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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 13, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Basso back racing in Italy

Ivan Basso in California
Photo ©: Steve Cohen
(Click for larger image)

Wednesday's start of the 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico will mark Ivan Basso's second race of the year, following on his debut in the Tour of California, and his first on home soil since being barred from the Tour de France due to the Operación Puerto investigations. The 29 year-old rider from Cassano Magnago knows he will have his work cut out for him; believing that, even if he starts off 'bad,' he will finish with good form.

"I don't feel any particular emotions for this return [to Italy]," said Basso in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "You know why? It is not the time when I feel close to my people. I know that they are impatient to see me up close. But the fans essentially want me in two races, the Giro and Tour, and I will be there."

He made a rocky debut with his new team, Discovery Channel, in the Tour of California. Unfortunately he was caught up in a crash in stage one that resulted in his knee being banged. At first he did not think it was such an issue. "I have to say that the problem is a little more complex than I originally thought. The swelling in the right knee has put abnormal pressure on the tendons, but two MRIs have excluded any serious problems."

After making his re-entry into Europe, Basso took five days to recover and has slowly built his form for Tirreno and the races to come. "I came back and worked gradually, without any specific training. I continued going at a rhythm of 85 to 90 RPMs on rides near my home. Then, at the end of last week, I increased the work-outs. Today I rode for five hours," he indicated.

"I want to listen to my body here in Tirreno and understand the race sensations I have; not force it, above all in the first days. You should not be amazed if in the finale the group makes a high pace and I am dropped, but one or two teammates will always be with me." Basso pointed out that he will have certain objectives in the Corsa dei Due Mari. "I don't want to hide out. If the first day goes OK, the second better and the third... It is clear that I will give my all in the time trial [Stage five - ed.]; racing without risking it is useless. This race I will have to start 'male' (bad - ed.) and finish well; not the other way around."

After Tirreno, Basso will make his way to Milano-Sanremo on March 24, and then the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, 26 - 30, skipping the Critérium International, which he won last year with Team CSC. "It is a longer race, five days instead of two, there is a mountain top finish that will be of use and also the time trial will be a good test," he reckoned. "This will also give us more time to decide if we will do a mountain camp and preview the key Giro stages."

Tirreno-Adriatico to test Giro contenders

2006 winner Thomas Dekker (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico will be a course to test the legs of the Giro d'Italia contenders as the organisers are returning to the format that produced an exciting 2006 edition with a time trial and a mountain top finish in the closing stages of the race between two seas, or Corsa dei Due Mari.

The diversity of the course should attract more Grand Tour contenders and less of the sprinters, who will need to build for Milano-Sanremo on March 24. Many Giro contenders will go head-to-head on the Civitanova time trial stage and, one day later, the mountain top finish to San Giacomo. Last year, weather conditions forced a shortened climb, but still produced a thrilling result, with young Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) showing his emerging talent.

The race starts on Italy's west coast, along the Mar Tirreno, with a sprinters' stage. However, the fast-men will need to be careful; the run-in is tricky, with a sharp climb only 30 kilometres from the finish. Day one could see a sprinter take the overall lead or an attack by a rider of the calibre of Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic).

Stage two will leave the sea, travelling east from Civitavecchia and finishing in Marsciano after a gruelling 202 kilometres. The distance will serve as training for some but will also wear into the spirits of others who are hoping for the overall win.

An overall winner could materialise on the 213 kilometre stage three from Marsciano to Macerata. The riders will cross the Passo del Cornello (813m in height) mid-way through the stage before arriving at the closing circuits, which include four climbs up to Macerata. The final ascent to the finish, should see an explosion in the lead pack that will help shape the overall and give us our start, reverse, order for stage five's time trail.

Read the full 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico preview.

