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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for March 15, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Puerto: prosecutors file appeal

Manolo Saiz, one of the accused in the Spanish doping affair
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

On Wednesday, the public prosecutors of the Operación Puerto case have appealed the judge's decision to shelve the investigation against the heads of a presumed blood doping organisation in Madrid, Spain. On Monday , judge Antonio Serrano had dismissed the charges brought against Dr Eufemiano Fuentes and his alleged associates, saying that he could not assemble enough proof to establish that the actions of the accused endangered public health.

But the prosecutors saw this differently, basing their arguments on the guidelines of the Spanish public health ministry. The accused persons, including the doctors Eufemiano Fuentes and José Luis Merino who allegedly directed the blood doping activities of some 50 pro cyclists did not comply with those guidelines, according to the prosecutors' office.

The blood bags were handled and manipulated "in violation of the Spanish law on blood donation and blood banks," the appeal read. These kind of manipulations should "only be performed under the authority of the institutions appointed by the ministry of health."

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Therefore, the prosecutors asked judge Serrano to acquire an expert report from the Madrid centre of blood transfusion, outlining the sanitary conditions applicable to blood transfusions, as well as the transport and conservation of human blood.

Moreover, the prosecutors deemed that the investigations of judge Serrano were "not enough to shed a light on the facts, which appear to be of criminal nature," and asked the judge for an analysis of the computer hardware that had been seized at the beginning of the investigation.

The appeal may now go to the Madrid Provincial Court for a decision on whether to keep the case open, if Serrano upholds his initial ruling.

Meanwhile, French sports minister and vice-president of the World Anti-Doping Agency Jean-François Lamour has asked the concerned sports institutions to work together in order to verify the need for disciplinary sanctions against the riders whose names were involved in the doping scandal. "Let us, the UCI, WADA and IOC, all study the legal possibilities together to get the investigation files, and also the blood bags," he said. Lamour also spoke to his Spanish counterpart Jaime Lissavetzky, pleading for the investigation not to end. "To find EPO in blood bags is a problem of public health," Lamour said.

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

Boonen duped by Kolobnev

Kolobnev celebrates
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Russian rider Alexandr Kolobnev delivered a fantastic performance, winning for the first time for his new team CSC on Wednesday. The former Rabobank rider was part of a break for 213 of the 216 kilometres from Limoges to Maurs, which made up the third stage of Paris-Nice, and finished by crossing the line solo with about 15 seconds to the main peloton.

Kolobnev broke away from his escape group with 10 kilometres to go before the finish. At that point they only had about 40 seconds to the peloton, but the hilly terrain towards the end worked in Kolobnev's favour. "I actually didn't think I'd make it all the way home, but I had to give it a go because I still felt strong even though it was late in the stage. Luckily there was a descent, which was just steep enough so the main peloton couldn't catch me," he said after the stage.

Kolobnev didn't make a secret of the fact that this was the biggest victory in his career so far, as the peloton only managed to gain about 25 seconds on him during the final 10 kilometres.

"I'm so proud of this. It's a great feeling and it means a lot to me to prove to myself that I have what it takes, but it means just as much to be able to give something back to the team, because they believed in me right from the start," continued Kolobnev.

"It was world class what Alexandr did today," commented a happy sports director Alain Gallopin. "We're all so happy about this. But we'd had a serious word with all the guys this morning, because we weren't one hundred percent at the end of Tuesday's stage - but hey, what a comeback!"

That speck in front of COM1 is Kolobnev - but Boonen doesn't see him
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Meanwhile, due to misinformation, bunch sprint favourite Tom Boonen thought he was the lucky winner of the stage just behind Kolobnev, and raised his arms as he crossed the line in Maurs. "I really thought I had won," Boonen told Sporza after the race. Obviously, team Quick-Step hadn't counted the breakaway riders they had reeled in with just a few kilometres to go, and prepared their sprint as usual. "I didn't know that there was still a rider in front of the peloton. Shit, after two unlucky days I thought I finally had the win in my pocket. But when I lowered my arms, I saw that CSC was celebrating, too."

Even though the Belgian was disappointed not having scored a single victory at this year's Paris-Nice ( he won two in 2005, and three in 2006), he was also glad that the sprint stages are over. "A stage victory in Paris-Nice is not a necessity," he continued. "Besides, this was one of the most dangerous sprints of my life. We were riding at 80 km/h; I will never forget this sprint!"

In view of Milano-Sanremo, only nine days away, Boonen is not concerned, either. "I don't need a victory before Milano-Sanremo to know where I stand," he told L'Equipe. "I'm right where I want to be... Besides, last year, I won three stages using the energy that I needed for the Classics. In Paris-Roubiax, I was already past my peak of form."

On Thursday, Paris-Nice continues with the first mountain stage of the week, up the "Montée Laurent Jalabert" to the Mende airport. Stay tuned for Cyclingnews' Live coverage, starting 14.30 CET.

Tirreno: Ambitious Dekker believes in victory

Dekker the younger took the overall victory at the 2006 Tirreno
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Tirreno-Adriatico title defendant Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) is not shy person, nor is he afraid of talking about his objectives. Speaking to Dutch journalists, Dekker said that he was feeling confident of being able to win the Italian 'race between the two seas' once again.

