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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for June 13, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown & Bjorn Haake

Contador prepares for the Tour

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After a brilliant beginning to the 2007 season, Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador has taken some active rest by checking out the mountain stages of the coming Tour de France with his team. He has returned to competition in the Dauphiné Libéré where he hopes to put the final touches on his Tour preparations. He is aware that others are in better shape right now, but his main objective is a little later, in July. "Surely, I will prove myself in some stages, but this race is too demanding," the Spanish climber commented to Cyclingnews just days before the race's start.

"I haven't studied the Dauphiné route in detail, but I know that there is a short prologue, a long time trial of about 40 kilometres and tough stages to the Mont Ventoux and Dignes." He noted, "the main candidates for winning this race will come from the same group that is going to contend for the top places in the Tour, but, at the same time, they may hold back a little. Perhaps, the winner will be a very strong rider but not a leader for the Tour; someone for whom the Dauphiné is a great opportunity," the Paris-Nice winner analysed.

After having trained in the mountain areas that the Tour is visiting this year, "my first conclusion is that the Pyrenees will be much harder than the Alps. The second is that he stage to Tignes will be very hard with its long climbs and the 4,600 metres of elevation gain. This will be one of the key stages, as it's the second mountain stage and we will already have seen who is in form."

Contador thought that another tough stage is the one to Briançon, with the Galibier climb included, though not as difficult as the Tignes stage. Contador continues that "then, in the Pyrenees, there is a pair of mountain top finishes, especially the one up the Plateau de Beille. It will be tricky as it's right after the Albi time trial and that will affect the recovery process." Contador suggested that other difficult stages are the ones including the Peyresourde [stage 15 - ed.] and stage 16 that finishes on the Col d'Aubisque, after having traversed the Col de Marie-Blanque.

After the Dauphiné, Contador will know how much he needs to work on his time trialing. His program leading to the Tour may include the team trial in Eindhoven and the Spanish national time trial championships.

Valverde has good legs

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Caisse d'Epargne rider Alejandro Valverde finished third in the second stage of the Dauphiné Libéré, which was held between Saint-Paul-en Jaez and Saint-Etienne, for a total distance of 157 kilometres.

"Fortunately, the weather was much better than it was yesterday and we had a nice stage," commented Valverde on the day's activities at the finish line in Saint-Etienne. "Personally, I felt well, as well as all my teammates, who worked very hard from the beginning in order to try to catch Moreau and Redondo, but those two were very strong and it was impossible. Anyway, I am satisfied with my third place today."

Today, the Dauphiné's only time trial will be held in Anneyron on a 40-kilometre loop. "I have good legs, but the most important thing is how I recover tonight and how I feel tomorrow morning. It is obvious that I hope to have good results, although it will be a very difficult task because there are many specialists here," the 27 year-old rider added.

Coming up on

Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Milram manager angry at Zabel

By Susan Westemeyer

Erik Zabel (Milram)
Photo ©: Elmar Krings
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram's Business Manager Gerry van Gerwen is not happy with Erik Zabel, following the sprinter's doping confession at a press conference held by his former team, T-Mobile, and has questioned Zabel's future with the Italian-German team.

"What is Zabel doing at a T-Mobile function?" he said in the German tabloid BILD. "Erik is our employee, but he makes his confession at T-Mobile." The Dutchman complained to T-Mobile team manager Bob Stapleton. "I told him that wasn't right. Zabel still has two years on his contract with us. T-Mobile should have informed us."

Team Milram confirmed van Gerwen's remarks to Cyclingnews.

He was also angry at how he heard about another one of Zabel's decisions. "I read in the newspaper that Zabel will not participate in the 2008 Olympics. When Erik voluntarily does that, then I, as his boss, want to know that before everyone else."

The business manager said that there would be some sort of punishment for Zabel from the team, possibly including an early end to his contract, which runs for another season. "He will ride the Tour de France and then he will ride the season until the end. Then we will see how things go on with him."

Broken chain keeps Seeldraeyers off the podium

A depressed Kevin Seeldraeyers finished 95th at 2'29" back in Tuesday's second stage of the Dauphiné Libéré. He was depressed because he had good chances of finishing in the top three, if not winning the stage -- that is, until his chain broke with only six kilometres to go while he was in the three-man lead group.

He might have had good chances of winning the stage, too. "With all the work that the young Belgian did, he deserved the win," said stage winner and new race leader Christophe Moreau, who wasn't surprised at the Quickstep rider's performance. "I knew him from the Volta a Catalunya. He did some very strong turns in the ride up to Andorra - Arinsal."

