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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, March 31, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

2007 Giro d'Italia: Schleck can't ask for more

Di Luca's win in limbo

Italian Danilo Di Luca (l) and Luxemburger Andy Schleck side by side in the 2007 Giro d'Italia – Di Luca could lose his pink jersey from last year's event if CONI has its way
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Italian Danilo Di Luca will be lining up for the Settimana Lombarda tomorrow, the same day as an expert panel assembled by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) will review documents prepared by its anti-doping prosecutors. Di Luca faces a maximum two-year suspension and loss of the 2007 Giro d'Italia title based on adverse anti-doping controls found following the race's Zoncolan stage. Runner-up in the Grand Tour, Luxemburger Andy Schleck, has stated that he is happy with his placing and "cannot expect more".

Schleck, 22 years old, raced side-by-side with Di Luca during the Tirreno-Adriatico two weeks ago, the same competitor he faced in last year's Italian tour. Although he could not topple 'The Killer' in the three-week Giro, he finished only 1'55" back and took home the maglia bianca for best young rider.

"I have read what they are saying on Cyclingnews. Of course, if he is banned and [CONI] takes the pink jersey from him, then I win, but that is not the way I want to," Schleck said to Cyclingnews.

It was the first Grand Tour for Schleck, younger brother of Fränk Schleck. "I am happy with what I got: the young rider jersey in my first Giro. Also, for a lot of people I was the heart-felt winner because I was new and it was unexpected. I cannot expect more."

He indicated that he fell in love with Italy during the race and would like to return and win the race some day; however, Schleck will forgo the Giro this year and will line-up with CSC in the Tour de France. He is currently building his form for the Ardennes Classics.

The expert panel, Giudice di Ultima Istanza (GUI), will convene at 10:00 in Roma; it is made up of Prof. Vincenzo Toscano, Università La Sapienza Roma, Prof. Riccardo Lubrano Università La Sapienza Roma, Prof. Romolo Dorizzi Università di Verona and Prof. Alfredo Pontecorvi Università Cattolica Agostino Gemelli Roma.

Evans on target with Coppi e Bartali win

Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), 32, after winning stage three of the Coppi e Bartali: "2008 could be my year"
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"'He does not give a show, he does not attack,' whoever says this does not understand anything about cycling," said Cadel Evans after winning the 8th Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. The 31 year-old Australian of Silence-Lotto, second in the 2007 Tour de France, conquered the Italian five-day race on stage three with his efforts on the Scandiano to Pavullo.

"2008 could be my year," he continued in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. Over the winter, the Belgian team signed Yaroslav Popovych to add to Evan's key domestiques of Dario Cioni and Mario Aerts, and this could help turn his placings in to spectacular wins. Last year, in addition to second in the Tour, he placed fourth in the Vuelta a España, fifth at the World Championships and first in the ProTour rankings.

"In the past I have been beaten by cheats. Landis, Vinokourov... I know that it could happen again, but I will never search for a short cut." Evans has been edging closer and closer to the top step of the Paris podium: eighth in 2005, fourth in 2006 and 23 seconds back on Alberto Contador in 2007.

Even if he does not take the overall win this year the Australian who got his start in 2001 with Saeco and Mapei reckons that he has a few more years to take the Tour's maillot jaune. "I am 31 years old and I can do at least four or five more Tours at the top level. I want to win at least one."

His 2008 palmarès indicate he is on the right track: a stage win in the Ruta del Sol and a stage and overall in Coppi e Bartali. "Everything I am doing is considered training," he continued of his Tour objective. "In May I will back off: no Giro. In June I will do the Dauphiné Libéré. Then the two season targets: the Tour in July and the Olympics in August. The Worlds will be in September, but I am also able to wait because the next three Worlds will be run on home roads: 2008 in Varese, 2009 in Mendrisio and 2010 in Australia. I already have seven world medals, but not one gold." Evans is married to an Italian from Varese, Chiara, and the couple live in Stabio (Ticino), Switzerland.

UCI reacts to WADA's passport programme dismissal

By Shane Stokes in Manchester

UCI President Pat McQuaid reacts to WADA's passport programme dismissal
Photo ©: Nick Rosenthal
(Click for larger image)

If the International Cycling Union (UCI) wasn't already busy enough with its ongoing feud with the Grand Tour organisers, it was announced on Thursday that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was pulling out of the biological passport programme. This was in response to the UCI's action against former WADA president Richard Pound, who was critical of former UCI President Hein Verbruggen.

"That is an old matter, something that has being going on for a long time," said UCI President Pat McQuaid to Cyclingnews on Wednesday. "It came out in the press during the week. But it is an existing thing that has been going on for a while. We have always felt that he [Pound] was very unfair in its treatment of the UCI and in his treatment of what the UCI was actually doing. He made statements about what the UCI was doing in the fight against doping which were completely untrue."

