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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, February 8, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Operación Puerto case re-opened?

According to several news reports coming out of Spain, the continuation of the investigation of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the key figure of a blood doping network in Spain revealed in May 2006 and subsequently known as Operación Puerto, will be decided on today. The Provincial Court of Madrid will be ruling on the appeals made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International cycling Union (UCI), the Spanish public prosecutors representing the Spanish Superior Council for Sports and the national cycling federation RFEC amongst others, after the initial criminal investigation was shelved in March 2007.

At the time, judge Antonio Serrano decided to close the case because Spain lacked the proper legislation to pursue the accused persons (Fuentes, Jose Luis Merino, who was in charge of a laboratory in Madrid, Alberto Leon, a former pro mountain biker, Jose Ignacio Labarta, former Comunidad Valenciana assistant director, and Manolo Saiz, former manager of the Liberty Seguros team). Now, ten months later, judges of the Provincial Court in Madrid have to decide whether the case be shelved once and for all (no new appeals would be possible), or if the investigating judge has to re-open it.

Spain voted a new anti-doping law in November 2006 which criminalizes doping or doping-related activities. However, it is not retroactive and can therefore not be applied to the Puerto case, which occurred before the new legislation was passed. But the appealing parties consider that judge Serrano's investigation was not sufficient, and that the manipulation of blood bags for the cyclists' doping activities did not comply with Spanish law on blood transfusion.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Loddo wants victory in Langkawi

By Greg Johnson in Alor Setar, Malaysia

Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems), in black,
Photo ©: Greg Johnson
(Click for larger image)

Tinkoff Credit Systems rider Alberto Loddo is determined to win tomorrow's Tour de Langkawi opening stage, with the Italian entering the event as the sprinter to beat. Loddo joins a top-shelf team from the Italian Professional Continental outfit, with last year's Langkawi stage winner Pavel Brutt and strongman Nikolai Trusov also on the team.

"My condition is good, I was just in the Tour of Qatar where I won a stage so there is no pressure on me for winning my first race of the year," explained Loddo. "I will try to win stage one as I have seen that it suits me with a corner [followed by a 500 metre finishing stretch]."

Race director Alain Rushton interrupted to add that the finish of tomorrow's opening stage has had a two corners removed, meaning a corner will be followed by a 500 metre long straight. Loddo's former boss, Gianni Savio, joked in response to the news: "We asked them to change it because it was too much easy for Alberto..."

Loddo dominated last year's Langkawi race with five sprint stage victories, despite not being able to dent eventual winner Anthony Charteau's (Crédit Agricole) insurmountable lead. Frenchman Charteau broke away on the third stage, claiming himself enough of a buffer to protect him through to the event's finish.

"I've noticed that there are more sprinters here this year that will make for better sprints," added Loddo.

The Italian has enjoyed a strong season to date, after claiming his first sprint stage victory at last month's Tour of Qatar. The Italian got the better of some of the world's top sprinters, including eventual overall winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step), to claim stage four of the race in the Middle East.

Despite losing Loddo to rival Italian squad Tinkoff this season, Savio was clearly happy to see Loddo back at the race and named him as the sprinter to beat. "The most important sprinter is Alberto Loddo, who won five stages last year with our team, now is in Tinkoff, a good team," said Savio. "I think [Loddo's] the rider here who has more possibility to win."

Savio added that he expects the heavily revised parcours of this year's race, which is missing both the Genting and Cameron Highlands climbs, to produce some spectacular battles between Loddo and Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli sprinter Danilo Hondo.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Greg Johnson / Cyclingnews.com

Olympic road race "for climbers"

The Belgian national team coach, Carlo Bomans, has visited the Olympic road race parcours in China last summer, and the itinerary of the World Championships in Varese, Italy, recently. La Derničre Heure's Eric de Falleur asked the 1989 Belgian champion what he thought of the courses.

"The circuit of Varese is very nervous," Bomans detailed. "It twists and turns, goes up and down all the time. It's not an easy course, even if I think it might be a bit easier than Stuttgart last year. But you can't really compare the two, as the two climbs are different [Montello climb: 1150m, 6.5 percent, Ronchi climb: 3130m, 4.5 percent - ed.]. The finish doe not come after a descent this time- After the last climb, there's a long false flat. The finish will be in a hippodrome; the entrance is very narrow and this could even be dangerous."

As to the Olympic road race parcours, Bomans said that he thought it was "the most difficult that has ever been laid out for this sort of race. The circuit is terribly difficult, and the favourites will be people like Valverde, Bettini, Di Luca, Menchov, the Schleck brothers, Contador or Evans. I found the course too hard, even. A complete rider will not be on top of it – you have to be a climber, it will be a real race of attrition.