The 20 year-old neo-pro said that "I was afraid of my first year. I didn't know what to expect. I anticipated Moreau's escape today. The third-category climb suited me, but I waited to get the OK from the team car. And then on that descent, 'tik tik tik,' then a crack and the chain went," he explained. "Now everyone knows what I am capable of, but the disappointment is there."

Team manager Patrick Lefevere said that the team does not have a problem with its material, but calls the recent run of problems "voodoo." A flat tyre for Gert Steegmans, a broken wheel for Kevin Hulsmans and Seeldraeyers' chain problem cost the team two stage wins, he claimed. "More than half the peloton rides with this chain. Seven ProTour teams use the wheels. This has nothing to do with our bike constructor. And the mechanics can't do anything about it. The voodoo against us may stop any time now."

Vande Velde crashes in Dauphiné

Christian Vande Velde (CSC)
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Christian Vande Velde of Team CSC ended his day with a visit to the hospital after crashing in the second stage of the Dauphiné Libéré. He was able to finish the stage, but went to get further examinations last night.

"Christian was involved in a bad crash on the first descent and he was pretty beat up. He hurt his head and his back quite badly," said team doctor Piet Daneels on the team's website, "But the initial examination shows that he's okay. Of course he was a bit shaken up afterwards, but we'll give him another check-up at the hospital this evening. My initial estimation is that he will be able to continue, but let's wait and see."

The American finished 107th, nearly nine and a half minutes down. He had to abandon the Volta a Catalunya last month after a crash.

Danilo Napolitano wins Slovenia opener

"My teammates did an excellent job," confirmed Danilo Napolitano to La Gazzetta dello Sport after winning the opening stage of the Tour of Slovenia. It was an all Italian affair, with the winner of the Giro d'Italia stage to Lido di Camaiore stamping his dominance over compatriots Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas), Gabriele Balducci (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) and Enrico Rossi (OTC Doors-Lauretana).

"They put the gruppo in a long line for the finale. My last man was [Claudio] Corioni and he did great. I departed with 200 metres to go and I won clearly."

'Napo' took his first win after last week when the team re-signed him for two years. The 26 year-old from Sicily will not race the Tour de France with the team's main sprinter, Daniele Bennati, but will race in the Tour of Austria, July 8 - 15.

Three Giro non-negatives reported

One Spaniard and two Italians in question

Three riders' anti-doping controls during the Giro d'Italia have resulted in 'non-negative' according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Italian Grand Tour was one of the most open races in years, blighted briefly by Aketza Peña's nandrolone result and, now, the news of these three cyclists, of which one is Spanish and two are Italian. Counter-analysis is pending and the UCI has yet to confirm the findings.

The top-classification men seem to be out of the suspicion spotlight due to the (unauthorized) CONI controls carried out on May 31, after the stage to Monte Zoncolan.

In the case of the Spaniard, the 'non-negative' is a result of an elevated testosterone level. The Italian Federal Sports Medicine anti-doping laboratory (FMSI) in Rome has sent samples to Barcelona for further verification, pending confirmation from the UCI. The tests would seek to prove, like in the case of Floyd Landis, whether there is evidence of synthetic testosterone.

The two Italians' results stemmed from the presence of Salbutamol. The substance usually found in drugs used to control asthma but in the case of the two Italians, the dose was over the 1000 nanograms per millilitre limit.

The Italians could in fact have a special dispensation from their doctors for the use of excess Salbutamol but for one of the two La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the level is high enough not to support a therapeutic use. Controversially, medical certifications permit the use of Salbutamol above the 1000 limit with no upper end. The outcome for the two Italians could be similar to Igor González de Galdeano's case in the 2002 Tour de France. The Basque registered a reading of 1360 nanograms but the UCI did not count this as a 'positive' and it allowed him to continue racing.

Cyclingnews will report on the case as it unfolds.

Giuseppe Muraglia's CONI date postponed

Giuseppe Muraglia's hearing with Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors has been pushed back from its scheduled date of today to Tuesday, June 19, at 10.30. The Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo rider tested Positive for hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin) in a medical control on March 4, after winning the 22nd Clasica de Almeria.

Muraglia also will be questioned in regards to his involvement in the 2004 Oil for Drugs raids.

Unzue: Until now still no Tour team

By Monika Prell

Eusebio Unzue
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Contrary to some rumours that announced the official team roster of Caisse d'Epargne for the Tour de France, its Directeur Sportif Eusebio Unzue denied that the nine riders are already fixed.

