Tour de France News for July 26, 2007
Edited by Sue George & Laura Weislo with assistance from Ben Abrahams
Rabobank explains Rasmussen sacking
Rabobank communication director
Photo ©: AFP
In a statement released late on Wednesday evening, team sponsor Rabobank
explained its reasons for the removal
of Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen and his subsequent dismissal
by team management. Following immense
media scrutiny in recent days, the bank confirmed that Rasmussen had
indeed lied to the UCI about his whereabouts in June, training in Italy
rather than in Mexico as he originally stated.
According to hln.be, former professional Davide Cassani, now a
commentator for Italian TV station RAI, made a statement to Danish
TV on Wednesday in which he claimed to have seen the Rabobank leader training
in the Italian Dolomites on June 13 and 14. Rasmussen had previously declared
that he was in Mexico from June 4 - 26. "When Rasmussen was confronted
with this information he confirmed to [team manager] Theo de Rooy he was
at that moment in Italy," said Rabobank press officer Jacob Bergsma.
"That was the reason De Rooy decided to get him out of the Tour and
The bank said that its board members supported the decision to dismiss
Rasmussen, but insisted it did not intend to withdraw sponsorship funds.
The team itself is not leaving the Tour de France, with de Rooy allowing
the riders to decide whether they wish to start Stage 17 on Thursday morning.
Centre of attention: The world's
media gathered at the Mercure Hotel
Photo ©: AFP
"What happened leaves me speechless. I am lost for words. A nightmare,"
said Rabobank board member Piet van Schijndel.
Reacting to Rasmussen's departure from the race, Tour director Christian
Prudhomme said to AP: "We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated,
but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable."
UCI president Pat McQuaid questioned why Rabobank hadn't removed Rasmussen
before the Tour began. "My immediate reaction is, why didn't they
do this at the end of June, when they had the same information,"
McQuaid told AP. "The team decided to pull him out - that's
their prerogative. I can only applaud that. It's a zero-tolerance policy
and it's a lesson for the future."
With Rasmussen out of the race, second placed Alberto Contador (Discovery
Channel) moves into the yellow jersey. "It's in no way a celebration
on our end. It's the third piece of bad news," said Discovery Channel
spokesman P.J. Rabice. "It reflects badly on our sport."
Moreni and Cofidis leave Tour after positive testosterone test
By Brecht Decaluwé in Ley
French gendarmes take Cristian
Photo ©: AFP
One week after the doping news from T-Mobile's Patrick
Sinkewitz and one day after the Vino-bomb,
and the third doping story surfaced to ruin the Tour de France.
A rider that was currently in the Tour de France peloton had tested positive
for testosterone, a banned substance that plays a role in enhancing recuperation.
Once again, the news was leaked to the French newspaper L'Equipe,
which published the news five hours before the rider was informed.
The rider's identity remained unknown for a few hours, but when the riders
started rolling over the finish line on the legendary Col d'Aubisque,
Cristian Moreni's name surfaced as the concerned rider-- a likeable Italian
and a member of the French team Cofidis.
At 8 pm Wednesday, the president of the jury Didier Simon announced
the news officially to the press in Ley. "Today, the UCI informed
us that a rider tested positive after a doping test that was performed
after the stage  to Montpellier."
Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) was arrested
Photo ©: AFP
Simon continued by saying the rider and his team were informed at 6:15
pm and explained that the rider had three hours to request the result
of the B-sample. "I'm waiting for confirmation from Francis Van Londersele
[directeur sportif Cofidis], but Moreni would have decided not to request
it," the French official said to the gathered press.
Meanwhile the 34 year-old Moreni was picked up by the French gendarmerie
after his finish in 41st place, 21 minutes back, on the Aubisque. He was
escorted to be tested as part of the stage's "random" controls.
A police car followed in the team car caravan up the Col d'Aubisque to
meet Moreni post-stage, after his control was performed. He was taken
away by the Gendarmerie (French police) for questioning.
ASO officials in the press room explained Cristian Moreni was officially
out of the Tour de France.