CSC for Tirreno

Jens Voigt (CSC)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC is preparing for this year's edition of Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts Wednesday, in Citavecchia. "Tirreno-Adriatico is always a tough race," said Director Sportif Scott Sunderland on the team's website,

"Most of the stages are hard and you have to be very fit just to keep up with the peloton, but I'm confident we'll get some good results. Our ambition is to get a rider in the top-five and maybe two in the top-10. ... Jens [Voigt] is our leader in this race and he has shown great form so far, so I think he'll do really well in the general classification.

"Lars Bak also looks good at the moment and he's very confident, so I'm hoping he'll be among the top-10 overall," Sunderland continued.

"Matti Breschel is starting to feel better and better after his back injury even though he's not a hundred percent yet. But he'll definitely be able to help Stuart O'Grady in the sprints, and he might make a couple of breaks as well and the same goes for Marcus Ljungqvist, Lars Michaelsen and Allan Johansen.

"Fabian Cancellara will have to chose a couple of days, where he wants to try and achieve some results, but other that that he's mainly here for the training and of course the time trial is his main job down here."

Team CSC has only won one stage in the history of this race, which was in 2006, where Fabian Cancellara won the time trial. In the general classification the Denmark-based team has succeeded in getting two riders in the top-ten, which was also last year.

Saiz: Puerto archiving brings no relief

By Monika Prell

Manolo Saiz, one of the key subjects involved in Operación Puerto, noted that the archiving of the case is not a "personal satisfaction" for him, even if "it's good news for some friends and family."

According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, the ex-Team Manager of teams ONCE, Liberty Seguros and Astana added that he has "ambivalent feelings. I'm happy for some family and friends, who are now strengthened, but personally this does not relieve my burdens. I don't want to give my opinion before meeting with my lawyers."

Saiz, one of the constructor and supporters of the ProTour system, bemoaned that it is one of "the collateral damages" of Operación Puerto. "The saddest thing is that nobody thought of these damages before. The people only think of the cyclists who are affected by unemployment, but this affects many more people. Not only have two teams disappeared, but two businesses, which affects mechanics, masseurs, secretaries, etc."

He reasoned the Operación Puerto archiving as "positive" and emphasised that for the moment, he does not yet know what he will do.

Vicente Belda: "Operación Puerto caused more damage than good"

By Monika Prell

Vicente Belda, former manager of Kelme and Comunidad Valenciana, declared that archiving of the Operación Puerto cases with what has happened "has caused more damage than good." He explained that "there was a total violation of all Spanish citizens' rights."

He specified to Spanish newspaper Marca that "there was a determination by the media even before the documents reached the judge. We were all deemed equal. If I have to be penalised, then let it be by a judge. They all have mistreated us and the damage is mainly produced when anything appears in the media and reaches the community. In this case, the damage is irreparable."

Belda indicated that during this time very few thought of him. "That's no problem, because in the end, everyday I have my breakfast, lunch and diner, and I'm with my family. I had a lot of encouragement by a lot of people, but there were also many people who gave me the cold shoulder but who now agree with me. Life is cruel like that."

About the investigations, Belda commented that Eufemiano Fuentes "always said that not only cyclists were involved in Operación Puerto, but also other sportsmen. There was an investigation and everybody has to think for themselves if this investigation was 100% clean or if there were violations, and if anyone had special privileges. Eufemiano said that there were names and other sports that did not appear."

He concluded, "Due to the incidents some months ago we lost our dignity, our names, our reputation and our jobs."

Cordero: Puerto archiving is "strange"

By Monika Prell

Cordero on Puerto
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Víctor Cordero, the director of the Vuelta a España, described the archiving of the Operación Puerto as "strange" and affirmed that "the problem is not finished," according to EFE.

"It's strange. Out of politeness I don't want to give my opinion; I'm not entitled to evaluate the decision," quipped the Spaniard.

"The problem is not solved by the archiving of the proceeding," Cordero continued. "The problem goes on, it's present now and we have to solve it. Cycling was damaged a lot, above all its credibility. We must not hide our head in the sand."

