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First Edition Cycling News for September 15, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Vuelta stage 18 wrap-up

Vinokourov strengthens his grip, and Kashechkin takes another stage

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana Team)
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In another impressive display of teamwork from the Astana team, Andrey Kashechkin and Alexandre Vinokourov finished first and second atop Sierra de la Pandera, the finishing climb of stage 18. The pair got together a few kilometres from the summit of the murderously steep climb, after Kashechkin bridged up to a Vinokourov attack, and Vinokourov generously gave Kashechkin the stage win, even if it cost him a few bonus seconds. José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval) was third at half a minute, closely followed by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who now trails Vinokourov by 53 seconds on GC.

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The stage was marked by a non-threatening breakaway containing Nicki Sorensen (Team CSC), Benoît Poilvet (Credit Agricole), Raúl García De Mateo (Relax-Gam), Markel Irizar (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) and Pierre Drancourt (Bouygues Telecom), which got 4'30 before Caisse d'Epargne decided the best tactic today was to ride as hard as possible and try to tire Vinokourov out before the last climb. But in the end, Vino had the legs and attacked with just over 5 km to go to put Valverde in a lot of trouble. The Spaniard initially lost 38 seconds, but then fought back to limit it to 32 seconds at the finish.

Click here for the full results, report & photos and live report from stage 18.

Vinokourov and Kashechkin steal the show

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana Team)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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The two strong riders from Kazakhstan in this year's Vuelta, Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin, again showed how it was done in today's 18th stage to La Pandera. After Vinokourov attacked with 5 km to the summit, Kashechkin joined him a few kilometres later, just as his captain was starting to tire, and the pair worked together to increase their advantage over Valverde and co. until the end, with Kashechkin winning the stage.

"I am very satisfied with what we have done yesterday and today," said Kashechkin. "In the last days in the mountains, the team was very good, we have tried to do good things and have managed it. Vinokourov has taken the leader's jersey and today I have won, while Alexandre increased his advantage on Valverde."

Kashechkin said he was happy with the fact that Caisse d'Epargne set a high tempo for most of the day, just in case the Astana boys were weakened after yesterday. He said that he did not speak to Vino when they came together near the top of La Pandera. "No, we have not spoken because it was not necessary. We are good friends and one day I work for him and another he does it for me. We came to the Vuelta very motivated after not being able to do the Tour de France, and I was also sure that if I was taking the leader's jersey, Vino would work for me."

Vinokourov let Kashechkin have the stage win, but that meant that Vino lost out on a few bonus seconds, which may or may not be important at the end. "It was important that Vinokourov was taking time, but also that I took an advantage over Sastre for the podium," explained Kashechkin, who didn't believe he could beat Valverde to finish second overall.

Vinokourov, who now leads by 53 seconds, explained the team's tactics. "This morning I said to all my teammates that the best defence was attack. I saw that Valverde was not very good and, after seeing Kashechkin's assault, I decided to attack.

"I believe that the race is not over until Madrid, but today I have taken a lot of confidence and expect to be able to take slightly more time in the time trial."

Finally, Vinokourov said that it was a "very important" victory, "because it is great publicity for the team, for cycling and for our country."

Valverde bittersweet

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears)
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Alejandro Valverde won on La Pandera in 2003, but today, the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears leader lost almost all of his chances of gaining the 2006 Vuelta. The steep climb was decisive in confirming Vinokourov's position at the top of the general classification.

"I congratulate Vinokourov, because he has practically won this Vuelta, but when you did as well as possible, nobody can demand any more of you," said Valverde at the end of the 18th stage. His face could not hide the disappointment, but even so, Valverde saw the positive side of things.

"I feel proud of everything I've done during this Vuelta, of the maillot oro that I managed to wear, which I gave up to an extraordinary opposition, and mainly of the affection that people show me wherever I go, without forgetting all those who follow me."

The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears leader again showed his gratitude to his teammates. "They have done an commendable work, and I do not have anything to reproach them for."

After a season of bittersweet moments, Valverde - who is still the ProTour leader - believes it has been a good one, and could finish with a medal in the world championships. "In spite of losing the Vuelta, I am really very happy with all successes gained during this season, because I have demonstrated that I am capable of fighting in the Vuelta as well as winning great classic races. Now, the World Championships are waiting for me, so that everything is still possible."

Ullrich may have no choice in DNA test

By Susan Westemeyer

More details of the German investigators' search of houses and offices relating to the Fuentes doping scandal emerged Thursday, and word came out of Spain that the officials there were prepared to supply blood samples to their German counterparts for a DNA comparison.

German investigators searched homes and offices belonging not only to Jan Ullrich, Wolfgang Strohband and Rudy Pevenage, but also to former T-Mobile team manager Walter Godefroot. Godefroot confirmed the search but said, "I was treated as a witness and not as a suspect." The 63-year-old Belgian is now an advisor to the Astana Team.

Pevenage's house was said to have been searched by eight investigators for 2 hours. "I don't know how it will go further. I'm still waiting. I haven't heard anything from the Belgian federation or the UCI. But life goes on," he said. He couldn't explain what the police might have found by him or by Ullrich. "You always have to be a little worried," he said.

The search of Wolfgang Strohband's home and offices took eight hours. "My attorneys have protested," he said, and is sure that no incriminating documents were found in his possession. "There was nothing that would have anything to do with these groundless accusations."

