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Latest Cycling News for July 4, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

McQuaid responds to French sports minister

UCI head man Pat McQuaid
Photo ©: Mark Johnson
(Click for larger image)

UCI president Pat McQuaid has addressed an open letter to the French sports minister as well as WADA chief Dick Pound, in which he responded to recent comments about the UCI made in relation with the Spanish Operación Puerto affair. On Saturday, July 1, French sports minister Jean-François Lamour accused the UCI leader of not doing enough to fight doping in cycling.

"I think it's necessary to say this very clearly; the UCI is very timid on the issue," Lamour told French Europe 1 radio. "It will have to roll up its sleeves and act, so that on all continents and in all countries, there are real and unexpected control actions."

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Lamour added that it was possible to compete in the Tour de France after taking illegal drugs and still not test positive because doping often occurred during race preparation. "In the Tour de France, only the naive ones get caught," he said, calling for more random doping controls throughout the year.

In his response, Pat McQuaid said that the comments were "completely unjustified", and that he "would like to remind the Minister that instead of making loose remarks on out-of-competition controls he should be coming up with concrete recommendations as to how he might improve the testing methods so that the kind of blood transfusion that was allegedly administered may be detected. The fact of the matter is that the riders implicated in Operation Puerto have been tested many times, including in the French laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry, both within and out of competition and have always proven negative."

The Irishman continued by saying that WADA conducted 189 out-of-competition tests on cyclists in 2005, of which only one result was positive for EPO, not blood transfusion. "So amount of out-of-competition controls would have assisted in identifying the practices being utilised in Spain: these are simply not detectable by doping controls," he stated.

Pantani a Fuentes patient, too

The Italian Corriere della Sera seems to be in possession of Operación Puerto information which suggests that Italian cycling icon Marco Pantani, who died in the spring of 2004 as a consequence of his drug addiction, was also a 'patient' of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, now incriminated in a vast doping affair. According to the paper, Pantani turned to Fuentes in 2003, and was given the code name PTNI in Fuentes' records. The doctor gave 'PTI' more than 40,000 units of EPO, seven doses of growth hormone, thirty doses of anabolic steroids and four doses of hormones used to treat menopause.

According to the Spanish investigation, Fuentes applied a minimal tariff to Pantani: €36,000 were spent for that treatment. Between 2002 and 2006, Fuentes and associates are believed to have earned at least €8 million from their doping activities.

FIFA: no footballers involved

The World's governing body of football FIFA has announced that there are no footballers included in the list of sports professionals linked to the Spanish doping network uncovered by Operación Puerto. FIFA had asked the Spanish judicial authorities for information on the case, and was now given clarification by the Spanish minister of sport, Jaime Lissavetzky. Earlier media reports had suggested that there were also footballers involved.

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

Cauberg ready for Tour!

Dutch organisers of the short Tour de France loop into the Netherlands today are ready and happy to welcome the Grande Boucle. The Tour caravan will cross the Belgian border this afternoon in stage three, and pursue for another 33,4 kilometres on Dutch soil until the finish in Valkenburg. There will be three Cat. 4 hills to climb, all of them well-known to the cycling world as they are also included in the itinerary of spring classic Amstel Gold Race: the Loorberg, the Trintelen and the Cauberg in the city of Valkenburg itself.

This last climb will of course be the most decisive one with its 12 percent gradient - and spectators are sure to abound. "It's the Alpe d'Huez of the Netherlands!" said one of the organisers, Bennie Ceulen. Valkenburg mayor Constant Nuytens expects at least 400,000 people from the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium to come to the streets and watch the event, but on the sides of the Cauberg main street climb, only 40,000 fans will be admitted.

"Entrance is free, of course, but once it's full, it's full," said Nuytens. The Cauberg will also feature two VIP-tribunes and four still cameras, and there is no space for camper vans like there is in the Alps or the Pyrenees. Dutch railways have increased up the amount of trains going into Valkenburg to 12 per hour for today, in comparison to two per hour normally.

The Tour de France visits Valkenburg for the second time in its history: in 1992, 600,000 people gathered to watch the race on the roadside. With beautiful weather announced for today's stage 3, and temperatures expected to rise well above 30° Celsius, the streets will be packed, many fans hoping to see Michael Boogerd or Erik Dekker win on home soil.

"Maillot Jaune would be welcome" says Valverde

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

With only 16 seconds separating him from the yellow jersey - and not many other specialists as high up in General Classification as him - Alejandro Valverde looks to be one of the favourites for Tuesdays's stage 3 from Esch-sur-Azette to Valkenburg. After passing through the Belgian Ardennes, the Tour stage will be decided after the famous Cauberg climb in Valkenburg.

"The stage will be special to me because after winning those classics (in spring, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège - ed.], it will be very nice to ride on those same roads again," said Valverde before the stage. "I hope I'm lucky and that I ride well. In the finale, we'll climb the Cauberg, which made Amstel Gold Race so famous. My memory of it is less pleasant, as I really suffered in that classic in April. That's also why I would like to do well there today, but you can't really talk of a revenge as the context is totally different."

Valverde knows that if he has good legs today, he could reach for the overall leadership - even though it's also clear that this would imply a greater responsibility in the race. "The Tour counts 21 stages; it's still very long," he continued. "But I would still like to win that stage, as any stage in the Tour. But this one could give me the Yellow Jersey! We'll see what happens. As I'm part of the overall favourites, this would mean a lot of responsibility for the team. But we could also take it only for one day or two - in that case, the jersey would be very welcome!"

Contract news: Moerenhout, Lancaster

Dutch outlet Wielernieuws has published the latest information on some rider's contracts. According to which, Koos Moerenhout will extend his time with Swiss Phonak team for another two years, which will be taken over by a new main sponsor, American iShares, as of 2007.

Australian Brett Lancaster might ride for Team Milram next season. The 26 year-old is courted by the Italian team as well as Davitamon-Lotto, as Robbie McEwen would like his fellow countryman to replace Henk Vogels. Lancaster will therefore leave his current team Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, with whom he won the Giro d'Italia prologue last year. He missed out on the Giro this season due to injury.

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