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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for June 7, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

Homes searched in western Belgium

Tom Janssens
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Kortrijk judicial authorities have searched ten homes of cycling team members as part of raids carried out Thursday morning in Western Belgium. According to Belgian's VRT news agency, banned substances were found in some of the riders' homes and that 13 people were taken in for questioning. At least one member of team Quickstep is confirmed to be involved.

"Large amounts of banned substances were found at several locations," confirmed a spokesman for the Kortrijk judicial authorities, Tom Janssens.

Last fall, politician Jean-Marie Dedecker attempted to make doping a major political issue in the lead-up to Belgium's municipal elections by publicly alleging he knew of riders who were doping and he had passed this information onto the Belgian cycling federation and a criminal magistrate for further investigation. This Sunday, Belgium is holding its federal elections, where Jean-Marie Dedecker is participating.

Since last year, Kortrijk judicial authorities have been tapping suspects' phones and collecting information, which led to Thursday morning's raids. This afternoon Kortrijk magistrates may decide to release some of the 13 people brought in for questioning.

Quickstep Team Manager Patrick Lefevere sent out a press statement shortly after the raids were conducted in which he confirmed a staff member was involved. Lefevere reported that a Quickstep's soigneur home was searched.

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"This takes place just three days ahead of the federal elections," Lefevere questioned the timing.

Bram Tankink and Addy Engels, two of the Dutch riders on team Quickstep were not visited by the Kortrijk authorities. They learned about the raids from the media. "I have been training. I don't know anything. Nobody has visited my home," said Engels to Het Laatste Nieuws. "I just now heard of it. I know absolutely nothing," added Tankink. The team's other Dutch rider, Steven de Jongh, could not be reached.

Cyclingnews will have more news on the Belgian raids in our next news edition.

Franck Vandenbroucke attempts suicide

Frank Vandenbroucke (Acqua e Sapone)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Wednesday afternoon, Belgian cyclist Franck Vandenbroucke attempted suicide in Vermezzo, Italy. According to, the 1999 winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège is in grave condition at the Red Cross hospital in Fornaroli di Magenta (near Milano). The doctors have declined to comment on the 32 year-old's prognosis.

Vandenbroucke was considered one of Belgium's brightest stars when he debuted with team Lotto in 1994. Amongst his main victories are Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Nice in 1998, Omloop Het Volk and Liège in 1999. He had passed some difficult years in the early 2000s but seemed to have found his step at the end of last season when he signed for Palmiro Masciarelli's Acqua e Sapone.

Past teams: Lotto (1994), Lotto / Mapei (1995), Mapei (1996-1998), Cofidis (1999-2000), Lampre-Daikin (2001), Domo-Farm Frites (2002), Quick Step-Davitamon (2003), Fassa Bortolo / MrBookmaker (2004), MrBookmaker-Sports Tech (2005), / Acqua & Sapone (2006), Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo (2007).

RFEC waits for UCI's answer

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) sent a letter to the UCI a few days ago in which it stated its desire for an amnesty on riders implicated with Operación Puerto, but RFEC President Fulgencio Sánchez is still waiting for an answer from UCI President Pat McQuaid.

"I have sent McQuaid many other letters showing him our intentions to collaborate in solving this doping affair, and this is not the first time I have not received a satisfactory answer," Fulgencio Sánchez told

Earlier this week, an official press release from RFEC expressed to McQuaid that "for a year RFEC has worked with the political and judicial estate powers to have closure for Operación Puerto."

The REFC President proposed to the ProTour squads "to demand to the race organisers to act with rigor and seriousness", although recognised that, "there is lack of unity among them, as well as between the Giro, Tour and Vuelta organizers and the UCI."

Further, Sánchez commented on the the media's accusations against Alejandro Valverde and his alleged involvement with Operación Puerto. He criticised those "who insist on damaging the image of an exemplary sportsman.

Riis out of the Tour record books

Tour Director Christian Prudhomme has erased Bjarne Riis' name from the Tour de France record books in light of the Dane's confession that he won the 1996 Tour while using doping products.

"Formally it's down to the International Cycling Union [UCI] to disqualify him but for us he can no longer be the winner and he has already been wiped from the road book [the official press guide] you will see at the start of the Tour," Prudhomme told the Manchester Guardian. "His name will not be at the top of the page, and below we will put that following his confession he cannot be considered the winner of that Tour."

At a press conference last month, Riis confessed to having used EPO, growth hormones and cortisone. He also said, "My yellow jersey is in box at home, you can come and collect it." Prudhomme confirmed that negotiations to pick up the jersey are underway.

He would not comment as to whether Erik Zabel's name would be removed as winner of the sprinter's green jersey that same year. The German confessed to having used EPO in the Tour that year.

Rojas, also in the Vuelta?

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Jose Joaquin Rojas wins Murcia stage
Photo ©: Caisse d'Epargne
(Click for larger image)

The young and promising Caisse d'Epargne sprinter José Joaquín Rojas expressed to Spanish newspaper El Faro de Murcia that "after having a rest, I will try to convince my directeur sportif to include me in the Vuelta a España roster."

The 21 year-old Spaniard's morale has been lifted after fighting against Petacchi, McEwen and other top-level sprinters in the Giro d'Italia. "I showed myself that I can be among the top sprinters." Rojas left the Giro d'Italia during the tenth stage, "because the high mountains were too much."

"I began to compete in February, in Mallorca, and since then I have not stopped. I needed to have a rest, but now I am thinking about the second part of this season. If you feel well, why stop?" Rojas added.

