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Latest Cycling News for June 20, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Jalabert caught up in "Cahors affair" trial

By Hedwig Kröner

On Monday, June 19, the trial on the so-called "Cahors affair" involving 23 persons has begun in Bordeaux. The Belgian-French doping scandal begun in spring 2004 and culminated with the arrests of Belgians Freddy and Monique Sergant, presumed heads of a trafficking network of "pot belge" (a mix of cocaine, caffeine, pain killers, sometimes amphetamine and heroin), as well as former professional Laurent Roux and his brother Fabien, former mountainbike world champion Christophe Dupouey, former pro Laurent Biondi, Dominique Bozzi, Sylvain Bolay, Philippe Koehler and Eddy Lembo, to name but those directly involved in cycling.

The Sergant couple is accused of buying large quantities of "pot belge", produced in the Netherlands, and selling them to the Roux brothers in France since May 2002, who then distributed the drug mix further within French amateur and, to a smaller extent, professional cycling while keeping some for their own consumption. The relationship between Freddy Sergant and Laurent Roux dates back to 1998, when Roux raced with Dutch TVM and Sergant was one of the team's masseurs.

"EPO, growth hormone, cortisone... I used everything that was common practice in the peloton at the time," Roux told the Bordeaux judges on the first day of the trial. "Everybody did. The greatest riders used things that I couldn't get with my small salary. They bought synthetic haemoglobin and underwent blood transfusions, which I have never messed with."

The 33 year-old, who has been detained for eight months already, based his defense on his physical addiction to the drugs. The Sergant couple and the Roux brothers could be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison.

Jalabert drug party blamed for addiction

During the first day of hearings in the "Cahors" trial, Laurent Roux's younger brother Fabien testified that it was former professional and current French TV consultant Laurent Jalabert who first introduced him to "pot belge". "I was initiated to using pot belge during a party with Laurent Jalabert in 2001," the 24 year-old said. "Together with other professionals, I've seen him injecting himself in the garage of his house that evening. It was a party organised by his fan club. It's frequent in the cycling world. These parties take place during the off-season. I came with my brother, who was a professional. The whole team of the cyclist who was hosting participated in these parties - from mechanic to soigneur."

Roux said he thus consumed the drug mix for the first time in the presence of Jalabert. "It was offered by the rider who hosted the party," he added. Later during the trial, a former teammate of Laurent Jalabert at CSC-Tiscali, who was heard as a witness, confirmed Roux's accusations.

Spanish Congress approves Anti-Doping law

Except for the Basque National Party, all of the Spanish parliamentary groups have approved the anti-doping law project proposed by Congress Commission of Education and Science on Monday, June 19. Congress nevertheless introduced several modifications with respect to the original text impelled by the Spanish Government. This proposition of law should be also approved by the Congress commission next Thursday, June 29, as the next step prior to its shipment to the Senate, where it will continue to hopefully become law in September.

A great part of the amendments aimed at clarifying the competitions of the State and the Independent Communities in the fight against doping, although the mentioned Basque National Party voted against it because they considered it insufficient. Also, the name of the new to-be-created Spanish Antidoping agency was modified, but the most important new feature of the law, with regard to the sanctioning regime and the responsibility in doping cases, is that persons involved in the surroundings of the sportsman may also be held legally responsible.

The project of statutory law in the fight against the doping was approved by the Spanish government on March 17. It will reform criminal law and includes imprisonment sanctions of six months to two years for crimes related to consumption of prohibited substances, as well as regulating out-of-competition controls.

Courtesy of Antonio J. Salmerón

Jan Ullrich: closing in on top form

Is Jan Ullrich's win in the Tour de Suissee a sign of what is to come in July, or will this represent the high point of his season, as it did back in 2004? Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes listened to what he had to say at the post-race press conference on Sunday.

Tour de Suisse winner
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Earlier this year, former team-mate Bjarne Riis blasted Jan Ullrich's early season preparation, saying that the German's form was ‘absolutely catastrophic'. At the time the CSC's boss was in Tuscany working with Ivan Basso in the lead up to the Giro d'Italia and, according to Danish newspaper BT, was dismissive about Ullrich's prospects for the Tour de France.

