Col d'Aspin, but Riccò was a very strong, as you remember, but ...," he did not comment on the subsequent doping positive of the Italian.

"We also worked very hard in the finish at Super Besse, and something similar also happened," he said of Riccò's win on that day. "It is unfortunate that these matters continue to cloud the sport." While the team enjoyed its successes before the mountains, the second half was "unlucky" for the squad, Sánchez said. But he concluded that he is satisfied with his performance at the Tour, and has hopes for the future.

"It is clear that my performance in the high mountains is something I will have to revisit, but I'm not going to obsess about how I will go in the future or if I will be able to contend for the general classification. I prefer to go day by day, and right now, what counts is that I have finished this season after the Tour and need a rest [I still do not know where to go on vacation], because I started the season back in January at the Tour Down Under."

Baliani extends with CSF

Italian Fortunato Baliana extended his contract with the CSF Group Navigare squad through 2009. The 34-year-old, who finished 12th the Giro d'Italia and took home the Trofeo Fuga Cevélo of most aggressive rider as well as the intermediate sprint classification said he had contact with other teams, but decided to stay with CSF Group-Navigare for one more season.

"I hope to stay also in 2010," he said. "There is already a verbal agreement with Bruno. I feel very good in this team; I have my race schedule and I have my spaces to try to win a race. We are a solid group and I hope to end my career here."

Redant remains with Lotto

Directeur sportif Hendrik Redant extended his contract with the Silence-Lotto cycling team for three years. The Belgian, who guided the team to a second place in the Tour de France with Cadel Evans for two consecutive years reportedly was in contract negotiations with new Russian team Katusha, but decided to stay with his Belgian team.

Stevens partners for Deutschland Tour

Two days after the presentation of Garmin as a new main sponsor, the Deutschland Tour introduced another partner for the leader's jersey, the bicycle manufacturer Stevens. Last year, following the doping scandals of the Tour de France, the jersey displayed only the anti-doping slogan "Bleib sauber" (live clean).

"With Stevens, we have one of the most popular national cycling manufacturers as a partner," said Kai Rapp, managing director of the German Tour.

The Deutschland Tour begins August 29.

Midwest Cycling Series expands in 2008

The Wisconsin Cycling Series, which spanned a two-day weekend in 2008, is expanding in 2009 into a multi-day format of professionally-produced, high energy cycling events, as the result of a new joint venture between two seasoned Milwaukee-area cyclists and multi-sport event promoters.

The Wisconsin Cycling Series, which this year consisted of the Giro d'Grafton and the Harbor Centre Family Day and Bike Race in Sheboygan will be changing its name to the Midwest Cycling Series to allow for additional events outside of Wisconsin in 2009.

The series will be promoted by Lucky Town Events, a partnership between Team Sports President Tom Schuler and Bill Ochowicz, former President of Nova Cycle Sports Foundation. "Tom and I are tapping our passion and knowledge to create races that are well organized, high-energy, safe and family-friendly," said Ochowicz. "Our cycling events will benefit the riders, spectators, host communities and sponsors."

"We want to build events that become some of the country's most respected and anticipated each season... huge purses, coveted primes... just an absolute blast for everyone in attendance," he concluded.

Additional details of the Midwest Cycling Series expansion complete with schedule as well as new cycling events in 2009 from Lucky Town Events will be forthcoming.

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