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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, May 6, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Petacchi suspended for one year

By Susan Westemeyer

Italy's Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), 34, faces a one year suspension for excessive use of Salbutamol, an asthma drug
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced this morning that Italian Alessandro Petacchi would be suspended for one year for having tested positive for an asthma medication during the 2007 Giro d'Italia. It ruled that the Team Milram sprinter did not use the Salbutamol – an asthma drug – as doping but for medicinal purposes. Since the sprinter did not race for two months after the positive test on May 23, 2007, those two months were removed from his ban. The ban will run from November 1, 2007 to August 31, 2008.

The 34 year-old had an Abbreviated Therapeutic Use Exemption (ATUE) for Salbutamol, which allowed him to use three doses of 200mg per day. On May 23 of last year, after winning the Giro d'Italia's stage to Pinerolo, he underwent a doping control which showed that he had Salbutamol in a concentration of 1352 ng/ml, above the allowed limit of 1000 ng/ml. The disciplinary committee of the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) on July 24 ruled that this was not a violation of anti-doping rules and refused to sanction him. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) appealed that decision to the CAS.

The CAS found that Petacchi "failed to show that the Salbutamol concentration ... was the consequence of him inhaling Salbutamol in accordance with his ATUE". However, it also found that although the finding was caused by Petacchi taking too much of the medication, it "was not taken with the intention of enhancing his performance".

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"Considering that the athlete bears no significant fault or negligence, the CAS panel has fixed the period of his ineligibility to one year," announced CAS. In addition to the suspension, all of his results from the 2007 Giro d'Italia are to be disqualified and he is to return any medals, points and prizes won during the Giro. Petacchi won three stages, including the stage to Pinerolo. "[Petacchi can] retain all other competitive results between 23 May 2007 and 31 October 2007," said CAS.

The sprinter's future remains unclear, with Milram spokesman Stephan Flock telling Cyclingnews that the team would not have a comment at this time. "First we must see the written decision," said Flock. "After that, there will be a meeting at the highest level, including team manager Gerry van Gerwen and Martin Mischel, head of marketing for sponsor Nordmilch. When a decision is made, then we will release a statement, as quickly as possible."

Petacchi is currently suffering from a severe case of bronchitis, which kept him out of this year's Giro d'Italia squad for Milram. His last race was the Presidential Tour of Turkey, April 13 to 20, where he won two stages.

Vila positive for testosterone

By Monika Prell and Gregor Brown

Spaniard Patxi Vila (Lampre) has requested counter-analysis for a positive out of competition testosterone control
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Spain's Patxi Vila has tested non-negative for testosterone according to the International Cycling Union (UCI). The 32 year-old from Italian ProTour squad Lampre is requesting a counter-analysis.

"They visited me [for] an unannounced control on March 3, at home," the Basque told El Diario Vasco's Benito Urraburu. "In this control, some parameter related to testosterone did not correspond to the levels defined by the UCI."

"[I prefer to] recall it before everything is given a false colour," added Vila. The Spaniard referred to an existing rumour saying that he tested positive during the Tour de Romandie, as he abandoned the race while leading the mountain classification, just before the race's queen stage.

"They announced to me that the detected quantity was small, but that there has been an irregularity," said Vila. "It's a positive test, but until the counter-analysis has been carried out nothing can be said officially. An attorney and endocrinologist, who saw the specimen, said that the quantity is very little."

Vila, whose legal representative is the same one as Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, did not offer any explanation for this incident. "I could give you any excuse, but I won't do it," he said. "I have a quiet conscience. I already gave an explanation to my team. They have known me for years; I have spent a lot of time with them. I know that I am putting my career on the line, but the only thing I can do is to wait."

"He is an exemplary rider and we have faith in him," Lampre Press Officer Andrea Appiani told Cyclingnews. "We got the news yesterday [from the UCI via fax] after we returned from the long weekend holiday.

"We heard that there had been this control with results that are slightly above what is allowed," added Appiani. "We know that he has asked for a counter-analysis and we will wait for the counter-analysis results before we take any decision."

Appiani also confirmed the reason behind Vila's departure from the Tour de Romandie. "We were lacking a man in Romandie, so we asked Vila to do it even if he had not trained a lot," said Appiani. "He decided to do some stages, and it was anticipated that he would go home."

The explanation was similar for Vila's non-selection in the Giro team, which was made official yesterday. "At the start we had thought about him riding – he was among the 12 original names – but since he was sick in the Ardennes we preferred to have him on the programme with Damiano Cunego, which is Tour de Suisse and Tour de France," said Appiani.

Testosterone analyses is always problematic, because the parameters for its measurement are difficult to handle, as seen in the cases of Spain's Iban Mayo and American Floyd Landis.

Tour champion Contador back in Italy

Spaniard Alberto Contador, 25, will be back in Italy with Team Astana
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Alberto Contador, winner of last year's Tour de France, is back in Italy after four years and will contest the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1. The 25 year-old will co-captain Astana with Andreas Klöden.

"In 2003, my first year as a professional," Contador, who will arrive in Palermo tomorrow, told La Gazzetta dello Sport's Ciro Scognamiglio. "I rode the Giro del Lazio, Coppa Sabatini and Giro di Lombardia. I believe it [Lombardia] was the last race I rode in your country; it is great to return and to race an important race like the Giro."

Astana, despite originally being overlooked by the Giro d'Italia and not selected to ride the Tour de France, has had success with Contador. Earlier this year the youngster won the Vuelta a Castilla y León and Vuelta a País Vasco overall classifications. During the País Vasco Contador suffered from a tooth ache and ask the team to call in a dentist to get rid of the problem. Contador had envisioned making his return to racing in the Dauphiné Libéré, June 8 to 15, before Astana received its last minute Giro invitation.

