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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for May 20, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Stage 7 wrap up

Belgian time trial specialist Rik Verbrugghe won the Giro's seventh stage, the 159 kilometre "Circuito della Versilia" raced around Lido di Camaiore. Verbrugghe, who finished second in the prologue by the barest of margins, won comfortably in a solo breakaway after attacking the eight man break that he was in on the final climb and opening up a 1 minute lead by the end.

The Giro has still not yet returned to normal after the Garzelli 'non-negative' affair, and much of the talk today was still related to that.

Stage 7 full results & report
Live report

Post stage comments

Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Adecco, 1st stage)

"I had studied the parcours, it was not really suited to the sprinters. I was ready to take my chance. In the break, we heard that we were well away. On the last climb, I sat in last wheel to watch the opposition. When Moreni attacked, I reacted immediately. I caught him and as I saw that he was caught a little unawares, I went for it alone."

"I took risks on the descent but I controlled them well. My biggest worry was at the bottom of the descent when I nearly fell due to a dog on the road."

"General classification? I do not think that it is finished for me. I am not too far down and there remain two individual time trials that will suit me."

Jens Heppner (Telekom, 1st GC)

"At 37 years old, it is fantastic to wear the pink jersey. This is the most beautiful trophy of my career. I worked a lot for the others. But, as we came to this Giro without Erik Zabel, we have more possibilities. Besides, the race is more open than before. Today was an ideal position for us. A breakaway in front, with a small lead. I hope to keep the pink jersey for two or three days. Maybe until the next mountain finish in Campitello Matese (Thursday)."

Bettini abandons

Mapei-Quick Step suffered another blow today when one of their strongest riders, Paolo Bettini, was forced to abandon the Giro. He has a tear in his left calf, and was having trouble even putting his foot on the ground. "At the end of the stage I was even having difficulties walking," he said.

"I really am very sorry not being able to be with the team in such a difficult moment. I would have preferred to stay for the morale of my teammates," he added.

Squinzi comments

The head of the Mapei group, Giorgio Squinzi, today paid a visit to the team's hotel in Lido di Camaiore in the wake of the Garzelli affair. Always an outspoken opponent of doping, Squinzi is supporting his rider while he and the team wait for results of the counter analysis, expected by Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We believe in his good faith," said Dottore Squinzi. "We do not accept that his name is put on the same level as that of others with completely different cases."

The Mapei team asked for drug tests to be performed all of its riders in the Giro by the UCI, and these have been carried out. The results of these tests will show whether Garzelli alone had probenecid in his body, or if the whole team did. If this is the case, the next question is how did it get there.

The Mapei team has won over 600 races since its debut in 1993, and is the number one ranked team on the UCI rankings. It has never won the Tour de France or Milan-San Remo, but has won nearly every other major race on the calendar.

Leblanc says Garzelli should be out of the race

The director of the Tour de France, Jean-Marie Leblanc has criticised Stefano Garzelli and the Mapei team for not pulling out of the Giro after a 'non-negative' drug test. According to Tour de France rules, a rider would be expelled if his first test result is non-negative, and not wait for the results of the counter-analysis. These rules were adopted by the Tour de France after 1998, but the Giro has not followed suit, despite the code of ethics drawn up last year after the San Remo raids.

With the agreement of the race organisation and the teams, Stefano Garzelli decided to remain in the Giro until the results of his counter-analysis are known. This is expected to be by Tuesday or Wednesday. Garzelli lost the maglia rosa yesterday to German Jens Heppner, after a 12 man breakaway succeeded in staying away.

"I regret that concerning a great champion who is part of a big team, Mapei, which had proclaimed loudly and strongly for quite a few years, was above all of that," said Leblanc in an interview with La Derniere Heure. "I note that there was a pact, according to which if a racer is declared positive from the first analysis, they must withdraw from the race. These pacts are things that should be respected."

However, Leblanc did not say he would have certainly ejected Garzelli, had he been in Carmine Castellano's position. "I don't have all the information," he said.

Leblanc finished by saying that "Anti-doping controls are improving, contrary to certain claims. After the Tour '98 and the blitz of the 2001 Giro, I note that there are still riders, doctors, teams who I don't know how they can be so inconsiderate with the health of the riders and the reputation of cycling."

What is Probenecid?

Probenecid, the drug at the centre of the Garzelli affair is normally used to prevent gout and to control high levels of uric acid in the blood, as well as to increase the levels of certain kinds of antibiotics in the blood to make them more effective in the treatment of infections. Many years ago, it was used as a masking agent for anabolic steroids and other drugs because it could cause their retention and make them undetectable in a urine test.

However, since the Delgado affair in 1988 [which coincidentally was when this editor became interested in cycling], Probenecid has been on the UCI/IOC banned list, and therefore no use at all to an athlete, as it is not performance enhancing by itself. In addition, it is not effective as a masking agent anymore due to the increased sensitivity of modern drug tests.

To stop detection of banned substances, Probenecid has to be taken in large amounts (2-5 grams). This makes it quite easy to detect itself. Smaller amounts are ineffective for cheating purposes, and detected small amounts indicate only therapeutic use. However, they still count as a positive drug test.

The results of Garzelli's counter-analysis, and the test results of the other members of the Mapei team are therefore awaited with interest.

Source: Drugs In Sport, Volume 5(6): April, 2000

Groenendaal gets a warning from UCI

Dutch cyclocrosser Richard Groenendaal has received a warning from the UCI over the use of improper language in a magazine interview, and the blame for losing his temper with a spectator at a cyclocross race in Diegem, Belgium last year. The UCI's disciplinary commission made their decision last week but did not impose a suspension on the previous cyclocross World Champion.

Early retirement for Demarbaix?

It's possible that Ag2R Prevoyance rider Sébastien Demarbaix (professional since 1996) may have to retire early from cycling, as he is suffering from osteoporosis, a bone degenerating disease. Osteoporosis is rarer in men than women, although a significant proportion of men still suffer from it.

Risk factors include chronic disease that affects the kidneys, lungs, stomach, and intestines and alters hormone levels; undiagnosed low levels of testosterone; certain cancer treatments and aluminum-containing antacids; prolonged exposure to steroid based medication; smoking; excessive alcohol use; low calcium intake; and inadequate physical exercise (source: US National Osteoporosis Foundation).

Demarbaix turned professional in 1996 with Lotto, with whom he rode for in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000. In 1998 he rode for Home Market, while in 2001 and 2002 he was with Ag2r-Prevoyance. He has not won a race in his career although he has finished the Tour de France three times and placed 3rd in the Japan Cup in 1999.