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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for February 10, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo and Sue George

Valverde ill, hoping to bounce back

Squad to remember Galvez’ win on Sunday

By Shane Stokes

Isaac Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne - Illes Balears)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)
ProTour champion Alejandro Valverde's planned season debut in Sunday's opening leg of the Challenge Mallorca races, the Trofeo Mallorca, is uncertain due to a gastric virus afflicting the Spaniard.

The 26-year-old was ill on Friday and his participation on Sunday will depend on how he feels before then, with the rider and team to make a decision closer to the race. Sunday marks a year since the late Isaac Galvez opened the team's 2006 accounts with a sprint win, and so will be an emotional day for the Caisse d’Epargne squad.

Directeur sportif Alfonso Galilea said late on Friday evening that they are hopeful he will be well enough to line out for the event. "It depends on how his health is," he told Cyclingnews. “Normally, if Alejandro is okay, he should be on the start line of the first stage. Yesterday was a very bad day for him and today he is a little bit better, but that leaves just one day between now and Sunday. We must wait to see how things progress, but I think and I hope that he will be on the start line.

"Sunday will be a very special day for him and for the whole team because it is a year since the first victory of last season by Isaac Galvez here. He won the same stage so it will be about remembering the memory of Isaac on Sunday, remembering the image of him taking that win. I think Alejandro wants to dedicate this special day to him and take part."

Two and a half months have passed since the tragedy in Gent, and Galilea said it has been a tough time for the squad. "It was very hard for the whole team. I think that nobody thought that something like this could happen. It is very strange, and for it to happen on the track is even more peculiar. Normally the road is more dangerous, with a lot of people there; a sprint on a normal road stage it is more dangerous than a sprint on the track.

"But that is life. It is very, very strange. For the team it was very, very, very hard, but life continues and all we can do is to dedicate the victories this season of the team to Isaac and try to do as well as possible for him and to celebrate the memory of him."

Even if Valverde doesn't start on Sunday, the Majorcan races are unique in that they allow riders to pick and choose the stages they compete in, with only those who ride each day eligible for the overall classification. So he could still make his season debut in these races.

He had planned to ride the first, third and fourth stages, using those races as early-season tune-ups and also helping the Caisse d'Epargne riders going for the overall. Galilea outlined who they are likely to be.

"Some of the riders who are sick are those who would have done the whole five stages," he said. "But we expect that the guys for the overall will be the two Balearic riders, [Joan] Horrach and [Vicente] Reynes, plus Fran Perez and Luis Leon Sanchez. Normally, health permitting, these four guys should be the ones for the general classification.”

The Franco-Spanish squad has been unlucky as regards illnesses, with Pablo Lastras, Joaquím Rodríguez and Xabier Zandio now suffering from flu and Valverde, Iván Gutiérrez and Alexeï Markov under the weather due to stomach problems. The team’s other big star, Oscar Pereiro, has been affected by flu for much of the week but has improved noticeably in the past two days. He is a possible starter on Sunday, but is only scheduled to do that day of the Challenge Mallorca competition.

Caisse d'Epargne and other teams staying on the Spanish island had their training disrupted on Friday due to very heavy rainfall in the morning. This later cleared and the forecast for the first few days of the Challenge Mallorca races is, for now, good, with sun and mild temperatures predicted.

In related news, members of the team who were not affected by illness did physiological testing on Friday under the supervision of Dr. Jesús Hoyos and Alfredo Zúñiga. The previous day saw the squad do traditional pre-season photo sessions in their new team kit, which is a variation of last year's black and red colours.

Unibet gets official prohibition

By Hedwig Kröner

Team Unibet
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Team directors of the Swedish ProTour squad have now finally received an official order from French prefectural authorities, which states that the team cannot, at the moment, advertise the name of its sponsor at races in France. On the morning of stage two of the Etoile de Bessèges event in Nîmes, team manager Jacques Hanegraaf was given the order by the sub prefect himself, and had to ask his riders to put on the generic "question-mark" jersey.

"An official paper from the French state; that was what we were still waiting for," commented Hanegraaf to L'Equipe. "Now at least we can look at how we can follow up this affair on the judicial level. The team will race through the end of the event without advertising, just as our in-race cars." At the ongoing event, team is thus referred to as 'the Swedish team' on race radio.

Gambling is in fact legally prohibited in France, as in most European countries - only the French state lottery Française des Jeux, horse race betting institution PMU (which sponsors the Tour de France) and the Casinos benefit from a derogation. As is an online gambling company, thus accessible from French territory via internet, Française des Jeux has engaged in legal action against the company, as well as other sports betting internet websites such as Belgian state lottery Lotto (co-sponsor of ProTour team Predictor) is not in the same situation, as it does not provide an internet platform allowing play.

Now, it is up to the European Commission to rule on the subject, with some observers saying that a liberalisation of the gaming market may be the outcome of the legal procedure.

