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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News, January 15, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Tour champion Contador not concerned with new Italian Puerto investigation

CONI prosecutor Torri still seeking testimony from Operación Puerto players

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Alberto Contador and others face heat from Italy as CONI opens up Puerto investigations
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

In a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, 2007 Tour De France winner Alberto Contador expressed disappointment in learning that Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri is planning to open new investigations into Operación Puerto. The 25 year-old Spaniard, who hopes to defend his Tour title, may have to undergo questioning by Torri and CONI authorities later this year regarding his possible involvement in the Spanish investigation that started in May 2006.

Team Astana's Contador explained that "when outside forces come into cycling it's not good. Yes, I didn't ride the 2006 Tour because of Operación Puerto, because my team was excluded. At the beginning, I was suppose to be directly involved, but afterwards, I was cleared of any involvement [in Puerto] by the UCI [International Cycling Union]. So I am not concerned by this, because we are going to race in France, which has the most advanced anti-doping laws in the world."

However, Torri looks to have Contador and other Spanish riders in his sights in the renewed Puerto investigation, as he told La Gazzetta "We need to obtain the documentation from the Guardia Civil, and then interview all the athletes and doctors to come to our conclusions in this Puerto case. Up until now, in Spain, no one has suffered any consequences or any judicial penalties from [Puerto]. They have all of the files at their disposition, but the reason nothing has happened is because of the inertia of the Spanish authorities. And there are a lot of well-known athletes, like Contador and [Alejandro] Valverde, who are still racing and even rode the World Championships."

2008 Astana Team Manager Johan Bruyneel baffled by Torri's investigation
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Torri continued by saying "we have opened a new direction in this investigation where we can take our decisions on what the doctors and athletes did in Operación Puerto. Before we couldn't do anything; now we are proposing to find responsible and inhibit the sporting activity of the doctors, coaches and everyone who oversees the preparation of the athletes. The athletes are not born doped, but they start doping when they start working with people who convince them to take substances that can cause harm to their health."

Torri's main target in the renewed investigation appears to be Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and his collaborator, Dr. Merino Batres.

Astana Team Manager Johan Bruyneel, who is hoping to pilot Contador to his second consecutive Tour de France win, was baffled when apprised of the recent declarations of CONI's Torri. The Belgian explained to Cyclingnews that "I just find this information a little strange, because the Italian anti-doping prosecutor and the Olympic committee are starting an investigation into riders that don't even belong to the Italian federation. But I know that as far as Contador is concerned, he has nothing to hide. He's already been cleared of an involvement in Operación Puerto."

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

Schumacher's "up-and-down" career

A thrilled Schumacher after taking third in the 2007 World Championships,
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Stefan Schumacher has the knack of landing himself in controversial situations but always managing to come out of them on the right side of the law – even if his continual protestations of innocence are starting to get a bit tarnished from their constant use. His story starts with a positive doping control, and another positive control is also the most recent chapter in the saga. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer took a look at the controversial episodes in the young rider's career.

The 26 year-old German's up-and-down professional career started in 2002 with Team Telekom. That year he won the young rider's award in the Peace Race and the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt, finishing eighth overall in the Peace Race.

He was unable to repeat his successes in 2003, and Telekom let him go. He dropped to the GS-III Team Lamonta, where he was finally able to establish himself. His biggest success in 2004 was as runner-up behind Andreas Klöden in the German national championships. "Schumi" brought in two wins that year, a stage in the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Druivenkoers Overijse.

Those successes were enough to land him a contract with the GS-II team Shimano-Memory Corp. He got off to a fantastic start with the Dutch team, taking the overall title in the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt and the Ster Elektrotoer, as well as winning four stages in the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt on his way to the overall win.

As thrilling as it was to win four stages in Rheinland-Pfalz, he was brought back down to earth only a few weeks later. It was announced that he had tested positive for the amphetamine Cathine during the race. He was promptly suspended by his team.

He equally promptly held a press conference, where he was accompanied by none other than Michael Lehner, who has become famous for his involvement in German professional cycling doping cases. Schumacher had a simple explanation for the matter: his mother gave it to him.

Read the full Stefan Schumacher feature.

45th Trofeo Laigueglia changes dates

The peloton ride the 2007 Corsa Ligure
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

The 45th Trofeo Laigueglia will changes dates, and be held on a Saturday instead of its usual February 14 slot. The organiser of the Italian Classic – won in 2007 by Russian Mikhail Ignatiev – is making the shift to allow for better television coverage on the country's Rai channel. This year the Corsa Ligure will be held on February 23.

With the move, Rai confirmed it will be able to heighten the coverage for the race that is already a popular event amongst cycling fans thanks to its parcours and past winners. The course – 183.3 kilometres – includes two passes of the Passo del Ginestro (670m) and the Passo del Balestrino (690m). The Balestrino leaves 32 kilometres to the finish line on Via Aurelia.

The organiser is still confirming the riders who will line-up in late February, but they predict an excellent showing. The race boast a strong list of foreign (Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens, Roger De Vlaeminck, Lance Armstrong, Johan Museeuw) and home (Giuseppe Saronni, Michele Bartoli, Paolo Savoldelli, Danilo Di Luca, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan) past winners.