"After a flat part of 80 kilometres coming from the centre of Beijing, there will be six laps of 22 km each. The circuit has one climb of about ten kilometres, then there's a descent of about the same length. The climb is a real mountain, between 6 an 8 percent average gradient. It's like the Poggio, but four times longer and to be climbed six times!"

Vanhuffel and Suray hit the pavement

By Susan Westemeyer

Wim Vanhuffel of Silence-Lotto and Gil Suray of Cycle Collstrop crashed in Thursday's second stage of the Etoile de Bessčges stage race in Southern France, resulting in injuries to both of them. Vanhuffel was able to finish the stage, but examinations showed that he had a badly sprained left wrist. Suray, 23, was taken to the hospital in Alčs, where he was treated for heavily bleeding cuts on his face and head. "He must remain there for one night," team manager Hilaire Van der Schueren told Sportwereld, "But fortunately there is no fracture."

Barloworld happy after Intaka Challenge

Robert Hunter (Team Barloworld) sprints to a win in Race 3
Photo ©: Barloworld
(Click for larger image)

The Intaka Tech World's View Challenge, a series of five Cat. 1.1. one-day races in South Africa, finished yesterday, February 7. The Challenge was dominated by 'local' team Barloworld and Italian squad Liquigas: South African rider Robert Hunter scored two wins, with the remaining three going to Liquigas' Manuel Quinziato (two victories) and Leonardo Bertagnolli.

Moreover, Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti was happy to see Christian Pfannberger coming in third on the final day of the Challenge, which featured category one, two and three climbs. "Today was a really good result for Pfannberger and the team," Corti said. "The team has consistently been performing well over the five days with two wins, one third and both a King of the Mountains and Points Jersey win."

The results have to be rated high as competition in South Africa was fierce, according to Corti. "The South African races are always good and some of the South African teams have been very strong this week. This race has been a great opportunity for the new Team Barloworld riders to really become integrated in the team. I am pleased with the team's performance and see this as a good sign for the season ahead," he added.

Italian teams to GP Costa degli Etruschi

More teams have announced their line-ups for the Italian pro cycling season opener GP Costa degli Etruschi in Donoratico, Italy. ProTour team Liquigas will count on Francesco Chicchi and Murilo Fischer in the race often decided upon in a bunch sprint. Helping Chicchi and Fischer will be Valerio Agnoli, Maciej Bodnar, Alberto Curtolo, Aleksandr Kuschynski, Roberto Petito and Frederik Willems.

Continental team Nippo-Endeka-Prato Edile has been on the Etruscan coast for a few days to prepare the race. The team has designated Simone Cadamuro as leader for the race, even though the rider has been feeling a light pain in his left knee lately. "It seems to get better, though," said directeur sportif Fabrizio Fabbri. "We will have to see how the knee reacts during the race, but Cadamuro appears optimistic. We will miss Mariusz Wiesiak, who should have been the last lead-out man for Cadamuro. But he is in a pre-Olympic training camp with his polish national team."

Fabbri thus selected the following riders to accompany Cadamuro in the GP Costa degli Etruschi: Domenico Agosta, Massimo Gabbrielleschi Gabielleschi, Marino Palandri, Devis Miorin, Eddy Ratti, Yoshiyuki Shimizu and Pierpaolo Tondo.

Another Italian Continental team, Cinelli-OPD, will be lining up the following roster: Fabio Ciccarese, Gianluca Cavalli, Alfonso Falzarano, Ivan Fanelli, Jesús Perez, Alexey Shchebelin, Manuele Spadi and Bálint Szeghalmi. But its Venezuelan rider, Perez, also suffers from a painful knee. "This forced him to skip two training days," said team's directeur sportif Roberto Pelliconi. "Now, the situation seems under control. But we hope that these two forced rest days will not have any side-effects."

Hiekmann retires

By Susan Westemeyer

German Torsten Hiekmann has retired from pro cycling. The 27 year-old turned pro in 2001 with Team Telekom, and rode for Team Gerolsteiner in 2006 and 2007. "I had already decided to stop with cycling as of the end of last year," he told radsport-aktiv.

Hiekmann was not offered a new contract with Gerolsteiner for this season, and he decided at that time not to look for another team. "I couldn't find a solution for myself for the very obvious problems [doping in cycling - ed.] and don't see a future for myself. I did my best for years and trained hard, and brought in a win or two. But it was hard to do anything against certain riders – everyone knows who I mean."

In addition to concentrating on his family, the Berliner wants to stay associated with cycling. He obtained a "B" trainer license and took classes as a nutrition advisor.

Hiekmann won the final stage in the Regio Tour in 2006 and the GP Schwarzwald in 2003. In 1997, he was the U19 time trial world champion.

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