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Latest Cycling News for January 15, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Uncertainty over Operación Puerto riders for Tour de France

By Shane Stokes

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme
Photo ©: AFP
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Their teams may have given the impression that there is no case to answer, but the prospect of riders implicated in Operación Puerto not being allowed to start this year's Tour de France remains a clear possibility. Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme hinted as much to journalists while attending the T-Mobile launch at Cala d'Or in Mallorca over the weekend.

"I am not going to name names but there people who have made errors and who have been at fault," he stated prior to the presentation. "They are several different riders with different teams. I don't want to give specific names – people may want to hear them but that is not a concern for me. But we will take our responsibilities when the time is right."

When pressed by journalists on what would happen if Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich went to the start in London, he declined to give a direct answer. "I don't want to get into speculative politics or scenarios for now. We couldn't have imagined what happened last year, after all. This is not the time for us to make a pronouncement. What is most important for now is that the spirit of what was born in Strasbourg before the start of the Tour continues to exist [the fight against doping]. That is absolutely necessary."

Basso was among several high profile riders provisionally cleared by his national federation. At the time, Discovery Channel stated that this spelt an end to his involvement in the investigation, freeing the way for him to sign for the team and ride in the Tour. However both the UCI and the Tour organisers see things differently vis-à-vis those implicated in Operación Puerto, recognising that cases have had to be shelved due to a direction from the Spanish judge in charge of the case.

Under that ruling, evidence gathered by Spain's Guardia Civil cannot be used in a sporting process until the ongoing judicial case has finished. However, once this is completed, the UCI and national federations may once again decide to conduct their own investigations, invalidating statements that the riders have definitely been cleared at this point. Meanwhile, the Swiss federation is currently deciding whether or not to press on with their own proceeding against Ullrich, using other evidence.

Prudhomme also stated on Saturday that he sees T-Mobile as leading the way in the fight against doping. Having gone to the Tour with Jan Ullrich as one of the two big favourites, the team had a lot to lose because of his implication of involvement with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. They acted swiftly, first suspending him from the race and then firing him from the team. Since then, the management has introduced an extremely strong anti-doping programme.

That fight was one of the main themes of the launch and is clearly appreciated by Prudhomme. "If I am here it is not by chance," he stated. "If I am here it is because what T-Mobile did before the Tour was extremely strong; they showed a lot of courage and it was they who made those first moves. I said to them last July 'wherever you present the team, whether it is in Bonn, Berlin, Paris, Hong Kong, I will be there. Because what you have done, what you are doing and what you wish to do is what we need for the future of cycling.'

"I am a former TV journalist and I am absolutely convinced that if you overcome doping in all sports, then the one with much to gain is cycling. Cycling's value is a relative one. It is not important whether you race at 38 kilometres an hour or 42... A big fight between the top riders at 38 kilometres per hour with grimacing faces is more impressive than one at 45 kilometres per hour when they are expressionless. So cycling has everything, and I mean everything, to gain by a cleanup."

He hopes that sport in general will change. "There is a [long] culture of doping in cycling but now cycling is no different to other sports. We have to go right to the target [to eliminate the problem] and I hope that if other sports are implicated too, that nothing happens to block that process. We are not the judges, we are not the sporting body, but I think we have to do what we can in this fight."

A longer Christian Prudhomme interview will feature soon on Cyclingnews.

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

Contador signs with Discovery Channel

Alberto Contador in Romandie
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Alberto Contador will join USA-based Discovery Channel. El País reports that the 24 year-old has signed a two year contract, for 2007 and 2008. Team manager Johan Bruyneel, who was rumoured to be hiring an additional Italian to back Ivan Basso, will likely use Contador to reinforce his star signing in either the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France.

Contador passed into the professional ranks in 2003 with ONCE, and has always been at under the guidance of now-exiled team manager Manolo Saiz. In 2006 he won two races, both in Switzerland, stage three of the Tour de Romandie and stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse.

In the first hours of Operación Puerto, Contador, as with most of the Liberty Seguros-Würth team, was announced on the list of riders treated by Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. He was quickly distanced from involvement, and even Fuentes himself came out and reported that he never treated the rider. He continued racing with the Astana team in 2006 until health problems forced his withdraw from fourth stage of the Vuelta a Burgos. Since then he has not raced but continued his training and looks forward to a 2007 season with Discovery.