"It's clear that he doesn't like to ride a bike, which is why I can't understand why he wants to be a cyclist," Riis was quoted as saying. "It's a waste of talent. He has to wake up soon. I believe in him less and less."

Ullrich was reported to have trained hard in the winter but his racing debut this season was delayed considerably due to a knee injury. He finally pinned on a number in the Tour de Romandie, where he finished a distant 115th overall. He then went on to the Giro d'Italia and while he was relatively anonymous there, he did beat Basso to win the stage 11 time trial.

At the time he stressed that the Giro was simply a preparation race and his performances in the mountains there were no reflection of how he would do in the Tour de France. Following a withdrawal from the Giro two days from the end due to a slight back problem, Ullrich rested and recuperated from the Grand Tour, then started to build up again for the Tour de Suisse. His performances there showed that he has made great progress since competing in Italy.

Ullrich was clearly in great shape from the start of the Swiss ProTour race. His T-Mobile team rode strongly for him from the off, riding in front of the peloton when no other teams would undertake to do so, and generally doing all that was necessary to ensure he lost no time to the other big contenders. Although Ullrich said afterwards that he took things day by day and had gone into the race with no overall aspirations, it was clear from their pattern of racing that T-Mobile had at least some interest in the general classification.

Click here to read the full feature.

Ullrich to skip nationals?

T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich is "top fit" for the Tour de France, said team manager Olaf Ludwig, who further noted that "the whole team has shown that it is well prepared." Ullrich plans to retain his form for the next ten days with a few days of rest before beginning with intensive training again on Wednesday next week. This could mean sacrificing the German National Championships: "I will make by final decision on Tuesday, but the tendency is more that I will stay in Scherzingen," said Ullrich.

His goal for the next week is simple: "I want to remain healthy." Ullrich's training plans include riding behind Directeur Sportif Rudy Pevenage's motorcycle for intensive training.

T-Mobile is expected to announce its Tour team on Wednesday, June 21.

Kohl looking to win Tour of Austria

After Bernhard Kohl's surprising third place in the Dauphiné Libéré, there were some expectations that the Austrian climber might be nominated for T-Mobile's Tour de France team. But it is not to be - at least this year, as Kohl was instead announced to ride the Tour of Austria. A lot of riders from my team are preparing for the Tour," he said. "I'm in top form, but I've already got a lot of races in my legs."

However, Kohl is looking forward to his homeland tour: "After my performance in France I can't avoid having the role as favourite. If I still have my Dauphiné Libéré form in the first week of July, then the victory should be possible."

Fellow Austrian Gerhard Trampusch of Team Milram will also be looking to do well in the Tour of Austria, as will the five participating Austrian teams. Perhaps the small team with the best chances is Team Volksbank/Vorarlberg, with Gerrit Glomser. "Our goals all depend on Glomser. That's a big risk, because with him you never know - Glomser is always good for a surprise," said team manager Thomas Kofler.

Steegmans to Quick.Step

Davitamon-Lotto rider Gert Steegmans has been reported to switch to Quick.Step for next season, where he will join his junior rival Tom Boonen. The 26 year-old Steegmans, who revealed his capabilities this spring season, was negotiating his future with his current team when "an obstacle" came about. Spanish outfit Illes Balears had also made an offer, but the Belgian chose to stay in his home country.

"No risks" in Totschnig's final preparations

Georg Totschnig and several Gerolsteiner teammates are making their final preparations for the Tour de France in the ski resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, but they're not mixing in with the high society there. "I'm not taking any risks," said Totschnig, and Directeur Sportif Christian Henn supported his rider, saying, "Georg knows what it best for him."

Totschnig will be co-captain at the Tour de France, along with Levi Leipheimer. The team will ride for both, and "we'll see how things develop," according to Henn.

The Austrian's contract expires at the end of the season - will it be his last Tour for Gerolsteiner? "I'm leaving all my options open," he said, and Henn added, "We would be glad to give him another chance." Discussions are expected to be held during the Tour.

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