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

Swedish federation supports

By Susan Westemeyer

This year's Paris-Nice started with all ProTour teams except one, and Swedish Cycling federation president Anders Björklund is not happy about it. "The Swedish Cycling Federation supports Unibet one hundred percent in its fight against injustice," he said. The team rides under a Swedish license, and Björklund feels that their being left out of Paris-Nice is the fault of the UCI.

Björklund no longer supports UCI President Pat McQuaid, he told the Belgian newspaper Sporza. "The UCI and McQuaid are satisfied, but the UCI has lost face. It has an agreement, but it no longer follows its own rules."

"The people of Unibet have invested a lot of money in order to join the ProTour," he continued. "And now they are getting nothing in return. Apparently cycling is only a sport for middle and southern Europe."

Ullrich investigations continue

By Susan Westemeyer

The end of the Spanish court case against Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes doesn't mean an end to Jan Ullrich's legal problems - on the contrary, investigations continue in both Germany and Switzerland.

"That has no effect" on the German investigation, said Fred Apostel, prosecuting attorney in Bonn, Germany. "We have requested the documents through the court in Bonn and Madrid has agreed to send them."

Apostel also explained to Süddeutsche Zeitung that he is not willing to reach a settlement with Ullrich. It was reported over the weekend that Ullrich's attorney had tried to make a deal with the investigators, under which the German would pay a fine in exchange for having the case closed.

"That kind of settlement would be the equivalent of a guilty plea," Apostel said. "Under our rules, there must be evidence of guilt for such a settlement," he stated, adding, "The investigation is continuing, we will never take advantage of something that would simply lighten our work."

Apostel told the Cologne, Germany, Express newspaper that "In the next few days a doctor from the Bundeskriminalamt will fly to Spain and pick up the bags of blood which have been identified with Jan Ullrich, so that we can compare them with his DNA sample."

The Swiss remain on the case, too. "I just talked to the UCI's attorney," said Bernhard Welten, who is handling the investigation for Swiss Cycling. The UCI "is a private participant in the case and has access to all the documents." Welten still does not know when he will receive the final papers, but he will wait.

Ullrich riding for charity in South Africa

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich was back on the bike on Sunday, March 11, riding a charity race in South Africa. He rode the Cape Argus Pick'n'Pay Cycle Tour with 40,000 other cyclists, a total of 110 kilometres in three hours and 33 minutes, and apparently enjoyed every minute of it. "It was a wonderful race, wonderful conditions," he told the Cape Times newspaper.

Ullrich was participating in a new program called Race4Change, which celebrities ride to raise money for various South African charities.

Ullrich will be raising money for the Imibala Charity, which supports disadvantaged children in grade school, and the Starfish Foundation, which helps children orphaned by AIDS. The public was encouraged to pledge money for his ride.

"I don't know how much money I've raised for the funds, but I hope that it's a lot," he said. "It's something that I hold close to my heart, particularly raising money for children."

CSC/Marcello's Duncan Viljoen withdraws for Libya

Team CSC/Marcello's Duncan Viljoen, from Gauteng, has withdrawn from the South African team to Libya. Viljoen's withdrawal follows last week's decision to quit the CSC/Marcello Giro del Capo team due to ill health. The Team CSC/Marcello rider was due to join his teammate Chris Willemse Jnr as a member of the six-man South African elite team, which departs for Libya on Wednesday March 14, 2007.

While disappointed to lose an opportunity to ride for his country, Viljoen was pleased to hear the selectors had chosen fellow Gauteng CSC/Marcello rider, Jeremy Maartens, as his replacement. Maartens showed excellent form during last week's Giro del Capo, particularly during stage three when he finished in third place. Stage three was the toughest Giro stage and last Friday's was particularly hard when riders competed in high temperatures on a route which took in the steep climbs of Vissershok, Malanshoogte, Contermanskloof and Tiekiedraai.

The complete team will be Chris Willemse Jnr, Jeremy Maartens, Prince Maluleka, Herman Fouche, Shaun Davel and Jonathan Kinnear.

The 860 kilometre Tour of Libya takes place from March 17 to 23, 2007.

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