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Mt Hood Classic
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Latest Cycling News for April 24, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown.

Italy collects Basso-related blood bags

Spanish paper details Fuentes connection

Ivan Basso
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Italian cyclist Ivan Basso is set to face further investigations, including DNA testing, regarding his involvement in Operación Puerto. Last October the Italian cycling federation (FCI) investigation against him was shelved on the direction of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), and he was freed to sign with Discovery Channel. However, Spanish weekly magazine Interviú has published further papers detailing the 29 year-old's relation with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

Tuesday morning, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that there is interest from a Procura italiana (Italian public prosecutor, likely Bergamo anti-doping lawyer Cristina Rota) to have the bags of blood labelled 'Birillo' (allegedly Basso's dog's name) and with the number 2 brought from Madrid to Italy. It states that this transfer, like what was done in Jan Ullrich's case, could happen sometime in the coming week, where the prosecutor could then ask for a DNA sample from Basso.

Subsequently, CONI announced on its website that it was reopening investigations, signifying a change of its stance on the issue. It has summoned Basso to its headquarters in Rome at 15.00 on May 2.

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This morning Ivan Basso was slated to arrive in Charleroi, Belgium for the start of the Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday) and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but according to Belgian's HLN, Basso, under increasing pressure, will not start. (He faced similar pressure from his former team, CSC, at the end of 2006 when he missed out on the Giro di Lombardia.)

Interviú detailed previously unpublished papers connecting Basso with Fuentes. This article contained what it said was circumstantial evidence implicating the rider, including: 1) An agenda with a schedule of blood extractions and transfusions since 2004. In the agenda the pseudonyms 'Birillo' and '2' are used. 2) Payments in 2004 of around €35,000 and another €6000 for the freezing the blood (or "gastos de Siberia"), and an advance payment of €70,000 in 2006 'to be defined individually'; there was also a message received from Fuentes in Italian which talks of a Zurich bank account. 3) The analyses of blood, which could have been done in November 2005 in Madrid, with haematologist Merino Batres, a collaborator of Fuentes. The Spanish Guardia Civil suspect that the cyclist visited Madrid at least three times but he has always denied being there.

Further, the weekly magazine noted telephone recordings collected by the Guardia Civil, one that said 'Birillo had arrived with Simoni at sixteen seconds', This would seem to refer to Giro d'Italia stage seven, won by Rik Verbrugghe, where Basso finished 16 seconds back with Gilberto Simoni, Davide Rebellin and Serguei Gonchar.

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

Nicolas Roche happy with Giro selection

By Shane Stokes

Nicolas Roche
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
(Click for larger image)

A good run of results in recent French Cup races has led to Crédit Agricole's Nicolas Roche being selected to line up in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, one of his big targets for the season.

Earlier this year, the 22 year-old named participation in the Italian Tour as one of his goals, knowing that lining up in the race will help him to become stronger and more experienced as a rider, and pave the way for bigger results in the years ahead.

He secured his place on the squad with a series of good results in the past week. One week ago [last Tuesday] he was ninth in the Paris-Camembert Lepetit race, then placed sixth in the Grand Prix de Denain two days later. On Saturday he was a solid 13th in the Tour du Finistère, then he took his third top ten placing in four races when he was ninth in the bunch sprint which decided the Tro Bro Léon on Sunday. Each of the races are 1.1 ranked French Cup events. Despite missing several of the races he is currently 12th in that series, and fifth in the young rider ranking.

Roche has never ridden a three week Tour. He is five or six years off the age when most cyclists come into their prime for such events, and so has set a realistic target for his first Giro.

"Finishing is definitely a goal, of course," he told Cyclingnews on Tuesday morning. "Hopefully I would like to be up there [on the attack] on a few stages, not just be in there and struggling. I am going to pinpoint some stages where I think I can try and fight for the breaks. I will do some research beforehand as I don't want to be going too hard if the next day is a top mountain stage, because I will not be giving myself a chance. I will study the course on the internet, seeing which days I can plan to attack and which days are better for me to stay in the bunch."

