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Latest Cycling News for September 11, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

UCI continues hardline Valverde stance

By Antonio J. Salmerón and Monika Prell

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

The International Cycling Union (UCI) reiterated it will not allow that Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) to participate in the World Championships in Stuttgart. "The rider can't be in Stuttgart, and that is final," affirmed the UCI.

The UCI asked the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) to open disciplinary proceedings against the 27 year-old rider because it found indications in the Guardia Civil documentation that linked Valverde to the Operación Puerto. The RFEC refused its demand. After an exhaustive study of the documentation, the RFEC decided that there were no new indications for a possible implication.

Europe Press announced that the RFEC did not receive any official communication on the part of the UCI. "From that moment on we will act depending from the arguments that they cite, including going to CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] or ordinary court action," indicated the RFEC according to Marca.

The UCI answered the RFEC. "If they open the disciplinary proceedings the UCI asks against him, good, but if they say that they won't do it, for us the situation won't change because the rider won't be in Stuttgart," said UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani.

Alejandro Valverde's manager, Sánchez Sabater, will wait "until the end of this week" before undertaking legal actions against the UCI. "If it does not withdraw the accusations of doping, and the damages it is causing him," he reported to Cyclingnews.

"The UCI's decision has not any sense, and the last declarations on the subject by Enrico Carpani have been in error," continued Sabater. He counts on the support of the RFEC and Spain's Superior Council of Sports (CSD).

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Valverde sent a letter to the UCI yesterday to inform it that he will undertake legal actions if it does not allow him to work as a professional cyclist. He continues training and trusts that he will race in Stuttgart. "Nobody will prevent Valverde from competing in the World Championships," Valverde's manager concluded.

First Monte Paschi Eroica presented

70 kilometres of le strade bianche
Photo ©: RCS Sport
(Click for larger image)

Le strade bianche of Siena that have become popular amongst cycling enthusiasts will now play host to the top pros. The Monte Paschi Eroica, presented yesterday in Milano by RCS Sport, will be the first time for professionals to race over the white gravel roads. The 180 kilometre race it is held on October 9.

The race, starting in Gaiole in Chianti and ending in Siena, will include seven sectors, 70 kilometres of 'sterrati' ('gravel roads') inspired by races like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"Cycling needed something new and the riders need a motivation," explained Angelo Zomegnan, events director of RCS Sport, to La Gazzetta dello Sport during the presentation. "This race is unique, and is special."

There will be an expected 2000 cycling enthusiasts to take part in the eleventh edition of the amateur event two days prior to the professional race. "In the amateur event there exists a spirit, a brotherhood, that modern cycling is losing. The Monte Paschi Eroica [pro race] will be a way to refind the rays of the past..."

RCS Sport has already confirmed modern champions like Danilo Di Luca, Het Volk winner Filippo Pozzato, Daniele Bennati, Flanders champion Alessandro Ballan and 2006 Roubaix king Fabian Cancellara. The organizers hope to secure the participation of World Champion Paolo Bettini and two-time Flanders winner Tom Boonen in the coming weeks.

The 180 km of the First Monte Paschi Eroica.
Photo ©: RCS Sport
(Click for larger image)

Bennati was invited to take part in a special reconnaissance. "When they invited me to take part in this inspection I replied with enthusiasm," said Bennati, who lives in nearby Arezzo. "These roads are used often when I train, even if I don't cover le strade bianche.

"It was a sensation of turning back in time. I did not think that there still existed paths like these, where you only see a tractor every now and then," Bennati continued after his reconnaissance. "During the test I covered all seven sectors, and I can say that the last one contains points of 18%. You have to use a 39x25, and you can't rise out of the saddle."

The race will finish in the medieval Piazza del Campo, home of the famous horse races. "It will be an important race that could become an important Classic. ... I can already imagine the atmosphere of the arrival in the Piazza del Palio."

Double honours for Rabobank

Rabobank achieved a rare honour on Monday. For possibly the first time ever, a team won two stages in ProTour races in one day, and had the leader's jersey in both races. Denis Menchov won the stage 10 of the Vuelta a España, retaining the leader's jersey he took on Sunday, and sprinter Graeme Brown won stage two of the Tour of Poland. The team called it "an important milestone for the Rabo Cycling team," on its website,

Sprinter Brown does not expect to retain his jersey until the end of the race, but Menchov expects to hold on to his. The team's website indicated that "cycling experts" do not think that his hold on the lead can be jeopardized, and that "the remaining stages are said not to be heavy enough to threaten Menchov."

Team leader Erik Breukink tried to downplay that idea, saying, "You should never cheer too early. We have had some tough stages, but there are a couple more coming up. Denis must remain in good condition and try to avoid having an off-day."

Sastre blasts Menchov and Piepoli

Sastre tries his luck
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre was not happy after Monday's Vuelta a España stage. The Spaniard of Team CSC accused Denis Menchov of "buying" the help of rival Leonardo Piepoli. "I think what he [Piepoli] did was shameful," the CSC rider said. "It could have been a much nicer stage but this kind of... We can not call it alliances. They are 'buys' in your face. These kind of things [make] dirty races; I think it's not good. Every rider has responsibility of his actions."