Bennati starts in South Africa

Daniele Bennati plans his early-season
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Daniele Bennati will start his 2008 season in South Africa at the Super Challenge Series, February 2 to 7. The 27 year-old Italian sprinter of Liquigas confirmed his early-season racing programme to, which also includes Valenciana and Paris-Nice.

"The start will be a crucial period for me," the rider from Arezzo noted. "If I want to be competitive at [Milano-] Sanremo and [Tour of] Flanders it will be important to start with my feet in the right direction."

His debut on home roads will follow shortly after his trip south with the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto, February 15 to 17. He also intends on racing in Spain (Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, February 26 to March 1) and France (Paris-Nice, March 9 to 16) before returning to Italy for the Milano-Sanremo, March 22.

In addition to Sanremo, he also hopes for a good showing in the North. "Flanders is a race that always fascinated me," he continued. "Maybe it is the race that I like above all others."

Bennati, who switched from Lampre-Fondital to Liquigas this off-season, will have to share leadership duties with the team's other star, Filippo Pozzato. However, 'Benna' noted in earlier interviews that he does not see the dual-head approach as a problem.

Franzoi returns to racing

Italian Enrico Franzoi intends on returning to racing this Sunday with the last round of the Cyclo-cross World Cup in Hoogerheide, Holland. The 25 year-old Liquigas rider is almost completely healed from a microfracture to his left ankle according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The three-time Italian Cyclo-cross Champion crashed at the end of November in Koksijde, but has not lost hope of a strong showing at the World Championships, January 27.

Di Luca sends Zoncolan defence dossier to CONI

The defence team representing Italian Danilo Di Luca will send its dossier to Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor in relation to the tests taken following the 2007 Giro d'Italia's stage to Monte Zoncolan. The 32 year-old of Team LPR, who's three-month suspension in connection to Oil for Drugs ends tomorrow, was reported to have irregular hormone levels in his urine.

Four specialists representing the 2007 Giro d'Italia winner analysed the test results, including the assumption of injection following the stage, and the results are expected to be in Rome (CONI's headquarters) today according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Jaksche to Collstrop?

By Susan Westemeyer

Jörg Jaksche could be riding for the new Professional Continental Team Cycle Collstrop later this season. "I have a very high regard for Jacques Hanegraaf and have talked with him about possibly working together," he told

"He doesn't seem opposed to the idea," the 31 year-old German said. "But we haven't yet talked about contract details." A few things have to be cleared up first. "There are still a few stumbling blocks."

One of those may be Jaksche's doping suspension, which runs until July 2, 2008.

Barloworld's Hunter, Froome and Impey arrive in Italy

Team Barloworld's Robert Hunter, Chris Froome and Daryl Impey arrived yesterday in Italy, and collected their new bikes and clothing ready for the 2008 season. The three South African riders will gather with the rest of the team on Thursday, January 17, for the team's first training camp of the new season.

The Professional Continental Team will stay in Marina di Bibbona on the Tuscan coast for nine days of intense training. The riders and team staff will meet Barloworld management from South Africa and plan in detail for the new season. The only rider not certain to arrive in time for the training camp is Colombia's Mauricio Soler. The 2007 Tour de France mountain's champion is expected to arrive a few days later due to a delay in obtaining his visa.

CSC enjoying Mallorca camp

The Team CSC riders are enjoying their stay in Mallorca as part of the Danish ProTour team's training camp. They've managed to get in lots of riding time, and sports director Kim Andersen is very satisfied with the outcome.

"Up until now it's been perfect really. The weather's been great so we've trained a great deal more than I'd thought possible. They're bloody fast out there too," noted Andersen.

"There's not that much wind and during the last couple of days the sun's been shining from a clear sky. The temperature's been around 14 to 16 degrees, I think, so we couldn't have asked for better conditions. And we've managed to avoid crashes as well even though one of the guys went down with the flu – but that's a minor detail. Marcus Ljungqvist has arrived and is looking good on top of his flu," continued Andersen.

"The first camp of the year is always good and everyone's been in a brilliant mood. They're pressuring each other in a good way and that'll hopefully lead to some great results later on in the season," concluded Andersen.

South Australia breaks Tour Down Under records

As the cycling world prepares to turn its eyes to the Tour Down Under, South Australia is gearing up. The city, suburbs and country towns are turning on extra events and activities this year to mark the Tour's 10th edition and its elevation to UCI ProTour status.

"I'd love to see record participation in this year's Škoda Breakaway Series matched with record numbers at the tour's many street parties and festivities," Premier Mike Rann noted.

The Škoda Breakaway Series is now closed with 4207 cyclists officially registered to take part, smashing the previous record of 3525.

"The Tour Down Under it is not only a showcase for our State internationally," he stated. "... Mannum is holding a three-day festival, including a riverside concert with Aussie rocker Diesel, Unley is turning on a Gourmet Gala and the Barossa will stage an all-day street party in Angaston.

"There's a Community Street Carnival in Stirling, Victor Harbor will have an afternoon of circus pizzazz and Aldinga Bay will hold an Australia Day breakfast on the beach. And the Tour will debut with a massive street party in Jetty Road Glenelg on Sunday 20 January and finish a week later with an afternoon of action in Adelaide's East End on Australia Day holiday eve."

For a full list of Tour Down Under events and activities visit

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