A few moments later, the Cofidis team announced that the entire team
would withdraw from the Tour de France upon request of their main sponsor
as an ASO-spokesman confirmed to Cyclingnews. After the departure
of team Cofidis - including Brit Bradley Wiggins - only 143 riders remained
in the world's biggest cycling race.
Valverde: "It never seems to end"
By Gregor Brown in Ley
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Sirotti
"It never seems to end," said Alejandro Valverde, winner of
last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the ProTour, who did
not know what to make of Alexander Vinokourov's positive post-race control.
The Spaniard is in seventh place in the general classification after stage
16, 13'23" behind leader Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Valverde was
disappointed by the test result of the "Great Champion"
"It is enough that it was a grand champion like Vino; it never
seems to end," explained Valverde as he rode to the start line to
begin stage 16 to Col d'Aubisque. "I don't know, I don't know,"
if the system functions or not.
Valverde was associated with Operación Puerto before the
start of the Tour and can appreciate the pressure that now on Vinokourov,
but he persisted that he will not lose sight of his goals. "Now I
am in the Tour, and I am only thinking of the Tour; it is too hard to
worry about problems outside of my control."
Soler emerges as Tour's bright spot
By Brecht Decaluwé in Ley
Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
One of the highlights of this year's Tour de France is the emergence
of 24 year-old Juan Mauricio Soler. His second place in Milano-Torino
behind future Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca already showed a touch
of class, but in the Tour de France, Soler has shown he's nothing less
than an emerging star by winning not only the mountainous stage
9 to Briançon, but also by earning the polka dot jersey for best climber
in the Tour de France.
Soler was already wearing the jersey going into Wednesday's stage
16, but that was only because true KOM leader Michael Rasmussen could
only wear one jersey at a time.
In the final mountains stage, Soler launched himself in a long breakaway
supported by Carlos Sastre (CSC) who tried to go for the stage win on
the Aubisque. During the breakaway, Soler managed to gather enough points
to officially capture the polka dot jersey.
"I'm very happy with the jersey," Soler said. "This was
a very difficult day for me, but it turned out to be fantastic. I could
grab the jersey by taking the points during the first climbs. In the final
climb towards the finish, I didn't react to the accelerations. I tried
to gather my strength to capture the best possible result at the line."
Haselbacher "couldn't believe it"
When Astana's Rene Haselbacher returned from training on Tuesday, his
roommate at the Sachsen Tour, Michael Schär, told him the news about
positive test for blood-doping.
"I lay on my bed in my cycling clothes for two hours and couldn't
believe it. This is a human tragedy," he said on his website, haselbacher.com.
"And when some of the media ... reports that Astana is riding the
Sachsen Tour in 'business as usual', that is anything but the truth. Cycling
is our job and this affects our future."
Responding to rumors that Team Astana would cease to exist, he said,
"That's not so. I read it in the newspaper, too, but it was not confirmed
by our team manager."
Andreas Kloden (Astana)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
Andreas Klöden took his time to make a comment, "but as [you]
can surely imagine, all hell broke loose yesterday after the announcement
of Vino's positive A-sample. My team asked me not to say anything publicly
until after the results of the B-sample have been announced. Naturally,
I will do that, but I wanted to say how disappointed I am over the momentary
Writing on his website andreaskloeden.de, the German rider noted
that "Now I am sitting at home and have to watch the rest of the
Tour on TV and I don't understand the world any more. With one blow, all
of my work and preparations this season are for nothing."
Klöden had previously said he was satisfied with his performance
which had left him sitting in fifth in the general classification, at
least until his entire team withdrew after Alexander Vinokourov tested
positive for blood doping Tuesday. Klöden had stated that his goal
was to earn a place on the Tour podium.
BMC rethinks Astana sponsorship
However, the Associated Press reported that Swiss bicycle manufacturer
BMC was re-evaluating its sponsorship of Astana following the news of
Alexandre Vinokourov's positive test for blood doping.