According to Bild magazine, a total of 15 Swiss and German officials conducted the search of Ullrich's house in Scherzingen, Switzerland. The German cyclist was not at home, as he was on his honeymoon. The couple has now returned home. "My wife Sara and I are deeply affected by the search and confiscations, which have been thoroughly reported in the media. Because of these events we have broken off our honeymoon and returned home," Ullrich said on his website, www.janullrich.de. "My attorneys have been instructed to discuss the case with the prosecutors in Bonn."

The German prosecutor's office will report on the results of the raid "in several weeks" at the earliest, said prosecutor Fred Apostel. "We have material in paper form as well as data and will begin with the analysis. We don't have any comment at this time as to possible results."

In other news, it was announced Thursday that the Spanish judge in charge of the Fuentes case, Andres Serrano, is prepared to help the German investigation. Spokeswoman Elis Beni Uxabal told the dpa press agency that he is "in principle prepared to deliver a blood sample to the prosecutors in Bonn." The blood sample would be taken from the bags of blood which the Spanish investigators believed to have come from Ullrich.

"The beginning of September a member of the Bonn staff was in Madrid and asked for evidence. But there is still no official request upon which the judge could act." The blood plasma which has been taken into custody is in the doping control lab in Barcelona, and a result of their analysis is not expected before the end of the month.

The German investigators will have a DNA sample from Ullrich to make the comparison, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper reports that investigator took DNA traces from Ullrich's house during the search.

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

Polemics abound in aftermath of Andreu EPO admission

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

When seven-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong recently read about his former USPS teammate Frankie Andreu's confession to NY Times reporter Juliet Macur that he took EPO in the 1999 Tour, Armstrong characterized the report as "distorted sensationalism". He said that the statements were contrary to Andreu's sworn testimony in the arbitration case with SCA Promotions, where Andreu said he had never taken any banned substances.

On Wednesday, Armstrong told Macur that the reason for his success was about his natural talent for cycling. "Some of us are born with 4 cylinders, and some of us are born with 12," Armstrong explained. Now almost 35 years-old, Armstrong, was the one of the youngest ever world professional road cycling champions, a title he won in 1993, a month shy of his 22nd birthday.

In the same NY Times interview, Armstrong's bête noire, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency Richard Pound, said of the revelations by Andreu and an unnamed rider, "They were on the same team, (as Armstrong) weren't they? I think you have to draw one conclusion from that. It certainly indicates that there were a whole bunch of people around him using drugs. It doesn't prove that he did anything, but you look all around him and everyone else is doing it, so what should you think?"

Armstrong defused Pound's conclusions by saying "(Pound is) kind of a blowhard. It's a long, long running feud (with Pound). He has nothing good to say about me, and I don't have many good things to say about him."

On the other side, Steve Johnson, the chief executive of USA Cycling, commended Andreu - a member of the USA Cycling board - for his admission. "The truth is the best policy," Johnson told the NY Times. "That's what my mother always said."

But Johnson's boss Jim Ochowicz, the president of the USA Cycling Board of Directors, is not on the same page as his CEO regarding Andreu's admissions. Ochowicz said USA Cycling didn't condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Ochowicz also told the NY Times that he saw things differently than Andreu regarding whether pro cycling had secrets and doping was widespread. "It's not (USA Cycling's) position that people are hiding the facts (about doping)," explained Ochowicz, but then conceded "Frankie certainly is entitled to his opinion."

UCI president Pat McQuaid stated that he was not sure of the point of Andreu's confession. McQuaid told the NY Times that Andreu's confession would have "no effect at all" and also declared that "It's debatable whether the lead rider (in a team) is any faster because his teammates are doping. Most of the doping is done individually, and it doesn't mean anyone else on the team would know."

Both USA Cycling's Ochowicz and the UCI McQuaid's comments seem to ignore the recent legacy of hidden, organized team doping in the sport of cycling like the Festina affair in 1998 and Operacion Puerto this year.

Luis León Sánchez will say "no" to Antequera

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Luis Leon Sanchez will decline his selection in the Spanish World's team, according to El Faro de Murcia. The promising Astana rider was asked by the national selector, Francisco Antequera, to do the world championship time trial, but Sánchez had to abandon the Vuelta due to virus.

"I would like to participate, in particular in my favourite specialty, but I do not want to disappoint any expectations, as well as Antequera's confidence," said Sánchez. "The virus detected during the Vuelta means I cannot train, neither can I do a test."

Sánchez hopes to take part in the team's celebration of an Alexandre Vinokourov victory in the Vuelta this Sunday, should everything go to plan in the coming days. Sánchez will discuss with Vinokourov his possible incorporation to the new Astana team.

De Groot named as last rider for Dutch team

Rabobank's Bram de Groot has been named as the ninth rider for the Dutch men's team for the World's road race in Salzburg. The full team is thus: Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Jan Boven (Rabobank), Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel), Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Gerben Löwik (Rabobank), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step) and Maarten Tjallingii (Skil-Shimano).

Stubbe extends

Tom Stubbe has extended his contract with Chocolade Jacques for another season. The Belgian finished third in the recent Tour de l'Avenir and was strong in the GP Wallonie. Despite interest from other professional continental teams, he chose to stay where he was with an eye on the ProTour circuit in 2008.

Courtesy of www.acso.be

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