Het Laatste Nieuws published the names of Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Pereiro, José Vicente Garcia, Xabier Zandio, Luis León Sánchez, Francisco Pérez, Vladimir Karpets and the Frenchmen Florent Brard and Nicolas Portal as riding the Tour de France for sure. According to Diario Vasco, Unzue said, "I don't know how they could write that this is the final team lineup." He still "wants to check out a lot of riders in the Dauphiné."

He affirmed that besides "the eight riders who are riding the Dauphiné Libéré, [Alejandro] Valverde, [Florent] Brard, [José Vicente] García Acosta, Fran Pérez, Oscar Pereiro, [Nicolas] Portal, Luis León Sánchez and [Xabier] Zandio" that the other four are possible candidates are José Iván Gutiérrez, Joaquím Rodríguez, Vladimir Karpets and David Arroyo.

"From those names I will eliminate two. After this race [the Dauphiné], we will have six definite riders. There are still riders like Luis León Sánchez, García Acosta or Fran Pérez who should justify their nomination. Pereiro is not at his best, either."

Unzue says that the only objective the team has is "to arrive at the Tour in the best possible condition."

Barloworld prepares for Tour de France

British team Barloworld will be at the start line of the Tour de France for the very first time, even able to hit the road in their home country. Previously, the team had announced six of its nine riders for the Tour.

The announcement of the final roster will come after its scheduled stage races races in Portugal and Holland. First, they will ride the GP CIT Correiros in Portugal from June 14 to 17, where the team won a stage last year and Alexander Efimkin finished eleventh overall.

The lineup in Portugal will contain Pedro Arreitunandia, Giosuè Bonomi, Ryan Cox, Enrico Degano, Robert Hunter, Paolo Longo Borghini, Hugo Sabido and Kastantsin Siutsou under the guidance of Directeur Sportif Valerio Tebaldi.

Degano and Hunter are the only ones that will proceed to Holland for the Star Elektrotoer from June 19 to 23. They will be joined by Diego Caccia, Giampaolo Cheula, Alexander Efimkin, Fabrizio Guidi, Mauricio Soler and Geraint Thomas, who is scheduled to be the first Welshman to start the Tour de France in almost 40 years. The team will be led by Alberto Volpi.

Henn surprised by continued doping

Christian Henn, Sport Director at Team Gerolsteiner, has admitted to using doping while riding for Team Telekom in the 1990s, but says that he is stunned that doping is apparently still so widespread in the sport. "That there is still so much doping after the big 1998 Tour de France - Festina scandal, as was suggested by the Fuentes affair. That was a shock. I hadn't counted on that. I was stunned."

Interviewed on, Henn said that he spoke out about his doping "to free myself from the shadows of the past." He emphasized that Team Manager Walter Godefroot "did not offer me doping products," and that former soigneur Jef d'Hont was the one who supplied them. "And I really didn't have any idea what the rest [of the team - ed.] was doing."

Some things have changed in the anti-doping fight, Henn noted. "15 years ago there were no doctors with the team, the masseurs had their suitcases full of all kinds of things. That is not the case anymore. Masseurs are just there for massages; the teams pay attention to that now."

"I have seen in Italy -- even at the Giro which just ended -- that undercover investigators work in the start and finish areas, who turn over every stone and listen to every conversation," he added. "Another method that we would be ready for is unannounced controls just before the start. That should happen at the Tour de France this year. We are waiting for the change."

T-Mobile and German TV agree to end contract

T-Mobile will sponsor a team in the Tour de France this summer but it will no longer sponsor the race itself as an advertiser on German TV. The German channels ARD and ZDF announced that they have agreed to end the sponsoring contract.

The company announced last week that it planned to pull its sponsorship. The message "The Tour de France is brought to you by T-Mobile," was to have appeared before each show.

"We have full understanding for the wish to cancel the sponsoring contract and were glad to do it," said Claudia Scheibel of ARD's Sales & Service division, according to the dpa. Deutsche Telekom, the mother company of T-Mobile, will donate the money that would have been used for the advertising to "the fight against doping," according to company spokesman Christian Frommert. "We want to make this point."

Ullrich denied meeting with German Chancellor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has denied a request for a meeting with Jan Ullrich. German government spokesman Thomas Steg told the Sport-Bild magazine that a member of the Chancellor's office made clear that a meeting with Ullrich would not be considered.

The magazine reports that Ullrich's friend and business partner Michael Stehle sent an e-mail requesting a meeting to discuss "the rehabilitation of his reputation through an appropriate recognition of his contributions and performances."

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