He won the first stage of the Vuelta a Murcia. "It was great, because I was at home. But what came after that was fantastic also, the April classics. I finished Paris-Roubaix in 26th, after having been in the escape group from the beginning. I think that I can do better next time," the Caisse d'Epargne rider said. The Vuelta a España will have a stage finish next to his home, in Torre Pacheco (Murcia), September 14. "This 13th stage comes by Cieza, where I live. In fact, there will be a Meta Volante (intermediate sprint) there. I will be very motivated to take that one," Rojas commented on the subject.

Cofidis to stop sponsorship?

Pro cycling's long history of doping problems is claiming another victim. Cofidis, the French credit company, has announced that it will probably not prolong its contract with the cycling team when it expires the end of 2008. According to L'Equipe, it has authorized team manager Eric Boyer to start looking for a new sponsor.

The former rider has already contacted a number of large companies who might be potential sponsors, presenting them with plans featuring a hard line against doping. Boyer took over the team in 2005 after it had been rocked by a series of doping problems, crowned by David Millar's EPO confession.

Cofidis has sponsored the team since 1996. François Migraine, company CEO, indicated that in addition to the doping problems, the ProTour costs of three million euros a year were a problem.

It would be the third sponsor this season to withdraw from the sport. Discovery Channel announced in February that it would no longer sponsor its ProTour team and the German company Wiesenhof also will stop its support of the continental Wiesenhof-Felt team at the end of the year due to the "the current conditions and developments in professional cycling."

Agritubel holds pre-Tour camp in Pyrenees

Agritubel, the French Professional Continental team that received a wild-card invitation to the Tour de France, is in the middle of preparations for the race. It has announced that a pre-selection of 12 riders will participate in a training camp to check out some of the climbs to be featured next month.

The camp, running from June 11 to 16, will be held at the Centre Laurent Fignon, close to Bagnères-de-Bigorre in the Pyrenees, allowing the riders to test the Tourmalet and the Col d'Aspin.

The Tour squad is expected to be led by Juan-Miguel Mercado. The other 11 riders are Emilien-Benoit Bergès, Freddy Bichot, Moisés Dueñas, Romain Feillu, Mikel Gaztañaga Echeverria, Eduardo Gonzalo, Cédric Hervé, Nicolas Jalabert, Samuel Plouhinec, Benoît Salmon and Nicolas Vogondy.

German investigators question d'Hont

Jef d'Hont, who has sparked the Telekom 1990s doping scandal, allegedly has been questioned by the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA - federal police) on Monday in connection with the team's doping practices.

"He was questioned in Aachen. The meeting lasted over three hours," his attorney Dimitri Dedecker told the German tabloid BILD. Dedecker is the son of Belgian politician Jean-Marie Dedecker, who has been active in uncovering doping scandals.

Rolf Aldag, current T-Mobile Team Sport Director, was also questioned by the BKA on Monday.

In an interview earlier in the week, d'Hont told the German television program ARD-Tagesthemen, "I repeat; in the second half of the 1990s Jan Ullrich used EPO and growth hormones." In response, Ullrich's manager, Wolfgang Strohband, said "We want to undertake something against d'Hont."

Twice the fun this weekend in British Cycling criterium series

By Gerry McManus

Simon Gaywood wins
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

The top British criterium riders will have two opportunities to win this weekend with races on consecutive days. The weekend kicks off on Saturday at the Hillingdon GP at 3pm. Round one winner and series leader Simon Gaywood takes to the 1.5km purpose built circuit in Hayes, West London with his Plowman Craven team in support.

Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT) will not be returning to defend the Hillingdon title that he won last year. The Tour de France veteran travels to Belgium on Friday with his Pinarello team to get some serious training and racing in before the Premier Calendar series resumes and he must also be targeting the national championships at the end of the month. Strangely enough, Elliott's team-mate Andrew Roche is marooned on the Isle of Man unable to get a flight or ferry to the mainland due to the motorcycle TT event clogging up the transportation system.

Marius Wiesiak (Team Nippo) won last year's Brentwood event and is another absentee this year. Rob Hayles (Team KLR/Parker International) could hold the key to the trophy cabinet for both events this year. However, the technically unchallenging circuit at Hayes will not be helpful to the 34 year-old from Portsmouth with the strong Plowman Craven team having previously shown their ability to keep control of the race.

Plowman Craven's 11-man entry for the 50-mile event will not be popular with any of the other teams. Gordon McCauley, James Millard, Tony Gibb, Simon Gaywood and Jason Allen all completed the Cambridge CC 10-mile time trial in less than 20 minutes last weekend, narrowly missing the national team record.'s eight-man entry of elite riders led by Chris Newton could just be their match.

Sunday will offer Hayles more opportunities on the tight circuit in the provincial town of Brentwood in Essex. Hayles has the power to accelerate out of the corners time and time again putting pressure on his opponents albeit in a shorter one hour plus five laps event.

Dean Downing (Rapha/Condor RT) continues to have form and will be a contender. Dean's brother Russell (Health Net-Maxxis) will not apparently be travelling down from Rotherham despite still being stranded in the UK with visa difficulties prohibiting his return to his team in the US.

Warwick Spence (CycleFit-Serotta) continues to show that he is perfectly built for navigating through tight corners and he will want to improve on last year's third and seventh places at Hillingdon and Essex respectively. Junior Peter Kennaugh (Pinarello RT) could show his elders the way as he steps up to the senior event at Hillingdon. He is back to the junior race at Brentwood to defend the title he won last year. The 17 year-old from the Isle of Man has hopefully escaped from the island be before the tourists descended on it.

Both the events have support races earlier in the day with Brentwood hosting the Reynolds/Michelin sponsored junior and women's British Cycling series races on Sunday.

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