"I know I can't win this race every time for the next ten years, but twice in two years should be feasible." The 22 year-old feels himself ready to tackle the challenge, especially since he made it through some setbacks in the second part of last season.

As a consequence of a bizarre decrease of form, Dekker didn't participate in the Tour de France last year. And just when his legs turned again as he felt they should, he broke his wrist and missed out on the World's. "It may sound odd, but these setbacks were good for me," Dekker commented. "Now, there's a cliché: I can put things into perspective now. It's so difficult to understand that your body doesn't want to go forward - this can happen once, but not over a longer period of time. In the Sachsen-Tour [in July 2006 - ed.], I wanted to put an end to my career: during the second stage, I thought of abandoning all the time."

Looking back, Dekker didn't regret not racing the French Grand Tour. "Renouncing on the Tour was the right decision," he said. "At the time, it hurt, because you know what you could have done in the Tour. But I was in no state to do anything. There was no energy in my body. I trained very hard last year, maybe a bit too much. But I'm going to do exactly the same this year, because that's not what caused it."

Dekker's training plans are largely directed by Italian preparatore Luigi Cecchini, who is also a good friend. The young Dutchman is frequently invited to dinner at Cecchini's home, along with other cyclists such as Fabian Cancellara, Tyler Hamilton and Jörg Jaksche.

"I can win here, I'm sure I can," Dekker reiterated about his possibilities at the 2007 Tirreno-Adriatico. "Look at the stage profiles, and you will not see much differences with last year. We have a great team here, and my form is excellent. So I think it's only logical that I'm the Rabobank leader for the classification. Last year, I showed what I can do, and now they trust me. I think it's okay to talk about one's ambitions - I don't like riders that never do."

Dekker's personality is suited to bear the responsibilities of being a team leader. "Heading a team doesn't make me nervous," he added.

Motorbike crash: Efimkin, Roche out

On the first stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday, a crash with 50 kilometres to go took a heavy toll on the peloton riding in Italy. A race motorbike touched Rabobank pro Grischa Niermann, who came to fall, making 15 of his colleagues also crash behind him.

"I was very lucky," said Niermann, who finally made it to the finish some 15 minutes behind the pack. "This could have ended quite differently! The road looked like a war field. My helmet broke three times. We were racing at 70 km/h when the bike hit me," he told Radsport-aktiv.

His Rabobank teammates Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd were also involved in the crash, but could continue straight away. Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d´Epargne), as well as Irishman Nicholas Roche (Crédit Agricole) had to abandon the race. The 25 year-old Russian, who placed third in the Tour Meditterranéen a few weeks ago, was diagnosed with a broken collarbone in the hospital of Civitavecchia.

Tibco's Miller on a roll

Professional women's team Tibco has started off the season in an exceptionally successful way. Last weekend marked the "official" kick-off of the cycling season, with the first two races on the National Racing Calendar (NRC); the Merco Credit Grand Prix and the Merco Credit Road Race. Team Tibco's sprint champion Brooke Miller won both events, and the team is now leading the national rankings.

Miller has won all five races she has entered since the season began. In addition to the Merco races last weekend, Miller won the Bay Front Criterium, Cherry Pie Criterium, and Santa Clarita Criterium in February, and also placed second in the Central Valley Classic Road Race and fourth in the Central Valley Classic Criterium in March.

At the Merco Credit Union Grand Prix on March 3, Miller started the sprint form far away, but was able to pull through until the finish line. "The lead outs swung wide to the right and up the road, I could see T-Mobile starting to peel off from their fast lead out," she recalled. "I jumped hard on the left and started to move up. I had no other options. I sprinted from way back and was just focused on getting up the road. I could see that I was closing, but did not know if I had enough room. I just dug deep and tried to pull out all the power I could muster. In the end, I nipped T-Mobile’s Suzanne de Goede at the line."

The sprint finish of the Merco Credit Union Road Race one day later unfolded differently. "I was focused on using wheels to move up," Miller said. "I tried to get behind Colavita’s Mackinzie Dickie, hoping to get her to lead me out with her own great sprint. Time was running out and I had to go. I jumped around 300m and looked ahead to the line. I saw Sara Caravalla to my right and the line in front of me. I was able to dig a little bit deeper. This time, I knew that I had won, but only by inches."

'Drugs in sport' at University of Missouri

Friday, March 16, Robby Ketchell of the Society for Fair Play will be giving a presentation at the University of Missouri about drugs in sport. His talk will include a history of the statistics of doping in sport, a perspective on sporting ethics, a discussion on cycling physiology and the health benefits of exercise, and a message about the physical and social consequences of drug abuse.

The Society for Fair Play is an organization developed to educate athletes of the physical and social consequences of illegal performance enhancing drugs. The seminar on Friday is the first of 2007, and will give the message of how to succeed in sport without resorting to drug abuse to a diverse group of cyclists. Junior, collegiate, and master's athletes are all encouraged to attend.

Robby Ketchell is a professional cyclist, founder of Ketchell Sports Science, and student at Colorado State University whose passion is to assist athlete's development of knowledge that will help them succeed in sport.

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