"Our aim in sport sponsorship is to offer riders the best material
and technical conditions for their success," said Andreas Georgiadis,
CEO of International Sport Holding AG, which coordinates BMC's sponsorships.
"But we don't want to have anything to do with doping."
Amadio backs current anti-doping system
By Gregor Brown in Ley
Liquigas general manager Roberto
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Roberto Amadio of Team Liquigas is convinced that the anti-doping controls
in cycling are working.
"Definitely, I was shocked of yesterday's news," said the
Liquigas team manager. "It is serious but the system is functioning.
The anti-doping measures are working. If there are some riders that still
don't understand this, then it is better they stop cycling and change
The Italian was referred to the news that Alexander Vinokourov tested
positive for a blood transfusion and, subsequently, that Team Astana pulled
the plug on its 2007 Tour participation.
"I asked [Astana's General Manager] Marc Biver that the team leave
the Tour de France, and he accepted," said Patrice Clerc yesterday
in response to the news that Vinokourov tested positive.
The Tour officials explained to the riders at the Grand Départ
in London that it was a chance to restart with a clean state. "Still
we have riders who think they can be wiser than the others and this is
definitely not good," continued Amadio. "However, I believe
that they have made 200 or more controls and they have found Sinkewitz
and Vinokourov, so, out of the 180 riders here there are two and this
is something to take into consideration.
"Without a doubt, the actions of Vinokourov are not good for our
image but, I repeat, the controls function and they find the positive
riders; this is important."
Amadio has long had the backing of a strong sponsor, natural gas company
Liquigas. The management has spoken with the team's leader about the situation.
"I have talked with the president [of Liquigas] and the administration,
and, logically, they are worried and attentive to the problems. However,
they entered cycling knowing of these situations and we have an internal
structure that is strongly against doping. It is not good for cycling
but they believe in cycling and a clean cycling, and they are backing
Prudhomme closed the Vinokourov press conference Tuesday with a note
on Rasmussen. "Michael Rasmussen should not have started the Tour,"
stated Clerc. "Why? In a period of crisis, a champion has to be an
example. In addition, his attitude, which we only know now, makes us believe
that we should have refused his participation."
"He is within the rules," Amadio claimed, defending the participation
of Michael Rasmussen in the Tour. "Based on the system of rules we
have in place he is okay, ethically it is different. It is a decision
of Rabobank but... We will see how it goes today [to the Col d'Aubisque
- Rasmussen won Stage 16 with a time of 6:23:21. -ed.] and who is the
winner on Sunday.
"If he wins, it is true that it would leave doubts, but I say that
if the rules have put him in doubt then we need to change the rules,"
concluded Amadio. Less than 24 hours after Amadio's remarks, when Rabobank
fired Rasmussen, pulling him from the Tour, no doubt remains.
Gianetti not impressed with motionless ProTour system
By Gregor Brown in Ley
Saunier Duval Team Manager Mauro
Photo ©: Saunier Duval team
Saunier Duval Team Manager Mauro Gianetti was shocked to hear of the
positive blood-doping test of Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), but the Swiss
believes that the system is working.
"The system functions," noted Gianetti Wednesday morning in
Orthez. "It is not important who the riders are, big or small. The
riders who want to make cycling dirty don't have a place here. This is
The former winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège formed Saunier
Duval-Prodir in 2004, one year before the ProTour started and he is determined
to keep his team at the top even if it means within a new league.
Christian Prudhomme had hinted at this new league Tuesday during ASO's
press conference in response to Vinokourov's case. "It is clear it
[the current system] is a failure," blasted the Frenchman.
"I think it is a good idea to make a league that is cleaner, with
better functions, however, the system is not so bad at the moment,"
continued Gianetti. "We must change the riders who have the bad mentality."
The ProTour began with the 2005 season. "It is not a ProTour problem;
it is a problem of the riders. The UCI ProTour was born four years ago
and in this time they can't keep up. It is now four years old; it is too
"All the talks between the UCI and the organisers. They have made
themselves too static and now we must move [forward]. A new [version]
of the UCI ProTour? I don't know, but for sure we have to change."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)