"It's an absolute disgrace when a rider from another team helps the leader," Sastre added to Eurosport. "I even dropped back at one point to see what they were up to." He attacked multiple times in the last few kilometres, but was always countered by Piepoli or Menchov.

Manuel Beltrán of Liquigas was also in the small group that managed to stay together at the end of the race, and was also unhappy with how things went. "I agreed with Carlos," said Beltrán. "They hurt me a lot. I understand there are always alliances. Yesterday, he [Menchov] let Piepoli win the stage and it's logical than today he [Piepoli] helped him [Menchov]. This doesn't help the show. I think that I was the one most damaged."

Piepoli and Menchov escaped together at the end of the ninth stage. The Russian allowed the Italian to take the stage win, while he was winning the leader's jersey. They had broken out of another small group containing Sastre, who finished 17 seconds back.

Neither Menchov nor Piepoli was concerned by the comments. "These comments were made by Sastre in the heat of the moment, just after finishing," Piepoli said to Eurosport. "All I did was ride my own race and try and make it difficult for everybody. The only rider who attacked up until four kilometres from the finish was me."

"No, I think it's not that way," added Menchov. "Truly, we didn't talk about anything for today. Leo always rides this way; he tried to change the tempo many times. I followed him just in case, to see if someone stays behind. Leo tried to put a strong rhythm."

Ballerini visits Vuelta

Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Italian National Directeur Sportif Franco Ballerini will arrive in Madrid this afternoon to follow a couple of the Vuelta a España stages. The two-time Paris-Roubaix winner is in charge of selecting the national team to compete at the World Championships in Stuttgart at the end of this month, September 30.

Ballerini is expected to confirm with current World Champion Paolo Bettini. 'Il Grillo Livornese' captured stage three of the Vuelta, and looks on form for the 2007 Worlds. In the same Quick.Step team is Andrea Tonti. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian is on Ballerini's list for the nine-man Squadra Azzurra.

Damiano Cunego was almost assured of his spot on the Worlds' team prior to his crash, and subsequent suffering in the Vuelta. Ballerini is expected to confirm the condition of the 2004 Giro d'Italia champion who crashed in the Vuelta's first stage.

Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Another favourite, also on team Lampre-Fondital with Cunego, is Daniele Bennati. The rider from Azzurro won the opening stage of the Vuelta and took the leader's maillot oro. Bettini has stated his desire to have 'Benna' selected for Stuttgart. Bennati, winner of the Tour de France's stage to Castelsarrasin after a long escape, could provide the Squadra Azzurra the needed sprint wildcard.

Finally, Davide Rebellin of Gerolsteiner will seek to confirm his place on the national team while Ballerini is in Spain.

Devolder "dead tired"

Stijn Devolder is "tired, dead tired." The Discovery Channel rider who lost the Vuelta a España's leader's jersey after holding it for one day has now fallen to tenth place overall and has given up all hope of finishing on the podium.

"I don't feel my legs any more," the 28 year-old told Het Nieuwsblad after stage 10. "My legs feel bad. I have ridden too much this season." He is still planning to ride the World Championships, but that will be the end of his season.

"I am glad that today is the rest day," he noted. "I can load my batteries again."

Redondo wants to negotiate his dismissal

By Antonio J. Salmerón

José Antonio Redondo representative, Angel Buenache, confirmed the riders's disagreement with his dismissal by Team Astana. The 22 year-old Spaniard was released by Team Manager Marc Biver on September 5, citing a violation of team rules.

"This is an excuse that hides the truth of the subject," Buenache to stated to Cyclingnews. He demands Biver clarify that there was no disciplinary actions or cases of doping. "We have not been interested if Redondo continues with Astana, but we will demand to Biver that he clarify that Redondo was not involved in any disciplinary action, because his directors had given to him permission not to be in the training camp before the Vuelta, as well as Redondo is not involved in any doping case."

Buenache wants "to reach an agreement for dismissal in order to negotiate with other squads." Biver refuses to talk with the rider or his representative. "I have called Marc Biver, but I cannot talk to him; the only thing that we know about him is from a brief e-mail that was sent last weekend to Redondo, saying that he is on holidays, and that he will back on September 20."

2007 Tour of Tasmania takes on northwest coast

The 2007 Tour of Tasmania will take a leap forward with six of its 11 stages to be raced on the northwest coast. The tour, to be held from October 2 to 7, will pass through nine municipalities. It will start for the first time in Devonport on Tuesday, October 2, and finish with a festival-style criterium at Launceston's Brickfields Reserve on the following Sunday.

Tour director John Craven described the new course as a travelogue for Tasmania. "The route will display the North and North-West regions of Tasmania in all their visual splendour," Craven said. "It is a course well worthy of a top-flight international bike race."

The tour is expected to attract an outstanding field from all Australian states, with a sprinkling of overseas riders.

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