Landis reponds to re-test news

The moment of truth
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
Floyd Landis responded today to a report in the French newspaper L'Equipe that the US anti-doping agency is requested testing of five other 'B' samples taken during the 2006 Tour de France, calling the request "illegal", and saying that "testing should have been done right the first time."

Of the six samples Landis gave during the Tour, only one came back with elevated testosterone:epitestosterone ratios during the 'A' sample analysis, and only that one sample was subjected to carbon isotope testing to determine whether the source of the testosterone was not naturally made in his body. The 'IRMS' testing showed evidence of exogenous testosterone in Landis' sample, and now the US Anti-Doping Agency wants the rest of his samples subjected to the same analysis. But Landis and his attorneys are calling the lab's past results and methods into question, and are objecting to further testing by the French lab.

According to a 'Floyd Fairness Fund' press release, the original request for re-testing came from United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) general counsel Travis Tygart in late December, and proposed further testing of the 'B' portion of the five other 'A' samples at the Labaratoire National Depistage de Dopage's (LNDD) laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry." Landis' team is objecting to the same lab whose practices they find issue with getting another chance to test more of his samples.

"I am 100% confident that if best practice in process and technology were applied to testing my sample back in July," said Landis, "I would be racing my bike this season. With all that we have learned, however, I am very concerned regarding the LNDD's handling of my samples..." He also questioned why USADA would make such a request. "It's impossible to understand USADA's motivation for this move, unless it's simply another way to drain my resources in this fight to clear my name."

The press release states that "USADA's request for further analysis of "B" samples is in clear violation the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code and Union Cyclist International (UCI) rules and is unprecedented in athlete anti-doping cases." However, WADA legal director Olivier Niggli told L'Equipe that "The World Anti-Doping Code allows additional analysis on B samples only [as the A samples have already been used - ed.] when there is a need for it in the procedure."

Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case

May 29, 2009 - French authorities summon Landis and Baker
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of the Floyd Landis case

Cycling recovering, no thanks to Ullrich, says German federation head

By Susan Westemeyer

Cycling "is recovering its health. It is no longer in the Intensive Care Unit," said Rudolf Scharping, head of the German cycling federation BDR. "It's not only the ethics of the sport, but its economic survival," he told the press agency dpa.

Scharping sees no chance for Ullrich to represent Germany in the Olympic Games or World Championships in the future. "The future of cycling no longer depends on him," he said, according to the sid press agency. German cycling owes him a lot, but "you can't imagine how much cycling has been damaged by him." He also ruled out the possibility of Ullrich working with the federation after his active career. "Riders like Erik Zabel or Jens Voigt are much closer to us."

The former German defense Minister also noted that "What applies to the Tour de France, also applies to races in Germany: riders suspected of doping should not start." Thinking of the Tour of Deutschland, he said that if such riders should be nominated by their teams, then the courts must be called upon to act.

Leukemans breaks collarbone

Belgian rider Bjorn Leukemans crashed badly during stage three of the Etoile de Bessèges stage race in Southern France, and broke his left collarbone.

"Leukemans hit the ground hard during a descent; he fell on his left shoulder," Predictor-Lotto sports director José De Cauwer told Belgian news agency belga. "The first diagnosis already pointed towards a fracture of the collarbone. Leukemans was immediately brought to the hospital in Alès. This is our second misfortune this season, as Tom Steels also crashed out of the Tour of Qatar earlier."

Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet) was also involved in the crash, but his injuries were not as severe.

Vinokourov, Valverde, and Basso for Valencia

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Vinokourov give the thumbs-up
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Vuelta winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) will join local rider José Enrique Gutiérrez (LPR), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Óscar Freire (Rabobank), and Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel) at the 65th Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana slated for February 27 through March 3.

The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, which will be shown on regional television, covers 774 kilometres over five stages. Of the 18 teams registered, 10 are Spanish.

The first stage stays local to Alzira during its162.7 kilometres and only ascends one third category climb, Barxeta. The second stage happens around Calpe, with 148.2 winding kilometres including one category one and two category three climbs; the Coll de Rates will play a decisive role in the outcome. The 151.8 kilometre third stage starts and finishes in Villa-Real, whereas Stage 4 connects Albaida and Vallada via a route including six climbs of the third category and one of first, the Alt of the Campello. The flatter, final stage starts and ends in Valencia.

Lampre, LPR for GP Etruschi

This weekend's GP Costa degli Etruschi marks the start of the Italian road season, and the Italian teams are ready to get back into competition after a long winter of training. Lampre-Fondital is looking to carry some of last year's momentum into this season with classics man Alessandro Ballan and sprinter Daniele Bennati leading the way. "If the weather will be good, the race will end with a sprint" said manager Fabrizio Bontempi, "We'll be ready, with the whole team that will work to bring Bennati to the sprint. Our riders are in good form: it will be our first race and we will face cyclists that have already raced, but I think that we can do good things".

Lampre-Fondital for GP Costa degli Etruschi: Fabio Baldato, Alessandro Ballan, Daniele Bennati, Matteo Bono, Paolo Bossoni, Claudio Corioni, Paolo Fornaciari, David Loosli, Massimiliano Mori and Daniele Righi. DS Fabrizio Bontempi.