Haselbacher training hard

By Susan Westemeyer

Rene Haselbacher
Photo ©: H. Roth/R. Oelgen
Click for larger image

Rene Haselbacher has been doing some serious training this off-season, even sacrificing his time at home in efforts to prepare for his first season with the new Astana. He flew to Cape Town, South Africa, the end of November, where he even remained over the holidays.

"It was a good time there, like every year. The training went well, I got in a lot of ground endurance training," he wrote on his website, "I often sat in the saddle up to seven hours a day. In the last weeks I have totally concentrated on riding."

The Austrian flew from South Africa directly to Mallorca, where he has been training with his Astana teammates. "My preparations for the new season are going perfectly so far. I'm happy to be with the team for the first time, with the new bike, and wearing the new kit, which looks great by the way. And the weather here on Mallorca, with 20 degrees, couldn't be better."

Burghardt ready for the new season

By Susan Westemeyer

Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

Marcus Burghardt may not be one of the biggest names on T-Mobile but he could be one of the happiest to be on the team. He joined the team as a neo-pro in 2005 and had a reasonably good first season. But last year things didn't go so well; a knee problem cost him three whole months of the season. But an operation finally solved the problems, and although he is still working to build up the muscles again, he is confident of being able to soon ride at full power.

Another reason Burghardt is happy to be there is because it took a while for his new contract to come about. In fact, he was one of the last to be re-signed. After a year like he had just been through, he knew there was a possibility of not getting another chance, so receiving the new contract has given him an extra motivation for the new season.

Tonti stops for knee pain

Andrea Tonti of Quick-Step has returned home to Italy from his team's training camp in Calpe, Spain, reporting pains in his left knee. The 30 year-old Italian, 2006 with Acqua & Sapone and a win in stage two of the Euskal Bizikleta, will rest at his home in Osimo (Le Marche) for two weeks.

The Belgian team will continue their first training camp of the year, located in the Alicante region of Spain, from January 8 - 19.

2007 Women's teams database

The Cyclingnews teams database keeps growing and growing. Théo Muller has been tracking the rider's movements for many years and he is currently busy building up the 2007 listings; including the now published list of women's elite teams.

The teams database gives Cyclingnews readers an historical account of teams and rider transfers since 1998. Currently for 2007, there is listed men's ProTour and professional continental teams and the newly introduced list of women's elite teams. Check back soon for a complete listing of continental teams from their various regions, namely: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

2007 South Australian Classic

A record field of entries will contest the 2007 South Australian Classic, running January 17 to 20 on the same parcours as the Tour Down Under. The veterans race series is an associated event of the Tour Down Under (January 16 - 21) and will be run just prior to the professionals' race.

"In this year’s race we will see a record 170 riders will start under the archway in Tanunda, and more than 200 riders in Hahndorf," commented Race Organiser Wolfgang Harder.

"We have received a strong response from entrants from across Australia, including Roy Clark from Victoria who is out to defend his Australian Criterium Championship title."

Entrants in the veterans race series (over 35 years-old) are expected from all across Australia as well as a few starters from England.

Wednesday, January 17, Tanunda criterium
Thursday, January 18, Hahndorf road race
Saturday, January 20, Willunga Straight line sprint

For further information on the 2007 South Australian Classic visit the Tour Down Under website.

Tour of Virginia registration opens

Registration for the 2007 edition of the Tour of Virginia is now open. The race will feature seven stages over six days and will take place April 24 - 29. With the Tour of Virginia's recent upgrade to National Racing Calendar (NRC) status, and with Tour de L'Avenir becoming a national team only event, registration is expected to fill up early as the international appeal of the race has increased.

The tour will be based in Troy, Virginia, and is run by executive director Matt Butterman. 2007 is the fifth year for the race, which is held on some of the the state's most quiet and scenic roads. Formerly known as the Tour of Shenandoah, the race has a history of highlighting young stars and in 2006 it formally announced itself as a race primarily for U25 riders.

The slogan for the race is "Showcasing North America's Rising Stars," and along with young talent the race helps to promote public awareness about how to control the onset of diabetes and reduce the complications through exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)

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