It is a voyage of discovery, of sorts, and so he doesn't know what to expect. "Three weeks is going to be a long time and I don't know how I will react. I could perhaps go well in the first week, not so good in the second week and then feel a bit better in the third week, or it could be the opposite. I have no idea."

Roche will be taking part in the race on the twentieth anniversary of his father's victory in the 1987 edition. Stephen Roche triumphed in the Italian tour one month before going on to win the Tour de France and world road race championships that year.

He played down any suggestion that he will be fired up to do well because his father won the race twenty years ago. "To be honest, it won't really be a big factor because I think I have sufficient motivation myself... I don't think I need extra motivation. Of course, if I do well, I will be happy to do so on the 20th anniversary of my dad's success. But then on the other hand, I am not going to [automatically] do well just because it is the 20th year."

Although he is a talented rider in his own right, he showed that he has his feet firmly on the ground. "There is not a Stephen Roche around every corner," he said.

Mark Scanlon was the last Irishman to take part in a Grand Tour. He finished the Tour de France in 2004, eleven years after Stephen Roche rode the race for the last time, and then rode 12 stages of the 2006 Giro d'Italia. Ciarán Power completed the Italian race in 2000.

The 2007 Giro d'Italia will begin in Sardegna on May 12, and runs until June 3.

Valverde prepares in Ardennes

Comments on Fuentes, Classics and Tour

By Monika Prell

Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Alejandro Valverde, sixth in the Amstel Gold race, spoke yesterday at a press conference in his team's hotel in Belgium. The Spaniard was questioned about the situation of cycling, above all about doping. "In the Vuelta al País Vasco were cyclists who went very well and others who went well, like in every race. There are always cyclists who win and other who lose," commented Valverde to Diario Vasco to the argument that the Vuelta al País Vasco was run at two different speeds.

Asked about the re-activity of Eufemiano Fuentes, Valverde stated that he does "not know if he is active or not." Regarding Operación Puerto, Valverde said, "I'm calm. I know that I don't have any problem, because if I had one, I would not have been able to ride in 2006."

Team Directeur Eusebio Unzué intervened. "Everything the Spaniards are doing is watched with a lens," he stated. "If you examine the results of all the races of 2007, you would detect that everybody is making a good showing, not only the Spanish cyclists. But when the Spaniards show a good performance, everybody thinks that Eufemiano Fuentes is behind it. You have to be fair to everybody."

The conference then focused on the Ardennes Classics. About his sixth place in the Amstel Gold Race, Valverde said to El Mundo Deportivo, "I was happy that I was in front fighting. Of course, it's not the same as a win, but even if you prepare yourself the best way, you have to understand that the Di Luca, Rebellin, are doing the same and that they are like me, keen to win."

In the Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège he is sure that he "will have the same rivals as in the Amstel, and even some more. The Flèche has changed its course. Tomorrow [today] I will inspect the two new ascents. For me, the two races equally as important, even if Liège is more prestigious because it's older. But I think that winning either of them is equally great."

He took time to comment on the Tour de France, now less than 80 days away. "What I want is to finish it and to arrive at Paris, fighting to be with the best." He thinks a win would be "difficult" because "I still lack experience to finish it, but Pereiro will be very useful for me because he knows it much better than I do and having him at my side will be calming. We will share the leadership."

Valverde, who today celebrates his 27th birthday, affirmed that his dream is "to win the Tour one day."

He believes that participating in the Spring Classics and then the Tour de France is possible, "because there are three months to adapt. If I ever think that I have to skip the Classics in order to win the Tour, I will do it without hesitation. One day I will compete in the Tour of Flanders, but never Paris–Roubaix; I will enjoy watching it on the television."