The Professional Continental team LPR will debut in Italy this weekend. After a tense month spent fighting the UCI for their license, the team was granted Pro Continental status after a Swiss judge ruled in their favor. Taking a step down from T-mobile, Daniele Nardello will lend his experience to the young team. Maurizio Bellin, Borut Bozich, Luca Celli, Marco Marcato, Samuele Marzoli, Alessandro Maserati, Walter Proch and Luca Solari will also represent the team at the GP Costa degli Etruschi.

Liquigas for Italy and Spain

Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Liquigas will head their squad for the GP Costa degli Etruschi with Franco Pellizotti and Francisco Chicchi, along with Eros Capecchi, Kjell Carlström, Mauro Da Dalto, Francesco Failli, Roman Kreuziger, Vladimir Miholjevic, Matej Mugerli, Andrea Noè, Franco Pellizotti, Roberto Petito, Alessandro Vanotti and Charles Wegelius. Chicchi, Failli and Da Dalto already have a few race kilometres in their legs after finishing the Tour of Qatar.

After the Italian debut, the green and blue team will line up four of its champions in Spain: Danilo Di Luca, Filippo Pozzato, Luca Paolini and Vincenzo Nibali will compete at the Challenge de Mallorca.

Danilo Di Luca is looking forward to starting again: "I am longing to enter the fray again, after so many training days and kilometres. This year I have anticipated my training: the rhythms of this competition will help me to improve my already good form".

Filippo Pozzato, going into his first competition in the Liquigas jersey, shared Di Luca's views. "We start from a good form. At this moment of the season we do not have to think only about victory. It is better to improve our form, in order to be ready for the most important events of the year".

Joining Di Luca, Pozzato, Paolini and Nibali in Majorca will be Michael Albasini, Magnus Backstedt, Patrick Calcagni, Murilo Fischer, Enrico Gasparotto, Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Manuel Quinziato, Alessandro Spezialetti and Guido Trenti.

Nys and Vervecken hit the boards

Sven Nys and Erwin Vervecken provided the opening entertainment for the first night of the Lotto six day in Hasselt on Thursday. The two cyclo-cross champions faced off in an unlikely venue - the smooth, mud and obstacle-free velodrome - for an exhibition three kilometre pursuit. UCI 'cross leader Nys bested World Champion Vervecken in the pursuit by just over a second.

For racers familiar with going flat out for an hour, less than four minutes of racing should be easy, right? "The track experience was simply painful", Nys told Sporza. "It's as if you ride continuously against wind. My legs are in pain at this moment. I feel that seriously." But Nys doesn't count this 'win' among his victories for the season. "No, I wouldn't say that. I had no back number," he laughed.

Following the exhibition, the serious racing was underway for the final six day of the season. Defending champion Iljo Keisse, still waiting for his usual partner Matthew Gilmore to recover from a broken leg suffered last fall, sits in second place with partner Marco Villa behind the Swiss team Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli. Robert Slippens, who made his comeback just in time for this last race and his partner Danny Stam were in sixth place, two laps behind the leaders after the first night.

Fundación Euskadi to help cycling in Alava

By Monika Prell

The general manager of the team Euskaltel-Euskadi, Miguel Madariaga, announced Thursday in a press conference held in Vitoria that the Fundación Euskadi will help cycling in the Basque province of Alava, which has experienced the ending of the Vuelta a Alava Under 23 race and the loss of sponsorship for the only under 23 team, Hotel Ruta Europa.

The province of Alvara can count only four professional cyclists among its ranks--Iñaki Isasi and Koldo Fernández de Larrea (Euskaltel), Arkaitz Durán (Saunier Duval), and Roberto Barrientos (Orbea).

According to the Spanish newspaper GARA, Madariaga and the González de Galdeano brothers, Álvaro and Igor, as well as the president of the Alaves Cycling Foundation Miguel Ángel Martín, want to create an elite and Under 23 team starting in 2008. Madariaga would also like to see the reappearance of the Vuelta Ciclista a Alava in 2008. Its disappearance was caused by caused originally by financial problems.

One of the basic initiatives of the foundation will be encouraging more children to ride bicycles, and in June, the town of Vitoria will host the Criterium Txiki, a race for children.

Tour of Cuba may run backwards

Organizers of the Tour of Cuba are considering change the direction of the race. The proposed change would run the race from west to east instead of its traditional east to west route.

Only one year, 1976, has the race gone this direction. According to Prensa Latina, it went from the western province of Pinar del Rio to the eastern village of Baracoa and world champions Ryzard Skurkowsi (Poland) and Eduard Papp (Soviet Union) participated.

Jose Pelaez, Cuban Cycling Federation President, finds the change in direction attractive because fans follow cycling more closely in the eastern provinces, so more could come to the later portions of the race. When the race has ended in the west, stages have been poorly attending, especially in Havana.

The 32nd Tour of Cuba is expecting teams from Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador, Germany, Austria, and Canada.

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