Many are asking what the UCI can achieve with its legal action. During his time as president, Hein Verbruggen played down any suggestions of a serious doping problem in cycling. This was something which was shown not to be the case when the Festina Affair and other scandals unfolded. What's more, relations improved with Pound prior to the end of his tenure at the top of WADA. McQuaid concedes that things were different in recent months, but argues that the UCI has to protect its name and reputation.

"From my point of view as president, his attitude has changed," he stated. "He did change a little bit and wasn't quite so critical of the UCI in terms of what we are trying to bring forward with a biological passport and things like that. But that doesn't take away from the things he said about the UCI in the past. It needs to go on record that the UCI never neglected its duty in terms of the fight against doping."

The Irishman stated that WADA's contribution to the biological passport was relatively minor, an estimated $200,000 USD (€126,600) out of the €5 million budget. He said that the programme will continue, although there will be some reduction as a result.

"The money they were putting in was in the form of manpower because they were paying the salary of one person who was working on the team. Now we will be working with one person less, but we will continue on."

Those involved with the sport will hope that this is not the last word on the matter, that bridges can somehow be rebuilt between the UCI and WADA. McQuaid believes the move to be a knee-jerk reaction and so the hope is that time will mend the gulf that has opened up.

Liberty Seguros not allowed to participate in GP Indurain

The Gran Premio Miguel Indurain, April 5, will open the "Basque Week" next week, which includes – besides this race – the Vuelta al País Vasco, April 7 to 12, and the Klasika Primavera, April 13; however, one team was not granted permission to race: Liberty Seguros.

As the first race will be held in Navarra, the organisers wanted the participation of the Portuguese team Liberty Seguros, which has in its ranks two riders from the same province, Koldo Gil and Pablo Urtasun. The team also wanted to take part as it was present in yesterday's GP Llodio, where one of its riders, Hector Guerra Garcia, was victorious.

However, a decision of the International Cycling Union (UCI) has annulled the plan. Its rules state that foreign Continental teams – like Liberty Seguros – are not allowed to participate in races ranked hors catégorie (HC). (This was similar to the difficulties that Rock Racing faced entering the Milano-Sanremo - ed.) According to Noticias de Navarra, the race organiser Club Ciclista Estella knew this and sent a petition twice to the UCI asking for an exception; it is the standard way to grant permission to a continental team like Liberty Seguros.

The UCI dismissed these petitions without giving any explanation. A possible reason could be that it wants to punish Gil, who is suspected to be involved in the Operación Puerto investigation. Unfortunately, the decision not only punishes the rider, but the team, the organisers and the public.

Successful weekend for the Becker sisters

Charlotte and Christine Becker put in a successful weekend, with younger sister Charlotte winning a bronze medal in the Track World Championships in Manchester, while Christine finished second in two road races. The sisters ride for Equipe Nürnberger.

Charlotte, 24, won third place in the team pursuit in Manchester, with German team-mates Verena Jooss and Alexandra Sontheimer. She finished 16th in the points race. "Unfortunately, I didn't make the Olympic qualification with the points race," she commented. "But I am really very happy with the bronze medal, because it was my first medal in a big World Championships."

Christine, 31, finished second in both a race in Laarne, Belgium, on Saturday, and in Köln-Schuld-Frechen on Sunday. She was the only one from the Equipe in both races. "Those were two damn hard days," she said. "I was completely alone and had to go with every attack up to the finale. My form is getting better and better. These placings give me confidence for the next races."

Museeuw misses cycling "family"

Johan Museeuw confessed in January 2007 to not having been "100 per cent honest" during the final year of his cycling career, and resigned from his job as public relations officer for Team Quick Step. While he did not specify what he meant, it was generally interpreted as an admission of doping use. Now, he says, "I have lost friends through this affair".

In an interview on Sunday with Belgian Radio 2, he said, "In the long run, I no longer saw what was right or wrong. You think that if you are the king of cycling, no one can touch you. Stupid, but that's the way it is."

According to sporza.be, he added that, "With Patrick Lefevere and Wilfried Peeters I shared 15 years of joy and sadness, but now the contact is gone." That makes him sad. "That Lefevere and Peeters distance themselves professionally, I find that okay. But in my eyes, friendship continues forever. I shared a room with Wilfried for 15 years. You can say anything to each other, he was like a brother. And Lefevere was a second father to me. We telephoned almost every day."

He concluded, "I have problems with that. I do not really understand that there is not more contact, although I know that they are under pressure."

(Additional editorial research and assistance provided by Monika Prell and Susan Westemeyer.)

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