Rogers: peloton needs to be united

By Shane Stokes

T-Mobile's Michael Rogers
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

As the uncertainty about the future of the ProTour rumbles on, CPA rider's council member Michael Rogers has said that there needs to be greater unity in the peloton when dealing with such issues. The T-Mobile rider commented about the situation prior to the start of the Amstel Gold race on Sunday, and said he was keen that a resolution is found.

"It would be nice if it was all worked out," he told Cyclingnews just after signing on for the Classic. "The concept [of the ProTour] is certainly very good but everyone has to abide by the rules. Some people aren't doing that."

He suggested that the teams have the power to resolve some of the issues, including the exclusion of the one of them from some races. "Unibet are caught in the middle of this dispute. We should be more united about that stuff. We should just refuse to ride, in my opinion."

The Australian finished 51st in the Amstel Gold race, and will be hoping to show well in the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège races this week. He lines up with fellow T-Mobile riders Michael Barry, Scott Davis, Kim Kirchen, Axel Merckx, Marco Pinotti, Patrik Sinkewitz and Thomas Ziegler tomorrow.

He wasn't sure what to expect in Sunday's event. "I am still having some problems with my knee after Pays Basques," he said at the start. "I bashed it pretty hard. I fell when I hit a rock on the road. I didn't see it and hit it, coming down pretty hard.

"I am pretty happy with my form so far. I wasn't too bad in Pays Basques – the level was really high there. We will see how it goes today. I haven't an idea what to expect, really. I like to ride well in these races, although it is not as if my whole season is based around these. I am looking to do well in Romandie next week. So we will see how it goes."

No Ardennes Classics for Unibet

A court in Brussels, Belgium, has ruled that Unibet will not be allowed to start in the Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, reports the Belga press agency. The team and the UCI had filed the suit in order to force the ASO to accept in its races as a ProTour team. No further details of the decision were yet available.

Green Cycle, the operating company for the Unibet team, is allegedly considering filing new suit in London, England, to enforce its right as ProTour team to start in the Tour de France, which starts in London this summer.

Kessler "pleasantly surprised"

Astana's Matthias Kessler wasn't unhappy with finishing "only" fourth in the Amstel Gold Race -- quite the contrary. "Since I've been fighting a cold the last few weeks, I was not disappointed but rather pleasantly surprised."

"In the end, the last little bit of strength was missing," he wrote on his website, "I decided to attack again out of the group, since I didn't want to wait for the final sprint."

After eventual winner Stefan Schumacher took off on his ultimately successful break, Kessler went after him in search of second place. At the last second, though, Davide Rebellin and Danilo Di Luca passed him, knocking him off the podium.

"Being overtaken so close to the finish line is naturally very irritating at the moment, but there are still two more races this week [Fleche and Liege - ed.], in which I figure I will have good chances," he concluded.

Vandenbroucke update

Frank Vandenbroucke has taken the first step back into the peloton, finishing the Giro d'Abruzzo Sunday. In the end he was 102nd, nearly 18 minutes behind winner Luca Ascani, but still he made it to the end of the race, which 51 other riders didn't manage.

"It went rather smoothly the last few days," he told Sportwereld. The Acqua e Sapone rider now heads off to the Subida al Naranco next week, to be followed by the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias.

"I can't say today how it will go after that", VDB said, referring to the Giro d'Italia that starts on May 12. "But I understand that it is a little tight for the Giro. That's a three-week race, and I have a knee that's still not 100 percent. I'm not going to take any chances."

Rabobank DS cited for "dangerous driving"

Rabobank's Frans Maassen couldn't believe it last week when the Netherlands police pulled him over and ticketed him for "dangerous driving." The Directeur Sportif was driving 35 km an hour behind his team, which was training for the upcoming Amstel Gold Race, according to HLN. It was unclear whether the police thought he was driving too slowly or endangering the riders in front of him. At any rate, he was told to pay a €400 fine. He has already said that he will contest the charges.

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