"The Giro, for a climber like me, is an extraordinary course," Contador explained. "My form is unknown; I will do what I can. I know that the Italian public is really warm-hearted and this will give me extra motivation."

Hansen hopes for long lasting Giro d'Italia

By Susan Westemeyer

Australia's Adam Hansen, 26, hopes for a long lasting 2008 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Dion Kerckhoffs
(Click for larger image)

Team High Road's Adam Hansen has only one goal in this year's Giro d'Italia – "To survive longer than last year... Two days!"

The Australian continued to Cyclingnews, seriously, "No, I have the same goal, to help the team when I can and be in a break that makes it to the final. If I can do that, I will be a happy chap."

Hansen wasn't a happy chap in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, as his experience was with a different type of break. A crash on an ascent in the second stage crushed two fingers on his right hand. (Read Breaking out of the Giro)

He is not worried that it will mentally affect him this year. "Bad memories, not really," he said, explaining that not the falling, but the landing caused all the problems. "The crash was very slow, less than 15 kilometres per hour, nothing serious at all. But the way I landed it made it rather complicated. That's just part of racing and it's behind me now."

This season the "Crocodile Man" is recovering from yet another crash. During Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the beginning of March, he went head-first into a parked car before falling on to the road where he was run over by several other cyclists. He came out of that with facial injuries ("My modelling career is over"), but the more serious injury turned out to be torn ligaments in his right shoulder.

Hansen, who turns 27 years old this coming Sunday, says that the injury is still causing him problems. "I don't have the best flexibility in my right shoulder, although it is getting better with stretching exercises," he explained.

He hopes for good weather in Italy. "In the cold I have problems getting food out of my left pocket. What's worse is that I have the same problems with my right hand [from the Giro crash], also in the cold. However, when it's not cold, everything is perfect!"

After that crash in Belgium, he made an impressive comeback in Hel van Het Mergelland, in which he and team-mate neo-pro Tony Martin capped off a race-long escape with a double win for the team. Hansen let his younger team-mate take the victory, saying, "He needs it more than I do."

Since then, he has been on the road, riding Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de Romandie. He is only now beginning to feel back to normal. "Romandie was OK. Bit of a mix of racing, going hard in some hill days and staying with Cav [sprinter Mark Cavendish - ed.]. But I finished it really well and got better as the days went along."

Because of this racing schedule, he left home on April 19 and finally made it back to his home in the Czech Republic this week – for a grand total of 40 hours. "My suitcase never made it out of the hall, just unpacked and repacked for the Giro and got ready to go again." It's not a problem for him, though. "I think we get used to being away so much. It's part of the fun seeing new places. Romandie was good. I've never seen such nice country in all my life."

Joaquín Rojas fights tooth and nail in Dunkerque

Spain's José Joaquín Rojas will head to the 4 Jours de Dunkerque – running today through May 11 – as Caisse d'Epargne's sprinting ace. Rojas is aiming to add win number two to his results tally for 2008, following his victory in Trofeo Pollença earlier this year.

"I am going to fight for a stage, because the taste left in my mouth from my victory in Mallorca is not enough," confirmed the 22 year-old.

The six-stage race is centred on the French costal city of Dunkerque.

"I don't know this race, but I have been told by the team that it is adapted to my abilities; it is not too hard and most days end in a sprint or in small groups," he said.

In addition to his early-season win, Rojas finished seventh in the Classic Gent-Wevelgem last month. The Belgian race proved that he can handle the hard racing conditions that are found just over the border in France.

"If this race was a month ago I would already be rubbing my hands," added Rojas, who started his professional career in 2006 with Astana. "However, I don't know if I have recovered well from the Classics... I will go day-by-day, and adapt to the race. Certainly, I will fight tooth and nail to take my second victory of the year."

Hulsmans out of Dunkerque

Quick Step's Kevin Hulsmans is still recovering from injuries suffered last week in a training accident and will be unable to ride the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, which starts today, the team announced.

"It would be crazy to take an unnecessary risk and let him ride as the eighth man," said Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol. "Hulsmans must be completely fit before he can take part in a competition."

The team will just send seven riders to the start of the race in northern France. Hulsmans, team-mate Kevin Van Impe and two friends were hit by a car while training in Belgium last week. The two professionals came away with scrapes and bruises. (SW)

Bileka resigns from Silence-Lotto

Volodymyr Bileka has resigned from Silence-Lotto "for personal reasons", the team announced late Monday night. He faxed his resignation to General Manager Geert Coeman on Saturday, May 3, and the team has sent it on to the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The 29 year-old turned pro in 2003 with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, and rode for Discovery Channel from 2005 to 2007. This season he signed with Silence-Lotto together with his compatriot and friend Yaroslav Popovych. The Ukrainian had been scheduled to ride the Giro d'Italia for the Belgian team, but the place was given to Geert Steurs.

"The resignation is for personal reasons," Team Manager Marc Sergeant told "There is a lot of speculation but we have stopped guessing as to what really caused him to take this step. Our Italian directeur sportif Roberto Damiani had contact with him in the run-up to the Giro, but it seemed like he would rather beat around the bush instead of coming out and saying that he didn't want to go."

Damiani told that he was surprised by the news. "He was on our Giro squad, had done a good job in the Ardennes Classics, and we said that he would have a chance in the Giro to be in escape groups," he said. "Then came the surprise: two days after Liège, Volodymyr sent us a letter in which he said he was having knee problems and wanted to stop riding."

The Italian website also contacted Bileka, who had no comment. (SW)

(Additional research and assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer).

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